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Brother in Arms Road to hill
By Niloy

At first glance, Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 looks like a ton of other first-person shooters. It's set during WWII. It's got pretty graphics and lots of guns. But there's an interesting game ticking under the hood, one that emphasizes tactics and strategy as much as blood and bullets. It doesn't quite reach the epic heights of some other WWII shooters, but Gearbox's squad-based game manages to achieve a double-shot quite rare among videogames these days: innovation and polish.

Brothers in Arms puts you in the combat boots of Sgt. Matt Baker, a fictional member of the 101st Airborne Division. While flying over Normandy during the D-Day invasion, your plane is struck by antiaircraft fire. Dropped and scattered behind enemy lines, you'll have to reunite with your company and lead them on an eight-day campaign to Hill 30.

Based on a true story, Brothers in Arms is a squad-based shooter with a strong emphasis on tactics, flanking in particular. In fact, the game comes with a fold out map that marks all the critical junctures of the campaign on one side, and on the other outlines how "You CAN flank that enemy!" by utilizing the four F's: Find Him, Fix Him (with fire), Flank Him and Finish Him. It's the reality of World War II ground combat. Without the advantage of high-tech weaponry, you'll have to carefully move from cover to cover and when you do encounter the enemy, you'll have to use suppressive fire and assault them in an organized manner. It's a tactic you'll use on a regular basis throughout the game, that is until you run up against a tank, at which point the four F's are quickly replaced by the one R: Run Like Hell.

So how does flanking work? Each enemy soldier or team of soldiers you encounter will have a circular suppression indicator over their position. When the indicator is red, the enemy is prepared to engage you in combat. If you order your squad to suppress the enemy with fire, the indicator will turn grey, noting that the enemy team has been completely suppressed. Their rate of fire will decrease and for a short period of time, you'll gain the opportunity to direct your team around the side to their flank for the kill. Aiding in this procedure is a Situational Awareness View where, at the press of a button, you'll be able to pause the action and, from an overhead perspective, gather information with regards to the location of the enemies you've spotted. You can then rotate the camera to examine the best means to eliminate the opposition.

Flanking is the essence of Brothers in Arms. You'll begin the 20-mission campaign by meeting up with Plt. Sgt. Hassay for what is essentially a training level. Then you and Cpl. Hartsock will get together for a little tag-team action before you finally get to command an entire squad, and eventually two squads: a fire team and an assault team. Sometimes you'll have a tank alongside you to command, while other times you'll have to take out an enemy tank. In one mission, you'll be tasked to knock down poles in a field so allied gliders carrying supplies can land. In another, you'll be ordered to clear out a small village and repel a German counterattack. So even though Brothers in Arms is somewhat of a one-trick pony with its emphasis on flanking, the variety of scenarios you'll come across and the level of intensity generated should keep the experience fresh.

The squad AI is admirable in Brothers in Arms. If you tell your fire team to take cover behind an overturned carriage, they'll do just that. If you tell your assault team to fall in as you move in on a suppressed enemy, they'll do just that. Rarely does your squad miss a beat. The only time they do something stupid is when you tell them to do something stupid. Additionally, each of your squad-mates has a distinct personality that's brought to life not only in the cut-scenes but also on the battlefield. They constantly communicate; showing fear when things turn ugly in combat and making cracks when the mood is right. Brothers in Arms aims to create an emotional connection between you and each of the soldiers but therein lies my first gripe with the game. Pvt. Allen was lost defending a church from the Germans yet he miraculously came back to life and re-joined my squad at the beginning of the next mission. How am I supposed to form a bond with my men if their survival is a non-issue?

Visually, the European theater is brought to life beautifully. Your fellow soldiers are well animated, the environments are nicely crafted and the weapon effects are realistic. There are a few instances where the frame rate drops considerably, as well as the odd graphical glitch, but overall it's an impressive presentation. Aurally, Brothers in Arms is outstanding. The game has a real authentic feel to it, right down the obscenity-laden dialogue. Positional audio is used to great effect (even during the cut-scenes), the sounds of the weapons are spot-on, and the music features a vintage military theme that'll have you saluting your screen.

In the end, crisp visuals, superb sound and an engrossing solo campaign all help Brothers in Arms stand out from an overcrowded crop of World War II shooters. There's no place for Rambo types here, this is a thinking person's game where patience and tactics are rewarded. You'll gain a newfound respect for what the brave souls of the 101st Airborne Division had to endure during the invasion of Normandy. If it fits your style, it's an experience that shouldn't be missed.

