Tuesday 31 March 2015

Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires

The Dynasty Warriors series has been around now for quite some time and, in truth, they've stuck to a tried and tested method for the entirety of the franchise. Save for an increase in budget to the boob-design department since Koei's merger with Tecmo, developer of such ludicrously jiggle-tastic titles as Ninja Gaiden, the Dynasty Warriors games' formula has remained relatively identical to its' earliest roots; a hack-and-slash game, with simple, easy to master combination attacks, and one super charged Musou attack. Additional features have come and gone, and the basis has always been evolved from title to title, but this solid core of gameplay has remained the same. 

Developed by Omega Force and out now on  Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One and PC comes Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, the latest of the series' Hack-and-slash-meets-strategy-game-thing. The Empires series itself has been around for a while and is one of my personal favourites. The game diverges from the base story line, which to dedicated fans of the series, is as familiar as their own right hand; and lets players have a more direct impact on the game world, by allowing them to plan and undertake their own battles, form their own kingdoms, and ignore the same old series of events that have been repeated since the games' very early days - a dramatised version of China's Three Kingdoms periods, based heavily on the book, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 

Overall, the game plays as well as any other before it, and ought to be an instant hit with fans of the series. A number of features return from previous iterations, but are vastly improved upon. For instance, the Edit Mode returns, but the choices for creating your own playable character are expanded, giving players virtually limitless combinations with which to create their ideal character. Edit Mode also now allows players to customise their own horse, banner and even soldiers, allowing you to use a fully unique army when attempting to personally conquer all of China, possibly one of the most satisfying things the game has to offer. There's untold joy to be had in slaying great warlords like Lu Bu and Cao Cao, with some guy called Dave, backed buy an army of men dressed in fluorescent pink.

As for the combat, the game remains true to it's X-Y combo mechanic, making for extremely pleasing crowd killing combos, without being too complicated to master in a few short attempts. The combat is what the series has always done best, as you cut through swathes of enemy soldiers, and watch as your KO Count soars into the hundreds. Despite the incredibly fast pace of the combat, you always feel in control thanks to the extremely intuitive combos. It can become a little repetitive, and unless you crank the difficulty all the way up, there's no real challenge, but endless fun to be had. The in-battle strategy still feels a little lacking, pretty much reduced to 'go to X, kill this many people. Repeat,' which, for a game trying to lean in the direction of a strategy game is a bit of a let down. However, the Empire mode somewhat makes up for it.

The choices present to players between battles yet again improved, blending features of both strategy games and RPGs, as players have choices that will assist their kingdom, or go on quests in search of personal gain. Perhaps it's still lacking in depth, as the Dynasty Warriors series has always put all its eggs in the fighting basket, so much of what you do has little noticeable impact, and you'd be just as successful letting your sword do the politics.

To conclude, the game is another good Dynasty Warriors game, perhaps the best one to date. It certainly holds its own against much bigger titles, and will undoubtedly keep you entertained for a significant amount of time. There is, however, one huge drawback of this particular title which will keep it from making headlines anywhere outside of Japan: The developers chose not to re-dub the game in English, or any other language. There are translated subtitles, some in hilarious broken English, but no English-speaking voice acting. With this in mind, then, I feel the game will be popular with fans of the franchise, at the very least - but the lack of an English dub will prevent it from winning over anyone else.

I give Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires a respectable, if a little disappointing 3/5.


Adam Freeman

Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires at CeX

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Monday 30 March 2015

Evolve Video Review

Check out Sam's thoughts on Evolve. This week Sam gets his hands on Evolve; does a great game exist under all the recent DLC nonsense? Find out at our YouTube channel or by watching the video below!

Evolve at CeX

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Sunday 29 March 2015

Dying of the Light

Things have been going in a strange direction for Nicolas Cage as of late. The recent Left Behind was possibly the worst film he’s ever been involved in. Out now on DVD and Blu-ray, does Dying of the Light fare any better? 

Before we get stuck into Dying of the Light, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. The elephant called Paul Schrader. Behind the scenes, Dying of the Light was in trouble for a while. Reports of the film being taken away from director Schrader’s control led to him and the film’s stars publicly removing themselves from the film. OK, these sort of problems usually spell disaster for a film. But some of the greatest films of all time had difficult productions, like Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now or Jaws. On these films it’s not obvious that there were difficulties behind the scenes. You wouldn’t be able to tell unless you looked into it. Is Dying of the Light one of these films? Of course it isn’t! Strap yourself in for a Cagey ride. 

The premise of Dying of the Light (the title a reference to the famous Dylan Thomas poem) is original and actually very interesting. Evan Lake (Cage) a CIA agent with a very serious form of dementia vows to track down Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim), a terrorist who caused him a world of pain decades earlier. The CIA say he’s not worth taking out but to Lake it’s personal so he sets out on a personal revenge mission without the help of the agency. So the premise is cool, but they don’t do anything with it! It’s said that the dementia will cause visions and random mood swings. Having the sufferer of said dementia being played by an actor with the off-the-wall style of Cage, and Dying of the Light should have been one of the most amazing things mankind ever created.

The actors are generally good however. Whilst Cage doesn’t get the opportunity to really let loose like in the good old days, he’s a hell of a lot more energetic than he’s been in recent films (*cough* Left Behind *cough*). Cage’s trusty protégé is played by Anton Yelchin doing what can only be described as a ‘gritty’ accent. But he’s good and does the majority of the running in the movie. Karim is spectacularly hammy as the terrorist Banir. It’s pretty fun whenever he’s on screen and his and Cage’s showdown together is batshit crazy. 

