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Nexus

The Jupiter Incident

By Niloy

Space. There is, to put it mildly, rather a lot of it. It's vast, dark and cold beyond imagination, and filled only with emptiness. And lens flare, naturally.

Space is, quite frankly, a bit of a tough sell as real estate goes, but it's certainly very good for certain things - such as playing host to epic battles between hulking metallic capital ships, darting fighters and sleek alien starfaring vessels, all tearing strips off each other with exotic combinations of beam weapons, mass drivers and lethal torpedoes.

It's a good thing, then, that Mithis, the developer, decided to add the space battling element to Nexus - The Jupiter Incident, since a game focused on looking at nicely rendered asteroids, planets and, er, hard vacuum, wouldn't be very entertaining. Instead, they've delivered a game which is a science fiction fan's dream - filled with the epic battles, hulking capital ships and what have you, and presented with a sense of dramatic scale that leaves other space strategy games in the moondust.

Nexus is, in short, a space strategy simulation. Nexus is all about commanding a battleship or a small fleet through engagements with the enemy and other such missions. Rather than just clicking on a point on the map and telling a unit to head over there and mine some ore or shoot some bad guys, you're effectively placed in the captain's chair, and must command the ship(s) and crew on a much more up close and personal level.

The types of battles you'll be fighting in Nexus are quite different to those found in the vast bulk of space warfare games. Mithis are from a school of science fiction game design which sees capital ships as great lumbering beasts which manoeuvre around each other in combat, struggling for the best shooting positions, while smaller fighter craft dash around in the spaces between the ships almost too fast to see. In fact, this is more like naval combat than like any space combat you may have seen before, as the lumbering ships circle each other and turrets track their targets, each captain seeking to inflict the crucial blow of the battle.

The range of control available to you might seem slightly odd atfirst to those unused to this style of game - which, let's face it, will be most people. Your control over the ships you command generally doesn't give you second by second input into where the ship is steered, for example - that's largely left up to the crew. However, not only can you select which enemy craft to target, but you can also select individual sub-systems on the ship to attack, thus allowing you to disable a ship's systems rather than just pounding at its hull - or, if you're feeling nasty, to disable its systems and then pound at the hull anyway. You can also choose to launch your fighters, and despatch them to meet threats from enemy squadrons or just to harass a bigger ship while you move your capital ship in for the kill, and can even launch transports of marines to board crippled enemy vessels.

The whole affair is superbly presented from a user interface perspective. The control system for the game is logical and clear, with a fairly simple set of buttons arranged around the edges of the screen, leaving you free to view the action and move your viewpoint around in the middle. Helpfully, you can select units - both friendly and enemy - from lists on either side of the screen, and just about everything that needs to be done can be done from the clear menu system. It's an interface that any strategy game player will get used to very quickly, and the game does an excellent job of gently guiding you through the first few missions to get you accustomed to it anyway.

The problem with the control system - and this is more a function of the basic gameplay than of the user interface - is that you rarely actually feel in-control of the events unfolding in front of you. Certainly, your actions have a major impact on the battle, but the immediate effect of issuing orders and changing tactics is often frustratingly indescribable. This is perhaps a feature of this type of game, rather than a flaw with Nexus in particular, but it can be very annoying even for the seasoned strategy gamer. The game is also, quite frankly, slow. You'll spend ages watching capital ships circle as they wear down each other's health.

One of the most impressive things about Nexus is the 3D graphics engine that Mithis has assembled for the game, and suffice it to say that the eye-candy is very gorgeous. Perhaps best described as "Doom 3 in space," the engine throws around intricately modelled and bump mapped ships with realistic shadows moving over their surfaces, countless projectiles and asteroids, detailed space stations and stunning particle and weapon effects which combine to make it into one of the best-looking space games ever to grace a PC. The excellent technology isn't let down by the quality of the artwork, either. Human and alien spacecraft are fairly varied and interesting, and uniformly well designed and detailed - although one can wonder whether the frequent resemblances to spacecraft from various other science fiction universes is homage, or rip-off.

The plotline itself is fairly unremarkable, covering territory to do with the use of alien technology by a shadowy syndicate in Earth's solar system, the wormhole your father's spaceship disappeared through when you were still a child, and other such Shocking Revelations. Perhaps I'm just jaded by too much science fiction, but it all seemed terribly predictable, although it's expertly written stuff which acceptably fills a gap between majestic space battles.

Despite its unquestionably high production values, excellent graphics and keenly realised battle simulations, Nexus feels like a little bit of a disappointment. The first couple of hours of the game are fantastic, as you're introduced to the universe, the ships, the stunning battles and the interesting gameplay, but for the average strategy fan, the realisation that the game is all about increasingly complex micro-management of your ships and crew is something of a let-down.


Fish Diversity Tied to Evolution of Diving Ability

By Sarah Graham

From clownfish to catfish, grouper to great white, the diversity of fish in the sea is nothing short of astonishing. Now scientists have managed to account for this wide assortment, at least in part, by tracing the evolution of the organ that allows the creatures to swim at different depths.

To change their buoyancy and move up and down in the water, fish inflate an internal organ called the swim bladder. Some fish, such as herring, must surface and gulp air in order to fill their swim bladders with oxygen. Other fish, which are able to submerge for much longer periods and thus reach greater depths, are able to use oxygen from their blood in order to inflate the swim bladder, thanks to a specific type of protein known as Root-effect hemoglobin.

