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Red Dead Redemption
Format: Xbox360, PS3, PC,
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Games San Diego
Release Date: US (May 18th U.S - May 21st UK)
While there are literally hundreds of video game releases every year there are always certain gems that truly stand out from the vast treasure pile of home entertainment on offer, some titles go on to revolutionize a certain gaming trend, expand a franchise further or even go as far as to widen appeal to the mass market. Red Dead Redemption pretty much falls under all these categories which is not only an achievement in itself but underlines the sheer quality and attention to detail which in all likelihood will propel this title to Game of the year.
Developer Rockstar Games hasn't just created a game it's created an experience in a living breathing world much like it did for Grand Theft Auto IV. Red Dead Redemption is based on the same tech that powered GTAIV but is set in the Wild West and delivers an open world experience that is both incredibly beautiful and unprecedented in terms of scale. Its estimated there is in the region of 40 hours of game-play that ties you into the single player mission with roughly the same amount in the off-mission content and not including the multiplayer content.
Set at the turn of the 20th century during the final days of the lawless Old Wild West players play as John Marston, a "partially" reformed outlaw who rides into town on a mission to capture or kill a man called Bill Williamson. With his young family held hostage by government agents Marston has everything to lose but will not let anyone get in his way as his embarks on a mission to free them. Life is cheap in the Old Wild West and it's probably never been as realistically realised as it has in Red Dead Redemption.
If there's an example to underscore the brutal and unforgiving nature of the Wild West which morrors the Hollywood cliché then look no further than the Clint Eastwood classic The Outlaw Josey Wales, Eastwood is minding his own business in a small saloon when he is approached by a bounty hunter who recognises him and sidles up alongside him.
Bounty Hunter: "You're wanted, Wales."
Josey Wales: "Reckon I'm right popular. You a bounty hunter? "
Bounty Hunter: A man's got to do something for a living these days.
Josey Wales: Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy.
And with those immortal words yet another gunslinger attempts to draw on Clint, fails and bites the dust, the same sense of foreboding is brilliantly realised in Red Dead Redemption to the point where every town, saloon and farm you enter might just be your last if you're not prepared for reckless encounters by people who are out to make trouble for you.
The New Look
The first thing that will impress you is the sheer scope of the game vast, beautiful rocky vistas stretch off into the distance with the promise that anything you can see, you can visit and interact with, it's a bold design statement but also true, you will not believe just how massive the open world is. As with most open world titles you'll visit a massive variety of towns, camps, farms and various other regions as you explore, getting from one side of the vast map to another can be achieved in different ways from traditional horseback (15 mins in realtime!), stagecoach or train, visually Rockstar has pulled off probably the single best looking videogame for the last 5 years, with such a huge world to explore you're guaranteed to see something new anywhere you go.
It has to be said that the attention to detail is way above the benchmark, and to see examples of this you only have to look at the superbly detailed horses which are extremely integral to the game in terms of getting around, hunting etc, every muscle, canter, trot and gallop literally brings these beautiful creatures to life, there's a solid weight to bone and muscle that's been lovingly applied at development level and you'll marvel at how the light catches them to underline the fact that these magnificent beasts are just that.
Weapon selection is diverse and includes a wide variety of revolvers, shotguns, sniper rifles, hunting rifles and knives, the large Buffalo rifle is a powerful single shot rifle with the kick of a mule but the punching power of a small canon, weapons vary in their range and capacity as will your skill for mastering all the various types on offer as you trade, steal and upgrade throughout the course of the game, gunplay is further enhanced with the High noon quick draw scenarios, the same dynamic "Dead Eye" mechanic from the previous Red Dead Xbox title allows you to slow down time and paint targets- draw first and you'll have more time but your shot will not be as accurate, draw second and you'll have less time but your shots will be more accurate meaning that you can take down your foe with deadly precision, the balance provided means that players will need to make on the spot decisions of how best tactically to take down their foe. The industrial age was a turning point for the Wild West, trains and the motor car were on the verge of replacing the horse and cart and weapons and their development meant that larger calibres and the emergence of automatic fire came into being and all of this is superbly realised in the game ( look out for the small Mauser pistol from WW1).
As with most games these days there is a hierarchy system of improvement, the more you play and score the more opportunities, items, assets and abilities you unlock, with Red Dead Golden Guns award more fame than standard weaponry with every kill you make, the more fame you achieve the more experience points you gain allowing you to 'level up' or unlock other attributes within the game, this in itself is a brilliantly realised game mechanic encouraging you become proficient either in the traditional shoot out sense or building more skill in hunting.
For those of you that have played GTAIV you'll remember the accurate ballistics system the game employed to register certain hits on the body when you shot someone with a firearm, once again the guys at Rockstar have delivered a superbly accurate ballistics system that represents the power ratios and damage that handheld firearms had, shots to limbs cause the balance of the enemy to be adversely affected, a crippling leg shot from your shotgun to a target running away for example will cause the enemy to buckle over and then attempt crawl to escape.
As players of Rockstar games have come to expect the ability to roam the open world environment is a core game-play mechanic, Red Dead Redemption takes what GTAIV had to offer and increases its scope further. Players are free to explore, in fact its encouraged, feel like robbing a bank or a train you can, perhaps you'd like to indulge in some bounty hunter missions and take out a few bad men or engage in a high risk poker game in town, best of all though is the ability to hunt, the amazingly diverse eco system allows players to hunt everything from wolves, bears , rabbits, Armadillo's, mountain lions, buffalo and lots more, you can even trade the pelts, meat and hide for cash in nearby trading towns. Be warned though, your actions do have repercussions, embark on a killing frenzy and kill everyone in town and it becomes a ghost town with little left to interact with and no options to trade. Kill innocent people and a bounty is placed on your head which increases with every bad deed you perform which sort of mirrors the cop killing wanted rating from GTAIV, the moral choices you make all affect the game but your ability to make those choices have never been so well imagined in a video game there's free roaming and there's Red Dead Redemption.
Free Roam Multiplayer
By far one of the most innovative features of Red Dead Redemption is its free roam multiplayer, the vast open world vista that you explore in the single game is available to play in multiplayer, gone are the restricted boundaries of small scale maps, the world is basically your gaming lobby. Players can join organised games and challenges, go it solo and take on teams of players, an 8 player posse can work as a team or explore separately. Players can take on other posses or take on the law in full on deathmatch firefights, you can even take your posse on a hunt and take down some of the larger wildlife. A maximum of 16 players can battle it out, potentially a 4 man posse can take on three other 4 man teams within the same fight.
There are 50 levels in free roam and scoring is based on the kills you rack up, times killed, headshots, defence assists and kill combo ratios along with any head shots or bonus scores you achieved. The experience points you acquire unlock better weapons, additional outfits, characters and even horses.
Multiplayer modes include:
Team Gold Rush
There are three Special pre order editions available of Red Dead Redemption, those who pre ordered the title through HMV get the game edition with the War Horse, those who pre ordered with Game get instant access to John Marstens Assassins outfit. Pre orders with Amazon get the Golden Guns which acquire more fame with every kill.
