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Call of Duty: Black Ops (PC DVD)
Call of Duty: Black Ops (PC DVD)
Offered by IDSS
Price: £6.45

103 of 114 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why not just release it later, when it's actually ready ?, 13 Nov. 2010
Hmmm ... I got it on the day of release and I'm really not sure about it.

I'm strictly old school when it comes to FPS games and only consider playing them on the PC whether they're solo or multiplayer: you just get way more accuracy and control with the WSAD/Mouse combo and I have been playing that way since Doom came out in 1993, which is nearly twenty years, after all.

I own a Wii, but generally don't get on with consoles in general as I find it really hard to use the controllers. There is a new gizmo coming out shortly that allows a keys/mouse set-up to be attached, but ... what's the point?
You may as well just play PC as do that ...

ANYWAY !

Black Ops.
Review.

SinglePlayer: excellent story line, starting with the Cuban missile crisis in the Bay Of Pigs in the early 60s. You're actually strapped in a chair and are being interrogated throughout the campaign section of the game, and the various missions take the form of flashbacks. There are numbers popping up all over the screen from time to time and you've obviously been brainwashed or at least severely damaged mentally at some point in the last 30 or so years. The game then moves through various international incidents that have called for strategic initiatives and covert operations, sometimes in the midst of an all out war (Vietnam), sometimes not (a raid on a Russian silo, breaking out of a gulag). In all, there are 15 solo missions and you work back and forth from 1945 to the present day, sometimes as a Russian with western sympathies, but most of the time as an American.

It's gripping as a story, perhaps the most cohesive yet in the series, and the set pieces are - as always - spectacular. The downside is you can't skip a lot of the cinematics, which is annoying at the best of times but given that the bloody game freezes or crashes SO OFTEN on the PC it's downright infuriating. I have not played such an out-and-out bug-ridden game in years.
It's so frustrating ... twice, on two separate missions, I've had to restart the entire level, and given that those cutscenes can last for five minutes, I've just gone to make a coffee or whatever ... ridiculous.
So, overall: it's good, but it's terribly executed and possibly worth waiting for a patch to play all the way through the solo part of the game.

Multiplayer: I'm going to ignore the Zombie and the training missions as I've yet to play them, but I will say there's quite a cool gambling aspect to the MP game in that you can play four different scenarios in which you put up COD points as a bet: you win the game, you take your opponents currency; you lose, they take yours. You'd better be good !
Again, I've not played these yet, because I've been focusing on the regular MP side of things, but I like the sound of them.
Currency? Did I say currency? Yes, I did .. there's two ways to get on in the game and I REALLY like this development. You not only get the usual experience points, allowing you to unlock weapons as you ramp up the levels, but you also gain COD Points, which is a bit like money in that from the off you can buy guns, various attachments for them, perks and killstreaks. If, like me you like to be stealthy, straight away you can get the silent running and radar-proof perks (called Ninja and Ghost). I then bought a silencer for the MP5 and dived straight in ... happy days
Obviously, if you want to play with a more attacking style, you can choose load-outs to suit that as well, as it's really up to you. I love this aspect of the game as it's very balanced and well thought-out. You still can't get to the juiciest weapons till you climb the rankings, so it's quite a level playing-field which works well overall.

The game engine is the same as WaW, which is a little disappointing as I always found it rather clunky. The MW graphics and mechanics worked better for me, with more accurate shots and a more realistic feel to the physics in the game. With the Treyarch titles, I always feel they're a bit "cartoony" ...

However, like the single player game, having said all those good things about it, there are massive problems.
The lag is unbelievable. I've got a speed of 8 or 9Mb/second, which is pretty good, but I'm getting serially annihilated when the screen freezes, normally as I enter a new room or turn a corner. My PC is a ninja beast, so I know it's not that. Everyone is saying the same thing, moaning about their pings and how annoying it all is .. and I've got my settings on the lowest possible and I've still got problems.

Again, I'm guessing that a patch will address a lot of the issues, in the meantime I'm not playing it all that much as I'm sick of dying all the time. There are already hackers too, with many players having prestiged or at least playing on level 40+ (there's only 50 before you prestige, but there are now 15 levels of prestige).
With a lot of killcams, you see the wallhackers doing their usual thing ... seriously, I wonder if some of the developers don't create the hacks themselves, they're out so damn quickly.

