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I recently used Decathlon for the first time when I was on the lookout for a new road bike. I knew the bike I was after but stock was proving difficult to come by. By using the Decathlon website, I was able to see when new stock has arrived and I was also able to email my local store via the site. This proved to be a great service as I was able to secure myself a bike as soon as they became available.
On visiting the store, I was able to browse the aisles without feeling pressured by sales staff. This was particularly pleasing as I wanted to buy some accessories to go with my bike, but wanted to evaluate them before deciding which ones to buy.
When it came to picking my bike up, the technician from the cycling area ensured that the wheels were inflated to the correct pressure and that the seat was at the right height. I also managed to get my trip computer fitted for free which I was particularly impressed with as this can normally be a fiddly operation.
While in store, I took the opportunity to pick up a Decathlon loyalty card which gives you points for every pound you spend. Once you spend £250 in store or online, you qualify for a £5 voucher to be used of future purchases. One thing that I thought was a bit cunning was that if you spent £1.99, you would only qualify for 1 point although another penny would have given you 2 points. This may mount up over time but it wasn''''t really a big issue. Since purchasing my bike, I have been back to Decathlon on numerous occasions and have always found everything I needed off the shelf. They cater for most sports but what I like is that they have vast knowledge in most of the less fashionable sports which fills me, as a customer with confidence, especially when I am unsure what I need. I would recommend Decathlon to anyone looking to get into any type of sport. The products are of a good quality and are also reasonably priced.
The HTC One S is an ideal handset for users who want a feature rich handset but without the pricetag and ultimate performance of the best smartphones on the market. The HTC One S is powered by Google''s Ice Cream Sandwich along with HTC''s own Sense 4.0 user interface which has received a facelift since Sense 3.5 on the HTC Sensation devices. The hardware in the One S is also pretty impressive. With a 1.5 Ghz dual core Snapdragon processor, you are guaranteed smooth performance whether you are browsing the web, running one of the many apps available or playing the latest high tech games. The 1Gb of RAM should also be sufficient to enable quick execution of instructions and loading times will be extremely short. One of the shortcomings for the HTC One S is the relatively small amount of on-board storage. With only 16Gb of storage, some users may be put off from buying this handset, especially as this storage can not be increased due to HTC''s decision to exclude a microSD slot on the phone. One saving grace however is the fact that you can get an additional 25Gb of cloud storage in the form of Dropbox. The HTC One S if fitted with a 4.3 inch AMOLOED screen similar to those used in the Samsung Galaxy S range of smartphones. Whilst this is not as crisp as the SLCD2 screen of the One X it still gives a high quality display which will produce vivid colors at every level. Although the One S uses the same 8 megapixel camera as the One X, the software is slightly different meaning that images are slightly different. Depending on the style of shot you take, the One S does actually out perform the One X on certain snaps. The camera on all of the One series handsets is a massive improvement to cameras used on all previous HTC handsets ensuring that you can be almost guaranteed a great shot. Coupled with 1080p HD video recording, the HTC One S is a viable solution to all of your media requirements. The One S comes with Beats Audio technology built in. When used with compatible headsets, audio playback on the phone will be greatly enhanced when compared to standard headphones. Even without Beats headphones, audio on the One S is excellent. There is no denying that the HTC One S is a powerful device and fully justified the 1650 mAh battery that is require to run it. This is only slightly smaller than the battery in the One X which is required to run 2 more processor cores. You will easily get a full day''s use out of the One S battery which is standard for smartphone use. The HTC One S is a lovely smartphone and will appeal to most people who feel high end phones are too big for them. The One S combines a powerful processor with crystal clear screen and a pleasurable user experience.
The first thing that you will notice about the Amazon Paperwhite is that the screen, as the name suggests, is a lot whiter than previous models. Amazon insist that this will make words even more clear to read and with the benefit of 62 percent more pixels than previous versions, this claim appears to have substance. Despite this fairly radical change, the Kindle Paperwhite still operates without a backlight which makes it ideal for use in all types of light. Although there is no backlight, the Paperwhite does come with an external light which projects itself onto the screen rather than through the screen. This can be adjusted depending on the ambient light conditions so you can read in comfort wherever you are. Battery life in previous versions of the Kindle has always been excellent and the Kindle Paperwhite again fails to disappoint. With half an hour of reading a day, with the wifi turned off and the brightness of the light set at ten, you will get approximately eight weeks'' use out of your device. Running with different variables will, of course, affect your experience slightly. To recharge the device, simply connect it to your computer via a USB cable or alternatively, you can purchase a mains adapter to do the job. Putting your device on a full charge will take around four hours. Charging is the only time you will need to connect your Kindle Paperwhite to a computer. The device is fully wifi compliant up to the 802.11n standard and supports all types of encryption up to WPA2. If you want to download your books on the go, a 3G version is available. The beauty of the 3G Paperwhite is that you are not tied into monthly subscriptions as you would be with an ordinary data plan and there are also no usage costs. The only extra you will be required to pay is the initial premium on top of the standard wifi version when you purchase the Kindle. With 2Gb on-board storage, you will be able to fit approximately 1,100 average length books on your device so, in all likelihood, you are never going to need to remove books from your device during its lifetime. In the unlikely event that you do find yourself running out of storage space, you will be able to benefit from Amazon cloud storage for all content that you have purchased from them. With dimensions of 169 mm x 117 mm x 9.1 mm and weighing in at 213 grams, the Kindle Paperwhite is a compact device which will easily fit in a handbag without being obtrusive. It is advisable to invest in a carrying case for the Paperwhite to avoid scratches and spillages if you are transporting it in a container with other items. As well as supporting all standard document formats, the Kindle Paperwhite will also read documents in Amazon''s proprietary formats, namely Kindle Format 8 (AZW3) and standard Kindle files (AZW).
C# or "C sharp" if you are talking about it is a current generation programming language. As part of the Microsoft Visual Studio package, C# allows you to create feature rich applications, services, controls and websites. With a heavy influence from the C++ language, C# is like a halfway house between C++ and the more forgiving Visual Basic which is a good choice for beginners. C# is what is described as an object oriented language which means that it works best with correct software engineering methods where classes of objects are created once and instantiated many times. If you are familiar with languages such as Visual Basic, one annoyance you will have with C# is each line needs to be terminated with a semicolon. You can write the most perfect syntax but if you forget the semicolon your program will fail to execute. As well as coming with Visual Studio, C# is also available to develop with in the free Visual Web Developer although you cannot create executables, dll''s or services with this version. For home users or users wishing to use C# for educational purposes, the version that ships with Visual Web Developer should be sufficient. If you want to get started with C#, there are many tutorials on the web. But I would advise that you start simple and build up your knowledge over a period of time rather than trying to be too ambitious too soon. The package does come with Microsoft online help and while this is good, it is no substitute for getting real life examples off the web. To summarise, C# is a really nice language to use and you can do so many powerful things with it.
I bought the Asus MX279H monitor when I decorated my study last summer and it is a lovely piece of equipment. I was unsure about whether I could justify the extra cost against other 27 inch monitors but it is well worth the additional cost.
