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AverageJoseph
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    • Dark Souls 2 (PC) / PC Game / 12 Readings / 9 Ratings
      More +
      12.06.2014 22:28
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
      1 Comment

      Advantages

      • " Equipment"
      • " Difficulty"
      • " No. of Bosses"
      • " Locations"
      • Graphics

      Disadvantages

      • " Luck Based"
      • " Boss Designs"
      • " Parrying"
      • PVP

      Dead Again

      LIFE The Dark Souls series returns with a meatier, deadlier, tougher offering of punishing gameplay, that attempts to rival the difficulty of previous installments, Demon''s Souls (PS3 Exclusive) and Dark Souls (Multiple Platforms). A promise of Bigger environments, Better graphics, Beastly adversaries - this is a sequel worthy of the name. So say all the official reviews and gaming sites.. Question is: Have FromSoftware played it safe and churned out a second, similar reckoning? Or genuinely attempted to make a better, tougher game? RECKONING As you can tell from the title, I went with the former. The developers would be mad to deviate from the original winning formula of dungeon crawling/grind rpg... something or other.. What with the extreme success of their second incarnation of the souls series. That being said, when you stick to your guns instead of going all out, you better seriously deliver, again. Dying is no longer the trial and error ''Oh well, better luck next time'' slap on the wrist but now a full on slap in the face as your feeble attempts will now be far more costly - depleting your health bar upon each death. No more cheap farming of souls from the weakest opponents - enemies no longer respawn in the same way, when they do, they are likened to a new game+. Your only saving grace is that of the new feature that allows stat management. RESURRECTION The Good - At first, the battle system is slightly alien compared to the first game, but in time becomes a quicker more stable reinvigoration. Weapons aren''t insanely difficult to improve anymore and you''re guided a little better in general improvement and boss soul use. The amount of bosses is staggering. The areas are still almost all connected. Weapons and Armour - all look better - new and old. Classy little touches like the plaque commemorating the number of deaths worldwide, the additional 2 slots to equipable rings and finally a real revamping of the dreaded ''New Game+'' which pits previously unseen enemies against you amongst the originals. The Bad - You are gifted the ''warp'' ability from the beginning (something well earned in the 1st). Your humanity is restored at any time you wish (makes it too easy to summon help). As with every DS game, the PVP invasions are rarely as advertised - instead of being matched against true advicery within 10 levels of your own, you get pitted against someone who''s blatantly completed the game, donning unknown armour sets and practically killing you in one hit - that or that just circle you in the vein attempt at trying to backstab you or wait for hours so they can parry you - BORING - easily the most vapid aspect of the game. There are also parts which require luck rather then skill, the ''memories of giants'' come to mind... Recycled bosses - there''s one who is an exact replica from the last game and another which is the same size and uses the same move set - CHEAP. ETERNAL Light is finally shed on the lore and story line - enter the land of Drangleic where the torrid curse is back and this time, taking your memories along with your humanity and sanity. The initial and only FMV of the whole game is long and well made, setting you up for the somewhat-story to follow. A chinsy tutorial area does not bode well to be honest and neither does the addition of elderly women in red robes cackling at your optimism. For me, someone who has spare weekends and the odd hour after work to seriously play a game, it took me near to the 50 hour mark to get through this one which is a satisfactory amount of time these days. DEATH I''ll say now, - I prefer the first Dark Souls - it''s environments were linked in a far more interesting fashion, the bosses were much more unique and it''s general experience was far more other worldly - attributes of a proper escapist video game. Expect even more frustratingly implausible bosses and patience pushing locations to delve into as FromSoftware take you down an all to familiar path of pain and suffering. Enjoy!

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      • Dark Souls 2 (PC) / PC Game / 3 Readings / 3 Ratings
        More +
        12.06.2014 22:27
        Very helpful
        (Rating)

        Advantages

        • " Equipment"
        • " Difficulty"
        • " No. of Bosses"
        • " Locations"
        • Graphics

        Disadvantages

        • " Luck Based"
        • " Boss Designs"
        • " Parrying"
        • PVP

        Dead Again

        LIFE The Dark Souls series returns with a meatier, deadlier, tougher offering of punishing gameplay, that attempts to rival the difficulty of previous installments, Demon''s Souls (PS3 Exclusive) and Dark Souls (Multiple Platforms). A promise of Bigger environments, Better graphics, Beastly adversaries - this is a sequel worthy of the name. So say all the official reviews and gaming sites.. Question is: Have FromSoftware played it safe and churned out a second, similar reckoning? Or genuinely attempted to make a better, tougher game? RECKONING As you can tell from the title, I went with the former. The developers would be mad to deviate from the original winning formula of dungeon crawling/grind rpg... something or other.. What with the extreme success of their second incarnation of the souls series. That being said, when you stick to your guns instead of going all out, you better seriously deliver, again. Dying is no longer the trial and error ''Oh well, better luck next time'' slap on the wrist but now a full on slap in the face as your feeble attempts will now be far more costly - depleting your health bar upon each death. No more cheap farming of souls from the weakest opponents - enemies no longer respawn in the same way, when they do, they are likened to a new game+. Your only saving grace is that of the new feature that allows stat management. RESURRECTION The Good - At first, the battle system is slightly alien compared to the first game, but in time becomes a quicker more stable reinvigoration. Weapons aren''t insanely difficult to improve anymore and you''re guided a little better in general improvement and boss soul use. The amount of bosses is staggering. The areas are still almost all connected. Weapons and Armour - all look better - new and old. Classy little touches like the plaque commemorating the number of deaths worldwide, the additional 2 slots to equipable rings and finally a real revamping of the dreaded ''New Game+'' which pits previously unseen enemies against you amongst the originals. The Bad - You are gifted the ''warp'' ability from the beginning (something well earned in the 1st). Your humanity is restored at any time you wish (makes it too easy to summon help). As with every DS game, the PVP invasions are rarely as advertised - instead of being matched against true advicery within 10 levels of your own, you get pitted against someone who''s blatantly completed the game, donning unknown armour sets and practically killing you in one hit - that or that just circle you in the vein attempt at trying to backstab you or wait for hours so they can parry you - BORING - easily the most vapid aspect of the game. There are also parts which require luck rather then skill, the ''memories of giants'' come to mind... Recycled bosses - there''s one who is an exact replica from the last game and another which is the same size and uses the same move set - CHEAP. ETERNAL Light is finally shed on the lore and story line - enter the land of Drangleic where the torrid curse is back and this time, taking your memories along with your humanity and sanity. The initial and only FMV of the whole game is long and well made, setting you up for the somewhat-story to follow. A chinsy tutorial area does not bode well to be honest and neither does the addition of elderly women in red robes cackling at your optimism. For me, someone who has spare weekends and the odd hour after work to seriously play a game, it took me near to the 50 hour mark to get through this one which is a satisfactory amount of time these days. DEATH I''ll say now, - I prefer the first Dark Souls - it''s environments were linked in a far more interesting fashion, the bosses were much more unique and it''s general experience was far more other worldly - attributes of a proper escapist video game. Expect even more frustratingly implausible bosses and patience pushing locations to delve into as FromSoftware take you down an all to familiar path of pain and suffering. Enjoy!

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      • More +
        18.03.2014 01:19
        Very helpful
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        More of the same from Jun Maeda, only shorter, better setting.

        Intro
        Jun Maeda, well known for previous teen drama efforts - Kanon and Clannad, has come up with another, shorter retelling, only this time with a much more interesting twist.. Kanon was all about character development and slowly divulging in each ones story, Clannad was more of the same, only more brutal in its story telling and delivery. Angel Beats! however, must capture its audience with half the number of episodes of 'Kanon' and 4 times less than that of 'Clannad'. So how does it fair?

