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M. McCann "rednotdead1976" (N Ireland)

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Tour de France 2011 (PS3)
Tour de France 2011 (PS3)
Offered by bnhlmt

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly Tour de Farce...., 31 July 2011
Since the 2011 Tour shaped up to be one of the best in a long time, I knew I would be a bit disappointed when it finished, but as luck would have it the final stage took place on my birthday, and my great wife bought me this to try and help keep me happy until the Vuelta starts in August. So perhaps I went in with expectations a bit too high, but while not a bad game I did feel slightly underwhelmed and there was potential for this to be a much better game.

The game tutorial could be better since it raises more questions than answers in some cases-perhaps some footage illustrating the points rather than a simple static screen shot may have worked better. Plus options within the game are limited in relation to what orders you can give out- for example if you decide to go on an attack and want your team to block and slow down the peloton to protect you, you can't do that. The "Protect Me" order only has your team surround you which is not what you need at that stage, so perhaps the AI needs tweaked.

On a more petty note the voice acting is atrocious which can be a bit off putting after hearing "I've got a rocket under my saddle" as a response to an order to attack for the umpteenth time.

The simulated parts where the CPU takes over are also quite annoying, since they do not seem to take into consideration the orders you were giving just before you lose control.

Overall I think this game suffers from promising a lot and not fully delivering- I was more interested in the strategy end of it, so perhaps controlling the whole team from a car would be better than actually controlling one rider and also issuing orders. The menu system for doling out orders is also a tad annoying-sometimes to select a team mate and an order, you have to use the control stick that should be used to control your player which means you can lose a head of steam very easily by trying to sort out your team.

So while I would not call this game a total write-off, there are elements that mean it does not meet its full potential and it can be a bit frustrating. There are some small details that, in a better quality game could be forgiven but really it should deliver more. I will still hold on to it and play the rest of it through but if it is all out action you want then you will be disappointed. There is probably enough strategy to keep most people happy though again it is more the lost potential that means I would only recommend it to die hard cycling and strategy fans.

Reelin' in the Years: The Soundtrack of a Northern Life
Reelin' in the Years: The Soundtrack of a Northern Life
by Mark Radcliffe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soundtrack of a life...., 24 May 2011
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First up I need to declare I am a big fan of Mark Radcliffe- his and Stuart Maconie's Radio 2 show kept me company on the long drive home when I was working late, until their move to 6 Music and I have previously given very favourable reviews to his previous "Showbusiness" and "Thank You For The Days" offerings, so I want to try and avoid this turning into a hagiography.

This is, however, a well thought out and structured book. Each chapter covers a year in his life since he was born, with each named after a song from that year. There is a clever mix of pop history, autobiography and general history, putting everything into context from the personal to the political, and each chapter has a slightly different angle- in some the actual song takes centre stage and Radcliffe uses his encyclopedic knowledge and wide-ranging tastes to dissect it, whereas in others the track is merely refered to in passing, but still provides a theme. One chapter is simply a letter of apology, starting "Dear Kate", but most people will work out quite quickly who he is addressing.

I know it is a bit of a cliche to talk about laugh out loud moments when reading, but many hackneyed phrases become such because they do contain a basic truth. Radcliffe's great use of the English language in a non-prentitious way shows that you can exhibit intelligence without being ostentatious- that it's okay to be clever and still come across to the common man. There is the odd bit that would probably work better on a radio show than it does on the written page- eg his riff on DJs named after kitchenware (although he does make a good comeback from this one with Mary Anne Hobbs).

Generally this is written as he speaks, so anyone used to his radio show will probably hear his voice reading it to you (although the book doesn't incluse as many "ummmmmms" and "errrrrrs", to be fair!) so as a handy insight into how a DJ who became such because of a true love of music rather than some desire to be famous got to where he is, it is inspirational, especially to those who decry playlist based celeb presenters- (for example- unlike Chris Evans, I don't think Mark would get a question on what the next lines in "Fairytale of New York" are wrong on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire").

