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Journal Journal: Sorted.

This has now been sorted - though it took long enough to get a refund... and the same descriptions still up on the PlayTV page.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Microsoft still unable to organise piss-up in brewery. 2

It's been nearly a month since I posted this entry about Microsoft's inability to remove my credit card from my X-Box Live Account after eight or nine months. And you know what's happened? Nothing. The card still hasn't been removed. So I decided to get an address to put a complaint in writing. Or rather, tried to. I emailed Microsoft to get the address. Who promptly told me to phone in. No, I've been along that avenue and got nowhere. So I emailed back. Again, the same response. I emailed a third time. This time, something different - I got an email stating they had reviewed my email and should use their FAQs or automated help agent. Bloody hell.

So, I called up Microsoft once more, asking for a complaint address. The agent told me there was no address to write to. 'So, there's no physical address for Microsoft's customer service department?' I asked. 'No, you can only email us', he replied. So I'm throwing this out there. Does anyone have a physical address - in the UK - that I can write a complaint to, detailing what's going on? I've certainly got nowhere with Microsoft's phone and email support at all.

Journal Journal: MS still won't let you remove your credit card from Live.

You can argue till you're blue in the face about which the better online service, Microsoft's XBox Live, or Sony's Playstation Network. I think they both have their merits. What I can say for certainty is that there's one respect in which PSN beats Live hands down. And that's the ease by which you can remove your credit card from the service. To remove a credit card from your Playstation Network, you log into your account and select an option in the billing section. To remove your card details from Live, on the other hand, is virtually impossible. This isn't the first time this issue has been mentioned. But having spent about eight months or so trying to get this card removed, I thought the issue could do with highlighting again. Here's how my attempts to get Microsoft to remove my credit card from my Live account went.

It all started in March. I decided to get my credit card details remove my from Live account for two reasons. Firstly, I was concerned that if my console got stolen, someone could buy an unlimited number of Live games using my card. Secondly, I'd bought a few too many Live games myself, games that, on reflection, I could have done without. Getting points by buying MS Point cards from stores would require me to think about what I was going to buy and whether I really wanted that particular game.

So I had a look around in the account management section of Live on my console. While there was a change card option, there was no way to actually remove the card. Which seemed slightly odd, so I did a Google search. The general consensus seemed to be that you had to ring Microsoft to get your card removed. I did this, and after explaining, I was told it would take thirty days to get the card removed. Which seemed odd, but I decided to give them the time to do this.

Fast forward to a couple of months later - and I check my Live account. Lo and behold, the credit card is still attached to the account. I ring up again, to ask why it's not been done. I'm told that it should have been removed, and they can't understand why it hasn't. But they say they'll open another call. Now, bear in mind, the original call itself hasn't been fixed, but they say they have to open a new call. Having worked in a call centre myself, I suspect they could re-open it, but they don't want to have a long-open call screwing up their call statistics.

A while later, there's still no joy. Each time I've called, I've been told someone would contact me to confirm it had been done, but never received a call to this effect. I ring up again, and escalate it to a supervisor. Who promptly advises me that the card has been removed and that it's just showing on my console for ID purposes. On reflection, I should have called bullshit on this, but I let it go. Daft, I know.

But as luck would have it, a short time later, Duke Nukem 3D is released on to Live Arcade. Having ignored the vast majority of Live releases to date, I decide that, having had fond memories of playing it the first time around, I want to buy that game. And so, since I'm heading into town anyway, I make a mental note to pick up a Microsoft Points card. Actually, hang on a minute, I think. This also presents me with the ideal opportunity to check that my card has been cancelled. So I try to use my card to add some points to my account. And hey presto, it works. The supervisor I spoke to earlier either didn't know what he was talking about, or at worst was deliberately lying to get me off the phone.

Back I go to Microsoft. Again, they say they'll get it sorted, and that someone will call me soon. A week later or so, I check the progress, and the call's been closed. Microsoft claim they weren't able to contact me, despite having two contact numbers of file, neither of which I received a call on. They proceed to open yet another call, and this time I do get a call from a real live person shortly afterwards. Progress? Like hell. The person just tells me that the issue is being investigated. So they closed the previous call because no-one could call me to tell me it was being dealt with?

Eight or nine months since I called, there has been still no progress. Most recently, I've been promised the issue would be sorted within three days, only to ring back and been told that this isn't the case, and that they can't say how long it will take to sort. I've spoken to several different supervisors, and even tried to get put through to the billing people who can actually remove the credit card. Only to be told that they aren't contactable for some strange reason. How difficult can it be just to go into an account record on their system, click on the credit card details and click remove, for crying out loud? It just beggars belief that Microsoft are utterly unable to deal with such simple request.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3) reviewed.