Apart from that, I find the MP game as tricky as WaW, which I never enjoyed as much as the MW games. It's not the weapons, a lot of which are current, it's just the game engine itself and how clumsy it feels. It's just not as smooth or as accurate as the IW titles. And I hate IW for what they did in the last game with the servers.
That is one great aspect of this newer version, the return to dedicated servers: already, I've got a few favourites that I return to, which is always nice.

There are some cool touches with the killstreaks: a radio-controlled buggy with a bomb on it, SAM missiles you just leave to take down choppers, a Blackbird UAV that shows where the enemies are facing as well as their locations, and some interesting variations on rocket launchers, allowing you to fly round a map before choosing your target. It's good to see some serious diversity, rather than the usual airstrike/chopper variations.

So overall, I think there are some great developments in terms of the gameplay structure, but also some massive issues with the actual game itself. Some reviews are saying it's unplayable on the PC at the moment: I don't think that's really the case, but it might be wise to wait a couple of weeks before wading in with either version if you're liable to punch your monitor in frustration with any little glitch .. because there are loads of them and they're big!

Pros : Innovative features, great load-out options, rivetting solo game
Cons : bugs, lag, bugs, lag, bugs, lag

Verdict : wait for the patch and keep playing MW2 till then
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2011 7:15 PM BST


My Everything
My Everything

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Got this on import a month before the UK release ..., 11 Sept. 2004
This review is from: My Everything (Audio CD)
Fifteen years ago Anita Baker looked like the natural successor to Aretha Franklin as the Queen of Soul, following the success of her albums Rapture and Giving You The Best That I've Got. She had the looks, the attitude and the most amazing voice with a range that had to be heard to be believed. I saw her live at Wembley Arena and to this day it's the best gig I've ever seen. Whether smouldering with a love ballad or belting out more uptempo numbers, she really was the finest natural vocalist on the planet. Then two things happened : modern R'n'B was born and a whole generation of new pretenders arrived, and she herself got married in her mid-30s and decided it was now or never to raise a family. In the decade that's passed, things have moved on considerably and with the likes of Alicia Keys, Joss Stone, Lauryn Hill and Mary J Blige now centre stage in the soul camp and Norah Jones, Katie Melua and Diana Krall controlling the jazz scene, the question is where does she fit in?
Well, somewhere in the middle is the easy answer. Though traditionally a real soul diva, Baker now appeals more to older listeners who will remember the likes of Sweet Love and Caught Up In The Rapture and want more of the same. With all but one of the tracks self-written, this is a strong outing and interestingly it's on Blue Note, the home of jazz and of Norah Jones, so you know what to expect. The songs themselves are lushly produced and warm sounding, waves of strings and brass washing over you as you listen, but always - and rightly so - the voice is high up in the mix and the main "instrument" on show here. The subject material is mature too, reflecting the positive changes she's experienced over the last ten years, with closing track The Men In My Life a particular highlight as she declares her love for her husband and two sons. Another stand-out is the funky Like You Used To Do, which features Babyface who himself has been rather low in profile of late. Let's hope now her kids are getting older, she decides to go back to the day job for real and resume her career in earnest.


The Best Of Bonnie Raitt On Capitol 1989-2003
The Best Of Bonnie Raitt On Capitol 1989-2003
Price: £5.85

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She's SO under-rated!!, 12 July 2003
When Bonnie Raitt collected four Grammies for her 1989 multiplatinum breakthrough Nick of Time, it offered sweet justification for fans that had followed her through years of great recordings but plenty of hard luck in terms of commercial success. The Bonnie Raitt Collection shows why those fans were right all along. From the early blues-mama stylings of "Give It Up or Let Me Go" and "Love Me Like a Man" to the increased pop sophistication she brought to songs like her funky reworking of Del Shannon's "Runaway" and Bryan Adams's straight-ahead rocker "No Way to Treat a Lady", the set offers a worthwhile sampling of the decade and a half she spent recording for the Warner Bros. label. Of special note are a pair of live recordings; a previously unreleased version of "Women Be Wise", featuring one of Raitt's primary mentors, Sippie Wallace; and a duet with John Prine on "Angel from Montgomery" that first appeared on the Grammy-winning Tribute to Steve Goodman. If you only recently discovered Raitt, this collection will help you decide which of her earlier works to sample next.


