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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

To begin with, let me just say that I really did enjoy this game, there aren’t too many games that I’ll immediately play again the day after I finish them like I did with this one, and that despite the seemingly negative nature of the upcoming pedantry, this is probably now my second favourite entry of the series. No lie.

Shattered Memories is described as a “reimagining” of the original Silent Hill game, but in all honesty it bears very little resemblance to the original, beyond the fact that both games feature a man who can’t drive very well and has lost his daughter it’s pretty much night and day. I wouldn’t say it’s too outlandish to consider SM a brand new entry in the series, as I do, and to suggest that the implied association with the first game is purely to draw in the nostalgia crowd who (rightly) thought Origins and Homecoming were bullshit and to ease them into the idea of having to play a “new” Silent Hill game without any sense of fear and self-loathing.

Yes, Climax do have some balls, it seems. They certainly weren’t worried about “doing the original justice” or “keeping the die-hards satisfied” with this remake, as pretty much everything is totally different, besides the aforementioned premise and a few character names from the original, the Otherworld is now blue and icy, there’s no combat and the exploration and puzzle solving elements have been given a severe trimming down. In fact, very few of the established elements of Silent Hill are even present in SM. See, balls! Like fucking grapefruits!

The gameplay itself is divided into 2 distinct sections, exploration through the town and chase sequences. During the exploration sections, you, Harry Mason, wander through various dark buildings and streets with a flashlight. That’s it. Sounds thrilling, right! These sections are pretty much linear; they are given some semblance of a sandbox feel by the inclusion of various mementos and photo opportunities left by strangers most of the time it’s just moving from A to B, and the quickly established fact that these sections feature no monsters or dangers of any kind make them sound as exciting as dry toast. And yet, these sections, as well as the story, are what make the game feel like a Silent Hill title, and are actually my favourite in the entire game. The traditional Silent Hill atmosphere is strongest in these parts, and there’s just something very chilled and relaxing about travelling through the snow with soft, beautiful music playing, knowing that, for now, at least, you’re safe. No homo. This is a very underutilised methodology in horror games, earlier Silent Hill and Resident Evil games (Nemesis, in particular) worked on the premise that you could be attacked any place, any time, and by including long periods of complete safety, SM creates a false sense of security that the save rooms in RE really cannot match.

Although, this isn’t to say that SM has completely abandoned established horror practice, as the transitions to the Otherworld, while not always impossible to predict, are fairly sharp and jarring, taking you from seemingly safe locations, such as bedrooms and living rooms, to icy, nightmare land, and these transitions usually made me “jump” more than most of the actual monsters, which isn’t saying much, as an adorable puppy licking my face and waggling its tail at me made me jump more than the monsters in SM. I’m really not sure what happened there, pretty much every other element of these chase sequences was done well, the controls are tight and dependable, easily outstripping similar sequences that I’ve played recently in Yakuza 4 and LA Noire in terms of usability and not making me cry with frustration. The environments are challengingly maze-like but sufficiently navigable and the music and camera work give a strong sense of impending doom. And yet, all of this is undermined by the pathetic looking, whimpering cuddly toys you’re running away from. I’m not sure if this was the developer’s aim but I actually felt like a bit of a girl for running away from enemies who are trying to snuggle me to death, to the point where I expected Harry to be wearing pigtails and a pink bra in the next cut scene. The reason being chased in RE3 was scary was because the guy chasing you was a fucking huge monstrosity with a rocket launcher and a massive impaling tentacle. Now, say what you like about RE’s lack of subtlety in comparison to SH but fuck, that guy was scary! I mean, even Pyramid Head had a giant phallic knife. Because of the absolute lack of threat posed by the enemies, these sections fall from being “tense and heart pounding” to “mildly irritating.” Shame really, Silent Hill has always had such good monsters, and maintaining this tradition would have benefited this title in particular, perhaps more so than any of the others.

Another non SH addition to the series is the intermittent therapy sessions, during which you’ll be asked a wide variety of questions about your personality and your feelings on topics such as sex, death and family life, and the game will, apparently, use these answers to create a “unique experience.” Now, I only played the game twice, answering honestly the first time and lying about everything the second time, and there were admittedly some differences between the two playthroughs. Some of them are very easy to predict, for example the female characters were wearing more revealing outfits when I said that I’d been unfaithful (I haven’t, don’t worry!) and some less so, I was given differing routes through the first section, for example, but for the most part the experiences were mostly the same. It’s a very promising step for gaming in general, having your individual choices impact gameplay in subtle ways but I can’t help but feel that it could have been used in more extensive and impressive ways than simply changing outfits. Also, despite having elements of cut-scenes and normal world play change based on your answers, the Otherworld sections always stay 100% the same, every time, and I would suggest that having vast portions of the game unaffected by the game’s major selling point is really not a wise move. Surely, when considering the implementation of a “personalised nightmare,” someone must have asked, “Well what if people like ice and the colour blue?” I, for one, do like ice and the colour blue, which dulls the psychological impact of these sections significantly. If the game could have deduced from my answers that I’m mortally afraid of vegetables and close-ups of Stephen Merchant’s face and created a nightmare around that, then I would have been impressed. As it stands, I’m not. One last gripe I have with the therapy sessions is the fact that they are needed at all and that they are touted as a new and exciting addition to the series. At least in SH 2 and 3, I’ve always taken it as standard that my actions and behaviour would have consequences to the games progression and ending, and as such it feels like buying an album with the words “Now contains music!” written on it. Although it could be argued that previous games weren’t affected as extensively and subtly by your actions, I still don’t feel that SM does enough in this area in order for it to proudly boast it as a major selling point.

Despite all of these vast differences to previous SH games, there are areas in which SM retains similarities to earlier entries in the series, and the most obvious of these is in its storytelling. Don’t want to give too much away, mostly because I can’t, even after 2 runs most of it makes very little sense, even to a seasoned SH fan like myself, I can’t imagine how a newcomer would react to all this. Suffice it to say that everything is steeped in symbolism and that the multiple choices the game presents aren’t the only way of increasing the replay value, you pretty much need to finish the game once in order to fully comprehend all of the subtleties of its story. Trust me, it’s impressive stuff. Of course, there are multiple endings in true SH fashion but I don’t get the feeling that as much effort was put into them as in previous SH games, each one contains about 4 seconds of unique footage, which would usually make it more of a “play the game once and watch the other endings on Youtube” kinda deal, but the replay value is bolstered by the aforementioned various choices you can make and the batshit impenetrable story.

One other area in which SM retains the high standards of the previous games is in the music. I have to say that Akira Yamaoka is one of my favourite artists in general; it does him a disservice to say “He’s good for a video game composer.” I listen to his music much more than I play the games, and I downloaded this game’s soundtrack long before I even considered playing the game. The in-game music has again shifted in style to suit the tone of the game, eschewing much of the earlier trip-hop influenced sound in favour of a more chilled, piano-based sound, which suits the relaxed, wintery atmosphere of the game perfectly. The 4 vocal tracks feature probably my favourite female vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, who sounds amazing as always. The main theme “Acceptance” is simple and beautiful, the rockier “When You’re Gone” and “Hell Frozen Rain” feature incredibly catchy vocal melodies and an immense guitar solo respectively and the cover of “Always On My Mind” is just… well, let’s forget about that! Suffice it to say that the Pet Shop Boys’ version is still my favourite…

Overall, I would say that SM is a game for which it is very easy to nit-pick and single out weak individual elements. Yeah, the monsters aren’t scary, the exploration could be considered boring and the psychological profiling could be just as easily replicated by playing “pin the tail on the donkey” with a deck of Tarot cards, but when considered as a complete experience it ultimately succeeds, much in the same way as Heavy Rain does. I might not be able to explain exactly why I like it, but I do, and that’s all that matters!

9:30 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Friday, July 01, 2011

Live Review: Take That - Villa Park 28/6/11

This review will probably be a lot less gushy than a lot of what has been said already, I'm sure whoever's judging this has already read enough variations of "OMG Best nite eva! Luv u Robbie! xoxo!" than anyone should ever have to so I might as well say now, in case anyone gets the wrong impression from all of the seemingly negative things I'm about to say here, that I really did enjoy the show. Honest.

I know you probably all don't care what the weather was like that day or how much hassle I had getting into the stadium (not much, actually!) so let's get right down the action, and action there was when the Pet Shop Boys came on. Now, I've never fully gotten into the band before, I liked a few of their songs, mainly the big hits, but I'd never bought an album by them and probably wouldn't have given them a second thought if it hadn't been for this concert, but it took maybe 30 seconds of opening song "Heart" to convince me that this is a band I need to hear more of. Peppering their number 1 hits through a set of solid pop songs, they were just pure quality from start to finish. Okay, they could be criticised for a lack of stage presence, they bring stadium raising energy in the same way that Paddy McGuinness brings quality comedy but it seems that the majority of the crowd were old enough to be familiar with the band and don't expect much more than a few dancers and some colourful cubes stuck to the wall to brighten things up, and it really says something about the quality of the songs that two men can play a stadium with minimal movement and still have everyone loving it. Fantastic stuff!

And so we come to the main attraction. Two things to note here: 1. I had read the setlist/show set-up before coming to the concert and 2. I'm what Robbie jokingly referred to in the show as a "Take That fundamentalist," ie. I prefer them as a four piece, so the first part of the show was the bit I was looking forward to most, just Gary, Mark, Howard, Jason and tunes from 2 of the best albums ever made, and it certainly did not disappoint. The intro was slightly underwhelming to say the least, there are no balloons or podiums here, the boys looked a bit like your dad might if he wondered into the room and then forgot why he came in, but as with the Pet Shop Boys, the lack of showmanship was more than made up for with the music. I shouldn't need to tell you the setlist for this part as it was predictable as the tides, save for "Hold Up A Light," my favourite song on The Circus which I'd previously held out as much hope for as I would for ever hearing "Never Wanna Let You Go" but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. The only real problem with this part was the aforementioned lack of spectacle, it was suspiciously low key, I'll come back to that soon but other than that, brilliant.

