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aethys
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      07.12.2013 13:48
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      carries all the good storyline, technical brilliance and plenty of goodies.

      Background
      The Hunger Games is based on the first book of the marvellously fascinating trilogy also called The Hunger Games authored by Suzanne Collins. The book series being a stupendous success was quickly wooed by film suitors who wanted to capitalise on its success. Finally Color Force, an American studio founded in 2007 by producer Nina Jacobson, who excelled at making films based on books acquired the rights. Soon it entered into co-production arrangement with Lion Gate entertainment to make the film series based on the trilogy The Hunger Games.
      This film is the first in the series and was released in 2012. The second film in the series was released recently called The Hunger Games - Catching Fire. The third and the last are also in the making to be released probably next year.

      First Look
      This film is one of those rarest rare who have closely followed the plot of the book. It has rarely deviated from it and wherever it has, it has been done with a finesse that does complete justice to essence and message that Suzanne perhaps want to convey through the trilogy.
      The story in the film as in the book is set in a post-apocalyptic world. For those who do not know, post-apocalyptic fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction set in a world where the human civilization has ended. For what is now US and Canada, a new nation has emerged from the ruins called Panem. In this future nation, there occurs a televised gladiatorial game where young guys and gals between the ages of 12 and 18 have to fight each other to death till there emerges one victor who eventually shall get the crown. This game is named The Hunger Games. These young gladiators who shall eventually die till the last person emerges victorious are to be 'tributes' to the nation, Panem and is drawn from each of the 12 districts of the nation. One of them is Katniss Everdeen, who has taken her sister's place. She is to join with the male 'tribute' from her district, Peeta Mellark. She goes to the Capitol to train under the former champion, Haymitch Abernathy for this game. In this film, Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss, Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta and Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch.

      First Impression
      Those who are familiar with the famous 1st century Roman satirist Juvenal would immediately recognise the underlying theme of the film from the very name Panem given to the state where this diabolic, sadistic bloodletting game takes places. He had described the strategy of providing free wheat and lots of circuses (entertainment) as a means of perpetuating total political power over the subjects by Roman emperors with the words 'panem et circenses' translated from Latin as 'bread and circuses'.

      Those historically inclined readers shall be amazed to know the enduring nature of this political strategy that it was first advocated in the 2nd century BC by a populist politician Gaius Sempronius Gracchus by introducing Annona or grain dole to the hapless residents of Rome. And to this day we get this grain doles - in poor and developing countries as Rations (rice, wheat, cooking oil, sugar - things of daily existence) or in developed countries as doles. Things remain same only the degree of political control varies.
      So this film as is the book (that I shall refrain from repeating again as this film is quite inseparable from the book) draws fundamentally from this political stratagem 'panem et circenses'. The people of Panem are allowed certain rations in all their 12 districts and depending on the ration drawn in a year and the age group they belong to are coerced to contest in a controlled circus where they are forced to kill each other till only one of them survives. Drawing again from the Roman theme, these districts are in the control of the oppressive dictator from the Capitol, a wealthy metropolis in an otherwise impoverished country, Panem.

      This underlying political theme is then mixed with the modern absurdity of reality television circuses, so this Panem circus, The Hunger Games is televised for the populace to watch and perhaps forget the mundane requirements of dignified human existence. As in reality TV shows the fundamental purpose of the games is for impoverished Panem-ians to bask in the valour, courage, sacrifice and heroics of its participant and let go the pent up anger and frustrations of under achievement and dysfunctional existence in a controlled environment rather than on the oppressing class. As a backdrop, it is pertinent to know that these annual games started around 75 years back in Panem after a district rebellion had been crushed.
      The rest is exquisite footage of action sequences, sci-fi drama, teeny emotions, social discourse, intense characters led by a courageously defiant female protagonist, survival methods and mishmash of some earlier films of this genre prominently Twilight Saga and Battle Royale.
      The Plot without giving the story away

      As written before, there are 12 poor districts in the dystopia of a nation called Panem. These 12 districts produce wealth for the service of the Capitol, the wealthy 13th district and are governed by its autocratic President. Panem has come up on the ruins of a civil war named the 'dark ages' and each of the 12 districts are meant to provides 'tributes', a boy and a girl aged between 12 and 18 selected by a system of lottery called 'reaping', for an annual event surreptitiously named The Hunger Games where they compete to kill each other and the last one remaining is crowned victorious to be showered with wealth and fame.
      Prim is selected for the games in the 'reaping' from the impoverished coal mining District 12. However, Katniss, her elder sister who is an accomplished archer voluntarily takes her place. Similarly, Peeta is selected as the boy from the same district to participate in the games. They travel to the Capitol accompanied by their mentor, Haymitch, the only ever victor from District 12 turned drunkard and a sidekick cheerleader Effie (played by Elizabeth Banks).

      The games begin with all the tributes being thrust into an arena full of weapons and ammunitions called the Cornucopia. Earlier Peeta professes love for Katniss to the TV show host, Caesar (Stanley Tucci) which angers Katniss bu then she realises his sincerity when she reveals his love again just before the games.
      The weapons, ammunitions and the ensuing battle consume almost half of the combatant tributes. Others manage to escape into a forest including Katniss and Peta. The alternating sub-plots of friendship and teaming with rivalry and more killing commences. Finally, Katniss's friend Rue dies having suffered a deadly wound in one of the fights where Katniss kills the rival but fails to protect Rue. A heart rendering sobbing session follows but by then the district that Rue belonged to had begun rioting on coming to know of Rue's death.
      The game chief Seneca (Wes Bently) is cajoled into changing the rules of the game. The new rules now allow for a team from the same district to become 'Victors' instead of the 'last person alive' rule. Katniss then decides to search for Peeta, who has suffered a grievous wound. At the same time a feast is announced at the game and Katniss goes there leaving a nursing Peeta in a cave. At the feast, the remaining tributes fight it out and attempt to kill each other. Few get killed again while Tresh from Rue's district allows Katniss to go away for a last time as she was Rue's friend.

      As the games are not finishing in time, Seneca decides to speed up things (as is normally done on Reality TV) by unleasing a host of mutant dogs that result in Tresh dying. Now there is only one remaining besides Peeta and Katniss, Cato who had tried to kill Katniss earlier. There is a battle and then Cato also gets killed. By this time the rules have changed back to the last survivor being victorious. Peeta volunteers to be killed but then they decide to commit suicide as they love each other.
      And then for no apparent reason, the rules are changed again and the District 12 boy-girl duo is declared Victors. With the President left to ponder what to do next since the first defiance of Katniss not killing Peeta but preferring suicide had weakened the unmitigated domination of the Capitol.

      The Actors
      The cast is simply is superb. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch is par-excellence. His restrained mannerisms, his measured modulations and his reflective pauses embody his inner struggles and are lovely to watch. The flamboyance of the TV presenter played by Stanley Tucci is truly inspired. And the character of the defiant heroine, the lead protagonist in the struggle portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence is highly accomplished. The others thespians also play their part brilliantly without ever overwhelming the character they play.

      The Director and his team
      It is directed by the famous director, Ross Gray. The fact that he has till date not directed an Action movie tells. He uses all the oft-used clichés of present day action movie. However the screenwriters unyielding loyalty to the original novel, makes it respectable and rewarding.

      Blu-Ray Effect
      The blu-ray effect augments the very grain of the film giving you a stunning 1080p/AVC High Definition. You can visualize details of minute proportions as the original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.4:1 stays intact. The close-ups are brilliant. Kantiss's shots are not only brilliant but outstanding. The facial details stand out - the hair, the clothes, the shadows and the silhouettes. The colours are sharp though not necessarily bright which gives it a washed down post-apocalyptic feel. Some might feel that the stylistic keepsake to make it PG-13 is a bit overdone - especially the shaky cam shots. Overall it does provide a visually pleasing experience.

      The music score is on DTS-HD 7.1 which boosts the sound quality immensely. The visuals had given us a sense of the time; the music sets the sense of space. On listening to the track alone you can sense the locale. It puts you into the centre of the action or in many cases, inaction or silence - the prelude to a coming action. You have for the first time the Dolby 2.0 mix optimised for late night listening that enhances the dialogues without excessive volume increase of the background sound. It means you can still hear the dialogues clearly without the need to increase the volume which is ideal for late night viewing when you would not want to disturb those sleeping near and around you.
      The sound effect simply gets at you. You can literally feel the dogs advancing or the fireball engulfing into the living room. The crowds and the jungle effect are also overpowering.

      Blu-Ray Extras
      It comes in 2 disc pack.

      The first disc has the complete film. This does not have any extra feature except an audio test.
      The second disc is packed with the extra stuff.

      Firstly it has a 2 hour documentary feature on the making of the film. It is sub-divided into 8 parts namely Countdown, Casting, Design, Arena Ready, On Location in Panem, Effects, Post-Production, and May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favour.
      Countdown contains the views of the novelist Suzanne Collins on the book she wrote and the film production. Casting contains the discussions on the process of selecting the actors including inputs from the lead lady, Jennifer Lawrence. Arena Ready has contributions on the preparations for the games. On Location in Panem talks about the different locations shot in the movie. Effects and post-production speaks about the various stunts and special effects. Last but not the least is the oddly named May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favour that basically talks about the challenges of securing a PG-13 rating for such a violent film. It contains a plethora of trivia that would certainly interest a fan of the film or even the book.

      Secondly it has small offerings for embellishment like:
      Preparing for the Games: A Director's Process with the director of the film speaking on the process of becoming a director from being a screenwriter,
      Propaganda film, an extremely short docu-feature elaborating on the video played out within the movie,
      Controlling the Games, another quick commentary on the only addition to the book within the film, a futuristic control room,
      A 15 minutes interview titled Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell, the directors of the film who speak about the film adaptation process from the books,
      Letters from the Rose Garden, a short interesting tale on how Donald Sutherland was determined to be in the film, and
      A 15 min feature called Game Maker: Suzanne Collins & The Hunger Games Phenomenon on the phenomena of these popular books with inputs from the author, Suzanne and the publisher, David Levithan from Scholastic Books Publishers.

      Lastly you get the Marketing Gallery that has posters and photos.
      Plenty of juicy material for a Hunger fan.
      My opinion

      The story is thoroughly entertaining. The theme is both historical and contemporary. The acting is superb. The action is gross and gory - expected if you have read the books. The direction is cliché. The camera shakes are not appealing. The music and the sound effects are above par. The Blu-Ray carries all the technical brilliance and plenty of goodies. Fans shall not be disappointed and there is plenty to keep the accidental interested.