Michael Berenbrink of the University of Liverpool and his colleagues traced the evolution of this protein in a variety of species, from sharks to dolphinfish, and found that it evolved just once. The emergence of the protein then allowed for the formation of a complex network of veins and arteries, called the rete mirabile, which supported the creatures' retinas and allowed the fish to see better. The rete mirabile also appears to have evolved only once, about 250 million years ago. The capillaries that support the swim bladder and allow oxygen to be delivered to it appeared about 100 million years later.

The swim bladder itself, however, arose independently in four different fish groups, Berenbrink and his collaborators report in the current issue of the journal Science. The team proposes that the evolution of the swim bladder accounts for part of the huge diversity of form and function in living fishes. For example, there are 198 species of Mormyroidea fish, all of which have swim bladders, yet there are only eight species of their close relatives, the Notopteridae, which lack the complex organ.


26 Episodes.

Generally, a game-to-anime translation isn't something to look forward to. More often than not, they turn out to be rather woefully disappointing.

Generally.

Gungrave happens to break the mold, and shatter it into a million bits in the process. The Playstation 2 game was a no-brainer shoot-anything-that-moves which made no sense by the time you got to the end of it; the anime is one of the most spectacularly riveting stories of lifelong friends turning enemies in a Mafia power struggle that'd do justice to the Godfather. Gungrave isn't about power-play in a crime syndicate, though that is what shapes and drives both the protagonist (Brandon Heat) and the antagonist (Harry Macdowell) into the people they become; the real story is about trust, and betrayal, and protecting those that one loves.

Every character created in the series is painstakingly detailed, and utterly believable till the end; they develop considerably, and grow in stature with the passage of time. Brandon grows from an introverted thug to a confident upper echelon mobster, and every instant of this evolution is natural; likewise, Harry's fall from grace is executed to perfection. As they climb the ranks of the organization, new components of the syndicate's hierarchy are exposed; each of these then proceed to roles that are eminently necessary by the way the plot unfolds.

The latter half of the series has less to do with the mafia, and indeed takes some getting used to; resurrections from the dead, and bizarre supernatural metamorphoses are rampant; however, these do not detract from the telling, and the story ends in one of the most powerfully moving ways one would have thought.

Beside such a plot, the technical details seem trivial; nevertheless, Gungrave continues to shine. The voice-acting is superb in the original Japanese, the music fitting (indeed, every track literally screams "I am the music of Gungrave!" at the listener afterwards). The artwork is quite stellar; characters visibly age, are drawn with a vivid visual style that is, while not very distinctive, extremely confident. Animation is naturally fluid, and the action sequences are choreographed to be most satisfactorily impressive and intense.

If there is to be a gripe, at all, one would say that the first episode fails to work; indeed, it is the single worst episode in the series. It feels abrupt, but once one gets past that, Gungrave is a true gem, and well deserving of being on anyone's must-see list.

By Lancer


Minority Report

By Gokhra

This was a movie I waited to watch until a good print showed up. Its shot in shades of blue that looks horrible in a cinema print. It's also a movie that you can safely add to your DVD collection cause its that good.

The plot: Set about twenty years down the line it deals with the life and adventures of a cop John Anderton (Tom Cruise) who stops crime before it even happens by a complicated method of seeing into the future. John is a drug-using cop who lost his little son to a kidnapper. Following that incident a new method of stopping crime was devised and he pretty much dedicated his life as a crime fighter.

The looking into the future bit carried out by a trio of people who were born with some genetic differences. Every time they slept they would dream of horrible murders happening which people later found out were actually happening in real life. This psychic trio become the Precogs who were kept lying in a liquid filed pool attached to computers that would allow their drams to be interpreted onto display units. The Precogs could see crimes happening before it actually happened John would lead the task force that would swing into action arresting the soon to be criminals. These people were then put away for good. As a result, crime rate was at an all time low.

So everything is going fine until (Collin Farrell) shows up investigating the organization to see if all is actually all that good. I guess nothing is too good to be true. Somewhere along the course of the investigation a new image turns up showing Tom killing someone. He runs because he is about to be put away like the rest but he believes he is innocent.

In this process there are lots of chases with jet packs up and down and even through buildings. One of the chases end in an automated car factory where John stumble on an assembly line and has an entire car built around him in a few minutes. That he uses to drive away much to the chagrin of his pursuers.

John does manage to get to the man who he is supposed to be killed. That man seems to be the person responsible for the disappearance of his child which is a pretty good reason for John to kill. But then h realizes that there is a choice to be made. And the doubt of the doubtless crime fighting method creeps in that maybe some of the people captured would have made different choices. Of course John does shoot the man albeit accidentally fulfilling the prophecy. But by ten we figure it's a frame-up. The question is who, why and how.

The way the answer is led up to is not at all disappointing despite the fact that occasionally you will find plot holes big enough to put a fist through. It's a suspenseful thriller that thrills.

The verdict: You have to watch the movie carefully because the plot twists and jumps suddenly. The action is good and a times unique even though it's disappointing to find out that the world of the future only has Lexus cars.

There are bits of humor although rare and some more would have definitely helped. There's a scene where Tom is running after an eyeball that he disgustingly dropped. He needs it to open a retinal scan activated doorway.

The eyeball drops into a drain but he catches it not a moment too soon. The movie keeps you running a dizzying gamut of clues, hints, traps and dead-ends in Johns hunt for the truth. Steven Spielberg created a stylish, tricky and irresistible whodunnit

The movie is not just good it is damn brilliant.

     

 
 

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