Monday, 31 October 2011

Top 10 Gaming Fright Fests

As today is Halloween we thought we'd share with you some of the spookiest, scariest and most intense games we've had the “pleasure” of playing. If you aren't out trick-or-treating tonight, or lobbing sweets at ravenous (almost Zombie-apocalypse-esque) wide-eyed children, consider picking them up and scaring yourself silly.

10) Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls
Though these games are not scary in the conventional “ah! He's behind you” sense, they can leave you just as nervous and frightened. Will the next corner be hiding something straight out of my nightmares that will proceed to pummelling me into dust or will it be another player that had invaded my world to chop me in half with a single swing?

9) Bioshock
The spiritual successor to the classic System Shock (1 and 2) uses a fantastic dark setting and a cast of intimidating enemies to scare you, if you've played though it remember the first time you picked up a shotgun ;)?

8) The Resident Evil Series
Since it began Resident Evil has been synonymous with the “Survival Horror” genre of games. I can still remember running around Raccoon City as Leon Kennedy, terrified that a Licker would pounce on me from some unseen corner and though the series has changed format recently the tension of being swamped by zombies is still there.

7) The Silent Hill Series
Unbeatable enemies that you have to run away from/out-smart, a spooky soundtrack and limited visibility due to a monster filled fog, Silent Hill has them all and when they are mixed together in this title they deliver fright after fright perfectly.

6) Condemned: Criminal Origins
Though there is nothing particularly scary or supernatural in the games setting, dark and deserted set pieces filled with hidden, heavy breathing enemies that call out to you can really leave you feeling on edge. Combine this with limited ammo and a gritty melee combat system and you have the makings for very sweaty palms.

5) Doom 3
If you had played Doom, Doom 2 or any of iD's games you probably thought you knew what to expect when the game started, I know I certainly did, but unfortunately I wasn't thrown straight into demon killing with a super-powered arsenal like the previous games. Instead I found myself start a game that began superbly by giving me a torch and telling me to go into the bowels of a dark, ominous and sparsely populated research facility where surely “nothing could go wrong”, lies I tell you!

4) F.E.A.R (1)
Whether it was seeing the shadow of a certain little girl projected suddenly on a wall in front of me only to disappear as quickly, or arriving just in time to hear NPCs meet their gruesome and untimely death and find fleshless corpses lying in piles, the things in F.E.A.R had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire game.

3) Dead Space (1 and 2)
What I love about the Dead Space series is its slow paced approach to introducing you to enemies. Instead of throwing hundreds of them at you at once while you stand on top of a rubble pile with the “Super-Hyper-Blaster Cannon 20XD6” it forces you to trek carefully through claustrophobic corridors and eerily abandoned plazas all the while hinting at what lies in the shadows waiting to rip your face off. Through the use of shadows, amazing audio pieces and monster sounds the game will have you constantly turning around to check behind you. Embarrassingly I could only play this game for an hour at a time before my heart started to feel like it would explode out of my chest.

2) Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
What made this game superbly creepy was not the monsters, soundtrack or even the setting per say but rather the ingenious Sanity element of the game when it interacted with the player. Whether it was “adjusting the volume”, “disconnecting the controller” or blowing up my characters head (with seemingly no consequence) the game used methods to convey the loss of sanity that bled uncomfortably into real life.

1) System Shock 2
This is one of the games that started the atmospheric horror genre as we know it. Instead of running through corridors gunning at hideous creatures wildly this game set the mood with whispers from potential enemies, a terrifyingly omnipresent enemy and a fantastic setting. After playing through this for a few hours you'll see where a lot of modern horror games (such as Dead Space and Bioshock) seem to draw their inspiration.

Agree or disagree? Join in the banter on the CeX Facebook page.
Happy Halloween from all at CeX.

