Monday, March 26, 2012

A Slight Delay... or Three

Hey there, I'll be keeping this particular post on my front of site for a while now. Why? Because I'm going to be quite inactive, going into the future.

You see, I'm sure you've noticed by now that my activity this month has been quite bare. The reason why is because I've been ill a lot this month, but more importantly, because I'm moving house.

I live in Portsmouth. I've lived here for five years nearly. I'm moving back to North Wales, where my family is. It's a big move, the biggest life move I've made since I turned 18 and got my first full time job.

It's not just the move that will cause me to post sparsely. I haven't got a job moving into my new location. I need to find work, and I'm going to work my absolute butt off to get new employment. That takes a priority over everything once I've moved.

So, I'll post still on this site, and any new posts you'll see will be displayed below this post. But it won't be very often. Maybe... once a week? Who knows? I don't know. And I don't know how long this period will go on for.

But I promise you, when I get settled in my new life in North Wales, with a fresh job, I'll be back, and posting around 15 times a month again. How will you know, that I'll be back? Well for starters, I'll have this post not on front display. Secondly, I'll have a new post welcoming myself back to full site action again. And most importantly, I'll get the site revamped again, with a new colour scheme. Exciting huh? No? Okay then.

But don't let that stop you coming on this website! I've got lots of things that I've written in the past 19 months (August 2010 to March 2012) that are more than worth your attention. Thanks for all your support and I hope to be back in full posting mode as soon as possible!

Johnny Mercyside - 26/3/12


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Game Review: Bejeweled Blitz Live

Bejeweled Blitz Live is only worth getting if you don't have Facebook and a decent computer, otherwise it's a bit of a ripoff.
Bejeweled Blitz Live was released around thirteen months ago on the Xbox 360 Live Arcade. It was the latest in PopCap's incredibly successful Bejeweled game series. Bejeweled 3 has since replaced this game as the latest release in the series. Bejeweled Blitz was actually first released as a Facebook application, and currently still pulls in over 11 million players on a monthly basis.
Let's have a Pah-tay! Woo! A Bejeweled Blitz Pah-tay! Wo!
Bejeweled Blitz Live takes the very successful yet simple game formula that has been around for around thirty years now, where you have to align a certain amount of gems of the same colour, thus eliminating them from the grid for a score. In this variation, Bejeweled requires you to align three gems of the same colour, with bonuses increasing you score based on how quickly you do each elimination, if you combine more than three gems (you can also combine four and five gems, and also five gems forming a cross) and if you combine multiple eliminations in one movement.

So why is the Facebook application so successful? Well, the hook on Bejeweled Blitz in comparison to its younger and older brothers (Bejeweled 3 and 2 respectively) is that you have 60 seconds to get the biggest score tally as possible. 60 seconds. It's nice and quick and you can get a really good score if you work hard enough. You can compare your score to your friends scores if they are also playing the game. That's why it pulls in 11 million players each month. It's nice and easy to get into, very hard to master and it's enticingly competitive.

PopCap saw money in making this game available on the XBox Live Arcade. Why? Well it's no secret that XBox Live is an incredibly successful and interactive service that Microsoft provide. If XBox players and their friends start playing this game, they'll also get hooked on it, get competitive, and try to beat each others scores.

So what's different with this game than its Facebook application equivalent? Well, with it not being a Facebook app and a full game instead, they couldn't just port it straight. It wouldn't be worth any price, what with the Facebook application being free providing naturally, you have Facebook. So they had to spruce it up a little. And that's exactly what they did. There are two modes available in Bejeweled Blitz Live on the XBox Live Arcade. You have the traditional game that's available on Facebook. Sixty seconds, get as big a score as you can. The second mode is Bejeweled Twist mode. Bejeweled Twist is another relatively successful variation of the quite overworked Bejeweled formula; it requires you to twist the gems in a clockwise or anticlockwise motion, rather than side to side like in the original mode. It's a tactically harder game but if mastered, it's arguably capable of getting a better score. You can play against your friend, or up to fifteen friends if you connect via XBox Live. Haven't got any friends that play the game? Well you can play against up to fifteen random strangers as well.
Twist or Classic. Any other options? Nope.
What else is there to offer on this game? Well I hate to break it for you, but that's all there is. Nothing else. You have these two game modes and that's pretty much it. So if you have a Facebook account and like Bejeweled Blitz as an application, you're not really missing out on anything here, unless you desperately want to try out Bejeweled Twist that badly. Oh, and that's available as a Facebook application too, to my knowledge as well. So yeah, you're not really missing out on anything at all, unless you want to play the game against multiple people at the same time. But that, for me, is not the only thing that's bad about this game.

For me, what I find equally as annoying about the XBox Live version is the sound and music. It's quite frankly, atrocious. To cut some slack a little, I can appreciate that a game like Bejeweled Blitz isn't about the music and more about the action on the screen, but having some drum and bass music in the backgrounds really takes the biscuit a little. Why? Well it's simply distracting. I have Bejeweled 2 on my XBox Live as well, and comparing the two games for music, Bekeweled 2 has ambient music. You know, calm music. Music that doesn't detract from the action. Having drum and bass was a terrible mistake. Not only that, but you have a female narrator telling you that your time is running low as you approach the end of your sixty seconds. I think that's also a bad move, as it makes you panic a little as you try to boost your score as high as possible before the clock runs out. On the Facebook application a horn makes a noise as your approaching 'time up' and while that's a little frustrating, it's nothing on this. It makes me want to play Bejeweled Blitz Live on mute if anything.

Two more things that need to be brought up that are, sorry to report, negative, are the colours. In other Bejeweled games you usually have pretty colours in the background but colours that contrast the gems and the foreground. In this game, they've opted for a more dark colours scheme; dark blues, reds and yellows and darker greys. While you can tell your gems apart and everything, it's still an inferior choice of background schemes than in previous games in the series. The idea is to have nice backgrounds that don't interrupt play, and while these backgrounds aren't in your face, they're still a little distracting. It just feels at time with the music and colour schemes that having a rave is more important than playing a game of Bejeweled. Another thing that is worthy to mention is the controls. If you like playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook with your mouse then you'll probably find the controls difficult with an XBox control pad. It's harder to twist gems around with the control pad than with a mouse. That's not criticising PopCap, in the end, the game is just more well suited to a PC than an XBox.
WOW! Loads of things going on at once! I can't see properly...
To summarise, Bejeweled Blitz Live is only worth getting if you really like the Facebook application but simply don't have a Facebook account anymore. Or, if you like the idea of playing Bejeweled Blitz with loads of people at the same time competitively. Otherwise frankly, this game is a ripoff. Considering you get the best of the game for free on Facebook completely makes the purchase unjustified. It just feels like PopCap wanted to milk as much money from this overworked formula as possible, and saw a market on XBox Live to make some money. Well, it worked. I'm not saying Bejeweled Blitz Live is a bad game, it's not. It's Bejeweled. If you've played it before and like it you'll like this. But... why don't you just play it for free on Facebook? It's just not worth buying it for XBox Live... apart from the reasons above. Have many friends that like Bejeweled Blitz and are also worth willing to spend the money buying this game individually? Then it might be worth it. Or, play against up to 15 strangers if you like that. That aside, seriously, save your pennies and avoid buying this game. If you want a Bejeweled game on the XBox then I'd recommend you get Bejeweled 2 or 3, depending on how updated you want the game; there's not much between those two games either. As I said, it's an overworked formula, a good one, but man, it's overworked.

