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joalem "joalem" (Surrey, UK)

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The Enemy: (Jack Reacher 8)
The Enemy: (Jack Reacher 8)
by Lee Child
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reacher - The making of the Man!, 23 April 2005
this is one for the fans - Lee Child gives us Jack Reacher's back story. Set in 1990 just after the Berlin Wall came down, the story takes place against the backdrop of Army political intrigue and positioning for power that resulted from the collapse of the Iron Curtain. A younger but unmistakably the same Reacher is called back from Panama to a dusty backwater Army camp, seemingly for no reason, but just in time to find a dead general in a nearby motel. How he got there, why he was there, and who with are questions which will drive our hero into ten kinds of trouble.
Another relentless page-turner, with a cracking set-up, lots of red herrings and dead ends, before the final showdown with the bad guys. This one reminds me of Child's "The Visitor" as Reacher gets another feisty heroine as a worthy sidekick, and kicks butt across Europe and the rural USA as he bends and breaks the rules in his usual fashion, always doing the right thing. There's even a side-plot about his sick mother in Paris - is there nothing this guy can't handle? The whole plot is made more interesting by the fact that he has to remain within the rule of military law, and is actually playing the cop rather than the good guy outlaw.
Lee Child has written another decent story - and the period US Army setting makes it more than just another by-the-numbers Reacher book. A definite must-buy for Reacher fans.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell
Edition: Hardcover

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blink! Great reading but not much else..., 6 April 2005
Firstly this book's a bit pricey for a 250-page paperback. Secondly, you will probably read it in the time it takes to blink. And thirdly, despite the misleading comment on the cover, it does not tell you how to unlock the mysterious subconscious world from where the wonderfully meaty reading comes.
But after all, that is what the book is. A series of compelling anecdotes and socio-psychological experiments revealing how much of our perception is done behind the scenes of our subconscious, and that comprehensively prove that we are not as liberal and easy-going that we think we are.
It hasn't revolutionised my thinking quite yet, but it has helped me to trust the occasional gut-feeling and research further into the clues on people's faces. Pretty useful book, but not an end in itself.

Men of Valor: The Vietnam War (PC)
Men of Valor: The Vietnam War (PC)

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An addictive war game - definitely hits the right notes!, 19 Dec. 2004
This is a very good game, and reminds me of Black Hawk Down and Call of Duty in looks, feel and gameplay.
The developers (2015) have paid lots of attention to getting the game to look and feel right. The jungle scenery is excellent, the arsenal of weapons is historically accurate and well rendered in the game. Your character is Dean Shepard, a Marine "grunt" fresh to the Nam in 1965; I particularly liked the way the game makes a point of the fact that the player character is black and does not pull away from the racial tensions between troops, which was historically accurate. In fact, overall this game is a very good testament to the (US) soldiers who fought in Vietnam - the quotes by soldiers and politicians about their feelings on the war during the loading screens, and the realistic letters of condolence that follow you getting killed are nice touches, unusual for shoot-'em-up war games.
And Men of Valor is a classic shoot-em-up war game - gameplay is a cross between "Medal of Honor" and "Call of Duty" with a bit of "Vietcong" thrown in. The game interface is standard FPS and includes the "bleeding damage" from MoH Pacific Assault; it also includes the hidden booby traps, dead body searches, and colourful language from Vietcong (though fortunately no tunnels yet!) Health can be restored by finding health packs on the aforementioned dead people, or by the corpsman (like MOHPA). The action is unbelievable at times, with enemies growing out of the jungle everywhere - it is well worth a look if you like war games of the MOH variety.
Men of Valor runs well on my PC, only one bug so far where one of the cutscenes didn't work properly and I had to restart! The downside is that, like FarCry, there is no quicksave facility, and this can lead to some frustrating times having to replay from a checkpoint. (I'm sure a patch will be available soon!)
There aren't many decent Vietnam games around, but this deserves to be one of them, as much for its treatment of the war as for its enjoyable gameplay.

