Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tron Evolution



Just before the world goes Tron crazy, we get a glimpse at Disney's game to coincide with the release. Taking place before the events of Tron Legacy, we delve into The Grid to see what all the fuss is about ...

I was apprehensive of this game for good reasons, the production company behind it had only really done Turok before this, which wasn't exactly inspiring confidence and Disney aren't known for their cutting edge computer games (Kingdom Hearts can suck my balls), so what to make of Tron Evolution?

Well let's set the scene, Flynn introduces us to the game by saying how the system he created has evolved, it's not just computer games now. Instead, it's expanded and there's not just basic programs bouncing around in there either - there's Iso's. These Iso's are entities that have formed on their own and serve no direct purpose and there's unrest in The Grid because of this. After an Iso has gone rogue and become a virus, Clu (who is Flynn's server manager and looks just like him) goes a bit mad and declares war on all Iso's - civil unrest ensues and the virus doesn't help either. So that's basically it.

What follows on from there I still don't know. You run into some people in the way and you have to get places but I'm never sure why and I'm afraid I lost interest not long after the start. This isn't just because of the story, it's for a number of reasons.

The first thing you'll notice is the graphics, it's very slick and the neon lights look great and you'll be immediately impressed. However, on closer inspection you realise it all looks rather the same and begins to hurt your eyes after a while. The close up's and anything that needs real texturing look terrible and the Tron universe is simple and quite barren which doesn't make for much of a sight.

The gameplay is also ridiculously behind-the-times. It plays like Prince of Persia where you hold a button to run up walls and basically do anything fancy, which means you're pressing that button for pretty much the whole game. You run up walls, jump about and do other parkour stuff that seems completely out of place and you'll spend about 80% of your time playing it, just moving from one platform to another. However, it's not as advanced as Uncharted or say, Enslaved, so you can fall off at any point, often don't know where you're supposed to be going or what you're supposed to be doing and will time and time again jump off wrong and end up dead. I must have died well over 200 - 300 times and some of the checkpoints are so stupidly placed that you'll find yourself having to kill a bunch of enemies just to make sure you get that one jump right again, and if you don't get the next one right? Back to kill those enemies again. I cannot tell you how frustrating it all is. The platform aspect of the game is tedious, backward, repetitive and a chore - it's no fun whatsoever.

So when you're not jumping about like a retard, what are you doing? Mostly fighting. Once again, this has been poorly conceived as you often don't know how hard an enemy is hitting and with their sodding flying discs you never know when you should be blocking or hitting. You don't feel any real metaphysical contact when you do hit (that should make sense to the gamers) so you just feel like you're swooshing about and hoping for the best. You have four different types of disc but there's no real grace to it, I often kept with the heavy disc and did an 'area attack' which saw me off pretty much everyone. You have to keep your energy levels up by running, much like a bag of crisps along a checkout counter, against an energy wall thing which gives you health. This often means that in crucial times, you'll often miss it or spend 20 seconds trying to get the run right meaning by then you're already dead and have to start it again. Also by using your 'special' discs, you use up power, so to up your power you hop over desks or little stumps in the ground - no joke. The whole thing is just bloody stupid.

So what about the cool stuff like the bikes? Well, like any good gamer knows, sometimes games have to sacrifice skill for spectacle. Take Call Of Duty's little bike or four wheel excursions, they are fast, furious, and take minimal skill to continue and would rather you enjoy it than have to do it again and again and again. Tron isn't like that. Instead, if you hit anything, or even touch the sides you lose a lot of health, which means instead of flooring it, you have to patiently and slowly make your way round bends and then suddenly know when to speed up at points to get over jumps. When other bikers engage you (there's only 3 I think in the entire game and they don't last longer than ten seconds each) then instead of trying to get them to crash into your light, you just have to outrace them. No 90 degree turns either. Disgraceful.

The tank sequences are also laughable and feel like a PS One game gone awry, it's simple shoot and move mechanics that are so lame it hurts. When you have to battle enemy ones without being in the comfort of your own tank, it takes a while to figure out how to kill them and if their turret so much as brushes you, you're dead. The 'game' sequence where you go up against other programs in gladiator type events is so short that if you blink you'll miss it and is stupidly easy. It feels like an afterthought. Apart from that, that's really it.

What annoys me the most is that because of the lights and the fact your character doesn't say anything it reminds me of Dead Space, which makes me even angrier for some reason, probably because the way it looks is it's only saving grace and it doesn't even stand up to a game released years ago. Overall, there have been worse games out there but this is shockingly bad. Apparently multiplayer mode is an important part, but I can't see it being much fun as the story campaign was infuriating. Don't touch this game, just leave it well alone and hope that one day someone can do Tron justice and, if you're planning to get this on PS Move then good luck because I wouldn't dare.

It's definitely taken a Tron for the worst, but looks pretty at times and, I guess it does have light cycles. It's either clearly been rushed for release or the producers are idiots.

Shame.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 29 November 2010

Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen

Hong Kong legend Donnie Yen hits UK screens in the latest Kung-Fu action film to grace our shores, but is it really a Legend or should Chen Zhen just ... not return?

There is a very confusing background to this film. Firstly, this is a sequel to a TV series called Fist of Fury in Hong Kong, that series was a remake from the original Bruce Lee film. Now, Donnie Yen has been made to basically be Bruce Lee including Bruce Lee sounds, fashion and even a Green Hornet hero disguise. It's also directed by Andrew Lau who made Infernal Affairs, but isn't the Andy Lau who was in Infernal Affairs, that's someone else entirely. Understand? Good.

So what's it actually about then? Well, it's based on an ancient legend but yet this film is set before the second Sino-Japanese war in a Shanghai settlement where the British and the Japanese are battling it out with China in the middle. Chen Zhen has come back from fighting the Germans in France and taken the identity of one of his fallen comrades, why he needs to do this is never clear. The whole thing is then set in a club called Casablanca (yawn) which looks like a shoddy Boardwalk Empire (which if you still haven't tried to get hold of then you're an idiot, sorry) and it's all about people double crossing each other, about politics, revolution and stuff I have absolutely no idea about. I'm just not that clued up on Modern Chinese History I'm afraid, and this film didn't help either.