Rating: *** stars
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mixtape: Best of Non-Single Muse

Hallo and welcome to another one of my Mixtapes. I haven't often done this concept of doing artist based Mixtapes as I find it a bit of a cop-out in a certain ways as it's a lot easier to create them than to think of certain genres or eras, they take more creativity and have more diversity. But in complete honesty I'm running out of Mixtape ideas that I know I can successfully pull off. So for the moment, I'm not going to announce any more Mixtapes and when I can think of a good one to do, I'll just post one without warning. If I can't think of any after a while I'll just bust out one of these "non-single" band Mixtapes, as they're easy to do and they're still good quality, providing you like the band. If you haven't seen them already, I've already done Best Non-Single Mixtapes of Nirvana and The Queens of the Stone Age, so if you like those bands check those Mixtapes out, they're really good (I think!).

Anyway, so this is my list of Muse songs that were not singles. It's a good list of songs, but the list overall isn't stellar. Why? Because Muse often choose very good singles. Take my Queens of the Stone Age Mixtape by comparison (link above). TQotSA bring out decent singles but save some absolute gems on their albums. Muse do have some belters on their albums, but quite often the best songs are often singles. So overall, I enjoyed this Mixtape, enjoyed playing it, but I do prefer my TQotSA Mixtape. But each to their own. To put simply, if you like Muse, you'll like this Mixtape. If you're interested in hearing some of their best songs that aren't singles, give these songs are go. They're what I think are the best.

Not familiar with my Mixtapes? Here are the rules.

A Mixtape is a playlist of a certain genre, band or era. The list is generally 80 minutes long, the same length of a blank CD, with further recommendations if some of the songs aren't to your taste. Remember kids, downloading is wrong! 

In brackets are the albums each track is taken from. Hulabaloo, if you didn't know, was a 2CD album, the first CD was rarities and B-sides, and the second CD was live. It's a good CD, worth getting if you've heard Muse's other albums and want more of their sound. So without further delay, enjoy the Mixtape!
  1. Take a Bow (Black Holes and Revelations)
  2. The Small Print (Absolution)
  3. Citizen Erased (Origin of Symmetry)
  4. Recess (Hullabaloo)
  5. United States of Eurasia (The Resistance)
  6. Falling Down (Showbiz)
  7. Soldier's Poem (Black Holes and Revelations)
  8. Map of Your Head (Hullabaloo)
  9. Micro Cuts (Origin of Symmetry)
  10. Showbiz (Showbiz)
  11. Unnatural Selection (The Resistance)
  12. Forced In (Hullabaloo)
  13. Fillip (Showbiz)
  14. Dark Shines (Origin of Symmetry)
  15. Assassin (Black Holes and Revelations)
  16. I Belong to You/Mon Coeur S'Ouvre A Ta Voix (The Resistance)
  17. Endlessly (Absolution)
Don't like some of these? Give these five a try...
  1. Exo-Politics (Black Holes and Revelations)
  2. Nature1 (Hullabaloo)
  3. Sober (Showbiz)
  4. Guiding Light (The Resistance)
  5. Space Dementia (Origin of Symmetry)
So I hope you enjoy this list. Do you have any suggestions of Mixtapes to do in future? If so, comment below. As I said earlier I won't be doing as many Mixtapes in future, at least for the moment, as I'm out of ideas. But they'll still be done, and I hope you enjoy them. If you didn't know I actually make these playlists myself, give it a go yourself, I put these Mixtapes together, I put the effort in for a reason! That's it from me, have a good evening and take care.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Live Thoughts: Liverpool vs Stoke (FA Cup)

I covered this match live. Here are my unedited thoughts on the quarter final FA Cup match between Liverpool and Stoke.

Welcome to another one of my live thoughts posts. This is a big match for us. A win today and we're back at Wembley. We weren't at Wembley for sixteen years and all of a sudden, an opportunity arises for two (or three) visits in one year. I love it. It's not going to be easy again today, but with us wooping Everton 3-0 earlier this week we're full of confidence and we need to continue that confidence today, and into the Premier League too. Let's see what the Reds can do.

Here are the teams:

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Maxi, Gerrard, Spearing, Downing, Suarez, Carroll; Subs: Doni, Henderson, Coates, Kuyt, Adam, Flanagan, Shelvey.

No Bellamy, Johnson or Agger. Maxi gets a start for a change, he's either hit or miss when he starts, he can be brilliant for us at times but other times he looks disinterested. Let's hope for a maximum performance from Maxi. Pun intended. A good line up, I'm confident.

Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Shotton, Whitehead, Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Crouch; Subs: Nash, Jones, Pennant, Upson, Delap, Jerome, Palacios.

It's a good side again for Stoke, strong in defence, some creativity in the middle and Crouch up front. Walters has scored against us this season already. A tough side but one we'd be expecting to win.

3' - Tug and pull beginning so far, we're trying to spray the ball around with mixed results.

4' - Yellow card for Martin Kelly early on, a nasty tackle on Matthew Etherington. Etherington is staying down. It was quite nasty. Unintentional, but nasty.

7' - Etherington gingerly gets up and is back playing. It was deserving of a yellow card.

10' - Stoke playing a little tough at the moment, rightfully so. They have the physical presence needed to compete against Liverpool.

11' - We've won more games away this season than at home - it's been a problem. But the display against Everton gives me confidence we can turn that round.

12' - Crouch! Easy save for Reina. No defenders were marking the big man which was a little concerning, but his header was tame and straight at Reina.

13' - That's an odd statistic, no Welshman has won an FA Cup as manager. That's really weird. Never knew that. Incredible.

15' - Glenn Whelan gets a yellow card for a tackle on Jay Spearing. Not as bad as Kelly's tackle earlier, but it was clumsy.

18' - Stoke starting to pile the pressure on Liverpool at the moment. A little concerning what with the match only being 17 minutes old at the moment. We started a little brighter, then there was a lot of physical battles, and the last few minutes have belonged to Stoke. We need to get the ball and play.

20' - Haha, great by Marc Wilson, a nice dummy takes out two Liverpool plays to go flying to the deck. I may be a Liverpool fan but I love a good dummy. I'm sure that'll be on Soccer AM next week.

22' - GOAL! Suarez scores a beautiful goal! We needed that!  He combines excellently with Maxi Rodriguez, a one-two and then he just shoots a crisp shot to the bottom right corner. Exquisite.

24' - Stoke attack right from the off and Andy Wilkinson whips in a dangerous and fierce cross that Jon Walters and Peter Crouch just miss.

