Review: Limbo

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Playing through smaller XBLA titles sometimes leaves me at a loss for words about how I might review them. As I thought about Limbo (both during and now after having beat the game), I realized a few things about it that are germane to the discussion of reviewing it. The first thing is that it isn’t really “about” a whole heck of a whole lot. I remember seeing the following thing twice, once at the Six Lounge event I went to last year (it was part of a now-reduced instructions screen) and once in the Metacritic/XBLA tagline:

“Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters LIMBO.”

And that’s pretty much all you have to go on in terms of plot. I won’t really say more about that, but what I will say is that, much like some moments in Lost (although Lost is encyclopedic in its telling of facts and plot when compared to Limbo), the few things you do get are so wide open that you can riff endlessly on what you weren’t told. Even Braid gave you more than this, and that’s saying quite a bit (for what it’s worth, I preferred Limbo’s quieter, more intimate message vs. Braid’s bloated over-importance). There is an interesting (but INCREDIBLY spoiler-rific) thread on GameFAQs about the ending and the multiple interpretations, and I am continually amazed with the things people pick up on/make up.

The second thing is how incredibly experiential your consumption of this game will be. This game NEVER should have been presented at that Six Lounge event, because while you do miss some key sound design cues from a gameplay perspective, more importantly the rest of the presentation is meant to be drilled into your eyeballs at 2AM with the sound turned up just a bit and a completely dark, cold room surrounding you. There are a few moments in the almost totally music-less game that have some ambient soundscape-ey pieces that really add to the breathtaking minimalist graphics. This game is meant to be admired and interfaced with as much as it is meant to be played. I say all of this because your willingness/availability to be exposed to this game in this matter will be commensurate with your enjoyment of it, without question.

I realized this pretty early on, so I insisted that I only play this game under those admittedly rare circumstances. In doing so, I feel comfortable in dinging PlayDead for the few things that they didn’t do…perfectly. There are a few puzzles that are not very well explained, and on those few puzzles, I felt like I was stuck there for a startlingly disproportionate amount of time (this game isn’t a fraction as hard as Braid is). I can say this happened twice during the play-through (I’m talking the whole, “I’m turning this off now.”-then-think-of-the-solution-a-day-or-two-later type of stuck), and almost a third time. The unfortunate thing about all of these times (particularly the third instance) is that it got dangerously close to impacting my enjoyment of the ambiance and “story” of what was being delivered to me. And without that…this game could take a nosedive in its final rating. My only advice for PlayDead here would be to get some of the head-scratching challenge out of the way earlier rather than waiting for the 11th hour. While such a thing would be very anti-game of them, this is a title that banks way too heavily on its experience and far too little on its gameplay and mechanics for this not to be an exception.

The other questionable piece of this is the value proposition at $15, and that’s a rough one. I actually grabbed this on New Year’s Eve when it dropped to $10 for one day, and I think that $10 is probably the more appropriate price for this. Barring the tougher puzzles (for which everyone’s mileage will vary significantly), the game is only a handful of hours to complete. I am certain that this particular game does not need anything else in terms of playtime or features, but it does call into question whether $15 is going to satiate the budget-minded gamer focused on quantity vs. quality. While I always fall into the latter category (I’m embarrassed by how many terrible movies I’ve paid to watch in my lifetime), it is fair to state that Limbo teeters on the edge of this territory, and might anger those that don’t get the very specific meal that is being offered by the developers.

I’m happy to report that despite the rhythm gaffs and economics of Limbo, my opinion of the game wasn’t marred significantly. The experience of Limbo is a really engaging and riveting one, and in many ways this felt like a refinement to the Braid formula, much like Mass Effect 2 was a refinement of the original Mass Effect. There were many more moments of quick-yet-satisfying puzzles and much fewer head-scratchers, and while the work of art they were producing required that balance (and almost lost it a few times), I feel like Limbo achieved what it set out to do. I will fondly remember this strange, hauntingly beautiful tale as an advancement of the art of gaming, and hope that many others do as well.

[easyreview title=”Final Scoring” cat1title=”Graphics” cat1detail=”Everything it needs, and nothing that it doesn’t. A rare example of a title that delivers visuals on par with the promise of the concept.” cat1rating=”5″ cat2title=”Sound” cat2detail=”Almost non-existent (and unneeded) scoring coupled with lush, chilling sound effects.” cat2rating=”4.5″ cat3title=”Story” cat3detail=”I have no…idea.” cat3rating=”4″ cat4title=”Presentation” cat4detail=”A game that begs for the right mental and environmental conditions in which to play it, and rewards you handsomely.” cat4rating=”5″ summary=”Scary, engaging, and satisfying. A ride worth taking.”]