For those who know their Hong Kong cinema, there will be some friendly faces and the fact Andrew Lau is behind this will be enough to put some bums on seats but if you're looking for an action film, it might be best to look elsewhere. There aren't many fight scenes but when they do come up, they are quite good, but nothing remarkable. Yen's fighting is fast and seeing as he must be about 50 now I'm surprised he looks as incredible as he does. Yet his fighting looks comical and it seems as if they have sacrificed power for speed to make it look more impressive but instead it looks like about ten happy slaps a second, not enough to knock out these bad guys, and a lot of 'signature' moves are repeated. The final fight scene was also not that impressive and if you look at what Hong Kong was making 40 years back, it isn't even close to that type of skill.

So perhaps the story is enough to keep you hooked? Well, not really. It's so melodramatic and unsubtle that you can't help but laugh through half of it and the negative display of foreigners has apparently got a lot of Japanese upset, but you don't see the Germans complaining when Hollywood does a war film do you? Also, haven't the Chinese and Japanese always hated each other? I think it's time to move on guys. The British don't get a good rep either, but then the British guy is clearly not British so I don't mind too much.

Overall, I left the cinema without really knowing what was supposed to be going on but keeping with it enough to know who was supposed to be good and bad. The directing was OK and the scale was somewhat small as it felt like it had been made in a studio rather than drawing you into the scene. I can't say I was ever really bored but I was never entertained, it's a poor introduction for those who haven't seen the rich content that Hong Kong cinema provides and I do hope this film brings in more money into their industry but for smaller, more cutting-edge films rather than Hollywood-wannabe cheese-fests like this one.

Maybe see it on DVD if you're really that bothered but with an April cinema release date, don't expect it until Christmas 2011. Ambitious, but ultimately dull.

Rating: 3/10

Big River Man

One man against nature. Big River Man tells a tale of Martin Strel from Slovenia who is an endurance swimmer. However, he's not your typical athlete. The man is fat, a drunk and 53 years old and about to break the record and swim the entire length of the Amazon...

David Walliams is nothing compared to this man. A former gambler who started endurance swimming past 40, he's tackled the biggest rivers in the world. He might be a nobody in the celebrity world, but in Slovenia he's a big deal and this film, narrated by his son, is a portrait of a fascinating man on an incredible journey.

We start as his son paints us the picture. His father is a quiet, friendly, charming man who has already swam the Mississippi, the Danube and the Yangtze which includes some horrible footage of the pollution and dead bodies floating past the swimmer. He is constantly drunk and watching the man squirt red wine into his mouth from a water bottle while he's wading in water is a sight to behold, but yet he is accustomed to it. This Slovenian work hard/play hard lifestyle isn't a healthy one and yet he persists with swimming for days on end. He is a remarkable man, even if just for the fact that he's alive let alone having the stamina of a superhero. But yet he has his flaws ...

As the Amazon swim kicks off, we get a first-hand look at what makes the man tick - but his son is ever-present to fill in the rest. There's talk of his abusive childhood, his past job as a professional gambler, his love of America interspersed with footage of the swimming, but it is on his Amazonian trial that we see a human pushed to the absolute physical and mental limit.

Within a few days Martin is sunburnt and is drinking copious amounts of beer which is merely dehydrating him, which he refuses to believe. So he is given a rag to put over his face and a hat, making him look like the swimming elephant man instead of Martin and in a way, it is the first step to someone losing their humanity and becoming merely a vessel. The poor swimmer slowly goes insane, mirrored in his navigational partner and not only that but his heart is about to give out any second. He is hearing voices and soon remains absolutely silent, refusing to move if it isn't swimming and attaching car batteries to his head in a strange method to make himself sane. What starts as a jolly test of endurance, soon becomes a horrible nightmare.

As he nears the end, it becomes slightly uncomfortable to watch and once it ends you feel like Martin will never be the same and according to his son, he isn't. He has recurring dreams that he has to begin the swim again and the river soon picks him up and lets him fly over it. It's this sense of fighting your own demons in a path to God that is touched upon briefly but dismissed because it doesn't necessarily have to be God, but a certain inner peace which Martin is clearly aiming for, yet this underlying theme of Jesus does tend to crop up. His sense of achievement and near-martyrdom is supposed to give hope around the world yet falls unflatteringly on it's face once the talk shows soon lose interest. It's not just a struggle through a river, but through life and you might meet people along the way, it might have it's up's and downs and it might be dangerous but like this film, it was quite a journey.

Although I recommend this documentary, it was far from perfect. Some scenes, and especially some certain shots, looked forced and fake making me judge the whole piece in a cynical manner - something that is risky for such a project. There were also moments I didn't quite understand such as why his son wouldn't be allowed in an ambulance but the camera crew are, which added to the melodramatic effect it didn't need. I don't think it was very well shot either and the directing was formulaic and try-hard with lingering pointless shots that weren't interesting - whereas it would have done better concentrating on the content and the natural beauty of the area rather than trying to make it look too Hollywood. How many reflections of things off the water do I want to see in 90 minutes? Not one really, it's so cliche, which is a shame as the subject matter certainly wasn't. I feel anyone could have been there with a camera and still got out this film no matter who was behind it and for that it shows good foresight but not enough practical inspiration to see it through.

A great film about a great man, I'm sure your Dad would love it if he feels like he's getting on a bit.

Rating: 8/10


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Uncharted Movie News

It's official - Sony have cast Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake in a movie adaptation of the incredible PS3 Uncharted series.

As anyone knows, Wahlberg's perpetual worried look will make a lot of fans displeased. Look at his Max Payne game remake for instance. Nathan Fillion had expressed an interest in playing the role, which would have been a million times better but instead we're left to see an amazing game franchise get completely raped by a crap actor. Yes crap. Does anyone else agree? "Oh what about The Departed?" umm.. wasn't he just an angry the whole time? Isn't he just supposed to look angry all the time? I think it can be safely said that whatever films he does, he's not a bankable star by any means.

