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Before having a child I had never heard of or come across Ashton and Parsons, even after being introduced to the brand on recommendation of a friend I didn't half struggle to find these in the local shops and supermarkets but what a great little box of teething powders not to dis-similar from the Nelsons teething powder which we have also been using to help our child break through the teething barrier.
Again like Nelsons they come in individual sachets', for children under 6 months it's half a sachet or a full sachet for anything above that. They are recommended to be given before bed and as they wake and whilst we did not follow that rule in all honesty, only giving it when our child was in visible pain, the powder worked a charm. It is an instant relief, and as there is nothing more heart-breaking than seeing your child screaming until they go dry in the throat it's always a relief to give them something that doesn't take 10-20 minutes to kick in.
It's easy to administer, either rub the powder into your child's gums or easier still wait for your child to open their mouth and simply empty the sachet. For children under six months I'd go for the rubbing into gums method as it can be hard to only give them half a full sachet when tipping it into their mouths. You will get times when they make a knee-jerk reaction, as it's not natural to them being given a powder, but the mess is minimal and nothing a quick wipe can't solve.
In reality this is one of the best solutions for teething you can get. Forget your ibpruofen's and paracetemol's a powder always does the trick. If not Nelsens than it's got to be Ashtons and Parsons all the way. Granted it can be a little expensive but for a good few hours of rest-bite for your child's teeth it truly is worth every penny.
We bought these as our baby girl hit her first teething mile stone, lots of drool, lots of pain and the baby need lots of comforting and we thought these could help. They sort of did I suppose.
We picked them up simply because she liked keys, she always had our car or house keys and thought that she may like this set of three chillablle keys, alas these babies aren't half smart, despite us trying to dangling this 'new' set of keys she always wanted the house or car keys making our job of trying to soothe her painful teeth all the more difficult.
The chilling bit did work ok, but due to the nature of teething and it having a habit of sneaking up on us we generally gave her the keys warm, she chewed on them for five minutes, easing the pain before getting bored. This was the same after spending a little while in the fridge, five minutes in her mouth before she found the exercise boring.
A couple months down the line she lost interest entirely, never even holding the keys as we attempted to help her teething so we had to look elsewhere for a solution.
They do look good, have lot's of bright colours but ultimately longevity wise it wasn't what we were expecting. Then again children do tend to lose interest in things such as this rather quickly. It did help and for about £3 you can't really complain, we got a good month and a half's use out of them before they went to the bottom of the toy box, never to see the light of day again.
I was prescribed Bausch and Lomb Purevision Torics a good four or five years ago and nothing has come close to them I must say.
Let's start with the fit, very rarely have I had an issue when they first go in. Granted at the end of the month, you can sometimes start feeling them dry out especially if you've worn them longer and more often than usual but the same can be said for most every contact lens.
Once settled in your eyes I have only ever had them come out two of three times and the same again for when they get 'lost' under your eyelid, but again this comes about very rarely.
Although upon reading multiple reviews there does seem to be other brands that never pop out and never get 'lost' but despite this due to it happening very little I have always marked it as red and continued on as they are very comfortable 95% of the time.
I used the solution provided by Specsavers, this can be a bit of a let down as when I spend a few pounds extra on a Tesco branded one the solution seems slightly thicker and overall keeps your contact lenses in better condition during their 30 day span so it may be an idea to buy said solution when used in conjunction with these Purevision Torics.
The main issue with these are the price, they are one of the most expensive brands and I've recently cancelled my lensmail subscription forking out £19 a month when you can spend £40 for three months worth using getlenses.co.uk or similar. When you do search for Purevision Torics though you'll soon realise there are a number of other brands such as Excel who offer far cheaper alternatives which can sometimes be better if they have them in your prescription.
I would rate these at four stars, the value for money issue means they fall short of 5, but otherwise a great set of lenses to use day in, day out and I would highly recommend them... if you can afford them.
With the weather being so cold and the amount of water, ice, sleet, snow, sludge and general muck on the roads rising everyday it seems only right that you need to get yourself a sponge as with everything else washing your car is costing more and more.
For a quick run through an automatic wash-system it's £2.50 generally for a basic package, this is never good as they use little water knowing that you've gone for the lowest option possible and then there's the thought of those wonderful spinning, streaky sponges doing their upmost to scratch your newly washed car. Have you ever got out your car and felt those sponge sticks attached to the spinners at a car wash? They are by no means soft.
