REVIEW: ‘Helldivers 2’ is a deliciously enjoyable team romp

REVIEW: ‘Helldivers 2’ is a deliciously enjoyable team romp
‘Helldivers 2’ has you take on the real-time battle between Super Earth and its insect and robot enemies across the galaxy. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 March 2024
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REVIEW: ‘Helldivers 2’ is a deliciously enjoyable team romp

REVIEW: ‘Helldivers 2’ is a deliciously enjoyable team romp

LONDON: Fuse together “Starship Troopers” with elements of “Terminator” and “Aliens,” add a healthy dose of humor and combine with a core strong team engine of third-person gunplay and you have the new “Helldivers 2.”

Developed by Arrowhead Game Studios and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, and available on PC and PS5, the game has you take on the real-time battle between Super Earth, a quasi-fascist entity played with tongue in cheek, and its insect and robot enemies across the galaxy.

Dropping down from heavily armed spaceships, you and a squad of up to four helldivers take on a variety of missions against various foe of different difficulties. All generally involve intense firefights and adrenaline-soaked excitement.

The core logic is your soldier can equip with one primary weapon and one smaller secondary one; but the unique selling point of the game is the role of “stratagems.”

These are reinforcements from your orbiting ship above and can range from advanced weapons to airstrikes to supply backpacks. Your access to better stratagems improves as does your level, which you acquire through successful missions and side missions on the planets you visit.

“It’s time to take out the alien trash,” shouts your instructor after a cursory training course to earn your cape before deploying into the fight. The bugs (Terminds) and robots (Automatons) are found on a range of planets with missions ranging from simple search and destroy, to rescuing civilians or setting up mining operations. The terrain can slow you down and be dangerous with volcanoes spewing deadly rocks down on your squad.

The game is simply lots of fun. Whilst you technically can take on missions by yourself, the real fun is to be had in cooperative mode against the computer-controlled enemy. Teamwork is essential for success with more powerful guns taking time to be reloaded that can be deadly without cover from a friend. Yet, friendly fire is also a challenge, particularly when calling down huge bombs on the nests of your enemy.

The game has an addictive reward mechanic that sees you level up and acquire medals, credits and resources to personalize your weapons, ship and appearance. The real-time nature of it allows the developers to announce major offensives in a part of the galaxy or to update the story as if it were a real conflict.

Despite simple controls there is a depth to weapon and ammunition choice as well as the type of stratagems you take with you that affect your approach to each mission.

Cut scenes are somewhat long and repetitive after a while and the procedurally generated worlds do not always make sense. Yet these are minor quibbles with a game that has already proven so successful that servers have buckled due to the weight of interest.


‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’

‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’
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‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’

‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’
  • The first four episodes of Season 3, in which Nicola Coughlan plays the revolving lead role, reached 45.1 million views during its opening weekend

DUBAI: Irish actress Nicola Coughlan, known for her role as Penelope Featherington in Netflix’s hit series “Bridgerton,” demonstrated her solidarity with Palestine this week by wearing the Artists for Ceasefire pin during an interview with USA Today as she promoted the latest season of the show, in which she plays the lead role.

When asked about the pin, the artist said: “It’s very important for me because I feel like I’m a very privileged person. I’m doing my dream job and I’m getting to travel the world, but then I’m hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah at the moment.”

The actress, whose family lived in Jerusalem in the late 70s, said her father was in the Irish army and was part of the United Nation’s Truce Supervision Organisation which worked towards brokering peace in the Middle East.

@splendiferous Nicola Coughlan speaks about her Ceasefire pin she has been wearing during the Bridgerton Press Tour #NicolaCoughlan original sound - splendiferous

“I feel very passionately about it. I’m Irish also, so it’s sort of a different perspective,” Coughlan added. “I just feel, if I have this global platform, which I do at the minute, I think if I can hopefully raise funds for aid organizations — I have a fundraiser on my Instagram right now for Medical Aid for Palestine and if people would like to donate to that or share it, I think it would be a wonderful thing to do.”