26' - GOAL! Peter Crouch scores. Stoke pile the pressure over and over again and actually get a corner that wasn't. That corner was headed in by Crouch. Pepe Reina gets a yellow card for protesting a Stoke player putting pressure on him.

28' - Replays of the corner that wasn't, the ball came off a Stoke players head. Andy Carroll takes down a Stoke player and wanted a corner but instead it was a free kick. Tempers are definitely a little raised today.

29' - Four yellow cards now, Andy Wilkinson goes in the book for a tackle on Luis Suarez.

32' - Jon Walters in space runs with the ball towards the final third and shoots just wide of the post.

35' - Suarez laughs at the linesman for getting a decision wrong terribly. It should have been a Liverpool corner but the linesman gave a goal kick.

38' - It's a very physical match this. It's funny as the Liverpool/Everton derby match last week was quite nice, and here we are against a side we have virtually no rivalry with, and it's so much more physical than the match earlier this week.

41' - We're starting to look a little better now, we haven't been at our best today, Stoke have matched us for most of the match.

43' - Free kick just outside the penalty area for Liverpool. Gerrard's shot is over the bar.

45' - Two minutes of added time.

45+2' - Half time.

Well we haven't played that well in honesty. Or more accurately, Stoke have played very well against us. They've irritated us, they've been very physical, and they haven't let us have time on the ball. The most time we had on the ball was in the build up to the goal, a very good goal from Suarez. Stoke's response was fantastic, and even though it shouldn't have been a corner, Crouch's headed goal was a deserving equaliser. If we want to win today we need to play better, we need to keep possession of that ball and go at them. It's the best way to play Stoke, not get physical with them, they're very good at that. Play football against them. Let's see if our second half performance is better.

48' - Gerrard's free kick is tame and Robert Huth clears.

50' - We need to play better if we want to win. It's as simple as that.

52' - SUAREZ! So close! A free kick from the left wing comes in and Suarez reacts just a tad too slow to put some direction on his header, and it goes wide.

55' - That shot aside, we're still looking lost in link play.

56' - GOAL! Finally! Downing scores! An odd goal really, all of a sudden we just open up an opportunity, or more accurately, Downing opens up an opportunity, he runs down the right wing, takes a player on, passes to Gerrard and a clumsy one-two somehow goes back to Downing who gets back into the box and scores. It was the type of goal that Gerrard would score in honesty, no one on his wavelength and he just makes the goal himself! Great work!

59' - The game has livened up since the goal, we're on the front foot at the moment. Stoke haven't reacted as well as they did when we scored first which is good for us.

60' - Stoke Substitution: Ryan Shotton comes off for Jermaine Pennant. Welcome back to Anfield, Jermaine.

60' - Liverpool Substitution: Maxi Rodriguez comes off and Dirk Kuyt takes his place. Well Maxi assisted Suarez's first goal, other than that he's had a mixed game. A bit like his season really.

63' - Kuyt's first decent contribution to the match is a shot straight at Sorensen.

66' - We're looking comfortable probably for the first time in the match. We're playing the possession game, the game we like to play, and Stoke can't really make any progress at the moment which is good. We have control finally.

67' - Suarez! Good save by Sorensen. It was a long range effort from Suarez but it was bending to the bottom left corner, it was a nice strike. A little too far out and lacking in power mind, but nice.

68' - Haha, a Stoke free kick went terribly wrong. Everything was set up, the wall and everything, and a Liverpool player, I didn't actually spot who, basically runs straight to the ball and puts off the two Stoke players creating the free kick and it's all ruined! Great stuff.

71' - Stoke Substitution: Cameron Jerome is coming on in place of Matthew Etherington.

72' - Suarez tries the impossible, he dispossesses a Stoke player on the right hand side of the box, but it's a cluttered penalty area, so he tries to curl it around everyone, and it's way wide. Great idea, not good in execution.

73' - Stoke Substitution: Rory Delap is coming on for Dean Whitehead. That's all three Stoke subs now.

74' - Liverpool have a really nice counter attack going on, Gerrard whips in a long cross to Carroll who heads the ball to Suarez. He has Downing on his right, Carroll on his left and he... slips over. Ah well.

76' - The Kop are bouncing to Suarez's name in support of his efforts. He has been very good today, but he has tried too hard in times to do everything, the typical industrial Uruguayan.

79' - Jay Spearing finds some space and takes a shot and it's over the bar. Should have done better from that distance.

81' - Martin Kelly goes forward and a space is opened for him in the penalty box but his effort is dealt with really well by Shawcross who tackles to ground. Kelly is down from the collision.

84' - Every time Crouch has the ball up front, which hasn't been too often, he's been surrounded by Red shirts. We've dealt with the strikers really well this second half.

85' - I do want to go on record here to say I love Peter Crouch so much, he's an awesome fella and he did a great job with us all those years ago. Top bloke.

86' - Suarez has gone down, so has Kelly for the second time in five minutes. Concerningly Suarez didn't have any form of collision, I hope he's okay.

87' - Replays show Suarez got clipped by accident by Huth, he might have twisted his ankle or something. No idea. Bizarre.

88' - Double Liverpool Substitution:  Martin Kelly and Luis Suarez come off and Sebastian Coates and Jordan Henderson take their places. Suarez has probably been my man of the match, not that individually we have had a player that's been a stand out player.

89' - Gerrard is right back at the moment. I don't know if Carragher is going to move there, but at the moment Stevie G is playing in a position he hasn't played in for a good 10 years.

90' - Five minutes of added time. Good lord.

90+2' - Yellow card given for Marc Wilson.

90+4' - You'll Never Walk Alone is being sung at a massive volume now. You'd think we're going to Wembley for the second time in three months or something.

90+5' - Full time!

We're going back to Wembley! Two semi finals this season for Liverpool! Brilliant achievement for Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool. So happy at the moment. We've had such a fantastic cup run twice this season. Now we need to somehow avoid Chelsea and Tottenham in the semi final draw, but it doesn't matter in the end, it's always going to be a tough game at Wembley no matter who we get. We have a strong chance to win two cups this season. A cup double would really be a statement for Liverpool. Let's make it happen!

As for the match, the first half was tough. Very tough. But all the effort Stoke put into that first half was lost in the second half, and we played well enough to score a second goal. Once again we never gave a masterclass display, but we gave a decent one, and we scored another two goals at Anfield. Downing scored which is good for his confidence, as well as Suarez for his. There have been many positives to take out of this game, the biggest one being, we're going back to Wembley! Thanks for joining me again and have a good evening.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Music Album Review: The Path of Totality by KoRn

"The Path of Totality" is a gamble - a big gamble. I think long term we'll recognise this bold move as a success.
“The Path of Totality" is KoRn's tenth album in their nineteen year career, quite a feat really as it results in roughly an album every two years. This album however is their most diverse album yet, as they do arguably what no mainstream metal artist has done before, and that's do a full music album combining the sounds of metal and dubstep. I spoke in length on dubstep and electronic music being used more emphatically in an article I wrote yesterday, and how metal as a genre overall is refusing to embrace this genre as a whole. You can read that article here. 

