Employment by The Kaiser Chiefs: Ten Years On

Ten years may not seem like a long time but when you actually look back on things that did happen a decade ago, you can’t help but feel slightly nostalgic even if it doesn’t feel as long as you envisioned. Although this isn’t a particularly new idea, it was tricky to find good highlights from 2005. Once we had found some great ideas, we realised we had too many and so had to whittle them down. From movies, music games and everything else, these articles will tell you why we think they deserve mentioning and how well they have stood the test of time.  As a start and what better way to begin than to go over one of the most crucial first albums of the 21st Century. The Kaiser Chiefs released Employment almost ten years ago and I have been a huge fan for the majority of those years.

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From the beginning synth line and the chugging guitars of ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’ it’s easy to see that Employment is going to be a quick paced, high energy album. It sets out the tone perfectly for the Kaiser Chiefs; simple lyrics and tone to sing along to – the under-pins of every great indie rock song. The bittersweet lyrics give off the impression that this isn’t going to be your run of the mill, straight laced pop-rock affair. Its iconic middle 8 adds a bit of depth until the band screams up to the final chorus. It’s a ruthless in your face track but a cracking opener. It also sets the tone for the entire band.

‘I Predict a Riot,’ along with ‘Oh My God,’ are arguably the most famous songs that put the Kaiser Chiefs well and truly into the limelight back in 2004, when the singles where released. A great deal of energy is produced from Ricky Wilson (vocals) and Co, again topped with more screaming before the outro choruses. Again, nothing complex, just simple, good clean fun wrapped up in some solid guitar and drum work from Andrew White and Nick Hodgson respectively. “Oh My God” being belted out brings the chorus out shining as a bruiser of a modern-day rock song. There’s ferocity behind Wilson’s delivery but it remains strong and it is dominant. Simple repeated choruses just work in Kaiser’s favour; a song where you can see and hear that it was created for huge crowds at festivals and gigs. It will always be a firm favourite amongst the more casual radio listeners and hard-core fans.  A winding guitar solo nicely brings the song to its all-out final chorus The Kaiser Chiefs know how to make good indie anthem and this is always going to be the case. But of course, you do need a bit of variation from time to time. Employment employs alternatives!

‘Modern Way’ calms the tone that favours the lulling reverb and the dark, clean tones of Andrew Whites guitar open the tune which complements the drawn out vocal harmonies. The countermelodies on Nick Baines’ keyboard playing add to the complexity behind the simplicity. Only until the chorus does it start to crank up. It gives the third track a nice mellow feeling. ‘You Could Have It All’ keeps to that gloomier tone and as a cleaner piano based ballad with a solid, cha-cha, almost latin- type drumbeat that utilizes maracas and wooden percussion it adds more differences too. Smooth vocals and a simple overdriven guitar solo only add to the colour of this slower song that has a bit of sway and lot of swagger. ‘What Did I Ever Give You’ has is an edgier, sombre record with its spooky pseudo-organ synth that starts it off. The hissing vibraslap begins each new verse and the guitars follow a staccato pattern that keeps the rhythm the smooth bass lines miss. The lyrics set the mood accordingly ‘all I gave you was pain, and a look of disdain’ encapsulates this. It’s not a happy song but it brings more to an album that is so pumped.

The aptly named fourth track, ‘Na Na Na Na Na,’ brings back the quick pace and the high energy. Jumping rhythms on the Simon Rix’s bass add to the power and youthful bounce; a jaunty piano line highlights and compliments this. We also get a more intricate guitar solo, something we haven’t really heard of from White until now. An arpeggiated piano intro starts off ‘Born to Be a Dancer’ and a very simple airy guitar line that harmonises the vocals evoke a similar feeling to an early Franz Ferdinand song but a brooding middle section with its not-so-cheesy cheesy key change and instrumental middle 8 sets it away from the Scottish rockers. “Once you ask me what I’m thinking, I lay back and think of England” adds a cheeky dimension to this cheeky song.

