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Reviews Written by
Simon J. Whight "fourfourfun" (Manchester)

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Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core - Special Edition (PSP)
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core - Special Edition (PSP)
Offered by IronNinjaJoy

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost fantastic, 12 May 2008
Initially thought to be vapourware, Square Enix's follow up to one of the all time most important pieces of gaming history finally graces the PSP. The big question is, does the game manage to deliver?

For those who do not know, the basis of the game is the story of Zack, an operative of military organisation SOLDIER, and deals with the events leading up to the beginning of Final Fantasy 7. Steering away from the turn based party combat of the classic game, you take the part of Zack only, the game controlling in a manner not to dissimilar from Final Fantasy XII without the gambit system.

More action based than your usual RPG, you'll soon become adept at dashing around heading into physical combat while using whatever materia (magical knowledge of the ancients) you have equipped in your limited materia slots. Its quite easy to get tempted into the rather effective physical attacks while battling, but thanks to the DMW system (basically a roulette wheel that constantly spins and occasionally triggers level ups and special attacks), you can find yourself taking advantage of No Magic Point or No Action Point cost situations.

However, after a while you will find yourself gravitating towards a set of tried and trusted materia and physical attacks, rather than the weath of the shiny coloured orbs that the game gives you. Even the presence of materia fusion, with the reward of creating materia with ever growing status buffs as a result, can't quite tempt you into grinding out stat boosting results. This is coming from someone who spent an eternity in FF7, running around in a figure of eight in a tiny room on the destroyed and underwater cargo plane, levelling up 4 X Cut.

This failing is greatly hampered by the arena in which you are presented with for doing this. From each save point in the game, you have the ability to take on side missions at will. There are masses to take on which open up as the game progresses, the sad thing about these missions is that they are mainly the same monotony over and over again. You are presented with one of many recycled locations around Midgar where you have to run about, encountering random monsters, before finding the visible "boss" and defeating it. The pre-amble of the mission changes, the content rarely does. Without any form of diversion from the limited locations, no plot or twists within the missions, they become a boring grind... something you attempt through gritted teeth, feeling like you should complete "because they are there". After a good long time of attempting these missions, rather than be a completist, I took the rather more sensible option of sticking to the main story, and this is where Crisis Core begins to shine.

There is not a free roaming world (which is a great shame) but Zack does get to explore a wonderfully rendered Midgar in his downtime, the interaction with locals, punctuated by constant text messages and the like on Zack's mobile, really do make you feel so glad to be back in this setting. Also getting to see an alternate side to eventual FF7 villain, SOLDIER elite Sephiroph, and a wonderful re-enactment of the Nibelheim incident, really sends shivers of pleasure up the spine. Even veterans of the previous game will find enough eyebrow raising moments to what they assumed was the passage of events in Nibelheim and the events afterwards.

With a lack of traditional jRPG games in the PSP market (with a glut of 'tactics' games), I really hope that this wonderful (and it is wonderful, the in game engine and the Advent Children-eqsue cutscenes are just glorious) is further used to actually pick up again from where this game leads off and re-tell the classic story from 10 years ago. So there it is, fantastic promise, gloriously presented, slightly hampered by eternally dull (but optional) side missions and a tendency to guide the player towards hack, slash, victory appoaches to battling.

FIFA 08 (PS3)
FIFA 08 (PS3)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like Intel's turnaround against AMD, EA switch on the style, 5 Nov. 2007
This review is from: FIFA 08 (PS3) (Video Game)
After the rather wonderful trio of being impressed by PSP Fifa, a delightful £25 price tag and reports of this years PES being a mild tragedy, I decided to fully complete my PES-Fifa switch by opting to get the full on PS3 version.

Truth be told, I'm finding it a joy. I quickly jumped into a Liverpool derby and found the translation from handheld to console nice and easy. The presentation (as to be expected) is fantastic from EA. Wonderful licencing and fluid animations. Even with the passing assistance on (which can be disabled to give you true control over pass direction), I was able to bang together some really satisfying fluid moves. The commentry highlighting my play and picking up on the confidence of players who are doing particularly well. In fact, the commentry is a joy, a constant stream of natural sounding dialogue with little anecdotes about Liverpool's new American owners and a demand for success this season. I've also heard reports that lower league teams can see some dedicated soundbytes for their teams, not bad if you're a die hard Championship player.

