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The improvements made to the FIFA franchise year in year out are often though of as minimal, and I probably agree. However this year EA have taken a massive step. The game is like nothing I have ever played football wise. I played FIFA 10 every day for the last nine months and it had gotten to a point where I was unbeatable, I don't remember the last time I lost a match on it, and that's including playing online every day.
But I picked up the controller to play the FIFA 11 demo yesterday and couldn't get a thing right. I'll play as Andre Arshavin, through a little trick , skip past a defender and he'll stumble but manage to drag me back. Then lay it off to Fabregas so he can have a shot. He unleashes an incredible swirling dipping drive from the edge of the 18 yard box (and this swirling and dipping effect is very popular throughout the game, ive often seen keepers misjudge a long range shot, or even had the ball dip over them into the far corner) but the slide tackles have been revamped and Samii Hypia slides in from behind and hooks away the saved rebound.
It's all different! But so much more fluid and realistic. The celebrations have been redesigned, albeit on the basic structure or previous, to allow you to celebrate with other players on the pitch. Your player might get up and spring away from goal, or as Arshavin casual jog away before pulling whatever celebration you choose. There's a new match highlight system that allows you to view specific highlights at the end of a match them save them to your hard drive too.
The biggest addition feature wise is probably the goalkeeper. You can now choose to take control of the keeper for a whole game. It's a very odd experience that you can test in the arena, through a combination of the right stick to dive and square and triangle for other manoeuvres you take control of the keeper as he attempts to keep a clean sheet. Good fun for a while, but not sure it's something I'd get too excited about.
Also, I don't think it's any coincidence that you can unlock Arsenal to play as after you win 5 games; the game is definitely aimed towards their style of play. It requires clever passing, keeping possession, then finding that killer pass to split the defence.
Must buy for me. The most realistic football simulation ever.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
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Through play.com's pre-order system I got access to this online beta, and believe me when I say it may be the best thing I've ever played. The graphics are completely mindblowing! Take MGS4 or Killzone 2 or any of these and forget them graphically, Uncharted 2 is clearly the new benchmark.
The matchmaking system for this multiplayer beta is a bit rough. It can take minutes to find a game sometimes, so much so that I've been forced to quit and go play something else, but once you're into a game it's definitely worth it. With a climbing system very similar to the original game and maps that have clearly been laboured over you get a completely different online experience to anything else.
One level sees you in some kind of Chinese village in the pelting rain where you have a choice of sticking to the ground, running between cover (the cover system being very similar to the last game, and 360's Gears of War) or you can go high, using your climbing abilities to get to great sniping oppurtunities.
Even watching the trailer for the singleplayer got me all excited. This is going to be the Playstation's definitive title of 2009, and if you don't own it then you're missing out. A must buy for me.
Official Sony PS3 Wireless Bluetooth Headset
I had a chance to get to grips with one of these over in the US, and I was unexpectedly impressed. There had been talk of an official headset being released for months and I automatically expected, it being from Sony, to be horribly overpriced at £40 or something silly like that and lacking in what it really needs. I stand corrected.
£17.99 is a more than agreeable price for a licensed accessory, especially if you purchase it with SOCOM: Confrontation for only £29.99. It automatically syncs and resyncs when you turn the console on and off assuming it's not in the docking stand. The stand itself is excellent, it charges the headset and also allows it to be used as a standing microphone. The LED light on the front of the headset itself shows levels of charge and whether or not it is active, which is very handy. On top of this it has a simple mute function, which is absent from most normal bluetooth headsets.
Overall, very impressed. Unlike Sony to produce something for such a reasonable price and of such excellent quality. I'm unsure though whether it can be used with a normal mobile phone, or whether it charges through a USB into the playstation or a normal socket. Hopefully it does so through a socket, otherwise you can only charge it when your Playstation is on, which would just be stupid.
These extra features make this a must have for me.
PES 2009: Pro Evolution Soccer
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Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 was dissapointing, let's be honest. It didn't live up to the expectations that we all had for it. FIFA 08 on the other hand (despite not being that great itself) made massive improvements and a successful online feature won me over. Having played both demo's for at least 5 hours each, I have to say they're both pretty equal. It appears Konami have ticked all the right boxes this time: fixed all the frame rate issues that plagued the last one; you get replays that are actually helpful; lobbed through balls aren't impossible to defend; no stupid camera angle on penalties and improved graphics. They've even made the homepage a bit snazzy! A new modern look and soundtrack made me love this before I'd even played a game. A fully licensed Champions League mode and a few new licenses for club teams, Manchester United and Liverpool from the Barclays Premier League, make this a great improvement, and one that I'll certainly be buying. Yes Become a Legend mode is a massive rip-off of EA's Be a Pro, but Konami have managed to take it make it their own with an in depth career for your player starting from the reserves all the way to an international starter. As this is a Pro Evo review I won't make any comparisons to FIFA other than this. They both have made necessary improvements both in gameplay and in presentation, which in my opinion balances them both out. They both have great new (or improved) features from the previous game, but I will be swayed by the online play. Last year FIFA's won hands down. Pro Evo's was very very poor, mountains of lag and no chance to create and participate in leagues like FIFA's. I'm not expecting that frontier to be conquered this time round either, FIFA already has that in the bag in my opinion. But I will be buying both as I do every year. :)
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots (PS3)
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I could write a 300 word evaluation of this game but I see no point. I could sum it up in one word: perfect.