REVIEW: Chuck vs. the Role Models (Episode 3.15) (SPOILERS)

 

Chuck vs. The Role Models 3.15 **

The writer of this episode, Phil Klemmer, had penned one before, “Chuck vs. the Final Exam.” My problem with Exam was how the humor diluted some of the suspense that gave the story some needed bite that Chuck had to face. In Role Models we have all humor and no bite, well, there’s the tiger but I don’t think he counts.

Concerned about them officially being a couple, General Beckman assigns Chuck and Sara to shadow Craig and Laura Turner, a revered married spy couple played by Fred Willard and Swoozie Kurtz. Beckman wants Chuck and Sarah to gain insight into how to function successfully as a spy couple by observing the best in the business.

Meanwhile, Casey has his own mission impossible to deal with in training Morgan Grimes to become a spy–or at the very least a guy who can handle himself in the field.

Unbeknownst to Chuck and Sarah, however, the years of espionage and spydom has disillusioned the Turners. They’ve become spies for hire and are perfectly willing to sell world-security threatening weapons and technology to the highest bidder. If it’s not a marriage built on love and trust anymore, at least it can be built on profit gains.

This show has always worked when it is balanced. The Beard was also a light-hearted Chuck, but it still had the Ring presenting a serious threat when they infiltrated Castle. Danger was still present and lives were still threatened. Of course, we knew our heroes would turn out okay, but the episode still gave you that illusion, that suspension of disbelief, that all successful adventure comedies have to have.

In this one, everything is a bit too tongue-in-cheek. We don’t buy for a second that Chuck and Sarah are in any danger or that the Turners would make serious antagonists. The idea of using a tiger as a security measure is also a bit over the top, and it certainly doesn’t help when it starts turning into a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon. Yep, we even have to have the delayed sneeze from an allergic Chuck.

I think it’s a common mistake that befalls many a show in that the producers overcompensate when they try something different and get a negative reaction from their audience. This is an episode that is very ginger in its execution and it’s too bad, because they have some nice setups here for a potentially interesting story. And sometimes that’s better than making everyone happy.

For instance, I think Willard and Kurtz should have relied less on super agent bickering Bickersons than a spy version of George and Martha. In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? George and Martha are a bitter middle-aged husband and wife who seem to enjoy hurting each other. We really don’t get that here, and I think it’s to the story’s detriment. Why wouldn’t you be bitter about something you’re so good at doing but have come to despise through the years and mission after mission after mission?

So it would have been interesting to see the Turners as people who can’t stand each other but wholly dependent upon each other, ironically making them very formidable. In some ways, it reminds me of the relationship between Macbeth and Desdemona on the animated series, Gargoyles. Two co-dependent teammates who would turn on a dime against each other if given the chance. But, in a way, kind of reluctant to because regardless of the mutual hatred, they work well together. The job they hate brings out the best in them.

This, I think, is the biggest fear that wasn’t quite articulated enough and given a whitewash here. What if Chuck and Sarah get disillusioned by the job and the missions and constant distrust? What if instead of wanting to be together they are stuck together, unable to function as effectively solo as they do as a team…and hating every single minute of it? What if Chuck and Sarah get to the point where they secretly want to kill the other one, but don’t have the stones to actually sever the team?

It’s these things that get swept under the rug when the Turners rediscover their old idealistic heroism when they see how in love Chuck and Sarah are. And while that’s a wonderful message for the shippers, I think angst is tolerable if it’s internal rather than external, like Shaw posed with the external threat. There’s nothing wrong with angst about the unknown in a relationship. Particularly one so rife in strife based merely on the job itself. This is not going to be a case where they can separate the job from daily life. They are intermingled for good and ill.

In purely practical purposes, though, a lack of resolution for the Turners would have made them legitimate threats. One thing I’ve been wanting for Chuck is his own Rogues Gallery. Recurring villains with a bit more of a personal angle than Fulcrums and Rings. The engineer from Nacho Sampler was a nice start, a mirror version of Chuck. The Turners would have been even more interesting because they don’t just show what Chuck and Sarah might have become under different circumstances but what they still can turn into. The Turners are the ultimate cautionary tale and potentially their most dangerous foe. Because thanks to the Turners, perhaps their lives are not the only casualty at stake here, but their love.

From a thematic standpoint, Role Models also seemed to abandon one of my favorite themes of this season: the pros and cons approach. It seems like the season has alternated back and forth with certain storylines. The one that comes most to mind is Awesome’s indoctrination into the spylife. One episode he’s experiencing a new sense of adventure and excitement he’s never felt before, which is like crack to an adrenaline junkie like him. But the following week he experiences the flip side of being in constant danger and sobering life-threatening situations. This is no game, no do-overs.

It’s this approach I was looking forward to seeing with Morgan. I loved the whole training montage and how hopeless Morgan looked, and I even kind of bought the whole selfless heroism on Morgan’s part even if the tiger didn’t fly for me. But I wish we didn’t get that damned wish-fulfillment angle that I hope doesn’t get overplayed. We can’t all be Chuck. We can’t all be nerds who become spies. I was hoping that Casey came to the decision that Morgan will never be a spy but he is invaluable as a field analyst. He can handle himself in a way not conducive to spying per se, but he’s still a valuable member of the team. It would have been neat to see some kind of scene where Casey finally just lays the brass tacks down. That it’s not about the mission or girls or adventure or any of that. The ultimate success in being a spy? Staying alive. That’s all that matters.