So after nipping in for a game, I decided to try the much touted Be A Pro mode. At this stage, you can play single training matches with EA planning to roll out 5v5 and then 11v11 matches in the future, this also bodes well for EA's commitment to online support. Be A Pro basically puts you in control of a nominated player for the duration of a match (or their subsitute when subbed). I decided to see how I fared as Ryan Babel on Liverpools left wing. Rather quickly you notice you have to play with a different tactic. The camera gives the player an intuitive 'best view' of the pitch as viewed from behind the player. Zooming out when coming into your area, zooming right in steady cam style when you steam into the box. I had the icon assistance on and was continually prompted about maintaining position, player threats as I roamed my left flank. The old pulse began to race a bit when I called for a pass and with gentle nudge of the right stick, Babel nicked the ball with some first time control and hammered past the defender. I slung a ball into the area and the defence nicked it away from Torres. Afterwards, I felt a real sense of achievement as I had contributed to the team. Even better, shortly after that incident, Torres smacked the crossbar from the edge of the box, the ball hit the diving goalie on the back of the head as it came back out killing it in the 6 yard box, and who was there to follow it up? A genuine shout of "YES" when Babel slotted it in. Quite far from the 45 yard glamour goals from Fifa of old, thats something you could quite easily see on Match Of The Day.

This, is all I have been playing recently. The joy of setting up a goal from the right, getting in for a tackle, discipline of position and not wearing down stamina, a totally different game to the total control of the usual single player game.

Is there anything wrong with the game? Well every now and again, there can be the odd piece of suspect placement or saving from the keeper (ie, I saw Pennant recreate David Seaman's Ronaldiniho blunder from the Japan World Cup), but perhaps this falls into the remit of acceptable human error from what shouldn't be a robotic keeper. Anything else, such as passing blunders, can be put down to your own errors! I've seen comments such as 'players and passing on rails' but to be fair all of that can be disabled in the menus, or addressed by getting to know the controls (such as being able to cancel player movement and run in a free direction when being passed to). I personally always felt in control of my players, especially when it came to trying to use skill moves. Always feeling like I pulled off what is happening on screen as opposed to luck of the keybashing.

So all in all, I'm really enjoying the switch to Fifa. Looking forward to taking some skills online when I feel comfortable.

Coloured In Memory
Coloured In Memory
Price: £7.90

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Contender for house album of the year, 31 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Coloured In Memory (Audio CD)
Jake Fairley has had quite an output with long players this year, but it seems that the best has been saved for the label with which he's had his most recognisable track to date, James Holden's Border Community. Its now three LPs into Border Community's life and they keep getting better.

Gazebo doesn't feature on this album but everything that is present is absolute electronic bliss. Little shades of Boc-esque synths without falling into Nathan Fake's trap of homage-athon. Trademark Border Community beats and sounds with electronics panning around your head and percussion falling in and out of time yet not totally alienating the listener with patterns that upset your internal metronome.

Compared to the other Fairmont LPs of this year, Coloured In Memory is much more of a pleasure to slip inside. 'Head in the heavens' moments like the robot techno peaking to glorious synths of Mobula, electronic low key vocal tracks Fade To Saturate and I Need Medicine bring a bit of variety, as does the odd BoC style vignette from the likes of Pomegranate. Plus its nice to see a 3/4 house number in the form of Darling Waltz that thankfully doesn't come across sounding like you'd expect to suddenly hear "....in the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight" float over the top of it.

I've listened once, loved, left it for a bit, come back to it and still loved. The sign of something great and a rareity in house albums. One to check.

Fabric 37
Fabric 37
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £8.29

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tasty. Funky., 31 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Fabric 37 (Audio CD)
Click. Click click. Bass thump. Fax noise.

Its been a bit like that recently hasn't it? Stripped down repetitive grooves wearing you down? Perhaps this is the solution.

This is the first Fabric in a good long while that hooks you in to see where the next turn takes you. Bug takes you on a journey through tech house that against the grain of current vogue, isn't centered around off-centred metronome timings, beats clicks and bass only mentalities and 'more abstract than thou' snobbery. I feel that this mix feels rather more like (dare I say it), Danny Tenaglia when he was at his peak. Low down funky tech house one moment before swinging into an afrocentric vocal groove and then leaving you on fire with a totally unnessasary and silly wobbly bassline (thank you Mikael Stavostrand, thank you...).

