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samusarmada Blog

Your Moderation has been overturned!

So it seems it is possible to get your moderation reversed after all. Last week or so my image signature was removed because it was deemed to be 'offensive'. The signature in question...:

Needless to say I was not impressed so what followed was a rather thorough post to the moderation board explaining the situation which you can read here, and after a few days of no response and one gentle bump I finally discovered in my inbox today that wonderful message:

So there you go, after 23 moderations I've finally been able to get one overturned. Not to say that I deserve to have the others overturned as well, but it's just nice to be the good guy for once :P

Movie Review: Milk

"My name is Harvey milk and I am here to recruit you!" While almost the tagline of the film itself this is thankfully the message Milk steers clearest from. By sticking firmly to the roots of the biopic it titles (that of Harvey Milk, and his rise to become the first openly gay man to be elected into office and the anti-gay laws that are threatening America at the time) than the piece of propaganda it so easily could have become the film allows itself to gently work its way into the viewer. So that even the most ardent of sceptic can't help but feel as enamoured as he is embittered by the film's conclusion.

As a character piece Milk would be nothing without its principle star and just like Mickey Rourke embraced the Ram and Frank Langella sunk into Nixon, Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk with an identical kind of synchronisation. The role may have been harder to pull off than the others but Penn still manages a perfect nuance. All the mannerisms and traits are present but it is the warmth and energy that exudes from Penn that is most wonderful. Rarely has a film about so much oppression felt so optimistic and even rarer still is it to witness a performance so full of life, when faced with odds so determined to eradicate it.

This charm and boldness is complemented (but by no means watered down) by some fantastic supporting roles. The three most central supporters; James Franco, Diego Luna and Emile Hirsch's characters all bring a wonderfully different set of behaviours to the political operation, aptly and deftly showing the pressures, enthusiasm and heart braking troubles that such a dedicated agenda can bring. Alison Pill's character, the lesbian activist brought in to help organisation, is just as well placed but her separation from the others is due to her being the focal part of Milk's most enduring moment. On her arrival to a slightly sagging political operation she is greeted by a stream of discomfort from all those at work, to which she quickly jumps on, asking wryly "are you all afraid of girls?" Wonderfully enough, you can tell pretty much immediately that answer to this question is actually yes.

But with this joviality comes the malice from which it stormed, and in this respect where Milk was brash and open in its heroes, it's dark and subtle with its villains. Most films use real footage sporadically and gracelessly. With Milk however, the transition between the two is so seamless and natural that it's hard to think of a film that does it better. No where else is this more evident than in its use of Anita Bryant, the angelic, picket fences spokeswoman, whose hate-hidden behind-crucifix attitude is only shown through her real life television appearances. Creating a permanent image of reality when faced with the almost unbelievable arguments put forward by such persons. The star of this however remains Josh Brolin's seething portrayal of Dan White, the official up against Harvey Milk for the latter half of the film. It actually took me a second viewing to appreciate Brolin's performance; so understated is his portrayal that it's easy to miss it when played opposite Penn's bravado. But it's so well perfected (literally every delivery has a little falter of discomfort, a slight bite of resentment) that it can't help but feel like the perfect support role to Penn.

As biopics go Milk is a somewhat flawed reality. While Penn's performance is exquisite it remains a glorifying portrayal of a man notable for his polygamy and stubbornness. But as a film it oddly transcends that singular vision of just the story of 'one man'. Milk is a movement piece, displaying a rare warmth not just for those cast but to those who are suffering from the same kind of alienation milk exhibits, but never overplays. As said before it is remarkable how Milk never seems to fall into the caption of being a piece of propaganda. It has that honesty, that sense of good will to celebrate a man's accomplishments for the simple need of celebration. But that is not what I found most remarkable about Milk. What I found most remarkable was how I had never managed to hear Harvey Milk's name until now. How, when Martin Luther King's name is used so frequently in American civil rights is it that this man's name is never even uttered in the same breath? We all need symbols of hope, and when one is as exuberant and joyful as this one; you can't help but feel recruited.

Movie Review: The Wrestler

wrestler-aronofsky-promo-tsr.jpg picture by OisinSamus
It is ironic that in the same year Jack Nicholson was faulted for merely playing himself as the 1989 Joker, Mickey Rourke shows just how effective this relationship can be. Rourke plays out his life in 115 minutes as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson; a former icon now reduced to school hall signings and amateur fight nights. "You never really stopped acting" an interviewer once said to Mickey Rourke, "yeah but I acted in a lot of crap" Rourke tactfully replied.

