Singularity – Review (PS3)

Singularity was another of those games I’d been meaning to get around to for ages. Then on my first play through I encountered a horrible corrupt save bug that meant my PS3 reset itself every other time I hit a checkpoint in the game.

After deciding to cut my losses and just restart the game, I blasted my way through the couple of hours I’d lost and was back up to speed in no time.

Hopefully that is an issue that won’t affect many people because other than that Singularity was a pretty smooth running game.

It’s made by Raven (of Wolverine fame) so unfortunately my pet hate of having no subtitle option rears it’s ugly again but that certainly isn’t a game breaker.

Singularity tells the story of Captain Nathaniel Renko, a military investigator sent as part of a squad to check out a weird electromagnetic surge originating in Russia.

I won’t touch on the story any more than that as the game had some very nice plot twists and interesting mechanics.

Graphically the game looks ok – I wasn’t particularly blown away by it – and the controls handle well enough.

Singularity is similar to Bioshock in that you have one hand wielding a weapon and the other using a power. Rather than plasmids, in this case it’s the TMD (Time Manipulation Device) which allows you to age or revitalise items (such as broken staircases/bridges etc) or even people if you wish.

The TMD also allows you (at certain pre-scripted points in the game) to open up time rifts and travel back in time. This leads to some great game moments but, as with anything time travel related, can mean the story becomes fairly complex.

Overall, Singularity is a good game. My bugged first attempt at playing it didn’t discourage me enough to put me off the game and I’m glad of that. This is a competent shooter with a decent story and some really nice plot moments.

Rating: 7/10

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Just Cause 2 – Review (PS3)

As someone who didn’t play the original Just Cause this game wasn’t really on my radar until a Gametrailers special featuring it. Once I got my hands on the demo and experienced it for myself, I knew I’d end up getting a copy.

The game takes place a few years after the first game with agency operative Rico Rodriguez taking a trip to the (fictional) island of Panau in Asia. His mission is to assassinate Panau’s repressive leader ‘Baby’ Panay and track down Tom Sheldon, a rogue operative who has defected away from the agency.

The big draw here is the gameplay itself, which consists of causing as much chaos as possible. And that’s literally ‘chaos’ – it’s the game’s version of XP and you’ll need a set amount to unlock the agency missions as you go along.

Which brings me to my one major complaint with Just Cause 2… it’s too long. I know that might sound crazy, when people complain games are so short these days but this game took me 23 hours to play through. That in itself wouldn’t be a problem if they’d added in some extra agency missions.

In fact it’s more of a pacing issue than the length of the game. With only 6 agency missions (the last one kicks straight in after mission 6) that is a lot of time (almost 4 hours to unlock each mission if you split it equally) to be messing around and causing chaos.

It is super fun to cause chaos and the takeover/faction missions are mainly interesting but I felt a few of the bigger side missions could’ve been incorporated as full agency missions. It felt like I was really grinding towards the last mission by the time I got anywhere near it.

I always think the best games find a way of making sure you don’t feel bored on the route to unlocking missions, sadly for me I found it a bit of a struggle towards the end of the game.

But overall that’s an issue that won’t bother some people and it certainly doesn’t hurt the gameplay or any of the mechanics at play here.

Just Cause 2 is a great game. It builds on the framework of the original game and titles like Mercenaries 2 to provide one of the best open world experiences out there. I wish I had got around to playing this last year as it would certainly have got a nod for Single Player Game Of The Year.

While the game is based around the spy/thriller genre it has such a sense of fun that you can’t help but laugh at most of it. With the ability to tie an enemy to a gas canister, shoot it and send him whizzing into the air you get the feeling the developers had a blast making it.

Speaking of blasts Just Cause 2 has some great looking explosions and with the amount of them happening it can make for some pretty spectacular gameplay.