Coughlan has continuously shown her support by wearing the pin during various occasions, including the premieres of the third season of “Bridgerton,” promotional events and her television appearances such as “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “Good Morning America.”

Season three of Netflix’s Regency-era drama has become the most successful season so far based on viewership numbers, Forbes reported this week.

With part two set to drop in June, “Bridgerton” Season 3: Part 1 was the most-watched title on Netflix from the period of May 13 - 18, according to Variety. The first four episodes, released on May 16, reached 45.1 million views during its opening weekend.


Cannes fashion highlights: Mila Al-Zahrani, Bella Hadid steal the spotlight

Cannes fashion highlights: Mila Al-Zahrani, Bella Hadid steal the spotlight
Updated 23 May 2024
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Cannes fashion highlights: Mila Al-Zahrani, Bella Hadid steal the spotlight

Cannes fashion highlights: Mila Al-Zahrani, Bella Hadid steal the spotlight

DUBAI: Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani attended the 77th Cannes Film Festival this week in a gown by Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali.

The star, who attended the screening of Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga,” dazzled in a strapless, voluminous dress that was cinched at the waist from the designer’s ready-to-wear 2024/2025 collection.

US Dutch Palestinian model Bella Hadid turned heads with stylish appearances in Cannes too. 

The supermodel was spotted in a striking silver dress from the DSquared Fall-Winter 2006 collection for Chopard’s “Once Upon A Time” Gala this week.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

She was also seen in a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. 

Hadid wore a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. (Getty Images)

During her time in Cannes, she was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress, with a plunging neckline, from Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2005 collection. 

Hadid was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress. (Getty Images)

For the “The Apprentice” red carpet, she opted for a sheer halter neck dress from Saint Laurent’s Fall 2024 collection. 

Meanwhile, Arab designers have been dominating the red carpet with their creations worn by celebrities from around the world.

Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted on the red carpet of French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo,” wearing a black lace dress with a mesh train and purple floral details from the Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad’s Fall 2023 collection. 

Murad, the celebrity-loved designer, also dressed Brazilian model Izabel Goulart. She opted for a white chiffon gown with a black lace bodysuit and floral appliques that was also from the couturier’s Fall 2023 collection.

Rami Kadi also made a splash on the red carpet this week with his designs.

He was championed by US actress Loreto Peralta at the same screening as Harlow and Goulart. 

She wore a mauve, off-the-shoulder gown embroidered with three-dimensional flowers from his “Les Miroirs” collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Juliana Paes (@julianapaes)

Brazilian actress and model Juliana Paes chose a metallic off-white gown by Emirati designer Hamda Al-Fahim. The dress featured side pleats, sequin detailing and a side-attached train.


Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe
Updated 23 May 2024
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Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

DUBAI: Chef John Mark has worked at a number of prestigious establishments over the years, in the Maldives, Mauritius, the UAE, and India, among others. Now, he’s the chef de cuisine at Japanese restaurant Gishiki 45 in The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. 

Here, Mark discusses embracing mistakes, his favorite dish to make, and the importance of a healthy working environment. 

Gishiki 45. (Supplied)

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?  

I love the smell of garlic and the smell of onion. These two ingredients are very important in Asian cuisine; they give the dishes a nice aroma and flavor, and can enhance any dish.  

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

I’m not one to criticize any chef or restaurant unless there are mistakes in the dish that I ordered. I respect chefs. I respect people who are working in the hospitality. And if I do need to say something, I make sure to say it in the right manner. 

What’s the most common mistake that you find in other restaurants? 

That the service team and the kitchen are at war. This is the chef’s responsibility. We need to make sure that the service team and the kitchen are one. It’s so important, because, as chefs, we cook, but the service team deal with the guests. The only thing that we want is to make the guests happy. So we need to be a team. 

What’s your favorite cuisine? 