It is in his performance that Rourke gives the film its real resonance but it is in that which is represented that provides the film with its strangest interest. In refusing to belittle the sport (or stage) of wrestling director Darren Aronofsky has created something of an eye-opener. The films' opening backstage scenes reveal the workings of these fights as pseudo-improvised acting and presents the wrestlers themselves as respectful-if rather odd fusions of actors, bodybuilders and athletes. On the more extreme end The Wrestler showcases the more dangerous side of 'Hardcore' wrestling, which includes (in this case the very real use) of staple guns, barbed wire and planks of wood. More importantly, the films shows the long term self destruction of its stars. Rourke's character is battered and worn out; his heart collapsing under the years of steroid abuse necessary for his physique, his finances nonexistent and his family no longer apparent. Alone except for the stripper he visits almost every night Randy seeks redemption with his estranged daughter and wishes to form something more with the stripper he visits.

These are familiar themes for any sports drama but rarely are they handled with such an unnatural sense of realism. The direction is almost documentary-esque and the soundtrack never seeps into anything more than ambience. But it is again the performances that give the film its added weight. The 45 year old Marisa Tomei plays stripper Cassidy with the same kind of realisation as Rourke plays 'The Ram'. Too old to be doing what she does her life runs parallel to Randy's in the same way that her playing a stripper at 45 (no matter how good she looks) mirrors her character. Evan Rachel Wood as the forgotten daughter may or may not have been abandoned when she was younger but her startling transformation in the equally self destructive Thirteen at least gives her some experience in the unhinged daughter role.

Against the weight of all other films The Wrestler presents something far crueller. For all the fame, for all the glory Randy has lost everything to that which he loves and there are some pains that just can't be healed and there are some realities we don't want to face. "The only place I get hurt is out there" he plainly tells Cassidy at the start of the films heart breaking climax. There is humour along the way, but it's bittersweet as it always carries the further realisation of how out of touch Randy is with the world. The scenes where he is trying to find a present for his daughter or when he plays a videogame with one of his neighbours are brilliantly portrayed but they build up: fusing with the moments of him just trying to get by, or when he's at autograph signings-the camera lingering on the canes and wheelchairs of his associates. It results in a film that combines self loathing, obsession, narcissism and redemption to create a character that could not be played by anyone better, by anyone else. And as the final shot fades to black you couldn't ask for a better ending; leaving you to ponder for a few weighted moments over the only conclusion that can be drawn, just long enough to hear Bruce Springsteen quietly count the film into the credits, and sum up Rourke's character in one mournful line: "If you've ever seen a one trick pony then you've seen me."
The-Wrestler-movie-f07.jpg picture by OisinSamus

Winner of the Writers' Lounge 'Holiday Review Competition'

It's always nice to be appreciated and it's also nice to actually take part in a union that you have a genuine interest in. The Writers Lounge is quite a small union for the length of a time it has been operating (around a year), but it has a dedicated community of users who upload such varied works as poems, reviews, short stories and yes-the occasional piece of fan fiction.

I'm more of a lurker in the union itself, as I myself only really take part in writing reviews (though one of my pieces of coursework for my english gcse was a Half Life 2 story) I only feel like i'm a member there for a portion of what the union is about. Nevertheless, when the Writers' Lounge announced they were having a review competition I though it'd be the perfect time to take a stab at seeing what the union had to offer.

As you can tell, I won the competition. I used my de Blob review as it was the most recent review I posted and you can take a look at in my profile. There was some hefty competition, including Aberinkulas, who-as well as being one of my favourite reviewers on Gamespot-procured a review for Half Life; a game that is not only very hard to analyse (given its status), but also one of my favourite games.

Upon winning the competition i was granted with this nice little tag which I have since put in my signature.

Though it didn't make my impending exams any easier to think about, it certainly made me feel extremely happy and made the somewhat frustrating wait for ONM's December review competition to seem more bearable (currently there's still no announcement there).

You can check out the Writers' Lounge here, the competition itself here and the results page here.

Movie Review: Bridge to Terabithia

2007_bridge_to_terabithia_004.jpg picture by OisinSamus

Much like the main characters it presents Bridge to Terabithia is caught in the middle of being both a children's and an adult's film. It delves into the areas of fantasy, hope and friendship all against the backdrop of loneliness, under appreciation and worry. Like all good films it combines the two to produce a sweet, endearing and at times heart breaking film.

