Will Preston

Surviving the zombie apocalypse until season 5 – A look so far at The Walking Dead videogame

by on Jun.24, 2014, under Movie Pilot, Review, Video Games


Right now, it’s the early autumn of the year as most of the great shows on television have their end of season break.

Mad Men has already polished off the first half of its final season and Game of Thrones is just about to squeeze the last couple of episodes out like someone popping open a man’s head (SPOILER ALERT – someone on that show dies). The Walking Dead will be entering it’s fifth season later this year, and it’s really starting to catch up with the original comic series, instead of lingering on a farm waiting for the barn to burst open (SPOILER ALERT – someone on that show is a zombie). If, like me, you are getting too fidgety to wait for the next instalment of the shambler drama, AND you’re a keen gamer, then the videogame adaption is exactly what you need.

(Continued on MoviePilot.com)

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Remembering Rik Mayall: Bottom

by on Jun.14, 2014, under Opinion, The Palace of Wisdom


Far be it for me to be impacted by a celebrity’s death, but we’ve had a fair few recently. Some rolled the changes in the world that shaped the ever-improving modern society. Some Were responsible for cultural revolutions. Others just simply made us laugh. Rik Mayall was one of them. Another icon in British comedy who has left their mark in our splitting sides.

Everyone will be in different camps to whom they associate this rubber-faced force of funny, from the hypocritical teenage whining of The Young Ones, the anarchic (sort of) children’s tale of Drop Dead Fred, or even that small cameo he played in the classic horror comedy move American Werewolf in London (He’s in there for about 10 seconds). For myself, I will always remember him for Bottom.

(Continued on The Palace of Wisdom)

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Gotham: will the TV show live up to the Batman legacy?

by on Jun.14, 2014, under First Look, Movie Pilot


If there’s one comic book universe that has been picked apart, scraped, explored, not to mention crossed-over, it’s Batman’s.

More than just a base film and television fodder, the Dark Knight’s home city of Gotham has provided DC fans with more side-stories, team ups, and case files than Stan Lee could ever Marvel up. And no need for alternate dimensions, either. As was proven with Christopher Nolan’s spectacular The Dark Knight Rises Trilogy, you can take the character and his universe and twist it into something new. But just how far can you twist the legend until you’re not even focusing on the hero himself?

(Continued on MoviePilot.com)

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Halo: Same Old Video Game Slop, Or A Forerunner To Something Good?

by on May.13, 2014, under Movie Pilot


I was hoping that turning all videogames into a film format was something that would eventually die out. But after the fifth Resident Evil film, chance would be a fine thing. Why bother adapting a video game to a film when most videogames are derivative of major films anyway? On the other hand, there’s a lot of fresh ideas coming out in the world of digital entertainment – for example, BioShock Infinite, a stonkingly mindblowing experience delving into alternative reality theory that will have you yelling at the set as if it just made a rude gesture at your mother, and enough plot twists to make M. Knight Shyamalan say “Now you’re just being silly…”

(Continued on MoviePilot.com )

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Is wearing red pants over your trousers finally back in?

by on Aug.26, 2013, under Films, Review

Ok. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this that you have some knowledge of comic books and superheroes. Even if you don’t, which probably makes you a liar in this age of the superhero reboots where a Spiderman film franchise can get re-painted and re-canon’d before it’s had a chance to hit the sticky hairy wall of puberty, you’re still likely to recognise some of the names if they’re shouted at you by me in the street. What can i say? Sunday’s leave me to my own devices.

Anyway, past your Batmans, your Iron Mans and even your Captain Cave Mans (No idea if Chris Nolan has plans for a gritty reboot of him, but I’m not going to miss a chance to coin an idea), is the one that kicked off this caped cacophony back in the first half of the 20th century – Superman. And he’s just been delivered a swift reboot to face.

ManOfSteel-3Yes, it’s been the go-to idea with many studio execs when people want to make the next ‘recognisable-hunky-man-punching-bad-men-in-the-face-with-his-justice-fists’ movie. Just about everyone has done it. Even James Bond was put back to a pre-00 agent and had to deal with his feelings. Nothing wrong with it, of course, but just imagine trying to do a film where Roger Moore spends half of his time staring moodily into the distance instead of smirking like a blazer-wearing fop. Maybe you could do it with Connery as he seems to be able to, you know, have some emotions.

But back on track. Keeping up with the trend, Watchmen director Zack Snyder and Dark Knight Trilogy creator Chris Nolan joined forces to tone down the red pants and cape on one of the most iconic figures of 20th century fiction. Man of Steel takes us back to the very beginning of Clark Kent’s story. On the distant planet of Krypton, there is a violent coup being pushed due to the fact that the planet is become more hollow than Kristen Stewart and almost as lifeless. Years and years of depleting resources have caused the planet to become unstable and will lead to it’s destruction (don’t ask me for the science). In the middle of this CGI-heavy chaos, Jor-El (played by a permanently frowning Russell Crowe) launches his newborn son onto a pod headed for another less blowy-uppy planet with a whopping great MacGuffin (Something about a codex with genetic material for blah blah blah oh look another building has exploded), because what loving father wouldn’t do that?

