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Monday, 31 May 2010

Red Dead: Redemption Review (5/5)

Ever since Rockstar released "Grand Theft Auto IV" on the Xbox 360 and PS3, gamers have wondered whether the studio could top this generation's finest game, and although they don't completely this time around, Rockstar North have had a damn good go with "Red Dead: Redemption". Set around America in the early 20th century, it follows the tale of John Marsden, a man hunted by the FBI into the Wild West who realises an old ally must have betrayed him. Vowing to find and murder his betrayer, Marsden must befriend the inhabitants of Armadillo and launch a Greek-psuedo assault on the capital city of the West. The game-play of "Red Dead" is brilliant: random events can be triggered such as a man losing his horse and Marsden being tasked with finding the robber and retrieving the animal, while the story/side-missions manage to develop Marsden's personality so that he's just as likeable as "GTA IV"'s Niko Bellic. Its graphical scheme manages to impress, with a huge amount of scale given to both the deserts and urban settlements. "Redemption" has a lot of longetivity too through its multi-player, which includes a "Free Roam" mode for players to form a posse in and travel through the West. If fast-paced games are for you, bear in mind "Redemption" starts off very slowly and some of the riding segments can become tiresome, however neither of these shortcomings detract from what could easily be the Game Of The Year if "Halo: Reach" "Star Wars Force Unleashed 2" "Super Mario Galaxy 2"and "COD: Black Ops" don't earn this title!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers Extended Edition Review (4/5)

The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is a pure definition of how near-perfect films can be produced, and while it doesn't impress as much as the first flick, "The Two Towers" still shows the hard effort the Middle-Earth team have put into creating a realistic fantasy world. "Two Towers" picks up where "Fellowship of the Ring" left off: Frodo and Sam have split from the Fellowship to covertly take the One Ring to Mordor while a war for Middle-Earth begins, and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are following the trail of Pippin and Merry, facing several dozen Orcs along the way and discovering a way to buy time for the travelling Hobbits. Just minutes in, we get the major revelation of "Two Towers" in the form of Gollum, a creature who has been turned insane by the raw power of the Ring, and who- portrayed by Andy Serkis- is brilliantly animated to the point where you believe he is a real-life being. That realism carries through to most of the film's major set-pieces (and even simple scenes involving Frodo, Sam and Gollum), but especially with the extended cut (yet also on its own) "The Two Towers" starts to drag come the half-way point, and battle sequences seem to take forever to play out. If it weren't for the superb acting, this shortcoming might make this flick the weakest link by a mile in the trilogy, but simply because of the effort put in by Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom and co "The Two Towers" is only the series' worst instalment by a small margin. Next week, witness "The Return Of The King"...

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Doctor Who: Cold Blood Review (4/5)

The latest episode of "Doctor Who" brought politics, shocks and sheer heartbreak together in 45 fun-filled minutes: the antics of Amy and Nasreen attempting to broker a peace deal with the Silurians were certainly humorous thanks to Meera Syal's excellent one-liners, while the death of Rory managed to throw even this fan off guard as the cracks in time finally took their toll on our TARDIS crew (with Amy even forgetting her own fiancee!). If it weren't for some dull dialogue-fuelled scenes, "Cold Blood"'s climactic twist might have made it the best episode of Season 5 yet; as it was, it was still a great effort by Chris Chibnall and deserves recognition as a great revival of the Silurians!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Split/Second: Velocity Review (3.5/5)

To give it its due, "Split/Second" tries its utmost to ape and overtake the "Burnout" series, twisting the racing formula into an episodic television series (not unlike this month's psycho horror "Alan Wake", review coming soon) involving explosions aplenty as you blast your way to victory. The problem is, much like "Burnout: Paradise" eventually wore thin with its constant smashing and crashing, "Split/Second: Velocity"'s action-packed gameplay does tire somewhat after a few races, and once you know the courses the novelty does start to wear off. Yet, modes such as "Survival" and "Air Range Target" prove capable of providing experiences not unlike "Terminator 2" (from which they were inspired), and along with the plethora of offline and online multi-player modes, will keep gamers interested. I got this title for a tenner, and thought that for the amazing graphics scheme and innovative camera system it was more than worth over double that price, but be warned: at the £40 retail recommended price, Disney Interactive are laying their hopes an inch too thick. As soon as "Split/Second" comes down in price, however, grab yourself a copy for guaranteed party fun.

10 Teasers For Cold Blood

So...Amy certainly wasn't in a great position last week, but things can only get worse from here as the Silurians declare all out war on the human race:
1. We'll quickly see Amy's tricky situation resolved, as she seemed fine in the Next Time trailers
2. Some Silurians aren't so keen on the idea of going to war, as we learn!
3. Someone will supposedly kill Alaya...but who? Could it be Rory...?
4. Why on earth did we see Rory and Amy's future selves in "The Hungry Earth"? Only one way to find out!
5. That civilisation mentioned in the cliffhanger? We see them in full force.
6. One of these episodes' main cast may not make it out alive!
7. The Doctor gets hurt- bad.
8. Will time change for the human race as they try to make amends with the Doctor??
9. "This is the story of the Doctor, who helped us find common ground, then suffered terrible losses as a result"
10. "The Angels laughed at me when I didn't know what it is, Prisoner Zero knew, everyone knows except me...but where there's an explosion, there's shrapnel!"