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    • Call of Duty: Ghosts (PC) / PC Game / 16 Readings / 16 Ratings
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      02.12.2013 11:38
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      Not expected of a top notch game.

      Carrying on from my review from the PS3 version that I include here near verbatim for those readers who have not read that review piece, I have now tried the game in PC and there are some remarkable differences.
      Things that are common to both devices have been left as it while things that are different on the PC have been added.

      I must confess I am not a Call of Duty (COD) audience. As a matter of fact I have moved away from first person shooters long time back.
      All disclaimers made here is what I honestly felt about the game.


      GRAPHICS
      The graphics appear jumpy, the character show lot of jaggedness and the textures are really poor. I know that many COD fans would counter my argument with that a first person shooter looks good on a 60frame per second stuff but you have to admit that it looks over the hill compared to present graphic quality. It is not about frame rates anymore.

      The PC version does give you high resolution and light effect but what it cannot even give value to the high-end graphics card of your PC. It does not have the WOW factor. The graphics is not adequate for the present day gamer.
      And the textures, less said the better. It is very rough and the loading is pathetic. Ultimately all textures are loaded bu then rither you have been frustrated to death or the game is about to end. It is certainly not HD but it is not even near normal patterns.

      I tried all the settings available to tweak the graphics quality but the menu-maze created by Infinity Ward is an enigma wrapped in mystery hidden behind grayed and undetectable menus interface. You sometime wonder whether getting the settings right is also part of the gameplay.
      This said the framerate is bloddy mess. The frame rate drops all the time, getting worse in high impact gameplays. Sometimes it looks as if the game has stopped. This makes playing multiplayer ineffective as you easily fall victim to loss of control due to faulty game mechanics rather than any great skills of your play adversary.

      The complete letdown that boils your blood is the menu selections and the frame rate issues with it. You have every possibility of clicking and selecting things that you do not want as the menu jerks and jumps while you try to click.
      Another near similar letdown that enrages you is the lags. It just pairs you with random player closeby. There is nothing to select a player. The lag ensure that as everybody dies you end the game. No migration possible.

      STORYBOARD
      The story is a sci-fi drama meshed up even more dramatically with history. California is destroyed by space bombardment. And then the real action begins, ten years after the destruction. In what has remained of destroyed country, the American Federation is now in a state of war against the American South in a American Civil War re-enactment. This story runs in the backdrop while the main story runs in the foreground which is a battle between the Ghosts and their former teammate Gabriel Rorke, who has come back from the dead (literally as he was believed to have died in an earlier mission that went badly wrong). This is the action game that you get to play.

      CHARACTERS
      Let me first name each one of them - Logan Walker, Hesh (Logan's brother), Elias (Logan's father), Merrick, Keegan and other Ghost members, and then there is Riley the dog. Logan is a mute character that you get cast into as the first person shooter. However, Logan is not the central character. Hesh does all the talking and looks to be the main one in the plot. Elias having connections with Rourke is also important.
      You spend most of the game that can run up to 7-8 hours depending on your skills comprising of 18 missions with these characters. They tell you what to do, lead you to your enemy, shoot with you when you attack, and are with you when you breach. They are invincible so they come alive after being dead. The game calls it friendly fire and you are not supposed to indulge in it unless you want to be put back to your last checkpoint.

      The reader might be now worried what happens to Riley the dog. Well, it look like an after thought to Infinity Ward and his COD team. Riley is there for the first 3 missions and then only as a drone. In the first 3 missions when he looks to be one of the main characters also you need to carry him for one of the missions which is pretty useless for a first person shooter. When he becomes a drone post mission 3, he can only be used to scout and stealth missions and nothing more. So you seems to loose any bonding with him though you may love a good dog.
      There is now a patchup that makes Riley the dog more enjoyable - as read in the news.

      GAMEPLAY
      The first mission commences with a city being swept away by landslides. The you get to navigate an icy land, then fall from a skyscraper, splash through a flooding city, swim among the debris on an ocean floor and race on a deck of a sinking ship. All awesome experience with those stunning set pieces.

      The shooting is pretty much as usual though you might get the thrill with high decibel destruction all around you. Nothing of particular note in the levels - same old real world locations.
      The gameplay looks awesome but the graphics do not live up to it. The poor graphics on does not allow you to get the full effect of the excellent game settings.

      CONTROLS
      You should not boot up with the controller if you want to enjoy the best controls with the keyboard and mouse. Without it, all the controls are smooth and effortless. With the controller there are some issues. Also controller fails to be self-detected so you have to engage through the menu-maze to activate it.

      MISSION DISTILLED
      You have just one thing to do - move from place to place from one scene to another looking for Rourke. On the way you will encounter the South American Federation guys that you need to eliminate.

      When ultimately after the grueling 17 missions and 7 hours (well) spent you finally get to hunt down Rourke. Here it all gore, shrieks, high pitched threats, explosions, emotions, heroism and everything that a big-budget action movie shall give you. And then the credits roll in to the accompaniment of a brand new Eminem song.
      Logan is silent all through and Hesh is just an angry talking sniper - the characters do not have any strong personalities to attract you and keep you hooked to the game.
      MUSIC

      Nothing of note here except that it is action music you expect from a decent game.
      MULTIPLAYER

      It does have a good multiplayer mode. The usual FFA, Infected and Deathmatch modes are there. It also has some new ones (as claimed in the literature) - Search, Rescue/Destroy and Domination. I liked Cranked and can be fun. Kill confirmed is also exciting as you run into enemy firing to pickup items or just wait and catch an enemy.
      COD allows you to have a AI multiplayer mode called Squads. That looked to most promising and I shall be watching Infinity Ward in what they might be doing with it in the future.

      PRICE
      Again depends greatly on retailer - Ebay you get it for 30 pounds.

      LAST WORD
      Decent FPS game when all texture loads and future patch shall cover up the glitches. Until that time not worth time, effort and the money. Not expected of a top notch game.

      Appears in Ciao under same name.

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      • More +
        28.11.2013 12:11
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        It is a steal at under £10.

        My fellow Dooyoo reviewer wrote 'Everyone knows who Springsteen is....'. I would say any music lover who does not know Bruce Springsteen cannot be called a serious music connoisseur. One may not like his music or would like somebody else more in comparison to Bruce but no one serious about music shall be ignorant of the 'Boss' Springsteen.
        Springsteen, over the last 40 years with or without his famous E-band has been an event driven musician. Whether it is the take on American freedom with 'Born in the USA' or the gun culture in 'Streets of Philadelphia' his music has been about political statements.

        With 'Wrecking Ball' he has indulged into the themes of frustration with the American Economy and the work culture. However, many shall question the motives of a millionaire rock star belting out high-pitched songs on poverty and hard work and dismiss it as plain hypocrisy. But it shall be grossly unfair to term him a hypocrite as he too knows a thing or two about poverty being bred in economically challenged circumstances in New Jersey and there no one can doubt his penchant for hard work if you see him perform on stage every night working feverishly and well into overtime.
        In this politically charged atmosphere with the US Presidential elections looming large and the economy still floundering, this album reignites the political debates on the struggling economy, frustration of the poor and work scenario. Springsteen believes in the American dream and sees how that dream has been shattered due to bad politics - irresponsible governance, unethical business practices and uninhibited greed of the few. With America in despair, his music and lyrics seems so pertinent.
        TRACKS

        "We Take Care Of Our Own"
        He ponders "Where's the promise, from sea to shining sea?" in the lead song "We Take Care Of Our Own" despairing at the loss of the 'American dream of freedom'.

        "Easy Money"
        Musically this is superb with its spry rendition. The choral arrangement is smart. Springsteen's vocals add to charisma while the lyrics are so carefree - burning hellfire and guns galore.

        "Shackled And Drawn"
        This is an anthem to the working class, "Stand back, son, and let a man work". He seems frustrated and helpless that the present day America just does not have space for an honest and hardworking American. Lot of energy goes into the vocals with plenty of shouts and anguishes. It carries a lot of high pitched beats and subtle timbres.

        "Jack Of All Trades"
        This looks the most inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement where Springsteen spews anger and venom at the '1%' - those bankers and power-brokers from the Wall Street, especially towards the end - "shoot the bastards on sight." The opening notes of the song is ballad like where the workers is willing to do any job that comes by though by the end he seems to pent his anger on those who he'd worked for. Excellent guitar piece.

        "Death To My Hometown"
        It is an Irish-African experiment in sound and music. The Irish melody mixes very well with African beats to belt out a marching song.

        "This Depression"
        As with the name, the song is also depressing. It does not have the same vigour as other pieces despite the guitar from Tom Morello.

        "Wrecking Ball"
        This was made initially for the demolition of the New Jersey's Giants Stadium but in the present context it assumes huge significance. It is equally true with the hardworking 99% as was with the Giant's stadium that their destiny looks doomed but the resoluteness of defiance goes on. Clemen's saxophone is mesmerising. The album's classic.

        "You Got It"
        The odd one out in that it does not carry the venom of the others. A rather sweet melodious song.

        "Rocky Ground"
        It is largely experimental. The rap is wholly out-of-place. The gospel like choir and captivating vocal redeem the song that fits well with the other pieces.

        "Land Of Hope And Dreams"
        This is the piece from the 1990s which Springsteen's fans ought to be familiar with. Again an anthem to America's dream.

        "We Are Alive"
        It contains a line from the classic "Ring Of Fire'' by John Cash. The lyrics are very demonstrative and hopeful. An optimistic ending to the Springsteen's anger and despair.

        FINAL WORD
        It has the Springsteen's seal. The album is an anthem to economic woes and a salute to the hardworking man. It has the spirit of awakening.

        Footnote
        It has 2 bonus tracks. The case is environment-friendly cardboard. There is also a booklet with the lyrics - very essential for an album like this which shall be remembered more for its lyrics then its music. And as well mentioned by my fellow Ciao reviewer the tribute to the late E Street band member is worth a read. It shows the mindset of Springsteen and you can appreciate his music better.

        It is a steal at under £10.

        Appears in Ciao Uk under same name

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      • More +
        28.11.2013 12:09
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        It's original. It's unique.

        The last platformer I took to seriously was the Rayman Origin. Gravity Rush seems to be on identical path. It has that rare characteristic to bind you with an interesting development of visual characters with some very inspiring game mechanics. I would go as far to say that it is a novel exploration as far as a handheld game is concerned.

        Characters
        The central character is a heroine forced into saving the universe of the brink of disaster. The portrayal of the heroine is of a forgetful, angry teenager with superhero powers. She has as her constant companion a catlike surreptitious figure who seeks to invoke the divine in helping the heroine Kat to unlock the ability to control gravity. Consequently, Kat acquires gravity defying combat and navigational powers. Kat is a very enjoyable character that you would take a liking to after being with it for a few levels.

