Friday, 3 July 2015

RED DEAD REDEMPTION: Going Wild For The Western

Still going strong on the games consoles Red Dead Redemption from creators Rockstar is holding its own.

With the recent announcement at E3 that the future of the Xbox One would include backward compatibility that would enable Xbox 360 games to be played on the new generation console - a new voting system has been put in place. Currently, and way out ahead of all other games, Red Dead Redemption is top of the leaderboard.

If gamers are voting this way....then this is a western that is far from dead.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

HUMBER BOY B by Ruth Dugdall

A red trainer falls from the Humber bridge into the water close to where schoolteacher Roger Palmer is fishing. Close by is his daughter, Cheryl, who is bored out of her mind. These are the first to experience the tragedy that follows as the body of 10 year old Noah Watts joins his red trainer. CCTV catches two boys on film who run from the scene with the younger of the two catching the other in an ecstatic embrace.


Two brothers are convicted. Adam, the elder aged 14, is found not guilty of murder but guilty of complicity and receives a four year sentence. On his release he is allowed home to his family. For Ben aged 10 it is a life sentence.


After eight years in various institutions Ben is released and given a new identity. At first life on the outside is strange but with help from the probation service he is found a flat overlooking the Ipswich Marina and a job in the local aquarium where he becomes involved with the manager's family.


However idyllic this might sound his release sparks a Facebook campaign to track him down so that Noah Watts mother, Jessica, can ask that one question - why? And the gutter press are quick to jump on the bandwagon.


Cate Austin, the probation officer, does her best to support Ben despite her involvement with a police officer from Luxembourg and the sudden return of her sister Liz who has a startling revelation for Cate.
For her part Cate is a good person but also human and that leads her into more trouble as she tries hard to do her best for Ben against mounting opposition.


The story of Humber Boy B has several threads - Chapters titled The Day Of backtrack over the events leading to the death of Noah Watts - those titled Now deal with the Facebook campaign while Ben and Cate cover the present - but together build a picture towards the climax.


In her afterword Ruth Dugdall admits that the idea began to form as far back as 2000 when she first started work at a Suffolk prison unit set up for young boys who had committed crimes similar to those described in this book. And through reading this book I guess that the murder of James Bulger would come to mind. Yet there is one scene where Adam sits in court looking all quiet and gullible that suggest his innocence - a scene that reminds me of two young girls sitting in court; one dressed smartly and looking the picture of innocence who was found not guilty of murder while her shabbily dressed friend was found guilty. It is plain and, I think, this book makes it understood that there are no clear cut answers.


Humber Boy B is one read that keeps you on your toes - as with her previous books just as you think you've worked it out Ruth Dugdall throws the perfect curve ball with precision timing.


Ruth Dugdall, who's previous books 'The Woman Before Me' and 'The Sacrificial Man' both feature Cate Austin, will soon be bringing out a new Cate Austen novel 'Nowhere Girl' with a change of setting in Luxembourg.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

COMES THE REAPER by B. J. Holmes

Comes The Reaper is the first book in a series about the bounty hunter Jonathan Grimm.


A wagon train leaves Seattle, amongst the migrants looking for a better life is Thomas Jonathan Connor and his young wife. As they cross a snow covered pass they are attacked by a band of Indians. Frightened, the horses bolt and the Connor's wagon slides into oblivion. When Connor recovers he discovers that everyone is dead but there is no sign of his wife. Believing her to be taken by the Indians Connor seeks help from the nearest town but the townspeople are too busy leaving before the Indians attack. Now armed Connor sets out to rescue his wife - which he achieves but it costs her life.


Blaming himself for her death he drifts from job to job until he settles down on his own farm. Although a recluse he allows himself to be dragged off to a hoe-down where he meets his eventual second wife. After a few idyllic years the American Civil War destroys their lives - when a Confederate sergeant called Henderson rapes and kills Connor's wife before burning down the homestead and running off with the stock. Determined on revenge Connor enlists with the Texas Brigade with whom he serves through the war without encountering his quarry.