The tone of Dying of the Light is like Lake’s moods, all over the damn place. One minute you’re watching a run-of-the-mill thriller/espionage movie, nothing special about it. Then something crazy happens. Like Yelchin’s character just slits a dude’s throat. The camera lingers on the blood pouring out of this guy’s neck and then no one makes a big deal out of it. They just carry on with the boring stuff.  Another moment sees Cage stick his finger right into someone’s eye like he’s popping out the plastic pieces for an Airfix model. Unfortunately these moments are too few and far between to recommend the film purely on the surprise factor.

In yet another connection with Cage’s snoozefest Left Behind, this film suffers from the same preachiness as that religious misfire. This time it’s politics and ‘Murica. And boy is it in your face. Numerous shots see Cage framed by an American Flag, but wait! This flag has a hole burned into the middle! What could it mean?! Aside from the obvious symbolism, the movie often deviates into angry rants about American ideals and problems within the CIA and other institutions. The whole film could have been this thriller with an allegorical edge, a movie with brains behind it. But any hope it had of making these lofty themes mean anything disappears in the last ten minutes as the film becomes a badly made action film.

What could have been a smart, topical movie becomes yet another forgettable thriller. The difference here being that it leaves you so very enraged about what the movie almost was. Fans of Cage will enjoy it however for the committed performance he gives. Everyone else might want to let it go gentle into that good night.

Dying of the Light gets a mediocre 2/5.


Jack Bumby

Dying of the Light at CeX

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Saturday 28 March 2015

Bladestorm: Nightmare

I'm no expert on the Dynasty Warriors series. I've played around two of them, and though the hack-and-slash genre isn't exactly my go-to genre of choice, I've found them to be pretty fun. Dynasty Warriors was a spin-off of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a game released for the Amiga and MSX in 1985. Originally starting as a pretty straight forward Beam 'em-up on the original Playstation back in 1997, Dynasty Warriors then expanded into the realm of having the player take on entire armies all at once. Outside of the main series- which by the way has around 14 titles under its belt- the franchise itself also has a shit-tin of spin-offs, crossovers, etc. From Hyrule Warriors that lets you command Link in the midst of a gigantic Deku Scrub battle, to the Gundam series that allows you go toe-to-toe with various massive Mechs, the franchise is clearly flourishing. However, this latest offering from Omega Force, despite looking quite similar to Dynasty Warriors, pulls its attention away from the Han dynasty in China and instead sights its sights on France and England during The Hundred Year's War. Does it stand apart from the Dynasty Warriors series, or is this just a re-skinned version of a game you've played many times before?

Developed by Omega Force and out now on Playstation 4, Playstation 3 and Xbox One comes Bladestorm: Nightmare; a game that you'll enjoy if you liked the Dynasty Warriors series, but will hate if, well, you didn't. Nightmare is actually a re-release of the 2007 game Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War. I haven't played The Hundred Year's War, but Nightmare doesn't just visually upgrade the game, but also changes some elements to the gameplay, most importantly with the addition of 2-player online co-op. As I said before, Nightmare takes place during The Hundred Year's War, a conflict (or rather a number of strung together conflicts) that embroiled England and France in bloody warfare between 1337 to 1453. That's not to say it's completely historically accurate though, as in Nightmare there are creatures including Goblins, Dragons and the like. Whereas Dynasty Warriors places you in the shoes of  famous figures in Chinese history, Nightmare goes down the opposite path and puts in the role of a generic freelance commander. Before each battle you can choose which side to fight for, and as expected battles are large scale, expansive and incredibly hectic.

Compared to what Dynasty Warriors does (and yes, you'll see a lot of Dynasty Warriors comparisons here), the character you control in Nightmare isn't a fantastic fighter. Instead, the person you're controlling is more adept with commanding other fighters. In fact, though Dynasty Warriors (and yes, I'm getting sick of typing that) fans will love this game, Nightmare isn't about bashing buttons. Once a mission has been started, you start out on the battlefield. As the freelance commander, you must run around and essentially rally various garrisons across the battlefield. Taking a command of a garrison literally puts them under your control, so instead of just running around and slamming the attack button amidst a giant enemy army, in Nightmare you must wage various large and small scale wars across a rather big battlefield. There's a huge array of fighters and weapons to use too, so throughout a mission you'll find yourself playing through a number of fighting styles.

Switching from garrison to garrison occurs easily, and once you get a nice in-depth battle going, it can be pretty exciting. Whether you're surrounded by a sea of bodies, splintered shields and swords, or simply just standing back a bit and watching a f*cking massive battle take place, Nightmare is a game that is both equally fun to watch as well as take part. It's a nice change-up in pace compared to Omega Force's other efforts, and it could easily be considered the smarter brother of Dynasty Warriors. Like I said, fans of Omega Force's other series will slip into Nightmare pretty easily, but even newcomers to all things Omega Force will find their feet quickly enough after their second battle or so.

Overall Bladestorm: Nightmare is a pretty decent game. It's the kind of game that will most likely become monotonous to most gamers out there though. Personally, after 20 or so hours of large scale battles, the appeal of it was starting to run dry. There's only so many times I can command an army of 200 fighters while trying to take on a Cyclops, after all. But before that sunk in I had a lot of fun. Packaged alongside a whole slew of extras including the original The Hundred Year's War campaign from 2007, Nightmare is certainly a game to look into if you're a fan of large scale battles, commanding multiple armies at once, taking on a evil Joan of Arc who has an army of Dragons and the chance to do all of this during co-op with a friend by your side.