A buzzy 8-bit inspired synthesizer takes us into ‘Saturday Night.’ Two chords are the bases of the main verses and its strength and the chorus’ vocals add more melodic differences where the tune actually lays. I do love the how it keeps its charm even though there’s not a lot of musicality behind it. All the movement is in the vocal line and its backup harmonies of ‘oooh wha wha wha oooh’ and subtle waves of brass and a distorted bassline. In ‘Time Honoured Tradition’ again White’s guitar follows Wilson’s vocal line. No traditional chorus, no real words but it works. As very skeletal song, I feel it misses some of the middle padding that filled out previous songs and that it appears to be quite overlooked compared to some of the other tracks. The meticulousness of the lyrics in the verses which is where the majority rhythm comes from is where it shines through. ‘Caroline, Yes’ is actually one of my favourite songs from the entire album, if not my favourite; it has this overall darkness in its apparent dirt. Ricky Wilson has some real emotion in his lyrics and his singing and the twiddly guitar riffs that top each chorus counter the winding of the vocals and backing vocals. A simple vibrato guitar solo matches Wilson perfectly. Basic vocal lines keep to the anthemic feel to this song that bursts into a powerful chorus. ‘Team Mate’ then starts the finisher of the album with none of the power that was present in the previous songs. Very breathy makes it feel like an intimate acoustic song but adds the richness from the bass, drums, wooden percussion and organ. Only halfway through does it build up with a mystical reversed-effect guitar, something similar to a late Beatles song that induces the resonance of a sitar. A very Britpop style song, reminiscent of Blur it seems.

The Kaiser Chiefs helped pioneer the sound of the mid-2000’s with the other great indie bands of that generation. The soul of 2005 is firmly wedged in there. That doesn’t necessarily means it sounds dated, far from it, but it makes it feel like that part of music has run its course. With music being cheaply made by lacklustre people (I use the term ‘musician’ or ‘artist’ sparingly when mentioning modern-day bubblegum “hits”) Employment evokes the greatness of the high-octane festival type rock bands that used to get so many airplays on mainstream radio. Guitar based bands are still on the backburner I feel. Still relevant to those who care but it may be a while until they become as popular to the masses as they once were. The Kaiser Chiefs may have matured since the release of Employment and they still carry on making great songs but their greatness is owed so much to this debut. I’m happy to keep living in that simpler era, longing for it to return. Nonetheless, this is still a good, solid album that doesn’t do anything spectacular because it doesn’t need to; it keeps things simple and elegant yet powerful that only adds to the rawness.


Words by: Jimmi

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Maleficent (2014) – 52 in 52: Film 1

DISNEY GOT DARK”

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Alas, a new challenge is upon us, and what a great way to start than with a unique twist on one of Disney’s classic and best known fairy tales. In a world where 2014 was a-wash with Frozen, Maleficent cuts through the songs, talking snowmen and over-night relationships with betrayal, tense battles and an irreversible curse; Disney got dark!

Directed by Robert Stromberg Maleficent portrays the other side of the Sleeping Beauty story but this time from the perspective of the villain. Or should we say “villain” as this retelling puts a different spin on how Maleficent became to seek out vengeance.

Jimmi says: “I have never really taken much interest in anything with Angelina Jolie in, not that I fault her as an actress or anything, but they just never really struck me as ‘must-watch’ (maybe that will change over the next fifty weeks or so?). That was until I watched this and I must say she put on a very good and very striking performance as the malevolent fairy. Jolie makes Maleficent and depicts her as powerful yet graceful, like she is always a force not to be reckoned with and is always in control of the situation no matter how sinister it may be.”

Kat says: “From the point of view of having watched the original Sleeping Beauty as a child, it was thought-provoking to see Maleficent as more than a one dimensional villain that she was portrayed as initially. I like the fact that she was showed as a human character with emotions, feelings and motives rather than someone who was outright evil for no discernible reason, something that Sleeping Beauty never really touched on; she was bad and that was that. This film shed light on this misunderstood character and created a more mature narrative.”

From the beginning, it was clear that the character set up in Sleeping Beauty was of course, very wrongly portrayed. As a child, Maleficent was a kind, sellfless and sensitive fairy, protecting the Moors and all of its amazing creatures. After meeting a human boy, Stefan, the two grow close and start to fall in love. As they grow apart and grow older, we learn that a powerful king wants to claim the Moors as his own. This doesn’t sit very well with Maleficent who summons vast tree-creatures of the forest in their droves and fights back taking out the King’s army and wounding him in the process. No small task but it showed us how much the Moors mean to Maleficent and the lengths she will go to. As the King lies on his deathbed he states he needs an heir for the throne and his daughter; the man who overcomes Maleficent will inherit the throne and his daughter’s hand. Stefen steps forward as he knows he had a bond with a younger Maleficent and uses this to deceive her for his own personal gain, claiming the throne. Seeing Disney use such underhand tactics gives the film darker edge. Disney has always done death and characters being killed off but what they did in Maleficent isn’t really the norm. Jimmi says “the emotion Jolie puts into her character once she knows she has been deceived was rather unsettling for me to watch and would perhaps go over some children’s heads. It’s interesting to see it be done but at the same time, very irregular.” The motive of how she became evil is suddenly apparent and the rest of the story plays out with that in mind hence why she curses Princess Aurora with an unbreakable spell, the same spell that was cast in the original film, word-for-word, something that Jolie insisted on during the production. “At first, Aurora is the chance for revenge and so Maleficent makes sure nothing gets in the way until her sixteenth birthday when the curse comes into effect. However, when the two start to bond, I sense that Maleficent sees that innocence in Aurora that was once in Stefen and as she watches over her, she grows to love her” Kat adds. The rest of the story shows how Maleficent battles not only with the true enemy, but also her regrets.