But the worst Chucks still have that little hook that wants them to reel you in. So glad to see the Ring back. And I really like how we’re seeing the new plan develop perhaps. They tried going through Chuck’s employment. Now they’re going through his family. But like all great espionage thrillers, this is a meticulous effort. The Ring is moving their chess pieces into place and the first pawn to be used against Chuck looks like it will be his own sister, who is getting played by her doctor friend. That’s the meaty potential I’m looking for and am disappointed that Klemmer failed to see that. Considering that his pedigree includes Veronica Mars where twists and turns happened at every act break, this is doubly disappointing. But I‘m confident that Chuck will deliver when it counts.

TallGent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: Chuck vs. the Honeymooners (Episode 3.14) (SPOILERS)

Chuck vs. The Honeymooners 3.14 ****

When Schwartz and Fedak pitched NBC their 13 episode Season Three, the brass was so happy with the plan that they gave the producers six “bonus” episodes. Because of the closure that Other Guy provided, they both thought it was nice to have a lead-in to Season Four. A kind of Season 3.2

“Chuck vs. The Honeymooners” kicks the new mini-arc where the last one left off with Chuck and Sarah enjoying their time alone together in France. Alone together for hours (and perhaps days) upon end, being the emphasis.

Both of them decide to make their little sabbatical into a full-blown escape. But, wouldn’t you know, they’re on a train that has enemy agents on it. Old habits, you know.

Meanwhile, Beckman has Casey and Morgan track them to bring them back. Here is where Morgan’s value really comes into being as he uses his knowledge of Chuck and his quirks to pinpoint where they’re at.

Unlike the labyrinthine twists and turns from the last episode and the dark themes throughout, this is light and frothy, cut and dried, and Chuck and Sarah heaven. We finally see the two of them together and the adorable reading is off the scale. This is as much fun as we’ve ever seen Sarah have. She’s laughing and playful and enjoying herself for the first time in a long time, and it’s clear that they love playing spy couple.

I particularly liked Sarah’s heavy Texas accent. So over the top and hilarious, but also interesting in that she hides behind it a little with the intimate moments with Chuck. Especially when they pose as the honeymooners and Chuck slips on the ring, Sarah tries not to lose herself in the moment. And again when Chuck tells Sarah they make a really good team. She still uses the accent, still not letting herself quite actually believe they’re together. And conveniently that’s when a disgusted Casey shows up to take them back to Burbank.

It might be the biggest duh observation to make, but it’s interesting how Sarah wasn’t really playing a role right from the start. As a real girlfriend, she’s acting exactly the same with Chuck as when she was his fake girlfriend. So on some level it’s always been real for Sarah. It was never an act.

Then, of course, there’s the fight ballet which is awesome on its own but even more wonderful when you consider that the only other one that Sarah was so in tune with was Bryce. So for Chuck to finally reach that level of partnership, not only as a lover but as part of a dynamic duo, is incredibly significant. And that’s why we get the moment where they decide to be lovers and partners in the spy world. Because not only do they want to be together, they belong together. And they finally accept that they belong to the spy world. It’s as much a part of them as they are to it.

When Chuck episodes go off the air permanently, this is the episode that will probably be most fondly remembered. It’s not the best one the show has done, but it’s the one you can enjoy watching again and again. Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski just take it and run with it, using their screen chemistry, comic timing, and presence to really inject some sorely missed fun back into the show. Adam Baldwin and Joshua Gomez may just be the breakout tag team in the show now as supporting players. Morgan is still a fish out of water, but he’s adapting to the current as only Morgan can despite Casey’s impatient grumblings.

It is kind of strange, though, that the angsty, dark tone of the show this season has brought about unintended expectations. I wanted a bit more menace from the villains, although the non-pacifist “Canadian” harpy was a nice touch. But I had become so conditioned to the sturm and drang that I kind of missed it when it wasn’t there. Still as a second episode by Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc, you couldn’t ask for a better episode to fill devoted Chuck fans with such giddy pride in their show.

Well, okay, there is the Ellie and Devon subplot of having a final farewell party before leaving for Africa and Chuck not being there. Jeffster even makes an appearance and like Morgan with Casey, they actually adapt and step up to the plate when hey sing a halfway pretty version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” I’ll be honest, though, I would have preferred that Chuck never really said goodbye to Ellie and Devon. There has to be cost, even in the light and fluffy stories. Unlike Chuck and Sarah, you can’t always get what you want. And it would have left Chuck and Ellie in a bittersweet place.

