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Nick Bradley (Hertford UK)

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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (PS2)
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (PS2)
Offered by marxwax
Price: £9.27

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, realistic stealth adventure, 20 Aug. 2006
Welcome to 2007 and the end of the world. It is truly a frightening place where unseen tech terrorists are sending the US and North Korea headlong into WW3. Its a typically epic Clancy premise and best of all it plays out like a dark dream.

It wasn't always like this; when Pandora Tomorrow hit the shelves gamers felt more like victims of some great practical joke than omnipotent covert agents. There were high points; the jungles were cool and the online versus battles between spys and mercs were easily the best thing about the game, but otherwise the frustrations were too much for even the most avid gamer to persist. The checkpoint system was awful and combined with unforgiving pacing of crucial events led to spirit crushing replays of almost entire levels. The eye-wateringly miserly three strikes and your out set up made the situation worse, not helped by the frankly unrealistic discovery of any bodies left in anything other than total darkness. Then there was the problem of close combat; for a highly disciplined covert agent, living in and dispensing death from the shadows Fisher was surprisingly cack-handed when it came to close combat. Give him the element of surprise and a bag of flash bangs and he had a fighting chance. Surprise him and this honed and toned killing machine would perform the hand-to-hand ballet of death with all the finesse and focus of a headless chicken.

I suppose your wondering why i've bothered listing all the old Cell's flaws. Simple; because Chaos Theory has successfully addressed every one of these infuriating issues. Save points are now under your contol and the three strikes rule has been binned entirely. Also for the first time in the series how you go about your mission is entirely up to you with multiple routes through most levels.

Graphically this is a triple A title and no mistake. The quality and visual coherance will have sucked you in long before you bag your first terrorist. Even through the green of your nvgs the game looks shraper, more believable. Ambient lighting is beautiful and the effect on you suit's embedded light meter makes sense adding to your confidence in you tools of the trade.

In fact confidence in your tech is a gratifying theme that runs, quietly, throughout the game. The OCP device from the previous game that fritzed out cameras temporarily is now a much more accessible alternate function of the standard silenced pistol. Whats more it can now disrupt any electrical circuitry from lights to computers and laser beams. Combined with the new EEC equiped goggles that detect any elctrical cirtuits even those embedded in walls, the OCP pistol reveals a whole new layer of obstacles beyond the visible spectrum.

Sound now plays a key role with the addition of a sound meter similar to the light sensor. Keep Fisher's footfalls quieter than the ambient noise and you're ok. Similarly try snapping the shotgun module onto your amazingly adaptable SC-20K assault rifle in a darkened room and you may as well have flicked on the lights and started playing the banjo.

Thankfully controlling Fisher is a joy and it feels very much like the man more than the equipment that has evolved. For example the door move which makes sensible use of the controllers analogue sticks to ease open doors for a stealthy entry, and the alternate ability to boot the door open, knocking any guards on the other side flying. Add to this a new and exclusive to PS2 yank move which frees same to hang from ledges or hide in pools and pull unsuspecting goons to their death. The AI feels plausibly sharp without ever seeming unfair and whilst they do have more kit to detect you, you do always have the equipment to stay one step ahead. However whether you have the intelligence, ability and sheer cajones to use Fisher's gadgets correctly, quickly and appropriately is another matter and it's this evolving challenge that cranks the game into the stealth premier league.

Undeniably the most useful new piece of kit is the knife, which can be used to interrogate guards or to break locks on doors, or even better to react with speed and aggression to any guards who may suprise you.

The online spys v mercs battles are still present and have been beefed up with new maps to battle on. And thats not the end of Chaos Theory's multiplayer abilities. The brand new co-op mode is superb fun and the 18 or so missions blend wonderfully with the main storyline.

However when all is said and done there is only one thing you need to know - is Chaos Theory better than Metal Gear. You know what no it isn't but not for the reason you may think. Play the two games and you'll discover that they both do sneaking brilliantly but each brings totally different vibes to the silent snuffing party. If you want gargantuan, epic and slightly barking mad then Solid Snake is your man. However if you want you sneaking realistic, brutal and with a side order of cold, hard political intrigue, then Sam Fisher is where the juice is. Really if you love your games then you should really own both and as far as any stealth game goes there is no greater compliment than that.

Graphics: 9 - Totally immersive, beautifull

Sound: 9 - Fantastic score and intelligent use of ambient noise

Gamepaly: 10 - Gripping, tense and often surprising

Lifespan: 10 - Mulitple routes, excellent co-op mode and you'll never tire of the online mode

Overall: 10/10 - A darker, more realistic experience than MGS3, Chaos Theory is everything that was good about the previous Splinter Cell plus so much more.