In summary this is a funny, well developed and interesting take on the autobiography format. Due to its structure it encourages the reader to think about what would define the years of their lives for themselves, as well as throwing up a few forgotten gems from the past- in effect Radcliffe puts the reader's own lives at the centre of what is supposed to be his autobiography. It is a refreshing escape from celeb-land and X-Factor world, and Mark shows what dedication and an open-minded approach to music, not bound by genre, can make for not only good radio but good books as well.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 6, 2011 2:09 PM BST

Sniper: Ghost Warrior (PS3)
Sniper: Ghost Warrior (PS3)
Offered by EVERGAME
Price: £14.99

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly uncertain, 11 May 2011
This probably isn't what you want to hear if you are reading reviews to try and decide whether or not you want to buy this game but at the moment I'm liking and hating it in equal measure. I wouldn't rate it as one of my favourite all-time games, but neither would I stick it in the bin- in some aspects it is limiting (no destructable scenery for example, or a simple rock bars your way that logic would dictate you could jump over!) but then again there is some element of choice in that choosing a particular approach or action in a mission impacts on how it will turn out-take for instance the "Leave No Man Behind" misson, where if you are stealthly enough you can sneak onto a lorry and have an easy ride into the next level, though if you go in all guns blazing the lorry leaves and you have more fighting to do then instead. It seems in a number of other missions you can choose to do it the easy way or hard way- for example in the "On Dangerous Ground" you are tasked with sneaking through an encampment without compromising your mission. I eventually got through it with judicious use of silenced pistol and knife, and then watched as someone posted a video on Youtube of them doing it in less than 3 minutes following a path along the trees and bushes without having to engage with one enemy- so there is an element of choice in how you approache some missions.

At the minute the PSN is down and I am assuming that there will be some patches coming- for example,, in the mission above you begin armed with a silent pistol. If you switch to knife to conserve ammo, the pistol seems to vanish from your arsenal, and this did not seem to be an issue with the X-Box versions. There are also some mission strands on the X-Box version that are not replicated here- for example on the X-Box you switch characters for a mission where you clear an oil rig using an assault rifle- more in keeping with a Modern Warfare close combat mission- this is not in the PS3 version where you are simply a sniper.

So do I like this game? In one way yes, in that rather than the close up, full on FPS games out there, this has an element of strategy, where you have to think ahead and not just run blindly firing and throwing grenades- you wil not survive in this game doing that. But there are annoying features too that stop me fully recommending you pay full price for this- as already mentioned in other reviews, each enemy has 100% accuracy from quite a distance away. This can be frustrating especially when at a height and soldiers down below are firing up at you. They seem to be able to hit from impossible angles, so that even if you move away back from the edge, you still get hit.

To be honest I'm at a stage now where more cerebal games that don't necessarily depend on lightning fast reactions suit me better- this mixes strategy with action, and the decision to engage in some cases is up to the player. But some of the glitches, where you feel you are on the cusp of the game freezing, the intrusive autosave feature and the quality of the AI mean I would suggest waiting until the price drops before investing. Some of the instructions, particularly in the tutorial at the start aren't as clear as could be, and sometimes the instructions given by your controller aren't very useful- eg in the mission creeping up to the lighthouse you are told to avoid engaging with the enemy, but as they are standing in the way, particuarly in the room you have to go through, you have to engage.

So basically I like the idea behind this, but the execution does not fully meet my expectations- however hearing that a sequel is being developed, this may form the basis for a great follow up- as long as they listen to the critics.

Hardcore, mini-gun totin', rocket launcher-wielding first person shooter fans may look elsewhere- I could see them getting bored very quickly- and I look forward to seeing how multi=player will stack up when Sony get their act together and get the PSN up and running.

EDIT********************** 12th May 2011**********
OK it is official- I hate this game now! I've been stuck on one level (at medium setting) for ages basically because of the glitches and the super accurate, never miss enemies- I know I like a challenge but this is ridiculous- no clear mission goals and enemies who never miss with super-powerful weapons that wipe your health bar within 2 hits, and again from impossible angles so even lying prone way back from the edge of a tower I am still getting hit- your cover is only good to obscure your view of the enemy- stick your head out a wee bit (according to the meter that measures how much you are seen) to see where the enemy is and night night! Plus the scope has a bad habit of being zoomed in as a default- ie you can only see a small area- by the time you have quickly hit R1 to look down the scope and zoom out to get a fuller, wider picture the "Failure! You are dead." message has appeared!
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 7, 2011 10:27 PM BST

33 Revolutions Per Minute
33 Revolutions Per Minute
by Dorian Lynskey
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mixing pop and politics..., 12 April 2011
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I have been surprised by books before but never in such a pleasant way- when I first ordered the book I assumed it would be a thinnish volume about 33 different songs- something I could dip in and out of, so when I opened the Amazon box the weight and thickness of the tome was unexpected- it was then I realised this was a more indepth piece of work and I would get much more out of it than I first thought.