Half-Life 2 (DVD ROM)
Half-Life 2 (DVD ROM)
Offered by 6 Hungry Weasels
Price: £14.95

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't fault this game, it is amazing!, 19 Dec. 2004
This review is from: Half-Life 2 (DVD ROM) (Video Game)
Half-Life 2 was well worth the wait (about a year for me!) The game is amazing, by far the best FPS ever to hit the shelves.
HL2 is graphically flawless, intricate and a worthy successor to the original Half-Life. Each game level has a distinctive character, but every one has brilliant pace, tension, frenetic action, and fiendish puzzles to solve.
But the key thing about this that sets HL2 head and shoulders above its rivals (Doom3, FarCry) is that it has DEPTH. It is the closest PC gaming has managed to come to a fully-interactive movie with a proper plot, realistic non-playing characters, and stunning graphics and sound. The variety of set-pieces, characters, scenes and plenty of monsters makes the 20 hours or so of gameplay seem as vivid as a great sci-fi blockbuster, and can leave you feeling drained, elated, frustrated and often almost laughing at the sheer pleasure of playing a great game set in a brilliantly crafted environment.
The game installs quite quickly off the single-DVD (although I would recommend you find a nice book to read during the Steam registration process if you don't have broadband!) The intro and each game level take quite a long time to load, but considering the complexity that is not really surprising, and to be honest you need a breather between levels as the gameplay is very absorbing!
Don't get this if you have the minimum PC spec or YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED! I would make sure you have AT LEAST the recommended spec (2GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 128MB DirectX graphics card, DirectX sound card) and that your PC is properly configured with compatible hardware and the latest drivers (If your beloved PC is just a mishmash of dodgy upgrades cobbled together you're gonna have problems) This game uses hardware resources like nothing else I've seen - be prepared to have to shell out on a 256MB graphics card, high performance memory, more cooling and an upgraded power supply if you have problems playing it.....
As the title says - I can't fault this game and I've never played anything like it. As the original Half-Life basically set the benchmark for its generation, I can't see HL2 being anything else but the same.

Red Dwarf: Just The Shows (Vol. 1) (Series 1-4) [DVD] [1988]
Red Dwarf: Just The Shows (Vol. 1) (Series 1-4) [DVD] [1988]
Dvd ~ Chris Barrie
Price: £12.80

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - British Comedy at its best, 29 Oct. 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This boxset lacks the dazzling array of special features available on the individual DVD releases but makes up for it with probably the best value laughs you can possibly buy for £25.
The first 4 series of Red Dwarf sum up everything that was right about BBC 2 during the late 80s and early 90s - ground-breaking, original comedy that was experimental with drama, comedy, genre and featuring new, young, talented actors (Chris Barrie as the acerbic Rimmer and Danny John-Jules as Cat were revelations). With this boxset you can see the evolution from a cheap, studio space sitcom into a lavish sci-fi comedy-drama featuring such brilliant characterisation that you wish TV comedy could stumble across its own stasis leak and rediscover this kind of programme. The first four series are also characterised by a tongue-in-cheek irreverence that never really takes itself too seriously - a factor sadly lacking in the later incarnations of Red Dwarf. (A good example is the Star Wars-style intro to series 3 that explains away the ending of series 2 as they obviously rewrote it as a totally new series - George Lucas could learn a thing or two!)

Laden with the best one-liners in the last 20 years and gleefully celebrating its own ingenuity with episode after episode of classy comic timing, character acting and brilliant scripting, Red Dwarf 1-4 are some of the most brash and confident comedy series ever produced by the Beeb. This gets 5 stars from me and it is thoroughly deserved;

Worms (PC CD)
Worms (PC CD)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How much fun is this!, 4 Oct. 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Worms (PC CD) (Video Game)
I bought this as a harmless but moderately challenging game for my daughter and her friends to play on rainy afternoons after school. I vaguely remembered it from about 1995 in the dark days of 386 PCs with 20MHz chips and 8MB RAM so I figured it wouldn't be much of a diversion for me (I'm Mr "Doom3, FarCry, computer-eating behemoth 3D-shooter" Man and above such things.)
Oh dear. I played it for three hours after my daughter went to bed on the first day we got it and it's been a lurking presence on my PC ever since. Graphically it's hopeless, the video clips don't play, and the sound belongs to a "pre-soundblaster" era altogether, but boy! this is addictive. I particularly enjoy the fact that you can rename the various teams to suit (boss, managers, friends, enemies, family members etc) and enjoy blasting their worm doppelgangers to bits with uzis, rockets, airstrikes and exploding sheep.
Buy this at your peril; but for 80 pence on here you'd have to find a pretty good excuse!

