james debate
james debate

Saturday 27 December 2008

Well it's that time of year again. The holiday season is upon us, with Christmas eve parties, Christmas parties, boxing day parties, and also parties in between. This is a wonderful time, as it is only under the influence of alcohol that people feel compelled to tell me how much they enjoy reading this website, and in particular last year's Debbie awards were a big big hit.

I have now completed the foundation portion of my BSc and so far so good. If current grades are anything to go by I should be heading for an upper second or possibly even first class degree, which would just be phenomenal. If I manage that then I am automatically qualified for a post degree PhD should I want to, and I'll probably write a book or something.

That's in addition to my novel I'm still writing. Done about 100 pages so far but hit a snag recently, just not so inspired at the moment, too busy actually having a life and doing things, which is clearly a shame.

In a few short days I will be off to Paris for another kick ass New Year's celebration like last year's, so before then I felt it would be appropriate to once again sum up all the highs and lows of the past year bText Coloury announcing the winners of the 2008 Debbies.

On top of this I will also look ahead to the coming year at the films, bands and events that you should all keep an eye on, and look back at last year's predictions to see how close I was (it looks like I was spot on with pretty much all of them).

So without further ado, here are the 2008 Debbie Awards:

1. The Debbie for Best Videogames Console
Winner: the Nintendo Wii

Runner up: Xbox 360

nintendo wiiWell no prizes for predicting this one. Many were wondering if the Wii could maintain it's complete domination of the home videogame market once the novelty had worn off. To say that it has done would be an understatement. The Wii sold more units than Xbox 360 and PS3 put together, and the Wii + DS together sold almost twice as many as Xbox 360, PS3, PS2 and PSP all put together. Life is good for a Nintendo share holder.

Meanwhile the Xbox360 gets the runner up prize. Even though Microsoft are ignorant and useless scumbags who can't do shit right, their console happens to have a lot of good games available. The PS3 right now is completely without redemption.

2. The Debbie for Best Videogame
Winner: Grand Theft Auto IV

Runners up: Super Smash Bros Brawl, Spore

grand theft auto iv 4The most universally acclaimed videogame since Zelda, Grand Theft Auto IV has broken numerous industry records and shown even the stingiest of doubters that videogames can provide as rich and deep a medium for story telling as cinema. The rest of the competition was simply blown away this year.

Super Smash Bros on the other hand was the exact opposite, a celebration of everything arcadey and pure about videogames, whilst simultaneously embracing the heritage of the last 30 years of gaming. The multiplayer experience is second to none.

Meanwhile Spore attempted to go in a different direction, videogame as a vehicle for self expression and creativity, and if not for a myriad of technical problems it could well have pushed GTA4 for this year's Debbie.

3. The Debbie for Best Party of the Year
Winner: International Man of Mystery House Party

Runners up: Josh's Summer Party, Cardiac Arrest at Diva Beach

house party sixtiesThis party, coincidentally around the time of my birthday, was really quite ridiculous. It didn't have the physical damaging out of control nature of the end of term party or the err added benefits of the first xmas party, but it kicked ass.

4. The Debbie for Douchebag the Year
Winner: Guy who tried to steal my money on eBay

Runners up: My Driving Instructor, Phil Dowd

Don't ever try and steal money from me, especially if it's a lot. Let's just say vengeance is sweet.

Meanwhile my driving instructor was just not suited for teaching adults, and Phil Dowd is the childish clown who reffed the Chelsea game the other day and booked any Chelsea player who talked to him, even for legitimate reasons such as "Can you check if the wall is 10 yards back?"

5. The Debbie for Good Guy 2008
Winner: Jeremy Debate

Runners up: Ben Fitzgerald, Alex Roberts

Don't get me wrong, a lot of my friends could have made this list but some dudes are a few particularly good solid people that I can really respect, and that's not something that happens too often. So here's a pint for you dudes.

6. The Debbie for Good Girl 2008
Winner: Sophie

Runners up: Clio, Louise, Jenny

Sophie's a standup gal, and it's good to stay friends with someone after dating a few months. The runner ups here deserve a mention too, some of whom i've known for ages, other's i've only just met. Clio deserves kudos for putting up with me as flat mate for an entire year.

6. The Debbie for Best Restaurant 2008
Winner: Gallopapa

Runner up: Caprice

Gallopapa is, in my opinion, the best restaurant in the world, located in the picturesque tunnels under the quaint Tuscan village of Castellina. The chef is a genius, he can take any ingredients in the world and create something that sounds awful but looks and tastes absolutely divine. So much so that I was even moved to hug him after my last meal there, well done sir!

7. The Debbie for Best Theatre Production 2008
Winner: Ivanov

Runners up: August: Osage County

kenneth branagh in ivanov anton chekhov donmarOne of the all time great playwrights, Anton Chekhov, combined with one of the great actors of his generation Kenneth Branagh, and the Donmar theatre company. It was never going to miss, and it hasn't, it's as good as anything you will ever see on the stage.

Meanwhile I went to see August: Osage County at the National, pretty much just to see Gary Cole (Office Space, Dodgeball, Entourage) for a laugh, and was treated to one of the best written plays i'd seen in a long while. Witty, cutting and multi-layered, it was a smash hit, and despite being more than 3 hours long, the time just flew by.

8. The Debbie for Best Album 2008
Winner: Day & Age - The Killers

Runner up: Feed the Animals - Girl Talk

the killers day and ageWell no surprise here if you read my review of this album. It was truly fantastic, one of the most consistently good albums i've heard in many years and with some truly great songs on it like This is Your Life and A Dustland Fairytale. A latecomer in the running for this award but certainly deserved.

Meanwhile Girl Talk's infectious and brilliant mash up album gets the runner up prize and narrowly beat Coldplay's Viva La Vida and the Last Shadow Puppets' The Age of Understatement.

9. The Debbie for Best Debut Album 2008
Winner: The Age of Understatement - The Last Shadow Puppets

Runner up: Oracular Spectacular - MGMT

the age of understatement last shadow puppetsA side project of the frontman from the Arctic Monkeys, who I never was that crazy about to be honest. I certainly didn't expect this side project to be so good, mixing the best elements of smarmy British rock and oldies from the sixties creating a sound the likes of which you won't have heard in a long long time, and it's damn good. Make sure to check out Standing Next to Me and My Mistakes Were Made for You, brilliant.

MGMT came close to snagging the prize with their synth heavy electro-rock album Oracular Spectacular. This album is a real experience and really almost tempted me to award them the Debbie.

10. The Debbie for Best Song 2008
Winner: Time to Pretend - MGMT

Runners up: Death and All His Friends - Coldplay, Sing the Changes - The Fireman, This is Your Life - The Killers

time to pretend mgmtComing from the excellent debut album Oracular Spectacular is Time to Pretend, the first single released from the album, and what a song it is. One of those songs that combines a stunning fresh sound with meaningful and highly evocative lyrics about youthful excess and coming to terms with growing old, the must hear song of the year, just try not to look directly at the video, it's a little TOO trippy unless you're stoned.

