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Combining elements from science fiction and horror, the Dead Space franchise is one which I personally have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of. But what is it that makes this series such a favorite of mine? Load up on plasma ammo and ready that new javelin gun. This is Dead Space 2. Dead Space 2 takes place three years after the events of the original Dead Space, pitching former silent protagonist Isaac Clarke into a brand new nightmare as necromorphs rampage across the Sprawl, a gigantic space station orbiting the planet Saturn. Battling his way through the monsters and contending with intrigue, betrayal and one seriously pissed off ex-girlfriend, Isaac must uncover what has happened here and find a way to set things right. One thing you immediately notice about Dead Space 2 is the change in presentation. In the first game, it was a good five/ten minutes before you got your first good look at one of the monstrous necromorphs, but here, the game literally opens with one attempting to scare you stupid. The focus is very much more on the action here, with new offensive weaponry and tweaks to the controls and gameplay designed to make Isaac that bit more maneuverable in combat. This, while certainly adding to Isaac's mobility and fighting prowess, detracts somewhat from the horror aspect of the game. Oh, there are jump scares and shocks a plenty, but it can't be ignored that the only time the game ever becomes legitimately frightening is during a scene ripped straight from the original Dead Space. This, combined with the games tendency to ramp up the difficulty simply by hurling massive waves of foes at you and Isaac's new-found ability to comment on everything (and I do mean everything), kill much of the tension and atmosphere, firmly place this game in the sci-fi action category. The new necromorphs are interesting and add more challenge to the game, but considering there's no an enemy type that die from single shots and are only encountered in charging hordes, it's obviously a departure from the original game's aesthetic and feel. However, a special mention must be made of Dead Space 2's zero gravity sections, as the game now boasts full zero-G mobility for Isaac, creating some really impressive and imaginative (if not actually frightening) scenes. In summary, Dead Space 2 is a competent sci-fi action game trying to pass itself off as survival horror by keeping your ammo scare and having gruesome foes to face off against. It's a fun title, but something of a disappointment to fans hoping for a truly frightening game.
Combining elements from science fiction and horror, the Dead Space franchise is one which I personally have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of. But what is it that makes this series such a favorite of mine? Sync up your RIG and grab your plasma cutter. This is Dead Space. Dead Space puts you in the weighted gravity boots of Isaac Clarke, a curiously silent engineer sent on a routine repair mission to the USG Ishimura, a gigantic 'planet-cracker' mining vessel currently orbiting around Aegis VII. However, things rapidly take a turn for the worse as you discover that the ship has become overrun by a horrific alien infection which contorts its victims into mutilated abominations known as necromorphs, leading to a desperate fight for survival as Isaac delves deeper and deeper into the nightmare unfolding around him. One thing Dead Space excels at is the feeling of isolation, with most of your interactions with other human beings being conducted over your suit's comms system. Most of the game is spent wandering the empty corridors of the Ishimura, using your weapon's spotlight to navigate in the darkness and praying that something doesn't come clawing its way out of the vents, creating a truly tense atmosphere that you can't escape from. You are never truly safe in Dead Space. Every room has the potential to be filled with twisted necromorphs in the blink of an eye, and the only way to dispatch these walking nightmares is to literally cut them apart with your weapons (most of which appear to be re-purposed industrial tools), and even then they'll still keep coming at you. Traditional survival horror strategies like headshots are useless here, and may actually make things worse for you. Ammunition and health packs are scarce, so accurate and careful shooting is key. There are also environmental puzzles and obstacles for you to overcome using your stasis and kinesis gadgets (allowing you to slow down time and levitate/shoot objects respectively) which, while not overly challenging, do provide a nice change of pace when they come along, as well as zero gravity sections which make for some of the most memorable moments in the game. All in all, Dead Space is a solid survival horror experience with a setting that is simultaneously intriguing and unnerving. While lacking anything truly disturbing, the game does an excellent job of making you feel vulnerable and exposed, even after multiple play-throughs.