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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Battlefield 3 & MW3

Can short development times hurt a game's overall success?
 With the release of two heavy hitter FPS titles on the horizon, not to mention a bevy of other brilliant games soon to follow, fans of the soon to be released Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 seem to be arguing on every forum and board they are allowed to mix in. Debates over which is better, gameplay wise, graphics wise, etc., seem to sprout up everywhere and, well, though I'm no expert I thought I'd toss in my two cents.

After playing the Battlefield 3 alpha and beta extensively, as far as I have experienced, the game itself has very few things wrong with it cough in-game menu replaced by battlelog cough. Gameplay is realistic yet smooth, though took some getting used to after paying MW2/BLOPS for so long, controls are tight and the graphics are fantastic. Large maps also facilitate sniping in a way that I felt the last two Call of Duty games did not and the vehicles really add another dimension to the gameplay that makes squad tactics important and the overall experience left me excited.

Now it may not be fair to have an opinion on MW3 already without having played it first, using only the videos released (actually it isn't but it's what I and you and most others have to go on), but from what I've seen so far leaves me with an uninspiring feeling of over-familiarity. Don't get me wrong, I've watched all the videos multiple times and I know about the different strike packages, the change of kill streaks to point streaks, survival co-op mode, “gun experience” levels (or whatever they'll finally be called), etc., but despite these interesting changes, when I watch the videos I just think to myself “yup …. yup that's Call of Duty alright”.

So in short, overall I thought BF3 yea, MW3 meh. However, after reflecting on my nonchalant attitude towards the next instalment of a FPS franchise I had previously enjoyed I realised that it really boiled down to issues related to development time. The graphical and gameplay differences between Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 3 are staggering, seriously, go to youtube and watch videos of Battlefield 2 gameplay and you'll see what I mean, it is immediately apparent that BF3 is the result of a long period of refinement and development (and a new engine). Also as I haven't played a Battlefield game (Bad Company does not count to me as it feels more like a deviation from the main Battlefield franchise) in a long time the experience was also fresh.

Now in comparison, and I'll probably get screamed at by you CoD fans for this, MW3 when compared to MW2/BLOPS looks like it could have been made by a (very talented) modding team, this is probably due to the fact that (as far as I know) it still uses the same engine as MW2 and BLOPS, not to mention that the last Call of Duty title came out not even one year ago. Leaving a taste of bland sameness to the whole thing.

I understand that by releasing a CoD game every year Activision has kept the franchise in the public's attention and its fanbase is growing and growing year to year, but is the amount of innovation between instalments suffering as a result or is the gameplay not being perceived as new enough? I can think of two other popular Activision published titles that were released with increasing frequency before finally seeing an amazing drop in popularity: Tony Hawks and Guitar Hero.

Of course a longer development periods doesn't always spell success, I still think about what Duke Nukem Forever could have been compared to what it is, but most games seem to benefit from a dedicated team taking its time between instalments to really produce something amazing, i.e. Skyrim (another game that left me saying wow). My suggestion to Activision would be to cool its jets and not milk the cow dry in five years when it could last for 20, to take the time between instalments to produce sequels or new titles that leave gamers saying damn, that’s impressive, instead of merely ah okay, cool.

I.P.S, CeX UK Contributor
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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Game Review - Gears of War 3

Format: Xbox 360

Finally after months of waiting, it arrived.

All the preordering, beta testing, character downloading and book reading can come to an end, as the Gears of War series makes it's triumphant return. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a gearhead and that my opinion may be slightly biased, but OH MY GOD GEARS OF WAR 3 ARGLEBARGLE.

Okay now that's out of my system, we can begin. Gears 3 rejoins Marcus Fenix and company 2 years after the events of Gears 2. The Cog army lies in disarray and the remnants of humanity cling to life in small settlements, engaging both the refugee locust that have been forced above ground and the new threat of the mutated Lambent. The human race finds itself in a desperate struggle for survival.