And as Robbie drops from the ceiling of the stadium to an array of fireworks and pyro we start to see just why the first part was so minimal, and it's for the same reason you take a slightly obese friend out with you when you're trying to meet women, as the general feeling among the crowd during Robbie's set was one of "Yeah, now it's getting good!" I don't know if the boys intentionally took a hit on this one for Robbie's sake but he certainly takes full advantage of their kindness and proceeds to blow literally everyone away, I honestly did not see anyone who wasn't at least singing, dancing or smiling. The setlist was again hugely predictable, and I do have to criticise the focus on Robbie's old hits. Now, I thought the idea of Robbie having a solo set was that "Present day Robbie" = "Present day TT," an idea ever so slightly undermined by the fact that no material from the (pretty decent) most recent Robbie album is played (come on, You Know Me would have been *perfect*!!) and that the most recent song aired during his set was 8 years old, which to me is just admitting that Robbie as a solo artist is now a nostalgia act but even I have to admit that it's a damn good one, "Come Undone" and "Feel" are still as perfect as ever and if you don't at least cry a little bit at "Angels" then you're probably dead.

Now this is the part of the night that everyone's been waiting for, Take That, on stage, as a five piece, and as they kicked things off in spectacular style with a dancer-covered wall of water for "The Flood" and fireworks and walls of pyro to personal favourite "SOS" I knew this would be something special. I was a little skeptical of the setlist for this section, mostly because most of my favourites from "Progress" were missing and no songs from the recently released and absolutely awesome "Progressed" album were featured but I pretty much stopped caring as the boys broke out their instruments for "Underground Machine" and climbed into Om the robots' hand for "Pretty Things." "Kidz" is worthy of particular mention for the epic Howard vs. Jason dance-off to "Rudebox" in the middle, and I'm obviously echoing the sentiments of everyone else when I say that these men, despite being in their 40's (!) have still got it, busting out flawless moves and making me feel very self-conscious about my current state of fitness. I'm slightly tempted to criticise Robbie for forcing himself on yet another part of the show, with one of his most hilariously bad songs, no less, but it was so hilarious and effective that I'll let it slide, this time.

Next up was what I refer to as the "Shameless Nostalgia" section of the show. This is the section that most of the audience, which seemingly consisted of mostly casual fans, had been been hanging in there for, during which the boys sat with a piano and guitar and busted out some oldies while engaging in some entertaining but obviously very scripted "comedy" banter. Yeah, it's pleasant and fun but it's nothing spectular, which can also be said of the following performances of "Back For Good" and "Pray," of course I enjoyed them but this whole bit just felt too safe and unexciting. The energy kicks right back up for newest single "Love Love" though, as their much talked about robot is actually put to decent use as it carries the boys out into the crowd to one of the best recent TT songs, and following this with "Never Forget," which as I've previously written is the best song of all time, made this my favourite part of the night.

The "encore" then, and another Robbie track, we haven't had enough of those tonight! As a quick aside, why is it just Robbie's solo material that's featured? I can't be the only one that would have loved to have heard the boys sing "Four Minute Warning" or "Forever Love," right!? Anyway, "No Regrets" is luckily another personal favourite and having all 5 five lads singing it makes it sound even better so I can certainly forgive that, and the following, relatively stripped down performance of "Relight My Fire" raises the energy level sky high, which makes me wonder why it didn't follow "Never Forget" but I'm just nitpicking, now. I was very pleased that "Eight Letters" was the final song of the night as it's a fantastic song, but I was slightly disappointed at the mass crowd exodus during this song, complete lack of respect for the band and again seems to suggest that most people are writing the show off as a nostalgia fest and leaving after the hits and it did sour the atmosphere somewhat for me but that's not the boys fault and they performed the song beautifully, superb end to the show.

I think my main problem with the show, and the reason I haven't been gushing about it like everyone else seems to be is that, to me, the show felt too divided and fractured. Although I didn't see the last tour live, I have seen the DVD a thousand times and to be honest it looked a lot better than this tour, mainly because it felt like one complete show, whereas the Progress show put me in mind of seeing metal concerts with 3-4 support acts, so as the 5 piece Take That finish after 12 songs it feels like there should be a hell of a lot more to come, and it just felt disappointing when it didn't. A small nitpicky problem is that the setlist is far too safe and predictable for my liking but, judging from the crowd silence during "Underground Machine," it seems most of the crowd were casual fans who just wanted the hits and wouldn't have appreciated hearing "Sleepwalking" or "Throwing Stones"  so kudos to the boys for understanding their audience, at least. I would have also liked a section similar to the section of the last tour where they all played instruments but meh, you can't have everything.

My other main problem with the show is that there is *way* too much focus on Robbie Williams, 6 of his solo songs are featured, all of the Progress tracks feature him in some way, it's just too much! Some of us actually like the other members too, y'know! I've never met one Take That fan who *just* loves Robbie or *just* loves Gary, I love Howard and Jason and hearing them sing lead on songs like "What is Love" and "How Did It Come to This" were some of the highlights of the last tour, for me, and here they're pretty much ignored in favour of Robbie, and more Robbie, and then a bit more of Robbie! At times, it did feel a bit like a Robbie Williams show with hugely overqualified backing singers so if that sounds good to you then you're in for a treat!

Overall: It does seem I'm in the minority of people who aren't willing to remortgage their house to go again. Maybe my expectations were too high, I don't know... Like I said earlier, I really did enjoy the show, my reviewing style, if you can call it that, is pretty much based around negativity and pedantry so it may seem like I'd spent the night cutting myself and crying but it was a great show. Honest!
3:35 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: Heavy Rain

Current mood: Hungry, voracious, edacious

Let me just preface this review by saying that it may be a tiny bit biased, in the same way that judges may be biased against Premiership footballers in sexual assault cases. Yes, I love Heavy Rain, I have done ever since playing the demo and seeing the very first few photos online. And I have to admit, I have no idea why. It's very rare that a completely new game will hook me in this way, shown by the fact that Heavy Rain is one of only 3 of my top 20 favourite games that isn't a childhood favourite or the sequel of one (seriously, I just made a list and everything!) and even though the demo seemingly very proudly showcased the worst elements of the game I was still drawn to it like a depressed moth to a dim, bloody flame. So, let's get on with it!

The plot follows 4 different characters in their efforts to track down the unimaginatively named 'Origami Killer.' We have Ethan Mars, the main character, I would say, forced to engage in a series of tasks Jigsaw would be proud of in order to rescue his kidnapped son, Naaaman Jayden, an FBI 'good cop' tasked with finding the killer while dealing with a drug problem so unrelated to the plot that he could have had a crippling addiction to Dairy Milk and it wouldn't have changed much, Scott Shelby, who's just Norman 20 years and many many cheeseburgers later and Madison Paige, the obligatory wank candy for the game. I was hopeful that at least 1 modern mainstream game would avoid the whole 'eye candy' trend, due to the fact that she dressed fairly conservatively and wasn't blonde with huge DDs but any hope was lost upon being forced to observe her naked body glistening in the shower and then having her engage in melée combat in her knickers, you know, the way fights should be, but it's a minor complaint at worst. There are a few other characters worth mentioning, like Ethan's wife, who is the character I actually feel the most for in this game, simply because of her helplessness as she watches her husband systematically fuck up everything he even attempts, Lauren Winter, a hooker who tags along with Scott who I strangely feel very little for and Blake, the twattiest twat in all of Twatville.

The progress of the story is a tad slow, to be massively generous. After watching Ethan lose his sons due to some monumentally shite parenting in the first hour or so, the 'plot God' decides that's more than enough action for now and moves at a snail's pace for most of the rest of the game. Strangely though, I don't have any real problems with this. The incredibly slow movement of the plot means we get to spend a good few hours with each character and as such we'll develop a nice deep emotional connection to each of them, which is the sort of thing that gets bandied around when describing many games but I honestly do feel it applies here. Ethan in particular does a fantastic job of gaining our sympathy, after observing his wonderful happy families life in the first section, the kind of thing that I, as a hugely pussified and soul-crushingly single man, aspire to someday, it's heartbreaking to see his life gradually get worse and worse. I won't give too much more of the plot away as I don't want to spoil the surprise/write much more on this bit.

The gameplay is, in all honesty, fairly poor. The control scheme is fucking diabolical, the characters are in no rush to get anywhere in this game and ponce around as if they were walking their fucking dog, imagine Arkham Asylum without the run button or controlling the main characters in Resident Evil after they've been through botched major brain surgery. Most of the game consists of walking around the various locations checking every little detail like you're pissing around in the hosts house on Come Dine with Me until the game decides to move on, and the point at which this happens always seems fairly abitrary, there have been times for me when opening the fridge or having a sit down have caused a major plot progression but it never takes too long so it's not a huge problem. The other parts of the game consist solely of quicktime events. Now I'm going to disagree with Yahtzee for the first time ever and say that I've never had any real problems with quicktime events. I've never loved them, certainly, but in God of War or the new Resident Evil games they've always been fine, but here they are the *only* action gameplay mechanic, quicktime events don't just conveniently break up the gunfights and chase sequences, the chase sequences, gunfights, over the top fist fights and spaceship deathmatches (okay, not the last one) are all controlled with quicktime events. This doesn't sound thrilling obviously but you know what, I don't hate it. I don't love it, maybe it's testament to the strength of the storytelling and atmosphere of the game that I can sit through tons of these "Press X to not die" sequences and not get bored, and to be honest I think including third person action sequences would have detracted from the atmosphere, the simplicity of the action really keeps the focus on the dialogue and character development.

The soundtrack deserves particular praise. Now, I don't normally make a point of praising soundtracks, I've reviewed games with great soundtracks, like RE4 and MGS, and haven't mentioned them but in this case it's just too good to ignore. The music is composed by one man, as all the best soundtracks are *cough*Yamaoka*cough*Uematsu, and takes the form of soft orchestral music, we're talking piano, strings, classical guitar, based around a simple few note motif that any HR fan would be able to air-piano for you, and it just matches the dark atmosphere of the game perfectly. I'm not the kind of nerdified fag whose iPod is filled with video game soundtracks, before playing Heavy Rain I had 3 FF tracks and all of the Silent Hill music (Akira Yamaoka is a genius and anyone who disagrees is a boobhead) but the HR soundtrack album has joined this lofty company recently, which should tell you all you need to know.

