Wondering where we’ve gone?

Tuesday, 20 December, 2011 14 comments

Merry Christmas! If you’re wondering where West London’s best source of independent news has gone, look no further than our new permanent website: http://www.thewestlondoner.com

Over there you’ll find the same content you’re used to – news, reviews, Game Overdose and more – with a few more sections added for good measure! Pop on over and bookmark the new site.

We’ll be moving the email subscription system across soon, so all 200+ of you who are subscribed to our updates won’t miss out. Don’t forget, you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep right up to date.

Categories: News

Game Overdose: Video Game Awards (w/ Comments)

Sunday, 11 December, 2011 Leave a comment

Hi all! God it feels like forever since I did one of these…
I apologise for the extreme levels of silence. A near-full-time job, coursework deadlines (of which I still have one in for… tomorrow, procrastination ahoy!) and general life stuff has kept me away the last few weeks, though I hope to remedy that come the new year!

Now, as you may or may not be aware, Spike.Tv does a yearly Video Game Awards, celebrating the best games in various fields at various times. It’s probably about as close as you’re going to get to seeing Video Game oscars. I figured seeing as it (hopefully) wouldn’t take too much time I’d list them all and make comments. These aren’t really meant to be serious, I’m going to try to entertain as much as inform, but it should be a touch interesting…

Read more…

Categories: Game Overdose

I’d say this was a Revelation

Wednesday, 7 December, 2011 13 comments

Is there anything better in the gaming world than skulking across rooftops to then dive off and land on an unsuspecting victim, giving him a short sharp jab with a blade hidden in your sleeve? If you don’t think so then you’re probably a massive fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. Either that or you’ve been sitting under a rock waiting for such a game to be developed.

With the exception of the original title, Assassin’s Creed as a series has been one of my favourites within the last few years. The story of Ezio has been developed steadily across two games, and now Altaïr and Desmond also get increasing roles in order to start closing up some of the loose strings the players have. Revelations takes Ezio to Turkey in search of the masyaf keys to access Altaïr’s library. In this new land you’re greeted by new assassins and a new assassin leader, Yusuf Tazim. Tazim then aids Ezio in the search for the keys. Revelations also boasts several gameplay additions based on the pieces that felt missing from previous titles.

Ezio and Yusuf during an early cutscene

Borgia Towers are now replaced with ‘dens’. The initial gameplay mechanic works the same: you take out the captain and then light a fire in the tower. However you now have to defend these dens once they’ve been captured, throwing you into den defence mini-games. These are similar to tower defence games with Ezio overlooking a street and ordering assassins on to various roofs under which waves of templars and other guards will attack. You can also build barriers to slow your enemies down, and Ezio himself can shoot his hand cannon to thin the numbers. The addition is a welcome feature and allows for more gameplay than the Borgia Towers in Brotherhood provided, however the feature can become repetitive and even annoying as the defence marker has a habit of popping up just when you’re in the middle of something else. The tedious city renovation still plays a big part in earning money, and the mechanics are the same as Brotherhood, wandering around Constantinople this time, buying up buildings and shops in order to increase your income. This is my main bugbear with the game, and it seems like Ubisoft doesn’t want to stop expanding a game mechanic that is so benign and unnecessary that it’s merely an obsessive compulsive distraction. Looting gets you pretty much every ingredient and piece of ammunition to last you through the game and by the time you’ve got all the weapons you’re literally just earning money to buy more buildings which earn you more money.

Ezio using the hookblade on a zipline

The new hookblade is a feature you acquire very early in the game, which acts as a new weapon but also gives Ezio the same faster climbing ability that you needed to unlock in the previous two games. I must say this is a brilliant idea from the developers because introducing skills in one game which you then take away from the character in the next really removes an element of continuity. The other new mechanic is bomb crafting, which lets you choose from a range of ingredients which effects when your bomb explodes, how it explodes and what comes out. This is an interesting addition but after a time you end up just using the same three types of bombs and the crafting mechanic stops being relevant.

It will be intriguing to see how well Revelations deals with the triple layered story, as well as bringing in a surprising character that we didn’t expect to see make an appearance. You’ve heard many references to him but now he appears in the flesh…well kind of. Overall, Revelations is shaping up to be a well refined game that polishes many of the flaws that were noted in Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed 2. The game flows at an unmatched pace and the combat is still fresh and immersive with the new weapons and flourishes available that add a bit more satisfaction.

Film Review: Paranormal Activity 3

Monday, 5 December, 2011 1 comment

Three Star: ***

More things go bump in the night, but did that include the writer’s head? Prepare to go parallel to the series, in this paranormal prequel

In the 1980s the concept of home CCTV was a brave new world powered by shoulder mounted cameras and VCR tapes limited to six hours’ running time. However, after hearing strange noises in the night, such a niggle does not deter Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) from setting up his own amateur system to watch over his family in Oren Peli’s third installment of the supernatural shocker series. This bare bones prequel might reuse the same old formula to get its scares, but a creepy atmosphere is present as always and you will find yourself scanning the screen for the slightest anomaly, with your chest tensed against the inevitable moment of terror.