Coldplay's fantastic Death and all His Friends came close too, being one of the finest few minutes of music Coldplay have ever produced. Also in the running was Sing the Changes, a song that reminds us of the ever lasting genius of Paul McCartney, even after a staggering 40 years. And of course, the best song from the new Killers album This is Your Life (linked earlier ^)

11. The Debbie for Best Television Show
Winner: House

Runners up: Lost, Ashes to Ashes

house tv showIn a year where most tv shows seemed to be of a lower quality than last year (Fringe, Heroes and the Simpsons were not great, and Pushing Daisies never lived up to its promise) House remains one of the most consistently excellent tv shows. it deserves the Debbie this year.

Lost almost took the award, being awesome, and one can't help but be even more impressed with Lost seeing now how all the imitator shows (heroes, fringe) have become so poor by comparison, standing as a testament to the quality of the show and its writers. Ashes to Ashes meanwhile was a bit of a disappointment, despite being a smash hit, as I predicted last year, but then Life on Mars was always going to be a tough act to follow.

12. The Debbie for Best Film
Winner: The Dark Knight

Runners up: Frost/Nixon, Cloverfield

the dark knightWell duh, this movie is probably high on everyone's list for movie of the year, and deservedly so. The Dark Knight stands tall as a great crime movie, even without the Batman elements, but for a comic book franchise to give way to such an excellent piece of cinema is unprecedented and truly memorable.

Frost Nixon, meanwhile, is an adaption of the play by the same name, telling the story of the David Frost interviews of ex-President Richard Nixon. I will post a full review soon, maybe today maybe not, but it is truly excellent. Cloverfield, another hotly tipped item on my list last year was another massive hit and was a real experience in the cinema, absolutely unforgettable.

13. The Debbie for "That Defining 2008 Moment"
Winner: Barack Obama Wins the Presidential Election

No contest. Rarely is there a moment where people all over the world are so joined in a moment of pure joy and celebration. People singing and dancing in the streets of New York at 1AM, and simultaneously in London at 6AM.

And now let us cast an eye forward to see what's coming up in the next year that will change the world, be a hit, or just plain awesome. But first, let's have a quick look at last year's predictions and how they fared: New Year's 2008 Post

First the obvious: the writers' strike did end, thank God, and Bush is about to leave the white house, to be replaced by a man so great it almost makes the last eight years of wasted time and devolution seem worth it.

Then we have Ashes to Ashes, the sequel series of the sublime Life on Mars. While Life on Mars was always going to be a tough act to follow, hopes were high for Ashes to Ashes. Sadly it disappointed slightly, achieving mixed reviews despite the consistently high ratings. Fortunately the last few episodes of the series were fantastic and provide hope for the next two seasons that the show is scheduled for.

Cloverfield was an categorical success and a top notch film to boot, and the promise of a franchise beckons should JJ Abrams choose to take it.

Duffy, MGMT and Glasvegas were also highly successful, all with number one singles and high charting albums. I'll be shocked if you've gone the year without hearing songs by at least two of these artists. I think we can look forward to seeing more of these guys in the future, even though I think MGMT is the only one with real lasting power and quality.

So pretty damn good eh? Nostradamus rating: A

- Empire of the Sun are set to achieve great things. Their EP walking on a dream promised a lush psychedelic synth sound similar to MGMT and are hotly tipped to make it big this year. Check out the song Walking on a Dream.

- Kyte. Top band from Leicester whose recently released EP sounds seriously awesome and has put the music world on alert for the next year. These boys have talent and SHOULD be huge next year. Make sure you check out the song Eyes Lose Their Fire and start counting the days til their next album.

- Subliminal Girls. Another hot new British band recently featured in one of my posts. Sound like they could well be one of the best British pop-rock groups in years, highly reminiscent of the Lightning Seeds. Make sure you check out the song Self Obsession is An Art Form, an absolutely golden tune.

- the Temper Trap. This band is already big in Australia, now it's our turn. Grand guitars, driving rhythm and sweet vocals with an almost ethereal sound, they have a lot going for them. Check out this song Sweet Disposition.

- White Lies. Last but certainly not least, this band could well be the new Killers. Coming equipped with a distinctive eighties sound and a talented lyricist, Brandon Flowers himself recently declared White Lies the band he is most excited about. Check out this song Death, listen to the lyrics and make sure you let it get to the end. Top song.

- Revolutionary Road. While technically released in 2008 (tomorrow), this is merely a technicality. They're just giving it a small limited release so that it gets considered for the oscars before being properly released in the new year. This is the new movie from American Beauty director Sam Mendes (awesome movie) and stars Titanic duo Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet (crappy movie). Treading the familiar territory of suburban angst from American Beauty, this film is hotly tipped for the oscars and to be a smash hit. Catch me if you Can and the Aviator showed that Leo is actually a good actor, so be excited.

- Watchmen. The most celebrated graphic novel of all time, and yet it's likely you've never heard of it unless you're into such things. But then again you probably never heard of Sin City or V For Vendetta before they became movies either. Created by Alan Moore, who also penned the aforementioned V for Vendetta novel, Watchmen was written 20 years ago and since then has always been the subject of potential film deals, but was deemed too deep and ambitious for a film. This year that film will become a reality and it looks amazing (see trailer). Sadly will probably not have as big an impact as it would have done in a pre Dark Knight world.

- Avatar. Saving the best for last, Avatar is the ambitious new project from film legend James Cameron. The man only makes a movie like every 10 years, and each and every time he does it changes the world of cinema and sweeps oscars. In short you will see this movie at some point, just like everyone's seen Terminator and Titanic (his films), if it comes out in time that is. This film is also going to be a ground breaking milestone in terms of technology, using some revolutionary mix of live action and cg in a way that's never been seen before... and more than that... in actual 3D. The big wait on this film is waiting for enough cinemas to be fitted out with new 3d screens, but when it gets here, you better be ready for it.

And of course!
The start of the Obama Presidency that has redeemed America in the eyes of the world, and promises to finally get us back on track for the 21st century style progress we've been missing for the past 8 years.

Happy New Year Everyone!
James x

Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Peter Morgan
Starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen
Release date(s) December 5, 2008 [limited], January 9, 2009
Running time 122 minutes

Frost Nixon Film

Veteran director Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon is the film adaption of the stage production of the same name written by Peter Morgan, who also penned the screenplay for this film. The play was in London fairly recently at (what you all probably know by now is) my favorite Theatre the Donmar Warehouse, and it was pleasing to see the fantastic cast of the stage version recruited for this film, with Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost.

The subject of this tale is Richard Nixon, and the famous interviews he did with David Frost after he had resigned from the white house. Disgraced and with a reputation in tatters, Nixon sees an opportunity to rebuild his career and image by doing an interview with David Frost, a soft talk show host with a reputation as a playboy. The original interview is an iconic part of television history, and I'm glad to say the film definitely does it justice.

What follows is one of the finest duels in cinema, a compelling stew of mind games and delicate jousting between the inexperienced yet cocky brit Frost as he tries to pick apart a highly experienced operator in the ex president Nixon.

Howard is at the top of his game here as he builds the hype and tension like a championship boxing match, documenting the struggles of the underdog Frost in organizing and funding the interviews without any support or credibility and delivers one of his best movies in years.