One impressive aspect about this game is the multiple ending system. This isn't your standard Resident Evil fare, where a much touted "multiple endings" feature consists of nothing more than both characters escaping, one of them escaping or neither of them escaping, Heavy Rain is taking this shit seriously. "The Heavy Rain Wiki" lists 17 different endings and there's actually some variety in them, as shocking as that sounds. Although I'm not a fan of multiple endings myself, I tend to just watch the other endings on Youtube rather than playing through the whole game again to see one scene, although Heavy Rain yet again answers my usual complaints by allowing you jump into any scene you want and play from there, and if you can tolerate the break up in flow and atmosphere then it's a handy little tool to help you see all of the content. Although I'd never play through all of the endings myself, if you endeavour to do a few things differently each time then you can have a slightly different story every couple of months/however often you might play through it, which does more for replay value than the promise of achievements, or whatever developers normally do these days, could ever hope for.

This section will probably have little relevance but I like talking about this game so feel free to count the ceiling tiles until it's over. I've often heard people say that Heavy Rain is really more of a film than a game, and I have to heavily dispute this notion. Firstly, the fact that you're in control of even the smallest interactions like putting your car in gear or flushing the toilet increases the interactivity and gameyness of the whole thing, more than anything. Secondly, the massive range of endings and different paths the characters can take is hugely opposed to the fact that films have one single ending, and a bonus shitty alternate ending if the director is feeling particularly adventurous. Thirdly, no film would ever depict an obese man in his mid-50's beating up a thug in an enclosed space, as it's fucking stupid. Despite all of this, I would like to see Heavy Rain made into a movie, sorry that has no critical relevance but you have to agree it would make a bitchin' movie!

Overall: Despite all of its flaws the game is definitely worth playing at least once, the story is probably my favourite video game story of all time and this coupled with the atmosphere and soundtrack make it well worth pushing past the abominable gameplay decisions.
5:35 pm - 1 comments - 2 Kudos
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Current mood: Monophobic, antagonistic

Note: This review is a lot shorter than most of my others, partly due to the fact there's less of a story to discuss, partly because everyone tells me my reviews are too long and partly due to pure laziness. Also, this review contains swearing and one analogy that will make most men wince and shuffle about uncomfortably for a bit.

I never really got into Batman as a child. That's nothing against him, I never really got into any superheroes, as far as I can remember, the idea of a bloke swinging around in his pants never really excited me in the way it does for pretty much everyone else and quite honestly I was more into Pokemon and The Simpsons. You know, things in which the events couldn't summarised with the phrase, "And then *insert name* punches the bad guy." I say that as a sort of blanket statement to hang over the rest of what I'm about to say, like how racists always say "I'm not racist..." before they start being racist, to show that there is no bias towards the Batman mythos in this review and that I'm judging it solely on its merits as a game, it could have been a squirrel or Mark Commode out there punching things and it would still have been a pretty damn good game.

The story is, from what I can gather from my limited knowledge of comic book writing, fairly standard fare for this sort of thing, villians are doing bad things, Batman needs to stop them. There's really nothing more I can say about the plot, that's literally it, Joker wants to create a race of genetically mutated freaks and Batman doesn't want him to do that so sets about punching things until Joker stops. I don't know if this is his normal persona or anything but Joker's character deserves a special mention, he was the only one who kept me genuinely entertained throughout the course of the game. Obviously Batman's personality is about as lively as a used teabag, the other enemies are too busy being dicks to care about being funny or interesting and Harley Quinn's voice started to feel like a cheese grater to the scrotum after a while but Joker was genuinely amusing, witty and shockingly optimistic as Batman punched his way through his hordes, easily my favourite character from this game.

I have to give some praise to the settings and general atmosphere of the game. I don't know if this is a standard thing for Batman but the game aims for a dark, gothic feel and it pulls it off pretty well for the most part and suits the tone of the story, lending itself in particular to the nightmare sequences with the Scarecrow (the Morgue room was a particular favourite, pulling off creepy horror better in one room than SH: Homecoming could in a whole game) as these sequences would have seemed horribly out of place if Batman had just been punching things in a normal city or a water park, for example.

You may have picked up on my intentional overuse of the word "punch" and its grammatical variations. Yes, a lot of this game is focused on melee combat. There's one button to punch and one to block/counter, which is a lot simpler than I was expecting but it works a lot better than any overcomplicated combo system. It does get fairly repetitive later on but it's never detrimental to the experience and it's fun more often than not. I'd like to say more about that or get some humour out of it but what more can you really say about punching?

The other main aspect, and also my favourite aspect of the game, is the stealth sections. Basically, you're plonked into a room with increasing numbers of heavily armed guards and you need to take them out one by one. Now, I'm a big fan of stealth games, and I've honestly never seen the genre done better than it is here. One thing that makes it work so well, and you think this would have been obvious but Tenchu, MGS, Sly Raccoon and Splinter Cell have somehow missed this, is the fact that stealth is mandatory. In all of the other games listed, if you're spotted then a fight begins, which you usually win before moving onto the next area with nary a bruise. Here, there are 7 guys with assault rifles, you're in a spandex jumpsuit, do the math(s). The increasing difficulty of these sections, from having your vantage points rigged with dynamite to the guards wearing collars that scream when they die, is very well done and it made me look forward to these sections just to see what they'd throw at me next, these are the parts that will keep me coming back to this game in the future, no doubt.

And so we move from the 21 year old Russian supermodel of the stealth sections to the lonely overweight lady who smells of cat food and sadness of the boss fights. Since every other reviewer and person who's played this game has already universally condemned the boss fights, I feel mean for picking on them but sometimes everyone at school hates the weird fat kid for a reason and I have to say that I'm siding with the bullies on this one. The first boss fight should have clued me in, a hulking great beast of a thing that Joker unleashes on you which proceeds to die on its own, without even being punched, the cheek! From there, most of the fights consist of either attacking weak spots or dodging so the "boss" runs into a wall. Not even joking. 

Not only that, they pull the monumental dick move of making you fight legions of generic henchmen during the boss fight. Now, back in my day, a boss fight was one on one, a true test of strength, skill and punching, whoever won was the better man, no questions asked. Arkham Asylum seems to dislike petty notions like honour and manhood in favour of the Chav school of fighting technique, that being that if shit's not going well, just ring up your mates, to the point where I expected Ivy to whip out a Nokia and bring the lads round to shank me. It's fucking irritating trying to aim that pissing Batarang at the hulking behemoth du jour anyway without generic tough guys A through Q threatening to "stomp on my face."

The final boss was a particularly wet and sticky cockslap, after spending the entire game building Joker up I was anticipating an epic war of titans. After pulling him off a building and... wait for it... punching him (!!!) 3 times I thought, "Right, that's the shitty preliminary bit done, let's get to the real fi... what, that's it!?" You couldn't get a worse anti-climax if your girlfriend/hooker (in my case) forced a screwdriver into your bellend at the point of orgasm. It's sad to see a game fail so fucking horribly in this respect when it succeeds in pretty much every other area but hey, nobody's perfect, right? It does everything else so well that it's hard to hold it against them, I'm pretty sure that we all have a lot of albums we love with at least 1 rubbish filler song on, right?

Overall: A fantastic game, if you can tolerate 10 minutes of shittiness for every couple of hours of darkly hilarious stealthy excellence. Recommended!
11:55 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: WWE Raw 30/05/11

Current mood: Chrometophobic, peckish

Caution: This review contains no real insight or valid opinions, it's purpose is purely entertainment (my own, mostly.) There's also copious swearing and passages of horrendous dullness that may not be suitable for any sane human.

Right then, this week's RAW! What, too fast? I know I usually pad out the intro to reviews with the awkward literary equivalent of discussing the weather with a Uni lecturer but fuck it, let's get right to it!

Details about the first part of the show may be a little hazy due to the lack of sound but it's fairly obvious what's going on in the opening scene, there's R Truth, John Cena merchandise, throwing and a whole heap of batshit on toast. I do have to say I'm warming to R Truth's heel persona, I think delusional is a little bit of an understatement and that "de-icer chuggingly mental" is probably closer to the mark but he plays the role of a lunatic brilliantly, abusing fans and making the refreshment and merch vendors' lives a whole lot more difficult in a way that suggests he really has gone off the rails a bit. He spends some time shouting like a particularly inconsiderate religious extremist (not racist) just suicide-bombed his local KFC (again, not racist) before being interrupted by "The Superhuman Guardian of the People" John Cena, who promptly challenges Truth, promising to knock some sense into him, which seems like something of a lost cause at this point but I'll roll with it, the main event is sorted.

I might as well comment on this now, I'm really really not a fan of the way Michael Cole's character is being handled right now. He's spent months and months establishing the fact that he's a total wanker and now they're just expecting him to slot back into his old role as a boring neutral commentator!? Don't get me wrong, if he has to be in the WWE at all then that's certainly the best place for him but it's all a little sudden, don't you think? It's like giving Gary Glitter a job in a nursery and expecting people to just be okay with it, it just isn't going to fly as well as you might hope.

Right, Kofi vs Ziggler. The first thing I noticed during this match is that Ziggler has gone back to looking like a Swedish Bond villain/porn star, I'm guessing that piss poor attempt at "re-invention" didn't pan out as well as they might have hoped, and it is admittedly a good look for him. The second thing I noticed is... well, that's it, really. An entirely average match from (in my controversial opinion) two entirely average Superstars. As in most cases, JR's hilarious jibes, this time about Vicki Guerrero's weight, were the highlight of this segment.

Alberto Del Rio is then introduced by his wonky, stumpy "Michael McIntyre without the personality" ring annoucer, completely counter-intuitively speaking Spanish to an exclusively English speaking audience, in order to address the events of last week. He proceeds to tell Big Show that it's all his fault and that he owes him money in a very angry voice, which to me seems a lot like smacking your dick against a wasp's nest, it all seems like a good laugh at the time but the consequences will be dire and horribly horribly painful, I await the inevitable and hilarious beatdown.

A couple of Divas show us their tits backstage for a bit before one of the many many breaks (honestly, every 5 fucking minutes!?) The Bellas vs Kelly Kelly and Eve, then. I get the feeling that I'll have to work on my ability to review Divas matches with a phrase other than "pointless throwaway drivel" but for now let's just leave it at that. As usual, the Bellas lose, making the Divas Championship look like even more of a joke but does anyone really care about it anymore? 

