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Modern Warfare 3 is the culmination of the Call of Duty franchise becoming an overbloated monster. The genre-shaking behemoth that was Modern Warfare, the deeply successful if flawed sequel and the bolder Treyarch attempts of Black Ops all sold by the million and entrenched themselves as the only console game in town. You could even arguably say the vast majority of gamers aren't games fans, but COD fans. But why does this one finally threaten to burst the ever-swelling bubble that seems to be unthinkingly championed year on year?
Firstly, the single player of COD has never been massively strong, despite the incredible set pieces, and MW3 really drives that point home. In past iterations the linearity and shooting gallery nature of bad guys has been softened by a breakneck pacing and iconic filmesque action scenes. However, in MW3 the hand holding you from set piece to set piece finally becomes a hand dragging you from point to point. The infamous videos of AI comrades completing levels for you are very true, and in a bid to outdo itself the set pieces become almost routine - and if a game can make atomic blasts seem ho-hum, then you know something's gone wrong. The COD single player A-Z has become so entrenched, that even the now-obligatory moment designed to shock you comes off as a cynical attempt to tug heartstrings that have hardened in a dozen identikit fights.
But you're probably not playing MW3 for the single player, no, but instead the life-swallowing, all-consuming multiplayer. Unfortunately, the continued decision to keep connections at the mercy of the players involved instead of dedicated servers begins a domino effect that leads to a deeply irritating mode. The makers have, in an attempt to reduce the power of the OTT killstreaks they introduced in MW2, tried to put an emphasis on "gun on gun gameplay". This is mainly achieved by shrinking the maps, simplifying access points and then making the guns more lethal. But the erratic connections and terrible clutter on map designs actively penalises movement. In a game where being seen first means you will die more likely than not, the run and gun game has been eliminated. Meanwhile the clutter and lack of sightlines has removed the long game for all but the best players. This means the game degenerates into an AR camper's dream, where to sit in the corner with the all-round best guns is the best play. That's not to even get started on the warping of the sniper rifle into a close-range weapon at the expense of any long-range effectiveness.
If you're looking to continue your run of COD games, this may finally be the one that weans you from them. As level up noises fill your ears to the extent that their very value is lost, you'll be sorely tempted to put the controller down and wait until the franchise goes back to basics, reinvents itself altogether or slides in obscurity along with the Tony Hawks and Guitar Heroes of this world.
Forget the cut-throat world of financial management and property acquisition, and discard all thoughts of general knowledge marathons for six pieces of cheese - this is the game you should be breaking out on those rainy days and lazy afternoons.
As a product, the basic game is about as sturdy as they come. The tiles have a pleasing quality to them that avoids the tacky plastic feel they could have had, and those letters do a fantastic job of not wearing out despite being rattled to death in that drawstring bag. The tile holders do their job very well too, though peeking family members can't be helped. For a fold out board with a single sticker overlay, it's held up very well to the ravages of time - no peeling whatsoever, and the dreaded splitting of the board down the seam hasn't even threatened to materialise.
To describe the game itself would be to wear out a well-worn theme, but just know it's incredibly balanced and rewards all players equally. Also, for those who feel their vocabularies won't hold up to the challenge, a few goes make you realise it's not about what words you play, but where you play them. For a game usually held up as a bastion of word play, it's very much a cut throat strategy game underneath it all.
Also, for young ones it's a great learning tool. There are junior versions available, but trust your child to get the (very basic) rules and there's no reason not to start on the adult version straight away. There are even solitaire games to play, so if you don't feel like crushing your eight-year-old's dreams with a well placed CONQUEST then you can team up to take on the game.
The only niggles are classic ones that every board game suffers from. One player may have to become a skilled upside down reader, and while the tiles do a good job of not sliding, a careless bump could ruin a good game in progress. These are both problems the deluxe version solves massively with it's gridded overlay and rotating board holder, and it's a must-have if you feel flush.
Thankfully we're starting to live in a world where sex isn't just relegated to "lights on or lights off", but instead is starting to benefit from our best minds putting their heads together and finding products to make it even better (a noble pursuit, we all should agree). The problem is now becoming one of choice rather than scarcity - wandering into your high street's erotic one-stop-shop will probably leave you reeling. With shelf after shelf resembling a rainbow of naughty, every sexual function has about a thousand ways to satisfy it.
So where does this little unassuming bottle come in? In short, it stands out as a lubricant that does exactly what your mind conjured up when you first heard the word "lubricant", rather than how they usually perform. It's the quietly confident lover that's all business, instead of the chest-puffing "look at me" type who can't back it up.
That name isn't a misnomer for starters. It really does feel silky to the touch, and a small sized dollop should see you right for whatever activity you're indulging in (I don't want to know). More importantly, a good while later it still feels silky and is still doing it's thing - anyone's who's felt the horrible sticky chafing of a lube gone awry will know how important that is.
However, it's not the all-round all star of the bedroom. For those of you who want all the senses to be indulged, it's not really got the best taste in the world and other lubes will probably float your boat more effectively. It also doesn't have any of the party tricks of some of the other lubes, so don't expect tingles or a sudden rise in temperature (though your partner should be doing their best to make up for that).
Don't be put off by any price concerns, as it really will last and you'll be glad you bought it. It may not be the swiss army knife of lubes, but it's the best at what it does.
You know the story by now: you've opened a fresh booster pack (or 20) of your favourite TCG and are already envisioning the latest deck with which to crush your friends. But after a few months, your cards no longer look like pristine instruments of tabletop war. Instead, they are blotchy, sticky shadows of their former glory. Thankfully we have card sleeves to save the day, and the Ultra Pro ones are probably the best budget ones available.
The sleeves hold the cards tightly enough so they rarely move around in the sleeve, which will protect the borders of your cards from that dreaded "white creep". More importantly, a few months of playing will make you realise how much gunk and rubbish your cards are being saved from - and with good cards being worth a LOT of money (from the 15 pound mark of good MTG cards to the obscene Yu-Gi-Oh values) it's invaluable.
However, they aren't a perfect product by any means, as the abuse they soak up will come at a cost. After a bit of mistreatment the plastic fronts will detach slightly from the back, rendering the sleeve useless, and if you're planning to take them to tournaments a single mark on the back can render them illegal. Also, unlike the more expensive sleeves you can still bend the cards as much as you'd like, so being heavy handed will still wreck your cards. Finally, the amount held in each pack verges on the cynical - with most trading card games relying on 60-card decks, one pack just isn't enough.
In summary, they do the job and do the job well at any level of play - I would argue they are mandatory purchases if you don't want to waste your card money - but if you're looking for a completely foolproof item , this is not it.