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Ian Lunn (Devon, UK)

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Foundation Html5 Canvas: For Games and Entertainment
Foundation Html5 Canvas: For Games and Entertainment
by Steve Fulton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 31.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Passionate and Easy to Follow Introduction to Canvas, 10 Aug 2011
I'm not one for sitting down and reading through a book quickly but I found myself reading Foundation HTML5 Canvas in a weekend. The book is passionately written and does a great job of leading the reader through what could be difficult concepts and code.

I did skip a few of the earlier pages because the book covers the basics of JavaScript -- the technology the Canvas API relies upon. It makes sense to cover JavaScript although I'd expect anyone interested in Canvas to already have a reasonable understanding of it. As such, I felt the first 50 pages or so were irrelevant to me and would have liked those pages to have covered a few more game demos and/or techniques toward the end of the book. In particular, an explanation of how to pause/resume a game would have been a great inclusion as it's universal to every good game.

Beyond those early chapters though (that may or may not be relevant to you) the book is an excellent introduction to Canvas. The authors passion and wit makes it an easy read but there's enough covered to make it a good reference for the future too.

Now you can go and create the game you dreamt of making when you were 8.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent (Xbox 360)
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent (Xbox 360)
Offered by passionFlix UK
Price: 7.40

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Single player is great, Online is brilliant!, 13 Mar 2007
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Over the years Splinter Cell has always remained a solid game with a slow pace and storyline, appealing only to gamers with patience and determination. Double Agent is more of the same...if you want it to be. Many features have been either tweaked or newly added to try and bridge the gap amongst those wanting strategic stealth and those wanting fun stealth.

Ubisoft began this alteration visually. Now developed specifically with next-gen gaming in mind, the graphics have been greatly improved. With the new technology available on the XBOX 360, along with the graphics comes glamour. Now you will find yourself not only in beautiful and varying locations but wearing a different outfit for each mission. This may seem slightly odd for a serious game but it lends a very stylish James Bond feel. Due to the variation of levels - from a prison breakout to a cruise ship - you will wonder where you are headed next.

So, unlike in previous Splinter Cell games, the average gamer feels like they have motivation for moving on. This is further accelerated by the excellent Double Agent storyline. You begin by gaining the trust of a known terrorist (in the prison breakout level) and being lead to the terrorist HQ. Within the HQ you will not only be given small tasks by the terrorists (which serve as mini games) but also secret tasks assigned by the NSA (the intelligence agency you really work for). During these HQ levels and the worldwide field missions you will have many choices to make, gaining the trust of either faction you so choose to favour.

This TRUST scheme is where the game really caters for both sides of the strategic/fun gamer division. Not every task assigned is a necessity and thus, it is up to you whether you do it or not. Feel free to either take your time and complete everything or charge through blowing things up on the are working for terrorists afterall. Obviously, to keep each faction happy you will occasionally need to do what they ask but there is plenty of room for satisfying them later on. Again, the overall TRUST scheme lends well to the story. Several times in the game you are asked to make moral decisions which can be very tense and are scripted well. In my opinion, Splinter Cell has been missing these memorable moments since the original game.

Ubisoft's attempt to bridge the gamer gap also applies to the multiplayer. Although I was always a fan of Splinter Cell I felt the online play of Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory was too strategic and often unbalanced. Double Agent is a simplified version of old multiplayer with revisions to balance gameplay and I have to say it is brilliant. You choose either to play as a spy or a mercenary. Spies need to hack files from terminals on a map. Once they have hacked it 100% they must return to base. This may seem easy but with only four terminals per map and 3 mercenaries guarding, it is very tense!

This truly is a great game. Single player can sometimes be frustrating and it takes a while to get used to the new approach to stealth gameplay which may put off some of the hardcore Splinter Cell fans but everything from the past games is there with a lot more available for recreational gamers.

Philips 26PF5521D - 26" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV - With Freeview
Philips 26PF5521D - 26" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV - With Freeview

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great technology on a budget, 12 Mar 2007
I originally started with the Philips 26" 26PF5321 which I purchased from a different store. After about six months I could no longer get a picture on the screen (just weird colours). I had been reasonably happy with the TV up until then but decided not to get an exchange. Instead I got a refund and looked elsewhere.

I came across this similar unit on Amazon - basically a slightly upgraded version - and found not only was it better but also cheaper even at the time of my first purchase six months earlier! I bought it straight away.

