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When I heard about this film I had mixed feelings. Pirate films have had a terrible curse, with nearly all pirate titles being mediocre films, showing how to make what could be a delightful genre into nothing but boring films. It also did not bode well when I heard that this was being created by Disney, basing it on a popular ride at Disney World. What may make a good theme park ride does not make a good film.
However, the cast list was definitely not disappointing. With the marvellous Johnny Depp in the lead role it must have its merits. Well known for being very selective of films he acts in, he must have liked the script for Pirates Of The Caribbean. With Geoffrey Rush in the opposite role as the pirate captain, there was much potential for a very believable rivalry in the film. Supporting roles from Orlando Bloom, of Lord Of The Rings fame, and Keira Knightly, lead role in Bend It Like Beckham, the film had all the gold needed for an excellent film.
To put it bluntly, the film is a treasure. The storyline may be a little cliché, (as would be expected with a film based on a Disney ride) with the main theme of the story being based around pirate treasure, the writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Aladdin and Shrek) manage to produce a thoroughly enjoyable storyline and the script has more than a few laugh out loud occasions.
This brings us onto the films starring actor, Johnny Depp. Depp pulls off what may be the most memorable performance in any film ever. When you think of pirates, you think of thugs, scurvy, thieves, murderers etc. This may be true, but would you ever think of thick eye shadow and campness that makes you look more like a transvestite than a pirate? Probably not. Well you may be in for a surprise by Johnny Depps interpretation of Captain Jack Sparrow. A cockney-tinged accent, long black hair, grog-fuelled slurred speech and thick black eye shadow add up to a slightly insane camp lead character. Because of this, or maybe even despite of this, depending on your opinion, Johnny Depp really steals the show. His character, Captain Jack Sparrow, really does make the film. Without him, the film would have only been above average, but Johnny makes the film a must-see.
Without giving too much away, Captain Jack Sparrow was the Captain of the ship only heard of in legends, The Black Pearl, the fastest ship on the seas, and with the most efficient and deadly pirates. However, one time, his first mate, Barbosa, played by Geoffrey Rush, commits mutiny on his captain, and leaves him stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a musket and one bullet.
To cut a long story short, Elizabeth is kidnapped by the pirates and Jack Sparrow and Will Turner steal a ship to go after the Pirate ship, both for their own reasons; Jack to get the ship back, and Will to save Elizabeth.
The film is by far the best pirate film in a long time, maybe ever, and is definitely worth seeing, if only for Johnny Depps eccentric acting. You owe it to yourself to see one of the most unorthodox films in the past decade.
I am writing this article to compare the three current-gen consoles, the Nintendo Gamecube, Sony Playstation 2, and Microsoft's Xbox, and hopefully explaining along the way why I chose a certain console as the best. Obviously, it is all down to opinion and this article won't suddenly change a console hater into a fanboy of that console. This is just my opinion, as you will have yours. If you would like to to send me feedback on this article, then feel free to send me a message. Now, onto the review.
I own all three of the consoles, buying the Gamecube first, then the Xbox six months later, and then recently afterwards I bought a PS2. I feel that this is necessary to state as it shows that this is an unbiased review.
I will first start with what, sadly, many people first look for in a potential purchase, graphics. I believe that this is a crying shame, however, it is unavoidable as it only makes sense that a person is likely to pick up a game from the shelves with gorgeous graphics over a game with bog-standard graphics. This is usually the case with, and I wanted to avoid using this phrase, "casual gamers." (More on this later).
Xbox has by far the best graphics all round, and this is evident by looking at games such as Deus Ex 2 for the dark, mysterious and futuristic graphics which compliment such a game, and the recent game which has blown all competition out of the water, Halo 2. No other console could handle such as beautiful game other than the Xbox.
A close runner-up to the Xbox's graphics crown is the Gamecube, released upon the world back in 2002. Whilst some people say that the Gamecube is a 'kiddy' console, all I can say is, well if is kiddy, they do an excellent job at making it look good! Games such as the Resident Evil series on GC have never looked so good, and if those graphics and the game in general are 'kiddy,' then I would sure like to see what 'adult' games look like. The Rogue Squadron games on the 'Cube also are enough proof to show that the Gamecube really can handle some amazing graphics, I was in awe when I first saw the the screenshots of Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, and then again when I saw Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike. Now I imagine that someone reading this review will say that good graphics in a screenshot do not equal good graphics in gameplay, but these games look just as good when your playing, if not better, as it's amazing that such a tiny console can handle such graphics at a consistantly high frame rate. Cartoon-style games, such as the cel-shaded 'Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker' and Harvest Moon: It's a Wonderful Life, all look exceptional as well.
