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N Thompson (England)

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The Dishwasher - A Novel
The Dishwasher - A Novel
by Dannie Martin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars As Good As Anything Edward Bunker Has Written, 19 Aug. 2014
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A truly epic read that reminded me of the late great Edward Bunker with the style of prose. The fact that both writers had spent time in prison and knew their subject so well is no coincidence.

The story follows a middle aged man fresh out of prison and determined to go straight, and the opening chapters really let you get into his mind of how difficult it is for someone institutionalised to cope with the outside world and of normal situations and freedom. As we delve further into the character's personality and background the story unfolds as the main character is forced back into a world of violence and crime, despite their determination to become a dishwasher - the title of the book. The story aside, I don't think many books could allow the reader to sympathise with and understand a character as much as this does.

A shame that the author has only released two books and does not get the widespread recognition they deserve, as this was right up there with the best that Edward Bunker has written, which is praise indeed. I really could not justify giving any score less than 5.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (Xbox 360)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (Xbox 360)
Offered by gamebooth
Price: £5.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Best Since Tiger Woods 2004, 19 Aug. 2014
So over the years I've continually slated each release of Tiger Woods, after loving 2004 and becoming increasingly frustrated with each annual entry up until 2011 which was great. 2012 though deserves a mention for all the right reasons this time.

Firstly, the difficulty settings make the game accessible to all, which hasn't always been the case. Plus you can increase the difficulty as your skills increase, so the level of challenge presented is largely down to the player. The skills are yours to keep, previous entries where the skills increased and decreased according to performance was an appalling idea, so it is good to see that EA have listened to their audience and put things back as it should be.

The career mode sees you playing your way through the early stages of a golfer's career with basic winnings on amateur tournaments. The idea is to work your way up to earn the right to play on the Masters. This is when the real fun starts. Playing through an entire season is rewarding and addictive, and to keep the incentive to play on there are achievements for getting to number 1 and staying there. One achievement challenges you to keep the number 1 spot for 251 consecutive weeks, so there is plenty of replay value after playing through your first season. Also, through playing the courses you can achieve bronze, silver and gold awards on each course by completing different challenges, such as 4 birdies in a round, and a 25 foot putt etc. Achievements are on offer for getting gold on courses, so its another thing that keeps you going back and replaying the courses to try and master them.

Outside of the standard career mode there are other challenges to complete, the usual challenge Tiger type scenarios, as well as the Ryder cup. I must admit I haven't dug into these too much as I'm only now on my second season, despite playing for numerous hours.

Online, it is pleasing to see that there are still plenty of players for those so inclined to test their skills against human opponents. The mode to try and match other's long drives and putts etc is a good time filler, and posting your own challenges after playing a particularly impressive hole is a real buzz when you log on the next day to see if anyone has beaten it.

So plenty to keep you occupied, but how does it play? Fortunately, very well, and for a Tiger Woods game it is surprisingly well behaved too. I've always found that water hazards tend to attract your ball like some sort of magnet in previous games, but this doesn't seem quite so evident here. The only thing I would say is that your caddy will opt to "call this one a players choice" at the most inopportune moments. Without your caddy, you are relying on a lot of guess work, and its no coincidence these are usually holes that involve water or similar hazards. Quite why the caddy goes on strike at random intervals mid-round is a mystery, but fortunately one that doesn't crop up too often. Another slight annoyance is with putting, where the caddy and putt preview both show the shot being aimed directly at the hole, yet playing the shot perfectly with the recommendation/preview will sometimes see the ball miss woefully. Again, its not often, particularly as your skills increase allowing for more misjudgement, but it is certainly annoying when it happens. That said, you can expect a couple of annoying decisions or quirks per round at worst, so its a vast improvement and isnt a deal breaker.

A lot of people have complained that a number of courses are only available as DLC so you cannot complete the career mode without shelling out money. In fact you can, and the system seems to be fairly favourable with your stats for any courses you do have to skip, so whilst it seems an odd decision to include DLC courses in the career mode, it doesn't actually hinder the overall game.

I'm actually really impressed with the game and didn't really expect to see a Tiger Woods game that I enjoyed so much with the series dwindling year after year, so it comes highly recommended.

