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The Conduit is not revolutionary. It does not push the genre. It does not do things differently. What it does do, however, is make everything better than it ever has been.
From the excellent graphics (even by Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 standards) to the sweeping score, High Voltage Software have apparently gone to every expense to draw the player into The Conduit's universe. And what a universe that is. The art direction draws largely from conspiracy theory circles, so you'll be seeing a lot of "Masonic" imagery.
The only criticism I have of the game is that the single player campaign does not do enough to draw you into the universe that has been so lovingly crafted; all the details are there, but many of them are hidden out of the player's way, meaning that a first play through can seem somewhat bland. On the subject of the campaign, it lasts about 5-7 hours. This, while not lengthy, is about the right length for the game, as it keeps it from becoming stale, as many FPS's do.
Playing the game is an absolute joy. It controls more intuitively than many of Nintendo's own efforts, and really shows what the Wii Remote can do when applied to the FPS genre. The online mode is fun, if not life-changing; multi-platform FPS gamers will probably be sticking to Half-Life 2 and its family, but for me The Conduit has more or less completely replaced Halo 3 and Killzone 2 when it comes to online console gaming.
If you own a Wii along with another console, you should seriously consider getting The Conduit. If you don't own another console, you absolutely cannot miss it.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
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It should be noted by all potential buyers of this game that the above trailer play.com lists is not the wii version of the game. Wether it is the ps3 or xbox 360 i am not sure, but i know for certain that it is not the wii.
Let's get one thing off the bat here. I am not a gamer who values graphics above all else, but the wii port of this game is, visually, terrible. I mean, i'd say this game looked mediocre at best if it was for the gamecube. Come on lucasarts, really. The wii can do reflections, it can do bloom, it can do detailed background textures. Hell, it can do detailed foreground textures. Look at super mario galaxy and metroid prime 3. I know that graphics aren't the be all and end all, but when this turned up on release day, frankly, it was hard not to feel jaded by all the advertising.
Underneath all the... Er... Well... Graphics, there does at least lie a solid game. Ok, sure, there's not much variety (the opening level well see you killing masses wookies, while the last will see you killing masses of stormtroopers) but it is fun. While it lasts. The singleplayer (even with the wii's additional levels) only totals around 6 hours. The multiplayer, while fun for a few rounds, cannot be played against bots, and doesn't do much to add to the lifespan.
To conclude, star wars: The force unleashed is a fun game, but perhaps not deserving of thirty of your hard earned pounds, and certainly not deserving of the hype and pre-release press given to it.
Guitar Hero: On Tour (with Guitar Grip)
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I'll admit that when I first heard about On Tour, I was sceptical of how the console style of gameplay would adapt to the DS, and I must say that technically, it's transitioned very well.
The core game is much the same as its console brethren; hit the notes as they scroll toward you by holding the appropriate "Fret" on the Guitar Grip peripheral, and strumming the guitar strings as displayed on the touch screen. A guitar plectrum shaped stylus is included with the bundle, but the regular DS one works just as well.
The number of buttons on the Guitar Grip, has, for obvious reasons, been reduced to just four, from the standard five. While this may not seem like a big change, it does have a significant impact. With only four buttons, all of them can now be reached without moving your hand. This saps any of the difficulty the series is known for. It takes a few songs to acclimatise yourself to the new style, but after that, I found myself getting five stars on the final setlist on Expert, when I found myself struggling to complete even Hard on the console games.
To say that the game mechanics have transition well to the small screen, however, is not to say that the fun has. I would imagine that most, if not all, prospective buyers of On Tour have played at least one of the fully fledged Guitar Hero games. For me, as a long term fan of the series, the attraction has always been in the simulation of playing a real guitar, something which the console controllers convey rather well. Here, however, all that is lost. All illusion that you're a famous rockstar entertaining thousands is gone, along with the guitar in your hands. Replacing it is a cramped, uncomfortable piece of gear that feels awkward after one song, and downright painful after five. It's been said before, and it bears saying again: The Guitar Grip causes serious cramps. Of course, this could just be me. I have fairly large hands, although my 11 year old younger brother also reports comfort issues, although whether due to endurance, or the problem being lesser for smaller hands, he can tolerate for far longer than I can.