Broadcasting in Full 1080p HD, the picture quality from the MX279H is second to none. You can connect to your PC using the HD to DVI cable (or HDMI to HDMI if you prefer not to use the cable provided) or VGA. Personally, I don't see why anyone would use VGA these days as this is old technology.
Although the display of the monitor is huge, the actual space this will take up on your desk is very minimal. The thickness of the monitor is no more than a centimetre and, as long as you have enough space, width-ways, this monitor will look a picture on anyones desk.
Before buying this monitor, I did consider buying a second smaller monitor rather than one big monitor. With hindsight, I believe I made the right decision as I have more control over where I position things on one screen. What I do like about the Asus is that I can now multitask easier than ever before. I am a big sports fan so this monitor now allows me to have a web browser open for approximately 75% of the screen and then in the final quarter, I can open another two web browser instances to show me two separate TV channels (normally Sky Sports 1 and 2 in my case). This monitor is also brilliant for when I play poker as I can have multiple tables open and view them all perfectly, rather than having them all squashed to a small size.
In conclusion, I would have no hesitation in recommending this monitor to anyone who is looking to upgrade. You can get cheaper ones on the market but the resolution and picture quality will be considerably lower than that of the Asus. With monitors, you certainly do get what you pay for and Asus have come up with a real gem with the Ms279H.
Whenever Rockstar release a new Grand Theft Auto game, it is always surrounded by hype. This was no different with GTA V.
The main difference with this game compared to others in the series is that you now get to play as three different characters. This works really well as each character has their own traits and abilities which need to be called upon during missions. Switching between players is simple and is vital when doing specific missions as you will need to attack enemies from various vantage points all at once.
The map in GTA V is massive and will take a considerable amount of time to navigate which is the intention of developer. Rockstar. On your travels, you will often stumble across sub-missions which, although are not part of the main story, will aid you in getting 100% completion and also provide a side attraction if you want a break from the main storyline.
The game is fairly graphic in places and not for the feint-hearted, hence the 18 certificate the game has been awarded.
The online play in GTA IV was clunky at best and this is something that Rockstar have addressed with GTA V. GTA Online is now a living and breathing city which can be explored in much the same way as the offline game. The difference now is that there can be up to 16 human controlled players in the city, all with their own agendas so watch your back!
As well as free-roaming around the city, you can also race, do missions as well as other co-op activities which make GTA Online a full game in its own right. With more free content promised by Rockstar in the future, GTA Online will keep gamers amused for many months yet.
GTA V was the most expensive video game to develop and it is clear to see why. Everything about the game oozes quality and should be a definite purchase if you own a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 console.
During the summer months, I always like to listen to music in the garden. Until recently, I used to accomplish this by using the main Internet radio HiFi system we have in the conservatory. Unfortunately, this gave up the ghost and stopped working last year, leaving me to find alternative means of listening to my music. I decided to go down the route of using a Bluetooth speaker system. Not only would this give me the functionality to listen to my music in the garden, it would also provide me with the flexibility to take it anywhere I went so I could listen to my music anywhere.
After much shopping around and research, I decided to go for the Sony SRSBTM8B speaker system. I have always got on with Sony audio products which influenced my choice with this product.
What is in the box?
Unpacking the Sony speaker was quick and easy due to the fact there wasn't actually that much in the box. The majority of the space was taken up with the speaker itself with the only other hardware being the mains adapter. A user manual was included but only about two pages of this were relevant. The rest was the standard safety information which I've never even attempted to read.
A tour of the Bluetooth speaker system
The Sony STSBTM8B speak system is nicely designed and quite attractive to look at. The materials used are consistent all around the speaker and while it does feel a bit plastically, it is obvious the build quality is exceptional and it feels extremely sturdy. The entire front face of the speaker is used to deliver the sound. Although there is only one speaker unit for this product, it still broadcasts in stereo due to there being multiple speakers enclosed inside the unit. Towards the bottom of the speaker is the Sony badge. Apart from that, there is nothing more to report about the front of the speaker unit.
The back of the unit is equally uninspiring. Apart from the Sony logo embossed into the plastic, the only other things to note are the mains port and a headphone socket.
So far you could be forgiven for thinking that the Sony Bluetooth speaker system is rather boring. However, looking at the top of the speaker is where the fun begins. Although there are only six buttons, setting up the speaker for use is extremely quick and easy. On the extreme left of the speaker, you have the power button. This is self explanatory, press it once to turn the speaker on, press it again to turn the speaker off. Below this button is the battery indicator light. Sony predict that you will get 20 hours of use out of the speaker. This isn't a bad estimate to be fair. The next button you will come across is the pairing button. As this is a Bluetooth speaker, you will need to pair it with a compatible device before it can be used. By pressing the pairing button, you will make the speaker visible for two minutes. In this time you can search for the speaker using the Bluetooth connection on your smartphone, tablet or any other Bluetooth device you may have. Once pairing has been completed, you are free to listen to your music via the speaker.
Moving over to the right hand side of the speaker you have the volume buttons. Volume of your broadcast can be controlled in two places. Firstly it can be controlled by the source device (smartphone, tablet, etc) but it can also be controlled from the speaker itself. It is worth noting here that if you have the output on a very low volume from your source device, you are never going to reach full volume via the speaker. I would recommend have the volume set as maximum on your source device and then controlling the actual volume via the speaker.
The final button on the Bluetooth speaker is the telephone button. Yes, you can actually conduct a phone call via the speaker system. Press the phone button to make or receive a call and the audio will obviously come through the speaker but, with the aid of the built-in mic, the other party will be able to hear you without the need to use your phone handset. I think this is a really neat feature of the speaker system and one that I wasn't expecting when I was looking to buy a unit.
The final control on the top of the speaker system is not actually a button, but just an "area". The NFC (near field communication) area allows you to tap a compatible handset on the speaker system and it will automatically connect. This is an extremely simple way of connecting with your Android or Windows smartphone or tablet. As iPhone and iPad devices do not have NFC capabilities, they will not be able to make use of this functionality.
Speaker systems can have all the additional functions and gimmicks mentioned above but if the sound quality is poor then the speaker is not going to become very popular. Thankfully, the sound quality of the Sony SRSBTM8B is what you would expect from a speaker system in this price range. Bassy sounds are really vivid and generally, the output is crystal clear. As with most speaker systems however, the sound does get distorted and unpleasant if you have the volume turned up to maximum (and the volume is also on maximum on the source device). On the whole, I have no complains about the sound of this speaker system.
If you are listening to music on the Sony speaker from a fixed device (ie a desktop computer system) you are going to be interested in the range of the speaker. As the device uses Bluetooth to communicate, typical Bluetooth distances will apply although it is worth noting that this range will be reduced if you need to travel through walls or any other obstructions. I have got a Bluetooth dongle in my PC which I sometimes use to play music from my computer through Spotify into the speaker. My computer is on the first floor of our house and I listen to the speaker system in the conservatory on the floor below to with no loss of quality to give you an idea of how the speaker system can be used in a typical house.
