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First Thoughts – Forza Motorsport 5

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of driving games. Some of my earliest video game memories were of Outrun in the arcade, the massive hydraulic cabinet and huge screen taking you into another world. Later on came Virtua Racer and Daytona USA which swapped out the 2d sprites and parallax scrolling for full blown 3D graphics and – joy – multiple machines hooked together for multiplayer games.

Then came the PS1 and Gran Turismo and petrol heads everywhere rejoiced. The formula of multiple tracks and a huge real world car list to dive into, own and customise has been with us ever since with the Xbox joining the party with its Forza series. As always with a new console racing games are a favourite launch title as they allow for some impressive graphics while hiding the inevitable compromises that come with being a first phase game. The result on the Xbox One is Forza Motorsport 5 and after a couple of weeks tearing around the world I think I’ve finally got my first thoughts worked out.

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First thoughts - Titanfall

Confession time: I’ve never been that good at first person shooters. I can get around okay and usually figure out which end of the gun should be pointing at the enemy but accuracy is not my strong suit. And that’s with a mouse and keyboard setup, with a control pad I’m far worse. This hasn’t exactly encouraged me to jump into modern FPS games that rely mostly on ‘twitch’ gameplay and instant kill head shots. Yet here we are in 2014 and not only have I picked up the FPS flavour of the month but I bought a whole new console to do so! What made Titanfall different? Well… 

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Xbox One Review

Yes, I know I know, I’ve said before that if you’re looking to get a new games console the best thing to do is to buy anything but the ‘next gen’ consoles. Yet here I am the owner of Microsoft’s latest entry in the console wars just six months after it was released. There’s a slight hint of hypocrisy here so let’s deal with that up front.

I still believe that if you’re after a games console right now the older generation is the sweet spot. The hardware is relatively cheap, there’s a ton of astonishing games available for reasonable prices and almost all of the reliability glitches have been worked out. However if you’re like me and have already sampled the delights of the 360 and PS3 and are hankering for something new there’s been a few developments recently that make the next gen hardware much more appealing. Join me after the break to see if I can rationalise my way out of this circle of accusing glares!

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Squash balls - The best AV upgrade you’ll ever make!

Short and sweet this one but I’m still surprised how few people know about this trick.

Over the last few years most homes have acquired at least a box or two under the TV that contain moving parts. Almost all set top boxes have a fan of some sort in them, any that record programs have a hard drive. Blu-Ray or DVD players not only spin discs at (relatively) high speeds but tend to have fans in there as well. All those moving parts create noise and that can lead to some issues especially as more and more TV stands have glass shelves…

The worst offenders are those stands that have ‘floating’ shelves where only one side is actually attached to the stand. Any movement or vibration from a device can cause the shelf to vibrate in sympathy making the noise that much louder! In my case my Virgin TiVo box is almost constantly running the fan and the result is a quiet but noticeable high pitched buzz. Lift it off the shelf and virtually all the noise goes away.

Enter the humble squash ball. At around £5 for a pack of three they’re probably the cheapest bit of AV kit you’ll ever buy but they can make a huge difference. Take a ball, cut it in half, repeat with a second ball and presto - instant vibration dampeners! Whack ‘em under the four corners of whatever’s making the noise and you may be amazed at the results.

Now, granted, they’re not the prettiest things you’ll ever use and it adds a couple of centimetres to the height of your kit but look at it this way. If they make no difference you can chuck ‘em out and you’ve only spent a fiver. On the other hand if they do improve things you can either keep ‘em in place or go looking for something a little sleeker albeit at a higher cost.

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