Back to the topic at hand, KoRn's brave move to make a full length album combining metal and dubstep is a pretty damn big deal. As I said no mainstream metal band have really done this before, and it's safe to say that this album has received mixed reviews due to the complete sound change from previous albums. Some have said this is possibly their best album to date, and are truly appreciating what Jonathan Davis and co. are doing here by pushing metal into new boundaries and combining new sounds to go with it. Other hardcore KoRn fans have called it the worst KoRn album ever created, going as far as to say the sound and direction is abysmal and that it's one of the worst albums of all time. What's my opinion? Here's my review. 

I thought I'd start this review properly by stating that I'm not the biggest fan of dubstep music in general. The sound is repetitive and it's basically drum and bass with a bit more wobble and grind. It's not my cup of tea. So to say that when I decided to review this album I chose it out of intrigue and had a lot of scepticism in my outlook on its sound. I do appreciate dubstep though and understand its place in music, and it's opening up a huge new window for new musicians to try and make music at home on their laptops and PCs, something that was never really considered a true form of music twenty or even ten years ago. This album is completely different to KoRn's other nine albums, it's safe to say. But Jonathan Davis' vocals are still as striking as they've always been, and you can still in some parts hear the phenomenal buzzing guitars that make KoRn one of the finest metal acts of the past twenty years. This isn't a heavy album though, the dubstep soothes the KoRn sound dramatically. Jonathan Davis says this is probably the "the most well-proportioned KoRn album of all time" and I have to say it's probably a true statement. There's some really cool tracks on here, some angry tracks and some mellower, sadder songs. It combines lyrically, all that makes KoRn one of those artists that teenagers and young adults associate with their lives as KoRn have always been one of the most emotional (not necessarily emo) metal bands out there. It's good that this album is so well-proportioned because it helps get over the initial shock of the style change musically. It was a good move. 

So what have we got on this album? Well one thing is for sure, is that this is actually quite a short album, at 11 tracks and less than 38 minutes long, it's KoRn's shortest album to date. There idea behind this album was that KoRn would make the music with electronic producers and then the dubstep artists would, well, 'dub' over the tracks with their sound. There's nine dubstep artists here and their work is pretty damn good if you like the general dubstep sound.  

The opening track, "Chaos Lives in Everything" which was remixed and finalised by Skrillex is a good choice to start this album with as it combines dubstep and KoRn's general sound well together. It doesn't take that many risks in comparison to what else is on this album, and it slowly soothes the listener into this experimental piece of music. Overall it's probably one of the best songs on the album as it does its job really well, but at the same time it's a good track to listen to, if you're open minded enough. The second track was produced by Noisia is called "Kill Mercy Within", and it's one of the mellower tracks. Once again I think it was a good choice to put this track early on as it still helps new listeners to get into this new sound, and Davis' vocals are exceptionally prominent in this track. 

The third track is one of my favourites, and it really kicks the dubstep gear-stick up a notch. "My Wall" was produced by Excision, and it really has some great wobble and pretty cool dubbing in there. Parts of dubstep I really like when done sparsely and the general dubstep sound in this track is definitely to my liking. The metal however severely lacks in this song, and it starts a common trend and criticism in this album. You see, if you take Jonathan Davis' vocals away from some of the songs on this album you pretty much have a dubstep album for the most part. Some of the songs you're really scratching your head and trying to figure out where the actual instruments are. It does make you think that it's "Jonathan Davis sings dubstep!" rather than KoRn and dubstep artists collaborating. Either way, "My Wall" is one of my favourite tracks on the album. 

The fourth track on the album is also the second single released, and is "Narcissistic Cannibal", which charted higher in most countries than the first single despite, in my opinion, it being inferior to it. It's a lot mellower however, and once again is a good example where you can hear metal and dubstep in the track at the same time. Skrillex collaborates with another dubstep artist in Kill the Noise to produce this track and between them they get a good dubstep metal track, one that KoRn we're obviously proud enough of to release it as a single. It's not necessarily one of my favourite tracks but I understand it's appeal to a more general audience. Tracks five, six and seven are all decent in different ways, and combine dubstep and metal with mixed results. In track six, "Burn the Obedient", Jonathan Davis actually gets some old school 'nu-metal' rapping in there, so that's pretty cool. These songs aren't as good as some of the others but have nice efforts of attempting to combine the two genres together, even if they all have varying outcomes. 

Two of my favourite tracks on the album are tracks eight and nine. First we have "Let's Go" which gives Noisia another credit on his name in terms of production. This, for me, is probably style-wise, the most old-school KoRn sounding song on the album. Everything about the song, the rhythm, the lyrics, the rambling of "gotta get away, get-get-get away", the short and simple chorus, everything screams KoRn, apart from of course, the dubstep that's branded the track. It's a very good song, and probably the most appealing for KoRn purists. Track nine is the first single, "Get Up!" which was also produced by Skrillex. It's probably my favourite track on the album but once again I do often question the actual instruments in the track - are they there? Jonathan Davis screaming "shut the fuck up and get it up" is definitely a highlight of the track, as well as the awesome dubbing after the second chorus. It's just a good track, especially in this dubstep genre I'm very uneasy about. 

The last two tracks close the album up nicely for what is definitely an experimental offering by KoRn. We even get a bagpipe and dubstep solo at the end of the last track, "Bleeding Out" which was produced by Feed Me. What I can't really review is the two bonus tracks that I had on my album, which are "Fuels the Comedy" and "Tension", it's a shame these songs aren't actually featured on the album as I think they're two of the best songs on the CD. If you do decide to pick up "The Path of Totality" I'd recommend you get the copy with these tracks on as they're awesome. 

Overall this album is not for everyone. It really depends on a few things whether or not I'd recommend you get it. The first question really depends on how open you are to dubstep, to experimentation with the genre. If you want to hear something different, something that you've probably never heard before in metal, then get it. If you like KoRn and dubstep, chances are high you'll like this album, it's a great piece of work in my eyes. I really like listening to this album, despite not really liking dubstep overall. But if you're closed to the idea of dubstep, experimentation and anything that KoRn do that don't have their vintage sound, then this album simply isn't for you. There's a reason why this album has got a range of strongly negative to strongly positive reviews across the board. It's just simply like nothing metal has seen before. And you have to give great credit to KoRn for thinking outside of the box, for taking that bold step for metal as a genre that no other artist has done before, for mixing with dubstep. 

It's up to you and I to decide now if it's been a success. In my eyes I think it has. But one thing is more important than my opinion on this album, and your opinion on this album. What's more important is how this album will be perceived in the future. Will more metal bands take the plunge into fusing with dubstep? Is it going to be become the norm of the future? Or is it going to be reected, put to the scrapheap, and be listed on many top 10 lists of failures in the metal genre? No one knows for sure, if you like the sound or not, no one knows. But the future of metal, as I emphasise in my article here, is definitely heading in a very odd direction. "The Path of Totality" gives us a possible insight to what direction it may or may not be heading in.

