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The offical game of the '2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa' packed with all of the licensed teams, kits and stadiums expected of a game in the Fifa franchise.
With a focus on the international football, club teams do not feature.
The core gameplay mechanics are virtually identical to Fifa 10, however, in my experience it feels tighter, more polished and more fun.
Shooting it still difficult from outside the box and passing could be criticised as too easy (although it is incredibly satisfying, especially with a top team such as Spain) but overall the game is accessible and enjoyable.
The penalty kick system has been overhauled, making it more difficult to score (thanks to the pressure system) but much more satisfying when you do hit the top corner (or indeed, produce an amazing diving save) helping to add a sense of occasion to proceedings.
However, some issues remain, most importantly, player switching when on the defensive. It seems that the game will often choose the second before you make a tackle to change to a player 5-10 metres away. This has the eventual effect of all of your defenders running away from the ball and a goal conceded.
There are a multitude of game modes to choose from including: Story of Qualifying (great fun, play the most infamous moments from the qualification campaign and the finals themselves), 2010 Fifa World Cup (exactly what it says, take any international team from qualification to lifting aloft the trophy), Captain Your Country (create a player and assume control of just him, putting an interesting spin on matches as you attempt to increase your score), online and practice.
Visuals in sports games are difficult. 2010 Fifa World Cup is no exception. As with its predecessors, players still don't quite look 'real' despite having all of the correct features. They could be best described as 'plastic' although certain marquee playes are definitely more life-like than obscure Costa Rican reserve players.
However, overall presentation is extremely slick and ensures the game remains playable at all times.
To tie in with the world cup theme, flags and fireworks are present (and although backgrounds of the stadiums look flat) they do add a sense of spectacle - the whole purpose of this game.
The menus use the usual EA music ideaology, featuring a multitude of new, trendy artists to pump you up before the big games.
Commentary is good, if a little repetitive (but certainly an improvement on previous titles) and, yes, a vuvuzela option is present, meaning those who enjoy the sound can activate whilst those who don't can simply turn it off, however, in my opinion, it is a good accompaniment to the usual crowd noise and chants.
This is a good game for anyone wishing to relive the spectacle of the world's greatest tournament, however, the lack of club teams and inevitable Fifa 11 (which no doubt will feature the major international teams) means it's more of a test for EA to refine their system and add new features as it takes the franchise to the future.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the sequel to the hugely popular Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, following the exploits of adventurer Nathan Drake across the world, this time in pursuit of the mythical Cinncimati Stone, as he attempts to remain one step ahead of his rivals.
I must confess, I have never played Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and so had no background knowledge of the story or characters prior to starting the game.
However, this did not in the slightest hinder my enjoyment of the exquisitely told story and fleshed-out characters (who crucially are different to the usual stereotypes found in similar games).
The story goes into a lot of detail but it never seems overwhelming and the visually stunning cutscenes are well worth replaying at the title screen in order to truly appreciate the genuinely funny humour (something few other games can boast).
Also, this is one of the longest games I have played in a while, it will take a casual player like myself about a week and a half to complete the story on normal (compared to 2 or 3 days for recent games such as Modern Warfare 2).
A large portion of play time will be spent running and gunning. Luckily, the shooting mechanics are enjoyable, with a good cover system (albeit one which sporadically positions the player in direct line of enemy fire) and a multitude of weapons (battles become much easier when tried with different guns so experiment).
Hand-to-hand combat is simple to use - simply tap 'square' to perform a combo and press 'triangle' to reverse an opponents attack.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of combat though, is taking down opponents using stealth attacks. Strategy plays a key part here, and experienced players will be able to make it across entire rooms without firing a single shot.
The traditional platforming aspects are, for the most part very good, with the ledges and climbing surfaces well integrated into the environments (if a little too conveniently at times), however the camera can at times cause a movement or jump to be misdirected, possibly causing an instant death. This is only a problem in a few sections of a few levels but it is incredibly frustrating.
The game is very impressive visualy, the characters seem both lifelike but with a caricaturistic style which fits perfectly with the over-the-top playing style.
The environments are well detailed, varied and at times, beautiful (although this can lead to the player attempting to access a part of the game world which simply doesn't exist.