Mass Effect: The Movie Announced

A film adaptation of BioWare's universally acclaimed sci-fi video gaming franchise "Mass Effect" has been announced to be in development today. The movie, focusing on the events of the first game- "Mass Effect"- will be produced by Legendary Arts and created in heavy association with BioWare to ensure a true-to-game experience for viewers which also should convince many gamers to pick up the first two instalments in the video game trilogy, both out on Xbox 360 and PC. "Mass Effect 2" proved a hit both with critics and avid fans of the series, rendering nearly all its predecessor's flaws powerless and leaving room for "Mass Effect 3" to become one of the best titles of this generation. "Mass Effect: The Movie" is expected to hit cinemas in 2013, with casting details to be announced late this year. Stay tuned for more as it comes!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth Review (4.5/5)

So, the Silurians are back, and my, have they changed (take a look at their original form on the left for a clear indication of this)! This week's episode of "Doctor Who" felt somewhat domestic in comparison to its predecessors, shifting the focus of the adventure on character-led scenes rather than action-packed romps through time and space, but for the most part this worked in "The Hungry Earth"'s favour, allowing for some horror-inspired moments as new additions to the cast we come to know and love are consumed by the aforementioned soil- with some great CGI thrown in for good measure. It was also perhaps the most "Classic Who"-esque story since the show's return in 2005, featuring corridors, building of tension before a monster reveal and base-under-siege scenes aplenty, but once again writer Chris Chibnall used this to his advantage, setting up an exciting premise for next week's "Cold Blood". My only gripe was with the somewhat uninspiring cliff-hanger of the Doctor stumbling upon a Silurian civilisation (oh, but poor Amy...), but perhaps the recent "there's one thing you should never put in a trap" scene has raised my expectations over the bar!

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time Review (3/5)

Let's get straight to the point: where does "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" fail as a motion picture? Firstly, there's the ending: without true spoilers, there's a major sense of antithesis without humour (aka a "they woke up, it had all been a dream" moment) which proves wholly jarring and ruins the general storyline of the flick. Adding to this is the overriding feeling that "Prince of Persia" is aping its video game heritage to the point of obviousness, for example the blatant "Assassin's Creed" angled-shot in the film's epic introduction, and the mission-like structure of some battle scenes included. These two flaws add to the fact that eventually Jake Gylenhaul and Gemma Arterton's on-screen bickering becomes irksome (to say the least), detracting from the otherwise interesting (though lengthy) plot. If "Sands of Time" had perhaps suffered a delay until Holiday 2010, some of these lofty flaws might have been ironed out, but as it is this is simply a better video-game adaptation than all that have come before it, instead of being a great film to watch.

Transformers 3 Won't Star Megan Fox!

The "Transformers" film franchise has proved popular with movie-goers in its two current films, it's safe to say, with "Revenge of the Fallen" (while definitely not critically acclaimed) gaining a respectable box office rating during its time on the big screen. In this writer's opinion, however, much of the viewer interest (particularly on the male side of the spectrum, of which these flicks seemed to be aimed at) came from the appearance of super-hot actress Megan Fox, a trend which the series will no longer be able to keep, as it's been revealed this week she will not star as Sam Witwicky's girlfriend Mikeala Banes in 2011's "Transformers 3". The news comes after speculation that Fox had faced arguments with the motion picture trilogy's director Michael Bay, likening him to Hitler and sparking a row over her recent severe weight loss for "Jennifer's Body". As to who will replace Fox as Witwicky's new love interest, Gemma Arterton is reportedly on the cards, and I think I speak for everyone when I say she would make a satisfying replacement should she receive all the screen-time Fox did while in "Revenge of the Fallen"!

Ashes To Ashes: Episode 8 Review (5/5)

The BBC has been running its "Life On Mars" saga for over five years now, originally opening with the aformentioned drama starring John Simm and Philip Glenister, then given a sequel starring the latter dubbed "Ashes to Ashes". Last night, many questions were answered: the time 9.06 we've seen so much of was revealed as the time DI Alex Drake died and when Alex was transported back in time; Gene also died and has been forced to live out a fictional existence, freeing people like Sam Tyler (Simm's character) by sending them to "The Railway Arms" (a metaphorical representation of heaven? who knows?) and Keats was a Satanic adversary to Hunt, luring the Gov's team away in a time of crisis and threatening silently to send them to hell- wow! Sound confusing? It isn't as much as you would think, but long-term fans will definitely get the most out of this amazing finale. Nevertheless, "Ashes to Ashes" finished on an emotionally stirring yet sometimes disturbingly creepy (see the harrowing taunt by Keats that "we'll meet again...") story that will shock newcomers and devotees to the very core with its twists, turns and (brief but great) laughs!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

"Smallville" Comes To An End

"Smallville", the universally popular prequel television series to DC's legendary "Super-Man" franchise produced by the Warner Brothers, will come to an end next year as its fifth season culminates on US and UK television, it has today been revealed by US TV station "The CW" today. The move follows announcements by actors Tom Welling, Allison Mack and others that Series 10 of the show will tie-up any loose ends and show how Clark Kent dons the famed red cape, yet will no doubt shock long-term fans. Nevertheless, the final season of "Smallville" is still to come, and judging by recent episode summaries' sheer magnitude, it should be quite a send-off for a brilliant American television saga. Stay tuned for all the latest Season 10 news!

Doctor Who Episode 13 Title Revealed

The final two-parter of the fifth season of "Doctor Who" is due to air on the 19th and 26th of June (the latter date of which this writer will not be here for!). Both titles of the stories which will form the finale have been revealed by the BBC Press Office: Episode 12 is named "The Pandorica Opens", and will see the Doctor discover a puzzle box, a love story that spans millennia, and the cracks in time and space, as well as (reportedly, see this link: http://lifetheuniverseandcombom.blogspot.com/2010/05/doctor-who-finale-512-513-information.html) several of his old and new adversaries as the ultimate battle for the universe looms, while Episode 13 will be called "The Big Bang", and resolve the cliff-hanger of "The Pandorica Opens", as well as all of the story arcs posed by Steven Moffat so far, for the most part the story of Amy Pond. While in previous Doctor-companion sagas the finale would see our time travellers part ways due to Russell T Davies' well-rounded conclusions, Pond fans shouldn't be worried, as Karen Gillian has already confirmed she will return along with Matt Smith for "Doctor Who" in the 2010 Christmas Special and 2011 Series 6. Get ready for "The Big Bang" on the 26th of June, and follow the link above for a preview of what is to come...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Doctor Who Episode 12 Title Revealed

The fifth season of "Doctor Who" is half complete in the UK, with Episode 7, "Amy's Choice", having aired last Saturday and "The Hungry Earth" due to air at 6pm on Saturday the 22nd of May. This leaves fans with just five more weeks of sci-fi goodness on Saturday evenings, with episodes such as "Cold Blood", "Vincent and the Doctor" and "The Lodger" due to continue the story arcs of this series and take the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams on further adventures in time and space. The title of the twelfth episode of "Doctor Who" has been revealed as "The Pandorica Opens". The Pandorica has been referenced previously this season in the premiere "The Eleventh Hour", where villain Prisoner Zero stated that "the Pandorica will open, silence will fall.", so fans presume this must have something to do with the cracks appearing each week. "The Pandorica" will open on June 19th, in the first part of Steven Moffat's finale to Series 5 (the title of Episode 13 is still to be revealed...but is rumoured to be called "Enemies of a Time Lord"!)