When you find yourself chasing and shooting down a recently launched space rocket with a fighter jet, you know you’re onto a winner. 😆

With a whole heap of content (I think my 23 hours equates to about 20% of the game) and the fact the game is so much fun, I would definitely recommend giving Just Cause 2 a chance. This is the perfect title to get stuck into over these barren game release summer months.

Rating: 9/10

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Top 50 Single Player Games: Part Five (The Top 10)

So we’re finally here – the Top 10 single player games. The cream of the crop.

If you’re just tuning in here are the previous entries:

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PART ONE (50-41)

PART TWO (40-31)

PART THREE (30-21)

PART FOUR (20-11)

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Which brings us to the final part of the list. The last two times I did these single player lists the Uncharted games had a strangle hold on the top two positions… has anything come along that could dislodge them?

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10. BIOSHOCK (8)

Bioshock has a great story to tell and it does it well with some interesting objectives and brilliantly designed levels.

There are several twists and turns in the plot, most of which are not obvious and it’s no surprise to me that a film version is in the works (although I believe currently suspended due to budget concerns).

Dark worlds like Rapture aren’t to everyone’s tastes but you really would be missing out on an awesome story if you decided not to book a trip to the underwater city.

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9. GRAND THEFT AUTO IV (7)

One the biggest selling games of this generation GTA IV features the fortunes (and lack therof) of Niko Bellic – an immigrant arriving in the US at Liberty City to find empty promises and broken dreams from his cousin Roman.

As you work your way up the criminal ladder you’ll encounter all sort of dodgy characters and befriend even more.

Liberty City is a wonderful, if run down, place and Niko Bellic’s story is one you will enjoy playing through so make sure you pick this game up as soon as possible.

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8. MASS EFFECT 2 (NE)

Mass Effect had always been the one XBox 360 franchise that I’d wanted to play – Gears Of War? Alan Wake? Halo? All good games I’m sure but not tempting to me. Mass Effect? Yes please :smile:

I won’t discuss the story at all as I don’t want to spoil anything for people that haven’t played it yet. Needless to say it’s your standard save the universe fair and with the game set in space that’s literally the universe you’ll be saving!

I can safely say Mass Effect 2 is one of the deepest games I’ve played. In much the same way as Fallout 3 plays out different for each person that plays it, this is a game where your overall story will be the same but the variables between start and end are numerous. It says something that I had minimum frustration and didn’t really get bored at all with a game that clocks in at over 32 hours.

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7. FALLOUT 3 (6)

After a tough few hours at the start you will find yourself rewarded greatly for sticking with this awesome FPS / RPG.

The story line sprawls across the world depending on your actions and you’ll find yourself taking a break from main missions to explore the wasteland or help out other characters.

I could go on and on about various things that happened and how cool it was, how great the story was or whatever.

But Fallout 3 is a game that needs to be experienced first hand and your story will no doubt play out differently to mine.

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6. METAL GEAR SOLID 4 (5)

Hideo Kojima’s tale of Solid Snake’s final mission is a brilliant showcase of the Playstation 3′s power.

This is a game that often gives you three or four different ways of approaching things – whether you realise it or not.

Metal Gear Solid 4 rewards those patient enough to stick with it by giving them a great gaming experience, with some memorable boss battles, that they won’t forget.

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5. HEAVY RAIN (4)

Heavy Rain is the spiritual successor to Fahrenheit, a fantastic PS2 title, and it’s creators have used the lessons from that game to help form the experience that is Heavy Rain.

And I say experience because Heavy Rain is unlike anything I’ve played before.

Telling the story of the Origami Killer, who kidnaps young boys and drowns them in rain water, Heavy Rain sees you controlling four main characters and through their actions – whether everyday stuff like carrying in the shopping or a frantic fight for their life – you get a real feel for the characters.

It says a lot that as soon as I finished this game I wanted to play through it again straight away. I want to give the characters a slightly different personality, experiment to see what happens and find out how it changes the story.