Hitman: Blood Money (PS2)
Hitman: Blood Money (PS2)
Offered by Turbotrance
Price: £17.10

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 47 is back on top form, 8 July 2006
The Hitman games have always been a great source of dark humour and graphic violence and Blood Money ups the ante even further than before. Where the previous game relied on very nice but criminally overused rain effects to create a dark atmosphere, Blood Money uses subtle black comedy to unsettle the player in the most brutal of ways. For example there's a lot to be said for killing a mark dressed as santa, or a clown. Or a giant red budgie.

Blood Money is also far more realistic than previous games with the introduction of the notoriety system and the ability to make hits look like accidents. The superbly simple push manouvre is a fantastic addition, as is 47's close combat skills. Caught without a weapon in previous games and 47 was stuffed but now he can headbutt people, punch them and even snatch weapons out of the hands of guards. Another fantastic addition is the way you can upgrade your weapons for extra silence or more firepower.

Raising the bar again is the extremely numerous ways of despatching your targets. Hitman relies on the fact that you are killing people rather than dark surroundings for its darkness and some of the methods are quite brutal. Dropping a piano on someone's head or pushing them into a furnace are particular highlights although it's during the 5th mission that the most brutal death can happen, ironically in a quiet suburban neighbourhood, another example of the games grimly black humour. I won't spoil it for you but i'll just say watch out for the barbecue and the lighter fluid.

Of course the game certainly doesn't lack atmosphere. Beautiful lighting and a great use of sound come together to create a cohesive and believable world and makes the game all the more special. The animations are also superb and one of the games highlights, for example when 47 climbs the stairs his feet actually hit each step as he climbs. The best example i discovered though was during the first Mississipi mission which is on a boat. The mission had gone a bit coffin shaped so i went on a bit of a rampage. Snatching up a shotgun i shot at a guard coming up some stairs and as he reached the top he had a railing behind him so that when i fired, not only did the force of the shot knock him backwards, but as he stumbled he bumped into the railing and toppled over in a perfectly animated sequence. Its this kind of detail that really makes the game stand out from the crowd.

Another fine detail is the AI not just of the guards but of the civilians too. Draw a weapon in a crowded place and pandemonium is instant. The guards will actively seek you out and if you're dressed as a guard but wander away from the patrol routes too far and they'll be very suspicious. In addition if you shoot down some guards and they drop their guns then its quite possible that as you walk away one of the civilians will actually pick up a gun and start shooting you in the back.

Replay value is vast because of the wonderfully varied ways of despatching your foes so make no mistake you will be playing this for ages after completing it.

Graphics: 10 - beautifully designed, wonderfully lit, truly one of the best looking PS2 titles out there

Sound: 9 - great voice acting and neat use of sound

Gameplay: 9 - mighty fine and deeply involving if a little stop start

Lifespan: 10 - open environments and very numerous ways of completing hits

Overall: 10 - easily one of the best ever games on PS2, macabre and violent but deeply satisfying and often very funny

Gran Turismo 4 (PS2)
Gran Turismo 4 (PS2)
Offered by sellatronic
Price: £35.51

19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Driving Simulator, 7 May 2006
This review is from: Gran Turismo 4 (PS2) (Video Game)
Since the first GT game blasted its way onto consoles, the series has excelled in every respect. Gran Turismo 4 continues this trend and expands on everything that the previous games had.

There are now nearly 700 different cars to play with from entry level saloons like the Volvo C70, to full blown race cars like the Nissan RC90, from ancient models like the Daimler Motorcarraige to modern muscle like the Dodge Viper. Every need and style is encapsulated.

One of the most important factors is that, whilst GT3 didn't really put the right cars on the right tracks, GT4 excels in this respect. The tracks really are superb with series classics like Trial Mountain, alongside real tracks such as the superb Suzuka, and the solid Laguna Seca with that infamous corkscrew chicane. Of course the most important new addition is the fantastically well realised Nurburgring Nordshcliefe, all 13 miles beautifully rendered. However it is not alone on the new additions, the spectacular El Capitan making its twisty, bumpy, and exhilirating way into the top tracks list.

The driving is perhaps the best thing about the game. An excellently well designed grip model makes even the most basic cars fun to drive, whilst the tuned powerhouses are immense fun to use. The exhlirating feeling of blasting through tight corners at 100mph is something that will not be forgotten. In addition, where the previous games' off road rallying was something to be avoided, here it is truly immense fun when mastered as you slide round endless corners.

It really feels as if all the bad things from GT3 have been addressed. For example the long endurance races are still there, but now they can be comfortably tackled in B-spec mode where the AI does the driving and you can just dip in and out whenever you want. The licence tests remain, but they are no longer as difficult as they used to be.

There are small gripes, the AI is good but the opposing drivers stick to their lines precisely, making overtaking slightly uninteresting. Also there is no car damage so you often get a little gung ho because you know that there will be no lasting damage.