After the inevitable $40 million pop, Krypton is no more and we now have a baby flying through space in an unused prop from Independence Day. Crash landing on Earth, luckily in a country without any civil wars or a third world country, the child is fostered by the Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane lane) in Kansas, USA. What follows is the typical character arc of identity and learning responsibility of his powers (a la Peter Parker) with Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill – woof!) doing an Incredible Hulk and wondering from town to town as people are unable to understand his colossal strength and ability to do just about anything.

ManOfSteel-1It goes without saying that the film’s narrative is extremely similar to that of Batman Begins. We have the hero (technically) orphaned at a young age, travelling around as he learns about himself and learning about what he will eventually become. Ok, when I put it that way, it sounds like the most pretentious gap year ever conceived by an Oxford graduate, but even the narrative presentation shares a lot with Begins. We are constantly skipping back and forth to various parts of Clark’s childhood until he becomes Superman and starts joyriding himself about the place. At this point the film goes along in a fairly predictable manner with absolutely no surprises whatsoever.

It’s a very impressive spectacle of a film though. Zack Snyder has somehow toned himself down, yet still retained an air of over-the-top-ness. A lot of the flight scenes were shot in that fakey shakey camera to make it look like a supposedly real bit of documented footage. Those shots even do that slight zoom in/out motion every single time. But hey, it looked good and sooner than later the film starts exploding fight scenes in your face that feature huge buildings being pancaked, armies decimated and large vehicles used as weapons. It’s just a shame it was a film and not a videogame. Still, I don’t think any of the major developers could render Cavill perfectly enough…with those dreamy abs and gorgeous chin.

A few things stopped it from being as grand as the other comic book films we’ve seen recently, though. For a start, it doesn’t feel like a big film. Quite a lot happens, but you come away a little unfulfilled. It follows the template for an origin story so close that you start seeing Clark Kent as being Spiderman or another superhero and you feel that not enough new ground has been trodden to make it feel like a complete film. I also came away feeling that the film could have been more entertaining and less serious, but that’s just nitpicking. But a major one for me was Amy Adams playing Lois Lane.

ManOfSteel-2Far be it from me to let a single character almost ruin a film for you, but I’ve never encountered such an unlikable woman in a film. At the start she’s introduced as a go-getter journalist who can rough it like the lads, but she quickly becomes a weasel-faced harridan who serves little to the plot other than to provide a little bit of love interest. It was almost like someone got Lindsey Lohan to play Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight. maybe if she wasn’t playing the female lead and a lesser character instead. But in another way, she seemed a lot more ballsy and a lot less damsel-in-distress-y than most superhero movie love interests.

In all, it’s a fairly ridiculous film, but it’s not the film that’s to blame, it’s the source material. The man of steel was originally created by two high school students in the thirties, it’s not Dickens! The whole entertainment factor with Superman is watching him do amazing feats in the manner of brightly coloured circus sideshow. See how he bends a building in half! See how he freezes a vat of Tizer just by sighing! See how he lowers the interest rate on that loan I took out the other week just by winking at me and touching my bum a bit.

What can you do this day and age with a character that has no well-though out weaknesses (A fictional radioactive ore?! Why not just make his enemy his invisible friend or say he was created after someone farted against the force of a hurricane?!). And someone who seems to be less of a troubled soul and more of some kind of clean cut metaphor for American flavoured justice (It tastes like salty strawberries) is going to have a hard time fitting into today’s trend of fleshing out the man behind the mask/cape/bondage gear/stylish hat.

Man of SteelThe issue could be with Snyder’s lack of experience with building up a comic book character. The last superhero film he directed was The Watchmen which had it’s depth and rich characterization laid out beautifully in the original comic – a fantastic example of perfect source material. So in the end, Snyder wasn’t required to spend extra effort in planning when the final blueprints were available for decades. The film ended up becoming something slightly less compelling than the comic. So when it came to adapting a character that had been adapted to death, Snyder didn’t have much originality to work with. I guess he now knows how Michael Bay feels.

However, the film features hyperbolic explosions and lots of ridiculous effects, so maybe Snyder was the loud man for the job. Or maybe there is so much that has been done with Superman that it’s obvious it can’t keep up with the other DC and Marvel characters in the reboot game – the kind of, seemingly forced, gritty realism that will come define cinema in the first quarter of the 21st century

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Counting down the second Cold War

by on Nov.19, 2012, under Review, Video Games

Recently, I bought my first smart phone. Considering the first iPhone came out around five years ago, it goes without saying that I’ve arrived extremely late to the touch-screen party. The first time the high definition screen flashed up, I knew that things wouldn’t be the same again. There was a plethora of tasks and activities that I could now do thanks to the wireless possibilities of this £400 device. It was scary. But then again, the last technological advances of the last century have come by so fast, that you almost panic when you sum up how civilisation has progressed from using telegrams to viewing CGI-saturated feature films at a seconds notice. As usual, there’s the military aspect of it. If I can wield a supercomputer the size of a modest birthday card, what can the research and development department of the US military use to get rid of who they see fit?