Rating: ****1/4 stars
Stand out tracks: "Get Up!", "My Wall", "Let's Go"

Here's the music video for the first single, "Get Up!":
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Mercy Side: Metal is Dead

I said a few months ago that I'd be doing an article on dubstep. The idea of that article was that, frankly, I don't like dubstep but I'd try and get into the genre. Why? Why get into a genre you don't like? Well, I feel I should like dubstep but don't. It's a combination of dance music, electronic and in some cases, metal, particularly industrial metal influences. All of these genres when done correctly, interest me. Hell, I just did a Mixtape of my favourite Industrial songs. So while a lot of my friends and large parts of the world are embracing dubstep, I was stuck, as I didn't like the genre. I asked a lot of people on some forums and on my Facebook to put their favourite songs of the genre up so I can try and get into the genre. It kinda failed as I anticipated. I was going to write that article but it just got forgotten about in the end. That was until, I decided I'd review KoRn's new album "The Path of Totality" for this site. Fingers crossed, you'll see that review tomorrow if you're interested.

This article is not just about dubstep though. This article is about a topic that I've been dreading to talk about for some time, but hoped it wouldn't be true. It all stems from this quote that Jonathan Davies, lead singer of KoRn said on the 5th December 2011 to Revolver Magazine:

"You have an open mind. The album is getting people to have an open mind and just accept that this is the future – accept the change."

Now, I only came across this quote this week when it came up on my Facebook (I follow KoRn on Facebook). It pains me to say it, but good old Jonathan Davies is spot on. And if he's saying it, it's got to be at least half right. I mean, I'm not saying that the words of Jonathan Davies are gospel or anything, but the man knows a thing or two about music, metal in particular. The guy is not a pioneer of the genre, but man, KoRn have been consistent in the genre for a good near twenty years. I love KoRn's sound. They're not my favourite band or anything, but I could listen to KoRn any day of the week because they sound fantabulous. I love the raw guitar sound they have, a sound that as far as I'm aware, has rarely been replicated by any other band. What's sad though is that Jonathan Davies has said this now. I'm not bigging up myself or anything, but I sensed this a long time ago. Probably about five years ago.
KoRn. Man, they like dreads don't they?
You see, I remember having a conversation at school with a friend about the future of music. She isn't really into my style of music, she likes her RnB music, her dance music and her pop. She was a dancer after all. I haven't spoken to her in a few years actually. Anyway, we were talking, and "SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake came on the radio while we were talking. I told her that this is the future of music. You see, this was a time where Timbaland was dominating the charts by collaborating with RnB artists but giving them an polished electronic sound. He had also worked closely with Nelly Furtado. This is the Nelly Furtado that sung this piece of cheese six years prior. And what does Timbaland do? He cranks the volume up a little, gives Nelly a harder image, puts some of that electronic polish on her music, and she sounds pretty damn badass, as RnB goes. "Maneater" is the song I'm talking about if you didn't know. Yes I like that song. I liked a lot of the Nelly Furtado songs of this part of her career. She's gone off the rails a little recently but 2006 was her year.

It's electronic sound that Timbaland mastered in this era is a precursor to how music sounds today. Timbaland is a pioneer.  Look around you. On the softer side of music you have this electronic sound everywhere. Everyone's doing it. One of the biggest RnB artists of the moment is Nicki Minaj. What about LMFAO? Black Eyed Peas? This electronic sound is all over the place.

Why am I mentioning this exactly? What has this got to do with dubstep, or hell, metal? Did you listen to "Maneater"? It's a good track. Oh sorry, to answer your question, well... metal has gone in this direction too. My silly prediction in a classroom five years ago has become true. But not in the way I expected. It's happened everywhere. Everyone is including electronic music into their music. Laptop and computer electronic music is bigger now that it ever has been. Dubstep came from this idea, that your computer can make music. And it can. And now look at the genre. It's exploded to the mainstream. But it's also threatening metal as well. I say threatening because this is the genre I grew up to love as a kid, and it's dying. It might already be dead.

I've been asking a lot of people to get me into new metal bands for years without success. Do you want to know the last great metal band I really liked? Do Grinderman count? Grinderman being, Nick Cave and co. forming a new band? Are they even metal? Erm... how about Pendulum? What, they're dance music? Damn... I erm... I don't know actually. Okay let me do some research...
Click on this picture. No seriously.
...okay, after scrawling through Wikipedia, The Murderdolls formed in 2002... Audioslave in 2001... Brand New in 2000... and they're okay but I wouldn't say they're a GREAT band... let me look a little further... aha! The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster formed in 1999! There we go! Oh wait, I don't know how many of you have heard of them. Besides, are they metal? They're more psychedelic rock and punk... okay, let me go a bit further in case that doesn't justify it... in 1998 Jerk formed but they only did one awesome album... Skindred formed in 1998? Skindred are pretty cool... should we go with them? If I go to 1997 I find Mindless Self Indulgence. Now that's a GREAT metal band.

You see, I have to go 15 years into the past to find the last great metal band. Obviously that's personal taste, I'm sure there are bands formed since then that you or anyone else will like a lot. Not for me though. I love metal, most of my favourite bands are in the genre. Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, Rob Zombie, to name a few. A lot of these bands were prominent in the nineties but that's not to say that there wasn't great metal to be found in the noughties. If you look at my Top 100 Favourite songs of the decade, you'll see plenty of metal bands and songs in the list. Bands like Drowning Pool, Disturbed, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Avenged Sevenfold and System of a Down.

But then around 2007 time, something changed. What is now known as emo music started to dominate rock and metal. It's a genre that also went mainstream and it was everywhere. I hated emo. I still do. I didn't think it killed off metal or anything, I mean, emo incorporates modern punk and metal after all. But it definitely knocked metal back a peg, and great metal bands were finding it hard to adapt to the change. Some bands did. Slipknot, Papa Roach and Linkin Park come to mind when it comes to bands who changed their sound slightly to appeal to the emo rise. They started including more melody in their songs and less metal. It was more about the whine in the voice, the sentiment in their lyrics. But other bands ceased to exist in some ways, Limp Bizkit come to mind as an example of that.

And now, we have dubstep. We have electronic music fusing with all the genres around us. It got to RnB, you can see proof of that above. It's also gotten to indie music. Bands like MGMT and Foster the People come to mind that like to fuse the sounds together. I mean it's nothing new in a way, Radiohead have been doing it for years. But there's something different this time around, because it's just so much more prominent, so much more... successful. It's become the norm, become the way to make music. And I have very mixed feelings about this.

"You have an open mind. The album is getting people to have an open mind and just accept that this is the future – accept the change."

