Thursday, July 2, 2009

Still Stoked for Batman: Arkham Asylum

So way back during the fast pace of E3 this little blog was posting a crazy amount of news. It got to the point where I needed a break for a few hours, days, weeks and because of all of that I managed to skip out on a game that I wanted to mention again.

That game was Batman: Arkham Asylum. From what I can decipher, from what I have heard or read, this game had one of the biggest, if not the biggest, presence at E3. From hotel room card keys to the Batmobile making an appearance it gets my vote for really putting themselves out there. That is how you promote a game and I would be surprised if this game does not fly off of store shelves or at least make back the money that they spent on all of this advertising. I am personally preordering the $100 dollar collectors edition so their ad campaign already worked on me. It apparently worked so well that I am again writing about this game though this time I am writing about it closer to its release date.

There are skeptics though, namely our good friend, and contributor Matt, who despite wanting to like the game are having a problem letting themselves get too excited. Matt is a comic book nerd in every sense of the term so we might all be able to understand his skepticism.

But the more people who get their hands on it, the more people are convinced. Matt got his hands on it at E3 but still is not convinced mainly because it feels like it is trying to foist too many game styles on you at once (IE Bioshock, Splinter Cell).

For myself this is fine because if the game accomplishes half of what those two games originally accomplished and can cleverly mash them together, it will be one of this years greatest games and perhaps the best Batman game in the past decade. I believe that this game will not disappoint because well, seriously, have you looked at it? Look at it again!

I am happy to hear that the controls have felt good from everyone who has put their hands on it because that means that it is only a matter of time before I get to engage in some sweet sweet Batman action. I cannot wait for the free flow combat, the detective mode, and grappling on gargoyles to get that perfect vantage point. Perhaps this time I will not try the hardest difficulty level available first (though it is what I always do).

Entry for Kyle K. Sorry it is a little late buddy got tired. Real work sucks.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ghostbusters: The Video Game REVIEW

It is just another night in New York City when a paranormal pulse sweeps across the city starting you (the Rookie) off on a brand new Ghostbusters adventure. You play the role of the rookie (who never gets a name because Venkman does not want to get too attached) who gets to test all of the new proton pack equipment. Ghostbusters: The Video Game starts off two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2 so for all intents and purposes, this is the sequel Ghostbusters fans have been looking forward to. The question is, “Does it live up to the Ghostbusters reputation?”

From the opening cinematic one can get an idea of how well written (in the GB sense) this game is. It is witty, well acted, and it will probably charm you right into a Ghostbusters suit.

The story is straightforward enough but without giving too much away, the city is in trouble again and this time you get to help in the rescue. In the first level the rookie is tracking down Slimer at the Hotel Sedgwick and it is there that the Ghostbusters discover that something bigger is abound. From there you are taken on a romp through Times Square, the museum, the library, alternate dimensions (of course), and even Central Park.

None of the story ever feels forced or out of place (except for the last scene between Peter and the love interest) and it is all held together by the glue that is classic GB humor. You could not write this stuff better yourself.

When it comes to game play it is nothing new or innovative. It is your somewhat ordinary, run of the mill, slightly modified, third person shooter. None of that matters though because it still manages to feel fun and fresh. The combat is changed up only slightly throughout the game and it (the combat) never failed to satisfy.

The biggest problem with the game was with some of the combat; it was riddled with intense difficulty spikes (keep in mind that I was playing it through on the Professional difficulty though I imagine that it would spike in all of the same places) that were numerous enough that it almost ended with the controller in/on the wall/floor. In these moments it almost felt as though the game mechanics were broken and that you were relying on luck to get through. I would try a section of a level a ton of times and I would only pass through after what seemed like an eternity. I considered a restart of the game on a different difficulty level on more than one occasion. The last thing is that the load times became annoying when forced to something in the game more than twice.

There are a few other things that were wrong with the game but nothing quite at erroneous as the difficulty spikes. For example during some of the cut scenes there was awkward motion capture based on what was going on in the game. It seemed as though the characters body was telling a different story than the voice acting and it just felt unpolished. There was also some minor slowdown during times of intense ectoplasmic action but nothing that broke or spoiled the game.

On quite the opposite end of the spectrum, it never got old smashing headstones with the proton stream. The destructible items/environment in the game were a nice touch that definitely added to the aesthetic.

I would play the game again if only to nab some missing achievements but even without them I would be able to see myself playing it at least once more. The game was not too long or short; it ended right where it felt like it should have.

