Reviewed by Lewis

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Skyrim: Dawnguard Review

Skyrim-Dawnguard

To celebrate the release of Dawnguard and Dragonborn Skyrim DLCs for PS3, (finally), please enjoy this special, two-part review. Dawnguard is up first, with a review of Dragonborn on the way.

After cutting a swathe through the snowy hills of regular old Skyrim I was excited when I heard about the imminent release of Dawnguard and Dragonborn. Then of course I realised that was just for Xbox 360 and PC. So, as I am cursed with a PS3, (my 360 is doing a very admirable impression of a dodo) I was forced to wait.

I purchased the two DLCs, Dawnguard and Dragonborn on the same day; watch this space for my review of Dragonborn. First up is Dawnguard; it’s set in Skyrim but there are a fair few new locations to explore. The main two are the vampire hunter HQ Fort Dawnguard and Castle Volkihar, the vampire’s lair.

Pretty quickly you get to choose between aligning with the Dawnguard, a group of vampire hunters, or the vampire lords.

Choosing the vampires gives you access to the vampire lord form. It’s all fangs, claws and destruction magic. The new form feels very reminiscent of gothic vampires like Dracula, especially with some of the powers on offer; including bats, which works much like whirlwind sprint. You become an invulnerable swarm of bats and jump to a spot several feet away. It is pretty handy in a tight spot. Combat is interesting as a vampire lord; blood magic gives you a spell in each hand. The default is an area of effect drain life spell, which is damned powerful almost a one hit kill. Then you get a powerful raise corpse spell in your other hand. Switch to melee and you get to use your claws and teeth. This is similar to being a werewolf, if not more powerful. As an added bonus you get a cool cinematic when you pull off a critical hit bite attack.

There are some negative points though. The obvious; sunlight weakens you. It doesn’t kill you but you take a hit to health, stamina and magicka. You can feed on humans to lessen this, but it also weakens your vampire powers. The less obvious; as the vampire lord form wasn’t in the original game design, the extra height of the vampire lord makes it very hard to navigate narrow spaces, for example doorways, stairs and so on. You’ll have to drop in and out of the vampire lord form (which you can do as often as you please), to get around this. Also you can only interact with the world in a very limited way. No looting. This is a bit of an annoyance. I am rather loot happy.

The Dawnguard vampire hunters are a lot like the Vigilants of Stendarr, but they have way better weapons, armour and a cool, super-secret fort. Well, it’s kinda secret in that every guard in Skyrim knows exactly where it is. The best thing about the Dawnguard, in one word, is crossbows. You can get a basic model, the steel crossbow as soon as you enlist/ visit Fort Dawnguard. Ammo’s another matter but there are tricks to get around this, as you won’t kind crossbow bolts as regular loot. They pack one hell of a punch (better that a standard bow) but are slightly slower to reload. There are loads of new quests available on both sides, needless to say choosing one side precludes the other.

As you would expect there are tonnes of new items available including shiny, new weapons and armour to find and craft. One of the most notable additions are the Dragonbone weapons. You need 100 crafting and the Dragon Armour perk. It is well worth it. These weapons have a better damage output than their Daedric equivalent and look awesome to boot.

Also it is worth a courtesy mention. Combat on horseback is pretty cool, if of limited use. So there you have it Dawnguard breathes new life into Skyrim. It’s a must own for Skyrim fans and it runs pretty smoothly on the PS3 too.

Click here for my review of Dragonborn https://reviewedbylewis.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/skyrim-dragonborn-review/

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Dredd Vs Dredd

Judgment is Coming

When Dredd (Stallone) lifted his helmet from his grizzled head, there was a collective roar of dismay that still echoes through the web to this day.

So when Dredd 3D came out and Karl Urban donned the armour of the Judge; it went without saying; that helmet was staying put.

So to commit an act of gross heresy lets pit Judge Vs Judge and see who is left standing. So to kill what little credibility I have, I will state for the record, I loved Judge Dredd. The garishness and the ultra-violence of it worked.

