Sunday 24 October 2010


Tucked away in this month's XBOX 360 -The Official Xbox Magazine is a very telling statement.
'We're not sure Need For Speed will ever reclaim its old position at the top of the Christmas charts in this era of military shooter dominance.'
The article concerned was about the November 19th release of Need For Speed:Hot Pursuit and took up the space of four paragraphs. To be fair two of those paragraphs did more for the game than four or five pages of hype.

The past few weeks have been full of new games that would appear to have a climax at the end of this month with games like Fable 3, Smackdown vs Raw 2011, Sims 3 and Grey Matter.
But if you read the magazines then there have been pages devoted to the first mentioned game, one page Smackdown vs Raw and Grey Matter and none about Sims 3.
However, for months the likes of Medal Of Honour, Call Of Duty:Black Ops, Halo Reach and Gears of War have been hyped to the degree that I have managed not to be brainwashed into buying them. Try a couple out - yes, and was glad that I had not bothered to buy them. Halo Reach was so dull that I thought that I was playing one of the other shooters.
Visually, they have good graphics - but good visuals are not enough without a story to go with it. Monument Valley is visually stunning but without John Wayne and a stagecoach it is just a landscape.
I'm not knocking those who just want to shoot people and blow things up - each to their own.
Maybe that is because I like games that have a degree of problem solving attached to them. That there is a degree of survival that is linked not with having to shoot everything in sight which is why a game like 'Grey Matter' has a form of appeal. But then I have a lack of detail about the game just a gut instinct.
These games are not cheap - the top games this month alone would cost over £300 in total - and a game that costs £39.99 and lasts a couple of hours just does not feel like value for money. I guess, it comes down to what a gamer gets from a game.
Broken Trails, usually, does review games that look to have the potential to be value for money.

The other thing that is over-hyped is the new Xbox Kinect that comes into being on November 10th.
This way you can dispense with controls and wave your arms in the air, jump around and roll over the floor and your moves will be repeated by an animated character. Yay, leap over furniture and take cover and fire your fingers over the back of the settee at the bad guys. Man, I did all that when I was 6 years old and got told off for doing that.
Our verdict is that if we want to wave our arms in the air and all that jazz we'd invest in a Wii.
Downside is that if the Xbox continues down this road with more and more Kinect games then the console controlled games will disappear.

Saturday 23 October 2010


Now if you liked 'Red Dead Redemption' you should like this.

Fallout New Vegas takes place about three years after the events in 'Fallout 3' but is not a sequel.
The main character is a courier taking a chip and some documents to the town of Primm but three men ambush him and leave him for dead with a bullet in his skull in a shallow grave. Fortunately, a rescue takes place and the courier wakes up after an operation performed by Doc Mitchell.
The doc asks a few questions which enables the gamer to choose their name, gender and character via a few questions. Then calculates your skills.
After this you toddle off to the saloon to meet Sunny Smiles who gives you some weapon training before going off to clear the town's wells of geckos.
If you have played 'Red Dead Redemption' then all this is familiar territory and is, therefore, a bit of a doddle.
The action takes place in the Mojave Desert (Mojave Wastelands) and Las Vegas.
However, that said, I liked the way that the gamer is able to create their own character and learn skills that help to build it up. You learn how to use plants for healing and for food. Learn how to make ammunition and embrace some gunsmithing skills.
This post-apocalyptic 'western' has very good graphics and soundtrack.
The gamer can either link up with companions or head on out as a loner.
When choosing companions Boone would be best and Rex the dog who, like the dog in 'Fable 2', finds objects for you rather than your character have to do all the rooting about.
Having only completed the first few levels I am finding it interesting and it looks to be a good game.
One slight and very picky problem is the gunsight as it is not quite accurate and needs a slight twitch to the left to hit the target.
Fallout New Vegas was released in the UK today 22nd October 2010.

Wednesday 20 October 2010


I don't usually get political but -
So there was the British Prime Minister David Cameron standing in front of an audience of service personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force attempting to explain why the defence cuts were necessary.
A Harrier pilot wanted to know about his future as the aircraft that he flew was going to be decommissioned.
David Cameron, looking all intense and serious said that it was necessary to save the Typhoon as it was doing a good job in Afghanistan.
Well, to be honest, I wasn't aware that the Hawker Typhoon was still in active service. I mean this is a vintage Second World War aircraft - not a modern jet like the Tornado that does see a lot of action in Afghanistan.
Just so that Mr.Cameron, who must read a lot of Commando comics, knows what a Typhoon looks like I've added a picture.

