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P. Saltfleet "napalmthecat" (wherever carmen sandiego is)
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Judge Dredd: Carlos Ezquerra Collection (Judge Dredd)
Judge Dredd: Carlos Ezquerra Collection (Judge Dredd)
by Garth Ennis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.16

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bait-and-switch, 8 Sep 2011
Warning to would-be purchasers: the first 1/4 of this book is the Garth Ennis-penned story* "Helter Skelter", a tedious and lackluster Judge Dredd pseudo-retrospective with the dubious honour of angering long-time fans with its fanservice rather than pleasing them. With 30+ years of Ezquerra-drawn Dredd strips in the vault they could have picked just about anything better. Not even all the art is by Ezquerra; Henry Flint draws a few chapters in the middle of the story, so why even include it in a book named "The art of Carlos Ezquerra"?

The rest of the book is of a standard I'd expect (the Cursed Earth Koburn stories in particular were a delight), but I was very disappointed by this bait-and-switch and eventually sold the book. Get the Henry Flint or Cam Kennedy Dredd compilations instead; those are consistently quality! I'm personally keeping my fingers crossed for a real Ezquerra compilation one day, that will do justice to this legendary artist.

(* not dissing Ennis here, he's said himself his Dredd material following Judgement Day was not of a high standard. Preacher was great)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 28, 2013 10:34 PM BST


Quake 4 (PC DVD)
Quake 4 (PC DVD)

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far better than I expected (single player review only!), 28 Jun 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Quake 4 (PC DVD) (Video Game)
So I picked this game up for a pittance due to morbid curiosity after reading widely-ranged website reviews and seeing it slammed on message boards. I wasn't expecting much (in my opinion, the last game Raven Software game I really cared about was Hexen). I figured that, since I liked Quake 2 back in the day, such a contentious game was at least worth forming my own opinion about instead of being told it was bad by others.

Anyway, I installed it, and played it until I completed it a few days later. It was an experience I did not regret.

Yes, it's now the year 2010. This game was made in 2005. One important thing to note is, reading some ofthe Amazon reviews for the game, the game had technical issues on release due to the demanding Doom 3 engine. On my fairly modest Acer laptop (2.1gb dual core, 512mb graphics card) I was able to run it on "ultra-high" graphics settings at native resolution with little slowdown, so I'm fairly confident that those reviews, while important information at the time, aren't relevant anymore.

The game itself is a direct sequel to Quake 2. You are Matthew Kane, silent-but-deadly space marine, and you have been sent with the rest of your platoon to head the assault on Planet Stroggos, home of the vile alien cyborg Strogg race, following the nameless Q2 marine's assassination of the Strogg leader. However, your spaceship is attacked and shot down in transit and your company finds themselves in a different environment than expected.

One thing you will notice early on is that, unlike the Q2 marine, you're not alone; for much of the game you are accompanied by other members of your army squad, or even members of other squads. Their AI is surprisingly good and I never found myself frustrated by anybody walking into a wall or running into a hail of gunfire (except for one idiot private who kept running into the next room and alerting the enemies there while I was healing). My only real complaint about the friendlies is that the techs and medics (who fix your armour and health, respectively) will just stare at you blankly unless your stat is below 50 or so. I ended up injuring myself with a few rockets before one boss just so I could get myself fully patched up.

The enemy AI is servicable but not wonderful; big enemies attack with brute force, weaker enemies are more tactical. The most surprising you'll get is that sometimes an enemy will side-step when you shoot them. Otherwise their behaviours are fairly predictable. There's a good mix of enemies though so you won't get tired of fighting the same one over and over (which is more than I could say for Half-Life 2 (note: I love HL2))

The graphics in the game are fantastic and really facilitate the feeling that you're deep in the bowels of an ultraviolent, industrialised landscape. Most of the game is indoors, but the outside is mostly brown desert so that's not so surprising. The game definitely earns its 18 rating through the hellish biomechanical scenery you'll encounter in the later levels which are sometimes seriously gruesome. Some people find the Doom 3 engine too plastic-looking, and maybe you do too, but this was never a problem for me. This game looks great on max settings.

The environments to the game are not that different to Q2's, only prettier and not as brown. They're necessarily linear because the game is linear, but I never felt stifled by that, everything is intutively designed and there are some genuinely impressive moments. I never played Doom 3 so I can't compare that game to this one, but this game is dark. You will not be able to see squat sometimes. You do have a flashlight, but for some reason it only attaches to your pistol and machine gun. The game is designed around this though, so areas where you'll be using your grenade launcher against Judges or whatever will usually be lit well enough to see (and you probably shouldn't be using it while crawling around in vents anyway). Regardless, if you're on the lookout for pickups you'll probably have your machine gun equipped by default.

Speaking of which, the weapons are generally satisfying to use. Aside from the machine gun a lot of the old favourites are back such as the nail gun, the lightning gun and an explosive variation on the old BFG 9000 from Doom! There's a couple of niggles, the nailgun feels too much like the machine gun until you get a certain upgrade (which makes it behave more like the Needler from Halo) and the shotgun sometimes feels off. On the other hand, the hyperblaster and the rockets are a ton of fun to use. And, yes, there's gibs. Many of them.