Michael Cole once again tries to ruin our fun by trying to make Alex Riley's attack on the Miz seem anything less than well deserved and thoroughly hilarious, which is kind of like attesting to your innocence with a police squad standing over your carefully arranged collection of severed nipples, before Alex Riley comes out to face his "grilling." Despite MC's dramatisation, Alex Riley seems to find the whole thing just as hilarious as I do, there's plus 1 for Riley, a good start to getting back in my good books after being the Miz's whipping bitch for what seems like forever, and proceeds to rip the piss out of Cole, there's plus 2, I'm starting to like this Riley guy. Cole defies the whole PG thing the WWE has going on right now by swearing in Riley's face (naughty naughty!) before The Miz comes out (dressed in a fabulous pink shirt, I have to say) to stop Riley attacking Cole before (epic plot twist!) being attacked himself by Riley. Erm, I'm losing track here... Oh yeah, Riley beats down on The Miz some more and sends him scampering, that's plus 47 for Riley, putting him just above Daniel Negreanu and below Yahtzee on my Official List Of Awesome People, entertaining stuff indeed.

Mysterio vs CM Punk was up next, and for once I'm going to stop being a miserable prick and say that I actually quite enjoyed this match, I quite like both of these Superstars anyway and although it's fairly standard fare for both of them it's still an entertaining match-up, Punk being thrown over the announce table by Mysterio's flying full-body tackle was a particular highlight. The match ends decisively with a kick from Punk and for once it's quite nice to just see a match between 2 Superstars, no (current) feuds involved, no interference ending, just a pinfall and that's your lot!

Kharma's up next then in possibly the most bizarre segment I think I've seen in recent WWE history. We have a huge monster of a woman standing in the ring telling us about her dreams of motherhood, her weight issues and how much she loves JLS (okay, not the last one) which kind of undermines all the hard work WWE has done in characterising her up until this point, like finding out Varg Vikernes actually quite likes Girls Aloud. Anyway, it turns out she's up the duff and has to leave for nine months. I really don't have anything more than an indifferent reaction to this, unlike a lot of wrestling fans I didn't know who she was before WWE so I only have her minimal time on RAW to go by, and I can't say I've formed any opinions on a voiceless, emotionless character besides, "Blimey, she's big!" Hopefully she will be back and she can give this whole domination thing a proper go. Oh, and the Bella twins decide to finally grow some balls, not really of course, that'd be horrifying but very difficult to hide in those (deliciously) tight pants they wear, and come out to hurl insults at the helpless behemoth, which again doesn't bother me as Kharma might as well be a massive black fireplace for all I care.

I'm going to pretend that silly Obama sketch never happened and swiftly move on... 

Evan Bourne vs Jack Swagger. Now I know it'd be easy to lie about this but this is 100% true, a few minutes into this match I paused my Sky+ and proclaimed something along the lines of "Swagger will dominate for most of the match before being pinned in some quick, improbable roll-up/backslide." I then pressed play and watched my psychic vision play out in full colour HD, I felt like fucking Raven Baxter! (in the exclamative sense, not the penetrative sense...although she was pretty hot in the later episodes...) But anyway, massively predictable stuff, I expect more than this.

I don't want to dwell on the main event because it was, and I am being reasonable with this statement, fucking terrible. It's over in maybe 3 minutes with a lame count-out victory for Truth and ends with him spitting in the face of a very obvious plant. And I actually had high hopes for this match, that'll teach you for your naivety, you optimistic prick, Jack!

Overall: Not great. Nothing of any real significance happens, you could avoid this one completely and next week's will still make perfect sense, save yourself the trouble and spend the 2 hours licking your bathroom tiles like I wish I'd have done.
4:54 am - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Take That - Nobody Else

Current mood: Sexually adventurous

First of all, let me assure you that this is the last piece I'll be writing about anything to do with Take That. It would be pointless for me to write about Beautiful World, The Circus, Take That and Party, Everything Changes and the various DVDs and Greatest Hits collections, as all of them would consist exclusively of the phrase: "What, you haven't bought/downloaded them!? What are you, retarded?" However, besides Progress, Nobody Else is the only album that I've ever had mixed feelings towards.

If you look up the phrase "mixed bag" in the dictionary, after seeing a picture of a bag that's half beige and half luminous orange, you'll see a picture of Gary Barlow at a piano with this album proudly held high and the testicles of the other 4 boys squashed under its legs. Don't get me wrong, there are some fantastic songs here, but there are also some, and I'm actually being nice when I say this, fucking embarrassing shitty awful songs here. In a way, it pains me to say that, as it's the verbal equivalent of a hardcore Megadeth fan jumping on stage, calling Dave Mustaine a cunt and then kicking him in the balls but you can't really get away from the truth, in this case. So, let's get on with it!

The album gets off to a good start with Sure, the bands 5th Number 1 single. A slow, relaxing keyboard intro leads into a high energy pop/dance song that would have slotted nicely onto Take That and Party. Despite not having the most sophisticated set of lyrics, it's as infectious as a T-Virus outbreak in a maximum security prison and as such is one of those songs that you just have to dance to, and the lyrics do work quite well for this kind of song. All this and a highly entertaining music video and it's not hard to see why it reached Number 1, excellent stuff.

So now we come to Back For Good. All I can say about this song is "Fucking hell Gary, you're just showing off now!" As simple as a Conservative politician after a particularly serious motorcycle accident, 4 chords and a highly relateable set of lyrics about a man wanting his partner back come together to create, and I'm not exaggerating here, one of the best songs of all time. If you've heard this song more than once and can't sing at least the chorus hook then go and see a vet because you may be a goldfish.

You may be a little confused as to where the mixed feelings come from then after reading me verbally jizzing over the first two songs but have a little patience (see what I did there?) because the staccato torrent of shite flows freely with the next song, "Every Guy." Like the astonished man walking in on his two Eastern European roommates molesting a 7 year old girl (not racist) all I can say about this is "What the fuck are you doing here, guys!" Totally sub-standard lyrics and less exciting and original ideas than The Simpsons nowadays, this is the kind of dross that even The Backstreet Boys would have pissed in your face for making them sing, I am highly disappoint.

Luckily the album does pick up with the next song. I have to admit, "Sunday To Saturday" is one of my favourite TT songs from the first time around. Some of Gary's catchiest vocal melodies can be found in the verses and the instrumentation pretty much defines a feel-good, party atmosphere, the random naming of days in the middle eight is a bit non-sensical (Rebecca Black would fucking love this!) but the rest of the song more than compensates so I'll let them off. This is the kind of song I'd put on if I had friends and was holding some kind of gathering at which everyone was looking slightly depressed to cheer them all up a bit. Gary obviously agrees with my verdict as it's the only non-single from the album that has been performed in full in recent years (at his birthday concert.)

The title track, next. I would say that your viewpoint towards this song depends entirely on what mood you're in when you listen to it. If you're happy and full of the joys of life, or single as it's sometimes known, then you'll see this song as your annoying emo friend trying to bring you down and ruin your day and as such you'll skip straight past it but if you're feeling down, heartbroken, alone, in love or some mixture of all four then you'll absolutely love this song. A slow, heartfelt ballad with lyrics that are as mushy as they are unoriginal, it's the kind of song you can imagine newly married couples dancing to. If you like the other obligatory really slow ballads, from A Million Love Songs to The Circus to Eight Letters then this will suit your taste no end.

And so we come to the shining star of the album, "Never Forget." This song is the 12 inch cock standing proudly over all the flaccid lifeless lumps and average sized tryhards of the rest of the album. Quite simply, it's the best song ever written by anyone and the crowning achievement of mankind as a whole and anyone who disagrees with this statement is just fucking wrong! Strangely enough then, it doesn't feature Gary on lead vocals. Given that Howard's only lead before this was on "If This Is Love," a pretty good but not quite amazing song that he wrote for "Everything Changes," it's slightly strange that he gets the lead vocal on the bands magnum opus but it's a great choice, as shown by Gary's slightly lackluster performance of the song at his recent GB40 concert. The rest of the band get brief lead vocal lines, which is kind of appropriate, considering that this is the song that represents them, as pretty much everyone I speak to about them points to this song as their best, it's fitting that all of their voices are featured on it, and if nothing else finally gave fans a chance to hear what Jason Orange's singing voice sounds like and then become disappointed that he hadn't been given more lead vocals with that sweet, relaxing voice of his. So yeah, absolute perfection right here, if you don't like this song in at least some way then I'm not your friend anymore and you should find a nice deep river to drown in kthanks.

Of course, following such an amazing song is never going to be easy and pretty much anything is going to sound rubbish after *that* but there's no reason to just give up and accept defeat, guys! "Hanging On To Your Love" is like a 10000V electric shock to the balls after the blowjob from 18 year old twins of the previous song, a repetitive vocal melody that quickly starts to feel like a icepick to the face and a generally plain, uninspired performance all round, lyrically, vocally and instrumentally, it's just dull. If "Sure" was a sunny afternoon in the park playing frisbee and drinking ice cold fruit juice then HOTYL is spending a night in a back alley in the pouring rain with a man who smells like neglect getting smashed on Special Brew.

"Holding Back The Tears" sees Gary (again!?) singing of lost love over a slow ballady backing track. Honestly, it does feel like he's just trying out his Elton John impression on this one. Bless him for trying, lord knows I try to impersonate my idols, hence the extremely Mark Owen-esque hat, waistcoat, boots and everything else he might wear that I go out in every Friday but it feels a lot more like he's simply copying EJ rather than being inspired by him, and as such it's about as original and effective as telling women to get back to the kitchen, it's still mildly entertaining but it doesn't quite have much edge to it anymore.

"Hate It" then ...The title is actually far more entertaining than the song, as it contains a high level of self-awareness, irony and therefore sophistication that is almost completely absent from the song itself. Re-read the paragraphs on "HOTYL" and "Every Guy" for my feelings on this one.

"Lady Tonight" is next and thankfully, despite being of a similar sound to the other bargain basement RnB nonsense songs of the album, fares a bit better. The beautiful intro shows us that "Wait" was hardly an original idea and despite some laughable rapping from Robbie, which was even more hilariously replicated by Mark on tour, something which plays to his strengths about as well as MMA would to the strengths of The Cheeky Girls (however much of an oxymoron that is) the catchy bridge and chorus make this one actually not too bad, just don't get smug about it LT, you're still not exactly amazing!

At least the album ends on a somewhat high note with "The Day After Tomorrow." This is a beautiful song with a fantastic set of lyrics about infidelity and love and a, with hindsight, great choice of lead vocalist in Mark, not only because of his recent tabloid revelations about his infidelity but also because the song simply suits him well and he puts in a brilliant emotive performance. Phew, at least we're not left with *too* bad of a taste in our mouths at the end of the album.