This is all set on a backdrop of amazing set pieces. In one scene the colourful, neon Moor creatures evoke a similar sense of awe that was found in the alien rainforests of Avatar and having the palette  change when things do inevitably get dark, it sets the right sinister tone making this film get the right balance between good and evil. Sam Riley is great as Maleficent’s human-formed raven Diaval and the dialogue between the two is a sharp contrast to the slapstic and comedic three pixies Knotgrass, Flittle and Thistlewit (played by Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple respectively). Sharlto Copley as King Stefen is also remarkable at out-villaining the villain too and Elle Fanning’s Aurora recaptures the carefree sweetness of the typical Disney princess.

Rather than seeing the villain as just a villain and a means for the protagonist to finally defeat, seeing this sort of twist is unusual of Disney to do but something that we would like to see them do more often. Normally the villains have a better tale to tell than the hero and learning about how they came to be is bound to be very interesting. Maleficent proves that this type of storytelling can be crafted extremely well.

Words by Jimmi and Kat

Online Window Shopping with The Bradford Exchange – World Wide Wednesday

Someone once said ‘Money can’t buy you happiness but it can you chocolate and that’s kind of the same thing‘ and in this day an age, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to buy something to treat yourself or someone you hold dear; and with Christmas just around the bend (and don’t we know it), online shopping is a crucial and useful tool to have at your disposal. What with the big contenders like Amazon and eBay at your beck and call, you can buy yourself anything from a new CD or a smart jacket to big household appliance like a washing machine or vacuum cleaner. If you want something more specialised, you go to a specialised stockist. IWOOT is a fantastic place to find gifts for those who you just can’t find gifts for, I can’t recommend them enough. They sell kitsch, quirky and useful gadgets and household items that you could do without but you want anyway. Most of the time they have offers and their home delivery is prompt. But, this isn’t an article about how good IWOOT is, but more or less how good an online store can be. I have done my research and even though I personally haven’t used their services, there are a few pages on the internet dedicated to feedback about The Bradford Exchange; it’s not a pretty sight. So with that in mind, ‘People of The Internet’ I thank you for going over this already and saving me the job of actually having to buy something.

I will add that I did ‘review’ this almost four years ago on my own ‘Observation Blog’ and I was going to update some of the core text and undo all the hard work the spellchecker did when it clearly was on holiday. Simply it would have been a word for word copy and paste job in a vain attempt at recycling some old jokes and then I’d just sit and see where it went. That was until I looked back at the original Bradford website and noticed things had changed. It was at that time I thought ‘I’ve got to re-review this’ and ‘I can still get away with recycling jokes.’

Jimmi

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The Bradford Exchange is an online stockist that provides novelty gifts; they are normally advertised in TV magazines so you may have already come across something they sell already. Whereas IWOOT claims their products are ‘Something you don’t need but really, really want,’ The Bradford Exchange’s tagline should be ‘something you don’t need – fullstop.‘ Just imagine this:

So when you’ve risen out of your John Wayne bed sheets in the morning to eat your John Wayne toast that came out of the John Wayne toaster; presented lovingly on a plate from the John Wayne ‘Hero For A Century Collector 100th Anniversary Plate Collection’ and sliced with a knife from the ‘Hard-fired porcelain John Wayne Knives Collection’; all washed down with some orange juice from out of a glass that belongs in the ‘Lone Cowboy John Wayne 100th Anniversary Glass mug set’ (with a whisky chaser in a ‘Handcrafted John Wayne Shot Glass’ might I add?); whilst you listen to ‘America Why I Love Her’ billowing proudly from the ‘John Wayne Authentic Handcrafted Radio’; until you glance at the date on the ‘John Wayne Perpetual Calendar Collection’ and then at the time on your ‘Illuminated 3D John Wayne Cuckoo Clock’ realising you’re late, so you have to pick up your ‘John Wayne Straight Shooter’ and your rifle in the ‘John Wayne: Legends of the West replica rifle sheath’, turn off your ‘John Wayne: American Legend 16-inch Accent Lamp’ before walking out of your ‘John Wayne Personalised Welcome Sign’ emblazened front door and finally climbing into the driving seat of your John Wayne Van to do your day job of being John Wayne, then you absolutely have to purchase the ‘John Wayne: An American Hero Illuminated Tribute Sculpture.’ Limited to only 10,000 units and costing a reasonable £99.96, there’s absolutely no reason why you should miss an opportunity like this!