Bladestorm: Nightmare cuts its way through the competition and gets a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

Bladestorm: Nightmare at CeX

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Friday 27 March 2015

The Top 5 Must-Own TV Dramas

There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in a good TV drama. Whether you like crime stories, fantasies, supernatural tales or mysteries, there’s something for everyone in the beautiful world of boxsets. Here I pick my top 5 television dramas you simply must own, in no particular order.

Breaking Bad

We begin with the obvious - Vince Gilligan’s epic crime tale Breaking Bad. Most of you know the story but for those of you who don’t, Breaking Bad tells the story of chemistry teacher Walter White who, when diagnosed with terminal cancer, begins manufacturing and distributing crystal meth to financially secure his family’s future life without him in it. With quite simply phenomenal performances from Bryan Cranston as Walter White and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, one of Walter’s ex-students who goes on to help him in the meth business, Breaking Bad is addictive, mesmerising television. Like many shows, it starts off small but slowly builds and builds until the mind-blowingly good final seasons. And the quicker you get this watched, the quicker you can dig into the brilliant prequel series Better Call Saul. Thrilling, tense, moving, funny, dark, brilliant. For the 6 people left in the world who haven’t watched Breaking Bad yet, what are you waiting for?!

The complete Breaking Bad is available on DVD & Blu-Ray now.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones, adapted from George R.R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels, is a complex story of the battle for power in the mythical land of Westeros. Whilst Breaking Bad settles for a rather simple story in comparison with few characters, Game of Thrones is entertainment on a MASSIVE scale. Countless characters and plotlines dominate each season, but if you keep your head in the game you don’t get lost. It’s complex, but not overly complicated. With reported budgets of approximately $6million per EPISODE, Game of Thrones is television of immense quality. Each episode feels like a film, with gorgeous scenery, lush costumes, fantastic music and damn beautiful people all over the place. I was very reluctant to watch Game of Thrones following all the hype and it took me until a few months ago to sit and watch it. But once I started, I could hardly stop. Believe me when I say this is a show that truly deserves the hype. Phenomenal television.

The first 4 seasons of Game of Thrones are available on DVD & Blu-ray now.

The Walking Dead

One for you horror fans. The Walking Dead, based on the comic book series of the same name, stars Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes who awakens from a coma in a world ruled by the undead. But he soon encounters other survivors, both friend and foe, in the post-apocalyptic world. The Walking Dead is shot on 16mm film and so is often grainier than modern audiences are used to – especially when compared to the beautifully crisp Game of Thrones. But the grittiness of The Walking Dead’s visuals are essential. This is not a clean, bright or colourful world. The Walking Dead is dark, scary and violent. But it is superb viewing. Like Breaking Bad, it starts off small but by season 3 onwards The Walking Dead hits a high level of quality that it rarely dips below. 

The first 4 seasons of The Walking Dead are available on DVD & Blu-ray now.

Hell on Wheels

Now onto one of the more hidden gems. Hell on Wheels is a fantastic Western series about the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States. The series focuses on Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), an ex-soldier who initially joins the railroad to seek revenge on those who butchered his wife and child. But as he makes both friends and enemies along the railroad, he finds it difficult to leave. Hell on Wheels is a series I didn’t expect a huge amount from, but was soon addicted. It airs in America on the same channel as Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, and as such has been marketed in the UK as being from ‘the makers’ of those shows. Whilst it’s debatable whether these shows all share the same ‘makers’, Hell on Wheels is definitely up there with them in terms of quality. It’s criminal that the series never got a big audience here in the UK. Definitely worth a look.

The first 3 seasons of Hell on Wheels are available on DVD now.

Twin Peaks

And what better way to end this list but with a golden oldie. In 1990, David Lynch and Mark Frost introduced the world to the strange and wonderful town of Twin Peaks. With its quirky characters and even quirkier style, Twin Peaks took the world by storm. And it hasn’t lost any of its power to this day. Twin Peaks tells the story of an eccentric FBI agent called into town to investigate the murder of local beauty Laura Palmer. But where do you start in a town full of secrets, suspects and weird shit going on? Kyle MacLachlan is phenomenal in the lead role of Agent Dale Cooper and is supported by a perfect cast of odd characters that only David Lynch could create. Who else could create a world in which an FBI agent makes breakthroughs in a case by listening to the backwards ramblings of a dancing dwarf in a dream? If you’ve ever watched Twin Peaks, you won’t have forgotten any of its magic. But if you haven’t seen it yet, I am jealous of you. You’re in for a hell of a treat. And hey, you better get to it! Twin Peaks is returning to television after a break of over 20 years in 2016.

The first 2 seasons of Twin Peaks are available on DVD & Blu-Ray now.

In conclusion, I’ve barely scraped the surface of the vast number of phenomenal television programmes available to us today. Shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, House of Cards, Homeland, Dexter, Hannibal, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Fargo, True Detective and many others all deserve a mention too. But if I were to sit here and praise every good series, I’d still by typing now and you wouldn’t be reading this!

Sam Love

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Thursday 26 March 2015

Battlefield: Hardline

I can't really sit here and pretend I'm some kind of fan of Battlefield. I know reviewers out there will tell you they played every game, expansion and DLC, but just being honest here- I haven't. It's not because I think it's a crap series, it isn't, but beyond Battlefield: Bad Company and Battlefield 4, I just haven't played any other entries in the series. For me (along with 99% of the population of the Earth) Battlefield kind of goes side-by-side with Modern Warfare, as both play and come across as franchises being milked to death, with each entry largely looking and playing incredibly similar to the previous one. However, with this latest Battlefield title taking the action out of a war locale and placing it in a modern cops and robbers setting, does it shake up the series enough? Simply put, yes and no.

