Weekend Impressions: 'Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal'; 'Halo: ODST'; 'Gran Torino'; and demos galore!
September 27, 2009 § Leave a comment
I finally finished Bad Company this weekend and am now suitably happy about my gamerscore to move on (sad, I know). So, leaving that in my wake, I’ve played a little of the Forza 3 and Wolfenstein demos as well as ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, an XBLA title. ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE is yet another game about maiming zombies (those guys really need some political representation) and plays like yet another dual-stick shooter. It looks okay, but this sort of thing is getting pretty old now. Besides, they totally messed up with how the chainsaw weapon handles – and, as anyone knows, if you include a chainsaw in your zombie game then it must be both fun to use and look cool. The chainsaw in ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE fails on both counts; hence, they can forget the 800 MS points.
Wolfenstein felt pretty underwhelming, and although I probably will play through the game at some point, it looks like it’s only worth a rental. It’s hard to pin down exactly what doesn’t gel, but I think that they went in the wrong direction with the Veil powers, and the tone of the game feels sort of off. whatever it is, it plays out more like any number of generic shooters than a Wolfenstein game. Shame.
I’ve never played a Forza title before so I came to Forza 3 with little idea of what to expect, other than it being a driving sim analagous to GT. I played through the demo track twice with two different cars and, yes, it looks good; nonetheless, it feels devoid of any sense of real speed or excitement and, in short, it’s a bit boring. That said, I think it may just be the case that game is not for me. I have no interest in cars, tuning, paint jobs and all that jazz. I like racing and crashing into things and blue skies and an awesome soundtrack behind it all.
And here we come to another series of games I really should have played by now but haven’t. I’ve just started Halo: ODST‘s singleplayer campaign and it’s shaping up nicely. I’m still sort of transitioning to the controls, my last Halo game I played having been the original on the Xbox, but I like it so far. I haven’t even tried the multiplayer disk yet or the Firefight mode, so those are things to look forward to. Whatever some people might say, I think that the game probably represents a good deal for those without all the Halo 3 multiplayer map packs, and I have it on fairly good authority that the Firefight mode is pretty cool. Besides, even if the main campaign is short, if it’s enjoyable enough then people will play through it again, alone or together in online co-op, on the harder difficulty settings. My thoughts, at the moment, are sort of apathetic, though. I missed out on the Halo buzz that came with the second and third sequels, so I really don’t have much attachment to this universe unlike other people. Also, and this may be me, Bungie seem to make their level designs a little too “boxy” for my taste – artificial and inorganic. It was the same thing in the original Halo and I’m half surprised it’s the same in ODST. It’s an aesthetic thing more than anything else, but if you compare ODST‘s New Mombasa with Half-Life 2‘s City 17 then the former looks like a bit of a joke.
I managed to grab Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal for free during Telltale’s “Talk Like A Pirate Day” celebrations. It’s an amusing diversion and I’m sure that fans of either the series or of point-and-click games will enjoy it. I actually found myself quite getting into it until I got completely stuck and had to look at GameFAQs for the solution. And here in lies the problem with this genre: as soon as you get stuck, it stops being fun and becomes a case of randomly clicking at shit; no longer is it a test of logic and intelligence but a pointless exercise of trial and error. It doesn’t help that in these cases the solution is often so nonsensically convoluted that you’d only really stumble on it by luck. I should point out here that it’s not that I’m hating on Monkey Island specifically, but I think that it’s unacceptable that there is no mechanic in place to help the player when this happens. Jesus, just a hint button would be nice or some feedback from Guybrush. I don’t find it suprising that point-and-clicks fell by the wayside because it’s clear to me that they never evolved at all, and that which doesn’t evolve dies (profound insight indeed).
Lastly, I got around to watching Gran Torino last night – a film I’ve been looking forward to since I saw the trailer with Clint Eastwood growling at people to get off his lawn. Having now seen it, my conclusion is that it only just about works because of Clint Eastwood’s presence, because of his acting history and what we associate about him. The character he plays is a racist, xenophobic asshole, and it’s only because it’s Clint that the character is just about made likable. But, really, the script is so cliched, uninspired and predictable and not even Clint’s aura can hide that. The truth is, if it were any other actor the film would be crap. Actually, you know what word comes to mind, right now, thinking about it? Lazy. And way too easy.
September 21, 2009 § Leave a comment
I love Carlito’s Way – unashamadely, unabashedly, completely love the film. There is so much in it that just rocks. Firstly, there’s Al Pacino’s engrossing central performance as Carlito Brigante, the Puerto Rican former drug kingpin, recently released from prison, doing his utmost to change his ways and go legal, whilst almost everyone around him is trying to get him put back into jail. There’s Sean Penn’s OTT performance as Carlito’s corrupt, coke-addled, Jewish lawyer, Kleinfeld, who fancies himself as a bit of a gangster (and also, clearly, forms the inspiration for GTA: Vice City‘s Ken Rosenberg). Then there’s Penelope Ann Miller as Gail, Carlito’s old love interest, who’s just got the best chemistry with Pacino; they both share a fantastically sexy, cheesy, romantic love scene together – one among many of the film’s high points.