The single most dramatic gaming experience of my life. Spectacular. The definitive Playstation 3 title, and I loved every second of it.
Cloverfield: Special Edition (2 Discs)
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To be honest, everyone has high expectations for whatever J.J. Abrahams churns out after the huge success of LOST, the series finale last night was typically spectacular.
Cloverfield is just as spectacular. Breathtaking special effects, memorable performances from all the main characters, and a revolutionary new way to create a movie. The only downside of course is the shaking of the camera which did cause some motion sickness amongst some viewers, although not myself. It's not like you're on the sinking Titanic, just a gentle ebb and flow in a boat on the Thames.
Overall, good film. Possibly not one you would watch over and over, but definitely one to see.
Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (Gatefold Digipack)
Coldplay - CD
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Coldplay certainly have come a long way since singing about the colour yellow and walking backwards in time, and they've been going in the right direction.
I've been a huge fan of Chris and the boys for years and I was dearly hoping that this new album would better the outstanding X & Y. And it has. In fact, this is without doubt my favourite album of the year so far, and possibly my favourite Coldplay album yet. Packed full of religious references every track feels uplifting and inspirational. You can't help but learn every lyric and get a little blurry eyed everytime you listen to Viva La Vida.
If you buy one album this year, it must be this.
Well done fellas, you've gone and done it again. Another magnificent collection of songs, completely faultless.
James Bond: Casino Royale - Collector's Edition (2 Discs)
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I don't know how everyone else feels but Die Another Day? Absolute shambles. Tarnished the 007 name.
James Bond is a symbol of suaveness and sex appeal all across the world, not only but he's a symbol for what Britain used to be, Bond is our stiff upper lip.
I'm actually watching this film now as I write this review and I must say that the Bond franchise is so lucky Martin Campbell came along and gave the series a make over. Taking Bond back to his hardcore, down and dirty basics. Craig's Bond doesn't rely on a chord built into his watch to pull himself out of flaming lava pit, he relies on quick minded instincts and ice-cold killer reactions. Bond, is cool again.
And must I say, the free running scene at the start? Absolutely fantastic. Stunning visuals all the way through, every character was expertly casted. I did feel that maybe the poker scene went on for a little bit too long but it's forgiven simply because every other moment was brilliant Bond.
Martin Campbell and Daniel Craig take Bond back to his roots, he has only just recieved his Double-O status and is out on his first mission. With stunning locations from the Bahamas to Venice and just as stunning visual effects and stunts you'll be on the edge of your seat the whole way through. Do not miss this rollercoaster ride.
Ross Kemp In Afghanistan (2 Discs)
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Well, I watched the majority of Ross's show on gangs around the world and it was indeed very good, and very worthy of the awards that it won. But this, this is a real step up for the man.
We've been waiting a long time to see life behind all the politics and news about what our soldiers go through on the front line, and finally we have something. I've always been so embarassed about how we support our troops over here in the UK. You go over to the US and they have posters and advertisements and special days where servicement get speical deals and free products, not here.
Obviously the UK is a long way off from that, but at least this is a step in the right direction, perhaps now people will show the respect that our troops deserve.
The show itself? Brilliant, it can flip from heartwarmingly tantilising, to gut-wrenchingly horrifying in an instant. Kemp is a good actor, but we can all be assured no acting took place on this trip.
Congratulations Ross, you've pulled it out of the bag, and I think that it should be the duty of every British citizen to watch this and see what our servicemen and women fight against, even if we don't agree with their cause.
A true must see.
Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
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Since I first saw this film 4 years ago, I am still waiting to find something that will make me laugh harder and for longer. Knocked Up came close, but this is in a different class.
Some of the lines, the songs, just everything is absolutely hilarious. This is the film that really made it for Will Ferrell, and boy did this make it for him. I guarantee you that you will not be able to watch this film without laughing your head off. Not only that but you'll want to watch it again and again.
Ferrell has tried to continue this whole random movie saga particularly with the recent release of Semi-Pro, which is indeed very funny, but still nowhere near this piece of comedy film brilliance. Steve Carrells character Brick Tamland is probably the funniest on screen character I have seen in the last decade.
But please stop reading this now, click buy and enjoy the magic.
It really is just that good.
I love lamp.