Monday 18 October 2010


Horror is a genre that spans all genres. Western, romance, sci-fi, murder mysteries - you name it someone out there could spin a horror yarn about it.
Fifty years ago Pan Books produced what would become a thirty year (volumes even) of the Pan Book Of Horror stories edited for the most part by Herbert Van Thal and, from volume 26 by Clarence Paget.
The anthology began with a short story by Joan Aitken called 'Jugged Hare' and ended with '...And The Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead' by Jonathan Cruise. Many authors filled in the years some well known like Robert Bloch, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Agatha Christie, Bram Stoker, C.S.Forrester and, in later editions, Stephen King - many were not so well known. Plus an appearance in Volume 6 (1965) of a story by John Lennon called 'No Flies On Frank'.
This story also appears in 'Dark Voices' which is a 30th anniversary edition of the original series. The introduction by F.Paul Wilson is pure Lennonist writing. There are introductions to other tales from the likes of David Cronenberg, James Herbert, Clive Barker and Shaun Hutson.
Back in the 1960s it was these short stories that I read at night - the stuff of nightmares that came just before sleep. And I did sleep easy. Even today there are several volumes of horror short stories in my bedside bookcase.
Though I rarely venture into novels I do like the books by Shaun Hutson and Richard Laymon.
When it comes to horror it seems that bookshelves are filled with vampires, zombies, Frankenstein like monsters, haunted houses and the mummy. Although, Richard Laymon touches upon all these things it is when he makes what appears normal to be a scary place.
For example there are a couple in a car heading towards 'The Lake'. The male is remembering the time that he and his female companion first met at College. Then the author pulls the camera back and find that the female is tied into the passenger seat. The conversation, though still normal, takes on a darker hue.
This scene is almost a short story in itself.
One of the new wave of writers - I say new but he may have been around longer - is a chap called Neil Gaiman. I first came across him in an anthology 'Shadows Over Baker Street'. This is a collection of stories where 'Sherlock Holmes enters the nightmare world of H.P.Lovecraft' - and the Neil Gaimen story 'A Study In Emerald' opens up the proceedings. But Neil Gaimen stories can be found in a lot of new anthologies and ranked, on the covers, higher than Stephen King. What I like about this author is that he is a master of the short horror story.
And it was while I was reading Neil Gaiman's story that I recalled the days of 'The Pan Book Of Horror Stories'. Because I think that writing short stories is a darn sight harder than writing a book.
A skill in its own write.

Sunday 17 October 2010

THE HORDE (2010)

Die Hard with Zombies - at least that is what the tag line says.
The film opens with a bunch of French cops attending the funeral of a fellow cop and they all vow to get the gang responsible. The gang hang out at the top of a derelict tower block and from the kick-off the cops are outplayed and outsmarted. Outside come sounds of distant explosions and a quick look out of the window shows a lot of folk making tracks towards the tower block.
Realising that they have a problem good guys and bad guys team up to escape - only the way out is blocked by zombies. Fortunately, there is still a resident in one of the flats. An old chap who is a veteren of Dien Bein Phu with quite an arsenal of weaponry.
There is no explanation of how the zombies came into being but this does not totally distract from the storyline. It's a what if...if you get my meaning. And the ending is a bit ambiguous...but the sound effects give the impression that this part of France is going to go the same way as Racoon City (Resident Evil).
The DVD comes with two versions French with English subtitles or dubbed in English.
Interesting to see the French making a zombie movie and although a touch on the violent and gory side, it's a pretty good job.

Friday 8 October 2010


Luke Billings (Lionel Jeffries) and his family have a problem with the new police sergeant Sam Hargis (Richard Todd) so they take over a small Transvaal town with the attention of drawing Hargis into a showdown.
Hargis tries to get back up from the townsfolk who do not want to know, so is forced to lay low.
As things get out of hand one of the Billings boys takes an interest in the storekeeper's wife, Priss Dobbs (Anne Aubrey). Having had enough her husband, Ernie (Jamie Uys) takes up the gun and heads down the main street alone. An act that prompts Hargis to join him. Slowly, the townsfolk turn up to back them up.

This is a great 'western' set against a South African background.
From the above it would be reasonable to see the plot of 'High Noon' with the Clantons. Fair comment and might explain why it appealed more to American cinemagoers than the British.

James Booth who plays the eldest of the Billings boys, Jubal, is excellent with his soft yet menacing voice. It is interesting that Henry Hook's character and dress style in 'Zulu' owes something to Booth's Jubal.