As with Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 shop around for the best deals, Rockstar is a developer who doesn't disappoint in terms of value for money and potentially Red Dead Redemption may be one of the most important games of the year , a standard retail version will be priced for around £39.99 through outlets like Game. However do make sure you check prices before you buy especially Amazon, Blockbuster may have trade in deals as well for a lower rrp when you trade in two titles of a particular format.
If you liked GTAIV and you like the aspect of free roaming open world games then this is an absolute must have, you probably begged, borrowed and stole to get Call of Duty MW2 and my advice of selling a Kidney in my review for that may now mean you have to cough up a lung!
That big bar of choccy you bought to keep the missus content while you've been playing CODMW2 probably isn't going to work this time round, maybe this time it would be an idea to appeal to her sensibilities, after all, Clint Eastwood is 72 years old so the Wild West is going to need a new guy to clean up the town.
When comic book artist and writer Bob Kane first combined the features of a bat with those of a man I'm sure he had never ultimately envisioned his creation becoming one of the most popular characters in the world, on par with known brands or entities such as Coca Cola and Mickey Mouse ask anyone on the street what links Bruce Wayne with a cape and cowl and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't mention Batman's name.
When Rocksteady studios set out to create the ultimate superhero game In Batman: Arkham Asylum not only did they completely embrace the mythic status of the character but they created a masterpiece that won over millions of fans worldwide. In Batman Arkham Asylum the player assumes the role of Batman as he drops off his nemesis The Joker to Arkham Asylum once again. Within Arkham the imprisoned 'super-villains' have set an ambush and an incredible combat gaming experience begins. Bringing such a character to videogames is important to get right, much like it is with film and with that Rocksteady knew they had to bring in someone who was familiar with the characters who could create a credible backstory to the game , penned by Emmy Award-winning Batman writer Paul Dini, co-creator of "Batman: The Animated Series," Batman Arkham Asylum brings the universe of Batman to life in spectacular fashion.
The Game of the Year Edition comes with several rather unique features that the standard edition doesn't ,Expanding the game-play it comes with all six previously released Downloadable Content Challenge Maps on the disc, Players can do combat against Arkham Asylum's criminals in a range of iconic environments from the game including the infamous Crime Alley and the insane Scarecrow Nightmare. The Game of the Year Edition also offers a play-in-3D option compatible with all standard and high definition TV sets.
The 3D concept for videogames is one which is just emerging and Batman: Arkham Asylum utilizes TriOviz 3D technology a company who worked to bring Batman: Arkham Asylums visuals an added depth without the loss of impact from the colour and visual integrity of the game, 3D tech works along two lines Polarisation Imagery used by Avatar allows full colour viewing with images projected on screen simultaneously, the other Anaglyph uses two colour layers superimposed on the other, one for each eye. Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition uses the latter form enhancing subtle areas in the games environments giving it a great visual enhancement not previously experienced.
Added to the fact that the game is as visually impressive as it is smart it's also a well written adventure story and without doubt probably the best licensed game ever created.
Rocksteady have ticked all the boxes with Arkham, they been careful to stay true to the character and back story that fans of Batman embrace with such passion. "Animated Series" vocal actors Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin (Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn) bring the game a familiarity that ties everything together, the fact that you're now getting a 3D experience and the new maps with superb game design and characters voiced by their TV persona's is, well, just sublime.
In terms of game-play most of your time is spent in detective mode searching high and low for clues as you try to track The Joker down. A visual effect in the form of a blue-hued "Detective Mode" directs you through the story and highlights objects of interest, these can be things like fingerprints, security consoles and even the structural compromise in walls and floors. It's true to say that Batman isn't Batman if he didn't have his gadgets, Batman's diverse arsenal of gadgets grows at certain story points and through a basic experience system allows players to purchase upgrades as you get further into the story. Most of the gadgets fit a purpose too so you're not wasting effort to get items to clear certain compounds that need essential kit.
The stealth-combat against armed criminals and the superb combo fight system that allows you to chain several moves together to defeat several foes is almost balletic in terms of choreographed violence.
Ultimately though you're reading this review to find out if the Game of The Year Edition is worth purchasing over and above the standard edition, the simple answer to that is yes, without a doubt especially if you haven't yet bought it, winning Bafta's for Best Game and Best Game-play coupled with an incredibly high 92% rating as an average across its reviews not to mention plaudits for Outstanding Character Performance and Outstanding Achievement in Game Design it remains a game that has set an incredible standard for game design.
Batman Arkham Asylum Game of Year Edition is probably one of the finest examples of video game brilliance to grace modern current gen consoles and is highly recommended.
Players who like this may also like: Splinter Cell Conviction, Assassins Creed 2
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Macmillan (18 April 2008)
Bob Shepherd is clearly a man of experience, with 20 years of SAS operational service under his belt participating in a number of high profile activities including the Iranian Embassy siege in London, the Falklands War, the First Gulf War and Bosnia not to mention a never before published role in the infamous Bravo Two Zero patrol, having retired from the regiment he took up work as an CP ( Close Protection) advisor on the international commercial security circuit.
This book doesn't pull any punches, its matter of fact, its honest and very to the point from the authors perspective so those looking for the heroic highway shootout stories of close protection teams will be disappointed.
Bob is an advisor, if you happen to be a high profile news agency looking to get into a hot zone of conflict...but also want the added benefit of coming out alive again then Bob is your man, the book brilliantly describes his day to day as an advisor, sometime armed, sometimes unarmed but while Bob is man who believes in getting the job done with some risk to himself he never risks the safety of his various clients. His level of awareness underlines why he was in the SAS, the book is startling in terms of the lengths that Bob goes to in order to prepare for any assignment with his clients.
The book dedicates a large proportion to Bob's CP work for CNN ferrying journalists across the lethal checkpoints of The West Bank and Gaza strip to the badlands of Afghanistan dodging opium warlords, tribal feuds and insurgents. while in Afghanistan he was forced to spend the night as the only Westerner in Khost - with a $25,000 bounty on his head. One of the most incredible accounts in the book is when Bob works as part of a two-man 'recon' team, to search for ITN Correspondent Terry Lloyd and his missing crew in Basra, Iraq. Bob investigates the scene like a crime scene investigator going nearly as far to evaluate the forensics of the correspondents last known whereabouts.
The book does have some truly edge of your seat moments but what never ceases to amaze is how prepared Bob is, he plans everything down to the finest detail, routes in, routes out, how much weight everyone is carrying, has the vehicle they're using been serviced, when was it serviced and who serviced it, does it have a blind spot or mechanical problem he needs to know about, is it low profile enough, which of the additional team is first aid trained and so on. Above and beyond the day to day planning it has to be said that Bob reads people very well, its part of his job to be able to read any kind of situation but also to evaluate threat.
Close protection isn't about heroic shootouts, it's primarily about evaluating threat and risk assessment and specifically the risk and threat his clients may not be aware of. During the height of the war in Iraq CP operators could earn in the region of $900+ per day as sub contractors, winning contracts to do the jobs that the military didn't need to do - Close Protection teams could take the pressure off military personnel to do the same job such as convoy protection of raw materials, protecting oil company personnel, buildings, news teams, members of government etc.