2011 was a big year for Marvel Studios, with Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and X-Men: First Class all wowing audiences worldwide. Not to be outdone, DC Comics stepped up to the plate with the cinematic debut of Hal Jordan, aka: Green Lantern. But did it pay off? Green Lantern follows slacker-yet-somehow-military-test-pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), chosen by a mysterious dying alien to become his successor in the Green Lantern Corps, an interplanetary police force of exceptional individuals from across the galaxy, receiving a power ring that allows him to harness the emerald energy of willpower. Meanwhile, an ancient evil entity, Parallax, is released from his ancient prison and threatens to destroy everything. Can Hal Jordan master his new powers and earn the respect of his new comrades before Parallax annihilates the human race? If this summary of the film seems confused and short on actual explanation, that's because the film itself is confused and short on explanation. This movie is simply a series of badly connected chance encounters that don't really fit together. While exposition abounds, it rarely actually explains anything, with many 'plot-points' resting on little more justification than "because the plot says so". As such, it's hard to relate to Hal or any of the other characters here, because we simply haven't been given any reason to care about them. There's also a bizarre side plot involving the current leader of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro (Mark Strong), which has no payoff other than a short post-credits teaser for a sequel that will almost certainly never come. This movie tries so hard to get your attention but it doesn't seem to understand that simply bombarding people with ACTION!!! and SPECIAL EFFECTS!!! is just not enough, especially when you're CGI is this terrible. There's also a really strange green/yellow lighting motif that persists throughout the movie which is incredibly distracting and serves no purpose. There are one or two scenes and set-pieces which are legitimately impressive, but for every one of those there are at least a dozen moments of simply jaw-dropping awfulness that make this movie a disappointing, incoherent mess from beginning to end. In summary, Green Lantern goes all out and falls flat on its face. Hard. If you want to watch a terrible movie, go ahead, but this is so bad as to be almost insultingly bad, especially considering how much money went into making it. Definitely one to miss.
Everyone loves a stupid movie once in a while. I went in expecting a stupid movie. After all, how much does one really expect from a movie about Space Nazis living on the Moon, right? So, let's dive right into this scheiss-storm; it's Iron Sky! Iron Sky's premise is one of almost caustic simplicity. Since 1948, the Nazis have had a hidden colony on the dark side of the Moon. However, when a pair of US astronauts stumble across this and are capture by the 'Moon Nazis' (circa 2018), events quickly (and hilariously) spiral out of control as the invasion of Earth begins. Iron Sky's may just be the best 'bad' film I've seen in a long time. The special effects and aesthetic design of this movie are spot-on, striking a perfect balance between retro sci-fi schlock and more modern CGI. Acting too is surprisingly good, with strong performances from everyone involved. What truly makes Iron Sky such fun to watch, however, is its dedication to its premise and the wicked sense of humor that comes with it. It would have been so easy to make this movie simply about evil Nazis from space, but instead we have a movie with multidimensional characters, some truly scathing political satire and some of the most fantastically over-the-top space battle scenes I've ever seen committed to film. Every joke is delivered in just the right way, piling the ludicrous upon ludicrous until it becomes simply awesome to watch. This movie gave me ZEPPELIN-SHAPED SPACESHIPS for crying out loud! And crying you will be, because Iron Sky is so gloriously aware of its own ridiculousness and so intelligently stupid that nothing is sacred. Leave all expectations behind about what you think this movie is about, because your going to be surprised by just how funny this movie really is. In summary, you owe it to yourselves to seek out Iron Sky and watch it. It wasn't what I expected, it won't be what you expected, and it is uproariously funny as a result. Highly recommended if you love stupid films.