        Story
        I must admit that it is rather weak in this department. The plot is very sketchy and difficult to understand. There are many open ended questions that are unrequited. However, the comical and measured nature of the story is redeeming.
        Gameplay Mechanics and Level Design

        Despite the comical elements, the gameplay itself is not an outright thoughtless adventure. It has intriguing emotions within it to be explored but it deeply respects the casual gamer in that it allows you to explore them if you want. There is considerable innovation in the gameplay mechanics with its subtle controls. It is the controls that provide the superhero feel to Kat. When you tap the right trigger, Kat free floats and defies the gravity. A second tap however allows Kat to redirect gravity and explore building faces floating freely in the air. The controls are so simple and uncomplicated to give unmatched fluidity to Kat's mechanics. It is mainly due to the extreme precision of PS Vita's on-board motion sensor that works flawlessly with Kat's ability to redirect gravity.
        It has got very good level design. Though essentially an open universe, the levels are well balanced so that you shall not get bogged down. There is ample scope to develop your ability. As an example, there are accurate waypoints to ensure that you do not get lost in the multiple districts or for that matter, while upside down Kat's hair follows the real word rules of gravity and not as in the game.

        However on the downside, there are not many things to do. The challenges are very basic during the non-story. Collectibles are aplenty but it limits you to explore the architecture. Collectibles help upgrade Kat's ability to influence gravity or enhance its combats strengths.
        In addition to airborne attacks, Kat also possesses some other combat modes. On ground she can use button combinations to fight and improvise special combat depending on the upgrades.

        Most of the combats are very clean and precise except for one bit of flaw in its mechanics. The gyro control for slide moves on the ground is highly unstable and defeats many a challenge rounds for garnering collectibles. Also the gyro instability is accentuated by the expectations of finishing the challenge within impossible time allowance. This is highly frustrating since it prevents you from trying out the challenge rounds and earn additional collectibles.
        Graphics

        Excellent is all one can say about the visuals. They are stunning. The art design deserves appreciation and special kudos. The colour contrasts are fabulous. Overall, it adds to the mood of the game make it truly breath-taking despite running at sub-optimal resolution on the Vita's OLED screen.
        Audio

        The aural experience is enthralling. Moving sublimely between orchestral themes and electronic sounds it helps create the perfect mood for different game situations. The diversity in musical motifs provides the player with profound experience.
        Final Word

        It's original. It's unique. The game creates unexpected moods helped by its path breaking gameplay mechanics. It has its flaws but it goes unnoticed as the overall experience is great.

        Appears in Ciao Uk under same name

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      • More +
        28.11.2013 12:04
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        Highly recommended.

        I have a very queer theory around a man's body hair. It sprouts up at the right anatomical places as you mature from a child to a young person. Then it starts sprouting up at the wrong anatomical places as you start growing older. And finally when you are really old it deserts your right anatomical places and resides firmly at all the wrong anatomical places.
        I got a revisit of this theory when on a Sunday afternoon, I decided to go to the barber. He did a fairly nice job for the haircut though I relaized that he had done it rather quickly in less than 20 mins in what used to be rather a cool 45 min job. I asked my barber and he replied 'sir, lot less to trim'. Then he quickly said that he needs a few more minutes to attend to hair growing out of my nose and ears. I did a mental check on my age and yes my theory round the hair made sense. I was getting old. But what he did next was the trigger for me to go for this product Panasonic Trimmer the very next day. My barber dipped a tong with a bushy end in some alcohol and lit it with a lighter. Then he started reaching my ear in an attempt to burn the hair sprouting out like tiny tentacles. I almost let go an yell but he continued reminding me that he is removing the ugliness around my ear and I shall look young again. Before he could do the same to my nose, I had waked out of his shop in a hush, walked across to Tesco and started looking for a hair trimmer.

        I finally settled for Panasonic ERGN30 Battery Nose Face Hair Trimmer though waht I really use it for now is to trim the hair on my ear though it does a fairly good job for the nose and face as well.
        Though the product feature must be pretty standard across other similar products but what I really like is the pen-like grip that is easy to handle and an angular tip that leads at the base of those nasty hair follicles giving a smooth cut. Obviously it does have a rather technical name to this act - 'Sharp 60 degree inner blade that does not pull on the hair', but then the end result is that what counts.

        It also has an improved dual edge blade that can cut the nose hairs or ear hairs. I have even been successfull with my eyebrows that resembles a squirrel's tail when not trimmed anymore. It however prescribes the blades not to be used for hair below 0.5mm but then those sizes would be visible only to the eagles eye.
        It is very easy to clean also. All you need to soak it in water and then switch it on. The water is sucked in like a cockscrew and out comes the hair trimmings. It also comes with a protective cap for the tip and a cleaning brush, which I have had no requirement of.

        It requires a single AA battery and considering the price of under £10 that it costs, replacement costs for battery shold not be problemetic. It has not been long enough with me to know how far the battery lasts.
        It is a good grooming equipment to posess for a middle aged man. It keeps your face neat and you don't risk an unworthy barber attempting to burn you down

        Highly recommended.

        Appears in Ciao Uk under same name

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      • More +
        28.11.2013 10:04
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        bring back teenage memories for those who are into adulthood now.

        At the outset, let me make a confession 'I'm a recent convert to Depeche Mode' but from the time I first heard Delta Machine to the time I am writing this review, I have had the opportunity to dive into several of their back catalogues.
        I have another confession to make that hearing pieces from their back catalogues and comparing them with ones in Delta Machine, Delta Machine comes out to be one of their strongest ones. That they have recently moved to Columbia Records seems to have clicked and their creative spark reignited.

        For me, "Should Be Higher" is the standout song. It has got a mindblowing energy, a rapidfire grove that reminds me of the Violator period when they were rightly the king of UK electronica pop. The high notes within this piece is also refreshing when all the other songs take less liberty with the notes.
        Next on my favourite list is "Soft Touch/Raw Nerve". it is all in the lyrics, stupid. And with it being very low on the dance-pop beat the lyrics creeps onto you and you can feel it hitting your heart.

        "My Little Universe", though low on tempo is very hummable due to excellent vocals.
        "The Child Inside" gives another opportunity for for vocals to impress. It has really hardhitting lyrics, with "You really should have dug a little deeper there, body parts are starting to appear and scare the child inside away".

        "Broken" looks to the past but puts enough novel sounds to hear refreshing. "Slow" is another piece where you see shades of Blues with its high-pitched guitar and keyboard notes.
        The first three songs are full of electronic beats with guitar. "Angel" looks fresh with industrial rockbeats and tortured singing - "I'll weep into your eyes". "Heaven", though is a letdown and a weak link. This gospel(ic) did not appeal to me and I failed to listen to the full song. "Secret To The End" belongs to electronic frenzy league.

        "Soothe My Soul" looks like having the best chance to neter mainstream with its soothing lyrics and rhythmic core. "Alone" brings out the vocals best as it is underscored by a ripple of synth drums mixed with yearning strings.
        "Goodbye", is as one can understand the final song of the album. The synth beat along with the quirky guitar gives way to an industrial pounding drum off rounding off a truly great electronic pop album.

        David Gahan's singing is from the heart and enhances the quality of Gore's lyrics.
        I got to hear only the mp3 versions though I believe there is a deluxe edition with additional songs, lyrics and photographs as a bonus.

        Overall, it endears itself to the dark synth pop electronica albums that were such a craze duting the 80s and would bring back teenage memories for those who are into adulthood now.

        Appears in Ciao Uk under same name

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      • More +
        28.11.2013 10:01
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        Not worth a sunny and warm afternoon.

        I have bought this pretty cool Asus laptop that comes with an even prettier blue-ray that you can watch with the accompanying Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers that can be boosted by the optional sub-woofer.
        So I decided to give it a test with a recent 'best (as advertised)' scifi movie, 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'. Yesterday was a bright and sunny day in UK, warmest this season and no reason no to venture out in the open. Still, I curbed my instincts and sat down towatch this supposedly 'excellent' movie. And I felt uncomfortable and at the end only one thing came to my mind ' a warm Saturday summer afternoon wasted on such a bad film', what on earth have you done?

        Why is it that I call it a very bad film?
        Simply, it is technology before storyline. Even when you would like to see how your newly bought high-def audio performs, what you expect from a good movie is tolerable storytelling. Not simply, horrendously loud sound effects, eye watering speed ups, cartoon like imagery, pix-elated scene-cuts, computery gimmickry and glossy tech showcased without any scope or character.

        Since the film is more to showcase the technology, let's first look at that in more details. The Blue Ray that I got had 5 discs - including a 3D version at an expensive over 20 pound budget. The literature inside has all sorts of details that it is shot using a novel red-something camera and the audio use the ...audio techniques. However, what I can remember, just from yesterday (such a forgetful film), is that it leaves you with a headache. The much vaunted 48fps HFR 3D technological breakthrough is a nightmare. It is not that I dislike 3D movies. Infact, I am a big fan of this stuff.
        Now what I know of 8fps HFR 3D, they were supposed to make the film more immersive. But if you throw too much reality into a film, it becomes a HD TV series. What you need in a film is that it should be FILMY not TV_IY. It needs re-grading and re-coloring to make it look like a movie. The Middle Earth looks like the bloody Earth and that too the Start of the bloody Earth. Except the Gollum cave battle sequence that has interesting blend of light and shadow, everything else is so clean and real. It destroys the feel of the movie if everything looks sso real. Might as well watch a reality TV show. Why Hobbit and the Middle Earth. Another grave misgiving is the jerky speed-ups - something is moving at a certain pace and then it suddenly gathers immense momentary pace to resume his idling once again. Such cartoonish effects certainly did destroy the pleasure of watching the movie. The computer graphics leave much t be desired. The whole thing looks badly layered and again very cartoonish. The blens between the CG and the real has gone horribly wrong worthy of 15year old CG projects. I hope the 2D is better though I a shall refrain from sitting for another afternoon of crappy story.