Los Angeles gets bullet ridden

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is a game of two halves, but it’s more than a five-a-side. It’s the first of the series to take place in the future, but it also has time to get distracted and look into the distance, reminiscing about previous real life military campaigns. You flick between Frank Woods, Alex Mason (both from the previous Black Ops) and David Mason – Alex’s son. It’s 2025 and remote controlled drones make up a majority of the US armed forces against the backdrop of an uncertain world trying to keep up with the technology that holds together society. China and America have entered a new cold war with a recently discovered (and extremely rare) material called celerium being the cause for such conflict. The earth element is used in all modern technology and has allowed leaps in technology, allowing such wonders as invisibility suits and personal heads up displays to be distributed as standard issue.

It has been a long time since Frank Woods fought alongside Alex Mason in Vietnam. An elderly wheelchair-bound woods is living out the last of his days in The Vault – what can only be described as a high-security nursing home. He’s visited by an armed platoon led by David Mason who questions him over his experience with Raul Menendez, a Nicaraguan narco-terrorist who leads the Cordis Die movement, a military cult with plans to bring down the superpowers of the world through cyber-terrorism. Woods’ past with Menendez spans back to the 1980’s where he was captured and tortured in Angola. This half of the game takes place in several late 20th century conflicts from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the US invasion of Panama (lots of invading!). But the game also flicks to modern (well, future) conflicts as well.


One of the greatest things about this new Call of Duty is the ridiculous selection of arms and equipment. The prototype rifles come equipped with x-ray technology, you have a grenade launcher strapped to your wrist and your personal computer on your other wrist can do anything from hacking terminals to recording far-away conversations a la Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher. Things even get a bit Batman when you infiltrate a jungle base using retractable parachute flaps built into your suit, giving you the appearance of a heavily-armed flying squirrel with stubble. It was at this point I burst out laughing over how far Treyarch were willing to make the future seem unrealistically ridiculous.

But just when things get too much (escaping in a Halo-style jeep from unmanned helicopters in a flooded city in Pakistan. for example), you’re whisked back to a more simpler time, where mobile phones were phones and nothing else. As both parallel stories progress, you are given a series of choices that will determine the outcome of the game. For example, at several stages in the game, you have the choice to kill or spare a character. Depending on what happens, different aspects of the final missions, and indeed the ending, will change. There are five endings in total, so it will take a few run-throughs to get the best ending. But that’s not all affecting the story.

Skynet, anyone?

Another first in the franchise is the inclusion of a series of “Strike Force” levels. These play out like a multiplayer match crossed with real time strategy. You take command of a mixed group of units (soldiers and A.I drones) on the field and can give orders and flick between each one via a remote controlled eye-in-the-sky satellite. There’s a single objective and you face a seemingly never-ending hoard of enemies. The aims of these missions range from base defence to assassination and can be pretty intense, seeing as you’re up against the clock and have only one chance to do them. It’s a fantastic addition to the game, but, like all the new features, seems too little too late to hide the fact that Call of Duty hasn’t made any major leaps or bounds since the first Modern Warfare was released. Other late features include complete weapon customisation before each single player level and the inclusion of a three-dimensional villain.

In the past, the villains included cardboard cut-out Russian nationalists (See Modern Warfare series), Ex-Nazi scientists (See Black Ops) and Adolf Hitler’s gang (See World War Two). All antagonists seemed to be nothing more than arbitrary bad guys with no more reason to commit evil than your typical Bond baddie. Menendez is a different case. Coming from a poor background and eventually forced into a life of crime, he witnesses his sister crippled and horrifically burned in a warehouse fire. After a botched raid on his personal village by a team led by Woods and Mason, his deformed sister perishes, leading to him seeking revenge against the US. At several points in the game you take control of Mendez, almost as a away of making you see things from his side, especially when you see him tending over his sister with a rich sense of pathos and regret. For the first time in the series, someone’s actually come up with a fairly adequate story.

Always with an evil beard

But there are a lot of moments where you feel like there wasn’t enough due care and effort to make this game as outstanding as it could have been. Predictably, the seems to be running off almost exactly the same engine as the first Modern Warfare – which was where the series reached perfection, but considering that was released in 2007, isn’t it time for Activision to hire someone to bring the series into this decade? Aside from the all-too occasional glitch, the single player hasn’t decided whether it wants to be a game or a film. Too many times has the game taken control over certain cinematic moments, as if it didn’t trust me to do the right thing. An infamous moment that stands out is the first encounter with Menendez.

After fighting countless Cuban soldiers and downing a Russian gunship from a moving barge, you find yourself sneaking through a forest and into a communication building. As soon as you step through the window, you sneak up to Menedez at his radio terminal, take him hostage, stand off against several soldiers before a grenade is thrown onto the floor and you’re forced to dive out the window. Not once during this little sojourn did I need to press anything. No linear path. No sudden quick time event to make sure I was still awake. Nothing. And there were too many moments where the game was ripped out of my hands and I had to watch like a good little boy.


And the violence. Oh, the violence. After the particularly dark introduction video where we see Menedez’s sister almost burned to death, the game get’s progressively grimmer. In the first level, you start next to an upturned vehicle looking into the fire looming behind the windshield. Suddenly, two deeply-singed hands bang against it, followed by the screaming charred faced of a man burning alive. It was a horrific sight that suddenly brought out that inner parent that secretly disapproves of everything you do. That voice that frowns at the ethically redundant things you choose to do in Grand Theft Auto games. You’ll know what I mean next time you watch one of the Saw movies and her dulcet tone mumbles in your ear.