You could opt for a pressure washer at a local petrol station or such like; these are naturally a rip off. £2.50 will generally get you about three minutes worth of wash-time; those three minutes disappear very quickly. Considering you'll generally have a power-shampoo, hot-brush, rinse, gloss wax, mineral water rinse, settings that's six different settings, so thirty seconds per setting to go around your car, the hot brush being the worst as you obviously want to really scrub your car down and get all the dirt off the body. To get enough time you'd be looking to spend £5-£7 in all reality.
Then there's the hand car washes where-by you drop your car off and let someone else wash it. Again the basic packages start from £5, but again in my experience not worth it for the simple fact that they care very little for what they're doing when they know someone's gone for the basic package. Shell out £20 for the full valet and you'll find the guys doing your car going through every nock and cranny and you're car will look sparkling. £20 a month for 12 months, that's two hundred and forty pounds that is no doubt better, spent elsewhere.
So we come to the old fashioned sponge. The one here is available most anywhere be it Tesco's, local garages or Halfords. They are generally quite cheap, you're looking at between £0.50-£2.00 for one and they are a big and a god send for the car owner looking to spend a good ten minutes scrubbing their car down and a quick rinse and you're looking at a brand new car. It's not only cheaper for your wallet but there's nothing better than stepping back and admiring your sparkling car after a good scrub. Why spend up to and in excess of £240 a year when you can get a sponge for fifty pence and crack on?
The Unicorn darts sharpener is one of the better and more useful accessories for your new set of darts. It is cheap, small (can be bought with a keyring attachment) and does exactly what it says on the tin and gives your points a little bit of an edge, very important when trying to force bounce-outs from your game.
I bought a pair of James Wade darts, loved them but naturally using them every day of the week during my lunch and tea breaks at work caused the points to slowly wear down. After a while you'll notice that your darts don't quite sit into the board as deep as a fresh set of points, and bounce-outs become ever more prevalent in your game. Simply put this is due to the points becoming more rounded, meaning that there is more surface area for the spokes around the boards to be hit by.
The Unicorn darts sharpener is something that can add a quick edge to your points, helping with such issues. You could even go as far as to use it quickly between plays, but sportsmanship issues means generally you'll refrain from this choosing to sharpen before and just after a match.
The great thing about this is that it only costs around £1.50-£1.99 a pittance for what it's worth. I did once opt for point replacements, simply put my points were in dire need of a change and not even a sharpener could save them, and whilst it cost me around £10 and included a fresh set of point, it took 7 or so days to sort. No doubt a few sports shops still offer the service though finding said shops is becoming more and more difficult.
The Unicorn darts sharpener on the other hand is cheap and quick, and considering how much gimmicky accessories that are now made available to throwers this is one item that isn't gimmicky in anyway and can in fact be the difference between a ton eighty and three bounce-outs in all honesty.
It is made from vitrified silicon carbide, and even through constant use will last you years and years before you even need to consider replacing it. Even when that time comes, it's not exactly a bank-breaker and for that reason this can only ever get 5 stars. Great value for money and can quite literally be the difference between winning and losing dart matches
Durex 2 in 1 massage gel is one of the less ideal products to come from the Durex range. The container states that it is basically as good a lubricant as it is a massage gel, that couldn't be further from the truth.
I like to give my wife a good few massages so this naturally caught my eye, kill two birds with one stone and all that. Being the thought provoking company that Durex is they naturally created the bottle in the likeness of a sex toy let's be honest and the colour pink was no doubt slapped across it to appeal to Durex's female fans. Looks a bit tacky in my opinion.
Despite the rather unimaginative design I still picked it up and took it home and proceeded to use it as a massage gel, and it's horrific. I like to buy the massage bars from Lush, warm your hands up lather it on and it'll last a good hour if done right. Feels nice as you roll your hands over your other halves skin and is a pleasure to use. The Durex gel was quite the opposite, it absorbs into the skin to quickly, and any gel that doesn't get absorbed basically coagulates, if that's possible, over your fingers and on your other halves skin. Once that happens it is neither fun giving the massage or receiving it.
