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*** I've finally solved the mystery of why the links I've posted are not working. For some reason dooyoo decides to add a space in between year_book and 08 which completely messes up the link. If you are interested in seeing the photos you just need to remove the space that dooyoo have added***
There's one point I always fear when about to go on holiday and that's my dad at airports. He's usually quite a strong minded person and an aggressive driver but mention that we're en-route to Heathrow airport and he will go weak in the knees and be so awkward and paranoid and be such a difficult man to be around. I feel sorry for the check-in lady who had to put up with shaky disposition and attempt at jokes.
Once through check-in it was the simple case of putting up with 8 hours travelling via virgin, with whom I will never travel with again personally but I guess that story is for a different review.
We touched down about 4pm at Logan International Airport in Boston on a saturday. After a disappointing realisation that Virgin had changed car hire company to a "lesser" one (obviously cheaper) and we had been given a car way past retirement, but funkily named "Avenger", we headed off to our hotel. The journey itself was quite eventful with the sat-nav we bought from home, dubbed Jane, attempting to send us the wrong way down several one way streets.
We were stopping at the Inter Continental in the Marina district, (we being myself, my sister, Dad and Mum) a rather attractive hotel but also a very dear one. The entrance hall itself was very grand and followed the Marina theme with wooden boats positioned neatly throughout, due to a mistake by an elderly couple who arrived a day early, we were given the option to trade our two rooms for the Penthouse suite as no rooms were available for the couple. Even though this meant 2 of us would be downgraded to the sofa this was just an opportunity we could not pass up and one I will not regret.
The suite itself had a hall, a small toilet room, a kitchen, a lounge and dining room with floor to ceiling windows, a spectacular master bedroom and a main bathroom with a shower bigger than my entire bathroom at home.
The next day saw an early start, after all we didn't really have long wherever we were staying this holiday so if there was something we wanted to do, it had to be done then. The first, and may I say most important, task was locating something to eat. With breakfast reaching about $25 per person at the hotel we needed something cheap.
After exploring the streets of the towering city, we came across a Dunkin Donuts advertising a very nice and cheap breakfast. In fact, during the hour following, we probably came across about 5 Dunkin Donuts.
The first Boston activity was following the famous freedom trail which consisted of a red line painted through the city streets locating all the historical sites around Boston.
For a country with far fewer years behind it than England they certainly like to show off their history, the walk was in fact very educational and fun and we got to see a lot more of the city by following it and as my Mom likes to say, "it's nice to actually know something about where you're visiting".
After several Ice Creams to cool us down and several Starbucks coffees to heat us back up and allow us to complain we were too hot so we could have more ice cream, we arrived at the Bunker Hill Monument, it took us about 3 and a half hours from the start of the trail in the Park to reach this tower which commemorates the battle in 1775. You are allowed to climb the tower but be warned it's a long way to go in a very stuffy, narrow winding staircase.
After walking back across the bridge to the main part of Boston we headed to the docks. After some looking around and eating/drinking some frozen lemonade we took a look at the WWII French Destroyer that was docked and set up for tourists to look around in. It was quite a shock to see the cramped conditions that soldiers had to live in and makes you glad that engineering has moved us past that era.
After getting lost and eventually finding the marina we got a chance to look around some shops and watch crazy old couples dance to the Peruvian/Western mix music that was being played. It was an amazing atmosphere to be in with Little Italy just a few blocks away and street carnivals moving through the area.
Dinner was spent at the main town market area. There were several street stalls and plenty of shops and restaurants to eat at but the main attraction had to be Quincy Market, the food court. This place had literally every type of food you could ever imagine all done fast food style, perfect for the indecisive family who all like to try different things, much like mine. It was a difficult choice deciding what to eat with BBQ food, pizzas, sushi, hotdogs, curry, Malaysian, Chinese the list goes on. I ended up having a half pound burger, very nice, along with my fourth bottle of Mountain Dew for the day, it still upsets me that you can't buy Mnt Dew in the UK.
This would have been a perfect way to end our first and only day in Boston, but the only real way to end it was with a Whale watching trip with a sunset finale.
The boat ride wasn't too expensive and the boat itself was comfortable and roomy with seats indoors and outdoors. It was a fear at first we might not be able to see many whales as they were so quick and so few, but after over an hour out at sea we were surrounded by them and they made for some truly stunning photos.
Boston is definitely somewhere I would visit again without hesitation as the city still has so much more to offer. We only managed to experience the historical side of the city and the Marina district's night life but I'm sure one day I'll be able to see it all.
If you've read my last review you'd know it featured a rather "trigger happy" fella' who went by the name of Alec Mason. This review features a pretty violent bloke by the name of Alex Mercer, the prototype, maybe it's just me, but Alec Mason and Alex Mercer in the same month, coincidence or conspiracy. Whatever the case this games much better; it's got zombies.
The game rather abruptly started following a group of soldiers in a beautifully rendered cinematic. The camera follows a series of red vines growing all over buildings until it zooms in on Alex Mercer, the hooded "Assassins Creed" style killer. The streets are lined with the bodies of the dead and then you're thrown in to the action. Up till now absolutely nothing has been explained to you. You find yourself with loads of different powers, and a constant bombardment of zombie pedestrians and tutorial and hint boxes.
After a rather stop and start experience having to plough through loads of text every 5 seconds the story kicks in.
The plot is very cleverly driven forward by Alex Mercer himself told from the future - "Day 18 of infection" between him and an unknown character, there's an awful lot of depth to the plot with a lot of twist and turns and surprises which was quite a surprise itself as it's been a poorly promoted title.
The game is another open world sandbox game set in NYC, doesn't quite have the detail liberty city offered but still a big open world with a virus slowly spreading and sending everyone a little crazy. As Alex you have a wide selection of powers at your disposal many of which have to be unlocked through story progression and collecting enough experience points to buy the upgrade. Some of the less destructive and gory powers include the ability to run up the side of buildings and literally glide over rooftops, pick up and throw vehicles and being able to "grab and consume" civilians and soldiers, this adds and nifty stealth element to the game allowing you to infiltrate buildings disguised as soldiers and even absorb their memories to fill in the blanks in yours (another plot driven by a character with amnesia).
The more visually stunning powers enable you to shape your body on the move in to dangerous weapons including claws that nicely slice through peoples torsos revealing what they've had for breakfast, giant hammer firsts and many more the final one being a huge blade that you can lunge at enemies for. It's safe to say this game definitely satisfies that lust every gamer (and regular humanoid) feels, the desire for power beyond your wildest dreams, to have superpowers but to be able to live in that morally grey section of not being a complete twisted psychopath and not never being able to harm the civilians that jeer at you for being a freak.
Of course this wouldn't be a game unless there was some decent competition for your new found abilities and you'll run in to a regular supply of tanks, choppers, hunters, super soldiers, and regular soldiers who appear to of ditched protecting people and gone in favour of doing whatever they can (Read: Kill whatever they can) in favour of stopping you.
The missions are fairly varied, ranging from kill this guy involved with the breakout of the infection or protect this person or infiltrate this and eventually you'll reach one of the spectacular boss fights. I've been waiting for a decent challenge from a game for a while now and this managed to quench my first especially one boss fight in particular involving one about 4 stories high and the size of a city block which took a good 4 hours to kill after dying to the gazillionth time.
In terms of graphics the games nothing special, it's all a pretty low render quality but works well and loads very quickly but it's fairly obvious there hasn't been much change from when the game was supposed to be released last year.
Overall I've had a great experience with this game, it's provided some fresh new challenges to me, includes hundreds of side missions to work through and an excellent quality gameplay style that will keep you entertained long after the story mode has been completed. And who could forget the 200 orbs hidden round the city for huge EP reward, happy hunting Prototype.
The battle for the liberation of Mars is on, the Red Faction has chosen you to lead the people to freedom and do whatever it takes to defeat the sinister EDF.
Early in to the development of Red Faction Guerrilla it was claimed this game would revolutionize the way people play first person shooters, allowing people to take their own approach to missions whether they decide to find the "blue key card" for a certain door or a blow a hole straight through it. Unfortunately the game did not live up to the expectations of the developers but it would be naive to say that this much madness and destruction wasn't fun.
