Thursday, 28 April 2011

Bioshock 2: Minerva's Den (2010) - Videogame DLC Review (X-Box 360)


I have finally gotten around to playing the DLC for Bioshock 2.  Minerva's Den is the only story based DLC released for Bioshock 2, the other just being multiplayer maps and the 'Protector Trials' that was basically a pure game mode.  Minerva's Den is a stand alone story (first person shooter) set in the under sea City of Rapture, you don't really need to know the story of Bioshock 2 as this has little to do with that despite being set at around the same time.

Minerva's Den starts with a prototype Big Daddy (a giant diver suit wearing monster) on it's way to the computer wing of Rapture.  An explosion takes out the Big Daddy until some unspecified time later it awakes. Over the radio a man named C.B Porter tells you that you are named Sigma and that it is your mission to get to Raptures super computer 'The Thinker' and find a way to transport its memory to the surface world.  Reed Wahl (a co-creator of the super computer) is determined to stop you, convinced with the predictive power of the computer he sees you as a threat to his work.  Twists and turns lead to revelations that give far more significance to events than you would think.


Bioshock 2 was a game I loved when first released but is one that I have never felt an urge to revisit, there was no need to make a sequel to the near perfect Bioshock and the bigger focus on combat and less interesting locations put me off somewhat.  Minerva's Den takes place in an entirely new section of Rapture.  The DLC feels very similar in scope to Bioshock 2 where you also played as a prototype Big Daddy. The DLC is effectively a microcosm of that game with similar levels of combat, little sister challenges and plasmid (magic powers) upgrades.  The Splicers (psychotic humans) you face are different in look to those of the main game, mostly comprising of nerdy science types but their abilities are mostly the same apart from some Brutes (hulking Splicers) having an affinity for fire, and some of the teleporting Splicers having an affinity for ice.

The plot is slowly drip fed to you and as the main game a lot of the story is relayed to you via recordings left by the inhabitants of Rapture which are very well done and excel in making the recordings sound like they were done by real people.  The last part of the game is when most the story happens and leads to an almost 'Twilight Zone' level of twists that ends the game on quite a melancholy tone.


All the locations are new, mainly rooms full of data banks as well as offices and a cool environmental control section.  The Thinker is apparently responsible for quite a lot of Raptures workings but this fact is ret-coned in so it unfortunately feels a bit forced. There are some references to Andrew Ryan (the main villain of Bioshock) and Lamb (the villain of Bioshock 2) but other than that this is totally separate.  There is one new Plasmid; a ball that creates a mini black hole that sucks enemies towards it, kinda cool but not an ability I used much.

The DLC was about 3 hours long so a decent length.  I would say that even if you are sick to the back teeth of the Bioshock world that this is worth playing for its story alone.

SCORE:

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Deadly Premonition (2010) - Horror Videogame Review (X-Box 360)


I have finally finished Deadly Premonition after literally months and months of it.  I believe it was before Christmas that I started the game and now twenty hours later it is done.  Deadly Premonition is already quite a cult game, originally released in Japan it was then released everywhere else at a budget price due to its perceived lack of appeal and cheap looks. Deadly Premonition gained a cult following mainly based on the fact that every part of the game is broken and terrible yet for some reason this just makes the game amazing; truly something so bad that it is good.

The game sees you play as FBI oddball investigator Francis York Morgan who has arrived at the small country town of Greenvale due to the bizarre murder of a young waitress whose death is similar to others he has been investigating. Soon after his arrival more young females start to show up dead, murdered at the hands of a shadowy serial killer known as the Raincoat Killer. As York searches for answers the mystery of the towns past and his own past are brought to light.


Deadly Premonition is a game I initially struggled to get into.  The things putting me off were all gameplay issues, it was only after being able to ignore these that I could get into the game and really get immersed in the great (well terrible) plot involving red seeds, purple mist, trees and zombies (yay!).  Cutscenes are plenty and very long, some getting over the ten minute mark.  The cutscenes are unpausable which became very annoying.  The voice acting is terrible with the actors over playing their lines but the matching bizarre and at times nonsensical script means this negative turns into a positive.