Developed by Visceral Games and out now on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC comes Battlefield Hardline, a game that plays out as if Visceral Games grabbed both Payday: The Heist, and Battlefield 4, chucked them into a blender and whizzed them into an unusual yet familiar mix. The first noticeable thing about Hardline is the fact that the main campaign doesn't seem like some afterthought, as was certainly the case in Battlefield 4. The series takes the action far away from large scale warfare, and instead places focus on the modern day streets of Miami, and depicts a city that is being swamped by drugs. You take the role of Nick Mendoza, a cop who, alongside his kickass partner Khai Minh Dao, get their hands dirty on the streets during missions that aren't exactly by-the-book. Hardline's story and characters are like something you've seen a thousand times before in episodes of Miami Vice, NYPD Blue and general cop shows. It's got crooks with big guns and bad attitudes, a badass side kick, a police chief that's a real hot head, chase scenes that look like they're right out of a Michael Mann film, and enough plot twists to keep you hooked. It's nothing you won't see in one of the countless cop shows out there, but hey, I thought the 7-8 hour campaign was pretty decent in terms of story.

What I enjoyed most about Hardline was how Visceral Games gives the player the choice of how to approach and take down enemies. As you'd expect, you can just go running in with guns blazing, and though these moments are truly electrifying, I especially loved going down the route of stealth. We're not talking Deus Ex or Thief stealth here, but in Hardline you can sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and either take them down silently, or chance flashing your badge and arresting them. This makes sure that the game isn't just a mindless shooter, though you can certainly go down that route if you want. Regardless, there's no wrong way to play the game, as each of these play-styles have their own rewards in terms of EXP for mastering that particular take on taking out foes. However, the only downside is that every single bad guy instantly turns into a scared puppy at the sight of the player raising their badge. I'm glad these hardened Miami drug lords respect the law, but I kind wanted a bit of a struggle in order to arrest some guys. This kind of leads to some arrests feeling like a hollow victory.

Another great addition to gameplay is the use of vehicles here. Sure, Battlefield has always gone out of its way to utilize vehicles during combat in the series, but with Hardline's modern day setting and its use of regular cars, cop cars and vans during chases feels realer, more exciting and far more dangerous than any Battlefield vehicular altercation I've ever been in. From speeding after a bunch of heavily armed bad guys in a van, trying to take out its tires, ramming it off the road to the brutal Heat-like visceral shoot-out that ultimately follows, these segments had me glued to the screen. This level of intensity also goes hand-in-hand with the weapons used throughout Hardline. Though it's always an expectation of the series, Hardline is filled with a shit load of delicious fire power. From your trusty pistol that you'll always have on you for smaller situations, a shotgun you'll whip out when storming a room full of drug dealers, to heavy rifles like the HCAR when completely outnumbered, Hardline's weapons are a pure joy to unleash, often leading to you completely throwing out the stealth approach. The only downside to the game for me was the fact that, behind the shiny new coat of paint that is its setting, in terms of gunplay it remains very much the same as Battlefield 4. It's not a carbon copy, but it's not exactly a revolution either.

I've never been a huge fan of Battlefield online, but Hardline pretty much takes the basis for the single-player experience and  transplants it into the realm of online gaming. Playing as the cops or the bad guys, multiplayer lets the player play in 5 different game modes. Personally, the two best modes were Crosshair; a mode in which an entire team of criminals must seek out and kill one protected VIP member of the opposition, and Hotwire Mode; a mode which is essentially Capture the Flag, but with cars and vans instead of, well, flags. Needless to say, if you're a fan of previous Battlefield games' multiplayer modes, you'll absolutely love Hardline. If like me you're mostly looking for a single-player experience, I'm surprised to be saying this about a Battlefield game, but yeah, the campaign here isn't an afterthought. It's awesome.

Battlefield Hardline is a nice change up in the series and gets a 4/5.


Denis Murphy

Battlefield Hardline at CeX

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Set Fire to the Stars

Directed by Andy Goddard (Downton Abbey) and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Set Fire to the Stars, a film that tells the true story of renowned poet Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones) and his first tour of America, with John Malcolm Brinnin (Elijah Wood) tasked to keep his literary idol, the alcoholic party animal that he is, under control. After one particularly wild night, John drives Dylan out to his old cabin in the middle of nowhere to calm him down. But in doing this he learns a lot about who is hero really is, and a lot about himself too. We’ve all read, or at least heard, Thomas’ poetry. But not everyone knows the sort of man he was. Behind most geniuses lies a troubled soul, and Dylan Thomas is certainly a prime example of this.

Shot in only 18 days in Wales on a minuscule budget, without the right people behind it Set Fire to the Stars could’ve been a disaster. The film was written by director Goddard and star Jones, drawing from Brinnin’s memoir ‘Dylan Thomas in America’. The script is phenomenal. Like most independent biographical films, this is a dialogue driven piece. Don’t expect explosions, car chases or any edge-of-your-seat action. Save for a few brief booze-fuelled punch-ups, Set Fire to the Stars is all about the dialogue. Taking place mostly inside a few locations such as the cabin, diners and hotel rooms, the film feels like theatre. Numerous critics have compared it to cult classic ‘Withnail & I’, and one can understand where this comparison comes from. But don’t go in expecting it to be all that similar. Sure, it shares certain elements, but Set Fire to the Stars stands on its own two feet without comparisons.