Oh, where to begin with this movie... When I heard about the Expendables, I didn't know what to think. Now don't get me wrong; I love me a good brainless action movie, but the Expendables? It just seemed like a hyper-masculine vanity project gone horribly wrong. And then I actually saw the damn thing... So, grab your biggest cliches and start practice your best Stallone slur. It's The Expendables. The Expendables centers around a group of international mercenary badasses, known ostensibly as the Expendables (although no-one ever actually calls them this), and their leader, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), who make their livings hiring themselves out as an extremely violent and literal troubleshooting team. When a mysterious CIA agent offers Ross a job in South America, he and his men gear up and head out, ready to destroy anything and everything that gets in their way. However, dark forces, both external and internal, threaten to tear the team apart... maybe... Alright, the 'plot' of The Expendables is little more than a thin pretext to allow 'No-Spring-Chicken' Stallone and his mob of big-time action-heroes the freedom to stomp about, bitch at each other and shoot at literally anything and everything that moves. It's nothing you haven't seen done before and, what's more, seen done better. Apart from maybe Jet Li and Jason Statham, nobody here seems to know why they're here or what they're supposed to be doing, Stallone being the worst offender of the whole bunch. All he does is slur, shamble about and attack things, and he can't even do them right! His dialogue is as wooden and stiff as his body language, something which is elevated from simple being bad to mind-numbingly infuriating because THIS IS HIS OWN #@!*ING MOVIE!!! It's ridiculous but, in his own stupid vanity project, Sylvester Stallone is the single worst part of the entire damn movie by miles. The only person who actually gets anything that could even begin to be regarded as character development is Statham's gritty brit, and even that's just a pointless diversion to show us that one of the grunts has a girl he likes... maybe... The whole approach is just sloppy to the point of being almost insultingly stupid. But who expects plot from a movie like this? Can't we just sit back and watch the world erupt with gunfire and explosions? Well, we could... if these scenes were more than just a chaotic mess. A good action scene comprises dynamic camera angles, momentum and, above all, something interesting to hold the viewer's attention, none of which can be found in The Expendables. So, the characters suck, the dialogue sucks and the action sucks, leaving us with a total failure of a movie. But that should at least be funny, right? Right? This movie is a total train-wreck, failing to hit any of the targets it set out to and, because of that, it's hilariously easy to make fun of. There are scenes which are so stupid you won't be able to help yourself; you'll either laugh or cringe, and I recommend laughter. This movie ain't worth getting upset over. The Expendables expends itself within seconds, never picking up above below average despite the star-studded cast. Everything about this movie feels like a failure, the kind of failure that should have been easily avoided but nevertheless wasn't. It's generic, dull and hilariously unaware of its own stupidity. If you like watching awful films because you find them funny, this crap is easy pickings, but otherwise give this one a wide berth. It stinks.
Officially the bestselling soft drink in Scotland, outselling even market titans like Coke-Cola, Irn-Bru is a strange one. Between its bright orange colour and unusual flavor, many people unfamiliar with it tend to view Irn-Bru with something akin to suspicion. However, as a big fan of the drink, I can assure you that Irn-Bru has a sharp but sweet taste guaranteed to refresh you just as much as any other big-brand soft drink. Up until a few years ago, you'd struggle to find Irn-Bru anywhere but Scotland, but nowadays it has become more or less ubiquitous across the whole of the United Kingdom as demand for the funny Scottish pop has grown. Personally, I recommend a tall glass with plenty of ice to get the most out of your Iru-Bru, as it is definitely better cold, but there's nothing I enjoy more on a hot summer day than a good Bru.
Like many people, I was first introduced to Jagermeister as a student. A herbal liqueur origination from Germany, Jagermeister has something of an undesireable reputation, thanks in large part to the popular union bar staple, the Jager-bomb. However, a small measure of Jagermeister, preferably served ice cold or even over ice, makes for quite a pleasant tasting spirit, with a distinctive, smooth flavor and a pleasantly warming sensation that will fill your chest for a good few minutes. I have also found it can be used to enhance the taste of drinking chocolate and several chocolate-related dishes, although one should only use a very tiny amount for this. Otherwise, the strong taste of the jagermeister will begin to overpower all other flavors. Make no mistake; this is not a spirit for mixing like rum or vodka. Jagermeister is best enjoyed by itself in small measures, but it is certainly one of the nicer spirits I have had the pleasure of drinking, once this is understood.