I just thought I'd put Jonathan Davies' quote back up there as a reminder. Times are changing. Music is changing. It's always changed. I have to be honest, in my lifetime, we've had a lot less change and what has changed has been at a snails pace in comparison to the past. We had jazz and blues, rock 'n' roll, then glam rock, then punk rock, then new wave, then indie. Now we have this electronindie thing going on. In the world of pop we now have artists using electronic music quite a lot. In metal we've used electronic music, but it's always been as a booster, as an enhancement. Look at industrial music as a means of looking how electronic music has been used in metal the most. The best song to suggest is my favourite band of course, Nine Inch Nails with this blistering effort that I put in my Industrial Mixtape last week. From 1:38 onwards is absolutely amazing.
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.
But as a general rule, metal hasn't embraced the change. It hasn't accepted electronic music, and dubstep, into its genre. It's been trying to push it away. Metal has suffered as a consequence of this I'd say. As I said, I have mixed feelings about it myself, dubstep as a sound is okay, but it's repetitive and boring. I like electronic music as an enhancement myself, but not when it becomes the source of a song. But KoRn's new album has taken a big bold step forwards for a new way to incorporate metal and electronic music and dubstep. Do I like that album? Well if you read my review you'll find out. But before I review that album I thought that this article was worth writing. I thought it was worth talking about the changes in music at the moment, where electronics and dubstep are becoming more prominent, are becoming the focus. 

Someone, I can't remember who, told me that in five or ten years time, the stars of the future will have started making their music on computers in their bedrooms. I think that person is right.

What do you think? Is metal dead? Does metal need to accept the focus on dubstep and electronic music to survive? Disagree? Comment below. Thanks for reading.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Live Thoughts: Liverpool vs Everton (Premier League)

I covered this match live. Here are my unedited thoughts on the match between Liverpool and Everton.

Hey and thanks for joining me for my first Live Thoughts post in just over two weeks. It's been that long for a few reasons. Firstly, I've been ill recently quite a lot. I'm ill now. I've got conjunctivitis. It's fun. Hey ho. Secondly I'm cutting down on how many matches I'm covering, and I'll have a proper schedule next season about what matches I'll cover. As for this season, I'll do what I can, but it's not going to be easy as I have a lot on my plate personally at the moment. And lastly, I wanted to cover Liverpool/Arsenal but I was really busy that day so I couldn't, not that I missed much as we lost, just like we lost against Sunderland. We've only won one league match in 2012. Hell, if the league started on January 1st, we would be in the relegation zone (5 points from 8 games). It's a poor run of form this year bar the cup games. I loved the Carling Cup win. I'm loving our FA Cup run. But our league form needs to improve. If we lose today Everton eclipse us in the league. That's how bad our form has gotten. We need to win, for our season as well as Merseyside bragging rights. 

Here are the teams:

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Enrique, Skrtel, Carragher, Spearing, Gerrard, Henderson, Downing, Suarez, Carroll. Subs: Doni, Shelvey, Maxi, Flanagan, Kuyt, Adam, Coates.

Johnson is still injured, but it's nice to see Gerrard starting again. It's a shame he got injured on England duty but at least it's not too serious. He missed one match and came on as a sub against Sunderland. Suarez, Carroll and Gerrard start again. I'm really happy about that, they look really good up front together and click nicely. I just hope they can score the goals expected. It's been our major problem this season. This is a team that can win today - no - that should win today.

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Coleman, Fellaini, Pienaar, Rodwell, Stracqualursi, Anichebe. Subs: Mucha, Heitinga, Jelavic, Drenthe, Cahill, Neville, Osman.

This is a weakened Everton side, especially for attack. Stracqualursi and Anichebe have scored 6 goals between them. I don't know what else to say, the team is strong in defence and midfield, but shouldn't pose too much a threat up front. They're there for the taking in a certain way, but definitely shouldn't be underestimated.

3' - Slow start at the moment, with Liverpool looking slightly more threatening. 

6' - GERRARD! Great save by Howard! Henderson with the follow up and it was a lovely tackle by Rodwell to stop him! So close!

8' - Pienaar! Over the bar. Leighton Baines has a lovely darting run down the left wing and cuts in parallel to the goal line, he squares it to Pienaar and thankfuly it's over. 

11' - SUAREZ! Another great save by Howard! Reina being the amazing sweeper keeper he is smacks the ball across the pitch and Andy Carroll flicks it on beautifully to the path of Suarez who was free in the box, Suarez tries to lift it over Howard but the United States keeper more than met to it. That was excellent by Carroll and Suarez then! 

13' - Three shots so far, all of them on target too. 100% shots on target rate yo! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it! Okay, I'm kidding, but it's nice that we're actually hitting the target, a problem we've had all season. 

15' - It's the 10 year anniversary match for David Moyes next week. I just want to go on record here by saying David Moyes is a phenomenal manager, and has done an amazing job at Everton. Kudos to Everton for keeping with the same guy for 10 years, it's a rarity in todays sack friendly management system. Happy anniversary Mr Moyes. 

18' - Well we're playing the better football so far that's for sure. We haven't quite got hold of the match yet though. 

21' - They just showed a replay of Carroll shoving Baines, almost hitting him with his elbow. The ref never saw that. He could have been off for that, that was nasty. 

24' - Possession - 57%/43% in favour of Liverpool. Unsurprising really. The only threat really coming from Everton are Baines' good runs down the left flank, and Pienaar's trickery in and around the box, most that's been nullified.

27' - Everton are starting to put pressure on Liverpool now. They're not dominant or anything, but they're seeing more of the ball all of a sudden. 

29' - A poor pass back from Tony Hibbert that Suarez chases goes to Howard, who's clearances somehow gets back to Suarez who's on his own up front! Tony Hibbert tackles and it's clean as a whistle,  before eventually the flag goes up as it was Carroll who passed to Suarez who was offside.

32' - Pienaar crosses into the Liverpool box and Anichebe brings the ball down, but is unable to turn to shoot.

33' - GOAL! GERRARD! What a goal! A lovely bit of attacking play involving Suarez ends with Martin Kelly in the box who piledrives the ball straight at Tim Howard, it goes to Gerrard who curls it round Howard and the defence! Absolutely brilliant, an elegant finish in his 400th Premier League appearance! 

37' - KELLY! Just wide! Another great run by our young Scouse right back, and he almost scores again! This time it was wide of Howard's right post. 

40' - We're really on top of Everton at the moment, after that little lapse where we gave them a sniff of possession we've gone for blood almost. 87 Premier League goals in 400 games for Steven Gerrard. 

43' - There's only been 3 fouls so far in this match, considering it's the league fixture that's produced more red cards than any other in the history of English football, that's not bad going. We haven't seen a very aggressive game so far. That being said, I can see the second half being a different story.

45' - One minute of added time.

45+1 - Half time.

It wasn't the best quality fourty-five minutes of football you'll see but we got the goal we definitely deserved. For a change. How many times have we got to half time deserving in front and we're not? Hopefully we can not only keep this lead, but we can build on it. We're definitely the better side at the moment, we played the better football and had the better chances. Gerrard's goal was sublime however, if you get a chance to see it please do, it's an elegant curling effort into the back of the net. Martin Kelly has had two great chances, as has Suarez, Henderson and Carroll. Things are looking good at the moment! Let's hope there's more good news for Liverpool in the second half!

48' - Rigid opening of the second half at the moment. 

50' - GOAL! Gerrard again! Henderson cuts the ball nicely to Suarez who makes a nuisance of himself in the box, darting his run into the box to the path of Gerrard who just smacks it into the net at short range! I don't know if Suarez quite laid that off, but Gerrard just banged that in! Excellent finish!

