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P. J. Johnson (UK)

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Doctor Who: War of the Daleks
Doctor Who: War of the Daleks
by John Peel
Edition: Paperback

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but so complex..., 21 Nov 2004
John Peel's War of the Daleks is undeniably a fascinating and entertaining read, but it is far from easy going, and the finer complexities of the plot will no doubt be lost on those not totally familiar with established Dalek history.
Peel's characterisation is, I feel, somewhat hit and miss - Ayaka is possibly one of the finest Doctor Who characters ever written, constantly torn between her strong morality and her unwavering sense of duty to the Thal cause. The other Thals are also well written, as is Chayn. Perhaps the most interesting characterisation however is that of the Doctor, as we discover just how little he understands what has been happening in the Dalek empire over the last several centuries, and how he has been manipulated by the Dalek Prime. Also, his guilt concerning the actions of Delani and the Thals - it was, after all the Doctor who first convinced the Thals to abandon their pacifist ways and fight against the Daleks - is well-realised and believable. The character of Sam is also fairly well developed, as she realises just how much she cares for the Doctor, and how out of her depth she is when faced with the menace of the Daleks.
The Daleks themselves, however, while presented fairly well as a civilisation (perhaps not the appropriate term for the Daleks!), are often poorly written, and I found it difficult to imagine a Dalek saying much of the dialogue in the later chapters. Davros too, who seems to have been modelled on Terry Molloy's somewhat misguided version of the character, is disappointing. While he is occasionally given some splendid dialogue, he is on the whole presented as a ranting imbecile, and a long way from the quiet, cold, calculating genius of Michael Wisher's original performance in Genesis of the Daleks.
The actual plot is, as I mentioned, incredibly complex, and shatters everything that you thought you knew about the Daleks, casting new light on the events of every Dalek story from Destiny of the Daleks onwards. This may be too much for the casual reader to digest, but provided you grasp the details of the Dalek Prime's master plan and the events leading up to the war prophesised in the title, the rest of the book is highly entertaining, and not at all slow-moving, as has been suggested by other readers.
By far the most disappointing aspect of the book for me, which prevents it from receiving a five-star rating, was the ending, which after the epic events of the final few chapters, seemed like rather an anticlimax, as the Doctor realises that the Dalek Prime has manipulated him once again and the Thals (and indeed the entire galaxy) are in grave danger - all well and good, but following this realisation, the Doctor devises and executes an effective solution far too easily, and the whole final chapter seems rushed and rather unsatisfying.
Gripes aside, War of the Daleks is a highly entertaining read, and re-establishes the Daleks as a dangerous, intelligent enemy in their own right, as opposed to simply being Davros's 'heavies', as they were often portrayed in the later TV stories. While casual readers would do better to investigate Peel's subsequent Dalek story (Legacy of the Daleks), War of the Daleks is, on the whole, a highly satisfying read for the die-hard Doctor Who fan.


Silent Hill 4: The Room (PC)
Silent Hill 4: The Room (PC)