Thai food. I love coconut flavors and Thai food has coconut in almost all the dishes. The flavors and the smell are rich. It makes me happy.  

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

My daughter loves to eat. I let my family try different cuisines, but she really loves pasta. So, I cook pasta for my daughter — and for my wife of course. We also have a famous dish in the Philippines called chicken adobo, and when I am home I like to cook that for my family. 

Gishiki 45. (Supplied)

What customer request most annoys you? 

You cannot be annoyed at your guests as a chef. You need to be flexible. We are here, in this world, to learn, and this is a huge opportunity. I can’t just focus on one thing like a horse; I have to keep an open mind. Why not try what they ask for, if this is what they want? 

What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?  

It’s something we’re famous for in the Philippines. It’s very authentic, you only really see it in the villages. It’s called beggar’s chicken. It’s so delicate. It’s a long process. You need to marinate the chicken and stuff it, then you wrap it in banana leaf. Then, you put mud on it. You cook it in the mud. So, when its cooked, you need to break the mud and open it. It smells amazing.  

As a head chef, what are you like? 

When I started as a chef, there was a lot of tension and a lot of shouting, but I don’t think this is a good environment. I don’t want it to be quiet in my kitchen, but I don’t want tension. Of course, I can be a little strict, but I don’t want anyone to shout at my staff. I have to talk to them nicely. Shouting is not on my menu. 

Chef Mark’s Salmon Batayaki recipe    

INGREDIENTS: 

160g salmon; 1 oyster mushroom 

For the dashi water:  

Mix 100ml water; 5g konbu; 2g katsuobushi 

For the batayaki sauce: 

Mix 2 spoons soy sauce; 20g butter; 50ml dashi water; 1 spoon yuzu juice 

INSTRUCTIONS:  

1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and dust with corn flour. 

2. Heat fryer to 180 celsius and fry the salmon for 2 minutes. 

3. ⁠Prepare a heated non-stick pan. Heat your batayaki sauce. 

4. ⁠Put your salmon and mushroom in the batayaki sauce and simmer until the sauce becomes shiny and has a buttery texture. 

5.  Garnish with crispy leek and serve.  


Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis

Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis
Updated 23 May 2024
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Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis

Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis

DUBAI: The documentary series “99” celebrates the 25th anniversary of one of the most remarkable achievements in sporting history: when Manchester United won England’s two biggest domestic trophies — the Premier League and the FA Cup — and the most prestigious tournament in European club competition — the UEFA Champions League — to complete a (then) unprecedented treble.

The fact that the feat has since been repeated (most recently by United’s arch rivals Manchester City), has taken some of the shine off it, but this was still one of the greatest single seasons in the history of any sport.

The show is stacked with interviews with the players who made history, as well as their fearsome manager, Alex Ferguson, whose obsession with winning the Champions League has been well-documented elsewhere. There isn’t much new insight here, and footballers aren’t renowned for their eloquence, but the filmmakers have done a good job of getting them to dig beyond the platitudes and explore the sometimes-thorny relationships between certain players, the pressure of playing for (at least then) arguably the biggest club in the world, and the self-doubt that could creep in during the biggest games.

But even if its makers had managed to get nothing from the interviewees, they would have known that “99” couldn’t fail to grip even the most casual of sports fans, because the story of the actual football during the season is so outlandish that even a Hollywood exec might question anyone pitching it. Throughout the season, and particularly in the last couple of months, United staged numerous late comebacks in situations where it seemed they’d blown their chance of making history — not least in the last game, the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, when they famously scored two goals in three minutes of injury time to turn almost-certain defeat into the unlikeliest of victories: an act of what seemed like sheer willpower, inspired by the manager’s self-belief. As Ferguson said at the end of that game, “Football. Bloody hell!” The makers of “99” have successfully captured that expression.


‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  

‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  
Updated 23 May 2024
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‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  

‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  

RIYADH: Located on the private Ummahat Island, which can only be accessed by chartered boat or seaplane, The St. Regis Red Sea Resort is quickly making a name for itself as something of a celebrity magnet.  