After completing one of the five endings the game has to offer, there’s the multiplayer and zombie modes to bite into. I’ve played through the series since the beginning and the multiplayer has not changed in the last four years. The modes are all there, the upgrade and ranking system stands still like an old man confused where to go next, and the maps and speed make the whole experience as hectic and uncomfortable to play as usual. For fans of the series, there isn’t anything that can be really said for the online battles apart from, more of the same with more added on for good measure. I lasted two minutes into a match where a shouting American child yelled at me before firing a pistol across the room into my head. Instant kill. Instant quit. Instantly unimpressed.

What did impress me, however, was the new zombie mode. Sure, it’s the same system as it always been, but there is a new, interesting inclusion. As well as the typical survival mode, one of the maps has a sort-of mission mode attached. You’re plopped in a bus depot surrounded by zombies and you need to construct various tools and contraptions to proceed through the midnight nightmare. Once you escape the terminal, a robot controlled bus awaits you to take you to your next destination. What starts off as you’re typical defence against the living dead affair soon turns into a gauntlet towards what seems like a logical end to the game other than death by an infinite horde of shamblers. I was very impressed and it still remains more addictive than tobacco peanuts.

Sadly, the William Tell Overture did not play

A cheeky bonus was the music. Instead of hiring yet another big name film composer like Hans Zimmer, the guys at Treyarch went a bit metal and dragged on Mr Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor, in to provide his superb brand of emotionally charged industrial noise metal to the game. I have to say that his compositions are really worth a listen. Another surprise was hearing Skrillex in one of the levels in a nightclub. bizarre. All of the pieces set in the future gave it a real cyber-punk feel similar to the recent Deus Ex. As a science fiction fan, I was loving every second of the soundtrack.

Recently, it’s become very fashionable to denounce the Call of Duty series before even playing the most recent titles. Most of the criticism is deserved, but there are still aspects of the newer titles that should garner a bit more recognition. On the other hand, Battlefield 3 proved last year that a long running first person shooter series can knuckle down and leap forward to deliver a perfect videogame experience on both campaign mode and online multiplayer spheres. Now that the Modern Warfare and Black Ops branches have finally fallen off the tree, will Activision finally raise its hands, stand with a modest air of honesty and finally admit that the series has nothing new to offer? After all, just about every single 20th century conflict has been handled in the series and I’ll be buggered if I have to play through World War bloody Two again. There weren’t any mobile phones in that conflict for a start. Or Trent Reznor.

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The chances of anything hitting spot on are a million to one

by on Nov.05, 2012, under Review, Video Games

It’s always an invasion. Whenever we glimpse to the sky and consider that we may not be alone in the ever-expanding black sack of a universe we were burped into, many of us can’t help but think that anything light-yearing its way towards our blue-ish planet won’t have the intention of stopping by quickly to ask for directions to Alpha Centuri. Or even an interstellar version of Bill Oddie making a makeshift bush on the moon and gawping at us with some kind of laser-powered binoculars while narrating our scutterings to a half-interested daytime television crowd. No. It’s always an invasion. Whether it’s a gradual integration akin to the John Carpenter flick They Live or the galloping tripod massacre featured in the iconic War of the Worlds, Aliens rarely tend to come in peace. Or stop by to phone home.

Google had their part to play, too

It’s the near future and Earth is being invaded by a mysterious alien force for the first time in recorded history. Rather than arming Jeff Goldblum with a Macbook and asking Will Smith rather nicely to fly a capture spaceship at them, mankind has already grouped together in secret to unleash the XCOM project – a multi-national covert organisation designated with the task of eliminating any alien threat to the blue and green planet we hold so dear. A council of international representatives has just appointed a new commander to the project (played by you, of course) who will oversee the development of XCOM headquarters, manage research & development projects relating to alien technology, as well as commanding a team of hardened soldiers armed with an offensive amount of weaponry.

XCOM Enemy Unknown is yet another remake of a classic Nineties game, but this time, it’s not being converted into a cookie-cutter first person shooter. The original was a combination of both a turn-based strategy game and a base management simulator – both of which have been respectfully preserved in this new edition. Your ultimate objective for the entire game is to repel alien invaders for attacking Earth. But it’s not that simple. It never is. For a start, this is a publicly funding project. Each nation on earth has pooled money and resources into this operation, so there is a bureaucratic numbers game that must be obeyed. If alien attacks in Mexico rise to an alarming amount with little intervention from XCOM, you’ll have to look for your monthly pesos elsewhere. Not only that, but you’ll regularly receive multiple UFO encounters in a single in-game day, putting pressure on you to decide which country least deserves to be left at the mercy of an extra-terrestrial force. Just like a juggling act, you have to think two moves ahead.

The Thin Men look suspiciously like Dr Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory

The game is split into two modes of play. The main mode is managing your base as the days flutter by. You’re given a monthly budget to spend on upgrades, new soldiers equipment and anything else that contributes to alien death. Set up like some kind of bizarre ant farm, the base trails deep under the planet’s crust and is split into various sections. You have your hangar that allows the transport ship and your interceptor fights to launch out to anywhere in the world, there’s the troop barracks and, amongst the rest of the base, is your laboratory and your workshop. As the game progresses you’ll receive a large collection of alien artefacts, corpses and concepts for new technology. Your laboratory allows a team of scientists to examine your growing collection of alien junk in order to adopt, adapt and improve your fighting force. The workshop operates hand in hand with the lab to produce the new equipment. Before long, your team of basically equipped soldiers will be a heavily armed squad with flying suits and alien plasma technology.

