Tuesday, 22 March 2011

There's an ALIEN in my movie screen!

So this one is going to be a bit different, in the fact that I’m going to look at 2 films – both have something in common – Aliens

Battle Los Angeles

This is the film that war films really ought to make more often. Why? Well the film has a different take on the whole movie idea. It knows the audience wants to see action, cool sequences which sound great, and they don’t really give a rat’s ass about the story too much. This about sums up the approach Battle LA takes here.

We open on a beach and see a man running, who is then passed by a bunch of other guys we find out he is in the army, he curses under his breath as the group passes at speed leaving him behind. We then move to the next scene where we find him slumped against his car applying an ice pack to his knee (Danny Glover’s Lethal Weapon line should now be mentioned but is rather more implied). These short burst scenes go on for about 15 minutes of the film as we are introduced to the unit we will spend the next 2 hours with.

After the rounds are done a story about meteors is mentioned with some mysterious activation of military personnel being placed on active duty and vollá we turns out the meteors are aliens, and they’re not friendly at all as they open fire on a beach in Santa Monica. Now we roll into 1 hour 30 minutes of action and what the audience wants.

That’s pretty much it for story, it’s no Inception but it’s certainly not a “fire and forget” film. The aliens look really good visually while their ships are very much junker ships and look superb on screen as you can see each section as it is put together. Overall the camera work suits the film with the day shots working well and the night shots with look great and pick up some good details of LA in both the night and day.

My only faults with the look lies in two areas:

1) the fog – seriously don’t put too much of this on screen or the audience has no idea what the hell is going on, and when you have a squad of about 15 characters on screen who are new to the audience we have a lot of confusion (unless this was intended to make the audience feel like this? Or I could be seeing things which are not there).

2) Camera shaking - this feels a little “after effect” and doesn’t quite do it as good as Saving Private Ryan. The audience does not need to feel sea sick when sat in a movie theater no matter how cool it looks in the editing room!

Acting wise Arron Eckart pulls off the old solider quite well for the most part but it feels phoned in other parts. On the other side of the coin Michelle Rodriguez fits right at home here and for once does not die at the end of the film. Ne-Yo is a surprisingly good performer in this film and he doesn’t get off lightly, he matches it blow for blow with the more experienced actors. The rest of the cast are bit like background noise – they’re there you just don’t notice them that much.

In a 140 Review (A Tweet Review) of the film I said: Independence Day + Black Hawk Down + District 9 = Battle Los Angeles. This is true but needs a little expansion. Take the action and pacing of Independence day + Black Hawk Down Setting and style + District 9 aliens type = Battle LA. Really this is a good action film and worth a go, however don’t expect a District 9 where you walk out questioning the motives and are really thinking about the films message – here the message is simply “USA kicks ass and finds a way no matter what” – this comes from a Englishman!


So let’s start this off with a point – this is not a follow up to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (the cornetto trilogy) nor does it have anything to do with Edgar Wright (he was busy making the awesome Scott Pilgrim). This film is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost having a go on their own making a movie.

Paul is sort like a more “South Park” ET – in the way that this alien isn’t nice or charming. He’s rude, smokes, and makes fun of most things as a know it all – but then he has been here for 50 years or so. Paul see’s two English best buddies fly over to San Diego to head to Comic Con and then see some of the big UFO sites along the way – this was until they met Paul.

Coming into see this movie I had seen mixed reviews about the movie, with most saying it was short to that of what we would expect from Simon and Nick. To be honest I enjoyed the film and found that having a CGI alien who is crude but also has a heart good to see and the characters were typical of the English geek in the USA at one of these big conventions (speaking from personal experience here). The film is littered with references to other movies and even get a cameo from none other than Steven Spielberg (no doubt a favour to the lads as they worked on TinTin), while Sigourney Weaver makes an eventual onscreen appearance as the film’s villain.

The acting is good, the camera work is fantastic when it comes to the road scenes and we even manage to avoid the Who Framed Roger Rabbit moments when people interact with Paul. The humour fits with the tone and I feel that it more relates to an English sense of humour with some of the jokes. I wouldn't say that it is so funny I split my sides, however I did find that in moments I was laughing out loud at the jokes.

This is quite a good comedy film to see in a light hearted way. It’s not as crude as say Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s work but it’s at heart a buddy comedy movie. To anyone in two minds about seeing it, it’s worth going just to see Seth Rogan pull off a superb performance without having to appear on camera.

In the words of Paul - "That's Jenga!"

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The problem with modern gaming - part 2

Welcome to the second part in this series, part one can be found here (http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9073622) – go take a quick look and come back, I’ll still be here for when you come back…… All done? Good now we shall continue with:

Send in the clones

Hands up, who’s played a sports game – you know the ones I mean Tiger Woods, Madden, NHL, FIFA, NBA … the list goes on! Ok not a sports fan how about a game like Battlefield, Unreal Tournament, Street Fighter, Tony Hawk, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Soul Caliber, Super Mario Brothers, Sonic Adventures, or Guitar Hero? You must have played at least one of those?

Each of these games has a sequel to it and in most cases follows the law of diminishing returns (see here for technical definition). Many of these games developers feel it a must that they put out a new version of these games at least once a year with some minor updates. With many games now being connected to the internet via some service or another, games can be very easily patched on a console or even added to with downloadable content.