Heavy Rain is by no means perfect but it brings a whole raft of new ideas and innovation to the table.

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4. DEAD SPACE (3)

Coming on somewhere between Event Horizon and Aliens, Dead Space is a third person survival horror game.

You take on the role of Isaac Clarke, a ship engineer who finds himself trapped onboard a stricken spaceship infested with an alien outbreak which is threatening to take over the ship.

This was one of the best games I played in the year it was released and it’s use of sound is immense. The fear of the unexpected they create is awesome.

I am not a big fan of horror movies or being made to jump all the time but Dead Space kept on the right side of all that by being unpredictable enough to be enjoyable as a ‘horror’ experience.

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3. UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE (2)

Uncharted maps the journey of Nathan Drake as he tries to find the lost treasure of El Dorado encountering, among other things, rival treasure hunters and mercenaries.

The graphics are unbelievable and the gameplay is well paced and well thought out. The characters and story and really well conceived and Nolan North, who voices Drake, is absolutely spot on with his irreverent humour and wisecracks.

At its heart Uncharted is an action adventure game much in the vein of Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider but, and I say this as a fan of both of these, it is better than either of them.

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2.  UNCHARTED: AMONG THIEVES (1)

Uncharted 2 is a complete gaming package. There is plenty of taking out bad guys, lots of puzzles and some wonderful dialogue.

Naughty Dog really have done a great job on the voice acting and the expressiveness of the character models. It is easily the best I’ve come across (though Heavenly Sword was a close second).

I won’t spoil the story but for those who don’t know, Nathan Drake gets pulled back into that murky world of treasure hunting for hire. I loved the story of this game – with a few twists I saw coming and a few I didn’t.

If you own a PS3 there is no reason not to own this game – if you only have an XBox 360 or Wii then get yourself a PS3 Slim and enjoy one of the most finely crafted games I’ve ever experienced.

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1. RED DEAD REDEMPTION (NE)

Red Dead Redemption tells the story of former gang member John Marston and how he is forced onto a quest to track down his old ‘buddies’ on behalf of the US government.

I don’t recall a sandbox game with such a fascinating and well realised world. The way the world around you continues regardless is reminiscent of GTA games but everything here just makes you feel a part of something larger.

The positives are numerous, for one the story, voice acting and characterisation in Red Dead Redemption is fantastic. This is up there with the Uncharted series for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

There is so much to do in the world that it is crazy. There are a whole host of side missions to undertake and mini games as well. I’m not a big player of cards but I found myself spending 40/50 minutes at a time playing poker or blackjack. Or horseshoes. Or arm wrestling. The list is huge.

It has been a while since a game had me smiling, eyes wide and with goosebumps on my arms at what was unfolding in front of me but Red Dead Redemption managed it. This for me is the best game I have ever played – not an accolade that I use lightly but one that is fully deserved.

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Well, it was always going to take something special to knock Nathan Drake and co. off of the top spot and cowboy John Martson takes home the plaudits this time around.

There have been some great games released even since I started compiling this list, with plenty more to come later in the year and beyond. Perhaps one of those will edge it’s way to the top next time.

Let me know if any of your favourites were missing from the list. Do you agree on Red Dead usurping Uncharted? Was there anything you were surprised made the Top 10? (or even Top 50!)

As always thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment.

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Uncharted 3 – Multiplayer Beta Impressions (PS3)

As a big fan of the Uncharted series I’m really excited to play the third instalment, Drake’s Deception, which hits in November later this year.

Although that’s still a little way off, the guys and girls at Naughty Dog have given us a taster in the form of an online multiplayer beta.

While the Uncharted games are renowned for their awesome single player campaigns, when multiplayer was added to the second game it turned out to be a solid, well rounded addition.

So I was there as the clocked ticked over to 10pm and the beta was released. I downloaded it no problem but unfortunately so did the rest of the world and it was nigh on impossible to get on for the first few days, with various connection errors etc.