In the end the game stands out as though it could easily be the third part of the Ghostbusters canon. From the cut scenes to the random in game dialogue the game feels like a piece of the mythos. In the level that I will not spoil for you, Winston says, “So this is where all of the slime that was running under the city came from.”

Bustin’ made me feel sooo good.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Game Diary: June 29, 2009: Ghostbustin' Edition

In the past week I have played through Mass Effect Galaxy to completion and have been struggling with beating Ghostbusters on Professional mode.

At this very moment I am stuck trying to fling or pull Stone Angels into a gate. It is annoying. I imagine that these difficulty spikes are not just in the Professional mode though they are definitely heightened on this harder difficulty. These spikes will factor into my review but that is all I really want to say about it for now. Keep an eye out for that very soon (hopefully).

Monday MUpdate: Where are all the good video game movies?

This weekend I didn't really play all that many video games since I spent it packing and collecting moving materials, as well as doing a lengthy clean up of my ridiculously messy room. While I was doing all of this, I decided it was time to watch all the movies that have been laying around my room or clogging up my hard drive. Two of said movies were both video game related, and I figure what better place to write my snarky commentary and scathing reviews than a blog dedicated to all things video games?

I'd also like to point out as a foreword that both of these movies are not Hollywood movies, but films commissioned by the people who made the game as a way of expanding their own mythos. It is in that that I feel I can be extra harsh in commentary, because while Hollywood films have to take an idea and make it passable for a 90 minute film that non-video game audiences will enjoy, these films are made as an addition for people who are already fans of the video game and therefore do not have to take the same inconsistencies and jumps that your average Hollywood film does. So when I get overly critical in the following two reviews, just try and keep in mind that I'm still a huge fan of the video games. I just don't care for 90 minute films that miss the point.

Dead Space: Downfall

People that have been regular readers for the past year or so know that I praised Dead Space when it first came out. I found it a highly entertaining and quite terrifying survival horror game that revamped some tired ideas and put an entertaining spin on them. It was essentially Resident Evil in space, except the "zombies" wouldn't die if you shot off their heads. You had to more carefully shoot off their limbs. It also mixed in a bit of Bioshock with a story that threw you into an abandoned and dead mining ship, and you had to learn through out the game play what happened to everyone in the past - how they found the artifact on the planet, it released this terror, and everyone proceeded to go insane and get infected with space zombie flu. Awesome.

The movie, however, lacks everything that made Dead Space cool. It comes off more as an Alien prequel that just begs to ruin your imagination. See, part of the fun is that when you play Dead Space, you get to infer everything that happened. Downfall shows it to you, and therefore loses a big chunk of the survival horror aspect that made Dead Space so entertaining. While we are presented with an insanely wide and talented voice cast (such as the guy who does the voice of Mickey's arch-nemesis Pete (seriously)), all of the characters come off as bland and impersonal. We follow our heroine as she tries to survive the ship, but ultimately, who cares? Everyone in the movie treats her like crap and we as the audience never really get a reason to feel otherwise. She's good with a gun and hates aliens, but don't we all? All the other characters introduced as part of the surviving team are about as two-dimensional as they come. Besides, anyone who has played Dead Space knows how the movie will end: everyone dies. When you get to the ship, it's empty, remember? So why bother getting attached to a crew that you know is doomed?

My biggest complaint still lies with the fact that this takes away from the imaginative properties of the sci-fi space survival horror. I really loved the way the story was explained in Dead Space. Obviously, the game's run time allows for a more carefully explained plot, but from the brief moments you yourself get to see on a computer monitor the revelation of the artifact as well as the first attack are what make this game's horror aspect work. Granted, if you were a fan of Alien, then I suppose the set up of the plot can work for you, but having actually played the game from beginning to end I just found everything kind of "matter of fact." There was no plot twist that they could give to me that would make me sit up in the chair because I already knew them all.

So Dead Space: Downfall does somewhat go to flesh out the story of the Dead Space infection time line, it's all in all unnecessary and unwelcome. For those actually interested in having everything explained in front of you, then I'd recommend a watch, but otherwise skip it. Sometimes, a game without a cohesive story that forces you to earn the truth of any mysteries surrounding the plot is much more rewarding than a game that explains it as you go along. Granted, there are obvious exceptions to this rule, but as far as survival horror goes, I'll take a non-linear storyline over a straight forward one any day.