Lord of the Rings
Harry Potter
The showdown

By Lord Shuvom

We come to it at last. To the showdown we've all been waiting for. (At least I have. And I'm the one setting it up) It's actually better because instead of a partial moron, that is, this century's greatest creation: the "FAN", telling you how "awesome" and "kewl" one of them is, you can have me, Lord Shuvom the No-nonsense-dude, setting things straight. (I can't say once and for all. People voted for Bush, so go figure.) Anyway, in one side I've got for you the massive crowd of the LOTR fans! Deafening roar! Astonishing costumes! Awesome KKKK tattoos on the arms of some them and prints on their standards! And on the other side I have this humongous mass of Harry Potter fans! Ear-splitting shrill screams! Glass breaking without magic! And what's that banner saying? "I want to ride your broomstick, Harry"? Oh, that's rich. Totally magical! So what the heck are we waiting for? Let the Showdown begin!

Round One… Fight!
Gollum vs. Dobby
Dobby Apparates out of nowhere and Gollum circles him with a lot of interest.
-What iisss it, eh, my preciousss?
-Me? Oh, I'm Dobby the house-elf, sir! I'm the result of my writer's attempt to separate the book that I'm in from the book that you are in by using the word "elf" for something else! Same as the "goblins", see. Dobby wants to know your name, sir!
-Gollum! Elfses and Goblinses! We wants to eat it!
With that Gollum jumped on Dobby. But Dobby vanished right in time and moved ten feet away. Before Gollum could recover, Dobby came forward saying, "You shall not eat me!!!" and blasted Gollum away. Then he cursed his name to the top of the CIA list of terrorists. We all know what happens after that! 51% of you don't. But I do.
Dobby wins!

Boromir vs. Sirius Black
Boromir unsheathes his sword and Black brandishes his wand. Both step closer to each other. Suddenly, Black shouts out "Expelliarmus", but Boromir saves himself with his shield. Again and again Black curses, and Boromir returns them all. Now he is just three feet away, he raises his sword, he is going to kill Black…

And then Black remembers that-elementary-shield-breaking-spell and breaks the shield to pieces. Boromir fights back and shoves Black away. Then Black starts saying, "I am a Black. I am the…" That was enough. Boromir stops from skewering Black and says, "Black? What is this devilry?" Then he turns away and runs, shouting, "Watch out! Help me! He is Black!" Black, seeing his chance, gets ready to kill Boromir. Then out of nowhere the US military comes and shoots them both dead and then says, "Not Gollum!" and goes away.
I win!

Sam(wise) vs. Ron(ald)
"Oi! Who are you? What's your name?" asks Ron. And Sam says, "I won't say it till I hear yours, if you understand me!" "What are you doing here?" "My errand is my own to keep secret, in a manner of speaking!" "Everyone! He is a Life Vomiter! Eat Guinea-pigs!"

Sam manages to avoid the curse. The next moment, he jumps up and with one blow breaks Ron's wand! "Blimey!" says Ron and curses, "Dwarfodus!" The spell backfires and reduces his own size to half! Ron starts to run away with Sam in his tail saying, "No friend of the Dark Lord will get past me!" With that Sam jumps on Ron who says, "The Dark Lord? Hang on! He's our enemy as well!" " What?" "Yes! You-know-who!" "The Nameless?" "Yes, mate! He-who-must-not-be-named!" "He whom we do not name?"

And unaware of the differences of the ones they were referring to, they became friends. Better than you are with that popular "person". And if you are that person, go kill yourself.
Nobody wins.

Nazgul vs. Dementors
The Nazgul gathered and made up a circle, and from all around them countless dementors poured in. For a few moments the Nazgul were confused. They just couldn't understand how, suddenly, there were so many other Nazgul created. Indeed, it was difficult for them to make out the differences. I mean, they're both cloaked in black; they both fill their enemies' hearts with grief or despair; they both are wraith-like and so on and so on. But the Nazgul could identify each other and all of them decided to blend in with the crowd and watch the show. Surely enough, the Nazgul watched as the stupid dementors tried in vain to suck each other's souls out (I won't describe it! Picture it.) Then the Nazgul came forth and enslaved the tired and confused dementors and ordered them to dress in monkey-suits and to quit exhibiting themselves in the likenesses of the Nine.
The Nazgul win!