Thankfully it settled down and I was treated to a tour de force of online action.

There are two maps (with a third having arrived this week that I haven’t had a chance to play yet) Airstrip and Chateau – both visually great and a whole heap of fun to play.

As with the previous game you’ll be climbing all over the place and the maps have various vertical levels for you to use.

Airstrip even starts with one team in a plane and the other chasing on jeeps for the first few minutes. The entire thing is a sight to behold and after a couple of minutes a cut scene signifies you’re onto the Airstrip itself to battle it out.

You can customise your characters in a big way and even design a logo that will appear through the map if you’re the best player.

There are now different loadouts (though changing between them in game costs medals), weapon mods and a new system called Medal Kickbacks. As you collect medals during the game they stack up until you can activate your kickback. So one might spawn an RPG into your hands or another will let you disappear in a puff of smoke and respawn somewhere else on the map 😎

In addition to those, Boosters return from the second game but seem a lot more effective and rounds now feature Power Plays – basically a shot in the arm to the losing team. So the losing team may be able to see all of the winning team’s locations on screen.

These are great because it can help swing a match back in the losing team’s favour but also because the winning team get a boost as well, such as double cash for each kill during the power play. They last a minute and don’t happen too often to cause any problems.

The game modes are as expected, with some nice additions: ‘2v2v2 Team Deathmatch’ does what it says on the tin but adds a new dynamic to proceedings and ‘Objectives’ has now morphed into ‘Warzone’ from the Killzone series. A selection of random game types within one round – great stuff.

Uncharted 3 plays like the previous games and I think refinement as opposed to change have benefited the game greatly.

Sure it still takes a lot of bullets to down an opponent but it takes him the same amount to kill you so all’s fair, right? The main thing I took from this beta is that it was fun, first and foremost. It’s certainly not realistic but it makes a change to the more po faced online shooters we’re used to (which I also love but that’s beside the point).

Uncharted 3 is shaping up to be a great multiplayer experience and with what we’ve seen of the single player also looking stunning, could Naughty Dog bag another heap of Game of The Year Awards? I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Review (PS3)

Wolverine Origins was one of those games that I picked up ages ago with the intention of playing it not long after.

The trouble being that a whole heap of other great titles came out and shunted Wolverine down the pecking order.

With the hacking of the PSN taking online play out of the equation, Wolverine was one of many in my game backlog to benefit from the downtime.

The clue to the story is in the name of the game, with this telling the story of how Wolverine came into being before he became one of the X-Men.

Graphically the game looks good and the cut scenes in particular have a great resemblance to Hugh Jackman. Origins isn’t a stunning looking game but, bearing in mind it was released over 2 years ago, it can still hold it’s head up against some of today’s titles.

The gameplay is fairly straight forward and is reminiscent of God Of War or Dante’s Inferno. It’s a button masher for sure but you have the ability to level up your attacks/combos etc.

Unfortunately I found the game to be plagued with bugs/glitches. A lot of them weren’t too troublesome – Wolverine getting frozen in an animation (taking no damage) for example meant a reset of the game. The game occasionally froze up completely, which was fairly annoying but again not a gamebreaker.

Sadly neither of those were the worst of my troubles, as I discovered a problem that did turn out to be a gamebreaker. On one of the puzzles that required the use of weighted platforms I just couldn’t get over quick enough to the next platform before it returned to it’s original position.

After a frustrating 40 minutes or so I ended up looking on youtube and discovered that the platform was no longer fully extended – which was why I didn’t have enough time. After a reset it happened again until I managed to avoid the glitch on the fourth attempt.

Other people I’ve spoken to that have played the game didn’t have as rough a time as I did with the glitches but this game also fell foul of one of my pet hates in gaming – no subtitles.

As a gamer who plays when his small children are in bed I can’t have the volume very high but also can’t have headphones in case they call out. Quite how deaf or hearing impaired gamers are supposed to enjoy the joy is beyond me and in this day and age it shouldn’t be something that’s missing from a game.