Uncharted 2 sounds good, most importantly, speech is synched perfectly to the visuals for most of the game and the music does an exemplary job of creating an atmosphere unique to the individual level, but still obviously a part of the game's overall score.
Uncharted 2 does a great job of including extra content for avid players to unlock and encourage extra playthroughs.
Among the content that can be purchased using in-game currency (earned through spectaculary achievements) are behing-the-scenes videos and multiplayer skins, ensuring you'll always have a wish list of what to unlock.
DLC has also been released but I have not purchased it.
I am afraid to say that I have been unable to access the Uncharted 2 online multiplayer.
This is regretful as a reading of the features makes it appear very appealing and I would love to experience the game play with other human players.
Unfortunately, on mulitple occasions, when I try to connect the game freezes at the 'synchronising' stage. I have checked with friends and they too have experienced this problem, allegedly that stage can take 5-10 minutes, however this is unacceptable and thus a great disappointment to someone who would otherwise likely enjoy the online experience.
I definitely recommend Uncharted 2 for its story, gameplay, visuals, audio and the all-round 'package'.
However, although many people have experienced no problems, online play can be best described as flawed (although I imagine Naught Dog will be attempting to fix this) and certain sections can be rendered frustrating due to an occasionally poor camera.
The Belkin ADSL2+ Modem With Wireless G+ MIMO Router can be used to allow multiple appliances to access your broadband internet connection simultaneously, either wirelessly or via the 4 ethernet ports on the rear of the device.
The router was surprisingly simple to set up, requiring the user's internet details to be entered using an ethernet connected computer.
The quick start guide is more than suitable for guiding you through the process, including explanations of which cables to plug in where (an ethernet cable and power adaptor is included in the box, but you'll need your own connection to a phone line).
As with all products of this type, the hardest part is likely finding the required information about your internet connection, so I suggest finding out essential information such as I.P. address before installation is attempted.
In my household, at any one time, up to 4 devices are using the router to access the internet wirelessly, yet the connection to the router never fails.
The router cannot improve the connection from the exchange to your house but if you get a decent broadband connection usually, the G+ Mimo router is suitable for most everyday applications, including streaming video and online gaming, capable of running as many as your internet speed can support (my area is typically 2mb/s but still runs two or three of these relatively high loads at any one time).
Furthermore, the router is still capable of transmitting data between two receivers (e.g. laptop and a wifi enabled printer) even when the internet connection is down (as shown by a red light on the display).
Signal is also good throughout an average-sized terraced house, rarely if ever 'dropping'.
The appliance does become warm after a prolonged period of use, but the power adaptor is more worrying, becoming extremely hot to the touch, therefore, I suggest that the router is switched off overnight to allow it to cool down.
On a similar note, it would be useful for the router to have a standby mode when not being activated, or at least a button giving a similar option, as it must be either turned off or on at the wall, no other setting exists.
Finally, the device features a multitude of security settings which I strongly recommend if you want to stop unwanted users accessing your network.
This router is ideal for an average household, whereby multiple devices wish to access a broadband connection at the same time.
Similarly, it is perfectly suitable for creating a wireless home network, linking computers (which must be wi-fi enabled), printers, game consoles and other devices with ease.
I wholeheartedly recommend this router however, be warned: if your internet has a download limit, you are MUCH more likely to reach it with multiple devices utilising the internet connection at once, so be aware of how much is being used, or you may be hit with a fine from your provider.
The Lexmark 2400 series of printers offer an all-in-one solution for all your printing, scanning and 'faxing' (via e-mail) needs.
Visually, the product itself is nothing special, however, it is functional and will not look out of place as part of a home computer setup.
The quality of prints is as good as can reasonably be expected.
Obviously, this is not a high-end printer suitable for professional photographs, but it is perfectlt capable of printing clear, legible documents and decent if not great images.
The cartridge prints a good amount of pages but be warned: if you are not using an official cartridge, the bundled software will display a low-ink message as soon as the cartridge is replaced, despite the cartridge being able to print many, many more pages.
Cynically, this could be a cheap attempt by the manufacturer to make you buy more cartridges but it can make it hard to judge when the ink level really is low.