RFG (Red Faction Guerrilla) incorporates the Geo-mod 2.0 destruction engine, a "hyper realistic" destruction physics engine that is able to reasonably well simulate building physics and allow chunks to break off and buildings to realistically stress and strain. The beauty of the engine is that it's not that building walls and structures are designed to fracture and break off in certain patterns and places but actually how you hit or blow them up.
There have apparently been 2 previous Red Faction games in the series, not exactly the most popular of games from what I've heard and have been a fairly standard First Person Shooter game experience. RFG choose another route and decides to follow the ever popular open world sandbox game set on Mars.
So the year is 2075, the Earth Defence Force receives a distress call from a mining facility on mars, unfortunately for you, Alec Mason, after a shady past on earth you decided to join you brother on Mars only to get wound up with the war he is fighting with the Red Faction, him dead and you now a man on the run with no choice but to help the Red Faction and liberate the people who have been oppressed so long.
And that's about the extent of the story that actually interested me, the rest was fairly dull and poorly told, but it's easy to keep up with, and keeps you remotely entertained, and at least some reason for the mindless destruction. And that's basically all the games about, your faced with the challenge of liberating each sector of mars, this involves completing at least 3 missions per sector (all involving blowing up something, or killing someone by blowing them up) the last of which is only unlocked by lowering the EDF's morale in the sector achieved by blowing up high priority buildings. You also have the option to complete several side "mini" missions which vary between: (have you guessed yet?) blowing up enemy buildings, preventing the enemy from blowing up your buildings, or infiltrating supply lines along with a few other rather fun ones. By completing these you are awarded first with salvage (explained later) and a morale increase. By increasing moral you increase the amount of salvage awarded by missions, the ammo available in crates and how likely people are to aid in your fight. Once you get past all the debris there some very clever mechanics in the game which will keep you entertained and surprised, they've even manage to incorporate a sort of "police-warning" system, meaning your threat level goes from green (no problems), yellow - detected by enemies, until you reach red which is when they start throwing an endless line of enemies at you.
The missions however do not get really interesting until you reach about halfway and a few more twists are thrown in to the plot, I won't ruin it for you though.
Each sector has a very distinct (often too distinct) style about it, you can be driving down a road in one of the games "funkily "designed mars terrain vehicles only to have the screen almost completely change colour, for example one region called Dust, has ironically a very dusty grey-blue tinge to everything, whereas the oasis sector has a greeny tinge to everything.
Salvage is awarded for completing various missions throughout your encounters in Mars mining facilities and can also be picked up from destroyed vehicles and buildings, this is the in-game currency and allows you to buy brand new shiny weapons and upgrades for each, weapons range from assault rifles to snipers to jetpacks and the downright crazy such as the grinder which shoots spinning bladed discs (nasty) and the nano forge a personal favourite of mine which is a major part of the game story, allowing you to fire out "nanites" that rip apart structures (man-made or organic) molecule by molecule allowing you to level buildings and disintegrate vehicles with a few carefully placed shots.
Overall even if the game world is a bit empty and the story isn't that compelling it is still an extremely fun campaign to play through that will leave you very satisfied, especially if you're interested in construction (or maybe destruction).
The online play is a whole other story to tell, not in the sense that there's an actual plot to it, but without a story to hold you back it becomes purely about crumbling buildings to dust and killing the other team with a huge selection of equipment and weapons.
There is a maximum of 8x8 and most games will start you off with a sledge hammer and another weapon unless stated in the lobby, found across the wide selection of maps are plenty of pick-ups including many more back packs, ranging from the standard jet pack found in the single-player game too much more bizarre ones like stealth, tremor and rhino.
There are 6 different game modes available focusing around destroying or capturing targets but it's not until you play online that you realise how much fun it is to work as a team and how helpful being able to destroy everything can be. A rather hilarious moment occurred during one game, our entire team except one player was stuck on this canyon and all the bridges had been destroyed, very cleverly the player on the other side managed to knock over a smoke tower forming a tunnel bridge across the canyon leading us to victory and there is just limitless playability in this style of game.
If you like first person shooters and are looking for a something different this summer when very few decent titles actually hit the market then this is a game for you, if you liked the other Red Factions then this isn't going to be anything like them so think carefully before you buy.
Campaign - 1 player
System Link - 2 to 16 players
3MB to save
Supports all HDTV settings
Supports custom in-game soundtracks and surround sound
(Very strangely) Supports arcade stick and flight stick ????
Online players 2-16
If you have any further questions don't hesitate to ask.
I can still remember when I first received the original sims game. It was a genuinely innovative game that allowed players to "play god" on their own virtual family. For many weeks you would run a proper family realising just how difficult it was to make it in a job and for some reason you were required to have lots of friends to get promotions and get a good job (guess that's why I'm unemployed).
Eventually this got boring and the game became simply a torture game, be it burning people alive or making them go in to swimming pools and removing the ladders or removing all the doors from a room and watching them rather quickly starve to death.
Fortunately for the fans PC gaming is not dead yet and the Sims 3 is back allowing us to torture much more graphically detailed people. Good times.
The game follows the standard formula of the previous 2, you create a family, you let them get married, get a job, have kids (all the usual stuff) you spend hours training up their skill levels only to have them die of an electric shock a week later, excetera.
Obviously the graphics have received a touch up and the results are very good. However this may go unnoticed on "lesser machines". There is also a wider selection of skills available to learn, whereas in the sims 2, painting and music were both considered part of the creativity skill, they now each have their own skill making it much harder to max out your sims.
The new create a sim is very good though, everything still looks cartoony but there are some decent options available to be able to go in to great sadistic depth with how your sims look, the randomize button is very time saving. The weight system is much more advanced too, whereas previous sims were either fat of thin there is now a slider for weight and muscles meaning your sims can become ridiculously fat and the clothing is able to adapt accordingly, same with muscles.
EA (makers) has also included a trait function, the traits allow you to really customize the personality of your sim be they flirty, a couch potato, loner, genius, computer nerd so and you are able to pick 5 traits per sim. Unfortunately there are some hidden traits that didn't make it in to the final list but are still hidden within the game, with the right "know-how" you can however unlock these and turn your sim in to a pyromaniac who randomly sets things on fire. I guess I can understand why that might of been removed (still would of been hilarious).
The look of your sim can be very important to some people and I've already mentioned how in depth you can go, unfortunately the same does not apply to the flat chested woman in the game, on a serious note though there is a severe lack of hairstyles in the game which are very limiting compared to how many came out with previous sims games.
But one of the biggest improvements is the create a style and new build menu options. Create-a-style allows you to select (almost) any wall or piece of furniture or clothing and customize the current patterns and colours on it so what looks like a fairly small selection of furniture becomes huge when you look past that and realise that's just going to be the shape of the item, everything else can be down to you.
The new building options are fairly good allowing you to FINALLY position a 3 seater sofa in the centre of a 2 square width television, this may seem a pretty sad thing to talk about but you would not believe the complaints that were received about the game due to this, afterall the Sims is an architect game as much as it is a life simulator.
Unfortunately the new little additions do not make up for a lot of the losses the series has strangely seen:
- You are limited to about 4/5 floors per house, seems a lot but the sims 2 was about 8
- There are fewer careers, I personally liked the paranormal career, which has mysteriously vanished like many-a-sim did after peering in to telescopes too long
- The sims sleep too long, they are able to hold their bladder longer and don't have to eat as frequently as before allowing you more time to interact with them but they sleep way too long in the day
- The speeds, meaning if nothing interesting was happening you could speed up time, in the Sims 3 you get x1, x2, x3 and x4, however they are slower that previously and x3 and x4 are exactly the same speed.
- The ability to look doors, a welcome feature for the torturers within us for the second coming of the sims, meaning we could lock unsuspecting visitors in cells in the basement, removed for this game.
- A Piano, why on earth would they get rid of the piano, now the only instrument available is one cruddy guitar. I want my family band back EA.
After all that ranting though the biggest leap forward for the series is the open neighbourhood, finally your sims are able to travel all around town without ridiculously slow loading screens before only being able to spend 5 minutes at your destination cause someone's hungry. The new neighbourhood means you can have one member of the family down at a beach party, another at home in bed, and another going shopping and still be able to switch between all 3 instantly and control their little sim lives.
This seamless neighbourhood also means that all the other families of Sunset Valley (town in the sims) are able to grow old, die and have children all around you, this does mean it's not wise to have multiple families on each save game as they will probably end up doing something you don't want.