Exactly what you want to hear from a mix. Total disregard to stay within set boundaries of 'you must play Trapez progressive only' or 'must not contain vocals whatsoever' which in the end, stifles and kills off the flames of the current bright burning fashionable genre of the moment.

In the relentless monthly onslaught of Fabric CDs, this is certainly one that house fans should give some time to.

Fabric 36
Fabric 36
Price: £10.40

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The highs and lows of planet minimal, 18 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Fabric 36 (Audio CD)
So Fabric sees its 2nd 'artist' mix. I find that you can draw alot of parallels with this mix and Pure Science's mix from early on in the series. Both mine a sparse hypnotic tech groove but where Pure Science hits Terry Francis-esque energy, Villalobos goes for low down deep shuffling rhythms.

Now I have an issue with Villalobos tracks. On the whole I've noticed that they are about 15-ish minutes long and feel like they last for about 10 minutes too long, so its nice to see some mixed up here and shortened, but still I feel the mix takes an age to get going. Plus the sparsity of the selection involved makes you feel like you've only ended up with 6 or 7 looping looping looping standout tracks.

However, there are some moments when you feel like the offkilter percussion and jazzy/latin licks are placed with genius, and moments when you lose yourself in ludicrious vocal moments like 4 Wheel Drive and the utterly fantastic Andruic And Japan.

Its just that there is not enough substance to it, not enough shifts in mood or sound. Sad. Especially since I know there is plenty in the minimal scene that is fantastic. Extra sad that I have it on report that Villalobos is an excellent live DJ too.

Burnout Dominator (PSP)
Burnout Dominator (PSP)
Offered by Gameseek
Price: £9.86

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rapid hassle free arcade racing, 10 Oct. 2007
Burnout once again brings handheld users blistering paced driving action.

The first thing you will notice about this iteration of the franchise is the absolute eye candy factor. Not a single frame rate drop and wonderfully detailed city scapes to fly through.

The usual mechanic of taking out rivals, racking up points for dangerous driving, filling your boost gauge and firing about as rapidly as possible is in full effect once again.

You are presented with several categories of race types, starting with the less beefily customised cars moving onto series such as hot rods and super cars as you progress through the game and unlock more and more of the content. It is this mechanic that keeps you driving on attempting to get golds in all race types and trying to hit elusive achievement trophies.

Each series of car is made up of races that can be straightforward road races, takedown challenges, rival takedown races, maniac mode (read as: drive like a mad nutter against the clock and rack up as many points as possible) and so on. Plenty of variety there.

Everything is set up for the arcade racer.

Against the game, I personally found the courses, wonderfully rendered as they are, lacking in personality. I just bombed into a race, didn't really care about the backdrop and just focussed on the challenge set to me. This is how the game is set up to be however.

Those who have fond memories of getting to learn every inch of courses like on Gran Turismo, won't find the same joy here. Also the pace is so fast that you rarely find yourself fighting the beastly roads like you would on a rally game. As I say, its all merely a backdrop for the carnage.

With GTMobile scheduled to appear after PS3 GT5 is complete, and allegedly running at GT4 detail levels. Road freaks will get their kicks there. This will suit for those who just want to dive into some pure arcade fun with no hassles. Perfect for the platform really and a hell of alot better than the competition (namely Ridge Racer).


13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another chapter in the FIFA/PES love affair, 9 Oct. 2007
This review is from: FIFA 08 (PSP) (Video Game)
For years now it has been accepted that the state of play is that ProEvolution Soccer is the only game that is worth caring about. Look past the iffy licencing, dodgy names, limited leagues and cups and you have a superb footballing engine at the crux of it all.

Something made me think though, should I just accept what is said to be true. I can remember the old isometric days with players highlighted by circles and stars, screaming in 35 yard wondershots, but surely EA must pay attention to what the market demands.

I would say that the gap between FIFA and PES as far as a basic footballing engine is at its smallest yet. Indeed I may even go so far as to say I prefer it. The basic functionality of the game remains the same, pass, shoot, lob, throughball (albeit with pass and shoot buttons differing between the two franchises) but the tactical side of the game feels so much more advanced than last years PES6. Players signalling off the ball runs, overly boysterous shunts drawing free kicks, a player goes down in the box and play is waved on, players with skill performing the odd piece of flair without it looking unnatural or forced into the game to appear flashy. Also the way that players seem to wane, and lose confidence if things go against them as the clock ticks on. Spot on.

