Monday, 19 December 2011

DVD Reviews - Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 4
Starring: Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Available from 26/11/11 on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Michael Weston is a blacklisted spy who finds himself stranded in sun-soaked Miami. Season 4 commences with a new counterintelligence expert who loves to fight bad guys just as much as Michael does. Completing the team with the undercover agent are Fiona, an ex-IRA operative, and Sam, ex-military intelligence muscle (played by E14 favourite Bruce Campbell).

As someone who hadn't given a second thought to a number of series passing me by, this was always one of the ones in peripheral vision, mainly because of the presence of Bruce Campbell on my Twitter feed, where a bunch of people praise him endlessly for his presence in the series. Campbell is certainly a highlight, but the premise of the series is strong in itself, a mix of 007 and The A-Team with Weston's team taking on work as mercenaries for people in need. The casting in the series is one of the strongest points of the show, with all the players in Weston's team a perfect fit for their roles.

One of the nice things about the series is that the team have a flexible moral agenda, only concerning themselves with what they need to do to get the job done for their client, whoever that may be. Along with this episode format, the series also has a side-plot with Michael trying to tie up loose ends from the previous season. Although this plot is interesting, what's good is that this plot isn't too saturated through the story, and the cast performing each task changes up every episode to keep it fresh.

If there's one complaint to be made of this series, it's that sometimes the show can be a victim of one of its strongest features. The writing in the series is strong as hell, and some of the one-liners are pure gold. However, at times it almost feels like the dialogue is too fast for its own good, with characters zinging lines artificially fast sometimes. On the other hand, Bruce Campbell FTW. Oh, and there's an episode starring Burt Reynolds for additional win.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Guns, car chases and so on. Typical spy movie fare in many ways.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of bikini-clad attractive women.
Swearing: "Son of a bitch" is probably the strongest term on show.
Summary: One of the most refreshing and original series I've seen in some time. 9/10

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Joe Dever gamebook Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: With trepidation, the colony agrees to your plan and the convoy is drawn up into its break-out formation. Pete Tyler's tow truck leads the way.

MCSPINDLE: ...which actually makes a nice change.
Brag: We're scouting from the rear this time? That's unusual...

Brad: The convoy is travelling at break-neck speed as it passes through the blazing ruins of Allamore and enters the pass beyond.
Rob: Sounds like how people play Scouts on Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Brad: Sweat trickles down you face as the ominous peak of Slaughter Mountain looms out of the smoke, and you witnes the vicious battle taking place on its lower slopes. The bodies of slain Mavericks and Mexicans lie at the side of the freeway, tangled among the smoking remains of motorcycles and trucks once loaded with looted provisions. Small groups of desperate men are waging bitter hand-to-hand battles among this carnage, whilst others blaze away with automatic weapons, hiding in their foxholes dug by hand from the barren, stony soil. The arrival of the convoy brings a lull in the fighting.
Brad: Some turn their guns on you and a hail of bullets begins to take either side of the colony vehicles. The tow truck approaches a bend in the freeway, and, as it turns, you see a Maverick kneeling at the side of the road with a missile launcher perched on his shoulder.

Brag: Shit.

Brad: He has you in his sights! The only way you can hope to avoid being hit by the missile is by taking evasive action immediately.
Rob: Then that's what I plan to do!
Brad: You swerve to the right to avoid the speeding missile and your swift reactios save you from receiving a direct hit. The armour-tipped projectile burrows into the ground close to your rear wheel, and the resultant explosion buffets your trunk and sends the BragWagon into a skid.

MCSPINDLE: *Punch-Drunk Light Comes On*

Brad: Desperately you fight to regain control as you slide off the freeway and career towards a deep gully.
Rob: Lately I feel like my career's going towards a deep gully.
Brad: With seconds to spare, you steer your roadster away from the brink of disaster. Your rear tyres spin along the edge of the gully, kicking up great clouds of stones and dust before they grip and propel you back on to the freeway. In your mirror you see the convoy coming under small-arms fire, but it is light and sporadic and it claims no victims. Soon you are all safely out of the battle zones and racing away from the Slaughter Mountain run towards Sierra Blanca. It comes as a relief to discover that the town of Sierra Blanca is deserted.
Here the convoy haltes to assess the damage and treat those who were wounded during the run.
Cutter is among those who need treatment, having stopped a bullet in his left forearm.

MCSPINDLE: ...with his grammar.

Brad: However, although you can tell his is in considerale pain, he does his best to hide it. Kate greets you with a kiss that leaves you in no doubt how pleased she is to see you alive and in one piece.
Rob: Which piece is she excited about?
Brad: Together you go to the school bus for some food and water, and while you are there, you listen to Pop Ewell as he tries to make radio contract with the WDL unit in El Paso.
Rob: Do I *take* any water with me?

MCSPINDLE: Good luck. All I've been getting is Galaxy New Radio.

Brad: No.
After several attempts, he manages to raise them, but they refuse to acknowledge his call unless he gives a WDL security call sign, a sort of radio password that will prove he is not a clansman trying to trick his way into the city stronghold.

Pop: Brag, will you go an' fetch Sergeant Haskell? I think we'll be needin' his help to solve this.
Brag: Sounds like a plan, Stan.

Brad: Segeant Haskell is only too willing to speak to his command unit at El Paso. He gives his call sign - Palmito Four Zero - and as soon as it is confirmed as valid, the El Paso garrison relays news of what is happening in their area.

Brag: Right, Palmito Four Zero, now we know in case he gets killed...

Brad: Parts of the city and the military reserve are under siege from HAVOC-led Mexican clansmen. They warn that Fabens is a Mexican base, and they they have barricaded the east freeway approach to that town. In closing, they tell you to contact them again if you make it through Fabens. They do not sound very optimistic.

Brag: Well fuck you, pessimists! We're going to turn those frowns upside-down!

Brad: News of the radio contaact with El Paso is relayed to the rest of the convoy. It is decided that the barricade at Fabens should be scouted before any attempt at a breakthrough is made. As convoy scout, the mission automatically falls to...

MCSPINDLE: Rickenbacker!
Brag: Let's hope!

Brad:, but in the view of the increased danger you are likely to face, Sergeant Haskell volunteers to accompany you.

Brag: Oh, good. Fodder.

Brad: With Sergeant Haskell beside you, you drive out of Sierra Blanca, heading West on Interstate 10. A few miles later, you see a forest of strange plants growing on either side of the freeway. They are ten to twenty feet high, with stiff, spiky leaves and topped with white, bell-like flowers.

Sgt Haskell: Those are Yuccas.
Brag: I don't give a Fucca. Wait, how have they survived?
Sgt Haskell: They must be good at adapting to their new environment. That's the key to survival, Brag. We all have to adapt if we are to survive.
Brag: Being ten to twenty feet tall? I'll say...

Brad: You keep the BragWagon at a steady sixty miles per hour until the ruins of Fort Hancock loom into view. Like Sierra Blanca, this town is deserted, having been looted by the Mexicans months ago. Sergeant Haskell radios back to the convoy to tell them that the town is safe to enter. When they arrive, you continue towards Fabens to scount the barricade.

Brag: I love scouting. I'd have to, wouldn't I?

Brad: You are less than three miles from Fort Hancock when you see a vehicle approaching on the highway ahead. Rather than run the risk of a head-on confrontation, you pull your car off the freeway and hide it among the yuccas. As the vehicle grows nearer, you see that it is a military truck, loaded with munitions, and manned by a group of Mexican clansmen. Both you and Sergeant Haskell realise that if this truck is allowed to reach Fort Hancock, it could destroy the colony's hopes of ever seeing El Paso.
Rob: I aim a single bullet at the fuel tank!
Brad: You know that you must prevent the truck from reaching Fort Hancock, and the only sure way to do that it is to ambush it. You leave the roadster and take up a position at the edge of the freeway. When the truck is twenty yards away, Sergeant Haskell opens fire at its tyres with his machine pistol. The bullets explode the tyres, causing the driver to lose control and run the truck into the freeway crash barrier.

Brag: Yeah! In your fuckin' face!

Brad: It hits a broken section of the barrier at speed and is tipped on to its side, spilling its cargo and crew across the highway. Only four of the Mexicans survive the crash: the drive and three others, who were riding in the back. Sergeant Haskell and yourself despatch the clansmen with a volley of well-aimed shots before taking a closer look at what they were transporting.
Rob: This is where I find out I killed children.
Brag: You discover several crates and lockers filled with munitions: mortars, anti-tank weapons, heavy machine guns and the like. However, you cannot find any ammunition for these weapons. You are about to set fire to the truck, to prevent the weapons from falling into the the hands of other clansmen, when you discover one item that could be of some use after all.

MCSPINDLE: Is it a vampire weasel?

