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Mr. Od Smith "d2kvirus" (Coulsdon, Surrey)

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Yakuza 2 (PS2)
Yakuza 2 (PS2)

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, but the same is still good, 5 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Yakuza 2 (PS2) (Video Game)
When the first Yakuza game came out a couple of years ago, it was compared to GTA: Shinjuku before anyone actually played it when, in actual fact, the best comparison would be to call it Takeshi Kitano's Shenmue. It was deep, with a sprawling plot and a lot of things to see and do, be it numerous side quests to just exploring the city and sampling everything there is to find. And, of course, it had some of the most wince-inducing combat in any video game, with anything that isn't nailed down (and a few things that are) all being potential weapons.

Yakuza 2 is more of the same, in both good ways and bad.

In good ways, because it doesn't rejig the combat system or the exploration aspects, which were standout parts of the first game, so people who played the first game know what they're doing as soon as they fire up the game. And it's bad because you're walking the same locations as before, or a new city that doesn't look too different but offers different mini games, sub quests and things to find.

The biggest change from the first game is there isn't a translation, so the game is in Japanese with subtitles, which actually aids the feel of the game in my opinion, making it feel more like one of Kitano's yakuza epics. There is, however, a glitch with some of the audio in the cinematics, mainly as a result of the disc format (which also delays the game's start-up for a second or two compared to other PS2 discs), so occasionally dialogue can come across as fuzzy, for lack of a better word. However, the soundtrack and ambient sound isn't affected.

Whilst some gamers may be put off at the thought of reading subtitles throughout the cinematics, another potentially off-putting device is the game opens with a ten minute cinematic, and the first chapter of the game is an optional flashback of the first game, which refreshes the memory of returning gamers whilst bringing new ones up to speed, but that's another ten minutes before you can hit the ground running.

Whilst the characters are strong, the plot isn't as good as the original game, partly because it just doesn't pack the punch of the first, but also because the antagonists of the first aren't around (for obvious reasons), so needed replacing but they simply lack the depth and the menace offered by the first games' group.

The game has, however, picked up an absurdist sense of humour which does freshen up proceedings, so side quests can also involve finding someone's kidnapped cat, or a run-in with several yakuza dressed in nappies (yes, you did read that correctly), so it isn't po-faced by any means.

There's also a bigger selection of things to do, with the batting cage, pachinko parlours, arcades, casino and dice joint being joined by, among others, a bowling alley, driving range, mah-jong parlour and shogi to while away the time.

Yakuza 2 may feel like Yakuza 1.5 with a few new mini games and a second map added and little else, but as the first game was so well put together it only really needed a few tweaks to tide fans along, especially as Yakuza 3 looks like a radical departure from the first two games.

If you can, pick up the pair of the games and play out the Kazuma Kiiryu saga, each game offering 40+ hours of gameplay easily, and 60-80+ if you get sucked into the world, as can happen.

Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World [DVD]
Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World [DVD]
Offered by Helen's Goodies
Price: £25.71

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awe inspiring, 28 Sept. 2008
Every once in a while, the BBC can actually justify the License Fee, and SWofIW is one of those shows.

The main reason this series works so well is that not only are the events fascinating in themselves, but they are all also great stories in their own right, especially the Transcontinental Railroad episode, which covers two seperate stories of how it was built with plenty of details ranging from exploiting Chinese migrants to skirmishes with Native Americans who's land the line is being built across (and the subsequent crackdown on the tribes involved). The episodes based on the Great Eastern and London Sewers are also great pieces of television.

As well as the story themselves being interesting, the acting is a level above what you'd expect from drama-documentary, Ron Cook's portrayal of Brunel in the Great Eastern episode being a particular highlight.

Whilst the series might not appeal to everyone due to the historical content (or an hour devoted to cholera epidemics and sewers, built by the great-great-grandfather of the man who brought us Big Brother, which at the very least deserves points for the irony), it deserves to be seen.