Overall this is an excellent game, and whilst not being as exhilirating as the Burnout games, it will last you much longer and is much more involving with so many races to win and so many cars to tune. Make no mistake you will be coming back to this for ages, constantly trying to shave those last few tenths off your lap times. And that alone makes this easily worth the cash.

Brothers in Arms: Road To Hill 30 (PS2)
Brothers in Arms: Road To Hill 30 (PS2)
Offered by marxwax
Price: £16.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings new, brilliant ideas to the WW2 FPS genre, 28 Mar. 2006
Rather than go down the much trodden path of gung ho action FPSs such as Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, Brothers in Arms strives for and achieves realism to an incredible degree. Thrust into the airborne invasion of normandy you are Sergeant Matt Baker, commanding a squad of elite paratroopers from the 502nd PIR 101st Airborne. If you really want to experience what this game is like before buying it then down a gallon of coffee and watch the entire series of Band of Brothers, followed by Saving Private Ryan. That is how intensely realistic this game is; you can practically smell the mud.
As a squad leader this game focuses heavily on squad based combat/tactics which works spectacularly well. This is helped no end by the fact that the squad controls are beautifully simple and easy to use and your troops actually go where they are told. The AI of both your squad mates and enemy is excellent with enemys attempting to flank your position and troopers throwing grenades to cover an advance. The action is smooth, fluid and slow-paced which adds to the tension as you carefully move up on the enemy positions. The guns feels solid and the grenades are excellent, rather then the gigantic fireballs of other games they throw up mud with a loud bang and a cloud of shrapnel.
The best part is that the game really makes you feel part of a team, and although there are some heroics, most of the time this behaviour will result in your speedy death. There's no ammo spunking one man charges, no huge set pieces, just dirty, gritty infantry combat. The multiplayer is superb with you and a friend each taking control of a single squad and attempting to out-manouvre and outwit your enemy. This creates wonderfully tense games of cat and mouse which are a real thrill to experience.
There are some criticisms; some of the animations look slightly jerky and the slow pace of the game is occasionally irritating, especially when running across an open field or from cover to cover and your character "runs" at walking speed. Also with a no health packs and intermittent checkpoints there are inevitably some crushing moments when you die inches from the end and have to replay half of the mission.
Overall however this is a superb game with good new ideas to add a little extra to the WW2 FPS genre. The multiplayer is excellent and with the difficulty set on authentic and the suppresion icons and crosshair turned off it is an incredible challenge and as close to actual infantry combat as you can safely get.

Medal of Honor European Assault (PS2)
Medal of Honor European Assault (PS2)
Offered by marxwax
Price: £17.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't live up to expectations, 28 Mar. 2006
Judging by MOH Rising Suns long single player campaign and superb multiplayer I was looking forward to European Assault. However I was somewhat dissappointed when I began playing. The action feels reasonably smooth and fluid with few gripes and the use of the iron sites to aim is a good addition as is the excellent lean feature which allows you to peek over and around cover to shoot the enemy.
However, the graphics, although supposedly updated are not as good as Rising Suns and the shooting is just not as immersive as Call of Duty or Brothers in Arms, it's main competitors. Also the addition of a "controllable" squad must have been added simply to annoy as your men do not go where you order them and run aound pointlessly most of the time whilst doing little to aid your progress.What really lets it down is how short the game is, with only 11 missions including a shorter prologue mission it just does not pack enough bang for your buck. This is also not helped by the ending which is simply impossible on normal difficulty without the use of cheats and only serves to frustrate.
Having completed the single player i'd hoped that the absolutely brilliant multiplayer from Rising Sun hadn't been tampered with. How wrong I was. The graphics actually look worse than in single player and there are no fixed guns, small arenas and NO BOTS. I felt so cheated. My final gripe is about the new adrenaline feature which EA obviously added to spice things up but it is ridiculously unrealistic and compared to the realism of Brothers in Arms it is just no good.
Overall a good franchise let down by a poor game which should have been so much better with a little more thought.