The Sony SRSBTM8B Bluetooth speaker system does everything I want it to and more. It is simple and quick to set up and can be paired to work with multiple devices although, obviously, it can only be physically paired with one device at a time. Sound quality is excellent which makes this device an essential item for parties or other social gatherings when you are not near a more traditional sound system. The phone functionality is an added bonus and although you probably won't use it a great deal, it is nice to know that it exists, should the need arise. The speaker isn't the lightest speaker system you can buy, but this is offset by the quality inside the unit. If you are carrying the speaker around for 15-20 minutes, you could start to feel your arm getting tired but it has really been designed to be placed on a surface with the carrying arm, predominantly for transportation purposes.
I bought my speaker from Amazon for £55. You will be able to pick up speaker systems for a lot cheaper than this but from experience, you really do get what you pay for in the audio market. I would definitely recommend this product.
I've owned the HTC One smartphone for three months now. I wanted to put all of the features of the phone to the test and make sure I wasn't writing a review of an amazing piece of technology after just a couple of days which wouldn't have helped anyone.
The HTC One Android smartphone was released to the UK market in March 2013. As a successor to the HTC One X and One X+, HTC hoped that the One would revive the company's flagging sales figures. Although the One X ranges was acknowledged as being an excellent smartphone, HTC still struggled to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung in terms of market share.
The look and feel of the HTC One
The first thing you notice about the HTC One is its aluminium case. This is a major improvement over almost all other smartphones on the market which continue to use plastic style casing. Although initially the aluminium case will feel cold when you first pick up the phone, you will soon realise that it feels far more sturdy than similar high end handsets. In fact, everything about this phone oozes quality.
The HTC One is one of the thinner handsets on the market. This is mainly down to HTC's decision to ship the phone with a built in battery as opposed to one that can be swapped. This could pose a few issues if you find your battery is running low and you are not in the vicinity of a charger. More on the battery life later.
The micro USB connector on the One has been moved to a more sensible location than that on the One X. This is now on the bottom edge of the phone whereas the One X connector was curiously placed on the left hand edge. The headphone jack and power button have also swapped sides so if you are upgrading to this phone from a previous HTC handset, prepare yourself for a couple of weeks of pressing the headphone jack by mistake to turn your phone on.
The HTC One comes with 32Gb of onboard storage and another 25Gb of Google Drive storage if you decide to pair your handset with this Google service. There is no provision for an external SD card which may disappoint some but it really isn't needed.
Turning on for the first time
The HTC One is a beast of a phone in terms of processing power. Running on the Snapdragon 600 quad core processor, there is very little waiting around between launching an app and having it on the screen, ready for action. Boot time on the One is significantly quicker than any other smartphone I have used.
The screen is absolutely amazing, displaying full 1080p HD images in vibrant colours. It is easily the best screen on any mobile device, end of! People go on about the iPad's retina display but that is a distant second when compared with the screen of the HTC One. With a pixel density of 468 pixels per inch, zooming in on images and text is going to give you such amazing results that need to be seen to be believed.
Once you have got over the sheer beauty of the display, setting up for first time use is very simple. If you have used an Android device previously, just sign in with your Google account and all of your contacts and other cloud based settings will be restored. If you are upgrading from a previous HTC handset, you can even restore all of your bookmarks, app settings and wifi connections which I thought was an impressive feature.
In total, it probably took me 15 minutes from turning on to being in a position where I could make a phone call, download my email and run an app that was on my previous handset. Now all the mundane stuff is out of the way, you can explore this little beauty.
The HTC One and your music collection
When the HTC One was announced, HTC were keen to market their double front facing speakers which they entitled Boomsound. The thinking behind this was that you usually listen to music while facing your handset and certainly, if you are watching a YouTube video, all of the sound should be projected towards you.
Even though I had heard about Boomsound prior to purchasing the phone, nothing prepared me for the experience I got when I heard it for the first time. Simply put, the sound is amazing. There is no way you should expect such a pure sound from a smartphone but the speakers on the HTC One are just amazing. You get full stereo and with the built in Beats Audio software amplification, you can reproduce sounds that wouldn't be amiss on a full sized stereo system, it really is that good.
Snap cats or Snapchat
As with all current smartphones, the HTC One comes with two cameras, an Ultrapixel main camera and a 2.1 megapixel front facing camera.
Ultrapixel is HTC's own proprietary imaging standard. Although the camera is officially only 4 megapixels, the pixels are packed far more densely than any other smartphone camera, allowing for more vivid images, particularly in low light. These images are of an excellent quality however, if you zoom into them a long way, they do tend to pixelate a far bit due to the lack of megapixels.
If you are taking images of your pets, fast moving action or even macro shots of small items, you will not fail to be impressed by the results delivered by the HTC One.
The HTC One camera also allows you to record three seconds of video footage with each photo should you wish to. This is known as a HTC Zoe (based on the word Zoetope) which is an old form of photography. HTC believe that this will enable you to capture better memories than just a still image. Although I tend not to use this feature too often, I can see its merits if you were at a special event. The video editing suite that ships with the HTC One will automatically bind together any Zoe's you have on your phone, put them to music and allow you to share them with any of the popular social networks.
The front facing camera provides one of the highest resolutions of any of the current batch of handsets. This is perfect for trivial matters such as taking selfies or Snapchatting your friends. It is also perfect for more serious functions such as having a Google Hangout with your work colleagues.
Switching between the cameras is a simple operation of bringing up the camera interface and toggling between the 2.
Video recording on the HTC One is done via the same camera app as still image. You can record at any resolution right up to 1080p HD and can even take video and still images at the same time. This normally works very well but on the odd occasion, I have had a spoilt image due to the frame refreshing mid way through my image.
Battery life on smartphones has always been notoriously bad but the HTC One seriously challenges that statement. With a 2300 mAh battery, you would certainly expect it to pack a punch. With moderate use, the phone will easily last for up to 36 hours between charges and with heavy use, going a full day will not be a problem. Out of habit, I always charge mine up each night so that I start a new day with a full quota of juice.
HTC quote that you should be able to watch 6, 90 minute football matches, back to back before you need a recharge. While I haven't tested out this claim, my own experiences show that they are not too far wide of the mark.
Other cool features
One thing I wasn't aware of until I started using the phone was that it also doubles up as a remote control unit. The power button on the top of the phone is also an infrared sensor which can be paired up to your TV, cable or satellite TV box. You can then change the channel as well as adjusting the volume, etc from your phone. The phone also comes with a full TV guide for your region, giving you a full multimedia experience.
This is something I seldomly use but it serves as a great backup should you ever misplace the TV remote.
HTC Blinkfeed is a combination of all your information sources in one place. Think of it as a stream of your main Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds combined with tailored news stories from some of the world's top media giants all in one long list. This is intended to give you a quick overview of things if you only have a limited time to check your phone. If you want more information on a story, you tap on it and are instantly taken to it. Blinkfeed uses up an entire home screen should you decide to use it.
Personally, I put Blinkfeed on one of the outer screens as it is a nice to have feature but it does get in the way of everyday use.
The HTC One has won many "Phone of the year 2013" awards and it is easy to see why. It is quite simply the best handset I have ever owned and some would go as far as saying it is the best handset ever. In my opinion it gives the best display of any smartphone, it gives the best sound of any smartphone and it looks far more sexy than any other smartphone. If I am being really picky, the camera hasn't really made the same progress as the other features but that is not to say that it still doesn't give exceptional outputs.