        Story
        Yuzuru Otonashi, some teenage boy awakens to find himself at an unknown school. Completely oblivious to his surroundings, he stumbles across a girl wielding a rifle - squarely aimed at another girl. Right off the bat, it is revealed that the place they reside is effectively a purgatory, where students souls remain in limbo for having not lived a satisfactory life or having died with many regrets or unfinished business - either way, they're all teenagers so, lives cut short. It turns out that this girly dispute is due to a conflict of opinions, not much else. Before the girl with the sniper can exact some sort of punishment, Otonashi approaches the girl seen in the scope, only for her to brutally stab him through the chest. A pretty grim welcome, but it matters not as he finds himself in a bed in the infirmary... completely fine. It would appear that people in this world cannot die - their body feels pain, much to the annoyance (and amusement) of certain characters who die on a regular basis, but makes a full recovery sooner or later.

        It turns out that a group of kids are all united against this stabby girl (Tenshi) and have their own club which endures multiple embarrassing name changes. Every other student and teacher in the school is simply referred to as an NPC - A non playable character. The details are all a bit murky and the explanations vague but any in depth description would be a waste of time and far too serious for a 13 episode teen, drama, comedy.

        Main Characters
        Yuzuru Otonashi - is a pretty dull, standard lead. Most of the time he's the willing to help out anyone, slightly confused mug who is in the same position as the audience, standard. He does offer up some comedic value here and there though, often taking the piss when reacting to others crazy behaviours in the club. His backstory is one thats pretty quick, but holds a meaningful message that all should heed.

        Yuri Nakamura - AKA 'Yurippe'... awful name, admitted later on... is the leader of club as she was supposedly the first sent to this place. Her past is real grim, but she remains in control as the bossy leader who tends to just sit back and watch everything fall to pieces.

        Tenshi - the girl who seeks order amongst all students including those with souls, she has several forms of attacks and abilities which she announces (Mark 1, 2 ,3 etc). A tiny student council president, she seems emotionless and calm for the majority of the show, where her name and such get revealed. Oh and she really likes spicy food..

        Hideki Hinata - the class clown
        Ayato Naoi - the gay hypnotist in love with Otonashi
        TK - spouts random english words, usually irrelevant
        Matsushita - the fat judo guy
        Takeyama - the hacker nerd who insists on being called 'Christ'
        Takamatsu - glasses and a six pack
        Noda - crazy halberd wielding lunatic
        Eri Shiina - constantly says 'How unwise'
        Yui - foul mouthed, pink haired... say no more

        Music
        Both 'Kanon' and 'Clannad' also had Maeda working on the soundtracks, including the super catchy intro and outro themes. 'Angel Beats!' is no different with a classy piano track to begin with and an incredibly lovely/depressing end theme (this is the most heart-wrenching part to be honest - it's much sadder than the actual ending!). A few tracks pop up here and there that are worth a listen such as 'Today is OK' and 'School Days' - most laden with either electronic beats or modified piano tracks. The breaks where there would be adverts are quite cleanly done, with a single note on a piano played as the angel beats logo flashes past (a heart rate monitor line) clever. There is also a band called 'Girls Dead Monster' that crops up on occasion, a J-pop/punk chick trio - they're quite awful, as its very mushy upbeat trash really.

        End
        As with most anime, I preferred the Japanese voice actor over the heavily exaggerated American dub which makes every guy sound like a jock on the football team and each girl a bubblegum blowing air head, so subtitles it is. The ways several characters reveal the reasons to them being where they are, tend to be quite well thought out and deep, though they do play on your emotions and deliberately have some cold hearted situations. This anime is really highly rated in the anime community, so I would go ahead and say it is overrated as there is little time to grow attached to characters in so little time and yet still, the majority of episodes are spent dicking about with little to no story progression. Even so, it has its charms and the general story is well thought out and interesting. Worth a go.

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        • More +
          02.03.2014 15:02
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          No.6: More of the same, more of the game.

          History
          I first encountered the Gran Turismo series way back when the first Playstation was in it's prime in the late 90's. Apart from small metal models, I had little to no interest in cars prior to playing, but I had the second incarnation of GT in my possession regardless. It was difficult and expansive, therefore, rewarding - I often played it with friends for races and teamwork for the eye watering endurance races (which unfortunately have been neglected, possibly because they encourage playing a game for many MANY hours). But I digress - time went on, I disliked all PS2 versions of the game but returned to the series with a smile thanks to the fifth installment. The reason for getting no.6? General interest I suppose... One thing to remember about this series is this - it's the real deal, so much like EA's turgid FIFA football series, you wont find a more authentic sports game of this calibur (with all the legitimate brands). Unlike FIFA who whore's out its games to every platform though, Polyphony have made this one exclusive for the Playstations.

          3, 2, 1, Tire Squeal!
          Everyone knows what Gran Turismo brings to the table. It's tagline of _'The Real Driving Simulator' is an uncontested fact of life really. Now, in it's newest installment, GT6 has over 1200 cars, manufacturer videos, clothing options for your driver, including helmets and special outfits (like Ayrton Senna's) go-carts, custom wheels/colours, aero modifications like body kits and rear wings. I can only imagine how much better it would be with a steering wheel controller set-up, as I'm not that insane about gaming, let alone driving sims. I also prefer the 3rd person, rear view, Lotus Evora/Ferrari F40, hate the Nurburgring, Love Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe. But enough about me! The point is, you can still get attached to things in this game, enough to be vaguely passionate about motorsport.

          Playing it Safe (Differences & Similarities)
          The ever increasing range of cars added to the roster is always a good thing for GT. The good and the bad, the down right nasty, all roll in with their respective specs as usual: weight, horsepower, powertrain, transmission, gear ratios, suspension and ride height, christ, just everything. The first noteworthy improvement I noticed when it came to the actual driving was that it was much more enjoyable to race with cars that can get the tail out - yes that's right, now, it's actually possible to control your car when it under/oversteers - unlike a lot of the older games where you'd simply be thrown off the track in a cloud of dust and shame. You can see damage on your car when you get into scuffles - like dents and scratches, nothing drastic. The graphics though aren't much to write home about - Yes the cars look great and that is what this game is about but when you actually look at the track, the sky and the spectators... they can do better. The majority of backdrops (sky, mountains, ocean) are all blatant, static photographs, poorly stitched together - no motion/realism.

          Like it's predecessors, the game struggles with random loading times - some tracks just take too long to load, all while you're staring at a seemingly frozen image of the track - so you're left in the dark as to whether the game has crashed or not. The music is trash, plain and simple. Sure there are the odd tracks that have been remixed from the older versions (which are delightfully nostalgic) but for the most part, the games BGM's are horrible dubstep influenced electro. Thankfully, like 5, you can rapidly switch to your custom music playlists and play some proper music. Another downside of that though, is the amount of times the game switches the track - racing is fine, but anywhere else and it's like you're skipping through albums every 20 seconds. Those boring races where you issue orders to an AI driver are gone - thank ***! What a waste of time, effort and achievements that was.

          6 has everything the old games had, like the licences (National A&B, International A,B,C and the fabled S), manufacturers (no Porsche, but they're bloody boring and covered by RUF anyway), prizes, tracks - that being said, there's not much new here... if you're a veteran GT player, that's probably music to your ears (not GT music) if not, then it sounds like every other video game with a number after it.

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        • Clannad: Collection 1 (DVD) / DVD / 20 Readings / 19 Ratings
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          28.02.2014 17:33
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          "So, it just falls off every now and then?" ..."I guess?" - "Fuko is completely shocked!"

          'Clannad' is exceptionally difficult to review without *SPOILERS*

          Hailed as one of the all time greats among anime series, Clannad, is the king of touchy feely romcom teen drama. Having a fairly stable outlook on life, tolerable stomach for emotions and quite level headed, I took up the challenge that is a very nearly, 50 episode television series. Originally a visual novel, Clannad was adapted into an anime series that carries many themes from the original - music, characters, voice actors and key events - so It's rather loyal to the game. As to whether it truly is a misery strewn minefield of feelings...