In order to produce these wonderful, you will need to recover alien technology, as well as capture the odd extraterrestrial, in various missions occurring randomly throughout the months. At first, they’ll be basic abduction investigation missions, but as the campaign for Earth heats up, you’ll find yourself defending cities from alien terrorist cells, raiding downed UFOs and escorting VIPs to safety. Not straying too far from the original’s method of play, the missions take a turn-based structure. Each one opens with your VTOL troop transport craft dramatically landing into the theatre of combat with your team spilling out, guns at the ready. A fog of war prevents you from getting a good grasp of the area of operation, so care is needed when advancing the team as one wrong move and your recently promoted lieutenant could end up deep-throating a volley of plasma before being able to yell for back-up.

Different skills open up advanced tactics

The tense sudden death feel of the original has been replicated with perfection. You’ll see yourself losing your temper as an enemy instantly downs your well-covered soldier with a pin-point shot, and that’s just the first mission in and you’ve barely had time to admire your guy’s shiny battle armour. Thankfully, there’s a new system in place that keeps the game flowing at a good pace, so you’ll be able to lose your temper quicker. Each turn gives you two moves per person. You can use both moves to allow the guy to sprint, or you can play it safe and move half the distance, allowing you to use the remaining move to fire on the enemy, heal your team or stand guard. Sometimes, you won’t have the luxury of carefully marching your team out with care. If it’s one of the dreaded terror missions, you’re racing against the enemy to save as many civilians as possible. And I don’t joke when I say that you’ll be lucky to get a quarter of them out alive.

Rather than sending an endless horde of samey bug-eyed monsters at you, the alien army consists of different races working together. In the early missions, you’ll find yourself trading fire with Sectoids (your garden variety grey alien with shiny black eyes) and before long you’ll find yourself rethinking your tactics to take on the juggernaut-like wraiths known as the Mutons. Each alien species brings their own significant traits to the battlefield that require you to adopt a new strategy each time. One particularly fiendish creation comes to mind. The Chrysalid is an armour-plated quadruped that gallops across the battlefield like a Geiger horse. Rather than wield a gun, it zips up to people and slashes them with a fatal attack. Only once you’ve researched and manufactured the best armour in the game does your team surviving a close quarter fight with these spindly nightmares. But it doesn’t end there. Should a human fall to one of these ghoulish bastards, they come back as a zombie in the next turn that roams the game beating people to death before a newborn Chrysalid rips them apart from within, starting the unholy cycle all over again. Until you can kill the zombie in time, of course.

Built like a crude platitude

While the game is extremely immersive, there are a few glitches and problems that pop out of nowhere to spoil your experience slightly. First of all is the cover system. Well…not the cover system itself, but what happens when someone takes cover. When someone fires at someone in cover, the bullets tend to fly right through the wall. This glaring error is made more obvious with the added action-cam pointing out why this looks so bad. Maybe they have armour piercing weaponry, but it ends up looking like rushed design. Another problem lies the un-skippable moments of the game. Sometimes, the enemy’s turn seems to take an age while you impatiently wait for an entire team to scamper around the playing field before you can do them the discourtesy of stopping them from scampering anymore. many times I found myself chewing the keyboard in a desperate attempt to let the game know I’m losing my patience. Long-time XCOM fans will be disgruntled to hear that the panic system is still in play. Should a member of your team become intimidated or witness the quick death or a comrade, there’s a chance they’ll lose their grip on the mission and throw a sissy fit that results in them either running in panic with arms waving, or firing wildly in the vague direction of combat. If the latter happens, sometimes fate smiles upon you and an enemy is accidentally killed. Other times, your stressed rookie shoots the highest ranking member of the squad in the face. And that’s IF your guy hits anything, as each shot has a percentage chance of hitting anything. Too many times have I seen a soldier get the drop on an alien, only to shoot wide despite being close enough to cuddle it. It’s all the luck of the draw in the end.

XCOM Enemy Unknown is a lovingly re-imagined game that pays a great deal of homage to the DOS classic while tinkering with the core gameplay with a large amount of respect. Fans of the old game will welcome the HD reworking of the older foes from the floaters cyborg masks to the flying discs added array of firepower. The super shiny visuals mixed with the impeccably cinematic approach just shows that in the right hands, a remake can almost surpass the original. Do take care though. I forgot to mention that is ten times more addictive than sugar coated smack. For a week, I didn’t have any free time to myself until the end credits crept up the screen and I breathed a sigh of relief before slouching into a pile of junk food containers and piss jars. If this game is widely played, we really don’t stand a chance against alien invasion.

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Batman or: How I learned to stop worrying and love Nolan

by on Aug.16, 2012, under Films, Review

Can anyone name me any third film in a trilogy that stands out from its previous releases? Indiana Jones and the last Crusade, possibly. Maybe even back To The Future Part III? Now how about third films which pale in comparison to their previous titles? No! Wait! I can’t hear anything with all of you yelling at once.. I think I heard Godfather Part III the loudest…possibly even Alien 3. But even when a third film reaches its mixed climax, you are assured that this will be the final outing for the saga. Which begs to ask how do you end a superhero film series? With so many changes in history and resurrections, the comic book world is completely foreign to the notion of letting protagonists retire.

