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Reviews Written by
Matthew Willis "jed_the_humanoid" (San Jose, CA)

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Football Manager 2006 (Mac/PC CD)
Football Manager 2006 (Mac/PC CD)

25 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I don't know what they were thinking..., 8 May 2006
OK, imagine a scene. You're at work, you're doing everything you can to help your company, you're making tough decisions and doing everything right. Imagine that this company then decides to spit on everything you've achieved and ruin it for no good reason. Now imagine that you paid 25 quid for the privilege and that you're doing it in your spare time. Would this be fun? Would you actually enjoy this?

Of course you wouldn't.

Football Manager 2006 is that workplace. It is your boss, ruining your best-laid plans and driving you to abject frustration and despair. Why? Just because I guess. One of the central themes of the game, and therefore this review, is that there is NO cause and effect within the game. Correct decisions, excellent purchases, smart tactics, none of this means that you will be succesful. Indeed, the harder you work at it, the more you study and figure it out, the less likely you will be to succeed.

This is actually the second time that I bought the game. The first time I smashed it up in disgust as my brilliant team threw away game after game and left me wondering exactly what it was I was doing wrong (seemingly nothing). Six months later, having decided that maybe I was in the wrong, that I merely needed more experience within the game itself, I bought another copy. Did I get this experience, figure out some of the inner workings of the game, implement these new ideas? Yes. Did this make any difference? Nope.

FM2006 is a horrible horrible piece of software. It contains no cause and effect, meaning that correct decisions by you are just as likely to be punished by defeat as incorrect decisions. This literally means that you have NO CONTROL OVER WHAT GOES ON. It doesn't matter how well you train your team, how good your players are, how intelligent your tactics. None of this makes any difference when the game is played. You're in fact more likely to lose the better all your individual components are.

Now to many of you this will seem like the right way for the game to go. After all, football is not an exact science. Good teams go down and bad teams stay up, there's a phenomenal amount of good and bad fortune located within football and nothing ever goes exactly to plan. This I agree with, I think it's right that FM2006 should have within it an element of randomness, I just don't think this randomness should dominate every aspect of the game.

When I play any other game, I want to know, need to know in fact, that I am on the right path. That by improving my character, city, nation, theme park or whatever, that this will increase my achievement within said game. I need to know this, it's the only reason you should play. By achieving new things and going further, you're having fun and being excited to play. FM2006 is completely the opposite of this. It's not fun, it's a painful slog. Yes it can be fantastic for your team of lower-division journeymen to defeat a Premier League side in the FA Cup, but these moments are incredibly rare. Mostly you just find yourself sickened as your best-laid plans go completely to pot.

What is the real sickener though, the real kick in the teeth of this game, is that when you make a right decision, or what turns out to be a wrong decision, there is no way to learn from it. Unlike real life you cannot implement any effective changes, not because you physically are stopped, but because the game has seemingly been pre-programmed to deny any improvement. Information coming from defeat to one side cannot be used in the next game simply because there are no right decisions you can make. Every formation, every player, is just as bad as the next. All this does is make you angry and annoyed. Why should you spend hours of your time doing something that merely punishes you for playing it? Where is the fun in that?

Indeed Sports Interactive, where is the fun? Please overhaul it for 2007, you keep making the same mistakes.

The Settlers IV: Gold Edition (PC CD)
The Settlers IV: Gold Edition (PC CD)
Offered by PNA247
Price: £8.10