Shia LaBeouf Admits Crystal Skull "Dropped The Ball"

The fourth instalment in the "Indiana Jones" film franchise, "Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull", was universally slated for its complex and unrealistic premise, as well as the lack of general originality to be found in the flick, and while speaking at the Cannes Film Festival today. Shia LaBeouf admitted "the actor's job is to make it [the movie] come alive, and I couldn't do it.", and speaking of Steven Spielberg's love for the sequel, the actor- who played Mutt Jones (the son of Indiana)- said Steven "needs to hear this. He's done so much great work there's no need for him to vulnerable about one film. But when you drop the ball, you drop the ball". LaBeouf, famous for his role in the "Transformers" movies, recently slated the second in that series ("Revenge of the Fallen") as well, hoping to right the wrongs of both franchises in the announced "Transformers 3" and "Indiana Jones 5", both due to hit in 2012 and/or '13. Where LaBeouf is called upon to withdraw these comments by producers Paramount remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure: Steven won't be happy...

Prince Of Persia Film & Games Rated

Disney's adaptation of the critically acclaimed "Prince of Persia" video game franchise, "Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time", will hit cinemas this Friday. "The Sands Of Time", helmed by "Pirates Of The Caribbean" director Jerry Bruckheimer, stars Jake Gylenhall as the titular Prince Dastan, with Gemma Arterton in tow as the beautiful and courageous Princess Tamina, and revolves around the "Sands Of Time" trilogy of video games created for the PlayStation 2 in 2001-3. The first reviews of the film are in, and generally are fairly positive, noting that "like Robin Hood, it doesn't use all of its budget on large-scale CGI, instead focusing on its brilliant sets", however "expectations of the next Pirates were too high". Meanwhile, the tie-in of sorts for all next-generation gaming consoles, dubbed "Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands", has also been well received, with critics praising it essentially being a "HD version of the Sands Of Time", and the majority of reviews rating it 8/10, only criticising its "unnerving familiarity" and "awkward combat". Expect a full review of the "Sands Of Time" movie this weekend!

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Multi-Player Beta Announced

"Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood" is the latest entry in Ubisoft Montreal's best-selling "Assassin's Creed" franchise, moving past the events of "Assassin's Creed 2" and taking protagonist Ezio to the Templars' headquarters in Rome: as a Master Assassin, Ezio Auditore will now have access to a team of powerful Assassins, and be able to strategically plan their roles as the final battle with the evil organisation looms in Renaissance Italy. In addition to this thrilling storyline, "Brotherhood" will feature an extensive multi-player mode, sending players as potential Templars into a computerised setting where they can learn the ways of Assassins and fight their mates in an offline and online experience. There will be a pre-release beta on the PS3 and Xbox 360 for this mode, it was announced today, and full details as to the beta's release date and download size, as well as the first video of "Brotherhood" is expected to be announced at this year's E3 conference.

Charlie Sheen Returns For Two & A Half Men

Well, here's one everyone saw coming: Charlie Sheen will reprise his role as Charlie Harper in the tenth season of "Two & A Half Men". The award-winning US comedy has run on NBS and Comedy Central for almost a decade, starring Sheen, Jon Cryer and Angus T Jones amongst a superb cast as the Harpers live their lives in Malibu, Hollywood and encounter all the dilemmas that come with fortune. Charlie Sheen had recently faced allegations of threatening his partner, causing controversy as to the actor's status on the show, but NBS today confirmed the television studio has struck a two-season deal with Sheen to extend his thought-terminated contract. "Two & A Half Men" will return to British and American screens this Autumn after the mid-season 9 break.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Doctor Who: Here Come The Monsters This Autumn

Alongside the confirmation that both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan will star as their characters in "Doctor Who"'s 2010 Christmas Special and sixth season (due to air in Spring 2011), BBC Worldwide have also announced a live "Who" stage show to tour the UK this autumn. Called "Here Come The Monsters", the show will effectively be an extra episode to complement Season 5, starring video clips specially filmed by Smith and Gillan, with live appearances by foes such as the Daleks, Cybermen and Ood, "beginning in Wartime London and concluding in an epic on-stage battle" according to its writers, along with "special FX, optical illusions and pyrotechnics, building to an epic finale", according to BBC Worldwide. Dates can be found on the site http://www.doctorwholive.com/ and tickets will go on sale this Friday- and you can bet this reporter will have the full review of "Doctor Who Live" when it hits the UK this autumn. Stay tuned for more details of this exciting production!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam Coming This Autumn

Yes, really, I'm so so sorry. "Camp Rock", the almost spin-off (or rather mickey take due to its success) of "High School Musical", is getting a sequel this Autumn on Disney Channel. Dubbed "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam" (although I highly doubt that somehow), the hour-long film will return to the aformentioned summer camp, where many of its members have converted to a rival camp on the other side of the lake, Camp Star (yes, very original!). To get their old friends back, not to mention retain their camp's fame, the gang must face off against their 'buddies' (who were conveniently the antagonists in the first film as well) in a final Battle of the Bands. Now, don't start sending hate mail, but I saw good in the original "Camp Rock", and don't mind the concept of a sequel which rewrites some of the original's emotive flaws. Of course, most successors aren't usually as impressive, but nonetheless you can expect a full review of "The Final Jam" come autumn. Rock on!