Furthermore, care must be taken in loading the printer with paper as it has a habit of jamming if too much is used at once or if it is placed at an angle. This can be extremely irritating if you set to print and leave the room only to return to find your prints crunched up and an error message flashing.
The scanner is of a comparative quality to the printer, it is suitable for everyday uses, especially typed documents, and will scan images to a good, if not brilliant quality.
The glass is surprisingly easy to keep clean, meaning smudges do not tend to be a problem, but care should still be taken.
The bundled software is perfectly capable, working on most computers (although you may have to search online for a new driver if you're running Vista or Windows 7) and comes equipped with all the usual features that are expected.
It is possible to change settings to get better quality prints and scans, but this must be balanced against the extra time taken and increased ink used, however, top-end quality is still not possible.
The Lexmark X2450 is not a high-end printer, it is merely a solid, competitively priced all-in-one machine that offers good value for money and a neat solution to all your everyday printing and scanning needs.
The ink consumption may not be the most economical on the market, but it is certainly impressive nonetheless, especially if refill or 'own-brand' cartridges are used to lower the price.
The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me is the third album from Long Island band Brand New.
It builds on the successes of their previous albums and takes the band further away from the simple pop-punk of their debut to more experimental, boundary-pushing rock, with an emphasis on meaningful lyrics and atmospheric sounds.
As a whole, this album features darker lyrics, reflecting on the fragility of life and potential tragedies (most chillingly on 'Limousine' where Jesse's vocals perfectly capture the emotion of letting go of a loved one).
That being sound, the band also incorporate some singalong choruses, most notably on 'The Archers Bows have Broken' a quasi-political song with a definite message, but stays just the right side of preachy.
Spirituality and existence is also a major theme in the lyrics, in particular, 'Jesus Christ', 'You Won't Know' and 'Handcuffs' (a song about the difficulties of staying good and moral when everything seems to be otherwise).
'The Devil and God' once again sees Brand New expand their musical ambitions and demonstrates the considerable talents possessed by the band members.
Guitar solos feature much more prominently than on previous albums and reinforce the reason solos exist: not to merely demonstrate ability, but to add meaning to the song.
This is evident in 'Jesus Christ' in which the guitar 'weeps' over the drums and bass, truly adding to the song.
Another theme of the album is stylistic change, similar to those Nirvana took mainstream in the early 90's. 'Limousine' in particular uses, the quiet-loud formula as the instruments build up to the finale, where all the emotion in the lyrics comes crashing down in the form of the band playing as hard as they can.
Indeed, the album as a whole tends to follow a similar format, as 'Welcome to Bangkok' proves. A watershed moment for the band, it could be argued that the wall of sounds and eery screams mark the moment when the band decide to embrace their vices and give way to the devil inside them (most obviously on Handcuffs, composed by lead guitarist Vin).
'The Devil and God' is a landmark album, relying on heartfelt musicianship and vocals to involve the listener, but one that too many people seem to have missed.
It is a body of work that is more than the sum of its parts - each song sounds fantastic on its own, but to be truly appreciated, the album must be listened to in its entirety (in my opinion, the atmosphere is more suited to headphones, but the louder sections work well on speakers).
After the release of their solid pop-punk debut album, Brand New took a giant leap forward with the second album: Deja Entendu.
Whilst Your Favourite Weapon was firmly pop-punk, this album moves away to a more mature, fuller musical sound with greater variety.
The band have obviously matured both as people and musiciancs, reflected in the more assured, boundary-pushing lyrical and musical tones.
Jesse's voice has improved, allowing him to input even greater emotion into his vocals: delicate when required, such as the haunting opener 'Tautou' or powerful and forceful, as heard on 'Sic Transit Gloria...'.
Songs such as 'Sic Transit Gloria' and 'The Quiet Things' both are rooted in pop-punk structure and sensibilities, but the all-powerful bass on the former and guitar melodies and all round 'tightness' of the latter distinguishes them from their peers.
The album features a much greater variety than its predeccesor, with acoustic numbers accounting for a sizeable percentage of the run time (including another chilling closer - 'Play Crack the Sky'), although many of these ultimately evolve into loud intense rock songs with contributions from all 4 band members.