So what about the director? David O Russell will take the helm which is a surprise because he's done some very strange films and is known for well... not getting on with his cast. George Clooney smacked him about in Three Kings and there's that fight on YouTube he has with Lily Tomlin in I Heart Huckabees, and he's got The Fighter coming out with Wahlberg and Bale which might be a good impression of how much he can get out of Wahlberg's limited acting. Pesci and De Niro have even been rumoured to play Wahlberg's father and uncle - which will be strange. I'm just hoping it won't be another National Treasure ... I'd rather kill myself.

South Park Season 14

South Park's 14th season was a strange one. Do you remember the days it was about some strange people in a little town? Not anymore...

I'm a huge fan of South Park and I think it's one of the most creative, original social commentaries of our time - all wrapped up in a cartoon format for adults. However, if you look how it's evolved year by year, then you'd see that it has probably peaked a few seasons back. Instead, South Park seems to take pride in being a last-minute story about current affairs or social trends or celebrity news stories. A Comedy Central advert even advertised it as a 'Which celebrity will they take the mick out of next?' thing - and I thought it missed the point. It seems they might be a little preoccupied with creating controversy than focusing on good jokes and so they end up with this mixed bag which is the 14th season.

There's one good thing that has happened to South Park since it's first episode back in the day and that's it's pace. It no longer hangs around or holds back with some lame joke, it completely runs riot and does what it wants trying to cram in as much as possible - which for a show like this works a lot better I feel. Though I could be wrong.

The first episode Sexual Healing is about sex addictions and mainly Tiger Woods, it once again relies on celebrity whacking and just doesn't contain enough jokes to make it a worthwhile watch, it's a pretty bad start for a season and one that shows that they wanted to come out with something that included a big name so people would be like 'no they diddddn't!!' . The Tale Of Scrotie McBoogerballs is a good Butters episode where the boys write a disgusting book and blame it on Butters. It's after the boys read Catcher In The Rye which is supposed to be all controversial and they don't find it the least bit offensive. I find that a lot of books which try to be controversial often try too hard and seeing as it's usually written by someone who stays in their room all day, it's hard to imagine they have any idea what they are talking about. People are literally sick all over the world and this prat-fall visual gag is a good one, but again it fails to inspire a rewatch.

Medicinal Fried Chicken is a better episode with some good Randy moments (perhaps my favourite character) and some good Cartman / Scarface storylines and I think, much like The Simpsons producers realised with Homer, South Park fans love anything to do with Randy rather than the kids. Stan and Kyle have turned into little whiny moaners, especially Kyle and no-one really cares about Kenny that much. Cartman however, goes from strength to strength and it's good that they try and spend as much time on him as possible as he is the real star - alongside Randy of course.

You Have 0 Friends is to do with Facebook and it being essentially a monster of it's own. The great thing is Stan going into a Tron world inside Facebook and Randy, of course, is completely in love with the idea of social networking. The funny bits are basically the bits with the loner kid and the idea of friends as a currency in the online world, but again, compared to earlier episodes such as the one with Faith + 1, Fingerbang or so on, it really doesn't stand up. The next up was a two parter about celebrities, and mainly Tom Cruise getting their own back on South Park, it was also about the sudden shock news of showing Mohammad. These episodes did create a bit of a frenzy in the Muslim world but really it's just more celeb bashing with celebs they've used already anyway. So nothing new really.

The last episode of the first half of the season (phew) was Crippled Summer and apart from the 'Mimseyyyy!' line and a shark raping a kid, it was pretty crap. Why they ended the first half on this I'll never know. When it came back months later with Poor and Stupid, a show about NASCAR, there was some funny Cartman and Butters moments - "that's gay" - but it was quite boring. It's a Jersey Thing takes a look at the sudden hype surrounding shows like Jersey Shore, Housewives of New Jersey etc. and has one of the most shocking endings I've seen on a South Park yet as the Taliban fly some American Airline jets in to save the day and Bin Laden is commended as a hero. I don't think I saw that one coming.

Insheeption was another favourite and caused some outrage by copying jokes from well known comedy site College Humour (as documented in this blog). The episode which has a look at Mr Mackey's past is hilarious and the young Mackey is the best thing I'd seen in South Park in this season. The next three episodes returns to Cartman's Dark Knight Coon superhero, except he now has Coon and Friends (a homage to old TV series Spiderman and Friends), it's the classic gang with a new member Mintberry Crunch and you find out who Mysterion, as well as the others, while they try to save the world from BP's mistakes - "sorry". This 3 parter started well but soon got quite boring and the very end was a big anti-climax - which is a shame because there were a couple of good moments.

The final episode Creme Fraiche is another good Randy episode as he seems to get aroused by cooking while his wife has a strange new exercise machine. Once again, there were a few good moments, including a great Gordon Ramsay impression by Cartman but it didn't save the series.

Overall, it might even be worse than season 13, and I didn't hold that in high regard either. It's a shame but I think South Park needs to take a look at itself and maybe start spending more time writing the shows because it seems they are running out of ideas. Fortunately, it's nowhere near dying as yet and I still enjoy watching it, it just isn't the same. I'd just rather it stop now than turn into the self-parody that is The Simpsons, a show that is absolutely terrible these days and treats it's audience like a 5 year old child.

It's still better than The Simpsons and I'd say it's better than Family Guy, which is hit and miss for completely different reasons, and definitely not as smart or original (minus the College Humour thing). What I love most is last week, the creators are being sued for Butters doing the 'What What in The Butt' song, probably the last great hope before the show finally started turning into what it is now.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Daft Punk - Tron Legacy (OST)

Exclusive Daft Punk music video for "Derezzed" including some never-before-seen footage from Tron Legacy film. Keep reading underneath for the FULL review of the Tron Legacy Soundtrack by Daft Punk.



Daft Punk return with the soundtrack to the upcoming film Tron Legacy, but is this worth gracing your record collection with?

Firstly, this album has to be taken into context. It is, after all, a motion picture soundtrack, it's the score for Disney's Tron Legacy and isn't meant to be a pop album by any means. However, I have a lot of time for music scores - the obvious ones being Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams etc. but I find it extremely satisfying when producers bring in an outside source to give some remarkable results. Think of Air with The Virgin Suicides, the musical genius that is Kevin Shields with Lost In Translation, okay so they are both Sofia Coppola films but still, you get my point. So in this instance, Daft Punk score the new Tron film and it's surprisingly a mature effort from one of the most successful leading dance crossover artists around.

