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Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)
Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)
Offered by Game Dealz
Price: 8.90

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A long, repeating path, 17 Jan 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
FFXIII is another clear demonstration that with each iteration Square Enix are making progressively worse games for the big consoles. After the halcyon days of the 8-bit, 16-bit and Playstation, Square's first effort on Playstation 2, Final Fantasy X, divided gamers, but there was no denying that, for an early(ish) PS2 game, it was lovely to look at played very well. Areas were diverse, and the adventure kept giving you something new to look at and to do. The English language voice acting in FFX was awful, however, and this was the start of FF's annoying teenage main characters endlessly saying "Huh?" in the most winy, irritating way imaginable. They still do it now. Then there was the passable FFX-2, and the now quite horrible and convoluted FFXII - a game that was an anachronism on release, and which is now just an eyesore of blurriness. That brings us to Final Fantasy XIII, and perhaps the worst Final Fantasy ever made. For endless hours you will find yourself fighting frequently repeated enemies in long, narrow corridors that Square Enix haven't even tried to disguise as anything else. Where the old Final Fantasy games had huge worlds to explore, with towns and villages containing shops, pubs, hotels and much besides, all FFXIII offers is an endless cycle of fighting interspersed with running down corridors/caverns/gorges before repeating the process. I have no idea what the developers were thinking when they were working on this game. Were they wanting to make a more interactive version of the film Advent Children, with some linear gaming filling the gaps between the cut scenes? Or are their current programmers actually incapable of making large playing areas? Sure, there's lots of gloss on display, but plenty of games combine good looks with open spaces you can actually move around in. Linearity isn't necessarily something I have a problem with - most games still have linear paths through their main story. Better games, however, let you breathe and give you periods of light, shade, action and calm. The only time in Final Fantasy that you're not running down an alley or fighting something is when yet another cut scene has kicked in. Final Fantasy games weren't like this ten and more years ago, when consoles were far less powerful, so why are they now? As far as I'm concerned, barring a huge return to the form Square showed in 1990s, this will be the last Final Fantasy I ever buy.


Mafia II (Xbox 360)
Mafia II (Xbox 360)
Offered by Global Xpress
Price: 11.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated Beauty, 17 Jan 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Mafia II (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
Mafia is one of the few games I have completed recently, and that's because the developers have focused on the story rather than padding out a huge sandbox with side quests unrelated to the narrative. The main quest also lasts between twelve and twenty hours, depending on how much wandering, exploring and driving you wish to do, so while it's not the huge time consumer of a GTA IV, you are less likely to become bored and give up before you've seen the end. Arguably, it's also a better crafted game than its closest competitors - the character models are certainly better than in GTA IV, graphical detail is higher, and the cars are less unwieldy so you won't be crashing into other vehicles every time you drive somewhere. Mafia II also trumps another Rockstar title, Red Dead Redemption, in giving you something to do all of the time, rather than finding yourself stood in the middle of nowhere, lost and lonely, wondering where to go next, and pondering if you can face yet another long horse ride to the next mission while being randomly attacked by wild dogs and shot at. Mafia II is a good looking, focused game, with a superbly detailed city to enjoy, tight shooting mechanics, a variety of cars and trucks that handle well, and interestingly diverse characters. You might find all the shootouts a bit repetitive, but if you don't mind all the "shootin' and travellin'" in GTA, Red Dead and Fallout, then you shouldn't have anything to complain about here. Mafia II is dismissed by some because it doesn't have the same range of stuff to do as in other open world games. Well, no it hasn't, but I've read reviews claiming that you can't do anything other than go from mission to mission, that there are no shops to buy clothes in, nor places to eat and drink, both of which are untrue. Each version of the game (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) has DLC content (sometimes free), which allow you to run around causing all kinds of mayhem in arcade style challenges. The difference is, they are separate and so don't dilute the story. I was going to give Mafia II four stars, but all things considered, and forgiving the anachronistically early rock 'n' roll, a five is no more than this excellent title deserves.


Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II (Mega Drive)
Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II (Mega Drive)

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, 16 Jan 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco Grand Prix II was the first racing game I ever bought for my first console, the Sega Mega Drive. It was brilliant when I first bought it in 1992 (the case looking vibrant, colourful, and tantalising on the shelf of my local Currys), and I still find it extremely playable to this day. The opening sequence and music immediately got the gamer in the mood for what was to follow, and that was loud, competitive racing, and some really pretty nice graphics. There are several challenges to choose from, including a variety of difficulty settings, but the main meat of ASSMGPII is in the World Championship where you progress - as in real Formula One - through a season of global challenges. These are seats-of-the-pants races, and while memorising courses is something that will improve your performances over time, it isn't necessary. With settings of Beginner and Master, automatic and manual gears, Super Monaco II caters for newbies and veterans alike. Even two decades on, it is a rarity to feel the thrill gamers did in the early '90s as they anticipated the start of another race in Monaco II. You knew the battles out on the tracks would be challenging and that you had to earn every podium finish; you could get away with a bit of shunting, but invariably this would slow you down, and it wasn't an alternative to braking and cornering correctly. The cockpit view was - and still is - absolutely perfect for viewing the track ahead. There was no need in Monaco II to keep readjusting the camera's position in order to see the track and other cars properly, and what's more, there's a big rear-view mirror which clearly displays the chasing pack. As for those other cars; they're big, bold, colourful and chunky, and really convey a sense of speed when when you go flying past them. Then there is Ayrton himself, in digitised form, urging you to "keep it up" as you press on towards victory. This is a real classic in gaming history, and is well worth checking out if you are a fan of driving games, or a collector of classic games generally. Indeed, it's well worth forking out a few pounds on this and a second hand Mega Drive just to play this fantastic game.