The music in the game is easily recognisable from the previous titles having not changed much and the sims have not yet learned english and still communicate via gibberish and thought bubbles, wouldn't be the same without it though.
Overall I think there is some nice additions being made to the series with the Sims 3 and it's taking a step in the right direction, however I believe that some of the stuff they took out was just silliness and there are some points where you can't help but think "Why the hell did they do that?". Fortunately the Sims franchise has a strong following from a huge community of "modders" that will be able to correct the mistakes EA made over the next few months.
Note: Modder's are people that alter settings and introduce new features to games and their downloads are widely available online.
Plus why was no magic expansion pack ever released for the sims 2 *angry face*
I'm not exactly the best photographer in the world. I've been interested in taking photos for years now and have struggled never knowing which camera to buy because of all the jargon used, ISO, WB, aperture; the list goes on.
After using the fuji S9500 for the past 3 years I felt it was time to upgrade and so my next hunt for the right camera went ahead. Since I had used that camera I felt I was ready to upgrade to a proper DSLR camera and after being left dissatisfied with the colour reproduction I got from the fuji brand I decided to look elsewhere, this is when the Alpha 700 caught my eye.
I'd say it took me about 4 months slowly researching all the specification and what it all meant before I finally took the plunge and forked out for it and I haven't regretted that day since.
Probably not fair to say because it's only been 4 weeks since I got this camera but in that short time I have been able to take some stunning shots with just the most basic settings on the camera meaning anyone can pick this up and use it.
However if you want to take better shots you've got to leave auto mode and start experimenting yourself.
The camera has a wide range of ISO settings ranging from 100-6400 and a good selection of White balance settings, each of which has a setting within them.
I won't go in to too much detail of the specifics because this can be easily found online, but this camera is great for amateur enthusiasts, the super steady shot is a great function and the results are strikingly different when you try taking shots with and without it on.
The screen is a great size and brilliant quality so you can easily look through your photos and delete accordingly without the need of seeing them on a big computer screen.
Unfortunately no live-view function is incorporated in to the camera, this is when you can take photos looking at the screen, meaning you do have to look through a view finder, but this tends to get better shots and the inclusion of live-view would of slowed down the extremely fast shutter speeds.
The battery is probably just about big enough to last a couple of days unless you're shooting a lot which is a shame but more battery packs can be bought, and I would recommend it.
As for the lenses, yes they can be expensive but Minolta lenses do fit and these can be picked up more cheaply (but do not offer the same quality).
Overall the A700 is a great introductory camera to people new to DSLRs and it offers many of the features you would expect from a serious professionals camera and offers stunning quality photos combined with an easy to use camera.
I've had mixed emotions about this game. I could be playing it and having the most fun ever, then suddenly realise, wow this is rubbish, and to be truthful, it is.
Lord of the Rings conquest uses an upgraded version of the engine from the game Star Wars Battlefront 2 (or so it says) but puts a Lord of the Rings skin over the top. This story has you start with a simple training mission set during the war against Sauron and gives you some good knowledge to get going with such as the different moves that each class can pull off and the abilities of heroes.
The actual game missions start at the battle of Helm's Deep. I remember having so high hopes of this game and was expecting a huge battle scene with hundreds of troops on each side fighting it out. But I guess I'm going to have to wait a bit longer for something like that, it seems that the developers decided to have about ten on ten battles and I think so much more could have happened.
The location is really small and if you've ever watched the films you will remember that Helm's Deep was a huge fort against the enemy but the game version means you are able to see the entire map from the very start. It appears they tried to make it all look a bit grander by having thousands of Orcs and Urak-hai in formation in the distance but completely unresponsive. To me this makes the whole thing look really "tacky" and was another big let down. All the missions follow pretty much the same formation making you either, hold a point for so long, capture a position from the enemy, or kill an opposing hero and it all gets very repetitive.
In each level you are given a number of lives to play out and on each respawn you are allowed to pick a class to play as. These are your choices:
Unfortunately for the game though, by the end of the first level the player will of found out that there is only one decent class to play as and will stick with that for the entire game. With Lord of the Rings the only decent character is the archer during the main story. They can do huge damage if you hit enemies in the head, do not have to build up power like other classes to use their special abilities (fire arrows, poison arrows and multi shot) and are the only ones capable of killing blocking warriors.
What's wrong with the others then? Well the warrior is just impossible to defend with and will get completely overwhelmed. And come up against another warrior and your better off running away as there is no way in hell you can hit them.
The mages aren't too bad. They have the ability to block all incoming projectiles which is useful online, but as an actual attacking character they are too weak.
The scouts again aren't too bad, however they have very poor damage. On the other hand they have satchel charges which can do a lot of damage, and the ability to cloak themselves and run up behind enemies and instant-kill them, but this is extremely hard to pull off, and in the time it takes you to get behind them and kill them you could of killed them with two arrows to the head.
What really upset me about the game, was the fact that they used film footage instead of screenshots. Along with this they had decided to make up loads of battles that never existed. So imagine if you will, being a huge fan of the movies like me, having watched them every few months (the extended editions aswell) and knowing what every scene is about. Then this game comes along showing random footage that doesn't even match what is happening on the screen and uses it with no thought about what it actually meant in the film. This problem was even more apparent during the second campaign of the game.
After completing the War of the Ring campaign, which loosely (very loosely) follows the film's plot, you unlock a second campaign called "Rise of Sauron". In this campaign Frodo has succumbed to the power of the ring and decides to keep it for himself and the story is set around you resurrecting such characters as the Witch King and Balrog and reigning terror among the inhabitants of Middle Earth. I admit I found it much more fun than the first campaign as it was nice completely destroying how the film ended. (After all the first campaign completely destroyed the film, all that was left was the ending). Back on to the film footage problem though. This means they used more footage from the film to represent a complete different ending and turn of events. They even used the same footage as the good campaign, it was just completely unbelievable to watch, I don't know whether it was stupidity or laziness that drove them to this method of storytelling, probably both.
Well rant over, here's some more technical information.
I think more effort went into the meetings where they decided how much they were going to rip people off by selling them this game, then actually went in to designing it. There was a scene in the evil campaign where I was shown a bit of game footage of a small person in a cloak and told to kill him, I had my suspicions as to who it was, but I had to wait till the game actually told me it was Frodo before I could believe how bad he looked, it was if they took a picture of him and stuck it in a blender and then said, "right that's another character done, who we destroying next." The level design isn't that much better. The whole experience is very linear considering it's meant to be a huge battle game, the same repeated texture has been used on multiple levels and it all looks worthy of the original Xbox.
-----Music and sound-----
One of the only good points is that they did use the proper music. It obviously doesn't make up for the poor level design and animation but it does make playing the game a tad more enjoyable. Before one level I was almost fooled in to believing that it was going to be really good by the music. As for the voice acting, Pandemic decided to make the classic mistake of recording about two lines of dialogue per character class and then have them repeat the same line over and over and over and over (and you get the picture), but wait a minute, this is the company that made Mercenaries 2, a game they made the exact same flaw with. The same lines repeated again and again, countless times, guess not everyone learns from their mistakes.
I was actually looking forward to playing this online. About a week before the game came out, a demo came out on Xbox live which allowed the user to play on two different levels with another 15 players, (8 on 8) and they had to compete to capture points. I genuinely had fun playing this as it was much better than playing the stupid AI that the main story pits you against. Apparently they don't see any of your teammates and ONLY go for you, ALL the time.
So high hopes I had. I loaded the multiplayer screen, pressed ranked match and waited for a game, about 30 seconds later I entered a game lobby to be joined by one other player. Waited a while. Now there was only me, the other guy had gone off somewhere, probably bored of waiting. I thought maybe I had a dodgy connection so tried finding another game. In fact I tried finding another 20 games. I've also been trying for several days now. Nobody plays this game online. I have managed to get into a game of 2 on 1 so far and so it means what could of been a really fun mode is destroyed by lack of support from the community, which I don't blame. You don't spend £40s on a game to play it online.
This game could of been so much more, it could of had battles with hundreds of troops, it could of had beautifully designed levels with lots to look at, and it could of had a decent story to tell, the Lord of the Rings could of been a good story to tell, but I guess they preferred to make their own up.