The game really feels like two different game styles jammed into one.  Half the game sees you in the open world environment of Greenvale. You have an in game clock with which to go to certain story moving appointments but ignoring those you get a whole town to explore either on foot or by car.  The car controls are terrible and frequently give out entirely, your car requires petrol and can be broken making it unusable.  Around the town are cards that can be collected, as well as side missions that are given to you by the towns eccentric inhabitants. My problem with the open world is that it is so confusing, your map is terrible and you are unable to mark way points meaning a lot of wrong turns and dead ends.  Driving is very boring but luckily broken up with York's random pop culture musings to his other personality Zach.


York has a split personality, but cleverly his other side 'Zach' is you the player.  The game compliments this by having York tell 'Zach' its his turn when action sequences happen, almost like he is York in the cutscenes but Zach in the action scenes.  The action scenes are the other half of Deadly Premonition.  Feeling totally separate to the rest of the game these action sequences are very survival horror esque and are full of zombies. Locations take on a Silent Hill level of disrepair and horror and become populated by zombies who literally bend over backwards to attack you, many hold weapons of various types but others who are weaponless attack by grabbing you and then sticking their arm down your throat.  These dark dungeons are full of zombies who crawl out of the ground and out of walls as well as simple Silent Hill style puzzles that are easy but fun enough to do.  These sections feel totally out of place as they are never mentioned within the plot and so it seems they are just there to make the game more of a game.

At times during the survival horror sections you encounter the Raincoat Killer himself who appears as a supernatural being with a magical axe.  In these sections you have three different reoccurring actions. The first sees you in a quick time event as you avoid the Killer's axe blows, these sections are not sign posted meaning death usually occurs first try. The second Killer event involves you having to hide (usually in a locker) while he explores the room you are in. When he approaches your hiding spot you must press a button to hold your breath. The first time this happened it was a tense affair but it is repeated too many times during the game and becomes boring. The third type of event sees you pursued by the Killer.  In this event you have to waggle the analogue stick left and right to make York run while climbing and pushing various objects.  The Raincoat Killer is kinda lame it has to be said!


The whodunit of the serial killings is a very fun and suspenseful story with plenty of twists and turns, the murders themselves are inventive and despite the graphical limitations come across as quite sinister and horrific  such as a woman crushed under a giant art piece and someone impaled on a giant hook through their throat.  Plenty of blood and grimness (the victims have their tongues cut out) as well as some clever third act revelations make this part of the game fascinating.  The game turns totally off the rails bizarre by the end which did ruin some of the plot somewhat with monstrous bosses which it is not made clear if you are actually in supernatural land and fighting monsters or if this is just a reflection of the villains image of themselves and the world.

The game is broken in lots of places and yet it somehow gels together to bring a unique feeling take on survival horror.  At times extremely similar to the cult TV show Twin Peaks (it even has its own version of the Red Room!) it comes into its own with the feeling that the games designers are in on the joke and realise the game is terrible and camp it up as much as possible. You get plenty of game for the cheap price and usually if you have a problem a solution can be found online (I never knew how to advance time until looking online; turns out smoking cigarettes causes time to fly by apparently). Special mention must go to the random soundtrack that includes salsa music, whistling tunes, jazz music and even the song Amazing Grace turns up at a fantastic point in the game!

SCORE:

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

City Condemned - Zombie Videogame Review (X-Box Indie)


City Condemned is yet another X-Box Indie game of which there must be hundreds by now.  The game goes for a serious vibe and plays as a shooting gallery.

You play as a sniper holed up on the rooftop of a ruined building in a city of the dead.  Your view point looks out onto a ruined Town square in which various humans are located. Using your trusty sniper rifle you must protect the humans from the onslaught of the zombies.

