REVIEW: Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360)
October 23, 2010, 2:08 pm
Filed under: gaming | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


It took me a while to get round to buying Rockstar’s latest offering – Read Dead Redemption. I’d heard the sterling reviews and seen the gorgeous screen shots but something was holding me back. When I played GTA IV I found it quite difficult to get into. I really wanted to like it; I really should like it; but I just didn’t get into the story and in the end stopped playing it. Same thing with Bully. Enjoyed it, but not enough to see it through to the end. Thought I’d be better off saving my pennies for Fable III. Anyway, curiosity and boredom got the better of me and finally Mr. Postman brought me a shiny new game.

The first thing that struck me was the landscape. It felt real. Not just realistic – real. I hate it when there are teeny tiny little weaknesses that keep nagging at you, the ones that remind you it’s essentially a bit of programming. But here, it felt so natural that I didn’t even think to look. It’s one of the few g ames I didn’t mind getting hopelessly lost in because it allows you to take time to explore. The attention to detail is incredible, and if you get b ored of exploring you can always go and shoot some animals for meat and fur. On a side note, you know you’ve played a game for too long when you leave the house and the first instinct on sight of a bird or rabbit is to reach for your rifle. Fortunately, I never have one to hand.

I defy anyone, man or woman, not to fall a little bit in love with John Marston. He is probably my favorite computer game character of all time, and that’s not just because I fancy the chaps off him (yes it is). But there are dozens of characters in the game that help to tell this brilliant story – they made me laugh, repulsed, scared, angry and yes, fine, maybe there was a tear in my eye at some point. Once. But I know for a fact I’m not the only one and I refuse to be ashamed. As you play, you make decisions that affect your Fame and Honour meters – each level, whether you decide to be good or bad, has its own consequences, and it helps to make the character more your own.

This game is phenomenal. It appears that Rockstar have sat down to watch every decent Western film ever made, taken all the best bits out of them and made an epic game. Like reducing down a Westerny broth to make nutritious Cowboy soup. Mmm. The storyline is phenomenal, the scenery is beautiful and I found the controls really intuitive (possibly from playing previous Rockstar games). There’s just the right balance of main storyline, side tasks and free-roam to keep me interested. Whoever was in charge of designing and programming the horse’s movement (or indeed any of the animals) got it closer to reality that any other horse-related game I’ve played. The characters are believable, the dialogue is entertaining. The only thing that let it down is the unbelievable amount of bugs and glitches I came across whilst playing it. Perhaps they used a different QA team but it really started to get on my nerves – particularly when it means you get stuck or can’t progress. Forgivable, but a real shame. Hopefully they’ll have sorted it all out by the time thet release RDR II, which I hope we’re not left waiting too long for.

Conclusion? Play this game. Play it. Play it now.

An open letter to Topshop
October 7, 2010, 11:34 am
Filed under: other | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dear Topshop,

I am sorry to report that I will not be shopping with you again in the forseeable future. You have lost a loyal advocate purely on the grounds that you are wholly unable to communicate with your customers.

I visited the store on Friday 1st October to browse through your shoe department and found a pair I liked, however the price was not labelled. I wandered around for several minutes trying to find someone to help me, before coming across a group of your employees chatting loudly in the middle of the store, about their weekend plans. I’m not fussed by things like this usually, however it was lunchtime, the store was heaving, and there were other customers looking for assistance too. When I finally got their attention, I was told rudely by one of the girls that the shoes were £100 before she turned back to her conversation.

Irritated, but still keen to purchase the shoes, I took them to the counter to pay. Imagine my surprise when the cashier asked me for £160, not the £100 I was told they were. Embarrassed, I left the shoes at the counter and left the store very disappointed.

When I got back to my office I did what many would do and tried to communicate this issue with you via Twitter. Maintaining such an active twitter stream, I expected you to be listening as well as broadcasting, but I guess I was wrong. After several hours and no response, I tried again. Straight away another user commented on the situation and his message was retweeted by other users. Clearly an issue I’m not alone on.

Still no sign of acknowledgement from you, and very irritated, I decided to email your customer services department later that day. I even offered some professional advice on how to better manage your twitter feed. Straight away an auto-reply came back which informed me that “this is an acknowledgement only and we will reply to you within 24 hours”.

106 hours later and now very angry, I decided to email you one more time before venting my frustration and disappointment on my blog. Another auto-‘acknowledgement’ and another let down. Blog post it is then.

So, if anyone from Topshop is listening, let me summarise. Customers do not like to be ignored, least of all when they have an issue they need to communicate to you. All it needed was a friendly tweet saying ‘sorry to hear about your experience, we’ve taken note of it’. Having an online presence is a good thing, but only if you intend to engage with your community instead of spewing brand messages out aimlessly. Imagine meeting a friend to tell them something important, and they spend the entire hour talking about themselves and not listening to a word you say. Annoying, right?

You would do yourself a big favour if you spent more time nurturing relationships with your online community instead of, quite frankly, exploiting the following you have. If you damage one relationship online, you bear a significant risk of damaging a relationship with an entire community.

Over to you, Topshop. Let’s talk.


Lauren Severin (

*UPDATE 15:35 07/10/10: Topshop responded to me shortly after I posted, very apologetic but only addressing the poor in-store experience. I have requested a response about the Twitter / communication issue and I will update again.

*UPDATE 22/10/10 I recieved another email, this time from the Arcadia Group, who had been alerted to my post via Twitter and they wrote a very sincere apology about my difficulty in getting through to them via email and Twitter. I don’t know if it will change anything in the grand scheme but we can only hope. Thanks to everyone in my community for shouting about it and thanks to Topshop / Arcadia for eventually addressing the matter.