The film gently introduces its main characters to us, establishing family set ups and main characters positioning throughout their school system. Unsurprisingly main character Jess Adams is a bit of a misfit, his farmyard upbringing the brunt of the bullying he faces at school. Once this is established we meet Leslie Burke, the likewise equally misunderstood female character who plays the role of the slightly kooky, imaginative girl. Like all childhood friendships their relationship develops quickly, a slight sense of tension at the start is quickly forgone thanks to some tried and tested chewing gun and a race to a tree. It's both a charming and an idyllic relationship, hints of romantic interest remain appropriately as hints-never going too far but amicably showing affection and the ever popular method of having two friends have a quarrel and then make up later in the movie is thankfully avoided. The actors themselves are strong as well. I was never really a fan of Josh Hutcherson (who plays Jess) mainly because I didn't like Zathura, but here he gives a strong performance, particularly from someone his age. Likewise AnnaSophia Robb (Leslie) is also strong. Her more positive and inquisitive character is easier to pull off than Josh's (who, it has to be said has to go through varying emotional stages) but she does do her job very well and most importantly the chemistry between the too leads is there is full force. This is perhaps the area where Bridge to Terabithia will mostly appeal to adults. Children will find the early parts tedious, anxiously waiting for Terabithia itself, but for adults the two characters relationship is one of endearing innocence. Such relationships can never happen with those past that mystical puberty ridden gateway so the sense of friendship and excitement is all the more powerful here.

Something that well extends into Terabithia itself. The two create this dreamland out of their own forest as a means of escaping the bullies and school that populate their real lives. Its meaning is not merely so superfluous however; this is a world where both can foster their own gifts of imagination and creativity. Terabithia turns out not to be a means of escape but a means of creation. It is a world that adults really have no business entering or have any means of even attempting to enter. As someone who long ago crossed the bitter border that separates childhood from teenage angst I felt slightly incredulous about how they could imagine such a world based on real features; but that was the thing that really got to me about Bridge to Terabithia, it's a film that I can no longer fully connect with because it is an idea that has mournfully now left me. Ultimately this made the film connect to me on a different level and one that truly had a far greater impact. It reminded me of how wonderful and escapist being a child can be. How turning ordinary events into extraordinary creations was not only the norm but also brilliantly fascinating. Again, thankfully the film keeps this sense of imagination alive; whereas in most films the parental figure at some points tells the child to grow up and live in the real world here such a feeling are never presented. Though the family are financially struggling and although the Dad still asks for Jess to help out more the intrusion of family life into this world is never pressed. What really takes Bridge to Terabithia to the next level is how the opposite occurs. The real world does not take its toll on Terabithia, Terabithia makes its mark on the real world and it is at this point that the true reasoning behind growing up, the true understanding of knowing the limitation to such fantasies make their most tragic mark.

Bridge to Terabithia is a film that deals with the realities of life in ways we perhaps would not want it to deal with. Films often deal with growing up when faced with adversity, but rarely do films show this sense of childhood-this innocence in the imaginative sense. It has its share of niggles-the script is aimed and necessarily written for younger people and at times you will see the characters do things you would rather they didn't. But this is because you can see so much of yourself here in this film that it resonates with you to the point at which the somewhat repetitive dialogue ("wow" "Jess over here" "wow") becomes not only understandable but also familiar. In the end this is a film that has made me wonder why I ever even wanted to grow up in the first place but more importantly it made me look up at the trees and wonder just what could really be lurking there... a valt, a gredarg, or even a chelit perhaps? You have no idea what these are because I made these creatures up after watching Bridge to Terabithia. The film gave this particular reviewer part of his imagination back, and for that he is eternally grateful.

Movie Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Holocaust is an issue that has been tackled repeatedly through film, be it in black and white or told from the perspective of someone who was actually there. It is almost cruelly logical to then assume that the latest film documenting this event would come from a different source to previous attempts to tackle the subject. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is told through the eyes of Bruno, the son of the Kommandant of an unc!assified concentration camp. This fresh perspective, one of innocence and unknowing is what separates the film from most war films let alone Holocaust dramas and its final, eventual end packs just as much punch as any film before it.

Attempting to explain the weight of the Holocaust through film is a hard enough task and there is always the risk that you will overbear its effects. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is in the very unique position of never having to walk that fine line. Told through Bruno, the feelings of anti-Semitism and the unjust are only passively mentioned in the early parts of the film- there are multiple shots of Jews being moved out of their houses in Berlin but this soon cuts away as we follow Bruno playing a game that passes through the deportations. Later on in the film the subject matter is tackled more strongly as the issues of his fathers owns prejudices and the people around him are exposed due to the reliance the new household has on Jewish workers. Though Bruno's knowledge of anti-Semitism is steadily increased the knowledge of the concentration camp itself is heavily kept secret throughout almost all of the film. The innocence Bruno exhibits while asking Shmuel about the "farm" he is living in has a bitter kick in it that continues throughout the film. Even when Bruno eventually finds out that the place really is a concentration camp the questions he asks (particularly regarding the crematoria and the location of Shmuel's father) are still uncomfortable to see being asked.

