The (Not So) Weekend Round-up — 06/04/09

April 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

Here’s a bunch of random stuff I didn’t write about on the weekend:

1) Dash key found on keyboard!: This has been bugging me for ages now. Through various Google searches and some experimentation via WordPress, I have finally solved the problem. No longer will I have to rely on the pathetic hyphen as a stand-in! Now, I am free to write as many dashes as I want. It was a moment of great jubilation and triumph for me, I can assure you.

(Loads more groundbreaking news stories after the break.)

2) Battlefield Heroes Beta: I got sent a beta key a while back but have only now got around to downloading the client. I played a little over Friday and Saturday and I think I’ve seen enough. It’s like a watered-down version of the Battlefield formula with smaller maps, fewer classes, Advanced Wars-style cartoony graphics and micropayments. Quite frankly, it’s not very good. In particular, the infantry versus infantry combat — which DICE has never really done well — feels a little shallow and rough around the edges.

There is also a big issue surrounding Heroes‘ use of micro-transactions to help fund the game’s development — allowing EA to release it to the public for free — and this aspect has been very badly implemented.  For the sake of full and fair disclosure, weapons and ability upgrades are free and can be accessed through scoring points within the game, so you’re not forced to buy them. But the majority of clothing items, however, have to be paid for via debit/credit card. Again, this isn’t particular offensive an idea in itself — clothing doesn’t improve your player’s stats, it just changes your appearance, and let’s face it: EA have to find a way to make money from this venture, somehow. What is absolutely insane, is that EA or DICE think they’re going to get away with selling and re-selling you the same items over and over again. Let me explain: if you buy — for instance — a trench-coat duster to pimp out your character, you will only have access to that piece of clothing for around a month before you have to re-purchase it again. In other words, you aren’t buying in-game items, you’re renting them — and for an extortionate cost, I might add, as £4.50 only gets you something like 700 battlepoints. To put that in perspective, if you were to buy the cheapest garment for each part of your character’s body, it would come to 1,645 battlepoints in total. People may have bought horse armour in the past, but they’re not this stupid. Besides, part of the reason gamers buy these dumb things is because they want to own them, not borrow them — it’s a gamer’s sense of materialism which drives them to purchase these kinds of trivial items, the drive to acquire and possess material things.

It won’t work. Even for a free, downloadable game, it isn’t good enough for people to want to spend money buying in-game items. Battlefield Heroes — from what I’m seeing at the moment — will either have limited success or none at all. Having said all this, though, the game is still at the beta stage, so who knows what kind of changes of will be made before general release.

3) World of Goo: I have almost completed this game, having played infrequently since its PC launch. Some review sites have been going ape-shit over the game, especially in reference to the kind of subtle narrative it has — but I just think it’s a damn fine puzzle game. The game is extremely well-designed in regards to both the layout of the levels and with the fundamental elements of the gameplay itself. The learning curve is also just perfect. WoG introduces a simple idea, allows the player to run with it, and then gradually introduces new variables and challenges for the player to experiment with and master. I think what World of Goo achieves flawlessly, is giving the player a real sense of progression by teaching them how to do things, and then letting them find their own solutions.

It works really well, but there are a few downers. For example, I can take or leave the story as it is, as it just didn’t interest me all that much. I also didn’t particularly like the way the little people were drawn, but I did find the art style in general to be imaginative and colourful. Oh, and while the game’s soundtrack is pretty good, there aren’t that many songs, and so there is a lot of repetition which got on my nerves. Small niggles, I guess. Still, it’s a very impressive effort for an indie developer and the gameplay is almost perfect — I say ‘almost’, because the controls can get a little fiddly at times, and that’s really frustrating and infuriating if you want to get the ‘OCD’ achievements. Something to improve upon in the sequel, perhaps?

4) Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie Scholl — The Final Days: Watched both of these films last night. Both were very good; although, I preferred the former over the latter.