Resident Evil: Degeneration

Resident Evil: Degeneration is something I had incredibly high hopes for. I don't think I need to remind people what a huge Resident Evil fan I am. The game literally pioneered the survival horror genre, and without it we would never have anything like Dead Space. Hell, we wouldn't even have Dino Crisis. So considering this movie is supposed to enter legitimate continuity, it seemed like a winner to me. Possibly another Advent Children, even. What it ended up being was a hilariously bad attempt at gap bridging in the Resident Evil universe.

Now, the movie is supposed to take place in between Resident Evil 4 and 5. The events of Resident evil 2 and 3 have already happened and Raccoon City lies in ruins. It is important to note that there is no way the public is not aware of zombies, especially due to the opening scenes of news reports that consistently mention outbreaks and the fall of the Umbrella Corporation. In fact, one of the main characters is a Senator who okayed the bombing of Raccoon City, and when the movie opens with him at an airport and a protest mob outside, someone is dressed as a zombie as a form of protest. So can someone please explain to me why everyone is confused when the outbreak occurs? And why Claire just doesn't grab a cop's gun and end this within the first five minutes?

My first complaint with the movie was the clear issues of dialogue. Some of what was so insanely stupid, I felt I was reading a 13 year old's fan fiction. Here are two of my favorite moments:

Scene 1:
Squad member into walkie talkie: "Where are you?"
Woman stuck in airport: "We're in the VIP room!"
Squad member into walkie talkie: "Ok, I think they're in the VIP room!"

Oh yeah? Really? What was your first amazing clue to that one? The best part of this is, though, is not the fact of obvious repetition. It's the fact that even though the cops were told where the woman was, they were still somehow unsure.

Scene 2:
Senator: "I hope you have a plan!"
Leon: "We're going to run across the lobby."
Claire: "You should trust him - he knows this stuff."

This is the level of intelligent writing we're dealing with here. I'm not saying that Resident Evil has ever been a great example of award winning writing, but come on.

There is also a moment where one of the character's breasts grow about twenty times in size for no reason, and it's positively hilarious. I honestly spent more time laughing at this movie then I did enjoying it, and this is my second complaint. More than anything, this movie is really dumb. Resident Evil has never really been "about the zombies" so to speak, and more about the virus, evil corporations, and monsters, but there was barely any zombie involvement at all in this movie. Most of it was dialogue about how they wanted to prevent an outbreak during an outbreak. A lot of it just seems so basic and easy to avoid. On top of that, all the plot twists are incredibly text book. Granted, Resident Evil has been pulling out some of the recurring twists for the past couple years, what with the supposed return of Umbrella as well as Albert Wesker repeatedly popping up, but this tries to play out like a thriller more than just your typical Resident Evil story.

All of this is not to say that I didn't enjoy it at all. It was dumb and poorly written but I definitely liked it more than Dead Space: Downfall due to the connections with the games. The animation is really great at points, and there's one scene of running water that I could have sworn was actual running water versus CGI. This is the first time Claire and Leon have been together since Raccoon City, and Resident Evil 2 was always my favorite game so it was nice to have them together again. On top of that, there is a tease of TriCell in the game, the new villainous corporation introduced in Resident Evil 5, which I liked. But while this expands the story in similar ways to Advent Children, it fails in the same way that Advent Children succeeded. The reason Advent Children worked is because it was a straight up sequel that offered closure to many open ends. Degeneration offers no closure to anything because there is no need to try and offer closure. What it does instead is just continue along the evil coporation motif of Resident Evil rather than make it a true horror story, and what works about playing Resident Evil versus watching it is with gameplay you can have as much zombie horror as you want, whereas in a film it needs to be regulated. That's what makes this fizzle around.

So while Resident Evil: Degeneration is less of a disappointment than Dead Space: Downfall, it still is ultimately a disappointment. Poor writing and direction for a story don't save it from being part of continuity. In fact, that's more reason to dislike it, because it should by all rights and accounts take the effort to be well written considering it is essentially fan service. There was no need for this chapter of Resident Evil because ultimately, we gain nothing new, just some amusing one minute teases. In fact, without knowledge of Resident Evil 5, the inclusion of TriCell is somewhat pointless, because all things considered, Resident Evil 6 is supposed to take the whole Resident Evil saga in a brand new direction as it finally wrapped up every loose end about any main character involved in Resident Evil.

So there you have it. Two video game movie reviews in lieu of actual video gaming. To be honest, in the upcoming weeks I probably will not get much gaming done, but I will do my best to make it up to any faithful readers somehow. I mean, Marvel vs Capcom 2 will be out soon, right? And I'm bound to do a report on that.