Straight out of the box the TV looked very sleek and was incredibly easy to setup. The Auto-install feature took only a few minutes to find each of the available channels and organised them correctly so there was no need for tweaking the setup afterwards. Viewing TV was immediate. One thing I haven't been able to test is the digital reciever - I can't get freeview in my area. Personally, I think the remote looks a little odd but this is probably just preference. It's quite long for a remote so not all of the buttons are accessible using just one hand without readjusting your grip. However, it is simple to use and also has a universal function for DVD and audio devices.

As this is a HDTV it's obviously built for recieving High Definition signals. Not having a HD signal yet, I watch terrestrial TV and it has to be said the picture isn't that impressive, if not slightly disappointing. If you're new to HD technology though, then note this is the case with all HDTV's when viewing terrestrial signals. Watching HD-DVDs and playing HD games (via an XBOX 360) is outstanding. The image is crystal clear and the colours are amazing.

What impressed me the most about this model is the connectivity. For a 26" TV at such a low price you couldn't ask for more. Most importantly for me are the component and HDMI connections, making the TV excellent for gaming and movies. With these connections the TV is also future proof.

I noticed a huge difference in sound over the previous model I owned. The sound on my other set definetly wasn't bad but in comparison to this one it seemed "flat". This model does a good job of replicating surround sound which is a difficult task from just two front speakers.

Two or three months with this new Philips and I am very happy. I've had no dead pixels as I did the previous set. However, the only bad thing I can really note is occasionally it seems to glitch. Twice in the last few weeks when turning on my XBOX 360 the screen has turned green. This is fixed simply by flicking onto the channel again.

I couldn't recommend this TV more. Excellent for people new to HDTV and plenty of connectivity to satisfy the technologically minded on a budget.

Xbox 360 Console (20 GB Hard Drive)
Xbox 360 Console (20 GB Hard Drive)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Potentially brilliant, 11 Mar 2007
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
I have had an Xbox 360 for well over 6 months now and have made the most of it's potential. I use it for everything it is capable of: gaming, music, movies and communication.

Connecting all of the above mentioned is the Xbox Dashboard. This is an excellent menu system that simplifies navigation amongst Xbox Live, games, media and console settings.

Xbox Live is Microsoft's attempt at connecting the world of gaming and bringing gamers together not only in games but also with voice and video chat. I had never owned the original Xbox or played on Live but I had read excellent reviews. I was expecting to find an open community which I could browse (in the form of forums) and plenty of user added content. All I really found was Xbox Live Marketplace which is an area where a limited amount of content supplied by Microsoft can be downloaded. So my first opinion of Live was a little of disappointment. However, over the months I began to make friends who enjoyed the same games and interests as myself. My friends list grew and with it did the capabilities that Live is renowned for. Xbox Live is not so much the content but it's brilliant connectivity between gamers. Turning on your next generation console may no longer just be for the want of playing a game, now you can use it as a way of socialising.

With the addition of an Ethernet cable or wireless adaptor your Xbox can benefit from further connectivity to your PC. This allows streaming music and video files to your 360. Again, this is done very well and a nice touch is the ability to stream your music during any of your games from the dashboard. However, streaming only supports WMV format and from what I have experienced only files under 100mb. Along with this issue I'd also like to see an improvement in the lacking functionality of the music player and it's interface. This is meant to be an all round entertainment system after all.

With the Premium version of the 360 comes the wireless controller. I found the controller to be very sturdy and comfortable (especially without that wire!). The inclusion of the Xbox button is another masterstroke. This opens up the Guide (a mini Dashboard) and offers the most necessary options during game play; friends list, personal settings, private chat and music player. Using the controller for gaming isn't quite so clever though. I immediately found myself adjusting my thumb on the D-Pad because it seems so clumsy, simply trying to navigate the menus becomes a game. No longer the most important part of the controller - the D-Pad being inefficient is excusable but for the inaccurate analog sticks and triggers it is not. I first noticed this on an arcade game called Geometry Wars. The analog sticks just didn't quite seem to shoot where my thumbs were pointing. I thought maybe this was the game itself but over the past few months I've noticed it more and more on many different games. Project Gotham Racing 3, for example, neither the analog sticks nor the triggers have enough sensitivity to subtly move the car how I want it, it's either full steering lock/full throttle or nothing. Another thing to note is that the normal A,B,X,Y buttons are not pressure sensitive, meaning there's nothing inbetween pressed and unpressed. However, I did recently read Microsoft are making a new Xbox controller.