Gandalf vs. Dumbledore
Gandalf was there waiting for anything with his staff in one hand and his sword in the other. And in walked Dumbledore saying, "Sorry for the delay! I was severely absorbed in this enchanting conversation with Mr. Kerry about securing the rights of the house-elves! Let's get started, now! Chop chop!" "Saruman!" exclaimed Gandalf. And Dumbledore said, "Saruman?! I am Professor Dumbledore! Dumb-led-ore!" "Dumbledore the Naive! Dumbledore the Fool of my Order! So you have escaped to here to persist with your stupidity! Small wonder that you've let your enemies slip past from right beneath your nose! Little wonder that you had not thought of the 'truth potion' (Oooooh!) to prove the truthfulness of your claims! Saruman or no, you shall perish!" "A fool! I suppose I am that, even though I try my utmost to look, talk and act like you do, the Grey. And still, being one of the last decent things of where I stay, I'm sure I will perish before the end. But not this day!" "This day if I say so!" And they began to duel and it went on for a long time indeed. Only when it was found in planet Common-sense that 'Albus' meant 'white' did Gandalf stop and say, "So you have taken my title as well, I see." Seeing that Dumbledore was beyond hope of any cure and that if he dies, the bits of decency of his place will die too, Gandalf took pity and withdrew.
Winner: Dumbledore! Loser: Kerry!

Sauron vs. Voldemort
When he heard - from me - that there was another guy claiming to be the Dark Lord, Sauron could no longer sit on his- er, chair, and went straight ahead to deal with this new menace that called himself Voldemort. When he got there though, he found the challenge to be tougher than he had expected. Voldemort put up a great fight with all the elementary spells that a second-year has the knowledge of, and the battle went on for ages. But at last Voldemort, being somewhat smarter, realizing that he could not defeat Sauron with his ring on, fled; and the Lord of the Rings followed. Then suddenly, Voldemort noticed a little crybaby weeping in a wreck.

He stopped and said, "I hate stupid kids!" Sauron, who was an inch away from destroying Voldemort, stood back to admire. And just when Voldemort said "Avada Kedavra", Sauron got annoyed and said, "That sounds like the stupid gibberish they use in place of incantations! Abracadabra… Holy Morgoth! It's just as stupid as saying 'jiggerus-pokerus-hocery-pocery' and people falling dead!" "You're right! You see, those that hate me don't know the first thing about anything, and their sense of judgment is limited to: Harry=Goood, Voldemort=Baaad! So you can't expect them to understand this. Anyway, Avada…" "Fools!" And with that Sauron hit Voldemort so hard that it knocked the soul out of his body! The misdirected spell bounced off that stupid boy and took the soul out of Sauron. Too weary to fight, they split. Now they're both looking to get back their bodies and are doomed to live on in spirit form. Whoa, nice coincidence! Right, JK?
Winner: Tolkien. Moron: you, for thinking I'm wrong.

Frodo Baggins vs. Harry Potter
When Harry met Frodo (God I kill myself!), they found no reason whatsoever for which they should fight. Instead, they became friends, and started talking about their beautiful homes they had left behind (Frodo: leagues, Harry: yards). When asked why he had traveled such a long road away from his home, Frodo brought out the Ring and sadly said, "This tiny thing can bring the Dark Lord back to power." A bell rang in Harry's head and he was suddenly reminded of "a small shiny thing that produces the Elixir of life that can bring the Dark Lord back to power"! That's all he took. He jumped back and demanded the Ring. But Frodo wasn't taking any of it, so he took out his sword and slashed Potter's nose and put the Ring of Invisibility and the Cloak of Galadriel on. Potter, while weeping, "Mummy! Daddy! Friends!" put his cloak of invisibility on.

As the Nazgul-boss and Voldemort crept up closer to them, Frodo felt a sharp pain on his shoulder-scar and Harry felt it on his forehead-scar (man, this is getting ridiculous!). And out of nowhere, when the bad-guys had almost won, in jumped Dumbledore to save another day (how unpredictable!).