Sadly much is the same for its second use, a lubricant. It dry's out very quickly, making it redundant rather quickly. It also doesn't feel right when putting it on a condom or bare skin, comes out of the tube all wrong. Basically it's a bad product.
It can be quite cheap, so that's no doubt the appeal of the product. Why buy a lush bar that could cost around £8 or spend £8 on proper massage oil from somewhere like Holland & Barrett when you can get this for £3 or so. Well that extra fiver you've saved will undoubtedly lead to your other halves libido taking a hit when you use it and as such its purpose of you enjoying your night will leave you realising pretty quickly that this Massage Gel will come up short each and every time you decide to use it.
Save your pennies, buy a lush bar or one from the Holland & Barrett range as the Durex 2 in 1 Massage Gell is bad news, end of story.
I bought Play by Givenchy whilst at the airport waiting to board my plane for my honeymoon and it's by far the best cologne out of my little collection, one that I sometimes use pretty much everyday as it's subtle fragrance is by far the best of any that a man can get.
The bottle itself is well designed in my opinion. Modelled on a big MP3 player with the black see through glass showing the cologne in all its glory. The large rubber nozzle on top is easy to press, and disperses the cologne very well wherever you have it aimed.
The actual scent is meant to have a coffee hint to it, although I would say it's more cocoa-ish personally, considering I do not like the smell or taste of coffee and yet I wear this most everyday. You also get a nice citrus under-tone which ever so slightly sharpens the smell of Play. It is very subtle, a soft cologne if you will which is unique as most colognes can be quite sharp and knock their way through your nasal passages with their smell. Play on the other hand easily glides on through.
The scent will also last a good while, most of the day in fact especially in cold weather in seems. Maybe a cologne suited for colder environments', saying that it was just as nice wearing it in Paphos on my holidays although I did notice the smell faded rather quickly.
It can be a little expensive as well, but it's worth the price tag, if you can find it cheaper even better as it'll be a steal. It smells great, looks modern and is great addition to any lads cologne collection.
Dentinox, the perfect accessory for children going through teething. This has been bought multiple times by myself for my daughter, it's especially effective when my daughter struggled to sleep at night, a quick pea sized dollop of Denitnox on her dummy and she generally went straight down to sleep. It's fast acting, cheap and by the looks of things even tastes nice if my daughter's expression is anything to go by.
Like Calgel it comes in a small toothpaste like tube, almost like travel toothpaste. It's easy enough to apply the gel to either your finger if you wish to do it manually, or if using a dummy again it's very simple to put a pea sized amount on the teat. One word of warning, that dollop doesn't stick very well to the dummy teat, it may slide of so make sure you keep it upright before placing in your child's mouth. Also make sure you work your way from the bottom of the tube, the metallic make up of said tube means that if you start from the top it becomes increasingly difficult to push out the dregs lying at the bottom, as let's face it there will be days when you're on your last one and your child is screaming in pain wanting some gel.
The gel works via the Lidocaine inside it, which acts as a local anaesthetic numbing your child's gums for a short period of time giving them the rest-bite they desire. The other main ingredient is Cetylpyridinium chloride which is an antiseptic and will stop your child's gums from getting infected and further inflamed, so basically killing two birds with one stone. For those who worry about the daily sugar intake of your child, Dentinox is sugar free so one less worry.
Due to how fast it acts and the generally small amount of lidocaine and chloride you can re-apply every twenty minutes if your child's teething issues persist. Naturally if it's a case of you constantly topping your child up every twenty minutes there will come a point where you may need to think of taking them to the doctor or gp if the pain doesn't subside.
Another bonus is that it very rarely creates any side-effects, so no drowsiness or generally feeling or looking ill for your child. Again this will vary from child to child but as general rule it has little to no effect.
How long it will last depends entirely on the severity of the pain. If it's a bad week it can disappear in a few days, but generally it will last a little while longer. For only £2 odd (sometimes as low as £0.85p) though you can always top up your supplies of Dentinox, something I would highly recommend as it's a great product, perfect for those new teeth coming through and the pain that comes with it.
Nelson's Teetha, simply put is a lifesaver for anyone with a child, most notably a little girl, going through the fun and games of teething.