Sherlock Holmes DVD Review (5/5)

"Sherlock Holmes" is the pure definition of how to set up a 'Brit hero' franchise perfectly, skilfully mixing action sequences in dockyards and factories with tense scenes focusing on Holmes' adversary (portrayed by Mark Strong, who ironically starred in the film which shows how not to do a 'Brit hero' flick, "Robin Hood"), not to mention some hilarious romantic antics which do admittedly send this onto the border of a 15. A testament to "Sherlock Holmes"' greatness is that this reviewer went to see it three times in the box office and still did not tire of Robert Downey Jr's effortless humour and wit, nor Jude Law's intriguing companion Watson, providing some depth for future sequels with his impending marriage. Add to this the inclusion of Professor Moriarty, Holmes arch-foe forever more, and you've got a healthy slice of fun which doesn't drag, go at too fast a pace or become repetitve at any point. The DVD comes with several Making-Of featurettes, chronicling the film's production at Kent Dockyard and in the US- interesting stuff, but mere filler to the great flick!

10 Teasers For The Hungry Earth

1. The Silurians are back- if you haven't heard of them, they were in the Classic Series in the 1970s, and they own the Earth. Yes, really.
2. Amy falls down a hole. Or does she?
3. What do you do when there are two opposing sides with equal arguments and will not compromise? That's what The Hungry Earth is about.
4. You'll see that the Silurians have evolved since last time! Or have they?
5. Rory's still here, bumbling about. How will he react to Amy's fall?
6. "Are you afraid of monsters?"
7. Those ever looming cracks are getting closer, but will we see one here?
8. The Doctor gets more angry than ever.
9. If you watch Tracy Beaker, you'll recognise someone here.
10. One of the best cliff-hanger endings yet...

Robin Hood Review (2/5)

Robin Hood has been adapted in several forms of media, both on the domestic and silver screens, with memorable takes on the famed British creation including Kevin Costner's film, subtitled "The Prince of Thieves", and Jonas Armstrong's BBC drama which ran from 2006 to 2009. Now, we have "Gladiator"'s Russell Crowe taking the character on a dark origins story, with Cate Blanchett and Mark Strong backing a superb cast in this two hour epic. "Robin Hood" sees Crowe's incarnation return to England after a lengthy escapade with an uncharacteristically drab Richard the Lionheart, meeting Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham then teaming up with the pair of former adversaries to tackle a larger threat...WTF? This is certainly not the "Hood" fans will remember, and there's no epic final battle between Robin & John here as depicted so many times before. Instead, we're treated to a slow, fairly uneventful flick with hints of romance between the two protagonists hindered by the awkward chemistry of Crowe and Blanchett, and battle scenes taking place at such a fast and complex pace that there'll be times when you swear you're watching a Michael Bay film (a director who is famous for slow-motion fights and explosions aplenty). Considering the time that's been spent on "Robin Hood", it's a shame there isn't a more worthwhile result: only see this version if you've got some pocket money spare!

Friday, 14 May 2010

What Makes The PS3 Great?

Sony outdid themselves with the PlayStation 2: possibly behind the Nintendo Wii, it was one of the best selling consoles of all time, and so the PS3 was an inevitable release. But what truly makes this monument of a console (both in scale and size) great? First of all, it started what seems to be fast becoming a HD legend: Blu-Ray, a format which is increasingly popular in both the US and UK, and could one day prove DVD's successor if it gets enough releases and cheaper retail prices to back it up. If the PS3 can be credited for one thing, it's definitely Blu-Ray, an inclusion which will be looked positively upon in the near future. Meanwhile, some of its exclusives showcase the depth of its online community: LittleBigPlanet is a great example as to just how many fans Sony had of its new game, with the level-share function becoming one of its many assets over the course of just a few months. Uncharted 2 also helps in that it showed the world how a blockbuster-movie experience can be created in a video game, meaning that the PS3 will be a console which highlights the outcome for other consoles and itself. Its EyeToy compatability is already popular, but the addition of Move to Sony's peripherals this autumn will make the PS3 a true contender for the crown of best console ever. Next Week: What Makes The Wii Great?

Doctor Who: Amy's Choice Review (4/5)

"Amy's Choice" is a likeable story of "Doctor Who", in that it unknowingly harkens back to the Classic Series era of the show (1963-86), taking the Doctor into literally dark new territory as the TARDIS is plunged into shadow and his villainous alter-ego the Dream Lord (portrayed by the brilliant Toby Jones) mercilessly taunting the Time Lord of his flaws, and demanding Amy make a terrible choice to restore her world to reality. This all sounds great on paper, however where "Amy's Choice" lets Season 5 down somewhat is in its execution: many moments which could have been made genuinely scary by Moffat were merely thought-provoking from writer Simon Nye, and the ever-great Matt Smith isn't given much time to shine, while Amy (Karen Gillian, who seems to be a bit grouchy in this, the final episode filmed) is given the spotlight in all the wrong ways. So- good then, just not great!

Alan Wake Review (?/5)

"Alan Wake" is a brand new Xbox 360 exclusive video game that's been five years in the making- but has it been worth the wait? Join me on Friday the 21st of May, as I delve into the world of horrors and authors, investigating the title's six-part episodic structure, its light dependant game play, its dark yet colourful graphical scheme and the overall length of this single-player-exclusive effort. Have Remedy topped their excellent Max Payne? Should you grab this, or the upcoming "Prince of Persia" or even "Split/Second"? There's only one way to find out- be back here on Friday!

Glee: The Music 3 Release Date Announced

The first season of "Glee" is well over half done, and two volumes of its respective music album, "Glee: The Music" have already released, with even a compliation of popular episode "The Power Of Madonna"'s soundtrack, so a third volume with songs from the season's second half, "The Road To Regionals" is virtually a necessity for fans. And coming it is, on May the 24th! "Glee: The Music 3- Showstoppers", consisting of 13 tracks, will feature songs from across Series 1's later episodes including "Home", "Bad Romance", "Poker Face" and "Gives You Hell", with all except the finale covered by "Show Stoppers". If you are, however, interested in getting the finale's music then head to your music retailer on June the 8th, when "Glee The Music: Journey To Regionals" is released at the RRP of £10.