I wish I was making this up

I wish I was making this up

But no! You’re a bigger John Wayne fan than that and you have the £125 ‘Framed Illuminated Portrait Of The Duke Canvas Print’ to prove it. How do you possibly prove it to lesser John Wayne fans though? That’s right, you can spend almost £200 on a cuckoo clock with John Wayne’s face on it!


What about’s jewelry then? There’s no way that can be ruined? I mean, fashionable items suit different personalities and you’d be correct if anything Bradford sold was fashionable. Recently becoming engaged I know first hand that buying a ring is a difficult task, especially as a gift. Imagine your delight when you get given the 7 birthstone ring with matching personalisation for all the six kids you inevitably have, likely all from different fathers and all with different name variations with the suffix -ayden.

I don't think I've ever had so much fun with a personalisation option before

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with a personalisation option before

Or this ring for the man in your life who just can’t afford those knuckle dusters but you still want him to have a chance when someone “spills ‘is pint.”

Suitable for use with Burberry and Special Brew

Suitable for use with Burberry and Special Brew

How abouts gambling? You surely must love gambling right? Bradford has the perfect product for you; this gambling penchant with actual moving parts and ‘hit the jackpot’ embossed on the back for when you need to show yourself what you need to do when you spend £70 on something like this.

Are you a winner?

Are you a winner?


Okay, let me get one thing clear. Dolls are weird enough as it. With their glazed over eyes, ridiculous facial expressions and limp limbs it’s hard not to see why they aren’t in your nightmares already. As collectibles, they are sometimes highly sought after, I can understand that. One or two is fine but once you start going into double figures, suddenly being in close proximity to them all can make you feel a tad uncomfortable. After tracing my steps from The Observation Blog, the number of these added up to grand total of one. You could only buy one and one only. Even that one was a bit weird but that was that, end of conversation. However, one quite clearly wasn’t enough! What I don’t understand is why anyone with an iota of sanity would consider this a thing.

This should come with a warning

This should come with a warning

Or this…

Like seriously, I'm warning you

Like seriously, I’m warning you

How about’s this one?

Make it stahp!

Make it stahp!

I counted them all and now you can buy almost thirty similar products! I just can’t seem to grasp the concept of a group of tight-lipped business men and women sat around a table for a discussion on ‘the next hot products’ and they came up with these. And to add fuel to the fire – ironically, the same fire that could have sunk this Titanic a long time ago (and by fuel I mean snow and by fire, I mean ‘big iceberg’) – they all said yes, deemed it a success and called it a day! What gets me more worked up is that people are flocking to buy these chimp-children like they were going out of fashion. The descriptions state that ‘these are in high demand, so order fast!’ Who? Who is buying this? Who looks through the ornamental dolls and think ‘that’s what I need staring coldly at me from across the room slyly grinning and plotting my demise.’

"I know all your secrets..."

“I know all your secrets…”

Actually no. Fundementally, who is making this? Oh, of course; ‘Renowned doll artist Wendy Dickison’ and ‘serial lunatic…’ sorry, ‘Master Sculptor – I keep getting them two terms mixed up – Simon Laurens’ who is famous for his Happy Meal Lord of the Rings Nativity scene and something that really should be in the horror category. The descriptions go on: “features handpainted nails, and wispy hand-applied auburn hair that is topped with a blue ball cap for the perfect fun-filled touch.” Fun-filled? Alton Towers is ‘fun-filled!’ A bouncy castle filled with Skittles and cherryade is ‘fun-filled.’ Heck, even spending a night in the abandoned hospital would be more fun than having these abominations as room guests. Someone is paid to make this and someone else throws money at him and at the end of it all the ‘creator’ (I use the term like Frankenstein was ‘creator’ rather than a ‘butcher’) gets a lot of money and the buyer gets something that resembles the missing link in Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Together, they have carefully and meticulously crafted your nightmares for the next fortnight. One Amazon review hits the nail on the head perfectly…

Kids grow up real quick when they share their bedroom with a doll that is hell bent on murdering them in their sleep and transporting their blood to the depths of hell to be cast in molds to build an army of murderous monkey-child-doll brothers and sisters.

[…]

Kids that do not deliver Mollie’s required nightly ritual sacrifice don’t usually make it. Parents need to take responsibility here and assure that plenty of kitten blood is always on hand (and puppy blood will do in a pinch, but don’t push it – this is your child’s life we’re talking about here).