We first heard of Teetha through another mother, we had made countless trips to all the big supermarkets before hand and never once spotted it, generally it finds itself hidden on the lower shelves of the baby aisle's which is shameful for what it achieves. Once you do find it you can get put of by the price tag, £4.99 is a tad steep and is the one drawback of the powder, although once you buy it once you'll find yourself adding it to the weekly shopping list.
It comes as little sachets, one tiny sachet is just enough to subdue the pain of teething for a good while. Also the little sachets make giving your child the powder so much easier. Just flick it, open the top, wait for your child to open his or her mouth (sometimes no doubt waiting for them to cry as is usually the case with teething) and then let the powder drop into your child's mouth.
Most of the time they will instantly stop crying, moving their mouth and figuring out what this new object in their mouth is before settling rather quickly as the powder takes effect.
In total you are given 24 sachets', put together in sets of four, and you simply tear of a sachet when you need to use it, almost like a stamp being torn from a stamp book.
Due to the powder being a 'natural' remedy they cane be given it up to six times, every two hours, as oppose to waiting for four hours, three to four times a day when using Calpol or child 'bruofen.
If, like my wife, you worry about sugar and salt hidden in everything then you'll be pleased to know that the powder only contains a table sugar which contains lactose and occurs naturally in milk and as such is nothing to worry about. The powder works via Homeopathy explained like so, 'Homeopathy is a system of medicine which stimulates the body's own natural healing processes. It has been used for many years as a safe and side-effect free treatment, suitable for all the family at any age.'
Overall I would rate the powder as four stars out of five, almost five if not for what I would consider a slightly steep price tag. Despite this it can still be a god send as it's fast acting and healthy for your child, a perfect addition to your nappy/baby bags for the common on-set of teething that every child suffers sometimes for days on end.
Oakley are the leaders in sunglasses' design and the have yet another perfect product in their Half Jackets.
Why are they so good? Because they create stunning products that are aesthetically pleasing and comfortable to wear. The Half Jackets look awesome, the matted grey version look great and don't have the cheap tacky holiday look that so many glossy imitations have when you're going along the promenade and glance into the various £1 stores littering the place.
They lie on the bridge of your nose and you could be forgiven for not even realising they were there if not for the shaded tint now covering your eyes. The rubber covering the bridge is neither obtrusive (as in you cannot see it out of the corner of your eyes, a pet hate with sunglasses') or painful and will not leave you with giant red marks even if you wear them for most of the day.
The lenses are crystal clear as if they were made by Zeiss themselves. Made by Oakley or Luxxotica they are both hard wearing and easy to see through. Another issue so many cheap sunglasses' pose is the ability to give the wearer headaches especially when wearing alongside contact lenses. Oakley never suffer from this problem.
Half Jackets are also very hard-wearing. The lenses despite being almost as thin as a sheet of paper will withstand sandstorms, gravel, general scratching and as reported on a few years ago will happily take a grenade fragment, although I would recommend alternative eyewear in such a situation. The arms will also take a severe beating being bent back and forth and form personal experience sat on numerous times, and still they wear like they are still brand new.
The pair I bought where a little big for my face and yet the still gripped my head perfectly, the arms sat over my ears nicely and I never worried about them falling forwards or lifting of my nose. I used to wear them whilst playing cricket and in the past had issues with sunglasses bouncing all over my nose while chasing a stray ball, no such issue with these sunglasses.
Value for money wise these truly are worth every penny. Why go through spending £5 every holiday on a new pair of glasses' that will break long before you fly home when you can get these for around £60 and they will last you decades.
Overall they are great pair of sunglasses; they will withstand most anything both from the user and the elements. They look great and put the cheap tack seen around to shame, but I guarantee if you buy a set you'll proudly wear them on your head. I even see people wear them at night, although it still baffles as to why.
Our daughter got this, along with the soft doll, for her first Christmas/birthday present for an Auntie and a great choice it has indeed turned out to be.
Straight away I love things in big boxes, there's nothing better than watching you little one tearing apart the wrapping from a massive box under a tree, screams Christmas/birthday. Once she gets the wrapping paper of you can leave it with her while you assemble the pram.
Assembly is fairly easy, although the two screws on the underside of the chair are a little awkward and may require a long phillips as oppose to knives or normal phillips screwdrivers in all honesty. The other screws are fairly easy though. Once put together it does feel very sturdy, and safe enough to hold your child as let's be honest they will at some point give in to the urge of climbing inside it and pretending to be the baby, not the mother.
