Detomaso Adrenaline Junkie Review

I don’t wear a watch anymore. There was a time when I did wear my solid, dependable Victorinox watch every day, taking time each morning and night to undo the leather strap and leave it on the nightstand. I loved that watch and it lasted me for years, but when the battery finally gave up the ghost I didn’t replace it straightaway and eventually just put it away in a drawer.

It had dawned on me that I could check my phone if I need to know the time, that a dedicated timepiece was a more or less redundant piece of hardware. To me, modern watches became fashion accessories only.

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Years later, the same mostly holds true of the Adrenaline Junkie watch, which I manufacturer Detomaso asked me to review. Despite the rugged styling and the eyerollingly transparent name, the Adrenaline Junkie is a fashion accessory first and foremost. It’s rugged sportiness, for example, is only skin deep and despite the name and overt quote-unquote masculinity of the brand the Adrenaline Junkie isn’t actually all that tough.

It’s only water resistant to a depth of 10m and the manual warns that it’s suitable for little more than light swimming, for example. Hardly the stuff of extreme sport dreams.

Judged as a fashion accessory though, the Adrenaline Junkie can be seen in a different light. It’s large, chunky and solid frame is ostentatious in a very particular way and is clearly intended to communicate power and strength. It can’t keep those promises of resilience, but it certainly looks like it can’t.

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Let’s be clear – this isn’t a sleek Apple Watch for retiring geeks or stylish joggers, nor is it the expensive Rolex or Omega of a successful CEO. The Detomaso is equivalent to the gaudy showmanship of an ambitious salesman or the wilful overconfidence of a teen – and the “Marks A Man” makes it abundantly clear that it’s salesman and not salesperson, by the way.

And that’s not a bad thing for everyone, despite the personal distaste I felt when I saw the packaging and bulk of the thing. For many, this is exactly what they’re looking for and the only thing to ponder is whether the £100-£170 price tag is fair. Given the two year guarantee and useful array of chronographs, I think it is.

Just don’t go diving with it.

The Deleted Scenes of Deus Ex: Insurrection

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In 2014 I spent six months researching two cancelled Deus Ex games that had been in production at Ion Storm Austin before it collapsed. Neither of the games were announced at the time, but with help from the Dolph Briscoe Archive at the University of Texas I was able to uncover design documents, concept art and more.

In the end I wrote a feature on the topic for Eurogamer, called Ion Storm’s Lost Deus Ex Sequels.

Both games were cancelled ahead of release and suffered from protracted, troubled development. The first attempt, called Deus Ex: Insurrection, was led by Art Min – a long time collaborator with Warren Spector. The second, called Deus Ex 3, was developed by Jordan Thomas, who later worked on Thief, BioShock and The Magic Circle. I spent a long time speaking to both Art and Jordan about their visions, the collapse of Ion Storm and the legacy of Deus Ex.

Each of the games would have been very different and Jordan’s in particular sounds especially exciting – an open world version of Deus Ex that would have been similar in structure to Crackdown. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and the studio was closed by Eidos before development began in earnest.

Here’s a quote from Jordan Thomas about the closure of the Ion Storm and his feelings about it almost a decade later.

“There’s a reason the place closed and it was chiefly hubris. There are many people who will tell you that the publisher f***ed us but, no. No. The method failed. Making a smaller, more intimate Deus Ex was on nobodies mind. Including mine.”

It took a long, long time to research all this and write about it, so please – read the full article to find out more. You can also contact me if you’d like a copy of the original research and documents I uncovered.

Sown & Grown Granola Review

I love cereal. Always have, always will. Growing up, I used to have two bowls a day – one as breakfast, one as supper. As an adult I refuse to start the day without it and will trek across town early on a dreary, bleak weekend just to visit a hipster cereal cafe and try different combinations and brands.

I love cereal. So you can imagine how quickly I jumped at the (somewhat unexpected, surprising) opportunity to review some on this here blog.

The opportunity came via Sown & Grown, a new cereal brand that wanted to send me a free tube of their granola to review. Granola is easily the best type of cereal, of course. It’s so crunchy and sweet, with a dry, clumpy mouthfeel that I can’t get enough of. It’s also simultaneously good for you (yay, oats and seeds and nuts!) and bad for you (in the quantities I eat it).

Seriously, I don’t normally keep granola in the house because I eat it so fast and it’s so sugary – and on that last front Sown & Grown certainly don’t disappoint. But I’ll get back to that.

In their original email, Sown & Grown put a big emphasis on what they think makes their granola different – which is that it comes in a tube, rather than a box. Why? No idea and it doesn’t make it different at all.

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What was cool though was the sheer Heinz-like variety of granolas on offer – there’s six different flavours and fruit/nut combos to choose from, though I opted for the standard ‘Three Grain Granola’ in order to keep it simple. This is the point in the review where I’d link to Sown & Grown’s website by the way, but they apparently don’t have one.

As for the granola itself though? It’s delicious and everything you’d expect from a tasty, batch baked granola. It’s not as good as my mum makes and I did end up adding my own fruits and extras to the bowl to liven up the three oats, but that’s not to say anything against it. It’s delicious and it has exactly that clumpy, oaty finish that I love in all granolas.