Pandemic studios definitely hasn't learned from its mistakes with Mercenaries 2 and I doubt they will with this game.
Players 1-4 offline 2-16 online (you won't be able to find that many though)
60kb to save
Supports all HDTV settings and dolby surround sound (doesn't deserve to though)
Gears of War 2 is the sequel to one of the Xbox 360's best selling first person shooter, Gears of War released in 2006. Finally after much anticipation number two is out, but I'm still not quite sure if I like it.
Ermmm. I'm not actually quite sure but here's what I managed to grasp. The game takes place on the plant Sera, which was colonized by humans. Shortly after establishing themselves they discovered a liquid called Imulsion and as humans do best, they used every last bit they could get their filthy hands on to use as a very powerful fuel. After many wars between the nations of Sera the Coalition of Organised Governments (COG) was formed to bring peace. After this they then found another sentient race living within the planet. The locusts, a weird looking ugly race, with very "meaty" skin perfect for ripping apart. But that's about as much as I got. I still have no idea what the war is about or much else, but things seemed to unfold quite a bit in the second game.
Gears of War follows the same character Marcus Fenix and his partner Dom (who's looking for his wife) and starts shortly after the first game when you had tried to blow the locust hollow to kingdom come.
Gears is a fairly standard over the shoulder shooter but I got a weird sense of déjà-vu at the end as the story was very similar to the first one.
The game has you fighting the locust in a variety of different terrains including the locust hollow, abandoned towns, a very creepy science lab and the inside of a giant stone worm. Fortunately for the game the huge variety of locations makes the game consistently fun and "new" to play and you can find yourself playing for hours on end without getting bored. Just to split up the action a bit though the developers have added some on-rail shooting sections, (and for the non-gamers that means your stuck on a moving object shooting off it), which are always face paced and fun.
Gears is now one of the few games that still has boss battles and even though they aren't as difficult as the first game, they are still as epic and jaw dropping.
-----The Game Play-----
As I've already said it follows the usual first person shooter format. There is a much greater emphasis on the cover system though than other games and by pressing and holding the A button you can quickly sprint in to cover and pull of some rolls as you move from pillar to pillar.
There is however too great an emphasis on this cover. Chest-high-walls are literally everywhere and it makes battles much easier. Chest high walls are used as decoration, everyone's bombs seem to reduce buildings to the height of chest high walls, mother nature seems to drop boulders to make chest high walls appear when you are about to go in to battle and the locusts have even developed technology that allows them to raise chest high walls out the ground. All well and good giving you cover, cause that's the way the shooter is, but it just meant that every time I was walking around and the game was trying to build tension I immediately knew when a locust was going to jump out on me because there would be some strategically placed wall around the corner.
Sometimes though you don't even need to use the cover as seeing how the Gears wear like half a car body as their armour you can pretty much run up to any enemy and save your ammo by giving them a quick slicing with the handy chainsaw mounted on the end of your gun. Even then ammo is pretty plentiful and most enemies will drop ammo and if not that, another weapon to quickly pick up.
The health system is also pretty dodgy in my opinion. I don't know when it happened but one day somebody at a game conference must of got drunk and decided, "hey, let's completely scrap the idea of a health bar", and everyone seemed to go along with it, now if you get shot a lot, (you can soak up a lot of bullets) your screen will start to flash a bloodshot red but find some cover and your awesome manliness will regenerate your broken limbs in seconds, even if you do get downed all you have to do is crawl over to your team mate and he can stroke you on the head and restore literally all your health in less than a second.
This brings me on to another point, the AI. The enemy AI is intelligent as far as games go but what happened to my teammate? The enemy will find sensible cover to shoot from and take their shots carefully, my partner hangs around about a mile behind saying "we should get a move on you know", then if I get completely overwhelmed and do manage to get downed, I can't rely on my teammate coming over and helping me out, no, I have to crawl directly over to where he's cowering and even then I couldn't rely on him helping me up.
The game does have a lot of good things about it though. For example the variety of weapons is brilliant. You get everything from the already mentioned chainsaw gun known as a lancer, shotguns, mini-guns, explosive arrows, flame-throwers, mortars and only at the very end do you manage to hold the hammer of dawn again, this gun made a regular appearance in the first game but only comes in for the very final battle of GOW2.
Secondly there is the amazing story, sure you might not know what's going on half the time, but what you do get is incredibly well voiced and acted and very emotional. There is a bit of a sudden change of tone in levels however when you'd be talking about blowing something up and how amazing you were, then Dom would start crying about his wife in the next scene, but I won't spoil any of the story by telling you about his wife.
-----The graphics and sound-----
Another flaw in the game development side of things is that everyone seems to think that by colouring everything with colours from the dirt spectrum; it will make it look really realistic. This does suit most the levels which are meant to be dark and gritty and are very well realised, but even the levels that could have been made really bright and vibrant are just overwhelmed by dirt colours, but I won't put it down too much for that. The characters are also extremely well designed and each of the main characters that you encounter in the game look as if they have had weeks of effort put in to modelling them, even the enemies have been upgraded since the last game and the gore effects have been taken up a notch with blood flying everywhere now.
The music is very good and used effectively throughout the game at the right points to really build the tension and show the sheer terror and size of this battle that rages on. As already stated the voice acting is superb and with this game you cherish the cut scenes and don't try to skip them.
This is where the game falls slightly. You can do the entire campaign with a friend online or next to you, but I still have yet to realise why people obsess about this game's online play. It offers nothing unique or interesting and has no real purpose in my opinion. There is also a mode called Horde which pits you and 3 others against 50 waves of locust troops, fun for a bit and may keep you entertained, but not for me.
There are a lot of twists and turns in the story and it appears they've taken the same approach as other trilogies, which means the second instalment raises more questions and answers none. Most the time you won't even know what's going on, or why you're doing a certain thing but I can guarantee you will still play it through to the end as it just has such a huge variety of game play elements.
Not really part of the review, but if you're going to play this, make sure it's on a huge high definition screen just to make those awesome scenes even more spectacular than they already are.
10mb to save
Supports all HDTV settings
Online players 2-10
1)What did you do in 2008 that you have not done before?
I finally got a membership at JJB and have been seriously working on my body strength. I also started sixth form meaning I am now out of complusary education.
2) Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, but a fair few people I know got pregnant.
3) Did anyone close to you die?
About the first year no one has. Unless you count my very expensive fishies that the neighbour overfed :(
4) What countries did you visit?
I went to dubai for a week, which was almost 50 degrees every day and was an incredible country to visit in terms of fast development. I also visited Sri Lanka for a week and witnessed for myself how little the Sri Lankan government has failed to do to help the victims of the tsunami years ago.
5) What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
A job that I'm in control of (self employed). Maybe something in photography. As I currently have no income. (Except dooyoo)
6) What dates will you remember from 2008?
What a specific date? Ermmm, last week in august (don't know date) When i got my GCSE exam results!!! 5 A*s 3As and 2Bs.
7) Did you suffer illness or injury?
Felt very ill for a couple of weeks after getting back from Sri Lanka. That was bad.
8) What was the best thing you bought?
My new computer. Bought every part on its own and constructed an amazing super cooled machine.
9) Whose behaviour has merited celebration?
My mates as they've helped me out through the lows, I would say my parents but they thought I was going to fail my exams which didn't exactly help my confidence.
10) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
One particular person I thought was a mate completely screwed me over. He's on the list and karma will come back and get them.
11) Where did most of your money go?
Either in to my savings account or on games. Didn't really make any other big purchases after my computer.
12) What did you get really excited about?
My holiday. Dubai and Sri Lanka were to completely contrasting destinations and have amazing history.
13) What song will you remember from 2008?
None. I don't listen to modern music.
14) Compared to this time last year are you ..happier, fitter?
I'm an awful lot stronger and fitter but my stamina is still lacking. I am deffinitely more confident and much happier and have made a lot of good new friends.
15) What do you wish you had done more of?
Enjoyed the good moments. They seemed to pass very quickly.
16) What do you wish you had done less of?
Work at this pub potwashing. I got abused, shouted at and it took me to long to make the desicion to quit.
17) What was your favourite tv programme?
Discovered the joys of Family Guy and American Dad and now they have taken the top two positions of my favourite TV programs of all time.
18) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year?
Theres a few people, one i've already mentioned as "screwing me over" but there are some others who I've seen a different side too.