Star Wars Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) [DVD] [1977]
Star Wars Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) [DVD] [1977]
Dvd ~ Mark Hamill
Offered by Love-Your-Books
Price: £49.95

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long time coming - but what's all the fuss about?, 4 Oct. 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Star Wars DVD trilogy at last! Four discs, well-packaged, containing the biggest film trilogy in movie-making history. The DVD transfers are among the best I've ever seen - needle-sharp, crystal-clear (insert cliche as applicable) and makes the original Star Wars look like it was made last week instead of nearly 30 years ago. The THX engineered soundtracks are also fantastic; the opening sequence of Star Wars with the room-filling rumble of the star Destroyer passing overhead gave me a shiver down the spine and transported me back in time to the summer of 1977 when I first saw this film with my mum!
So what if the released versions are the CGI-afflicted "special editions"? Agreed, Lucas missed an opportunity by not including the original theatrical versions on the discs, but hey! That's how it is. As the massive documentary on the making of the three films shows, these films are not just popcorn blockbusters; they are milestones, no better still, turning points on the Hollywood road. Nothing can touch Star Wars for its box-office return, revolutionary marketing, massive cultural influence and plain old humanity. Lucas' perceived "tinkering" (which obviously is a huge sore point with die-hard aficionados) partly serves to demonstrate his commitment to his orignal vision, but I suspect it is mostly about his hard-won freedom to change whole parts of his work as he pleases, having fought so long to retain full creative control over his work without having to sell out to the studios. I say let him have his day!
This is a good DVD release, well-timed and very well-presented, with special features that complement rather than swamp the films themselves. The release as a whole neatly showcases both Lucas' vision and the timeless quality of the films, and aptly reminds us of the impact of Star Wars as a cultural phenomenon in 1977 and ever since. And at this price, you'd be completely nuts not to get a copy.

Doom 3 (PC)
Doom 3 (PC)

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Polished, brilliantly crafted, but......, 18 Aug. 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Doom 3 (PC) (Video Game)
The graphical quality of this game can't be overstated. Apart from the cinematic textures and interiors, the lighting is unbelievably good. I'd recently upgraded my PC to cope with the new generation of 3D shooters and so I thought I would be able to play this on any resolution or definition I liked. WRONG! I was throwing an Athlon XP 3200, 1Gb of Corsair XMS RAM and an ATI X800 Pro at Doom 3 and it just laughed and said bring it on, baby! I settled on playing it at 1024x768x32, High detail and 2xAA, 8xAF and we began to get along fine! If you have the game's minimum spec, or in fact anything less than a Radeon 9800Pro or FX5900 then you really aren't going to see this game do anything special, and you might wonder what all the fuss is about.
The other aspect is scare factor. Having the best lighting effects in gaming history, it's not surprising that most of the game takes place in semi-darkness, and there are frequent, really DARK shadows for a variety of brilliantly rendered zombies etc to leap out at you. However, you find you quickly get to know the tricks, and as long as you bind the flashlight to Mouse button 2 you will never be caught out after the first level!
Everything about this game says polished, lovingly crafted, even showing off. However, for all that they could have made it a bit longer (like about twice as long!) but having said that, the game is quite "samey" - all the action takes place in the claustrophobic darkness (like the original Doom) and after a while you want something nasty to jump out at you to give you some excitement.
Don't let that take away from a great single-player game though (multiplayer is severely limited to 4 players, broadband only!) and you should have this on your shelf if nothing else to see the next generation of graphics and wonder why you even considered buying an Xbox!