HTC may not have the marketing budget of Apple and Samsung but they certainly know how to make a smartphone. This device is better than anything Apple and Samsung have ever produced, you have my word for it.
This review also appears on Ciao UK
The Football Manager gaming series has been around for over 20 years now. Starting out as Championship Manager in the early 1990's, Football Manager is widely accepted as the only football management game you need to own. Over the years, many other software houses have tried to dethrone Football Manager but nobody is yet to come remotely close.
There is often criticism of developers who release annual updates to their titles that they are simply trying to charge the consumer twice the privilege of what is in most case, the same game as they bought 12 months ago. This has never been the case with Football Manager as, although to the untrained eye, the interface and matchday experience look similar to previous versions, the bundles of extra functionality and subtleties have been coded into the AI engine to make what was already an unbelievably realistic game, even more realistic.
Installing Football Manager 2014
To install Football Manager 2014 you need to have an Internet connection. This is because you need to connect to a third party website called Steam in order to download the game files. Even if you have bought the game on disk, you will need to connect to Steam to finalise the installation and download any game updates and patches that have been released since the disk version was created.
Steam are a reputable company and anyone who is a serious PC gamer will already have an account with them. If you need to create a Steam account, it is free to do so and only takes a matter of minutes.
Once the actually installation begins, you can leave the PC to look after things for you. The entire process takes about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the speed of your Internet connection and the processing power of your PC. During the installation, you may find that your DirectX video drivers are being updates. This is normal so don't be alarmed if the screen goes blank or flickers from time to time.
Launching the game and setting up for the first time
Seasoned Football Manager players will be familiar with the setup screen as it hasn't changed greatly for many years now. For the benefit of new players who are reading this review, getting started is a simple process thanks to the wizard interface that is used.
Firstly you will need to supply personal details so the game knows about you and how to interact with you throughout the game. This information includes name, date of birth, gender and your favourite team. This is required so you can receive news updates from your favourite team, even if you are not managing them. The information screen also allows you to set your footballing experience so you can play the game as an up and coming manager with no experience or if you wish, you can elect to play the game as if you are one of the World's greatest managers. Whichever style you choose will greatly affect how you are thought of within the game. If you are a "name", players will be more likely to join you while if you are just starting out, you will have to work extra hard to earn your reputation.
The next stage is to choose the team you want to manage. Most people here will automatically elect to join the team that they support, this is what I always do. Some though who like a bigger challenge will join a team right at the bottom of the league structure and attempt to get them promoted through the ranks. Before joining a team, it is always worth checking out the board's expectations as if the board want the team to win the league and you are only sixth because you haven't got the reputation to attract the big players, you won't last very long, thus denting your reputation even further. Team selection at the start of the game will go a long way to determining how successful you will be within the game.
The final stage of setup requires you to select the number of leagues with which you wish to play. This is very flexible and allows you to switch off leagues below a certain level within a country. This helps if your PC isn't powerful enough to run a lot of leagues. With most leagues around the world now covered, you should find that you are able to manage in a country where your favourite teams play.
Moving around the game
Football Manager is a date driven game which means you simply don't just go from one game to the next. On the days where there is no match, you must decide on training plans for your squad in general and also for each individual player. You can also decide on the intensity of this training but be careful, if you are working your players too hard or, in some instances, not hard enough, they will be quick to tell you. If training isn't your thing, you can allocate this responsibility to your assistant manager. This is something I usually do and only tinker with it in specific circumstances.
Non matchdays can also be used to get scout reports on other players and teams as well as to interact with the media. Scout reports in Football Manager 2014 are now more detailed than ever before and certainly do make it easier to make a decision as to whether a player you were interested in, will actually improve your squad or not.
The media plays an integral part in Football Manager. You can use it to praise another teams player or declare an interest in them in the hope that it unsettles them and makes it easier for you to sign them. You can also use the media to comment on opposing teams and managers in an attempt to play mind games before an up and coming fixture. With all these media interactions, you get a series of standard response which can be said aggressively, passionately, calmly or cautiously. You can also add free text to the responses to make them more personal. The game is quite clever hear as it knows if you start swearing in the free text box and will make you aware of this in the news feed.
To most people, the key area of Football Manager 2014 will be the matchday itself. This is where all of your hard work and planning comes together and will hopefully result in a win. The build up to matchday has had a minor revamp in Football Manager 2014 as you now have more stats available to study on both your team and your opponents. You can now see sequences to how many games they have won, lost, scored in, etc in a row. You can also see how many times they have won after conceding the first goal, etc. All of these stats may sound trivial but they really do matter, for example, if a team doesn't go on to win many matches after scoring first, you know they may have a mentality problem so you can build this into your tactics.
Before each game, you get presented with the odds for each team to win the game. Although you can't bet within the game, it gives an indication as to whom the game sees as favourites. You also get pundits giving their "expert" opinion on how they see the game panning out.
With all this information to hand, you should be able to put out a team which in your eyes is capable of winning the game. Allocating team instructions is now far simpler than ever before. Previously, you had to use sliders for each option which I never liked, and usually stuck to the default tactics to avoid changing these. Now the tactics are a selections of words which you choose such as pass it long or play out wide. Whichever you choose, the game will disable the contradictory term. For example, you wouldn't be able to choose play it long and keep it short. If you wanted to mix up the passing, you wouldn't select any of these instructions. I really like this change and it adds great value to the game.
The graphics in the matchday engine have never been the games selling point. If you want a football game with graphics and not much realism, you buy FIFA. If you want a realistic game with OK graphics, you buy Football Manager. The collision detection in the Football Manager game engine has seriously improved over the past 12 months. Now you actually see deflections rather than just being told about them in commentary. In my opinion the game engine is almost perfection. Once tackling seems a little bit more believable I really can't see how it could be improved.
The dreaded vote of confidence
The saying goes, "You are only as good as your results" and this is true in football manager. At the beginning of each month, you will get a summary from the board as to how well they think you are doing. This will be in-line with the goals they set you at the start of the season. If you are doing well, the board will be full of praise however, if you fall short, you could be looking for another job. You can interact with the board over funding and facilities for your team. You can also offer them ultimatums if they turn down your request although you have to be prepared for the sack if they refuse to back down over your demands.
I've been playing Football Manager in its various guises since 1993. The game has always been fun to play although it did lose its way in the latter part of the last decade. Slowly the game has been rediscovering its past glories and the values which made it impossible to put down. In my opinion, Football Manager 2014 is the best Football Manager game ever made. The realism is staggering and you actually do begin to forget that it is not actually real. Even the transfer market is realistic in terms of the types of players you can buy. For example, I bought a player on my Football Manager game only to find out that he had actually signed in real life for the club I support a month later.
Football Manager is not a game you can pick up and play for five minutes. You need to dedicate an evening to it if you want to get the most out of it. The game is so addictive, you'll wonder where the time went.
In this day and age where super graphics and blockbuster soundtracks are all that people seem to want, it is worth remembering Football Manager. Here we have a game with minimal sound (actually just the crowd cheering) and average graphics and in my opinion, it is better than all of the current blockbuster console games on the market.