He is backed up by two truly fantastic oscar worthy performances, with Langella giving us the best ever take on Richard Nixon, spot on with his mannerisms, speech and demeanor; but especially with Michael Sheen's Frost, which is absolutely perfect capturing the smarmy essence of Frost without doing a direct imitation of him, in my view Sheen gives us the best acting performance of the year, and it's even more impressive when you see Sheen in other things and realize how unlike his performance in this film he really is.

But one of the biggest stars of the film is Peter Morgan's script, which rather than presenting Nixon as the cartoon character that is so popular in the media these days, it shows him for what he really is; a criminal sure, a despicable person sure, but ultimately just an insecure, flawed and unstable individual who succumbed to his paranoia. It is a testament to the sharp writing here that one will actually end up walking away from the movie with a tinge of sympathy for this man rather than just contempt.

Masterful and hard to fault, Frost/Nixon is one of the best movies in a long time, and one of the best movies this year certainly. Possibly the best thing about this film is that it's presented in such a way as to be accessible and entertaining, even for people with little interest in politics

song of the day: Eyes Lose Their Fire" by "Kyte"

thing that makes me grimace today: Arsenal manager Wenger preparing his fans for a season if disappointment before Christmas

pic of the day:
initech office space
Bag of Hurt

Can of Whup-Ass

Sunday 7 December 2008

It's always been an issue in sports and football in particular, this issue of referees getting things wrong and ruining games and often making or changing history. From Maradona's insane hand of god (mitigated slightly by the unbelievable piece of dribbling beforehand that may have dazzled the ref too much) to Robert Pires' famous dive against Portsmouth that allowed Arsenal to claim an unprecedented (and arguably undeserved) undefeated season, referees have always made idiotic clangers that have big consequences on the sport.

It has become even more of a pressing issue with the inevitable advent of video replay technologies being used in just about every other sport as to why such progress isn't being harnessed in football to ensure cheaters don't prosper. And indeed while football alone as a sport continues to insist on allowing ridiculous referee blunders to influence a game, it becomes harder and harder to avoid such ideas.

What is particularly alarming is that English referees seem to be particularly bad. At the world cup in 2006, famously moronic blunderer Graham Poll was sent home in disgrace for awarding a player three yellow cards before eventually sending him off, and at Euro 2008 englishman Howard Webb was... err... sent home in disgrace for awarding a ridiculous injury time penalty.

Similarly we live with a league where jokers like Rob Styles, who has been dropped from the Premier League twice in the past year (1) (2) is inexplicably still given the biggest games with the big four teams. We live with a league where utterly inept ├╝berscrotes like Mike Dean can get away with horrendously screwing up not one, not two, but three different title deciding matches in a single year (1) (2) (3) and still be given big games over and over. And frankly it has got to stop.

I am not the first person to say this by any means, but it is clear that the governing body set up for the purpose of running the ref's guild is not doing it's job.

I 'get' that refs do a hard job and all that, but there is some serious ineptitude being shown amongst english refs in particular and I think the blame can only be placed squarely at the referees' association who does absolutely nothing to maintain high standards amongst its ranks, and shows absolutely no desire to hold refs accountable for their cock ups. Every other league in the world does this and so it is not a shock that the standard of reffing in most countries is far superior to over here. Perennial morons like Styles and Dean need to be sacked permanently if they can't step up their game.

At the very least there needs to be some more accountability. If a player messes up in a game it's all over the press, the fans pour vitriol on him and in serious cases the club can take action against him. If a manager fucks up he can lose his job and gets thrust in front of the press mere minutes after a match where he must defend himself in front of millions. Refs have none of this and frankly they should do. They should have to account for their mistakes, they should have to apologize when wrong and they should certainly not be allowed to act like a div and then just walk away from it with no consequences.

This is seriously absurd and needs to change.

The Donmar is, as any seasoned theatre patron in London will tell you, one of the best and most highly esteemed production companies around. The cosy homeliness of the Donmar Warehouse presents audiences with a uniquely intimate and personal view of some of the finest plays written, featuring some of the finest actors alive.

Now they've traded these humble surroundings for Wyndham's Theatre near Leicester Square in order to put on one of the most exciting seasons I've ever seen. Four plays, Ivanov, Twelfth Night, Madame de Sade and Hamlet, featuring thespian superstars Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench and Jude Law respectively. And now I have seen the first of these productions, Ivanov starring Kenneth Branagh.

donmar ivanov kenneth branagh

The play is Anton Chekhov's Ivanov. Chekhov was a late 19th Century playwright and I had the good fortune to study him at Eton during a Theatre Studies course. We were reading his play the Three Sisters. First time I read it, things were not looking so good, but that's probably largely due to it having been a school assignment, and my lack of appreciation for good theatre back then. After studying it properly and understanding it, I truly saw what a genius Chekhov was and I was stunned. To write such beautifully interwoven and intricate stories and conceal it within such nonchalant, delicately subtext-laden dialogue was truly remarkable.

Ivanov is a play of similar, if slightly less, quality. But in a production like this it doesn't matter. Michael Grandage as director has done a fantastic job creating a world that sucks you in, and the acting is simply top notch featuring a whole host of recognizable and talented faces.

Kenneth Branagh is, predictably, superb as the unusually unlikable star of the show, Ivanov. Everyone knows what a wonderful actor he is, but this production shows the man at the height of his powers, summoning a performance both of masterfully subtle restraint and heartfelt angst that is unnervingly real.

But the real highlight of the evening is the powerhouse performance from Kevin McNally, who you'll recognize from Pirates of the Caribbean, Sliding Doors, the forthcoming Valkyrie and many other films, plays and tv shows. His performance as Lebedev is truly something to behold. He acts like a dynamo urging the play on with his infectious energy and you'll find your eyes drawn to him every time he's on stage.

This is an excellent production, especially considering the play is one that I was warned beforehand was one of Chekhov's dryer plays. But make no mistake, this is as good as it gets and one of the best productions i've seen in a long time. Looking forward to the next ones.

Song removed by request
Listen to a preview on Amazon instead: Song Preview

I'm sure some of you out there are thinking that this song title sounds like something I might come up with for the title of my own autobiography, but it's not, and it happens to be an excellent song.

Subliminal Girls are a new band of home grown Londoners, recently signed to a record label with Weekender records. This, their second single, is their biggest success yet and has seen them sign on for the Blissfields Festival this past summer and the Great Escape Festival in Brighton.

Give it a listen, I think you'll like it, sounds a lot like the Lightning Seeds, and sounds as good if not better than some of their best tracks. This one's a real pop gem.