Far Cry (PC)
Far Cry (PC)
Offered by UKGameSource
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, stunning, excellently produced shooter, 12 April 2004
This review is from: Far Cry (PC) (Video Game)
Originally timed to come out shortly before Half-Life 2, FarCry has been released ages before and promises to be the year's best seller. Why? Simply because it delivers, by the sackload, that elusive quality essential to classic first-person shooters: ATMOSPHERE.
I felt completely sucked into this game. From the opening cinematics (seen the film Memento? well, that's it!) to the first tentative steps into the stunningly detailed 3D world, you get a rush of enthusiasm which says - this is class. I haven't felt this absorbed by a game since the underground train ride at the beginning of the original Half-Life.
This is certainly the most original game since Half-Life or Unreal. The game setting is unique, the visuals are breathtakingly good, and the sounds, music and ambient effects are very well made. I could almost taste the salt when your character first plunges into the picture perfect seawater. Gameplay is standard Medal of Honor stuff (follow a linear pathway to a scripted battle) but unlike MoH you can get easily lost in the undergrowth and retracing your steps brings fresh enemies to the fight. Enemy AI is OK-ish.... enemies tend to attack in co-ordinated groups, but the stone-throwing ploy your character uses to distract them works too easily. I thought grenades were a bit pathetic as well - even on Normal difficulty you practically have to bounce it on an enemy's head to kill them; anyone standing 2 foot away gets hardly scratched!
Without giving too much away, the gameplay continues on a fairly linear route until you uncover the Dr Moreau goings on and comparisons with Half-Life (and Return to Castle Wolfenstein) are inevitable. But this game shrugs off those comparisons easily - it's FAR too good to ignore for that reason.
At least get a copy to glimpse the future standard of 3D shooters and realise just how much you have to spend on new hardware to do the forthcoming next generation of games any justice! If you haven't already - buy this!

Battlefield Vietnam (PC)
Battlefield Vietnam (PC)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Way better than Desert Combat. BUY IT!!, 18 Mar. 2004
It's out at last. End the speculation - here is the lowdown: EA have refined this game beyond the previous editions of BF1942. Particularly good are the new vegetation and weapons / vehicle models - superior to their BF1942 predecessors (Secret Weapons set a good blueprint - BV exceeds it.)
Otherwise it's more of the same - I can't really see any major improvements to graphics, and gameplay didn't need to be better in my opinion, although single player AI is actually even more crap than its predeccessor. More than ever before, DON'T buy this for single player only, I guarantee you will throw your PC out the window within an hour.
The one big improvement over Desert Combat is that helicopters are much easier to fly. Even a numpty like me, who generally avoids helicopters like the plague in DC for fear of crashing and killing myself and the 6 buddies inside (oops!) found hovering, strafing and directional control much easier with the mouse.
13 maps, especially the Marines Beach assault at Da Nang and the jungle map of Dak To are excellent. (Although the Hue one just feels like Stalingrad with palm trees). Most of the maps are historically based (Ia Drang Valley, Khe Sanh, Hue) but wisely steer clear of all the controversy surrounding the real war (there's no civilians to get wasted by friendly fire, for example). Fans of Vietcong will be pleased to know there are no tunnels in BV!
F4 Phantoms, A7 Corsair (carrier-launched attack plane), MiG-21s and the Hueys will keep the airheads happy, and the fast PBR riverboat is great fun, with double 50cal MGs. If you liked the versatility of the Medic from BF1942, well bad luck, there isn't one in BV, while the new engineer class with mortar (US) or booby traps (NVA) makes for some fun encounters. Tanks are a bit limited on the US side - just the Patton, M551 & M113 APC; but the NVA get the T54, PT76 (like a BMP from DC) and the ZSU antiaircraft tank plus the Truck-mounted rocket launcher and artillery guns to make up for their lack of aircraft.
It is the versatility of helicopters, and their ability to pick up some boats and vehicles that is the real novelty. US get two types of Huey and a Chinook, and the NVA get the Mi-8 (from DC). For a wicked airborne platform, try picking up the M110 howitzer with a Chinook and using it as an aerial artillery platform (yes you can fire it in mid air! This is a bug I'm sure they will get rid of at the first patch, but absolutely crackin fun for now!!)
The reason this gets 5 stars (after all, its pretty much the same game only prettier and with different vehicles)is the soundtrack. It is fantastic, awesome, what can I say? Original tracks by Deep Purple, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane and Hendrix provide a brilliant authentic soundtrack. Crashing in over the waves in a Huey to Ride of the Valkyries (a la Apocalypse Now) ain't half bad either.
Worth £22.50? Hell yes! Buy it and join the online community. War is Hell! But Battlefield Vietnam is Heaven. BUY IT!!

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