Another wonderful element of this film is the breath-taking cinematography by Chris Seager (who has also worked on HBO’s Game of Thrones). Following the success of recent contemporary black & white films like ‘Nebraska’, the colourless cinematography on display here is truly a sight to behold. Beauty lies within every single frame. There are few films that I have said this about, but this is the best example I’ve encountered yet – you could take any frame from this film and put it on your wall. Every shot is a work of art. Take those visuals and add a touch of Gruff Rhys’ superb score and prepare to be transported back to 1950’s America.

Elijah Wood continues his run of independent film performances here, after the brilliant ‘Maniac’ and ‘Grand Piano’. Like Channing Tatum in ‘Foxcatcher’, Elijah plays the role with a quiet and understated brilliance and hasn’t been getting nearly enough praise for it. Perhaps people have become too accustomed to seeing him in the Lord of the Rings saga, and still wrongly see him as Frodo. Or perhaps, like Tatum in ‘Foxcatcher’, this is due to the other performance in the film. Understandable really, as Celyn Jones displays phenomenal talent in the role of Dylan Thomas, and the film arguably belongs to him. I was lucky enough to meet Jones after a special screening of the film recently, and he spoke of ‘finding the man in the monster and the monster in the man’ with his performance. Even at Dylan’s nastiest and most careless, you can see his heart and his vulnerability. This is something that not any actor could’ve done. After this performance, wrongly snubbed during awards season, expect to be seeing a lot more of Jones in the coming years. Enter a brilliant supporting cast including Kelly Reilly, Steven Mackintosh, Shirley Henderson & Kevin Eldon and you have a terrific set of performances.

In conclusion, this is old-school film-making and a breath of fresh air for cinema. Beautiful, moving, dark, inspiring, funny, sad. All of these words, and more, could be used to describe Set Fire to the Stars. Upon speaking to one of the producers, Andy Evans, at the aforementioned special screening, he spoke of the film’s limitations regarding marketing. He said that the film finding a large audience is relying heavily on word of mouth, and hopes that the film has a long after-life as one of those that people will still be recommending to each other years down the line. I know I will. Watch it, tell your friends to watch it, do your bit for independent cinema and find an audience for a film that truly deserves one. To come full circle, I started this review by saying that with the budget, time and setting restrictions facing the crew, Set Fire to the Stars could’ve been a disaster. It turned out to be the opposite. Set Fire to the Stars is a perfect film, and is destined for classic status.

Set Fire to the Stars gets 5/5. Set fire to them.


Sam Love

Set Fire to the Stars at CeX

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Wednesday 25 March 2015

Samsung Galaxy S6 hand-on

See what our team think of the Samsung Galaxy S6 when they got hands on at the MWC 2015 in Barcelona.

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Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Horns,the tale of a young man who, after being accused of killing his childhood sweetheart, suddenly wakes up horns growing out of his forehead and rocking a devilishly persuasive attitude. Directed by schlock director Alexandre Aja of Piranha 3D and Mirrors fame, Horns is a surprisingly well made flick with a great central performance by Daniel Radcliffe as the hellish Ig Parish.

The original source material for Horns was the novel of the name by Stephen King’s son Joe Hill, and film retains much of the books spirit. Hill’s inspiration from his father is clear in the film which frequently feels like a good Stephen King adaptation. It’s got the flashbacks, the group of diverse children (including a girl and a fat one), a character dealing with addiction, an unexplainable force, and multitudes of King’s trademark religious references. The film equally belongs to director Alexandre Aja though, who really ups his game from the days of Piranha 3D. Horns is beautifully directed and knowingly over-the-top with Aja fully embracing the craziness of the horror/fantasy genre. As well as being a visual delight the film has a killer soundtrack too, with music ranging from David Bowie to that one Pixies song, all perfectly implemented into the film.

Perhaps the best thing in the film though is the central performance by Radcliffe. His last grown up role in The Woman in Black wasn’t too convincing and people still saw the boy wizard in everything he did. But it seems now in Horns he can finally shake off his Harry Potter trappings. Not only does Radcliffe manage a superb American accent he also manages to bring the strange character of Ig Parish to life. In lesser hands the angsty hoodie wearing Bowie fan may have come off as laughable, but Radcliffe sells it and makes Ig seem extremely realistic.

It’s refreshing to see a horror movie in this day age that doesn’t simply want to shock you with cheap scares or overdone torture porn violence. Horns is occasionally violent and shocking sure, but it’s usually done with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. It’s more reminiscent of films like Evil Dead 2 and An American Werewolf in London than the cheap torture porn crap people like Eli Roth are constantly churning out. The horror and fantasy parts of Horns hit the mark, and so do the comedy parts. Both work perfectly together and Radcliffe shows he’s got the chops for both genres. The fantasy world is perfectly realised, and even if the rules and reasons behind it aren’t greatly explained Aja directs with such wit and style that it doesn’t really matter. Under the horror and fantasy conventions though is a solid murder mystery; who killed Ig’s girlfriend? Was it actually Ig, or was it one of the many supporting characters like Ig’s brother Terry, he best friend Lee, or even his Dad. To be honest though, there is never much doubt as to who it could be and, for the most part, there are only a couple of options. The mystery is still executed well, even if some of the films moments get lost in the mix between the horror, comedy, fantasy, and murder mystery genres. Perhaps Aja attempts too much in the film but it’s nice to see someone attempting something new with horror genre.