Heroes Cancelled

"Heroes" has had a successful run of 77 episodes and 4 seasons, but it seems its time has come to an end: this week, the series was announced by NBC to be cancelled permanently. There are two meanings this could have- that the series is gone for good, or that a spin-off featuring several or one cast member from "Heroes". Each season of "Heroes" has been received well by the critics and audiences, with Series 2 getting a massive viewing rating of 13.1 viewers on average, so its overall popularity will not have gone unnoticed by other US networks. In other words: watch this space...

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Pre-Order Exclusive

The "Assassin's Creed" franchise has never benefited from pre-order bonuses due to a lack of multi-player modes, but the latest entry- "Brotherhood"- will feature a mode of this kind, so a pre-order exclusive character has been announced. The Harlequin, reportedly an assassin of nightmares, will feature at some point as free or paid DLC for "Brotherhood", but people who pre-order it at GameStop and some as-of-yet unrevealed UK game retailers will grab the Harlequin for free. Look for more info on the game on June the 15th.

Splinter Cell: Conviction iPhone Release Date

"Splinter Cell: Conviction" has already been released on the Xbox 360 to lukewarm reception (not least from myself, only receiving a 4/5 here) this month, but an iPhone/iTouch version will be ready for purchase in the App Store on the 27th of May. "Conviction", following the tale of Sam Fisher as he tracks the whereabouts of his presumed-dead daughter, includes objectives highlighted by on-wall text and fast-paced stealth mechanics to quicken each level's running time, has previously been criticised for its short length and repetitive nature- will the iPod version trump its console predecessors? I doubt it, but let's wait and see!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Doctor Who Episode 11 Title Revealed

The fifth series of "Doctor Who" is well underway in the UK, with the sixth episode- "The Vampires of Venice"- airing yesterday, and "Amy's Choice"; "The Hungry Earth" and "Cold Blood" due to air before this month concludes. Season 5 consists of 13 loosely-intertwined stories, the final three episodes of which are usually connected by cliffhangers or arcs. The title of Episodes 11 was announced by the official Doctor Who website today as "The Lodger". With Episode 10 now known as "Vincent and the Doctor", this leaves only the titles for Season 5's finale (due to air on the 19th and 26th of June). "Vincent and the Doctor" will take the TARDIS to Province and involve Vincent Van Gogh, while "The Lodger" will see the Doc do a flat-share with James Corden('s character) to discover the secret of Aickman Road, and the finale will involve River Song, Daleks, Cybermen, the opening of the Pandorica, the cracks in the universe, why Amy doesn't remember the Dalek invasion and the ever-looming silence that threatens to fall upon reality...Episodes 12/13 TBA on the 27th of May!

10 Teasers For Amy's Choice

1. Somewhere in the galaxy, the TARDIS gets a cold reception.
2. In another dimension entirely, there's another TARDIS
3. Rory has a pony-tail. Definitely.
4. Amelia Jessica Pond is pregnant. Definitely.
5. "You can call me the Dream Lord"
6. There will be another reference to the finale (one in each episode)
7. The senior residents of Leadworth seem stranger than before...
8. "If you die in *** *****, you wake up in ******. Ask what happens if you die in *******!"
9. What seems a bit wrong about Amy and Rory being married peacefully? A certain date comes to mind...
10. If Rory and Amy wake up in reality, then at least one of them will continue travelling with the Doctor.

Splinter Cell: Conviction Review (4/5)

4 years. That's how long "Splinter Cell" fans have been waiting for the next instalment in the best-selling game franchise, and having seen "Splinter Cell: Conviction" revealed at E3 2007 in a form not unlike the "Assassin's Creed" titles developed by Ubisoft Montreal, then scrapped in favour of a fast-paced, driven action title which would put some speed into the stealth genre, you would think it fair for those patient players to expect big things from "Conviction", and for the most part this Xbox 360-timed exclusive delivers. We see Sam Fisher recovering from the hazy events of "Splinter Cell: Double Agent", with his best friend and daughter killed by his own organisation, and although newcomers won't necessarily know how all these events came to pass, they're brought up to date as quickly as Fisher is forced back into action, on the trail of three EMPs threatening to disable the US. This set-up sounds intriguing, and that's just the start of the sheer turmoil Sam faces over the course of this 5-8 hour journey (depending on the difficulty setting). Players have to face overwhelming odds as they attempt to infiltrate warehouses, garages and HQs aplenty to find the truth behind Third Echelon, with dozens of clever AI spawned across each location for the super-spy to tackle as he pleases. Part of the fun of "Conviction" originates from this freedom, and indeed the "Deniable Ops" and "Prequel" modes also base much of their entertainment around it. However, this highlights the new "Splinter Cell"'s largest flaw: repetition. Eventually, all of the stealth and gun-play wears thin, to the point that, after seven or eight frustrating deaths at the hands of an army of goons, players will be tempted to put down the controller and leave "Conviction" well alone. Nevertheless, should gamers persevere, they will find an intricately layered plot with several twists that no-one saw coming and that will have the "Cell" discussion boards up in flames in coming weeks. So, is "Splinter Cell: Conviction" worth £40? In my critical opinion, you should wait just a bit longer before shelling out your hard-earned cash: the game has plenty of clear shortcomings, and the sheer briefness of the single-player storyline is a mockery in itself. If you see this at half price or at a rental retailer, pick it up and see what you think, but by no means get this at the current full price. The wait has been long, but the anticipation about "Conviction" hasn't been completely fulfilled!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

DJ Hero 2 & Guitar Hero 6 Confirmed

The "Guitar Hero" has hit a questionable but inevitable high, and it seems Activision have learned from producing 26 entries in one year (yes, you read right, all in 2009), so are just producing a couple of spin-offs and main instalments this year. Enter "DJ Hero 2", the sequel to the thought-to-be-mediocre but really quite good (at least for me it was, 3.5/5) "DJ Hero" due for release in November 2010 one year after the original, and "Guitar Hero 6", perhaps one of the final main entries in that particular series (I don't really see "Guitar Hero 13" coming in 2017), will be showcased at this year's E3 conference by Activision, with new avatars, locations and most importantly songs ready for action. The announcement comes as Harmonix revealed their third music title, "Rock Band 3", for release this November. Get ready to rock...again.