The story certainly takes a backseat to a more character-based narrative, with some of the less fleshed-out characters getting a chance to develop. Gears of War 3 definitely has a more bleak tone than the previous entries, with Marcus, Dom and others displaying an uncharacteristic sense of fatigue and hopelessness. That said, the third installment of the series is probably the most colourful, as most of the campaign's varied environments are lit with intense sunlight, a contrast to the mostly subterrainian levels of Gears 1 and 2. Unfortunately the overall storyline feels fairly weak, and seems ill thought-out compared to Epic's previous campaign modes.

I consciously avoid using the term 'single-player' mode this time around since one of the big changes to the campaign is the addition of 4 player co-op. While playing through the campaign with three friends is a lot of fun, the level design has suffered as a result. Rather than the complex, labyrinthine environments of Gears 1 and 2, larger and wider levels have been created to accommodate the increased number of players. Other than that minor annoyance, Gears 3 still has the same mix of solid cover-based shooting and spectacular set pieces that has made the series such a success. Fans will also be happy to see the inclusion of characters from the Gears Universe outside of the games, such as Jace from the popular comic books and Bernie from Karen Traviss' books.

While I was pleased with how the campaign portion of Gears 3 turned out, it was the multiplayer component that I was most looking forward to. The new Horde 2.0, Beast and of course revised Versus modes are a online warrior's paradise, providing literally hours of chainsawing, curb-stomping mayhem. The new additions to the gameplay such as the new mantle-kick and bag-n-tag moves as well as a host of new weapons and executions make every match a joy to play, win or lose. Epic have gone to great efforts to track your progress up the ranks, and almost every action carried out counts towards some sort of medal, ribbon, unlock or achievement. Epic's signature 'not over till it's over' gameplay still sizzles, where teamwork and unity is rewarded, but climatic one-man come-backs can still be made (but only if you have the prerequisate skills and cunning).

Of the trilogy, Gears 3 in my opinion has the weakest campaign (but that still places it high above most other shooters) but the stellar multiplayer will keep me occupied for a long time to come. I could go on for pages about the tower-defense style changes to Horde, the chaotic fun to be had in Beast mode and the epic list of character unlocks. Suffice to say, Gears of War 3 is a must-have. If anybody needs me over the next three months, just tell them I'm busy working on my onyx headshot medal.

Lukao gives Gears of War 3 9 Lambent Headsnakes out of 10
Lukao, CeX UK Contributor.
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Friday, 14 October 2011

Game Review – Dark Souls

Formats: (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Prepare to die – familiar words that will resonate with those of you who experienced the absolute thrill that was Demon’s Souls. Indeed this message is so powerful that many gamers shudder at what spiritual successor Dark Souls could potentially have to offer. While this fear is justified, it should intertwine with a sense of adventure and excitement, for Dark Souls is one of the most engrossing, fulfilling and special role-play games you will ever have the pleasure of giving your life to. Prepare for death as it lurks around every corner, but know that with every successful step you take into the unknown, you will become all that more invested in a terrific world full of wonder and mystery.

Like Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls is a third-person adventure with emphasis on melee combat. Once again you create a character and tailor him in the director you desire – should he have access to the best spells in the game, be able to wield any weapon or have the agility and speed to avoid your enemies deadly blade. Your own personal quiffs can lead your character down very different paths but each has its own merits and abilities that can overcome even the toughest of challenges.

An immediate difference between the predecessor and Dark Souls is that the latter is now a fully expansive environment. Before players were required to enter different worlds from a central hub called the Nexus, but here developers Atlus have made a more fluid experience by having everything linked together. This new realm Lordran, is beautifully crafted, with each unique region bursting with character, be it a dark swamp, underground caverns or expansive castles, wherever you may be the foreboding fear of death and need to stay alive are coupled hand-in-hand, continuously taunting you. You may think that this is a hypothetical statement, but Dark Souls implements a fantastic game mechanic from its predecessor, allowing other players to create messages and place them throughout the world. You can then view these messages, which can be hints, tips or tantalising secrets; it can even be a bloodstain that shows a previous warriors’ final moments before death. In a bleak world your fellow gamers are once again beacons of hope and warning to guide you through an otherwise lonely world.