80 of 100 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Everything was going fine till..., 25 Oct. 2005
... the sheer incompetence of the design team became blindingly obvious. Settlers IV is a tough game, unneccessarily so, and what benefits it has as a reasonably efficient supply-and-demand RTS are ruined by oh-so-many horrifically designed levels and basic unit flaws. I have, during the past three years, actually had the sad duty to purchase two copies. The first I totally destroyed in a beautiful pagan ceremony of fire and destruction, such was my overwhelming loathing for it. The second, bought once I had forgotten how much I hated it in the first place, is sitting uneasily on my desk, feeling very worried indeed.
And it should be. The Settlers up till IV were very well crafted and nicely unique games, tied together through a slow but steady series of improvements to what you could see and do. IV looks, on the surface, to be yet another improvement. However, once you've played a few levels it becomes depressingly obvious that once again programmers have, instead of implementing an effective learning curve, simply gotten lazy and inserted a series of unpleasant cheats to keep you forever on the backfoot. There are, sadly, several levels so poorly designed that you can barely get started before the opposition is ravaging your land and buildings.
The worst level I have encountered so far is Level 4 of the Dark Missions, an absolute beast of infuriation it is. I'm all for a hard game that makes you have to think on your feet and constantly improve, but playing a level over and over and over, 10, 15, 20 times, for literally days is not fun. Do you hear me lazy programmers? It is NOT FUN. If you seriously begin to think about destroying a helpless disk due to the stupidity and incompetence of its creators, then a mistake has been made somewhere during the design process.
And Settlers IV is, sadly, one gigantic mistake. It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside a total waste of your time. Please, for your own sanity and my belief in the power of effective writing, avoid this game like the plague. Given the recent failure that was the sequel I hope that justice prevails, and that the fools who created this sad abomination are now going hungry, having been fired from their jobs for incompetence bordering on criminal neglect. If any further punishment need be meted out, I hope their bosses will give me a call. I can be very creative in these matters.

The Settlers IV
The Settlers IV
Price: £6.01

21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So what's changed?, 12 Jan. 2004
This review is from: The Settlers IV (Video Game)
Very little it appears. In fact the only major difference between this and the previous three incarnations is that the road system (which always seemed to be put in merely as an irritant) has thankfully disappeared, to be replaced by what you would presume is a more efficient go-where-you're-needed set up. Nice in theory, not in practice. The Settlers delightful little economic routine has always been ruined by the sheer incompetence of the game engine, which routinely allows hundreds of cute little chappies to sit around whilst goods need humping, and which no matter how much you fine-tune them always move the wrong ones to the wrong places.
I find myself in considerable agreement with the chap who said that you tend to spend 4 hours getting your economic set-up working, only to find it crushed by your computer opponent who started the game in a considerably stronger position than you. This is down not only to the stupidity of the map design and the irritating slowness at which you can build a functioning society, but also in the ridiculous ineptitude of the military aspects of the game. For an RTS which has gone through 4 versions over nearly a decade the complete idiocy of this most vital aspect is unforgiveable.
You see, the main problem comes not in the lack of different units, an adequate army group system or any kind of clever experience or promotion scheme (something achieved in almost every other RTS game ever, of all time) but in the total lack of control you have over the fighting once it takes place. This has always been a factor in The Settlers games, a stupid one I might add, and while it has improved a little it is nowhere near adequate. For example, I once built a nice little defensive box to tempt in my opponent, who had roughly a 25-1 man advantage over me (this is not unusual at all), in order to even the score up a little.
All was going to plan until my 25 or so strong mobile army decided to move into a counter-attack, against about 200 enemy soldiers in towers. No matter what I did I could not pull them back from the attack! Once wedded into an action they carry it out and I could do little but watch as my little army was slaughtered before it even reached the first tower. My clever plan was ruined because Bluebyte's finest didn't bother to add in a retreat feature. Thankfully I'd saved it a little while beforehand, otherwise I would have lost a couple of hours of my life pointlessly.
If there is to be a Settlers 5, for the love of GOD and all that is holy will you PLEASE make some changes to the game, in order to make it good, or at the very least bearable.