Brad: In a sealed locker at the bottom of the heap, you discover a portable Leviathan ground-to-air missile, a weapon with approximately eight times the destructive power of a bazooka.

MCSPINDLE: YES! We are going to FUCK Rickenbacker's shit UP!
Brag: I don't think we should be using it on allies...

Brad: Do you with to keep the Leviathan missile? It will have a -2 penalty to your Stealth all the time you're carrying it, due to its size.
Rob: Yeah, I guess I should. I already have no stealth anyway, might as well be heavily armed as I do it.
Brad: You'll need to throw away something first, as you are overburdened.

Brag: I am overburdened.

Rob: Chuck the Geiger Counter. I haven't heard it go off ONCE, and we're in a fucking nuclear wasteland!
Brad: You start your car and steer it back on to the freeway towards Fabens. Ten minutes later, you see the town in the distance, and once more you hide the BragWagon in the yucca forest before going forward to scout the clan-held town.

MCSPINDLE: You're trying to tell me something...

Brad: A formidable barricade has been thrown across the freeway approach. It consists of auto wrecks filled with earth and broken chunks of concrete, stacked three deep. It would be virtually impossible for the convoy to break through the barrier. On the perimeter of the town, the Mexicans have dug pits to entrap any vehicles attempting to bypass the barricade. It looks hopeless, but if you are to reach El Paso, you must find a way through this freeway defence.

Brag: They've put a freeway in the way? What, at ninety degrees or something?

Brad: After observing the barricade at some length, Sergeant Haskell evolves a plan to blow a hole in it that is large enough to allow the convoy through in its entirety. You return to Fort Hancock and inform the colony of the plan. Then a message is sent to El Paso, requesting that they be ready and waiting to receive you once you break through. Uncle Jonas hands you a Signal Flare to use once the breach has been blown. You tell the others to watch for your flare.
Brad: When they see it, they are to start their engines, drive through the Fabens barricade in break-out formation and not stop until they reach El Paso. Having briefed the colony, you return to Sergeant Haskell on the freeway outside Fabens.

Brag: Once I shoot this, they'll come running. I'm pointing to the flare, right?
Sgt Haskell: That's great. Now all we need to do is open up the gate and let 'em go! [taking the Leviathan from you] This should open the gate nice and wide!

Brad: He settles himself into position at the edge of the freeway.

Sgt Haskell: Stand clear!
Brag: Hey, I sacrificed my Geiger Counter for that...

Brad: Haskell releases the trigger mechanism and sends the HE missile screaming towards the centre of the barricade.

Brag: Is there the slightest risk that they'll mistake *that* for the flare?

Brad: There is a brilliant flash followed by a thunderous explosion that rips a wide hole in the centre of the barricade. Those clansmen who have survived the blast run in confusion as the hot remnants of their mighty wall rain down on their heads. Haskell fires the flare, and within a few minutes the convoy appears, thundering along the freeway with the tow truck in the lead. You climb back into your BragWagon and follow in their wake as they stream through the shattered barricade and on towards El Paso unchallenged.

MCSPINDLE: Oh...HE'S the hero. I was wondering when he was going to turn up.

Brag: Works for me, we're just effective scouts.

Brad: You receive a warm welcome from the WDL troops, who are defending the city and the military reserve. Then you celebrate the success of your mission and your bold defeat of the Mexican clansmen at the Fabens barricade.

Brag: Those muchachos never stood a chance!

Brad: You have indeed earned the right to celebrate, for you have freed Kate from her abductors and reached El Paso, thereby achieving everything you set out to do when you left Big Spring one week ago.
Rob: All in all, 100% successful trip!
Brad: The celebrations continue in El Paso for several days until the victorious mood is soured by the arrival of Mad Dog Michigan, and an army of clansmen over a thousand strong.
Rob: Uh-oh.
Brad: He has persuaded the Mexicans to join his cause and now they surround El Paso with a ring of steel. Mad Dog has promised to avenge the death of his brother.

Brag: Remind me? I killed a *lot* of people.

Brad: Now he reaffirms that vow and delivers the additional threat that neither you, nor any of your colony, will ever get out of El Paso alive. For you, Brag Phoenix, the chance to defy Mad Dog Michigan's threat and continue your life or death journey to California...awaits you in the next book.
Which terrifyingly probably won't hit the site until at least early 2012.
Rob: Jesus.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Joe Dever gamebook Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: Anxiously you expect an ambush to take place at any time, but, despite your fears, an attack does not materialise. At length, the stores and houses of Van Horn appear on the road ahead. The town looks deserted but you decide to take no chances. You bring the convoy to a halt within a mile of the town limits and, accompanied by Sgt Haskell, you leave the BragWagon and enter on foot to check that the place is safe for the convoy to pass through.
Rob: I keep forgetting these people.
Brad: The tumbledown buildings are deathly quiet as you walk along the main street of Van Horn, and you notice nothing out of the ordinary until you reach a bar near the centre of town. A motorcycle is parked beside the entrance, its fuel tank emblazoned with the ace of spades emblem of the Mavericks clan. You deicide to search the bar and, if possible, try to capture and question the bike's owner. Haskell suggests that it would be a good idea if one of you were to enter by the rear door and you nod your agreement.

Brag: I prefer to enter by the rea....I got the back door!

Brad: You enter an alley that runs alongside the bar, and make your way to the rear door.

MCSPINDLE: [on CB] Wa-hey!

Brad: Through a cracked glass panel you can see the kitchens. They are empty, but remnants of food lie scattered across the tables and, judging by the amount of fresh garbage strewn on the floor, a large group of clansmen must have eaten here not so long ago. You test the handle and discover that the door is unlocked.

Brag: Ergh, they left their wrappers everywhere, don't they know there are no staff to clean this up anymore?

Brad: You turn the handle and gently push open the door. You have taken but one step into the kitchen when a large glass storage jar falls from a shelf above your head and smashes down on your unprotected skull.

Brag: Argh!

Brad: Wincing from the pain of your wound, you notice that the jar was attached by a thin cord to the inside handle of the door: it had been placed there deliberately. Not only have you lost some blood, but this primitive trap may also have lost you the element of surprise. With your nerves on edge, you advance through the kitchen and into the bar beyond.

Brag: Unless it was a bungee-jumping jar, and I destroyed its only source of fun.

Brad: As you enter, you whisper Haskell's name in case, in the darkened interior, he mistakes you for a clansman.
Rob: Or maybe I'm hoping he's got the horn.
Brad: Suddenly there is a bang and a muzzle flash illuminates the far corner of the bar. You throw yourself at the floor immediately, but you are not swift enough to avoid being clipped in the thigh by a 9mm bullet.

Brag: Jukebox Attack!
MCSPINDLE: Over a CB this is hilarious!

Brad: Seconds later Haskell bursts into the bar and fires three shots into the corner.
Rob: Wait, so a bullet only did one point more damage than a glass jar?
Brad: There is a loud groan followed almost immediately by the sound of a heavy body falling off a chair. He rushes to your side and, using his own Medi-Kit, staunches your would with a sulphonamide pad and a bandage. Once he is sure you are not seriously injured, he goes to take a look at who he has shot. Clutching your wounded leg, you hobble after the sergeant and find him in the corner of the bar, kneeling besides a clansman who is bleeding from a chest wound.
You also notice that the man's leg is set in splints, as if recently broken, and that the leather jacket he wears is marked with the Maverick ace-of-spades symbol.
Haskell lifts his head from the floor and asks him what he is doing here. Stubbornly, the dying clansman refuses to answer.

Brag: Isn't it obvious? He's Maverick AceofSpades! Ol' Broken Leg!

Rob: I use a medi-kit to treat his wound. I feel that this will benefit us long-term. A small price to pay for something that could lead to our untimely death!
Brad: While you do your best to staunch the bleeding, Haskell continues to question the Maverick. Finally on the brink of death, the clansman changes his mind and begins to speak. He says that he is a Maverick outrider, a scout, once of a large group sent here to ambush the Big Spring colony. While drunk, he fell off his bike and broke his leg.

Brag: Burn.

Brad: Unable to ride, his fellow scouts left him here with the promise that he would be collected when they returned. His group are fighting a Mexican clan near Sierra Blanca.
Isn't he in Street Fighter II?
He says that the Mexicans are trying to steal their supplies. Haskell asks him about Mad Dog Michigan, but he refuses to answer. A trickle of blood escapes from his lips and, with his dying breath, he says:

Maverick Aceofspades: Mad Dog'll make sure you never get through...
Brag: How did he die?!
Sgt Haskee: If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was the massive shotgun wound in his chest.
Brag: Oooh, alright, *Doctor* Haskell!

Brad: You leave the bar and return to the convoy to tell the colony what has happened. After considering the likelihood of running into a Maverick ambush on the way to Sierra Blanca, probably in the narrow pass that separates Slaughter Mountain from Devil Ridge, the maps are consulted.