It’s easy to see why Saudi Arabia’s football elite vacationed here this spring — with 90 overwater and beachfront villas, a signature spa, high-tech gym, outdoor pools, water sports center, and a children’s club, the resort would impress even a seasoned luxury traveler.  

The hotel offers overwater villas. (Supplied)

But besides the butler service and handful of culinary options, what really stands out about the resort is its design. This is no cookie-cutter hotel — Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and interior design firm Kristina Zanic Consultants made sure of that.  

“One of the briefs was that we had to make sure that this whole project was offering a barefoot luxury experience that really works in harmony with the nature,” Zanic told Arab News. “This was an untapped, untouched part of Saudi Arabia and a lot of those islands are pristine.” 

The view from a bedroom in one of the resort's Coral Villas. (Supplied)

Considering the white sand beaches and azure water, it’s no surprise that the Red Sea’s famous coastline was designed to be the star of the show, but Zanic and her team decided to base their design pitch on something rather unexpected — the wind.  

“The way the wind flows … the breeze flows through the actual resort itself, you know, keeping it cool. The whole narrative we created was about wind that you experience there. A lot of our patterns and materials were inspired by the way the wind shapes the island,” she said, referencing, in part, the high-to-low pile carpets in the Dune Villas that mirror maps of the area’s wind vectors.   

Respect for nature is also visible in the structures themselves, with Nicola Maniero, Partner at Kengo Kuma & Associates, explaining that the project “does not seek a camouflage with nature, but aims to establish a relationship of continuity with it through a language that departs from merely imitating the basic reference.” 

Dune Villas reflect the shape of sweeping desert sand formations. (Supplied)

To that end, the Dune Villas reflect the shape of sweeping desert sand formations while the Maldives-style overwater Coral Villas take the form of shells.  

A nature-inspired design ethos did not come without its challenges, however.  

A living room in an overwater Coral Villa. (Supplied)

“The water villas were initially supposed to rest on the surface of the sea as if emerging from it in a continuous spiral. However, the level of the villas had to be raised to 2.6 meters due to possible storms and rising water levels caused by climate change,” Maniero said.   

He added that the villas’ circular floor plan “adds interest, but poses difficulties in terms of layout solutions.”  

A living area in one of the Dune Villas. (Supplied)

It’s a sentiment mirrored by Zanic, who explained that the Dune Villas’ striking curved formations posed unique hurdles due to differing ceiling heights from room to room.  

Challenges aside, the design team did manage to have some fun with aesthetic quirks. The wooden floors of the villas, for example, consist not of planks, but of angular slabs of tessellated wood resembling a turtle’s shell.

The wooden floors of the villas consist not of planks, but of angular slabs of tessellated wood resembling a turtle’s shell. (Supplied)

 That attention to detail is visible in everything from bespoke door handles and durable wall finishings designed to withstand the salty sea air, to the handmade textile art that is slightly different in each of the villas.  

“Each piece looks sort of the same, but they (aren’t). That feeds into the whole concept of a luxury experience. Each person gets their own little piece of art for the weekend,” Zanic said. “Everything is bespoke and it gives the resort a unique identity.”  

The spa, too, has its own defining motif — a henna-like detailing embossed on the walls — while the St. Regis Bar hosts a large mural depicting a local folk tale. 

The St. Regis Bar hosts a large mural depicting a local folk tale. (Supplied)

Tilina, the resort’s overwater restaurant, features exposed radial beams on the ceiling that mirror sea waves, while the tiles on the walls reference iridescent fish scales. 

Maniero highlighted Tilina’s unique structure.  

“It diverges from completely imitating the water villas because it doesn’t have a central courtyard, it’s more like a shell with a split circular floor plan that is slightly shifted,” he said. “However, there is still a connection to the water villas derived from the use of materials and the circular, organic floor plan.”