I first heard them playing a gig in Selfridges department store in London, of all places, and they are pretty damn good, definitely one to keep an eye on for the future when they release their full length album.

song of the day: "Self Obsession Is an Art Form" by "Subliminal Girls"

thing that makes me grimace today: This embarrassing review of Football Manager 2009 from one of the biggest videogames websites in the world. For a professional reviewer to compare a management sim to Fifa09 or Pro Evo is absolutely shocking and sounds like it was written as an April Fools day wind up. Very embarrassing for IGN and I wouldn't be surprised if the review gets pulled soon.

pic of the day:
festivus seinfeld
The Killers being used for the Football First Theme song
Morphy Richards

Mike Dean

Friday 21 November 2008

For any football fan out there, no year is complete without this game. Millions of lives are consumed and torn apart by its deceptively basic spreadsheet charm and statistics-based allure, countless man hours of work are lost and God knows how much money it ends up costing. But yet, back for another round is the legendary, epic, and uncontrollably addictive Football Manager series.

football manager 2009

You all know the score by now, Football Manager is a game where you take control of a football club at any level in any country, and endeavor to lead it on to glory and success. You control the business side of things, you become involved in the man management and training regimes, you sign players and build the football team of your dreams, you can become as involved in the nitty gritty as you like or leave that up to your hand picked assistants. Football Manager has always been glorious for its ability to emulate an endlessly detailed and indefinitely continuing game world, where you can spend decades building your legacy at the football club of your dreams and even take charge of the national team for glory on the world stage.

Year after year this game is the cream of the crop, the big daddy when it comes to football management games, and so when the newest iteration, Football Manager 2009, is released, it goes without saying that we don't expect any less.

Sadly all good things come to an end. I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, or out of my typing fingers as the case may be, but I find myself disappointed this year. Sports Interactive, the game's developers, have let me down and I find myself shocked and dismayed at an uncharacteristically shoddy product from a company that until now has had the midas touch.

Let me backtrack just a little bit before I say something I'm going to regret about one of my all time favorite games series. This game is still a great management game, it is still so addictive, and you can still do all the wonderful things you could do on previous titles, plus enjoy a host of new features such as press conferences, a completely overhauled transfer system, assistant feedback and the biggest move of all, a 3d match engine.

Now so far this all sounds good, and in previous years I've been more than satisfied just to get the same game year after year with only a few minor refinements and additions, and I would have been pleased with that again this year, especially with the one big addition of a 3d match engine, sadly this is where it all starts to go so wrong.

First of all the 3d engine is kind of cute, but not really all that good at the end of the day, and it works like a real dog on lesser computers, even on low settings. On top of this there are a good deal more glitches than normal, results changing between full time and the game loading the next screen, more than 11 players appearing on your tactics screen, cloned players, and serious crashes all over the place. This is in addition to a lot of people for whom the 3d engine simply doesn't run, even on powerful computers. On top of which the engine itself just isn't all that good this year. There seems to be a far greater tendency for players to do really stupid slapstick type stuff, like miss the ball when trying to clear it off the line, or passing the ball back 40 yards into their own goal, or just standing still with the ball an inch away from you like a moron while the other team run 30 yards and pick it up. This is not what has incited my ire to such an extent though.

First of all this game has been the longest in development of any Football Manager game, it wasn't until the end of October that we even got a demo and not much earlier that we even heard any details about what was coming in the new game. With such an extended development time you would have expected the game to be polished to the extreme and as I mentioned, it clearly is not.

And it's even worse for any mac user, especially if you have an intel mac. In fact when the demo came out I would even have gone so far to say that the developer's claim that the game is 'mac compatible' is simply not true. The game crashed continually, the mouse would lock up whenever you tried to right click anywhere and the 3d engine simply would not run, to complete the picture the demo eventually just stopped running, crashing on startup after a day or two. There is also a general shoddiness with presentation throughout, with unresponsive buttons and not automatically switching to the pitch view when watching a match. I would have hoped that in the month since the demo was released they would try to fix these problems but having spent a good deal of time playing the final version it is clear that nothing at all has changed since then, aside from that now the 3d engine runs like crap, as opposed to not at all, and it only lets me select 'low' detail, despite me having an absurdly overpowered computer.

As a mac user this just pisses me off, if you're going to market your product as a mac game then you have to actually put some effort into it and do some game testing, which clearly wasn't done if they couldn't spot a problem that any mac user would have noticed after about three minutes of play.

They had a patch available shortly after launch, but only for PC users and I had to wait a further two weeks through a series of comically mishandled delays before they eventually released it for us mac users, not doing much to reassure me that the company gives a crap about mac users.

I think for next year's version they might have to lay off any new features and just polish up what they currently have, otherwise it could get a bit ridiculous. But in the end, if i get all this working though i'm sure it'll still be fun to play, so I won't score this game too lowly.

Few people in the world have ever been able to boast a musical career as distinguished as Sir Paul McCartney's. It was down to the genius of Sir Paul and John Lennon that the Beatles forged their name in the annals of history as one of the legends of music, one of the biggest bands of all time and still selling records and reaching out to fans of all ages today.

That was forty years ago, and since then the Beatles have come and gone, but Sir Paul has continued to record music throughout the decades, from Band on the Run with Wings to his album Memory Almost Full released just last year. But while his work still sells by the case-full, with the latter album having gone platinum. at 66 that's got to make him one of the oldest rock musicians to record a platinum selling album. Despite this he has had more than his fair share of detractors in recent years who feel that the man is past his sell by date, running out of fresh ideas and doesn't have anything new to offer modern music. These people certainly can't say the same about his new album.

the killers day & age review

For anyone confused about why I might bring up Paul McCartney when discussing an album from someone called the Fireman, the Fireman is just the name under which McCartney has released this album, a duo comprising of Sir Paul himself and Martin Glover. Together they formed a band to record 'experimental' music, and that's exactly what they have achieved with their new album Electric Arguments.

He has not always been the most popular figure in the music industry in recent times, owing to various career and life decisions that I won't go into in detail here, and as I mentioned, there are people out there who think he should hang up his guitar for good. However, that is all moot now; this album is the best thing Sir Paul has done in decades. In an instant Paul McCartney has re-established his reputation as one of the all time greats and a musical genius.

The album opens with Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight, a heavy wrought but evocative number with a distinct Helter Skelter vibe to it. It is here that Macca makes a statement to all listeners that just because he's in his sixties doesn't mean he can't still rock out with the best of them, and after listening to this song who among us can't simply say 'point well taken'?

Sun is Shining and Lifelong Passionare other highlights on the album, as is the 10 minute long finale Don't Stop Running, but the undisputed jewel in this album is Sing the Changes which is a truly fantastic song, one that sounds like it takes the best bits of the last 30 years of music and combines it all into something fresh and exotic sounding, a song which is certainly the most memorable Sir Paul has recorded in many years.

Fresh and unpredictable throughout, Electric Arguments is an album that will shock you, sounding so cutting edge from such an old school rock star. It's an album that reminds us that while music tastes may come and go and change with the times, true genius lasts forever.

When Bethesda Software acquired the rights to make the latest installment in the celebrated Fallout RPG franchise there was a lot of uncertainty, apprehension and good ol' fanboy hate. After Bethesda hit it big with the epic Oblivion many expected they would just turn their beloved franchise into 'Oblivion with guns'. The early screenshots, ditching the old style topdown view for a first person perspective, did little to reassure them otherwise. But at the end of the day the game was always going to live or die on its own merits regardless of comparisons with any other games that have preceded it, and I am glad to say that it excels expectations.

fallout 3

Right from the off I knew I was in for something special. The production values and retro art style was fantastically realized and reminiscent of the even more sublime Bioshock. The opening segment of the game was exceptional as well. Rather than forcing players through the same turgid tutorials like most games do, this game integrates it beautifully into the game world, teaching you how to play the game as you control your character from birth right up to his teenage years; as your character learns who to interact with his world, so do you. It's very cleverly done and makes some really boring tutorial stuff seem really fun and interesting.