He's tall enough without standing on a car

The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final outing for Nolan’s grim spin on Bob Kane’s answer to vigilante justice. So far, the series has reinvented the character to (almost) exist in the real world and has proved that even comic book films can achieve academy awards (well, Heath Ledger did anyway). So now it’s finally time to do that tricky stylish dismount that plagues the directors attempt to leave us with a well rounded set. After all, Nolan has set the bar for himself with the astounding Dark Knight. Also, what Batman villains can you use before the series takes a turn for the Schumacher…I mean worst. After using Scarecrow, The Joker, Two-Face and the “immortal” Ra’s Al Ghul, what nemesis can give the bat a beating without pushing the film into ridiculous territory?

8 years have passed since Gotham City was terrorised by The Joker and Harvey “Two Face” Dent and life has never been better. Thanks to the events that exploded in the previous film, the city has given its police force better means to take out organised crime. So, with no crime to Batarang and batter, Batman has been left in a lock up, with Bruce Wayne feeling empty and useless after his one true love, Rachel Dawes, perished in the previous film. The first time we see Christian Bales playboy billionaire enter the scene, he’s a dishevelled, Howard Hughes of a man, who is 1 walking stick step away from urinating in jars, obsessively counting his peas and getting paranoid about freemasons. For a man who regularly turns from wealthy buffoon to an icon of righteous justice at the flick of a searchlight, this is one transformation that is hard to take in.

Nothing say's "Gritty reboot" like rain and leather

The film’s opening scene introduces us to Bane, a masked mountain of a man who has so much brains to his brawn, you’d think he was storing extra cerebellum in his biceps. Tom Hardy’s portrayal has him wearing what appeared to be Darth Vader’s bondage mask, so a lot of his acting came from his inhumanly booming voice and use of statuesque gestures. Bane is a terrorist leader who wants to see the most corrupt city in America – Gotham – razed to the ground in the name of natural order (sound familiar?). Leading an army of misfits in the sewer, he is known as an urban myth until his earth shattering reveal where he announces himself as Gotham’s reckoning. But back to his opening scene. In the comic’s Bane reached his near-superhuman levels of strength thanks to a wonder drug called Venom. Rather than sacrifice even more realism from the movie, this aspect of Bane is removed completely, leaving us with a villain we can believe in. Anyway, back to the opening scene.

It’s an airfield in a foreign country. A CIA operative (played by Aiden Gillen AKA Tommy Carcetti from The Wire) is buying the lives of 3 masked hostages in order for one of them to spill the beans about the location of Bane. Once they’re in the air, one of the hostages reveals himself to be Bane and overcomes his captors. Half a minute later, a larger aircraft looms over them with a team of highly trained soldiers rappelling down to the CIA plane, storming it in midair. So far, it’s a pretty impressive opening, but it doesn’t stop there. Attaching their cords to the CIA vessel, the soldiers allow the mystery plane to yank their target aircraft out of control, until it helplessly faces downwards – with the ill-angled drag stripping it of wings, fins and pretty much anything making airworthy. The back of the plane is ripped off before Bane steals a Russian scientist on board – what he came after in the first place – before attaching himself to the cord and disconnecting the ruined plane. As opening scenes go, it beats any James Bond movie hands down.

Obligatory sexual tension

As is the tradition with most of the recent Batman films, there is never one villain. Well, I say villain. Selina Kyle (played by the stunning Anne Hathaway) is a highly skilled thief – a cat-burglar, if you will. Posing as a waitress at one of Bruce Wayne’s many functions at the rebuilt Wayne manor, she infiltrates Bruce’s bed quarters and successfully steals his prized pearl necklace that belonged to his late mother. In his partially crippled state, Bruce is unable to fight back, but thanks to precautionary measures (the old “GPS tracker in the necklace” and “dusting for fingerprints” tricks) he is able to track down the thief that the press has referred to as “The Catwoman”. Anne plays her part like a typical femme fatal and uses extreme cunning to get what she wants. Not to mention she spends most of the film in a figure hugging leather cat suit (Woof! …I mean meow!). technically speaking, she’s not a villain. Think of the typical thief with a heart of gold…but crossed with a sexy ninja. She is a mix of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman (minus the camp insanity) and half the cast of The Matrix – a perfect match and partner for Batman.

Thankfully, all the old cast is included in the film. Michael Caine’s Alfred once again makes the role his won and gives one of the films best performances, especially towards the end (there were tears from everyone). Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) plays a very active role alongside Batman as he works together to stop bane. Oldman almost seems to have aged into the role and gives a fine performance. The new faces on the scene include John Blake – Gotham’s up and coming detective – played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt looking ever so much like a young Robert Patrick, and Miranda Tate – Bruce’s first love interest since Rachel’s’ death 8 years ago. There are a couple of surprise cameo’s from characters in the previous films, but I’m not going to ruin them for you here.