I wouldn't recommend this album if you are expecting a classic Daft Punk album full of riffs, hooks, and samples because it is nothing like they have ever done before. Instead, it takes you on a journey similar to that Vangelis took people on in Blade Runner, it's dark, epic sounds with a synth backbeat is perfect. Now, I used to absolutely love driving at night listening to Vangelis, especially with a cigarette in my hand. It made me feel like I was driving around in a dark, dystopian future in my own world (if you haven't done it, I'd recommend it) but I can't wait to do the same with this album, it creates a subtle yet chilling atmosphere that is perfect for a film score. In particular, half way through the album it picks up the beat slightly and turns into something you'd hear in a futuristic neon nightclub before the final comedown.

The French duo have clearly pulled out all the stops and taken this all incredibly seriously. You have to remember that some of these 22 tracks sound very similar and you'll be hard pushed to distinguish one from the other but it is supposed to be used for running underneath footage, not to release singles from. Also for all you foghorn fans who enjoyed the scores of the incredible Shutter Island and Inception, then there's quite a bit of that for you too. Surely foghorns are the sound of 2010? Not Cheryl Cole. Though they are quite similar perhaps. But the general feel, is that of a dark, post-apocalyptic Eighties B-Movie (which is kind of how Tron's first incarnation might have been regarded) brought up to date and produced to a high quality - which sounds like a perfect combo to me.

After opening song Overture pipes up, you already know you're in for an epic ride and when Jeff Bridges' voice comes in to describe The Grid, you see a world within computers, much like how you could describe Daft Punk's sound and 'then one day ... I got in'. The score then enters as you can almost picture yourself walking into this digital landscape they have created around you. The Son of Flynn has that typical French sound that runs throughout and when Recognizer kicks in, you feel the pace heighten as something dark seems to be gearing up which leads into the disturbing, sinister Armory. Arena then slowly builds up from silence into a Terminator-esque rhythm which feels like a tribal, battle sound that I'm guessing it wants to create. This sweeps nicely into Rinzler, as the battle drums turn more threatening and it builds up with The Game Has Changed and soon, those Inception style horns kick in with that robotic, digital underbelly that only Daft Punk can pull off successfully.

Outlands conjures up a feeling of mystery and intrigue that slows down for Adagio For TRON where a sadness must occur during the film, or something rather emotional as the violins kick in and then soon that dark, digital sound comes back in. This is an example of the entire album really - it builds an epic landscape where the digital sounds are a constant sinister threat and seem to be chasing you throughout, something that I imagine will be the same in the film where, after all, the technology is the enemy.

Nocturne again is a slower song that seems to end the more reflective part of the album and End Of Line comes in with some absolutely amazing synths that put the hairs up at the back of my neck which soon turns into Derezzed which I'm guessing will be remixed to fuck the next coming months and something I could see at any Daft Punk set. It's probably the stand out track of the entire piece and more immediately accessible than the other tracks.

Fall then enters the scene with what you can imagine to be a dramatic moment in the film with a sweeping score until Solar Sailer calms it back down. The horns get going again in Rectifier which clearly describes some strange danger ahead and then melts into Disc Wars (I think we know what scene this might be from). It takes a while to build up, but the French-electro duo once again clearly put their stamp on a track that could have easily sounded like any other big budget Hollywood score. C.L.U is very similar to the song before but with a tinge of violence (maybe it's the Psycho stabs?) before moving down some musical scales into those recognisable threatening horns and then the drum machine coming back in before an abrupt ending.

Arrival is a classic post-event comedown score which you can imagine where the hero is being reflective on the events that have just happened in C.L.U. Flynn Lives (is that a spoiler?!) is another comedown song that is both beautiful, epic and heroic as it builds back up to a fanfare of sorts.

TRON Legacy (End Titles) is again one of the stand out songs. It sounds like an 8-Bit computer game that you can imagine is worth sitting in the cinema afterwards listening to, because you could probably never hear it that loud again for a while. It's simple yet stylised sound is incredible, especially about 1:20 in when those epic synths come in to add that sweeping sound that makes you realise you've probably just watched an incredible action film (which I'm hoping I will). The Finale song you can tell is the big comedown after the preceding songs, and won't be too out of place in Lord of the Rings or something as it majestically rides over those digital beats leaving a satisfied feeling like every good Disney film should have.

One criticism would be that, unfortunately the songs don't really last too long, most being a couple of minutes or so, which means just as a song is gearing up it's over. However, it's the best background music you could have for anything in my opinion and they've done a fantastic job.

I'm not lying when I say this is one of the best score's to a film yet. I can already taste what kind of a film Tron Legacy will be, and if it's anything like the music Daft Punk have created, it's going to be one hell of a film. Maybe they can do us a favour and take this on tour? Maybe I'm revelling in the hype I'm creating, but I've rated this as a film score and NOT as a typical Daft Punk album - remember it's a different kettle of fish. The songs aren't created for the sole audio experience, but as a guide for what you see onscreen and if they can still impress and tell a story without visual aid, then it's got to be good. Which is why I'm giving this...

Rating: 9/10

Now where's my car keys and fags ...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Video Review




Where else will you see Michael Jackson attacking children? OJ as a KKK member? Sharks attacking zombies? In a review for Undead Nightmare of course! Click on the link at the right for the FULL write up with a more detailed analysis.

Friday, 12 November 2010

LA Noire Debut Trailer Released



Rockstar have released the debut trailer for upcoming game LA Noire and yes, it's a film noir type story set against LA - how could you guess? You might recognise some faces including Mad Men's Aaron Staton. As you can see, the facial movements is something that is far superior to what we're seeing in today's games so this looks likely to be one of the biggest games of next year. Will keep you updated as and when.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare DLC

Red Dead becomes Undead in this new DLC that successfully combines the Western genre with Horror so that shooting zombies never looked so cool

Rockstar have graced us with an odd add-on that takes the original game and completely changes it by adding zombies into the Wild West without taking itself too seriously. You start as John Marston again on his farm as his dead Uncle attacks his family and turns them into zombies. After tying them up, he vows to find a solution to help them and so the action begins.