When you’re not exploring this vast and wonderful world, you will engage in plenty of precise and deadly combat. Enemies are merciless in Dark Souls, even more so than in Demon’s Souls. You will encounter a wide array of ghouls, monsters and larger-than-life boss enemies. Dark Souls prides itself on difficult, yet fair combat mechanics – you will die, plenty of times as a matter of fact, the quicker you come to terms with this, the easier it will become to move forward. Fortunately with each death there should be a lesson learned; enemies have patterns, learn them, use it to your advantage and slay your foe in the next encounter. This is pretty much the natural sense of progression you will find here and for some, it’s simply too daunting. For the braver and more thick-skinned, defeating an enemy that had you at its feet will provide you with satisfaction that no other game can offer; conquering towering giants and dragons has never been so challenging yet so much fun all at the same time.

If you’re asking yourselves, “does Dark Souls ever let up, am I going to be bombarded constantly in this gruelling game?” Fear not for your character can rest at bonfires scattered across the land. These camps act as your hub, allowing you to level up, refill your health flasks and take momentary respite from the horrors around you. Unfortunately, there’s a catch here (you didn’t think you were gonna be allowed to rest without consequence were you?), every time you rest, all enemies in the world apart from bosses, respawn. No longer can you lure an enemy close to home, kill it, heal up and move forward because that vile creature will be waiting round the corner for you over and over again. This brings forth an interesting conundrum of when is the correct time to press forward towards the next bonfire.

Another huge issue should also be revolving in your mind while making this decision, for Dark Souls brings back the soul mechanics from its predecessor. When you kill enemies you gather their soul and they are used to level up – unfortunately if you die you drop your souls in that exact location and if you don’t make it back to pick them up, you lose them forever. An interesting predicament arises where the further you are from a bonfire, the greater the danger is of potentially losing your souls forever – Dark Souls does a wonderful job putting you in a spot that’s very difficult to wiggle out of, but every time you make it to a new bonfire, the sense of accomplishment is unparalleled.

Worrying about what’s going on in your own world goes well beyond the enemies you encounter, as Dark Souls mimics its predecessors invasion mechanic. Other players can invade your world and attempt to assassinate you to gain your humanity. Humanity is a unique form of currency in Dark Souls that can be used for various things including allowing you to become human, invade other worlds and increase the amount of health flasks a bonfire allows you to stock. These assassination attempts are thrilling and can occur at any time, although if the assassin is killed then you gain his valuable humanity, making it a risky yet rewarding option.

Another unique addition to Dark Souls are Covenants scattered across Lordran. Joining various Covenants will grant you unique abilities and perks and choosing the correct group to align yourself is an important choice to help you achieve your goals in Dark Souls. There are of course also punishments for betraying Covenants and choosing to join others, but these mysteries are not explained and are left for you to find out at your own peril.

Ultimately Dark Souls is a game that requires commitment, this isn’t something that you can just pick up and expect instant results. Dark Souls demands your respect and you have to earn it by putting in hours of your time perfecting your techniques and exploring Lordran. Those of you brave enough to enter Dark Souls will find a modern gem, a pinnacle of gaming – this is the game that you think about in your sleep, a game that haunts your every waking moment when you’re not engrossed in its thick web. Very few games have such an impact on your very core, but this is one of them.

9.5 | Gameplay |
Perfectly balanced and devilishly challenging, Dark Souls sucks you in with precise combat and unforgiving enemies while making it extremely difficult to leave a world that demands your utmost efforts.

9.0 | Presentation |
A beautiful and expansive world, at first glance Lordran seems a dark and lonely world but upon reflection, the silent whisperings of your fellow gamers breathe life and character into this treacherous world.