Spore (Mac/PC DVD)
Spore (Mac/PC DVD)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: £6.80

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How to lose fans and irritate people, 24 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Spore (Mac/PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
I'm sure I echo a lot of sentiments here whenI say there's a lot to love about Spore, but there's too much to hate about the way EA have gone about things it that have made it quite possibly the most pirated game in history.

As soon as I heard about the game, I wanted to play it. That's the sort of things all games should have - they should make people want to play it as soon as they first hear about it, and live up to that hype and potential.

WhatEA have done, though, in their bid to stamp out piracy/second hand gaming (delete as you see fit) is to take a game that people want to play, and give them a reason not to buy it - this is not whatpublishers should do, as it affects their bottom line from a business standpoint, and froma consumer standpoint it loses them customers. In other words, if you give customers a reason not to buy your product, you give thema reason to spend their money elsewhere.

The fact is that I really want to play this game, but EA's attitude in treating all their customers like criminals has given me no choice other than to steer clear. I know it's good from whatI've heard from people who do own the game, so it does live up to the hype and potential, but I refuse to buy a game that will load software onto my computer that will probe whatI have on my hard drive and, according to some reviews and comments, delete files and programs that look as if they are used to pirate games. The irony being, of course, that the pirates were way ahead of the DRM and cracked it,so the people who just want to play the game and don't care about shelling out their money are punished.

If there was any sense at EA, they'd admit their mistake and back down on the DRM, and release the game as is, and nothing more. I'd buy it,as allI want is the game afterall, and I'msure plenty of other people feel the same way.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2008 6:56 PM BST

Death Note - The Movie (2 Disc Limited Edition) [DVD]
Death Note - The Movie (2 Disc Limited Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tatsuya Fujiwara

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent, twisty, and quite bizarre flick, 17 Aug. 2008
Although the film came out two years ago in Japan, and the original manga and anime spin-off have been available freely for three years, I was eagerly anticipating the Death Note movie as soon as I heard it was being made, as the idea is sheer genius. And, luckily, the film takes the proverbial and runs with it.

The story starts with idealistic law student Light Megami feeling disillusioned that criminals are escaping justice by getting off on technicalities and remaining in their ways, and confronts a recently acquitted Yakuza. On the way home, he finds the titular Death Note that the God of Death, Ryuk, accidentally dropped in the real world and experiments and finds it works, so begins to rid the world of all criminals that have escaped justice in short order.

Doing this, he arouses interest from the authorities who believe a serial killer they dub "Kira" is at work, even though at the same time the general public are behind the character they have dubbed Kira, as nobody knows that Light is the one responsible. And, as the authorities close in, Light begins to eliminate those who are trying to catch him, although he cannot eliminate the one person that remains a thorn in his side: L.

Light's slide from an idealist who is acting as any person would, to a megalomaniac who appoints himself judge, jury and executioner, to the person who starts to eliminate anyone that opposes Kira is the main crux of the story of this and the sequel, Death Note: The Last Name, as well as the source of the main drama. Also, as Light learns he can't just write a name to kill the person as it raises suspicion, the deaths he maps out get increasingly inventive to take the focus away from Kira and, as a result, himself.

However, the film has a lot of light amidst the clearly dark plot, mainly the interplay between Light and Ryuk, as well as L's manner that baffles the authorities.

The performances, mainly Light and L (I can't reveal any more as I'd promptly spoil half the plotline instantly) are top notch, as they engage in a battle of wits between L and Kira, and as stated previously Tatsuya Fujiwara captures the range of Light's motives brilliantly.

There may be a lot to take in on the face of it, but in actual fact the film is easy to get into and follow, and it's only one plotline that is left hanging (it sets up, and is only explained in, The Last Name), and it's a lot of fun once you get into it.

Doomsday [DVD]
Doomsday [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rhona Mitra
Price: £2.59

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Completely bonkers, but my God is it fun!, 17 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Doomsday [DVD] (DVD)
Neil Marshall sure knows one thing: how to keep his fans happy.

If Dog Soldiers was a horror romp that was a good laugh, and The Descent was a nerve-shredding piece of claustrophobic terror, he manages to position Doomsday between the two - one part straight horror, one part all-out action/horror romp. And it's very effective.