However the one thing that Bob does emphasize is how badly managed the circuit has become, what was once a a niche business staffed by top veterans has now descended into an unregulated,billion dollar industry that places profits and cost cutting above the value of peoples lives. Invariably it does bring to light that every day we hear about military personnel losses in places like Iraq and Afghanistan but never about the hundreds of Close protection members ( who are ex military) who have also tragically lost their lives in the course of duty.
I've only read one other book about CP teams in action, Making a Killing by Captain James Ashcroft, a starkly different read and perspective with some truly ferocious firefights and conflict. The Circuit is a much more informed read providing balance and perhaps much more detail about the finer points not to mention helping you understand so much more about the political climate he operates in, providing background, historical information about the location, the risks of a situation which gives an insider account like never before.
A well paced read, exciting but never over the top it remains one of the best books written about the role and risks of Close Protection in today's hot spots.
Readers who like this might also like: Sniper One by Dan Mills, making a Killing by Cpt James Ashcroft, Apache by Ed Macy.
Bluray version review
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Bill Murray
Two men with vastly different levels of testosterone are trying to survive a world overrun by zombies. Columbus is a bit of a softie but pragmatic -- constantly afraid of being eaten by zombies he has a set of rules he lives by. Tallahassee on the other hand is an Uzi, shotgun-totin' and gum chewing, zombie-slayer whose single mission in life is to find the last Twinkie on earth no matter how many zombies get in the way. This mismatched pair team up somewhat reluctantly with feisty females Wichita and Little Rock, who have also managed to survive the zombie holocaust.
If you think road trip movie and Sean of the Dead then you're bang on target, the film contains a superb balance of terror and laugh out loud comedy with some hilarious zombie slaying to boot " zombie kills of the week". Yes its silly but then so was Sean of the Dead and for a budget of a mere $30Million for Zombieland we're hardly going to complain and an imdb rating of 7.8 out of 10 is more than justified.
Zombieland originally started off in written form as pilot for television written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. After the idea came to make the script a feature film, the script was revised and changed, and the feature film was approved for production and uber script doctor William Goldman was brought on board to provide script rewrites.
All that said and done the high def digital 1080pm format of Zombieland makes for a perfect Bluray with some truly pin sharp images, colours and sounds,the slow motion sections at the start of the film are near enough 3D effects and pop off the screen with some stunning detail. A superbly balanced DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack provides dialogue and sound effects in very clear well defined sound and with the constant gunplay in the movie its put to great work.
Visually the film is bright when it needs to be and colours really do ping from the screen,the darker night shots are nice and inky black with no distortion or noise.
The only downside is that the Bluray does not come with a digital copy to download to ipod, since the movie is one of those types of movies you could easily watch over and over again and has gained a decent cult status Columbia need to consider this for the sequel.
Extras - on the disc are some cool special features including Deleted scenes Commentary with actors Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg as well as the Director and writers, behind the scenes"In search of Zombieland" and visual effects progression scenes are also included.
Exclusive to Bluray - "beyond the graveyard" picture in picture track and movieIQ BD Live connects you to access real time information on the cast,music,trivia while watching the movie.
Languages supported: English,Dutch,French
Rated: 15 ( Contains strong bloody comic violence and strong language)
Video: 1080p High definition (2:40:1)
Audio: English,French 5.1 DTS-HD MA.
A couple of years ago I bought a DELL inspiron 1525 laptop and for the most part the integrated touch pad was fine, that was until I decided to take up Photography as a serious hobby and with that embark on the creative learning curve of being able to retouch and process my digital photo's with Photoshop Elements 8.0.
having tried unsuccessfully at being able to get the optimum results from just scrolling an index finger around the touch pad I decided I needed to invest in a small reliable mouse.
It goes without saying that after much review reading on my part I opted for the Microsoft wireless mobile mouse, the absolute standout feature of this is the USB receiver which simply plugs into any usb port on your PC, for laptops this is perfect, its a small compact mouse very well put together with a great design feature that allows you to clip the usb receiver to the underside of the mouse when you're finished using it, this in turn switches off the mouse saving battery life.
The other great feature is that the mouse only takes one AA battery which fits into a compartment under the main houising, how Microsoft have managed to cram so much design value in a mouse is beyond me but if you don't want the hassle of wires or indeed installing driver software for a mouse then this is plug and play magic.
The mouse scroll wheel is sturdy and actually feels extremely robust so it'll take lots of wear and tear, for people with large hands it might be too small but if you're working via a laptop on surfaces with limited space to move around then this could be the perfect tool. Talking of size - for small hands this is a perfect mouse for young kids, both my kids use this on the laptop so in terms of flexibility everyone in the household won't have a problem in getting to grips with it, my son is Eight and my daughter is Ten and its a perfect fit for them.
I primarily use the mouse for digital photo retouching and processing and the reciever for the USB is super fast which has really cut down the time it takes me to make the adjustments to my work, the mouse doesn't need a mouse pad just a decent surface to operate on.
Reliability is something that is important to emphasize here, while there are lots of brand names and third party peripherals looking to offer cheap functional alternatives I went against my initial thoughts that just because it had Microsoft printed on it that the mouse would just be like every other, how wrong I was, with Microsofts wireless 3000 mouse I found functionality and reliability in one package and at a great price.
Shop around for the best deals, I picked up mine from Amazon and was up and running within 2 minutes of getting this out of the box (literally 2 minutes!!)- do be careful though when opening, the battery for the mouse is at the very bottom of the box which I nearly threw away.
In summary this is a fantastic Mouse, compact, very easy and quick and the USB wireless aspect of the functionality is absolutely a must for laptop users with limited space, the USB clip function keeps everything together if you're on the move a lot so if you need a mouse for a work laptop and you're in sales or present a lot to clients or customers then this is a must buy.
Author: Ed Macy
Publisher: Harper Press
Cheapest Price: Amazon.co.uk
Check out: www.edmacy.com
For those lucky few of you who have read my review of Apache, Ed Macy's first book you'll get a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of value, both as an investment in your free time as an actual literary form of entertainment.
HELLFIRE takes us back to Macy's early military career in 2 Para and the near fatal accident that set him on course to not only live with what he was dealt but to take that incident and turn his life around and in all probability become one of the most accomplished and skilled helicopter pilots ever to fly in combat.
Once again Macy's wit shines through as he takes us through his competitive training and career in the RAF Gazelle, utilising his 2 Para skills to support ground troops in Northern Ireland and his eagerness to know absolutely everything about the mechanical beast that is the Apache attack helicopter prior to the early stages of the Army's first steps into helicopter warfare with a technological edge.
When you compare the helicopter systems available to the RAF during the early stages of the book ( Gazelle and Lynx) you realise just how big the gamble was that the Army took when they bought into the Apache as a combat aircraft because at that time no one had any idea how important this specific machine of war would become on today's battlefield. The contrast in how our military has had to adapt from The Cold War and the mechanical Soviet threat to one of international terrorism and conflict in the Middle East isn't something that Macy dwells on but he does give an insightful perspective on the way that the military has to evolve in order to remain effective but more so how well trained our troops are in the discipline required to be the best of the best.