When I heard there was going to be a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, I was genuinely intrigued. The original film had plenty of mysteries that were never really explained, something that worked in the original's favor but potentially providing plenty for a new film to build upon. A shame then that this film, whilst trying really hard to match up its predecessor, manages to miss the point of the original whilst simultaneously managing to rip it off at almost every turn. So, break out the flamethrower and try not to get infected; it's The Thing... again... ++SPOILERS!++ ++SOME SPOILERS FOR THE THING (1982)! SORRY! PROBLEM WITH PREQUELS!++ As previously mentioned, The Thing (circa 2011) is a prequel to the original The Thing (circa 1982), detailing the events that lead to the unearthing of the alien monster and the resulting carnage that ensues. Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young paleontologist, is given a chance to join a Norwegian research team investigating an extraordinary discovery. However, when the team unwittingly dig up and revive a deadly shape-shifting alien, things rapidly begin to spiral out of control. Now, to give The Thing (circa 2011) its due, having the film set in the Norwegian camp from The Thing (circa 1982) as a prelude to the events of the original film is an interesting idea. However, instead of trying to do something interesting or new with this idea, The Thing (circa 2011) is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original with the added problem of making most of the characters rock stupid for no reason. In the original The Thing (circa 1982), people were paranoid and afraid but only after the alien started transforming and killing things. Here, they're just stupid and argumentative from the off, with at least one character even acting like a straight up villain. Furthermore, clearly in love with the creepy creatures from the original The Thing (circa 1982), The Thing (circa 2011) has its own misshapen beauties to show off. Unfortunately, whereas The Thing (circa 1982) held back its monster attacks to build tension, The Thing (circa 2011) doesn't seem quite able to grasp the notion, throwing veritable heaps of CGI monsters at the characters. This wouldn't be such a problem if this was any other movie, but this is supposed to be The Thing (circa 2011)! Suspense is the key element! Without it, all The Thing (circa 2011) is is another creature feature with some particularly unusual looking kill-beasts. I don't want to hate this film. The original The Thing (circa 1982) was a brilliantly suspenseful and genuinely horrifying, but The Thing (circa 2011) just doesn't match-up, failing to grasp that which made the original great, reducing it to just another monster-eats-puny-humans movie. And also, just as a final thought, whoever thought it was a good idea to call this movie, a direct prequel to The Thing, THE #@!$*ing THING?!? It's just #@!$*ing confusing!!!
It's not often that one comes across a truly horrifying horror film, but John Carpenter's The Thing is just such a film, combining nail-biting suspense and gruesome practical effects to produce a movie that will leave you nervous of everyone around you. So, stay together and don't go anywhere alone. It's The Thing! The story of The Thing revolves around the men of an American research base in Antarctica, forced to band together against an alien infiltrator that has lain dormant in the ice, at least until now. But how do you fight something that could be any one of you, perhaps even all of you? As tensions rise so does the body count, the monstrous creature killing off the team members one by one until they are forced into a desperate gambit. Whatever the thing is, it must not escape Antarctica alive, no matter the cost. Everything about this movie feels claustrophobic and isolated, reinforced by excellent performances from the actors, perfectly capturing the fear and paranoia of the situation they're in. Nobody trusts anyone and everyone's a suspect, made all the worse by the horrifyingly gruesome nature of their alien impostor. To say this movie has great special effects would be an understatement, especially considering that The Thing predates CGI. The practical effects in this film are, quite frankly, amazing, with more than a few sequences that are so grisly and realistic that you'll swear the eponymous thing is a living, breathing beast. Combine this with the clever use of lighting, camera angles and allow the audience to sweat between attacks, and what you have is a creature that, despite being thirty years old, still manages to look better than many more recent movie monsters. It ain't no man in a suit; that's for damn sure. Atmospheric and suspenseful, The Thing is a brilliant example of horror done right, eschewing cheap gore and jump-scares to create something truly frightening that will stick with you long after you've seen it.
