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Huge and numerous, well designed maps covering everything from CQB urban warfare to open tank battles. Jets and helicopters are available.
The usual death match type modes are present together with the real meat - which rush and conquest. Single player is nothing special but the multi player, which emphasises tactic over reflexes is the reason to get this.
It's also probably as good games are going to look this generation.
Death Note: Limited Edition (2 Discs And Book) (2006 Live Action)
This is my personal favourite version of Death Note. The sillier parts of the manga and animé excised and it's pared back to the most interesting elements. It changes enough plot details that it's still very much worth watching. Performances are excellent. The subs could be a bit more imaginative but they get the job done (there is no English dub, but I don't care about that).
The DVD itself is an extremely high quality transfer, normally hovering around around 9 mbits/s The packaging of the limited edition is also very nice, being a mock-up death note setting out the Rules.
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
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...and the best Resident Evil game period (and that's including RE5). I've played RE4 on both the PS2 and Wii and, fine as the PS2 version is, the Wii version is far better. Graphics are about the same, maybe a little superior on the Wii. But the main difference, and the thing which lifts Wii version to a whole other level is the control system which uses the Remote as a light gun . It also has all the extra content of the PS2 version. One of the few hardcore games on the Wii and an essential purchase even if you've played it on the PS2 or Gamecube.
Official Xbox 360 512MB Memory Unit
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Obviously essential if you don't have a hard drive and useful even if you do. But £30 for 512MB when you can buy an 8GB USB drive for less than £10? It's a rip-off.
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Competent is the first word which springs to my mind when thinking about Blue Dragon. It doesn't really do anything wrong - the graphics are pretty (although there's some nasty framerate drop in the battle scenes), the voice acting is above average (better than FF-X, worse than Jade Empire or KOTOR) and the character development and battle systems aren't exactly original (turn based battles in a seperate battle view and a job type skill system similar innumerable JPRPGs from the mid-90s onwards) but there's nothing to really get excited about. It's almost as if the production team were told to put a JRPG together for XBox (and then told to change to 360) which covers all the bases but doesn't try to do anything new or original.
It's a perfectly good way to kill 30 to 40 hours but don't expect anything you haven't seen before or to become emotionally invested in the plot (typical rite of passage melodrama) or your characters (they're all interchangable with the precise same skill set available to each of them. Probably best to wait for it to be discounted. Add a star if you find it for £20 or less.
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Prey, as you may recall, was one of the early 360 exclusives (if you ignore the fact it was also available on PC, as Microsoft tend to) and, as such, was quite heavily hyped. The unique selling point was supposed to be the fact that gravity is not constant in the game meaning that rooms will "flip" as you walk across them with the floor becoming the ceiling and so on.
The reality was a little different. The plot and voice acting are terrible and borderline racist (you're a Native American captured by a vast alien spaceship out to escape and rescue your girlfriend by using the mystic powers which all Native Americans obviously have), the weapons bland and, because of the complex geometry of the rooms, tactics are non-existent (see enemy, aim, keep finger on fire until enemy is dead pretty much sums it up). Even worse is the mini-game when you die. Instead of sending you back to the last check-point or save point you have to spend several minutes hunting balls of energy with a bow to resurrect yourself. Tedious barely begins to cover it.
Overall, then, Prey along with Quake IV, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo is one of the early super-hyped 360 titles which should be quietly forgotten. I assume that the reason it's so heavily discounted now is because it was massively overproduced at the time. If you really want to get yourself a 360 port of a PC FPS then it's not bad but you'd be better off checking out F.E.A.R. which is also heavily discounted and a much more enjoyable game.
Superman Returns (1 Disc)
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This movie's main problem is that, instead of looking at where the Superman comics are today and relaunching the movie franchise based on these á la Batman Begins, it sets out to be a sequel to the Richard Donner Superman movies of the late 70s and early 80s. Those movies (especially the first) were old fashioned even back then and time has not, in my view, done them any favours. So, as with the original movies, Superman Returns brings you 50s morality, insultingly bad SF and an incredible over-seriousness (I don't think there's a single joke or lighthearted moment in the entire film).
The plot (such as it is) is pretty much incomprehensible involving Kevin Spacey (in the most boring performance of his that I've ever ever had the misfortune to see) using Kryptonian crystals to regrow bits of Krypton on Earth (or something). Which is as exciting as it sounds. And Luthor, far from being the evil genius he is portrayed as in the comics and other media, is just a petty criminal who gets lucky (he finances himself by sleeping with older women!)
Any given episode of Superman: The Animated Series, or even Lois and Clark, is cosiderably more fun than this movie. Avoid.
A Bright, Shining Lie
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How is it that a book first published in 1989 and written about a war which ended more than 30 years ago tells us more about what caused the debaclé in Iraq than any of the reams of newsprint, blogs and books (with the possible exception of Fiasco) published in the past 5 years?
This fascinating book, written by a journalist who spent several years in Vietnam during the war traces the history of the US involvement in the country through the career of Colonel John Paul Vann. It analyses the ignorance (often willful) and dellusions of the US political and military leaders who thought who refused to pay any attention to the reality of the war on the ground or attempt to understand the nature of their enemy and what he was fighting for and thought that all you needed to do to win a war was put together a massive fighting force and grind the enemy up in a war of attrition. It looks at the campaign of Vann who, unusually for someone on the US side, understood the nature of the war and the stupidity of the way it was being fought, to persuade the US command to change their policies.
Absolutely fascinating and very accessible, if all you know about Vietnam is what you've picked up from movies and other pieces of pop culture you should really read this book. In fact, everybody who want to understand the US mindset which has caused us so many problems in Iraq should.
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This is a great piece of escapist martial arts action from the director of Versus with stunning set-piece sword fights which show up just how scelrotic, boring and clichéd Hollywood action movies have become (and made on a far lower budget).
Unfortunately the film is let down by the DVD transfer. Sound is stereo only (a huge shame with a kinetic film like this, although, sadly, not unusual for Western releases of Japanese action movies), subtitles are burnt in (which are ugly and indicates the DVD transfer was made from a Western print of the movie rather than a true master) and the transfer itself is low bit rate (rarely getting above 5Mb/s) with poor colour and noticeable noise in the blacks (not unlike the early DVD prints of Hard Boiled).
Still, having said all that, this is a fantastic film and, short of learning Japanese and importing the Japan version, this disc is the only way we can enjoy it.
Pioneer DV-600AV-K Universal DVD Player With HDMI Output And USB Host (Black)
I've always been partial to Pioneer DVD players finding them to be reliable, easy to use and to have superior picture quality, so the first thing I did after getting an HDTV was upgrade my long in the tooth DV-444 to one of these beauties (multi-region). It took literally two minutes to set up via HDMI and, with the resolution set to 1080p, the picture quality was a revelation compared to my old player's RGB SCART output. Blacks were black, whites were pure and colours were vivid with absolutely no noise, colour bleed or other artefacts.
The player plays literally anything other than HD video discs including SACD, DVD-A and data discs (CD or DVD) containing files in pretty much every format in common use (including AAC, although not DRM'd files unfortunately) with none of the finickiness I've sometimes experienced with other kit. Audio quality is remarkably good for a player in this price range with SACD and DVD-A playback in particular being good enough that you find yourself wishing these formats hadn't flopped.
If you want a movie player which will exploit your shiny new 1080 HD screen and you're waiting for the HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray format war to resolve itself itself before getting a HD player then you can't go wrong with this one. Highly recommended.