Just don’t trust Bradford when they mention that the “gentle brown eyes with long lashes seem to beg you for a cuddle” as it may be the last thing your mortal soul would ever do…

Didn't want to sleep anyway...

Didn’t want to sleep anyway…


Speaking of glazed over eyes, limp limbs and ridiculous facial expression, the Royal Family has captured the pure essence of British culture by storm and The Bradford Exchange have hit the ground running. But we’re not talking about the Head of the Royal Family and the Crowned Monarch that is our dear Queen Elizabeth II. Far from it, we’re talking about Kate Middleton. Y’know, the common-as-potatoes-Princess-which-could-totally-be-you-one-day. 

"I knew the unsold Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/Fernandez-Versini would come in handy someday"

“I knew the unsold Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/Fernandez-Versini would come in handy someday”

The Bradford Exchange lets you own a delightful and not at all tacky representation of the Duchess of Cambridge, forever immortalised as a figurine (re: action figure). Never has anything been so dull and uninspiring in this retrospect since John Wayne became part of the Barbie Sunhouse and Cool Pool Collection. Well what if you want an even more unrelated member of the Royal Family to straddle your mantel piece to collect dust? Too bad; you’re fresh out of luck. Wait, what am I on about? No you’re not. Alas, Pippa Middleton can join the your obsession of peculiar stuff that you’d be ashamed to show off to relatives and friends.

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I totally didn’t read satiny sheen as sanity sheen. As if sanity every crossed this path…

Some of them don’t even look like who they’re supposed to represent! For those of you who don’t know, this charming gent is Prince William.

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And below is the Commemorative £145.95 figurine

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The same applies with Kate…

Uncanny!

Uncanny!

…And even our beloved Queen herself!

Lifelike!

Lifelike!

Reading through Amazon reviews, It’s hard not to notice that these show up in the American market quite predominantly and understandably so. I don’t know why but America love a fairy-tale wedding with the beautiful princess bride; the charmingly foppish prince groom; all well and good.  But the bride’s sister? Who’s next, the guests? David Cameron? The Beckhams? Ben Fogle?  Someone’s review stated that they were saving up for the Pippa Middleton action figure for their collection and that it will take pride and place in the ornate cabinet made with actual British glass. That one person, you can keep it. Keep them all.


Finally, back down to Earth now, although I understand if you don’t want to return at this stage, I move onto Christmas. I wanted to find something that stood out from the rest of the decorations. Christmas is all about the celebrations, the lights, the music and the magic and so everything seemed to just fit. You only have decorations up for six to seven weeks, despite some thinking Christmas begins as soon as the last firework is set off, and then they all go back into the dark, cold attic never to be seen again until ten months later. Even the mind-bending substance induced Father Christmas playing a Christmas tree shaped grand piano that has a tiny village in the middle which also plays music and lights up didn’t phase me (much). But I found this; the cherry on the top; the crème de la crème; the quite possibly most creepiest of the bizarre.

Nothing to see here officer...

Nothing to see here officer…

A jolly snowman, fit for the winter celebrations. It wasn’t until I read into the description things then swiftly went downhill. It takes some skill and depravity to think ‘my home needs this.’  It reads “open his coat and an entire, glowing holiday village scene is revealed, complete with a hovering Santa’s sleigh…

So that's what they're calling it these days

So that’s what they’re calling it these days

Yep, for £99.96 you can own a decorative snowman that slowly opens his coat to reveal his ‘sculpted village.’ Because nothing say Merry Christmas more than being flashed by snowman. No, Bradford Exchange. No one wants this. Not as a gift. Not as a peace offering. Not as an ornament. Not even as a doorstop. Flasher the Snowman and his “glowing village scene” is not permitted in this reality or even the next regardless if it plays 8 festive carols or is skillfully handcrafted by trained artisans. It is not allowed. Thank you Bradford Exchange, I’m done. That’s it.

Expensive, tacky, downright ugly and uninspiring gifts; I have never more desperately wanted to come down to Earth more than this after browsing the internet shops (not even after my preliminary article in 2011) but then I realised. Earth is responsible for the creation, selling and purchase of every one of these products so instead, this year, I have decided to spend Christmas on the moon. I’ll send you a post card.

moon

Jimmi – From the Moon

So Jimmi Completed Dead Space

*Slight spoilers, but nothing game-breaking*

Almost two years after originally purchasing Dead Space, I finally got around to playing it through its entirety. Other games have graced my PS3 in that time but, after a long hard think about it, it was time to see it through to the end.

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If you don’t know, when I first got it I was petrified of it. Fast forward to now and not much has changed. I tried to put my fears behind me and solemnly ploughed through the terror; the same terror that enthralled and engrossed me to keep going.