However it's when you leave these comfortable homely surroundings that the game really starts to shine. Set in a post apocalyptic Washington DC, the game world is absolutely huge and packed full of life and secrets and intelligent computer controlled characters. The artistic style is remarkable and superbly brings to life an intricate and deep back story without forcing the mythology upon the player, instead the player is free to try and discover as much or as little of the world and it's backstory as he/she wants.

And there is a LOT to do. The player can perform odd jobs wherever he pleases, he can work alongside or against the various factions present in the wasteland, or he can just go looting and try to scrounge up any valuables left in the desolate city. During his travels the player will encounter all forms of trials, requiring brains, violence, charm and a whole range of other skills, allowing a variation of puzzles and missions that far exceeds what you find in so many other games.

Morality is also an issue here, where the player will make big decisions that actually effect the game world permanently. What extremes will you go to in order to survive? Will you kill innocent people? Steal? Cheat and lie? Destroy an entire city? Or will you always remain the consummate 'good guy'. The decision is yours.

This is all complemented excellently by the free-form structure of the game in which you can essentially go and do whatever it is that you want, and take missions on in whatever order you want and accomplish your objectives in any fashion you want. In all aspects of the game there is a relentless freedom for players to enjoy that makes this game a truly memorable experience.

Indeed the only real problem with the game is that it all comes to an end rather abruptly. Whereas in Oblivion you could continue playing indefinitely even after you finished the game and enjoying the many many hours of extra missions and stories, in this game once you finish the main missions, the game is over. This means that if you haven't finished all the extra little things you want to do before you finish the game, you won't get a chance to, and it's really a shame especially as they don't give you much forewarning. In the end it just means that this game will occupy far less of your time than a game like Oblivion, whether they realized this when designing the game is anyone's guess.

Despite this, however, this is a unique game, a highly enjoyable and highly polished game, and great fun while it lasts.

EDIT: in retrospect, I would just like to say that this game was far far better than I initially realised.

The music industry, as it so often is, is desperately in need of some fresh ideas. It is a constant blight upon music fans the world over that artists constantly stoop to record the same generic stuff over and over. Look at some of the recently popular albums that were considered good enough to go gold, britpop records from bands like the Pigeon Detectives, the Smiths, Oasis, all good bands to be sure, but all just playing fairly typical britpop, the likes of which we have been listening to for years.

Every so often someone does come along who tries something different, someone with a bit of a spark about him or her and a hint of the musical genius that so many artists these days lack. Earlier this year I wrote a piece about groups such as Stars, VHS or beta and Jim Noir whose excellent albums defied stereotype and came up with something truly memorable and different, and the stunning debut album from the Last Shadow Puppets is another example of this. And judging by the traffic that article received, as well as the impressive sales figures of those albums, it's safe to say that a lot of you agreed. Well now I have another one, this guy is a bit special.

Eugene McGuinness

Eugene McGuinness proves that British musicians don't have to sink into lame stereotype in order to make brilliant music. Anyone who has heard his first two albums will attest to their uniqueness, as fresh and original as anything that's been recorded in recent years, and this is no understatement. It even does a disservice to classify this man as 'one to watch' because when you get down to it, Eugene McGuinness is the finished article, and what a spectacular finished article it is.

There are two key words that come to mind when listening to Eugene's music. 'Eclectic' is one, selectively cherry picking a diverse collection of influences and sounds from the past 100 years and sticking them in a big melting pot until they form a coherent and cohesive pop song. 'Unpredictable' is another. Anyone older than fifteen years has already heard so many different songs down the years that it all begins to get a bit predictable, the same chord progressions and musical expressions, the same topics for lyrics. That is not the case here, with songs that will take you in wild and different directions that you will never see coming, and hitting melodies that you never imagined would work.

In particular there are two fantastic songs that need to be listened to.

The Monsters Under My Bed
This one sounds like a crazy dream, which is exactly the feeling it tries to evoke, achieving sublime melodies and fantastically idiosyncratic synth solos. Make sure you check out the music video on youtube.

Moscow State Circus
This song sounds like something from the 1930s with a serious hint of the Last Shadow Puppets and their retro stylings, expertly mingled with shades of classic britpop.

song of the day: "Sing the Changes" by "the Fireman"

thing that makes me smile today: Obama's rebranding of America.

pic of the day:
office space pc load letter
Fallout 3
The Fireman
Eugene McGuinness

Football Manager 2009
Stereotypical britpop

Saturday 15 November 2008

The Killers shouldn't work. They burst onto the scene at pace with their 2004 debut album Hot Fuss, at a time when guitar music popularity was on the decline to the point of being a joke, an industry polluted by pretty faces with no discernible talent, peddling songs that were written not by a real band, but by some bland corporate machine. They appeared clad in dandyish clothing, covered in makeup and eyeliner, a pretty frontman, they certainly looked more of the same.

5 million sold cds later they returned with their anglophilic pop stylings shed in favor of beards, black and white photos, and cheesy Americana, with songs that had more of a Springsteen taste to them. Another 4 million sold and they have returned for their third studio album with another completely different sound. Day & Age features an excess of synthpop, saxophones, caribbean steel drums, sitar strings, and 80's style funk. With such an eclectic mix of sounds and influences, this album really shouldn't work, it just shouldn't. But apparently no one has told the Killers. The Killers have come of age.

the killers day and & age review

Not only is this the best album the Killers have ever produced, it's one of the best records this year, and in this writer's humble opinion it is the most consistently good album since the Red Hot Chili Peppers' By the Way. The quality of the songs is so high throughout, that to refer to any of them as the weakest song on the album would in no way reflect any lack of quality with that particular song, but rather serve as an indication of the intense polish and care that has gone into every single facet of this album.

It is one of those rare albums where I can honestly say that there is not a single 'bad' song on the album. Some are better than others, sure, but the mark of a truly great album is how well the lesser songs stack up next to the big hits. This is an area that even in previous albums from the Killers I could point to a few tracks that didn't do anything for me, but absolutely not so this time. This is most apparent when observing a group reaction to this album; whereas with Sam's Town you generally had everyone loving When You Were Young and one or two others, and with Hot Fuss everyone was blown away by Mr. Brightside and All These Things I've Done, with this album everyone will find different songs that appeal to them on some special level. 

Whereas I love Losing Touch, I Can't Stay and This is Your Life, i've spoken to people who reckon Dustland Fairytale is one of the Killers' finest ever, or Neon Tiger, or The World We Live In. The Clash magazine's review reckons Goodnight, Travel Well is an absolute classic. The variety present in this album, as well as the high quality throughout, mean that everyone will find songs to adore here, and every song will be loved by someone, and that is not something you see with every album. Every song here is good in its own right and will grow on you if you give it a chance.