19) What's been the best book of 2008?
Simpsons Issue 115. Ok that was a joke, but I don't read anymore, maybe I should do more of that.
20) What was your greatest musical discovery?
Tenacious D, the pick of destiny, the worlds greatest rock and roll musical.
21) What did you want to get in 2008?
Good exam results, and I did.
22) What did you want and didn't get?
A new camera. But I'm planning on getting it later on this year.
23) What is your favourite film of the year?
Batman, the Dark Knight. Very cool film and very will filmed. Also quite creepy in places.
24) What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I was 16 and my birthday came on the day of my first GCSE exam, which was then followed by a lot more. Meaning I didn't celebrate my birthday and didn't do anything.
25) What political issue stirred you the most?
Credit Crunch. I've come to the conclusion that if the media hadn't hyped it so much and had not reported on it we would not be in the situation we are now as everyone would still be spending the same.
26) Who was the best person you met?
A tsunami victim in Sri Lanka. He was pretty badly injured yet still had a massive enthusiasm for life.
27) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008?
Corny, but live life to the fullest and appreciate the people close to you.
An unsung wonder.
I'm very suprised more people don't know about this site. When I ask friends, "where do you buy your games from?". They'll most likely reply with play.com or on the highstreet, or sometimes even ebay.
I found this site a few months ago while looking for a game and I will be truthfull, I have not used another site since then to buy games.
-----Why's it so cheap?-----
Ok so it may not be like £25 for a brand new xbox 360 game on there but it's still cheap compared to anywhere else.
This is down to the large community on the forums. Shopto.net have a policy that if you find a game cheaper somewhere else, they will match it with no arguments, this means the prices are continuously shifting depending on what other members have found and postage is free, which is the icing on the cake and you can often expect to get your game the day after ordering. (Not even play.com can do that every time)
You do need to register a free account to buy with shopto.net but this takes only a few seconds and requires you to fill out a short form including your name and address etc and eventually you will receive an activation email to, (what do you think?) activate your account.
After this you are free to browse and shop and the site is very easy to naviagate. The search bar on the left allows you to search for games by:
Category (game, hardware ...)
or just by searching the title you wish to find.
Searching is very quick and supplies you with a page of results which clearly show price and the system the game is on, aswell as whether it is in stock or not. Upon clicking a result the site will provide you with some screenshots and trailers available about the game which can be vital when making a purchase.
Shopto also includes some other features such as sellto, which allows users to sell their unwanted games and hardware.
The navigation options at the top make the site very easy to use even for the most computer illiterate of people out there and the tabs show things such as: titles coming soon, the star buys and the stock due in.
I have never experienced a situation where a game I want has been out of stock. If you pre-order you are guarenteed to have your game on either release date, or the day after. And non-preordered games take either 1-2 days to be delivered.
They accept all credit-cards as payment and even solo cards for the younger online shoppers like me.
What's important to alot of online shoppers nowadays is the support you receive off the site and the security of your order.
The only problem I have ever received was when initially creating my account in which I forgot the password I used, and couldn't create another account as you can't have multiple accounts off the same email address.
This did take a while to take out and involved me phoning a very friendly customer service department that soon sorted my problem and I was back to ordering with no problems.
If you're an avid gamer, or even just like gaming occasionally, then shopto is the site for you, the site has a great community of people who you can chat to and have similar interests and you can guarentee that the best price on the net for games will be shopto.
(Final note: shipping is free to the UK only)
An interesting question I'm sure everyone has thought about more than once in their life, but now it's my turn to say what I would do.
Unfortunately the lottery jackpot seems to be going down all the time and is getting further and further away from the sum you used to see that meant you would never have to work another day in your life. But being sixteen and regularly putting all my hope in the lottery here's what I'd do.
For starters I'd pay off my sister's student debt and my parents mortgage. I'd probably continue with my education and still go to Uni and keep most the money in a bank account abroad (after all the sterling is worth nothing) until I'd finished my degree then I'd start to spend.
Now this probably doesn't sound like the most interesting of ideas, but with the way the economy is and business struggling, I'd probably invest money in to them to keep them going and basically just get loads of shares in them, would certainly be worth it when it all gets going again and they're still going.
But don't worry I'm still human so I'd obviously splash out on a really nice sports car, a big fancy custom built house and a dream holiday travelling around the world.
I've been playing the lottery for a few months now, and every week i grow more and more tired of it, so it appears I may have to work for my dreams like the rest of the population, sure I'll keep on playing the lottery as you never know.
I actually worked out the probability of winning the lottery once, came out as 1 in 13,983,816. Is it really worth it?
I seem to think so.
So I've finally reached my target, I've been wondering round the raider and ghoul infested ruins of the DC metro system for what seems like hours and now I've appeared from below at my destination, the GNR radio station. I encounter a group of Super mutants armed with sledgehammers and frag grenades but before my gun is even raised several gunshots take their heads out. The Brother Hood of Steel, the anonymous group I have heard so much about but never seen, I accompany them to the radio station helping fight off the last remaining super mutants, my gun is running dangerously low on ammo and is nearly completely broken, I celebrate my victory with the rest, but then the ground begins to rumble, a bus is sent flying past my face along with the corpse of a fellow soldier, a Behemoth comes crashing through the side of a building about 12ft high and armed to the teeth.
What appeared to be a simple quest when I took, it up - head to this building, talk to this guy, turned in to a bitter fight for survival against all odds.
Nothing is ever as easy as it seems in the Wastelands.
So the game begins with you blurry eyed and coming out of your mums vagina, slightly weird but Ok we'll go with that. You are then asked to come up with a gender, name and appearance, which is a lot to ask from a newborn baby, but my male character named Jarvis ended up coming out like some sort of mutated freak.
The game then starts with you playing short parts of key points of your life. You were born in a vault, vault 101 to be precise, the world of fallout 3 is a sort of what if world where the what if today is: What if nuclear war had broken out in the 50s and 60s, so it did, but lucky for some they were allowed access in to vaults that would protect them from the harsh reality of the outside world until it was safe to venture out, but no in Vault 101, this vault was designed to never be opened.
The first stage you play through is as a toddler, you learn your mom died in childbirth so it's just you and your dad left with about 20 other people in the vault, your dad is a scientist/doctor and this stage just allows you to get used to the controls and assign some points in to S.P.E.C.I.A.L, which is short for strength, perception, education, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck, this is done by interacting with the S.P.E.C.I.A.L toddler book which contains rather humorous child-like explanations of what each does to you as a character.
The next stage is when you turn 11, you are in the cafeteria and everyone jumps out and shouts surprise, what a fun birthday, in a gritty dark lunchroom where apparently most the kids invited don't even like me, shame they missed out the stage of my life where I treated them so badly that they insult me even on my birthday. This stage is extremely important as you are given the Pip-boy 3000, a wrist mounted computer that allows you to access your stats, items and data which are all then split up into even more tedious sub-categories, (after all this is an RPG). You are then led downstairs with your dad to find his colleague Jonas, at which point you acquire a BB gun in which a short combat tutorial follows and introduction to VATs. Vault Assisted Targeting System allows you to pause the game mid-fight, target an enemy and let numbers work out the outcome of a battle, each specific body part can be targeted and each will have a different percentage chance of hitting, however by using VATs your weapons condition decreases more rapidly and you only have so many action points to use in VATs, so most times its better to waste more ammo and ammo yourself.
The next slightly longer stage involves you taking the G.O.A.T. test also known as the Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test which every V101 resident has to take at 16 so they are able to determine what job they will have in the future, the G.O.A.T. consists of some hilarious questions and pictures that include the retro image of the blonde haired Pip-Boy in many poses. This is where you decide what sort of person you are going to be in the future, are you going to sort your problems out democratically or guns blazing, are you going to be stealthy or a skilled explosives technician. But don't worry about the results at the end as a screen pops up allowing you to distribute the skill points in the way you feel best. These are the options you can invest in:
This is where RPGs start to annoy me, I've had no interaction with the game world, I don't know what it's going to be like out there and you can't attempt to invest in every skill otherwise you'll be very weak, this is why I've recently restarted my character from scratch now that I know which skills are best to survive in the wasteland, very annoying I know but that's RPGs for you.