10.0 | Replay Value |
With so much to discover and ways to play through Dark Souls, it’s almost a certainty that you will play this game over and over.

9.5 | Final Thoughts |
When I reviewed Demons’ Souls I said that the incredibly steep difficulty curve was a negative – this time I’m not going to go down that line. This merciless game can be beaten, but you must be strong and thick-skinned. The sense of accomplishment provided here is incomparable to any other gaming feat, that is a testament to the depth and technical prowess that this spiritual successor offers. This is one game you simply must play.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor.
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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Say Hi to CeX in Hartlepool & Loughborough

It's been a double whammy of store openings for CeX today.

The 1st of which is at: 4 Market St in Loughborough.
(Across from Costa Coffee)

Stocking a huge range of games, phones, DVDs, electronics, vision & computing across 2 floors.

...And say "Hi" to CeX Hartlepool. 

Find us in: Central Square at Middleton Grange Shopping Centre. 

(we're opposite BHS & next to Gamestation)

Come in to buy something you've had your eye on. Or you can turn your unwanted goods into cash, vouchers or a charity donation.

Find your local store by clicking HERE.

We ♥ Recycling.

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Game Review – Gears of War 3

Formats: Xbox 360

You have to go back all the way to November 2006 to relive Emergence Day. 5 long and arduous years on and the battle against the Locust invasion culminate in fantastic fashion. Gears of War 3 concludes its story with an engaging and thought provoking campaign while ensuring it still provides the most exhilarating online experience on the Xbox 360. A wide range of cooperative and competitive modes both offline and online, ensures utmost entertainment as you fight for survival against the Locust and Lambent. Make no mistake; this is one finale you won’t soon forget.

Reoccurring themes in the Gears of War universe are tragedy, death and destruction. The third installment in the series is no different as it tackles similar issues in dramatic fashion. This is a story of humanity clinging for survival during the darkest of hours, living in a state of solitude aboard vessels and outposts with hope all but lost after the final attempt to wipe out the Locust failed. As both humans and Locust try to survive while Lambent forces grow in numbers, the war looks all but lost for our valiant heroes. However, a spark of life reignites as Marcus Phoenix and Delta Squad return once again with feisty female additions to the team, and between them provide an engaging and entertaining cast of characters looking to end this war once and for all.

Everything about Gears of War 3’s story suggests that it has gone a step further than its predecessors. The once seemingly brute-like characters all fill out, especially the likes of Cole-Train who gets an entire segment dedicated to his past concentrating on his illustrious football career. The story lets you become invested as Marcus and his team takes you through twists and turns, pushes through the most dramatic of battles – only to bring you to a dramatic ending. The story jumps quite frequently and is told in an intertwining fashion, but come the finale, everything slots perfectly into place. While the early couple of chapters can be considered quite slow, the pace certainly picks up as the COGs have all that much more to fight for – culminating in a tense conclusion.

It can be difficult to find a spare moment to engage in the emotional turmoil that your characters go through when you’re under fire almost all the time. Your enemies are relentless, smart and come in large numbers. Not only will you have to move swiftly and efficiently to kill your foes, but you have to seal their geyser-like spawn points to ensure enemy numbers stop, for the time being at least. At your disposal are all the weapons series veterans would expect, along with some larger-than-life additions including the powerful One-Shot sniper and the Digger launcher.

The campaigns greatest asset is the introduction of 4-player online cooperative and 2-player split screen. Although the AI is efficient, nothing is more exciting than taking on Gears of War 3 with your friends. The sense of comradery is already emphasized throughout the game before you even go near a pad, so when your friends join you in Gears of War 3, it becomes a momentous occasion in modern video gaming.