I'm a big fan of, as Billy Bragg would say, mixing pop and politics and to see Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs and more all brought together, with great songs put into context makes this a fascinating and well researched work. It acts as a crossroads, showcasing the history of political song through the 20th into the 21st century. The 33 songs in the title form the basis for each chapter, but the book looks at many more. My one small gripe is that while Phil Ochs keeps cropping up and has a major role in the book, there is no chapter looking at him or any of his songs. However he makes enough appearances to keep even the most die hard Phil fan happy.

Placing these songs in context heightens my appreciation of them even further, and the different motivations behind the characters who wrote and performed the music laid bare- so you may find yourself emerging with a new respect for certain artists who may nowadays be seen as naff or mainstream, and also slightly annoyed at the more mercenary who simply jumped on the bandwagons of their time, profiting while people were suffering.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone who believes that music has still a role to play in raising consciousness or acting as a standard for activists to collect around.

You Can Get Arrested For That
You Can Get Arrested For That
by Rich Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An original concept ruined by unoriginal blokes roadtrip tales, 20 Nov. 2010
I bought this before boarding a long haul flight to balance up my other, more serious, reading material- however if I had noticed that the only cover quote is from that esteemed organ "The Sunday Sport" I would have put it back on the shelf.

The idea of the book entertained me- I always enjoy reading about some of the crazier laws worldwide and the initial concept of the book seems like a good way to investigate these further. But when it comes to the execution Rich Smith is no Peter Moore or Bill Bryson.

The best way to describe reading this book is to imagine being stuck in a pub with two self professed "blokes", who think that chronicling their drunken adventures, sexual conquests and basic laddish behaviour is entertaining to everyone. However in reality they are just two sad individuals who are desperately trying to live up to some stereotype as to what it supposedly means to be a young male today. Therfore every cliche attached to a roadtrip "comedy" movie is ticked off more effectively than the laws Smith and Bateman are intending to break. It really is tiresome as yet another half-arsed attempt to achieve their objective is missed due to them getting hammered or involved in some other "exciting" adventure.

The total lack of self awareness exhibited by Smith and Bateman is really painful in places- even more worrying as Smith is supposedly a journalism student. If he was really serious about being a journalist he could perhaps actually attempt some, you know, journalism? A more entertaining tale would have come about if rather than just document their own behaviours, Smith had tried to investigate the reasons why the laws were passed in the first place- that would have been more interesting than a book that simply follows the pattern of drive to a town, get pissed, meet some local indivduals, try for a while to break the idenitifed silly law, use this as a chat up line for some girls, wake up having failed task, move on to next town and repeat. After all, what situation developed in the past that meant one area had to introduce laws prohibiting sleepng in a cheese factory or throwing a bike into a swimming pool? This would have been better,and to be honest was the reason I bought the book, only to be disappointed.

This book will really only appeal to those who refer to women as "birds" and think that documenting how much they have had to drink as being some sort of badge of honour. This gives proper funny travel writing such as that produced by the aforemention Bryson and Moore, as well as the likes of Tony Hawks, a bad name. I am not a prude, and I know that many travel writers will have had their own fun and games involving alcohol, sexual attraction and all the rest, but they are smart enough to know that no one else is really interested in that part of their story- after all nobody needs to travel far to get pissed and pull- so they leave it out of their books. Unfortunately Smith and Bateman's trip seems to have been so short on actual observation that that was all they had left to write about.

It really was a missed opportunity and my copy will be going straight to the charity shop, or more fittingly the recycling centre- I feel I would be failing in my public duty to expose anyone else to this.