I absolutely loved the moment when Sarah made it official to Beckman and she finally acquiesced and let it happen (like she could stop it), and even admitting that she was rooting for Sarah and Chuck off the record. You can’t deny true love, no matter how much it may not make logical sense. Love doesn’t work that way. I think that’s also what Sarah Walker is beginning to understand and accept. Judging from finally getting introduced to Nina Simone and cuddling up to her Chuck at the end, she’s finally discovered what happiness and being in love feels like. And it feels good.

TallGent

 

 

 

 

Review: Dead Rising 2

 

I have finished Dead Rising 2, not without complication mind you. We shall get to that later.

Should you buy it?

Do you like zombies? Do you have a sense of humor? Do you like to bash things about the head? If you answered yes then this one is for you.

There have been many improvements since the original DR, mostly the use of guns. For the most part guns are really not that useful; until you get into taking out psychopaths- then they can be your best friend.

The controls are fairly simple and comfortable. One thing I thought they could have added for Chuck (as stated in my DR2 case zero review) is the ability to run. Sometimes plodding along at a brisk pace is not as helpful as a short sprint, especially in later levels where the zombies are more aggressive.

The music was done very well. You can pick out dozens of songs that they chose to bastardize into muzack in the mall setting.

Weapons upgrades are very helpful and added a lot to the game. My personal favorite being the “Laser Sword”. If you find a flashlight and some gems from a jewelry store you can have your own Lightsaber. This weapon is a must for boss battles. It can be slow at times but it causes huge damage. Another of my favorite weapons was the baseball bat with nails. It was the ol standby for me- being able to quickly clear out a zombie infested area without losing too much time.

I think Capcom had the right idea on this one, they could have just spread out the missions a bit more to give some more time to explore etc…

Another great addition of Dead Rising 2 is the “Terror is reality” game show which is accessible from the main menu. You get to play the reality game show that Chuck has reluctantly become a part of. The best part is that you can earn cash and prizes to use in the DR2 game. This was really awesome up until I had to start over, more on that later.  With the money you earn in these games you can buy zombrex in the pawn shops of fortune city and you can also buy weapons. The games are presented as 4 challenges each time you play, three random and the final is always “Slicecycles”. Some of the challenges are pretty fun; Ball Busters, Pounds of Flesh and Headache are some of the best. Others can be quite frustrating like Ramsterball, Stand up Zomedy, Zomboni and especially Master Shafter (sequence button pushing).

The lobby system is a big headache though. It takes FOREVER to get a game going. Once you do get a game it gets a little easier to get into the next one but a lot of times you end up playing the same games over and over. I did not even know there were any more than 4 different games until the second day I played TIR.

One other thing I learned was to stick to the ranked matches, if you do any of the others you don’t get to cash out the money you earn on the actual game, it is just “for fun”. The one thing I suggest to you reader is to skip the TIR intro by using the menu button on your controller, If you don’t you will permanently have the following stuck in your brain forever…

“Welcome to Terror is Reality Seventeeeeeeeeeeen!”

 

I have yet to try any of the co-op play since I wanted to finish solo first. So I have no opinion on that. I did get a lot of invites.

On to the issues… well issue.

I had reached case 5-1 and then experienced a nasty bug in the game that I have yet to hear explanation about. You see, once the time for the case winds down you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. The place was the roof of the safe house and I needed to meet reporter Rebecca Chang on the helipad to further the fight for Chuck’s innocence. When I got there the arrow pointed me to the corner of the helipad and then in circles until the time ran out and the case was failed. I re-tried this 5 times and got the same result each time.

Consulting the message boards on Capcom unity I found that there are a LOT of bugs in this game. I was asked if I could Re-Create the issue and informed them that yes, I could do it at least 6 times at that point. I pleaded to Capcom to put out a patch to fix the game; I paid $60 for Dead Rising 2, Not “Zoltar the Gelatinous Cube”.

Eventually, after having a bunch of know it all dummies on the board tell me that it was impossible and that the cut scene did not start as soon as I exited the elevator, I may have jumped off of the ledge at the wrong time, I am an idiot etc… I got fed up and decided to start over.

Starting over does have advantages. I was about level 25ish so the extra inventory and life was good. Most of the missions went pretty quickly and after a few hours I was back where I had been interrupted in the first place.

And whaddaya know? The cut scene DOES start when you exit the elevator.

From there I had no more problems with the game other than a lack of exploration time. I really wanted to search the mall more and work on weapons upgrades etc but it seemed like there were always too many other things going on and people to save. Chuck could not get any alone time.

The way the game is built you can go back and mess around whenever you like, and that is what I plan on doing. Having seen the “S” ending I feel there is no reason to check out the A or B etc… Just initiate some zombie carnage.

So now I will concentrate on earning monies in TIR and buying the Humvee so I can work on the Zombie Genocide achievement.

Bottom line, great game with a lot of replay value. Chuck approves.

