I went into it with more knowledge of the Universe.
On Saturday night, my friend and fellow blogger decided to drag me to see a band at a pub called The Office. The band were called Mugshot and were surprisingly…er, surprising.
With the opening of the gig reverberating with the intro of Metallica’s Enter Sandman, I was reserving judgment against whether the lead singer would be able to keep up with the instrumental talent that the rest of the band seemed to so effortlessly emit. And with his first words, he managed this. Flawlessly.
Enter Sandman’s extraordinary guitar solos were matched note-for-note by Mugshot’s lead guitarist. It set a high president for whether their following pieces would be able to live up to this opener.
But with the second and third songs being Time is Running Out by Muse and Raidohead’s legendary Creep, they proved more than capable. Even if the leads vocals weren’t up to Matt Bellamy’s range.
U2 and a very rock version of Live and Let Die by the musical deity that is Sir Paul McCartney followed. Spectacular. This band was very old school - made even more apparent that the members were all very middle-aged.
By this point in my eyes, they could do not wrong. This was the moment that I chose to nip out for a very rushed smoke.
I returned to them playing Dani California by the Chili Peppers. Here, the lead vocals kept up with the tempo of the verse lyrics absolutely perfectly and added their own quirk to the chorus. Lead guitar flawlessly shredded out the final outro salvo with incredible precision.
With the next song being U2’s Vertigo; they kept up the goosebumps. Hello, hello!
I must say that by now, I was starting to get the feeling that Mugshot were big fans of Bono and his crew.
Unfortunately, with a heavy heart and much begrudgement they had a break for 20 minutes, and I had to catch my last bus home.
Their whole sound was crisp and clear and unlike with a lot of unsigned “pub” bands, their sound levels were spot on. The music didn’t drown out the vocals, and the bass guitar wasn’t so quiet that a mouse sneezing would have been louder. You really got the impression that Mugshot really enjoyed what they did, and that they put massive amounts out practice into being able to perform with such perfection.
And now, as if by magic, we move from a superb performance, to a truly shocking performance from a band who really should’ve known better (it’s almost as if I actually planned this transition).
As I’m sure that a few of you are aware, there was a massive American sporting even on last night. The Super Bowl is what I can only describe as the FA Cup Final in Britain. Except bigger - much, much bigger. It just oozes everything there is about America. The commercials, the atmosphere, the dramatic commentators, the fake grass they were playing on. It was the Steelers vs the Packers. I have no idea what this means, but I was rooting for the Steelers because I noticed that the Packers had a bloke on their team who had a long ginger perm; and kind of looked like a girl.
When I first started watching, I was more clued up on how the universe worked, but honestly, by half-time, I was really getting into it and really starting to get an understanding for the rules of American Football and why it is such a big event over in the US.
So yes. The Half-Time Show. I really was expecting something truly fantastical for an event of this magnitude - but we got a painfully terrible performance from The Black Eyed Peas instead. They were out of tune, totally unco-ordinated and they seemed so completely flustered. Even a cameo appearance from the guitar legend himself, Slash, couldn’t make it better. By the time Usher gracefully dropped from the sky for his 30 second slot, it was just lost.
From a massive band like the Peas, I would really have expected more. I found it honestly disappointing to watch - even Fergie wasn’t looking that attractive.
I would rather have watched Mugshot play there than the Peas.
It’s been three years since we were first thrust into Desmond Miles’ DNA Memories
of the legendary assassin, Altair, via the Animus. This nifty bit of kit allows people to be able to see and live the memories of their ancestors through their DNA. Since then we’ve been absorbed by Desmond’s epic story. His kidnapping by Abstergo Industries (the modern day Templar’s), his epic fight against the Crusaders through Altair, and his expansive quest through Italy and the rest of 14th Century Europe via the Italian Stallion, Assassin Ezio Auditore for an artifact called the Piece of Eden - an Apple with super awesome powers.