While perspective wise the film retains a fairly original position, in terms of characters the film maintains almost Holocaust genre stereotypes. Bruno himself is the typical child hero; totally innocent, a natural explorer, relatively quick minded. His sister too is the familiar Hitler Youth offspring; her early collection of dolls, cast away in the early portions of the film due to "dolls being only for little girls". As the Kommandant of the camp, Bruno's father is particularly anti-Semitic and although his contrasting affection to Bruno is expected, the films conclusion results in the Kommandant himself having the biggest life lesson to learn. Bruno's mother plays the role of the vaguely innocent parent, who knows and follows through on the anti-Jewish requirements until she suddenly u-turns thanks to an act of kindness by a Jewish man and her discovery of what the camp was really for. While none of these characters are really given any leeway to show off until the end the character of Lieutenant Kotler, the again stereotypical screaming Nazi Jew hater, is one that even within the confides of such an established typecast is still terrifying to watch. Actor Rupert Friend deserves perhaps more credit than any other side character in the movie-though I would be perhaps too scared to tell him that.

The two principle leads of Bruno and Shmuel (played by Asa Butterfield and Jack Scanlon respectively) are the soul of the film however and as they are the main characters it is a relief that they are acted superbly. Both manage to portray the sense of innocence required for the film without the feeling of stupidity that occasionally comes across from child stars. Their friendship is the real meat of the film however and although their innocence is the crux of the films weight, it is in their friendship that the nature of the Holocausts injustice is so horrifically felt. The two feel like twins; their personalities are perfectly matched and they both seem to enjoy the same things and in a normal world they would no doubt be the best of friends, but can't thanks to Nazi beliefs that the two were so incompatible. Indeed, these childlike realisations of hypocrisy are felt elsewhere in the film. It would be ruinous to mention these now, but let's just say that Nazi ideals that the Jew was so easily identifiable from the Aryan are proven to be certainly false. Such realisations are never forced down your throats and throughout the film Bruno never openly retorts the anti-Semitic ways, he simply doesn't understand them and chooses to simply ignore them as a result. His non-judgemental nature manages to keep the films innocence alive, even when you think the film could potentially detour off into the preachy nature of children always knowing right from wrong better than adults.

Unlike most Holocaust films The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas requires the viewer to suspend belief for portions of the film. Several instances: such as the apparent lack of guards patrolling the perimeter fences, the lack of knowledge that Shmuel is away for large portions of his work detail and the apparent ease it is that these two boys can get so close to each other are all surrealisms that are necessary if the films premise is to be workable at all. The use of very British actors and therefore accents, while a welcome change from the American dirge that so often occurs in such films, is still off key for such a film-and although inevitably none of these features detract from the weight of the films final scenes, much of the earlier portions of the film will be spent fighting off such contradictions.

The Holocaust is reported to be the most cinema treated moment in film history and there are some who may dismiss The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas as lightweight entry to such a series. While it's insular perspective and childlike approach may cause some to cast it off in favour of grander sweeping accounts such as Schindler's List that would be entirely missing the point. While small in stature the films emotional punch is one very different from the likes of The Pianist and although its cinematography may not be as inspired as the aforementioned when you ultimately come down to it a film of this nature is judged on the success it has on making the viewer feel some emotional weight towards either the subject matter, or its characters. And if you were looking for a defining picture of the Holocaust you would need to look no further than the last shot of this movie-the slow creep back of the camera, to reveal the discarded striped suites of hundreds of Jewish workers. The bolted door at the centre of the shot, deafeningly quiet-marking their final resting place.

Thumbs up or Thumbs down? - The inherent problem with our Player Review system

I have long been wary of our whole "review helpful" system, whereby we are allowed to rate player reviews with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down. I am wary because such a system allows those to simply rate without leaving a comment (therefore not allowing potential reviewers to improve at all) and secondly, because the phrase "did you find this review helpful" is such a vague and pointless term that few follow its criteria when assessing a review. Most of the time, a thumbs up rating will simply be given if the rating corresponds with the assessors view on a particular game-not the review itself.

Quality control is something that should hardly be enforced on the player review system-but I do find it frustrating that the "thumbs up" system rarely rewards actual good reviews. Too often do I see reviews barely over a paragraph long, with the effort put into them blatantly showing that they only took around twenty minutes to write. These reviews are ironically just as likely to get good "thumbs up" records as the more in depth ones, and if anything; their shortness and basic coverage make it easier for people to judge whether the reviewer is viewing the game in the same light as they are.