(Chuck's Approval face)

 

 Go buy it, if you have the means.  

Until next time…

An Apathetic Nightmare on Elm Street

 

Okay, who is the wiseguy that put sparklers on my finger knives again?

I just watched the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Eeeeh, what the hell happened?

I’ll tell ya what, Platinum Dunes.

They really have not figured out that you can’t polish a turd, you might be able to bronze it but that would be about as good as you are going to get.

I don’t get why remakes have been targeted to a younger and hip audience. Don’t they realize as time goes by kids just become even more apathetic and jaded than the last generation? And here is platinum dunes doing the monkey dance trying to get these kids attention and money. That is what this movie looks and feels like, unattached, unemotional and unimaginative as hell. Saw movies look more interesting- and I hate Saw movies.

If they had some vision they would see that marketing the reboot (as it were) to fans would be more to their advantage. Why?

The fans are older and have money to waste on bad films. The “forced reboot” as I call it just doesn’t work for anyone. For a reboot you need to find someone that really likes the original story or movies, not in the way platinum dunes “likes” them (as an investment).

Look at Batman Begins, it’s a reboot but you did not see Nolan trying to re-invent the character or put a modern spin on it, he just built on the character’s back story giving him a reason to be and let nature take its course. The fact that they show what happened to Freddy was a major plus for the movie but would have been better suited as the focal point or at least as a large part of the beginning of the film. For years and years before they made this there has been talk about Freddy’s origin or a movie based on it. The closest they ever came to that was a Freddy’s nightmares episode that showed a bit of the court trial and how he came to be. They missed a great opportunity to show off Haley’s acting chops (sans makeup) and build on the character. It seems like they just said “kids don’t want to wait for Freddy, we need to give them action- skip the origin and show a brief scene at the end to tie it up”. What is even more strange is that these days people WANT origin stories, but it was completely overlooked.

 I got to see an advanced screening of the Friday the 13th reboot and in attendance were Derek Mears (Jason- super nice guy) Brad Fuller (platinum dunes- complete schmuck) and Andrew Form (platinum dunes – Mr. Quiet- seemed like Brad’s bitch).

They went on and on about being fans of all of the movies that they have or will be ruining. Sitting there listening to it all just made me dislike them more, it all sounded like crap. They were talking about bringing a lot of movies to reboot and ANOES was one of them. It was all about how much money they could make. If Friday the 13th does well then we will get the green light on Elm street, and if that does well… I get that studios need to make money but they were very insincere about it and seemed visibly nervous about how people reacted to the Friday reboot, because it kind of sucked. I don’t think they were ready for people not to embrace track star Jason. I liked the chainsaw remake but aside from that they have just consistently put out crap.

And that is what we have with Nightmare 2010, just crap.

I wanted to like it of course. I grew up a Freddy fan, following everything from the movies to the TV series. I understand that over the years Freddy got watered down, and as all good things it had to end. My initial reaction to the Nightmare 2010 news was completely negative, but I had some hopes- Jackie Earl Haley, how could that go wrong?

I don’t know how, but it did… terribly.

They managed to take the dream like quality out of nightmare on Elm Street. Anything clever about any of the old Elm Street movies has been mostly shat upon.

You could tell when the kids were dreaming but there was no sense of danger or weirdness, no surprises. Even though the score “wanted” you to be tense, it just did not happen. I felt like a jaded teenager from today waiting for it to be over.

And speaking of the score, it is the same as the original but the notes are played backwards. No imagination, barely an homage to the original- just modern day slasher movie music.

The most clever part of the score was not really the score actually. In the drug store where Nancy is going in and out of “micro naps” (uuugh) they played the song “All I have to do is Dream” by the Everly Brothers. That was extremely effective in the trailer and really helped to sell the movie. In the actual scene, not so much. It was a good idea but certainly not enough to carry the whole film.

Freddy’s kills were not imaginative by ANY means. He just rips through people now, literally. He tortures kids, also in the literal sense, rather than playing mind games, tricking them or making them face their fears. There are no more morality lessons or ironic deaths. He pulls a kids heart out and as the kid hangs upside down tells him that the brain keeps working 7 minutes after the heart stops, so they had 6 more minutes to play. That is demented but not Freddy. It just sounds like some random serial killer from any crime drama or movie, take your pick.

Aside from that they tried to re-hash gimmicks from the original (and by far still more superior) nightmare, here is the run down.

 

The bed scene 1984: Freddy lurks over Nancy while she sleeps. In the original this was achieved by placing an actor in a false wall behind the bed. A Spandex/Lycra material was used in place of a wall and the actor in good lighting leaned through over Nancy making a very tense scene.

Exibit A

The bed scene 2010: Nancy nods off while sitting up in bed listening to her ipod, because modern day technology not been crammed far enough down our throats in modern movies, “hey, look at my toys… yay!” (Yes, I had a walkman and I am damn proud of it- screw your Ipod!) As Nancy sits there a shiny CG blob Freddy bubbles out of the wall. He might as well have jumped out and started dancing. It looked like someone had used software that came with a demo of the abyss tentacle.