Of course the action doesn’t just stem from campaign mode – Gears of War 3 provides the most refined and entertaining version of its incredibly successful competitive online mode. A host of beautifully designed maps allow you to take centre stage and unleash bloodshed on other players. Fan favourite map Gridlock makes a dramatic return to the multiplayer inventory but now as a nighttime map. You will be happy to hear that all the frustrations from Gears of War 2 have been dealt with, including poor matchmaking, sluggish movements and other general inconsistencies. Gears of War 3 feels faster and more fluid, which is ironic considering the size of the characters. Nevertheless the action is frantic, weapons are powerful, unlockables are plentiful and maps are diverse – the key ingredients needed for a successful competitive multiplayer.

A more engaging level-up system has also been implemented (as was seen in the beta), setting you targets to earn certain medals and advance up the ranking system. The medals in particular act as an indicator to other players at what you specialize in or enjoy doing in Gears of War 3. For example, should you rack up 500 kills with a particular weapon, you will then be able to wear a badge proudly that indicates your accomplishment. You also unlock a plethora of new characters to use from the Gears of War universe, weapon skins and plenty of other cool additions that make it difficult to put the game down. Unfortunately there have been times when my Xbox crashed and upon reloading the game, I received a penalty for apparent disconnection. Although this disconnection wasn’t logged under my profile, I still lost experience points that dropped me down a few levels – which was frustrating.

Another game mode worthy of note is the new beginners multiplayer lobby. We all know how intense and brutal Gears of War can be online, so Epic have ensured that newcomers can get a chance to play against each other and get to grips with the game. Once they’ve had a little bit of practice, they can then jump in to the real deal and start competing with players who are already sitting comfortably past the Level 80 mark (scary stuff).

If getting killed by other players over, and over, and over again gets tedious, you can always vent your frustrations out on the AI in Horde made. A team of up to 5 players can try their hand at surviving wave after wave of enemy Locust (50 being the limit). A strategic element has also been put into place here, allowing you to build defensive structures in between rounds, all of which serve different purposes in an attempt to elongate survival. A polar opposite game type called Beast Mode is also present, allowing up to 4 players to play as the Locust and try killing AI posing as survivors. Once again a currency system is available, but instead of defensive structures you spend your money on unlocking and using more powerful types of Locust. This is an incredibly entertaining way to pass time on Gears of War 3 and makes for a fantastic divergence to the more mainstream elements of the game.

Gears of War 3 continues to impress with a fantastic visual design. It doesn’t matter what game mode you find yourself in, every single location, character model and explosion looks beautiful. Epic have pushed the console to a very impressive limit and you will struggle to find anything on the machine that looks better than this. The same goes for the fantastic audio – a terrific soundtrack helps compliment the atmosphere portrayed throughout the game and while somewhat cheesy at times, the voice acting is engaging and does get pretty deep.

Gears of War 3 is a perfect example of how to go out with a bang. This is a testament to all of Epic’s fans and it is clear that the series has evolved in an exhilarating and engaging manner. Embracing the masses with an engrossing campaign and a frantic online competitive mode, Epic has led us up to this one, glorious, moment and it’s certainly something each of you must experience. Gears of War 3 is the iconic third-person shooter and the perfect ending to the series.

9.5 | Gameplay |

Gears of War 3’s gritty action is a refreshing way to get away from the conventional FPS model we all know and are bored of. Fantastic action along all the game modes makes this instalment in the series the best and most enjoyable yet. 

9.5 | Presentation |

Probably the most beautiful game you will see on the Xbox 360. Presentation is perfect all the way down to the subtlest of details, both visually in game, throughout the menu systems, online and in the story.

9.5 | Replay Value |

Never before has GOW had so many unlockables in its online mode – it’s impossible to put it down! An arcade mode to repeat campaign chapters is also present, alongside Horde and Beast modes, it’s just so much take in!