Those of you paying attention to the second paragraph may have picked on my very subtle assersion that the main problem with this album can be summed up by saying that there's simply too much of Gary fucking Barlow on display here! He writes pretty much the whole thing himself and, while that worked on the last 2 albums, he seems to be running out of steam here and can only manage a few real gems (a problem that would continue to plague his solo material. That's why your solo career failed Gary, not the media shitstorm, it was because only about 1/4 of your music could actually be called "decent" and one of the best songs was written by fucking Madonna!) Of course, telling records companies that would result in a swift legal kick to the face so it sounds as if Gary just spent 30 minutes at a piano cobbling something together. I genuinely believe at this point that Gary should have just swallowed his pride and collaborated a bit with the other members. It's not like the other boys weren't talented as well, it had already been proven that Howard could write a decent tune on the last album, Mark Owen could obviously write as he released the absolutely fantastic and criminally underrated solo album "Green Man" soon after the split, which has gotten *way* more plays on my iPod than most of this albums' songs ever will, and Robbie's proven his knack for writing with countless classic solo songs, was it really worth denying all that talent just keep your title as the sole songwriter, Gary? Oh, I forgot, there are a few writing credits to the other members, how silly of me! Robbie, Mark and Howard's contributions are limited to the middle eights of "Sure" and "Sunday To Saturday," which is a bit like having the SAS guard your collection of empty shampoo bottles, you're ever so slightly underusing the available talent. I reckon that if the 5 good songs already here had been kept and the other half had been some crazy mixture of Life Thru A Lens, Green Man, the sound Howard's potential solo career was heading for (judging by his sole solo track Speak Without Words, which nails the chilled RnB vibe better in one song than Gary seems able to in a whole fucking album) and more focused songwriting from Gary then it would have been an absolute cracker and they'd have gone out with the kind of bang that Al Queda members will soon cause on a major British transport network.

There are 2 very sad things about this album. Firstly, there were probably better songs available for this album that weren't used, for whatever reason. I may be making this up but if I remember correctly the song "Yesterday's Girl," an amazing ballad from Gary's second solo album, was written as far back as 1993, and keeping most of this album and rejecting that is like keeping Ryan Giggs for your Sunday league games in the park and playing James Corden in the World Cup final. Secondly, it seems like the band themselves know that this album was rubbish, none of the tracks on this album that weren't Number 1 hits have been played in any form by the band in recent years and they seem to acknowledge TTAP and, to a lesser extent, Everything Changes in crowd banter and such but this gets nary a mention, which to me suggests they see it as an embarrassing bit of history they'd rather forget, and rightly so!

Overall: When it's good it's amazing but when it's bad it's dire. Buy a Greatest Hits package for the singles and download Sunday To Saturday and The Day After Tomorrow and save yourself the pain of having to listen to the rest of it, you'll thank me later.
4:19 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: Resident Evil 4

Current mood: Exotic, cocklaphobic

I've always been a big fan of the Resident Evil series. Ever since my brother was very inappropriately given the first game as a 9th birthday present from our grandmother, which he then proceeded to give to me as expecting a 9 year old to play through a creepy horror game is like expecting Anna Friel to put in a good performance as England fly-half, the games have consistently kept me entertained and ready to have to change my underwear at any given moment. The main series that is, with the Outbreak and Survivor games being the embarrassing disco-rap side project to the main series straight-thinking classic metal but you can't blame them for using the name for extra potential profit. 

The first 2 games are classics in my view, despite the hilariously bad dialogue (I quite fancy a sandwich right now, for some reason...) a simple premise, that being "Someone fucked up, don't get eaten," some cool monsters and genuinely effective scares added up to two of my all time favourites. Nemesis took the "being chased by a brick shithouse" element from RE2's B story and ran with it like Usain Bolt running with a stolen bucket of KFC chicken (not racist) and despite not being quite as good as the previous 2, it was still fun and probably provided the most "make-you-jump" scares of the series due to the random nature of Nemesis's appearances. Code Veronica is another personal favourite of mine, I'm still genuinely afraid of some of the areas in that game (dolls and broken glass in fresh wounds, anyone?) and although the story tends to just stand around not going anywhere, the action and atmosphere more than make up for the lack of progress, even if the forced romance sub-plot between Claire and that emo prick is about as convincing as Mark Henry going on Stars In Their Eyes as PJ Harvey. So there you go, I love Resident Evil. I know it's not all that cool to be a big fan of RE, the horror equivalent of Michael McIntyre to Silent Hill's Stewart Lee, but you like what you like!

And so we come to Resident Evil 4. Now, given the main series previous commitment to not compromising an inch to innovation or a few much needed improvements, third only to Pokemon and ACDC, you'd expect RE4 to be a fixed camera, jumpy scare filled horror-fest, and you would be wrong, you presuming twat. RE4's creators seem to have taken the route Metallica took on the Black Album, bored of appealing to a small but dedicated fanbase they thought, "Hang on, why don't we try and get normal people to like us this time round?" As such, pretty much everything has been changed, the camera is now over-the shoulder, the lumbering, brain dead zombies of the past can now sprint, climb and run functional farms and the survival horror aspect has been replaced with many many manly shooty action sequences, as running away, conserving ammo and actually having to think are for pussies, apparently!

Of course now you're expecting me to chide the game for abandoning all of its core values for promises of popularity, riches and 9/10 review scores and in most other situations I'd be screaming "sell-out!" louder than a Deicide fan watching them cover "The Lord Is My Shephard." I would be doing this if RE4 wasn't totally fucking awesome. I could really end there but then this whole thing would have been a waste of time so here comes more talky stuff!

Now, saying the game has abandoned all the series core values is a bit of a lie. Despite the illusion of complete overhaul, the basic idea of "there are zombies and monsters that need bullets putting in them" remains, as do a few older characters. I'm taking a guess that the creator of RE4 was a big fan of RE2 as the only older characters come from that game. Leon S Kennedy, now sporting a Marks and Spencers jacket and straightened emo fringe, which stinks of "he's grown up, but he's still down with the kidz, yo!" and Ada Wong, now showcasing significantly more arse and tit than her conservative RE2 counterpart incase the mainstream legions this game was so obviously aimed at go into seizures without seeing pixelated sexiness for more than 20 seconds.

The story follows Leon, who in the six years since the previous installments has gone from rookie cop to a high level Government agent for no adequately explained reason, in his quest to rescue the President's daughter from an evil cult. Now I'm tempted to sing Tim Vine's "Alarm Bells" at the evil cult bit but it's not as much of a complete failure as it is in the Silent Hill series, for example, and actually kinda works here. He is dropped off and then swiftly abandoned by 2 hilariously stereotypical Spanish partners who head off to fulfill their inevitable and predictable task of dying horribly in order to establish the pure dickheadedness of the enemies we're dealing with here. Seemingly unperturbed by the horrific deaths of his associates, Leon bravely battles on through the hordes of inexplicably athletic and sharp-tongued "Ganados," massive mutated sea creatures and a ridiculous man with a chainsaw and a sack on his head, who puts me in mind of a confused 14 year old who turns up to his first Cradle Of Filth concert in a huge spiky bondage suit only to find everyone else in Iron Maiden and Bathory T-shirts and Dani himself laughing at the poor tosser, in that he's just trying way too hard to be evil and goes so far over the line that it becomes comedic.

We do meet several, what I reservedly call, "baddies" throughout the game, the inevitable brick shithouse, whose forceful dominance is somewhat undermined when Leon kills him with his most basic of weaponry in 2 minutes flat, a tiny dwarf of a man with whom Leon establishes a back and forth Die Hard-esque one-liner relationship, showing that despite it's pretensions to being "all horror, all the time" the game doesn't take itself *too* seriously and the typically action hero named "Jack Krauser," who is basically a copy and paste of Leon but faster and with a slightly more hateful expression on his face.

Leon of course succeeds in rescuing the President's daughter, who turns out to be a cute, blonde jailbait kind of character of whom I imagine it took maybe 30 seconds after the announcement of the game before erotic fan art appeared on the Internet. The babysitting aspect is both unique and infuriating, it certainly adds a new dimension to gameplay when you have to look out for another (sweet bouncy) arse besides your own but she has something of a fatal attraction to Spanish zombies and bear traps and it can be controller-smashingly frustrating when your attention is focused on the 7 hungry and unintelligible enemies and a sneaky enemy bunny rabbit comes along and carts Ashley away causing you to have to restart the whole fucking section. There is a small part where you get to control Ashley which, like the similar section is Resident Evil 2 where you control another unarmed little girl, is probably the scariest bit of the whole game, mainly because the enemies carry a lot more genuine threat when you don't have more firepower than the entire British Army and have to rely on running the fuck away to stay alive, like the good old days of Resident Evil.

Anyway, Ashley gets kidnapped and re-kidnapped more times than Mokuba and Leon has to play a slightly more honourable Seto Kaiba, but favouring firing bullets into his enemies faces instead of trading cards. Nothing too noteworthy happens towards the end, I have to say, Leon fights his way through increasingly powerful hordes of monsters, rescues Ashley and heads off into the sunset to the tune of a slightly creepy proposition from the clearly sexually frustrated little girl which he thankfully declines for the sake of common decency and that's it, not first class literature by any means but it gets the job done so I can't complain all that much.

The general gameplay itself is nothing revolutionary in general terms but it's certainly a big step forward for the series, the old problem of only spotting zombies as the camera angle changes and they're about to bust a cap in your neck is thankfully no longer a concern with the landscape-spanning, over the shoulder camera, and shooting is now a lot more functional, fatal headshots are now earned by paying attention and getting good rather than the blind luck of the past. The boss encounters are a bit of a mixed bag, the early fight with a giant fish-thing in a wooden boat is possibly one of my favourite boss fights of all time but far too often the others just descend into "shoot the hugely obvious weak spot until the enemy dies!" territory, when it does try something different though the game tends to do quite well. There are also plenty of quick-time events dotted throughout the game which succeed more often that not, surprisingly enough, they're used often enough so that it's never a shock when one pops up, they usually have good relevance to what's going on and are easy enough to pass on the first attempt, what more can you ask of quick-time events, really?