Perhaps a larger word count should be enforced (which would at least up the depth or range of issues that people go into) or maybe even a simple comment system that must accompany each rating-this would hopefully allow for the various "fanboyish" thumb ratings to be stemmed and would also let new reviewers gain advice. Maybe even have two separate systems-one for short "summary" reviews, another for longer "Page +" reviews would help. Though such a system is rather segregational I feel that something should really be done to sort the "writers" from the "raters" as it were.

The reason I have brought this issue up (and I hope that this will relate to other users so as to not make the following paragraph appear too rant like) is that I myself feel slightly annoyed at what has happened to some of my reviews. I generally check my recently posted reviews every day (just to see how they're doing) and I was saddened to see that my Super Mario Land review had been given its first rating, and that it had been negative. I was dejected because I know my reviews are good (reference 1 and reference 2) and even though the source of such praise may initially seem dubious, the critical response I received from many of the users there was both helpful and glowing. To then see my reviews negatively felt on a site where I have no means of knowing why such negativity occurred is something that I find very frustrating. I then proceeded to find out that three of my other reviews had all been negatively down-marked. Given the rarity that I get "thumb marks" in the first place I am naturally assuming that the negative feedback I got was all from the same person and whether it was through spite, arbitrary hurt or genuine criticism I will never know-because of this rating system.

The likelihood that I will get onto Gamespot's fabled "top community reviewers" list is miniscule-given the lack of time I have to consistently write them and the apparent luck you have to have in order for a mod or equivalent to happen upon your reviews. This is not a complaint mind, given the difficulty in achieving such a goal it is perhaps all the more rewarding and justified for those who eventually get it but I feel that there should at least be some middle ground, or at least a change to the foundations of the player a review system so that it can be a more rewarding and informative place for all of us.

Brawl Review up (Yes I couldn't think of anything more interesting to write)

(the link)

I have seen a fair number of blogs simply proclaiming that they had indeed finished a review and as an act of publicity had posted a piece of self advertisement to try and get as many readers as possible. So rather than simply tell you that yes I indeed have finished my Super Smash Bros. Brawl review, allow me to tell you how I came to write this review.

I have made a slow progression in the way I write reviews; not least in the fact that they seem to progressively get longer with every game (and make no mistake Brawl continues that tradition) but also in the time I spend writing them. My first two reviews were entirely written on the "write a review" page on GS. Both of them done right there and then, in little over maybe two hours. As I progressed onto Half Life I realised that I couldn't write a review in this way, mainly because there was so much more I wanted to write about Half Life; so I then descended into MS word and wrote that review over several sessions. Halo 3 continued much in the same way except that I was developing the nack for writing a helluva lot more than I used to, and also going into a fair bit of analysis. I then had somewhat of a renaissance with the short review, mainly due to the fact that Portal and HL2: episode 2 were very much suited to short reviews (no doubt if I ever do a Half Life 2 review its length would undoubtedly beat Halo 3). So there is the story of my reviews as of before Brawl; however with Brawl I went even further forward with my professionalism-I went into a notebook.

In all honesty this was no doubt down to me being in Ireland while I wrote the Brawl review where I had no TV or computer. The approach of writing by hand actually made things a lot easier as I was able to write faster and felt more able to cross out stuff I didn't like. It may also come to your surprise (to any of you who read this) that Brawl was not the first review I wrote in the book. No, that honour goes to Shadow of the Colossus which was an helluva lot harder to write than Brawl. Partly why i didn't type out Colossus first was that I wasn't sure that I was fully happy with it, and indeed i'm still not sure. Whether SOTC is the next review I put out is again up for question because while in Ireland I wrote a third review-Call of Duty 4.

I completed Call of Duty 4 in two days, well technically I had to wait until after I came back from Ireland so I could see the final cutscene on the bridge and do the bonus mission, (did the game on hardened, tried the bonus mission on veteran for about 3 hours and I will do it if my cousins lend me the game (note: if my cousins are reading this, that was a lie. I do not want to do the bonus mission on veteren, that was just something I wrote not to make me look like a quitter.)). Am I disappointed by its length? Not at all, as with Portal sometimes short games are the best ways to go and there were even points in Cod4's campaign that felt stretched.