We have quite literally watched Ezio grow up from being a baby to a fully-fledged legend Head of the Assassin Brotherhood. We watch his father and brother’s get executed and we play his strife to find the man who killed them, Uberto Alberti to avenge their deaths. Due to this, we have grown a certain affinity to this man; even though Desmond’s story began with Altair. Thankfully, there is still reference to Altair, through weapons, armour, conversation and in-game history.
The ‘real-time’ setting of the game is 2012. The world is in turmoil. A plague has wiped out Africa. There are Americans trying to get into Mexico as refugees. High amounts of severe hurricanes all over the world. And perhaps the worst, the closure of the last major film studio in an unnamed country; we all know it’s probably America, but we’ll just let Ubisoft keep thinking that we don’t know.
Throughout the game we get to leave the Animus and stretch out legs as Desmond in the Abstergo headquarters. Here we meet Lucy Stillman and learn a little bit about what is really going on.
Altair, can you lend a hand? Perhaps a blade?
First impressions were that of absolute awe as we journeyed through the Middle-East during the times of the Third Crusade in search of the Piece of Eden (which is essentially an apple - with super awesome powers), whilst avoiding the Templar’s, beggars, guards and water (Yes, water. Apparently the ability to swim isn’t a necessity on a budding Assassin’s CV). We were -I mean - Altair, was under the leadership of Al Mualim, head of the Assassin’s Brotherhood. Under his leadership, we were told to hunt down and assassinate (but more often than not, screw up, and end up in a massive fight with the odds stacked against you, winning and feeling like God) nine key figure heads of the Templar’s and Crusader’s. Each *ahem* assassination would bring you closer to the final target of Robert de Sable, the Crusader Army Leader, and the Piece of Eden. During each mission, you had the choice to be able to complete various side tasks that would affect the main mission such as reduce the number of guards lurking around the area etc.
- Altair looking badass
These did, however get a bit monotonous once you got about half-way through the story. Thankfully, however, you only had to actually take a pick of two the five or six choices per assassination. Obviously, the more you completed, the easier the final stage would be. But it was much more fun to go straight in and have a fight, or chase the more cowardly ones around.
After each main target assassination, Altair would have a little chat with his victim and finally saying “Rest in Peace”. During these final words, it would emerge that each one of the targets genuinely thought that what they were doing was right and just - planting the seeds of doubt into the mind of the player, and the ominousity that perhaps something was amiss. It turned out that there was. After having a beastly battle with Robert de Sable, he lets you in on the secret that Al Mulaim was in fact a traitor and was using you to get him closer to his goal of getting the Apple for himself by killing all the others that wanted it. Naturally, we couldn’t let that happen and promptly dispatch him. And by promptly, I of course mean after many retries and a side helping of annoyance.
After Altair deals with Al Mualim we get thrown back into Desmond’s boots back in 2012. Abstergo want to kill him and run off and have a nosey for the Pieces of Eden in the current day. Apparently there are 15 of these things scattered around the world. Curiously, Lucy Stillman steps in and manages to convince Abstergo not to kill Desmond. Turns out that she’s a mole for the modern day Assassins. Who are also trying to find the Pieces of Eden before Abstergo do. Just a classic story of Good vs Evil, but written in such a way that literally drags you into the game.
Desmond starts to become affected by his ancestors in a different way at the end of the first game. It’s called ‘the bleeding effect’ and is the term given to the affect of the Animus’ subjects having their ancestors abilities bled into them, via the Animus.
Requiescat in Pace, you bastard!
At the start we are instantly thrown into the thick of it when we have to make an escape from the Abstergo headquarters with the aid of Lucy. Once we manage to escape, we rendezvous with Lucy’s Assassin allies, Rebbecca and Shaun and settle into our new safe-house.
Shaun is the classical stereotypical Brit in this game. Sarcastic, pessimistic, arrogant and a cardigan and shirt wearer - but in a comical way that us Brits are. He is the historian and researcher.