The inventory system is one of my favourite things about this game. I may reiterate some of Yahtzee's points from his RE5 vid but I'll try to stick to just subtly ripping him off as usual instead of outright stealing from him. Now, in the past, everything you carried had a uniform size, a rocket launcher took up the same space as a herb or a knife. Sure, it had the advantage of meaning that you could only carry a realistic amount of items but it just didn't make sense and often created the problem of just not having enough bloody space to carry everything you needed. Here, smaller objects take up less space and larger objects take up more space, which just makes everything a whole lot fucking easier. The actual size of your item case probably means that you'll end up with a Metal Gear Solid scenario of carrying more heavy firepower than it would ever be possible for one man to carry but we're fighting evil Spanish zombies here, what the fuck do we care about realism?

I'm not so keen on the whole idea of buying new weapons, especially from that "No he's not a paedophile and looks and sounds nothing like one, you suspicious bastard!" merchant, simply because it removes much of the thrill of picking up new weapons found in older games, like when you run back and forth in the mansion pissing about with jewels to get the Magnum in RE1. It meant something when you picked up a shotgun just as your handgun was firing its last few rounds, here it's just back to the shop for a new one, but I suppose it is convenient and the upgrade system does give some sense of reward for all your toils, even if the release of a new gun negating all of your hard-earned upgrades does feel like a slap in the balls.

I might as well comment on the Wii version, seeing as I have played that a bit as well. I was never the Wii's biggest fan, I, like everyone, enjoyed playing the bowling and tennis games with my brother/friends for about 15 minutes before the novelty of it started to wear off and the lack of actually good games forced us to sell the bloody thing but of all the games I've played for this glorified door-stop RE4 makes by far the best use of the system. The shooting is a lot more fun when you're actually aiming the guns yourself and the movement does feel extremely fluid and natural. I wouldn't say you should buy a Wii *just* for RE4 but if you know someone who has a Wii and is going on holiday then definitely convince them to let you borrow it/break into their house to experience this brilliant game in a totally new way.

I can't really comment much on the extras, I remember a  bonus campaign and mini-game for Ada which is really just more of the gameplay found in the main game, so if you enjoyed the main game but thought it needed more wiggling arse then boy, you're in luck! There's a Mercenaries game as well, which I've always totally hated but most others seem to love it and I'm nothing if not a conformist so yay Mercenaries!

Overall: If you own a PS2 or Gamecube and don't own this game then I don't really want to talk to you, anymore. It's fun, exciting, fairly unique and everyone should like it.
3:27 am - 2 comments - 2 Kudos
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: Metal Gear Solid

Current mood: Dismissive, itchy

Warning: If you're looking for a serious critique of the game and its pros and cons then you're almost certainly in the wrong place. If, however, you're looking for a sweary, pedantic and (let's forget humility here for a second) hilarious look at the game then my God, you're in luck!

The good thing about doing this for fun as opposed to as a job is that I get to choose what game/film/event/sexual encounter I get to write about (you better believe that will happen at some point,) the downside of course is that I have to rely on my backbreaking job of asking my parents for money and playing online poker for my income, I'm gonna go listen to Linkin Park!
So I'm going to talk about one of my favourite, and probably most peoples favourite, PS1 games of all time: Metal Gear Solid. Now, this may not be as much of a review as it will be a Let's Play for the lazy and camera shy, I will of course offer up pedantic criticism throughout but I might as well say now that, despite its many faults, I chuffing love this game. 

The premise alone sounds exciting enough, one completely unarmed and sleepy man is sent to an island exclusively populated with genetically engineered super soldiers and a hand-picked team of elite uber-freaks to deal with a terrorist threat. Now, hardly the most realistic plot, I have to say, if I'd have been the hilariously named "Solid Snake," I'd have told the Colonel to stop being silly and gone back to bed but stay with them, this is going somewhere. Snake is fired out of a submarine like a giant militarised turd and his mission begins.

Snake miraculously sneaks his way past a handful of seemingly cataracts-inflicted guards, as even in extremely well lit rooms then can only manage to see 3 fucking feet in front of them. At least in other stealth games it's dark most of the time, MGS seems to have the attitude of "Meh, fuck it!" but again, stay with them, and finds himself inside the complex. We are introduced to the baddie of the game, a skinny effiminate long haired British man called Liquid (okay, seriously? Did no-one at Konami snigger even once at these names!?) Snake who appears to be about as menacing as a Creme Egg, and Snake's support team. Mei Ling, the token ethnic character of the game who doesn't think her hilarious accent does enough to convince us of Konami's policy of racial equality so proceeds to bombard us with Chinese proverbs at every save in case we forget she's not from fucking Essex, Naomi and Colonel, characters not really interesting enough to dwell on at this or any point, and "Master Miller," a skinny effiminate long haired man trying desperately to hide his British accent, take a wild stab which one turns out to be the bad guy!

We meet Snake's mission objectives, a frail old man and a little black guy, both of whom he has been sent in to save. Now, in any other game I would question how he planned to get two unarmed men out of a heavily guarded fortress but Snake's shown us that it's very much possible so I'll let it go. Anyway, both of them die after massive expository cutscenes, something which you'll have to learn to deal with more and more as the game goes on if you don't want the experience to be over in 20 minutes. We meet one of the big baddies, suitably named Revolver Ocelot, who looks a bit like a grandad decided he wanted to impress his grandchildren with a game of cowboys and just went a bit too far with the whole thing, and the obligatory piece of arse for this game, Meryl.

I guess a few levels and one and a half boss fights in is as good a place as any to talk about the gameplay. We control Snake from a 3rd person 
perspective with the camera above and behind him, which works fairly well as we get a good view of any given area, and we're also given a radar, which I pretty much can't play these games without (which is probably why Snake Eater is my least favourite of the series.) Melee combat is decent enough, you kick, punch, choke and swing the enemies around in a very functional if not massively exciting way, but the gunplay is a bit of a nuisance. Using pretty much any of your weapons will cause an instant alert, which apart from being greatly realistic increases the emphasis on stealth. Hell, even when you do get a silenced handgun, aiming it from a 3rd person perspective is about as reliable as asking your nan to look up the £/$ exchange rate on an iPhone, a problem which was, for better or worse, fixed in later games but for now, the shooting takes a back seat to hiding your arse and hoping no-one sniffs you out, which you'd better do as even on the lower difficulties you'll last about as long in a firefight as a carton of Ben and Jerry's would in the Loose Women audience. And of course, you get to use a cardboard box to hide in, an entertaining and unique but massively-realism-undermining tool that has saved my arse on more than one occasion, try it out!

Anyway, Snake is forced to crawl through a wall of lasers the way anyone reading this would do it, slowly, clumsily, on his stomach (I'm looking at you, RE4!) and with a cigarette in his mouth, as cigarettes reveal lasers, conveniently, and is placed into a one-on-one deathmatch with an army tank in a minefield. My God they just won't give him a seconds rest, will they? You'd think sending a tank to kill one man is a bit unfair but luckily the terrorists realised this as well so they sent the Chuckle Brothers to operate it and as such Snake manages to blow it up in about a minute flat (for me, anyway) and enter the next bit of building.

After arsing around with missiles for a bit we walk into a corridor full of guards being sliced into pieces. The boring pedant in me would ask why one corridor seems to have 15 heavily armed men guarding precisely nothing and the heliport has 3 guys, one of whom is asleep right next to one of the major entrances to the entire fucking complex, but the child in me says HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THE BLOOD! Snake fights a ninja (you read that right) in an office, which needs to happen more often, I know I couldn't survive office work without the odd punch up, and we get the piss poor (see what I did there?) attempt at comic relief from inevitable-future-best-friend-man Otacon, who talks about robots for a bit before Meryl calls and Snake leaves breathing a sigh of relief. Next is possibly the only segment of a game ever which *requires* checking out another characters arse as opposed to it just being an optional boredom killer for immature horny teenagers, and a chance to see some extremely pixelated bra and knickers action if you're 
quick and depraved enough.

The Psycho Mantis boss fight is probably my most loved and hated segment in gaming. Loved because of its innovation, Mantis reading your Memory Card and moving your controller, despite being slightly gimmicky now, was an impressive feat back in the day, and the controller switching, despite making me get up while playing a game, the equivalent of having the McDonalds queue on a treadmill, was pretty immersive and unique. However, I'm not keen on it because the difference between a 2 minute beatdown and a 4 hour trail-and-error-rageathon is visiting one seemingly insignificant room early on. If you didn't pick up the Thermal Goggles in the Tank Hangar (!) then strap yourself in for the long haul, boys, as Mantis becomes invisible half way through, which wasn't a problem when the Ninja did it as he had that flashing-Hindu lady-spot on his head, but here he's just invisible. Oh well, on we go!

After being attacked by wolves and watching Meryl remain oblivious to the fact that landmines don't explode and leave you in a persistent vegitative state if you crawl over them, we meet the next boss, Sniper Wolf. Possibly the most infuriating segment of the game takes place here, as we're told that our puny weaponry won't reach Wolf, so we need to go all the way back to the fucking Armory to get a sniper rifle. Now if you look up "Massively Obvious Game-Lengthening Tool" in the dictionary, firstly you're autistic, and secondly, you'll see me drearily returning to pretty much the start of the game crawling through lasers that even that woman from the Resident Evil films couldn't squeeze herself through to collect a sniper rifle. We return to Wolf and a mediocre boss fight ensues, after which the guards finally decide to stop being Snake's whipping bitch and stand up for themselves by capturing him. An optional quicktime torture sequence ensues which determines your ending and bonus item on the next playthrough, which I usually skip as I like the skippy ending and the current state of my thumbs. Anyway, Snake escapes through a variety of potential means, some more believeable than others but I won't spoil it, and goes along his merry way.

We're forced yet again to travel all the way back to the large sniper corridor and this time we're allowed to move past it to either the most thrilling or infuriating section of the game, depending on your current health and ammunition supply, the Communications Tower, in which you're forced to climb 4000 flights of stairs while fending off legions of generic baddies. After somehow avoiding Liquid's gunship fire while absailing (yes, really!) and picking up the incredibly conveniently placed missile launcher, Snake enters the second tower and tries to leave when he is thwarted by one broken stair! In the words of Seto Kaiba: "Curses, foiled again!" Now, for a man who single handedly made his way into a heavily guarded fortress unarmed and took out a tank with his bare fucking hands, you'd think a broken stair would be a minor inconvenience at worst but no, this is just a bit more than our hero can handle so he proceeds to climb the tower and take out a military aircraft with a manually aimed weapon in a pissing snowstorm, because apparently that's easier than just jumping a bit.