New "Wii Games" and "God Of War" Entries Announced

Since the absence of announcements in the recent Bank Holiday weekend, game developers seem to have taken upon themselves to reveal a plethora of new works due out before 2010 is up: two such developers are Nintendo and Sony Computer Entertainment, who today respectively announced a new title each for their Wii and PS fans. The former, "Wii Party", will follow "Mario Party 8" in providing a full-on party games experience for all the family, with Nintendo hoping to "find something that everyone will enjoy", and though this doesn't sound particularly promising in light of such 'greats' as "Wii Music" and "Wii Chess", we'll see this new video game in this year's E3 showcase nevertheless. Meanwhile, the latter- "God Of War: Ghosts Of Sparta"- will serve as an interlude between the first and second "God Of War" games, seeing "Kratos ascend to power as the God Of War" immediately after the events of the original epic and before the mobile effort "GOW: Betrayal". "Ghosts Of Sparta" will be released in either late 2010 or early 2011 exclusively for the Playstation Portable, while "Wii Party" will be out before Christmas this year- whoppee! Sorry, never saying that again.

The Hobbit (New Wimbledon Theatre) Review (4/5)

Not heard of "The Hobbit"? It (and sorry if I'm mistaken) is the spiritual predecessor to the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy of epic novels, written by J.R.R Tolkien in the 19th century and starring the father of Frodo, Bilbo Baggins, in a neatly crafted adventure across the North of Middle-Earth (confusing as that sounds). This year, "The Hobbit" has been adapted into a decent production which has been on tour for several months now. I had the pleasure of seeing the play at the New Wimbledon Theatre yesterday, and can confirm that it stays true to the source material, placing Bilbo at the forefront amongst a likeable group of Dwarves looking to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the evil dragon Smaug (brilliantly depicted by a large puppet that was moved by unseen ropes). The plot seems to drag somewhat over the running time of approximately 2-and a half hours, but that's definitely the fault of Tolkien's novel and not the writers of this adaptation (no offence to "Rings" fans). One particular highlight of the showing was the strangely hilarious portrayal of Gollum by an understudy (normal Gollum actor Christopher Lleywyn had to step in and play Bilbo), who easily conveyed a creature far lighter than the menacing yet pitiful wretch we encounter in "The Two Towers" and "The Return Of The King". Some of the songs did feel a tad out of place in "The Hobbit", but these were few and sparse between, presumably added to emphasise the folklore of the novel while making sure viewers were in their seats that bit longer. Never mind, though, as "The Hobbit" was still a very enjoyable, if not revolutionary production.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Gets 97% In ONM

America is just weeks away from receiving "Super Mario Galaxy 2", this year's most anticipated Nintendo Wii game- due to it being the sequel of the console's most popular effort yet, and as their release date of May 23rd draws ever closer, and the UK's soon-after date of June the 11th looms, gaming sites everywhere have had the chance to play through the final version of the game, Yoshi; Luigi; 2D and all! The United Kingdom's Official Nintendo Magazine is one of these lucky sites, and has published the latest issue of their mag with the overall score they have awarded "Galaxy 2": 97%. This high score places the newest instalment in the Mario saga amongst the Wii's top efforts, with no games so far eclipsing this score and only the original "Galaxy" and "The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess" (although due to ONM's extreme dislike of its lack of voice acting and recognition of its flaws, whether the latter's score should remain the same today is up to debate) receiving 97% also. Edge (a games website and magazine) have also praised "Galaxy 2", with a 10/10 score (only previously awarded to "Galaxy" and some great efforts in the 1990s). What does all this mean for Wii owners? Put simply, "Super Mario Galaxy 2" is a game which simply deserves to be owned by all, and should justify (along with "Metroid Prime Trilogy"; "Twilight Princess"; "Galaxy 1" and "New Super Mario Bros Wii") the purchase of the console for anyone silly enough not to own a Wii yet!

Monsters Of Men Released

While by no means publicised in the media, today has seen the release of the third and final entry in Patrick Ness' "Chaos Walking" trilogy, "Monsters of Men", released in the UK, US and Canada. The series, opening with Ness' hit "The Knife Of Never Letting Go", then continued brilliantly by "The Ask And The Answer", follows the tale of a parallel universe where every living being can read one another's thoughts, and where the two protagonists, Todd Hewitt and Viola, must travel across vast lands and battle fearsome adversaries to reach a safe haven on the far side of the world. This haven is later revealed, however, to be a farce, leaving Hewitt to question everything he knows of his life and where he will stand in the inevitable war that must come. Sound exciting? Well in "Monsters Of Men", that conflict arrives to wreak havoc, and as all seems to come to an end and the two warring factions threaten their world's destruction, something else arrives! What, you ask? Even I cannot answer that terrible question, as I have yet to read on to the ending of "The Ask", but having bought the entire trilogy, you can expect my full review of "Monsters" in times to come!

Doctor Who: The Vampires Of Venice Review (5/5)

After the sensational Weeping Angel two-parter, "The Vampires Of Venice" had big shoes to fill...lucky, then, that writer Toby Whithouse managed to keep the episode running at a fast enough pace to be an entertaining yet intriguing romp through 16th century Venice. For once on Season Five, the SFX were absolutely fantastic, reminding us just how far "Who" has come, and while Arthur Darvill's Rory debatably seemed like an irritating addition to the TARDIS crew judging by his bumbling in "The Eleventh Hour", here he showed just how fun it can be to have a male companion on board, also highlighting many of the Doctor's profound flaws and striking a likeable relationship with Amy. This week's story was light on the whole-season arcs, and yet the "cracks in time and space" seemed more disturbing than ever when the realisation dawned upon us that one may in fact be hiding in the Doctor's vehicle even now, plus the idea of "silence will fall" also looks to be a scary one to watch (or rather hear). The score above is such that, while it didn't carry all the bravado and action of "Flesh and Stone", "The Vampires Of Venice" turned out to be one of the best episodes of the series so far, while merely being what many might call "traditional-Who". Essential viewing, then- as always.