For me, Guitar Hero: On Tour is a prime example of where video games stop being fun. Without the guitar peripheral of previous versions, there's nothing to distract from the fact that you are, in essence, pressing buttons in time with on screen prompts; simplistic in any situation, but somehow ignored in the rest of the series. Add to this the cramps, the primarily voice activated Star Power (So you look like a lemon playing it, especially if you use the game's suggest command of "ROCK OUT!"), and the overall poor quality of the sound (Remedied to some extent by a decent pair of headphones), and you've got more of a chore than a video game. All that On Tour inspired me to do was boot up the PS2 and play Guitar Hero III again.
Down In Albion
Babyshambles - CD
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When I first bought this album, having listened to, and adored, frontman Pete Doherty's former band The Libertines, I expected more of the Libertines' fast-paced mod rock with intellectual and romantic overtones.
What I recieved fullfilled half that expectation. Doherty's talent as a lyricist is showcased here to the extent that I would call Down In Albion, lyrically, his finest work. From the screeching yelps on "**** Forever", to the romantic croons of "Albion", the album manages to conjour up images of a Wordsworthian England, dragged forward to the 21st century of "Rebok Classics" and "pale thin girls behind the checkout." The punk-like energy that characterised The Libertines, however, is almost competely absent here, replaced with more accoustic, melodic work. Patrick Walden's guitar produces a spikey squeal, which complements Peter's yelps on the few faster paced pieces. If you buy this album expecting The Libertines, the only tracks I can really point you toward are "**** Forever" and "Pipedown."
However, as mentioned in the title, this album is definately not for everyone. Musically, I feel Down in Albion leaves alot to be desired. Mick Jone's production approach of "just leave the recorders on and see what the band do" worked well in the Libertines, as they were such a tight group, in tune with each other's thoughts. Here however, Babyshambles seem far more aloof; this is most obvious on the track "Up The Morning". Once the song gets going, it's another romantic tour de force for Pete, but the track itself has a full minute of what appears to be the band wandering around the studio, bumping into things.
Any fan of Babyshambles cannot afford to do without this album. The accoustic balladry and unique sound of Patrick Waldens guitar playing provide Babyshambles' highest moments, which are almost life changing, such are their magnitude. Sadly, however, it also provides the band's lowest ebbs; hampered largely by poor production, this album in places becomes an effort to listen to, and on many occasion, I simply turned it off, fed up of Pete's incoherent mumbles, and the sounds of guitars being tuned.
When the album does work, it trascends brilliance to become something incredibly personal, a feat achieved by few bands nowadays. For anyone new to Pete and Babyshambles though, I can't help but recommend the 2007 follow-up, Shotter's Nation, as it is more, dare I say it, mainstream.
Time For Heroes: The Best Of The Libertines
The Libertines - CD
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When The Libertines arrived on the scene with 2002's Up The Bracket, they left a wake which can still be appreciated today. Modern bands, such as The Kooks, Razorlight, and Artic Monkeys all draw much inspiriation from Pete, Carl, John and Gary. A self confessed fan of the band, I find their blend of superb lyricism with unique, dual guitar driven melodies to be the musical highlight of the decade.
Which brings us to this Best Of collection. Now don't get me wrong, all the tracks on here are fantastic, and truely represent some (Emphasis on some) of the band's best work. However, they only ever produced two full albums, which to me, makes this album something of a token tribute to fallen greats; I don't see why a Best Of Collection is needed when the band's entire published works can be aquired for around £20.
To conlclude; This album is, taken out of context, superb. Mick Jone's style of production lends the disc an energetic, live feeling, even if it is at the cost of a few perfect notes. However, this album omits some of the greatest Libertines calssics, so I feel that anyone serious in listening to this most revolutionary of bands should spend the extra £10, and get themselves the full collection.