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Mr. B. Mcardle "benmcardle" (London, England)

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Saints Row: The Third (Xbox 360)
Saints Row: The Third (Xbox 360)
Price: £6.99

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great new installment. Not perfect, but very good., 2 Dec. 2011
So I loved Saints Row 2 and have been waiting for The Third to come out ever since. How does it compare? Well - its similar but different; it keeps most of the good bits of SR 2 and improves on them and bins off the less good bits. There are a couple of disappointments, but I'll come to them later...

So the plot is fun - silly and occasionally jaw dropping. The second mission on the plane (I will say no more) is one of the most genuinely awesome gaming experiences that I've had; the gameplay was simple, but the visual effect... wow! Having worked my way through around two thirds of the main plotline, it is funny, kinda clever in parts. Not quite as engaging or dramatic as parts of SR2 (nothing to touch the SR2 Brotherhood plotline, certainly), but solid. Another nice touch is that, as well as the better graphics, customisation goes a bit further than SR2. As well as boosting your characters resistances and skills (with money, rather than by completing the minigames, with certain boosts locked until higher levels), you can customise your weapons to be better, including (in some cases) being able to shoot explosive or incendiary ammo.

One of the things I liked most about SR2 were the minigames and these are back in abundance - and most of them are a lot more polished and good fun than the ones in SR2. As well as the old favourites, there's also a version of Mayhem played with tanks, a survival maze where you shoot people dressed as hotdogs and a truly brilliant version of Escort which I won't spoil for you (but anyone who has seen Talladega Nights will love the reference). The tasks are all engaging but not of them are too taxing.

This touches on one of the issues that was a bit disappointing - the game difficulty (at least on normal) is very low. While this is kind of nice and means you don't end up playing the same tasks over and over again (like the higher levels of Trail Blazing in SR2), there isn't much of a challenge. Maybe the harder difficulty levels will be different.

Other good bits - better soundtrack than SR2 I reckon, less fiddly vehicle customisation, fun new characters (Oleg and Kinzi are both ace; Zimos is good in a quirky, Marmite-love-him-or-hate-him kind of way). Although some reviews elsewhere have criticised the cityscape as being too samey, I don't think this is the case; it isn't as varied as SR2, but that always seemed a bit over-artificial to me anyway. There is some variation, and it isn't as dull and samey as Liberty City in GTA 4 was.

Bits I didn't like - Shaundi has turned from cute stoner babe to Cheryl Cole semi-lookalike with a chip on her shoulder (although minus the Geordie accent) and the character is less engaging for it. There isn't as much out and out silliness in the same way that SR 2 had (fewer weird secret locations) and the gameplay isn't as rude or, for want of a better word, 'edgy'. This is played up to in some parts (when doing the minigame in SR3 that was, in SR2, drug dealing, your character is distributing naff Saints Row merchandise), but there is a definite feeling that aspects of the game have been toned down to avoid criticism. There aren't the same options to customise your cribs to the same extent either, which is a bit of a shame, but they're actually pretty sweet anyway so that's not so bad.

All in all - worth the wait and worth buying new. Great for dipping in and out of and playing casually, if you liked SR2 (and/or thought that the GTA series has started taking itself too seriously), then you should buy this game.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2012 4:02 PM GMT

Mikhail Bakunin - Statism and Anarchy
Mikhail Bakunin - Statism and Anarchy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly prescient, 22 Feb. 2011
A truly fantastic little slice of Bakunin's writings, ¬ęStatism and Anarchy¬Ľ sets out his eerily accurate predictions on the inevitable toxic characteristics of Marxist regimes and postulates a different, more empowered vision of worker emancipation. Easy to read and engaging throughout, this capable translation brings Bakunin`s words to life. You may not agree with the conclusions, but there is no denying the pacey and intelligent content of the text. An excellent, low cost piece of revolutionary thinking!

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360)
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360)

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strangely unsatisfying., 12 Sept. 2007
I agree with the good points that many of the other reviewers mention - flexible character creation, incredible graphics, gigantic playing world, total freedom of action etc.

The problem is that, once you get over the novelty value and the inital 'wow!' factor, Oblivion is actually a fairly dull game. Character interaction is pretty basic, storylines and quest plots are linear and uninspired, and there is limited humour in the game. The innumerable dungeon areas, while beautifully rendered, have no real depth to them - go in, kill everything, get the treasure, move on to the next dungeon, go in, kill everything and so on.

Having played 20-odd hours of fairly repetitive hack'n'slash, there doesn't appear to be much else on offer in the game other than more of the same and my interest has evaporated.

Worth checking out definitely (because the graphics really are outstanding, probably some of the best on the 360 to date), but I'd recommend a weekend rental rather than a purchase.

Introducing Semiotics (Introducing (Icon Books))
Introducing Semiotics (Introducing (Icon Books))
by Paul Cobley
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to one of the most 'pointy-headed' of sciences, 11 July 2006
Semiotics is a somewhat intimidating and all-encompassing science that appears to underpin... well... pretty much everything. This book describes, in comparatively simple terms, the development of semiotic theory from straight linguistics into the complicated model of social interaction (and internal cognitive perception) that it now seems to be. In short - why do we interact with and think about the world in the way that we do.