The album opens with a suitably eclectic number in Losing Touch, with classically twinkly sounding electric guitars, flanked by blaring saxophones reminiscent of 80s/90s David Bowie and harmonies and lyrics that usher in feelings of a Simon & Garfunkel epic. The first half of the song serves as a declaration of the band's return and by the time the second half comes around with its triumphant harmonies you will feel like you're in a warm embrace with old friends after a long absence. This song will grow on you big time, and is likely the third single that will be released from this album, it is also coming to Guitar Hero in a future trackpack along with Mr. Brightside and the next song on the album.

Human is the next song on the album and the first single to have been released. Probably most of you have heard this song by now. Filled with epic vocals and shiny synth, and bloody brilliant to boot, this song carries more than a few shades of the Pet Shop Boys. Produced by Stuart Price who did the 'thin white duke' remix of Mr. Brightside, this track has divided some Killers fans, with many thinking it a masterpiece and others bemoaning the electronic dance direction of the song. Personally I think it's hard not to love this track and if you've been put off by the electronics then I would encourage you to give it a chance, I think you'll find a gem of a tune underneath. And if not, the beauty of this album, as I mentioned, is that you'll find something more up your street elsewhere.

Next we come to the second single released from this album, in America anyway (still waiting for it in England), Spaceman. Taking inspiration from Bowie and Queen, this is definitely the catchiest song on the album; fast paced, driving beat, great hooks, this song is destined to overwhelm radio stations and clubs and become a singalong favorite at concerts for a long time to come. It is also the best vocal performance Brandon Flowers has ever given us, showing remarkable charisma and range, and making it all sound so completely effortless too. This song stakes his claim as a world class vocalist.

If you were ever a fan of Roxy Music or Bryan Ferry then you will absolutely adore the next track, the intensely funk and sax-laden Joy Ride. At first this was one of my less favorite songs on the album, owing to the sheer cheesiness of the vocals in some sections, but in the end this is just too catchy a song not to like, culminating in a climax that will have most rooms jumping. Another one that will grow on you.

A Dustland Fairytale is next. This song has become a favorite amongst many of the people who have heard the album so far and I can see why, but I have to say it is one of my less favorite songs. I love the Killers when they are playing uptempo songs that put you in a party mood, and this is a fairly slow ballad. But that's not to say it isn't a good song, because it is, and I still like it, just less so than other songs on the album. Starting off slowly, this song, supposedly about Flowers learning to deal with his parents getting older down the years, just grows and swells until bursting point with the pure raw emotion of the Killers' front man and a powerful build up that demonstrates the strongest narrative ever in a Killers song.

The Killers reach the apex of their eclectic mish mash of exotic sounds in This is Your Life, a song full of African chanting, electric harpsichord and spacey guitars that really just shouldn't work, and yet it all comes together in an absolutely breathtaking and epic way, forming one of the finest moments on the album as it all comes to a cathartic end with Flowers venting his soul at the audience. And again, on first listen I didn't really notice much from this track, another one that grows on you in a big way. For me, this is likely to be the most satisfying song in the long run.

I Can't Stay is one of the most unusual songs on the album, sounding completely different to anything the Killers have done before. Trading the usual stadium blasting anthems for a laid back Caribbean number with the saxophones making a return, accompanied by steel drums and one of the prettiest of the Killers' many fine melodies they've concocted for this album, a song about a young man desperately struggling for answers to one of life's big decisions, culminating in an emphatic crunch point in the final portion of the song.

Next comes Neon Tiger a song which Flowers states he wrote while trying to sound like the band MGMT, which is kinda funny since they're such a new band, but I like it since I really like Oracular Spectacular. However this is another one of my less favorite songs. It's a catchy, if slightly sluggish song about a celebrity (in my opinion Flowers himself) taking the spotlight and fighting to maintain his independence that comes together in an astonishingly intense midsection that is strongly reminiscent of Sergeant Pepper from The Beatles.

The World We Live In is the penultimate track on the album, combining a space age ambience with extreme 1980s electro pop that builds up a funky rhythm before breaking down into a chorus of airy guitars and horn. Flowers delivers another top notch vocal performance that crescendos until it's just shy of overdoing it, just enough to make this a very fine song. Even if the chorus feels a little derivative, the rest of it is very catchy.

The album closes with a 7 minute long finale Goodnight, Travel Well.. The extreme length of the song as well as the over the top darkness and heaviness was always going to make this a song that divides opinion. In the end it's not really a song that I can say I'm going to sit and listen to on the commute in the morning. The song doesn't really feel like it gets started until three minute or so into the track, when it finally begins to reveal the true intentions of the song. Those who listen patiently to the entire thing will find a slowly building powerhouse finale of epic proportions, finishing off the album with a tune so savage and raw, written apparently just after the lead guitarist's mom died, that it sounds like the sort of song U2 would use as for a big finish. It definitely works in that sense though it's hard to imagine a lot of people sitting through the full 7 minutes more than a few times to reach the thunderous, crashing finish.

I loved Hot Fuss and Sam's Town, even though I felt that with both of them some of the lesser songs were a bit weak, and with Sam's Town i didn't so much like the over the top heaviness that they went for, even though I commend them for continually trying to evolve their sound. They have done it once again with an album that sounds remarkably fresh and original. It is pleasing to see them continue to show such devotion to the music rather than becoming like so many other big bands and just peddling out the same songs over and over again for 15 years.

Clearly the album is not perfect. For starters the main reason the album is so consistently good is clearly because the album is very short, just 10 songs. However if given the choice between a short and sweet album with only the best of the best or a longer album with a lot of filler I will always take the short and sweet.

On top of this, I can't help but feel that despite the overall consistency and high quality of the album, there should really be one more mega-mega-hit. The first two singles Human and Spaceman are pretty unanimously top notch songs, but are either of them really as good as Mr. Brightside or All These Things I've Done? One of the main drawbacks of the astounding and early success the Killers achieved is the pressure to follow it up. It's hard to fault them for not quite living up to such astounding classics, most bands can only dream of ever writing songs of that quality or of the quality present with this album, but you have to feel like that one more big hit would have made the difference between a classic album and an absolutely legendary career defining album.

But really it takes a man of exceptionally poor taste or ill formed prejudice to dismiss this album based on those points. The cheesy nature will, of course, not be for everyone, but to be honest most of those people are probably not the type to go out and have a fun time listening to music like this anyway. This is the Killers doing what they do best, uplifting and addictive pop-rock. But on top of this the Killers have retained the essence of their deeper sound from Sam's Town, resulting in their most mature recording yet. This is the album where the Killers have come of age, perfecting the blend between the unique pop-rock sound of Hot Fuss with the depth and grit of Sam's Town, equally welcoming to those who enjoy the superficial exuberance of youth heard here and those who delve deeper into the core of the album.