Appearance is just right. Not to in your face with the baby pink still telling everyone that this is a girls toy but at the same time not screaming it across the room. The little bear is a nice touch which when pressed produces a nice tune, although I will admit I think the addition isn't necessary. A button on the centre console I would have thought is a better idea personally, as every child that has used it never reaches in front whilst pushing the pram, instead opting to press buttons when they stop and inspect the pram from the front.
The soft doll fit's in perfectly and I do like the addition, this coming from a father who is not as willing to buy those 'real' plastic babies that eat, drink and... well you know the rest. It surprisingly acts as a little rattle, which our daughter loves, throwing the poor thing across the room, but she enjoys it and that's what matters most.
It's lightweight meaning that it's easy for your child to push, and the layout of the wheels means it very rarely topples over. In fact it only ever falls if the child pushing it decides to push it from one side, or physically pick it up and flip it over. I was surprised that it was so hard to turn-over when pushed from the back.
Overall it is a great present for a one year old in my view. Just as they start walking this is a great aid that will help them learn how to take those first steps (if they haven't already). It's subtle, but still tells you it's a girl's toy and I would recommend it to all parents.
My 18 month old has had one of these since birth and it still makes her chuckkle even now and is a must for boys and girls.
It's sturdy as anything, even the nylon string can withstand the most ferocious of throws and tugs by and angry baby or toddler which is great to see. To many toys break with imperitive ease nowadays, but this simply designed phone withstands anything my child throws its way.
The sound it makes when make 'imaginary' phone calls is as addictive as watching the little toys eyes roll from left to right as you roll it along the floor. Nice and bright too, a child will never miss it within the confines of a toy box.
What's more it's got a great link with the Toy Story movies, most notably Number 3 with one of these Fisher Price-esque phones teaming up with Woody in number 3 to thwart that big purple Strawberry loving bear and as your child grows older they will always want to keep this phone in their toy collection due to this link. It also means that this will truly stand the test of time, something rarely seen with newer toys.
Plus for value for money you truly cannot go wrong. Less than a tenner, years of entertainment for child and parent alike. A perfect little toy.
Please NOTE this is my article as written for www.ConsoleMonster.com
Your sprinting through the blinding sandstorms in Dubai, the sun baking down on your back, cover is ten yards in front of you and as if you were back home sliding through second base you make it into cover ready to take the fight to the enemy.
Welcome to Spec Ops: The Line.
From the off, the game's biggest strength shines like Batman's beacon, the plot. It is not only immersive, but thought provoking and will have you questioning your own morales whilst playing through. The game's setting begins six months into your deployment in Dubai, which is currently being ravaged by constant sand storms. The 'Damned' 33rd Battalion of the United States Army come in to help give aid and evacuate any Emiraties within the province before they fall foul of the conditions.
The US government at some point decided to abandon all relief efforts, alas Colonel Konrad, the Commanding Officer of 'The Damned', went against those orders and became deserters. Dubai was soon classed as 'No-Mans Land' and the US government disowned the 33rd, citing numerous reasons, most notably, treason.
You, a Delta Operative, along with your colleagues Adams and Lugo, are sent in to gauge the situation. What you'll find is pretty grim, and you're soon fighting off not only the native insurgents, but also members of the 33rd themselves who mistake you for the CIA. The story continues on and as you will see for yourself, is extremely gripping. Even when the end finally comes around there are four possible outcomes, depending on the outcome more often than not you'll want to have another crack at it just to see how the story unravels, four times over.
In terms of gameplay, The Line will again surprise you. Although it is by no means unique it does what it supposed to, and does it well. Once you start running through the dunes, you will soon realise that it is very Gears of War-esque, with Walker being able to vault over objects, slide into cover and cruise across objects. That's not to say that Yager haven't added their own little twist on the game's various mini-battles.
These mini-battles is exactly what this game is all about. As you come to a new mini-battlefield, you will have to start thinking very tactically as your choices and decisions will affect what your colleagues do. You'll have to scan the road ahead (well dune) and decide how best to dispatch your enemies. What's more, you can order Adams and Lugo to fire on specific targets, perfect for cover fire or simply to dispatch the opposition a lot quicker.