Fiesta Songs
Fiesta Songs
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £12.98

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great party album, 12 July 2003
This review is from: Fiesta Songs (Audio CD)
It's always nice to hear music that combines interesting ideas with a sense of humour and Fiesta Songs has plenty of both. SeƱor Coconut--aka prolific sonic chameleon Uwe Schmidt--has proved himself a master of tongue-in-cheek musical madness on many occasions. Schmidt's SeƱor Coconut persona has been his most popular project by far though. It's no surprise given the concept, which is the transformation of well-known songs into slightly cheesy, mildly exotic Latino lounge music.
After cha-cha-cha-ing a load of Kraftwerk classics on his previous El Baile Aleman (The German Dance) LP, he returns now with a more diverse collection than before, one that embraces a range of soul, pop and rock classics from the last 30 years. "Smoke on the Water", "Riders on the Storm", "Blue Eyes", "Smooth Operator" and "Beat It" all get the Coconut treatment and sit alongside a few original compositions. Some say he's a renegade genius, others that he's a tacky cover artist--most of us are too busy swaying and smiling to care.


The Best Prog Rock Album In The World ... Ever!
The Best Prog Rock Album In The World ... Ever!
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £19.99

12 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Go and listen to Close to the Edge by YES, 12 July 2003
Hmmm ... well, I'm not sure about that title : there's four or five albums by Yes, one or two from Jethro Tull, a couple of Camels and at least six Led Zeps that could all rightfully lay claim to be the BEST prog rock album etc... By its very nature, with overly-long symphonic "overtures" as opposed to three minute pop songs, prog has always been a flavour best savoured by the album format, preferably in a candle-lit room with lots of insence. I am a huge fan of all the bands mentioned above, but to cut up some of their finest work just to cram it onto a three-disc collection like this is both pointless and an insult to the whole prog movement. Take Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells : I can't just hear two minutes and walk away. The whole point of prog is that it builds into something altogether more moving, more significant, more whole, hence the length of some of the pieces. A much derided genre, prog fans tend to be lumped in with Trekkers and other "weirdos" who don't quite toe the line and look a bit mad, and to be fair, it's probably true for the most part. But don't be put off! There's a lot of great prog music : check out Close To The Edge by Yes if you want to hear the true BEST OF ... nothing comes close for me. But be warned : it's pop music, but not as we know it, Jim....


Destination Motherland: The Roy Ayers Anthology
Destination Motherland: The Roy Ayers Anthology
Price: £10.49

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just buy it ..., 12 July 2003
Roy Ayers started his musical life in his early twenties as a session vibraphone player, before forming his own band, Ubiquity, in the 70s, playing his own special blend of politico-jazz-funk-soul, influencing a whole host of artists, and indeed the whole acid jazz movement, started in England with the Talking Loud and Acid Jazz record labels, whose bands included Brand New Heavies, Young Disciples and Galliano, among others. Hip-hop acts have all sampled him since and all the while he's been sitting back, chuckling to himself while the royalties roll in and he's referred to as "The Man", "My Biggest Hero" and "God" by various RnB superstars. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer, more deserving fella! He still plays Ronnie Scotts once a year, every night for a week, and has recently added a residency at Camden's Jazz Cafe to his annual visits to London. It's a long way from playing a relatively unknown accompanying percussion instrument to being a worldwide superstar ... but he takes it all in his stride, "I'm having fun laughing with it," he has said. "I don't mind what they call me, that's what people do in this industry." Including the fabulous, laid back vibes of Everybody Loves The Sunshine, the more upbeat and definitely danceable Running Away, as well as the cult classics Love Will Bring Us Back Together, and Get On Up, Get On Down, this is an excellent way of getting into the great man before deciding which individual albums you might want to follow up ...