The supporting players in the film are also great, especially Ig’s friend Lee (Max Minghella) and his brother Terry (Joe Anderson). Lee is a goody two shoes lawyer with some secrets bubbling under the surface and Terry is a burnt out addict. Both are acted well and their diversity really brings the world to life. Ig’s dad (played by James Remar) is also enjoyable in the limited time he has. Both he and Ig’s Mum have an emotional scene with Ig but then sort of disappear out if the film. When Ig’s power of persuasion causes everyone else to be hilariously truthful, leading to some pretty funny gags, his interaction with his parents is shockingly sad, but unfortunately isn’t dwelled upon. Despite this, the balance of humour and heart is usually solid, meaning the jokes don’t outstay their welcome and that he film doesn’t get too soppy. It isn’t perfect, but Horns is a surprisingly well made horror fantasy and a great showcase of Radcliffe’s post-Potter acting chops.

Horns is a hell of a film, and gets 4/5.


Tom Bumby

Horns at CeX

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Tuesday 24 March 2015


Everyone seems to love Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy’s 2014 crime thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal. At the time of writing, it holds a 95% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 223 reviews. Their summary says it “offers dark, thought-provoking thrills”. It was even nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. I feel like I have to mention all this, because I’m at a complete loss: the film I watched last night, on Blu-ray, didn’t offer me any thrills – least of all dark, thought-provoking ones. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m having a bit of a crisis of confidence, here. If you watch the trailer and think Nightcrawler looks like your kind of film, you shouldn’t necessarily take my word for it. That said, if you watch it and end up hating it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Out now on DVD and Blu-ray comes Nightcrawler, and follows Louis “Lou” Bloom, a character who ticks every single box on the “movie sociopath” checklist, despite Gyllenhaal’s protestations that Bloom isn’t a sociopath. The first time we meet Bloom, a security guard catches him breaking into a construction site to steal scrap metal. Seconds later, the security guard is tackled to the ground. Moments after that, Bloom drives away wearing the guard’s designer watch. That’s the kind of guy Lou Bloom is.

After happening upon a film crew shooting footage of a car accident, Bloom is inspired to give up thieving and become a stringer – a freelance cameraman who sells footage to news networks. Bloom hires a desperate/naïve young guy called Rick (Riz Ahmed) as his assistant and has him eavesdrop on police radio channels to try to source the bloodiest, most compelling footage possible. He resorts to fabricating crime scenes in a bid to get the perfect shot. He coerces a morning news director (Rene Russo) into sleeping with him, in exchange for the footage she knows will save her career.

And that’s basically it. The film sort of plods along, with no real emotional peaks and troughs to speak of. Even the ending only really registers as “mildly surprising”: it fits far too neatly into the patterns established by the rest of the film to have much of an effect. There’s some interest to be had from trying to get into Lou Bloom’s head and figure out what makes him tick, and from watching his stunted interactions with the other characters, but it’s the same sort of interest you might get from reading an article or watching a nature documentary – I certainly can’t find anything that would make Nightcrawler “a modern masterpiece” (TwitchFilm), “deliriously thrilling” (The Playlist), or worthy of “” (Empire). I just don’t get it. Even the film’s apparent message (“hey, you guys, the media is a bit evil!”) feels like an afterthought – which is surprising, considering the film was clearly built around it – and it’s been done in better, more interesting ways elsewhere.

I’m giving Nightcrawler one star for being attractive and well put-together, and a second star for being well-acted throughout. Gyllenhaal skilfully treads the line between likeable and creepy, whilst Ahmed – whom you might know from Four Lions or Channel 4’s Dead Set – delivers a quite frankly excellent performance as innocent, uncertain Rick. And that’s it.

2/5. I’ll leave it to you to figure out where those other three stars keep coming from.


Mike Lee

Nightcrawler at CeX

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Monday 23 March 2015

Lumia 640 hands-on

See what our team think of the Lumia 640 when they got hands on at the MWC 2015 in Barcelona.

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Sunday 22 March 2015

The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power

The Scorpion King 4?! What? Hold on a second, there was a Scorpion King 2?

Personally, there's nothing quite like an action adventure film, particularly those that either fall into the “swords-and-sandals” or historical fiction genres. From the likes of Conan the Barbarian, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and Solomon Kane just to name a few, it's a type of film I'm drawn to- a viewing experience packed with adventure, fun, action and mystery. In the late 90s the big one was the loose remake of the 1932 Boris Karloff horror, The Mummy. But The Mummy we got in 1999 wasn't a horror, but rather mashed together CGI monsters, a mummy that slowly begins to regrown flesh above its withered body, a giant flying face made of sand, some pretty awesome scenes in Ancient Egypt and Brendan Fraser looking as badass as Brendan Fraser can be. It all came together to literally make for one of the most enjoyable adventure films of all time. It still holds up today pretty well and the same goes for its sequel, a film that pretty much just turned the mummy action up to 11. But while The Mummy series eventually finished up with the decent enough Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in 2008, Mathayus- the big bad that was revealed in The Mummy Returns- got his own spin-off prequel series called The Scorpion King. I knew there was at least one film released based on him, but four? Ummm OK.

Directed by Mike Elliot and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power, a film that is essentially kind of shit, but also kind of watchable. The film focuses on The Scorpion King aka Mathayus, a guy with loads of muscles and a mean looking face who by this point has been played by like 50 different actors. After a powerful king is assassinated Mathayus is framed for his murder. Now, with legions of soldiers after him looking for blood, the Scorpion King teams up with a hot looking warrior woman and her old bizarre father to try and find a way to stop the evil heir that took to the throne in place of the dead king. If you check out the trailer none of this plot is hinted at though, as instead of telling you what the film is about, it just shows some random action scenes. As you can probably work out from my intro there, I haven't seen The Scorpion King 2 and 3. I wasn't massively confused when watching Quest for Power though, so I don't think its necessary to see what came before it.