MCSPINDLE: Consult the bones, too! Luddites.

Brad: A proposal is put forward by Sgt Haskell that the convoy detours north, across the Salt Lakes to Cornudas, and approach El Paso on Highway 62. It looks like the safest route to follow and it is soon agreed. The convoy is turned around and you lead it north, but you have not travelled very far when you see something on the road ahead that forces another change of plan. You have reached the place where the highway passes through the Finlay mountains, and from this high point you have a commanding view over the valley and salt lakes beyond.

MCSPINDLE: Why do I sense that giving you a 'commanding' anything is a really dumb idea?

You stop to survey the scene and, to your horror, you see a hige group of clansmen riding across the valley, heading towards Van Horn.

Brag: They've got the Van Horn!

Brad: With your pulse racing, you raise the binoculars to your eyes and focus on the approaching bikers. They ride machines bedecked with a strange symbol; a priest or some other holy man, dressed in flowing white robes, with a halo above his head. It looks like a curiously pious sybol for a clan to adopt, until you remember that before The Day, the name of the professional football team based in New Orleans was 'The Saints'.

MCSPINDLE: Thank God it's not a fudge factory in Green Bay, Wisconsin, huh?

Brad: Suddenly you realise that that his pack of riders, some 400-500 strong, are the New Orleans clan that Mad Dog Michigan sent for. It would be disastrous for the convoy to run head on into a group of this size, and you hurry back to the colony as quickly as you can to break the bad news. With the New Orleans clan approaching from the north, a large Mexican clan crossing the border to the south, and the threat of a Maverick ambush to the west, the prospects of reaching El Paso unscathed now look decidedly unpromising.

MCSPINDLE: I saw we lock and load.
Brag: Well, you're a car. You don't have a soul. And it's a good thing too, otherwise it'd be tainted with murder.
MCSPINDLE: Actually, I think, therefore I am. Suck my Descartes.
Brag: Murderer...
MCSPINDLE: Do you want me to tell everyone about the 'specialist' porn you keep in the glovebox? I thought not. Let's have no more of this 'murderer' nonsense.
Brag: Hey, I'm proud of liking nurses.
MCSPINDLE: Yeah, but THESE nurses?
Brag: All right, all right, no need to get your head-gasket homicidal.
MCSPINDLE: Good. Then I won't tell whatshertits about 'Pregnant and Triaj'. Among other
Brag: You leave whatsertits out of this!

Brad: With no time to discuss the situation at length, the colony reverts to the original plan: to stay on Interstate 10 and approach El Paso from the west. It is the shortest, most direct route, even though there is a very real chance of falling prey to a Maverick ambush.

Brag: Especially as we killed him. there more than one?

Brad: A cloud of fearful anticipation hangs over the colony as it passes through Van Horn and begins the journey to Sierra Blanca. You feel especially vulnerable as the freeway approaches the narrow mountain pass between Devil Ridge and Slaughter Mountain. Even the names of these landmarks serve to increase your dread of what could happen there. You are a little over five miles from Van Horn when you hear gun fire in the distance, and see a pall of black smoke rising into the cloudless sky. At its base, the buildings of a tiny town called Allamore are feeding the flames, and in the pass beyond this burning town, a gun battle is raging between the Mavericks and a group of invading Mexican clansmen.
You assess the situation and decide that the best hope for the convoy lies in speed and surprise.

Brag: Right, let's take some speed and act surprised!

Brad: If you can drive straight through this battle zone while both sides are busy shooting at each other, the convoy will be long gone before either side can redirect all its firepower.

MCSPINDLE: Now there's a plan Cutter can get behind.
Brag: Or at least molest grammatically.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Gaming Reviews

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Available now on PS3 (Version Tested), Xbox 360, PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

Fans of shanking people in the face with hidden blades rejoice! Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is here to bring a close to Ezio’s Saga and keep us sated until the next game introduces the next of Desmond’s anti-Templar ancestors. However, the main reason for rejoicing is that this isn’t just a cheap rehashing of Brotherhood with more missions but actually brings new experiences to the table making this one of the best Assassin’s Creed games yet.

Following on immediately from the events of Brotherhood the plot follows Desmond trying to piece together Altair and Ezio’s secrets in order to awaken from being stuck in a coma in the Animus and learn more about the pieces of Eden. If you don’t understand this sentence, then this game is not for you. Revelations requires you to have a thorough grounding in the previous games to actually have a chance at understanding the plot (which is now beginning to reach Metal Gear Solid levels of complexity it seems), but hey what do you expect from the fourth game in a series? This is a shame, as from a gameplay perspective; this is probably the strongest game in the series.

Revelations makes sure to deliver rather than being a cheap update of Brotherhood in several ways. Firstly, Ezio’s new tool, the hook blade adds huge amounts of depth to your free running, making it more fluid and allowing you access pretty much anywhere in the game with grace and ease. Secondly, Ezio’s second new ability to make bombs adds a lot more strategy to the gameplay and isn’t as gimmicky as it first sounded when it was announced. For example, you can use bombs to cause distractions without killing nearby people to lure Templars away, but they can also be used for destruction or to escape as well depending on what you use to create them.

Finally, pretty much all of what made Brotherhood great has been tweaked and improved upon. For example, Templar Towers have now been replaced by dens, which can be attacked and reclaimed by the Templars should you bring too much attention to yourself. Defending these spots are done through the use of a tower defence style mini games which are surprisingly well created and just as addictive as the likes of Plants vs. Zombies. Also, navigating the city is easier by having most of the tunnels unlocked from the off which is a godsend considering how big the game’s sandbox is.

At the end of the day, there are a few niggles with Revelations that still need addressing. Free running can still end up having you do a sort of leap of faith when the speed picks up which still means you may end falling and losing lots of health at an important moment, and I thought some of the boundaries for the missions could have been clearer, especially as in one mission I was desynchronised for running ten metres away from the guy I was protecting even though I was doing so to off a guard. But that said these niggles are minor and don’ really detract from the overall enjoyment of the game, and seeing there have been so many improvements to the game, this is a fitting swan song to end Ezio’s story and get us ready for the next full sequel to the series.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
: The games have always been gorgeous, but Revelations, especially with its new eastern locales, looks stunning.
Gameplay: Improved sword play along with the addition of bomb crafting, tower defence style mini games and the new hook blade improving free running make this the best Assassin’s Creed yet.
Lasting Appeal: A long story, side quests and loads of collectables means that purists will be at this for hours before they reach 100%, and that’s not including the new Improved online mode.
Summary: Whilst the uninitiated will be left confused by the plot, devotees to the series will enjoy one of the best Assassin’s Creed games yet. Sure there are still a couple of slight niggles here and there, but this is still a great game and a superb final bow for Ezio. 9/10

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Joe Dever gamebook Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!

Brad: You step away from the clansman's body and run to where Kate is standing.

Brag: Get clear of them! I'm on a roll!

Brad: She looks a little shell-shocked but is otherwise unharmed, and together you return to the front of the service area in time to see the sole surviving Detroit Lion making a speedy escape back along the freeway. Sgt Haskell and his men cheer his retreat, then conduct a search of those who did not get away. Although few personal possessions are found, they do recover some weapons and ammo and you are offered a choice from the following:

Machine Pistol
12 x 99 mm ammo
2 x 7.62 mm ammo
5 x 12 gauge ammo
+2 Knife

Brad: You want any of that?
Rob: Nope.
Brad: While the sergeatna and his men dispose of the bodies...

Sgt Haskell: Nom-nom-nom...

Brad: return to the gasolene storage tank and set to work on cracking its security code.
Rob: I do *not* like my chances.
Brad: You examine the three dials that are set into the top of the security valve. Each is divided into three segments, and each segment displays a number. One of the segments on the third dial has numbers which can be altered by hand. Carefully you consider the numbers and soon realise that they are part of a coded combination lock.
Rob: No shit.
Brad: By turning the adjustable numbers on the third dial to the correct total, you will release the lock and open the valve. Consider the following numbers carefully. When you think you know what the missing number is...let me know.
Rob: Okay.
Brad: Man, you're good. What's the solution?
Rob: Every lock combination has a pattern. Each number goes 2:1, 1:1, 4:1. The only number that's not represented is thirteen.
Brad: The valve clicks open and the tell-tale aroma of gasolene rises from the tank to greet your nostrils.
Rob: The sweet smell of success. It's only success when it stings the nostrils.
Brad: A fuel gauge on the inside edge of the valve shows you that the tank contains 125 gallons of premium unleaded gasolene, more than sufficient for your needs.
Rob: Hoo-rah.
Brad: When the others come to inspect your handiwork they congratulate you unstintingly. After filling the tank of the BragWagon, Sgt Haskell and his men set about destroying the remainder of the fuel to prevent it from falling into the hands of Mad Dog Michigan's clansmen. Then, with a view of the station ablaze in your driving mirror, you set off west along Freeway 10 to keep your rendezvous with the convoy. It feels good to be able to drive once more at a speed that is faster than the brisk walking pace to which you have limited yourself over the past twenty-five fuel-concious miles.