The story to the game is nothing special, but come on, this is Quake for crying out loud. What exactly do you expect? There is a cool plot twist halfway through which has probably been spoiled for you already, so I'm not going to say what it is here. Otherwise it's fairly standard "go here, activate this, do a thing, oh no strogg attacking :(" crap fed to you via your intercom and teammates.

As for bad aspects, there are admittedly a few. The game would have lost nothing if it had dropped the damn tank stages, even if the giant spider mecha enemies were cool the controls were just way too clunky and it wasn't very fun. The first one was alright but the other two were just too slow.

The bosses in the game are a mixed bag ranging between too hot, too cold and just right. The penultimate boss (a big guy with rockets who harasses you for a few stages in the endgame before you confront him directly) was a blast to fight, while others are frustrating or a pushover. There's also an INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT AND ANNOYING arena area before the final boss which I cheated my way through after an hour+ of trying legit. Sometimes it's good to know when to admit defeat. For me though, the bad aspects of the game were fairly minor blemishes on what was otherwise good clean(?) fun.

In conclusion, if you're an FPS fan in general you'll get a solid, fun experience out of this game's single player, but it doesn't revolutionise anything. Or maybe you'll hate it like some other people. I didn't, but at least try it before you hate it! I give it a "recommended with caveats". Guess I'll give Quake Wars a spin sometime.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2011 9:41 AM BST


The Batman / Judge Dredd Files
The Batman / Judge Dredd Files
by John Wagner
Edition: Paperback

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars this is a review, 11 Dec 2004
As the first book of 2000 AD material licensed under DC Comics, The Batman/Judge Dredd Files is perhaps an obvious choice to introduce Dredd to an American audience, both by virtue of being tied into a familiar joint lead (face it, Batman is omnipresent) and featuring fully painted art the whole way through, marketing-wise it makes sense to offer these stories before delving into the old black and white stuff from the late 70's. That the stories are mostly quite good doesn't hurt, either.
The book is split into three parts;
1. Judgement Over Gotham
The first crossover- Batman is accidentally warped to Mega City One following an attack upon Gotham by Judge Death, who with the aid of The Scarecrow sets about bringing justice to Gotham (by killing everyone). Meanwhile, Batman is apprehended and sentenced by Dredd, but escapes back to Gotham with the help of PSI-Judge Anderson- but with both Dredd and the Mean Machine on the trail, can Death be stopped? With art by Simon Bisley (Slaine, Melting Pot, Lobo), an excellent dichtomy between the characters (Dredd and Batman are at once both similar and very different), and some very funny dialogue, this surely ranks as one of the most successful crossovers on record.
2. The Ultimate Riddle
The Riddler uses undisclosed methods to trap Batman in an inter-dimensional game of cat-and-mouse with seven of the multiverse's most powerful warriors- one of whom is Dredd. It soon becomes Dredd and Batman versus the other warriors, as Dredd refuses to kill an innocent man, and the two are forced to team up to stop the other warriors.
Frankly, it doesn't make that much sense, and mostly revolves around showing off what badasses the other warriors are. It's easily the weakest offering here, though I did like the designs for Yanok the Barbarian and Mekarnos.
3. Die Laughing
The Joker uses Judge Death's dimension jump belt to warp himself over to Mega City One, where he sets about freeing the Dark Judges from containment, joining them as Judge Joker and helping them infiltrate an isolationist hedonist colony. Art by Glenn Fabry (best known for painting covers for comics by Garth Ennis) and Jim Murray, this is a good crossover (and the longest in the book at two issues), but lacks the hate/hate dynamic between Dredd and Batman the first one had, and Joker doesn't really do much once he releases the Dark Judges- although the idea of partial dimension jumping is an interesting one. Credit must be given to Jim Murray- though he is not as well known as Fabry, his cartoony art is well suited to the interior of the Megasphere.
So, five stars for the first and third stories, and two for the second- I give this an average of four stars.


Sparks Urban Fairy Tales: An Urban Fairy Tale
Sparks Urban Fairy Tales: An Urban Fairy Tale
by Lawrence Marvit
Edition: Paperback

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sparks: An Urban Fairytale, 25 Aug 2004
Jo is a technically brilliant but near-asocial auto mechanic whose life is dominated by her father and personal isolation. One day, just for fun, she assembles a man out of old car pieces, then forgets about it- until he comes to life and follows her home. Named Galahad by the boy next door, he knows nothing of the world and it is up to Jo to teach him- but this education goes both ways as Jo realises more of her identity through his questioning and actions. Does this knight in shining armour have what it takes to help Jo out of the rut she's in?
The overall effect of the book is that of a coil being more and more tightly wound- while reading, you won't realise how tense the story is getting until the floodgates open in the final chapter. The story deals with bereavement, domestic violence and suicide, but also has plenty of lighter moments so it's not just a constant dirge.
If you like the other comic books Slave Labor Graphics put out, you'll probably enjoy Sparks. The price may be steep, but it's a thick book, and very good despite being a pretty much unknown quantity.


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