It's fair to say that this book is not as finger nail biting as Apache which was an amazing combat account of the 2007 assault on Jugroom Fort in Afghanistan but that's not to say the combat detailed in this book is not as compelling, it still has some incredible edge of your seat moments.
If anything Hellfire will give you a very comprehensive behind the scenes look of the Apache attack helicopter the training and logic that goes into becoming a pilot and the skills required to fly it which are quite simply staggering, having read Apache there was clearly enough additional information Macy has been able to include about the capabilities of the AH Apache in Hellfire, its visual, radar and weapon systems to name specifics that weren't already covered in his first book. If its facts and figures you're after then Hellfire delivers it in spades and with some truly mind bending data ( Hellfire missiles cost £82,000 each, travel at 1000mph and deliver 5 million pounds of pressure per square inch) that underlines how lethal the Apache helicopter is and how it is perfect for modern warfare.
The book is supported by 16 pages of full colour photographs most of which are labelled with additional info and callouts either about the Apache, locations or weapon systems which helps you understand where all these things fit into the general descriptive collective of the book.
Macy has followed Andy McNabs route into the book market, first by releasing an incredible first hand combat account and then following up with a book that gives us more information about the man himself and his inevitable contribution to both his country and military history.
What's great about the book is the laid back approach that the author has, while there is inevitably a lot of facts figures and technical structure to the book Macy always makes a point of telling you why and how all these things contribute either to the helicopter itself or the way it's designed to help the pilot so you're not left with just technical filler.
There are many books about combat in the Middle East some of which I have already reviewed or commented on but if you're a fan of Apache then you'll love this book, I'd even go as far to say that if you haven't read Apache yet then read this one first beforehand because by the time you've read both books you'll appreciate the rise of Macy's career as a combat pilot and why he was so deserving of the Military Cross which a pilot doesn't normally get awarded.
Summary: A superb insight into one of the most lethal Attack helicopters ever created and a great background story to one of the bravest pilots to have served in the British Army Air Corps.
If you liked this you should also consider: Sniper One by Capt Dan Mills, Eight Lives Down by Capt Chris Hunter, Apache by Ed Macy
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
Format: Xbox360, PS3, PC,
Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: Nov 10th 2009
Players who like this may also like: Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: World at War, Battlefield Bad Company.
When the original Call of Duty Modern Warfare boasted a sales success in excess of 15 Million units it did so with a clutch of videogaming awards including 3 Baftas, numerous game of the year awards including Console game of the year, Action Game of the Year and Overall Game of the Year from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare did for relationships with wives and girlfriends what JAWS did for holiday makers wanting to swim in the sea.
Added to Developer Infinity Wards award haul is a Metascore ranking on Metacritics.com of 94 which made it one of the best modern military shooters available on console and home PC. Infinity Wards decision to move away from the tried and tested World War II format that EA had established so well with the initial Medal of Honour series took FPS shooters to a whole new level and set the benchmark higher than ever before.
Modern Warfare 2 is set several years after Call of Duty Modern Warfare, with the death of Imran Zakhaev concluding the previous game Vladimir Makarov leader of the radical Russian Ultranationalists is hell bent on influencing his radical movement as the new world order. Task Force 141 is a multinational Task Force comprised of a collective of Special Forces organisations including the SAS, SBS, Delta and Ranger, it is also where you the player come in to the story as you embark on a global mission to tackle this new threat to modern civilisation.
Fans of the series will fondly remember when Infinity Ward released the "Cliffhanger" video at E3 earlier this year ( even I lost count of the times I watched it soaking up every gunshot, every soldiers movement and load out to an almost geekfest level) as SAS trooper Soap McTavish led you on a nail biting dual handed ice Pick snow bound assault and thrilling skidoo escape. So the question is does this title live up to all that hype that has had us gnawing our fingers to the knuckle?
The New Look
The first thing that strikes you when you play Modern Warfare 2 is the visuals, better level detail, larger maps and textures and gun models are all very apparent and again emphasize the attention to detail that Infinity Ward is famed for, this is the benchmark everyone is talking about and rightly so. Tech wise Infinity Ward have employed hi-res texture streaming which basically improves the amount of memory dedicated to realising certain objects and details in-game, things like vehicles and uniforms are presented in stunning form.
The story and setting once again sucks you into the world of modern day special Forces combat, espionage and all round dirty dealing terrorism and you'll feel just as at home in MW2 as you did crawling through the long grass as a sniper with your heart rate pounding in the first game. Character detail is fantastic with so much attention to the smallest of details, eyes sparkle, hair strands glint, weapons look battered and well used. But aside from the cosmetics never has the beginning of a videogame impressed me as much as this, not since Uncharted 2 anyway.
Weapon selection is now more diverse and includes some great new additions as well as some new modern tech that today's Special Forces are putting through their paces, and for all you gear geeks and gun nuts out there these include the FN SCAR, FAMAS and Bushmaster ACR, the M21 from the previous game also gets an upgrade in the form of an M21 EBR (unlockable at level 56) configuration among many more. Throwing knives, Semtex and Riot Shield also add to the offensive and defensive nature of play and for territory based games the Riot Shield really comes into its own.
Personalization of these weapons returns with two new camo patterns, Artic and Fall and weapon attachments have some great new additions which will have you scratching your head how best to set up your primary.
Perhaps the most exciting addition for me personally is the KRISS Super V, (Vector)an unusual 45 cal weapon ideal for close quarters but which will no doubt become a player favourite over the default MP5 and UMP45 especially for the urban multiplayer maps in particular Favela which is a shanty town map with lots of narrow back streets. Attention to detail within the environments is second to none, while your eye will be firmly focused on your weapon foresight it's hard not to get distracted by the smaller things which brings the immersion to the point of being there, things like looking up at the horizon on the Favela map to see the famous Rio De Janeiro landmark Statue of Christ perched high atop the hill. Atmosphere is further boosted with smoke that hangs and drifts, sparks, explosions and fire are brought to life with incredible audio and on the physics side bullet scores all react with the density and velocity of the objects they hit.
The new added visual touch of blood spatter on your goggles now replaces the red "hazing" effect from the previous game when you are hit or sustain damage and is a good indicator you need to find cover asap, this greatly helps indicate the level of danger you are in a lot more than in CODMW.