        So now for the story or the lack of it.
        The book by Tolkein is supposed to be a classical epic with a superb storyline. I must say that the film has maintained the storyline all through though the unwarranted addition of Dwarf/Orc history was wholly unnecessary. As written before Jackson seems to lost sense of any scope or proportion, meandering from the focussed to the grandeur all in one stroke. It stops and then sloppily moves from scene to scene till it stops again. It barely maintains a flow and the tech makes sure that it erases every link with sudden effects - camera and sound. The acting of the Sirs Christopher and Ian is like deadpan, without any passion and without any real side kicks, the movie is bereft of any vigour. Also it is a bit too long for such a dispassionate storytelling. No doubt there are some noteworthy acting -Martin Freeman as Bilbo, King Thorin and the dwarves and the brilliant Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown who was the only one who did justice to this fabulous Tolkein character with his charismatic acting. If only the others had followed suit and were not lamentable for the best part of the movie. Also noteworthy are some scenes where surprisingly even the CG works - like the game of riddles scene under the mountain where Gollum and Bilbao are at their best. Gollum is the best thing in the film, so expressive and vulnerable.

        What I wanted from the Hobbit was a good story backed by technological trappings that create stunning films not technology overreach making mockery of a decent storyline to create a 'pretty bad film'.
        Caution: Not worth a sunny and warm afternoon.

        Appears in Ciao Uk under same name

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        • Lipton Green Tea Tchae / Tea / 2 Readings / 1 Rating
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          28.11.2013 09:57

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          And indeed Lipton Green Tea Tchae does makes you say 'well done'.

          "The very act of preparing and serving tea encourages conversation", so said Emilie Barnes in 'If Teacups Could Talk'. And indeed Lipton Green Tea Tchae does makes you say 'well done'.
          Reading a tea review could get boring for the average reader unless he or she is an tea aficionado, a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity (tea in this instance).

          What can a reviewer possibly say about a teacup- taste, benefits, look, feel, warmth, mood or may be a poem, an encomium to the Lipton Green Tea Tchae.
          So here it goes (and hope the reader appreciates the effort of a poetic review):

          The embers glow and the lights fade,
          Mood is low and I'm irate,
          The room looks bereft of any glaze,
          Let's see if tea can make it a better place.
          The tea has been on a boil,
          On a dark grey electric coil,
          The choice is green and not black,
          And it a Lipton Green Tea Tchae pack.

          It's eighty-nine percent green tea and the rest spices,
          Of liquorice, cinnamon and some lovely anise's,
          Warm, smooth and sublime aroma,
          It has been perfect to lift my mood-glaucoma.
          Tastes cinnamony or tastes green,
          Whatever it tastes, it tastes supreme,
          It's not bittery green or too much spicy,
          Subtle flavours and it's a nicey.

          It's time to look at what's written on the pack,
          Of product info and the message on the back,
          SPECIALITY TEAS IN ENVELOPE TAGGED BAGS,
          I hope there are no marketing GAGS.
          Gluten free and Lactose free,
          Obvious and nothing to glee,
          No artificial flavours, preservatives, colours or MSG,
          Now that it certainly a lot of GOODY.

          Less than 4k Calorie and sugar free,
          O there is something more to glee,
          17 KJ energy to give that boost,
          Yes, it does have some things to roost.
          2-3 mins is the right infusion,
          Remember and there is no confusion,
          Cool and dry places for the right store,
          Away from strong smells and you get more.

          24 month it says it can last,
          With me now it will vanish fast,
          Strong UK brand, Lipton boasts,
          But sadly the markets here do not have it from coast to coast.
          Amazon sells and so does other online resellers,
          Quickly, however, it shall be their bestseller,
          6packs, 150 bags at pounds seventeen,
          Great value for some energy and thirst quenching.

          A lovely delicate-tasting green tea to enjoy at leisure,
          To lift the mood and give you pleasure,
          Oh, am I missing the benefit gospel,
          Green Tea with spices have plenty to offer.
          Less caffeine even below the black tea,
          Relax you more and boosts immunity,
          Boosts metabolism and burns fat,
          You can loose weight but It is not a slimming fad.

          Antioxidant cinnamon, antidepressant licorice and antipathogen anise,
          The list of anti's can continue to increase,
          But what is sure and never cease,
          Is that it has spices that helps you fight disease.
          And if you still doubt the benefits of the Green Tea,
          Wait till I relate the the mystic Tea Tang,
          ''The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
          The second shatters my loneliness.
          The third causes the wrongs of life to fade gently from my recollection.
          The fourth purifies my soul.
          The fifth lifts me to the realms of the unwinking gods''
          Does this now give the confidence to 'Go Green Tea'?

          Still not sure, then look for my next,
          ''This green Tea has creases like the leather boots of Tartar horsemen,
          Curl like the dewlap of a might bullock,
          Unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine,
          Gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr, and
          Is wet and soft like earth newly swept by rain''
          Not mine but the great Lu Yu's best,
          I end with what Ralph Emerson would have said.
          There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea,
          I would add in a teacup brewed from the Orient Tchae's Lipton's Green Tea.

          Review appears in Ciao Uk under same name

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        • More +
          28.11.2013 09:49
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          AC is finally back and continues to hold the flag high for the console generation.

          The first words that came to my mind playing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was 'Oh Yes! They are back with a bang'. It did not though come as a surprise having always expected Ubisoft to do something special with the console's most famous, popular and enduring franchise.
          Doing away with the rather long and double barrelled name in the rest of the review, I shall instead use the acronym ACBF though the appearance of the bombastic name time and again reassures me as a writer than I am indeed becoming part of a truly majestic game.

          CONCEPT

          ACBF is no sequel. It has moved away from the Assassin's Creed 3 altogether. The central character, Edward Kenway is not a noble man unlike his predecessor Connor Kenway of the American Revolution but a cavalier mercenary from 1715. As a matter of fact it does away with the good guy - bad guy theme of the AC3 (acronym for the earlier Assassin) where you had the good Yankees fighting the bad English in the form of the fascists Templars. ABCF has also shades of grey - a bit of Yin-Yang in every character and the story is more murky politics rather than a clear cut ideological war.

          STORYBOARD

          Here the story revolves round the domination of the Caribbean trade routes and its surrounding colonies. The main protagonist is a privateer of Welsh origin commanding his own ship and a very grey character that shows a notoriously brutal streak from time to time which is very different from its predecessors in the series. Interestingly he is the grandfather of Conner from AC3.

          Privateering, if you look up Wikipedia were part of naval warfare from the 16th to the 19th centuries and the borderline between a privateer and a pirate was at best thin. So ACBF has not deviated from its historical connections as within the game where the ship is used for piracy as well as warfare in the trade routes of Havana, Nassau and Kingston - part of the Caribbean colonies.
          Though sea warfare was added as a feature in the AC3, it was painfully inadequate. ACBF takes it to a new high. It is thoroughly entertaining - sailing the high seas, commandeering ships, firing cannons. You can do pirating, shooting, sailing, battling rough seas, exploring, locating maps, unearthing buried treasures and capture enemy ships to loot their cargoes. If it is not enough, you can even jump from rooftops to pluck songs to be sung by your crew.

          NAVIGATION

          Commandeering the ship is very straight forward. You need to just walk Edward, the protagonist to the ship's steering wheel and activate. Then it could be turned left or right using the left or right thumbsticks (in Xbox).

          It has three speed options for the ship to become slow, fast and travel. These can be controlled using the A button.

          GAMEPLAY

          As cited earlier it has a very fascinating sea warfare gameplay.
          Sea Warfare requires management of a ship crew. The ship crew can be recruited in two ways - helping out some sort of guys when in land, or
          - hiring them from the local bar - the rum house. As you must be aware that the seafarers in the 18th century especially along the Caribbean islands would usually hangout in a bar drinking Rum, a liquor made from sugarcane by products, such as molasses, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation and is largely produced in Caribbean and Latin America.
          Ship crew management seems to be the most important task in the entire ACBF gameplay. A constant supply of crew recruits has to be maintained as they are most likely to get killed either boarding enemy ships or drown facing a sea storm.
          This ship crew management and sea warfare happens to be USP for ACBF since the traditional land warfare gameplay is very similar to the earlier games within the series.
          In land you need to take the same approach as in the earlier games to navigate the map and take up various missions as you proceed to play. The missions are to 'kill the enemy' or 'trail them'. This sort of game resembles what is called as the open world stealth game in gaming terminology.

          The game is very fast paced. Within a few minutes from the start you get into full scale gear. And one you get hold of the ship than the whole game becomes accessible. It does however warn if one wanders into dangerous territory.

          Game Mechanics

          There is a free run mechanics that allows you to perform complex acrobatic game manoeuvres by pressing the directions that you need to run or climb while still holding down the 'Free Run' button. It is very simple yet intuitive. This mechanics along with the platforming are the most exciting stuff in the ACBF. What makes it doubly exciting is the realistic setting of the scenes and characters from the 18th century. It is not enough that these are very realistic in the art composition but it is made realistic by the use of cleverly crafted conversations in the Caribbean bazaar and animation sequences showing people going about their business. It is this stuff that brings the whole game setting come to life.
          The game thus keeps you hooked completely and wanting to explore more.

          Combat Systems

          ACBF requires more advanced planning than any of its earlier avatars. You need to decide your options - destroy the enemy ship or climb on board and capture.
          The more difficult the task is greater the gain. Herein, boarding and capturing bodes high level of difficulty. But the gain is also more as you can then sell the captured cargo or still better upgrade the protagonist ship. However, the downside is that you will definitely loose a few men or worse everything trying to immobilise the enemy ship, board it and kill the enemy soldiers.

          Destroying the enemy ship is the easier option but you can recover and sell only cargo that manages to stay afloat as the enemy ship sinks, and there is no upgrade.
          So how do you try to difficult bit of boarding and capturing the enemy ship? You start by inflicting calculated damage on the enemy ship.
          Now this depends on
          a) how well armed is your ship and
          b) how big is the enemy ship.

          At the start, you have 3 attack options -
          1) Basic cannons that can be used to fire in the front and sideways, left or right,
          2) Then there is the Rear Fire barrel for damaging those that attack from behind which is basically mines that bomb, and
          3) Thirdly, you have the Precision cannon for targeting weakened areas of the enemy ship such as exposed gunpowder depots.
          This worked fine at the start of the game but these guns looked pretty useless once you encounter larger military ships and ship formations. Luckily by then you should have managed to get upgrades to tackle these mighty enemies. Upgrades come in the form of new weapons like mortar, getting more firepower for its cannons and getting better defensive armour for the Edward ship.

          However, upgrades cost you gold, metal or wood that either comes from previously captured cargos or can be bought.

          LETDOWNS

          The stealth mode is not perfect. There are several niggles - the oversimplified dynamics make it problematic with the guard's vision - the 3 modes of neutral, alert and aware has many inconsistency. The guard closest to you might fail to notice you but those miles away would spot you and start firing.
          The combat system that lets you hit, dodge and counter these guards does not help you either. The only option that works seriously is counter - that is spot the enemy and attack before he can. Other system is not worth the effort.

