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Spuddy Spud (The Spuddery)

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Unreal Championship 2 (Xbox)
Unreal Championship 2 (Xbox)
Offered by multimedia-online
Price: 18.95

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One for experts or masochists only, 16 May 2005
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This game is hard, hard, hard. Button combos for the weapons and attacks are hard; enemy AI is hard; getting the camera angles right is sometimes needlessly hard. You get the picture. Whether you see this as a positive or negative depends on how dextrous you happen to be.
Graphically the game is pretty, but the environemts leave you feeling hemmed-in by invisible walls. Enemies look well-modelled, but everything moves so quickly in combat that you don't really have time to enjoy how they look. Finding the enemy in the first place can be a pain, and I have spent many a frustrating minute looking around a rather samey environment thinking 'where is the *&%!'. It doesn't help that the levels are as expansive vertically as horizontally, and the bad guy might be peering down on you with a sniper rifle as you aimlessly wander around corridors below. If ever there was a game in need of a radar, this is it.
There are better and more imaginative FPS / fighting games on the xbox, but for those who want a very tough challenge, this should pass your pain threshold.

Neo S Advanced Controller
Neo S Advanced Controller

3.0 out of 5 stars If only the build quality were slightly better..., 24 Jan 2005
This is a great little pad when it's brand new. It's a little smaller than the Microsoft S controller, and the buttons and sticks have a lighter, more responsive feel. The controller is largely made out of dense, moulded rubber which is very comfortable to grip, and makes the controller sit firmly in your hands without slipping. The thumbsticks, too, are rubber-coated plastic. The pause and start buttons are positioned far more sensibly in the middle of the controller between the two sticks.
Really, the Neo S should be worth 5 points, but unfortunately the plastic insert on the left thumbstick is not very strong. Any type of game where you tend to lean on the edge of the stick (e.g. racing / driving games) causes the plastic under the rubber thumbpad to curl over, which makes the rubber come loose. It's only a matter of time before the rubber splits and the pad becomes too uncomfortable to use.
This is NOT an isolated problem, either. I have bought three, and all have ended up the same. Either I'm heavy-handed or the build quality is not up to scratch. Still, the fact that I have bought three despite this problem indicates that they are still worth a look. However, if you value longevity, pay the extra and buy yourself an official controller S.

Halo 2 - Limited Edition In Metal Box (XBOX)
Halo 2 - Limited Edition In Metal Box (XBOX)
Offered by Click4entertainment Limited
Price: 87.95

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's like Halo, only sexier, 16 Nov 2004
This game well deserves some of it's pre-release hype, it is a beaut. But is it the best computer game ever made, as some people (including some usually sensible magazine reviewers) would claim? If you thought Halo was the best game ever, then this game will undoubtedly make you a bit damp, because it's Halo with lots of very shiny chrome-plated knobs on. There are games I prefer to this, but Halo 2 is still a bit of class.
Everything that made Halo a great game is given several layers of polish. The graphics run faster and smoother, which makes the right view-stick seem a bit twitchier than the old Halo at first. You soon get used to the new pace, though. All the characters, weapons, landscapes, vehicles and special effects are SO much better than Halo - no mean feat, because Halo was itself a whole Swizzels-Matlow factory's worth of eye candy. I particularly love the look of the Needler weapon on this game, with the landscape refracting just the right way through the purple needles. The reflections of the battle rifle sight, and the view of the world through the sniper scope, are stunning touches. The landscapes are absolutely humungous, and so beautiful that you'd want to go there for real, apart from the idea of being sliced in two with an energy sword. There seems to be much more variation in light and weather in this game than in Halo, which was quite dark and moody. This game has a bit more fire and sunshine - which gives a surprisingly different vibe to spitting lead into Covenant scum. The cinematic bits have a ridiculous storyline, but look and sound fantastic. This is a game that further closes the gap between cinema and game graphics.
The difficulty level of Halo 2 seems about the same as Halo - maybe a bit easier, or is it just that I'm more used to the controls by now? The enemies seem a bit cleverer in the way they jump around and run for cover when you're trying to mow them down with your dual machine guns, but to compensate, there seem to be more guns and ammo pick-ups, and your shield charges a lot quicker. Most fun of all is getting into a Ghost and blasting away with its new and very much improved canon. If you like guns - and who doesn't? - you will find plenty of fresh firearm fun in this game!
It seems churlish to gripe about this game in any way, but for the sake of balance. I find it a bit easy to get lost in Halo 2, as I did in Halo, especially after you've been spinning around popping caps in a load of Covenant who just had you surrounded. Some of the environments are a bit samey and it's not always clear whether a place you're going in to is one that you've been to before. This is particularly relevant with dual wielding, which is great fun (really!), but two guns clogging up the screen does obscure the view somewhat. It can be frustrating running around in circles trying to find your way back on course, or am I just a bit dim? Whatever, surely no one would begrudge the MC a map, or even just a compass, to help him find his way around?
Occasionally when you turn around fast you see a bit of the landscape get redrawn, but this happens very quickly and does not affect gameplay. It isn't even a proper gripe, just a bit of technical tut-tutting because there's no serious way to fault this game.
It's a first person shooter, it's glossy, it's a great game. Is it significantly better than Halo? Maybe not: just significantly newer. Buy it, all the same.
Last word - the metal box is cool, but the DVD is only moderately interesting.