          Characters & Plot
          The story is centered around Tomoya Okazaki, a 'rough around the edges' delinquent in his last year at school. Sarcastic and selfless at the same time, he seems to find solace in helping out his friends - whilst taking the piss on the odd occasion. With no interest in school, no mother and a drunk for a father, he hates his home, the school, the city. Nagisa Furukawa is the quiet, low self esteem girl repeating a year of school due to illness. She's also the future love interest for Tomoya, whom she first met outside the school, while muttering something about sweet bean bread... Thanks to her meeting Tomoya, gains enough confidence to attempt restoring the drama club at her school (cause she's into that sort of thing) She has a loving family who own the local bakery - her father Akio an insane jerk who loves baseball and her mother, Sanae who concocts various types of bread - all disgusting - all mentioned, then legs it out the store crying :'(

          Tomoya's best buddy Yohei Sunohara - bit of a blonde perv, who fancies himself a tough guy/ladies man all in one, provides the laughs and is almost always on the receiving end of a few beatings - from both the burly rugby team and equally masculine/terrifying girls. He has a sister who pops up now and then, whose rather worried about him and his lack of interest in anything. Then we have Ryou and Kyou Fujibayashi - twin sisters, completely different personalities. Ryou a sweet, well meaning, tarrot card (playing cards) reading soft spoken younger sibling, Kyou a slightly psychotic, violent protector who owns a moped and a small boar called Botan...... yeah.... whatever... Tomoyo Sakagami not to be confused with the protagonist, is a second year student (who frequently kicks Sunohara) is the beyond confident girl running for president. Kotomi Ichinose is the genius girl sitting bare footed in the library who genuinely has little to no social schools - always deep in thought and books, she halfheartedly assumes people are bullies when she is questioned or even greeted.

          There are a couple of other characters who show up with smaller roles but the main one worth mentioning would be Fuko Ibuki. Now I'm not hugely into the whole 'kawaii' thing or manga/anime in general, however Fuko, would be the exception. A mysterious girl who appears in the school, carving stars.. sorry Starfish. She dozes off, probably dreaming about other sea creatures (this is when she is subject to Tomoya's genius pranks!) and has the attitude of a child - but somehow has her own 'weird' charm. She refers to herself in the third person and finds Tomoya to be a 'weird person' who is liken to a sea slug. Anything said about her role would be a spoiler.. She's just too cute really, including her theme tune.
          (most) of this lot of ragamuffins attend school, get into their respective stories and cause the viewer almost every emotion under the sun. However the integral theme, Family, ties into Nagisa and Tomoya's story - one that continues after the 23 episodes of the first series and into 'After Story' for another 24.

          Pros & Cons
          I felt the first series wore a little thin/had little impact on the story as a whole. There were also several moments when you can predict a certain song will play during the raw moments - which gets tedious (more so because it's actually a decent melody). It's dubbed but as with most anime, the original voice actors are better suited (its up to you if you find subtitles a negative, for me it aint - heavily American voices are far worse). I can either make you depressed of feel like a better human being afterwards - or both. The first theme song is a bit plain, the second much better (chokes me a bit, its that emotional). The first outro song is both embarrassing and heart warming, the second is just out of place.

          The End
          This is something that fans of the series have divided over - because it all depends on how you look at it as a whole. It's not a questionable end, nor a particularly confusing one, it's just that some people cannot handle the way things turn out (or how they would have turned out). This series is the meaning of a 'roller coaster ride' in drama, as it goes through a plethora of emotions in so little time, whilst attaching you to the cast and dragging you into their shoes.

          So if you fancy yourself an emotionless brick: try and take on this series and watch yourself turn to jelly. If you don't, you have no soul, it's as simple as that!

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          • Death Note - Volume 1 (DVD) / DVD / 17 Readings / 17 Ratings
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            23.02.2014 23:36
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            Life, Death, Criminals, Police & Apples.

            Continuing the theme of nostalgic teenage interests...
            The next anime up for review is a big one - Death Note. So giant that it has its humble roots in print (manga), rise to popularity in this anime and went further by having a video game and 3 live action films plus light novels. My only warning about the following is of possible spoilers as this series is 37 episodes long and has an equally large and intwining stories.

            Story
            Light Yagami, your average no.1 high school genius, popular with all the girls with his brains and brawn, youth tennis champion 2 years running... yeah not sounding like your average plot... Well this guy spots a lone diary sitting on the grass whilst attending school. Curious, he picks it up to find that it is called a 'Death Note' - a book with the power to kill anyone by merely writing the name of a person and knowing their face as it is written. It can also determine the circumstances in which a person dies - the standard being of a heart attack, but elaborate suicides and symbolic deaths are bound to occur.. However, there are rules to this process... Regardless, Light sees this as his opportunity to rid the world of evil and usher in a new dawn of kindness, in a world where he will be a God... Grand plan.... Anyway, his goal is one fraught with obstacles and soon, his reputation for disposing of wrong doers gets noticed by the police, media and eccentric individuals and is soon dubbed 'Kira'. This alias is both praised and revered - some see him as a man of justice, others a delusional killer.

            Ryuk - a tall winged creature with jagged teeth, make up and a gimp like outfit. A 'Shinigami' aka a God of death (whom the diary belongs to). If anyone touches the notebook, they are instantly greeted with the sight of him. Harmless in nature, he tends to offer comic relief, stating that "Humans are interesting!" after hearing Light's ideas. From another world, he came to earth because he was bored - plus he promised to take Light's life when it reaches its climax. He can also offer him a deal that would see Light's life get halved but offer him a far greater power...

            L - the eccentric individual I was referring to, he remains pretty much anonymous by name, a real prodigy who has solved some of the worlds most puzzling of cases. This is a tad grating for me as he often puts together illogical theories that just couldn't be comprehended by any means. He meets Light, making an unlikely friendship after an intense tennis match. Massive eyes, a slumped demeanour and about 6 sugars in his coffee, well you get the idea...

            Misa Amane - A model who owns a second diary, 'dropped' by another Shinigami, has traded half her life for a most valuable ability - one which Light finds crucial in his plans. A bit of an airhead, she tends to only care about meeting 'Kira' (as she has reasons to worship him) and ends up dating... sorta. More comic relief really. Bit of a stereotypical girl role though.

            Pros
            It's refreshingly original for one, so it's fairly addictive throughout when it offers up possible twists and turns. The cast are also quite charming despite the death-inspired storyline and it engages your brain every now and then, making you think back to remember everything said and done as well as ponder the future of the anime. I'd take this over any other detective style series - CSI and all those other crummy american shows can suck it.

            Cons
            From the very beginning I have HATED the intro theme to this show. Like most anime, this song is a terrible unknown Japanese band that has zero sense of timing, rhythm or song writing - thank Shinigami they changed it halfway through to a hilariously loud hardcore-banzai-whats-up-people TUNE. Some of the decisions made by the characters are also questionable (they way they go about hiding details of themselves or attempting not to give away and clues that would reveal an identity - by bluffing or being ballsy enough not to etc). I also felt it was far too long at 37 episodes - I believe it would be better suited to around 25-30 - as there is a major change towards the later episodes that doesn't really deserve as much airtime as the earlier ones. Finally, the ending just pissed me off really. It could have been hugely original and/or gone against the norm. But no, it went with the cliche', in a quick and obvious way, yawn.

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          • More +
            23.02.2014 13:45
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            50/50

            It's hard not to be swayed by Gopro's enticing advertisements..
            Sure the people in the videos surf daily, have all the gear sold separately and have a massive ramp at the end of their garden which leads to a canal where they water-ski off the back of their friends speedboat, 24/7, 365 days of the year... ahhh where was I... BUT us normals can utilize these teensy weensy little cameras too, right??