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not what I expected..., 12 Oct 2004
Well what can I say? I have to admit it may be slightly early for me to write a review, as I'm still in two minds as to whether or not I actually like this game. First of all let me say I am a Silent Hill fanatic, and the previous three instalments have each kept me enthralled and petrified for months on end, but the latest addition to the series is well... different.
First of all, the first-person perspective we are forced to endure while in Henry's apartment (the only place with a save point, and therefore a frequent point of call) is infuriating, and one feels like it was included purely so that the promotional material for the game could boast an "all new 1st person perspective" as if it is a magnificent leap forward in gameplay. It isn't.
Another drastic gameplay development is the introduction of a limited inventory - Henry can only carry ten items at a time, including weapons and ammunition. All other items must be stored in a box in Henry's apartment when not being used (a direct rip-off of Resident Evil's item chest system). While annoying, this does eliminate the issue of realism apparent in the previous games, in which the characters were capable of carrying limitless items and weapons with them at all times.
The actual premise of a man waking up to find himself trapped in his apartment by some unknown force works very well, not least for the fact that you can always see the rest of the world carrying on around you, oblivious to your plight, by simply looking through the window or the peep-hole in the front door.
By climbing through mysterious portals which appear in Henry's apartment, you find yourself in the 'otherworld' (and in third-person view! Hallelujah!), which in true Silent Hill style consists of dark, oppressive environments, blood-stained walls, cryptic notes, eery noises and suitably sick and disturbing creatures trying to devour you at every turn. The different areas of the otherworld are satisfyingly varied (subway station, forest, hospital, prison etc), and on the whole they look incredible, as does the character animation (with the exception of the lip-sync, which for some reason is in Japanese this time with English voices dubbed over).
The characters you meet in the 'otherworld' are a fairly varied and interesting bunch, including slutty Cynthia (who offers to do Henry a special 'favour' within 30 seconds of meeting him), the obligatory nutcase Jasper (not as entertaining as SH2's Eddy, but still utterly bonkers), grumpy old man Richard, Andrew the paranoid wreck, and Henry's next door neighbour, the lovely (but hugely annoying) Eileen. I don't want to spoil too much of the story, but I will say that most of these characters meet very grisly deaths (the 18 certificate is there for a reason).
In my mind, what made the previous games so great was the delicate balance of fighting and puzzling, which could be altered to your liking through separate difficulty levels for puzzles and action. This balance has almost disappeared in SH4, and what we are left with is a game rotating mainly around fighting your way from one situation to the next, with very few real puzzles to stretch the gamer's mind (who could forget the infuriating coin puzzle from SH2, or SH3's insanely difficult keypad puzzle with the poem about the different parts of the human face?) In their place are a succession of the mind-numbingly boring <find item, take item somewhere, get clue, find key, unlock door> 'puzzles' largely apparent in the early Resident Evil titles.
Considering then that action and fighting seems to be the main focus of the gameplay, you might be forgiven for thinking that it would be something rather special - however, the clumsy camera and erratic auto-targeting system make for some infuriating battles, especially when fighting multiple enemies.
One of the game's biggest saving graces as far as I'm concerned is the storyline, which ties in with a newspaper article from SH2 concerning serial-killer Walter Sullivan, and as you would expect from any SH game, is full of baffling twists and shocking revelations which manage to hold the gamer's interest even when the gameplay begins to grate on the nerves.
The overall impression made by Silent Hill 4 is that it was an experiment for Konami, and the fact that it was made in a relatively short time compared to the previous instalments does unfotunately show in the game. Not to be considered a total disaster by any stretch of the imagination, but it is certainly a disappointment and the weakest of the series so far. Hopefully there will be an SH5, and with any luck Konami will learn from their mistakes this time around, and produce something really special which could rival the sheer brilliance of Silent Hill 2, undoubtably the greatest survival horror game in existence.


U2: Go Home - Live From Slane Castle [DVD]
U2: Go Home - Live From Slane Castle [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bono

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate, emotional, powerful... perfect., 30 Jun 2004
Having been a huge U2 fan for many years, I jumped at the chance to own this DVD when it came out, and to this day I still don't regret it. In fact I still watch the concert from start to finish at least once a month - it never gets boring, it never loses it's impact, and always leaves me wanting more.
Recorded only days after the burial of Bono's father, in the band's home town of Dublin, in front of their "tribe" (as Bono describes the crowd), just after Ireland's international football team had qualified for the 2002 World Cup finals, this is, as you would imagine, a rollercoaster of emotion from start to finish.
From the rousing opening song 'Elevation', to the quiet, reflective 'Wake Up Dead Man', the deeply heartfelt and emotional 'Kite' (dedicated to Bono's father), the steamroller performance of the anthem 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' ending with Bono's tribute to all those who lost their lives in the Omagh bombing (this brings a tear to my eye every time I watch it), and the final, triumphant 'Walk On', this concert serves as a reminder of just how amazing U2 are, how much they love their country, and how much they love their fans.
Every performance is nigh on perfect - Bono's raw but beautifully melodic vocals are, as always, brilliant, and his on-stage antics are a joy to watch, the Edge's catchy riffs and soulful solos are expertly timed, perfectly executed and always have the perfect tone to compliment each song (this might have something to do with the fact that he gets through about fifteen guitars throughout the concert!), Adam Clayton's bass provides solid textural and tonal support throughout, and Larry Mullens Jr's drumming is nothing short of inspirational, always keeping the group perfectly together and incorporating his own unique rhythms, techniques, fills and solos into each song.
'U2 Go Home' is live music at it's very best, and not only should every U2 fan own it - every music fan should own it. I guarantee, the hairs on the back of your neck will never be the same again.


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