WRC 3 - World Rally Championship (Xbox 360)
WRC 3 - World Rally Championship (Xbox 360)
Offered by SupaStock
Price: £11.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Great...When it isn't aping the competition, 8 Feb. 2014
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I've always been a fan of the WRC series, and this is by far the best looking of the lot. Some of the events have gorgeous visuals that by far surpass the previous entries in the series.

The WRC games have always been fairly serious, leaning towards simulation rather than arcade. Perhaps because of this the games have not had the popularity of the arcade style racers, and sadly the series now seems to be trying to emulate the far more popular Dirt games. This is immediately evident from the commentary and music of the main menus, which are loud and brash.

Playing in the WRC Experience mode the rally events do play beautifully, and the WRC series really do have rallying nailed far better than the Dirt series have ever achieved. However, the addition of other events such as drifting have clearly been added to reflect the competitors style of gameplay. They are at best awkward, and at worst barely playable.

The eighties cars are virtually impossible to control, and in particlar the Ford Escort RS2000 is probably one of the worst handling vehicles ever seen in a game - so poor in handling that it is prone to spin out of control even whilst driving straight!

As well as some poorly executed events, the points system soon proves to be a bit of a failure too. Although initially we don't need to score maximum points on each event to progress, it soon becomes evident that we actually do as events become locked until previous events are revisited with first or second place positions before we can earn enough points to unlock further events in order to progress. Its not as cumbersome as the previous games with overly long rally events though, so its not a deal breaker.

Overall the WRC experience mode is pretty enjoyable and lengthy, taking about 20 hours to complete, despite its minor irritations.

The rally/championship mode shows what the WRC series is all about. Its a pity there isn't more emphasis on this mode, other than to unlock a handful of achievements, because this is where the game's skills lie, it just needs to stop aping the competition. Some rally stages for example might only need to be raced twice through playing the game to completion, which is a dreadful waste given how gorgeously rendered they look.

If you are looking to play online, forget it. Even after a few months from release date nobody appears to be playing online, so its a single player only experience I'm afraid.

Resident Evil 6 (Xbox 360)
Resident Evil 6 (Xbox 360)
Offered by Mayflower Stores
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not The Series It Used To Be, 8 Feb. 2014
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Resident Evil 4 was awesome. Everything a surival horror should be. Sweat inducing as it forced you to let the enemies get close, pulling off head shots to save that all important ammo. Then carefully selecting your purchases with the merchant, sighing relief at his arrival as health packs become depleted. Almost soiling your pants at hearing chainsaws in the distance. Scary and a work of genius.

Resident Evil 5 was a disappointment in comparison, but still a decent game in its own right, just not as tense as Resident Evil 4 seeing the game focus more on action sequences.

Resident Evil 6 is comprised of 4 separate campaigns, and playing Leon's campaign first I was surprised to discover it sat somewhere between 4 and 5, showing those classic tense survival horror elements of 4, but those moments hindered by far too many cut scenes and action packed QTEs (Quick Time Events) that just interrupt the tense atmosphere.

Leon's 10 hour campaign is a solid entry, and knowing you have 4 campaigns to play through gives you the impression you have a pretty decent package on your hands. However, the other campaigns seem like fairly sub-standard add-ons, as though an after thought and an excuse for padding out a campaign that was just too short.

The other campaigns play like Call of Duty and Gears of War, other than Ada's campaign, unlocked through playing the others, which has elements of Tomb Raider thrown into the mix. The problem is, all these games have been done much better elsewhere, and the Resident Evil games should have stuck with what they are good at. For example, the problem with playing a game that imitates Gears of Wars is that you expect to take cover. So when you take cover only to realise you can't take pot shots at the enemy from cover, what should be the main feature of the game become obsolete! The puzzles in Ada's campaign lead to general frustration, which little in between those puzzles to excite or raise the heckles the way a good survival horror should. Add to that some camera angles that absolutely suck, especially in the frequent "run from the enemy to survive" sequences, where your death is brought about simply because the camera angle changes during the chase, and you didn't adjust the movement on the controller quick enough.

So really, what we have is a 10 hour campaign, with extra campaigns tacked on as an attempt to make the game look huge. The sad fact is though that had they sacrificed the 4 10 hour campaigns, and instead turned that 40 hour game into a single 15 hour campaign for Leon, this would have been a much better game. Come for Leon, and try the rest, but this entry in the series is a pretty average experience.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2014 7:24 PM GMT

F.E.A.R. 3 (Xbox 360)
F.E.A.R. 3 (Xbox 360)
Price: £4.40

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Insult To The Series, 2 Nov. 2012
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: F.E.A.R. 3 (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
First of all, let me start by saying I really enjoy the FEAR series.