Rebbecca is also wrapped up in a classical stereotype parcel. But inside this one is a trendy American geek - big headphones, glasses, computer whizz and cute. She made the Animus 2.0 that Desmond will be making much use of in the second instalment of the series.
So anyway. It appears that Altair had offspring over the centuries and passed on the Assassin-ness (I’ve decided that’s a word now) through the generations until it reached Ezio Auditore - the earlier mentioned Italian Stallion.
- Teenage Ezio
We do quite literally follow this guy from birth. We see him born, we watch him grow up. His first love and we see his Father and brothers hanged by Uberto Alberti, another Templar, and we join him on his mission of revenge to take down this frightfully horrid man.
Once that is done, he takes refuge with his Uncle Mario at the Monteriggioni Villa. Upon arriving here Mario lets him in on the secret of the Assassin’s Brotherhood an that he was born into it. Ezio then starts training in the arts of the Assassin. At it’s core, the baseline layout of the game is much of the same as the first Assassin’s Creed - however, the whole thing just feels much more crisp and in depth. You really get a feeling of the importance of the Piece of Eden and much, much closer to the main characters. Plus, they got rid of them stupid little side tasks that you HAD to do before each mission. More emphasis was placed on Free Roam and we were given a whole bunch of new toys to play with. Like the pistol and poison. The latter was always good if you just fancied the entertainment of a slowly dying baddie flailing around like Elle in Kill Bill after Uma Thurman rips her other eye out. But other than that, it was pretty useless. At least the pistol had the ability to take down a beasty Brute in a single shot.
Another new element was the combat system. Ubisoft added a number of new elements to this in the form of interesting new ways to kill and beat up enemies. Even if we didn’t bother using them because we were too busy spamming the standard attack and counter button.
During Ezio’s training, he comes across some bloke called Leonardo Da Vinci. Apparently he was some talented bloke who lived during the Renaissance. In the game he made Ezio new weapons and helped him decode Altair’s codex logs.
Once we make peace with all but one of Uberto’s co-conspirators, Rodrigo Borgia,the story skips forward 10 years. This seedy man has the Papal Staff and tries to use it to gain access to the Piece of Eden that is hidden in a secret vault in the depths of The Vatican. You engage in a bit of good old fistie-cuffs with him and obviously perform a beat down on his backside before he can open the vault. Annoyingly, the game makes you spare his life, and he runs away like a little coward so that he can cause more trouble for you in the third installment. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
So yeah. We beat him up, he runs away, leaving us to open up the vault to get to the Apple. And this is where is get weird and looking all funky with glowing neon veins in the walls. A hologram of a woman, called Minerva, appears and starts taking some crap about the Piece of Eden and the responsibility of power and how they are a aincient race dubbed ‘The ones who came before’ - blah, blah, blah, herr-derrr. Long story short. You get the Apple.
And then WHAM! You get dragged out of the Animus because it appears that Abstergo have found your hide out! Looks like it’s up to you to save the day and help fight off the their henchmen with your newly bled powers from Ezio, whilst the rest of your team can escape. Thankfully, you manage to get into the escape van in time and they don’t leave without you.
Nothing is true; Everything is permitted.
The third game lifts off directly where the second one finishes. In the depths of the Vatican. It turns out that your Uncle Mario has followed you and gets a little bit annoyed that you let Borgia escape. But it quickly passes and you travel back to the Monteriggioni Villa together with the newly plundered treasure.
It turns out that whilst you’ve been gone, Mario’s mercenaries have been busy with the installation of some funky siege cannons. You get a little bit of practice with them and have to go and have the surprise of a surprise party that your sister ruined for you but some ditzy bint who couldn’t be arsed to carry a crate of flowers up some stairs.