Dead Space is a survival horror game about a space engineer called Isaac Clarke who ventures onto the distressed USG Ishimura; a spaceship designed to collect and mine minerals and resources from other, deep-space worlds with the intention of replenishing what had been lost on Earth after a near wipe-out. The ship encountered danger when trying to find a religious artefact called The Red Marker on the planet Aegis VII. With the Ishimura taking the artefact, a wave of mutation began to run amok and as a result, the ‘planetcracker’ spaceship took a turn for the worse. The crew became infected with a parasitic life-form that turned them into Necromorphs; hideous, grotesque but vastly intelligent beings with the sole intention of turning Isaac’s brains into jam. Isaac battles his way through the ship with an array of tools at his disposal, cutting down Necromorph after Necromorph along the way.

Photo Credits: EA Games

Photo Credits: EA Games

In basic technical terms, Dead Space is your run-of-the-mill corridor based third-person shooter. Further from that, the mechanics of the game spread out above and beyond making this an edgy and scary experience. Although it follows tropes of having to follow simple objectives made a lot harder by obstacles such as a lack of oxygen or negotiating zero-gravity puzzles, it managed to keep me on my toes at all times. The tight, narrow corridors feel claustrophobic; as though running back from whence you came is not going to do you any favours. Having to fight the mutated remnants of the crew in such a constricted space makes you think of your movements and actions carefully before attacking. Sometimes you have enough time to go over the meticulous details; other occasions not so and you find yourself in a rush of panic as a Twitcher or Brute comes charging for you like a bullet. More often than not, I found myself creeping along edges of corridors in-case I came across something that might be around the next corner. It made me think, which weapon do I use? Do I use my heavily upgraded plasma cutter or shall I just unleash a torrent of fire with the flamethrower and then slice the limbs off with the Ripper? If option A, do I have enough ammo to last me a barrage like that? And so on until you inevitably run through so many options that by the time you get to the Necromorph, it has already sliced Isaac in two. You also have to remember what you did in previous rooms. Before I cottoned-on, it wouldn’t be rare for a dead Slasher to rear up when you least expect it. Now that I’ve become accustomed to this behaviour, remembering who or what you killed previously can save you the fright of a life, and so if you spot a body in a place you don’t remember it being, chances are it isn’t dead. Fortunately with my gun-ho attitude whilst playing, I try to brutalise anything in my way regardless.

Photo Credits: EA Games

Photo Credits: EA Games

Everything else does an amazing job in setting the scene and capturing the horror. The sound design for example is astounding. Every noise the ship makes keeps you alert. The rattling coming from the air vents; is that normal or is it a Lurker? Then the jarring symphonic strings start up and you know for fact that something just burst through an inlet, but where that inlet is, is anyone’s guess. Finishing an objective gives a reassuring hum and a bright blue glow to let you know everything is under control. Graphically, although the game is going on six years old and was made in the earlier days of both the Xbox and PS3 life, it still looks good. The read-outs on the weapons and Isaac’s suit contrast the dark environment and they are clear and precise, as are the menus and the guidance line. Dust particles illuminated by the lights fill the air in certain sections and the grisly textures of enemies are a nightmare in themselves. There are a few visual quirks on certain things and the physics engine does make corpses wrap around Isaac’s feet and then bounce off down the corridor (sometimes for the worse; the amount of times a loose flailing limb has nerved me into thinking it’s anything but was absurd). Even having the menus happen in game rather than a standard head up display simply adds to the immersion. There’s nothing more tense than trying to swap out an air can as Isaac is desperately losing his breath whilst Necromorphs continue their assault.

Adding these together can make for some intense sequences. When an area goes into a quarantine lock down, you know about it even when you don’t expect it. Everything goes dark, all bar the strobe of a lone, yellow warning light and the doors are barricaded with a heavy thud, as Necromorphs you previously thought weren’t there, come snarling in. With nowhere to hide, blasting through the extra-terrestrial zombies is your only way out that can lift the quarantine lockdown. Other times, the game plays with its flaws. We all know that with video games as you progress a new area has to be loaded. Dead Space does this with lifts and doors. In the lifts, enemies can burst through the ceiling and commit you to battle in something no bigger than a wardrobe. Doors to bigger areas don’t open straight away; you have to wait for the area to load. This doesn’t break away from the immersion as you can hear the guttural roar of a Divider coming up behind you and the pulse in your head as you frantically try to get the door open knowing that if you do turn around and open fire, the smaller creatures that make up the monster will ultimately deplete your ammunition. Shouting ‘open the door!’ doesn’t really do much either but the safe haven behind it is so satisfying.