Quest for Power isn't The Godfather, and what's refreshing here is that it's not trying to be something it isn't. It's trying to be the seventh film in The Mummy series if anything, and that isn't much to live up to, so I guess it has that going for it. Performances across the board fall into that gulf between horrendous and acceptable, with the cast being largely made up of washed up 80's actors like Michael Biehn, Rutger Hauer and Lou Ferrigno, a Youtuber you may have seen before, the dude that played Susan Saradon's husband in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the guy who played the Engineer in Prometheus and various UFC and WWE people. I actually like the “washed up 80's actors” here, but they're clearly just doing Quest for Power for the cash. I guess Ruter's gotta eat. Granted they don't look as bored as Ron Perlman looks on the cover to the third Scorpion King film, but they're almost there. Everyone acts as good as you'd expect them to in what is now the fourth Scorpion King film.

The action and set pieces are largely passable, with nothing really standing out as neither good or bad. There's plenty of scenes with dudes fighting with swords, people get stabbed, Mathayus is strapped to a chair in a room filled with terrible CGI fire, two women kick each others asses in a Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome-like arena and there's even a dragon whose awful CGI is obscured by only being shown in ultra close-ups. If any of that appeals to you Quest for Power might not be a complete failure in your eyes.

I guess the main feeling I took away from this film, an overall resounding “meh”. Sure it's cheesy, has some pretty shoddy performances throughout, the CGI literally looks like it was made for a Direct-To-VHS film in 1998, but I had fun with it, most likely for all of those reasons. When half of the world is looking towards the Oscars and all the crappy Oscar-bait films that populate most of its categories, I suggest you turn your head away and watch Quest for Power, cause why not?

Oh and by the way, is it just me or does the dude who plays Mathayus look like the secret love child of The Rock and Mac from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power embraces its crappiness and gets a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power at CeX

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Muscular Dystrophy BBC Lifeline Appeal

Muscular Dystrophy UK, the wonderful bunch of folks dedicated to helping those suffering from muscular-wasting conditions, are holding a BBC Lifeline Appeal today. Make sure you tune in at 4:45pm on BBC One and donate to their noble cause!

Can't make it to a TV? Remember, you can give to Muscular Dystrophy UK all-year-round by donating your unwanted goodies at CeX!

If you donate 100% of the value we’ll even top it up by 10% and we pass on all donations to CeX Charities in full.

About Muscular Dystrophy UK 

Muscular Dystrophy UK are dedicated to beating Muscular Dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions. They aim to find treatments, cures and improving the lives of everyone affected by these conditions.

Where do your donations go?:
  • Funding world-class research to find effective treatments and cures. 
  • Providing practical information, advice and emotional support for individuals with muscle-wasting conditions, their carers and families. 
  • Campaign to bring about change and raise awareness of Muscular Dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions.
  • Award grants towards the cost of specialist equipment, such as powered wheelchairs 
  • Provide specialist education and development for health professionals.

There are many types of Muscular Dystrophy, it can either be inherited or occur out of the blue where there is no family history. Muscular Dystrophy Campaign rely almost entirely on voluntary donations to fund their work.

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Saturday 21 March 2015

Halo: Nightfall

I can't believe it's almost been 10 years since I played the first game in the Halo series, Halo: Combat Evolved. When I first played it I was working and living with my brother in Northern Ireland for around 5 months, and after days of working a long shift in a terrible, terrible job, I would get back to his place and play Halo all night. It was incredible. From “The Silent Cartographer” mission, first coming up against the Flood to hearing “Rock Anthem For Saving The World” blast through the speakers in the games final level, it was an astounding experience. The game made you feel like a hero, had truly revolutionary game mechanics and still stands out and a must-play for any fans of the first-person shooter genre. Though I loved the first game I have to say that I didn't like much else beyond that. I know I'm in the minority, but Halo 2 onwards just didn't do much for me. Sorry. I played them all but the series, especially since Bungie left it in the hands of 343 Industries, isn't as good or as special as it once was. Since the humble days of Halo: Combat Evolved the series has become a multimedia cow, and just with the likes of Star Wars, Halo is being milked into books, graphic novels and short films/feature films. This latest entry in Halo's expanding universe is a welcome one, but not one that is a must-see.

Directed Sergio Mimica-Gezzan and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Halo: Nightfall, probably the best attempt at a live-action take on the franchise, but one that doesn't quite nail it. Nightfall is a mini-series that consists of 5 episodes, which combined racks up to 120 minutes, basically making it a Halo film. As I just said before, I played the entire series up until Halo 4, but I kind of forget exactly where the series is after it's conclusion. Nightfall focuses on the SPARTAN-IV solider Jameson Locke, who is a character that will appear in the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians. Essentially Nightfall serves as Locke's origin story, as this series takes place after Halo 4 and prior to Halo 5. The plot follows Locke and his team that, after they're investigating possible terrorist activity on a colony, are caught up in a  biological attack that only targets humans. Working together with former SPARTAN-II soldier Randall Aken, the teams journey ultimately brings them to Installation 04- the original Halo ring destroyed by the Master Chief in Halo: Combat Evolved

The story in Nightfall is actually really fun, and it has everything you'd want as both a Halo and non-Halo fan- guns, marines shooting at things, aliens, some decent dialogue, badass Halo armour, motherf*cking Installation 4 from Combat Evolved and an appearance by a Sangheili (even if the CGI is bloody awful). So at the very least it's clear that 343 Industries and producer Ridley Scott did their best to finally bring the look of Halo to the small screen. They've achieved that. Though it does look a little grittier and darker than what I personally see Halo as, it's still a nice representation of its world for TV. The mini-series isn't hard to follow or particularly smart, but it's got it where it counts in terms of Halo-ness, and thankfully doesn't force it down the throat of non-hardcore fans such as myself.