52' - CARROLL! So close! Suarez once again running between the lines, lays it nicely to Carroll who shoots just wide of Howard's left post. So so close.

53' - No Liverpool player has scored a hat trick against Everton at Anfield in nearly 80 years. That's some statistic. Hopefully Gerrard can make history tonight.

54' - KELLY! Just couldn't stretch far enough to make the clinical touch to score! Downing whips in a good cross and for some reason once again, Martin Kelly is up front and almost scores for the third time! 

55' - Steven Pienaar goes into the book for a tackle on Henderson.

58' - Martin Kelly once again makes a nuisance of himself as Carroll flicks a ball to him with his head, Kelly tussles with Distin for a bit before losing the ball for a goal kick. Kelly attacking-wise, has had a great game. He's hardly made any defensive mistakes to boot either. 

60' - Rodwell! Cleared by Jose Enrique. That was a short range effort that Enrique dealt with, easily Everton's best chance so far. 

61' - Triple Everton Substitution: Royston Drenthe, Leon Osman and Nikica Jelavic come on for Sheamus Coleman, Denis Stracqualursi and Victor Anichebe. Big changes for Everton, who are obviously trying to salvage something from the match. 

64' - Free kick for Liverpool in a decent area is dealt with by the wall. 

67' - Oh, and that's 88 goals in 400 Premier League matches for Gerrard now. 

69' - Carroll lays the ball to Suarez who tries the impossible by shooting round the keeper with the outside of his foot, it went wide. Nice try though. 

72' - Liverpool Substitution: Dirk Kuyt comes on for Jordan Hendeson. Henderson had a decent game today, he's looked a little poor of form in recent matches but today some of his passes were key, I'm sure he had a say in both goals somewhere. 

75' - Carroll goes down after a tussle with Hibbert and the Liverpool fans think penalty, but Phil Dowd laughs it off. It definitely wasn't a penalty. Not that we need it, we'll probably miss it anyway! 

78' - Downing crosses a long ball forward and it's heading towards Suarez, and Leighton Baines brings him down on the edge of the penalty area. Phil Dowd actually shows the red for a split second, but gave a yellow card. I think that's a good decision personally, just because the game has not been malicious at all and it'd ruin what's been a nice Merseyside Derby if he flashed the red. Was it a red? It's debatable. But I'm happy Phil Dowd didn't give it. 

80' - Gerrard and Pienaar jump for the ball and Gerrard elbows the South African in the face, it wasn't intentional but Pienaar is down. I don't think Dowd is giving a card. It wasn't intentional as I said. 

83' - Royston Drenthe is next in the book for a bad tackle on Downing. 

86' - I'm sure they said that more than a third of all of Everton's goals have been scored in the last 10 minutes. That's some statistic if true.

88' - "You'll Never Walk Alone" is now being sung around the stadium. I can't remember the last time I've heard it at the end of a match at Anfield actually! It's been a few months I'm sure, we've had too many draws at home this season.

90' - Four minutes of added time now, and they start with Tony Hibbert going into the book for kicking the ball at Jose Enrique.

90+2' - Jose Enrique goes in the book as well. That's a bit unfair. 

90+2' - GOAL! STEVEN GERRARD GETS A HAT TRICK! Excellent play between Suarez and Gerrard, it starts with Gerrard who bombs down the pitch and lays the ball beautifully for Suarez, who gets into a tangle a little bit, but manages to lay the ball back to Gerrard who shoots an easy goal!

90+4' - Full time!

Steven Gerrard is the first player in 76 years to score a hat trick against Everton at Anfield. Congrats to that man, the legend. I'd say this is the proper return of Gerrard, he's been influential in many games since his long term injury, but this is the first time Gerrard has been so clinical in front of goal. He was unstoppable today. If you thought Gerrard was finished, think again, he was awesome today. Kudos have to go to Carroll and Suarez as well, who were brilliant in attack again and helped Gerrard get his hat trick. Another person who deserves a mention is Martin Kelly who was brilliant as a right back and a striker for parts of the match too.

I'll finish with this. I wouldn't say this was a spectacular display for Liverpool. It wasn't. But it's the display we needed, it was the display that we've seen so many times this season, dominating possession and open play. The big difference? We scored the goals we set up. We haven't had enough chances scored this season. It's a fact. But Gerrard's hat trick hopefully suggests that we can build upon this. We make so many chances and they go to waste too often. A 3-0 win against Everton hopefully means we can now keep those performances up, but score the goals that the displays deserve. That's it from me today, have a good night.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Old School Game Reviews: SSX Tricky

Welcome to the third edition of the “Old School Game Review”. The last two games I covered were Sega Mega Drive titles, “Streets of Rage” and "Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe". This time? I'm going back 10 years instead of 20, and talking about a Playstation 2 title. To celebrate the release of the new title in the series, my third Old School Game review is the amazing, SSX Tricky.

Not familiar with the “Old School Game Review”? It’s basically a gift wrapped game review so in theory it’s nothing new. But what is different is that before I divulge into the review I talk about what makes this game so good, and some facts and memories the game gave me. Oh and what counts as an old school game? My ruling is the game has to be at least ten years old.
When did this game come out? 2001
What console was it released on? Playstation 2
What else was it released on? Nintendo Gamecube, XBox, Game Boy Advance
Compilations? None.
Other interesting facts? Well this game was released less than 10 years ago in the UK... if you bought the Gamecube, XBox or GBA versions. But I bought the PS2 version so that's my excuse! I'm not cheating with my criteria!
Best memories? Probably doing the first course, Garibaldi, with a score of more than 1,000,000 for the first time. I don't know what the official world record is, but this is the biggest score on YouTube at 4.6 million, which is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Still, it's an amazing task to get a score of 1 million. I think my all time record is around 1.3 million, although it's been a very long time since I had the data on my memory card (oh those were the days... when you used memory cards... it felt like yesterday!).

Now onto the review!

For me, SSX Tricky, 10 years later, is still the best snowboarding game of all time.

SSX Tricky is the sequel to the original SSX game, which was released a year earlier as part of the new EA Sport BIG selection, a set of sports games that were unrealistic in style. SSX Tricky was basically SSX 2.0, with many of the tracks and characters making returns from the original games. But labelling SSX Tricky that way and thinking that it's nothing more would be a big mistake. SSX Tricky takes everything that was good about SSX, and mashes it up to make it bigger and better in every aspect.

The SSX game series are, as we said earlier, an unrealistic series of snowboarding games. The main course of the original SSX is a snowboarding race, and you can do tricks on your snowboard to try and give your character a speed boost for every successful trick pulled off. So you raced hard, did tricks off the big jumps and used your speed boost and try to finish the races in first place.
This is not going to end well...
SSX Tricky builds on this in a much bigger way. Much bigger. You see, you can still race against the other competitors, there's a "Race" mode for that. You can still use your tricks to gain speed boosts as well. But... the tricks are bigger and wilder than what was available in the original game. Not only that, but if you store your speed boosts to the top of the bar, the song remixes to include "It's Tricky" by Run DMC and you have access to what are called Uber Tricks. Uber Tricks are what make SSX Tricky special. They're incredibly flamboyant, melodramatic tricks on your snowboard that take a while to pull off, but look absolutely awesome. You also score much more points for pulling these off as a reward.