Photo Credits: EA Games

Photo Credits: EA Games

Dead Space is a fantastic game and an experience that has had a lasting effect on the games I play. Considering my initial thoughts, I have grown to accept it and appreciate it. For someone who hasn’t played many horror games, the jump scares and the sudden mini-boss fights still unnerve me but it has opened me up into looking into playing more horror orientated games in the future, which was my aim all along when I bought it in 2013. I played it with an open mind as something new and it delivered on every promise Kat set it to. The feeling of escaping this hell was what kept my going and kept me coming back to it, knowing that there is a way out. I still played it with the ‘kill everything’ mentality and I found ways to keep myself entertained by giving the Necromorphs names such as Phil, Gerald, Hector the Infector and Ivor the Divider (because these were people once upon a time, maybe ‘Phil’ is still in there somewhere). Sprinkle in a bit of time to play on the shooting range and a round of Zero-G basketball (If Link can go fishing whilst Hyrule is under threat, it won’t harm Isaac to play a few hoops) and you have a neat but scary, little package that took me about twelve hours to get through. I will eventually want to play through again on a higher difficulty and now I’m at the end of the story, I can move onto its sequel but at the moment my time on the USG Ishimura has finally come to an end. And the last scare? Yep, that vibrating DualShock 3 again…

Words by Jimmi

E3 Conferences Round-up – Ubisoft

E3

E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is arguably the biggest and boldest annual video gaming convention ever to grace the planet. Held in sun-drenched Los Angeles; the big guns of the gaming industry including Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony showcasing brand new hardware and games. The event is a pantomime of lights, music, noises and good old’ fashioned video games. Held exclusively to the press and industry members, the entire convention is streamed online for all us norms to watch at home. And that’s exactly what we did. People from all around the globe watched with bated breath waiting for what the next big announcements were coming to PC’s and home consoles over the next few months and beyond. This is a list some of the notable games and software that hooked us to spend all our hard earned money on the most expansive and by far best consumable media there is.

ubisoft

Oobisoft? Yoobisoft? Maybe it’s something totally different, like ‘Ewbisoft.’ Whatever you call them, they’re a fantastically, quirky games developer. From action adventure epics to tactical shooters and beautiful platformers, Ubisoft are reliable for providing the world with ‘Assassin’s Creed’, ‘Far Cry’ and ‘Rayman’; making software for casual, dip-in gamers, to the hardest of core gamers; Ubisoft has everyone catered for and they do a good job of it.

With ‘Watch_Dogs’ taking centre stage in the past couple of E3’s with mind-blowing visuals and stunning gameplay, and it was released a few weeks before the presentation. It was going to be interesting to see what they could show off this year and to see if they could create a tornado of hype from other, more established franchises. They didn’t fail to deliver.

fc4

After a slightly bizarre introduction from the ‘Rabbids, Ubi went straight for the jugular. Litterally! ‘Far Cry 4’ had been announced before E3 but only a few sparse details were known. This gave Ubisoft the chance to show the first five minutes of the new instalment to the Far Cry series. As our character, Ajay Ghale, is ambushed whilst riding a bus through the Himalayas, we get thrown into a tirade of gunfire and bullets at an unannounced spot check. Ghale is fired at by the militia and manages to escape the mayhem of the bus only to be greeted by an armed guard and an ominous, black helicopter at his feet. The dark figure that creeps out of the chopper is the games villain, Pagan Min, who graces the recently released box art. Dressed to the nines with his pink flares, he oily says “I distinctly remember saying ‘stop the bus’ […] not ‘shoot the bus.’” Although, calm and collect, rage is evidently building up in the swishly, dressed villains eyes and voice as he pulls out a pen knife and goes for the injured guard furiously, ruining his shoes and splattering his face with blood in the process. This man is clearly mentally unstable and not a force to be reckoned with. He however does recognise our protagonist and starts conversing with him, like they’re old friends and even finds time to take a selfie with Ghale in true 2014 fashion. Ghale looks evidently perplexed as to who or why he has been picked up on. Is he in trouble or his he safe? We’ll have to play it to find out…

jd2015

‘Just Dance’ is a funny old series, starting back in 2009 on the Wii with roots in ‘Rayman’s Ravin’ Rabbid’s’ game. Now in its sixth iteration, the worldwide mega-seller is back for sillier dance moves at your next alcohol fuelled family gathering. A trailer featuring a number of elaborate groups of people dancing to their on-screen leaders to Pharrel Williams’ sickly infectious ‘Happy’ is shown before moving on in true E3 form by getting a load of actual dancers on stage to rave to the newly announced ‘Just Dance Now’. An app and tablet/smart TV based that allows gamers to play Just Dance with their smartphone. The app is connected to a bigger screen to show the players what to do whilst the phone itself uses the power of the built in gyroscopes to recognise the movements as you do your dancy thang with an infinite number of others. This interesting concept will get regularly updated with new songs and dance moves in the future.