I’ll only say a few words about Kramer vs. Kramer — but don’t take that as a sign against the film. It’s a poignant, emotional, extraordinarily well-written film with great performances from Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. With a tagline like “There are three sides to this love story!” you could be forgiven for thinking this is the typical Hollywood schlock, but it really isn’t. Even though Hoffman’s character is given more screen time and clearly the one the audience is supposed to root for, Streep’s character isn’t demonised to be some flaky, selfish bitch — but just a very unhappy, lost, incomplete person, who doesn’t really know who she is.  Again, it really is the strength of the writing which prevents the story and characters turning to cliche, and the film’s strengths lie in how rooted in reality it is. Divorce is a very sad and unfortunate thing, especially when a kid is involved. Sometimes marriages just break down, and for a lot of complex reasons. Kramer vs. Kramer is an honest portrayal of that sort of situation.

On the topic of Sophie Scroll — The Final Days: Sophie Scroll — as the character portrayed in the film — irritated me, and it pains me to say that, against my better judgement. Don’t get me wrong, I was very impressed and greatly admired her courage, her conviction and her strength of will, but she comes across (to me, anyway) as a fervid idealist. She held some good and noble ideals but her idea of resistance was misguided. She produced and distributed dissenting literature in order to persuade people to rise up against the government, but she was preaching to the converted. Those who were thorough-bred Nazis would never flip and those who agreed with what was being said would read the leaflets, nod, and go back to their lives, because they were too scared. Why would these people rise up against the regime which is still protecting them? It didn’t make sense to me.

Sophie felt it was the people she had to persuade, but I believe those who could have been were already persuaded. Her efforts, seemed to me to be futile, and that’s why when she was arrested I became annoyed. She was caught doing something which not only, in my eyes, was futile, but she got caught because she and her brother were stupid. No matter how brave she and her brother were, it was still a silly way to get caught. Anyway, I don’t want to go on about this, because, ultimately, she was an incredible person; to do what she did must have taken incredible guts, and so I feel pretty awful criticising her in this manner.

It was a good film, with impressive performances all round. German films do seem to have an issue with colour though — as in they don’t have any. Maybe it’s just the kind of German films I’ve been watching, but most, if not all, have been rather drab from a visual perspective. It’s kind of a downer — but then, of all the German films I’ve watched, none are exactly what you’d characterise as ‘up-beat’.

5) SecuROM in The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena: This kind of annoyed me. I had the game pre-ordered and was looking forward to playing it before my ultra-secret sources (read: anonymous and unreliable forum members) informed me that the game would come with the compulsory SecuROM DRM rootkit and three install limit. I have now, obviously, cancelled my order. But who loses in all of this? Me, because I refuse to buy a game infested with intrusive and harmful software, and Tigon/Starbreeze Studios, who’ve now lost a customer. Do you know who doesn’t suffer from this? Pirates — because they will find a way to crack the game anyhow. It’s absurd.

6) Read The Killing Joke: Really enjoyable story and the art style is very cool. It’s the front cover which holds most of my attention, though. It must be one of the best covers I’ve seen — absolutely chilling and absorbing at the same time; wonderful. It’s only after you read the book that you recognise the significance of it.

7) Up-and-coming reviews information:

7a) There will be a review of David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981) coming sometime early this week.

7b) I will (hopefully) have finished a review of Tomb Raider: Anniversary and a yet-to-be-named film (oohh, suspense!) by the end of this week.

7c) Also coming in the near future will be reviews for Braid and my initial impressions on the Left 4 Dead Survival Pack — if it does come out this month because, you know, ‘Valve time‘ lolz, roflmao etc.

On a side note: it will be my aim to produce two reviews (one a game, the other a film) twice a week from this point onwards. No more stalling.

And, as a reward for anyone still reading, please enjoy this clip of No Country for Old Men, courtesy of YouTube, the Coen Bros. and me.

(Javier’s expression after the last line is priceless :D)


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