            9-5
            I can imagine a lot of people would view these cameras as a niche product for a specific audience and occasion - I'm one of those people, yet I still ended up with one of these things... go figure... Still, I have an excuse of being somewhat in need as my job often requires various excursions into the woods and such to film various vehicles. Outside of the workplace, I'll admit to not putting this to much use (until recently). It has been plunked onto my dash in my car for filming a night drive home with all the lights of Guildford shimmering away (despite my shoddy camera placement). It's filmed unwitting family members play 'Just Dance' on the WIi and dance away like no ones watching, inside a Christmas tree. It's been strapped to the back of my Staffy's harness as he gets let loose over a massive common, encountering mass foliage, monstrous puddles and of course, other curious canines.

            Specs
            This little beast requires a decent SD card to be of any use (to be capable of handling a high frame rate) so a mark 10 card is recommended - the more the storage the better really (I stick with 32gb). There's a tiny screen about 2cm in height, 1.5cm in width, for you to get a vague image as to what the machine thinks you are trying to ascertain:
            A chunky old school looking video camera/picnic table - video
            an SLR camera - photos
            many frames - continuous shots
            SLR and clock- Time lapse
            Timer - ...no idea...
            spanner - options.
            Video capability - VGA, 720, 960, 1080 - both at varying frame rate, the higher the quality, the more space taken and strain on SD card.
            Video format - medium, wide, narrow.
            Megapixels - 5,8 or 11.
            Timer settings - length of intervals
            Change of direction - rotation
            LCD - turn off the annoying flashing red light.

            More
            There's a lot of useless stuff here but here's the basics: You get to turn off even more frustrating features like the beeps when taking shots, PAL vs. NTSC, LED brightness, Auto shutdown and..... a calendar.... for really anal people who MUST know the exact date and time a photo/video was taken - surely if you've got one of these carefree cameras...never mind.

            Hardware
            On the outside the Gopro hero 2 has an audio jack for headphones and one for a mic, plus the standard micro USB and even a HDMI port. An external microphone... on the bottom of all places... The outdoor version comes with various mounts (lumps of plastic with quickly degrading sticky pads) 2 plastic waterproof cages (one for when you inevitable give in and buy the wireless add on), a head-mount that makes you look a bit of a gimp/voyeur. Luckily when I'm working with these things, I've got a handful of grease monkeys who can easily apply an adhesive to the one use pads, as well as remove them from a surface if it really sticks..I left it on the vehicle on the drive home! I've tested the effectiveness of the cage by placing it in a wheel-arch of a prototype, whilst it plows through several massive puddles on pot holes. The resulting splash, may look cool on video but every now and then, the water doesn't bead off as it probably should. Battery could last longer - usually squeezing out around 3 hours at full chat.

            The Digital Product
            The videos themselves are of good quality when you retrieve them. There is a limit as to how much they can record in segments - usually around the half hour mark - making a file size of roughly 1.5GB. The wide angle lens means you can get away with various re-scaling and stretching if you're into editing the footage - so if you accidentally shot in portrait as opposed to landscape (no doubt because of those BLOODY MOUNTS!) then fear not, there is enough realistic 'give' to maintain realistic film. Sound isn't great though, unless its stationary and indoors. Outdoors, everything is inaudible even with the cages, due to wind which seems to amplify as it seeps into every orifice of the device. MP4 format, safe for 1080 & 720, fairly compatible format.

            Negatives
            My biggest gripe - it only has 2 buttons. One to scroll through the menu (one way) and no.2 for selecting/recording/shooting. It can be a laborious task to cycle through all the options until you find what you're looking for, although, it is all in there, as simplistic as it may be... Picture/Film quality, auto off, LCD choices, time lapse etc. No screen - you can view live video and photos via an iPhone app but... that would require a wireless back pack... an optional extra which increases the chunkosity of the device by about 5mm. In fact, ANY optional extra available is a negative for me when it comes to this thing, seems like they are extremely useful bits of equipment left out deliberately for another purchase.. crafty. Another issue I have is the mounts - they can be a bitch to properly get a decent angle and can build up if into an awkward stand of about 3 mounts if you struggle to get the view you want. It's also very frustrating that the mounts don't really offer a standard 'stuck on the bottom bit' option, it has to be some stupidly over the top, Pythagoras dimension of morose proportions, much like these adjectives.

            Ok so there is some serious exaggeration going on as to what people actually do with their cameras but the point is you should be able to do whatever you want with them, as they are lightweight and durable, whilst offering an unbeatable quality for a fairly low costing bit of kit - so a great idea! Delivered scrupulously by a bastard company!

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            • More +
              27.01.2014 14:49
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              It's right at the good end of 3 stars.

              You'd have to go back a fair while...
              ...to 2010 to recall Jimmy Eat World's last album, the slow burning grower Invented (4/5). Back then then they had just come off the fresh and poppy tour of Chase This Light which saw the band go down a more catchy and tuneful, soft-pop-rock route. With 'Invented' being a bit more down to earth, opting for a more real outlook and mixed emotion, past albums ranging from arthouse classics, college punk parting and insidiously emotional trauma, this time around would prove difficult to show how they can keep ticking on...

              Damage
              The 10 track album kicks off with 'Appreciation' - a jolly hook laden, 3 minute sing along. It's all about that guitar rocking back and fourth through the chords until the chorus slows it down to a steady rocking ballad "We build, we box, we carry on.. as people we forgot. Strange we come to find ourselves, not knowing we're lost." cue laid back but gritty guitar interlude. It's an idyllic start to the album with the lyrics being relevant to the bands situation. The Albums title track 'Damage' is even more sugary sweet due to it's xylophone like guitar track through the chorus. 'Are we only damaging, the little we have left?' vocalist & guitarist Jim Adkins' swoons. It's definite proof that the band has calmed down a tad - losing that rebellious nature perhaps (not that they had much of that to begin with) - still a pleasant listen though.

              Lean
              This one starts in a vaguely same fashion as the first track, that jarring guitar twangling back and fourth. That is, until a classy guitar squeals away in the background, enhancing the cleaner melodies. I'm not asking for a fix, I just need you close to reach. When I can't stop myself at all, when I can't lean on you I fall" are some more part-gushy but heartfelt and honest lyrics. 'Book of Love' sounds right out of a late 90's teenage drama film. Some chirpy acoustic similar to 'Kiss Me' by Sixpence None The Richer means I'm not exactly fond of this song. Diary-esque lyrics and popping bass, a dodgey interlude full of vocal noise is an attempt to sound like anything from Clarity - that ultimately fails, making this one dull, uninspired number.

              I Will Steal You Back
              Is one of the songs released before the album, that gave me hope for a solid Jimmy record. Somehow, it's classic J.E.W, yet nothing like anything else they've written. "Funny how the smallest lie might live a million times" ponders Adkins before being cut off by a badass guitar solo. "How slowly we built the walls, in years they pile on - I will steal you back" - another decent one in similar vein to the title track. The longest song at just under 5 minutes is 'Please Say No' - a breathy, dreary snooze. The words are rife with repetition and not for catchiness but rather sheer lazy song writing - "Please Say No", "I Go I Go" & "With You" all being muttered various times with less and less conviction, Boring!

              How'd You Have Me
              I desperately needed this track after the previous bit of rubbish. I properly like this one and say it's worth recommending - as it's the best on this album. A haggard and raw introduction of background talking and drum click track, awesome shaking hi-hat and a stomping chorus that demands you dance. "Only one thing left I wish I knew. How did you have me, and I only got you?" always brings a smile to my face, as does the second part "If it's all bad timing, and there's no control. You'll do anything, you'll do everything I want from now on". Unfortunately it's back to mediocre filler with 'No, never'. More repetition and standard muted verses, lacking a clear melody make it rather unmemorable. Best of the worst really.