Multiplayer is where the heart of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 lies, totally refreshed, redesigned and complete with new game modes that now see the inclusion of two new game variants Demolition and Capture the Flag. Unfortunately lag when playing US players is still present and on some rare occasions you still get the occasional server timing out but the introduction of migrating servers means that if the host quits then the game isn't dumped leaving everyone else high and dry, so at long last and end to rage quitters who were ruining the multiplayer experience on COD4 and World at War, however you may want to set your game search preferences to local until things settle after a few weeks as this will allow you to play a game without too much lag. The customization and class creation system that made Call of Duty Modern Warfare a geardo's dream really gets an overhaul as well, players now unlock emblems to go by your Gamertag, the more prolific and better or worse you play the more emblems you access depending on your style of play and assets you play with, Multiplayer follows the same structure as before opening up additional weapon loadouts, perks and add on's the more you progress into the game. Kill streak awards is by far one of the newest and most innovative additions to MW2, 3 kills get the bog standard UAV radar sweep, 4 kills is attached to your loadout preference and you can either select Counter UAV or Gift Package which can drop a killstreak, ammo or health but can also be stolen by the opposing team, 5 kills is a missile strike from a Predator Drone which can take out several players in one well placed hit. Go for broke and get 11 kills and you'll unlock the AC130 Spectre to "bring down the steel rain". It goes higher still with bigger and better killstreaks for the more accomplished players.
Multiplayer feels faster than before, faster in the sense that your life expectancy lasts only seconds, no doubt caused by the proliferation of elite players who have been honing skills on COD4 and World at War but you'll need to think faster than before, on the flip side levelling up feels faster than it did on COD4, I swept through the first 20 levels much quicker than I remember on COD4 and World at War but then I have played World at War ever day for the last 9 months.
Your initial set up will be fairly limited until you start to unlock the good stuff and this is where you'll need to think very carefully about your perks and loadout in general so that the mix gives you the advantage on any given map, you can create 5 custom classes if the standard issue Grenadier, First Recon, Overwatch, Scout Sniper and Riot Control setups are not to your liking.
The larger Killstreak bonuses are controlled by a tactical briefcase which you open up which takes you into an overhead view of the battle guiding whatever ordnance you have available onto the players below you and a well placed predator strike can take out several players in one go.
Fans of the Crash site map from COD MW will be thrilled to know that another Crash Site map, featuring this time a huge broken up AC130 in Afghanistan is probably one of the best medium sized multiplayer maps, wreckage, rubble and a deadly canyon maze take the play onto several levels what with the undulating terrain and the pace of the level is incredibly fast. Small detail like poppy seed stems, strewn crash wreckage scorching and general terrain detail are stunning, when you think you've seen all the map another section opens up before you, size being another factor in the overall improvement. Other maps such as Invasion and Quarry are prime examples of how Infinity Ward has taken map design to new heights literally; game-play is varied and on different levels in and out of buildings that have alleyways, stairwells and deadly blindspots, dead ends and bottleneck areas channel gunplay into prime killing zones for the tactical player.
Deathstreaks can help out players on the receiving end of better players owning the battlefield, the idea this time round being that to help a community thrive it still needs to provide balanced gameplay between elite, average and poor players in multiplayer- copycat and painkiller are prime examples. Copycat allows you to emulate your killer's class and load out (even if your class means you haven't unlocked those weapons), while painkiller gives you a temporary health boost when you first re-spawn back into the current map. Perks and the modification system is a complex and varied pick and mix with some great new additions including Cold-Blooded which makes a player invisible to UAV scans, thermal imagery, and air support, Scavenger gets you a full resupply of ammo from dead enemies while Commando increases melee distance, Marathon pumps up endurance and allows you to sprint indefinitely while Scrambler gives you the ability to jam every radar.
Scout Sniper class when unlocked at level 3 remains formidable, this time round you can earn a Tactical Insertion perk, map this to a grenade button on your joy pad and you can select where you'll re-spawn on the map which means you can get into position or find cover much more easily instead of having to charge across half way the map to reach your favorite sniping spot. Each perk still has a bonus and negative aspect attached to it, what you improve on one aspect may affect another, the tactical insertions downfall is that it's a flare that you drop so it's easily seen by enemy players and can also be destroyed.
Perhaps one of the most prominent additions to MW2 is the Co-Op mode known as Special Ops with groups of different missions and levels of difficulty, the beauty here is that Special Ops can be played in a variety of ways, Split screen, Xbox Live with another player or you can go it alone. Breach & Clear presents probably the most challenging of the Special Ops modes and players need to breach an area having first selected one weapon from a variety available before running a gauntlet through waves of enemies to reach the end of each stage. I found this both challenging and rewarding and as a player you weren't punished by random enemy A.I, unlike Veteran modes in Call of Duty World at War the balance in modes away from the main game is well maintained but the assistance of a human player obviously makes the game work harder since the A.I is much more finely tuned.
It's hard to find fault with a game that pretty much covers all the bases in both single and multiplayer offerings especially if you're a fan of the Call of Duty series in general. Script and story could quite easily be ripped from the pages of a Best Selling modern day thriller with what looks like heavy doses of inspiration from Hollywood and TV series like 24 but voice acting from the likes of Keith David ( The Thing), Barry Pepper ( Saving Private Ryan),Billy Murray ( The Bill) is top notch and as good as anything offered up from Sony's Uncharted 2 title which in my mind had set the previous benchmark for in-game VO acting. If anything the games pace means you'll be moving so fast you'll tend to miss a lot of the amazing detail and layout of areas within the maps despite the fact these areas are closed off to single play anyway.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is available on PlayStation 3 PC and Xbox 360, the game comes available in several different versions which, depending on your wallet (and luck) will mean you'll either be taking home a set of Night Vision goggles if you pre ordered your copy from HMV or perhaps the Veteran Edition exclusive to Game ltd stores which comes with a figurine of SAS trooper Soap McTavish dual wielding pick axes atop an ice ledge. This set is rounded off with a hardback "art of" book and also comes with the original Call of Duty. The Hardened edition comes in a steelbook metallic case and comes with just the art of book and original COD game. Standard versions are also available without all the bells and whistles.
Shop around for the best deals, it may be the biggest game of the year but rest assured that as retailers fight it out for market share you'd be a fool to pay the premium RRP of £54.99. so if you can pick up a basic version for around £39.99 or £44.99 then you're saving money. However do make sure you check instore for Supermarket prices who will probably sell this at £26.99 for a limited period which is £29.00 off the actual RRP.
If you own an Xbox 360 and you like your shooters then this is an absolute must have, rent it buy it or acquire it through "other means", hell perhaps even consider selling a kidney to pay for it but make sure it finds its way into your collection one way or another.
Oh, and maybe buy some flowers and a big bar of choccy for the lady to keep things sweet since she's not going to see you for the next six months.
Look in the bathroom cabinet of most men these days and I bet you'll find the abandoned handle of an old Gillette razor sticking up out of a cup, all snowy white with caked on soap residue and vacant of any kind of blade.
It seems to me these days that companies like Gillette and Wilkinson Sword are forever introducing new ways to remove male facial hair, Philips remain true to the electric range of razors with both wet and dry variants but ask most men and they'll tell you time and time again that nothing can beat a Wet shave with a bladed razor.
I'll happily confess that I've tried only two of the Gillette handle razors and these fell by the wayside as the prices of razor blades continued to increase. In fact when a friend of mine told me the actual price of each razor blade I stopped buying packs of blades to fit to the Gillette handles immediately.
Another thing to point out with male grooming is that personally I really couldn't care less about 4 blades in a razor blade, if anything this makes the head of the razor far too thick to be able to get into the delicate areas like under your nose and base of your sideburns and just feels awkward, 3 blades in a razor head is plenty to get the job done unless you're the Wolfman.