          PRICE

          It varies from retailer to online. Better order it through Amazon or Ebay - costs around £40 plus delivery charges.

          FINAL WORD

          I would give a reasonably high score for its excellently shades-of-grey protagonist, Edward, superlative sea warfare gameplay, realistic game setting and interesting side-missions. What would pull the scores down is the stealth and combat glitches. It is not a perfect game but thoroughly playable. Despite its flaws it does have that element of excitement and fun that we have come to associate with the Assassin Creed series.

          AC is finally back and continues to hold the flag high for the console generation.

          Review appears in Ciao UK under same name

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        • More +
          28.11.2013 09:44
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          Decent FPS game. The near-obsolete console PS3 makes the experience terrible.

          I must confess I am not a Call of Duty (COD) audience. As a matter of fact I have moved away from first person shooters long time back. I must also confess that I pinched the game from my friend along with his obsolete PS3 so that I could review it over the weekend. Not being a COD fan I did not want to invest in the game and that too for my Xbox or PS4 or PC.
          All disclaimers made here is what I honestly felt about the game. My review shall be focused on the single player game as I only managed a few hours of multiplayer with my partner (awful at games) so I might be bereft of its full experience to provide an honest assessment.

          As you start playing this game on PS3 you will be aware of the shortcomings of this console having graduated to PS4. I think that this console generation is on its last leg and this COD shall be its last hurrah before the Final Post send-off.

          GRAPHICS

          I was playing ACBF till recently and I can honestly say it exposes the fault-lines in COD engine. The graphics appear jumpy, the character show lot of jaggedness and the textures are really poor. I know that many COD fans would counter my argument with that a first person shooter looks good on a 60frame per second stuff but you have to admit that it looks over the hill compared to present graphic quality. It is not about frame rates anymore.
          It does not have the WOW factor. The graphics is not adequate for the present day gamer of PS3. A near obsolete PS3 being flogged to death by an aging COD engine.

          The UI being minimal looks good.

          STORYBOARD

          The story is a sci-fi drama meshed up even more dramatically with history. California is destroyed by space bombardment. And then the real action begins, ten years after the destruction. In what has remained of destroyed country, the American Federation is now in a state of war against the American South in a American Civil War re-enactment. This story runs in the backdrop while the main story runs in the foreground which is a battle between the Ghosts and their former teammate Gabriel Rorke, who has come back from the dead (literally as he was believed to have died in an earlier mission that went badly wrong). This is the action game that you get to play.

          CHARACTERS

          Let me first name each one of them - Logan Walker, Hesh (Logan's brother), Elias (Logan's father), Merrick, Keegan and other Ghost members, and then there is Riley the dog. Logan is a mute character that you get cast into as the first person shooter. However, Logan is not the central character. Hesh does all the talking and looks to be the main one in the plot. Elias having connections with Rourke is also important.
          You spend most of the game that can run up to 7-8 hours depending on your skills comprising of 18 missions with these characters. They tell you what to do, lead you to your enemy, shoot with you when you attack, and are with you when you breach. They are invincible so they come alive after being dead. The game calls it friendly fire and you are not supposed to indulge in it unless you want to be put back to your last checkpoint.

          The reader might be now worried what happens to Riley the dog. Well, it look like an after thought to Infinity Ward and his COD team. Riley is there for the first 3 missions and then only as a drone. In the first 3 missions when he looks to be one of the main characters also you need to carry him for one of the missions which is pretty useless for a first person shooter. When he becomes a drone post mission 3, he can only be used to scout and stealth missions and nothing more. So you seems to loose any bonding with him though you may love a good dog.

          GAMEPLAY

          The first mission commences with a city being swept away by landslides. The you get to navigate an icy land, then fall from a skyscraper, splash through a flooding city, swim among the debris on an ocean floor and race on a deck of a sinking ship. All awesome experience with those stunning set pieces.
          The shooting is pretty much as usual though you might get the thrill with high decibel destruction all around you. Nothing of particular note in the levels - same old real world locations.

          The gameplay looks awesome but the graphics do not live up to it. I am wondering how different it shall behave in PS4, PC or Xbox as they have more firepower in the hardware.
          The poor graphics on PS3 does not allow you to get the full effect of the excellent game settings.

          MISSION DISTILLED

          You have just one thing to do - move from place to place from one scene to another looking for Rourke. On the way you will encounter the South American Federation guys that you need to eliminate.

          When ultimately after the grueling 17 missions and 7 hours (well) spent you finally get to hunt down Rourke. Here it all gore, shrieks, high pitched threats, explosions, emotions, heroism and everything that a big-budget action movie shall give you. And then the credits roll in to the accompaniment of a brand new Eminem song.
          Logan is silent all through and Hesh is just an angry talking sniper - the characters do not have any strong personalities to attract you and keep you hooked to the game.

          MUSIC

          Nothing of note here except that it is action music you expect from a decent game.

          MULTIPLAYER

          It does have a good multiplayer mode. The usual FFA, Infected and Deathmatch modes are there. It also has some new ones (as claimed in the literature) - Search, Rescue/Destroy and Domination. I tried them but as written before perhaps you need a good team. I liked Cranked and can be fun. Kill confirmed is also exciting as you run into enemy firing to pickup items or just wait and catch an enemy.
          After a while I gave up on my partner but COD allows you to have a AI multiplayer mode called Squads. That looked to most promising and I shall be watching Infinity Ward in what they might be doing with it in the future.

          PRICE

          Again depends greatly on retailer - Ebay you get it for 30 pounds.

          LAST WORD

          Decent FPS game. The near-obsolete console PS3 makes the experience terrible.

          Review appears in Ciao UK under same name

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        • More +
          16.04.2012 04:36
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          It is a brain teaser.

          Background

          It is based on John le Carre's novel by the same name set in the heady days of the cold war of the early 1970s where British and Soviet Union spies sparred at the highest level and it was common for moles to appear and reappear at the very head of these spy agencies. John le Carre's spy series revelled in intricate plots, enigmatic spies, and subtle clues, more like a game of chess than one of poker.

          The Plot without giving the story away

          It is a typical Le Carre plot where a KGB (former Soviet Union spy agency) mole has infiltrated the very top of the British counterpart MI6. Earlier attempts to locate and neutralise him had gone badly wrong for former MI6 head Control's (John Hurt) resulting in the death of operative Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) and his unceremonious ouster. Now shady characters head various departments of the MI6.

          In this situation, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced former MI6 agent is invited back and given the task to find and eliminate the KGB mole who is deeply embedded at the very top of the MI6. The first suspect is agent Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy) who is negotiating frantically in trying to rescue his Soviet lover. But as the plot thickens and the intrigue develops, the suspect is narrowed down to the former MI6 chief's replacements preposterously codenamed 'Tinker', 'Tailor', 'Soldier' and 'Poorman'. Smiley and his hardworking loyal sidekick Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) then get on the job to locate this Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

          The Intrigue again without giving mole away

          Firstly, is there really a mole? Can an institution that swears itself by diehard loyalty and heady nationalism be compromised by its own trusted men? And even if there was such a thing could it rise to be at the very top? So supreme that a MI6 chief had to face the sack and his trusted operative shown the eternal door? Who are the men who have replaced him? Are they to be trusted? Could the mole be its new chief Percy (Toby Jones), or can it be his best mate Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), or maybe it is his assistant Esterhase (David Dencik) or perhaps it is the flamboyant Bill Haydon (Colin Firth)?

          And what about the corresponding sub plot of the agent who teaches at a school now after being betrayed? Can there be a link? Do the two strands ever twine? Mark Strong as the betrayed agent is terrific in propagating the mystery and the film preserves its secret well for an astonishing climax.

          The Action

          It is not in the mould of a Bond with its high tech gadgetry and sensuous women, nor is it like Bourne with its dash and action packed sequences. It is old fashioned spy thriller with realistic spies engaged in genuine spycraft.

          It is those days when spies depended on the usual break-ins and stealing log-books. It is those days when spies depended on their memory and others too, and not on high tech gadgets to unravel secrets. It was those days where spies ran down spies by wrapping them in interrogative conversations extricating hidden truths.

          The Actors

          The Oscar nominated Oldman is wonderful. His restrained mannerisms, his measured modulations, his reflective pauses and his interrogative technique are simply superb.

          The others British thespians also play their part brilliantly without ever overwhelming the character they play.

          The Director and his team

          It is directed by the famous Swedish director, Tomas Alfredson. It is a thoroughly gentleman film handled in a very special way helped by Alredson's Scandinavian aesthetic austerity. He brings about the Britishness in the film not only with its straight-cut suits, drab office buildings accompanied by the stiff upper lip but also with the intelligent use of the soundtrack. Though, the film in not very warm or hospitable with its interwoven plots, hosts of important characters that are all too difficult to comprehend and enigmatic mysteries not helped by screenwriters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan unyielding loyalty to the original novel, Alfredson makes it respectable and rewarding.

          My opinion

          It is a brain teaser. The enemy is unseen which makes it mysteriously enigmatic. The evil Karla, the KGB boss always stays under cover while the traitor spars with Smiley. Smiley has comes back after being disgraced by his boss Control botched up an earlier mission to find the traitor. He dies soon after but leaves behind a trail of suspicions.

          It is tediously slow and not for those used to manic chases, crazy shooting and monster brawls. It is clever, adroit, deceptive and absorbing. It is as close as a film can become a Carre novel. It is dexterously delicious.

          Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was one of the best spy novels of its time and the movie is one of the best spy movies of our times. It is thoroughly engrossing. It exercises your brains and keeps you anticipating as a spy thriller should.

          Blu-Ray Effect

          The blu-ray effect transports you to the Cold War period of early 1970s by augmenting the very grain of the film. You can visualize details of minute proportions. The close-ups are brilliant. Oldman shots are not only brilliant but outstanding. The facial details stand out - the hair, the clothes, the shadows and the silhouettes. The colours are sharp though not necessarily bright which gives it a washed down 1970s feel. Some might feel that dark and grey scenes are a bit overdone to enhance the dull and coldness of the shot but it does not tend to interfere and where it does it seems on purpose.

          The music score is on DTS-HD 5.1 which boosts the sound quality immensely. The visuals had given us a sense of the time; the music sets the sense of space. On listening to the track alone you can sense the locale. It puts you into the centre of the action or in many cases, inaction or silence - the prelude to a coming action.

          The big let-down is that it has ignored the fact that a person seeks to have a blu-ray copy essentially for its bonus features. Otherwise he could have been satisfied seeing it in a theatre. There is a DVD and digital copies but there is no additional bonus features beyond some deleted scenes, a commentary with Alfredson and Oldman, a 'first look' that provides token background on plot and film and interviews with crew and cast including John le Carre. Carre's interview is the highlight of the bonus feature providing plethora of interesting information. I had wished for a lot more bonus features especially for a film of such intrigue and powerful performance.