City Condemned goes for a dramatic vibe with mournful, suspenseful music playing over the game.  The location of the town is a dank, dilapidated place, the only sound being your sniper rifle as you fire it. Each round sees you with a target number of zombies to kill, after each round you can buy additional ammo for your sniper rifle, as well as buy better sniper rifles and health packs.


Identical zombies swarm towards the humans who don't move and just seem content to stay wherever they are standing. Head shots work best but they can be taken down with shots to the body. All the zombies are the same; a zombie wearing a grey top, and having quite a bushy head of hair. As well as zombies there are wild bats which also attack the humans. Zombies can also enter the buildings surrounding the town square, this makes hitting them more difficult as you need to wait until they pass windows to be able to kill them.

The game is ok but really nothing different to the hundreds of other sniper zombie games, it is better than a lot of them but still quite boring. Only 80 Microsoft points so up to you I guess. You can really tell the excitement in my words for this review!

SCORE:

Monday, 18 April 2011

All Out of Bubblegum! (2011) - Zombie Videogame Review (X-Box Indie)


All Out of Bubblegum! I thought was going to be a tower defence game but it has more in common with a twin stick shooter.  The title of the game is of course taken from the cult horror flick 'They Live' (when Rowdy Roddy Piper walks into a bank and says "I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum").

The game sees you as one of four gang members (the game is up to 4 players) defending a square piece of land in a Town over run by zombies of all shapes and sizes.  The zombies attack in waves, after each wave you can build defences such as walls and turrets with which to defend your self.



All Out... has a really weird look to it that made me feel like I was in some sort of gaming nightmare.  The zombies and humans have a kind of plasticine look to them and the enemies terrible A.I works in their favour and adds to the sense of unreality as they spin on the spot and get stuck to walls.  The soundtrack is also quite odd but fits in well with lots of badly digitised speech on the title screen and uber loud gunshot noises.

The zombies fall apart as you shoot them, even with limbs missing and their heads missing they will still keep on coming making your wall defences more of a burden than a boon.  The zombies are the running kind and can easily pin you into a dead end of your own making.  Zombies come in lots of variety, both male and female, as well as child size and giant size making each round just feel...odd.


The building part of the game is also not very good, you have a limited time to build your defences but the lack of an option to move the screen during this process means that your defences are never too big.  Each wave done opens up a shop where you can buy some admittedly quite cool weapons, including a motor bike with chainsaws strapped to it (straight out of Dead Rising 2)

To be honest the game is really not that great and I did not buy it, but the bizarre broken nature of this game means that you should give it a try if it sounds like your thing, feels like a zombie dream I used to have (also very hard just like surviving a zombie apocalypse should be)

SCORE:

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Scre4m - Horror Film Review


First of all I think that calling Scream 4 'Scre4m' was a terrible terrible idea.  I confess that I was kinda excited about seeing this film but was it any good?

Scre4m sees the old cast of the Scream films reunited as Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown of Woodsboro on the anniversary of the original Woodsboro murders as part of her book tour.  Her arrival starts another slew of killings by a new Ghostface who seems to want her and her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) dead for reasons unknown.


The films lack of plot is quite grating, there really is none to speak of with characters killed left, right and centre without any time to get to know or care about them.  The film has a high body count, and the blood and violence at least looks good with nice blood splatters (a high note early in the film is a corpse with its intestines hanging out).  I was worried that the invincibility of the core characters would ruin the film but this is only one of the reasons that the film fails on so many levels.