Joe Hill's Ashes
Joe Hill's Ashes
Price: £13.74

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joe Hill would probably say" Don't mourn- organise....and get your hands on a copy of this album!", 25 May 2010
This review is from: Joe Hill's Ashes (Audio CD)
As a big Otis Gibbs fan I find it hard to objectively review his work because, in my opinion, his songwriting talent and peerless voice can do no wrong. Following on from the brilliant "Grandpa Walked A Picketline" ( which I rate as one of my favourite albums), Otis had his work cut out to reach the heights that achieved but I feel he nailed it again.
The title track is a great tribute to Joe Hill but also highlights how the example he set is calling out to be replicated now, highlighting the need for people not to be quiet in the face of injustice but to stand up and be counted. "Only the Graves are Real" deals with a modern situation where people who find success suddenly find themselves with more "friends" than ever before, and the theme of knowing who you really can count on and trust "when you're closing down the bars" is clearly from the heart.

This is a mix, like his previous work, of the political and personal, and how they are often intertwined. It tells the tale of life lived, experiences savoured and noted, to be recalled later. There is perhaps a slightly darker feel to this album than his previous offerings but the humour is still there, as well as a human view of an honest man in a dishonest world trying to get through while doing the right things.

The best recommendation I can give for "Joe Hill's Ashes" is from a friend of mine on Facebook. I put up a link to Otis' album on my wall and got a message back that started "THANK YOU, THANK YOU,THANK YOU" for recommending the album to him and went on to say what a "remarkable" offering it was. I can only agree with this synopsis- Otis is too good for people to stay quiet for too much longer about what he can offer the world! Again I can only thank Billy Bragg for having Otis as a support act in 2008, which introduced me to the abilities and work of the man.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2010 7:02 PM BST

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City Signature Series Strategy Guide (Bradygames Signature Guides)
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City Signature Series Strategy Guide (Bradygames Signature Guides)
by Rick Barba
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful but not essential for PS3, 24 May 2010
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After a long wait, Rockstar finally saw sense and released these two games for the PS3, and as I would normally do I invested in the strategy guide to help me get 100%, not being the world's best gamer. Normally I would hold these up as essential in beating every element required to achieve completion, even after the experience I had a few years back with the Vice City Stories and San Andreas guides for the PS2 where there were a few inconsistencies in maps etc.

However, especially in relation to The Ballad of Gay Tony (this guide covers both it and "the Lost and the Damned") I wouldn't really have this down as totally essential. Because, unlike other GTA games, TBOGT requires the player to get 100% in all missions by fulfilling some criteria that are based on skill, not simply finding stuff or making stunt jumps- for example there is a mission where you have to shoot four bolts on a NOOSE APC underneath a helicopter. It took me long enough simply to nail all four expending a whole load of ammo- to get 100% in that mission you had to do it in 4 shots, so while the guide can tell you that is what you have to do, it is still down to the player to carry out the task, which I will probably find impossible. Therefore, since an in-game screen at the end of the mission will tell you what you need to do to achieve 100% the guide is not necessary in that regard, except perhaps as a reminder.

The other issue in relation to TBOGT is that the seagulls map has an error- it claims(with a screenshot) that there is a seagull in one place which is wrong- obviously, me being me, I always assume it is my mistake and that I am doing something wrong, but a quick check of the seagull finder on the GTA IV site allowed me to find the missing one that was not marked on the map and discard the incorrectly marked one. Perhaps this is a difference between the PS3 and Xbox version, or perhaps it is a deliberate mistake to help identify any online copyright infringements, but again since the info required was easily (and more accurately) available online it goes some way to proving that it is not really necessary to purchase this guide.

Saying that, it is useful to have everything together even with the errors, but if money is tight for you I would suggest that it is possible to get full trophies and 100% using only in-game and online sources. Also note that throughout the guide it does refer to Xbox controls only, but this should not have an impact on PS3 users since apart from the one seagull, I found it corresponded to every other element I came across.