Continuing the trend of "shit that just would not happen in real life," Snake is surrounded by 4 invisible men in an elevator, but of course instead of the 4 on 1 gangrape that would almost certainly take place IRL, Snake kills them all and heads off for yet another Sniper Wolf battle, this one made much easier by the fact that she's on the same level as you and your remote controlled missiles make this fight about as fair as telling Katie Price that you'll kill her children if she doesn't stop being a carrot faced attention grabbing slag! After attempting to make me feel sympathy yet again for someone I only met about an hour ago and who has been characterised as evil until this point, (something which the two sequels luckily avoid but GOTP falls victim disastrously) we take a quick detour through a blast furnance and some samey elevators, where one can amuse their petty little mind by killing crows if one so wishes, and we meet Vulcan Raven, a brick shithouse of a man who for some bizarre reason can take as many surface-to-air missiles as Liquid's Hind but this is not the most realistic of games as you've probably gathered so moving on!

After a fairly decent boss fight we finally get to see the immense and just cool Metal Gear REX, the all-walkin', all-shootin', all-missile-launchin' deathmobile itself, and it does look impressive, it did back then and it still does now. One quick rat shooting detour (something which is crying out for some kind of mini-game) later and we're given our next game-lengthening task, run back and forth to different locations to warm and cool a card key. Now luckily Twin Snakes removed much of the annoyance at this point, as it did with the whole sniper rifle fiasco, but for now it's time to lie back, think of England and accept the games' massive cock of pointlessness and get that card key morphed.

After the banality of warping the card key back and forth, the cutscenes begin and, besides one really obvious twist, we're treated to some excellent story telling and plot twists which culminates in the Big Boss (teehee!) fight. I'm a little incredulous here, we've spent the whole game trying to stop this thing from going active and earlier cutscenes between Liquid and Ocelot characterise this thing as some kind of world-conquering death machine, but there's no job too big for Solid Snake who thinks "Eh, why not!" and proceeds to rape it to death.

About 7 hours of cutscenes begin here with Snake and Liquid discussing war, their father, their creation and their favourite member of Westlife, which of course ends in a big shirtless homoerotic punch-up with Liqiud seemingly falling to his death and Snake escaping with one of your support characters in a conveniently placed jeep with a conveniently placed automatic weapon on the top. As if you couldn't guess this might happen, Liquid is alive (shockhorrorargh!) and gives chase, taking an incredible amount of bullets to the face for a man who's been shot out of the sky and dropped 100 feet on his arse but, despite what its constant uninteractive cutsceneage would have us believe, it is a game and not a film so we'll let little details like that slide for now. Anyway, after the menace of a 5 foot walk finally does what masses of advanced weaponry failed to do in killing off Liquid, Snake rides off into the distance with whichever support character survives with you and the whole thing comes to a luvvy-duvvy ending, offering a nice sense of calm closure to the spunk-worthy explosive goodness that came before it.

Overall: Classic.

Okay then... It does require some suspension of disbelief throughout but the action is stellar, the story is well paced, entertaining and deals with genuine issues in a way that doesn't want to make me puke my eyes out like the sequel does and it's all round a wonderful experience. Fuck the dolphins, *this* is the experience you need to have at least once before you die!
4:20 am - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: Take That - "Progress" and "Love Love"

Current mood: Pedantic, craving toast

You know the drill, swearing and silliness, throughout.

Now that I'm fully into the swing of this reviewing lark, I'm going to take some time to talk about possibly my favourite subject in the world, apart from maybe Subway flavoured Ben and Jerry's with tits on the carton, and that's: Take That!

Anyone who knows me will know of my freakish inexplicable drooling fangirl obsession with this band, I've scared many a female visitor (okay, 1) with my wall of TT posters in my room and well, you get it, I like them. That is, I like them as a four piece. I got into them some time around the time when The Circus was released, and all traces of my dickhead-elitist-I must listen to metal and nothing else! self were blown away by the amazing songwriting and beautiful voices of Gary, Mark, Jason and Howard. Notice something missing there, folks?

Now, I was a big Robbie Williams fan growing up, and I still believe to this day that he is an excellent songwriter and a great singer and entertainer. On his own. Within the context of TT he just never quite fit in, he always looked slightly out of place, and sounded even further out of place with his shocking inability to harmonise, a handicap which to a boyband member is like a ninja who is forced to wear luminous pink for all his night-time assassinations, a problem which is even worse these days, with his harsh, shouty wail standing out unfavourably over the other 4 boys' lush wall of loveliness. His vocal contributions back in the day were nothing to scream about, with both of his big songs being performed far more capably by Gary in recent years and his only other lead vocal song being completely disowned by the band themselves (if you know which song this is without Googling then we're now super special awesome friends forever!) which is hardly a legacy, at least Howard, Mark and  Jay knew they were backing dancers back then.

And so then: "Progress." Thanks to the fact that I've only starting writing this shit, I've inadvertently followed Yahtzee's rule of waiting for the hype to die down (and man was there a lot of hype coming into this album, how else are you gonna sell a million tickets without a note of the new music being heard?) and have therefore listened to the album many many times. I did have the fear before hearing this album that it would just be a Robbie Williams solo album with 4 massively overqualified backing singers and while this wouldn't be a completely unfounded accusation, there is a little more equality than I expected, at least, even if there isn't as much as I might have liked.

We kick things off with "The Flood," and to be honest there isn't really too much to say about it, an absolutely epic song with perfect vocals from Robbie and Gary, it's pretty much a masterpiece. I do think it was slightly unfair but very cunning of them to choose this song as the first single, cunning because it's the song closest in style to the last two albums and therefore likely to sell well, but unfair because it's massively misrepresentative of the sound of the rest of the album, and as such is kinda like advertising a Slimming World meeting with those porn-to-fat-people pizza leaflets, in that you're gonna get a very different experience than the one advertised... Still, that's one more masterpiece for the boys.

You should know at this point that my favourite member of TT is Mark Owen (if this is on UG then my avatar should have given it away) for various reasons that I won't list in case I spunk on the keyboard. As such, it was a massive relief that his increasing contributions to lead vocals (he had more lead tracks than Gary on The Circus!) would not be stopping anytime soon with the arrival of "SOS." I have to say, this song was a pretty big shock to me at first. After the epic pop of the previous track, a stomping electro track was a shocking but very welcome change, like following up your Lentil soup with a massive bowl of trifle and whiskey. Anyway, this is one catchy ass song, great lyrics, nice, simple beat and contains perhaps the only Robbie Williams vocal part of the album during which I didn't think, "Jay/Howard/Gary/Mark could have done that bit better!"

"Wait" was another surprise, from the (very beautiful) strings and piano intro I was expecting an epic Barlow ballad, but of course they throw us *another* curve ball by bringing in a bouncy hip-hop beat and some, and let's be reasonable here, fucking awful lyrics from Robbie. I remember in the recent documentary, he said something along the lines of, "I want the words to mean more and be more emotive." Well you've certainly fallen a few steps short of the mark with the statement that you live with an eskimo! Of course, Gary and Howard snap the song back into line in the chorus with some wonderful harmonies and traditional TT style lyrics, so the experience is not completely ruined.

Remember all the stuff I said about "SOS" being simple, catchy, stomping? You can pretty much just apply all of that to "Kidz." Despite seeming, at first listen, like a massively blatant rip off of Muse's "Uprising," Mark brings a nice energy and attitude to the song that Matt Bellamy's conspiracy babble could never manage, and as seen at the Brits, the song works amazingly well in a live setting, always a positive with a massive stadium tour booked! I do have to question its use as a single, though. Now, I can see this song working well on stage and in a club (hint hint, Kasbah!) but most mums hearing this on daytime radio in the car would never guess that it's a TT song and would most likely quickly switch over to Smooth to cleanse the modenity from their minds.

While we're on the subject of the "Kidz" single, I'm going to talk about possibly my favourite post-Circus TT song, the B-Side "Rocket Ship." Now, why on Earth was this song not released on the full album!? Rejecting this and picking at least half of the other tracks here is like taking Kylie off the strippers pole to make room for Peter Kay. Brilliant set of lyrics and great vocals from Gary (finally!) If someone asked me to define "good pop music" for them I'd send them this and warn them not to wank themselves to death.

I'm going to group the next few songs together because quite frankly, they're not worth a paragraph each. "Pretty Things" is a song I'd describe as "pleasant," it's simple and nice but it's nothing massively groundbreaking, the kind of song your nan might enjoy. "Happy Now" fares a lot better than the previous track but it's not until Robbie finally shuts up and Gary is allowed to shine (teehee!) in the pre-chorus that it actually gets good. The chorus is nice but perhaps a bit too upbeat, something which was done for contrast, according to the making of videos, although I can see it working well live, as the Comic Relief performance shows when it wasn't being interrupted with wanky montages of African children. "Underground Machine" is a Robbie Williams solo track, with Mark doing guest train noises at the start. If you think of it as such, it becomes a lot more enjoyable, it's catchy with some shockingly relateable and good lyrics, not sure it works within the context of the album but just change the artist name on iTunes and have a ball with this one!

You may be happy to know that this is the end of Robbie Williams's lead vocal contributions! All of that patience has finally paid off and we now get to hear the real stars of the show, in my eyes. "What Do You Want From Me" is, along with Shine or a solo song of his that you won't know, *the* Mark Owen song. Lord knows I cried when I saw him cackle his way through this on the documentary and burst into tears, and although the album version is much more restrained, the heartfelt and relateable lyrics still make this an epic jearjerker, for me, at least. Also, *that* keyboard line, you'll know it when you hear it, is possibly the best keyboard line in existence, we're talking The Final Countdown level here people, that's all I'm saying.

"Affirmation" now, we finally get to hear a Howard lead vocal, and let's be honest here, this is not a song for him. I know he wrote it, but if they could just get over the whole, "I wrote it so I sing it" thing that seems to be going on for the most part then Gary or Jason could have sung this and it would have been massively improved. I'm not sure all of the blame can go to Howard here, apparently the song started life as a Foo Fighters-esque rock song and Howard does look hugely pissed off in the making of videos that the song was changed so much, so maybe the original version suited him much better. As it is, it's still a good song and I listen to it quite a bit, just a slightly unfortunate choice of lead vocals for this one.