The graphics have always appeared sub-standard compared to the likes of COD, but these games have something different to offer the FPS fans - with the shooter/horror combination and slow-mo shoot outs. These elements have managed to lift the game, offering something unique that lets the series get away from the other aspects that might see it overshadowed by superior looking games. Sometimes, you like to see the underdog do well, and that has always been the case here. Until now...

Firstly, as impossible as it might seem, the graphics have taken a backward step. Other than the cut scenes most levels are downright ugly. Cars and buildings are poorly drawn and textures bland. Graphics have never been the strong point of the FEAR games, but this one is really sub-standard.

The sounds are similar to the previous entries - the weapon sounds offer little variety, the music offers drama in the right areas, and the horror elements would be pretty fitting if it weren't for the way they were poorly executed.

Whereas before, the games chopped and changed from shooter to horror seamlessly, here it is nothing short of a mess. An open battlefield will suddenly become a horror scene without warning, moments which rather than cause tension become utterly bizarre. Some do genuinely shock, but it is almost as though the writers of the game have inserted them to fit in with the criteria of the game as an after thought. The enemies taunts and commands to one another remain a high point.

The gameplay starts flawlessly, and the new levelling up mode seems particularly welcome as completing certain challenges increases skills. The layout of the levels soon bores though, and even though I don't object to corridor shooters this is reminscent of much earlier shooters where the scripted path is far too obvious, and it soon becomes obvious this is the most basic corridor shooter ever, but with very little evidence of the previous tension offerred by previous games. But even this is not where the game fails.

The game doesn't just fail, it utterly insults the player, at about level 4 when it seems to just give up and adds the most obnoxious boss battles every few minutes. These boss battles become a matter of sheer luck, requiring about 15 minutes apiece of running, ducking, hiding, re-loading, finding weapons, and using multiple grenades. At any stage during this the screen may turn red when you get shot, rendering you totally blind. You may be able to duck, if you happen to be near cover, otherwise you just run around aimlessly unable to see anything until you eventually die. Again. With the first boss I thought I was doing something wrong, and for the first time ever in a FEAR game resorted to a walkthrough (the youtube video, with the commentator swearing "For .... sake....die already!!!" reflected my own thoughts). I realised I wasn't missing anything, I really did have to use about 10 grenades and empty countless shells before the enemy would be killed. On certain bosses, if you die, you don't just have the boss to contend with yet again, the game takes you back to replay the same moments building up to the boss, several minutes replayed over and over again. The fact that these bosses come up so frequently leads to an utterly frustrating experience within a game that wasn't that good to begin with.

Cannibal Ferox - Fully Uncut
Cannibal Ferox - Fully Uncut
Dvd ~ Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Offered by adabola1
Price: £10.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Essential For Fans Of The Genre, 26 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Cannibal Ferox - Fully Uncut (DVD)
Firstly, I won't go too much into the storyline, as most people are probably already familiar with the film and no doubt like me have seen cut versions before.

As storylines go, it is one of the better ones for the genre, and one that raises moralistic questions. Aside from one particularly unsavoury character, you can actually sympathise with all the characters here. The cannibals kill, and in particularly gruesome ways, but throughout the film you will discover their motives. The acting is second rate, but that is what anyone must expect from this type of film, and because of that just adds to the appeal.

So having previously seen only the cut version of the film, and finally getting to see the uncut version, what was all the fuss about?

The gore includes castration, an eyeball being gouged out, scalping, and the sight of cannibals devouring human flesh, innards and brains. All particularly nasty as you might expect, and unlike many cheap budget horror films of the era, it looks surprisingly realistic too. For anyone who has seen recent gore films of the Saw era though, it isn't anywhere near as shocking now as it would have been at the time. That is a shame, since in many ways it weakens the effect of these cult films which are in fact far superior to recent gore films which seek maximum effect often with minimum effort.