The interplay between linguistics, philosophy, psychology and critical theory that comprises the basis of semiotics is not easy to understand and even this most gentle and accessible of texts can require a few attempts to get into - leading as it does with the arid linguistic-based foundations of semiotics before going into the more contemplative aspects of how semiotics works within society.

It is worth the perseverance. Once you can get through the basics, the scope of the book is substantial and fascinating. The pages that neatly answer, in semiological terms, the question 'what is art?' are worth the effort in themselves.

The only two criticisms I would have of the book are that, firstly, the disparate strands of semiotic theory are not woven particularly well and the explanation of the development of the theories seem a little disjointed. This may well be an accurate reflection of the situation, as the discipline is both comparatively new and exceedingly broad in scope. Nevertheless, it does not make for easy comprehension.

Secondly, the illustrations, while serving to break and lighten up the text, contribute little to the reader's understanding of the theories being expounded (talk about a mismatch of form and content!)

Despite these reservations, this is as concise and informed a primer on this incredibly opaque and academic of sciences as you are ever likely to read.

The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy
The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy
by Thomas Mautner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and immensely readable, 11 July 2006
Despite being technically a 'dictionary', this book can easily be read a a 'primer' on philosophy. Concise, informed, well cross-referenced and comprehensive, even the more complicated and enigmatic philosophical theories are explained clearly, critically and without over-simplification or overt bias.

My one reservation is that some entries which deal with issues which cross into theological grounds are rather sparsely expanded upon. While I appreciate that these issues are best dealt with in depth in a 'Dictionary of Theology', the effect many of them (such as Original Sin) had on contemporary philosophical thought (not to mention contemporary Western society) would justify a little more expansion than the dozen lines with which they are summarised.

The Koran (Oxford World's Classics)
The Koran (Oxford World's Classics)
by Arthur J. Arberry
Edition: Paperback

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat challenging 'Classical' translation, 11 July 2006
While a discussion of the various merits and demerits of the content of a religious text is highly inappropriate for an Amazon review, there is scope for commenting on the quality of the translation.

I bought this book unseen having flicked through the Penguin Classics version and was somewhat disappointed. The Penguin version is (for someone with no prior Koranic knowledge such as myself) an engaging and accessible translation which expresses the text in contemporary (but not colloquial) English.

By contrast, and despite assurances by the translator that he attempted to avoid the 'Biblical' style translations of many of his predecessors, this Oxford World's Classics version is translated into rather dry and laborious language which can confuse and seems bereft of the nuances that one expects were present in the original Arabic.

This is not altogether surprising in as much as the translation itself is some 50 years old, and so both the target audience and the approach to translation might well have been expected to have changed. Nevertheless, it does not make for as easy a read as one could have hoped (even for a religious text). I would recommend the Penguin Classic version over this one and will probably buy it myself as a replacement for this edition.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2011 10:17 PM GMT

Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Grower, 16 Feb. 2006
This review is from: Blackout (Audio CD)
Having bought the DKM live album and 'Sing Loud, Sing Proud', this was initially a bit of a disappointment. Whereas 'Sing Loud...' had been a frenzied speed'n'Guinness-in-the-union-hall type affair, 'Blackout' focuses less on the intense punk ethos and more on the 'traditional' Irish folk spirit - slightly sentimental and a lot less political and, well, less in yer face. That said, once you get your head round it, it's a rewarding album and has every bit of passion and emotion you'd expect from the DKMs. Produced more as a rock album than a punk album, the singalong choruses and the against-the-odds combative tone are still intact but come across with more emotional range and depth than the raw intensity of their earlier albums.
If 'Sing Loud' is when you get to the pub after the game, 'Blackout' is kicking out time and staggering down the street with your boys. Good stuff.

Apple iPod 20GB - 3rd Generation [M9244B/A]
Apple iPod 20GB - 3rd Generation [M9244B/A]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At the mercy of iTunes, 9 Jun. 2005
Overall, I'm very happy with my iPod. I prefer the seperate buttons of the 3rd Gen over the multi-use wheel of the 4th and of course its been a godsend for the commute to work etc.
The only problem I've really had has been with the iTunes programme that you have to use on your computer to store the music files. After a particularly jarring computer crash (I use a PC by the way), I had to re-install my operating system (the admittedly flawed XP Home). After doing so, I plugged in my iPod and tried to boot up iTunes. Unfortunately, the reinstalled operating system didn't recognise my iPod from before the crash, treated it as a new one and promptly wiped it. I tried to boot up iTunes and it didn't work. OK. Fine. Yet another tale of XP angst. Except I wasn't able to reinstall iTunes - even uninstalling and reinstalling wouldn't work. Now I know that this is more down to XP being rubbish than the iPod and iTunes itself - nevertheless, the user-unfriendlyness of way the programme worked on the PC meant that I had a very expensive paperweight for the next six months until I got a new computer.

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