One thing to bear in mind about Sown & Grown granola is the portion sizes, however. Each tube holds 450g, which is equivalent to about one and a half cans of soft drink. From that, Sown & Grown expects you to get 11 individual portions – which seems very optimistic to me. I’ve been going slowly and I’ve still mostly demolished it all within 5 bowls. Then again, maybe I’m just greedy – this certainly isn’t the only granola I have this problem with! 

The fact that it comes in a tube makes absolutely no difference at all, though.

Auraprint Business Card Review

I got offered the opportunity to review some business cards recently, by Auraprint. Naturally, as a narcissist who has taken inordinate pride in designing his own business cards in the past, I leapt at the offer. Unfortunately, I don’t actually need any business cards – work provides my professional ones and I still have plenty of old ones I made with Moo for my freelance work.

So, what to do?

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The Deleted Scenes of Thief 4: Dagger of Ways

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In 2015 I gave a lecture at Videobrains in London about my exclusive research into a cancelled Thief game that was in development at Ion Storm before it’s collapse almost a decade previously. The lecture was based on an article I wrote for Eurogamer, in which I interviewed a developer who worked on the project and shared some of the original design documents.

You can read the full Eurogamer article, The Modern Day Thief Reboot That Never Was, for more information on Thief 4 – but I’ve also included my slides and script below.

The game itself was called Thief 4: Dagger of Ways and was designed chiefly by Harvey Smith, who later carried at least part of that vision over to Dishonored. Thief 4 would have been a modern day reboot of the Thief series, reviving the characters in a dark and seedy inspired chiefly by Blade and Silent Hill.

You can read the Eurogamer article for more information on Thief 4: Dagger of Ways, or contact me for the original files and research this talk is based on. You can also check out my other Videobrain lectures, Easter Eggs: A Love Letter to Love Letters in Games and Deleted Scenes: Disney, Doom and Deus Ex.

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Henry J. Socks Subscription Review

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These days, I spend a lot of time working in the on-demand and subscription sector. It’s not just part of my job – I also have friends at companies such as Hello Fresh and I spend a lot of time talking with them about it. I’m also a consumer and it seems my partner and I currently subscribe to about 12 different monthly box subscriptions. T-Post for t-shirts. Glossybox for make-up. MunchPak for snacks.

But a subscription for socks? That seemed a little strange even to me.

Henry J. Socks is exactly that, however. You tell them how many socks you want per month and that’s all there is to it – they’ll send you that many socks for up to 12 months. Even now, as a city boy in central London rather than a kid in the heart of Derbyshire, I wear through socks pretty fast. So, when Henry J. Socks offered me a chance to try them out, I was happy to oblige.

The question is, how do you review a sock?

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The Deleted Scenes of Tomb Raider

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In 2015 I wrote for Trusted Reviews about the development of the 2014 reboot of Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics, focusing on content that was cut from the game before release and alternate directions the team pitched.

The article focused on two different pitches that Crystal Dynamics proposed, the first an unnamed survival horror version and the second known as Tomb Raider: Ascension.

Primarily a survival horror game, Tomb Raider: Ascension would have taken place on an entirely different island, with an entirely different cast. In 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, Lara starts off young and timid, relying on the encouragement and support of her crewmates – but in Ascension, Lara would have been much more seasoned to start out with. She’d also have been accompanied by a six year old girl called Izumi.

Meanwhile, the survival horror version of the game would have pitted Lara against giant, invulnerable colossi that stalked an island she was shipwrecked on.

You can read the full article, The Story of the Tomb Raider That Was Never Made, for more information or contact me for access to the original research.

Thief 4: Dagger of Ways…

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A year ago I heard a developer mention a modern day reboot of Thief. Stunned I hadn’t heard of it already, I asked when it was coming out. Never, he said – it was cancelled almost ten years ago.

“When we pitched to Eidos, the feedback was ‘no supernatural stuff’,” my secret source told me. “We were going with a 100% realistic game set only in the real world. Many designs and decisions changed by the time the project was killed.”

Eidos and Ion Storm may have cancelled the project, but I got hold of the internal pitch document, spoke to the team and published the full exclusive reveal of Thief 4: Dagger of Ways on Eurogamer.

Also, it went up at the same time as my article about Troubleshooter, Warren Spector’s original pitch to Origin Systems for Deus Ex.

The Deleted Scenes of Half-Life 2

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In 2012 I was commissioned by RockPaperShotgun to research and write about the development of Half-Life 2, focusing on the content that was cut from the game during development. I also played restored versions of that content using the Missing Information mod for Half-Life 2.

I thumb open my copy of Raising The Bar and take a fresh look at what lays inside. A quote from Gabe Newell’s foreword immediately pops out: “It doesn’t matter what we cut, so long as we cut it and it gives us the time to focus on other things, because any of the options will be bad unless they’re finished, and any of them will be good if they are finished.”

The majority of the article focuses on the Borealis, an ice-locked research ship that was cut from HL2’s plot early in development. The Borealis has since shown up in Portal 2 and is hinted to play a major role in the future of the Half-Life series.

You can read the full article, Unlimited Hyperborea: Half-Life 2’s Missing Information, at RockPaperShotgun or contact me to get access to the original research.