This problem, however, does not plague the next song, "Eight Letters." As with "The Flood," it's a massive departure from the rest of the material. Wonderful lyrics (by Robbie, who'd have fucking thought it!?) and a stunning vocal by Gary, more of this would have been nice, guyz! This is the song that should have been released as a single, nothing funny to say here, it's just the truth.

Possibly the most criminal song placing on the album is Jason Orange's sole lead vocal of the album, "Flowerbed." Why the fuck is this guy being hidden away? He has a beautiful, soothing, lovely voice and he's on the hidden bonus track that a lot of people might not even hear. I know most people still see him as the backing dancer who stands around looking handsome but Wooden Boat (another load of potential wasted by not releasing that as a single, there) alone should convince people that this guy is fucking awesome! Anyway, the song itself is a calm affair with some fantastic vocal melodies and really brings a nice sense of closure to the album, the only criticism I can think of is one that I hear from women a lot: "It's too bloody short!"

Overall: An album of varying quality but there are definitely some brilliant songs here and despite my, at times, pedantic criticism it's probably one of the best albums of 2010, just behind Ryuichi Kawamura's "Sora." Well worth a listen!

While I'm here, I might as well talk about their newest single that I've just downloaded, the stupidly titled "Love Love." In a word: Fucking awesome. OK, maybe that's two words. 
I'd heard some murmurs from fans that it would just be a Kidz derivative and that it was one of their worst singles, and these people don't seem to have the ESP thing nailed in the same way I do when watching WWE these days. Sure it has a funky, and extraordinarily catchy, bassline and stompy rhythm, but there's much less of the attitude present in Kidz, favouring a happier, less agressive and thankfully, less political feel (I can take TT's political views about as seriously as I'd take Russell Brand's views on abstinence.) I do have to wonder exactly what kind of mutant alien creature thing is singing the first verse, apparently that's Gary, in which case he needs some kind of specialist that probably doesn't exist yet, but the vocal performance picks up hugely when Mark takes over, his voice seems really suited to these massive electro songs, more so than any of the other members. Well worth the 99p I paid for it, brilliant tune!
11:08 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: WWE RAW 09/05/11

Current mood: Sexually aroused, pensive

Standard warning: Contains way too much swearing and pointless cut away gags, if these offend you then fuck off!

I'm not sure if I've just gained psychic powers or if RAW has just become massively predictable recently, as I was able to call most of tonight's events before any of them had even took place. Really, who wants to touch me? (No-one, OK then...)

The show opened with what I've come to call, "The No.1 Contenders Wanking Circle." This is where all of the potential candidates for a championship stand in the ring, tell us that they're awesome and that they shagged our mothers last night, then Teddy Long/the "anonymous RAW GM" speaking through Michael "Cunt" Cole (new gimmick idea for you there, Vince!) comes out to shock us all with the fact that tonight's main event will be some kind of multi-way match for the title shot. Seriously, every time a new title feud begins, it's always with this, without fail. I was a little surprised that R Truth was left out of the main event, though. I assume this was either: a. To make him more angry, or unintentionally hilarious, depending on whether you're R Truth or me, or b. Because the anonymous RAW GM is actually Nick Griffin. Hey, he's going nowhere in politics, you never know!

Now, my telekinesis can't take all of the credit for foreshadowing all of the nights events, the results of the main event, and the potential storylines for the next few months, were pretty well signposted throughout the show, if you couldn't guess that R Truth would feud with Mysterio after that ridiculous angry faced stare-down then surely it's best to just buy a shotgun or a KFC bucket and end it now. Oh, and it ends with them beating each other up in a big sweaty man tangle, but surely you're used to that by now?

The Bellas finally make a fucking appearance in a tag team match against Eve and Kelly Kelly, and as expected it's pointless throw away nonsense that ends in like a minute, with the Champion's team losing... *sigh*

I'd like to talk about the Diva's in WWE in general, here. You see, back in my day, we had Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria. Real Divas. These were women you wouldn't like to meet in a dark alleyway and wanted to have sex with but would be afraid they'd tear your balls off if you put a step wrong. Holding the Women's Championship meant something. I'm saddened and offended by the current state of the Diva's in WWE, if changing the "Women's Championship" to the "Divas Championship" wasn't enough of a fucking insult, they have their Champion go out, lose in like 30 seconds to 2 Barbie dolls and then leg it at the sight of someone who only debuted a few weeks ago. Trish Stratus wouldn't have taken Kharma's shit, she'd have took it to her like a man... er, Diva! Introducing Kharma is a step in the right direction but the idea of introducing her as unstoppable, which is their big angle, judging by the dolls shit in her promos, comes with the inherent problem that none of the other Diva's have been characterised as strong enough to compete with her, so Kharma will win all of her matches in 5 seconds flat and when someone finally does stand up to her, you'll be faced with many baffled and incredulous fans. Phew, rant over.

Shockingly, Kharma comes out and slams someone, I don't know who, I was too busy watching squirrels in my garden. Yeah, she looks scary but it's all getting a bit samey, she needs what all other monsters who can't speak for themselves ie. Anyone who isn't Big Show, needs, a manager or partner of some kind. Otherwise she'll face the same problem that the Green Goblin faced in the first Spiderman film, she'll just be acting like a total evil bastard with no real motivation at all besides complete dedication to being a total evil bastard, and no-ones likes a bully.

Right, Mason Ryan vs. Kane. Now, I'll admit, I've not been paying too much attention to the Nexus/Corre stuff, it's all become a bit of a confusing blur for me, but as far as I can tell their sole purpose seems to be to make one guy look good and all of the others just sort of stand around a bit and occasionally get beaten up. Of course, the match ends with whatever little twats make up the Nexus these days interfering and getting beaten up by Big Show and Kane. Now I'm not sure we need anymore confirmation that Kane and Big Show are strong and dominating, at this point it's like advertising the size of your cock as you're pulling off the soiled condom and apologising, but if you needed any more confirmation then a particularly boner-worthy punch to CM Punk from Big Show should do it... I'll be in the bathroom...

Santino vs. Dolph Ziggler next, then. First of all, in case anyone reading this is desperate for money and willing to give anything a go, I'm offering £20,000 to anyone who can bring me Vickie Guerrero's vocal cords in a gold plated box. I have to disagree with Josh Mathew's assertion that Ziggler has "re-invented" himself, he hasn't. He's had a haircut. Anyway, not a bad match but hardly classic and Santino fulfills his role of looking silly and losing. I'm still rather confused as to the point of Ziggler in the WWE right now but hey, they must have something planned for him, I guess.

Details of the next part may be hazy as I was too busy crying and self-harming after the Smackdown Rebound, all I can say is this had better be leading to something, Teddy! I'm pretty sure it was another hilarious angry promo bit from R Truth, trying to look pissed off about a rapping black man with dreads not being taken seriously, some people!

Somebody is going to have to explain this Zack Ryder thing to me, it seems to have passed me by, to me it looks like one of Brokencyde broke into the arena and started trying to get noticed but if he's more than that then feel free to swearily correct me. We then see John Cena walking and smiling, in a shot which was just begging for a "Haters gonna hate" caption.

For some reason we're reminded of the hilarious slapstick ending to last week's title match, which looked more like a puppet show than serious entertainment, then we cut away to Miz's dressing room, where we see Miz all but shit in Alex Riley's mouth. Riley, desperate to prove he doesn't have any independent thoughts or feelings of his own, proudly strides out and challenges John Cena, which to me is the wrestling equivalent of someone like, I don't know, me, walking up to Lemmy, calling him a cunt and challenging him to a Jack Daniel's drinking contest, it'll be funny at first but you just know shit's not gonna end well. In case you're a goldfish or a Ugandan politician, Cena lays all kind of ass kicking on Riley and proceeds to stare angrily at the Miz, which is "Obvious Main Event Sign Post Number 2," for the slow amongst you. I did find the assertion that Riley was getting a "lesson in wrestling" from Cena massively hilarious, as seeking wrestling advice from Cena is like seeking parenting advice from The McCanns.

...Urgh, Michael Cole. Michael fucking Cole! Thankfully, he "announces his retirement" here, which did make me cum a little, but I knew there just *had* to be more to it than that, this is the good old unpredictable WWE after all! Anyway, Lawler challenges Cole in an attempt to recover some of the precious dignity that the WWE writers have systematically robbed him of in this feud, and of course Cole climbs into his cage, my God this is thrilling! He then hurls abuse at Lawler and his dead mother, classy, mate!

Next up is Swagger vs. Kingston. Again, nothing special, but I'm not really a fan of either of these men, anyway. Swagger, along with McIntyre, Sheamus and Ziggler, is just another slightly dull, medium sized guy with no real personality to speak of, or that I've noticed anyway, and although I like Kingston better, he's also a bit boring to me, like a bargain basement blend of Booker T and Rey Mysterio. Anyway Lawler distracts and takes out Swagger, then walks over to Cole's booth.

This gets its own paragraph. The WWE Moment Of The Year happens right here. If you can find me a more entertaining and just massively hilarious sight than Michael Cole's stupid fucking face pressed against his cage, pulling a face like he'd got one of Lawler's famous fists up his arse, then I'll kill myself now so I can make sure I die happy.

Oh, and Swagger accepts Lawler's challenge, much to the dismay and cowardice of Cole. You really threw me a curve ball there, guys!

Main event time! Mysterio vs. Del Rio vs. Miz. Fairly standard Triple Threat fare, one guy gets thrown out, two guys fight, other guy comes back and throws one of the others out, yadda yadda, you should be singing along with this shit by now! Mysterio impressed me as usual, a Hurricanrana off the top rope shocked me for the simple reason that I hadn't seen him do one for a while, and we get the typical Riley interference ending, cheers guys haven't seen that for a while, I was starting to miss it!
Cena comes out and announces that his and Miz's match at Over The Limit will be an "I Quit" match, which should be hilarious as it suits Miz about as well as white socks and sandals suit anyone under 70. Looking forward to a good old fashioned Miz beatdown. I shouldn't even need to tell you that R Truth attacks Mysterio, you should have guessed that would happen and turned your TV off before it happened safe in the knowledge that it happened.

Overall: Mildly entertaining but nothing groundbreaking and of course massively predictable. Don't worry too much about missing this one.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this is pretty much entertainment, as with most things in my life. I'm not trying to offer a great deal of insight or even factual correctness, so if Kharma did indeed beat Trish at OVHTNAWWFGoldencockathon '95 then feel free to risk being ignored to death and correct me, thanks.
10:57 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
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