The Playstation 2 generally offers the weakest graphics, although this is not really surprising, considering it was out more than an year before any of the other current-generation consoles. The Playstation doesnt offer the hardware capabilities of the Gamecube, let alone the Xbox. Textures on the PS2 are often blocky, especially in the earlier games. The graphics techniques used by computers, such as anti-aliasing, do not appear as efficient as the other consoles, although I have no proof as to whether or not this is 100% fact. Having said that, there are some very good looking games on the console, as there should be, but none can really compare to games such as Rogue Squadron III or Halo 2.
In reference to the comment earlier about 'casual gamers' often preferring graphics and style over content, some people may be thinking, "But aren't 'casual gamers' supposed to prefer the Playstation 2 over other consoles, when you've said that the PS2 offers the worst graphics?" Perhaps they do prefer the Playstation 2, perhaps not. However, I believe that many people do prefer the Playstation 2 due to it's "trendy" image, and many only buy what they see advertised. An example of this would be the Need For Speed: Underground games, two solid racing games, that sold by the bucketload, despite at the core of it, just being a standard racing game, which brought nothing new to the racing table. So why did it sell so much? It's 'cool and trendy' image, which came from both being a 'street-racer' in the style of 'The Fast and the Furious' and the massive advertising campaign which it had. This isn't meant as a knock to people who have done this, as playing games which require hours of attention isn't for everyone. I just felt like I had to point out a possible contradiction in what I had said.
For the quality of games, it is the most difficult to judge, as you can't physically see gameplay like you can graphics; you have to 'feel' the gameplay. This means that to judge the games is completely a personal opinion, which will vary from person to person. The Playstation 2 has the biggest library of games, therefore offering the widest selection of games, meaning it is good as a first console to anyone, especially for those who are looking to get into games for the first time, which goes back to the reason why 'casual gamers' seem to prefer the Playstation 2. However, a substantial amount of highly rated Playstation 2 games are not exclusive, and appear on other consoles, although they sometimes do get games before the other consoles, with the Grand Theft Auto games being an example of this, as they appeared on Xbox and PC after the PS2 release.
Nintendo should be given a lot of credit for there work on developing original and exclusive games for the Gamecube, meaning you can only get them on Gamecube, and thankfully, at least 90% of them are immense fun. Gamecube has by far the most exclusive games out of the three top consoles, one example of this is my collection; fifteen of my nineteen Gamecube games are exclusive. This by no means that the Gamecube doesn't have it's fair share of games that are out on other consoles, because it does. I just happen to buy exclusive games for Gamecube over games that are out on other consoles, as I've got the Xbox, or even PS2 to buy them on as well.
The Xbox has a large library of games which has certainly expanded in the past few months like your mind will have done after reading this review (well, it's not going to happen but it's a nice thought!) This has meant that my Xbox collection has doubled in two months, from the twelve games I had bought in ten months, to twenty-four games, of which twelve of them have been bought in the past two months.
In conclusion on the games section, I believe that Xbox has the best selection of games, with console-exclusive titles such as Ninja Gaiden, Halo 2, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, games that have kept me playing until past 4am on a work day. You can never get too little sleep when you have such quality titles to be playing. The Gamecube has the largest amount of great games which are totally-exclusive to the 'Cube, with titles such as Zelda: Wind Waker, Pikmin, and the Rogue Squadron games. This makes it ideal to have as a second console, although that isn't to say that it can't hold it's own as a primary console. The Playstation 2 offers the widest selection of games, but that also means it has a larger amount of bad games, so I'd recommend you read reviews of games you are planning to buy, as you could be left feeling really gutted you wasted your money on a game you don't like. Of course, it also means that the Playstation 2 does have a wide variety of excellent games, and while it does not have as many as exclusive games as the other consoles, it does have the Final Fantasy games and the Smackdown games.
One thing that every console has in common is the use of a controller, and so having a good quality controller can really make a difference in the console war. Starting with the worst looking of the controllers, the Gamecube controller is actually the best to use, again proof that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover (it's not a book but I'm sure you know what I meant). The GC controller offers the most comfort to the user due to the smooth rounded edges and layout. The controller has two analogue sticks, the main stick (used for movement) and the C-stick (the stick used for looking around, moving the camera or secondary functions), along with 12 other buttons (the shoulder buttons have two different commands, you can slide it downwards to push it, and you can click it even further down for a secondary press. This sounds awkward but feels completely natural once you have tried it). The only downside to the controller is a minor niggle, the D-pad is too small, and is sometimes quite fiddly to press one of the buttons, especially for those of you with bigger hands.
