Winning races in Ridge Racer involves sequences of ludicrous, screaming power slides, while in Burnout you're actively encouraged to crash into and destroy other vehicles.
In F1 2012, these activities would be respectively foolhardy and grounds for instant disqualification. In videogame terms, this is racing for pencil-necks, emphasising braking distances and knowledge of the sport's myriad rules over nitrous-fuelled abandon. But it's still a sport about driving savagely fast cars and F1 2012 is the first game to convey an impression of their horrifying speed and dangerousness. After a perfectly pitched tutorial, you start a career that pits you against the familiar axis of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton in championships that become increasingly tense. The ability to rewind time several times per race alleviates frustration; it looks great throughout, and the sense of accomplishment on winning is palpable. Best F1 game ever.
Borderlands 2 welcomes you back to the mutant-infested desolation of planet Pandora with a big, goofy sense of humour. "Don't have too much fun," say weapons vending machines as you leave and an early mission temporarily changes the name of one of the game's beasts from "bullymong" to "bonerfart". That lack of sophistication is about right for a game with 2m guns and a lunatic cornucopia of lethal accessories before you've even got started on the vehicles. Your choice among four character classes heavily influences how you approach the game's chaotic gunfights, which are at their most potent in a group of four human players; fighting solo against waves of brutal robots and freaks can be a tense and lonely experience. Its cel-shaded looks complement a cartoon-style plot but action is marred by the need to stop and squint at every gun you encounter to see if it's a tiny bit better than yours.
2K Games, £39.99?£49.99
Nintendo's new console, Wii U will be released on 30 November in time to occupy the painfully expensive top spot in Christmas lists. Its HD graphics, touchscreen controller and compatibility with the current crop of Wii peripherals, along with fascinating-looking London-based undead game, ZombiU, make that demand on Father Christmas highly likely ?
Meanwhile, games out this week include footy paragon PES 2013 (3DS, PC, PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii) that brings better AI, goalkeeping and passing to formats both living and near-dead; wacky, contraption-loving farm simulator, Funky Barn (3DS); One Piece: Pirate Warriors (PS3); and World Of Warcraft: Mists Of Pandaria (PC, Mac) which adds new character classes, the ability to get characters up to level 90, and the Pandaren, who ? as the name suggests ? look like bipedal, jacket-wearing pandas.
Will Nigella's 'instant Italian inspiration' be another instant hit? It might, as long as no one's expecting too much about actual Italian cookery, says Matthew Fort
My heart goes out to Nigella, it really does. Another damn TV series. That means another damn book. And that means another 150 or so fresh recipes. And that means ? well, what does that mean? It means another slick marketing exercise, complete with a winsome portrait of our heroine, a naff title, "Nigellissima" and a crafty surtitle, "Instant Italian Inspiration". That's very smart. The "instant" signifies that this is quick and easy cooking (which it is, for the most part), and the "Italian inspiration" neatly deals with the authenticity/non-authenticity argument. This isn't really a book about Italian cooking at all. It's a collection of Italian dishes as imagined by a British cookery writer.
In her introduction, Nigella deals with the question of authenticity in a characteristically intelligent, crisply argued and well written way. Even Italian cooking, she points out, has evolved over the years, which is spot on. However, she goes on: "It is true that they still respect their traditions but ? Italians are suddenly learning and wanting to learn about other ways of cooking." Well, this might come as a surprise to a good many of the natives of Calabria, Molise or even Emilia Romagna. More to the point, however, this newfound curiosity about global cooking cultures has not influenced the food you find cooked in homes or restaurants. Even in Rome, there's a lack of a decent Indian or Chinese restaurants, and the same goes for Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican or Lebanese, not to mention French or Spanish. Italians like eating Italian food.
The essence and attraction of Italian food is in its precision, in picking quality ingredients, at the right moment of each season and cooking them with understanding. Simple, but it's difficult to achieve the explosively flavoured delights without the right raw materials.
Never mind, this isn't a book about real Italian cooking, so we needn't worry. Need we? The very first recipe in the book is Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds. Nigellissima's recipe is dauntingly similar to busiati al pesto trapanese which you can find in Giorgio Locatelli's majestic Made in Sicily, with certain additions (anchovy fillets, capers, sultanas and basil), certain omissions (mint), and a non-Sicilian pasta ? Nigellissima specifies long fusilli or "other pasta of your choice".
As it happens I made the Locatelli version of this dish for a dinner a couple of months back. It was a stunner. The busiati (curlicue pasta, made by hand) had a wonderful delicate softness that carried the sauce with exemplary balance. The mint freshened and sharpened the unlikely, elegant liaison of perfumed almonds and powerful fruitiness of Pachino tomatoes. It's a very simple recipe with just seven ingredients including salt and pepper and olive oil.
Nigellissima's version is more rococo and less satisfying. She bungs in everything. It's Sicilian-effect, in the same way that naugahyde is leather-effect. Don't get me wrong. It creates a just-about acceptable pasta sauce, but it misses the point and magic of the real thing. The result is disconcertingly sweet and the anchovies, capers and sultanas add up to overkill. There's nothing actually wrong about Nigellissima's Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds, but at the same time I can't think why I would want to cook it again.