Age of Mythology: The Titans Expansion Pack (PC)
Age of Mythology: The Titans Expansion Pack (PC)

26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great add-on, 18 Nov. 2003
Perhaps a bit steeply priced considering that it's only 12 levels and little else, Ensemble have managed once again to produce a nifty little package. Carrying on the story developed in the original AOM, we find ourselves ten years in the future with Krios, the elder statesmen, and Kastor, son of the elevated Arkantos, in charge of the destiny of the Atlantean people. After a few odd goings on, we find out that the Titans in question are once again attempting to free themselves from Tartarus, and only the plucky heroes we've come to love so much can stop them.
As someone very interested in mythology, especially Greek mythology, it was very interesting to see how they wrapped the fictional Atlantis and its intriguing proposition into the general Greek framework of the original; The Trojan War, heroes, the Gods on Olympus etc. This is more of the same, and when you consider the vast size of Greek works detailing this period, they have enough material to make the game over a hundred times.
So anyway, we have young Kastor and the odd-acting Krios as our guides through a completely new realm of units and alliances. Whereas before we were allied with the Greeks, now we're up against them... and also the Egyptians, Norse and assorted others. Then it's business as usual, as you RTS your way around the map bashing people up. Good fun.
There's very little different about this to the original, apart from a larger reliance on time related missions and, of course, the massive and rather scary Titans who lumber into view about half way through. On the downside it's a little short for £18, I completed it in only a few hours, and whoever designed the Titan-standard levels must really hate other people. Yeah man, make them hard, but don't make them impossible.
Some are literally impossible.

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC CD)
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC CD)
Offered by Tracymuk
Price: £27.96

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yeah, I like it, but..., 11 Nov. 2003
The original Max Payne was a work of art, a gorgeous third-person shooter with a rich, twisting storyline, bags of gameplay and an unputdownability second-to-none. Our hero was well-rounded, his opponent believably evil and the many enemies he faced wonderfully killable. Whilst it could be finished quickly, the opportunity to replay it was always tempting and just as enjoyable the tenth time around as it was the first.
So, two years after the original Max returns for another installment of his extremely painful career, and yeah, it's good. It's very good, but there's something lacking this time around. Instead of the thirst for revenge Max felt in the first game we have a simple crime tale to solve, and whilst some of the characters' loyalties change I wasn't quite as gripped as I was before.
Also, while it will seem like I'm mostly knocking MP2 I'm not, I like it, I'm just a little disappointed in the sequel. There are too many cutscenes for one. Roughly half your playing time will be spent running through these plot directors, and considering how little Max has to figure out this time around they seem very unneccessary at times. I couldn't help but think that had the time taken on these been redirected into improving the plot, or increasing the playing time, that would have been a price well worth paying.
It's beautiful to look at mind, and the new Havok engine runs like a charm, but all of this contributes to enormous load times and the need for a massive three disks to install and play. The previous tactics of repeat save-and-loading during gameplay is almost impossible, as it often takes over a minute to load a level even on my high-end computer. This in turn ruins the games 'just one more try' addictivity, and often has me quitting even before its loaded at all.
So, yeah, I like it, but...

UFO Aftermath (PC)
UFO Aftermath (PC)