Once the firefight begins the game truly throws you into the thick of it. You'll see and hear bullets whiz past your head. When you shoot an insurgent he will react as if actually being shot, take out his left arm and he'll jolt to his left, take out his leg and he'll fall to the ground, head shot... lights out. Even the ammunition supply seems a lot more realistic in comparison to your GoWs and CoDs, you have to limit yourself and switch off your gun's 'Automatic' as you will soon realise that every round needs to hit it's intended target or empty clips is all you'll be left with, oh that and staring down the barrel of an enemies smoking AK47.
At times the game does suffer a few niggles. When a grenade is thrown your way it is very difficult to dodge it, or even throw it back. You can also fall foul of your own team mate trying to dispatch an enemy from a yard away with an RPG or grenade instead of using his fists. Generally though the experience is both realistic and rather full-filling.
Sadly, the game's multiplayer is quite a let down, in part due to the lack of activity on Xbox LIVE. When you first enter the Spec Ops Multiplayer world you're met with a very inviting amount of weapon unlocks, title unlocks and game mode unlocks. Alas when you attempt to enter lobbies you soon find yourself at times waiting 20-30 minutes to find a game, and this is only when you play the Team Deathmatch, with anything else you can find yourself waiting even longer. Once you do get into the game it just isn't that exciting, almost like there is something missing. Graphically speaking it also seems to have taken quite a large jump down from the campaign's visuals, and as such looks fairly basic.
Continuing on from the graphics, as said above, the campaign mode actually looks pretty smart for the most part. When you find yourself engulfed by sandstorms it can be quite a harrowing experience. Also when you're standing atop a sky scraper, looking down on some random Dubai city, the cityscape is quite awe-inspiring, and you can happily sit there for a moment quite literally taking in the view. The character textures do at times flicker, but it's easy to look past this as for the most part it looks pretty suave.
Overall this game has come out and hit the ground running with a superb storyline and some tactically intense warfare thrown in for good measure. The multiplayer may be a let down, luckily if anything it can work as a positive for this game as it gives you even more reason to finish the campaign mode and run through it again to fully understand the decisions you have made whilst playing as Walker.
It may not be winning any awards, that's not to say that this is one of the most captivating shooters currently available to Xbox 360 users. The morality of your choices has never been so well presented as they are in Spec Ops: The Line and for that reason alone it's a game that everyone should experience, if only for a few short hours.
Please NOTE this is my review as written for www.ConsoleMonster.com
Pirate games are pretty popular at the moment, so when news came that Piranha Bites were porting their [mediocre] PC title Risen 2: Dark Waters over to the Xbox 360, and delayed it so as to improve the game for the next-generation gamers, many wondered what Risen 2 could bring to the pirating table....Yarrrrr!
You fill the tattered leather boots of the 'Nameless Hero' from the first game Risen. After Risen ended you fled with the inquisition's soldiers, but now your Hero has become nothing more than a hollow, bitter, old drunk. Sporting the stereotypical pirates eyepatch your adventure starts in Caldera Harbour, where the Kraken sea monster envelops a passing ship and you are sent to find survivors on the shore. Your journey doesn't stop at lifeguarding duties, as you'll soon find yourself befriending the female pirate Patty on her search for the world renown pirate Gregorious Emanuel Steelbeard, namely Patty's Father.
Your interests aren't so much with finding Pattys long lost Father, instead it's the knowledge that Steelbeard knows of a weapon, capable enough of not only slaying the demented Kraken, but even the Titan lords fighting over Caldera as you set off on your various quests.
It's a pretty run-of-the-mill plot. It's not overly inspiring, but neither is it dull. You do have a little say in your Hero's path, although ultimately your dialogue is pre-determined and set for a single destination. Even though the game does have a pretty thick story, you'll be inclined to skip 90% of your dialogue cut-scenes, for the simple fact that the voice acting lacks emotion and doesn't even flow well. Instead, you're left with klunky, jittery debates [sometimes sexist] with Patty and others where what you're saying barely matches the movements of your mouth.