That said, the problems arise with the fact that literally every character in Nightfall is utterly forgettable. This really isn't a problem with the various members of the team though, as each one is clearly only there as cannon fodder and I didn't care about them one way or the other. However, it is a problem when I generally found the character of Jameson Locke- you know, the main character in Nightfall and a character that will be playable in Guardians- to be an absolute husk of a human being in terms of personality, back-story and, above all else, likeability. He grunts from scene to scene, looks constantly angry and I didn't really like spending two hours with him and his team. It was always going to be hard for 343 industries to create a new non-Master Chief protagonist whose face we can actually see, but in Nightfall I couldn't sympathise or relate with this dude. I don't want the Master Chief as the lead in a Halo TV series. I want the expanded series to focus on different and interesting characters, but the character of Jameson Locke is neither of those.

Halo: Nightfall is a very mixed bag. The action was pretty sweet and the story was satisfying, but the characters were less entertaining than a kick in the balls and that effectively dragged the whole thing down for me. After the film adaptation by Neil Blomkamp and Peter Jackson feel through a few years back, I keep feeling as if the series will never have a definitive moment on TV/film when we think, “now THIS is Halo”. Nightfall is Halo of course, but it's yet another mishandled expansion of the franchise that while good, could have been incredible.

Halo: Nightfall just about stays alive with a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

Halo: Nightfall at CeX

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CeX At Birmingham Comic Con

It's on like Dong Kong this Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March at MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2015!

Drop by to say "Hi!", check out our treasure trove of goodies and of course buy, sell & exchange to your heart's content. Held at the NEC near Solihull , MCM Comic Con is the perfect place to unleash your inner geek. The show gives you the chance to preview the hottest new video games, get your photo taken with their star guests.

Why not enter a range of competitions to win CeX vouchers with the CeX Octopus or get the fastest lap or the show in our competitive gaming competitions? Catch our live stream direct from the show:

Catch our live stream direct from the show:
Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

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Friday 20 March 2015

CeX & The Gadget Show!

Guess who popped into CeX for a chin-wag about all things Gadgets?

The Gadget Show, that's who!

Catch the episode on Demand 5 

They sent their gadget guru, Ortis Deley, to our mothership CeX shop in Birmingham to see what they could get for their stuff.

CeX buys, sell and exchanges hard drives, graphics cards, memory, gamer mice & DSLRs on top of the usual games, phones and DVDs at the best prices in the universe. That's why we #wontbebeaten on the UK High Street ;)

Thanks for stopping by, Gadget Show guys!

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Cheap thrills with a largely forgettable story seems to be the order of the day when it comes to budget horror films, leaving the audience with just enough to come back for another visit once the inevitable sequel/prequel is announced. Annabelle is no exception to this as it serves as a back-story to the largely successful 2013 film The Conjuring that follows the supposedly factual exploits of now famous ghost hunters Ed and Lorrain Warren. After grossing in over £300 million worldwide, a continuation of this world became inevitable, as the doll from the first movie is now the star attraction in this paint by the numbers horror film. 

Directed by The Conjuring cinematographer John R. Leonetti and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD is Annabelle, a horror that has significant throwbacks to other familiar horror films, significantly Rosemary’s Baby, even using the same names for the young couple as in this old classic. Thrown into the mix is a Charles Manson-esque cult that invades the home of Mia and John, violently attacking the couple, leaving the doll Annabelle, a gift from Mia’s husband, possessed and seeking the soul of Mia’s unborn child. 

While the real life inspiration for the film is a regular raggedy Ann, the movie version of Annabelle is a large Victorian pot doll. With large haunting eyes and an unsettling smile the production team certainly succeeded in creating a doll that is not only creepy but also, while almost always still, manages to evoke an eerie reality that serves well, particularly for the first half of the film. Unfortunately after this, Annabelle falls into the familiar traps of many other horror films before it, becoming heavily reliant on CGI and cheap jump scares in order to keep the plot moving forward. I can’t help but feel the film would be better served building the suspense through what the audience is unable to see, rather that throwing in demons and other supernatural elements just for the sake of becoming another serviceable horror movie.

After the attack in their home, Mia begins to feel tormented, initially through modest means, such as a rocking chair moving independently and her sewing machine switching itself on. As events continue to escalate, the family moves from Santa Monica to Pasadena. Along for the ride, despite having been thrown in the dustbin, is Annabelle. Feeling increasingly terrified and isolated, the family call for assistance from their local priest; Father Perez, who they hope can vanquish the evil that has bestowed them. A generic storyline indeed, but it is not without its share of relatively scary moments. In one particular scene, Mia sees Annabelle as a 4-year-old girl but as she bursts through the door into the room she transforms into the adult Annabelle. There are several more nice set pieces thrown into the film, generally, however, there is nothing more than an already tried and tested formula we have seen in countless other horror films.

Unfortunately the flimsy script allows the film to fizzle to an ending rather than build to anything climatic. Much of what was built on in the first half of the film is lost to one jump scare after another with no real interesting dialogue or explanation as to what is actually happening. Despite the best efforts by Annabelle Wallis who plays the role of Mia, the film almost rushes to its predictable ending and its inevitable sequel, The Conjuring 2. What we are left with is a film that does its job, borrowing many ideas from better films for the occasional scare, but doesn’t set itself apart enough to become anything other than another forgettable horror movie. All in all, a disappointing prequel to a formula that worked so well in The Conjuring.

Annabelle disappoints and gets a 2/5.


Gareth Thompson

Annabelle at CeX

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