When was the last time you saw an full-frontal action movie about British cops? Exactly. Fire up the roof; it's Hot Fuzz! Tough London policeman Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is an exceptional officer, so exceptional in fact that he's making everyone else on the force look bad by comparison. Transferred out to the sleepy village of Sandford and partnered with chronically inept copper Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), Nicholas struggles to adjust to the slower pace of country life. However, when a spree of violent murders rocks the community, Nicholas must work against time and even his own colleagues to bring the perpetrator to justice. There is nothing I do not love about Hot Fuzz, the film striking a perfect balance between the general banality of rural policing and every single action movie stereotype you can think of. Gunfights, car-chases, proper action and sh*t; this film has it all, hilariously setting it all against the background of a sleepy little village in the south of England. Pegg and Frost are both on terrific form from beginning to end, selling the mismatched partners Nicholas and Danny with everything they've got, whether investigating murders or hunting for the illusive escaped swan. In fact, the casting in general is superb, with plenty of well-known British actors and comedians giving excellent performances as the good folk of Sandford. Everything about this film, even the ludicrous action sequences, feels genuine and fun, a testament to Edgar Wright's abilities as a director. Nothing is wasted here and the laughs flow freely from beginning to end, the over-the-top action feeling brilliantly out-of-place and yet also perfectly executed. Hot Fuzz rips completely it out of the buddy cop action movie genre and turns it into comedy gold, without ever feeling malicious or spiteful. Goodhearted guffaws and loads of laughs from start to finish, with plenty of awesome one-liners and superb action. Well worth seeing!
We've all had that moment where, thanks to their ubiquitous presence in almost every aspect of popular culture, we've idly wondered what the heck we'd do if zombies suddenly appeared and started to ruin everyone's plans. Unfortunately for myself, and any other native of this dreary little island, the British don't really have ready access to firearms or giant hunting crossbows, putting our chances of having a fun-filled end of days firmly on the slim side. This rather bleak outlook has always stuck with British zombie stories, but then along came Shaun of the Dead... Loser Shaun (Simon Pegg)'s life is going nowhere and, after losing girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), he decides he needs to man-up and sort his life out. However, the dead are returning to life and have begun attacking the living, but to Shaun it's just one more obstacle to overcome. With best friend Ed (Nick Frost) in tow and cricket bat in hand, Shaun must brave zombies, his stepfather and Liz's annoying friends if he ever wants to have a chance at the life he so desperately wants. What makes Shaun of the Dead work so well is the way how it plays Shaun's mundane, everyday problems against the threat of a legion of walking corpses. While the zombies are certainly dangerous, they almost become a background issue for Shaun, who is so focused on getting his own life back on track that even the undead don't seem to phase him. This dedication to his cause makes Shaun immediately likable and makes you want him to succeed. In fact, it's these everyday worries that make the comedy of Shaun of the Dead so funny; for the most part, the gags come from the characters dealing with their everyday issues against the backdrop of undead apocalypse, making for some hilarious juxtaposition, while the actual zombie bashing strikes a satisfying balance between silly and gory, with minimal practical effects and CGI used to produce something suitably gooey. All in all, Shaun of the Dead is a tongue-in-cheek movie that takes one man's journey to win back the love of his life and throws a heap of zombies into the mix. Daft, heartwarming fun, with a generous spattering of blood on the side.
Tropic Thunder is the story of an ill-fated attempt to make the greatest war movie ever, with a cast comprising of stagnating action hero Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), drug abusing gross-out comedian Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) and zealous character actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr). With production stalling and the cast at each others' throats, the director hits upon a way to get the movie rolling again, dumping his 'soldiers' into the middle of the jungle. However, between the clashing of personalities and the local drug smugglers hunting them, it isn't long before things start to go horribly, hilariously wrong. The real strength of this movie is its casting, with most of the actors in Tropic Thunder playing larger-than-life versions of themselves. The film enjoys playing with the gap between the actors and characters they portray, using this juxtaposition to great comedic effect. Downey Jr and Black in particular really sell their performances and easily have some of the funniest dialogue in the whole movie. The action set-pieces are frantic and entertainingly over-the-top, with plenty of huge explosions and snappy one-liners, everything that you'd expect to find in the kind of movie Tropic Thunder is ostensibly poking fun at. However, there's also plenty of very human humor to be found during the film's quieter moments as the characters shoot the breeze and we get to know them that little bit better, keeping a nice balance. Tropic Thunder is very funny, carried for the most part by the actors' good-humored self-parody. Definitely worth a watch.