MCSPINDLE: Yes, because lower gears consume less fuel...

Brad: It is also a great relief not to have to walk the fifty or so miles to Kent, for they are mostly uphill, as the freeway passes through the ruined town of Borgado and traverses the northern slopes of the Davis Mountains.

MCSPINDLE: You could have saved even more fuel by getting out and pushing me!

Brad: You reach Kent shortly after noon, a day ahead of your planned time of rendezvous with the convoy. The highway and surrounding area show no sign of their having arrived before you, so you decide to try to relax here and recoup your strength while you wait for the convoy to show. You rise at dawn and spend the morngin servicing the BragWagon's engine, while Sgt Haskell and Marine Knott take it in turns to act as lookout from the room of a Baptist church, the tallest building still standing in Kent. It is two hours before noon when you hear a faint buzzing noise, high in the sky twoards the north-west.

Brag: Vibrators?

Brad: You search the cloudless expanse and your hopes soar as you see Rickenbacker's motorised hang-glider circling above the town. He comes down and makes a low pass, waving his arms excitedly as he flies directly above the BragWagon.

MCSPINDLE: I knew it was a bad idea for him to put a Wii in that thing.

Rob: Maybe my memory is hazy, but who the fuck is Rickenbacker?
Rob: Ahhhhh.
Brad: Then he is gone, rising above the surrounding peaks and returning the way he came. An hour passes before Knott sights a cloud of dust on the eastern horizon. You are all gathered in the town, wiating expectantly for the convoy to arrive, but he cannot be sure that it is the convoy that is coming. At such a distance it could be a gang of marauding clansmen.

Brag: It might just be a cloud of dust, have we considered that?
Knott: [sighting the convoy of vehicles heading towards Kent] It's them!
Brag: The dust cloud men?! Please?...

Brad: Led by Pete Tyler's tow truck, the convoy pulls into the town with all horns blaring and everyone shouting their relief and delight that the rendezvous has been accomplished. It is a joyous reunion, made especially happy by the return of Kate to the colony. After the excitement has abated, you settle down to discuss the more serious matters at hand. From his vantage place in the sky, Rickenbacker has been able to track the movements of Amex Gold and his Maverick clansmen. A large contingent have been shadowing the convoy and are now in ambush somewhere in the mountains ahead.
Also, Pop Ewell has monitored by radio the movements of a large Mexican clan, who have crossed the border in search of fuel and food. And, to make matters even worse, Mad Dog Michigan has linked up with the 'Saints', the clan from New Orleans, and now they too are somewhere in the vicinity.

Cutter: Looks like we're surrounded by enemies.
Brag: Yeah, by which you mean 'there are a lot of them'? Brilliant, searing insight yet again.
Cutter: Seem's to me we've got to keep movin' if we're to stand a cat's chance o' gettin' to El Paso in one piece.
Brag: How much chance does a cat have? I can't believe I almost let you get away with that statement!
MCSPINDLE: Sorry..."Seem's"? We're letting that one go, are we?

Brad: His opinions are shared by the majority, and so it is decided to leave Kent this afternoon and press on to El Paso without delay.

MCSPINDLE: Win! I love their tacos!

Brad: It takes an hour to refuel the convoy vehicles and prepare for the next stage of your journey. You are to take over as scout now that the colony is about to push deeper into the mountains.

MCSPINDLE: Yay...we're hardly ever scouts...
Brag: I know right? Seems like I should have got some BADGES by now...hint hint...

Brad: The increasing altitude and the unpredictable thermal air currents here make it too dangerous for Rickenbacker to continue in his role as air scout.

Brag: I bet Rickenbacker gets badges...
MCSPINDLE: it too dangerous for your little plane to go scouting in, Mister Scoutyman? Never mind, we'll take care of it while you sit and home and play with your toys...would you like a juice box?
Brag: Ooh, we've got juice boxes?

Brad: Five miles out from Kent, you cross a dry watercourse once known as the Salt Draw and begin a slow climb into the Apache mountains.

Brag: Sounds like a great place to have run out of water...

Brad: To your left you can see a high ridge, known locally as the Black Peak, and it is here that you sight something that makes you suspicious. A glint of sunlight is reflecting repeatedly at a point near the crest of this ridge.

Brag: Seems like a signal. Hopefully from a travelling Evian salesman.

Brad: You radio back to the convoy that you have sighted something suspicious in the hills to the south. You bring your The BragWagon to a halt, and, as the conoy draws closer, Cutter disembarks and comes running forward to find out more.
Rob: Reflex Clothesline!

MCSPINDLE: Yay! Here comes Captain Apostrophe! This'll be relevant and not at all bleeding obvious.

Brad: You point out the place on the ridge where you saw the reflections, and he scans the area with his powerful binoculars.

Cutter: Whatever was up there has gone now, Brag. If it was clan scouts you saw then we'd better keep on movin' before they rustle up enough of their kin to bushwhack us.
Brag: Or hiding from you...

Brad: You keep a watchful eye on the ridge as you lead the convoy along this section of the freeway.
Rob: Who's watching the road then?

Friday, 2 December 2011

Shitty Christmas Video Round-Up

Last Christmas - Wham!

Brad: Alps...Whoaing...Jeeps...Mullets.
I guess that's pretty much eighties Christmases in a nutshell.
Brad: Sking.
* Skiing
* Skiiing.
* Skiiiiiiiiing
* Winter Holidaying
Rob: Why are Wham! driving jeeps anyway? Wouldn't they be more at home with a sled pulled by young boys?
Brad: George Michael is definitely gay. Andrew Ridgeley isn't.
Rob: Oh wait, this is from that period where Wham! were totally trying to not look gay.
Brad: I like George's dramatic face at 1:54
That's a really thin tree.
Rob: Which tree? The first minute contains literally 897 trees.
Brad: I'm really enjoying the footage of the Wham! Christmas party in the second half.
Rob: Wham! wanted you to think they were all about the demeure bitches.
Brad: This song is one of the signs that Christmas has arrived, isn't it? When you hear this, you know you need to get a move on with the shopping.
Rob: Yeah, this and Wizzard I guess. I like this song in general.
At 4:03, it sounds like George Michael fell off a cliff. Actually, scratch that. I have a new theory.
Brad: Right.
Rob: After starting the video through a second time, something occurred to me.
Brad: Me too. I wonder if it's the same thing...
Rob: At no point does anyone sing. Nobody human...I think it's the mountains.
Brad: I noticed something odder. There's lots of being a ski-lodge, carrying skis, skiing.
* Skiiing
* Skiinng
* Biathlon
Rob: That's not that odd, dude. Have you never watched Frasier? I can't count the number of times they've been to a ski lodge.
Surely just the skiing part is Uniathlon?
Brad: No, that's Winter Uno.
George even falls over at 3:04. He could totally have worn skiis for that.
* skiiis
* ski's
* equipment
Rob: *feetlines.
I still think that this song is about the mountains being in love with George Michael.
Brad: That's such a lovely idea, I'm deeming it canon. In...I dunno..Wham!Lore, I guess.
Rob: Wham!Pedia?
Brad: "Merry Christmas and thank You". For what, exactly?
Rob: They probably sold a shitload of albums.
Brad: Guess so. How many Christmas Turkeys out of five? Five for total suckage, Zero for awesome.
Rob: Zero Christmas Turkeys. I like both the song and the idea that the mountains are pining for George Michael. Actually, -1 for allowing me to get a "pining" mention in a video heavy on trees.
Brad: Wow. I'm going One Christmas Turkey. It's a great song, but I just don't feel there's enough Christmas in the video. A winter holiday doesn't necessarily imply Christmas.
Rob: Point. I just spotted something interesting. In the space of thirty seconds at the end of the video, George Michael changes girlfriend.
Brad: He can't tell women apart. It's like with you and Japanese people.
Rob: What? I can totally tell them apart.
Brad: Yeah? Because last Bad Movie Night, you didn't seem able to tell the difference between Varan and Gamera.