You'd be mistaken to think that so much emphasis on tricks in this game means there would be an actual trick orientated game wouldn't you? Well there is. On one end you have the "Race" mode, and on the other you have the "Showoff" mode. The purpose of "Showoff" is to, well, show off your tricks. More accurately, it's purpose is to give you the opportunity to get the biggest score tally possible. "Showoff" mode has big coloured icicles across the course, and doing tricks successfully through these icicles gives you a multiplier on the score given for the tricks done. The colour codes are yellow for a double multiplier, orange for a triple multiplier, and red for a quintuple multiplier. These icicles are pivotal for getting the highest scores in "Showoff" mode.

So you have "Race" mode and "Showoff" mode. You can access these options through "Single Player" and "Multiplayer" mode. But if you start from scratch only have access to a few tracks. To unlock more tracks you have to play the "World Circuit" mode. With "World Circuit" mode you, one by one, take on the courses in either "Showoff" mode or "Race" mode, it's completely your choice. With "Showoff" mode, you have to get a certain score to get either a Bronze, Silver or Gold award. Getting at least a Bronze will unlock the next track on "World Circuit", and it will also be available on "Single Player" and "Multiplayer" modes. For "Race" mode on "World Circuit" you will have to race the track three times, and will have to finish in the Top 3 in each race to qualify for the next one. After the third race, your placement will have to be in the Top 3 again to get a medal - Bronze, Silver and Gold again.

Getting a medal in "World Circuit" gives your character skill points to develop the attributes that are important to SSX Tricky - Edging is your sharpness for turning corners, Speed is your, erm, speed, Stability is how hard it is for you to get knocked off your snowboard and Tricks is how quickly you can do your tricks. If you get a Bronze medal you get two points to add to your attributes, four for a Silver, and six for a Gold.
There's the checkpoint! Caution signs? Booby traps? Hmm...
 The characters in SSX Tricky are brilliant. You have lots to choose from, and you have to unlock a good few of them by getting gold medals in "World Circuit". All the characters specialise in different methods of SSX - some are very good at tricks, some are very good racers. There are 13 in total and all have different personalities - Moby and JP are arrogant players from England and France respectively, where as Marty and Kaori are quiet and shy players from Germany and Japan respectively. My favourite character however is Psymon, who is completely nuts but says some of the funniest and random lines in the game like shouting "French toast and syrup!" at the top of his lungs mid jump.

Another thing about the characters in this game is that for the only time in the entire series for SSX, there's an al-star cast who do the voices. You have Lucy Liu who does Elise's voice, of Ally McBeal and Kill Bill fame, Billy Zane who does Brosi and is famous for his roles in Titanic and Twin Peaks, David Arquette who does Eddie, famous for his role in the Scream film series, and singers Bif Naked who plays Zoe and Macy Gray who plays Seeiah. This all-stellar cast of voice actors to a great job and add to each character's personality really well. It's arguably one of the best jobs done by a group of celebrities in a video game in honesty.

The controls are quite slick in SSX Tricky, and once again are an improvement on the original SSX. You can use the D-pad or the analog stick to move your character and can sort this out in the Settings menu to change it to your preferences. You move with either, and you flip or turn your board with the D-pad, and with the shoulder buttons you can grab your board. You can press multiple shoulder buttons to do more complicated grabs with your board, which usually give you more points. Combining a turn or flip, or both (to make your character twist diagonally) and multiple shoulder buttons gives you by far the most points apart from the Uber tricks available if you fill your boost bar to the top. Regardless of how many combos you do, how many flips and turns you include, it's important to make sure that your character is as vertical as possible for landing, otherwise your character wipes out on the course, making your score not count on that 'trick'.

If you're racing, you can knock characters over by pressing the analog stick either left or right depending where they are to your character. Be warned though, characters often target you for revenge in the races if you continue to attack them. But if you knock a character flat off their board by using this technique, you're rewarded with a full boost bar straight away which can be useful. Your characters also have relationships with each other - some are friends with you while others are your enemies. For instance, Psymon fancies Zoe, so they are considered friends. Luther is a bully and picks on the cute Kaori a lot, so they're enemies. Your relationships can get better or worse depending on your actions on the track, if you hit them a few times they'll target you in the next few races for revenge. On the grand scheme of things this isn't that important but it all adds to the game that is SSX Tricky.

One of the finest parts of SSX Tricky is the pretty damn good soundtrack. "It's Tricky" by Run DMC as mentioned before, is the title track of the game, and the original song and the remixed versions on the game all make the game that much better. It's a fabulous song and thoroughly works with the style of game SSX Tricky provides. There are also some good electronic dance and rap songs on the soundtrack too, and Bif Naked, also mentioned before, has a track on here. A few tracks by Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys are also featured, and Mix Master Mike is also a secret character in the game... if you use cheat codes. Over the gameplay are parts of commentary provided by Rahzel, who is a beatboxer, who does a fantastic job of putting over the action and doing some random beatboxing once in a while. He did a similar job in the original SSX too.
Luther (top right) is totally going to land that trick. Eddie's afro is impressive huh?
As you play through "World Circuit" you unlock snowboards and character costumes to customise your character's look. The snowboards are all in different shapes, and each character has a preferred board type. Some boards are best for tricks, others for races and some for in between. If a character uses a board they're unfamiliar with, they usually struggle a little more with this board, but do get access to a different set of Uber tricks if they fill their boost bar up. Once again it all adds to the game that is SSX Tricky. If you get a gold in every "Race" and "Showoff" track on "World Circuit", you unlock a chrome outfit, which looks pretty cool.

If you ever want to take a breather and try things out in your own time you can always use the "Practise" mode. You can do it in either a "Race" mode style, but without any other competitors on screen so you're taking the track on in your own time, or you can practise certain tricks on one large jump. The latter also includes a tutorial to help you do certain tricks that are compiled in each characters individual "Trick Book". The "Trick Book" is a tick sheet of sorts, to fill up to hone your skills of performing tricks. If you complete a character's "Trick Book" you unlock that character's best snowboard in the game.

Overall "SSX Tricky" is an amazing game. It pains me to know this game didn't sell very well. It's completely unjustified. For me, even 10 years later, "SSX Tricky" is by far not only the best SSX title in the series, but the best snowboarding game ever created. It mixes fine snowboarding racing, and over the top tricks. It has a brilliant soundtrack and the characters are all great and will appeal to lots of different players. "SSX Tricky" gets so many things right it's almost perfect. It really deserved more people to play this grand game, but with the new SSX game just coming out, at least new players will get a taste of a new, fresh title to play. But if you ever want to get a retro SSX title (I feel old typing that, it was 10 years ago though), this is the one to get. "SSX Tricky" trumps every snowboarding title out there before this release, and arguably, after.
Rating: ****1/2 stars

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