Another thing to point out of course is that Gillette still test their products on animals so on principle alone I refuse to buy their products anyway, if other companies can achieve the same if not better results from not testing on animals I don't see why Gillette can't but I'm going off topic her, sorry about that. While I realize that there is no way to recycle disposable razors I guess you have to weigh up where your conscience is happy to sit.
So where does that leave men looking for a good close wet shave without burning a hole in your finances, for me I'm currently using the Bic Comfort 3 Advance disposable razor, sold in packs of 4 these are probably the best disposable razors I've ever used, why?, well for a start it has the 3 blade head which is lubricated, second to that is the rubber grip handle, the razor has a thicker base at the bottom of the stem and also has weight to it.
To Shave properly how you hold the razor and how the razor feels is important, you're using something that is moving against the contours of your skin so the feedback through the razor handle is important and this is one area where the Bic razor does a brilliant job. The razor has a nice weight to it, is easily gripped even with soap and water soaking the handle and thanks no doubt to the rubberized finish.
I've only ever snapped one disposable razor on my face, well, you only ever do it once don't you but generally speaking the Bic Comfort razor is a firm razor to hold and glides over the face with light to moderate pressure, they feel great in the hand and are nowhere near as flimsy or cheap as the single or double bladed disposables.
In terms of longevity I can normally make a Bic 3 Advance blade last 6 days before I need to dispose of it so on average a pack can last you a month which I think is excellent value for money.
Prices of the Gillette vary, Boots sell them for £3.99 and Tesco's does vary from £3.99 at its highest price to £2.99 when on offer.
Overall though when combined with a good shave gel or shaving foam this is a great disposable razor to get hold of and provides a superb close shave.
I recommend trying this with the King of Shaves or Essentials For Men shaving gels or oils series to really experience a great shave with this razor.
Quite frankly the thought of spraying on a fragrance that makes me smell like a chocolate bar isn't high on my agenda as I approach that age where life is really supposed to start at, I left Lynx at roughly the same time I stopped buying Kouros and stonewashed Jeans, you know the one I mean, the white soft ceramic bottle with the chrome edge...and no in 20 years it hasn't changed but thankfully I have and so are my, shall we say "fragrance needs."
Okay so generally speaking us men aren't very complicated beings for sure, if the t-shirt we threw on the bedroom floor last night only suffered one minor crease and still smells acceptable we'll do our best to rinse another day out of said garment.
I draw the line at socks and underwear though, those things are one day wonders for sure. Which leads me to the subject of smell.
What I like about this particular fragrance is the spicy musk fragrance it has, I can't quite put my finger on it but its got woody, pepper undertones which are enhanced with a sweeter spicier note.
Its not a spray designed for underarm and its best used for just after the shower once you've dried off, just get liberal with this and you're set for the day.
There are other fragrances in the Adidas range which I found were either too much like Lynx or were just a bit too much on the citrus side and unless you're willing to pay out vast sums for the Ted Baker or Paul Smith ranges of fragrances the options for men in general are I think a bit disappointing in terms of choice.
So if like me your spotty days of being 17 are far behind you and Lynx isn't on the agenda and you're also still too young to put Old Spice down on your Santa list then give this a shot.
Longevity - Fragrance is not overpowering but will last all day and remains subtle, it'll also scent your t-shirt nicely too.
Price - Prices vary but expect to pay in the region of about £1.85 for the 150ml
Stockists - Tesco's, Boots and Superdrug
Range - Shower Gel also available in the same fragrance.
If I could recommend only one book about the triumph of the human spirit then it would probably be this book. Lone Survivor is an incredible story and very nearly a story that would never have seen the light of day if it hadn't been for one man, that man is Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell.
On June 28, 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission to find and either capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a known terrorist who led a guerrilla group known to locals as the "Mountain Tigers" that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border.
The SEALs consisted of the following men - Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner's Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell.
The story follows Luttrells career as he trains to become a Navy Seal which helps you to understand the brutal and exhaustive training that Special Forces like the Seals go through, BUDs or Basic Underwater Demolition is part of that training regime and Luttrell gives the reader an amazing and candid first hand account of the endurance training required to pass, SEALs are trained to conduct operations in any arena, and successful candidates spend 18 to 24 months in training before being assigned to their designated teams. For most, the greatest challenge lies in Week 4 of Phase One. A grueling 5.5 days, the continuous training ultimately determines who has the ability and mindset to endure.
Luttrell also gives a great insight into his family life on a farm in Texas but this also provides an interesting backstory of why he ultimately never stopped believing in himself since his family is probably one of the closest knit families you'll ever read about.
In similar circumstances to Andy McNabs superb Bravo Two Zero, the 4 man Navy Seal team was compromised by local goat farmers who had come across the team purely by accident, faced with the dilema to either kill the farmers and stay on mission or let them go and terminate the mission they took a vote, after much consideration they decided to release the farmers and hope that the farmers would not reveal their position to nearby Taliban forces.
Its at this point things go very badly for the team, 150 Taliban fighters descend on the 4 man team and a fight for survival under incredible circumstances begins, Luttrell gives a blistering shot by shot account of the desperate measures the team takes to fight its way out of what can only be described as deadly chaos.
Now surrounded and under intense enemy fire from RPG rockets and machine gun fire Luttrell suffers injuries to his legs when he is shot and is blown over the edge of a cliff by an RPG suffering a broken nose,3 broken vertibrae and torn rotator cuff.
Unable to walk but still armed Luttrell crawled 7 miles through the mountaineous terrain and this is where the book now becomes a one man diary on survival and it will humble any reader.
Rescued by local Pashtun tribesmen by a stream Luttrell is taken in under the age old tradion known as "Lokham Warkawal" ( Giving of a Pot) which means that regardless of who he is it is the responsibility of the tribe to care for and protect a "guest" even if it means their own lives, in other words these tribesmen would protect Luttrell from any more harm even from Taliban fighters who as it later transpires in the book pay him an unpleasant visit in the locals village where he is recovering.
I won't reveal the final circumstances of the other men in his team for fear of spoiling the book but as for Lt Mike Murphy if you Google him he is a man larger than life who even has his own Facebook tribute page with thousands of followers and for very good reason.
I couldn't put this book down, its one of the most amazing stories I have ever read about endurance, what man can and does endure to survive but what makes this story so profound is that Luttrell has been dealt with crushing survivors guilt complex, he sleeps during the day because of the constant nightmares at night and still suffers physical pain but also feels responsible for the death of the 16 Special Forces troops who were shot down in their helicopter by the Taliban as they raced to the Seals rescue.
Recently Luttrells puppy bought for him to help him recover from the mental anguish was shot and killed by local youths who he chased over several counties in his truck before cornering them with local police and even this story shows how his Seal training kept him level headed.
Luttrell is an amazing man, he's not big headed or arrogant and he knows how fortunate he is, he recovered enough to serve a 2nd tour in Iraq but has since retired and now uses his time speaking at events.
Even if you're not a fan of military books but need an example of endurance or inspiration to go that extra mile one things for sure this book is worth every second of your time.