Right so that bits over. Now it all gets a bit intense, you are woken up by your good vault friend to be told your dad has escaped the vault and that the overseer has gone mad and killed Jonas and is trying to get you, you are give a gun, a few minutes to grab anything that might be valuable and then have to get out, you go from shooting radroaches to shooting armed guards with no help and just have to work your own way out by breaking into rooms and hacking computers (both of which contain very hard mini-games). The immersion in this game is incredible even in such an early stage but it all receives a bit of a hairline fracture when you finally escape and a window pops up saying is there anything you would like to alter from your childhood.
So you're out of the vault in a huge (and I mean HUGE) land of endless possibilities and told to find your dad, sure it all looks like oblivion that's had a nuke dropped on it and rubble ditched everywhere but it looks breathtaking, it just would of been nicer to of had a bit more of a helping hand getting around.
I wont spoil anymore of the story incase you do ever want to play it but all I can say is the wasteland and DC ruins are a harsh place to survive and you need to make sure your ready and saving regularly during missions.
-----The Game Play-----
The game play is very good, and I've already mentioned a lot about it such as the V.A.T.s system but there are a few things I don't like that I'll get on to later.
Depending on the difficulty of the system your hacking will decrease or increase the password length. Hacking isn't explained very well in the game but here's my guide.
If you have a high enough science level you can hack certain level systems, when you hack roughly 15 words of a certain length will appear on screen and one is the password, you are given 4 tries to work it out. When you click on a word it will display how many letters in that word are right and in the right place meaning on your fourth go you should of worked it out. I find it is best to give up after 3 tries though because if you get it wrong you are locked out the system for ever whereas if you back out on three the password is rest and you can have unlimited attempts at guessing.
Again you need a certain level to hack a lock and depending on your level you can attempt to force a lock with a certain percentage chance of successfully doing it, but fail to force it open and it is broke for good. The mini-game shows a big lock on screen and a bobby pin (you need these to break it open) you apply torque with the screwdriver with the right analogue stick and rotate the bobby pin with the left, it is basically the hot-cold game, the further you can apply torque without the bobby pin breaking, the close the angle is to the right one, get the angle right and apply torque and the lock opens.
Left Trigger - Aim/block
Left Bumper - Toggle 1st and 3rd person view
Right Bumper - Enter V.A.T.s
Right Trigger - Attack/shoot
Y - Jump
B - Enter Pip-boy
A - Activate
X - Reload and hold to holster weapon
Every time you level up (after gaining enough experience aqquired through killing and questing) you can get one perk, and the unlocked perks depend on your level, S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats and skill point distribution.
The perks can range from small things like:
Intensive Training - Allows you to invest another point into S.P.E.C.I.A.L.
Gun-nut - which raises your small guns skill
to completely random things:
Bloody Mess - increases damage by 5% but gives a chance that killed enemies will explode in to a bloody mess
Mysterious Stranger - Some guy will come along in V.A.T.s occasionally armed with a magnum and do some serious damage to the target
to very useful things:
Commando - Increases chance of hitting opponent in V.A.T.s while using a two handed weapon
Scrounger - You are able to find a lot more ammo in containers than you normally would. (Very useful as ammo is scarce and costly)
Now to what I don't like about the game play. There's no mini-map, personally I don't like this as it means I constantly have to load my pip-boy and check where I am. Instead on screen you just have a compass that rotates as you do, on it, it will show the direction of enemies near you and the direction of where you should be heading.
Battles also occur rather suddenly and you will be often just walking along, turn around and find a rather unexpected and unwanted raider lunging at you with a kitchen knife with no warning.
However those are my main faults, as for what I like. I think the money system is brilliant and witty as the currency is bottle caps, after all post nuclear war, all money and government is useless so now caps are used. (Well maybe not government *wink wink*) Items can appear rather expensive at first glance, but continue on your travels and you'll soon acquire a collection of caps and random junk to sell at shops.
The option to be either good or evil has very dramatic effects. In fallout you are instantly given the option to help a guy blow up the one and only town you are aware of in exchange for caps, I have yet to chose this option as it seems like complete madness, in the town are loads of useful clinics and a shops and a couple of bars and you can even get a house there, but I guess if I ever play as evil I'll blow it to kingdom come.
Fast travel is also a rather nifty implemented system which enables you to travel to any location you have discovered which means if you're heading somewhere and get bored you can just find a nearby location, make sure it gets marked on your map then head off somewhere else for a while.
Like already mentioned the game world is breathtaking but also seamless, this means you can walk from the very end of the wasteland, to the very end of the super mutant infested ruins of DC.
Every bit is beautifully put together and I really enjoyed the long strolls through the rubble to my next destination even when I was brutally attacked by slavers. What is really good about fallout 3 is that everyone is dead, there's just a few people left in civilizations scattered throughout the world which is brilliant for the developers as it means they were able to individually create every character for the game world and write them individual lines of dialogue, sure you hear people repeat the same lines over and over but the beauty is you don't hear anybody else say those lines.
Bethesda (the creators) has really managed to create a great wasteland and everything has some sort of novelty about it that just makes it all seem so real and creepy. The textures considering the seamless world are very good quality and I have yet to see any major graphical problem or any to be honest to which I am pleasantly surprised.
In summary the graphics are amazing.
I wanted to add a section about what you might encounter on your journeys just to give you an idea of the game world, then I realised that it would be almost impossible to list all of them so instead here are my favourites.
Ferral Ghouls - There are many ghouls that are harmless. Ghouls are the people that didn't get in to vaults and suffered the heat and radiation when the bombs fell. At first they appeared to be alright but eventually their skin began to peel off it did increase their life span though. The ferral ghouls however are the ones that will attack anything on site and can be quite frightening in the darkness of the metro stations.
Super Mutants - These are basically mutated humans and extremely violent. They can be heavily armed and mainly infest the areas of the DC ruins. The brotherhood of steel is attempting to clear them out. They are very strong and come in four levels, the normal super mutants, the stronger super mutant brutes which have lost of armour, then the super mutant masters usually equipped with mini-guns and are ridiculously hard to take down, then in very rare circumstances the behemoths will appear, you're going to need a lot of fire power to take this thing down.
Raiders - Normal humans that fight violently for survival. If they see something they want it, and will kill you for it. If you can clear out a small camp of them they'll usually have a nice stockpile of weapons and/or ammo and medkits to nick off them.
The Enclave - The group claiming to be the government. Extremely heavily armoured and equipped with energy weapons, have fun taking a platoon of these out.
-----Sound and Music-----
I could go on for ages about how each enemy has its own unique attack cry and how every NPC in the game has it's own dialogue specific to them and their own voice, but what really makes this game for me is the music. On your travels there wont be music, it'll be a silent wasteland with the occasional ringing of explosions and gun fire. But bring up your Pip-boy and access the radio stations and you can listen to some rather cool stations.
My favourite being Galaxy News Radio presented by Threedog, he'll be regularly keeping the residents of the wasteland up to date on your activities as you help him out and the music he plays really sets the atmosphere, it completely contradicts anything that is happening on screen but it works brilliantly well and I always have it on even it means the noise reveals my position to enemies.
Fallout 3 is an amazing game, it can be extremely annoying to get used to the controls and layout of the game and the metro system can be infuriating to navigate and playing the game can take up hours of your life and destroy any remaining social life you might have, but unraveling the mysteries of post-apocalyptic Washington DC has never been so much fun.
Prepare for the Future.
8mb to save
Supports all HDTV settings
Supports surround sound
New content will be available for download which will extend the game past the hundreds of hours it already has
Price - available for £30 on shopto.net
Left 4 dead. No title has ever made more sense for a game. I'm limping along down a path, one team mate has already been killed and the others are severely injured, suddenly the music that we all dread plays in the background as a mass onslaught of zombies surrounds us. The last safe room is just round the corner, my two friends are pinned to the floor as I use every bit of skill left in me to make it alive. As I close the metal door of the safe room I can't help but feel guilty for not helping my friends in the moment of need. But then again? I made it alive. And that is what Left 4 Dead is all about.
Left 4 Dead is a game made by valve, whose developers have finally revealed their "nerdiness " (if not already obvious from their previous games) and used their game engine to make none other than a zombie game.
You play 1 of the 4 last sane people on earth where everyone else has turned into zombies. Each 5 part campaign consists of 4 missions involving you to make it from safe-room to safe-room and the final part being an amazing last stand where every player is tested to the max to survive a ridiculously large horde of zombies and special zombies before finally being rescued.