          Also in ciaouk under same name and title

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        • Design Go DG906 / Electric Shaver / 9 Readings / 8 Ratings
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          27.02.2012 16:16
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          But Design Go pocket shaver will no doubt leave your face feeling smooth and travel fresh.

          Every person's facial structure is unique. The character of the facial hair or beard and moustache, as it is commonly known, differ from person to person ever so more. The uniqueness of the facial structure along with the diverse facial hair character makes shaving experiences a very personal thing. No two persons will have a similar opinion on a shaving product and hence I am attempting a very difficult job in trying to review my travel shaver - Design Go Pocket electric shaver.

          GENERAL FEATURES

          First the easier bit. I got it very cheap - around £15 from ebay. And it has become still cheaper - current prize at Amazon is under £12. It is a truly budget shaver and one should keep it in mind when reading through its feature list.

          Second this shaver occupies very little space. It can be called ultra slim as the product literature shall ask you to believe. So it can easily slip in a toilet bag or even a side zip of a travel pouch or perhaps even in the zip pocket of your travel bag. It is truly small and compact as again the product literature would have us believe.

          Third it comes in a lightweight aluminium composition with a rubber finish and looks sleek and elegant. You would definitely not feel embarrassed using it in a public washroom which I need to do often at stations and airport when travelling on business. The rubber grip gives you a firm hold on it when shaving. Since the possibility of you losing grip is slim there is no little chance of the blade accidentally nicking your skin. That said there are other ways that could do damage to your skin if you are not careful which I shall discuss later.

          Fourth it is a battery powered shaver and comes with 2 AAA batteries. It is good that you do not need an electric source in case you are stranded at a place where it is not available but surely it cannot be for regular use otherwise you would need a constant supply of expensive batteries. Also you do not have to worry about the length of the cord and be fixated to near the electric outlet. You can even close to shave in your bed, if you prefer.

          SHAVING FEATURE and PERFORMANCE

          This is harder to review. There is no universal shaving experience that applies to every person. What might appeal to me might give a completely opposing experience to another.

          Another thing that affects the performance of the shaver is the shaving frequency and location. What might be reasonably ok for a one day hair growth might be troublesome for three day stubble.

          There are 2 types of electric shavers - rotary and foil. While rotary depend on several spinning blades to trim your hair foil shavers rely on sideway moving blades covered with a mesh.

          Design Go pocket shaver is a foil shaver. Foils shavers are good if you are a person who likes close shave. Since these foil shavers imitate manual shaver movements it is designed to give you a closer shave than a rotary shaver. I have a tough beard and like to have a close shave that removes the hair follicles as close to the skin as possible otherwise it leaves almost greenish tinged stubble. Also this shavers foil blades are of the floating type, another feature designed to give you a close shave. I am more than satisfied with the type of close shave this shaves gives me.

          Sometimes though after a weekend this shaver has had problems on a Monday morning shave. It does not have the strength to effortlessly close shave a 2 day hair growth. It tends to tug at your beard at the first go. You need a few further operations to get that close shave.

          It also does make a noise which to me is not very annoying but might be to others.

          MAINTENANCE

          Since this is a foil shaver the maintenance required is minimal. This is very helpful because I do not like to waste time cleaning up after a shave when travelling. A simple wipe away takes care of the cleaning.

          The wear and tear does affect the blade after a few months of use. Mine last around 15 months before I start feeling the need to replace the blades though I try to hang in for a few months more. I must say that I do this precisely because I never go for replacing my blades. If the need comes for that then I go and buy a new one. I any case the replacement blades would cost half as much as a new one.

          The batteries last around 20 shaves for me. That means 20 days of travel without worrying about replacing the battery.

          FINAL WORD

          It is true that an electric shaver can never totally replace the shaving experience with soap, water and a manual shaver. It also true that a manual shaver can achieve a close shave at least 10 times better than an electric shaver. But Design Go pocket shaver shall not bring tears to your eyes. It will no doubt leave your face feeling smooth and travel fresh.

          Also in Ciao under same name and title

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        • More +
          24.02.2012 18:34
          Very helpful
          (Rating)

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          A top class video camera at very affordable price with a super zoom.

          I am now having this video camera for the last 4 years. I got it from London under £150 when suddenly walking past one of the camera shop I noticed a discount on this piece. It was an impulsive purchase though I had been planning to buy one for long but was unable to find one of my specifications at an affordable price. Though I bought it for the right price alone, I have no regrets and would highly recommend it as the piece to own.

          As it is in my possession for around 4 years and has had its share of exhaustive travel and usage, it is still as fresh as new and has given me no trouble whatsoever. So you have to agree that this is a robust and durable video camera and there has been no need for it to be sent to a camera hospital for repairs.

          PICTURE QUALITY

          I believe that recordings made from this video are of extremely high quality. This Sony camera incorporates a compact lens assembly going by the fancy name of Carl Zeiss® Vario-Tessar® Lens and a high-performance 800,000-pixel HAD CCD image sensor to capture high-quality video footage.

          800,000-pixel is a huge number. Generally speaking the video footage would need 500,000 pixels for a super resolution image quality considering that PAL television is a 720 x 576 or 414,720 pixels and NTSC is 720 x 486 or 349,920 pixels resolution. The other 400,000 is for digital stabilization i.e. to prevent loss in quality due to shaking of the image due to shake of the hand. Once the PAL/NTSC and the digital stabilizer criteria are met then the quality of the image depends on the lens, the sensor and the capacity of the processor to digitize without loss.

          Great lens give great images. Why this fancifully named Carl Zeiss® Vario-Tessar® Lens important in the world of great lens? Carl Zeiss set the pinnacle of optical excellence way back in 1846. Since then when you speak of excellent lens the only name that crops up is Carl Zeiss. Carl Zeiss lens have the ability to precisely capture the subtlest detail of any recorded scene. Hence when you like to have a camera or camcorder you first need to make sure it has the gold standard - Carl Zeiss®. Vario Tessar is the brand name used by Carl Zeiss for its zoom lenses. This legendary brand delivers crisp, sharp videos having extremely low distortion and super contrasts. More so it can do all of these at all focal lengths, from wide angle to telephoto. What does it mean for a layman? It implies that the videos will have bright and sharply coloured pictures with the tiniest of details of the recorded scene.

          HAD provides 2 times better sensitivity and 6 db better smear rejection ratio than the formal traditional type of CCD. For the layman it means that the strong light rejection mechanism of this sensor is very good. Strong light tends to fag the images and hence need to be controlled. Also the light sensitivity is twice as good as other sensors which mean that it works very well in low light or semi-darkness.

          The CCD was invented in 1969 at Bell Labs, now part of Lucent Technologies, by George Smith and Willard Boyle. CCD converts light into electrically charged particles and are responsible for giving high resolution images. Combined with HAD technology this image sensor capture the highest quality video footage.

          ZOOM

          Zoom is a type of lens assembly where the focal length can be varied and hence the angle of view. That means that you can bring far away objects closer and vice-versa. But you need to look out for the right type of zoom.

          Zoom are of two types - optical and digital. Optical zoom uses the lens to bring an image closer and record over the entire digital sensor of the camera, at full resolution. Thus the quality of the image is not compromised. This video camera provides and amazing optical zoom of 40x. Lenses get their zoom rating by taking the ratio between the longest and shortest focal lengths. It is not magnification as such but anything greater than even 8x would give a 64x print size of the distant object which is 320x print size of the distant object with 40x zoom lens. What a layman should understand that this feature allows you to take close up pictures of subjects that are further away, without physically getting close to the subject. And, greater the number X of the zoom, greater the capability. 40x is significantly great capacity to take close ups of very far distant objects.

          Digital zoom is not actually zooming. Digital zoom enlarges a portion of the image. That means that a portion of the image is taken and then enlarged back to a particular size. In so doing, you lose image quality. BTW, this can be done on the PC with any good image editing software. This camera has 2000x but it does not bother me as I rarely use it.

          AUDIO QUALITY

          It has an equally impressive sound input with an audio 12bit dubbing. It comes with a built-in microphone of superior range and can catch far away tones and sound clearly. Audio is an important part of any video footage - remember how a silent film seems boring and if the sounds are muffled then it is worse. The fact that along with great picture quality this video camera can also record great sound is definitely an icing on the cake.

          AESTHETICS and CONTROL

          It has a very pleasing sturdy look with a fine shining silvery polish. The extremities have a black border.

          The grip is leather and the palm slides gently in. Mine is right handed grip (not sure whether you could get a left-handed one).

          On the left you have the LCD screen which folds up inside. The LCD screen is a 2.5" screen with touch panel for the on screen menu. The on screen menu is very intuitive with possibly all the control options needed to operate the video camera. When in operation it is fairly large enough to view the scenes to be recorded with ease.

          Just in case there is highly reflective strong lights then you could switch to the viewfinder. It is good at low and bright lights, and I for once can hold the cam more steadily when using the viewfinder. Also it helps in minimising battery usage and let you use your camera for much longer without needing a recharge.

          The zoom button resides on the top right corner where the index finger can reach it easily. There is a pull out viewfinder which gently emerges from the casing when pulled. The other control buttons face you quite reachable with the thumb though it is too sensitive and can sometimes activate when not intended.

          There are many control features to make your life as videographer easier like Super SteadyShot that ensures that the image remains stable despite the shake transferring from your hand movements, NightShot Plus helps taking excellent recordings even in the darkest of nights due to its see-through ability, 8 Scene Selection (Twilight / Sunrise & Sunset / Landscape / Portrait / Spotlight / Sports / Beach / Snow ) to get the preset modes and 6 Picture effects to get visual effects to your recorded video.

          BATTERY

          It comes with an i.LINKTM (DV output) battery. It has a capacity to record up to 15 hours continuously. That means that unless you want to record non-stop without break or sleep you are unlikely to run out of battery. Though there is an optional battery that you could have with this cam but I think that it would be a waste.

          MANUAL

          The instruction manual is very good. Practically everything you need to know about the video camera can be easily found.

          PLAYBACK

          You can view the recordings on your LCD screen using the intuitive menu or connect it to your TV using the AV output. The connections can be made directly from the handycam or from the Handycam Station which is an attachment where the handycam can be easily docked. You can also watch, transfer and edit the recording to your PC with Firewire/USB connection.

          It has a host of other features, input and output connections and things that you would not normally use nor would I try to bore you with.