On the other hand, the Playstation 2 possibly looks the coolest out of the controllers. However, after extensive playing, this controller is the most likely out of all the current-generation controllers to cause damage to your hand, whether its blistering or bruising, especially in button-bashing games such as Athens 2004. The trigger buttons are too flat and therefore awkward to use, as it is difficult to tell if you have pressed them enough, and using the D-pad as the main movement buttons instead of analogue sticks is suicide in this day and age. That said, the analogue sticks are terrible, very slippery and difficult to use accurately. One minor niggle with this controller is the edges of the controller being too straight which makes it uncomfortable
The original Xbox controller was a crime against humanity. Its hugeness made it nearly impossible to use, and I shudder to think how much energy had to be put into making one of those monstrosities, although to be fair, it was very comfortable to hold, it wasn't comfortable when your thumb felt like it was climbing Everest everytime it had to reach from one button to the other. The new compact controller, with a size about 5% of the original controller (possible use of exaggeration), is so much better. The buttons are nearly perfectly laid out, although it sometimes can be difficult to reach down to the white or black button quickly, as they are too flat against the controller, but you do get used to it eventually. The trigger buttons are placed differently to the Gamecube and Playstation 2 controllers, with the trigger buttons being on the back of the controller (similar to the Z button on the Nintendo 64) rather than on top like the GC and PS2. Thankfully, this works well, and allows there to be slots in the top of the controller for a memory card (you don't need one with the massive Xbox hard drive, but if you wanted to take a saved game file to a friend's house, it comes in handy) and also the headset which you'll want to have in when you are playing Xbox Live, which brings me to my next point, online gameplay.
Comparing the quality of Xbox online to the online capabilities of the Gamecube and Playstation 2 is like comparing the speed of a Formula One car to the speed of the old banger locked up in your Grandad's garage. I've found that playing the GC and PS2 online far too much hassle for what it is worth, especially when Xbox Live is available for just £40 a year, and when you consider there are games like Halo 2 on the Xbox which can be played online, this is a major bargain. If you are interested in getting Xbox live, then it is worth your while looking on the internet for what you need for it to work properly, as this isn't the place to be talking about it. If you have the right equipment for running Xbox Live (I use a wireless router to connect to the internet) then there is very little hassle in setting up your Xbox Live account.
Men are often worried about size, as size is important to them, and with consoles it is no different. Some people say that Xbox is too big, some say that the Gamecube is too small (so does that make the Playstation 2 the console of choice for goldilocks?) On my cabinet, which is basically six slabs of wood (in an 'X' shape) I have the TV on top, the Xbox directly beneath it in the middle, the Gamecube on the left, and the Playstation 2 on the right. The Xbox takes up the whole slab, meaning there is only room for one on there (yes I know it's obvious but it leads me into my next sentence!), whilst on that very same slab, I'd be able to easily fit six Gamecubes on there (not that I would want to, but it proves a point). The Playstation 2 just sits there looking ugly. As you can tell I'm not a big fan of the PS2 design, as if you lay it flat, it looks stupid, and if you have it upright you cant have it directly underneath anything unless its about 20 foot underneath (writers are allowed to fabricate a little!)
In the day and age where everything is getting smaller: phones, music players, PC's and everything else electronic, surely the Gamecube gets the credit here? Nintendo win this round.
For additional features, I would have to say the Xbox is the best, due to Xbox Live, the hard drive, the ability to copy music, and to import your own music into certain games. The Xbox can also play DVD's, but you have to fork out £20 for this privelege. The PS2 already comes with a DVD player, but the PS2 is more pricey than the Xbox anyway, so it evens out. The Gamecube doesn't really have any additional features, as it was designed to purely be a gaming console.
If you are now reading this, then I am extremely thankful that you have read this far, and it means something that people are putting the effort into reading what I have put a lot of effort into. I hope this review has been of some use to you, whether it is in deciding on what your first console should be, or whether you were planning on buying another console but weren't sure about it. As a round-up to this review, here are my overall ratings for the three consoles.
Xbox - 95%
Gamecube - 86%
Playstation 2- 75%
Thank you very much for reading this, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
You are a lowlife. A scum. A walking curse. A bloodsucker. You are a vampire. Enter the dark, dreery world of Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines and there'll be no daylight for you, both in the game (it's always night so your *fairly* safe) and back in the real world, our world, as this game more than sinks it teeth into your social life.
Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines is the sequel to the original RPG (role-playing game) Vampire the Masquerade, the hack and slasher (but such a good hack and slasher) following in the footsteps of games in the style of Diablo. The original enjoyed moderate success, but lack of hype and the linearity of the game held back the game from achieving the amount of recognition that it deserved. The tables have now turned, and VTM:Bloodlines was perhaps one of the most hyped games of 2004, falling just behind games such as Halo 2 and Half-Life 2. Utilizing the revolutionary Half-Life 2 engine, the screenshots made gamers all over the world excited about how good this game was going to be. And what's this? The screenshots show it in first-person mode?! The Activision-published game has moved away from its point-and-click hack and slasher, to what can best be described as a first-person-shooter. Fans of the original (including me) were stunned that their beloved game had been turned into Half-Life 2 with vampires! Thankfully, this works better than I could have ever imagined, and gets the player more involved with the game and its multiple personalities. The game can also be played in third-person view, and is automatically switched to this view when in melee (hand-to-hand) combat.
The storyline of Bloodlines is a separate story from the original VTM, where you were a Christian Crusader who was embraced unwillingly, and the story was of his struggle against vampirism, desperately trying to cling to his humanity. In Bloodlines, you are a vampire who has gone against the Masquerade, the set of laws set by the Camarilla (basically the Government of the kindred), to prevent Kine (humans) finding out the existence of supernatural creatures (there aren't just vampires along the way, expect to see ghosts, werewolves and the like). The story begins after you have created your character by choosing which of the seven clans you will join (you start off as a rebel without a cause, known as the Sabat, vampires who belong to no clan and are the kind of evil creatures made famous by the media), and the stats of your character. You have been sentenced to a Final Death (remember, vampires are already dead, but can be destroyed) by the Camarilla. In a courtroom in Los Angeles, the leader of the Camarilla, Prince LaCroix, a Frenchman, decides to give you a second chance at afterlife. It is here where you are set off on your quest, and upon leaving the court, a vampire is there to offer you training, which is the tutorial of the game. This is a very good tutorial for getting to grips with the game, and is definitely recommended you complete the tutorial if it is your first time through.
There are many characters in the game that you can interact with, whether it's a fat policeman who just won't shut up, a scantily-clad prostitute, or a demonic creature that looks like it could have come straight out of the horror film Hellraiser. The interaction with character's is suitably gritty, with expletives hardly a rarity in this game. Remember, this game is rated 18, and for a good reason, so definitely not a game for younger children or the easily offended. Every character has a voice-over, and whilst the facial expression usually matches with the voice, there were a few times I noticed in the game when it didn't fit. For example, one character I met was incredibly angry, and the voice reflected this, but the facial expression had a slight smile. Thankfully, this isn't a major issue, and only appears to happen on minor characters in the game.
Sadly, there are a few much bigger issues with this game, the amount of glitches and bugs. Within the first hour of playing Bloodlines, the game had crashed to the desktop twice, which is unacceptable in such a new game. It wasn't a problem with my computer either, the spec of my computer is far better than the minimum requirements. One quick search later, a patch for the game is being downloaded. The game plays fine after patching it, but there shouldn't be a need to download a patch so soon after the release of the game in this day and age. This leads me to believe that this game was rushed out to meet the deadline, and the ending of the game also points to this fact.
The majority of the game is a great blend of fast-paced action and interaction with characters, and is a joy to play. The last few hours of the game are really quite disappointing, with this fantastic mixture is suddenly replaced with wave after wave of the enemies, and this really does get tedius and makes the climax of the game stunningly mediocre, as opposed to stunning, which it should have been to complete an otherwise brilliant game. This also gives me the impression that the game was rushed out to meet deadlines. In it's favour, the game does have multiple endings, although none of them are really satisfying, or even very long.
The game can best be described as a hybrid of Deus Ex and Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, but in a gothic setting, and utilizing the Half-Life 2 engine. For any people reading this who are not familiar with the games, it is a great compliment to be compared to those games, especially when considering that they are both in my top five games of all time, (on a side note, if you don't have these games, you can pick them up for around £5, an absolute bargain). There are numerous similarities between Bloodlines and Deus Ex, such as the cyber-punk style future, the gritty story full of deception, deceit, and disastrous ulterior motives which constantly leave you guessing about who can be trusted. The character development is also reminiscent of Deus Ex, where traits such as physical, social, skills, intelligence and supernatural powers can be upgraded. This is done in a simple but effective way where you will have skills such as lockpicking, hacking and persuade which will ranked from one to ten. The attributes will be worked out by adding two traits together (they have a maximum of five). Whilst this sounds and seems confusing when you first begin to play, simply moving your mouse cursor over your "Ranged" weapons skill will highlight 'Dexterity' and 'Firearms' to show you that it is the combined points of these two skills which will give you your "Ranged" score. Alternatively, moving your mouse cursor over 'Dexterity' which show that it affects both "Ranged" and "Lockpicking." This system makes it easy to create and shape your character into the type of vampire you want, perhaps a seductive vampire who gets their way from their charm, a stealthy vampire who excels in lockpicking and hacking, or maybe just an out-and-out brawler, busting heads with your raw power.