With the war over Connor finds himself as a 'bodyguard' to Abraham Lincoln and is standing guard at the Ford Theatre when John Wilkes Booth arrives waving an 'invitation' to join the President. Suspected of aiding and abetting the assassin Connor goes on the run and changes his name to Jonathan Grimm - at which point the future path to his life begins.


In 'Comes The Reaper' B. J. Holmes writes the condensed history of a man's life and how several incidents change it forever - but this is a prologue and a journey of discovery before moving on to the rest of the books in the series.


Originally published in 1995 in hardback as a Black Horse Western this series of The Reaper western novels is now available on the Kindle from Piccadilly Publishing.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

GEARS OF WAR ULTIMATE EDITION

The Gears Of War franchise made it's debut on the Xbox 360 back in 2006. It was originally designed by Epic Games for Microsoft who acquired all rights to the franchise in 2014. They have put future development into the hands of The Coalition who are, as announced at E 3, working on Gears Of War 4 which is due to be released in 2016.


Before that The Coalition will release Gears Of War Ultimate Edition for the Xbox One. This will be a revamped, improved version of the original game. And in a first ever on this site I can claim that I have had 'hands on' with the multiplayer. It is still a work in progress and one or two things need improving and they are doing just that. The graphics are really good with a crisp clarity.


Gears Of War is set on an Earth-like planet called Sera. Years of calm have been shattered by a lengthy war between the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) and the Union of Independent Republics over a new discovery of a mass called Immulsion - a material that can replace oil for years to come. Though the COG won the war, the exploration for the Immulsion reserves releases a new threat from the Underworld as the Lambent emerge to destroy everything in their path.
It is Gears Of War we meet the Delta Team of Markus Fenix, Dominic 'Dom' Santiago, Augustus 'The Cole Train' Cole and Damon Baird who embark on their own war against the Lambent.


Gears of War went on to spawn two sequels and a prequel with a story that centred on Damon Baird called Judgement.


A series of books by Karen Traviss have filled in gaps in the storyline and the games have inspired a board game and a series of comics.


Gears Of War Ultimate Edition will be on Xbox One and available to buy from 25th August.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 111

A short while back we knew that the new Call of Duty game, Black Ops 3, was given a release date of 6th November 2015. Not that we knew much about the game but there you go - and I was there with a fiver in my hand standing at the counter of Game quite happy to book my pre-order. The reason that I was prepared to dive in blind is because I enjoy the franchise.


Just before E 3 we got the first trailer from this Activision/Treyarch game that showed a broken down landscape in the grip of a scientific techno ruled world. It is 2065, 40 years on from the events in Black Ops 2, and the human population live in fear of a robotic takeover.


The soldiers of this future, when wounded or limbs lost, they are replaced by lethal prosthetics - no longer are these men and women discarded.


The campaign gameplay features four player co-op (sounds like the gameplay on Gears Of War 3). Also there are several specialist characters to choose from - there is a Gunsmith section so that weapons can be modified as well the chance to create your own camouflage and apply it to your weapon.


As E 3 progressed the multi-player gameplay was revealed. A couple of new innovations appeared with the abilities to wall run and utilise a boost jump. Someone - or many someone's - will point at 'Titanfall' for similarities. So what? The same was said about the Advanced Warfare multiplayer - so nothing new there then. Hopefully, we won't get adult kids jumping around like they were in the back garden with their kids (thank goodness for the sanity of Classic mode there).
I digress - no multiplayer does look good and the XP earned comes from multi-tasking.


The Zombie games come in a story mode and multiplayer but to be honest I know next to nothing about this side of the game. In fact it is a mode that passes me by.


Black Ops 3 will come out for the PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360.



XBOX ONE: A Year And A Bit On

So here we are a year and a bit on since the launch of the Xbox One - but it was just a year ago that I bought mine.


Not so much a games console but a social network machine with links to Facebook, Twitter, Twitch - you name it there has to be an app for it. All aimed to show off your gameplay to your 'friends' (most of whom you have never met). Still it seems that the Upload app is compulsory and I am forever deleting 'hang time' clips that are mostly boring and not worth the time or effort.