The film starts with shades of 28 Days Later, with Scotland being put under quarantine after a lethal virus breaks out. A few years later, the virus spreads to London, and a cure must be found - and, as there are people still alive in Scotland, you can guess the rest.

Only, you can't, as Marshall constantly changes things up. Also, he invites the audience to play along and spot cast members from his previous films, as well as a game of Spot The Reference. Although it shouldn't work, there are scenes that riff on Aliens, The Warriors, Mad Max, even a truly memorable sequence taking off Duran Duran's Wild Boys video.

If you hadn't guessed, this film doesn't take itself seriously, and is all the better for it for that very reason: 28 Days/Weeks Later can take the straight (and often dull) route, so Marshall goes the other way. Throw in a liberal lashings of blood and guts and a high pace and the film is a (cliché alert) rollercoaster ride.

It also helps that the cast give their all, be it Rhona Mitra in the lead role, the cameos from Bob Hoskins and Malcolm McDowell, or Craig Conway stealing the film as Sol, leader of the Marauders.

True, it isn't everybody's cup of tea due to the gore, high bodycount and ability to break into another jaw-dropping action sequence at a moment's notice, but for those who do enjoy that sort of thing (or are curious) it is a whole heck of a lot of fun.

And, as Neil Marshall is always generous with his DVD extras, expect a generous bundle of extras too.

Evilspeak [DVD]
Evilspeak [DVD]
Dvd ~ Clint Howard
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hacked to pieces (if you pardon the pun), 17 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Evilspeak [DVD] (DVD)
If you're looking at this page, the odds are you're either looking for obscure horror films, a Video Nasty completist, or think it's ironic the kid out of Gentle Ben stars in a horror film. Or you heard Anton LaVey recommended it (true).

If you're the first option, you may just enjoy Evilspeak, as it's a bizarre combination of Carrie and The Omen, which works very well, so may just be worth picking up.

However, if you're the second option this is not what you're looking for: the film has had all the gore cut from it, as well as various other cuts to try and hide the fact - making the Carrie-esque finale unwatchable as you have no idea what the hell is going on.

Also, the picture transfer is just BAD. There's no two ways about it, it does look awful, to the point you can't actually read the onscreen text at the end. There's also a few other quibbles, such as the credits being speeded up with no thought in synching the sound (indeed, the sound comes in at the copyright warning at the start, before the title screen!), so if you are a completist look for the Anchor Bay edition.

A potentially decent film, let down by some abominable presentation. Curio value only.

Juno [DVD] [2007]
Juno [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Ellen Page
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.15

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not as great as it was made out to be, 13 July 2008
This review is from: Juno [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Alright, I hold my hands up - I saw the trailer and allowed myself to be swept up in the expectation of a bittersweet comedic masterpiece.

I'm not saying it was bad, as it plainly wasn't - all of the main cast acquitted themselves very well (even though Rainn Wilson is sorely underutilised), the script does have a lot of memorable quotes and zips along, and the plotline doesn't drag even when taking some unexpected twists and turns. Yet there was something that just didn't seem to satisfy, as well as the feeling that everything is just that little bit too contrived (a feeling aided by more of the commentary discussing the production design than the performances or the dialogue at several junctures).

The extras also don't help with this feeling, as a lot of these seem a little too self-congratulatory, especially the interviews with Jason Reitman and, especially, Diablo Cody (which takes me back to their commentary, where they congratulate each other at regular intervals). There's also a supposed gag take that doesn't seem remotely funny, more like Reitman needs to relax and stop bellowing at his actors.

I'd say the film is worth one viewing definitely, but the problem is I can't say it warrants a second or third and, frankly, you could've seen it at the cinema for a fraction of the DVD price.

Worth a watch, but don't expect a masterpiece because this film isn't one - albeit some of the performances are top notch. In other words, Juno gets paradoxical all too easily.