If you are a football fan or maybe even just a sports fan in general, Football Manager 2014 has to be on your list of games to play.
This review also appears on Ciao UK
Following on from the success of the budget priced Asus Google Nexus 7, Google have released its first full sized tablet to rival market leaders such as the iPad and the Samsung pair of the Galaxy Tab 2 and the Galaxy Note.
The Nexus 10 is manufactured by Samsung (and not Asus as the title of this product suggest) which is somewhat surprising seeing as two of the devices it is competing with are Samsung devices. On the flip side, buyers will at least know that they are buying a device made by a company with a history of designing sleak top of the range tablets.
Whats in the box?
Although the box for the Nexus 10 is quite bulky, there isn't a great deal inside. The tablet itself fills the entire surface of the box but the only other contents are the mains charger and USB cable, leaving a lot of unsued depth which could have been reduced dramatically with better packaging. The box itself it quite vivid, showing off the tablet on the front with a description of the key features on the back. Anyone reading these features cannot fail to be impressed with what the tablet professes to offer.
A tour of the Nexus 10
The Nexus 10 is very similar in design to the majority of other tablets on the market. With dimensions of 10.39 x 6.99 x 0.35 inches (compared to the iPads 9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37) you quickly get a feel for the size of this device. The Nexus also includes standard connectors around the edge, namely a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB connector for charging. Where the Nexus scores highly against it's competitors is the inclusion of a HDMI port which means that your on-screen content can be transmitted onto your HD TV which is great for viewing photos or streaming movies. The final buttons on the Nexus are the volume controls and the power button which are placed strategically so that they can't be accidentally knocked whilst operating the tablet.
Switching on and navigation
The first thing you will notice after turning on the Nexus is how brilliant the display is. With a resolution of 2650x1600 and a density of 299 pixels per inch, the display on the Neus is one of the finest, if not the finest ever seen on a tablet to date. In order to use the Nexus, you will need to unlock it from the lock screen. If no security has been enabled, you just need to swipe to do this. If you want to make the device more secure you can opt to enter a lock pattern or even use face recognition to unlock the device.
Being a Google product, the Nexus is running the latest version of Android, 4.4 Kit Kat. This is a vanilla version of Android which means that it is not running additional bloatware such as HTC's Sense or Samsung's Touchwiz interface. The impact of this is massive and means that the Nexus is far more responsive than any other Android tablet on the market.
As is traditional with Android, you can make use of several home screens which can be filled with programs, widgets and folders. This is where Android has always had the edge over Apple who elect to give you a list of program shortcuts instead of any widgets.
As you would expect from a top of the range device, the Nexus is extremely responsive and navigation through the menu system is slick and effortless. This is aided by Google's project butter which makes for smooth interaction with any device running the JellyBean software.
Web browsing on the Nexus is straighforward using the Chrome browser however flash support is not installed by default. If you require this you will need to download it from the Google Play Store or switch to a browser with native flash support installed by default. The browser is extremely fast although it does tend to get a bit sluggish when you have 10 or more tabs open.
One of the major advantages of Kit Kat over it's predecessors is the inclusion of Google's new search tool, Google Now. Google Now is Android's answer to Apple's Siri and to be honest, it blows it out of the water. Google Now will learn what you like doing, where you go and when you go there. Based on this information it will present you with cards just before you need them which will give you important information. For example, Google Now will know that you leave work at 5pm each evening, Monday to Friday, it will also know the route you take home and will automatically tell you how long the journey will take and where the hold-ups will be. On a Saturday and Sunday (assuming this is your working pattern) Google Now will not tell you this as it knows you don't work these days.
Google Now can also interrogate your calendar and email and give you reminders about events from these sources. Google Now comes as standard on the Nexus 10 and can be launched either by saying 'Google' in the voice activated search or by holding down the home key for a couple of seconds. As well as Google Now providing intuitive information, you can also ask it questions by voice or by text.
I'm hooked, where can I buy?
Currently the Nexus 10 is only available directly from Google. To order, go to the Google Play Store on your PC and type Nexus 10 into the search box. The price from the 32Gb version is £389.99 with a further £9.99 for delivery. I ordered my Nexus 10 at 7.30 on a Thursday night, it was dispatched on the Friday and I received it on the Monday which I was impressed with. The Nexus 10 was delivered by TNT and a signature is required which could prove troublesome if there is nobody at home during the day.
Up until 2012 there hasn't really been an Android table tot rival the iPad. With the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and Note 2, this gap has slowly decreased and now with the introduction of the Nexus 10, Android have surpassed Apple in a big way. While Apple fans will undoubtedly disagree, the Nexus 10 can do everything that the iPad does in a far superior way. Add to this the ability to install widgets, have multiple user profiles (in the same way as a PC) and you'd be hard pushed to consider anything else. With a price £80 cheaper than the iPad, the Google Nexus 10 makes sense as far as your wallet is concerned also. This device comes highly recommended
A version of this review also appears on Ciao UK
HTC have been one of leading manufacturers of Android and Windows powered smartphones since the end of the last decade. Historically, the Taiwanese hardware manufacturer has released several different styles of handsets each year, meaning that consumers were often left confused as to which was the most up to date flagship device. HTC have taken this criticism onboard and have announced that their policy now will be to concentrate on quality rather than quantity.
The new HTC flagship device, the One X was greeted with much excitement when it was announced in February 2012 but would this be the device to resurrect HTC as a company and cement Androids place as the world's most popular operating system.
First impressions of the One X are that it is a beautiful handset to look at. Apart from a thin trim around the edges, the entire frontage of the phone is taken up with the 4.7 inch screen. In recent months, handset sizes have gone full circle where small was once the fashion, large is definitely the look for 2012. If you are upgrading from a small handset, attempting to make a call from the One X will initially feel unnatural due to the fact that your hand will need to be held wider than you are used to. This could cause aching on extremely long calls but on the whole it is something that you will get used to over time. The design of the phone will help you to quickly forget that you are holding a monster in your hand, unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note which literally feels like you are holding a brick.
HTC have rightly or wrongly, depending on your viewpoint moved the micro USB port to the side of the phone instead of the normal position of the bottom of the handset. This does cause a few issues if you are using the phone in your left hand whilst charging it as the USB cable does have a tendency to get in the way of your natural holding position.
The phone also contains a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera, proximity sensor (for detecting when the phone is to your ear, in your pocket, etc) and the standard Android buttons (back, home, recent apps) although these are being phased out in preference for software buttons.
The back of the phone boasts an 8 megapixel camera which we'll look at in closer detail in a moment. On the top lip of the phone, there is a slot for the SIM card and headphone jack. It is worth noting that if you are buying the handset outright with the intention of using your existing SIM card, the HTC One X uses a micro SIM card, the same as those used in the iPhone so you may need to cut your SIM down to size or get your network provider to send you a new one.
The HTC One X is one of the slimmest handsets currently on the market. This is down to HTC's decision to ship the device in a sealed case. The downside of this decision is that the battery cannot be removed which may cause issues later on in the phone's lifetime. HTC have also opted for onboard memory meaning that there is no provision for extra storage in the form of external SD cards.