Jesse's lyrics also tread new ground, moving away from the teenage angst of their debut to clever concepts (such as 'Good to Know' which alternates between the tales of a writer and his character) and Guernica, in which Lacey opens his heart to the pain felt when a loved one falls ill and the ultimate desire to do anything, anything to save them.
Deja Entendu is french for 'already heared', however, this album is anything but.
It represents a stylistic change for the band and furthered their path to making true musical masterpieces, transcendant of genre. It is unique.
Your Favourite Weapon is the debut album by Brand New, an American band formed by Jesse Lacey, who after leaving a fledgling Taking Back Sunday amidst a falling out over his childhood friend John Nolan, with whom Jesse's girlfriend allegedly cheated.
The angst from this bitter split is the driving force of the album, as Lacey reels from the betrayal and seems to wonder who was at fault and if he can ever forgive those who wronged him.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the seminal pop-punk song 70x7 in which Lacey lays into Nolan with deadly intent, including a chilling breakdown in which he recounts the fateful words which ended their relationship.
Lyrically, most songs follow the template of pining for lost loves or anger at those who betrayed him, with the notable exception of album closer Soco Amaretto Lime, the most simplistic song on the album, as an acoustic guitar plays underneath the perfect words to describe the transition between adolesence and adulthood. Listening as someone who is at the same age and feels, as the song so beautifully portrays, the apprehension of facing adulthood and the wish for thing to remain as they are.
Musically, the album is competent with some variety in the form of a few acoustic numbers amidst the power chords associated with the genre (although the lead guitar melodies, certainly spice up the songs).
Your Favourite Weapon is a pop-punk album which revels in teenage angst and stands amongst the finest in the genre.
However, for Brand New, it was just the start, allowing them to 'clear their throats' before they got to work on their following albums, which, overall are superior.
The Toshiba Satellite Pro series have produced many great value laptops and this is amongst the best.
It is visually pleasing, silver with a black trim around the screen and keyboard. The embossed logo on the top of the laptop is very classy and
The performance confirms this. I run Vista but this laptop is easily capable of running the new Windows 7 to its full capabilities, so an upgrade would be easy. All programs that you could ever wish to run do so fine (although internet explorer can sometimes freeze with many tabs open). I have not attempted to play games on this laptop but it has a Microsoft games rating of 3.8 which is 'good' but not good enough to function as a high-end performance gaming machine.
As an everyday user, this laptop is fine and has put up with a lot of abuse in the year I've had it: the only signs of deterioration is a scuff on the left 'clicker key' and a waning battery life (although this will still last 3 hours, when running iTunes and Internet Explorer, along with the necessary anti-virus and background processes).
The only problem I have had is with the pre-installed Toshiba applications which at one point prevented the laptop from starting up, however, I have managed to deactivate them and now it works fine.
The hard drive is not the biggest on market but I still have ample space to spare, despite a vast music collection, the RAM is sufficient enough to run most thing that you could reasonable ask the system to do.
All in all, this is a good product and can be found for a very reasonable price if you shop, around. Even if you buy a Windows 7 upgrade as well, this laptop will provide great value for money and provide satisfactory use for a long time.
The LG Viewty, a good phone, with flaws.
This phones was amongst the first touch screens, heralding a new age for consumer electronics.
I have owned this phone for a year and a half, and it has been of great quality until just a few weeks ago (the central button has started to 'stick').
The battery life is exceptional, on moderate usage, I can get 5 days between charges, providing good peace of mind that the phone will be available to use when necessary.
The phone is relatively feature-laden with alarms, calculators, calander, games and the other usual stuff on phones, all of which work well, although the limit on number alarms set at a time can be prohibiting, as can be the ability to set just one day in advance.
Of course, newer phones have many more features and the ability to constantly add new ones, however, any phone is made or broken on its ability to make calls and send text messages. On this front the Viewty does not disappoint, the call list and phone book are easy to navigate and it is easy to change settings when in conversation - particularly volume, which may be necessary, depending on the setting you're in.
Messaging is also good, although the touch screen keyboard may be fiddly and I suggest recalibrating the sensors every few weeks to make it as easy as possible.
This phone was marketed based on its camera abilities, and in that respect, I was disappointed - although the resolution is good, it can take a while to focus and the flash never seems to work as desired. Obviously, although being 5 megapixels, this camera is not professional quality but will do for a few quick snaps when your camera is not available.
