My Game of the Month – September: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

For someone who hasn’t invested in the Metal Gear series at all, I’m impressed that the works of Konami and Kojima were able to convince me to get this very impressive game. As a teen I had always heard of Metal Gear but it never appealed to me, maybe it was the complicated story line or the fact that your character had a crazy beard, I wasn’t sure (I was probably jealous of his strong beard game). But anyway, I ended up playing the very similar, less bizarre Splinter Cell games. To be honest though, I never truly understood what they were all about either, I’m sure if I played them all now I might just understand. Now that I’m an adult, I feel strong enough to approach Metal Gear, which I have realised whilst playing The Phantom Pain doesn’t matter because it turns out nothing makes sense anyway. Good job Kojima you madman.

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The main story is very serious, you deal with nuclear weapons, massacres and body mutilation it’s actually quite depressing, however the game is still able to slip in a fair number of silly elements which I know for a fact is a continuing theme throughout the series. If you’re into that then this latest installment want disappoint, want to send sheep or hedgehogs flying into the air using fultons? You can do that. Want to force your horse to defecate on the spot? You can do that. Want to beat up your Mother Base staff to raise their morale? You can do it. In The Phantom Pain everything is possible, almost. That’s one of the big positives for me with this game, I love sandbox environments and you have that. You can approach most missions however you’d like, you can choose from a range of buddies (who all have their own unique skills), your equipment, character, vehicle, everything. You can literally go in sneaky without any alarms or you could go in guns blazing, it’s up to you. Personally, I prefer the stealthy option, until I do something stupid and trigger an alarm, then I go loud. I usually die when that happens anyway.

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I haven’t finished the game as of yet but it still makes my Game of The Month for that very reason, there’s a lot of content here, you can get at least 40 hours gameplay for the average gamer. As a newbie to the Metal Gear universe I must say I’m very impressed and enticed to play more. I totally recommend this game to anyone who loves stealth games or even if you’re looking for something different from the generic shooter, you should give this a go.

Alexander Jones

New series: My Game of the Month

I’ve decided to create a series of reviews and opinions on games that I find the most enjoyable and worthy of each month. I think this will help maintain an updated blog each month as well give me a space to talk about some of the games that I have really been enjoying. This is definitely the best time to begin as loads of great games are on their way to release in the coming months. Hopefully you enjoy reading my opinions and like to see what I’ve been playing. My first Game of The Month will be Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

These pieces won’t necessarily be full length reviews, they will probably vary in size. I can always edit them to make extra comments after playing them.

Alexander Jones

The Transatlantic Crossing Featuring the Odd Mishap and Glass of Champagne

Intro (warning: long):

Before I begin discussing the actual crossing itself, I just wanted to debrief my rather bumpy journey of travelling to New York from Wales to meet my family. I was to travel alone (which I have never done before) to Gatwick airport from Newport, and get a flight to New York City. The trip started badly with the coaches being late, which made me panic to if I was going to actually make it on the flight, 3 and a half hours later I was at the airport. I was transferred at Heathrow onto another coach with National Express to take me to Gatwick. It’s relatively simple to navigate to the right terminals and such, although I can see how people can get overwhelmed by all the signs and long corridors. I was flying with Norwegian Airline who had a weird method of check-in, it was all computerised with a few not-so-helpful attendants walking about making little effort to help people. When I asked questions one man simply replied with a “deal with it” attitude. Sadly I bumped into this man later on at the worst moment of my journey. Everything was going fine after the check-in, I had a couple hours to spare so I decided to wander around the shops, then I settled at one of the restaurants to have food until it was time to get on the plane. This is when it went bad. Partly my families’ fault, but it wasn’t helped by the less-than-helpful staff. So I queue up ready to get into the waiting area to board the plane, boarding pass and passport in hand (pretty pleased with myself with getting this far), turns out you also need proof that you’re returning to the UK and not just taking asylum in the US. Panic attack. Rang my parents for guidance, I hadn’t got any cruise documents on me at all to prove I was coming home via transatlantic crossing. I asked the staff several times to help and chat to my dad about it over the phone and they refused even when it was quiet. It’s as though they had no respect for customer service at all! Why wouldn’t they help me considering they’d have to delay the flight to get my luggage off if I couldn’t board, pretty silly if you ask me. We had booked with Iglu for this crossing, and funnily enough none of their numbers worked, and I was running out of time to board. The queue became non-existent soon after and my final call was to Cunard directly. After getting past the robot woman who only slowed me down considerably I got talking to a real lady. Without even booking through Cunard they were able to find a receipt of my booking and send it over via email, I was saved! Panic over and I was soon after sitting on the plane preparing for the next 7 hours. I just wanted to compare the lazy and inconsiderate service of Norwegian Airline to the very good service from Cunard, who luckily guaranteed I’d get on board their grand ship. Several hours later and a taxi ride to the hotel, I was relaxing in New York City, ready for our transatlantic crossing aboard the Queen Mary 2.