Add to this the superb presentation, animations of players appropriately berating each other for defensive slip ups, fluid ball control and shooting motions. Then there is the commentry. This is like walking into a lush wonderland when compared to the near silence of PES6. Also the content of it is on the whole accurate as to what happens on screen. Pre-ambles about tough opening games of seasons, surprise at goals from nowhere as a match heads for a draw, comments on players losing confidence in front of goal. Excellent.

There is a huge wealth of gamplay options available here. Round the world leagues already set up and ready to compete in along with nominated and adjustable rival team for the season (Liverpool v Everton for example), a wealth of cup competitions. This is just scratching the surface. So much is there for the football fan and on such a small machine too, I do like the mentality of "we will give you everything you need" here.

Of course there are downsides, the odd graphical glitch with textures on hair I've seen, and perhaps one or two moments of madness from the keeper/defence when it came to a throw out and clearing their lines. But perhaps this reflects reality and the fact that teams are not all robots.

I'll have to compare this to PES7 when it finally surfaces, but currently this is the top dog of football sims on the machine. Just make sure you don't dismiss this purely because of the 'lore' of PES is god.

Warhawk - Game Only (PS3)
Warhawk - Game Only (PS3)
Offered by Boomedia
Price: £14.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Top draw online only japes for the PS3, 3 Sept. 2007
Well this is truely a blast. For one I just love the fact that this sifted on down to my PS3 via the PSN for the princely sum of £20, and two, this manages to bring together the kind of futuristic setting of Halo 2's online battles with Day Of Defeat's "Win as a team, lose as an individual" mentality.

Graphically. This isn't Killzone 2. If you judge games purely on graphics alone, leave. The best looking games <> the best game and the best console.

What Warhawk does offer is a completely no lag furiously fast frames per second action. Not even one frame rate hitch when shards of exploded Warhawk are showering down around your units.

Gameplay wise, try to think of this as a cross between Halo 2 and the 3rd person perspective of Jet Force Gemini. Rapid to pick up but difficult to master.

The most important thing to remember when hitting Warhawk for the first time are those valuable all important 4 letters: RTFM.

I've hopped onto a Warhawk that another player is piloting on this game to see him aimlessly flap about in hover mode, into buildings, the ground, before getting into flightmode and slapping the right stick evasive manouevers into overdrive as the poor aircraft is slapped into pillars of land etc.

Yes. If you just jump into this game, you are going to lose. There is no easy learning curve, you are getting lumped into a frantic 32 player battle against other hardened onliners here. At first you'll have to get to grips with the 5 massive maps, then appreciate the importance of capturing spawn points as a team across the map before finally attempting to master the finer tactical points of the game. Learn the controls and gameplay types first.

I've read on forums that some people find that alot of players just immedately get stuck into the Warhawks and fly off into the sky. Go ahead I say. Especially when I can remain insignificant on the ground and launch homing rockets at your big cumbersome craft! Also, see how far aerial battles get you while some bod is rapidly hopping away from your base in a jeep carrying your flag.

There is a counter attack for every situation, which makes for wonderful gameplay. For each Warhawk 'rock' attack there is a rocketman's 'paper' response, which in turn is slapped down by a tanks 'scissor' approach. Finely balanced if unimaginative gameplay. But if the mechanic works, it works.

I can see this game becoming a wonderfully intense tactical shooter once we all get sorted with headsets. Of course we are experiencing a few online teething problems (namely non-full EU server games stating that they are full, try the US ones instead) but don't let that detract from the experience. Those of us on ADSL+ should be able to host a good 12 / 20 player session which should be more than enough fun. Aside from some connection issues, its easy to find a battle, connect to it and you're thrown into the fight double quick. No connecting to host blue screens that were the bane of Halo 2 and no 5 min waits between rounds. A quick pause to check the stats, the next game type and bang, you're off in again.

The only thing that Warhawk doesn't deliver for me are those close proximity hour long territory battles that I enjoy on Day Of Defeat:Source, mainly rendered impossible by the scale of the maps.

For £20, this is the finest online experience I've had to date! Some teething problems as mentioned but we'd surely expect to see some updates via PSN at some point.

I'd advise grabbing!

Shure E2C In-Ear Headphones
Shure E2C In-Ear Headphones

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I try my best to convert everyone to these..., 8 Sept. 2006
I initally bought these headphones as a step up from the Sony EX71 range. After having TWO pairs of those die in 6 months (rubber wiring just falling apart, left headbud dying), I thought it was time to step up into the quality league. I checked about online for a bit and saw Shure's name dropped a bit and decided to go for them.