Somebody call Rick O'Connell, I think I see a Mummy.

The tub scene 1984: Nancy falls asleep in tub, Freddy’s hand comes awfully close to her no no bits and just when he stops and she relaxes again he pulls her under the water and she has to swim back out of the drain. The way that the scene played was perfect for a nightmare, girl falls asleep in tub, dreams she is going down the drain and wakes up while under water- makes sense.

 

The tub scene 2010: We have Freddy’s hand come up somewhat close to no no bits as well… then she wakes up. No harm. This was a waste of a perfectly good scare scene. Yes, they might have said “the audience will expect that” but you have to cash in some expectations for your fans.

 

Hallway scene 1984: Nancy sees Tina in a body bag, Tina talks to her and spits up blood. She sees some more gore and runs down the hall only to run into the hall monitor in the Freddy sweater. “Hey Nancy! No running in the hallways!”

 

Hallway scene 2010: Nancy sees Kris in what looks like a thin bag from the dry cleaners calling her name. Woah, that’s really creepy- next!

nothing else. She was micro napping, and immediately the other character explains that to her and they move on. I think I must have been micro napping the entire movie. Maybe not, it might have been better if I had.

 

The infamous Tina bed kill scene 1984: Tina levitates around the room and is brutally murdered in front of her boyfriend. The sounds that Amanda Wyss made in that scene with the gasping and screaming were enough to creep you out, she could act.

The Kris bed kill scene 2010: Though more physical and brutal, the acting did not sell this scene as it did in the original, neither did the CG blood. Just not a good idea.

Quaker oats stairs 1984: Nancy runs from Freddy up the stairs only to be slowed by “quicksand” steps. Great effect even if it was cheesy, er… oaty. A scene to make Wilford Brimley proud.  

Blood hallway 2010: I actually liked this scene, the hallway Nancy is running down slowly turns into a sludgy blood tar pit. Great effect and one of the only good ones in the movie. This scene is actually on the poster, though without the context the poster really just looks like Freddy getting ready to get something naughty from the girl.

The end 1984: Nancy turns her back on Freddy taking his energy away and walks out of the room. The next morning she is going to school. Gets in a car with her dead friends and is presumably driven away by the Freddy mobile as her mother gets yanked back in the house through a very small window by Freddy. Weird ending but it worked. It established that you don’t know what is real or dream in the movie. Did she dream she defeated Freddy and everything is okay or did she dream the whole movie and never really got out of the dream? Who knows.

The end 2010: Freddy is taken into the “real world” hand is cut off and throat slashed, he is left to burn… again- though authorities say there was no body left at the scene. Hmmm…Nancy goes home, turns to talk to her mother as Freddy appears in a mirror and punches through her mom’s face with his gloved hand- and- flash cut to credits with some lame ass EMO new metal band… you know, for kids.

No.

It was if they thought that a Freddy movie was pretty much the same thing as a Jason movie or Leatherface movie. Freddy is not visceral like that, he has a style or at least a more slick approach. This Freddy is like having Jason Voorhees in your nightmare. He is not intuitive or tactful, he just does the matrix quickstep and talks shit.

The one thing I liked about this Freddy was that he flicked his blades like scissors, most likely something that JEH came up with. it was creepy and really cool.

I feel really bad for Haley, he is a great actor and deserves much better than this.

I think platinum dunes needs to stop. Stop raping my childhood, stop looking for the money grab. Yes, I am old and set in my ways. Yes I liked the old ANOES movies up until #5 when Freddy became a carnival barker.

I'll take moonwalking Freddy over 2010 Freddy any day.

Even though the character became a little more annoying each time the movies and the dreams were still dream like. Surreal. It did not just feel like a flashy video director’s demo reel.

But of course they will not stop there, they are now working on reboots of both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Monster Squad.

Someone please kick the Platinum Dunes guys in the nards for me.

My new favorite color

Welcome.

Tonight I want to tell everyone about Red, a film adapted from a DC comics title of the same name. In most cases “comic book” movies = certain doom, however, something happened with this one and it was freaking awesome.

I cannot stop saying how much I enjoyed watching this movie. Not since Grosse Pointe Blank have I enjoyed a contract killer/comedy as much as this one.

Anyone that thinks that Bruce Willis’ action days are over better watch their back because he is a bad ass in this one. With Red Willis also gives us some hope of seeing the real John McClane again- one day.

The plot is pretty easy to follow from the trailers, Retired black ops CIA agents are being assassinated for some reason and Bruce is trying to figure out by who and why, with the help from a few fellow REDs or Retired – Extremely – Dangerous operatives.

John Malkovich plays a crazy, off the grid, paranoid (and for good reason) character to perfection. He is comic relief in the film as well as someone you want on your side in this situation, especially when he has the pig.