The game consists of 4 campaigns in total:
And Death Toll
Which each have a wide range of urban, corridor and rural environments to shoot your way through, and even though playing the same four campaigns over and over again doesn't exactly sound like a world beater, it is flipping good fun and I have yet to of got bored of a single one of the campaigns.
Unfortunately unlike most games which have a rising difficulty curve throughout left 4 dead tends to start somewhere in the middle and stay there throughout, but that's no major problem on the grand scale.
-----The characters and story-----
So if you're going to be helping the last four survivors maybe it would be nice to get to know them a bit better, or maybe find out how they came to be together on this epic struggle. Well if you like in-depth, time-consuming stories then L4D will disappoint, the story goes to the extent of, this is a group of people, here are some guns and here are some zombies, enjoy.
Bill - The old man, might be a war veteran, who knows, Valve certainly doesn't want us to be sure.
Francis - Rebel biker dude with lots of tattoos on him
Zoey - The hot college girl who tends to talk a lot of stupid in game dialogue, for example "Did you hear something" just as a hunter starts ripping out my nipples.
Louis - The black guy who still has a tie on strangely. I dunno but I'd of probably of took it off in his circumstances.
The infected - These minions will run at you out of nowhere, but are usually found in relatively harmless numbers that tend to slow you.
The horde - When the music sounds it's time to group together and get the hell out of there, the horde is basically a fancy term for when a lot of infected decide to turn up at once and ambush you from all directions.
Boomer - One of the special zombies, these fat sacks of swollen vomit are a disgusting site and will try to throw up on you, their bile also attracts the horde to whoever it lands on and temporarily impairs their vision. Boomers also explode on impact and can splash you if they are shot near you. They can be heard from a good distance by a gurgling sound.
Smoker - These are a tall skinny zombies and are surrounded by a mist of intoxicating smoke. Their worst weapon is a giant tongue, which relatively harmless on its own, can be used with the environment to pull you off structures or pull you away from team mates where you are more vulnerable. These can be recognised by their distinctive coughing noise.
Hunter - These hooded zombies can pounce remarkable distances and are able to pin survivors to the floor and rip their chest apart. They can appear out of the darkest corners and can be very frightening to have in your face, probably the most powerful of the 3 special zombies. Easily recognised by the high pitched scream it emits
*The Tank* -
The tank zombie will not spawn every round, (in versus mode, which will be discussed later, players can sometimes take control of this beast during play) but when he does you will feel the ground begin to shake and the "tank" music begin to play, the tanks is about 8ft tall and made of pure muscle, it can rip through walls and send players hurtling across the maps, it also has the ability to grab chunks of rock out the ground and throw them, teamwork is the only way to bring this thing down.
*The Witch* -
What appears to be relatively harmless at first glance, this crying woman that spawns randomly can be found scrunched up screaming in agony in corners, don't be fooled by her looks, if you hear the wailing of the witch be sure to switch your torch off and hold your fire, one hit to the witch or one light in the face will send it mad and attack the survivor that woke it, it will incapacitate a survivor in one hit leaving him downed but can be taken out with shots to the head.
The game functions like any other FPS (first person shooter) game with a few additions. Each player starts with 100Health points, health packs will be given to each player at the start and can be found throughout the levels which restore the players health up to roughly 80HP, pain pills also provide temporary health if you are low and can be found in cupboards and on shelves. When in the safe room you are given the choice between (usually) two guns, an Uzi and a pump shotgun, the player can hold one gun and a pistol (pistols have unlimited ammo) which can be dual wielded if another pistol is found, at some point in the level a set of weapons will spawn somewhere which include an Auto shotgun (much faster) and machine gun and a hunting rifle, which can be a godsend,
This means in total players are able to hold one health pack, one lot of painpills, 1 weapon, up to two pistols, and an explosive, which is either a Molotov cocktail which sets fire to the surrounding area, or a pipe bomb whose high pitched beep will attract all nearby zombies and on explosion create a fountain of raining blood.
In most games, it would get to the point where you have remember where every zombie spawns, where every weapon spawns and where every boss zombie encounter occurs, but thanks to the games talented developers an experimental engine known as the director keeps control of the game world, this anonymous figure lurking in the shadows decides the best point to spawn health packs and ammo just after a massive encounter, and decides to spawn more zombies when its bored, which is all the time, but it works very well in the game.
The controls are different to other FPS games as there is no aim button, instead everything is shot from the hip, the right trigger fires, the A button jumps, the B button reloads, the d-pad lets you select items, Y changes your gun and the left trigger is to melee, very weird to use at first but you will be using it an awful lot.
Usually co-op in games, means it's a single player experience that allows another person to tag along and steal all the health and good equipments, but in L4D your companions are very useful and are there to help fight the horde and protect you when a special zombie has you downed and helpless with just a pistol left.
Offline you are able to play split-screen with one other person meaning the other 2 characters are AI controlled, but switch to online play and all 4 people can play as a character together and is great for playing with your mates.
Of the two game modes: campaign and versus, versus is by far the most fun. In this mode 8 players (2 teams of 4) get to switch between playing as the survivors and the infected special zombies on each level of the campaigns, unfortunately only No mercy and Blood Harvest are able to play at the moment in versus but the other two should be added soon.
Playing as the survivors is relatively the same as before except when you die you don't respawn in a cupboard five minutes later waiting for a friend to let you out, having people who can plan tatics play as the zombies makes the levels a lot harder but when you get the option to play as the zombies it is an enthralling experience and when you manage to successfully fly through the air as a hunter and land on someone and start ripping them out you can't help but laugh as the tables are finally turned.
Each special zombie has its own perks that make them fun to play as but your weak zombie skin is destroyed with very few bullets before you have to wait 20 dull seconds waiting for another go, I see no problem with being able to play as a normal infected as there's no problem in ruining their numbers as they die more easily than a boomer. Maybe a future update?
Walking around in a blacked out room with a simple torchlight can be very frightening, when you know there's a hunter lurking in the shadows somewhere in that blacked out room which you're walking around with just a simple torchlight in you are on the edge of your seat.
A lot of people believe that making a game look realistic involves turning the brightness down and making everything a very heavy tint of grey, and that's what makes a game good, but I believe that a game is good because of the way it plays not the way it looks, after all people loved space invaders did they not?
The graphics are fairly decent, but the textures on objects and walls is of fairly low quality so you could put the game down for this, but seriously who's going to spend that long looking at a wall when you've got a zombie taking a chunk out of your brain to care if it looks pretty.
The same applies to the zombies and characters, they are pretty detailed but you don't see them long enough to care.
As previously mentioned the zombies all have their distinctive cries which are brilliantly echoed around the maps but the truly amazing aspect of the game is the tension created by the music.
The game is set out very movie like and so when the horde comes along you will know they're coming before they get to you because of the music and the same applies with the tank, you can hear it's around but who knows where.
So a guy with a very long tongue, a giant mountain of muscle, a hunter on fire pinning your last companion and a mass onslaught of fleshy resident evil speed zombies to obliterate, a guilty pleasure every gamer should own.
Players 1-2 offline
Players 2-8 online
1mb to save
Supports all HDTV
No dobly digital surround sound support
This game is available for roughly £38 off shopto.net
EDITED: 17/12/08 added information on Free Mode
Which ever man at the Lucas Arts studio that came up with the idea to cross gaming with Lego deserves a medal, even after years of the franchise expanding with the latest release being Lego Batman, the games still remain fresh, witty and original for people of all ages to play.
I'm going to assume now that everyone reading this has heard of Star Wars, and if you haven't, what have you been doing for the last 10 years and go down to your local store and rent it.
The game follows the storyline of the first three films very closely but has to throw in the occasional battle and enemy in places where none appeared in the films just to keep it interesting and enjoyable, now when I say the first three films, I mean the three that were released first i.e. episodes 4, 5 and 6 I would remind you of the story but that would take an awful lot of time and space and probably be riddled with mistakes.
So onwards with the review:
The controls are relatively simple, A is to jump, B attacks, X uses your ability (which changes depending on the character in play). The camera is a minor annoyance however. It is positioned up in the air behind the character but does not rotate as you do and in co-op mode (which is drop in and out, meaning you don't have to go through menus to let another player in the game) the camera will only stretch so far between both players, which share a screen meaning the camera can often get stuck behind objects and players can end up off the screen hindering the gaming experience.