It wouldn't be a massive exaggeration to say that Dodgeball is one of my favorite movies of all time. The reason why is simple; I've watched this movie dozens of times, I know it inside out and back-to-front and yet, every time I watch it, I can't help but smile at every single stupid joke. So, time to Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge. It's Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Slacker Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) finds himself in a difficult position. Faced with the prospect of losing Average Joe's Gymnasium to eccentric egomaniac White Goodman (Ben Stiller), Peter and his motley clientelle of misfits hit upon a novel way of raising the fifty thousand dollars they need to save their beloved hangout: by competing in an international dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas, with a cash prize for the winner. However, sensing that something is afoot, White recruits his own elite team of deadly dodgeballers, determined to stop Peter and his team in their tracks. What makes Dodgeball such a joy to watch is its characters. Watching Vaughn and Stiller play off each other is wonderful, Vaughn's cool charisma serving as an excellent counterpoint to Stiller's manic energy and ludicrously over-inflated sense of self-importance. The film takes the time to flesh out each of the characters, creating a bunch of lovable losers you can't help but route for. While I'd be lying if I said they weren't more-or-less straight stereotypes (the slacker, the dork, the lovelorn teen - they're all in there), the film does a good job of keeping the story firmly grounded on them and their struggle to achieve dodgeball supremacy, with everyone getting their chance to shine. The humor is mostly slapstick with a large helping of crude puns and wacky hi-jinx on the side, making this film easy to laugh at but perhaps not for those who prefer their comedy to be a little more intelligent. Nevertheless, this is a heartwarming little movie that'll keep you chuckling along all the way to the grand final. Dodgeball is fast, funny and infectiously entertaining, with plenty of memorable one liners and laugh-out-loud quips. I love it. I hope you will to.
The Mass Effect series is one that I have a longstanding love and affection for. For all it's faults and foibles, these are the games I always seem to come back to when I tire of my shiny new purchases and just want to lose myself in a game. In this review, the galaxy hangs in the balance and you're the only one who can save it. It's Mass Effect 3. One thing I will say about Mass Effect 3 is that it doesn't skimp on its story. The arrival of the Reapers has plunged the entire galaxy into a state of panic and fear. Earth is burning, nowhere is safe and so the galaxy turns to Commander (First-name-almost-running-joke-now) Shepard to deliver the galaxy. There are plenty of returning characters from both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, with everyone (and I mean everyone) getting their moment to shine. Nobody feels wasted and everyone has something to bring to the fight, even minor characters you thought you'd seen that back of long ago. All the emotional investment you've put into the previous games Mass Effect 3 delivers on, with scenes that will make you smile, laugh and even maybe shed a tear. Everyone knows what's a stake and the game does a wonderful job of tying together all that you've done leading up to this final fight, making every decision you've made feel appropriately weighted and important. The atmosphere is heavy and you'll feel every victory, and every loss, acutely, the action and drama keeping you pushing towards the final end because you will want to see how it all pans out as you rewrite three games worth of history. Much as with the story, gameplay in Mass Effect 3 has hit its stride beautifully, at least for the most part. Right out of the starting gate, the game throws everything at you, with every encounter feeling dangerous and challenging. Combat plays out much the same as Mass Effect 2, with a few minor enhancements to improve mobility on the battlefield. Tech and biotic abilities have been improved upon as well, with plenty of new and dangerous enemy types requiring careful use of your squad's powers and weapons to eliminate quickly: a major improvement for power-based classes on Mass Effect 2. The game also dispenses with class-based weapons restrictions for Commander Shepard, allowing you to mix up your play style with some new toys or go in light, reducing the weight of your equipment in order to bring your powers to bear more frequently. Weapon mods are useful but not essential; simply keeping your weapons upgraded will give you all the edge you really need. Regardless of upgrades, however, fighting smart is the key to survival, something you'll be painfully reminded of should you ever decide you can just charge out with guns a-blazing. One major criticism I do have, however, is the general removal of side quests other than 'go-scan-a-plant-for-a-thing' missions. The mining mechanics from Mass Effect 2 were annoying but this is just as bad, if not worse, especially as I'd rather be down on some of these planets (seriously, there are at least three alien homeworlds among these dumb fetch quests) doing an actual mission. It's hardly game-breaking, just irritating. To some up, Mass Effect 3 feels like an epic conclusion to a story three games in the making, made all the more dramatic by the knowledge that it is your decisions, your triumphs and failures, that have led you to this point. It's emotional, action-packed and one hell of a ride, but it does have one major flaw. In the interest of staying spoiler free, consider this fair warning, but to ignore this would be to ignore what is, in my opinion, the weakest aspect of this game, so read on if you want to know more. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Mass Effect 3 from beginning to end and any fan of the series is sure to enjoy it as well. ++SPOILERS!++ ++NO, REALLY! READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS!++ ++OKAY, YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!++ Mass Effect 3's original ending is spectacularly underwhelming. All the drama that the series builds up, all the history changing things you have done in order to reach this epic final battle, with the combined strength of the entire galaxy at your back... comes down to a two minute scene that makes no sense, has no context and offers no closure, just pick your endgame superweapon colour and that's it. Now, there is a free (at least at present) DLC - Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut - which fixes a lot of these issues and expands the original ending but, as a fan of the series, I can understand the fan outrage that came from the original ending. It wasn't an ending, just a sudden cut off that left the story without any proper conclusion and, because of that, I was disappointed. That doesn't diminish the fact that most of Mass Effect 3 is awesome, because it really is - but it is something I would feel remiss about if I didn't mention it.
The Mass Effect series is one that I have a longstanding love and affection for. For all it's faults and foibles, these are the games I always seem to come back to when I tire of my shiny new purchases and just want to lose myself in a game. In this review, we're signing up with Cerberus and returning to the fight with Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect 2 opens up with the death of Commander (First-name-lost-to-history) Shepard and the destruction of his/her vessel at the hands of an unknown enemy. Fast-forward two years and Shepard finds him/herself surprisingly alive and in the employ of Cerberus, a shadowy pro-human group lead by the mysterious Illusive Man. Human colonies are disappearing and Shepard's been brought back from beyond the grave to find out why. However, the galaxy has become a very different place in the two years you've been gone. Now, you must gather your allies, both new and old, and lead them on what everyone else calls a suicide mission. The first thing that Mass Effect 2 does is allow you to import your character from the original Mass Effect, meaning that decisions you made in the previous game have bearings on events in this one. This keeps the game feeling personal and virtually guarantees replays. After all, we all want to know how things might have gone differently. Mechanically, Mass Effect 2 is quite a departure from the original Mass Effect. Combat feels slicker and more responsive, with an improved cover system (admittedly ripped straight from any other third-person shooter) and more distinction between weapon types. However, the biotic and tech abilities that made the previous title so distinctive have been substantially reigned in, almost to the point of being useless. Most of them will not even effect an enemy until you've whittled down their special defenses, by which point they're virtually finished already. This is then further compounded by the limited number of abilities you and your squadmates have access to, making it very difficult to balance your team effectively. Armour and weapon modifications are removed, instead replaced by purchasable upgrades which require special resources to obtain. Unfortunately, gathering these vital (and they are vital) resources is a tedious task involving scanning planets and probing them every time you detect a juicy deposit of minerals. This is time consuming and, worst of all, costs you credits as you expend fuel and probes hoovering them up. The writing and aesthetic design is still top-notch, however, with major improvements to the graphics and cutscenes. The game also introduces a new interrupt option during dialogue, allowing you to perform a dramatically action and alter the course of a conversation, often with firearms if you like playing the renegade. Mass Effect 2 improves in some areas but stumbles backwards in others. The good writing and characterization are still there, but the focus on shooting robs the game of some of its predecessor's individuality and charm, especially for players who prefer playing an ability based class. Still definitely worth a look. Good game, but perhaps a shaky sequel.