However, I must admit that despite being a gore hound the animal scenes left a nasty taste in my mouth, and that is probably the reason that they account for the majority of the previously banned material. I tried telling myself that the content was no different to what you might expect to see on National Geographic, but it is, and the reason for that is because these deaths were not natural - the animals were tortured or set up to be killed. One, involving an anaconda crushing an animal to death was particularly drawn out and difficult to take. For me, I'd rather have seen it with gore intact but the animal scenes removed since they don't really serve much purpose to the film.

As a big fan and devotee of cannibal films, I just had to see the uncut version, and I'm glad I did. It offers nothing over the cut version in terms of storyline, but I believe you should see the film as the director intended. In terms of storyline, gore, and cult appeal, it is only surpassed by Cannibal Holocaust - and that is an absolute must for fans!

Singularity (Xbox 360)
Singularity (Xbox 360)
Offered by Gameseek
Price: £17.17

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Singularly....Broken, 4 Aug. 2012
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
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When I first started playing this game it reminded me of the game FEAR, which is not a bad thing at all. Mainly due to the fairly linear corridor style of gameplay combined with flashing images designed to instal fear, which it admittedly does rather well.

Just lately, any FPS game that goes down the linear route is frowned upon, the option to explore in big open areas the preferred mode of gameplay. Personally, I quite like linear, I don't get lost, I know where I am going, I am happy. However, with this game linear is corridors, and I've done corridors. I did those in Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, basically I've been doing them for over 20 years. You can do a linear game without being quite so obvious. But that is just where the problems begin.

I don't even mind playing the type of shooting game I've played so many times before, in fact I'm thankful to have something that will distract me from the constant barrage of COD games. But, I really must object to a game which blatantly ignores head shots which requires me to start at the last checkpoint against the point of being fair, constantly. It isn't just a minor annoyance, it is a constant glitch. But that still isn't the worst of it.

The most annoying aspect of the game is the weapon loadout sections. Or rather, the fact that the game will randomly decide to reselect your weapons without warning you, or informing you. Shotguns and machine guns are gone, replaced by a lowly pistol. You are supposed to find a weapon loadout machine to reselect the weapons you didn't disregard in the first place every time this happens. Only, you don't get warned, and if you don't happen to notice the weapon loadout machine on walking past it you are now in a world of trouble. 2 hours into a campaign and I was suddenly bombarded with enemies and to my horror I realised I had a lowly pistol with 24 bullets which was woefully inadequate. I tried to walk back to find the weapon loadout I had missed, having vowed never to do so, to no avail as a locked door now blocked it. There was no way I was going to get past this section with just a pistol, so I resigned myself to reloading at the last checkpoint. Nope, last checkpoint was past the weapon loadout so good luck sucker, you're stuck with a pistol. Last level? Nope, after several ridiculous attempts to get past that section with a pistol I was forced to restart the entire campaign from the beginning. Be warned - it could happen after an hour, or it could happen after 10 hours into the campaign. In truth, it really shouldn't happen at all, and that is what makes this game truly unnaceptable.

So any redeeming features then? Not really, at the start of the game there was a helicopter crash and I decided to take a look at the scenery on offer. It was such a poor graphical display that I had to walk quickly on, thinking that the game must have more on offer than this, and I have to see it quick. It really doesn't though, it is a corridor shooter from the 90s, and it doesn't even mimick that particularly well.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 10, 2012 2:52 PM BST

Bulletstorm (Xbox 360)
Bulletstorm (Xbox 360)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gears Of War With Knobs On, 23 Jan. 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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When I played the first level of this game my immediate impression was "Oh dear". Basically, been there done that, here we are with a run of the mill shooter. Then, after about 30 minutes into the game, I obtained the leash, and that is where the fun began!

The game reminded me a lot of Gears of War, but is by no means just a Gears of War clone thanks to the highly inventive leash. Now, you longer just shoot the enemies. You leash them, shoot them in mid-air, kick them into a nearby cactus, lob them into an electric fence and basically pull off the most elaborate kills possible. The reason for this is because the more elaborate the kill, the points you earn, and the more points you earn the better weapons and upgrades you unlock, which then allows you to pull off even more elaborate kills! It turns what would be a run-of-the mill shooter into utter lunacy and a massive playground of fun.