The game is also based around lots of puzzles, and working your way through the levels there are enemies but these serve as more of a distraction to stop you getting bored rather than things that have to be carefully taken out with skill, after all if you die, you simply fall apart (you are lego after all) lose a few thousand points then are rebuilt and straight back in the action.
Not really much else you can say about the gameplay. The game doesn't use a complex game engine or physics engine and everything is rather simple to use, which is great considering the target audience is young children.
Well it's Lego? It's bright, it's colourful, it's heart warming and when enemies die they don't explode in a splatter of Hi-def blood, their lego pieces simply fall apart. After so many years of seeing games advance in lighting and visuals, its nice to see one game go back to it's roots and make a game that doesn't care about what it looks like and is simply fun to play, of course great visuals and fun to play would of been better but then that would remove the Lego and therefore the fun so a bit of a conundrum.
The audio is very good. It is all based on the traditional Star Wars music and when playing you really get immersed in the whole feel of the game and the atmosphere it is trying to create.
The sound effects are fairly average for this type of game but the voice acting is incredibly, well wrong word really as there is no spoken dialogue in the game what so ever. All cut-scenes consist of overly dramatic Lego figurines trying to convey emotions through facial expressions and murmuring and it surprisingly works really well and you will be surprised yourself how easily you know what's going on.
A big aspect of the game is the free mode. Once you have completed a level it is then available to play through in your own time as a variety of characters.
The characters are unlocked in two ways:
Playing as them in the main story
or by buying them using your "studs" while in the catina available when you load the game or exit a level.
"Studs" are gained by collecting them round levels either off the floor or by destroying lego objects around the place which then explode in a shower of "studs".
As well as purchasing characters you can also buy some little perks, that are not essential to the game but do help, these include things like unlimited health and a metal detector.
The metal detector is paticularly useful as it can locate "power bricks" which are used to unlock secret content in the game.
Because of this you can often find yourself playing through the same level over and over simply trying to solve all the puzzles and find all the bricks which extends the gameplay longetivity massively.
Hilarious cut-scenes that follow the storyline perfectly.
Massive variety of characters to play as in free mode.
Loads of Extras to find and explore for several play throughs
Finally get to wield the powers of the force in all its glory (well sort of).
Aimed at kids (or people like me)
4mb to save
Supports all HDTV formats
Being new to the mercenaries series I probably missed out on some story details that I would of known if I'd played the first one, but still EA should of accounted for the thousands of people who hadn't played the first and were going to by the game. So onto the review.
You play one of 3 mercenaries and you chose at the start who you want to play as.
You get the choice between:
And Mattias Nilson (who I chose)
From playing the game there is no really impact on your game from this decision and is purely made on personal preference so don't expect to be playing the game through 3 times with each character.
The story begins with a brief training based mission which includes some very explosive moments, but I was never really sure what was going on. At the end of the mission I was stood in front of some political leader who ended up double crossing me and shooting me in the arse and the whole game is based purely on getting revenge on him, pretty lame storyline, however within the beautifully crafted world of Venezuela there is several factions, the main two are introduced half way through, the Americans and Chinese and the game features an all out war between these two over the island.
So in conclusion to the story, don't expect it to blow your mind or interest you remotely.
As soon as you start out the game you immediately notice some annoyances, for starters the guns are very inaccurate, which can be a pain in the neck, literally, as you try to kill enemies on limited ammo only to miss all the time even when your aiming directly at them, meaning the slightly less sophisticated shooting method of "spray and pray" fire has to come in to use.
You will also find yourself very rarely dieing in this game, sure there are a few cases later on where you are so overwhelmed by gun fire you can't help but die, but find a safe corner somewhere and your health will regenerate. The control of the character is also a bit clumsily done and nothing ever acts the way you think it should, for example vehicles. I don't know whether it's because us gamers expect to much from the amazement that was the car handling on Grand Theft Auto 4 but the cars just seem like solid blocks of concrete and the physics is really bad on them especially when you crash into other cars its basically driving into a wall and no visual damage being done to your car.
So dodgy enemies, naff weapons with limited carrying capacity and rubbish cars, is there anything good about this game? Why the hell are people buying it?!
The reason is the sheer fun of the world they have made and its destructibility, sure it's not as good and varied as liberty city from GTA or as visually stunning as Albion from Fable 2 but if you really get bored you can literally flatten every single building to a crumbling wreck, tanks are widely available around the warring streets of Venezuela but to cause some real destruction you need to get friendly with some alliances and buy some decent weaponry from them. Anything from cluster bombs, to bunker busters can be bought, and once you've recruited the necessary people into your team you'll be able to call in air strikes anywhere and watch as the sky burns, or even better get in on the action by calling in a heavily equipped Anaconda Chopper and rain down missiles on enemy encampments.
They've really allowed you to do anything with this game, I remember one to I stood outside one of the main factions buildings which was roughly 50 stories high, and called in an airstrike on their main base, sure it completely destroyed my relationship with them but it was a hell of a laugh.
Nothing special about the graphics, the game world is huge but rather empty and the visuals are a bit outdated and you can't help but feel EA could of put a bit more effort into them, it seems the same set of trees has been used everywhere and the same texture has been used on every building and vehicle.
There aren't that many vehicles but you wont find them in any different colours either which just makes everything look a bit stale.
A.I. in games nowadays is just as important as the story, gone are the days of space invaders where it was a simple case of, drop down one row, reverse direction, increase speed, instead enemies now have to navigate worlds just the same as you, but like the story the enemies are stupid, I have yet to see an unresponsive enemy, but I have still yet to find a competent one that doesn't just stand in the open firing wildly in every direction.
The music is actually pretty good, it is quite repetitive but fits in nicely with the feel of the game, the sound effects and explosions are pretty good, but voice acting is not brilliant, sort of hard to believe this game came from the same company that made Crysis, as the voice acting, story and graphics are the best I have ever seen.
Lots of destructive missions and huge explosions at every corner
Stale boring unmemorable story
And worst of all, game breaking bugs and glitches. Example:
One mission had me flying over a huge old castle, my helicopter set on fire so I pressed to jump out, I tried to jump out but the character seemed to get stuck mid air and nothing I could do, lost an hours progress.
3 Stars but only cause destruction is fun.
Players 2 (Online co-op)
72kb to save
Supports all HD formats
Supports dolby surround sound
Let me start by saying I am not the best photographer in the world, but I am very interested photography (and gadgets to be honest) so I'm always looking out for a good buy and a nice piece of kit. Which is why when this beauty struck my eye I simply had to have it.
Like I said I'm no genius with a camera so you'll have to forgive me if I use any incorrect technical vocabulary and understand this is from an amateur's point of view.
Well the tripod can be set up in roughly 30 seconds and the legs are separated in to two sections meaning it is more compact when not extended but can still reach a very good height of about 1m 60 just with the legs which is a very comfortale height for shooting pictures with.
Along with the legs, there is also a "cranky pole sliding thing" (see getting very technical here) which can be used to extend the tripod a further 50cm in height, meaning even someone like me, being 6ft 2, can still get the camera up to eye level while the camera is still being supported.
So what else makes the tripod so great to someone like me?
Well there's also 2 spirit levels fixed on top which enable you to tell if the camera is flat or not and whether its poiting straight. Never really found a use for the second spirit level for my use. but the main one i very handy and has certainly straightened alot of my shots out over the years.
The tripod also has little rubber shoes on the end of each leg which pivot meaning it can be placed on an un-even surface and stand upright to some extent but the main thing thats so great for me is the quick release. Unlike cheaper tripods where you have to screw your camera onto the top then unscrew it when you want to take it off, with this you simply screw a plastic plate on to the camera which then clips on top of the tripod meaning it can be put on and taken off in mere seconds saving valuable time when your trying to get that great photo.
So to conclude:
Keeps photos level
Alot of knobs all over the place can be very confusing at first
Not suitable for heavy use
5 Stars but only suitable for amateurs, professionals should seek a much heavier duty tripod if intended for outdoor.
This tripod is made by jessops so can only be found at their store. However it currently RRPs at over 50 pounds, I suggest waiting for a sale as I managed to get this for 30 pounds over 2 years ago