Risen 2 will last you a fair while, we're talking in the region of less than one hundred hours if you look to complete every aspect of the game. For the most part you'll be clashing swords with humans [ok, not so much humans] and wee beasties, along with being set on a variety of tasks. These tasks will help you to upgrade your Hero via perks such as advanced combative moves and better firearms experience. It's just a shame that Risen 2's combat system is disastrous to bordering on unplayable.
You know you're in for a rough ride with a combat system when upon finding your weapon you're told that your first [and only] combo is X, X, X. You'll win hand-to-hand combat by either out-lasting your opponent, or simply hoping that the animation lets you strike first blood. Now, doesn't that just make you want to smash through 10 hours of the game to get to a point where your character is good enough for the combat system to become a little more tolerable...? I think not.
Things can only improve for Risen 2, right? Wrong. Graphically this has to be one of the poorest titles to be released on the Xbox 360 for a good while. As I said before, the dialogue scenes give you an instant impression of where this game is going in terms of visuals, and sadly things simply get worse and worse. Characters look out of place with bright skin tones (as if the sun is shinning upon them) whilst standing in shade or under foliage. When you turn on the spot, or back on yourself the judders you witness will make you feel like you're driving a car for this first time and trying to figure out how to work the gears. Backgrounds are re-used, so you'll almost feel like Frodo Baggins screaming "we've been here before Sam" [if you happen to have your friend Sam round at this particular time]. Buildings can look ok from afar, but as you get closer textures change, roof tiles move about and doors judder on the spot.
The PC version of the game was nothing special, so the fact that Piranha Bites has taken a fair while longer to create an even worse title makes you wonder what they were doing all that time? Also where's the ship combat, why can't we go toe-to-toe with two massive ships, sails blowing in the wind, cannonballs whistling by your head. Such a simple inclusion would have lifted the game to become bearable to play.
Overall, this is definitely a game to avoid. There is a slightly enjoyable title hidden within 20 hours of gameplay, but ask yourself is it really worth all that work for something that even at it's best is average. The visuals will make you feel woozy and the combat system is simply pointless - winning battles has no achievement attached to it unlike RPGs such as Witcher 2. I would say that they've tried to improve on a sub-par PC title and given next-generation gamers a pirating title that will have you engrossed from start through to finish, but I'd be lying. Piranha Bites need to take a step back, take a long hard look in the mirror and realise that it has failed it's fanbase. Epic Fail.
Please NOTE this is my article as written for www.ConsoleMonster.com
Madden is one of the longest running franchises in gaming history and we're now on the games 24th incarnation by way of Madden Football 2013 (Madden '13). Madden has gone from highs to lows, the early 2000's saw Madden at its peak, but it began to trail off around '06. Thankfully, EA have managed to get the series back on the rails with Madden '13 becoming yet another improvement on the franchise. First impressions are the most important, which is a motto that EA more than most abides by, and you will soon see this being apparent when you 'Press the Start Button' on the splash screen.
The new navigation system has been re-made once again and EA have done a pretty awesome job of it. The new menu screen is easy to make your way through. It has a good amount of customisation and I love the little touches, such as having your NFL.com fantasy leagues not only viewable through the game, but you can even add, drop and manage your teams through your Xbox.
Madden veterans will soon notice that Franchise mode and Superstar mode, the two routes which all gamers took in older games, have been removed. In its place, an all new 'Connected Careers' moulds them together into this beautiful new creation. Through Connected Careers you can start off your career as a new or an existing coach/player. In addition to this you can also take control of 27 Legendary Players and 7 Legendary Coaches, such as John Madden and Walter Payton.
Taking on a head coaching role you will soon see the similarities with the old Franchise mode, you'll also see the new features that EA has brought to coaching in connected careers. There is a lot more emphasis on team management from your teams' cuts and getting the roster down to 53 players, through to scouting future draft prospects and managing your salary cap. Obviously for those that do not understand those parts of the game you can opt to automate the choices, but when it comes to game day it always feels so much better knowing that the team on the field has been created through your time, vision and preparation.
Don't forget you are also instrumental in the progression of every player who plays a down in a game. Each time one of your players does something on the field they will earn a pre-determined amount of XP, the better the results the better the points. With those points you can improve aspects of said player such as stamina, strength, vision, pass accuracy etc. EA have even added Twitter updates and news articles to your coaching homepage. Yes they are all fake, but that's not to say that these fabricated pieces of material does anything but further increase how immersive the coaching in Madden '13 actually is.