Wolverine is a decent enough game that is certainly worth a play through, unfortunately the problems I encountered meant after the first few hours it felt too much like a chore to get through.

Rating: 5/10

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Top 50 Single Player Games: Part Four (20-11)

So here we go – the Top 20! 😎

If you’ve just joined us (where have you been?!)  click here for Parts One , Two and Three.

As previously highlighted I’m mainly focusing on good story based experiences, so things like FIFA or Madden won’t be appearing on the list.

Let’s get stuck in:

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20. ASSASSIN’S CREED II (13)

Assassin’s Creed II picks up with Desmond Miles after the conclusion of the first game as he escapes with Lucy Stillman from the Abstergo Industries building and finds himself in a safe house with a new Animus, delving into another set of ancestral memories.

This time you’ll be playing as Ezio in Italy in the 1400′s. This is a glorious setting as you move between Tuscany, Florence, Venice and more. The difference in areas is apparent and they have gone to a lot of trouble to make each feel individual.

As well as the main plot missions there are a wealth of side missions and collectibles – this freedom of choice means you never feel railroaded into anything and delivers a wonderful gaming experience.

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19. BAYONETTA (NE)

Bayonetta is an action adventure game very much in the mould of Devil May Cry and God Of War 3. It’s fast paced and the emphasis is most definitely on Bayonetta – for everything except boss battles you will easily be the most powerful being in the fight.

The combat is astoundingly good. Better in my opinion than God Of War or any similar title. There is just so much you can do, with gun attacks on hand & feet (yep, the heels of her shoes are guns), samurai sword, torture attacks (special moves focusing on one enemy – for example magically creating a guillotine and throwing one enemy into it) and climax moves (where Bayonetta’s hair, which is also her costume, flows upwards and forms itself into a massive demon to beat bigger enemies).

Yes you read that last bit right… her HAIR is her costume that can also turn into giant demons. :???: :lol:

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18. KILLZONE 2 (12)

Killzone 2′s biggest achievement is, possibly because of the brilliant graphics, sound and AI, that you feel involved and become embedded in the Killzone universal whenever you pick up the pad.

It’s not perfect by any means but at the time it was easily the best first person shooter I’d played and I recommend anyone with a remote interest in this genre to check this out immediately!

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17. BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM (11)

With some wonderful voice acting from the cast of the animated series, Batman: Arkham Asylum’s story moves at a good pace and familiar enemies are used to good effect throughout.

With such a vivid setting and a memorable selection of bad guys from Batman’s career it’s no surprise that Arkham Asylum is such a great game.

Despite the odds being stacked against it, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a quality title that has had a lot of care put into making it. I’d recommend this to anyone.

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16. GOD OF WAR III (10)

God Of War III picks up exactly where God Of War II ended and the opening is stunning in it’s sheer scale.

The first part of the level sees you fighting enemies on a Titan’s back before you quickly move onto a boss battle that, quite frankly, would appear at the end of most other games. From there on out Kratos’ rampage against the Gods continues at full speed.

Most of the highlights of the game come from the boss battles, unless perhaps you are a fan of puzzle based gameplay – if so you’re well catered for here.

If you’re a fan of the other games in the series or have never tried a God Of War title before then jump straight in and get ready for a bloodbath… this is a game you have to play if you own a PS3 and is one of the best single player experiences out there at the moment.

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15. DEAD SPACE 2 (NE)

Continuing the story of Isaac Clarke, Dead Space 2 picks up three years after the first game was set, with Clarke now finding himself as a citizen on the Sprawl – a huge space station development on one of Saturn’s moons.

Sadly for Clarke he has no knowledge of the last three years and discovers a situation has arisen that only someone with his expertise can deal with.