The similarites to Morrowind are mainly in the exploration and quests, albeit Bloodlines doesn't offer the totally free experience of going anywhere and everywhere that Morrowind does. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing in a game such as Bloodlines, as it would totally distract the player away from the story, and would probably give the game an 'empty' feeling.' The game is a linear game, but if you are like and want to complete every quest in the game, not just the main quests, then you will get many hours of enjoyment out of this game. Side-quests can be obtained by simply talking to characters and finding out if they need anything done. The side-quests, and main quests for that matter, are generally one of three types: kill someone or something, find an object and bring it to the person wanting it, or simply meet someone. While this sounds like it could become tedius, there is enough variety amongst these types to keep the game feeling fresh.
Thankfully, the combat in Bloodlines is less awkward that in Morrowind, and it is easy to fight enemies, whether shooting them from the distance with a sniper rifle, uzi, or shotgun, or getting up close and personal with a knife, baseball bat or a severed arm. Feedback is recieved regarding how much damage you inflict on your enemies, with floating numbers above their head to show how many hit-points you have taken off, although this option can be turned off if you so wish. Despite being undead, you can suffer a Final Death in combat if your lifebar, displayed on the left of the screen, is reduced to nothing. In a boss fight, there will be a visible health bar at the top of the screen for them so you can see how close you are to defeating them.
When using melee weapons, the game automatically changes to third person view, whilst the default for ranged weapons is first-person view. It is not just during combat where you can be in third-person view, as with a simple press of a key, you can switch automatically between the two views. However, I would recommend that you keep on first-person view whilst exploring, as it adds more interactivity to the game, as well as looking better.
Now obviously, being a vampire, you need to quench your thirst for blood. You need blood for two reasons: so you can activate your vampiric abilites unique to each clan, and to prevent 'The Beast' rising from inside you and forcing you to 'frenzy,' a state where your character attacks everyone and everything, which is very dangerous as it could end your game for breaking the Masquerade or purely from being killed from who or what you are attacking. Blood can be obtained in three ways: from a rat, from a blood pack, or directly from a human. However, make sure if you are feeding on a human or a rat you are doing it out of sight of anyone else, and be wary if you are the snobbish clan Ventrue, as they may vomit after feeding on a tramp or prostitute due to their 'impure blood.' Ventrue also see feeding on rats as disgusting and so they refuse to. On the other hand, the hideous Nosferatu live in the sewers, as they cannot walk the streets due to their hideous appearance, and so they live on rats more than humans, and so they get a blood bonus when feeding on them. It is subtle differences like this between the clans, as well as their own unique abilities, such as 'Celerity' from the most humane clam, the Toreador, which when activated lets your vampire move at tremendous speeds, dodging bullets ala The Matrix.
Whilst feeding on humans, be sure not to kill them by draining all of their blood, or else your humanity rating will decrease, a rating of how close you are to your former self. The more humane you act, you will gain humanity, but if you go about killing innocents and other dastardly acts, it will drop. The higher your humanity rating, the less likely you are to frenzy, whilst if it drops, you are much more likely to. It's game over if your humanity drops to nothing as 'The Beast' takes over, so be sure to act fairly civilized to prevent this.
Looking beyond how buggy the unpatched game was (seriously, if you have this game, patch it first), this really is a top quality game. The game drags you into it's dark world and doesn't let up until you've completed each one of it's four endings. Even then you can replay it as a different clan, with a character who is much different, as the game really does play differently if you put all your points into social skills than it would having an abrasive vampire who shoots first, asks later. I definitely recommend you get this game if you are interested either role-playing games or first-person shooters, especially now in the January sales, where I picked up the game for a tenner, instead of it's usual retail price of £30.
An excellent game which just oozes atmosphere, and has legitimately scary moments, such as the haunted Ocean Hotel. This is one game that simply cannot be missed.