Rockstar have taken advantage of the current Grindhouse trend and given this a B-movie cult horror genre feel by exploiting it in all the right places and being completely self-aware. The zombies move realistically and can only really be put down with a shot to the head and when you do shoot, instead of a typical gaming 'blow-up' head shot, instead only that part of the head is blown away giving the game a physicality not often achieved, especially with such fodder as Dead Rising 2. As you save town after town trying to uncover the truth, you bump into the characters from the original story making it a bit of a nostalgic trip as well. Similar to the original game, you have to help strangers along the way, find missing people and other small missions but essentially you're trying to find out what's behind all this.

As fun as it was to play, saving town after town by giving survivors ammunition (something that is scarce at first but builds up rather quickly) becomes a bit of a ball-ache. You have to go up to one survivor and then head to the others giving them ammo before finishing off the zombies. Trying to negotiate a way to get up to these survivors can be taxing to say the least, especially with zombies biting at your tails. However, once you've saved all the towns and done the main storyline (with a great 'few months later' epilogue) I'd imagine unless you're a completist you'd probably leave it there.

They also cleverly use the zombie factor as an excuse to include zombie animals as well as special 'Apocalypse' horses that if you catch, give you a certain special power. Though my Pestilence horse which was supposed to be impossible to kill, died almost as soon as I got it by falling off a cliff but yet I survived, so that was a bit of an anti-climax. However, there are Sasquatches, unicorns and more to find should you wish to do so. But as fun as it was, saving the towns occupied a lot of my time and soon became annoying. Also the final onslaught in a cave wasn't the big finale I expected it to be, instead it fell quite flat. It's also worth noting that you can still use your Red Eye slowing down time meaning you shouldn't really become too overwhelmed with zombies at any one time. The good thing is there is more than one type of undead, you have the normal ones, you have little fast spider like ones, spitting ones and big boulder-like ones. Therefore, it can keep the killing fresh by mixing it up with an assortment of the four. Weapons are also customised for zombie killing including a gun that shoots dead flesh back at them.

The game still sticks to it's open world sandbox roots, with certain Ranked missions, Treasure hunting and outfit collecting so there is something for everyone here. I couldn't justify spending enough time on it to complete it 100%, but doing the main storyline with bits afterward took about 8 hours, perhaps a bit more, and that's saving all the towns as well.


For a downloadable pack, this is great but I still felt they should have eased off saving all the towns constantly and concentrated more on doing missions. It's a nice, strange 'ending' as such with Red Dead Redemption and a great alternative to the Western feel of the original game. It's unique, brave and has successfully won over a lot of the audience, it's also due to come out on disc form in the near future as well. Rockstar have also announced that a Red Dead bundle will come out at the end of November with this and all the other DLC available in one big package. I recommend you buy this, especially if you loved Red Dead Redemption and it's a great DLC but again it's not perfect. Great idea, great gameplay, but felt like there could have been more to the story and saving all the towns became more of a chore as it went along. I'd love to see a DLC to this DLC (if that makes sense) which just opened it out a bit more, but for such content, depth and originality, it's one of the best DLC's out there. Go forth and enjoy - dead or undead.

DLC Rating: 9/10

Monday, 8 November 2010

Unstoppable

Tony Scott and Denzel Washington are back with yet another 'thriller' as an unmanned train is running along the tracks. Not exactly Trainspotting...

Why, oh why, oh why do I even bother going to see a Tony Scott film, they are unbelievably awful. The camera is all over the place, making me feel sick, his focus pulling, sweeping shots, intense close-ups and shaky-cam look unprofessional to say the least. This whole effort to create action through a flimsy script by making the audience feel like they are on a rollercoaster is, in essence, playing on people's stupidity. By drawing their attention away from what matters, it's like dealing with a thick child who has fallen over; he's so taken away with a cuddly toy that he forgets that his knee is bleeding everywhere - and watching this film was definitely painful.

The journey to even get this film made was painful. The overrated diva that is Denzel Washington refused to have his $20 million salary cut holding up production. Tony Scott even got his pay cut to $4 million, though God knows who would pay him so much. It's a recession remember? The entire budget for the film was $90 million, so you can see how much of that was spent on Denzel's pulling power. Finally the film got made and is 'inspired by true events'. This statement always makes me laugh. Isn't every creation inspired by true events? Based on true events is something different (and usually a lie in films anyway) but 'inspired' by true events? You could say that about a diary of birdwatching - which would probably be more interesting than this film.

In any case, a train is left accelerating by accident without anyone driving it and it's left to Washington and Pine to save the day. Denzel plays his classic 'everyday' hero role that he usually does, especially in Tony Scott films, and Chris Pine tries to keep some integrity in the film by giving off a clearly angry young man on his first day on the job. How unlucky for him then. There's some lacklustre back story which is to fill in the gaps where trains are moving because, as every commuter knows, train journeys are usually very boring. The two bond and it's supposed to show a coming together of generations, and a somewhat meagre attempt at how people are losing their jobs, which Denzel can obviously sympathise with seeing as they were unfairly offering him only $16 million - the cheap bastards, no wonder he was threatening to pull out.

They film the train like it's a monster on the rampage when it seems to be going at different speeds from shot to shot. It needs to be stopped before it goes round a rather nasty bend which is inconveniently located above a bunch of fuel tanks and is carrying a load of flammable liquid as well. Not ideal then - who decided to put the train track there? So yeah, they have to stop a train. When I came out, some people were saying how great it was and that it was 'just like that programme 24' - so I guess there's always a market - for idiots - who probably don't watch 24 anyway. I was also annoyed I lost a button on my coat which got caught on the drinks holder as I stood up. That didn't help.

There's some explosions and it has Rosario Dawson in it as a dressed down stressed out worker, but she's still hot - and for the ladies Chris Pine has his shirt off at the beginning of the film so maybe watch it for that and then leave. I would rather have not gone and then I'd still have that button. Stop the Unstoppable and just don't watch this film. It's shit.