World War Z
World War Z
by Max Brooks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horrifying yet engrossing, 13 July 2008
This review is from: World War Z (Paperback)
If you've read The Zombie Survival Guide, you'd expect this to be mining a similar vein - talking about the subject logically, yet with an undertone of the blackest humour. And you'd be wrong, as this is far more serious due to the nature of it, a series of interviews with survivors of The Zombie War.

On the face of it, you'd think by that description it'd be schlock horror, but I assure you that it isn't. Also, it isn't as much about the zombies but - in the finest tradition of George A Romero - the people's inability to deal with their problem due to their inability to get over their prejudices and arrogance.

So, not only do we have stories of people fleeing their homes as the zombies come crashing through the door, we have an overconfident US military operation that thinks technology will beat the zombies and find out all too late that it didn't, Cuba finding itself overrun with Americans fleeing there (and therefore becoming the new economic superpower), Israel putting up a wall and staying put, whilst South Africa, Germany and South Korea all sacrifice the many in order for the few to be able to fight back and defeat the problem.

But there's also the more personal stories, such as the Chinese submarine that flees only to find the seas filled with ships, the British defending themselves with enemies at the wall of Windsor Castle, or the pair of stories from Japan - the blogger that doesn't notice zombies filling the streets and having to abseil to safety, or the old blind sensei relying on sound and smell to stay alive.

There's also some truly horrific episodes in the book, be it the failed stand at Yonkers, Big Brother gone horribly wrong, the attempts to flee India by boat as the caste system leaves people behind, the Russian military crackdown on their own troops, and the eerie story about what (possibly) happened in North Korea.

The whole story is broken down into sections, be it the first warnings from China, the Israelis realising what was happening, and the initial outbreaks through to the full-on war and humanity's fight back and recovery (not a spoiler - think about it), with all the changes that happened as a result.

A highlight is how, although it's a series of interviews, each interviewee is infused with their own character so it doesn't sound like one person each time, and doesn't sink to cliché when with the Japanese, Russian, South African or Indian interviewees, either. The book is also endlessly creative with the stories it tells and, notably, changes genre from straight horror, to action-adventure, to thriller, even sci-fi and back again whenever the narrative demands it and it never feels forced. It also doesn't seem smug with its references back to the Zombie Survival Guide, with its weapon recommendations popping up here and there, as well as the bits of advice. It doesn't feel forced when real people appear in it, either - although never stated explicitly, it's clear Nelson Mandela, The Queen and (yes) Paris Hilton feature in various parts of the narrative. Don't worry, Paris dies.

So, like Romero you may pick it up for the zombies, but there's plenty of commentary about how class, apathy, overconfidence in the military, internet popularity, even the lure of fame are too much for various people to put aside for their survival, and how people aren't as prepared as they'd think because survival has been replaced by materialism.

Realistically, this should be read after the Zombie Survival Guide - you don't have to, as it's accessible to anyone, but reading WWZ afterwards suddenly puts it into perspective that little bit more.

Read this book, it may save your life - so move to Conwy NOW!!!

Persona 3 (PS2)
Persona 3 (PS2)

5.0 out of 5 stars Cure your case of Apathy Syndrome today!, 13 July 2008
This review is from: Persona 3 (PS2) (Video Game)
If there's one thing that can be said about the previous MegaTen games, it's that some of them can be inaccessible to most gamers, with their plots that seem to be overly complex, with an overly high occurrence of random battles and a lot of back-tracking.

So Persona 3 came as a surprise to me on several levels, as the game is highly accessible, with an involving plot and some great characters, and - best of all - no random battle sat all!

It seems that having Koei polished the game up to its standard, and the game does remind me of Disgaea to some degree, especially in the way the plot is moved forward having the same look and feel of the dialogue sequences of both games, as well as a sense of fun that is laid over the seriousness of the events, as the two cross over.

Long story short (and to avoid as many spoilers as possible), your character is transferred to a school and is soon in the midst of a nightly battle between good and evil (or to be accurate, members of SEES against Shadows), and has to balance his school and social life with them. In order to find out more - as well as being the part of the game where your characters level up - they have to venture to Tartarus every night, the demonic tower that appears on the site of the school. This is also where you earn and level up your Personas, which is where you learn the various abilities to use throughout the game.