Forbidden Drugs
Forbidden Drugs
by Philip Robson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Useful from an education and prevention point of view, 16 May 2010
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This review is from: Forbidden Drugs (Paperback)
As a drugs education and prevention worker who bases my methodologies on a harm reduction model, it is vital that I have as much relevant, up to date and accurate info at my disposal as possible. There are a wide range of sources I use, including of course, on-line but it is also very useful to have good texts to keep building up my knowledge base. This book sits up very well among the others I would consult on a regular basis (including Tyler's "Street Drugs", "Buzzed" and McKim's "Drugs and Behaviour"). Sometimes it can be difficult balancing the science with the social and historical contexts and coming up with a cogent whole, but this collection of chapters from a variety of fields does very well in that regard. It does not bring any value judgements to bear, and quite rightly looks at drugs as just that- substances that have different effects on the body and/ or mind, some intended, some not. It highlights that a drug is a drug and that the important questions are around context, lifestyle and what come attached to the usage off the substance, meaning that there are no historonics and that everything is subjectively and calmly looked at.

If only policy formers and the media could look at substances in sucha rational and informative way, my job would be so much easier!
Obviously due to the fact developments happen so quickly in the field of substance use, a printed book dates quite quickly, so there is no real discussion of ATSs or related drugs but then again they weren't looking into a crystal ball! Of course more recent offerings are available on line but as a good introduction to concepts and historical developments this is a worthy work.

Just Cause 2: Prima's Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides)
Just Cause 2: Prima's Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides)
by Catherine Browne
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spotting a pattern in the reviews, 16 May 2010
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I find myself agreeing with the previous reviews-a lot of space is given over to lists of coordinates that are not very useful. Naturally most players will be collecting or destroying the required assets as they go along during some of the missions- if you are only a few percentage points short in some areas and can't find what it is you need to complete that village or base, a list of numbers when you don't even know what you are looking for is off-putting. In fact I could see a lot of time being wasted sitting down with a list and going to each co-ordinate to see whether or not you have already gotten the asset- surely a more sensible way would be to list each village and base and the assets they have rather than just all silos, radar, masts etc together. In that way it would be more like playing a game and enjoying rather than just trudging through elements and coming to hate Just Cause 2 because of it.
Because so much of the book is given over to the co-ordinate lists there is less room dedicated to different strategies for passing missions. Normally I like to complete a mission and then see what the book suggests to see if I could have done it differently and in many occassions I nailed it far more quickly and in an easier manner than suggested by the guide.
I normally judge such offerings on a number of elements- for example asking myself if I would have been able to get 100% without having bought it.I would have to say I would have, and probably quicker than following the layout in the guide. It is reasonably useful in trying to ensure you get all 104 vehicles because each one is illustrated but again simply diving in and out of cars, boats etc in the course would probably achieve this, maybe not as quickly. It also helps in finding the colonels but again I had taken out 41 of the 50 before even thinking of looking them up in the book.

The book is well illustrated so from a style point of view looks well but I am more interested in content and substance. Generally I think the Holy Grail of Strategy Guides have always been the Grand Theft Auto series, which are normally a prerequisite to beat the game 100% and I don't think the Just Cause 2 guide is as vital. In a slightly different format it could have made reaching 100% completion easier, but as it is seems quite counterproductive. I am the first to admit that while I love my game playing, I am not the world's greatest and always welcome a bit of help, and more committed and talented players probably scoff at the idea of strategy guides, I look on them as a way to enhance my enjoyment and when they can actually be a hindrance it is disappointing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 16, 2011 2:23 AM BST

San Patricio (Deluxe Edition)
San Patricio (Deluxe Edition)
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £6.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irish and Mexican fusion topped off with a history lesson, 13 April 2010
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I first heard Mike Harding playing the Ry Cooder/ Chieftains track "Sands of Mexico" on BBC Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago and knew I had to get this album. The San Patricios are seen as a forgotten part of Irish history, so it is important that their stories are highlighted and the role of Irishmen who, too often had fought in imperialist armies, often found themselves on opposing sides in many of the conflicts in recent history- compare for example to the men and women who joined the International Brigades and those who joined O'Duffy' s Blueshirts in Spain a few decades later.
The mixture of Irish music and a mixture of Mexican and English lyrics make for an inspiring CD and will invoke in listeners a desire to find more about this brave bunch of men who joined the Mexicans as they fought the US. While there is actaully a small touch of an old crooner in Ry Cooder's rendition of the "Sands of Mexico" it is quality stuff throughout and the mixture of styles adds to an international feel.

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