That's for another time however because in all honesty there are lots of games I could review in the coming months. Only a few days before I left for Ireland I beat Mass Effect, and while in Ireland I triumphed over Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. So there you have it, the history of my reviews. I only intended to write about Brawl but I guess i'm wandering again. Maybe it is the fact that I am very pleased with my Brawl review that I am writing this or the fact that I was sick of that blog making me look like a computing expert. Either way, I've written something; now maybe you'll comment on them :cry:

Shocking the System - Installing System Shock 2 on Vista

I bought SS2 for my cousin last year as a computer alternative to whatever other shooter I got him for Xbox. While he was pleased with the gift he did tell me later than after their last 3 computers had all broken due to game related issues (I believe it was Canon Fodder that caused the issues on all three counts) he was not allowed to install a game onto his family computer mainly because his Dad's entire job pretty much existed on it.

Of course I already knew this so it was with a slightly winking grin that I suggested to my cousin to bring the game while he came round to my house for the weekend. Now, I had heard that there were troubles with old games and vista, I also knew that SS2 was itself a game that had problems running on XP as well as Vista, so I didnt expect the process of allowing myself to play the game to be smooth running. What i didnt expect however was the fact that I would have to make such intricate changes to the games files, practically adding failsafes and codecs to allow the thing to even work.

Initially things looked promising. The actual installation seemed to work very well with no problems and I was having hopes that I may actually get a clean installation for once. Unfortunately the moment I attempted to play the game a warning message came up saying that

"System Shock 2 needs 35MB of memory to run, you only have 27 MB of space free"

Noticing that I had 176 GB of memory in my drive I was a tad perturbed. However a trip across internet lane and I discovered that the way to solve this problem was to just restart the system. I did so and the game obliged in its end of the deal to allow me to progress to the main menu, unfortunately that was as far as I would be getting.

Well that's not really fair to be honest. On my first attempt in the main menu i did actually get to starting a game. But no sooner had I walked off the train (there's a train at the start (like the one in the beginning of half life)) the game froze and task manager read the application as "not responding". I would be seeing alot of that over the following days.

My travels through the internet with my 35MB problem had shown me several highly complex ways of solving the problem, and as I really didnt feel like editing the games program files I looked for the most basic alternatives available and they werent particularly helpful. The most frequent of responses was the problem that people were running the game on two cores. A quick look at my system information confirmed that Ihad two cores as well. Hopeful, I restarted the game like it said, Alt-Tabbed to something else, brought up task manager, went to processes, selected SSHOCK.exe, right clicked, clicked on "set affinity" and unclicked one of the CPU's. Praying this would work, I went back into the game and got a black screen when I clicked on start game. Black screens would also prove to be a frequent sight while trying to fix the thing.

The next, and perhaps most obvious solution was to change windows compatibility for the program. This just flat out broke the game for me, sending up "not responding" screams from windows, without even a glance at any loading screens. I was disgruntled, as well as slightly sweaty (I really shouldn't have selected "run in 256 colours"). But I came to the conclusion that I would have to do something major and fix the game myself, and not rely on any quick and easy solutions to fix what would prove to be a fairly hefty task.

picture break time:

Basically, what follows is what I found out through various sources of what I had to do. It's divided into 3 sections so this should help anyone who's having problems installing the game.

1. Running the game

(This is what everyone wants, and this should stop the game from crashing. It's quite a short process but it does require you to follow the steps exactly as written)

-Download the official SS2 patch to upgrade the game to version 2.3

-Search the folder containing all of the installation files. Search for a file called "cam" it should be a .cfg file or just a CFG file.

-Open the file, windows will say it cant open the file, ask it to let you choose a program to open it manually. Open the file in notepad.

-You'll see some writing that you shouldn't concern yourself with. Beneath the other sets of writing (I left an empty line beneath the writing already there and my own) type in:

sfx_no_asynch_all 1

-Save the file

-Create a new, blank notepad text document and simply save it as "safe_texture_manager"

-Download this file

-Unzip it, and save the application inside of it into the installation folder you have currently been working within.

-You will notice that this looks like another application file you have in this folder. Rename the application you just downloaded as "SHOCK2.exe" and rename the old application as "SHOCK2.old" (this is to make sure that if you click play when you insert the CD it will choose this new application rather than the old one)

-You will need the CD to play the game.

-If the game is still giving you problems make sure you only have the game running on one CPU. If you didnt read the top bit of my post:

-Start SS2 as normal. Once you are on the main menu Alt-Tab out of it. Start task manager. Go to Processes. Find "SHOCK.exe". Right click on it. Click on "Select Affinity...". Uncheck one of the CPU's. Go back into the game.

2. Fixing your binds

(Some of you may notice that when you go into the inventory screen you are unable to drag or use items there. This will occur if you made your own binds (your own button configuration). To check if this is the problem, load up the default bind set and see if you can drag and drop now. You should be able to and even if you still can't it is more than likely that the following will fix the issue.)