Overall, the LG Viewty is a good, reliable product but at present better alternatives are available at lower prices, so it can no longer be recommended, but I would certainly look into newer LG phones.
An updated version may be available but is it necessary? I have owned the 6th generation iPod for 2 and a half years and nearly 18000 songs later, it's still going strong.
The iPod is, visually, beautiful, the black finish on the front is pleasing on both the eyes and fingertips, the shiny silver back just as much (although much more prone to smudgy fingerprints) and the click wheel is joyfully simplistic to use, allowing navigation of a large music library with ease.
The iPod can play music, videos and display photos, which the device's software is able to display in a variety of ways (e.g. by artist, album, composer etc.) ensuring that you will always get to what you're looking for easily and quickly. This software is well supported and updates via iTunes tend to stop any (very few) bugs that may arise.
However, the true test of any mp3 player is the playback quality, so is the iPod a triumph of style over substance?
In short, no. The device is able to play any type of music well, with many EQ settings to tailor the experience to your liking (however, a new pair of 'quality headphones' are advised, the bundled ones are 'tinny' and will most likely break within a few months, no matter how careful you attempt to be).
Video playback is also good, if a little fiddly when skipping, as are the various photo options (including slideshow with music).
Also, miscellanea features such as calender, alarm and games all impress and will serve their purpose, be it to waste time or wake you up for your stop on the train.
The iPod is the epitome of 21st century technology: it's easy and it works, this is what all electronics should be like.
I wanted an HD television in order to make use of my PS3 and Xbox 360's HD capabilities in my bedroom (it would look lost in a big room).
I found the Grundig to be within my price range and so after great deliberation (£200 is a lot of money to me) decided to purchase.
I was very impressed when I arrived home with the appliance, the finish did not seem at all 'cheap' and after using the appliance for near two years, it has just one small smear (I think this was more due to my brother's carelessness than a fault of the product though).
The television has many input options, most of which I have utilised at various times, all have proved reliable, although the HDMI port has a strange quirk of inverting colours (selecting another input and then returning rectifies this, but it can be annoying).
The picture quality is great for a (relatively) low-priced entry level model and can be viewed from many angles, although the contrast does not always seem great enough (mteiculously trawling through the setting may yeild a solution, but for what I use it for, the pre-sets have been fine).
The sound quality is a little 'tinny' and unfortunately always goes to a needlessy high volume upon turning on, but is acceptable for gaming and movies (I wouldn't recommend using it as a primary music player though).
The TV has built in freeview, which will soon be necessary(rather than a luxury), even in a poor-reception area, the signal is usually OK (better than my old stand-alone box) but some channels are prone to interference - another glitch, sometimes selecting the 'info' button will instead randomly change the channel, this can be very annoying!
Overall, this television is a good product for the money paid, however, the many small problems do add up and can be infuriating until work arounds are found.
I always find myself in need of new headphones and as such, I am unwilling to spend a large amount of money on a pair.
These headphones were bought on a whim (only £5 and JVC - a trusted brand) and first impressions were good due to the large selection of different colours available(including many bright colours, ideally for more flamboyant users) but black seemed most appropriate.
Upon arriving home from the shop I eagerly opened the packaging (not particularly easy) and inspected the headphones. They seemed to be a good length, not too long to trail but long enough to comfortably reach the ears.
However, the finish on the headphones was not so impressive, the headphones themselves are not too bad but the cable was stiff and cheap feeling.
This would not be important if the audio quality was impressive.
Sadly, this is not the case. I plugged the headphones into my iPod Classic (incredibly easy, they will plug into any 3.5mm jack and work instantly) and was immediately disappointed. The bass was almost non-existent and high frequencies are hard to pick up. I felt like the headphones should be given a chance, so I tried different styles of music and adjusting the EQ settings but to no avail (the output was no more impressive when plugged into a laptop so I'm sure it's the headphones themselves).
In short, these headphones lack 'oomph' and for that reason can not be recommended, for £5 these are probably the best headphones available, but personally, I suggest paying a bit more for a better quality pair, which will hopefully provide greater, lasting aural satisfaction.