              ByeByeLove
              Whether it's a reference to The Cars song or that 90's film, is irrelevant - this is what Jimmy Eat World sound like. It's as if they've stepped into a time machine, headed to 1999 and wrote down just one more song. Slow and swaying, 'Byebyelove' reeks of feeling and is perhaps a genuine goodbye to the fans or the old sound they hold so dear. The chorus merely consists of the title and the 2 verses offer a little insight to something personal "I wanna feel that golden light, watch summer dancing through your hair. There's so much I wish I could hold, Instead of carrying memories". It has some classy J.E.W vocal work, but unlike 'Book of Love' doesn't seem eager to convince you. It's real simple and slow, but it grows on you.. Unlike The closing track 'You Were Good'. Ever since 99', this band has made a point of ending their CD's with real belters, serious ballads that take your breath away. Clarity had 'Goodbye Sky Harbor', Bleed American had 'My Sundown', Futures had '23' and Chase This Light had 'Dizzy'. Maybe Invented ended that tradition with a wishy-washy-walk-away-now 'Mixtape'. Still, that's no excuse to forego bass & percussion entirely and use vocals that sound like they were recorded on a TalkBoy.

              There are some really top drawer songs on here, kind of spoiled by others as they remind you that this album is far from perfect, let alone the band at their best. Reasons could range from a switch in record label (or more likely the use of one), It being a tricky 8th album where anyone lesser would've ran out of inspiration, or just maybe they've grown up to a point where they can no longer solely focus on music? Who knows, but I'd still like to hear just one more, an album worthy of being the (milky) twilight of one of the most original band's I've ever known.

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              • The Chobits Collection (DVD) / DVD / 31 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                22.01.2014 12:04
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                Chi? Chi!

                Chobits
                A popular magazine-manga, 'Chobits' is one of many that gained enough attention to be made into an animation series - in this case one of 26 episodes. Released in 2002, Chobits still gets around, thanks to its premise and heart warming cuteness. While it's not particularly my area of interest in an anime, it did manage to hold me to watch all episodes, perhaps not fully focused but hey, when there's a robot girl who can only manage to say "Chi!" every couple of seconds, you're allowed a break now and again

                Plot
                Hideki Motosuwa (voiced by seasoned actor, Crispin Freeman) is a bumbling farm boy who's flunked at college and has to repeat the year he just failed for any chance to get into a university - only this time thinks he'll fare better by going to Tokyo. All sorts of problematic situations occur, such is the way when people who've grown up in rural areas are introduced to a chaotic urban environment. He gets a small apartment and meets a guy buddy in Hiromu Shinbo, who sheds some light on something he's never seen before Persocoms. These are computers made to look like human beings (except have weird ear antenna things) and come in various sizes (human to pocket). In the Chobits lore, they're used for literally everything, making phone calls, playing games, alarm clocks, keeping company, cooking, desk jobs etc and something Hideki is keen on - surfing the web for porn.
                Don't get it wrong, while Mr. Motosuwa sounds like a stereotypical teenage perv, even worse when you see how many 'specialist' magazines he has popping up now and again, however as the anime goes on he gives out a pretty clueless vibe, but an honest one - he's a good guy - as so many of the cast keep saying. Anyway, he finds a persocom in the trash (after wandering through town and realising how expensive they are when he can barely afford the rent with his life savings). A naked blonde, wrapped up in only bandages, he nabs her and tries to fix her up. With the help of Shinbo, he succeeds - Hideki knows NOTHING about ANYTHING. Unfortunately all it can say is "Chi!" - what a find. He sets out to teach her to be like a normal persocom whilst juggling a job and studying hard in college - so it's kind of true to life - but instead of a girlfriend to make this an ordinary drama, he has a robot...

                Characters
                Hideki Motosuwa - is a fairly confident guy who ends up working at a restaurant/bar called 'My Pleasure'. He tends to get nosebleeds whenever an erotic situation arises - this could be anything from a glimpse of underwear to the sight of a shoulder... He's voiced really well in the english dub though, which always helps in watching a series.

                Chi - One of the cutest characters you'll come across, her appearance twinned with her learning attitude make her rather adorable and childish as she tends to copy Hideki and embarrassing by pointing out erections and so fourth. She is not an ordinary persocom though...

                Hiromu Shinbo - a tech guy friend, attending the same college and lives in the same building. He owns a small, energetic persocom called Sumomo. He tends to educate Hideki throughout.

                Sumomo - a small persocom thats extremely pro active and upbeat - often shouts. She is the comic relief most of the time and acts as a guide for Chi and covers the basics with Hideki.
                Minoru Kokubunji - Some short know-it-all who has several persocoms cater to him in frilly lingerie. A rich kid, he owns a boat and has almost no redeeming personality traits - he's the guy who searches the web for answers in forums.

                There are several others but most only make brief appearances, not being that integral to the plot. They are Hideki's manager, his teacher, the landlord, the baker and his boss's daughter.

                Why it's worth watching
                The intro song and graphic is awesome! The song called 'Let me be with you' is sugary funk pop with a brilliant bass line and sweet girly vocals. One of the credit songs is also decent in 'Nigyo Hime' - this ones more alternative rock and down, but it's a good sound and makes appropriate outro music. The soundtrack even gets some intense rave music when things pick up! If you need something to restore your faith in humanity a little, this could prove helpful as its full of caring and pleasantries whilst retaining realism. If you're interested in the whole 'bridging the gap between man and machine' theory, it's also worth a go (it's covered a fair bit). Plus, it's generally quite amusing, the situations the characters put themselves in - very lighthearted anime.

                Why it's not
                It's not hugely interesting. There isn't much to the story. There are filler episodes. There are 3 episodes that contain, literally 2 minutes of unseen animation - the rest is a slide reel of stuff you've already seen - what a waste. A bit too cheesy/cute - I struggled to sit and watch it without feeling a tad immature. I ended up blitzing the series in a few days - not because I loved it but - I kind of wanted it over - so I didn't space it out properly either. To sum it up, there is production quality on show, but most of the content is devoted to fan service :S

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                • More +
                  19.01.2014 15:16
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                  Album of 2012.

                  The Californian 5-piece had never been of particular interest to me - since their breakthrough in the late 90's with Around the Fur hits - 'My Own Summer' & 'Be Quiet & Drive' - the former being a scream fueled cauldron of anger, constantly shouting "Shove it", the latter showing the opposite with blissfully clean harmonies. These 2 tracks would later revisit me via flicking through music stations, only this time, thanks to the dire quality of music at the time, made an impact. Late to the party? Absolutely, I'd missed out on 4 albums since then, with only one song grabbing my attention mid-way, 'Minerva' - what I believed at the time to be a desolate and drone-like grimace of a metal track. With an open mind, urged on by a need for new sound, (and keen on the super energetic/melodic force of 2010's Diamond Eyes) I acquired Koi No Yokan - which loosely translates along the lines of 'Feeling of Love' or 'Love at First Sight' - An apt reference for the first listen...

                  BOOM BOOM BOOM RIFFING BOOM BOOM BOOM
                  Swerve City is a prime example of being quick out the blocks. A thunderous riff that resonates throughout the song, acts as the cornerstone to a furiously brief bit of musicianship for just 2:45. "She breaks her horses" Vocalist, Chino Moreno's first line pays homage to the bands fan favorite early album, White Pony. "..With strange, distant voices - that travel through the air" ends the verses and forces the song onward until it gets to that oddly tranquil guitar interlude. like a ray of light shone onto a down and dirty song. Track no.2 would always struggle to top that, but Romantic Dreams offers a whole new experience. 2 minutes longer, the pace has slowed with a rolling guitar tab, trailing back and fourth. "So why wait to discover your dreams? Now here's your chance" breaks things up however the chorus of 'I- I'm hypnotized by your name/I- I wish this night would never end" is a third sumptuous part of a mixed up song.