...I told you he was tall enough

The tone of the film is the darkest yet. Batman Begins showed fear and hope, Dark Knight conveyed chaos and the tricky definitions of good and evil, whilst Dark Knight Rises reeks of despair of an apocalyptic nature. The film’s main plot shows Bane and his army holding a majority of the city under a violent siege with scene’s evoking memories from films like Escape from New York and certain levels of the video game Modern Warfare 3. Shots of a city fallen past chaos and into an anarcho-city state run by criminals provokes quite a shocking response. There was a slight sense of realism woven into the fantasy nature of the film. Sometimes I forgot that I was watching what is technically a comic book film. Most of the movie showed Bane’s plan slowly coming together with all the enforcement the US could us being cut down by his scheme. I reached a point where I genuinely felt there wouldn’t be a happy ending.

Nolan managed to unleash some jaw dropping plot twists that spanned the entire series without resorting to retconning his own story. It’s almost like he had the whole trilogy planned before the release of Batman Begins. Simple throwaway lines that were uttered in the first film echo back later in such a reverberation that you almost applaud such wonderful execution. It’s almost as if Nolan has surpassed the achievement of making an Oscar-winning superhero film and has done the near-impossible – perfect a trilogy. At the time of writing, I am still questioning whether this new release surpasses The Dark Knight. I only have 2 quibbles with the movie. First of all is the pacing. What made the first 2 films such an experience to watch was the fast paced story against a long film. You left the experience feeling like a lot happened in a decent space of time. Plenty happens in this new release, but some of the time, the story doesn’t feel it’s moving as fast as it should do.

The other niggle is the length of the film does end up feeling like an endurance test. At nearly 3 hours, it’s technically an epic on the most objective basis possible. But superhero films, by their nature, are quick fixes on a Friday night. Popcorn fodder. Yes, Nolan has busted out of this convention and delivered what is the best comic book film ever, but it’s almost like he’s trying to break away from the simple action film loving crowd who surround the Batman franchise. Thankfully, this doesn’t ruin a superb action monolith, but does leave you feeling out of breath when you drag yourself out of the cinema. Marvel Comics. Joss Whedon. Stan Lee. You can stop now – superhero perfection has been achieved.

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The most brutal of all season finales

by on Jul.17, 2012, under Review, Television

Anyone with a working knowledge of drop F guitar tuning and octuple bass drum pedals would have come across the fictional band Dethklok by now. Like Spinal Tap, they started off a music genre in-joke, but ultimately contributed to the cultural movement they set out to lampoon. The adult animated comedy Metalocalypse follows the brutal exploits of the worlds heaviest rock outfit since Strapping Young Lad tried to take it far beyond metal.

Death metal grocery shopping

The show has already garnered a large – yet cult – following despite only being broadcasted late night on satellite channel Adult Swim – a plethora of child-unfriendly cartoons that get thrown back to the late at night slot for a bloody good reason. When it comes to Metalocalypse, think Spinal Tap meets South Park – lots of heavy metal in-jokes and seemingly improvised dialogue spread across scenes of crass humour and ultra violence. Sounds so niche that you can’t imagine it getting through a fourth season, let alone one, right?

To bring you up to speed as fast as a Malmsteen lick, Dethklok are a 5-peice death metal act whose success has led them to a level of such unimaginable hedonism that they live in a remote dragon shaped castle (“Mordhaus”), employ an entire workforce of servants, bodyguards and sound engineers, and travel everywhere in ludicrously metal-themed vehicles from a 5-seater motorbike to a 2-storey helicopter.

Dethklok are:

  • Nathan Explosion – The bands hulking frontman with a voice ranging from grunting to death metal grunting. Possibly based on George “CorpseGrinder” Fisher from Cannibal Corpse
  • Skwisgaar Skwigelf – The world’s fastest (and tallest) guitarist. Alongside the other guitarist – Toki – Skwisgaar’s broken English and childlike intelligence is a constant source of hilarity. Possibly based on Eicca Toppinen from Apocalyptica
  • Toki Wartooth – An excited manchild from Finland who finds constant amazement at the simplest of things – usually uttering his catchphrase “Wowwee!” Possibly based on Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth
  • William Murderface – The typical ugly bass player. William’s self loathing and resentment of everyone around him tags him as the Eric Cartman of the band. Possibly based on Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath
  • Pickles – The drummer. Looks like Axl Rose with dreads and sports a Wisconsin accent. The only member of the band to have been in a previously successful band a la Dave Grohl. Was originally based on Devin Townsend.

The band finds fun with a defibrillator

The show follows the band and an Illuminati-style council – The Tribunal – that believes the successful career of Dethklok is part of an ancient prophecy that will bring the end of the world. This leads to a lot of cloak and dagger sub plots involving hired agents trying to bring down the band in order to stave off a heavy metal apocalypse (thus the show’s name). The members of this organisation are under command from a mysterious bearded wizard-like man called Mr. Selatcia – who slowly reveals his god-like powers.

After 3 series’ of plot twists, violent mass deaths and an episode where the band attempt to perform oral sex on themselves, Dethklok are set to finish recording their long awaited new album. However, Season 4 starts to show that maybe the prophecy isn’t the delusions of a paranoid mind. After a worldwide storm of nightmarish proportions, the copies of the new album never reach the market, causing worldwide panic and doubt over Dethklok’s future. Before the season reaches its shocking finale, a few questions are answered. What happened to the band’s previous guitarist? Who is Mr. Selatcia and what is he, exactly?