acu

‘Assassin’s Creed’ opened up a new world of possibilities for me. As I was stuck playing mostly racing and driving games, I got immense satisfaction soaring into haystacks, traversing high walls and plunging hidden blades into enemies. ‘Unity’ is the new offering. Although Microsoft showed a multiple player co-operative mission of Unity in their press conference, Ubisoft gave us a glimpse of a solo objective. After short atmospheric trailer, the gameplay began at the very top of Notre Dame. Our Assassin swiftly and bravely dives off the tower, catching every other wall, gargoyle and protrusion on his way down. This assassin doesn’t care much for haystacks it seems but his decent is quick and nimble. He reaches a vastly populated terra firma and objectives pop up as he blends in with the Parisian crowds. He encounters a restricted area and promptly uses his hidden blades on a couple of unaware guards. This follows with familiar swordfight. Sparks fly from sword blades and the finally the guard is taken down with a slice to the throat. Our assassin now searches for potential targets and proceeds to hunt them down. He slinks down behind cover, staying out of view of potential foes and silently creeps from one crate to the next. The man he is after is not where he thinks he is but gets word of the actual whereabouts. As our assassin darts out of the window and across roofs, icons pop up. As there is no map, this could possibly the new way how we as players find missions. He now scuttles through houses and crowds and back up wall with acrobatic finesse, getting to a higher vantage point to find his prey. He finds the man he is after and follows him via rooftops to a guillotine. He picks his moment and pounces from the guillotine itself, forcing his hidden blade into the Captains neck. The guards around rear up as our assassin is joined by his fellow co-operative brothers, ready to take on the ensuing onslaught. Unity is on good form. ‘Assassin’s Creed II’s’ Italian setting defined it and going back to a similarly stunning location and time period rather than the later colonial America of III is going to be favourable with fans. I for one cannot wait to see how this develops.

Rainbowsix

‘Battlefield Hardline’ has a new competitor it seems. A new Rainbow Six had been in the works and was overdue. The most recent utterance of a new Rainbow Six for consoles and PC after ‘Patriots’ was cancelled was 2008’s ‘Vegas 2’. This multiplayer pre-alpha level features a bunch of good guys planning and taking out the bad guys in a hostage situation, showing its mettle in a five versus five match. Again like Ubisoft’s ‘The Division’, it unrealistically gave us this heavily acted interpretation of an online multiplayer match. But cheese aside, the elements that were shown provided enough coverage into how ‘Siege’ can bring something interesting to the table. Gun shots can fire gaping holes into the wall that players can then shoot through themselves to take out the enemy. This type of procedural destruction adds to the immersion and realism. Battlefield may have had its ‘levolution’ moments that drastically altered the map but the smaller details on something like a house falling bits when a player blows a hole in the floor to get past barricades may not be the same as tumbling buildings but using the destruction adds a tactical approach. The footage ends with a one on one cliff-hanger.

Notable Mentions

Ubisoft’s open world multiplayer racer, ‘The Crew’ was shown in a time lapsed compilation trailer of races that span over two hours filled with high powered supercars bursting through urban jungles, sand-filled canyons and winding hills.

‘Valiant Hearts: The Great War’; a touching UbiArts side-scroller inspired by events from the First World War. With a cartoony animated style but also a heavy message, it expresses an evocative atmosphere that is aching to be played, just to see and hear the stories it can tell.

By the looks of things, ‘Shape Up’ uses the Kinect to its full ability. With crazy push ups and ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ inspired challenges, this is bringing motion controlled games up to scratch.

Who Was Not Mentioned?

Rabbid

Where to start? ‘Rayman’ was not present; his fury yet crazy pests the ‘Rabbids’ were relegated to the introduction; so we can’t expect any of that ridiculous fun from previous instalments on newer consoles just yet. The Driver series could have also been touched upon but, alas no. I think that last year’s ‘Watch_Dogs’ being a similar open world game with driving might have become a bit repetitive which is a shame because after ‘San Francisco’, Driver proves that it can still provide hours of joy and entertainment.

The French company did well this year. We’ve seen the next instalment of the ever-popular Assassin’s Creed; we’ve met psychopaths and are intrigued by their motives in Far Cry 4; we can dance with as many people as we want to with just an app and a fancy TV; and we can use our Kinect’s for something half decent! It’s hard to pick a firm favourite because these titles all have something that appeals; which is what Ubisoft (‘Oobisoft’? ‘Yoobisoft’? Actually, it might also be ‘Ubbisoft’…) is all about.

 

 

Words by Jimmi