The Good the Bad and the Chubby
The Good the Bad and the Chubby
Price: £11.63

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CHUBBY! CHUBBY! CHUBBY!, 12 July 2003
For those of you who have never heard of Popa Chubby, prepare to be rocked! He's a very HEAVY New Yorker with attitude ... think of an obese American wrestler with an electric guitar and you're about halfway there .... but this guy can really play. His fusion of rock with blistering blues is both a tribute to and a natural continuation of the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker and Jimi Hendrix yet he sings better than all those guys put together. With some decidely un-pc lyrics, this is not for the faint-hearted but taken with a large pinch of salt, and a few shots of bourbon, this latest album makes for great late night party boogying. Having spent the last decade championing the New York blues scene with a series of showcase albums of his own and other acts' material, this is ALL Chubby and it's all good. I really hope this is the breakthrough album he's been threatening to make as the big guy deserves to make it ... if you like it loud and heavy and are fed up with kiddie rock, give the Chubbster a go!


Means Of Production
Means Of Production
Offered by westworld-
Price: £20.00

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's good but it's no Coldwater Music, 12 July 2003
This review is from: Means Of Production (Audio CD)
Intelligent hip-hop is the best way to describe AIM, aka Andy Turner. With two cracking albums already under his belt in the shape of Cold Water Music and Hinterland, Means Of Production is a retrospective collection of earlier releases, neatly brought together in one handy CD. Well, it beats carrying round a clutch of twelve-inch vinyl, that's for sure. If you're not familiar with the name, imagine a harder Massive Attack with a hint of an orchestra, a touch of house and just a smidge of scratching and you'd be on the right lines. Effectively a singles collection from 1995-99, Means Of Production is more upbeat and dancefloor oriented than the albums, which worked so well because they were like nothing else around at the time on the rap scene. In fact, to call it 'rap' at all is a misnomer as there's virtually no 'rapping' at all on any of his work, but rather a more subtle blend of bluesy vocals and the odd bit of 'spoken word'. There's no posing or posture, just an elegant soundscape crafted with love. The highlight is an excellent Rae & Christian remix of Loopdreams which is worth the money alone.


Mambo Sinuendo
Mambo Sinuendo
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.17

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit sleepy ..., 12 July 2003
This review is from: Mambo Sinuendo (Audio CD)
Slide guitar virtuouso, singer-songwriter and all-round good bloke Ry Cooder has enjoyed a real renaissance in the last few years thanks largely to his groundbreaking work in bringing the music of Cuba to the western world in general - and a previously hostile United States in particular - following the success of his phenomenal Buena Vista Social Club project. Take a bunch of brilliant but ageing musicians, put them in a recording studio for the first time, sit back and watch the money roll in .... well, that's the cynical way of looking at it, but the art they gifted the world is truly breath-taking and I strongly recommend anyone check out the albums by these guys and also the movie of the same name if you want the true flavour of Cuba. This, on the other hand, is a bit of a disappointment. Cooder has obviously hanging out in Havana, smoking too many cigars (or maybe something else) as this is SO laid back it's falling over. There's nothing inherently wrong with the album, it's just a bit ponderous and compared to some of the great man's earlier output it seems like he's stuck in low gear throughout when you really want him to put his foot to the floor. It's a nice Sunday morning record, especially on a sunny day when the birds are singing and you just wanna chill for a bit ... but here's hoping the next one is altogether hotter.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 13, 2009 4:36 PM BST


Fiends Of Dope Island
Fiends Of Dope Island
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £32.95

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Filthy ... but fun !, 12 July 2003
This review is from: Fiends Of Dope Island (Audio CD)
With their first album in five years, rock's original dysfunctional family are back and they're ready to kick some ass!
Forget Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and The Osbournes : these guys are the daddies of shock-rock. Think The Munsters fused with Elvis' band on the back of a very fast speedboat sailing the up the river Hades on their way to a date with the devil himself and you're about halfway there. Obsessed with retro fifties imagery, corsets, stockings and all things camp and kitschy, Poison Ivy and Lux Interior have always flirted with the whole sex, drugs, rock n roll ideal as if it were their college major and they're out to get an A-grade, and yet even into their forties they show no signs of slowing down. With titles like She's Got Balls and Papa Satan Sang Louie and their customary driving basslines, rockabilly riffa and the tortured, stuck-in-a-dungeon-for-30-years vocal range of Lux himself, Fiends... finds them in fine form and ready to reclaim their rightful place in rock's Hall of Shame. Not that they give a monkey's what people think ... this is twisted genius at its finest ,with its studded tongue firmly embedded in its pierced cheek and a snappy song in its heart. Cool!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 3, 2007 4:52 PM GMT


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