                  Shedding your skin, showing your texture...
                  Before this album was released, the track Leathers was used to promote it with a striking image of a heart undergoing Angiography. Besides the hauntingly pretty visual for the single, the song goes one further with a drawn out intro of bristling guitar notes - eradicated by brute force at 39 seconds. Chino's visceral lyrics are amplified by his sheer deliverance - "You're cutting your ties, now and forever, time to let everything outside you". The verses purely build up constantly with massive slides and the odd chug, but it all comes down to that meaty chorus - probably the most energetic song on the album - it's one to check out - if you can tolerate it, you can manage the whole album. Poltergeist has an unusual introduction of oddly timed clapping - culminating to complete loudness. The song itself though is one of the slightly weaker ones.

                  G|-2h3-t10p2h3-t12p2h3-t14p2h3-t17p2h3-t19p
                  Entombed's divine introduction needed a title, and there it is, played on G, full of simplistic tapping and pull-offs. This is the kind of song that proves that even guitar driven, metalcore music hidden away from public radio, can be genuinely romantic. "From the day you arrived, I've remained by your side - in chains, entombed." Poetry. Ultra funky drum fillers, bridge the gaps between verse and chorus, along with an irresistible synth effect I can only describe as some sort of Paris-eloping-electro. The hard-hitting lyrics are reason enough to recommend new listeners - "Shades of colors are all I see.. Shapes of colors are all I feel". Graphic Nature returns the sound back to the norm, similar to 'Poltergeist', it boasts strong chords and sinister sounding vocals, "I'm aware of the demons, that you've tucked away. I like to watch you release them". It's the kind of song you'd raise an eyebrow to - if you're feeling it.

                  Tempest
                  This one took time to grow on me, partially because it's one of the longest songs at over 6 minutes. The vocals have always been impressive up to this point, but now they take on a new level intensity that doesn't require screaming or the odd 'WOO'. "Turning in circles, been caught in a stasis" demands you close your eyes and nod along. "I'd like to be taken apart from the inside, then spit through the cycle right to the end". It has bits of everything Deftones are all about; moody vocals, grinding guitars and harsh truth lyrics. Gets better the more you listen, as does its climax. Gauze is harsh in both guitar and vocal, but the delicious bass shines through for its first real stand out moment. Some of the vocal harmonies may grate at first, but if you've got this far already, it wont be a deterrent.

                  Rosemary
                  The longest of all the songs due to both build up and fantastical outro, this is Deftones at the pinnacle. Grungey guitar interrupting a sweep melody that returns in flutters throughout. The dreamy lyrics are written like a poem, in layout and content - "Our minds bend and our fingers fold. Entwined, we dream" hallucinogenic in word and sound. "We slow down as the engines stall. Our eyes catch sea. Explode" vivid imagery propelled by purposeful noise. Goon Squad is the albums final heavy track. At this point its worth mentioning that although the technical aspects of the songs - especially the guitars - aren't ground breaking, they are well put together, befitting the mood as they tend to swirl and repeat into a solid platform for the real star, Chino, to do his thing. What Happened To You? closes the album in style - experimental percussion and amplifier feedback gracefully play behind a falsetto vocal. "We're alive somewhere else. Still asleep someplace new. We're ahead of our time. Floating through" is the first round of a daydreaming chorus, gaining more momentum for a second go - "The sky is falling down. The night is calling you. A star is burning out. The sky belongs to you." an ultimate finale to what rapidly became my personal, album of the year (2012).

                  There aren't many times in life when you can sit down and take time to listen to something you initially thought was rubbish, even less so when you are proven wrong in the most spectacular of fashion - it's not very easy either. So I shall close by saying that this is one worth breaking away from the usual mainstream sound and giving a genuine chance, because its impact is significant, it's sound, phenomenal.

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                • FIFA 14 (PC) / PC Game / 25 Readings / 25 Ratings
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                  14.01.2014 20:56
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                  Another Year, Another Carbon Copy

                  "OK, so your team rosters and 13/14' kits are up to date! That'll be £55 please..
                  Oh and don't forget to pick up an online pass for £20 ;)"

                  Origin: Both kinds
                  Oh how I pity the parents guilted into buying this piece of yearly dross. Anyone savvy in gaming circles will be well aware of EA (Electronic Arts - FIFA 14's publisher) and their business practices. The yearly update of an indefinite franchise is something us mere peasant could only wish to think of. Alas, the mega-conglomerate got its mitts on the idea first and have churned out a mixed bag of casual, friday night gaming and lack-lustre, cashgrabs. Available on all consoles (PS4, Xbone, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Even PS2 (delicious Milk!)) and let's not forget EA's very own PC appstore 'Origin'. "How much is a digital copy of the game, without the case, manual, a disc, manufacturing, delivery charges?" THE SAME.

                  FIFA's audience? - Millions of frustrated football fans all wishing to suppress the withdrawal symptoms for the lack of Fußball.

                  Why the mass conscription-like hype? - No other game, can legally, boast official player/team imagery. So it's safe to say that there is no real threat to their video gaming football crown - Sorry Pro Evolution Soccer.

                  Why so expensive? - The previous reason withheld, because they can charge what they like: Despite the fact that 1. there is minimal change/improvement to gameplay and 2... well that's it really... Plus, it would be far too easy for me to say that EA are evil...

                  New Additions
                  Co-op Seasons! That's right, you and your full RRP paying friends can now play the game mode that the majority didn't care about in the first place! Basically, this lets you play online seasons mode but with the choice to let your friend help out. It's basically a way to charge for online co-op.

                  13/14' Kits! Oh yeah, that colour you like is now looking sharper than ever with its new advertising sponsor adorned all over it! It's at this stage that I'd like to point out how easy and honest it would be to release a DLC of this sort of thing to gamers, rather than get them to dish out more and more for the same game wrapped up in this seasons fashion.

                  Up to date team rosters! Hoo boy, now you can save 10 minutes and let us assign the current players to your squad! Which ever player's had a good season will also get a boost to their stats as well as a slight enhancement to their appearance - instead of a half-assed default one.

                  Scouting! Sure the older games also had scouts for youth squads, but 14's scouts mean you can no longer search for players based on overall skill! So now you have to actually have some knowledge of up and coming players if you are to make a wise decision in the transfer market (that or make a wild guess as to whom EA deem to be a good player).

                  Gameplay
                  I'm slightly ashamed to say that I have played EA's football games since F.A Premier league stars 2001 so please don't assume I'm against the sport in any way. Without arrogance, I've played the games, I know what's changed - very little. Irrelevant news stories, unrealistic player emotions and demands. However, what is really jarring is the removal of what made the game fun to play. You can no longer tackle the referee, you can no longer dive, you can adjust 'sliders' to effectively cheat the game, you can create custom players with an overall score of 99. Regardless, the core of this game is as predictable and boring as ever. The opposition continue the same tactics they've always used. Hoof the ball into the box from every set piece. There is also a blatant 'momentum engine' which has been present for years (an official algorithm was published online), which means the computer 'forces' goals whenever it desires - be it via unavoidable handballs, loss of player control or down right cheating.

                  The Music
                  Oh dear God the music..

                  Multiplayer
                  The only time your can guarantee a fair game. When you play against a friend - locally that is, you can't trust EA's servers' network connections. Team up against the AI however and you'll get the same ol' BS happening all over again - despicable referee calls, blind linesmen, delusional handballs and 6 month injures, to your players only. The best aspect of this game can be mutilated into an insult. What's more, the online play is costly, with an online pass necessary for one years worth of gaming and 'coins' to fuel the addiction of 'ultimate team' the gimmick that essentially gets people to spend real money in order to acquire virtual players for their online teams.