Morgan Freeman makes a brief but memorable appearance making you stop to think about how old he really is.

Helen Mirren is also perfect casting, she is what kind of sold me on the movie in the first place…

Wouldn’t you want to see a movie where Helen Murin gets to Rambo up? Of course you do.

Karl Urban plays the agent trying to bring Willis down, he is relentless and perfect. Look for the scene where Willis Meets Urban for the first time, awesome- and the music could not have been better.

I was happy to see Brian Cox as well as none other than Ernest Borgnine with roles in the film as well.

So to move on, there are a lot of great actors in the movie that help prove the comic book stigma does not apply in every situation, they can’t all be bad. I am not sure what the

comic is like or if the fanboys will have a more harsh reaction to it, nor do I really care because for me it was great.

Granted there are a lot of predictable action cues in the movie but it was damn entertaining. The action was fast paced when it needed to be, the twists were well played in every way and above all this movie was funny.

I really just went into this movie after seeing maybe 2 trailers and had no expectations. Needless to say I was very pleased. It did not feel as if anything was missing from the movie, but I do want more. I hope that we get to see more from the RED universe, I hope this movie does well in the box office and gets everything it deserves.

What are you doing still reading this? GO SEE RED!!!

Review: Alan Wake

Let’s get the hard stuff out of the way first.

This is NOT the perfect game I had imagined it to be so many moons ago.  Perhaps it is the jaded fingers of this reviewer, or the wisdom of the many years (feels like it anyway) I’ve put in front of gaming, but I can confidently say that while this is a wonderful game, and deserving of your gaming time and dollar, it is not flawless.  I am here to discuss those flaws with you now.

Graphics: Many moons ago, Khidr and I put the better part of a month into Need for Speed: Underground (and we have the indelible remembrance of ‘Lil Jon’s anthem to prove it…brrrum bum bum…).  After much meditation and medication, we finally crowned NFS:U “The Best Street Car Sim Set Between 1AM-4AM On Recently Rained-Upon Streets”.  I am here to tell you that another similarly-fashioned crowning may now occur: Alan Wake is “The Best Third Person Action Game Set Between 1AM-4AM In Pacific Northwest Forests”.  Dense rolling fog swirls around thick foliage, angry wind tosses the trees about with breathtaking animation, and eerie moonlight drenches every scene with just the scariest possible amount of light.  And the lighting?  *single tear* Outside of Killzone 2 (their deferred lighting technique is still probably the high watermark for this generation), this is some of the most impressive lighting (and therefore shadowing) of a game I’ve seen in a very long time.  Admittedly, light and shadow play a central role in the story, so it’s probably best they got this part right, but it’s a grand slam, no questions asked.  Huge displays of light sources never seem to stress out the engine, with flares burning brightly and melting the darkness away while smoke billows from them.  Your nearly ever-present flashlight is also a sight to behold, rendering exactly the correct shadows against everything from people to ladders to bed frames.  There are also some awe-inspiring set pieces that happen throughout the game (which I won’t spoil here) that occur with nary a hiccup in the framerate or experience.  Puzzling, then, that, true-to-its-recent-crowning, simple things like interiors of buildings cause the engine to strain and the frames to tear.  It’s quite infrequent (this IS TBTPAGSB1AM4AMIPNF, after all), but it’s just rather odd that while most engines strain under the conditions of an outdoor environment, this engine has the precise opposite problem.  Also weak are the facial and body animations.  With such a protracted development cycle, this may be nothing more than leftover tech, but for a narrative-heavy game such as this, having to stare at the wrong side of Uncanny Valley for too long can take you out of the experience somewhat.  It is rumored that the upcoming DLC will…ahem…remedy…this, but that doesn’t do much for the reviewed title here.

Sound: Remedy has crafted a near perfect soundscape for the game to unfold upon.  The dynamic, unsettling scoring is matched with stellar sound design in the weapons, Taken (possessed demonic dudes tryin’ to off ya), and nature itself.  When combined with the simulation of the rural Pacific Northwest, a real sense of dread gripped me on a few occasions.  A hand-selected soundtrack also punctuates each of the “episodes” (more on this in a moment), and the selections are quite good and appropriate to the TV-like feel Remedy was shooting for.  The weakness in the sound department must be chalked up to the voice acting, however.  While some brilliant deliveries can be had (Barry Wheeler steals the show, and seems like the only one taking this gig seriously…strange for the comic relief character, no?), some of them were bad enough that it pulled me right out of the story.  This particular gem had me laughing for hours after the game was over (the delivery in the game is pr0n-bad):

“Well *redacted* might as well be Paul Bunyan or Bigfoot!”

“Yeah well “redacted” is real.”