All I Want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey

Brad: Next...Mariah Wobbly-Voice Probably-Would-If-She-Wasn't-Totally-Mental Carey...Is she related to Jim Carrey?
Rob: And Drew. And Harey.
Brad: I'm going to get snowblindness by the time we've finished this article.
Rob: What is your opinion on Mariah Carey in this video? I don't think she's ever come up in our "Would you ruin that?" discussions.
Brad: Young Mariah Carey I...probably would. Modern Era Botoxy Static Face...not so much.
Rob: Agreed, she's gorgeous in this video. And she had a proper rack on her as well. I think she still has that, not seen pictures of her in a while.
Brad: At 1:10, there's a doberman dressed up a reindeer. I wonder who drew the short straw on that job.
Rob: The dobermann.
Brad: Yeah, he might have been up for it, I guess.
Present unwrapping montage.
Jesus, this has got more jumpcuts than Requiem for a Dream.
Rob: You know what would make this video infinitely funnier, but at the same time disturbing as fuck?
Brad: Wallace and Gromit.
Rob: ...Okay, you know what else?
Brad: Bigger tits.
Rob: On who? The dobermann?
Brad: If the doberman was actually Vincent Cassel as Dobermann?
Rob: No, that would just make it awesome.
Brad: What was your suggestion?
Rob: If as the video ended, the camera panned outwards into a room where this movie is playing, and there's a guy just masturbating and crying.
Brad: Brian!? Are you doing anything tomorrow?
Watching this again, I'm marking her "definitely would ruin".
Rob: Correct answer.
Brad: Going on the number of presents she opens in this video, I get the feeling that she would be disappointed if all she got was me. In my He-Man underpants.
Rob: At 0:55 I just get the impression that the director has just got out of a bitter divorce with an epileptic.
Brad: I want that to be true.
Brad: I'm giving this Four Christmas Turkeys. Snow, Santa, presents's got nearly the full set.
Rob: Four Christmas Turkeys. It's undoubtedly cheesy, even if Mariah Carey is adorable in the video.

White Christmas - Bing Crosby

Brad: Ah, Bing, you old racist.
Rob: So we've changed our search engine hatred then? Before, we loved Bing. It gave us NSFW content, but didn't make it feel like our fault.
Brad: I like Bing Crosby. From dead straight on, he looks like the FA Cup.
Rob: Jesus, a football reference from you?
Brad: This is from the old days where you could sing a woman into bed, armed only with a piano, some Brylcream and a few years of child abuse.
Rob: That woman looks like she's tripping. But yeah, Bing's totally getting lucky after this song's over with.
Brad: The bells in the tree at 1:55 are tuned perfectly.
I like the way he harmonises with her really condescendingly.
Check out the end! They stop moving and have to hold position until the camera fades out! It's like Police Squad!.
Rob: Who's the lady, anyway? She's quite pretty in a classic way.
Brad: I'll research.
Rob: Alrighty.
Brad: Marjorie Reynolds, but it's not her singing voice. That's dubbed.
Rob: You just read the YouTube description, didn't you?
Brad: Yup. That's a form of research.
Rob: I read the line "Reynolds, not Crosby, was to sing the song" in the video and in my head it's Burt.
Brad: I had Debbie. You're more awesome than me. I like Bing Crosby. I wonder if he'd like E14.
Rob: I like Ask Jeeves Berlin. Or Google Sinatra.
Brad: 2:00 and he starts whistling and humming to try and put her off! What a DH40K!
Rob: *DoucheHammer 40K for non-regulars.
Brad: Score?
Rob: If he didn't, she's a lesbi....Oh. Three Christmas Turkeys.
Brad: I'm going Two Christmas Turkeys. It's pretty cool.

Stop the Cavalry - Jona Lewie

Brad: This is just making me want to watch Deathwatch.
Rob: These soldiers don't seem to do much fighting.
Brad: I find it amazing they were allowed to play brass instruments in the trenches.
Rob: I think it'd give away positions.
Sure, you could have a fuller sound, but you'd be strategically compromised. Don't get me wrong, for instance, I play rhythm guitar in a band, but if me playing the second guitar resulted in us becoming a target for shells and guns, I'd just stick to vocals.
Brad: You know this wasn't actually originally a Christmas song?
Rob: Really? What was it originally?
Brad: Originally just a song about war.
Rob: What were the original lyrics, "Wish I was at home, for reasons of cowardice"?
Brad: A record company exec advised him to add in the line "Wish I was at home for Christmas" and some sleighbells, so that he could appear on Christmas albums. Forever.
Sad thing is, he was right.
Rob: I'm going to listen to it back and see if it works as a song without the Christmas theme.
Brad: Go for it. But check the top YouTube comment.
Rob: "He mentions 'Christmas' and there are bells. This song is also on various christmas albums - I consider it a Christmas song."
Are there any other criteria besides "being released around Christmas"?
Brad: I don't know, and this is going to open up a can of worms.
This is an awful, awful song.
Rob: It really is. And it's even worse with the sleigh bells and extra line, because then it becomes a triumph of marketing, and there are too many of those.
Brad: I don't think I've ever heard this song all the way through. My mind always starts wandering, and thinking of something more awesome. Like Darth Vader fighting Batman.
Rob: That's....more awesome than I can imagine. And I can imagine quite a bit.

"The Life Day Song" - Carrie Fisher

Brad: This never stops being weird. Or canon.
Rob: What...the....fucking....fuck?
Why am I watching this?
Why does this...?
Brad: Awww...Rob...did I bust your The Star Wars Holiday Special cherry?
Rob: Yes. Yes you did. And I'd have been happy to stay flowered.
Brad: You haven't seen the whole thing. It's more like I just fingered you in the car park while we waited for your dad to turn up.
Rob: Carrie Fisher's amazingly hot in this video. Especially at 1:25 - Lungs and a malleable jaw.
Brad: I was hoping to get a Debbie Reynolds callback, but I'm buggered if I can manage it.
I'm not giving this a second playthough.
Rob: Wasn't Burt Reynolds originally supposed to star in A New Hope?
Brad: It's not as good as the Ewok movies, is it? Score?
Rob: How many turkeys is the maximum then? Five?
Brad: Yeah.
Rob: Four Christmas Turkeys. Because as much as it pains me to say it, Carrie Fisher in that made it almost bearable.
Brad: Four Christmas Turkeys. And one Vergere.
Also, Mark Hamill. And Mark Hamill is amazing. All the time.
Rob: Yeah, but I wasn't trying to facefuck Mark Hamill in my head.
Brad: Mark Hamill's face is already fucked.
Rob: Dude...
Brad: Too soon?

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - Miley Cyrus

Brad: I'm digging out the real bizarre ones this year.
Rob: You sure are. Capture 0:11 in your head. You will never in your life see a more perfect shot to define the term "little kids losing their fucking shit."
Brad: It's true.
Rob: I tell a lie.

Brad: Pluto looks desperate to get down from there. It's like he's fucking terrified, and they haven't even told him how he's going to get down.
I am terrified of those fucking gingerbread men.
So...Miley. Would we? Could we?
Rob: Legally, yes. In terms of feasibility, absolutely not.
Brad: Yeah, she's 19 now. We're golden. Not as golden as she'd be, if you get my drift.
Rob: Besides, she's the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus. Maybe she's a carrier of Fail.
Brad: Yeah, that must be like haemophilia or something.
I cannot understand a word she says after she finishes singing.
She always sounds like she's being autotuned, even when she's not.
Rob: Yeah, she's got a weird voice.
Brad: She's pretty good, but...yeah...I can never quiet shake the impression that she's a robot created by an evil defrosted Walt Disney to take over the world.
Rob: There's nothing that says "Let's get this crowd moving" like a crowd of Gingerbread people moving like they've just had a stroke.
I just spotted another one of those moments that would infinitely improve/fuck up a video.
Brad: Jesus , those fucking gingerbread men.
Is it Pluto pulling off a Senton Bomb?
Rob: At 1:03, the camera could pan to 2-4 spotty nerds holding up a "When are you legal?" sign.
Brad: You know what, I think I can top the weird.

What are we Gonna Get 'Er Indoors? - George Cole & Dennis Waterman

Rob: Sorry, remind me again why Top of the Pops died out.
Brad: Because music sucks.
So...Minder had a Christmas record. Did you know that?
Rob: Nope, I had no idea.
Brad: Is your life richer for knowing?
Rob: I think back to life before E14. It was a simpler time.
Brad: It wasn't for me, in a weird way. I mean, all this shit was still in my head, just with no real outlet.
Rob: You know what I hate more than some of the crap acts on TOTP?
Brad: Dennis Waterman?
Rob: TOTP audiences.
Brad: The Dawn of the Dead type swaying, you mean?
Rob: Yeah.
I remember watching The Complete Picture (A collection of The Smiths videos and live performances) and being disgusted by the audience looking so fucking bored for music they probably enjoy.
Brad: To be fair, it's hard to be pleased with a compilation of The Smiths.
Rob: I enjoyed it.
Even though Morrissey seems like a total prick.