          VERDICT

          A top class video camera at very affordable price

          Also in Ciao under same name and title

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        • Final Fantasy XIII-2 / Xbox 360 Game / 5 Readings / 3 Ratings
          More +
          24.02.2012 18:31
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          The Final Fantasy Fun is finally back.

          I had first look at the Final Fantasy 13-2 while visiting Japan for the Tokyo Game Show last year where it was being showcased. It went onto be the runners-up in the Best Xbox 360 Game category but failed to get even a mention in PS3. BTW, the Japanese name for the game is Fainaru FantajÄ« SÄtÄ«n TsÅ«.

          After the teaser at Japan last year I was waiting with unabated anticipation for its UK release. Final Fantasy 13-2 is a direct sequel of the 2010 role playing game Final Fantasy 13. The franchise, though, is a long standing one and goes back in years as far as I can remember. This time around Square Enix, the legendary publisher/developers of the Final Fantasy franchise collaborated with third-party developer tri-Ace. They have delivered fantastically well. The improvements and upgrade in the game is for everybody to see. They have trashed away the chaff from the wheat - the game is now leaner with 3 discs of FF 13 being replaced with 1 disc for FF 13-2. All the distractions of FF 13 are now gone.

          Those who love role-playing game genres should certainly love it. It is the best out there at the moment. I believe it does have all the ingredients of being an excellent role playing game but does not fall in the same league of some of the earlier FF series - 5, 7 and 8. Despite failing to reach the heights of the 5, 7 or 8 it does mark a great enhancement from 13 and reaffirms my faith in FF and its future, which had diminished after the bulky drab of a game, Final Fantasy 13.

          CONCEPT

          The central character from the original FF, Lightning disappears into an unknown ecosphere. This game is a quest to find her by the younger sister Serah Farron, a character that was absent in FF 13 but returns for the sequel, and Noel Kreiss, a fine young man. The player can control these two characters only and they remain central to the plot throughout the game.

          STORYBOARD

          Background

          Final Fantasy 13 was the first game based round the myth of Fabula Nova Crystallis or The Tale of the New Crystals. The crystals are supposed to lead the world into the future. It is a universe that consists of 2 worlds - visible (land of the living) and the invisible (afterlife). The visible world is regulated by Falcie, crystal-like androids created by Pulse and Lindzie - 2 original Falcie created by God Bhunivelze. They have the capacity of marking humans inhabiting the visible world and are worshipped by the humans as Gods. However, humans have been born from Etro, another Falcie created by the same God Bhunivelze who created Pulse and Lindzie who was not given any power. Etro escaped to the invisible world to be called as the Goddess of Death. Within the visible worlds Pulse created the falcie of the world Gran Pulse and Lindzie created falcie of the floating paradise housing humanity called Cocoon.

          The Worlds

          Final Fantasy 13-2 focusses on Goddess Etro. The Gran Pulse and Cocoon return once gain in FF 13-2 after being missed in FF-Type 0, a game in continuation of the FF series in between 13 and 13-2. The old terrains have been replaced by new ones in the new time period. One can revisit the old and see what it was like at that time period. So the crystallised lake Bresha is now Bresha Ruins. The old city of Bodhum in Gran Pulse has given way to the New Bodhum, inhabited by citizens of the old Bodhum. Yascash Massif is taken over by Cocoon soldiers. The hunters now live in Archlyte Steppe. The nature reserve is no longer lush green while there is a new casino-like city with mini-games to play called Serendipity. Eden is replaced by City of Academia as the new capital. The Ville Peaks are now snow-clad and a new play world also appears in Valhalla, the land of death and chaos on the edge of time and future.

          Characters

          As mentioned earlier, the game has 2 main playable characters - Serah and Noel. Serah is Lightning's younger sister. Serah has a new fighting companion Moogle, Mog. Lightning is the central character from FF 13 who is now protecting Goddess Etro's shrine in Valhalla. Noel is a time travelling human survivor from his time, 700 years in future.

          There are some new characters introduced in FF 13-2. Caius is the main purple coloured villain. A former friend of Noel and a guardian of the timeline, he is the main adversary of Lightning. He has 2 companions in Paddra, a shadowy saint and Alyssa, a blonde in red attire. Hope now inhabits the City of Academia and runs a scientific expedition to find new energy no longer dependent on Falcie.

          There are other characters from the earlier series who return like Snow, who is now an uncontrollable character in Sunleth Waterscape, Sazh, who tries to improve Gran Pulse an the Oerbas, Dia and Yun.

          Storyline

          As said earlier, FF 13-2 is a direct sequel to FF 13. The story of FF 13-2 starts 3 years after FF 13. Lightning has vanished into Valhalla, the realm of death and chaos. This is because Cocoon and Orphan have been vanquished. All now think that Lightning is dead along with Vanille and Fang who had tried to prevent Cocoon's collision with Gran Pulse by fortifying themselves as crystal pillars. However, Serah, his sister refuses to give Lightning as dead. While rebuilding her life along with the fallen soldiers of Cocoon in New Bodhum city of Gran Pulse she yearns for reuniting with Lightning. A year later New Bodhum is overpowered by monsters but Serah escapes unharmed thanks to a fine young mysterious man called Noel who tells that he has met Lightning who is now battling Caius. Lightning has however been sent through time to meet up with Serah and bring her to Valhalla where Lightning is battling Caius, the mysterious villain. Serah accepts Noel's offer and they move through space and time to try and meet up with Lightning taking them on distant courses from the past and future travails. The quest is to help Noel and Serah meet Lightning and overcome Caius to prevent the end of the world.

          GAMEPLAY

          As mentioned earlier you play as either Serah or Noel. Your mission is to find Lightning who has disappeared.

          Character Control

          The playable characters are controllable from the menu. You can make the playable character walk, run and jump while exploring. There is also Chocobo, the giant bird (from the earlier series) which can be used to travel long distances very fast without being attacked. FF 13-2 also gives you the option of including monsters that you capture in a battle to fight alongside you. While it allows you to pick 3 monsters, only 1 is allowed to fight alongside you until you have mastered the Combat Systems. You can change your playable character in the middle of the game. Noel possesses more strength and defence than Serah but since the battles are different for each character you control their relative strengths and defence does not matter at the end.

          Navigation and Camera Control

          The navigation tool is a map of the area under exploration with clearly marked places that you can explore and those that you can't. The game relies on a third person perspective camera angle throughout the game.

          Combat Systems

          The game uses the Command Synergy Battle system. It is a system that has been used by Square Enix in the past and they want us to believe that it one of the best out there. And it is to an extent. The Paradigm Shift role playing is intact within this system. The roles are very similar to actual military war strategy. You can use Commando for an all-out attack. Ravagers have more magic where Serah excels. Both though push up the Stagger bar while inflicting damage. Medics, as the name suggests are to restore health. Synergists do not take part in actual battle but act only in support of the battlers. Sentinels are defensive formation that lures opponents to attack it and then traps them. I do not have any particular liking for any of them and like to use them in different combinations. I have yet to discover whether a particular role suits me or my party's role though I have tried almost all combinations possible.

          However, I did find some difference in the system from the earlier FF series. First, during some battles there are 'cinematic actions' where you can inflict more damage to the opponent and enhance your party. But if not properly done the reverse is also possible. The real big difference arrives with the defeat of Atlas who rises up again in series of ruins to fight again. Here, monsters drops special crystals in random battles that helps you to arm the monster that you have won to fight alongside you. The monster that fights alongside you depends on the Paradigm Shift - Flan monster if Ravager is chosen.

          This leads to a new feature called 'Feral Link'. The Feral Link meter that appears just below the monsters health meters, starts filling up as you attack. When it is full you can get the monster to perform a special attack on the opponent using the quick time event.

          You need to constantly monitor Noel's and Serah's health since you can interchange the playing character to the one who has better health since losing them is end of game. However, since the monsters are not playing characters it does not matter if you lose them.

          Mog Clock

          The monsters are randomly generated. As soon as you are near the opponent a meter appears at the bottom of the screen called the Mog Clock. You now need to find and attack the opponent before meter is out of green zone. If you are quick to spot the opponent and attack it then you get bonus. If not then there are penalties. The concept is similar to the notion of pre-emptive strike in military warfare.

          Live Trigger

          In order to give the game a non-linear orientation, the game uses a system of Live Trigger. These are dialogue sets that allow conversing with non-playing characters as also between Noel and Sarah. The dialogue sets change from game to game which is nice. The dialogues however provide you with choices to make like going after Atlas or finding an object. The game has multiple endings though it is hard to understand whether choices made during the Live Trigger is responsible for the type of ending.

          Temporal Rifts

          When you get the choice through the Live Trigger to either, go and attack Atlas or find an object, if you go and find the object it leads you to a series of mini-game. Tile Trial is a puzzle that canbe solved by collecting crystals from vanishing tiles. Interestingly the Mog who accompanies Serah and Noel provides entertainment by giving funny comments while helping discover new treasures. Square Enix have tried their best to give us a non-linear experience.

          Historia Crux

          This is the most that imparts non linearity to the game. This allows you to travel through time and space. Depending on your choice either you go to the past or travel to the future leading to multiple endings. The gameplay and events changes with each location whether in the past or in the future.

          Crystarium

          It is the most puzzling portion of the game. It is basically the method to develop your character as you play. It involves building up their roles (commando, ravager or medic...), gain stats and learn abilities. Then it has Spheres having a Constellation. As you progress you need to assign roles to the character within that Sphere. If you select Medic within a Sphere, Medic is set for that sphere till you progress to the next. The tricky bit is that there is a limit on the number of large spheres that you can have which provide for bonus stats. So boosting up your stats is limited to the large spheres only. This means that the direction you take early on decides how you develop your character.

          I have discovered that Serah is best at Magic and Noel on strength so the role assigned within large sphere must be designed to boost Magic for Serah and Strength for Noel. This means applying Ravager to most of Serah's Large Spheres and Commando to most of Noel's Large Spheres. This is what I try to do. However you can try differently and see what works for you.

          The crystarium when filled progresses to the next giving you a bonus. These become permanent and hence needs to be done with utmost caution an planning as it could alter the course of the game.

          GRAPHICS and PHYSICS

          FF 13 was a disappointment in graphic quality for Xbox 360. However, FF 13-2 manages a vast improvement with the Crystal Tools engine. The frame rate buffer is now 1280x720 resolutions which gives a much better image quality but still it is not up to mark as seen in the pixellation of the hair of the characters. The visuals are stunning no doubt though there appears to be some glitches with reduced quality shadows when running towards the sun in New Bodham. The AI routines look more advanced with characters having preset routines with impromptu actions. This makes the characters behaviour dynamic. The videos inside the game though, are quite atrocious. It looks like the decision to have only one disc for the game has compromised the quality of the videos due to the need for extreme compressions.

