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Most beautiful car of all time? Possibly. Also quite lethal.

Top Gear 50 years of Bond Cars

By Shaer Duita Phish

Tying in with Skyfall's release and the 50th anniversary of James Bond's first screen appearance, everyone's favourite automotive show decided to do a special episode on the wheeled beauties that have appeared on screen along with Bond. The tiny, mouse-like, one eighth American (but pretending to be British), Richard Hammond leads us through the generations of Bond movies and how each vehicle change represented a change in Bond's character as a whole.

The link between Aston Martin, one of the most prestigious British marques in automotive history, and James Bond, a creation of celebrated British author Ian Fleming, is explored through interviews with directors and actors who played Bond. Along the way, you'll be picking up tidbits of interesting information that would be vital in showing off your knowledge of the super spy in any circle.

Excerpts are read from the Casino Royale book, demonstrating Fleming's massive skill and ability in putting a car chase into words. Clips from the movie are shown, and the Aston DBS stunt, which still holds the record for the most number of barrel rolls/flips in any car stunt scene, is analysed. The gadgets from each Bond car are discussed with the people who made them possible: the directors, the stunt crew, the actors themselves. The real heroes here are the stunt drivers who risk life and limb to make Bond look good behind the wheel.

Non car-geeks should definitely watch this, as many think Aston is the only marque Bond has ever driven. The list is quite long, and although Aston is the most high profile - and makes the most frequent appearances - I'm pretty sure at least some people will be surprised to know that Sean Connery as Bond had a Toyota. It was one of the most beautiful cars of all time, the Toyota 2000GT, and Japan's first exotic, but some will still be a little taken aback. Then there are the less glamorous (but still significant Bond cars) like the Citroen 2CV. When Pierce Brosnan came into the fray, he was handed the keys to some BMWs and told to crash them into things, marking the lowest point in Bond car history. Things did look up for Brosnan in his last James Bond film though, the Aston Martin Vanquish in “Die Another Day” remembered distinctly by fans because of one feature: its invisibility cloak.

It's not all serious and analytical for the entire length of the show however. Hammond introduces several Top Gear contraptions designed to test if the tech used in Bond cars can actually be used in real life. The Vanishing Van moment is enough to send shockwaves across your neighbourhood as you writhe with laughter. This is British humour at its best. No other can do it like the trio of presenters at Top Gear can.

You miss Jeremy Clarkson and James May though. Clarkson would probably end up offending Roger Moore or Daniel Craig, but that would have made some great television.

The one and a half hour long episode ends with a preview of Skyfall and an outline of the basic chase sequences, and a spoiler. Hammond gives away the fact that the Aston DB5 is in the new movie, and you'll hate him for it. Otherwise, you can't help but feel excited. If you can't wait for Top Gear to start their new season, watch “50 Years of Bond Cars” and Jeremy Clarkson and James May present “The Worst Car in the History of the World” to keep yourself quenched.



By Shaer Reaz

Agent 47 and his Silverballers are back. Six years after the last Hitman game, Square Enix and IO Interactive have finally released a sequel to the absolutely brilliant Blood Money from 2006. The results with Hitman: Absolution have changed significantly from their last attempt.

Diana Burnwood has gone rogue. One of the top handlers at the ICA handling the Agency's top hit-man (Agent 47), she is on the run after having wiped top secret documents and stolen a valuable asset. To eliminate her, the Agency sends its top assassin, some bald guy whose weapons of choice are silenced Silverballers and some string. As she lies bleeding out on her bathroom floor, Diana asks Agent 47 for one last favour: to protect a girl named Victoria from the baddies looking to get her back to wherever she was rescued from.

As the story progresses, you'll be moving from Chinatown in Chicago to the cornfields of Hope, South Dakota and back again, doing lots of sneaking around and gun toting (if you want to). The plot is less Robert Ludlum-esque and more like something Quentin Tarantino would cook up if he did the whole “bald hitman rebelling against his masters” thing. The characters in Hitman games have always been slightly ludicrous, but Absolution adds to it till every character, right down to a lowly corrupt police officer whose disguise you can steal, is so quirky that the whole game reeks of vinegar. But bite the pill and give in, the game is absolutely fine, plot and NPC (Non Playable Character) wise.

The gameplay is more Splinter Cell Conviction than proper Hitman, requiring a lot more cinematic action sequences than what the purists would call “the proper way”. There's a lot less waiting around than before, and quite often (at least in normal difficulty) the signature fibre wire kills are forgotten. Another complaint with the gameplay is how much the game lets you get away with: if you decide to go guns blazing and take on waves of enemies, you can use Instinct and Point Shooting to get out of the tight spots.