                  Difference between Xbox 360/PS3 and Xbox One/PS4 Versions
                  The truth is, there is no difference, not really. Graphical capabilities aside, the games feature no more, no less content and bare the same achievements. It is for all the negatives mentioned, that I personally insist on waiting for a massive price drop before purchasing these games - £55 is unfathomable, at least, for this.

                  The honorable thing to do would be to release yearly digital content at half the price instead of dressing it up as a 'new' game... That or take an additional year out to make a game properly!

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                  • More +
                    09.12.2013 20:57
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                    Creepy game, controls are tame

                    After finally being tempted over to the darkside of gaming, (with a PC no less) one of the first on my wishlist was this: Amnesia: The Dark Descent - Why? Because it received critical acclaim upon release and was dubbed one of the scariest games to date. "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED" me thoughts. A fair price and often discounted on Valve's Steam service, Amnesia is a game worth welcoming, due to the fact its an indie game, not churned out by a multi-conglomerate and surprisingly, because it lacks any point and shoot gameplay... or any attacking whatsoever!

                    Descend (Story & Environment)
                    The introduction is quite cool. A well read, British archaeologist, Daniel, awakens in a Prussian castle (its olden times) with a faltering memory (Title reference). He occasionally finds various pages of his journal, strewn about the castle, which is always worth the read as it is spoken with his suave, plucky, albeit naive voice. Piecing together his memory via the pages and horrifying flashbacks, Daniel learns that something is pursuing him... this.. shadow. All you know is that this thing wants to end your existence in the most grisly way possible (as seen and often heard, in numerous visions). As you probably imagined, there is very little light in your gloomy settings, however one of the most useful and often life saving abilities is to find oil for your lantern or flints for lighting candles... if there are any about..

                    Pause the game/Caps Lock (Gameplay & Controls)
                    Being in first person is an effective way to immerse gamers into the horror, especially when they don't get to stare at the barrel of an overpowered weapon whilst roaming about. What makes this one a survival horror is that you have to open doors and cabinets, move aside fallen rubble and various furniture to get any real progress... sound dull as hell right? Not when you're moving said sofa to cower in a crawl space because you heard a loud noise in the hallway! There are loads of puzzles scattered through the game too, which require searches and a bit of problem solving, so its not all just about being a coward. My main gripe though is unavoidable and only my opinion, but the controls are often diabolical. To the point where you're desperately clawing at your keyboard to leg it from monsters or as basic as pausing to heal yourself. That said, I am no seasoned PC gamer yet and this is the games only platform. Perhaps its controls add to the fear factor.. along with the choice of slowly opening doors and peeking around corners.

                    The problem this game has is this, if you're not scared but the character you're controlling is...... well that's just annoying. Languish in the dark long enough and your guy will hallucinate, start some heavy breathing and either have a heart attack or a stroke (your health is measured by your brain and heart). Clever though it may be to stop people plowing through the game quickly or joking about, it becomes a ball ache in the tamer situations.

                    The drawbacks with being an indie game also push this down the scale a tad too, with less than stellar graphics and the odd glitch. Despite its flaws though, Amnesia can draw in patient gamers with a knack for exploration and a stomach for the grotesque with its demonic creatures and heart pounding hide and seek style gameplay.

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                  • Tomb Raider (PC) / PC Game / 10 Readings / 9 Ratings
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                    09.12.2013 19:51
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                    Worth a weekend rental, may disappoint hardcore fans.

                    Now into it's third era, the Tomb Raider series has improved and changed by literal leaps and bounds. The general standard of in game graphics ever improving, greater control of actions, varying tactical gameplay, in depth environment interaction and solid AI and difficulty. With all the changes forced upon a trusted brand, by the rising sophistication and improvement in video gaming, can Lara Croft and her classy English 'assets' grasp the opportunity to reach a new generation of gamers, or risk losing its loyal followers by checking the boxes of yearly updated titles?

                    Story
                    The plot has always been a simple one in general - it's in the title - this nice lady plunders various ruins and gets into all kinds of close calls and picks up various scrapes and bruises in an effort to unlock secrets and acquire sacred treasures. The history of the character however is one thing worth looking into however.. something the games designers realized as this is essentially the origin of Lara Croft. What did this woman go through to make her such a self confident, skillful adventurer? Set in the mysterious island 'Yamatai' off the coast of Japan, Lara and a filming crew set out to make a documentary on the legend of Himiko - the 'Sun Queen'. Accompanied by mentor and father figure Conrad Roth and the standard rag tag team of a mechanic, electrician, fisherman, and archaeologist. When their ship is caught in a violent storm, they are washed ashore an island inhabited by abandoned criminals known as the 'Solarii Brotherhood'. These cutthroats stand in your way as you uncover the mysteries of an uncharted land.

                    Graphics & Environment
                    Easily the first plus of the game. From very early on you can tell the graphics are going to make this a very cinematic experience with seamless integration of cutscenes and gameplay. Most familiars will see a glaring change in the main heroin... smaller... eyes... among other things... anyway...Whilst the desolate 'deserted' island theme has been done to death, the places hidden beneath far outshine its initial concept. However vast the environments are, there is little to be swept away in as there are several generic looking areas for designed for combat or are achievement strewn. Despite being sparse, the actual tombs are quite intriguing thanks to mystical puzzles and surroundings. All that said, it's not exactly a chore having to stare at the jogging arse of Miss. Croft.

                    Gameplay
                    There is no doubt that this game has elements within it that were meant to draw in new fans. Unfortunately it is with the use of graphic violence and deaths... whatever works. Luckily one can choose whether or not to engage in all the combat, or stealthily evade it... though you are better off from an experience gaining point of view (so you could argue that it is the way its to be played). It's not necessarily bad or boring but it has certainly been done before. Shotgun, pistol and a rifle are the guns available although I prefer the multipurpose items of the bow (fire, explosives, ropes) and the brutal ice axe (close combat & exploration). There's small tasks to perform that wear thin quick like hunting animals, shooting mines and finding items. With all the repetition however, I never really lost interest. It's fun, it's simple, enjoyable. For me, this made it a decent weekend blockbuster type game - definitely worth renting at least.

                    Is it Tomb Raider?
                    Sadly, I cannot answer this one. Having only the played the first and at the moment, most recent of games, I can only offer the glaring obvious differences rather than the gradual change. The hard '18' rating would suggest otherwise. I can however tell you that the early years of Lara Croft are realistic and well written - she's not a self-made, confident, fearless adventurer or even a Mary Sue type character as she is perceived from the early games - to begin with. She must go through hardships to get her reputation and her rise to the challenge is believable and at a good pace. No stone cold killer alter ego changes at the drop of a hat here (Square-Enix's Lightning from FF13, I'm looking at you). The best summary would be that this new generation of TR tries to incorporate just as much combat as exploration. Although the impalement's, falls, drownings you suffer are completely out of the blue... or should I say red? Christ that's a lot of blood...

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                  • More +
                    12.08.2013 19:07
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                    One Step Forward, One Step Back

                    It can't be as an eighth installment, or should I say _remake_? After all, the essence of the DW franchise has been to bring history to life, albeit through the use of exaggerated weaponry and eccentric characters. Always based on 'The Romance of the Three Kingdoms' written by Luo Guanzhong, Dynasty Warriors follows the separate factions carve a path through ancient China, in an attempt to 'quell the chaos' and 'bring peace to the land'. Of course, most gamers familiar with Koei's games will be aware of the plot and genre by now, thanks to constant retelling and less than satisfying inclusions... 8 see's little invention - the return of 'Free Mode' and unnecessary Zuo Ci, the creation of 'Ambition Mode', several characters and weapon system. So the main question, are either of DW8's backtracks and new editions worth your attention?