It Must be Santa - Bob Dylan

Brad: I really want to believe that this is what Christmas at Dylan's gaff looks like. And I'm loving his new "Voodoo Priest" gimmick.
Rob: Didn't I see him playing a hot woman in Pirates of the Caribbean? I'm not thinking of Jack Sparrow either, before you say anything.
Brad: I'd say "no", but I haven't seen the last one. All I know is I want to go to Christmas at Bob's place.
Rob: At 2:00 it seems like Dylan just goes into Billy Joel We Didn't Start the Fire mode and just starts naming Presidents.
Brad: It's a good point. He makes it work, though. I'm not normally a Dylan fan, but I love this song.
Rob: It's all right. I like Dylan, he's pretty cool.
Brad: I wish more of his stuff was like this. I'd take Blood on the Tracks more seriously if it had an upbeat accordion on it. Hell, a zither, too.
Rob: I think Cohen is underrated, especially in comparison.
Brad: Cohen's good. I love The Big Lebowski.
Rob: At 1:00, the caption might as well read "I'm motherfuckin' Bob Dylan, bitch."
Brad: Score?
Rob: Zero Christmas Turkeys. It's a really awesome song that manages to do away with most, if not all, of the traditional Xmas cliches.
Brad: One Christmas Turkey. There's still a Santa in there.
This next one is possibly my least favourite Christmas song ever.

8 Days of Christmas - Destiny's Child

Brad: Ah, time for some pre-packaged, sanitised sass.
Rob: What, are they going to try and convince Santa to pay their bills? Destiny's Child might be one of my least favourite things ever.
Brad: Totally.
It goes: An itchy foot when wearing boots, running out of paper in the loo, having to put down your book ten pages from the end, The Holocaust, Destiny's Child.
Rob: Don't forget that woman who sang "Smell yo dick."
Brad: I prefer her. She was at least genuinely aggressive. This pre-packaged sass that Destiny's Child and similar artists purvey...grates on me.
Rob: So the whole song about them being gold-digging bitches is building to the 1st day where he gives her....Quality Time?! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! What a load of fucking bollocks.
Brad: They're all dressed likes sluts at the office party. There. I said it.
Rob: Incidentally, the only thing the guy probably got over these eight days was blue balls.
Brad: I ain't saying she's a gold digger, but she ain't got any teeth, and is constantly prospecting up in them thar hills while holding a pick-axe.
See, I'm sure Destiny's Child are probably nice guys in real life, and are just playing a part, here, like the vast majority of musicians really are. Unfortunately, I'm also sure that the vast majority of their audience are fucking idiots, and will take this at face value.
Rob: I know for a fact that people do.
You know the one thing that would've improved this video? Actually, I have two ideas.
Brad: Is one of them Optimus Prime?
Rob: The first is a pretty similar theme to the earlier ones I pitched.
Brad: Beyonce masturbating to herself? A scenario that probably isn't new to her.
Rob: As they walk through the aisles, they notice a guy masturbating to a jigsaw puzzle.
The second is even better. At 0:13 Kelly Rowland goes "You know, Christmas...." only to go on to spout some fake bollocks.
Brad: Yeah.
Rob: What would be infinitely better would be if she changed the intonation to "You know Christmas?" then just goes "Good, innit?" and it fades to black.
Brad: You know what be better? If Kelly Rowland came on screen and it cut to this.
Rob: So let's run down their gifts. Expensive gifts: 4
"Sentimental" gifts which are actually self-indulgent and ego-serving: 4
Is it any wonder that a lot of women who listen to "R&B" are bitches?
Brad: Score for this one?
Rob: 37.68 Christmas Turkeys.
Brad: I'm giving it Zero Christmas Turkeys. This bullshit is nothing to do with Christmas.

Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Joe Dever gamebook Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!

Brad: His blond hair is cropped close to his head and his eyes are hidden behind a pair of dark sunglasses. Pistol in hand, he walks slowly towards you, then stops at the entrance to the pay booth. Two more men in uniform emerge from the doorway - the rifleman and one other - armed with a sawn-off shotgun.

Rifleman: They don't look like clan punks, Sarge.
Kate: We're not. We're running from the clans.
Brag: I can handle this, sweetheart.

Brad: Bemused, the blond-haired man scratches his chin and turns to say something quietly to his two companions.

MCSPINDLE: 28 Days Later totally ripped off this gamebook.

Brad: It is them that you notice the faded sergeant stripes and the circular globe-of-the-world emblem that adorn his sleeve. Instantly you recognise the latter: it is the emblem of the World Defence League. At length, he turns to face you once more.

Sgt Haskell: [much friendlier tone] I think you two had better tell us your story.
Brag: Can I hold my gun?

Brad: You tell the soldiers who you are and how you cameto be here in Fort Stockton. At first, they listen to your fantastic account with cool scepticism.
Rob: How is scepticism cool?
Brad: How isn't it?
Rob: Whatever, not bothered.
Brad: That's apathy.
Rob: I doubt it.
Brad: That's more like it.
They cross-examine you both in an attempt to find a flaw in your story, but when they are
unable to find any, their attitude begins to change. By the time they have finished their interrogation, you have managed to win their respect and admiration. Once they are convinced that you are genuine colonists they recount their own tale. They are WDF marines who, before 'The Day', were stationed at an underground tracking facility in Brownsville, Texas.

MCSPINDLE: That sounds like gay code...

Brad: Twelve of their unit survived the post-holocaust years, but soon after their return to the surface they were the victims of a clan attack. They were the only survivors of the attack and were forced to flee Brownsville on foot.
Rob: Racists? Out here?!
Brad: Eventually they managed to find a vehicle that worked - the pick-up truck - and had got this far when the fuel ran out and the engine broke down. They are trying to reach their command headquarters at Fort Bliss, located just north of El Paso, where they hope to rejoin remnants of their unit. They arrived in Fort Stockton three days ago and have been rpevented from continuing theirjourney on foot by the blistering day temperatures and the fierce night storms that have swept down from the Barrilla Mountains. They have set up camp in the ruins of a nearby motel and they invte you there to share their food and drink, and to formulate a plan to find some fuel for The BragWagon. Their provisions are basic, but you receive them gratefully.

Brag: Cheers for that.
Kate: Parma Violets? Really?

Brad: After your meal you try to think where you might find some gasolene.

MCSPINDLE: I'm pretty sure that's pronounced 'petrol'.

Brad: Sergeant Haskell and his men - Marines Gunter and Knott - have searched every square inch of Fort Stockton and know that there is none to had here.

Sgt Haskell: What we need is an old road map. One that would show us where the freeway rest stops and gas stations in this are were located.
Brag: Here, maybe this map might be of use. And hopefully it's within about half a mile.
Sgt Haskell: [examining the notes and markings on the map] Hey, where did you get this?
Brag: Some guy.

Brad: He scrutinises it at length.

Sgt Haskell: What you've got here is a blueprint of a major HAVOC operation to take over the country.
Brag: Seriously? Those douchebags?
Sgt Haskell: This is one hot piece of property: it shows clan strengths, supply areas, HAVOC strongholds, controlled cities, everything - even pockets of WDL resistance on the eastern seaboard. We've gotta get this to El Paso. If there's anything left of WDL headquarters then they must be warned about what it happening in the East.
Brag: Okay, but what about fuel? Douchebag out there has barely enough fuel to make it another twenty miles. All we need is enough gas to get as far as Kent in time for the rendezvous with the colony. Then we can refuel from the tanker and you can catch a ride with us all the way to Fort Bliss.
Sgt Haskell: There's a rest stop here...
Brag: No there's not. Oh, on the map?

Brad: He points to the map at a place on Interstate 10 that is half-way between Fort Stockton and a town called Brogado.

Sgt Haskell: There's no knowing if there's still any gas in its storage tanks but it's our only hope. It looks like a twenty-five mile drive - do you think you can make it?
Brag: Well, we can but try.

Brad: You decide to leave Fort Stockton at dawn the following mornind, but the weather deteriorates, putting a swift end to your plans. For two days and nights the town is hit by lightning storms and tornadoes, forcing you to remain in the basement of the motel. It is not until the morning of the sixth day of your mission that the tornadoes blow themselves out and you are able to leave the town in safety.

Brag: No books down here, are there?

Brad: With Kate beside you, and the three marines clinging to the hood and trunk of The BragWagon, you crawl the twenty-three miles from Fort Stockont to the Balmorhea rest stop that Haskell found on your map. It is located at the entrance to a pass through the Barrilla Mountains and at first glance it appears to have suffered extensive damage in the recent storms.

Brag: On second glance, it's a shithole.

Brad: You bring the roadster to a halt with your fuel tank virtutally empty, and it is with great trepidation that you and Sgt Haskell go to inspect the fuel storage tanks while Kate and the others watch the road. Of the eight underground fuel tanks located beneath the gas station area, only one look promising. Of the others, six are empty and one is contaminated with diesel oil.

Brag: That's no good! It'll make my engine...what does diesel do to a petrol engine?

