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Ian Kharitonov

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FIFA Soccer 2004
FIFA Soccer 2004
2 used & new from CDN$ 9.98

1.0 out of 5 stars Fifa 2004 Demo Impressions, Oct. 18 2003
This review is from: FIFA Soccer 2004 (CD-ROM)
There isn't much to speak about. Don't waste your money. EA Sports are cheating you. After spending hours and hours with the 35 MB demo -- which I downloaded the day it was released -- I can tell you that EA haven't fixed the frustrating problems seen in FIFA 2003. In fact, they've added even more.
So, I'm giving it one star for the official licence.
First of all let me tell you that I'm the kind of football gamer that doesn't care that much about graphics and fancy skill tricks. When I buy a football game, the thing I want first of all is great gameplay.
Now, first and foremost -- controls.
You can feel that the control scheme has been reworked. Players are now a bit "heavier" -- when you press the arrow keys, they prefer to walk instead of running. This forces you to keep the "run" button constantly pressed if you want your guys to do anything at all, which makes the players tired pretty quick. Not very good, but you get used to it quickly.
As for EA's "Off the Ball (TM)" system -- it doesn't work in the demo, but it's evident that the players, the ball and the pitch aren't all glued together, and that's nice.
The basics of the passing system basically remain unchanged.
The real problem is shooting. It doesn't feel like football at all. It's more like ice hockey. The ball travels at high speed almost in a straight line, and at 35-40 yards from goal, it hardly decelerates along its trajectory. So it's more like a puck. And the most complained about issue -- heading -- isn't solved. Headers are STILL terribly weak.
Another enormously frustrating issue is tackling. When you defend, a foul is given for the slightest touch with the attacker. If you slide, hit the ball and the opponent stumlbes even without falling -- a free kick is given! Also, when you steal the ball cleanly cleanly in your penalty area, but make contact with the opponent's feet -- the whistle goes and a penalty kick is awarded. Dear EA Sports researchers, THIS IS NOT BASKETBALL. Wrong game.
Speaking of fouls, we come to set pieces. Set pieces in Fifa 2004 are unmanageable. They include some of the "Off the Ball (TM)" mechanics, but they should have remained at least the same as last year. During free kicks or corners, you select the way you want to deliver the ball (near post, far post, center etc), then you select your field player, and start outmaneuvering your marker, trying to beat him for the ball. This offers you NO freedom of choice. You can't control the way you want to swing the ball, and you CAN'T PLAY A SHORT BALL from set pieces. WHY??
The free-kick shot meter is even more annoying than last year. Again, when the computer decides that I have to shoot from a certain distance, I can't make a pass or a cross -- unlike the previous version, when the cross-hair symbol could be moved from goal onto the pitch for passing. WHY?? set pieces become nothing more than an exercise in futility.
And the most atrocious fault that kills Fifa 2004 is GOALIE AI. There is NO goalie a.i. The Goalies are completely dumb. They never leave their line. Just as it was in Fifa '03 you can drive a 30-35 yard shot and they'll let it through in a half-hearted attempt to save it. You don't need to enter the penalty box -- hit the shoot button several yards outside the box and the ball will surely be in the back of the net, the goalie will miss it. Even if you aim for the near corner -- the one the keeper should be covering, just hit it hard enough and the goalie will fall on his backside or deflect it into his own net. Absolutely awful. And since they never leave their line unless the ball is closer than the penalty spot, one-on-ones are really one-on-zeros. Ugh!
And a bug that made its way from Fifa '03 is that when the goalies parry the ball, the ball accelerates. But that's a minor complaint compared to the fact that goalies are worthless at all, and can't save 25-30 yard shots. Although I have to give them credit for occasionally saving point-blank blasts. However, it makes goalie behavior even less realistic.
To sum up the demo experience, FIFA 2004 is nothing but a flashy candy wrapper with no substance. It can keep your attention for a few days, but the game itself is so shallow that all novelties will run out of their originality too soon. IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE BASIC GAMEPLAY ASPECTS WORKING WELL, THE GAME IS WORTHLESS.
So stick with titles that offer depth. Besides, the inclusion of Korean, Norwegian and Swiss leagues can't be the sole reason to buy ANY game.
Waiting for FIFA 2005.
~ Ian Kharitonov

The Da Vinci Code: A Novel
The Da Vinci Code: A Novel
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.69
284 used & new from CDN$ 0.18

5.0 out of 5 stars An American in Paris, July 16 2003
The Da Vinci Code has to be one of the most remarkable books I've read. It is a wonderful -- and very effective -- mix of history, mystery, action, puzzles and suspense. The pace is so powerful, the book just wouldn't let go! The storyline is almost to brilliant to conceive, the sheer genius and fascinating craftsmanship that Dan Brown uses in his book are breath-taking.
The idea behind the story may seem controversial, but once you think about it, it really does become quite real and even natural.
Don't rob yourself of the joy -- grab the book before it's sold out!