Meanwhile, in the daytime, you improve on your social links in order to make your Personas more effective for when you create them, as well as opening different sub plots in the process. That and attending school.

It may sound like a lot of work, but it isn't - it's sort of like Bully/Canis Canem Edit by day, and a more traditional Megaten by night. And it works.

Going back to the lack of random battles, a welcome addition after the infuriating frequency of them in Lucifer's Call, the only places you can encounter enemies on a regular basis is Tartarus, and you can elect to fight them, or just run/sneak past them (like in Okami), although as you level up enemies on the lower floors will run away from you rather than fight. And, as with previous games, if you find an enemy's weakness, you get a second turn - so you can literally decimate a group of enemies in short order (or even one turn), although his also applies in reverse so you have to play smart rather than hope to bully your way through these sections. You could skip these sections entirely, other than the plot-required visits, although this makes it more likely you'll get owned in the boss battles that fall on every full moon.

True, some parts of the game can still frustrate - team members ignoring orders and aiding the bosses grates, and some of the questions asked in class require you to have an intricate knowledge of Japanese culture, customs and history (one even asks about sign language!), but these are far more minor than not being able to walk three steps without being involved in your umpteenth battle. On the other hand, as the game automatically skips chunks of each day, you feel you aren't getting a fuller experience (compared to CCE, where you do).

The Tartarus sequences are more realised, as you have a set amount of time to complete each level of the structure, dictated by the tasks you're given that range from defeating a certain number of enemies, to defeating rare ones, to finding a specific object - as well as creating a Persona that fulfils a criteria - and Tartarus itself is never the same twice, as some times a floor might be overrun with enemies, others it'll be empty, or even home to rare enemies. This shakes up the game playing experience, as sometimes you can try and level grind an area you strolled through before, and find yourself getting hammered.

The plot is a work of genius, however, as little by little it unravels to reveal more dark secrets of the region and its recent past, and the characters also develop with these as we continue to the inevitable final showdown.

However, there's aspects of the game that might not be so appealing - the dialogue can occasionally turn 15-rated, some of the darker elements of the plot might put gamers off, and the Daily Mail probably won't like the manner in which Persona's are summoned - let's just say the teenaged characters pull out their Evoker (which looks like a gun) and point it at their head...

So, although some elements may put off gamers (or pull in the wrong kind, who'll hate the game), the fact is this game is a gem that should be sought out and played, as it's got a lot of RPG elements and seems to improve upon them all, yet it seems completely fresh all the same.

Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man
Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man
by David Hardy
Edition: Paperback

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Touched a not-particularly-bright nerve, 6 Jan. 2008
Michael Moore has made a lot of enemies following his outburst against George W Bush while accepting his Oscar for Bowling for Columbine and, following on, Fahrenheit 9/11.

The thing is, their level almost always soon degenerates into fat jibes and accusations that he lies, yet with no actual proof to back up the allegations. Comeon, when the phrase "Big Fat Stupid White Man" makes up the title, you can already assume the level it will operate on. Indeed, it seems to prefer taking cheap potshots at Moore - the quote "Dude, Where's Your Integrity?" on the back cover is one - and again doesn't really offer anything other than a rant about Michael Moore being un-American because he dissed the President.

The chapters are set up in a way that take cheap jibes at Moore and his books, rather than valid points: it opens with An Open Letter to Michael Moore, a counter to the opening gambit of Dude Where's My Country - and continues in this vein for 272 pages, none of which have anything to really offer. Indeed, you can go on any message board and read the rants of any number of anti-Moore people that follow the same pattern and employ the same logic, but do it in a sentence with no illusion of intellectualism, yet this book has them and goes out of its way to prove how unitellectual it is (and, indeed, the aforementioned posters).

If you don't like Moore, formulate your own opinions, and argue them in a rational and logical way - don't pick up a book that cannot do that at any point, and only succeeds at leaving a bad taste in the mouth.

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