Brad: A coded security valve locks the access pipe to the tank and, after a brief examination, you realise that the code must be cracked if you are to get at the contents. Any attempt to break off or cut through the valve would be sure to cause a spark that would blow the tank, and whoever was tampering with it, sky high. You are studying the valve when you hear Marine Gunter shout a warning:

Marine Gunter: Clansmen on the freeway!
Brag: Sounds like a Golden Earring song.

Brad: Six black-clad bikers are riding along Interstate 10 twoards the rest stop. Affixed to the rear of their saddles are long, whiplash aerials, which are topped with black pennons that bear a lion's head symbol. You stare at these small black flags and a tingle runs down your spine: it is the emblem of the Detroit Lions clan. The bikers catch sight of The BragWagon and bring their machines to a hlat a hundred yards from the rest stop. Then all six spread out and, using the rocks and boulders that litter the landscape, they make their way forward slowly.
Sgt Haskell orders Gunter and Knott to take cover and open fire at the advacing clansmen; they must not be allowed to capture or destroy the fuel tank. From behind an old gas pump you watch as two of the Lions start to edge their way around the service area.

Brag: Don't shoot it, whatever you do.

Brad: They are trying to circle around the rest stop and launch an attack from the rear.
Rob: Use the pistol!
Brad: You abandon your cover and shadow the two clansmen as they circle around to the rear. An old tyre rack propped against the side of a derelicy car was offers you a good defensive position, and quickly you scurry towards it. You reach the rack


Brad: in time to see the Lions halt. For a moment they duck out of sight, but soon the reappear and come running, half-crouched with guns at the ready, towards your new-found hiding place. You pull back and release the slide of your pistol, feeding a bullet into the breach, then take careful aim at the first clansman as he scorries between the rocks that litter the edge of the service area. He is less than twenty yards away when you squeeze off your first shot and bring him crashing to the ground.
Rob: What is he made of, glass?!
Brad: His partner hesitates, then abandons his stealthy approach and comes running towards you, screamin hysterically, his machine pistol blazing at his hip.
Rob: Fire again.
Brad: Bullets rip into the tyre rack and whistle past you on all sides as the clansman rushes your position. Calmly you stay hidden until you hear his gun stop in mid-burst, then you spring to your feet and fire at point-blank range, hitting him in the chest. He doubles up, falls forwards and lands in a lifeless heap at your feet.

MCSPINDLE: Shake n' VATS, bitch!


Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
Brad Harmer: Facebook Twitter
Rob Wade: Twitter
This is intended as a loving tribute to Joe Dever, the Freeway Warrior series, Slaughter Mountain Run/Mountain Run, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Joe Dever gamebook Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
MCSPINDLE: I'm not gonna make more than 120 miles, Brag.
Brag: That's what you were complaining about? My days have been numbered since page 1. Metaphorically.
Brad: It is midday when you rejoin Interstate 10 to continue your drive west.
Brag: We probably shouldn't have stopped off at Little Chef.
MCSPINDLE: I know, right? They always said they two things to survive a nuclear fallout would be germs and cockroaches. And what do you know? Little Chefs.

Brad: The sun is at its height and it feels as if it has pushed the temperature to five degrees above unbearable. To save fuel you try to keep your speed below twenty-five miles per hour, even though the lack of a cooling breeze drives you to distraction. You were hoping to be able to scavenge some fuel in Ozona, the first town through which you were due to pass, but when you arrive you find that it has been totally destroyed.
A gently sloping mound of dust and rubble is all that remains of this town. You are forced to continue without respite, and throughout the long, hot drive, the experience of Ozona is repeated many times before you reach Bakersfield in the early morning.
You are both tired and suffering from mild heat exhaustion, but after having at last reached a town that is still standing, you agree that you must search for fuel and water before it gets dark. As the town is divided in two by the freeway, you decide to split up and search one half each.
Rob: Search the south side of Bakersfield.
Brad: At the far end of a block of derelict stores is a blue, star-shaped sign that marks the site of a Lone Star gas station. You hurry along the dustry street, hopeful of finding some fuel, but you are met with disappointment. All the security caps have been sawn off the gasolene storage tanks and not a drop of their precious contents remains. The gas station itself has been ransacked and nothing of value remains, but at the rear of the building you discover something that stirs your curiosity. It is a large storage facility with heavy double doors, which are chained and padlocked.
You walk around the building and notice that it has no windows or other means of access.
Brag: How does one get in?

Brad: Nothing hints at what it stored inside, and the more you consider it, the more intrigued you become. You head off to search elsewhere. After a long and laborious search of all the stores in this part of Bakersfield, you discover absolutely nothing of any practical value. Having exhausted both your energy and your patience, and with dusk already giving way to darkness, you abandon your search and return to The Brag Wagon. You return to find Kate sitting on the hood of the BragWagon, sifting through a box of items she has found.
She, too, has been unable to find any fuel, but she has salvaged enough food for a decent evening meal.
Kate: I even found some wine from your home state.
Brad: She proudly holds out a bottle of Californian dry white for your inspection.
Brag: You might want to climb off that hood. This is third base for him.
MCSPINDLE: I hope you found a corkscrew.
Brad: As night draws in and the temperature falls, a strong wind arises that whips along the freeway, howling like an angry ghost. You sense that it is the prelude to a storm and you suggest to Kate that you look for somewhere to shelter. An old brick-built library standing close by seems like a good bet: the walls are strong and it still has a roof, which is more than can be said for over ninety per cent of the Bakersfield buildings.
You decide to spend the night in the library's main hall. After clearing a space near the centre, you build a small campr fire, using a few of the many thousands of books that line the walls. Then, once it is ablaze, you help Kate to prepare the food she has found. Outside, the weather has gorwn steadily worse.

Brag: I don't have room at the inn.
Brad: Thunder rolls acorss the surrounding plains and the jagged flashes of forked lightning illuminate the roiling clouds of dust with increasing regularity.
Brag: There's a storm comin'...
Kate: It ain't all bad. At least we don't have to worry 'bout Mad Dog's boys showin' up outta the blue.
Brag: Yeah, now they'll show up outta the lobby.
Brad: The food and wine taste delicious and, after eating your fill, you both settle down to sleep in front of the glowing embers of the camp fire. It seems as though you have only just closed your eyes when you are stirred to conciousness by a loud crackling sound and the acrid smell of smoke. Horror fills your sense when you open your eyes to see yourself surrounded by a blazing wall of yellow flame. Lightning struck the library roof while you were asleep, starting a fire that has been fuelled by the shelves of dust-dry books, and which has now spread to the main hall where it threatens to consume you both. Quickly you wake Kate and together you fight your way towards the main door.
You are within ten feet of the exit when a burning bookcase falls across your path.
Brag: This ain't good.

Brad: The heat and flames force you back from the entrance, and as you reach the centre of the hall, you look around desperately for another way out but every exit is now ablaze. Using a heavy rug from the floor, you cover Kate's head and tell her to make a dash for the main door. Bravely she obeys your command without hesitation, and she succeeds in escaping through the tunnel of flame and out into the street beyond. Heartened by her success, you raise your jacket over your head, take a deep breath and sprint after her.
Brag: I hear the Chariots of Fire music!
Brad: Your speed and sure-footedness save you from the merciless flames. Your jacket is blackened with soot and the legs of your jeans are smouldering, but you escape from the blazing library without sustaining any injury.
MCSPINDLE: Oh, whoever could have set that fire?
Brad: Kate catches you as you emerge from the library and pulls you a safe distance away.
Moments later, the roof of the library collapses with a loud, spliterning crack, and clouds of sparks whirl into the night, carried upward by the strong, gusting wind. Silently you look at Kate's smoke-blackened face, and then at the blazing library, and you realise ust how lucky you both are to have got out of that inferno alive.
Brag: You'

Brad: By the time you recover fully from your ordeal and return to The BragWagon, the storm has blown itself out. The easter sky is lightening as dawn appraoches, and you decide to leave Bakersfield now, before the sun rises and the temperature becomes unbearable. Beyond the town, the freeway climbs steadily towards a distant line of mountains that shimmer on the horizon. You keep your speed as low as possible and cover forty miles with your fuel gauge nudgng the zero mark. Then the silhouette of Fort Stockton appears on the road ahead and your hopes of finding some gas are rekindled.
Brag: Forts are well known for their gasoline!
Brad: The first thing you see upon entering the town is a gas station. Like everything else, the station appears deserted, but there is something about this building that makes your skin prickle with presentiment.
Brag: Yes, whatever presentiment is, I'm prickling with it.
Brad: A battered Chevrolet pick-up with its hood raised at one of the station's four gasolene pumps. It looks far cleaner than any of the other auto wrecks that lie scattered around the town, and your suspicioins are further aroused when you notice a large black pool of oil on the ground beneath the engine compartment. You stop the BragWagon alongside and step out to investigate it.
Brag: Wait, this oil is fresh...
Brad: You dab your index finger in the pool. You are wiping it clean on the leg of your jeans when you hear an unexpected reply.
Man's Voice: Drop your weapons...or I'll drop you!
Brag: Oh....bollocks.