In the end, this is an essential album for today's youth, if not a defining one. An album about excess, disposable income, champagne fountains and all-nighters with friends. These are songs for the good times in life, the nights out in Leicester Square, or the Las Vegas strip as the case may be here. This is an album exactly as one should be made, adventurous, evocative and always in search of a deeper meaning. Let this album in and it will be the accompaniment to many memorable parties, the driving force on wild nights out, and the comforting friend who keeps you company until the sun comes up the next morning. It will surely become the soundtrack to many young lives this Christmas and rightly so.

Welcome back to the artist spotlight. These are intended to educate and provide basic commentary on the chosen band, and listing their biggest hits, as well as the hidden gems they've recorded.

This week the spotlight is on the Killers, in celebration of their brand new album Day & Night

the killers day & age review

In 2001, Brandon Flowers left his first band Blush Response and met David Keuning through a newspaper advert. They then recruited Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and Mark Stoermer to join their new band. The band derived its name from a music video for the song Crystal by New Order, in which the fictional band playing has the name 'The Killers' on their bass drum.

The Killers emerged from the deserts of Las Vegas at a time when guitar music was unfashionable, particularly in America, sporting a distinctly anglophilic sound. Initially rejected by the Warner Bros. record label, they eventually managed a breakthrough with Island Records and proved to the world that cultured and cerebral pop-rock doesn't have to suck. This is a band with the spirit of a rock band, notably writing all their own songs and coming up with their own style rather than just listening to whatever big marketing corporations tell them, and a fresh new electro pop-rock sound that introduced a generation of kids to rock music and made it 'cool' again. Millions all over the world were rejoicing in the uplifting euphoria of their music.

Their first two albums Hot Fuss and Sam's Town have sold 12 million records between them worldwide, and spawned numerous singles, all of which have been massive hits. Later they released a b-sides album called Sawdust that was really a bit of a sidetrack from their real music making, designed to keep us going until their third and arguably best album, Day and Age was released (or will be, in a week and a half).

The Killers have developed a reputation as a bit of a chameleon rock band, constantly changing styles. They emerged with their first album as fresh faced youngsters wearing mascara and makeup, dressed in bright exuberant colors and a taste for the extravagant showiness that they brought to all their live shows. Flowers in particularly reveled in the spotlight, his quirky personality and awkward mannerisms resonating with the unusual and eclectic music the band played.

Then with their second album they washed off all the makeup, grew facial hair and dressed up as cowboys in an attempt to paint their new image as a manlier rock band. To say it was a controversial decision that was met with mixed reaction is an understatement. After all it was their genre transcending brand of exciting uplifting electronic pop-rock that made them such a big appeal to so many people.

And so it came to be that with their third album they returned once again to the world of glam and showiness that had proved such a success with their first album. Only this time with a difference, they brought with them all they learned from their experiences with Sam's Town, retaining an element of the maturity and depth that they had been playing and mixing it with the superficial ecstasy of their pop songs. This way they created something incredibly unique, full of exotic sounds and instruments.

There is more to come in the future of course. The Killers are currently recording another Christmas song to follow up their efforts for the last two years of Great Big Sled and Don't Shoot Me Santa with Joseph, Better Me than You, which they are recording with Elton John.

On top of this there have reportedly (in an interview with music radar) also been discussions with Stuart Price, creator of the Mr. Brightside Thin White Duke remix and producer of the album Day and Age about making a cover album together in the near future.

And now on to the fun bit, the recommended songs:

Mr. Brightside
All These Things That I've Done
When You Were Young

Delving Deeper:
This is Your Life (excuse the bad quality)
Read My Mind
Losing Touch

Still Want More?:
I Can't Stay
Somebody Told Me
Under the Gun

song of the day: "This is Your Life" by "the Killers"
thing that makes me smile today: Day & Age
pic of the day:
ephemeric the killers obama
The Killers
Day & Age

Other bands right now

Tuesday 11 November 2008

There are very few tv shows out there that are as consistently good as Futurama. Or 'were', that should be, before the show got cancelled (another casualty of the perennially stupid FOX network - joining such luminaries as Family Guy and Arrested Development) Fortunately, like Family Guy, the show has been brought back due to strong DVD sales.

Futurama was what I would consider a great show, an intelligent mix of zany humor and touching moments of sensitivity. At its best, this is a show that will make you split your sides in laughter and then shed a melancholy tear. So now, in celebration of the release of the third Futurama DVD movie, Bender's Door, We rank and appreciate the BEST 5 episodes of Futurama ever- in reverse order too, just to build the tension.

5. Roswell That Ends Well
"Of all my years of covering top secret discoveries with sheets, i've never dramatically revealed anything as shocking as this... dun dun duuuuuun..."
Fry puts metal in the microwave during a supernova, which ends up sending everyone back in time to Roswell, New Mexico circa 1947, and hilarity ensues in one of the funniest of Futurama episodes. Bender is mistaken for a crashed UFO and Zoidberg is taken prisoner as an alien survivor, Fry meets his grandparents, while Leela and Farnsworth try desperately to fit in. If you don't laugh at all the delicious 20th century and UFO conspiracy jokes then you'll still laugh at the complete over the top randomness of the 20th Century residents, from President Truman who periodically bursts out of a crate labelled 'canned eggs' to an army drill instructor who riffs on the likes of Full Metal Jacket by chastising his privates with "Private! I want that toilet bowl so clean I could eat off it... because I intend to!". Brilliant

4. The Sting
"It'll take more than a few deadly bees to... OH LORD AHHHHHHHHH!"
Definitely coming under the 'tear jerker' category of Futurama episodes, The Sting sees the team heading off to collect honey from giant bees. On the mission Fry seemingly is killed and a grief stricken Leela returns home only to find her dreams consumed by thoughts of Fry, leading her to believe that he is not really dead. A bizarre, trippy episode follows, and leads to one of the show's most satisfying conclusions.

3.War is the H-Word
"We must put an end to the bloodshed... we have all seen too many bodybags and ballsacks."
By this point we're getting into the realm of 'ridiculously good', really any of these top three could have been ranked first it's that close. In this episode Futurama pokes fun at M.A.S.H. as well as itself and every military movie ever made in an episode that is nothing short of comedic genius every step of the way. Fry and Bender join the military to get a discount on gum, only to be immediately sent off to war against an army of giant rubber balls, while Leela disguises herself as a man and tags along in order to keep them safe. Zapp Brannigan makes a welcome return here and appearances from the heads of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger make this a non stop barrage of laughs. When you have an episode where nearly every little thing the characters say puts you in stitches, you know you have a winner.

2. Amazonian Women in the Mood
"I find the most erotic part of a woman is the boobies."
This is simply the funniest episode of Futurama and one of the funniest half hours you'll ever see. Zapp and Kif go on a double date with Leela and Amy and Zapp's bravado ends up crash landing them on an alien planet inhabited by giant warrior women, the likes you may have heard of from Greek mythology, who also hate men and sentence the men to death by snoo-snoo (sex). Terrified and yet excitied, the men gladly accept their fate. The crude and gender dividing jokes come by the barrel full and ensure that this is one of the funniest things you'll ever see. If you watch one episode of Futurama, make sure it's this one.