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The Queen Mary 2 is still a magnificent ship to look at. From the drive down to the port my family and I were eager to peek out the window and watch in awe at the lovely white, grey and red ship. This was my third time on the QM2, and after being on a few larger ships such as the Independence of the Seas and Celebrity Eclipse, it did appear smaller. Not that it took anything positive away from the experience. Personally I find that the Queen Mary 2 is just about the right size, not too big like the massive Oasis or Allure of the Seas, and not too small like the Thomson Destiny (past cruise). From the moment you step on board you are greeted by friendly staff who are eager to make you satisfied. On Celebrity it’s common to be offered champagne or orange juice upon entering the ship, which I noticed was lacking from this particular Cunard embarkation, however it was made up by the free sparkling wine that was left in our rooms. From the inside I didn’t really notice any signs of age, not unless I focused on tiny details which would have been too picky. Yes it doesn’t look as flashy as more contemporary cruise ships but that’s what happens when you have thousands of people on and off continually. The exterior of the ship was less polished and I did notice the occasional pocket of rust but it wasn’t too bad, there were crew fixing it up as we walked round the promenade deck.

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My little brother and myself had an inside window cabin, so we were overlooking the main lobby. It was a surprise at first but I found it made the room feel more open compared to a normal inside cabin. That was until we kept seeing our neighbors directly in line with the window peering into our private space and decided to close the blinds the majority of the time. Still, a very nice and suitable cabin, nothing too fancy but more than adequate for the crossing. I always say that you don’t need the fanciest accommodation on a cruise or transatlantic crossing because you’ll spend most of your time out and about doing activities! Just a quick mention: if you haven’t been on a cruise before it’s good to note they do supply shampoo and conditioner but it’s not a lot and you should always bring your own. Don’t worry about towels.

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The main reason I wanted to come on this holiday was for the food. It didn’t disappoint either; great selection of meals at the main Britannia Restaurant, less so at Kings Court buffet. We only missed two nights at the main dining, the first and the third, every other night we spent in there was great. The staff were very quick taking orders, serving bread and water, and were always polite. It was superb Cunard standard. The Kings Court Buffet was a little different. After enjoying the freedom of selecting foods from all around the world on the Celebrity ships it was a little disappointing eating in Cunard’s very limited Kings Court. The food was still of decent quality and I did enjoy eating there, it was just a bit sad not having the same variety of foods to select from.

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As a 20 year old young adult, you’re not really well suited for a Cunard cruise. You can’t pop down the Teen Zone to make new friends and you don’t quite fit in with the older generation. There are events targeted at my age going up to 35 but I didn’t bother because I had tried something similar before and nobody turned up. I decided I’d do my own thing as well as join my parents. The actual activities on board are quite various. You could take part in a number of different activities out on deck playing games or inside the Golden Lion Pub taking part in the quiz (we did this a lot) for example. You shouldn’t really get bored, there’s actually too many events going on in a day that you can’t attend them all! On this crossing we mostly joined the guest speakers (Lord and Lady Howard (Former head for Conservative Party, Derek Tedder – broadcast journalist) who were exceptional, completed as many pub quiz’s as humanely possible, visited the planetarium, sunbathed and swam in the pool, watched several theatre performances as well as use the spa. Overall I’d say we made the most of our time on board the QM2.

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Cunard didn’t disappoint with its high-end service and my family and I are definitely going to use them again. There are small signs of aging, and this is emphasised when you’ve recently been on a more contemporary cruise-line, but nothing quite compares with the elegance and sophistication of Cunard’s masquerade parties in the Ballroom and exceptional dining in the main restaurant. Hopefully we’ll see the Queen Mary 2 again soon.

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