Final Fantasy VII Platinum
Final Fantasy VII Platinum
Offered by Click4entertainment Limited
Price: 87.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless storytelling, 15 Jan 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Final Fantasy VII is now some fourteen years old, and yet it is one of the few titles from the 1990s that I go back to again and again, drawn back always by the fabulous story and characters, not to mention classic JRPG gameplay and awe inspiring attention to detail. For me, few games have the ability to last more than a few years before they start to lose their charm and begin to look and feel dated - none more so than Final Fantasy XII from 2006, which is already ugly and blurry, not to mention self indulgent and annoying. In short, the great majority of games do not age well, and the Final Fantasy series has suffered from declining standards as well. Since FFX Square/Square Enix seem to have produced increasingly poor console games, with FFXIII being the latest case in point. FFVII, however, was released at a time when Square were on a roll, producing brilliant games almost annually. Emotion in a video game can be a toe curling experience at the best of times (Ryo screaming "Noooooo!" in a famous sequence from Shenmue being a prime example in an otherwise brilliant game), but here it is dealt with wonderfully thanks to genuinely likeable characters, brilliant music, and perhaps the greatest video game story ever told. These days, a game without vocal dialogue would be almost unimaginable in a big console or PC title, but it really isn't missed in FFVII: the story unfolds via text dialogue, and it works very, very well. Console games from the 1990s that I can still fully enjoy are few and far between - Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evils 1, 2 and 3, Silent Hill and one or two others. Final fantasy VII, however, has neither become clunky nor graphically dubious with the passage of time. It is still as bright, vibrant and amazing as it was when it was first released. It's an all time classic which anyone picking it up today can still enjoy on many levels.


Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)
Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)
Offered by JosephGaming
Price: 9.00

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dull, 12 Jan 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gran Turismo 5 (PS3) (Video Game)
I find it very hard to believe Gran Turismo 5 has been in solid development for six years, more like it was thrown together in six months. There's so much recycled material from GT3 and GT4 that surely nothing was necessary except a bit (and I mean a bit) of polishing. Talking of polish, this isn't a very good game at all, either in AI terms or looks. When I buy a new title I play it back to back with other games of the same genre. Slightly Mad Studios' NFS: Shift is a great racer straight out of the box, unlike GT5. Criterion Games' Burnout Paradise is deep and beautiful - the latter is a rarity in GT5. Even Codemasters' Grid is more thrilling and enjoyable. None of these games required six or seven years of development. Yet Polyphony Digital reckon this dull, fiddly game is so fantastic it's worth releasing a shorter "teaser" version for twenty quid, well before the full game's release. Unbelievable arrogance. I stuck with GT5 for four or five weeks, and was bored almost to tears by the endless grinding and parsimonious rewards. At least I can still enjoy GT4 - a far better game. This game has lost the series a lot of its former lustre for me, however.


Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (PS3)
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (PS3)
Offered by SC-WHOLESALE
Price: 8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary, 12 Jan 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
There are some truly bizarre negative reviews of NFS:HP on Amazon so far. Complaints about a lack of manual gear changing, a lack of steering wheel support, and dismissive remarks about the game being "too arcadey". An arcade racer too arcadey? Who would have thought it? Anyway, my gripes are about the actual content and not erroneous simulation aspects. Having seen a friend's copy of the game on PC, I was struck by how well defined the graphics were and how excellent it looked in full screen, therefore the rather washed out and letterboxed nature of the console versions came as a definite disappointment. My HDTV has a pretty big screen, but when large "cinematic widescreen" borders enter the equation, the viewable area of screen is greatly reduced. Then there is the graphical fidelity, which is a very noticeable step down from the PC iteration. Gameplay-wise, it's a very mixed bag. The races and police pursuits are fun, but these are almost outweighed at times by solo time attacks and police car races against the clock. If I wanted to drive around without on-road competition I wouldn't have bought a game called 'Hot Pursuit'. Then there are problems such as a lack of responsiveness at high speeds, making some crashes with AI traffic almost unavoidable, and there's also questionable collision detection. I compared Burnout Paradise: Ultimate Box back to back with Hot Pursuit, and there is little competition - the former is the better game in every department. NFS:HP is a really rather ordinary arcade racer, which is hugely overrated.