This film marked the debut of one of Britain's pop idols, Marty Wilde (father of Kim), as John Billings and gives a credible performance.

Unfortunately, this film has not appeared on TV, video or DVD and I think that it is about time that was addressed. The British Film Institute makes a claim that it is concerned with bringing back forgotten movies - well, maybe, as 'The Hellions' was made forty years ago a release on it's 50th Anniversary would be a fitting time to issue the movie on DVD.

Thursday 7 October 2010


The Camp On Blood Island is one of those movies that has never been released on video and rarely been seen on TV.
Now, at long last, the movie is now out on DVD and is presented in an uncut version.

The Camp On Blood Island was being filmed as 'The Bridge On The River Kwai' was released. And while the 'River Kwai' was a sanitised version concerning P.O.Ws held by the Japanese - 'Blood Island' was based on a true story and had a factual basis. Criticism branded 'The Camp On Blood Island' as over violent and sensational.
Despite this Lord Russell of Liverpool, whose book 'The Knights Of Bushido' about Japanese War Crimes, fully endorsed the movie.

'The Camp On Blood Island' was made by Hammer Films with backing by Columbia Pictures. It stars many of the stalwarts that would make their names with Hammer's horror movies. Andre Morell, Barbara Shelley, Edwin Richfield, Geoffrey Bayldon and Michael Ripper.

The film is set in Malaysia at the end of the war. It opens with a scene of a British soldier digging a grave - his grave. Prisoners of war look on as the Japenese gun him down.
The Commandant vows that should the Japanese ever surrender then every prisoner would be killed.
Attached to the men's camp is the women's camp.
In order to stay alive the prisoners in both camps have to prevent the Japanese from discovering that the war is over.

Both the original posters and the cover of the DVD shows a Japanese soldier with a raised sword. This executioner was played by a professional wrestler Milton Reid.
The Japanese soldiers were waiters from London's Chinatown who were hired as extras.

Today the movie might seem tame and branded politicaly incorrect - in fact, if that term had been in existence back in the late 1950s when the film was made, was the attitude of the film's critics.
However, my opinion is that beneath the drama what happened in those camps was the same as Lord Russell depicted in his book.

'The Camp On Blood Island' was released, uncut, on the 4th October 2010 along with the Stanley Baker movie 'Yesterday's Enemy' and Oliver Reed's 'The Damned'. Two more Hammer movies that have not seen the light of day for many years.

Saturday 2 October 2010


And so the story continues.
A crowd of over 93,000 saw the Grand Final Replay between St.Kilda and Collingwood.
As with the previous week's drawn game Collingwood came out with all guns blazing and were on the scoresheet within 30 seconds of the bounce off.
The difference between this and last week's game was that Collingwood looked to have returned to form and completely smothered the Saints defence and attack.
Final result:
Collingwood 108
St.Kilda 52

This gives the Magpies their 19th flag and leaves the Saints waiting for their second.

Friday 1 October 2010


This is the 2010 Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe take on a traditional bit of British folklore.
Actually, it's not.
This version is like a prequel and an alternative history story.

On the plus side this movie is a good old actioner with Robin Longstride choosing to impersonate Robert Loxley in order to return the crown to King John and Loxley's sword to it's rightful owner. In doing so he learns about his own past and gains an identity.

However, this is one movie that demonstrates what happens when a writer does not fully research his subject.
The opening scenes shows the death of Richard The Lionheart years before his actual death.
Robin Longstride plans to jump ship at Gravesend. So it seems that the movie jumps from the 12th Centrury to the 17th without our hero aging. Okay, pendantic - but the village was named as Gravesham in the Domesday Book. Changed to Gravesend because of the plague pits in 1665 - that was the accepted version when I was at school.
Then the French invade England. D-Day all over again as the Norman army leap from landing craft under a barrage of English arrows. If my memory serves me well the Battle Of Hastings pre-dates the action in this movie.
Finally, King John now at the mercy of the Barons decides to burn the document that would form Magna Carta. I would get an angry response if I ever wrote a story that had someone ripping up the American Constitution. But Hollywood has managed to do just that for that American Constitution used Magna Carta as it's framework.

Who cares about Russell Crowe's accent? He made his character come to life but then he has rarely disappointed (personal opinion).
ROBIN HOOD had the potential to be a far better film than it is - it is just the lack of attention to detail that let it down.


Since the release of the Western RED DEAD REDEMPTION this game has topped 6.9 million sales.
A lot of people getting to grips with the western genre - then.

Even better there is now the possibility of the movie with Brad Pitt tipped to play the hero, John Marston.