Either way. You have your party, and hop into bed with Claudia. You have a lovely night together, until Borgia’s men decides that he’s going to come and attack your villa that you spend aaages re-venerating in ACII. They also destroy your armour, and you lose your weapons. This is all very annoying, and upon having a brief tactical chat with Mario, you decide that he’ll take the Apple and go take a bunch of men out to fight them directly whilst you, the super assassin, hangs back and mans the cannons. I can’t help but feel that I would’ve kicked the slimy Borgia scum straight back to where they came from. But I didn’t write the game.
So you get beaten back and Borgia’s men breach the walls. At the forefront is Cesare Borgia - Rodrego’s son. And he’s got a very tired looking Mario at gunpoint. In a fit of epicness, Ezio attempts to save him, but just gets told to sit the fuck down by a bullet to the shoulder. Cesare shoots Mario and takes the Apple, and Ezio narrowly escapes with his life.
After seeing Cesare execute his uncle, Ezio decides to ride back to Rome to avenge his death. Predictably, he doesn’t make it as a result of the bullet hole through the shoulder and passes out.
This is when Desmond wakes up in 2012 at the Monteriggioni Villa. The groups new hideout. Here they set up shop in the Assassin’s tomb in the basement, and get back to work to recover the Piece of Eden.
Upon hopping back into the Animus, you wake up as Ezio in Rome. It turns out you were fortunate enough for a nice man called Machiavelli. This man gives you new armour, weapons and gives you the support you need to exact revenge on and liberate the people of Rome from the oppression of the Borgia.
And so ensues a series of missions to help disrupt the Borgia army and influence. Along the way Ezio makes a number of Alliances in the form of Courtesans, Thieves and Mercenaries. As well as growing your own guild through the recruitment of trainee assassins - who you eventually train up to be fully fledged assassins; rivaled only by you. You even bump into Leonardo Da Vinci again. And it turns out the spanner has been making war machines for the Borgia - and you have to destroy them. Which is quite cool.
Also, the French turn up for a while - didn’t quite understand why, but they get the hint and fuck off after a bit.
As the game proceeds and gets into its latter stages, Machiavelli gives you the honour of being promoted to Leader of the Assassins. Which is awesome no matter what time you live in.
You eventually catch up with Rodrego and Cesare. Annoyingly, Cesare poisons his dad and tries to run away to get the Piece of Eden. You manage to get to it before him and he runs away yet again. In case you haven’t noticed already, the Borgia family do this a lot. It consumes me with rage.
Anyway. Cesare fucks off leaving you with the Apple and free reign to go around kicking the remnants of the Borgia army out of Rome. It turns out the Apple has some pretty funky sweet powers.
Once this task is completed - Ezio uses the Piece of Eden to look into the future and sees that he must track down Cesare and kill him. Leonardo tries to stop him, saying that he is needed to run the Brotherhood; to which Ezio replies - rather epicly, “I built this Brotherhood to last; with or without me.”
Ezio Manages to track down Cesare mid assault on Viana in Spain. And proceeds to catch up with him on the battlement wall. Here you have a climactic battle with Cesare which predictably results in you getting the upper hand. Upon this happening, Borgia claims that he cannot be killed by the hands of man. So Ezio lobs him off the wall to fall to his death, “at the hands of fate”.
Once returning to Rome, Ezio puts the Apple back into the vault under the Vatican where it was originally recovered at the end of the previous game.
And this is where we return back to Desmond and the gang back in 2012. We know where the last known location of the Piece of Eden was and they hop to it to go get it. They turn up at the Colosseum and tell Desmond to find a way round to open the door to the church upon where the Apple is under. After a long run through the tunnels under Rome, Desmond and the gang finally get reunited and they make their way into the vault together.
Some more weird stuff happens involving that hologram wifey and the walls with blue veins. When Desmond picks up the Eden, it takes control of him and in a shocking twist of events, time stops and the game, or rather the Apple, forces you to kill Lucy. Once doing do, Desmond passes out and the credits roll…
And in conclusion.
Throughout this game, we’ve learnt the important strategic benefit of piles of hay - as well as their amazing and surprising shock absorption capabilities. We’ve learnt, to our peril, that Altair can’t in fact swim and we’ve learnt that climbing to the top of a particularly tall building and falling off hurts.