At the time of writing I have four games - well, three, as I'm waiting for Devil May Cry 4 to turn up. I just pre-ordered it. so will not see the enhanced gameplay until the 24th June.


Even so, I am just clinging on to my Xbox One in the hopes that some things will improve. Of the games that I had were 'Call Of Duty: Ghosts' and 'Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare' both games coming from Activision. Nothing wrong with the gameplay for campaign storyline but when it came to online multiplayer it was rubbish. About one minute in and I would be told that I needed an Xbox Live connection (which I had anyway) yet despite this message was, immediately, invited to find a game. With Ghosts I could play squads to my hearts content - but not multiplayer. To give them their due Activision did everything that they could to try and rectify the situation. The Xbox One was placed in various locations, even connected to an Ethernet, but with no joy. We logged in with different profiles - the message remained the same.
The same problem was encountered by my grandson when playing 'Destiny'.


Still, my experiences on the Xbox One were still hit and miss.


WWE2k15 - the maths in this game is atrocious. 100xp for reversing a move and countering with one of your own - so do it three times and 2k's maths makes that 167xp. Mind you that is the least of their problems for their voice over on the training session Is downright rude and insulting (in real life no one would take that) - so what, if there are ten others who want the place - well they can fight over it as I trade it in. That wasn't the only reason though - saved data kept disappearing along with created wrestlers.


Last week 'Forza Horizon 2' went into meltdown. Loaded the disc and was told to go to 'Games and Apps' as an update was needed. Went there and got the message that the game was ready to play - only to be told to return to 'games and apps' and follow instructions which I did only to be told that I needed to go to.....yes, this gets repetitive. Finally, it starts to load - but it is installing a game that is already installed - and stalls at 74%. And the whole thing starts again.


Despite these failures DMC: Devil May Cry is still playing fine as are online multiplayers Forza 5 and Titanfall.


Now that E 3, the big gamers techno expo, has started there are a few things that have my interest. Release dates have been announced for 'Rise Of The Tomb Raider' and 'Forza 6' - two reasons to hold onto the console.


Also announced is the Xbox 360 backward compatability. An interesting concept that creates an engine for players to play their 360 games on the Xbox One - and, no, no one has to pay for new games just shove in the disc and away you go. This became available yesterday but only for the chosen few. The first list is available but are Call Of Duty games, Silent Hill games; Tomb Raider series or the original Devil May Cry games on there - they are not on the list.
To my mind games along the lines of Call Of Duty, Battlefield and GTA would have been a much better 'come and get me' than most of the games on the list (and I don't have any that are on that list).
So when will we be able to enjoy this - well we are told that this is coming in the 'holidays'. And as this comes in American language I assume that this must mean around Thanksgiving or Christmas.


Instinctively, I would prefer to dump my Xbox One - sales of which lag well behind the PS4 - but with promises and the possibility that things could improve I guess a stay of execution is in order.
.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

REDEMPTION ROAD - J C Hulsey

At 54 pages in length Redemption Road is an interesting read.


Although billed as a Christian Western this should not be seen as a 'put off' as the bulk of the story follows the life of Jessie Cuttler from the age of thirteen. A boy who grows up with the love of guns and relishes the power that he has over life and death.


As time moves on so he links up with a man called Jackson with whom he has a clandestine business arrangement - anyone that Jackson wants taken care of Jessie Cuttler kills  - for a price.
Cuttler just cannot hold on to his money- he spends, unwisely, and gambles.


He is used to getting what he wants when he wants it - even down to the blacksmith's daughter, Melissa, who he marries on the Saturday following the day he met her.


So he gives up his killing ways, hangs up his guns and takes up farming. Though things prove tough enough he works his way through problems...but when disaster strikes and the debts mount he feels that he has no choice but to take up the gun again.


The road to redemption is never an easy ride but J C Hulsey makes it an interesting one.


Amazon has both a Kindle and paperback version.