Vapor Trails
Vapor Trails
Price: 5.90

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good album, but rotten sound quality, 6 Aug 2004
This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
I would like to give this album four stars but I can only give it two.
First, let me tell you why it deserves four stars.
Like many good albums that stick in your mind for years, this one takes some GOOD effort on the part of the listener. I must have listened to this album about twenty times before I got it. There are no simple, catchy numbers in here that you can 'hum on the tube', as another reviewer writes. The melodies and rhythms here are complex and need to be learned before they can be appreciated. This is no bad thing, and the most enduring records in my collection are the ones that sounded like hard work when I first heard them. Having said that, 'One Little Victory' does not have the opening-number grab-factor, and I don't think it's a particularly good choice for first song.
The seven next songs are a different matter entirely. 'Ceiling Unlimited' is one of the best songs Rush have done for years and has a surprisingly spiky, almost indie, sound to it. It's also the first Rush song I can remember in years that fades out rather than having a coda. Neil Peart (lyrically) writes some of his best, and darkest, lyrics since the Grace Under Pressure album on songs such as 'Ghost Rider', 'Vapor Trail' and 'How It Is'. The last of these is the most disquietening, because the jauntiness of the music is menacingly incongruent with the despondent lyrics, a fact that will probably escape you until read the lyrics without the music.
The last half of the album is a bit hit and miss, but I blame the trend of filling up a CD with a load of B-grade material that in the old days of vinyl would, rightly, have never see the light of day. The exception is 'Freeze', in which Rush return to their proggy roots with weird chord changes and a beat you could not tap your foot to unless you had some kind of neurological disorder.
Musically, the band is in excellent form. Neil delivers, as usual, a virtuoso performance, and Geddy Lee surprises with new stunt vocals, particularly on 'Secret Touch'. Alex is one of the most underrated guitarists in pop / rock, and he does some fine lead and rhythm work on this album.
The reason why this album only deserves two stars is because, unfortunately, it requires plenty of BAD effort to even hear the tunes through the rotten sound recording. The album sounds like it has been recorded on a tape-to-tape deck and then left in the window of a Vauxhall Viva with the windows wound up and the heater full on August Bank Holiday Monday. We have a horrible crinkled crisp-packet effect when the music gets too loud, and there are even 'drop out' sections when the sound becomes muted. I got used to listening to this album on a home recorded tape in the car, and at first I thought I'd made a crap recording, until I went back to the CD and realised that those sounds were all there on the disk itself.
All the instruments on the album sound like they're competing for our attention - everything is trying to be louder than everything else. The result is that there's no space between the instruments and everything sounds like a horrible mush.
Consequently, it's almost impossible to listen to this album and enjoy it.

Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)
Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)
Offered by gowingsstoreltd
Price: 4.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Still the best X-Box driving game, 6 July 2004
This is still the best driving game on the X-Box, despite a few recent (and excellent) challengers to the throne such as TOCA 2 and Rallisport Challenge.
What makes it special? Well, the game is very pleasing on the eye: cities of the world are beautifully rendered and the cars look, literally, like real. Watch the replays to see what I mean. There is no hint that the cars are fashioned from polygons. On the (superficially) graphically superior TOCA 2 you sometimes see the wheels drift slightly away from the body when you go around corners or over bumps. On PGR2, everything is rock solid.
The control system on PGR2 is spot-on, with just the right amount of weight and glide with all the cars. There is a sense of real difference between the multitude of cars on offer, too, where the car with the biggest stats is not necessarily the one with the best feel. And boy, do you need to drive those suckers. This is a driving game where you will need to steer, slide, brake and change gears at exactly the right time - and often the same time - to shave crucial fractions of seconds from your lap times. This is not a game where you will get pressure sores on your right index finger by holding down the 'gas' trigger - this is a game for repetitive stress injury in your entire hand.
PGR2 has a nice scoring system based on speed and trick combos such as overtaking, slides and driving on less than 4 wheels. This adds an interesting 'after the game' element where you watch the Kudos points rack up when the race is over, wondering whether you have made the cut to win a medal on this challenge. There's something more satisfying about going for a pinball-style HIGH score than a low lap time.
About the best thing about PGR2 is that it's so moreish, though. All the races are short (about 3 laps) so the temptation to have 'just one more go' to crack a challenge is irresistible. The urge to crack the brickwork with the controller (or filthy language about the AI opponents) when you screw it up or get overtaken late in the race, is also irresistible at times.
For the sake of balance, I will mention a few problems. Yeah, you've heard 'em. The environments are unpeopled and sterile, the computer components are sometimes too aggressive, there are not enough multiplayer options (what happened to 'Chase' mode in PGR1). Who cares, doesn't matter. If you like driving games you must have this. But then, you already have, haven't you?

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