The Dethcycle

Series 4 included some hilarious moments, from the band’s ill-fated presentation on racial equality to Murderface’s brush with cheap plastic surgery. Even past its 60th episode, the show still riffs great chords of comedy and continues to unravel a fantastic ongoing storyline that reveals more about the prophecy itself. But just before every mystery is solved, it literally comes to an earth-shattering finish that leaves you wondering if series 5 is the last outing for Dethklok. Even if you’re not a fan of the many facets of heavy metal, the show is a great example of quick flowing dialogue in a comedy show and features some of the zaniest stage set ups seen outside of a KISS concert.

The last episode aired last Sunday with series 5 yet to be announced.

Series 1-3 are currently available on DVD and is regularly shown on Adult Swim.

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A man with nothing left to lose except time

by on Jul.10, 2012, under Review, Video Games

What does a man who has nothing left to lose have to lose when he kept losing things close to him over the span of 2 games? That was the poorly worded question diving in a slow motion blur through my head when they first announced the return of legendary constipated cop (with nothing left to lose) in Max Payne 3.

As part of their seemingly unstoppable campaign at creating gaming perfection, Rockstar decided to dust off one of their iconic characters for one last squeeze of the trigger. After losing his wife and child to a drug fuelled conspiracy – before losing his sort-of grief girlfriend – Max Payne is now living alone in Hoboken, New Jersey. Now a retired cop, Max stumbles across an opportunity to work as a bodyguard for a rich family living in the poverty slapped Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.

All while wearing a flowery shirt

Moving away from a dark and gritty New York City and into the vibrant setting of a location where the wealth divide could fit 5 luxury yachts doesn’t feel like an expected move for the Max Payne saga, but it doesn’t feel like such a dramatic departure. The game opens to a Max several years past his prime, drunkenly stumbling around his new South American flat, voicing his problems in a pathos-ridden soliloquy over the backing of the series’ dreary theme tune. Yet again, he has set the tone for the rest of the game.

Working as a bodyguard, Max is in charge of the safety of the Branco family – a pound shop Dallas cast for the 2010’s with the only one with any dignity being the patriarchal older brother, Rodrigo. After defending the family from the ambushes of a highly armed street gang, Fabiana – Rodrigo’s trophy wife – is kidnapped, putting the knife of regret firmly into Max’s shoulder once again. Alongside his compadre – Raul – Max gets embroiled in another explosive conspiracy where trouble has a GPS tracker.

Wrinkled from constipation

The adventure takes place across swampland, high tech offices and even a football stadium complete with floodlights and heavy snipers. It’s a very cinematic affair, but one that doesn’t put theatrics in the way of arcade-style gameplay. Thankfully, there are no quicktime events and the boss fights don’t bring the action to a difficult halt. The level of difficulty curves at a good swoop, but is never too easy. However, there are times when you have to listen to the same scripted lines over and over again due to lack of manual saving and easy death. But these hurdles are few and far between and don’t spoil Max Payne 3’s brilliant gameplay.

The gun fights play out in the most flowing style you will ever see. Rather than the invincible torpedo of bullet flinging death in previous games, if Max dives into something (say, a rusty filing cabinet), things go from Chow Yun Fat to Chow Yun fell over. An element of care is required when pulling off the devil may care stunts that define the character. Max’s movement bears the lumbering trademark of Rockstar’s Euphoria engine, but still responds well to your command. Rather than running in a small Nico Bellic-esque semi circle to simply turn around, Max is far more direct, making the gruffly voice drunk a much better gunfighter than expected. He’s not looking too bad either.

Laser sight gets pretty pointless

It’s been nearly 10 years since the release of the last Max Payne and the leap in graphical improvement is astounding. The level of detail matches LA Noire in terms of realism, but not to the point where you’re hypnotised by peoples realistically yapping faces. This even extends to the violence, which doesn’t hold back at all. It goes all the way from juicy exit wounds exploding from the back of a fresh kill’s head to the grisly remains of someone who lost a fight with a pipebomb – not to mention most of his limbs and organs, too. Supplementing the superb gun battles are the potentially overused slow motion shots that trigger after killing the last guy in the room. In a breathtaking 3 seconds, you see the bullet swoop from your barrel and straight through your target. Alongside the gore, it’s pretty gratuitous to strap yourself headfirst into the violence. Not that it’s a bad thing of course.

The single player will take a casual week to complete, but it is worth going over again on the more extreme difficulties. The good folks at Rockstar were even kind enough to bestow an arcade mode – for those of us who just want to dive right into some no-nonsense action – and a cookie-cutter multiplayer – for those of us who want to dive right into a pre-pubescent shouting match online. Somehow, the multiplayer mode isn’t too bad. It takes on board the framework of a basic Call of Duty upgrade system and lets you run wild. Oh, and bullet time is included, but be warned: If you can see things in slow motion, so can everyone else.

Once again, Rockstar create a cinematically sound outing that really drags you from reality and into a realistic fantasy world. Although Max is showing his age, the presentation – from the quirky faux-comic panel shots to the Max’s drunkview – is astounding. Even the soundtrack avoided the typical nuances that plague just about every other action game. A co-op mode would have been nice, but now I’m just being spoilt.

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