Visceral continue their great job of creeping you out by NOT throwing stuff at you. I would’ve liked to have seen slightly more of the insanity that featured in NPC’s during the original game but on the whole the Sprawl is definitely somewhere you wouldn’t want to find yourself and this is a game well worth playing through.

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14. INFAMOUS (9)

So good it’s the only game this generation I’ve played through twice (seeing it’s rating bumped from 8/10 to 9/10), Infamous is a great game.

You control Cole McGrath, a courier who just happens to be carrying a package containing an electronic bomb when it goes off, devasting the city. Somehow Cole survives and, after coming out of a coma, realises the explosion has given him electrical superpowers.

From there on out the city is your oyster and there is plenty to do as you try to track down the people behind the explosion.

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13. KILLZONE 3 (NE)

Picking up the story directly after the events at the end of the last game, you reprise your role as Tomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko with the ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) trying to get off the planet Helghan – only to be met with the full force of the Helghast, who have regrouped following the climax of Killzone 2.

If you’re looking for a game to redefine or revolutionise the first person shooter genre then you are looking in the wrong place. Killzone 3 brings very little to the table in terms of new ideas but most people picking this up won’t be expecting it to.

This game is about taking down the Helghast, even if you are on the back foot. And what a blast it is.

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12. ASSASSIN’S CREED: BROTHERHOOD (NE)

Brotherhood continues the Assassin’s Creed story with Ezio Auditore in 1499 and Desmond Miles in 2012, picking up exactly where the second game left off.

The changes Ubisoft have made to the game feel subtle but really they have honed this title so much it really doesn’t do much wrong.

There are lots more side mission types and your map will be chock full of things to do if you fancy a change of pace away from the main missions. This is a monster of a game that will keep you entertained for ages.

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11. L.A NOIRE (NE)

L.A Noire takes place in 1940′s L.A, with you taking on the role of Cole Phelps – recently returned from the war and starting out as a cop on the beat.

While a lot of people felt that this would be a 1940′s GTA (much like Red Dead Redemption was a Western version of GTA in many people’s eyes) Team Bondi have crafted a much more linear experience than expected.

The game this most reminds me of is Heavy Rain, stunning captures of the actors and an interesting, if flawed, story. Unfortunately it doesn’t feature the numerous different endings that Heavy Rain does so you don’t ever feel the story is in your hands.

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So we head into the Top 10 – what are you guys expecting to see in there?

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‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ by Steig Larsson – Review (Book)

Having read and enjoying the first novel in the Millennium Trilogy, ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,’ I was excited to see how the story developed.

The first novel had a very slow start, with a detailed back story and the second book follows a similar formula – although there is certainly more action in the opening chapters.

The story picks up after the last book, with the Wennerström affair closed and Millennium Magazine enjoying the boost the story has given them.

Mikael Blomkvist is approached by a young journalist and his girlfriend who, between them, have dirt to dish on Sweden’s rampant sex trafficking trade.

Blomkvist and Erika Berger (editor in chief of Millennium) decide to publish a book on their findings and run a magazine edition around it.

Meanwhile Lisbeth Salander is globetrotting around various far flung countries, all the while working through mathematical problems for fun.

It isn’t long before Salander is back in Sweden and when a shocking event takes place involving the journalist and his girlfriend things really do kick off.

Once again Larsson excels in storytelling and characterisation. The ground work he lays in the opening of the book that comes to fruition further down the line is similar to the last novel but I found ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ to have a little more punch.

Perhaps that is also, in part, down to the fact I’m a lot more familiar and have more invested in the characters.

Although these books are hard hitting, taking on some dark, disturbing issues head on, I would recommend anyone to read them. While both can be tough to begin with (moreso the first in my opinion) you won’t regret investing in them.

This book improves on what was a fantastic story – I wasn’t sure if the series could get better but in the end I couldn’t put this down and by the end I was totally enveloped. I can’t wait to read the final instalment.

Rating: 10/10

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