Rating: 2/10

Vanquish Video Review

video

For those who enjoyed my Vanquish review (http://thewildbore.blogspot.com/2010/11/vanquish.html), I've now made a short video review which is on YouTube under channel name thewildboretv . This will be the first of many, hopefully, so please comment and tell me what you think. I quote my brother 'That was ... surreal'

If there are problems, watch it on YouTube - it'll up my viewing figures as well http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzGvZx6HE68

Call Of Duty: Black Ops

CALL OF DUTY! One of the most successful game franchises ever returns with lots of stuff you've seen before and much more that you haven't.

For those who didn't know, both Call of Duty 1, 2, 4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 were by Infinity Ward whereas Call of Duty 3 and World At War was by Treyarch. Confusing enough? Well it doesn't matter now because Infinity Ward has pretty much disbanded leaving Activision solely with Treyarch to keep the series afloat with Modern Warfare 3 stuck in development hell.

It is often argued that where
Infinity Ward was obsessed with making things look 'cool', Treyarch wanted to make the games more story-based and bring an emotional depth that is somewhat lacking in Infinity Ward's action-packed sagas. But it has cost Treyarch the big dollars as people see them as the underdogs of the Call of Duty series, lacking real scope and bogging things down with story with a much lesser focus on multiplayer. So whichever opinion you have, I would imagine for most of the gaming public all they care about is that this is another Call of Duty and does it raise the bar? Most definitely.

Firstly, most of the game is set during the Sixties / Seventies with missions in Kowloon, Cuba, Vietnam, Russia and more. At one point you're cruising down a river shooting the Vietcong while listening to the Rolling Stones - clearly 'Nam films have had a huge impact on the game. The sheer scale and globe trotting nature of the game, not unfamiliar with the Call of Duty series, goes above and beyond what has been done before. It includes every setting you could possibly want from a war game, whether you're escaping from a huge jail or playing Russian Roulette Deer Hunter style, it never ceases to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The graphics look incredible with faces, textures and landscapes making you almost forget you're playing a game. I'd love to see what this looks like in 3D as fortunately the game is 3D compatible! Let me know if I can come round to see it on your 3D TV because I imagine it'll blow your socks off. The voice acting adds even more to the experience with impressive casting including Gary Oldman returning as Reznov (from World At War and an important character in the game), Sam Worthington, Ed Harris and Ice Cube as the main roles, but the overall sound is amazing. The score is epic and changes according to what's happening onscreen, subtle yet deeply affecting. The sound effects , background noise and how it all changes according to your environment is mind-blowing, every detail here has been thought about.

So what about the actual gameplay? My opinion is that it is the smoothest I've seen in an FPS yet. The normal controls are still there but whether you're on a boat, helicopter, motorbike, car or whatever, the controls work very simply and very effectively. You do not need to 'enter' vehicles, the game just smoothly puts you in them and the same goes for entering cut-scenes, you could be riding your car, then get a flash of bright white light and in the second you think you've crashed and died, it's actually part of the story, this is how smooth the game works. There's also some cool 'bullet-time' sequences that trigger automatically, sporadically and spontaneously, unlike when 'breaching' doors in the previous COD, the bullet time could happen at any point making it's surprise even more cooler. The weapons work well and are varied enough to keep you interested but the developers realise you just want to point and shoot and not get too bogged down customising your weapons (which is more for multiplayer use anyway). The game might also be too linear for some, but FPS's aren't supposed to be too sandbox, you are on a mission after all. The whole thing clocks in at about 8 or 9 hours as well, perhaps a bit more, which means it's more than enough to sink your teeth into without getting too bored either.

The story is the first in the Call of Duty series which I actually thought 'Wow' - not in the same way America was getting blown apart in Modern Warfare, or the Russian airport sequence in Modern Warfare 2, but a character piece that would make some Hollywood movies blush. You play different characters, but for the most part you are Mason, some poor operative who from the very menu sequence before the game has actually started, is holed up in a torture room surrounded by TV's and made to listen to a sequence of numbers. 'What do these numbers mean?' someone from another room is shouting at you, but poor Mason hasn't got a clue, so they delve into his memories to try and uncover the truth which is how you 'flashback' to the missions.

I don't want to ruin it by saying too much, but it seems like Mason is losing his mind. He keeps hallucinating and can't seem to rid himself of these Lost-esque numbers rattling around in his head as you control him in key moments of his life and try and uncover the secret of Nova 6. Even when you think you're approaching the end of the game, something else opens up (in a good way) and the second time you play it through, you'll definitely have a new perspective on it. This adds not only replay value, but it's the first CoD game where I vaguely know what's going on and I vaguely care. They haven't detracted from Modern Warfare's gameplay, but they've added a depth to the game people often criticise it for lacking. I'd argue that, perhaps people might prefer the advanced technology and faster pace of the Modern Warfare series rather than this, but I'd say they're missing the point. This is a whole new Call of Duty experience and one that should definitely not be missed - and this is merely the Campaign mode!

Once you've completed the game, you unlock a new 'Zombies' level (you can play another zombie level immediately if you so wish) where you play JFK in the war bunker of the White House. For those who loved the Nazi Zombies of World At War, Treyarch have turned Zombies into a more advanced beast altogether, realising that fans had a lot of fun shooting the shit out of Zombies (aren't Zombies everywhere these days? Undead Nightmare? Dead Rising? Walking Dead?) and includes split screen, co-op and all the stuff that you loved and more.

Treyarch have said that the multiplayer is incredible but unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to do so as it has not been officially released, meaning I can't log on to the server. I can walk about the maps by myself though or do some split screen action (if I had friends) and from what I've seen, it's impressive. For me, Call of Duty's success relies heavily on how it works as an online battleground but I haven't been able to test this as of yet, which is why the marking excludes multiplayer, as this can be a whole new game all together.

Overall, Black Ops is a great step forward for Call of Duty, it doesn't hold back on plot, set pieces, environments or character and it'll take a hell of a lot to beat this game. As much as I enjoyed Modern Warfare, it's not exactly Vietnam is it? I mean, war back then was cool right? Do yourself a favour and go and buy it. Some may prefer Modern Warfare, but I think this was a lot more fun. It absolutely desecrates Medal of Honor and puts it in it's place, which is at the back. It just goes to show you can ooze style and still have more than enough substance to match. It is your duty to buy Call of Duty.