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear lord, dire, 10 Nov. 2003
This review is from: UFO Aftermath (PC) (Video Game)
Another one of those games from my childhood, resurructed and utterly annihilated in front of my teary eyes. Dear oh dear, what were they thinking here? First off, let me just point out that the game plays like little more than shareware, with dodgy graphics, long load times and the like, and so anyone willing to pay over 20 quid for it after the roasting I'm about to hand down would have to be mighty foolish. If this is you, my copy awaits you in Marketplace.
So, where to start. Well... it's awful, it's appalling, it's a disgrace to the good name that was the X-Com series. I remember playing the original X-Com: Enemy Unknown, over a decade ago on the old Amiga system, and it was glorious. The game was expansive, the graphics weren't too shoddy and the story-based gameplay was a delight, constantly bringing up new and interesting scenarios for you to complete. Lets compare that to the new Aftermath shall we. Actually, lets not, lets just use the opposite terminology and we have a complete review.
First off, the graphics are pretty crappy for 2003, with games like Max Payne 2 and even CM4 scrubbing up nicely they could have done considerably better. Also, the story, which frankly they could have just stolen from the original for all I care, isn't even 1/10th as good. It starts off well enough, but then just stops for ages wherein nothing happens. Note to the gentlemen who made the game, this is boring, don't do it.
The game itself is repetition incarnate. The levels are almost identical, the aliens pretty boring (they just meander about, you think they'd have a reason wouldn't you) and that's it. You move your little squad about, shoot the enemy, and end the level. Yawn. The original was far superior than this as the levels were highly varied, the enemy more intelligent, the aliens better looking and, when your base came under attack or you had to get into an alien spaceship, you had specific things to do. In this it doesn't matter, you just shoot people and the game decides when you've won.
Also, when out of the tactical situation your squad, researchers and engineers are AGAIN less interesting and comprehensive than before. For one, in the original you had money to spend, and your success or failure meant either more or less cash. In this, due to it being set after a catastrophic annihilation of 99.9% of the Earth's population, you just get weapons, squad members etc randomly. So, one of the most interesting ways of presenting the game outside the actual fighting is completely crippled, with any sort of management role obliterated.
Basically it's rubbish, it's boring and it's a waste of time. I cannot urge you enough to skip past it. I'm going to go so far as to attempt to forget about its existence, so as to preserve the memory of the X-Com franchise. Wish me luck

Championship Manager 4
Championship Manager 4
Offered by marxwax
Price: £8.03

52 of 65 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bungled, 5 Jun. 2003
Well dear oh dear oh dear. I thought CM2 was as low as the CM series could fall, but suddenly the massively-delayed and hugely-hyped CM4 comes lumbering up eventually to blow my pre-conceptions out of the water. Yes, it truly is horrific. OK, first off, I'm a huge CM fan, I've been playing it for a decade from its first incarnation with generated players on the Amiga, up until now. I've not always liked it, but I have always loved it. This however, is a strain to the marriage akin to infidelity with best friends.
Where to start... Well, firstly it has quite stupidly decided to get involved in things which were wisely left alone in previous incarnations, training being the most obvious. I have coaches! Lots of them! I'd really prefer to let these UEFA-certified, hugely experienced, highly-professional and respected men take care of my day-to-day training regimen, I do not want to be faffing around organising piggy-in-the-middle sessions and cross country runs. It's a stupid part of the game which gives rise to far more problems than solutions, given that you have to fine tune each individual players training regime if you don't want to have them unhappy/unfit/buggered up.
Secondly, the scouting system. Now, in the original games no one I knew really bothered with this, either it was obvious who the good players were over time, or you went out and found them yourself. In CM4 however, you rely on your scouts because the number of players returned in any of your own searches is pitifully small. Now, realistically this is spot-on, and should be welcomed. HOWEVER, the scouting system is still as utterly flawed as it ever used to be. Instead of returning players of note or interest, it is forever giving you guys you'd never ever want to buy. For instance, as Arsenal when I was constantly getting 30 year old second division defenders suggested to me. Thanks chaps, but no thanks. I can count on the fingers of no fingers how many good players have been suggested to me that I couldn't find myself.
It had been suggested that in previous games it was too easy to buy players, and that this needed to be tightened up. However, the new system is just madness. I agree totally with the chap who said that it was damn near impossible to buy anyone, as their value was always about a fifth of whatever you would have to pay for them. Now, clearly the guys who made the game have not noticed the massive downturn in the footy market. You know, the one that's been all over the papers for the last couple of years. I have not yet been able to purchase anyone other than young players, as negotiations with big clubs usually drag on for months and months. As a matter of fact, my attempt to purchase Christian Chivu from Ajax is STILL in motion, three weeks after I first launched a bid! They haven't even got back to me yet!
So, basically, we’ve come to the conclusion that the background to the game is flawed, and that the wonderful CM3 has been completely booted out in order to make way. Well, I guess this wouldn’t be too much of a problem given that football is still all about getting the ball on the pitch and doing something with it. Well god, they’ve even managed to balls this one up too. The brand-spanking new 2D engine has clearly been made by my grandmother, as it doesn’t in the slightest resemble what most people would call ‘a football game’. It’s a waste of time watching it, as all you do is get angry at the utterly wrong actions of your highly trained, highly paid megastars. For instance, repeatedly leaving balls they’re right next to for their opponents to snaffle up, getting frequently out of position for no reason, running directly into the middle of packs of opposing players instead of passing it about. Fiddling with the tactics makes no difference at all, and their basis to the tactics of the team you’re managing means nothing. So, while Man U have had a wonderful decade of dominance playing essentially a basic 4-4-2 system, that doesn’t mean a damn thing in CM4. That the CM series have forever hated the 4-4-2 system is also a point worth mentioning, why fella’s? It seems to work for most sides.
Now, I’m sure I’ve missed a whole hatful of other problems and agonising screw-ups, but I’m just so tired of being disappointed by the game right now to think of them all. Oh, the fact that you can only buy players in the transfer windows ruins a large portion of the fun that used to be had. Can’t really blame CM though as it’s a stupid real life idea, but it still reduces the fun quotient considerably (especially with this frustrating can’t-buy attitude inherent in the game). Knowing as I do dozens of fellow CM players, I can honestly tell you that only about 20% are satisfied with the game, most are let down and some are bewildered. Me, I’m going back to CM3, it was far more fun.