I first took the self publishing plunge earlier this year when I released the Book Airsoft Infidels: The Very Best of Airsoft & Milsim Photography Book One.
I'd researched the possibility of getting a literary agent but when I weighed up all the costs and the printing outlay to actually print and manufacture the cost ran into thousands, money which i didn't have.
Instead of repeating much of what is written in the other Blurb review on DooYoo I hope the following info contributes to giving you an overall picture.
Speaking from personal experience the road to self publishing isn't as daunting as youd probably think, the freedom and sense of acheivement in having your work in print is second to none and Blurb provide probably one of the best platforms out there for budding authors and artists to get themselves on the printed page with your very own printed and bound book.
Blurb print in excess of 80,000 books per year and over the last couple of years has refined its operation considerably, for me I wanted to be able to produce a photographic book but remove the hassle of dealing with printers, couriers and payment headaches so Blurb and its self publishing setup was perfect.
My book was 80 pages, which was my own decision and was based on Blurb production costs,basically the number of pages you have in your book dictates your final price. Blurb establish a manufacturing price to produce each book, book format size and finish also affect this price and then you set the overall retail price that buyers purchase the book and you pocket the difference as profit, delivery is paid for by the consumer the book is printed by Blurb and then shipped direct.
Initially I was worried about print quality and because I was offering a product to consumers through I wanted the finished article to look just as good as any Amazon book if I was get repeat customers and stand up to scrutiny, Blurb has a reputation of being more expensive than other self publishing sites like Lulu but print quality is better.
To test the water I produced a small format 10 X 8 photo book of a holiday in Florida which ran to 40 pages, I downloaded Blurbs own book making template called Booksmart and over the course of about a week laid out the book.
Desiging your book is super easy, Booksmart is a program that comes ready made with loads of different page layouts and fonts from which you can just upload your images,click and drag,deleting, swapping and editing is also an absolute breeze and great for beginners or people with no design acumen.
Once your book is ready and you've checked and edited the content you just upload to Blurbs server, and don't worry, the book and its content remains your property, you don't give up any publishing or rights to your work to Blurb.
For my main project book Airsoft Infidels I set 3 different prices against 3 different versions of the book, softback 10 X 8,Hardback with dustjacket and imagewrap.
Another great thing with Blurb is that you can set up a product page for your book if you intend to sell it publicly,alternatively you can keep the book private and just allow close friends and family access to buy printed copies of it so at every step of the way Blurb is giving you the control over every aspect of your book.
the only downside with Blurb is that delivery costs, courier times and overall costs can be expensive,normally a 10 X 8 photo book of about 100 pages would set you back £12.99 if you bought from Amazon but with the way the pricing,margin and manufacture is set up it prevents you from pricing the book competitively through traditional retail routes. Because of Blurbs manufacture costs your aspirations of publishing on a grander scale are quickly brought into check unless of course you approach a proper book publisher.
I marketed my book with press releases and a website in addition to its own product page on Blurb, sales have been okay, nothing spectacular but then Airsoft, the sport that I play is relatively niche anyway so I wasn't planning on becoming a millionaire from it.
There are many other self publishing sites out there, Blurb and Lulu are two of the most recognised, you can check out Blurb on you Tube for more information but if you want to test the waters in self publishing then perhaps create a small photo book to begin with and see how you get on, another benefit is that all your digital photos at least get to see new life in printed form.
prices and formats do vary,if you want to produce a paperback novel or a large format glossy art book then there are options to cater for you, paper stock and cover options can also be selected depending on what you want your project to be.
Overall self publishing is about giving you the ultimate control in your book, no editors, no publishing agents and very little hassle to stress about.
The 70's was perhaps for many the heyday for the seminal war movie particularly ones that combined a emsemble cast, in fact you only have to take the best of these and you've pretty much hired every key actor Hollywood had to offer. The Eagle Has Landed is one of the collective of what we would term today "boys own adventure" films released during the 70's and is certainly on par with the the likes of Kelly's Heroes and Where Eagles Dare or The Longest Day and A Bridge too Far.
The Eagle Has Landed is based on the Jack Higgins novel of the same name,made in 1976 and filmed on a budget of 6 Million Dollars it stars Michael Caine who plays Fallschirmjager Officer Oberst Kurt Steiner, a no frills get the job done elite German soldier who is given a choice of either facing a firing squad with his men because of an altercation with an SS Officer or he can accept the rather suicidal mission of kidnapping Britians then Prime Minister Mr Winston Churchill and bring him back to Germany.
The book which became a bestseller was inspired by the successful wartime rescue of Adolf Hitlers ally Benito Mussolini by German Paratroopers and by Operation Greif, a German infiltration mission known as a "false flag" during the Battle of the Bulge where German soldiers used U.S uniforms to pose as Americans to get behind Allied lines.
Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance and Anthony Quayle who were also no strangers to 70's war movie classics also star in the film, Sutherland who replaced Richard Harris plays pervy Liam Devlin an IRA sympathiser and secret Nazi agent who when not charging around after Jenny Agutter on his push bike is busy preparing the groundwork for Caines band of Infiltrators with another German sleeper agent. The plan is that Steiners elite German troops will pose as Polish Paratroopers on a training exerscise in the the cozy countryside (fictional) town of Studly Constable in Norfolk in order to get close to Churchill who is planning to visit a nearby airfield.
The dastardly plot is foiled when one of Caines men dives into a river to save a young girl from drowning but is himself killed in the process and his uniform exposes his real identity as a German Paratrooper to the onlooking townspeople.
Steiner (Caine) decides that instead of aborting the mission due to compromise he'll take the small village hostage and will see it through.
Whats really great about this movie is that it puts one of our most beloved actors into the villains seat, Michael Caine,a villain?!, yes and a Nazi villain too!, needless to say Caine pulls off the role with a coolness and determination that you totally buy into, even with the Cockney accent.
At 135 mins long for the UK version it runs a full 12 mins longer than the US version but if like me you're one of these people that can watch a movie over and over again and still get the same enjoyment out of it everytime then this should be high on your list.
Its worth pointing out Duvalls acting in this as well, take particular note of the small mannerisms Robert Duvall builds in to his character especially the little insignificant things like adjusting his eye patch or simply smoking a cigarette, a true master at work.
In terms of value for money you can pick this film up for as little as £2 and to be honest this is an absolute steal, it might have a somewhat far fetched plot and a cockney German but I rate this as one of the best war movies and an absolute must for the DVD collection.
Note* Listen out for Caines brutal verbal put down to an SS Officer at the start of the movie.
I took a chance with this since I hadn't previously read any of the reviews and I had just finished reading Sniper One by Dan Mills and previous to that Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell both excellent books but both which were about combat on the ground.
What strikes you with Macy's book is the sheer level of detail, he gives an amazing overview of the Apache Attack helicopter, its capabilities and the level of concentration and training required to keep the thing in the air over the skies in Afghanistan.
From a technical standpoint Macy knows every inch of the aircraft and for a machine that is predominantly used by the U.S armed forces it was an informative read to know that the British Army has practically taken one of the most lethal attack helicopters and made it even better with its own modifications.