Like many of the comic book movies that came out in the 90’s it was more than a little camp, with its big shiny pauldrons and gold chains everywhere. Again this seemed to work. Yet as much as I enjoyed the original, Stallone overshadowed Dredd.

This is where Dredd 3D differed.

Dredd 3D was an excellent case of allowing the comic book character to bludgeon its way through to the forefront. I wasn’t watching a Karl Urban film; I was watching Dredd in all his moody, scowly glory. This was highlighted very nicely by the somewhat oversized helmet, which dwarfs Urban’s features almost entirely.

Both films have featured a strong buddy cop trope, although thankfully the new Dredd film is minus Rob Schneider. Thank the Law for small mercies. Olivia Thirlby was§ a much better choice, playing Anderson as the badass, pixie cute physic/ rookie Judge.

Dredd was also a great example of how amazing 3D can look. The slow-mo scenes were moments of beauty amid the grim and grisly locales of Mega City 1.

Lena Headey plays an brilliant baddie, but then we knew that from Game of Thrones. Here she takes if even further as the sadistic and genocidal Ma-Ma. Sporting a haircut that looks like it was achieved with a pair of rusty shears, a host of tattoos and a hideous, disfiguring scar.

Ma-Ma is the sadistic slumlord who declares war on Dredd and his rookie partner, when what should have been a routine triple murder investigation turns ugly.

So while it is a cop-out to say that both films have a lot going for them, it’s true. Dredd 3D lets you get a real feel for the unwavering servant of the law, that is Dredd. Where as Judge Dredd was and will always be a Stallone action film.

The difference between the two films can be summed up in just how they use the iconic line “I am the Law.” Stallone uses it in a petulant way, “I can’t break the Law, I am the Law.” Urban uses it in a more understated way (for Dredd), he uses it to denounce Ma-Ma who has claimed the tower has her own and inspire the downtrodden. He is a kinder, gentler Judge, well, unless you happen to be a criminal.

So Judge Dredd kicks ass, for the 90’s, but both Stallone and the garish costume consume Dredd. Dredd 3D however is the opposite. Dredd is the star, and he is as brutal and unwavering as we could expect.

Prometheus Review

I finally got around to seeing Prometheus. It was well worth the wait, I saw it in 3D on the big screen at the RAI in Amsterdam. This was during IBC2012 (International Broadcasting Convention). I saw it on a laser projection screen in Dolby Surround 7.1 and Dolby 3D.

All this means that the quality was incredible. In terms of the actually movie I really enjoyed it. I have been a fan on the Alien franchise for a long time, even suffering through Alien Versus Predator 1 & 2, and the horror that was Alien: Resurrection.

Anyway I have always wondered about the giant in the chair from the original Alien film, now I know, well just about.

Even with the plot holes, and unfortunately there were a few, Prometheus synced up with Alien and Aliens very well. I don’t want to post too many spoilers but if you want to get some answers on the origins, then go and see Prometheus.

While it answers plenty of questions that have remained unanswered for over 20 years as a film it stands up in it’s own right fairly well. There is plenty of substance and character interaction to carry the film so that the excellent effects and 3D don’t feel like the end all of the film.

That said the effects are remarkable, which the filmmakers decided to showcase by filming many shots of Charlize Theron’s long, flowing hair. Considering that the film takes place over about 48 hours, she changes her hairstyle a rather inordinate amount of times. Still it looks very pretty in high-def 3D.

Later on there is an almost obligatory race against time to save the human race. While this is important to the overall plot it is somewhat clichéd, with a sequel in the works I think this will become even more of a major plot point.

Some of the characters feel familiar, such as Elizabeth Shaw who is quite reminiscent of Ripley. However this doesn’t come off as a carbon copy rather as a nod to an iconic female protagonist.

In true Alien style there are some genuinely creepy or horrifying moments. The sort of moments that do the face huggers and chest-bursters proud. Prometheus is an entertaining Sci-fi thriller that as a stand-alone film would have been found wanting but when synced with the Alien series pulls together rather well.

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