Rating: 10/10

(excluding multiplayer mode)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Vanquish

SEGA has put Shinji Mikami from Resident Evil fame with Platinum Games who made Bayonetta and the result is something, that's not too bad.

Firstly, I'm still making my way through Bayonetta and I find it hard to engage with, but that got rave reviews and when this came out, it didn't do too badly either. But I don't understand why.

The problems with Vanquish are quite big ones. Firstly, the plot is confusing and the voice acting typically OTT as the Japanese are used to. One scene runs into another without really telling you what's going on, but then you don't really care because the entire game is completely mental.

It's relentless, you go from one shooting gallery to another with the odd gigantic boss turning up to ruin your day. However, I have to admit it works. The gameplay is smooth and boosting around the place is never boring. The shooting and different guns available are enough to keep you busy and it uses a unique upgrading system where picking up the same gun when you have full ammo allows it to upgrade somehow. I didn't quite understand it, I just played along. This really being the mantra of the whole game.

The story is that you are playing Sam Gideon, someone who has a nice new suit to play with, but San Francisco is blown up (which looks amazing) and you have to go to a space colony to take down the Russians. With a few twists and turns on the way, you are trying to defeat the Russians but find out there's more to it than it seems. But it's likely you won't care. There's the political angle of the economy, of foreign policy, 9/11, government cover-ups but essentially you just wanna shoot some stuff. And boy, do you.

The graphics look stunning and the colours, depth and sheer scale of the piece is impressive to say the least but after a while, it all looks very similar. There are some great moments from taking down a huge walking machine, to coming up against a garbage pile with some bite (and which can also kill you with one move - much to my annoyance) but the whole thing is way too short, completing it at about five and a half hours myself. Compared to similar titles such as Gears Of War, it doesn't quite cut it but the Japanese feel of it all shines through (no surprises then that the makers were inspired by Casshern). Once you've had your fill though I doubt very much you'll go on to do the challenges on offer - it's all style and no substance.

Don't get me wrong, for a bit of senseless shooting in a futuristic robot world, it's great, but there's not much that makes it stand out. I do love the enemies and the set pieces but already I'm starting to think about the next game to play. It might not have much of a soul but thank God then that it looks pretty.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Seven Sell-Outs

I have a feeling this post will upset a lot of people, but it's seven artists who I feel have completely bent over and taken it up the arse for a dollar. Whether it's appearing on an advert, changing your image or even worse, changing your entire music style in an effort to become more mainstream, this is some of the worst I can think of. If you agree, disagree, or can think of any more then comment below. This is a good place to start and if we can justify more, I'll put more up with your comments and stuff. These aren't necessarily in any order.

1. Biffy Clyro

Having been a fan since before Blackened Sky even came out about a decade ago, it was only until the world first heard Puzzle that we knew there'd be trouble. It was such a jump from Infinity Land which was quite experimental to something so, uninspired. Fortunately, there were still some good tracks but something had changed since they left Beggar's Banquet to Warner Bros, oh that was it, they no longer cared. Since then Only Revolutions has to be one of the most clearly sell-out records ever when compared to the masterful songwriting on Blackened Sky - and it was this album that got a Mercury nomination. Ridiculous. Not only that, but they've been whoring their name out to all and sundry that will take them on - doing so many corporate shows even Jimmy Carr would be jealous. So here are two tracks, the first is their first video for Justboy (look at how young they all look) and the second is the OTT, shit Captain. Compare for yourself.










2. The Offspring

If ever there were a tale of how selling out is a short term solution to your problems, it's The Offspring. Having already done well with their first album Smash in 1994 and the incredible Ixnay On The Hombre, they got so greedy that they went from being dark, moody, California punkers who started the entire 90's scene there (kinda) to pure pop sell outs. It's not as if they didn't have mainstream songs already, people would argue Gone Away etc. were their 'ballads' but they still kept an air of dignity. However, since Americana and the single Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) got released, it's become nothing short of embarrassing. They've now tried everything to not only win back the mainstream audience, but to also win back their original fanbase. However, it's too little too late and they are still releasing albums. I think it's time to put this band to rest once and for all. Selling your soul doesn't always pay kids.
To commiserate, here's a live version of 'All I Want' (one of the first covers I played live when I was about 16 - ahh, memories) and Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) at Woodstock 99 - look how bored they look, there's only three years difference or something between the two tracks.






3. Iggy Pop

The fact that one of the Gods of rock will now be better known as the guy that sells car insurance is enough to make me cry. Why do it? The supreme case of selling your legend, your persona, something you've worked on for decades, something you've been building up, a respect amongst the world that can only be earned, just to sell it to buy a bigger house. It's disgraceful. For anyone who wants to know more go out and buy the book Wonderland Avenue, he's not the focus but it's a great insight into the man.





4. Idlewild

A band that I have probably seen more times live than any other. They started off as a post-grunge alternative rock/indie pioneers for the modern age, and bands today probably don't even realise it. They played music they enjoyed and that was the main thing - they never catered for what the record companies or the audience wanted, which is the way it should be. After all, that's why people enjoy it right? Unfortunately, by the end it was only the lyrics of Roddy Woomble that held it together. Everyone started doing solo projects to try and recreate their own sound again, but they had turned Idlewild into a money making beast that soon everyone got bored of. It was the style change and the release of 'The Remote Part' that signalled the end, yet it was their most successful album. It sounds as if the band have split but they are currently touring playing 100 Broken Windows in it's entirety to celebrate the re-release. Once again, you can't claw yourselves back guys. Here's what it sounds like to be good and then to sell out.





5. Green Day

Anyone remember Kerplunk? Back in 1992, it became an underground hit that broke Green Day free from Lookout records and took them straight to Reprise Records where the punk scene had then already dismissed them as sell-outs, but unfortunately it got even worse. Dookie was released and MTV played Basket Case to death. Their popularity started to wane after Warning pretty much bombed, so after selling out, how could they regain their popularity? By riding on the wave of emo and selling out all over again. By 2002, they had already had two Greatest Hits albums released and when they finally came out of hiding with American Idiot, an entirely brand new teenage audience welcomed them with open arms. After some more awful 'punk' songs, the band now have a Broadway musical, a game and more. They don't mind anyone using their songs and will basically let themselves be pissed all over for a couple of hundred bucks. Don't believe me? Well here's the difference.