If you choose to take control of a single player you'll see similarities to the old Superstar mode, but again you will also see that EA have added additional features and twists to make the experience of controlling a single player even more enjoyable. Once you get past adding EA game faces and editing your name and such, you'll be given a choice as to where your player was 'supposedly' drafted. If you go for a high draft pick you'll have the air of confidence, but your expectations will be sky high. Go for a low round and your expectations aren't so high, but you're not as likely to turn heads. Choosing undrafted, you're best bet is to have a career like Kurt Warner.
Your main aim as a player is of course to improve your stats and this is done through games and practice sessions. One thing that many, me included, couldn't stand in Madden '12 and older was the lack-luster and dire practice modes. It almost seemed like EA ran out of imagination when it came to designing the practices. Thankfully the imagination has returned and you'll feel a lot more involved in the multitude of scenarios, which vary in difficulty, with your reward being based on your performance and how challenging your scenario was.
Connected Careers can also be played online again as a player or coach. You can choose to join or create a league with only CPU teams, CPU players or even a mix of the two. That sense of interaction and the realisation that your opponents are not computer managed makes for some nail-biting, heart-thumping, edge-of-your-seat games. Not forgetting that nothing beats a bit of friendly banter between Coaches & Players, something that simply cannot be replicated offline. Madden Ultimate Team has also been given a facelift, which makes it not only interesting for those who never really played it in the past, but it keeps veteran MUT players truly hooked.
EA have gone all out on the game's physics with the creation of the new 'Infinity Engine'. Needless to say, Madden '13 is all the better with this new addition, and this is soon seen the moment you witness your first tackle. The engine makes the game so much more immersive. This is seen when you watch your Wide Receiver being tackled in the air, where in previous instalments you start motioning towards the turf you knew the play was done, not anymore, if you happen to land on the Defender and your knee's never touch the ground, you can drag yourself up onto your legs and continue towards the endzone. One aspect of the engine, which is funny at first but a little irritating after a few games, is the after play animations. Basically when the play is done your players will still react to opposition (or allies) they touch on the field, this results in what looks like a drunken brawl as players trip over each other and they seem to have lost the sense of sight.
On the offensive side of the field things are looking peachy, with new passing mechanics and a generally smoother feeling to the game when fighting for that first down. Switch to the other side of the ball and we still find a few issues that EA have yet to address, most notably, coverage. To be more precise the choices your LB's, DL's, S's and DB's make whilst in play. You will invariably choose to control an LB when it comes to the snap, not because you enjoy being a Linebacker, but because you know that if an AI controls this particular lineman he'll end up covering the wrong man, or dropping off too far. EA seems to have spent so much time on all other aspects of the game and come up short when they started on the defense.
Madden now offers Kinect compatibility where by you can call out plays (pre-snap audibles) instead of selecting them. This is a nice addition to the game, although in competitive games you will unlikely use it.
Visually, Madden looks stunning - it is after all what EA seem to best. Players are looking more and more realistic as each year passes and this instalment doesn't buck that trend. The animations, as mentioned fleetingly above, are so much smoother and now even faster. Watching players getting tackled by three or four players is so realistic you could at times think you were watching the Eagles on game day. The actual player mechanics also look perfect; each Quarter Back has that unique throw, each Running Back that unique twirl or even a Linebacker with his overpowering stance staring your Quarter Back down. You can tell if it's Lewis, Shady or Rodgers that you're watching, even when they're not sporting their own team's jersey.
Madden '13 is yet another improvement in this ever-lasting franchise. Madden '10 was ok, '11 was average, '12 was pretty good and now '13 is simply superb. The new Infinity Engine adds to this already enjoyable game and graphically it's looking better than ever. The connected careers will add hours upon hours of enjoyment and you will quickly find yourself logging hundreds of hours of game-time. It truly is addictive trying to bump your player's stats or take your franchise to the Superbowl. The Kinect compatibility is a neat twist, alas I think EA will improve on this in future instalments, for now though it seems a little gimmicky. There are a few issues, most notably with the Defensive mechanics within the game and a few drunken animations. Despite this, for NFL fans there can only be one game that you just have to buy this year, that is of course Madden '13.