Star Tours US Goes The Same Way As The Prequels: Down

"Star Tours" has encapsulated thousands of DisneyLand Orlando visitors in its attempt to regain the magic of the original "Star Wars" trilogy in a way that the prequels failed to do successfully. However, in light of those good old Episodes I-III having been written by George Lucas, the ride's producers felt it time that the Florida incarnation of "Star Tours" got a revamp, so that's exactly what's happening- the only problem is the original attraction has to be knocked down to do so! Fans of the older version can still visit DisneyLand's Tommorow Land in Holywood, Tokyo or Paris, as the "Original Trilogy" version will remain at those locations still. Meanwhile, we can only imagine what dark and wonderful events await as "Star Tours" returns in 2012...

Men In Black 3 For 2012

Columbia Pictures today revealed that a third instalment in the well-regarded "Men In Black" film franchise will hit cinemas in 2012. The original two "Men In Black" flicks hit cinemas in 1997 and 2002 respectively, so the longer wait for a third entry was certainly not unprecedented. Talks have already begun as to when "Men In Black 3" will begin filming, but it's been confirmed that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones will reprise their respective roles as Agents Jay and Kay, the central protagonists of the trilogy. Reviews for the first and second "MIB" movies (loosely based on the comic books) were generally positive, praising Smith and Jones' on-screen chemistry and the fast-paced nature of both plots. Whether "Men In Black 3" will manage to keep up the ante once more remains to be seen, but what we can be sure of is that there will be aliens, neuralisers and black suits aplenty when the pair of detective agents return to fight the good fight in Summer of 12.

LittleBigPlanet 2 Announced For 2011

PlayStation Move DLC seems to be just the beginning for new expansions of the "LittleBigPlanet" franchise, with a sequel to the PS3 hit, currently known simply as "LittleBigPlanet 2" announced officially by Sony for release in 2011. The PS3-only sequel will mark the third entry in the LBP saga, with both a PS3 and PSP version previously released at the RRP of £40. "LittleBigPlanet" is a video game based around innovative platforming in an array of colourful environments, and the PS3 version (released November 5th 2008) allowed full online sharing of any levels that players chose to create for the lead protagonist, Sackboy, to progress through. The online community remains wholly popular today among PS3 owners, and will surely develop as the sequel hits PS3 consoles next year. The reveal was made by "GameInformer", who claim to have the first details on "LBP 2" in their June magazine, due to be released in the United States in late May. We'll have the full scoop next month, so stay tuned!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Revealed

Ok, before any journalists step in and rebuke the first word of the headline, I'll admit that this reveal is by no means mine. Despite this controversial fact, here's the story: in November 2009, Ubisoft Montreal released the sequel/revamp "Assassin's Creed II" to phenomenal reviews, focusing on Italian killer Ezio in the Renaissance as he learnt the ways of both his own Creed and the Templars before an epic-fail-esque final battle with the Pope, and though we were told the final entry in the "AC" trilogy, "Assassin's Creed III" wouldn't arrive for 360 and PS3 until 2011 at the earliest, a spin-off has now been confirmed for release later this year, dubbed "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood". This new instalment will- surprisingly- return to Venice and Ezio's time, seeing Ezio as a "master assassin" who must take the ultimate journey to..."Rome"! More intriguing still is the teased multi-player mode, letting players create "their own assassin, with chosen killing styles". Ubisoft have confirmed this spin-off for late 2010, and will reveal loads more information as to its game-play next week!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Video Game Release Dates & Ratings Announced

In light of the bank holiday break, gaming websites everywhere have felt the need for speed in new articles, releasing a plethora of reviews and dates to watch out for in the near future with relevance to new video games. "Alan Wake" (due to hit the UK one week before the US, on the 14th of May) has recieved its first few ratings, with most claiming it to be a flawed but overall brilliant game: IGN US gave "Wake" a 9 out of 10, stating that the "television-style episodic structure works well" and while "voices sometimes overlap" and "it's not a long game" there's a "fast and responsive combat system". Meanwhile, we've got release dates for "Medal Of Honour" (October 12, a whole month before Treyarch's "Call Of Duty: Black Ops"); "Super Mario Galaxy 2" (out in the US May 14th, and here June 23rd, sadly) and "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II". But for now, keep it real, and remember if you're a 360 owner that "Alan Wake" now looks to be well worth a purchase despite the lack of multi-player.

X Men: First Class Enters Production

Let's be frank: the "X-Men" film series lost its oomph with its third and supposedly final instalment, and its 2009 spin-off "Origins: Wolverine" didn't do the franchise any favours, so no one would really have been surprised if a total revamp came to pass. However, it seems that- despite that approach being taken for its much-loved "Spider-Man" films- Marvel Comics have decided against reinventing "X-Men", instead commissioning a second spin-off, dubbed "X-Men: First Class", for production over 2010. Helms 20th Century Fox obviously aren't taking their time with this move, either, as it's been announced "First Class" will be sent out to cinemas worldwide on June the 3rd, 2011. Normally I'd advise you to take this all with a pinch of salt, however helm Matthew Vaughn (who directed the controversial "Kick-Ass", out at cinemas now) has confirmed both the release date and title are definitive, and we're assured this isn't starting the franchise from scratch, and that probably means some links will be set up for "X-Men 4" (allegedly coming out in 2012 or 2013), or the inevitable sequels to follow "First Class". Stay tuned for more info as it comes...

Monday, 3 May 2010

Doctor Who: The Forgotten Army Review (5/5)

Bringing the three April "Who" novels to a close is "The Forgotten Army", a fast-paced 250 page romp set in 2010 New York, and focusing on Amy's perspective on her life as a time traveller as the city is rampaged by ancient mammals who are themselves heading an all out invasion by the Vykoid army. It's once again back to standard "Doctor Who" for this book, with author Brian Minchin keeping healthily away from any main story arcs (bar Amy's crush (of sorts) on the Doctor, and her impending wedding with Rory), and instead maintaining a constant but rapid flow of events to keep things more than interesting. Matt Smith and Karen Gillian's frantic on-screen friendship is portrayed well by Minchin, and his uses of references to the recent "Victory of the Daleks" (the Doc mentions Winston Churchill) and "The Time of Angels" (he says next they're going to the "Derilium Archive") are more than welcome in light of just how fast Series 5 seems to be going. Overall, "The Forgotten Army" is the best of the three April novels, and serves as a great reminder to why "Doctor Who" can have his own adventures in novels which feel just like his television ones- a must read for fans!