1. Jurassic Bark
"I don't know where you get your facts sir, but I am a volunteer housewife with 45 minutes orientation AND a harlequin romance novel about archaeologists!"
On the opposite end of the spectrum is this, the mother of all tear jerkers. Fry finds his petrified dog in a museum and decides to thaw it out. This, meanwhile, means Fry has less time to spend with Bender, making him act out to get Fry's attention. I won't spoilt the ending, except to say that it is honestly the saddest ending to a tv show I have ever seen... and it's a bloody cartoon for pete's sake! This brilliance in directing and writing makes it, in my opinion, the best of all Futurama episodes and well worth your time.

Another week goes by and Chelsea are still top of the league. But credit to Liverpool, they are keeping up so far. Meanwhile Arsenal and Man United continue to faff about without either one ever really looking the business just yet.

Chelsea's Anelka, despite never really looking particularly good, has somehow fired his way to the top of the goal scoring charts with 5 goals in the last 2 premier league games. Sounds like a man who's truly on top form right? Well all I can say is that anyone who has actually watched the games will think far less highly of Anelka than those who are just going by the stats. Don't get me wrong, his goal tally is excellent recently, and to be honest there's not a whole lot else you can ask of a striker, but the stats don't tell the whole story. Anelka, in any given game, misses a whole host of sitters and open goals and one-on-ones that most other premiership strikers would put away without a moment's notice. The fact that he is still managing to get a number of goals says less about his own ability, and more about how brilliantly the Chelsea team is playing behind him in order to give him so many chances.

Lower down in the league Tottenham look a whole new team under Harry Redknapp, having clawed their way off the bottom place in the table all the way up to 16th with 10 points from the last 4 games. Darren Bent now looks like a man who can't miss, and as much as I never thought i'd say this, must surely be forcing his way into the reckoning for an England squad place.

Newcastle, meanwhile, continue to be football's funniest tragedy, still underperforming and languishing in relegation zone. Now Tottenham fans can finally relax and start heaping scorn on those even worse off than them, and Newcastle is a fine place to start.

So where are things likely to go from here? Well I still think Chelsea will win this season. And that's not just me talking as a Chelsea fan, ask anyone and I was furiously pessimistic at this point last season, I am nothing if not a realist. United will hit form eventually, no matter how bad they look at times now, and so will probably finish the season in second place, sorry Liverpool, you're going down to third. The wild card in the top four this year is Arsenal, who at time look half decent, and at times utterly lost. Depending on whether or not Wenger can whip them into any form on consistency they will end up fourth and maybe lower, dropping out of the champions league qualification places. Personally I'm a big believer in the strength of status quo so I'm going to go for the former right now.

song of the day: "Spaceman" by "the Killers"
thing that makes me smile today: A page of new articles without the fanboy hate (fingers crossed).
pic of the day:
ephemeric the killers guitar hero
Coldplay fan boys

Oasis fan boys
the Cleveland Show

Monday 10 November 2008

Wannabe rock gods all over the world can rejoice, the newest iteration of Neversoft's iconic games series has been released, and this time you can bring friends too!

This year, Guitar Hero World Tour has ripped off Rock Band in that you can now form a full band with guitar, bass, drums and vocals and play with your friends as you rock out the entire world.

ephemeric guitar hero world tour

So how good this game is will depend on the strengths of a few key areas, the song list, the extra features and of course, the gameplay itself.

The song list is pretty good, featuring a diverse mix of 86 songs that covers many oldie classics as well as modern hits and the end result is something that is definitely the best guitar hero set list yet. It is even better when you consider that they have the online store now, which while it currently sports a limited selection of tunes, will be expanded in the near future, including an upcoming 'the killers' package that I am very excited about (who doesn't want to play mr brightside?).

The problem is, when you look at Rock Band's set list in comparison, they get all the songs from previous Rock Band games as well as the new songs and the staggering list of songs currently on the Rock Band store which comes out to many many more songs that Guitar Hero has, and indeed many of the best Guitar Hero songs are also in Rock Band. In this regard I have decided to have faith in Guitar Hero that when the store takes of we'll have a lot of really top tracks.

In addition to the main gamplay modes that I will come to in a minute, Guitar Hero sports a first in the genre, a music creation studio, as well as GHtunes, in which songs can be traded and rated online. I was skeptical at first, but after hearing that the studio was going to be very similar to Apple's impressive garage band I was hopeful that it would be something special. Sadly I was very disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, it's a nice feature and a good first effort, one that I'm sure will be improved upon in subsequent installations in the series. But to be frank it's just a little too basic. There are a lot of really in depth things like different amps and the ability to customize the scale you're playing which are much appreciated, but then you only have 5 tracks, lead, rhythm, bass, drums and keyboard, and you can't vary volume at different points in one track (aside from drums). Also you can't change keyboard sounds from one point in the song to the next, which is just silly, and as such it's hard to get any real variation in songs that are created here. There also are not enough effects for guitars, like no acoustic sound effect that I was looking forward to using. Lastly I have had a number of crashes whilst using the studio. I mean i can't remember the last time i had a console game that actually crashed!

On top of which you can't record vocals, nor can you exceed a very strict 3 minute limit on your songs. The quality is also not great, with a lot of songs on the store sounding like tinny megadrive game soundtracks. All in all it comes out as less than satisfying for a lot of effort. Hopefully it will be improved in Guitar Hero 5.

One of the best features in the game is the level of customization possible. You can design your own rock star in excellent detail, especially when it comes to the instrument where you can pick and paint and mold it anyway you want right down to what type of strings you use. You can also create a band logo for your band and album covers for the songs you make in the music creation studio. It's really fantastic and one of the biggest strengths in World tour. There is only one big flaw with this which i'll mention in a moment when I get to gameplay.

Long time fans will be glad to hear that the gameplay is as perfect as ever, and still far more fun to play than Rock Band. The drum set and microphone are well made and work well. However this is where the positives end. At the end of the day, the 'revolutionized' career mode that has done away with the traditional list of songs you play through is nothing more really than a lot of little lists of songs that you play through at your discretion, with none of the bells and whistles, events, fans, merchandise, fame and all kinds of things are part of being a band these days, that Rock Band has.

As such you really can't help but feel like they could have done something a bit more here as it just gets old a bit quickly, especially if you're playing single player.

Which brings me to my next point, that single player is woefully under-appreciated. As I mentioned, customization is one of the best parts of the game, and I was quite looking forward to designing my own rock band. The problem is, when you play single player you just control one guy, and everyone else in the band is randomized with every song you play, which is just plain weird... even solo artists have designated backing bands. And this of course means that while you can craft your rock star with a specific look and instrument, you can play a gig with a bunch of weirdos who look completely at odds with your image and really ruin the look of the game. Another similarly glaring oversight is that you can't play your custom songs in this career mode. It seems the most obvious thing in the world that in a game where you can design your own band, and write your own songs that you should be able to put the two together and have your band play your songs, but you can't for some reason, you can only play the songs in quick play with a randomly generated band. It's pointlessly stupid little bad choices in game design that really hamper your enjoyment with this game.

Aside from these little niggles and issues however it is still classic Guitar Hero, and definitely better than old guitar hero games, though in many ways it has a lot of work to do to catch up with Rock Band, though indeed it also has its own benefits.


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