The campaign is a decent length - a solid 10 hours gameplay, but it doesn't end there. There is another mode where you can play various levels based on different sections of the game. These levels last between 2-6 minutes and the idea is to rack up the biggest score possible through elaborate kills and combos. It is old school gaming at it's best - playing games purely to get the highest score possible with loads of replay value. You will find yourself replaying those same levels over and over again determined to get the maximum rating possible, and it is that type of addictive appeal that adds endless more hours of enjoyment out of the game.

A game like this should not take itself too seriously, and that is more than evident here with constant one-liners, none of which can be repeated here as the game is as foul-mouthed as they come. It's perfectly fitting with the over-the-top violence though, and it is rare that a game has made me laugh out loud for all the right reasons.

For those easily offended, approach with caution. For those who want to put the fun back into their shooters I just cannot recommend it enough.

Split/Second (Xbox 360)
Split/Second (Xbox 360)

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If Pound Stretchers Did Burnout..., 11 Oct. 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Split Second plays much like the classic Burnout games, with races at such mad speeds you barely dare blink for fear of crashing. Apparently, you can press a button to see what is going on behind your car. Its a button you are very unlikely to ever use.

The game introduces a new dynamic - making parts of the track and scenery explode in an effort to take out opponents ahead of you on the track. Unfortunately, its the way the game uses this new dynamic that lets the game down. It only comes into play when opponents are ahead of you, cue some of the most ridiculous rubber banding ever seen in a game. Being in first place means nothing, the game will ensure you won't stay there for long so its not unusual for opponents to suddenly go speeding past as you go full pelt along a straight - particularly annoying when first place becomes fifth place right before the finish line. Also, if you happen to wipe out an opponent during a "power play" moment, don't be surprised when they somehow overtake you within the next 10 seconds! When you become the victim and crash (which you will, numerous times!) that first place position becomes last place virtually every time. So, your performance throughout the race becomes obsolete, its mainly down to sheer luck as to whether you happen to be in a favourable position at the end of the race, which kind of takes away the fun. Forget about levelling the playing field by bringing along a fast car to the race too, whatever the speed of your vehicle, it will be equalled by the opposition.

At times, the power play works against you too as it is just as likely to take out your own car, with massive explosions rendering it impossible to see what is ahead of you, and even when you can see what is going on it is impossible to avoid a collision. The only sure way to avoid crashing is to brake until the coast is clear, however this results in any opponents currently behind you racing past your vehicle. Often I ended up avoiding using power plays at all, almost the sole premise of the game, simply because I would rather hold on to 3rd place than risk crashing and dropping to 8th place.

Some of the non-racing events seem rather random in their difficulty. In one, a helicopter lands bombs on the track which you must avoid, and the more you avoid the higher the score achieved. This was laughably easy on one tournament, where racking up massive scores was a walk in the park. Doing the same event in the next tournament however, none of the cars available could physically keep pace with the bombs. To add insult to injury once you are back on the track following a crash you fully accelerate only to be instantly taken out by further bombs landing on the track with the taunting message "TOO SLOW" on the screen!

Its a real shame because the game looks so good, and could have been. Its just that damned rubber banding and frustrating gameplay that really lets it down. As a comparison to Burnout this is just a non-contender.

Miny300 Lightweight and Quiet Dehumidifier - Ideal for small areas & Supplied with a 12V Car Cigarette Lighter Lead
Miny300 Lightweight and Quiet Dehumidifier - Ideal for small areas & Supplied with a 12V Car Cigarette Lighter Lead

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap To Run, Equally Cheap Results, 10 Oct. 2011
We decided to invest in this dehumidifier for our bedroom as it was cheap to buy, cheap to run, and compact.

After 4 days of running constantly for 24 hours it was only half full of water and our window was still streaming with condensation, with puddles of water still sitting on our wooden window frames. Obviously it was collecting some water, but was woefully inadequate for the job. This is in a room roughly 10 feet by 8 feet, and I should point out that we had our window and door closed at all times.

We have since upgraded to a full size dehumidifier which collects more water in 24 hours than this little model did the whole time we run it, leaving the room dry with noticeably fresher air. We moved this dehumidifier to a smaller room, approximately 8 feet by 5 feet. It collects roughly the same amount of water (about 100ml per day) but at least we are seeing some results.

So our recommendation is to only buy to use in very small rooms. On the plus side the running cost is approximately 9p per day, the power consumption that of a low-watt light bulb.

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