Of course, two movies later, many of us have grown accustomed to these scare tactics: easy-to-believe shocks, such as a moving curtain or pan falling from its hook, or even someone jumping out of a closet with a mask on and shouting “Boo!” These cheap thrills still have their place though. After all, they continue to work extremely well! It caused the two girls to the left of me to whimper into their popcorn for much of the film. In fact, they were flinching so much, they even ended up booting the row of seats in front of them. That said, the frights are a little more fun this time, with some innovative efforts having been made (including an ingenious modification to an electric fan) in order to give us something new to see. In one scene the tension is achieved with a single simple sheet. The violent undertones are heavier than ever too, and the being itself seems to appear at moments, suggesting evil energy in its rawest form. Flitting shadows are an unnervingly believable manifestation and is by far scarier than falling furniture.

The bulk of the plot focuses on the friendship between Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) and an entity named ‘Toby’, which, obviously, takes a sinister turn for the worse. As before, the spirit becomes malevolent towards her and sister Katie (Chloe Csengery), to the extent that this likable family has to flee their home. However, this is where the unexpected occurs and it deviates from the original plot devices. Even though PA3 is about the same two sisters, nothing is explained from PA1 and PA2. In fact, the saga is actually complicated by having things added to it instead. In some ways, it almost becomes another film entirely, and there were traces of The Last Exorcist in its rather disappointing ending. Even the demon seemed to be different to the original and I was unable to decide whether this was intended, or not. If the film had been a stand-alone picture, it would have made little difference. The big questions remain unanswered.

And so this apparent reinvention of the plot seems to suggest that there will be several sequels before we get our answers. Such a notion leaves me feeling a little concerned for the series. It would be a shame if it ended up like the Saw franchise, done to death and relying on upchucks of the same old shocks in order to get a cheap laugh.

X Factor’s Johnny lights up Harrow!

Thursday, 1 December, 2011 1 comment

Be quick if you want to catch Harrow’s Johnny Robinson switching on the town centre’s Christmas lights tonight!

The star from West Harrow will strike the first note of Christmas celebrations by turning on the lights at St Ann’s Road, near Katie’s Statue (the skipping girl sculpture near Debenhams), at 6:30pm.

But the show has already started with street performances, balloon artists and Sparky the giant robot entertaining kids at St Ann’s Road.

Ahead of his performance, Johnny Robinson said: “I’m thrilled to be able to come back to Harrow to help launch the countdown to Christmas!

“I had such great support from local people during the X Factor and it will be fantastic to say thank you in person, as well as give my backing to local traders during the Christmas shopping period. I look forward to seeing lots of you in Harrow Town Centre!”

The Christmas lights along St Ann’s Road and Station Road were installed by Harrow Council with the £860,000 won from the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund to revitalise the shopping district.

Keith Ferry, Harrow Council’s portfolio holder for planning and economic development, said: “Johnny did Harrow proud during his time on the X Factor and we’re delighted that he’ll be joining us.”

He added: “The Mayor’s Outer London Fund aims to bring more shoppers to town centres like Harrow.

“It funds initiatives to dress up high streets and Harrow’s eye catching ‘light garden’ and festive lights caught the attention of the judges. We’re hoping you come and enjoy the lights, see Johnny, and shop for Christmas in the Town Centre.”

The ‘light garden’ art installation is now lit up outside St George’s Centre. It features giant snowdrops and lotus flowers around a giant alium flower. It was created by artist Jig Cochrane, who is responsible for October’s display of giant tulips for the Diwali celebrations.

Feltham & Heston interview: Andrew Charalambous, UKIP candidate

Thursday, 1 December, 2011 3 comments

Earlier this week The West Londoner spoke to the UK Independence Party’s candidate for the Feltham and Heston by-election happening this month, Andrew Charalambous.

He is the party’s Housing spokesman and stood for the Conservatives in Edmonton in the general election before defecting.

Why are you standing for Feltham & Heston?

“UKIP are on about 11 per cent in the national polls now and it’s high time the party had its first member of parliament,” says Charalambous. “It would change the entire political landscape and every by election is an opportunity.”

“I think the majority of people at the moment are suffering. We’re sending 50 million every day to the EU,” says the 44-year-old property developer. “That money should be invested in Britain.”

What will you do if you are elected as Feltham & Heston’s MP?

“We need to invest more money into making council services better and we need to make it easier for people to exercise the right to buy,” says Charalambous. “People will not exercise their right to buy if their property or their council estate as a whole are not in the right condition so we need to work on that.”

He adds: “There’s a lot of young gangs hanging around the council estates making the more vulnerable sections of the population feel uncomfortable.

“We need to create more jobs and more investment. If you look at the M4 corridor we have BSkyB and others. We could bring those people further in to Feltham and Heston.”