          I would confess that though Final Fantasy is known for their high standards of graphics and physics, this one though have stuck out like a sore thumb.

          MUSIC and SOUND EFFECTS

          Final Fantasy has been known for its beautiful orchestral scores but Final Fantasy 13-2 is a disappointment. Firstly they have done away with orchestral music and instead given J-pop. Secondly the music hardly ever fits the game sequence. I know that this sort of music might be fancied by many others but definitely not my cup of cake as it gives me headaches.

          The voiceover though is very nicely done. The characters do sound good. The monologues of the cut scenes are delightful. I also have no complaints with the sound effects.

          DIFFICULTY

          There is a feature in the game to control the difficulty of the battles. It is far easier than the FF 13. The defensive ability of the sentinel shall make your progress extremely easy. None of the exploration, battles or even the puzzle mini-game posed any real trouble for me, not something I had not expected after being troubled to death by FF 13.

          LONGEVITY

          I have played the game for approximately 60 hours now. The main though took hardly 40 hours though I decided to skip some contents. The time would however depend on what contents you do. If you skip videos and cut scenes then you might do it rather soon. Also if you do lot of achievements it might take a considerable more time.

          PRICE

          It varies from retailer to online. Better order it through Amazon or Ebay - costs around £29 plus delivery charges.

          FINAL WORD

          I would give a reasonably high score for its decent story, excellent gameplay and memorable battles. What would pull the scores down is the headache inducing music and poor graphics. It is not a perfect game but thoroughly playable. Despite its flaws it does have that element of excitement and fun that we have come to associate with the Final Fantasy series which was sadly missing from the FF 13.

          The Final Fantasy Fun is finally back.

          Also in Ciao Uk under same name and title

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        • More +
          23.02.2012 16:24
          Very helpful
          (Rating)

          Advantages

          Disadvantages

          Finepix AV250 is a simple aim and shoot camera which is easy to use and have enough frills.

          I had planned a gift for my father who is visiting us this spring and picked up this camera so that he could store his memories during his stay with us. I have had a few trial runs with this piece and now seem confident enough to attempt a review.

          OVERVIEW

          Firstly, I picked it from the Amazon marketplace for around £50ish. Currently it shows £53 on the marketplace and £59 on Amazon.com. So it is a budget camera and should not necessarily come with the frills. Perfect for an old gentleman who simply wants to aim and shoot without necessarily being bothered about the more fancy features. However, it does comes with the bells and whistles that I realised later and hence is very good value for money. Secondly, it is very is very easy to use. Thirdly, it takes decent pictures. Perfect to store those memories without trying to attempt anything artistic having aesthetical relevance. And finally, it has a brilliant frill - high definition movie recording feature. Not sure whether my father would necessarily want to record movies but then I can very well record a memorable evening family chatter and banter and download it onto my computer for keepsake.

          IS IT A GOOD BUY?

          Surely, if you are not fussy about super quality photos then it is a perfect buy. BTW, if you are an average person with no great photographic talent it is quite impossible to distinguish between a decent quality images from its super quality photograph. Also, you should be a minimalistic person who is not obsessive about the bells and whistles that adorn a product but buys things for what they are basically supposed to do - in this case take good quality photographs.

          PRIMARY FEATURES

          At a glance (from manual)

          Megapixels: 16
          Zoom: 3x
          LCD Screen: 2.7 in
          Dimensions: 93 x 60 x 28mm
          Weight: 168g

          HD Movies: Yes
          Manual Controls: No
          Batteries: 2 AA
          Memory Cards: SD/SDHC

          My views

          Megapixel -

          I have seen many persons basing their digital camera decisions on the megapixels it has. I believe that it is a good boast but it does not necessarily result automatically in good photograph. 'Megapixels is not everything' for taking a good photo. Also it depends on what you use the camera for. If you like to take family photos or shoot holiday pictures (like in this case) and view it on a computer or laptop, all you need is 4 megapixels at best. Yes, only 4, nothing more. Why is this so? Because megapixel literally means million pixels and this is the amount of pixels that the camera can capture from its lens. So what it means to the user? It means how much pixels will the user use even if the camera is designed for capturing 16 million (in this case). If you do not print (90% of time) then you can only use the maximum pixels that your computer can offer you. A high end computer monitor has a resolution of 2048×1536 or 3,145,728 pixels (approximately 3 Megapixels) or not more than 4.

          So if you plan to see the photos on computer - 4 megapixels is enough and 16 megapixel offered by this camera is a luxury which you cannot use.

          What about printing photos? I actually went and checked as to how the megapixels are related to the print quality. I would like to share some findings which would help you decide things for yourself - not with purchasing this camera but any camera as such.

          Maximum Print size of 5 in x 7 in with a resolution (dots per inch) of 2048 x 1536 would need a 3 megapixel camera for good quality print.

          Maximum Print size of 8 in x 10 in with a resolution (dots per inch) of 2560 x 1920 would need a 5 megapixel camera for good quality print.

          Normally, you would print with a resolution of 240 or 300 DPI (dots per inch) which giver super quality print. If we need a 300 dpi (highest quality) print of size 8 in x 10 in (a normal family album size), the calculations for the number of megapixels needed would be 300*8*300*10 = 7,200,000 megapixels (less than 8 megapixels).

          With this camera having 16 megapixels, it is technically possible to get a super quality print photo of the size of 12 in x 15 in (16,000,000/300x300), which is an enormously large photograph and will be printed for special purpose only.

          Verdict - The megapixel offered by this camera far exceeds what you would normally need. It's nice to have but not something that I would highlight.

          Zoom -

          This camera has a 3x optical zoom. Optical zoom is what is called a real zoom. I personally never get bothered by digital zoom which is basically image expansion as even normally done on a camera. Optical zoom, on the other hand, actually brings image closer ensuring quality and resolution is maintained. When the lens of the camera moves forward then a greater optical zoom is achieved. Higher the optical zoom, better it is. So how good is a 3x optical zoom? 3x optical zoom would bring the image 3x closer. What needs to be considered is the focal length, which is 32 - 96mm. It is pretty weak.

          Verdict - This camera is not good for taking long distance shots. I would say this would be perfect for normal snapshots, parties, family portraits and closer objects but would struggle to get good close-up shots of anything longer than 5 feet away. Normal shots of long distance objects would be fine but you are bound to miss the details, if that is important.

          LCD Screen -

          It is easiest to frame shots using the LCD screen. Sometimes the glare of the sun creates problem and you remember the need of the viewfinder. But at this price point it is not possible to have a camera that also offers a viewfinder. Finepix A250 does fine by not having a viewfinder. The camera has a standard 2.7 inches screen size which is the norm for any standard point-and-shoot camera. The quality of the screen is slightly basic.

          Verdict - As good a size as anything else, in this price range and similar point-and-shoot cameras. Compromised on quality, which might be an issue if the sun shines brightly (not here in Scotland J)

          Flash-

          It has an inbuilt flash positioned in the middle.

          Verdict - Very nice because there is no way that your fingers and thumb would be anywhere near so as to block the flash light.

          Dimensions, Weight and Controls

          It is slightly bigger than a normal compact camera but to compensate it provides firm grip and dimpled resting place at the back of the camera for your thumb. Good for an old man whose thumb might start tiring after a day of photography. Nothing much to say than that it is light and compact. Good, handy stuff but you need to be careful with this shiny piece because it does not look sturdy.

          There is an on-off button and a shutter button on the top. At the back of the top you have the zoom control where you press one end to zoom in and the other to zoom out. Midway there is the button to change menus on the LCD and to review the photos taken. Lower down you have the main controls - exposure compensation, deleting unwanted photos, selecting flash mode, activating self -timer and for shooting close subjects.

          HD Movies

          This camera has the ability to shoot High Definition movies. High-definition movies has rapidly become a must-have feature with even budget camera offering this exciting possibility of using the same camera body and lenses for both still and movie shooting. However, it requires a memory card of class 4 and above (expensive than standard). This camera can shoot 1280 x 720 pixels resolution HD movie for a maximum of 9 minutes. This is very impressive.

          Verdict - This is an impressive feature for making short movies and recording memorable vents for posterity. 9 minutes is good length for a birthday cake cutting ceremony or a kiss or even a short thank you speech or a funny moment.

          Memory Cards -

          There is no internal memory so you will need a memory card even before you start. That means you need to spend on buying the memory card SD or SDHC and if you plan to take HD movies make sure they are more than class 4.

          Verdict - Expensive proposition but absolutely necessary. I have the opinion that providing some internal memory to take care of a sudden need in case the memory card gets filled up would have been wonderful.

          Some Frills

          These include white balance (to adjust colour), exposure compensation (lighten or darken your photos) and ISO (add more light / freeze action).

          PHOTO SHOOT METHODS

          There are number of preset modes that can be used for taking photos, a good feature when the user is not well versed with the intricacies of photography. The preset mode selects the most optimum setting for your photograph and there is no way you can make any errors of judgement. The shooting modes available are natural light, portrait, babies, landscape, sports, night, fireworks, sunset, snow, beach, party, flower and text - pretty much everything that you might possibly need for a photography setting.

          It also can take photographs in the near range - as close as 10cm away or even nearer from the subject, which is remarkable for a budget camera.

          It is however not perfect for shooting movie object in a still photo mode because of slow shutter speed leading to slow turn on and shutter delays.

          PHOTO QUALITY

          And now to the most important thing to consider while deciding on any camera - hoe good is the photo quality? Considering that it is a budget camera, the photo quality is quite up there at the top. The colours are vibrant, the images effervescent and the focus sharp. The print also would come out very nice provided you apply decent resolutions and not try to be over ambitious. Otherwise you would get some colour bleed and blighting.

          The outdoor shots are nearly as nice as any other within this measly budget. Focus is sharp and colour dazzle. There appears to be some impair where there is inadequate light.

          Zooming works well as long as you do not try to see the photo at full resolution on the computer. However works fine with low resolution.

          As for taking photos of people it works very well in adequate light. Indoor shots taken with flash alter the colour balance. However, indoor shots without the use of flash make for more natural photos though it reduces the sharpness.

          FINAL THOUGHT

          Finepix AV250 is a simple aim and shoot camera which is easy to use and have enough frills to interest the novice or those who are simply interested in recording memories rather than indulge in fanciful photography.

          For its simplicity, low price and decent quality photos, it deserves an A.

          Also in Ciao UK under same name and title

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