The most important part of a game console is obviously the games. Needless to say the graphics are excellent and far superior to the previous generation of game consoles. A brilliant addition to Xbox games has been the inclusion of Achievements and Gamerscore. A player is rewarded a certain amount of points for completing a certain achievement. Although the points can not be used for anything they add a much needed longevity to the games. The reason for this much needed longevity is the lack of variety in games currently available for the Xbox. A large amount of the games are shooting related, which I have no problem with but it gets tiresome. There seems to be so few quality games coming out at the moment and although there are several potential blockbusters in the making they are months before release. Whether the next generation of games take longer to develop or not this is no excuse for a lack of variety. Microsoft really need to concentrate on developing for a wider audience, not just in age but interest (where's the racing games and RPG's?)

So, if Microsoft do release a newly revised controller, with the foundation of Xbox Live and it's Achievements/Gamerscore already in place the Xbox 360 has the potential to be a truly excellent console. All we need now is some more games!

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360)
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360)
Offered by Gameline GmbH.
Price: 12.99

21 of 86 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hugely disappointing, 29 Nov 2006
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
Having been disappointed with the first few hours of this game I tried my hardest to press on and get beyond the slow start many reviewers had mentioned previously. About seven hours in and still incredibly bored by the gameplay and appauled by the graphics, I came across a glitch in the game. This glitch meant I was actually trapped inside a certain room and no longer able to play. I contacted the developers hoping for some sort of fix and after many weeks of waiting for a response I was finally told I could only get past the glitch if I could find a cheat. I was also told that the developers do not recommend cheats as they are often the cause of similar glitches. It turned out there weren't any cheats available to get me out of the situation I was in, yet there were many more people suffering with similar glitches.

However, all this being said, I chose to start the game again in the hope of finding the masterpiece it's said to be.

Firstly, the graphics: The game starts in a small sewer area with excellent textures and lighting. This being my first Xbox360 game I was really impressed. Finishing the short sewer section - which serves as a tutorial level - leads you to the great outdoors. Stepping outside, I was so amazed by the draw distance and attention to detail that I stood for a few minutes just looking around. Grass, water, trees, it all looked so life-like...then I began walking. This is where the trouble begins. The game suffers from massive amounts of pop-in and terrible textures whenever you're moving through the world. Buildings pop-up right ahead of you, distant textures are bland, and animals/NPC's fade-out way too early. I played as an archer and found it greatly difficult shooting deer due to the fact that once you were close enough to shoot, the deer would run off and fade-out. Although shooting deer obviously isn't a huge part of this game it's one of many moments where you won't quite feel you're a part of the world presented.

Suffering the glitch on my first play and the unacceptable graphics throughout, I obviously hadn't got nowhere near the end of the game but for what I did play I can say it was immensly boring. The fighting system is shallow; right trigger for sword attack/shoot etc, left trigger for block, and right bumper for spells. So you'll be hitting these buttons often with little satisfaction. You can however use the left stick at the same time as the right trigger to make slightly different variations to your attack. For example, pulling back the stick and pressing the attack trigger (whilst having no weapons equipped) makes your character perform a thrusting punch. The only problem with this is that the left stick is actually meant for moving, so if you choose to use the above mentioned attack you will actually move backwards at the same time as punching, thus the attack will never meet whatever you intend to hit. This is just one of the many moments you will realise the developers haven't put enough thought into the details which actually make the game playable.

Another of these problems is the terribly laid out menu system of which you will spend a lot of time flicking through looking for a certain item/spell or location on the map.

Yet another disappointment is the sound. Step out into the great outdoors and you'll be met with a wonderful epic score that perfectly matches the world you're in. Yet, once again, this is spoilt by moving through the game. Everytime you get within a certain distance of an enemy the score will abruptly change into "action" music. I have no problems with the music itself but the immediate switch is messy and gets to be very annoying as you'll meet enemies every few minutes. The feeling of being in an alternate world is shattered again.

So...the good points? Well, I was impressed with the physics. Objects move as they should. Kill an enemy on a cliff edge, for example, and it'll slide/fall down as it should - this was very life like.

The scope of the game is also impressive but fundamently such ambition led to it's downfall. I feel if the developers had made it just a little smaller and concentrated on improving what content they had, then this could have been a great game.

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