6. Kings Of Leon

I can't go into the whole Kings Of Leon debate again (Look at my album review last month) but it's safe to say no-one in the most recent years has probably sold out more than Kings Of Leon. Here's the proof.





7. Sex Pistols

It's hard to say about whether Sex Pistols (mainly John Lydon) ever sold out because the punk movement, anti-establishment in nature, was just a money making machine. If it wasn't for punk, Virgin would never have come about as a multi-million dollar industry. People forget that punk didn't start in England, it started in America and was copied over here to sell clothes from a store called Sex run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. It was all about creating controversy for the sake of making money, Sex Pistols were a boy band way before Take That. So in a way, they were made to sell out but the punk ethos of anti-capitalism etc. should still ring true today and John Lydon, who was so outspoken against the bourgeoisie mainstream culture, has in fact, much like the rest of the band, turned into it. What a shame. I mean Christ, there's even a Sex Pistols perfume out.






OK so I could go on and say Ozzy Osbourne, but in fact I don't think he even knows what's going on anymore and his solo stuff is still shit. Muse might have changed their sound to complete space-cock-rock anthems, but they just got really popular and it seemed they didn't change their sound on purpose, they just got shit. Ramones might have sold out with their logo emblazoned on everything, but half of them are dead now and they did keep on doing the music they wanted to do, even if it got shit near the end. Lemmy in the Kronenburg advert might seem a bit much, but Motorhead were never known for being underground - Ace of Spades is used for everything. Korn, Limp Bizkit, some argue even Metallica, but for the most part if you sell out, then you take the risk of losing more money in the future. Slow and steady wins the race.

There could be a debate about what exactly classifies as selling out, but if you're making music which you know is shit and you don't care how your band looks as long as you get paid, I'd say that's selling out. There's one thing playing music you love, becoming successful and maintaining your dignity, selling out packed stadiums and yet not selling out (Radiohead for instance) but it's another thing being a whore.

Thoughts?

The American

Dutch music video director Anton Corbijn returns from the success of his first full length feature 'Control' with a take on the novel 'A Very Private Gentleman' starring George Clooney as a gunmaker hiding out in an Italian village. Is this 'thoughtful thriller', as Corbijn puts it, another Jason Bourne? Definitely not ...

Let's start by saying that this film isn't the action blockbuster that Focus have made it out to be. Instead it's a slow, reflective piece that works almost like a serious Lost In Translation, which can only be a good thing right? Well, not really.

Clooney plays Jack, a man who right from the first shot of him sipping on a drink while his girlfriend puts her arms around him from behind, while he stares emotionless into the middle distance, looks dead inside. He's completely detached from the world and after getting found by his enemies (why they are after him in the first place we never find out) he has to leave to set up shop again in a small Italian village. Whilst he is there he makes friends with the local priest and falls in love with a local prostitute and soon wants out of the game. That's the whole film, apart from the opening action, a small chase scene halfway through and the end, that's all the action you're going to get. Boring? Well, yes and no.

What Corbijn has done here is taken Clooney's paranoia and brought us into it. Through the score, the shots, the look and the general silence (it feels like hardly a word is uttered throughout the film), we start questioning what's around the corner, if anyone can ever be trusted and a mere shadow makes us just as tense as Jack. The way this feeling of suspense effortlessly glides from character to the audience is a masterful stroke in itself, but with all the suspense in the world even the master himself Hitchcock knew you have to give the audience a pay off, and The American just doesn't do it enough. It might build things up, but the audience's confidence in Jack means that there's no situation we feel he cannot control and so the tension can only work to a certain degree. However, the constant turning of one's head and lack of trust is an important concept that you can imagine all these spy thriller heroes would have to go through. It looks lonely and exhausting and, as we know from the off, Jack is no hero either.

It's also interesting how it's called The American. His lack of trust and paranoia is something that could be said of the country's social mentality post 9/11, but also how he feels isolated outside of his natural habitat - as if America feels cut off from the rest of the world and how, in some ways, it is. I don't think it's just by chance that he deals arms and is ex-military either. I'd also argue that the whole world he's living in is his own Hell, which is even suggested by the priest at one point. There's a lot of talk of religion, of cleansing sins, of hope and despair and the ultimate trial of opening up to someone and falling in love. All the while he's making deals with the devil for monetary gain and has, in theory, sold his soul.

It's a film that is more about what's not being said than by what is. Little looks, turns of heads and the use of light indicate a director who knows exactly what he wants and the framing and cinematography in general is beautiful. Every shot is like a perfect picture and cannot be faulted, you can see why this man is one of the best photographers out there. However, I can't help but feel that this should have been an art-house film with perhaps an unknown in the lead. Not that there's anything wrong with Clooney, in fact all the acting in this is superb, but the expectation of this being a Clooney spy thriller means that it becomes a disappointment for a lot of people. It's a slow-paced, suggestive tale of one man trying to reach out to others and would have been better off without being touched by Hollywood. Had this have been advertised as a slow, emotive, indie art-house foreign flick (whatever that means anymore) I would have liked it more. As it is, it feels like a pretentious, yet beautiful, sequence of images that is more about scoring credibility for all involved rather than entertaining the audience. If people say they loved it, it's more likely because they feel they have to. It's a good, quiet, sombre film that jogs along and keeps you guessing, but essentially it was a bit boring.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 1 November 2010

Batman : Dark Knight Rises Update

News has come that Marion Cottilard has turned down the role of Catwoman but that another role was being suggested, that of Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ras al Ghul from Batman Begins.

If you don't want to know what she has to do with Batman from the comics then LOOK AWAY NOW. Otherwise, read on, but I doubt they'll fit it all in anyway.

Talia has a kid with Batman called Damian who turns out to be the fifth Robin (yes, fifth). She's a bit of a dark, complex character often trying to keep her criminal dad happy but at the same time wanting to be a better person. She saves Batman's life loads and she's French, so it might all fit in together. We'll see...!