We have also learnt that it’s not just the Japanese that are capable of writing a truly spectacular and twisting story line. Ubisoft has indeed taken us, to paraphrase Matt Bellamy, on a ride through the veins of history.
Hopefully the wait for the fourth in the series won’t be a long one. And hopefully you made it to the bottom of this blog without dying of old age!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, which shockingly a couple of my mates have been, you perhaps may have noticed some degree of unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.
It was all started by the residents of Tunisia finally getting fed up with Dictatorship rule and decided they wanted a democracy. So they did it in the only they could - protests. They eventually managed to “peacefully” hoof their dictator Ben Ali after 30 years.
After seeing this; people in Yeman, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and most notably, Egypt have all decided that they’re fed up with their dictators - or in the case of Saudi - their Monarch and fancy dabbling in the art of the democracy. Which is fair enough, if the people want to try it, they should be allowed to try it. And they’ve been successful on varying levels. Tunisia got rid of Ben Ali, Jordan has reduced income tax and raised minimum wage and Yeman, well, Yeman is still protesting, but that’s been drowned out by the media - because they find Egypt that much more interesting.
So onto Egypt. Their leader, Mubarak decided that he would be especially awkward about it and decide that he would barricade himself in his presidential palace and refuse to bow to demands. This was the case, until yesterday, when he gave his first television interview since the unrest began to US network broadcaster, ABC.
-Pull a pose for the camera!
In this interview Mubarak claimed that he didn’t want to step down because “there will be chaos”. Excuse me for saying this, but have you even looked outside recently? You are aware of what is becoming of Cairo, right? It looks like a war zone, mate. But then, I guess, for a dictator of 60 odd years, you would class a democracy as chaos.
He then went to say that “after 62 years in public service, I have had enough”. That’s somewhat excellent news. So why is he refusing to step down until (as he claims) September? He’s playing the classic dictator game of ‘making less sense than rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic’. At least he got one thing right by stating that he would “die on this [Egyptian] soil”. Damn right you will, you will if you don’t leave and the protesters ultimately get to you.
Of course, Mubarak has his own supporters, and they have taken to the streets in protest against the anti-Mubarak protesters. You didn’t need the gift of foresight to know how this was going to turn out. Fights. Both sides are even taking ‘prisoners’. Think of them as POOPs (Prisoners of opposing Protesters).
As until now, the Egyptian Army is still mincing around in the middle ground, not quite sure on which leg to lean on. Even though, officially they are still supporting Mubarak by keeping a heavy guard around his palace - however they aren’t stepping up to the protesters to attempt to calm the situation as apparently ordered to by Mubarak, and they aren’t also siding with the anti-government protesters either. They are literally sitting to one side observing and aiding in the treatment of casualties.
-Some troops have even went as far as to put anti-Mubarak slogans on the side of their tanks.
Time will tell what stance the army decides to take; there are many reasons why they would chose either side, with their benefits, and their drawbacks. But this crisis has the potential of going one of three ways:
1.All out Civil War
2.Mubarak leaves/gets turfed out and a good democracy is called in.
3.Mubarak leaves/gets turfed out and a bunch of nutters manage to get power.
Either way, Egypt will see change. For good, or for bad. And they’re going to have an absolutely shocking clean up bill.
In other news, a Mexican student in London is suing Top Gear for making ‘racist’ and ‘derogatory’ comments about Mexican’s on Sunday’s show. Typical.
It was a joke on the stereotypes of a Mexican. If a person of another nationality started insulting us with our stereotypes, would us British be bothered? No, in fact, we would probably laugh along with it - because, we have a SENSE OF HUMOUR, which turns out to be something that the flatulent, poncho-wearing, ‘tash-sporting, tequila-drinking, lazy slobs from Mexico apparently can’t be bothered to develop. But this is coming from a race who wears bowler hats, pin striped suits with a newspaper under the arm and carries a long un-opened umbrella, even in summer - what would we know? We just want a terribly spiffing cup of tea and a crumpet.