Ski School 2 [1994] [DVD]
Ski School 2 [1994] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dean Cameron

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unoriginally brilliant, 18 Jan. 2003
This review is from: Ski School 2 [1994] [DVD] (DVD)
Surprisingly humourous Canadian offering showcasing the talents of a whole bunch of people you'll probably never have heard of. Dean Cameron? William Sasso? Bill Dwyer? Nah, thought not. The plot is so hugely unoriginal as to barely warrant a mention and if you don't figure out what's going to happen in 5 seconds then you need to rethink the idea of further schooling. Needless to say this blatant rip-off of a hundred other movies is no detriment to what is, after all, the most important part of the film; the laughs. And there are loads of them. If you can get into the whacked-out style of Dwyer or the deadpan make-every-joke-count Cameron then you'll have a great time. Couple this with some fantastic extreme ski action, beautiful scenery and great songs and you have a film that should have done better than a video release. Shame on you.

Sudden Strike (PC)
Sudden Strike (PC)
Offered by marxwax
Price: £17.97

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Infuriating, 23 Aug. 2001
This review is from: Sudden Strike (PC) (Video Game)
While it is clear that SS is a fabulous game to look at and it's game engine is superb there are so many utterly frustrating parts to it that I can't really recommend it to anyone. I can sum it all up by simply taking aim at the way the levels have been designed. Instead of being a game in which dash and ingenious tactics are key, like in the more mundane Panzer General series, SS keeps you pinned down in the most boring way possible by degrading almost each and every level to a series of artillery duels and sniper confrontations. I rarely ever use my tanks or infantry, because regardless of how well handled they are or how all-encompassing my tactical set-pieces seem you will almost always be either utterly destroyed or so severely mauled that any victory over one particular enemy defensive box become Pyrrhic in nature. Air power is almost non-existant, except in levels like Stalingrad, and I don't even know why they bothered including the air recon option, I've only seen it in about 3 levels. This is stupid as recon is all important in a game clouded utterly by the fog of war. I could go into detail about the rage-inducing ground sight recon but I won't, I'll get too mad. What is required of the sequel is a less impressive enemy defence and the ability to use combined arms attacks with at least a small chance of success. Until then I'll just have to stick with my howitzers and katyushas to blast a path through the enemy, and bore myself silly in the process.

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