Under the bonnet
HTC have really pushed the boundaries with the HTC One X in terms of the hardware specification. Powered by the nVidia Tegra 3 processor, the One X is one of the first quad core handsets on the market. The phone actually has a fifth companion core which is designed to do all of the standard phone features such as calling, texting and emailing. This companion core serves two purposes, firstly it frees up the main cores so that they can concentrate on the heavy processing that is required to run the fabulous Sense interface and high quality games. It also means that if you are not doing anything that requires high powered processing, the companion core will use less battery power, prolonging the life of the handset between charges.
The phone comes with 32Gb onboard storage. This is split into what the phone describes as internal storage and phone storage. Internal storage contains the Android operating system and program information. Phone storage is similar to an external SD card in the sense that it is visible as a disk drive when the phone is connected to a computer via a USB cable. After the operating system has been taken into consideration there is approximately 2Gb of free space on the internal storage and 25.5Gb of phone storage free for you to install your apps and music and for storing photos and videos taken with the handset. Although this space cannot be increased, it will be more than adequate for most users.
The HTC One X is powered by the Android 4 operating system (Ice Cream Sandwich) which has come on leaps and bounds in the 2 years since I bought my HTC Desire, running Android 2.2. Ice Cream Sandwich now allows you to manage so many more aspects of your phone with information and performance indicators about virtually every key factor of the phone. With this information to hand, you can easily tune performance to give you a nice balance between performance and time between recharges.
My main concern about the One X prior to purchasing it was that the battery wouldn't be able to cope with all the high tech hardware that was in the phone. The battery however performs so much better than the one in my Desire although the time between cycles will be very much dependant on your own personal activity. If you are going to be predominantly using the handset for calls, texts and bit of Internet browsing then the handset will easily last over 24 hours between charges, something of an achievement for today's smartphones. However, the fact that you've bought a beast probably means you want to test drive it to the limits, after all you don't buy a Ferarri and then just run it to the shops!! Playing high intensity games on the One X will see your battery drain from 100% to very little in the matter of a couple of hours. With this in mind it is worth ensuring that you carry your charger with you wherever you go.
The battery indicator on the One X is one of the most helpful I've ever seen on a smartphone to date. As well as showing you a graph of how quickly your battery has drained, it also gives you tips on how to preserve the longevity of the battery by doing such things as reducing the screen brightness and the volume of the handset.
The phone's default setting is for auto brightness which means that it will adjust to your current lighting conditions. Personally, I would manually set the brightness as even on 30-40% brightness, you won't ever have any problems viewing the screen.
The One X uses a 720p SLCD2 HD screen and it doesn't just blow everything else out of the water, it buries it at the bottom of the sea. Never before have I seen a screen that comes anywhere close to the brilliance of that on the One X. It makes Samsung's amoled and Apples retina display screens look like yesterday's news. Even now after owning the phone for a while, I still look at the screen and think ,'wow'. It really is that good. Even a screen full of text looks beautiful but add in a photograph and the results are simply stunning.
As the technology is extremely new, there was a software bug in the first month of the phones release which forced the screen to flicker in certain conditions. This bug has now been fixed although I was fortunate enough, never to have had the symptoms on my phone.
HTC have invested a lot of time and money in getting the camera right for the One X. One of the main criticisms of previous HTC handsets has been that the cameras have always been substandard. The issues that have affected previous handsets have now gone and the camera on the One X is now up there with the best of them. The HTC camera software allows many shooting modes such as portrait, group portrait, panoramic and close up. This gives the user far more options than ever before on a HTC phone.
The One X is the first phone that allows you to shoot video and take photos at the same time. This is a great advantage for capturing those treasured moments. For example, at my kids sports days, I've always had to decide whether I wanted to video their races or just take stills of them as they passed. Now with the One X I can do both at the same time. I can even take stills afterwards as I am watching the recorded video footage making this an exceptional feature for ensuring you never miss that magical moment.
As with all high end HTC handsets, the One X comes with Beats Audio support. When used with suitable headphones, the Beats Audio chip inside the phone enhances the listening experience. Whilst I don't possess a pair of Beats headphones, the sound though my Sony headphones is greatly improved on the One X over the Desire. Even turning the Beats profile off on the One X shows how the technology works as the quality is nowhere near as good without it turned on.
HTC have agreed a deal with cloud storage provider Dropbox. Using Dropbox on your One X will give you an extra 23Gb of cloud storage for the next 2 years. There are several tasks which need completing before you get the full allocation but these are simple to accomplish, meaning that you will have over 25Gb by the time all tasks are completed. If you wish, you can get your One X to automatically synchronise your images and videos with Dropbox which is a great way of backing up your files without any extra work. Once the images are on Dropbox you can share them by circulating the URL given when you set them as sharable.
Previous HTC handsets have only entered Car Mode once they have been paired with an official HTC car kit. With the One X, car mode is available even when not connected to a car kit. In car mode, users can make easy use of the Google Navigator, Tune In Radio, any music installed on the handset and calling. The buttons in Car Mode are vastly bigger than standard operation and are sensibly spaced out so that operation can be carried out without losing concentration of the road.
The HTC One X is the best handset currently on the market, this is not up for debate. Some people may be put off by the size of the handset and this does take a bit of getting used to but it is not a major problem. With sensible use, the battery in the One X will last longer than the majority of handsets already available but excessive gaming and high usage will require a couple of charges throughout the day. The screen on the One X needs to be seen to be believed, all images that accompany this review are actual screenshots taken from my One X and even though they have been increased in size, they are exactly how they appear on the 4.7 inch screen.
With 32Gb onboard, most people are going to be satisfied with the storage available to them. If you every get close to filling this up then there is always the additional Dropbox space ensuring almost 60Gb is available without needing to pay out on additional storage.
Up until now, most people have perceived the iPhone to be the smartphone that all other manufacturers were aspiring to beat. The boundaries have now moved and the HTC One X has raised the bar so much higher. With the imminent release of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the inevitable future release of the iPhone 5, the future of the smartphone market is looking healthy.
In my opinion the One X is an amazing phone that nobody should be without. To buy the handset outright costs around £450 from Amazon, Carphone Warehouse, etc. I personally got mine on contract in order to spread the costs over 2 years so it is worth shopping around for the best deals.
This review first appeared on Ciao UK
I always remember playing swingball when I was a child. Now my kids are at an age where they are playing tennis at school in PE, coupled with the fact that Wimbledon has just been on TV, the swingball set has suddenly become a big hit again in our household.
For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, swingball is fun game played by either one or two people in which you have to hit a tennis ball which is connected to a pole. If you are playing with an opponent, the objective is to try and get the ball to the top or bottom (depending which side you are on) of the spiral system on which the ball travels. If playing on your own, just hit the ball backwards and forwards in order to prevent the ball reaching the end of the spiral.
Over the years there have been many variations and adaptations of the original swingball game but in essence, the version which is available in shops today is the same aswhat was sold all those years ago.
In order to play swingball, you will first need to find a suitable location in your garden. Once found, you will need to try to force the metal spike into the ground. This can be tricky, especially if the ground is hard. I had to place a block of wood over the spike and hit it with a hammer in order to break the surface. Be careful if you do this as there is a slight risk that you can buckle the opening at the top of the spike which then makes it difficult to connect the main pole.