And without further ado, Dumbledore beat the hell out of everyone except Harry and Frodo with his super-mega powers which constantly failed to even detect nonsense right under his nose! Meanwhile, Frodo and Harry both lay unconscious on their backs. But things got worse and in walked all sorts of enemies (like, Wormtongue and Wormtail and Shelob and Aragorn. Whoops! Aragog! Gollum, and with him, the US military and Gandalf!). Watching it all, Gandalf got really angry, taught everyone a lesson, and made sure they didn't live to remember it. When Potter and Frodo got up, took their invisibility-gears off, and shouted "Lumos Maxima!" and "Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima!", they saw Gandalf sitting on a pile of dead soldiers, smoking a pipe!

Lord Shuvom Wins!
I wouldn't have done anything like this had it not been for these stupid fans saying: "your wruong i tink poter is kul i am 14 and blah blah blah…" I might even have felt sorry.

Sites Unseen

Review by Niloy

The whole Gaming industry is now buzzing with excitement as we're edging closer to the biggest gaming celebration: Electroning Entertainment Exposition 2005 (E3). As much as I would love to cover on E3, I simply won't be able to do it. However, I do recommend BDgamer.net's E3 2005 section -- http://tinyurl.com/8umx4 - where you'll very detailed coverage on E3. Right now, mainly news, rumours, line-ups from Developers are out…
but from the beginning of May, the major stuff are coming out. There's also Kotaku.com, -- http://tinyurl.com/9qrt5 -- with its own excellent coverage on E3. This year's E3 is definitely going to be very important, especially with the new consoles from all three major players in the industry - Microsoft with its Xbox 360, Sony with PlayStation 3 and Nintendo with its Revolution console and (probably) a new Gameboy Advance not to mention the upcoming "fourth generation" games.
The whole Sites Unseen with all its links (as well as most of my published stuff) are available at my site niloywrites.blogspot.com
The usual cool links:
It would be difficult to follow events in the Middle East these days and not be confronted with shocking pictures -- especially from Iraq. Distressing photographs now seem to be an inseparable part of modern warfare. Camera/Iraq delves into the "war of images" by scouring the Web for anything related to photography and the Iraq war. (The most extreme images aren't included directly on the site, although the easily upset viewer should proceed with caution.) In-depth features on Abu Ghraib, Nick Berg, and Saddam's Sons track the development of stories that dominated the press. Faked Photos collects instances where hoaxes or manipulated images were presented as truth (such as the California man who staged his own mock beheading). The site allows space for comments and links to analysis, but it doesn't preach; it simply endeavours to provide context for the next distressing picture we'll stumble upon.
43 Things
What 43 things do you want to do with your life? If you're not sure, you can get inspired by the folks posting their personal to-do lists on this site. 43 seems to be the right number of things for a busy person to try to do. Whether you want to write a book or just sleep more, you'll probably find others who want to do it or have done it. Each goal has a "related goals" area, which makes for some unexpected connections. See for yourself!
The Worst Jobs in History
The history we are taught usually features the lives and times of the great and the good, of the haves and not the have-nots. But the famous aristocrats and monarchs could not have existed without the battalions of minions who performed the tasks that were beneath their masters. In this website, they take you on a journey through 2,000 years of British history and the worst jobs of each era. This site, aptly titled "The Worst Jobs in History," doesn't skimp on the details. Each horrendous "career" is broken down by historical period to give visitors a "day in the life" experience. You can almost smell the leeches!
Much has been made, in the past day, of the beautifully crafted comic book that uses the Half-Life 2 engine for its art. Apostasy looks to be the beginning of a wonderful comic book, but it's not the only one to use game art as a medium. Gamics is an entire page devoted to the craft. Hop over there and you will see works featuring the screenshots of Final Fantasy XI, Everquest II and Matrix Online, to name just a few. Check it out, it's sort of homebrew Manga. Also check out http://brashfink.blogspot.com/
i am 8-bit: Game Art Show
i am 8-bit is an art exhibit going on Los Angeles's nineteen eighty eight gallery April 19th through May 20th. An online gallery of the show is up now, with some pretty fantastic flashback-inducing works which harkens back to the glory days of video games. Check out the gallery.
The Big Red Button
Do no press the red button.
Clientcopia : Stupid Client Quotes...
There's no getting around it. At some point in your career, your patience will be tested with a stupid client who is so clueless that you'll question your sanity, career choice, and the future of mankind. While most of the war stories come from advertising and web design folks, there are also some from cab drivers and construction workers. The Top 20 are all definitely solid, but the Random link is a great way to flip through the more than 2,500 entries. Check it out, you don't want to miss this!
You can mail me to niloy.me@gmail.com or visit my site at niloywrites.blogspot.com



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