This is a problem that crops up again and again. With the need to produce something different, something original, Nigellissima piles Pelion on Ossa when it comes to ingredients. Sultanas and shallots, marsala and smoked mackerel, capers, red wine vinegar, dill (a herb I've never come across in Italy) and toasted pinenuts in one pasta dish. Or dried chilli flakes, dried and fresh oregano, red wine vinegar and cherry tomatoes in tagliata for two. Or condensed milk, double cream and Aperol, Triple Sec, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, orange juice and zest in instant chocolate-orange mousse. Vermouth, red or white wine crops up in recipe after recipe. Raisins, sultanas and capers pop up with baffling regularity. The essential simplicity of Italian cooking gets buried under a welter of unnecessary distractions. The recipes that tempt the most are the most straightforward ? spaghettini with lemon and garlic breadcrumbs; sausages with beans and peppers; Italian traybake; chicken under a brick, for example.
Nigellissima is not without its attractions. Probably the strongest section of the book is that devoted to puddings. Nigellissima is a mistress of the pud, and that's perhaps just as well, for Italy is very weak on the pudding front. I was rather taken with the ideas for figs with honey-cream and pistachios, liquorice pudding and chocolate salami. But for the most part it creaks with the effort of coming up with something new (and something new doesn't always mean something better.
You could argue that this kind of deconstruction is a little over the top for the book of a TV series, and so it is. Nigellissima is a promotional exercise pure and simple. The introduction is spotted with references to other books, Lawson's website and Twitter account, which is a shame. Every now and then Nigellissima fatigue is evident in the limpid prose ? "from which the views over the Tuscan hills were more enchanting than I can ever say" ? that sounds like a phrase from a particularly uninspired thank-you letter. I can sympathise. It must be a nightmare cranking out these books to capitalise on a TV series.
? Nigellissima begins on BBC2 at 8.30pm, Monday 24 September
Have a flair for the undead and a knack for failure in the blogosphere?
That likely sounds pretty harsh, but when jumping into the blogging game, there are a few ways that jump can be fatal and leave your blog in the realm of the undead, as veteran blogger Clay Morgan has discovered.
Here are six monstrous types of blogs to avoid becoming in your efforts.
The vampire blogger
Vampire bloggers suck the life out of everyone they encounter. They take but rarely give, and offer little value—let alone anything free.
We all know self-promotion is part of the blogging game. As a new author I’m more painfully aware than ever of the struggle to balance the need for self-promotion with the importance of providing value for readers. But if you take a selfish, “me-first” attitude, then your online career will be in its twilight faster than Dracula can flap his cape.
The zombie blogger
The content of zombie bloggers is stale and rotting. In other words, nothing is ever updated or even really analyzed. Do you recognize your evergreen content and touch it up to maximize reader experience?
Some bloggers seem to crave 404 errors like the living dead crave brains. Don’t let your site fester! Get that thing checked out and always be tweaking and studying your results.
'Ellie sat entranced throughout the story and then proclaimed "gain" (her way of demanding another reading)'
We loved this book! It is a quirky, life-affirming tale with a central message about the value of friendship and the importance of thinking of others. But what really makes this book is the beautiful, remarkably evocative illustrations. I found myself genuinely longing to share the characters' existence in their idyllic seaside home.
Ellie was also rather taken with the illustrations, pointing out lots of the little details in them. The cat slightly resembled our own beleaguered feline so won her heart immediately. She sat entranced throughout the story and then proclaimed "gain" (her way of demanding another reading). High praise indeed!
I was so taken with this book that I did some research into Mini Grey's other work and discovered that she is an award winning illustrator. This goes some way to explaining the prominent part that the illustrations play in this work almost to the point where the story seems to be guided by the illustrations rather than vice versa.
Grey is quoted as saying "I wanted the pictures of their life on the beach to be full of space and light and breeze". This is exactly what she has achieved and the result is genuinely emotive.
Snails might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re tired of losing your cup at parties or your tea bag in a steamy mug of goodness, these cute snails from Soulfun Designs are a must-have.
Available in a variety of colors, these cute cup accessories could cause such a fit of delight at the book club that they might overlook the fact that, once again, you didn’t bother reading the chosen selection.
The latest report from the independent Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has found that the quality of drinking water remained exceptionally high in 2011.
Around two million samples were taken in England and Wales, with 99.96% meeting or exceeding the standards set by the DWI.
"The quality and safety of our drinking water is the highest priority for the water industry, which is why companies continue to invest in these areas," said Water UK policy adviser Jim Marshall. "The DWI?s findings show that this investment is well made, but the water industry is not complacent and continues to look for ways to raise the standard yet higher."
This sentiment is also recognised by the DWI, which acknowledged that remedial action that has been taken or is planned to rectify the 0.04% of samples where standards were not met.
In addition, this year?s DWI reports showed that there is greater consistency of quality performance across the UK, with the northwest and Wales in particular reporting increases in compliance.
As well as indicating a continued level of safety of drinking water quality, the reports record a continued reduction in complaints by drinking water consumers.