September 19, 2009 § Leave a comment
Here are the questions you should ask yourself if you’re thinking of buying WET:
1. Do you like the Kill Bill?
2. Do you like third-person shooters?
3. Do you like Max Payne, Stranglehold or just generally shooting people in slow-mo?
If the answer to all those questions is yes, then I can say that you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy WET. I’ve heard the game is short and the gameplay shallow and repetitive, but if you’re a sucker for sliding across the floor, wall-running or jumping towards people while shooting them with dual pistols blazing, I don’t think you could possibly go wrong. It also has this Grindhouse sensibility which, depending on how you feel about Tarantino’s “homage” to the genre, will either irk or tickle your senses. There is a little platforming that is slightly similar to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time‘s, but it’s nowhere near as fine-tuned here and it seems to compose a very minor segment of the gameplay.
In any case, it’s better than Stranglehold, and I feel I can make that statement with a definitive certainty. The game mechanics have a greater degree of finesse attached to them than in John Woo’s game and that really makes a difference.
GiantBomb also did an interesting Quick Look of the game which you can find here:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Battlefield: Bad Company I’ve played halfway through and I think it’s pretty solid. I really like the motley, Kelly’s Heroes theme of the singleplayer campaign. The infantry combat is tight and satisfying and the vehicular combat is serviceable, though it’s sort of pushed into the background, contrary to previous games in the series. It also looks good – the explosions are appropriately meaty and the animations are smooth – and it runs flawlessly.
Multiplayer is okay, but it still doesn’t compete with any of my experiences on the PC. It’s good that DICE hasn’t copied and pasted Battlefield 2‘s multiplayer into Bad Company, because it just wouldn’t fit. Gold Rush – Bad Company‘s unique multiplayer gametype – plays well, but there are things I miss about playing on a PC that is endemic to a console platform. Stuff like not being able to see your ping, a fully functional server browser, not being able to type “gg” at the end of a match and not having mouse look are aspects that are ubiquitous with a PC FPS. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the absence of these features, truth be told.
September 14, 2009 § 1 Comment
I’ve been busy this past week; hence there have been no reviews up for the site since last Monday. It doesn’t look like this is going to change anytime soon, unfortunately, so what I’ll be doing is putting up reviews as soon as I get around to doing them. I’ll keep doing weekly updates but they’ll come under the heading “Site Update”, which, actually, feels like it makes a little more sense.
Quote of the week:
You should have let yourself get killed a long time ago when you had the chance. See, you may be the biggest thing that ever hit this area, but you’re still two-bit outlaws. I never met a soul more affable than you, Butch, or faster than the Kid, but you’re still nothing but two-bit outlaws on the dodge. It’s over, don’t you get that? Your times is over and you’re gonna die bloody, and all you can do is choose where.
(Sheriff Ray Bledsoe speaking to Butch and Sundance, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.)
I like this quote because, for one thing, it’s spoken really well by Jeff Corey, who plays Ray Bledsoe. The second thing is that it reinforces an atmosphere of foreboding, quickly established at the beginning of the film but forgotten almost immediately afterwards. Although most scenes are played for laughs and both Butch and Sundance seem invulnerable through their strengths, there is always a sense of an undercurrent of desperation running through their witty reparté. Butch and Sundance are like a couple of kids refusing to grow up, and Ray Bledsoe is the authoritative parent telling them that they now have to bear responsibility for their actions.
September 8, 2009 § 1 Comment
No video game reviews this week. I might be able to squeeze a couple of film reviews out, though. The truth is that it all depends on what happens to come through the post.
Quote of the week:
We wanna be free! We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man! … And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time. And that’s what we are gonna do. We are gonna have a good time… We are gonna have a party.
(Heavenly Blue, The Wild Angels)
September 4, 2009 § Leave a comment
Score: 4 out of 5
Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy and girl go spelunking together. Girl gets kidnapped by an evil terrorist organisation planning to take over the world. Boy just happens to have secret service training because his father is a spy. Boy is forced to go after girl and stop said evil terrorist organisation.
Personally, I think it could be this year’s Titanic.
September 4, 2009 § Leave a comment
Score: 3 out of 5
In Lucas’ bold, dystopian society of the future, human beings are mindless drones, drugged into nonchalance and slaves to commercialism. Instead of a name, each person is assigned a series of letters and numbers, like a barcode. Everything is monitored, policed, by armed android guards, and it all functions perfectly, precisely – everything fitting into its right place.
There are, however, some who have chosen to reject this society’s values – those like LUH (Maggie McOmie). As LUH forces herself off the drugs, she becomes aware of her isolation. Imprisoned in a world devoid of colour, warmth and love, she needs company. She finds it in her roommate, THX 1138 (Robert Duvall), and secretly removes the sedatives from his daily intake. As THX also becomes aware of new feelings and emotions, questioning his place in the world, he falls in love with LUH. They form an illicit, intimate relationship, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t stay a secret for long.