Once the spike has been sunk deep enough into the ground you need to connect the two halfs of the main playing pole. This part of the setup is simple and will be complete in seconds. All that is left now is to connect the ball and string to the spiral unit at the top of the pole and you are ready to play.
I find that games of swingball are fast and furious but occasionally you will need to stop to adjust the equipment. Occasionally, when the ball reaches the top of the spiral, the string does get jammed and fails to make it's way back down the spiral of its own accord. If this happens you will need to give it a helping hand by manually sliding the string down a rung or 2 before it runs smoothly again.
Ensuring the ball and string are connected to the spiral correctly is also important. I made the mistake of not connectecting them properly on my first few games and the ball had a tendancy to go flying off when it was hit with some strength. This was not a problem with the swingball equipment but was down to me not following the instructions to the letter.
The swingball bats are made of plastic and are light enough for young children to be able to use easily. I did find that after a sustained period of use (probably 18-24 months) the bats did start to show signs of cracking towards the middle where they would have come into the most contact with the ball. Once this cracking starts to happen it will only get worse with each game you play. Saying that, the bat should still be usable for a good few months before the crack turns into a hole, at which time you will need to invest in a new bat.
We had originally intented for swingball to provide exercise for our children but in reality, the exercise content is very small. Apart from the occasional movement to get out of the way of a fast moving ball, all of the physical effort is by the upper body. Swingball should be treated as a fun activity rather than one which is going to get you burning calories by the dozen.
We bought our Swingball from Amazon for £19.99 which represents excellent value for money as it allows the family to participate in an activity together, something which appears to be a rarity in today's society.
As times are hard and people are trying to cut back on their spending, low cost supermarkets are becoming more fashionable. One such supermarket is Aldi. Originating from Germany, Aldi now have over 400 stores across the UK and almost 2000 worldwide. Aldi specialises in selling everyday items from lesser known brands and manufacturers ensuring that for this reason, the prices are considerably lower than what you would expect to pay from the mainstream supermarkets.
Approaching the store
Despite being a budget supermarket, Aldi has the look and feel of the major high street alternatives such as Asda, Teso and Sainsbury's. Shopping trolleys can normally be found by the store's entrance. It is worth noting that all trolleys require a £1 deposit (placed in a coin dispenser on the handle) before you will be able to take one instore. If you forget your £1 coin then I'm afraid you are going to be unable to use a trolley and will have the carry a hand basket instead which can prove troublesome if you place a couple of bulky items in it.
Shopping in store
Shopping at Aldi is fairly experimental. Without the well known brands on the shelves, you are never too sure what you are buying in terms of quality. For example, Aldi do not sell Heinz baked beans but they may sell Bob's baked beans at a fraction of the price. In this instance it is almost worth taking a chance with Bob's baked beans as if you find you like them, you will know to buy them from now on, thus making a big saving on your shopping bill.
This scenario is pretty much consistent with all other items in the Aldi store, you don't really know what you are getting until you try it. The only noticeable exception to this rule is with fruit where you can actually see and feel the product before deciding whether to buy or not.
From personal experience, Aldi cooked meats are some of the finest available from any supermarket. This may be down to the store's German roots, a country passionate about their meats. Other meat products such as frikadelen also come highly recommended. We had never tried frikadelen before but due to it's attractive pricing in Aldi, we gave it a go and thoroughly enjoyed both the taste and the quality.
Wine and spirits at Aldi and slightly cheaper than other stores although the savings are not as generous as those enjoyed on other products in store. Although it comes down to personal choice, I think the quality of the alcohol sold by Aldi is one of it's weaker areas.
As well as selling food produce, Aldi also sell a selection of technical gadgets and devices. These include anything from USB memory sticks right up to high specification computers, laptops and TV's. All of these items are manufactured by Medion or Tevion, two companies who are also part of the Aldi group. These items are always very competitively priced and will always come with a longer guarantee than most items bought elsewhere, typically for 3 years. The cynic in me thought that these guarantees were offered because the products were poor and would constantly break down but after owning several Medion products I can confirm this is not the case and the quality is excellent.
In order to keep prices low, Aldi normally only operate with one or two cashiers at any given time. The downside of this is that you can expect fairly long queues and from personal experience, the checkout operators are not the fastest. When you do get to the front of the queue, you can pay by either cash or debit card. It is worth noting that Aldi do not accept any form of credit card. This has caught me out on a couple of occasions when I wanted to purchase an expensive item. The reason given is that Aldi would be required to pay the credit card company for each transaction which would result in higher prices to compensate for this.
Aldi do not provide free carrier bags for your shopping. You can either pay for their bags for life or load your shopping into one of the many empty cardboard boxes which seem to litter the store or carry your shopping loose back to your car.
Aldi is a great supermarket for anyone wanting to cut their costs. Whilst I wouldn't recommend it for a main shop due to it's limited choice, it is worth checking it out for certain items. Despite the untrendy brand names, Aldi do offer high quality produce which doesn't tend to vary too much in terms of flavour from the more traditional names.
Even if you only try it once, I would recommend a visit to Aldi if you can find one in your vicinity.
International Cricket Captain III is cricket's equivalent of the Football Manager series. In the game you take control of one of the first class counties with the aim to be successful enough to land the England job. The game concentrates purely on the playing aspects of the game with very little focus on finances and training.
The menus and navigation system in International Cricket Captain III are identical to previous versions, meaning that anyone who has played before will be able to pick the game up and get into it straight away. For newer players, the system is very intuitive and will only take a few moments to get up to speed.
All player stats in the game reflect actual performances and these are added to by your own in game experiences and abilities so you can either ensure a top international player continues with their glowing career or you could be responsible for their drastic loss of form which eventually costs them their place in the team.
International Cricket Captain III has had a major overhaul in terms of its graphics. Gone are the outdated 2D graphics, replaced by supposedly slicker 3D player animations. This should be the games major selling point but in my opinion, the game is let down badly here. The graphics are a bit jerky and it is hard to follow the ball movement as it all happens so quick, the game struggles to keep up. Camera angles do not help in this respect, making the graphical representation of the game a massive letdown.
Graphics aside, the game plays very well and is a very close respresentation of the real game. All tournaments played in England are included as part of an annual calendar, plus all major international events such as test matches, one day internationals and world cups. Although the game is a simulation rather than an arcade game, you only get minimal input into the actual game, making decisions as to who bowls and setting the field or how aggressive each player is when batting. For this reason alone, I wouldn't recommend the game to anyone who isn't passionate about cricket as they just wouldn't get it and would be bored within a few minutes of playing.
International Cricket Captain III also contains online play which allows you to play a one-off match with another player. This functionality is OK although it doesn't really add anything to the game and will only be used on limited occasions.
International Cricket Captain III can get quite repetitive at times and is best played without the commentary as this is extremely poor. Although the game has many negative points, it is still one of the best cricket games on the market. My advice would be to try and pick up an earlier version of the game as although the graphics look a bit longer in the tooth, they are easier to follow and the gameplay is almost identical from version to version.