Brad: It is a man's voice and it is coming from inside a derelict pay booth.
Rob: I do as he says.
Brad: Reluctantly, you let your gun slip to the ground as the muzzle of a rifle emerges from the darkened doorway.
Man's Voice: You too, honey.
Brad: Kate obeys, tossing her machine pistol out of the car so that it lands deliberately near your feet.
Another Voice: [to your right] Don't even think about it.
Brad: From behind a wrecked auto steps a tall, muscular man, dressed in green army fatigues.
Brag: Fucking hell, there's two of you?!
MCSPINDLE: Cockroaches, bacteria and Sgt Slaughter.
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
Brad Harmer: Facebook Twitter
Rob Wade: Twitter
This is intended as a loving tribute to Joe Dever, the Freeway Warrior series, Slaughter Mountain Run/Mountain Run, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Book Reviews

Star Wars – The old Republic: Revan
Drew Karpyshyn
Titan Books

Available Now
Review by Brad Harmer

Revan: hero, traitor, conqueror, villain, savior. A Jedi who left Coruscant to defeat Mandalorians — and returned a disciple of the dark side, bent on destroying the Republic. The Jedi Council gave Revan his life back, but the price of redemption was high. His memories have been erased. All that’s left are nightmares—and deep, abiding fear.

What exactly happened beyond the Outer Rim? Revan can’t quite remember, yet can’t entirely forget. Somehow he stumbled across a terrible secret that threatens the very existence of the Republic. With no idea what it is, or how to stop it, Revan may very well fail, for he’s never faced a more powerful and diabolic enemy. But only death can stop him from trying.

Man, it seemed like this book was never going to arrive, didn’t it? Anyway, it’s here now and, Good Lord, is it awesome. It feels great to be able to check in with so many of the characters we knew and loved all those years ago, and under the control of Karpyshyn, you know it’s going to be handled properly.

Revan is exceptionally well paced, which is something of a rarity in Star Wars novels. There’s always something going on, and the next action beat is never all that far away. Some characters are just written quietly out of the story, which is understandable in terms of time/space restraints, but as the book measures in at shy of 300 pages, you’d think there could have been room for an appearance from Zaalbar and Mission Vao.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Several unarmed combats, several lightsaber combats. Some gunfire.
Sex/Nudity: Some partial nudity.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fantastically paced, well-written Star Wars adventure. The action scenes are perfect, the characters brilliant and the ending beautifully bitter-sweet. You’ll need to know the video game(s) to get the most out of it, but this is one of the EU’s better offerings. 9/10


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Monday, 21 November 2011

E14 Stand-Up Round-Up

Jimmy Carr: Being Funny
Channel 4 DVD
Available now on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Star of hit TV shows 8 Out of 10 Cats and 10 O'Clock Live, Jimmy is well known for his slick one-liners and non-stop gags, but his acerbic wit and fast-paced comedy style are at their brilliant best when he has the stage to himself.

As a comedian, Jimmy Carr is one of the safest pairs of hands in the business. Whether you’re watching him on a panel show, doing stand-up or on an interview show, his style doesn’t change drastically, so if you’re a fan of his style in one aspect you’ll find yourself pretty content with any of his appearances. It’s with the most complete lack of surprise that I, and hopefully yourselves too, can say that the newest release by Jimmy Carr ticks all the boxes for fans, and is one of his best releases to date.

Where the existing fans are concerned, they’ll be pleased to know that some features that have previously been seen in older releases make a much appreciated return. With this release, Carr goes for a series of crudely drawn images to accompany some of his racier one-liners. He also makes the attempt to get audiences laughing despite thinking “I’m a terrible human being” which has featured at previous live shows. For new fans, Carr introduces a new concept: his “pilot” episode of a Parkinson-style interview show, using a random audience member with an interesting job as his “guest”. This section is a particular highlight, as Carr inadvertently chooses a guy with a particularly hilarious set of life circumstances.

The most impressive thing about Carr, which will particularly impress those who have perhaps never seen any of his stuff except for his panel show work, is that he is lightning quick when it comes to improvisation. Granted, some might argue that since he sometimes delivers one-liners in place of other material, it’s more about recall, but from experience I can tell you that often the lines between improvisation and recall blur quite substantially.

Now, of course, if you’re not a fan of his stuff generally, there’s going to be little to entice you in this scenario, but I would still say that it’s worth a watch, as some of the gags will have you creasing up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Frequent strong references.
Swearing: Frequent, some strong. All funny.
Summary: The undisputed current king of one-liners delivers another sterling show. 9/10

Stephen Merchant: Hello, Ladies
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo
Review by Rob Wade

Stephen Merchant, the Emmy, BAFTA and Golden Globe award winning co-creator of The Office and Extras in his first ever live stand-up comedy tour. Stepping into the limelight, Stephen Merchant is in search of a wife, discussing the problems of being 6ft7 in life, but also when it comes to the ladies, watching porn on VHS and re-enacting the first play he ever wrote.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last ten years appreciating the works of Gervais and Merchant (and Pilkington in recent years, though “work” may be the wrong word in that scenario). If you’re even more like me, you’ve actually found yourself wishing that Stephen Merchant did more in the spotlight, as for my money Merchant is more enjoyable than Gervais for the most part. It’s pleasing, therefore, that enough people seem to have mentioned that idea to him, because here he is!

Except that for the first five minutes or so, I felt like I was just watching Ricky Gervais’ right-hand man. While funny, the opening segment contains the same mock elitist tone that Gervais employs to great effect. Thankfully, he seems to evolve his style gradually as he goes along, probably hearkening back to his days as a stand-up on the circuit. His style, unlike Gervais, is quite animated and involves a lot of dancing (which I can confirm as a guy of the same height is pretty impressive to be able to do at all). However, also worth mentioning is that if you’re a fan of Merchant’s appearances on the infamous podcast series that sent all the stars’ popularity into the stratosphere, you’ll find that you will hear some stuff that you’ve heard before, albeit delivered with a completely different style that works equally as well if not better.

As a show overall, “Hello Ladies” is absolutely worth the price of admission, with a section on Merchant’s bedroom manner while not wearing glasses giving me fits of laughter, if only for his facial expressions. It certainly proves that despite changing media considerably over the years, from TV to podcasts to recent appearances in movies, Merchant has not lost any of his skill as a stand-up. Definitely worth checking out.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Talks a bit about porn and masturbation.
Swearing: He swears a few times, but generally doesn’t pepper his sets with it like some other acts.
Summary: A strong performance, and a demonstration that Merchant is a very capable stand-up indeed. Hope he does more soon! 8/10

Chris Addison: Live
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Following a sell-out UK spring tour Chris Addison, star of BAFTA-winning comedy The Thick of It, makes his critically acclaimed stand-up available on DVD for the first time. Recorded live at London's Bloomsbury Theatre, Chris Addison covers material from the personal to the more broad in his own unique style.

Recently, my only experience with Chris Addison has been watching the movie In The Loop, which was great, and watching him on the Direct Line adverts where scriptwriters have basically raped the careers of some of the finest comedians in the country by making them say violently unfunny shit. I actually cry sometimes at the plight of Alexander Armstrong, and I shouldn’t have to.

Thankfully, when left to his own devices, Addison is a fucking funny guy. While his style is extremely animated, and will probably inspire trepidation in those with an innate fear of drama students, what lies beneath the wild gesticulation and (at times) wild non-sequitors is a comedian of phenomenal quality and observational stature.

While the subject matter has been covered many times in the field of comedy (supermarkets, the Internet, Daily Mail), Addison has a delightful sense of humour on these mundane subjects which makes them feel fresh. What’s more, Addison has the simultaneous ability to be a young-looking guy who looks gawky and awkward using “text speak” and manages to sound like an old man when complaining about Amazon Recommends, and my goodness does the man sweat!

Where the show works really well is in the spaces where Chris Addison goes off on a rant on a subject. While these sections will flare up the aforementioned Drama Student sense, as his style involves a fair bit of arm-waving when he goes off on one, it’s absolutely worth persevering, as his ire manages to be simultaneously irate and middle-class. It’s comedy for the new generation, although he takes shots at the entitled generation as well as “drama queens” in Britain. It’s a show of considerable talent, and long may he continue in this vein.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Talks about sex a fair bit.
Swearing: Some “fuck” and “shit” uses, as well as the C-word.
Summary: A very funny guy indeed, and a show very much worth looking at. 9/10