Instinct is a new addition to the series. It allows you to monitor your environment and observe enemy movements; while, in disguise mode, it allows you to walk past enemies without suspicion. Refill the Instinct meter through silent and signature kills; use them in Point Shooting, which is another feature copied off Splinter Cell's Execution mode. Slow down time, mark your targets and let 47 do the heavy lifting. It's all a little too… easy. Hike up the difficulty and it gets eye wateringly hard to sneak around, and shooting your way to the end is near impossible for a relative newbie.

The game peaks in the graphics and sound department.

Rarely will a game treat your eyes and ears so deliciously and not melt everything inside your CPU. The facial movements are so realistic in-game, you'll feel like you're playing through a cut-scene instead. The sounds add to the Tarantino feel of the whole thing, ebbing and flowing with the gamer's utilisation of 47's range of skills.

In Absolution, the assassinations take a back stage, each level making you move around more than actually killing targets. If you want any of that, go get Absolution now. If you're a hardcore Hitman fanatic, give the first few levels a try and then decide.

Brilliant Graphics, sound.
More action, more fun (if you're into it).
Points system makes repeat plays interesting.
Story is slightly ridiculous, and a bit clichéd.
Cover mechanism less than perfect, and disguise system is simply terrible.
Hard to believe a sniper rifle can be concealed in a suit along with a shotgun and a pair of handguns. And proximity mines. And of course, some string.
Overall: 8.1/10
47's signature guns, his Silverballers, are actually stainless steel versions of the Colt M1911 automatic pistol, which was the standard issue sidearm for all US military forces from 1911 to 1985. The venerable Colt saw two World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, so we can understand why 47 is so attached to them. The game has an entire level dedicated to retrieving them from a redneck gun store owner.



By Shaer Reaz

It's amazing what hype and fanfare can do to a movie or game's chances of success. By word of mouth and sharing on the internet, Skyfall is probably the most hyped up Bond film in recent history. Sometimes, the film is worthy. Sometimes, the film outdoes the hype.

The 23rd film in the longest running movie franchise in the world is, in one word, amazing. Many have criticised Daniel Craig as James Bond, saying Pierce Brosnan. with his endless ocean of suave rigidity and effortless playboy looks, was the best bond. But after watching Skyfall, these people need to realise that Bond has evolved and matured way beyond his “shaken not stirred” days.

Skyfall cements Daniel Craig's Bond: a rough, tough, no-nonsense spy who isn't afraid of getting his suit dirty or chipping a nail while pursuing every bad guy with an almost apocalyptic thirst for vengeance. He is hunting a list of NATO agents stolen by someone who is threatening to reveal the identity of an agent every week.

M, played by the marvellous Dame Judi Dench, is asking Bond to do anything to retrieve the list. She is even desperate enough to send Bond out on field duty - despite his lack of mental and physical fitness - as the British Government starts asking questions about Mi5's importance and the role of intelligence services in a world without much intelligence (heh). Add in terror attacks in the heart of London and you have the setting for an explosive movie.

As much as everyone loves great action from an action movie, the real beauty of the movie lies in the finer details. When Bond's new, youthful and tech savvy quartermaster (otherwise known as Q) gives Bond his equipment, Bond is surprised by the lack of flashy spy gadgetry, to which Q replies, “What did you expect, an exploding pen?”

Little references to past Bond films (ridiculously outlandish or not) are spread throughout the film, injecting a darker sort of comic relief without going overboard. Best of all, Bond gets astride his rightful steed (no, we're not referring to you know what, played by Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris), the utterly gorgeous Aston Martin DB5, the same one used in Goldfinger. The car is decked out exactly as it was in Goldfinger (complete with ejector seats and machine guns in the headlights). The references to Bond's past is specially endearing as Bond celebrates 50 years of being on screen with Skyfall.

Javier Bardem plays one of the best Bond villains to date, a Heath Ledger's Joker-esque interpretation of the perfect Bond villain: weird accent, psychotic rage, sadistic uncontrollable laughter, and complete disregard for human life. Ralph Fiennes puts on a nose after being Voldemort and plays “the bureaucrat” Gareth Mallory, and although his scenes are short, he is sure to play a huge role in the upcoming films. The musical score, as expected, again sets the standard for action movies everywhere. Adele sings the main soundtrack, which is already making rounds online.

Sam Mendes definitely knows what he is doing, and Bond's latest venture is one of the best Bond films ever made, up there with Goldfinger. It isn't the best Daniel Craig Bond moment though. On reflection, Casino Royale was sheer brilliance that was watered down at the time by the introduction of a new Bond. Our suggestion would be to watch it again while forgetting the existence of something called Quantam of Solace.

Shaken or stirred? Do I look like I give a damn?


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