LA Noire is the new adventure thriller from Australian software house, Team Bondi and creator of the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series, Rockstar Games. You assume the role of ex Army soldier, Cole Phelps who is embarking on a new career with the LAPD after leaving the army after World War II. The aim of the game is to get promoted to the top job in the police force and the way to do this is by solving numerous crimes in 1947 Los Angeles.
Games players who are expecting LA Noire to be an unofficial GTA 5 are going to be disappointed as although the 2 games may look similar, the gameplay couldn't be further apart. Whereas GTA is what is known as a sandbox game (where you are free to roam the city as you please), LA Noire is more linear and although you can venture away from the story very slightly, your partner will soon be commenting for you to get back to where the storyline wants you to be. LA Noire was never meant to be a GTA spinoff, instead the game breaks new ground in its own right with the highly impressive motion capture of the actors faces. 32 camera were used to capture facial expressions from all angles to add an extra dimension of reality into the game as being able to read the characters facial expressions is pivotal to deciding whether they are telling the truth or lying when you are interrogating them.
==In the box==
LA Noire comes on a whopping 3 disks which I think is a first for an Xbox 360 game. It is recommended that all 3 disks are installed on the 360's hard disk as although the game can be played directly from disk, there have been some reports of the game freezing due to the console overheating due to the extra work it needs to carry out because of the highly complex graphics it needs to render. Installing takes approximately 30 minutes for all 3 disks and takes up 20Gb of your hard disk.
The only other contents of the box are a 30 page manual, 15 of which are taken up by the games credits. It is not really essential to read the manual although it may give you some light reading whilst waiting for the game to install.
One thing to note is the lack of a map with LA Noire. Although you can view the map from the pause menu once the game is running, Rockstar have decided against providing a paper based map that GTA players have become accustomed too. As the map in LA Noire is as big as the GTA area this does seem like a slightly surprising omission.
Being a police officer in 1947 LA is not an easy job. There are many attributes that you are going to need to master if you are going to successfully solve all the cases that the game has on offer. The learning curve for these attributes is spot on as you get broken into new elements at the right pace rather than having to do something extremely difficult without first having some kind of practice at it.
As a police officer, you are going to spend a lot of time on foot. This could either be walking the beat or walking around a crime scene in search of clues. The player animation when on foot is nothing short of spectacular as movements such as hurdling fences and stepping over evidence is spot on. Perhaps the most impressive though is how your character runs down a set of stairs which is extremely realistic. There are some occasions where you can find yourself stuck in a corner. This is normally when your partner follows you and blocks you in. You can try and push them out of the way but normally all you can do is be patient and wait for them to move out of the way.
Driving plays a big part in LA Noire. Due to the size of the map you are going to have to drive to almost all of the crime scenes. As the game is set in 1947, having sat-nav in your car to help you get around is not an option. Fortunately your partner appears to know all of the streets of LA and by pressing 'X' on your controller, he will tell you when you should turn. This doesn't work too badly although there are occasions where he will tell you too late and you either have to cut across the road or continue to the next junction and correct yourself.
After a while you will probably get bored of driving as unlike GTA, you are not allowed to smash into other vehicles on the road. If this is the case you can always ask your partner to drive. This will take you directly to your destination thus saving time and avoiding a monotonous uneventful journey. There are some occasions when you can't ask your partner to drive, these are usually as part of a mission when you are chasing someone.
===Searching for clues===
Good police work revolves around finding vital clues in order to get a conviction. Without clues you have no evidence to back up your hunch as to whether someone is lying or telling the truth. There are usually many items around the crime scene which can be examined. Some of these are red herrings but the majority of them hold some kind of relevance. You know when you are near to a clue as the controller will start to vibrate. At this stage, tap the 'A' button to examine the clue. If it is something related to your investigating you will either get a new location or person to talk to or the evidence will be collated in your note book so that you can refer back to it when interrogating a suspect or witness. You will know when all clues have been found as the chilling background music will stop.
Interrogating suspects is a skill which you will improve throughout the game. As well as using the evidence to convict a suspect, you can also watch their body language to check for tell tale signs of lying or looking nervous. The facial capture techniques in LA Noire make this possible like no other game has ever done before.
When interrogating a person you always get 3 choices, namely Truth, Doubt or Lie. You need to choose the correct option in order to get the most information out of the person. Be careful about branding them as a liar as you will need to back up this claim with some hard evidence. The flip side to this is that if you give them an easy ride then you may not be able to prize the vital piece of information out of them.
Shootouts do exist in LA Noire but not to the extent that they do in other Rockstar games. Although the control system is identical to GTA and Red Dead Redemption when it comes to shooting, it does feel as though you do not have full control over where you are firing. Whilst it is fairly easy to hit your target, this element of the game lacks a certain amount of realism.
Everyone loves a good old fashioned car chase and these are quite fun in LA Noire. Your car reacts very well which is surprising for a 1947 vehicle. As with the shooting, the car handling doesn't seem as realistic as driving in GTA but it is still perfectly acceptable and doesnt detract from the game. It is quite easy to keep up with the person you are chasing, the aim is normally to get close enough to them so that your partner can blow out their tyres, forcing them to stop.
==Not for the feint hearted==
LA Noire is extremely graphic and should definitely not be viewed when children are present. The game features many dead bodies, all looking extremely realistic. The majority of these are young naked females and as the game is a certificate 18, no censorship is in place so nothing is left to the imagination. The main storyline is also based on a true crime in America, the Black Dahlia murders so it is quite close to the line in terms of being fictional or real life.
Quite surprisingly, LA Noire contains no online content. This is a real shame as the map is large enough to host a multi-player game although the storyline doesn't really lend itself to any legitimate online game modes.
All characters in LA Noire are played by real actors who look like the character rather than just providing the voiceover. The main characters in the game are :-
* Character - Actor
* Cole Phelps - Aaron Staton
* Ralph Dunn - Rodney Scott
* Stefan Bekowsky - Sean McGowan
* Rusty Galloway - Michael McGrady
* Roy Earle - Adam John Harrington
* Herschel Biggs - Keith Szarabajka
* Gordon Leary - Ned Vaughn
* James Donnelly - Andrew Connolly
* Lachlan McKelty - Randy Oglesby
* Archibald Colmyer - Steven Rankin
* Jack Kelso - Gil McKinney
* Harlan Fontaine - Peter Blomquist
* Malcolm Carruthers - Andy Umberger
* Ray Pinker - JD Cullum
* Courtney Sheldon - Chad Todhunter
LA Noire sets the standard that future adventure style games will need to adhere to. The graphics are absolutely stunning, like nothing I've ever seen before in a video game. Some will criticise the game for being too repetitive and they do have a valid argument to a degree. Certain elements of the game do seem all to similar but I suppose that is how the police do work when trying to solve crimes so in that respect the game is realistic.
The positives however far outweigh any negatives that people can throw at LA Noire, the game is an experience which shouldn't be passed up if you get the chance to play it or watch it. The game plays like a mini TV series with each crime a new episode. Whilst the game has its dark side there are also some lighthearted moments too.
This game is highly recommended and should not be missed at any cost.