Macy writes with a real passion for action and detail all experienced firsthand, even from the long hours waiting for operational aircraft to be repaired to spending hours on the tarmac waiting for the all clear to support ground troops, the action in the book is second to none and while many people would assume the pilots don't know what's being dealt out on the ground I can tell you that these guys know exactly the effect their ordnance is having on the enemy especially when its revealed the Apache can read a car number plate from as far away as 4.2 Km away with its TADS ( target Acquisition System).
The pinnacle of the book has Macy describing his involvement the combined allied assault on Jugroom fort in Jan 2007 in support of a massive air and ground operation that was designed to take the fight head on to the Taliban and armed insurgents who held that territory in the Southern Helmand province. Combat writing doesn't get any better than this and its incredible edge of your seat reading, what makes this story stand out is that Macy and his support Apaches carried out the daring rescue mission to recover lance Corporal Matthew Ford who had fallen in battle assaulting the fort and was attached to 45 Commando Royal Marines. In the book it describes how two Royal Marine Commandos were strapped to the outside of the Apache attack helicopter and flown under heavy enemy fire to locate and retrieve the downed Marine.
I've never felt more proud of the men and women in our armed services as I do now and its books like this that underline the daily pressures of combat and the circumstances that they do their job, when I think about the fact I earn more money sitting at a desk than I do some of the people putting their own lives in mortal danger in daily combat it makes you sit back and think, "what would I have done?".
You will find this book extremely hard to put down, I read this in less than a week and I normally take about 3-4 weeks to get through the average hardback at best.
The book gives a stunning insight into the role of the Apache Attack helicopter in Afghanistan and the level of detail is just right to give the reader the need to know stuff to enjoy and understand the crafts capabilities, Macy writes with a candid humour in places but also writes with real honesty and conviction from someone who's experienced combat first hand.
Available now in paperback this is a well written account and a simply blistering read.
Zulu was Michael Caine's first major screen role having played bit parts in TV dramas from everything as a Gestapo agent to a court orderly and policemen.
The film recounts the now famous battle of Rourke's Drift from the Anglo-Zulu war in 1879 when 139 British soldiers defended a mission station from over 4,000 attacking Zulu warriors.
Caine portrays lieutenant Gonville Bromhead alongside Stanley Baker who plays lieutenant John Chard, two recipients of the 11 Victoria Crosses awarded that day and the highest number ever awarded for a single British regiment in one engagement.
The films drama sense of scale and epic battle scenes have never really been rivalled and the sense of desperation of 139 men facing an onslaught by so many is recreated in excellent form and the tension established in the film is gripping to say the least, the film builds upon the difficult relationship between Chard and Bromhead who gradually gain more respect for each other over the course of the battle to survive and defend the outpost.
Most of the older movies making their way onto a Bluray transfer are exactly that just literal transfers of their DVD cousin but its evident here that Zulu which was made in 1964 has undergone some serious love and attention at Paramount.
The Bluray version of the film is a sight to behold and the MPEG4 1080p transfer is probably one of the best examples of Bluray image quality currently available (and all from a film over 40 years old), I'd even go as far to say that this puts some recent films to shame in terms of the transfer quality, the colour and vibrancy shown in this film set a real benchmark.
The level of detail shown in the transfer really shines through especially on the larger scale action sequences where there's a lot going on, audio is also extremely clear and clear of any distortion and if you have a home cinema setup the Zulu chants prior to the Zulu attack are absolutely amazing.
Having only previously experienced TV versions of Zulu the distinction that the Bluray makes in picture quality really underlines what and how movies should be watched, in its purest sense I would implore anyone interested in this movie to only experience the Bluray version.
The one thing that really stood out for me was the red tunics of the British soldiers, every scrape, tear, burn mark and blemish is caught in vivid presentation.
Also on the Bluray is a featurette which is broken down into smaller episodic like content which goes behind the scenes from historical accuracy, music and making of, film historian Sheldon Hall also provides commentary with second unit director Robert Porter and the information is extremely comprehensive.
Own a Bluray?, then add this as one of the best examples of Bluray image transfer and quality for an excellent Michael Caine movie.
Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) works at a small bank as a Loan Officer and is keenly eyeing up the vacant position of Assistant Bank manager, problem is she's also up against another employee who also has a keen eye on the desk. Prompted by her bosses hint that a suitable candidate for the Assistant Manager role is someone who can handle the responsibility of making difficult decisions Christine decides to refuse a mortgage extension for a freaky old Gypsy Woman called Mrs Ganush and herein begins a tale of curses, terror, grave digging , scary shadows and several different kinds of vomiting .
Mrs Ganush having been refused the loan extension and forced to beg on the floor of the bank (never a good thing) places a curse on Christine in which Lamia, the Black Goat will come for her soul in three days. Well if there's one thing history has taught us is that you just don't muck around with old Gypsy women asking for a favour, especially one that has removable upper and lower teeth and a truly scary eye.
Christine's Boyfriend, played by Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers & Die hard 4.0) is along for the ride as he does his upmost to keep things as normal as they can be especially considering his girlfriend has a Gypsy curse placed on her .
The Bluray version contains both the theatrical release of the film and the 'unseen' version, the only real differences being the more graphic interpretation of a scene involving a cat but overall there isn't that much of a difference worth worrying about. Zoo magazine hailed Drag me to Hell as "The Scariest Movie of the Decade" in what many are hailing Sam Raimi's majestic return to the realms of horror, well it's fair to say that Raimi hasn't lost his dark sense of humour and in some cases comedy that he mixes in heavily with his horror but I wouldn't go as far to bestow the accolade of scariest movie of the decade.
The film as you would expect has enough to make you look away and grip the edge of your seat but the shocks are either purely timing or just plain gross, for scariest movie I'd reserve that claim to films like The Entity, The Ring, The Grudge and films that really tap the emotional state and deserve it.
The MPEG4 quality of the Bluray is pin sharp and I'll agree with other reviewers that the Bluray version and the fact that picture is excellent quality probably doesn't do a very good job of hiding the Special Effects from being blatantly obvious. On the other hand though you're watching a Raimi horror so the tongue in cheek aspect of the film just in case you missed it in the marketing is something you're probably already going to accept.
Don't get me wrong there's certainly enough terror and down-right disgusting to keep Raimi Horror fans pleased, the storyline is simple and not overly complicated to grasp, in fact once you know where you stand with the story you can sit back and wait for the shocks roll in without having to be distracted by other aspects that can sometimes confuse other horrors.
Unless you're a diehard fan of Raimi and you're familiar with the somewhat tongue in cheek aspect of his mix of horror and humour then you're better off just renting or picking up the DVD version, the additional expense of the Bluray version doesn't have a massive amount going for it over its digital brother but owners of PlayStation 3 consoles will get a kick out of the audio and visual quality that they enjoy as a standard.
Overall it's a good movie and a welcome return for Director Sam Raimi to the horror genre, the film has a great cast, solid story with enough shocks to keep you gripped but it's by no means the scariest movie of the decade.