Here's a tip for any games designers out there. If you're taking an existing franchise and introducing a hitherto unknown character, it's a not a good idea to spend the very first level of the game reminding fans how great the old character was. It didn't do Metal Gear Solid 2 any good, and it certainly doesn't do Star Wars: The Force Unleashed any favours either. TFU's first level has you playing as Darth Vader, striding purposefully around the planet of Kashykk, kicking wookie arse. Then all of a sudden the level ends, and Vader is relegated to the position of co-conspirator. Instead, you end up playing as Galen Marek, Vader's apprentice, who looks like he was kicked out of a nu-metal band for being too angsty. Granted, Lucasarts never said Vader would be the game's main character, but you can't help but feel that The Force Unleashed would have been a better game if Vader had taken centre stage.

Fortunately, Marek, or 'Starkiller' as he's also known, does prove to be a halfway sympathetic character. It's clear from the very beginning that, while he does have all the power of a dark jedi, he also has doubts about his role as Vader's apprentice. But he doesn't really have much choice in the matter, so off he wanders, doing all those dirty jobs Vader can't be arsed doing himself. Which is where you come in. Playing as Starkiller, you've been tasked with hunting down those few rogue Jedi who weren't killed off at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Naturally, you can't just send them a polite message challenging them to a one on one duel. Instead, you have to roam across a variety of levels, using your force powers to dispatch a legion of minor foes before finally taking on each Jedi. The game's locales include a giant junkyard, a mushroom filled planet, an Imperial shipyard and more. Although a couple of levels do end up being repeated, something you wouldn't usually expect from a Lucasarts game.

But what of the Force Powers you have at your disposal? A lot the buzz surrounding The Force Unleashed has been about these powers. And they are indeed pretty damn cool. New powers are unlocked as the game progresses, but right from the word go you can pick up objects, people, and even small spaceships and hurl them around with great abandon. Some of the enemies will even try to jump out of the way of flying objects, or grab onto things to avoid being thrown, which is fairly impressive to witness. But there's a problem - specifically, the game's auto-targeting system hates you with a vengeance. So much so that there's a good chance that it will lock on something other than the object or person you were trying to grab onto. And given that there's no way to manually select a target, this becomes a real source of frustration. How difficult would it have been for Lucasarts to let you choose the target you wanted to grab? Or at the very least cycle through the targets on screen? Not very, I suspect.

In fact, that's The Force Unleashed through and through. For every cool feature that makes you grin like an idiot, there's a corresponding problem or glitch that takes you out of the game. Here's another one, a feature that was shown off in the tech demos that Lucasart bandied around before we even got a look at the game proper. When you thrown an object at something, the item smashes or breaks in a realistic manner. So instead of just crumbing in a scripted manner, a tree will splinter, leaving chunks of wood everwhere. And you can restart the level, smash the tree again, and it will always smash in a slightly different way. Pretty awesome, eh? At least it would be if the debris didn't disappear right in front of your eyes about five seconds after it landed. Yes, all the supposed realism - well, as realistic as a Star Wars game can get - that Lucasarts had been going on about goes right out of the window. I can understand that having loads of chunks of wood and glass lying around would slow the game's engine down, but the game could at least wait till they were out of view before magicking them away to become one with the force.

Here's another example. The game's storyline is, by and large, very well written. Perhaps because of, or in spite of, the fact that George Lucas had a hand in it. There are plenty of twists and Starkiller does grow as a character, and you do find yourself wondering what's going to happen next. But the game also features one of the most blatantly shoe-horned in love interests ever, an Imperial pilot by the name of Juno Eclipse. She's bland, boring and has no real purpose other than to fly Starkiller's ship, the Rogue Shadow. She's not funny, she's not clever or interesting in any way at all. And if that wasn't bad, she has the worst voice-acting I've heard in a long, long time. And then there's the quick time events - I could go on for ages about how these have no place in modern day games. But suffice to say, there is no reason this earth to require you to complete some stupid reaction timer test in order to dispatch a boss, when you've just spent the last five minutes throwing objects at it and dodging its attacks.

The Force Unleashed is a disappointing game. Not because it's a bad game through and through - it's not. It certainly looks great, the music's suitably Star Wars-y, and when things are going your way it is fun. But then you run into another problem and suddenly the game's a whole less enjoyable than it was a couple of minutes ago. Then tack on the fact that there's no multiplayer mode, and you're looking at a game that's worth a weekend's rental at best. It's not the worst game ever, but it could have been so much better.

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