9.5 | Final Thoughts |

The iconic series ends in spectacular fashion. This is the pinnacle of 3rd person shooters and all others games in this genre will now be compared to GOW3.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor
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Saturday, 8 October 2011

CeX Reading now open

Your new CeX has just opened in Reading. Located at 130-1 Friar Street, next to McDonald's, we've two floors of games, films and gadgets for you to explore. We're community minded too and you can donate the value of goods you're selling to CeX to great causes like Help for Heroes and Muscular Dystrophy Campaign. You can even use the stairs to burn off your Big Mac. CeX Reading is open 7 days a week, resonates to the loud music but unlike fancy gyms, CeX membership is free and gaudy spandex apparel is merely optional.

For full store info click here.


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Thursday, 6 October 2011

Leaders pay tribute to Steve Jobs

Business and World leaders have paid tribute to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who has died at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates said it had been "an insanely great honour" to work with Steve Jobs. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called Jobs his "mentor and friend". US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev said Mr Jobs had changed the world.

Apple said Jobs had been "the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives" and had made the world "immeasurably better".

Steve Jobs co-founded Apple in the 1976 with Steve Wozniak (shown on the right).

Apple grew dramatically as personal computers took off, yet Jobs was ousted from the company in a boardroom battle in 1985. Jobs then bought Pixar from George Lucas and also founded NeXT Computer, the later was eventually bought by Apple in 1996. During Jobs absence Apple's fortunes in the 1990's turned from bad to worse.

The acquisition of NeXT saw Jobs return to Apple in 1997. Jobs was later named CEO. He set about streamlining the product range and launched iMac in 1998. This was the start of the one of the most dramatic turnarounds in business history. Some of NeXT Computer's technology was the basis of Apple's new operating system OS X.

Jobs realised before most that computers would become 'digital hubs' in our homes for music, photos and movies. Apple secretly bought a Mac only music player program called SoundJam MP in 2000 that could encode CDs into MP3 files and manage MP3 playlists, hired the developers and reworked it into iTunes to support the launch of the iPod in 2001.

After nearly 3 years of secret development Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 which has become one of the best selling smart phones in history. The Apple apps store finally made installing software on a phone child's play and has been replicated by other manufacturers. The iPad followed in 2010 and is currently the tablet other manufacturers are trying to beat, with 75% market share in the US this year.

With a market value estimated at $351bn (£227bn), Apple has become the world's most valuable technology company. Yet to some, this huge multinational company still has cult status. According to Associated Press, thousand of people have been leaving flowers and lighting candles outside Apple stores around the world.

Steve Jobs was a man who broke the mould and wasn't happy to settle for second best. His visionary speech at Stanford in 2005 sums up his philosophy on life.

On October 5, 2011, Jobs died in California at age 56, seven years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Game Review – FIFA 12

Formats: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP, 3DS,

For many gamers out there, FIFA has now become a tradition. Come September the buzz starts as avid fans of football get ready to call time on the prior installment and pick up their copies of the new and refined entry in the series. As per, FIFA 12 takes the football simulator to new heights as it improves on the predecessor in almost every manner. Fantastic in-game enhancements including the player impact engine, new tactical defending system and advanced AI alongside sensational new game content like the EA Sports Football club, all help retain FIFA’s title as the best and most realistic football experience available.

Let’s get right down to the serious stuff – yes FIFA 12’s defending system has changed and this may come as a shock to you. A new tackling button has been implemented that has replaced the teammate press from FIFA 11. This as a result has forced the teammate press up to the Right Bumper / R1 so for those of you who don’t hold the pad with a finger on both the trigger and bumper buttons, it will certainly be difficult to adjust to these new controls. However, taking time to allow this to become natural is worth the wait – the new tactical defending system allows for a more realistic attempt at winning the ball without going to ground. It also allows players to pull each other’s shirts if your opponent manages to get away from you. Long gone are the days of simply pressing and forcing your AI team mate to win the ball, now precision and time are required to ensure the you strip the opposition of possession.