I tried sniffing Coke once, but the ice cubes got stuck in my nose.
Drugs are illegal, talking about them isn’t. But perhaps this should change? Recently, there has been increasing support in the UK to legalise drugs. Evidence suggests that the legalisation of drugs would in fact reduce crime and reduce drug related deaths. Obviously, this needs to be done properly, and not by our current government and it’s ham-fisted approach to just about everything. Of course, there will always be those that are against policy change, and those that are in favour of it, especially with a subject title as sensitive and controversial as this. Either way, it definitely needs to be looked into by governments, not just in this country, but in countries around the world. I think if something like this was successful, it could have the potential to be a giant stepping stone in humanity’s social liberal evolution.
Not very many people are aware of this, but in 2001 drugs were decriminalised in Portugal as part of an experiment to see what affect it would have on a society as big as a county. Decriminalisation means that the taking of drugs doesn’t carry a punishment, however, possession with intent to supply and trafficking still does. What they did was change drugs into a matter of public health, instead of treating it as a criminal matter.
Instead of punishing drug users, they are offered therapy and medical help to be able to reform. 10 years on, there is evidence to suggest that this has worked. There was an instant reduction and sustained drop in the negative effects of drugs use. However, conflicting evidence suggests that the use of some drugs has actually increased. It could be argued that this ‘increase of use’ that was seen, was merely just an increase in the amount of people who had just tried drugs.
Contrary to popular belief, drugs are illegal in Holland. They just don’t enforce the law onto the Cafe’s that sell them. Their policy on drugs is similar to Portugal’s - to offer aid and support to those that need it. In 1998, the Dutch Government opened special clinics where Heroin addicts can go to satisfy their addictions in safe, clean environments, with the use of clean needles and under the watchful supervision of specialised staff that would be able to offer instant medical support in the event of an emergency.
As afore mentioned, there will always be those that don’t think that these are good ideas. And I can see how they wouldn’t be. From the outside it can look like drug users are being encouraged to use. But evidence from Holland suggests that Heroin use has decreased.
It would seem that giving addicts proper, sustained support to overcome their problem is the answer, rather than hitting them with criminal charges, throwing them in prison and forcing Methadone down their necks.
Obviously education needs to be offered along side this support. The education needs to be implemented at schools from an early age. Good education. Implemented into the national syllabus of schools. When I was at school, the only ‘education’ I ever got about drugs was from private workshops that toured the country offering quite an intensive and dramatic lessons on drugs, but these were rare, seen once a year, at the most. But to compliment these, all we got from the school itself was the odd lesson of “Drugs are bad, don’t do them”. Which in my opinion, was shit. Mmmmkay.
Ultimately, it would be good to see all addictive drug use to be eradicated - with people only dabbling their hand for the odd recreational venture. But this isn’t likely in my lifetime.
What I think that a lot of people fail to understand, is the impact of their demand for illegal drugs has on foreign countries. Want to avert your eyes to Brazil? Columbia? Afghanistan?
If drug laws were liberalised here, then they would be ultimately liberalised there too. The only reason why there is a “Drug War” is because they are illegal. Thousands of people are killed in the Drug War every year because countries such as the US put massive pressure on Brazil and Columbia to eradicate the drug trade. Obviously, because these countries don’t want to be on the wrong end of the United States political and military whip they pull out all the stops to remove and disrupt the drug trade emanating from their country. As is always the case with criminal gangs, the harder the government push them, the harder they resist and fight back. It’s a vicious circle that needs to stop. It’s quite abundantly clear that this tactic isn’t working. It hasn’t worked for the past three or four decades, why would it suddenly work now? Has human intelligence not learnt that battles of attrition don’t work - because the weaker side will always go underground and play a game of Guerillas and Super Powers.