-In the installation folder find and enter the folder named "Binds"

-You should see various "BND Files". You will notice that there are two main names for each file "cfga" or "cfgb". cfga stands for the button configuration while you are in shoot mode and cfgb stands for the configuration while in use mode. The numbers represent which bind it is. bind 0000 is for the default layout, 0001 is for the standard fps layout the game supplies you with, and 0002 should be your binds.

-Open both 0002 files in notepad, and check that at the top it says "My binds" or whatever you saved it as. You can do this with the other files as well if you want to just to make sure.

-In the cfga (shoot mode) file scroll down and make sure that the following is correct, if it is not correct then edit it accordingly:

bind mouse1 +fire_weapon
bind mouse2 frob_object

-In the cfgb (use mode) file scroll down and make sure the following is correct, if it is not correct then edit it accordingly:

bind mouse1 +drag_and_drop_mode
bind mouse2 frob_object_inv

-Save the file, and load up these binds in the game to see if their functions now work.

3. Making the cutscenes run

(There are 10 cutscenes in System Shock 2. Only 3 of them are worth watching as the other 7 are quick 10 second scenes that show your ship coming in and out of dock with space stations, and the credits, and the intro showing the logos of irrational and looking glass. The three cutscenes that are of interest take place firstly when you start a new game, then when you first wake up on the Vaun Braun (this takes place after your third year of training and when a womans voice starts speaking too you), and then there is the last one at the end of the game. I am telling you this because I could not get this to work so if you cant get it to work you can pause the game and find the videos on youtube. But this does seem to be the best solution to the problem.)

-On the System Shock 2 CD locate and double-click on a file called iv5play. This application should install the codec required to play the movies.

-You now need to register that codec with Vista. To do so type "cmd" into the search box. Right click on the program that comes up and select "Run as administrator".

-Type in the following and press return:

regsvr32 "C:Sshock2LGVID.AX"

BEFORE you do so however you may have to change the C:Sshock2 to wherever you saved the installation files containing the LGVID file.

-Cutscenes now should work.

shodancrop.jpg picture by OisinSamus

So yes, that is my story and the results are clear. I can run System Shock 2 really well now, although I can't view the cutscenes. He went home on Sunday so I get to keep it for a while. Hope to see you on board, it's really fun.

-Dr. Janice Polito

My very late - My most antiscipated games of 2008 (part 1) (pt. 2 below)

With the first quarter of 2008 already well and truly gone it feels slightly pointless describing games that I will no doubt be playing very soon. Indeed there are some games on this list that many of you will already be playing and if you feel that this is a waste of time then you are more than welcome to come and live over in England where writing blogs about super smash bros. brawl is the only way to pass the time. So without further ado, let's start the countdown.

(part 2 can be found here)

10. Okami Wii

Clovers beautiful swansong returns at last to a new crowd, and the console it was always meant for

The PS2 had some of the most artistically beautiful games of the last generation, proving that a consoles technical ability is never a fair measure of the limits to its art. The most distinct of these was Okami a game that graced the ps2 just as the xbox 360 was being released and at the time presented an interesting comparison between the more technical beast Gears of War. Now, the game is being released on what many are calling its true home, with the wii-mote forever being the ideal candidate for celestial brushwork. I held off buying Okami for the ps2 because I was fairly sure that it would be released on wii and it turns out that I was right. Okami's distinct blend of Zelda-like puzzles and dungeons combined with an art design that is truly special and you have a game that simply cannot be ignored. While many have undoubtedly played and finished the game already, for me it's like 2006 all over again, and if the original could be compared with the like of Gears of War then there's no question that it could do so again.

9. Grand Theft Auto 4

"What we lack in size we make up for in scale" says Rockstar as their ultimate vision for Grand Theft Auto finally comes to fruition

I have to be honest; I don't particularly like the GTA series. While I undoubtedly had endless fun with my friends copy of GTA III that was restricted to short 20 minute play sessions which often resulted in mass killing sprees and heroic getaways. While I never had the opportunity to play Vice City, my return to the series with San Andreas was disappointing to say the least; the murdering had lost its interest and there wasn't much else of the game that I liked either. Come the impending hype for the first GTA4 trailer and I was as disinterested as the next hater. When the trailer did arrive however I was surprisingly shocked. In the space of 1 minute and 3 seconds I was suddenly genuinely keen on finding out more about the game. Enormous credit goes to Rockstar for this; as a teaser trailer it was perfect, revealing and hiding everything we wanted to know. We were presented by Nico, a character arriving in the newly renovated Liberty City telling himself "perhaps here, things will be different..." Rockstar know how to write games it seems, with inspiration from the Godfather, Scarface and Goodfellas ever present in all their previous titles. But only here in Grand Theft Auto 4 does it all seem to feature. With the huge critical success of Vice City and San Andreas it is difficult to comprehend exactly what Rockstar intended for the genuine successor to its landmark ps2 opener. Whatever happens, it is clear Rockstar have put all of their creative output into this one title and their decision to cut down on many areas that fans expected to be extended (area size, planes) reveals a company who know exactly what they're doing.