Gorky Park
Gorky Park
by Martin Cruz Smith
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
88 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly GOOD!!, June 10 2003
This review is from: Gorky Park (Mass Market Paperback)
Gorky Park is a wonderful and perfectly-executed attempt to portray a Russian protagonist in a Russian environment challenged by an American killer.
The writing is moody and absolutely beautiful, the story is very human, and more than once the characters (especially Renko) will bring you a warm compassianate smile. Even though there are some minor factual faults present, Gorky Park is an extremely satisfying piece of crime fiction, and Martin Cruz Smith is probably the only author who gives Russian cops some credit!

Charon's Landing
Charon's Landing
by Jack B. Du Brul
Edition: Paperback
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Sequel to continue a Great Series, April 8 2003
This review is from: Charon's Landing (Paperback)
I thought that Vulcan's Forge was spectacular, but Charon's Landing is so ingenious, it beats the first book in all categories. Charon's Landing quite simply puts the formula seen in Vulcan's Forge to a new level. The result is a high-caliber adventure. If you're looking for some fun involving eco-terrorists and Arab conspirators, dazzling settings and high-octane action, an unforgettable protagonist and a gorgeous femme fatale, then you've found your book!

Vulcan's Forge
Vulcan's Forge
by Jack B. Du Brul
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Non-stop Adventure !!, March 2 2003
Vulcan's Forge is not your average first-effort novel. It's much better!
The story is a breathtaking bullet-train ride with multilayered conspiracies. Jack came up with brilliantly schemed triple crosses in his debut novel -- Hawaii's claims of independency, an agonizing diplomatic deadlock in Thailand, a fifty-year-old shipwreck mystery, and a freighter that is not what it appears to be...
Great stuff, something anyone will regret missing!

Blue Gold: A Novel from the NUMA Files
Blue Gold: A Novel from the NUMA Files
by Clive Cussler
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
63 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Quite enjoyable IF..., Dec 30 2002
...you bear in mind that this is NOT a Dirk Pitt book, and everything happening here is set on a much smaller scale. Blue Gold clearly lacks the flair of Dr. Cussler's mainstream franchise, so don't expect that this novel will wow you like Pitt. Some parts are simply silly (like the henchmen twins), but then again, if you treat it as light entertainmnet, Blue Gold is a nice way to spend a weekend.

The Children's Story
The Children's Story
by James Clavell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars SCARY, Dec 28 2002
The Children's Story is the scariest book in print today. Whenever I read it, I feel uneasiness, the book really makes my skin crawl. Every page is more and more chilling. It is a psychological masterpiece -- Clavell brilliantly X-rays the mind of a small child and shows what tricks can be used to change it completely. A must-read for everyone, especially for parents of little kids!!

U.s.s. Seawolf
U.s.s. Seawolf
by Patrick Robinson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.99
74 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Robinson's crisis deepens, Dec 26 2002
Well, there's not much to say -- the plot is SHALLOW!! The Seawolf hits the bottom fast. The idea is great, but there are no plot twists at all (except for Linus's identity), the synopsis on the back cover reveals the whole story. The moment you start reading it you know what's going to happen next and how the whole thing is going to end. Extremely linear and really disappointing. Also, some characters are just pathetic. Patrick, get it right!!

Ice Station
Ice Station
by Matthew Reilly
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
89 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic International Debut!!, Dec 3 2002
Matthew Reilly packs a wallop!!
Ice Station is a book that will have the wind knocked out of you. This book is LITERALLY unputdownable! It's so engrossing, it'll ruin all your schedules! Action, action, intrigue, and even more action -- watch out for Reilly.

H.M.S. Unseen
H.M.S. Unseen
by Patrick Robinson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.50
66 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Rushed, Nov. 28 2002
Sure, Unseen is enjoyable. But in comparison with the first two books in the series, it's not as exciting and as rich as it could have been. Great potential, but clearly not enough effort put into this, probably Patrick faced a deadline or something. The beginning is great, but the ending is wasted. Too much time spent on describing historic landmarks and Ben moving from place to place. Otherwise, not bad. If you've read the first two, pick it up.

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