Story: The story for Alan Wake has certainly been the cause for much debate, and far be it from this reviewer to delve into those details lest I ruin the reveals and twists for you.  I will comment on the pacing of the story, and that it is, in a word, odd.  I felt like the biggest of the twists was revealed a tad earlier than I had anticipated, and that the final moments, while very effective and chilling, didn’t leave me with the perfectly satisfied feeling a compelling story should.  Considering what short shrift most stories in games receive, this is a relative masterwork, and deserves recognition.  Perhaps the snafus in presentation I mention below soured me slightly to the whole ordeal, or perhaps it was truly the pace.  In any event, it was a story worth telling and a fun ride to get there.  It is one of the few stories that makes me excited for the pending DLC ( I shall be reviewing these as time allows).

Presentation: This is a rather important category for Alan Wake.  Remedy has been talking about how very much like a TV serial this game is supposed to be, and that means that the experience one has when playing (and not playing) this game should be reminiscent of your favorite TV programming.  There are some great steps taken here, but the whole is simply not realized, and it’s a bloody shame.  In the handful of surprisingly lengthy chapters that make up the game’s narrative, there is an intro (for all but the first chapter, the chapters start with a Previously on Alan Wake), and an outro (of appropriately variable length).  Each chapter tries to end on a dramatic moment, panning out to the Alan Wake logo, and then a full-screen End of Chapter X fills the screen, with that chapter being wrapped with the aforementioned hand-picked song.  At this point, a few things should be happening that are not: Where are the credits?  TV shows have credits.  I realize that we wouldn’t have the time for a game’s full end credits at this point, but what about some faux credits?  Or, some shifting imagery?  Or a mini-game?  Or the ability to check my bank statement?  Nothing.  You will sit here starting at End of Chapter Whatever until the song is over, or hit the B button and miss the song entirely.  If you wait to listen to the whole song, the game will move you directly into the next section of the game.  At this point, a few things are happening that should not: you get your achievement for clearing the last stage.  Turned your game off before skipping or completing the song?  Tough shit, asshole, do it right next time.  You also get that Previously on Alan Wake I talked about.  Great idea…except…isn’t this probably the ONLY time I’m not going to need this?  I just played the last level!!!  And since I’m forced to at least begin the next one if I want my progress saved (oh yeah, you don’t checkpoint again until after the achievement, Previously on, and intro movie), won’t this pretty much never be necessary in this context?  Never fear, perhaps they’ll show me this when I load up my save from a few days ago since I’ve been sick with a 103 fever for most of my vacation.  Wait, what?  You’re not gonna play it for me?  I have to go into the Extras>>Cinematics>>blah>>blah section and choose the right one for myself?  And then find the corresponding intro movie of the next chapter that would have gotten played right afterwards had I just sat through all 12 hours of the game in rapid succession? Isn’t this something that far less narrative games have done for me in the distant and recent past, and therefore not innovative in the slightest?  Ug, guys.  Just.  Ug.

(I’d also like to take a side note to mention Remedy’s family business atmosphere.  Folks who have experienced either of the Max Payne video games are going to feel quite at home here.  Poets of the Fall songs (three of ’em!)?  Check.  Nods to bullet time with rippling bullets?  Check.  Max Payne himself voicing one of the characters briefly?  An icy, relentless check streaking down the sky to mock my pain.)

Other elements of the presentation like cinematic production values, flashbacks, and the alternate “game modes” like driving and some mild rail-shooting elements are all handled quite well, and on balance the presentation isn’t really suffering in any notable way, just as a proper triple-A shouldn’t.  I know that looking at the body of text I’ve written regarding the generally broken episodic feel of the game makes it seem like the whole category is a failure, but I do want to be clear; there is a ton to like here.  However, I would be remiss not to mention my strong disappointment in the fairly headlining presentation feature; namely, the TV show vibe they shot for, and missed just enough to be infuriating.  The organizational changes I mentioned above wouldn’t have cost but a few hours of someone’s time to implement, and the overall rhythm they were shooting for would have been achieved.  This sort of housekeeping would have been nitpicking and absurd 10+ years ago, but it is a testament to both Alan Wake and the state of the gaming art that it is this sort of “little stuff” that can be the difference between a good title and an amazing one.

I heartily recommend Alan Wake to anyone who would like a fun narrative-rich story with some great gameplay mechanics and some generally stellar graphical stylings.  Just keep those jaded fingers handy for the comments.

[easyreview title=”Final Scoring” cat1title=”Graphics” cat1detail=”Some occasional screen tearing and a trip to Uncanny Valley can’t take away from breathtaking lighting and stunning outdoor environments” cat1rating=”4.5″ cat2title=”Sound” cat2detail=”Wondrous sound design around effects and scoring, but less-than-exciting voice work” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Story” cat3detail=”While the pacing is not ideal, the story has some great beats to it.” cat3rating=”4″ cat4title=”Presentation” cat4detail=”Everything is near perfect. Except for the recap system. Which is broken.” cat4rating=”4″ summary=”A fine step in the evolution of filmic gaming.”]