8. The World Ends With You

and now for something completely different...

Image 8

For me to explain to you why I am so interested in this game would be impossible because I genuinely don't know why I'm looking forward to it. If you asked me what the game was about, you would be greeted with a similar look of vacant blankness, because I truly don't understand this game and perhaps this is why I am so excited about it. With so many games you are delivered the experience before you ever get the chance to try it out for yourself; be it through videos, previews or forums. The World Ends With You suffers no such pain as every video, every preview and every forum post simply adds to your own confusion. You might say that it is therefore ridiculous for me to be excited about a game I know nothing about, "how do you know its going to be good?" you may reply. I would again say that it is exactly this kind of unknowingness that attracted me to the game in the first place, and it is this continued sense of strange mysticism that keeps me hooked to the game, because even though I know otherwise; I still look for every new video, preview or forum post about this game, and it will hopefully prove likely that I will still remain nonplussed about the game until I am holding it in my hands. And if that moment ever does come, then I can honestly tell you that it will be my most exciting gaming moment in years.

7. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Release date EU: TBA

"A delayed game is eventually good; a bad game is bad forever". This famous quote came from the refining king, Mr Miyamoto himself. However when the game in question has already been out in 2 other continents for several months, the likelihood of Brawls delay actually meaning something beyond localisation is about as likely as Nintendo ever being able to release a game simultaneously. To be fair, it makes sense to stagger the launch, with even the US' release crippling brawls online it would be difficult to comprehend the amount of lag if the entire world came in to play. However negativity aside and I must admit that the US release of the game raised my level of anticipation to its highest point, and justly so seeing the scores the game has been given. As is ever the case with internet hype, the game has been utterly spoiled for me (well characters and stages at least) yet I remain ever itching to try out all of those characters so dutifully revealed to me by friends, posters and magazines. While I'm sure you'll agree that the preview to this title has been fairly predictable so far let me end on perhaps a more surprising note. While the gamer does indeed have many reasons to play this game, the thing that I am most looking forward to in this game is the music. Whereas I was disappointed by Halo 3's superfluous orchestration of its music, the quality of those tracks were already fairly decent to begin with. Twilight Princess' midi files most certainly require an orchestration however as do the various hits from the past. As well as this is the contribution of metal gear solid and sonic the hedgehog, with both these series' having some of the most recognisable themes in history. Combine this all together and you have the only game of 2008 that I would by for its score alone.

6. Spore

The most ambitious game of 2008 will soon arrive as Will Wright offers the world his own slice of creation

Calling Spore "ambitious" is doing a severe injustice to the game. Whereas many other games this year have been noted under similar terms Spore easily outdoes all of these games in terms of what it is trying to achieve. Whereas most games only offer the tiniest amount of history to be covered, be it a world war or a single period in history, Spore ousts them all with a design so grand that it would be theoretically impossible to go farther. Covering the entire life cycle of a single species from microbe to interstellar race Spore charts your progress as prey to predator and coloniser to invader, from inception to destruction Spore sets itself apart by presenting a million different possibilities to the player and a space setting so large that Will Wright himself has said that there are "over half a million different stars, each one having its own planets, more than anyone could visit in a lifetime.". While the scale is definitely there Spore now needs to live up to its claims; the idea of controlling a creature from its very beginning to its more advanced stages presents different game types for each stage of the creatures evolution. Each of these is going to need to be played differently enough to feel like progression is being made but each is also going to have to feel familiar enough so that alienation doesn't set in at every stage. While this is the first game in the countdown to not receive universal enthusiasm that is only because the game is so ambitious to begin with that it will require an enormous amount of effort to match the enormity of the task Will Wright has set himself. However, this is not a review and as such we should certainly give Spore the benefit of the doubt so far. Mr Wright has certainly proved himself, but this will undoubtedly be his greatest challenge yet.

Who would have thought GS had a word count limit :? Who would have thought i'd actually find that out :(

(I did part 2 below because part 1 would be seen by people first so it would be easier to have them follow onto 2)

(part 2.)

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