                    Romance of the Three-.... Four Kingdoms

                    Jin
                    Wei, Wu & Shu have always been the main three kingdoms which the DW games have focused on. However in recent editions, the kingdom who would eventually unite the land under one banner, Jin, makes its appearance. Koei makes little to no effort in making Jin's officers likeable or relatable. Full of young kids who were initially led by the great Sima Yi, they are made out to be a ragtag band of rehash characters. Whilst its hero's disappoint, its inclusion (because of its importance) is still a step forward in historical accuracy.

                    Wei
                    Wei's campaign is far more down to earth. As the blue team marches through each battle, led by the almighty Cao Cao, a ruthless and ambitious man, who converts enemy officers as quickly as he beheads others. Li Dian and Yue Jin have been stylised, one a confused, curly haired mystery wielding what seems to be a lawnmower. The other a quiet chump with hooks. Go figure. Nothing changes the fact that the intentions of Wei are made out to look harsh and cold... as usual and its Officers hollow and lacking any real dedicated lines.

                    Wu
                    Offer little but the squealing of the Sun family. Sun Jian, Dead, Sun Ce, Dead, Sun Quan, WIMP, Sun Shang Xiang, Trophy Wife. Like, Jin, they are made out to be a group of youngsters who haven't a clue. Like Wei though, they also get 2 new playable characters in the form of Han Dang - the only person who actually resembles that of a Chinese Warrior (not a Westernised piece of plastic) and Lu Su, a new smarty pants. Without doubt, the biggest change to this faction would be the 'correct' way to pronounce its names - Sun Quan is now Sun Schwarng, Taichi Ci is now Tai Shut Sut and Zhou Yu is Jo yu. Whether these new pronunciations are accurate is one thing, but if they are in fact correct? Its just plain embarrassing it took 8 games to figure it out..

                    Shu
                    As usual, are the saviors of the world. Who are all about helping the people and benevolence. All historical snide moves and wrong doings hidden away just as before and warriors being capable of ludicrously over the top feats. That guy on the front cover? Zhao Yun, has been the poster boy for 6 of the 8 games. Why? he supposedly rode behind enemy lines to rescue a baby who would one day take up the shu banner, and drop it just as fast. Ma Chao gets the same treatment, banging on about justice and what not, when in reality he kidnapped innocent women and children. But I guess they forgot these little details... for an eighth time.

                    Combat
                    There are 2 main new editions to the combat system. Now, players can equip varying types of weapons suited to their characters physique or move-set. For example, a skinny character will likely only have skill (varying between 1 and 4 stars) in swift weapons like daggers and swords as opposed to heavy spears and maces. The other change is a rock, paper, scissor type game. The weapons (which can have 3 tiers of combat effectiveness, more moves, and up to 4 skill slots to improve or alter battle such as poison, gold accumulation etc) now have one of 3 different 'affinities'

                    - Man (Red) advantage over Heaven, disadvantage over Earth
                    - Earth (Green) advantage Man, disadvantage over Heaven
                    - Heaven (Blue) advantage over Earth, disadvantage over Man

                    Cooperative play is vaguely ok, with the double musou attacks, horses can now jump and are much smoother in (dis)mounting. No arrow attacks, mo musou charging. Arbalests can attack you regardless of where you are or what direction they are aiming (annoying) and areas set aflame or in the way of archer fire, deplete your health for a set amount which cannot be restored until you reach safety. This is both fairly realistic (fire) and equally silly (arrows).

                    Ambition
                    This mode didn't interest me at all because it seemed to be a desperate attempt at keeping players in game. My suspicions were confirmed upon seeing the achievements which are mostly about this particular mode. Basically, you own a spot of land which must be built up to standard so that the emperor may pay it a visit. You dawdle about waiting for irrelevant battles where you collect materials for building. Thats pretty much it. Boring.

                    Summary
                    This isn't the worst DW game. By a fair bit. But it still hasn't improved anywhere near enough to warrant any sort of acclaim. Dynasty Warriors 3 was a decent step up from the well received 2, and 4 was on the way up also, however after 5, and several spin offs (xtreme legends, empires) the series suffered and became stagnant. 8 doesn't offer much more than hollow gameplay and over the top antics.. antics that looks far more Japanese than Chinese. Koei are Japanese, but still...

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                    14.07.2013 13:57
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                    Deep, Dark, Dead Space.

                    The sequel to 2008's 3rd brutal survival sci-fi horror, Dead Space is for the most part, a pure continuation. No drastic changes, safe prolongation of the storyline, small additional customisation, better graphics, bigger environments and many more scares. As far as I'm aware, there aren't many games capable of offering the thrill and horror that the Dead Space series provides, at least not on consoles... because they not only depict intense violence as a means to shock, but also some visceral psychological nerve jangles..

                    Dementia Space (Story)
                    We rejoin Isaac Clarke some time after the events of the first game, located in a futuristic, industrial metropolis space station known as 'the Sprawl'. Evidently suffering from the trauma sustained aboard the mining ship 'the Ishimura', where we first encounter the dreaded 'Necromorphs', he is interrogated for information on 'The Markers' (giant artifacts linked with the in game religion: Unitology). As he escapes this asylum, it becomes apparent that the outbreak of these creatures has come back to haunt him once again. The player must guide him (in third person) through an increasingly deadly situation, experiencing hallucinations of his late girlfriend, who points the blame for all, squarely on him. These can be scenes where she appears and generally creeps you out or screeching tirades of verbal abuse. Either way, it makes your journey increasingly scary.

                    The Sprawl (Environment)
                    At first this place seems no different than any other re-imagined future city, but as you traverse its deep, dark locations, you just might realise how disturbing it actually is. The lack of solid chapter endings was a deterrent at first (because in the previous installment you could gather your items, upgrades and courage for whatever comes next) but since the benches where you can improve said equipment are still found sporadically, it just makes it that much tougher to face any more horror - no breaks for you. A good example of how these places put you on edge is in one of the most basic areas - the apartments - where I was idling along, darting in and out of bedrooms looking for some very illusive ammo, only to be put on the verge of shrieking like a girl when an alarm clock went off in game. Another example would be from wearing headphones to really immerse yourself - taking in all the barely audible mutterings of Nicole (Late girlfriend) aka a distorted sense of guilt. Such worrying 'abandoned' surroundings include:

                    Apartments, Shopping Mall, Church, Kindergarten, Ventilation Shafts, Space, Laboratories, Quarantine Zones, Surgery Theatres and even your own imagination...

                    Playing it Safe (Similarities & Differences)
                    Apart from some fairly annoying 'quick' controls, there doesn't seem to be much difference in gameplay initially. You can still use your kinetic abilities to launch all manner of objects, use 'stasis' to slow down enemies and dangerous obstacles and improve your 'rig' (armour) and weapons with power nodes. Said power nodes can still be used to open the sparse 'special' rooms cram packed with goodies. A fresh approach has been made to the visuals though as in general, they appear much greater with improved lighting and smoother textures. That and you can find various differing armours that have their own stats to do with speed, recovery rates and resistances. The weapons and healing items are the same, with the odd altered versions. The enemy roster hasn't undergone much change either, another failing from the original, but there are some interesting inclusions that drastically change up battle strategy, such as the little demonic children who just ambush you and the sneaky creatures that resemble Resident Evil's 'Lickers' who use the surroundings to sneak up and strike.

                    2 (Overall)
                    I'd say most fans of the first game will enjoy this, perhaps more so as it is deeper and darker but sticking to its basic formulaic gameplay and characters. New players may also find enjoyment too as it is just as playable without prior knowledge. Although it must be said that the ending has a classy end, best experienced with an understanding of the first game. With so many more violent ways to die horrifically and a handful of cringeworthy button bashing situations, Dead Space 2 pushes gamers that step further that the first just missed out on... as well as a giant needle thrusting machine into your retina!

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