Black (PS2)
Black (PS2)
Offered by marxwax
Price: £22.97

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good game with simple flaws, 22 Mar. 2006
This review is from: Black (PS2) (Video Game)
When i first played Black the first word which escaped my mouth were wow and oooo look at the pretty explosions. The game is absolutely spectacular in those respects, the explosions are huge and the action and gunplay are brilliant. This is beyond doubt the best action shooter on PS2 at the moment. The graphics are brilliant, the action immersive and truly enjoyable as well as being extremely tense. All of the weapons have a superb solid feel to them and although it may not be realistic it is truly fun to simply stand up and empty a full box magazine for an m249 into a group of enemies. Once you complete the game and play it again on the same difficulty level you get unlimited ammo which adds immensely to the fun and carnage. However this is where i must mention the games most severe flaw; it is incredibly short. There are 8 missions including a shorter prequel type mission and each mission first time round will take between 45 minutes and an hour to complete. I completed the game for the first time in under 8 hours. PS2 games cost £30 upwards and for 8 hours of gameplay this is just not worth it. Even with it being so short i may have given it 4 stars but there are other gripe to be made. For example the voice acting is terrible and your character often seems to be shouting over the radio when he should be stealthy. The gameplay eventually gets slightly repetitive and although there are some interesting twist such as making your way through a minefield, even this is used twice. In addition the explosions - the games selling point - are over used and the enemies are incredibly hard to take out, most taking more than 15 rounds to put down. This forces you to look for stuff to blow up which means that you are rarely being tactical and constantly looking for stuff that blows up which just gets repetitive.
Overall this is an excellent game and has easily the best shooting of any game on PS2. With a little more length and variety it could have been a classic. As it is it is just good. I would suggest renting this not buying it as £30 is just too much money for 8 hours of game. Either that or wait for the price to drop.

28 Days Later (2002) [DVD]
28 Days Later (2002) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Cillian Murphy
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £3.62

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A scary zombie movie, 22 Mar. 2006
This review is from: 28 Days Later (2002) [DVD] (DVD)
28 Days Later.. is easily one of the best British films that i have seen in a long time and the best zombie movie since Day of the Dead. The cinematography is superb and the use of digital cameras gives the film a soft focus look which only adds to the tension. The acting is excellent, especially Naomie Harris as Selena. The twist that really sets 28 Days apart from the classic Romero films is that the zombies are not shuffling, slow and unfrightening creatures. Instead, the infected launch themselves striaght at the veiwer, running like starving dogs. In addition, where Romeros zombies moan and groan, director Danny Boyles creations are even more terrifying for the fact that they are offen completely silent. This means that the zombies are more scary but the films does not stick to them. The humans are the most terrifying aspect, the moment when Selena is forced to kill mark is particularly shocking especially in the immediate aftermath of an attack when you think that perhaps they are alright again. Some reviewers have said that the gore is unnecessary, however there is a lot less that the classic zombie movies and there are no pointless images of zombies sitting on the ground eating meat of a bone. The film also demonstrates the idea that the zombies are not the real enemy, it is humans themselves.
What really sets 28 Days apart is that it is daring in all quarters; sticking to a British setting, casting relative unknowns in lead roles and sticking to a small screen budget which lends the film a superb documentary feel which adds to the feeling that this could actually happen. In addition the film stays away from one group of people trapped in one place and allows them to move around whilst still maintaining the feeling of claustrophobia brought on by the fact that the streets are almost completely devoid of any kind of life, normal humans or infected.
In short this is an excellent British horror film that brings new, brilliant ideas to an otherwise stagnant genre.

Mercenaries Playground of Destruction (PS2)
Mercenaries Playground of Destruction (PS2)

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than GTA, 19 Mar. 2006
This is easily one of the best games that i have ever played. The graphics are spectacular, especially the explosions which can give an amazing amount of pleasure both from making them happen and witnessing them happen. The gameplay is smooth and quick and the shooting is superb, far better than GTA's spazzy lock-on system the game guides your hand with a smooth auto-lock feature which is perfectly discrete yet extremely useful. You are thrown into the DMZ with the capability to carry only 2 weapons which far from making you feel out-gunned, forces you to be tactical and to make your choice of weapons carefully, although don't worry about quickly switching to a new set as the superb support feature is always on hand. You'll find yourself wishing the same technology was available in other games. The choice of vehicles is superb with everything from huge T-54 tanks and helicopter gunships to a sports car and a Hummer, available at the touch of a couple of buttons. Of course this convenience costs and that is why the ability to hijack anything is so great. The way you can go about hijacking is also excellent and adds to the sense that although you are just one man you never feel out-gunned. The perfect example of this was when going to capture the three of clubs I was confronted by 2 angry tanks. However running over to one a quick tap of the triangle button saw my merc swinging up onto the turret throwing a grenade through the hatch and then taking control of the tank, destroying the second in short order. The AI is excellent and really makes you feel like you're in a tough fight without being unfair. One of the best things about this game is how long it will last you. Whereas some games like Black can be completed in a few days hard playing Mercs will keep you entertained for weeks, even months as there is so much fun to be had.
There are of course some criticisms to make, the handling of the wheeled vehicles is not involving and feels at odds with the smooth feel of the gunplay, and the sound of the wheeled vehicles doesn't do the visual treat justice. In addition your support officer is has a strange Australian voice which will quickly annoy.
However these grievances are barely noticeable and do not hurt the quality of the game at all.
So to sum up: Gameplay - 10
Graphics - 10
Sound - 9
Value/Endurance - 10
Buy this game, its easily one of the best out there.

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