The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (BBC Audio)
The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (BBC Audio)
by Michael Dibdin
Edition: Audio CD

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 8 Jan 2011
As a homage to Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle (referred to here, almost endlessly at one point, as ACD), Michael Dibdin successfully uses appropriate 19th century novelistic idioms to convey the time, place and characters we have come to expect from Conan Doyle's stories. It is this close cloning of the originals which I find most enjoyable, and obviously much research and work went into getting the ambience as close as possible to the source. This, however, is perhaps Dibdin's one real success, with the story itself being serviceable but highly disappointing once the reveal occurs.

==SPOILER==

The personality of Jack The Ripper has been one of the most intriguing mysteries of the past century. There have been numerous books published on the matter, with varying qualities of "evidence" used to pinpoint a number of individuals, with Francis Tumblety being perhaps (for me) the most compelling and fascinating. Despite its fictional characters, Dibdin is unafraid of using real-world persons and events to further his tale, so I was looking forward to a Holmseian analysis of the available facts. This is largely unforthcoming, however, and it was a major anti-climax to be informed that Jack The Ripper was none other than Holmes' arch nemesis Professor Moriarty. For myself, it was at this point that most of Dibdidn's good work fell to pieces. An intriguing whodunnit suddenly became a tiresome romp, and I had little interest in what followed. A Sherlock Holmes tale (and tribute) involving Jack The Ripper ought to be somewhat less predictable than a workmanlike dumping of the Whitechapel Murders squarely at the feet of a fictional supporting character.


The Complete Fawlty Towers [1975] [DVD]
The Complete Fawlty Towers [1975] [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Cleese
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: 26.82

0 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Badly dated, 4 Jan 2011
Fawlty Towers was hilarious when I was in my teens, but returning to it now largely leaves me cold. Broad farce is fine, if you like that kind of thing, but over thirty years on I find this more embarrassing than entertaining. Some of the episodes still stand up, such as the one in which Polly attempts to impersonate Sybil from Sybil's bed, and the "rat in the cake" ("Ee's hamster!") episode is brilliantly done. But there are too many illogical moments of guests and other minor characters acting bizarrely purely to set up a scenario (a la Some Mothers Do 'Ave' 'Em), and others such as the occasion when you can see Manuel very carefully inserting his foot into a gourmet duck before "accidentally" walking around in it. In many instances such as these the contrivances are painful and - I'm afraid - amateurish. Another that springs to mind is when Bazil asks Manuel where Cybil is, and the latter replies "Que? The bill?" Why wouldn't Manuel know the name of the manager's wife whom he sees every day? I'm happy to suspend my disbelief occasionally, but things like that are a bit much. The regular characters, however, are excellently created and it is this solid basis which lets the writing and performing get away with weaknesses much of the times. Fawlty Towers isn't unwatchable, unlike the great majority of '70s sitcoms, but it has aged badly.


Dumb and Dumber [DVD] [1994]
Dumb and Dumber [DVD] [1994]
Dvd ~ Jim Carrey
Price: 2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, 26 Dec 2010
This review is from: Dumb and Dumber [DVD] [1994] (DVD)
Surely one of the greatest and funniest comedy films ever created. Dumb and Dumber is consistently hilarious, witty and well observed. Again and again the Farrelly Brothers serve up fantastic set pieces which Carrey and Daniels deliver with flair and astute timing. D&D is a real rarity in that it is a genuinely amusing film with barely a flaw, from the writing to the performances, casting and story development. D&D doesn't try to be sophisticated, but it is light years ahead of any other comedy film I can think of. People often talk about "masterpieces" like Some Like It Hot, but such older comedies never elicit from me more than a smile; Dumb & Dumber is both witty and clever, but it is also hilariously funny and contains a great depth of human warmth. You laugh at Dumb & Dumber because it is funny, not because you feel you should.


The Remains Of The Day [DVD] [2001]
The Remains Of The Day [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Anthony Hopkins
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 8.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My misake, no doubt... one of many, 21 Dec 2010
A fantastic film, and one to be watched many times by those it enthralls. Kazuo Ishiguro's novel is one of the rare occurrences of a book becoming a possibly even better film, with The Godfather being another which comes to mind. Ishiguro captures the social mores which governed England for many generations, and which still do, but this Merchant Ivory adaptation perhaps promotes the material to another level again. The time and setting - the dark days of the late 1930s - have never been more lovingly evoked, and Hopkins' and Emma Thompson's performances are amongst the best of their careers. This is a love story, but a thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate one, without the false schmaltz of a romcom. As mature leads, Hopkins and Thompson connect whilst failing to connect, and one famous scene more than any other typifies the way they constantly miss each other whilst regardlessly becoming ever more involved. Throughout, the performances are perfect, and the period detail, while minimal, is just right. The Remains of the Day never veers into mawkishness, and is a love story for grown-ups which is, by turns, intelligent, warm, superbly observational, dark, and delightfully wry.


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