Initial impressions were that of anticlimax. Bigger than what I was expecting, I had a mild "idiot moment" while getting used to putting the things in. the wire loops up behind your ear and the over the top and the wasp shaped headphones go in your ear. The design is pretty spot on so that the mechanism sits almost like a part of your body, not grating or pushing against any part of your ear. I'm now more than used to getting these in and out of my ear. This is mainly helped by being supplied with 3 types of headphone bud; foam, flex and soft rubber. The soft rubber ones are the best for me, while I've heard others get on better with the foam ones. Plenty of choice with 9 buds in all to get a good fit for your ear, and you will be wanting this since you'll lose all your bass end if you have a bad fit and don't get the bud right in your ear canal.

The second moment of anticlimax was with the sound, I thought "is this really different for another £30?". Having recently had a go on some Sennheiser ear canal headphones, I can say wholeheartedly YES. I didn't really notice a difference at first, but stepping back to anything else now sounds like listening through mud. Crystal clear, so good that I'm totally in debt to them when it comes to mastering up DJ mixes I make on Ableton which I preview on my way to work. The EQ is totally flat (i.e. no additional bass/treble/mid), unlike Sony's bassy mess, meaning that you can apply your OWN EQ to your OWN tastes. Fantastic for my Rio and 5 band EQ. Just look at the drivers that sit inside your ears, quite large aren't they? These will be pumping sheer audio directly heaven into your ears.

So my downsides have turned into massive ups thanks to my initial concerns being phantom worries. What I DON'T like is the lack of remote connection on the wire (i.e. its one long wire with no split to shorten it for remotes). Although I love the fact the wires look like they could survive a nuclear war when compared to Sony's flimsy effort.

I also didn't like the fact that I had to get used to putting them in at first, and reading the instruction booklet is a must. I read a review from one clever and now injured soul who obviously did not break the vacuum seal that the headphones can create (as all ear canal ones can do) before yanking out. Of course this is mentioned in the MANUAL, but of course that means that Shure get a phat 0 stars because we assume we can work all things without instructions.

Sadly, after 2 years, my e2c's left headphone is starting to die, so I'm off to see how Shure's support is. But I wouldn't hesitate in getting these again, in fact, if I had the cash, I'd step up to the e3c's.


I have now dealt with Shure Customer Service and WOW. 2 days after sending in broken phones with receipt and I had a totally new fresh retail box pair sitting on my desk. Awesome. Oh, and note the review below this one RE: flat eq on these headphone and utilising a 5 band eq. Having a pre-"bassed" set of headphones is like asking someone to guess how you like your orange juice diluted. You'll get a satisfactory result in most cases, but isn't it oh so much better doing it yourself?

fabric29: Tiefschwarz
fabric29: Tiefschwarz
Price: £10.21

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Fabric effort, grabbing the Schwarz while they're on fire!, 11 Aug. 2006
This review is from: fabric29: Tiefschwarz (Audio CD)
Its been quite a journey with Tiefschwarz. I remember picking up the rather well-received Ral9000 on Derrick Carter's top Classic imprint half expecting some obscure German-esque bleepy techno with a name like that. What I did in fact end up with was one hell of an amazing summery deep house album (particularly recommended in vinyl form for the additional tracks and alternate versions).

As time has progressed, Tiefschwarz have evolved towards a more electronic sound, stepping deftly through the electro house period where they could easily be aligned with the likes of Freeform Five and Mylo, up to the slightly less standard, trippier sound that is emanating from Berlin.

I wasn't overly wowed by the Misch Masch mix compilation bar the lovely collection of Tiefschwarz remixes that came on the second CD, and the Ral9000 follow-up Eat Books just didn't register at all with me. However, after the recent Essential Mix and now this playing through my headphones, I'm pretty impressed with where we have ended up.

There is the odd occasion of the mixing style ever so slightly letting the duo down for my own personal taste, but this is hugely overshadowed by an absolutely A* track selection. I've found myself wanting to track down every track on this mix ... and absorb everything made by the makers of such wonderful electronic music. After the disappointing dullathon from Mathew Dear, this is a real treat. The tracks flurry around the edges of dark minimal, blissed out electro and brooding progressive, all picked with a real connoisseurs touch to absolutely tickle the ears.

Really good this, well worth investing in and also trawling the net to discover a copy of their Essential Mix too.

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