Each new version try’s to improve on where the other version failed, and from time to time we see improvements with updated graphics or new control elements, for example when moving to a new console. But with the current console cycle being the longest yet these improvements are becoming fewer and fewer and the publishers are asking consumers to pay £40 / $60 for a few tweaks to a game they already have and could be done just as easy through downloadable content.

Beyond the non-obvious clones in the form of sequels we also have the real clones or knock-off’s, you know the ones I mean. The review refers to it all the time in ways such as “like God of War but …” or “like GTA but …” or even “this is clearly inspired by Crackdown.” These are the games that the developers were either playing and thought “I could make a tonne of money off this,” or some executive at the developer we “we can make a tonne of money off this idea”.

Examples of this type of game can be seen all the time in clear poor games which enter the bargin bucket quicker than a piece of chicken that ended up on the floor. Occasionally there is a half decent attempt at a knock off and they create their own clones sorry I mean sequels, case in point Saints Row (GTA), Prototype (Crackdown), and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (God of War) (I credit Yahtzee Croshaw with this one). The last one is in fact a sequel, or is it a prequel? (a sequel in disguise).

Right now the consoles and pc gamers are all going to die a death of boredom if they don’t get some new game ideas flowing soon. We have seen this happen with some nice new shiny games come our way but those damn executives get a dollar sign in their eyes and BANG we have a sequel with Multiplayer on its way!

Yet fear not, there is a light being seen and you’re not going to like me for saying this – social gaming. Now don’t hit me (yet), hear me out first. Social gaming (in my world) includes all of the iPhone / mobile games that we have seen pop up with the age of the smart phone in the last few years. Take a look at some of the games that we have been given – Game Dev Story, Angry Birds, Broken Sword, and to some extent Farmville (ok you can punch me for that last one).

Each of these games has taken something simple and made something of it. Game Dev Story is one such example, where they have taken the management sim (a long forgotten genre of game) and added a new touch to the game by making a game where you have to make games to succeed. The game is simple in concept, clearly aimed at a target market and is a solid game.
So why have these games been missed or over looked? Well (I’ve done it again) that brings me to a new point:

She’s goin’a blow!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Hands up when you saw the trailer for the next Epic studio game who else thought “What the hell is this?”

Bulletstorm is from People Can Fly and Epic Games (Published by EA) and see you play as Gray an ex-mercenary now turned drunken pirate who’s hell bent on revenge against the general that double crossed him. The game takes place on a planet where you’ve crashed not only your own ship but the General’s ship. Now that’s it for plot for the game – there’s development and curveballs through the seven chapters but really that’s the bones.

If you’ve played the demo, the game starts off at a snail’s pace compared to the fast pumping action that you did in the demo. You slowly wind into the mechanics and the story and it’s only in about chapter two when you’re let loose with your leash (that cool whip looking thing) that you really kick up the pace.

The game rewards you for killing in unique and varied ways. For example the sniper rifle has some of the best kills as you take control of the bullet (eventually times slows down into bullet-time – I couldn’t resist!) and move in for the kill. The thing is the enemy realise this could be his last breath so he dodges, turning his back on me – my thoughts “You cheeky S.O.B I’m going to stick this bullet where the sun doesn’t shine bucko!” So I aim the bullet down and the up into his arse and what do you know I get Hotshot +100, Rear Entry +100 all for doing that.

While this may feel good after a while you start to look at the guide and almost see how can I kill someone to earn more points? This is where the challenge and uniqueness of the game comes into its own ... for a while. Towards the end of the game you find that the enemies up in difficulty (as they tend to do) and the skills shots just don’t feel as rewarding as they first did – this may have something to do with beginning to think with more strategy on pulling them off as you face a horde of un-knock-down-able enemies who have specific kill spots?

The single player can be completed in a single day with a good sitting and has enough challenges to keep you there for 8 – 10 hours. However this game tag’s you bag in with Echo mode which is like a time + skill-kill mode which seems you replaying small portions of the game in timed modes for as many points as possible, which creates leader boards and competition amongst your friends list – that is if you have friends on there who are playing this mode

As for multiplayer Epic games bolted in a sort of horde mode called Anarchy mode with wave, after wave, after wave of ever increasing enemies. Now I’ve not tried this yet but I can imagine its fun with a close group of friends over live as you try to stay alive as a unit of four. When being interviewed about the game’s lack of real multiplayer Cliff Bleszinski told The Telegraph
“It was in there at one point and it actually worked, but we found that the game shifted from being this kind of puzzle-shooter into essentially this downhill skiing simulator, where people were seeing how fast they could get to the bottom of the mountain,”

Having played the game I can see his point but then again I really wouldn’t mind perhaps a Left for Dead style 4 vs. 4 multiplayer which would make for an interesting game as you could see people trying some real interesting scenarios with some of these enemies.

All in all this is a good quality game which is truly a child of its predecessors. It takes the intensity and looks of Gears of War and then throws into the mix the speed of Unreal Tournament. My only gripes about the game is that it’s really too short, it’s a bit too over simplified and the ending feels kind of cheap. I mean clearly there is going to be a squeal to this game from the ending, but having the whole final fight devolve into a Quick-Time event? That’s just wrong and belongs in a class of lower game.

This game is a good solid attempt at something new and fresh in a genera that is running low on ideas. But, and this is a big BUT I think many people will only be buying this game for access to the Gears of War 3 multiplayer beta – which if you ask me feels like you’re short changing this game. It has a great sense of humour (even if the language is over the top at times but well suited), it looks good, plays well, and is something that would suit well as maybe a two week loaner and you’re done.

Give it a whirl and go kill with some skill!