Glee: Road To Sectionals DVD Review (3/5)

"Glee" has proved an unexpected hit over in the US, and of course Channel 4 thought it a good idea to bring it over to the United Kingdom, airing all of Season 1 since January. The first half of the cheesy 26-episode season, dubbed "Road To Sectionals", is out on DVD now, and was definitely a tricky one to pick up and review. At 13 45 minute episodes, there's a heck of a lot of story to cover, but each part manages to recap well using "Last time on Glee"-type segments. While each actor and actress effortlessly keeps the somewhat camp tone of this American comedy intact, it's undoubtedly the soundtracks that'll keep you coming back to "Glee" again and again- if anything, this set serves as an incentive to buy the albums available at CD and digital retailers already. So many new favourites appeared for me, including takes on "Keep Holding On"; "No Air"; "Smile" and "Don't Stop Believing", amongst many, many others. To summarise, while it's undoubtedly not for everyone, "Glee" mixes the weirdly humorous antics of "High School Musical" with brilliant comedies like "Friends" to result in one of the best US laugh-a-thons in a long while. BEAR IN MIND it's also one of the most Marmite series I've seen in a while too, so you may want to rent the DVD first, or perhaps catch a few of the E4 repeats!

5 Things To Expect From Marvel's "The Avengers"

Before you read on, be warned: there are some major SPOILERS here for 2010's Marvel blockbuster "Iron Man 2", so you should see that first...with that in mind, let's take a look at some of the foreshadowing found so far in Marvel flicks with "The Avengers":
1. In the original "Iron Man" motion picture, we got a brief glimpse of Captain America's own shield, and judging by the fact it took place a while before "Avengers"
2. Then, in "The Incredible Hulk", we saw the famed Captain's weapon once more- but it was another blink and you miss it reference
3. What wasn't a moment of that type, though, was Tony Stark's special appearance at the end of the green menace's sequel- yep, if you weren't there, Robert Downey Jr starred as the human alter-ego of Iron Man, noticing that antagonist General Ross had a problem with the Hulk, and giving several hints that "someone is building a team", and perhaps they could help Ross subdue the "hero" of sorts. Plot-wise, this could mean a lot!
4. Fast-forward to this month's "Iron Man 2", and we had another glimpse of Captain America's shield. Housed in Tony Stark's own residence, we can only assume Iron Man's human ego thought it a piece of modern art, hence why he then decided to use it as a prop-up for his latest experiment (much to a SHIELD agent's dismay). Whether Chris Evan's 2011 hero will give his shield up at the end of the flick to Stark remains to be seen...
5. And then, of course, there was the after-credits scene. That aformentioned SHIELD agent went off to New Mexico, and discovered that his group had "found it". "It" was Thor's hammer- meaning that's where next year's "Thor" either picks up or ends. Both Thor and Captain America form the heads of "Avengers", so we'll see how it all turns out...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Iron Man 2 Review (4/5)

For all its faults, "Iron Man 2" proves itself in so many ways: the countless preludes to Marvel's centrepiece of 2012- "The Avengers"; the inclusion of famous baddies Whiplash and Justin Hammer, as well as SHIELD's own Nick Fury (played by Samuel "Mace Windu" L Jackson), managing yet another brief but great cameo by creator Stan Lee (look for him in the early scenes- blink and you'll miss it). So, with all these credentials attached, where does this 2-and a half hour long epic go wrong? To answer this intriguing question, I must simply point out a character who, up until now, seemed to be the driving force of this all-out sequel: War Machine. Portrayed by the excellent Don Cheadle, this Iron Man rip-off has been advertised carelessly for months in the promo campaign, to the point where a team-up between himself and the Iron-clad protagonist seemed nigh-on unforgettable. Trouble is, while on screen the duo are generally either bickering, drunk-fighting, or unwillingly forced to battle one another in the skies, and even all this only occupies perhaps a tenth of the overall flick. If Cheadle had received more time to build on his Rhodes, then "Iron Man 2" might even have achieved the lofty heights of its predecessor, a move not many sequels even dare attempt to make. However, to give it its credit, while it doesn't quite manage it, "Iron Man 2" has a bloomin' good go at finding a plot well-rounded enough to trump the 'Origins' tale, and deserves to be seen by movie-goers everywhere. Oh, and call yourself a true fan of the "Avengers", or Marvel for that matter? Then stay for the credits. No really, it's worth it. Just stay...because somewhere in New Mexico, they've found it.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Doctor Who: Flesh And Stone Review (5/5)

When Steven Moffat claimed that Episodes 4 and 5- boasting the return of popular villains the Weeping Angels- were "Aliens" to "Blink"'s "Alien", he was right: the conclusion to what could possibly be the biggest story yet on "Who" adds a whole new fear factor to the Angels' resumee, while neatly taking care of several plot strands established by the show-runner over the course of Series 5's openers ("cracks in time"? "Pandorica"? oh Stevey, you spoil us!). Needless to say, while not the tense spectacle we witnessed last week, "Flesh And Stone" proved stunning on all levels, to the point where the romantic twist at the end proved very effectively jarring, and leaving what could be a back-to-basics episode with a brilliant place to start. Let Twilight-mania commence as we go with Rory to meet "The Vampires Of Venice"!

Smallville: Vortex Review

"Smallville" ended on an all-time high at the climax of its first season, seeing parallel-Superman Clark Kent hurled into the twister as his soulmate Lana Lang risked being sent into its very core. Now, in "Vortex", we see the resolution of that colossal twist, with Clark managing to save Lana narrowly yet dealing with the severe consequences of leaving date Chloe behind at the prom. While it certainly was more, well, straightforward than I might have expected, the answer to each character's dilemma is at least satisfying, and sets up what could potentially be a season that's even better than its predecessor.