“We should encourage young enterprise. Business mentors can offer guidance to young people. We could give local businesses a reduction on their business rates. There’s a difference between the national economy and the local economy; building enterprise from the bottom up.”

You speak a lot about youth; what about other sections of the population?

“I think it’s a scandal how we treat our elderly. If you’re elderly you’re more likely to be a victim of discrimination and of crime. We understand that younger people find it hard in this economic climate; how much harder is it if you’re 85, wheelchair bound , disabled, blind, and trying to deal with the current economic climate then? Looking at provisions for care and facilities for the elderly is very important.”

“The Conservatives haven’t implemented policies they said they would have prevented many of our elderly dying because of fuel poverty. They don’t earn enough from their pensions, that’s the bottom line.

How would you fund your plans?

“We would fund them by not wasting £50 million a day on Europe. We’ve got probably a quarter more public sector workers than we need.”

“Britain spent money on – let’s not hide this – two or three useless wars from which the British people haven’t benefited at all. You may have heard about the ex-soldier who came back to Heston and can’t get housing. This is how we treat our heroes. If UKIP were in a position to influence government we would have stood against these unnecessary wars.”

“If you take the local council it needs to be more transparent. We need to cut down the pay of council executives to three or four figure sums. We need to make these people accountable for their spending and we need them to stop spending money on political correctness and self promoting budgets.”

UKIP has an enduring image of being a party affected by race. Is that true?

“We are in no way a racist party. We have members from all races, colours and backgrounds. UKIP is a party that says immigration isn’t a negative thing – the country need a degree of immigration. We believe that we need to integrate the people who are already here. I think withdrawing from Europe is the best way, which means we won’t have to take the half a million people a year coming from Europe. Then we can give more priority to people coming, for example, from the Indian subcontinent.”

Transparency statement: the UKIP press office contacted The West Londoner to offer us the interview. If you work for a political party with a candidate standing in Feltham & Heston, please use the Contact Us link to get in touch.

Categories: Hounslow, News Tags: , ,

Review: Fortress (DVD) – Borrow or Buy?

Wednesday, 30 November, 2011 52 comments

Four Stars: ****

“No B-17s were harmed in the making of this film!”

It is a war story which has been retold many a time, and yet it never gets old! The tale of a bomber crew up against all odds, who yearn to trade the flak-blackened skies for the comforts of home, as they struggle to complete their tour of duty. And there is no better example of this than the crew of the Flying Fortress Lucky Lass, operating from a sandy strip in the Algerian desert, during the 1943 bombing of Rome.

Despite having a pretty much unknown cast (Bug Hall, Donnie Jeffcoat and Sean McGowan anyone?), as well as the fact that it relies completely on CGI for the battle scenes, the quality of this B-movie was a pleasant surprise over the usual straight-to-DVD releases.

Seeing as there are only 12 flying B-17s left, the film-makers can be forgiven for not being entirely authentic (this is even addressed in the credits, in a very tongue-in-cheek manner) although only extreme levels of scrutiny will reveal any flaws. In other words, you would need to be the ultimate spotter, who can identify incorrect rivets on a gun turret window frame, to notice and/or be bothered by it.

For the rest of the time, the rapid pace of an air war makes us forget that we are looking at a digital rendering, persuading us that the Lass is airborne once more! She looks and sounds just as she should. The attention to detail is not just limited to the aircraft; it would have been so easy for the makers to use generic patch-work quilt landscape scenery, but when we find ourselves peering down the bomb-sight we see an actual rendition of the city of Rome, complete with Coliseum.

Much has been said about the inauthentic dialogue too. Some scenes go as far to suggest the crew are none other than the grandfathers of the lads who star in American Pie, because of the way they speak of birds and boozing during their down-time.

A side-plot even involves a home-made (and thoroughly illegal) still, in which the characters extract alcohol from aviation fuel to make their own moonshine. Fittingly, the still’s owner is a red-haired lad called Bert (Chris Owen), who was none other than the Shermanator in the teen romp comedies! He even speaks of his still in the same way his adolescent alter-ego might talk of an elaborately constructed beer pong game many years later.

But, while this portrayal has been criticised by some, I actually found it strangely authentic. So perhaps they do speak in a fairly modern way … apart from the odd moment, it is not at all that noticeable! Considering the grim reality of fighting in the skies, it is not surprising to learn that crazy hijinks were not an uncommon way to unwind on an airbase. To quote one of the actors: “There’s more to being a bomber pilot than just flying.”

As for the crew’s actual fate, well, just remember that their moment of glory will come at a time when there was still no end in sight for the war. Whatever they achieve now will soon be buried under more bloodshed, and many more young men will be sacrificed before peace is won. Watch this in memory of these magnificent flying machines and the people who flew and fought in them. It might not carry the same impact as Memphis Belle, but I’d certainly watch this one again.

Image courtesy of Pete Markham, Flickr.

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