FIFA 12 continues to impress with its refinements to the dribbling system. Players are now aware as to where they are on the pitch, for example if someone dribbles the ball near the touchline, the player will automatically take greater care to ensure the ball stays in play, keeping the ball tighter and protecting it. This system is also implemented all over the field by allowing much smaller and quicker touches for even greater control of the ball during play. The fantastic new player impact engine also ensures that when players tussle for the ball you get a real sense of physical contact as they fight for possession. The new dribbling system and physical engine go hand-in-hand to create the most life-like representation of football yet.

There’s always something to do or something new to try out in FIFA 12’s game modes. Of course your standard career mode is present, allowing the options of competing as a player, player-manager or manager. Online however, is where you will find all of FIFA 12’s gems. New additions include the Head to Head season, which is an online system made up of numerous leagues. You play up to 10 games and then should you accumulate enough points, proceed to the next league and rise in the rankings. Alongside this are cups and tournaments to take part in and it really gives you a competitive sense online, as the leagues get tougher and the fight for promotion more fierce.

Another new addition is Online Friendlies, which is really an enhancement of the unranked matches from FIFA 11. This new system tracks your results against all of your friends in a best of 10 system. Once you have played 10 games against that particular opponent, points are calculated, trophies are given out and the boasting begins. This fun new way of playing against friends ensures there’s always at least a hint of competitiveness throughout each game. Of course you can still play against random players online and this has been amended to make for a much fairer experience. Before the game would match you then players would choose teams – resulting almost every single time with both players choosing 5 star teams like Chelsea, Manchester City Barcelona and Real Madrid. Now however, players select their team first and the game matches you with players who have also chosen teams of a similar skill level. Alongside this, the player search takes into account your disconnections, skill level, location and so forth to ensure a smooth and fair online match.

What is superb about FIFA 12 is the brilliant EA Sports Football Club, which keeps track of your accolades as you participate in any of the game modes, be it offline or online. Essentially the Sports Football Club records your experience points, but if you choose to become involved further, you then realize that once you have chosen the club you support, your points go towards boosting that particular team up the rankings board. Supporters around the world work together to try and get their team to the top of the rankings (a similar system was implement in the prior FIFA World Cup game). This mode works on averages so you can go any team and still have a shot and rocketing them up the leaderboards. The points system also resets to allow for fresh competition and basically to ensure Barcelona aren’t always on top!

EA Sports Football Club is also planning to take a page out of UFC Undisputed’s game modes. The MMA brawler had a mode that allowed players to participate in real world events and try to change the outcome of fights that occurred in real life. FIFA are looking to incorporate a similar system in the foreseeable future, allowing players to relive their favourite moments or partake in their worst nightmares over and over again (Milan vs. Liverpool Champions League Final anyone?). Finally, FIFA Ultimate Team, the trading card mode available in FIFA 11 has now become completely free for you to pass your time off the pitch in a slightly different, yet engaging way.

FIFA 12 really has something for absolutely everyone. It is the finest football simulator and quite frankly, how they keep making it feel fresh and more life-like is beyond me. A plethora of content alongside some incredible game enhancements makes this the number one football experience. Get yourself a copy, love football and love life for another year!

9.5 | Gameplay |
Terrific new player impact and precision dribbling engines. The most accurate representation of football in a video game yet and a host of fantastic content to sink your teeth into – be it on or offline.

9.0 | Presentation |
FIFA 12 looks beautiful but some players who you would expect to look exactly like their real life counter parts, look totally off – take David De Gea as an example if you don’t believe me.

10.0 | Replay Value |
Between FIFA 09 and FIFA 11 my clocked game time must be close to 300 hours – it is the ultimate social game, be it with friends, online, offline, whatever the case – it’s impossible to put it down!

9.5 | Final Thoughts |
EA have done it again. FIFA 12 is sensational and considering it would have been possible to make a few minor tweaks and call it a day, praise is deserved due to the volume of new additions present. Changes to in-game content and additional game modes really emphasize the hard work that went into this new installment and all that effort transitions into the best sports sim available.

Igor Kharin.
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