Ghostface used to be a scary character but no longer, it has been used so often that it is almost a parody of itself, the running theme that the new killer is attempting a remake of the original events (Scream) doesn't help this sense of immense deja vu.  There is nothing novel here at all, it has all been done before.  An early scene where a character attempts to crawl under her electronic garage door whilst pursued by the killer I felt for sure was going to turn out to be a fake chase, but no it is instead a near recreation of a similar event in Scream.  Ghostface appears to be about 7 feet tall so I was kinda confused when the killer (or killers! Woo spooky) turns out not to be tall at all.  The plot makes little sense with strange motivations and camera work designed to try and single out innocent characters as totally evil in order to trick the audience.


The returning cast of Campbell, Arquette and Cox do their best but I just do not care at all about their characters any more.  I don't care for invincible dullards.  The new characters are the usual assortment of pretty teens, all pretty much interchangeable.  Special note goes to Mary McDonnell who was amazing as Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica but here is easily the worst actor in the whole film.

I wanted this film to be good, even after the awful trailers I still had hopes but alas this film is not good.  Leaving the cinema I heard a girl behind me telling her boyfriend that she thought the film was pretty good.  With opinions like that I wait in dread for Scre5m or whatever the hell they will call the inevitable sequel.

SCORE:

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Scream - A retrospective of the film series


With Scream 4 being released at Cinemas this past Friday it seemed an appropriate time to have a look back at the original trilogy.  The original Scream was the very first horror film I ever saw (not including The Lost Boys), at the time I found it terrifying somehow.  I later brought a Scream mask that I remember wearing on the way to the Cinema to see Scream 3.

Scream was released back in 1996 when I was 14, it is of course directed by the master of horror Wes Craven.  I never actually saw the film until a few years later when my sister brought it on video.  Scream was partly responsible for bringing life back into the horror genre which was dying a slow death with a glut of poorly made sequels to older horror franchises.  Scream made horror sexy again whilst also taking the mick out of horror conventions (especially with the scene in the film when some party goers are watching and criticising Halloween on a TV) and injecting humour.  The film starred a series of famous people including Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell, David Arquette and much was made of the fact that Drew Barrymore was in it despite her character being killed in the opening scene (she even got her face on the video cover for Scream).


Scream was successful in that its killer 'Ghostface' a slasher who wore a black cowl and a rubber ghost mask was an apparent horror fan quizzing his victims on horror as well as having the famous line 'Do you like scary movies?'.  The film was a cool and scary who-dunnit leaving you guessing till the last 1/4 on who was the culprit.

Less than a year later in 1997 Scream 2 was released.  Scream 2 again played with the notion of horror conventions by having characters list off what to expect in a sequel (such as higher body count).  In the film a film had been created based on the original Scream called 'Stab', the opening scene having someone stabbed to death in front of an audience gathered to watch Stab.  Perhaps an indictment on the fans of the Scream films it showed Stab fans as a baying mob of idiots.  Scream 2 was where the series started to go downhill, the final scene is terribly over the top with terrible over acting, the killers and their motivations poor.  During the whole film there is only one good scene (a campus killing in broad daylight).  Started here was the invincibility of the core characters of Campbell, Arquette, Cox et al who no matter what happens to them always survive against the odds in a unrealistic way.


Scream 3 was released in 2000 and was the first one I saw at the Cinema.  This was a vast improvement on Scream 2 but still not a return to the excellence of Scream.  The film this time took place on the film set for Stab 2 (the film within a film).  The bigger locations and more involving plot brought the series to an apparent end, yet once again no core characters are killed which really rips the horror out of the film when every returning character is (literally) bullet proof.  There is a scene in Scream 3 when it seems that Ghostface has won and Campbell's character is dead, I like to end the film here as the remaining film time is so sweet and happy ever after that it ruins the experience.

2011 sees the release of Scream 4.  Once again all the old cast are reunited, having seen the trailer I do not have high hopes for the series.  I may be wrong but I am guessing that Scream 4 is not going to be a very good film, and I bet that none of the returning characters are killed off; something that needs to happen if the series is ever going to get back on track.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Jericho - Horror Videogame Review X-Box 360)


Jericho is a horror themed first person shooter released back in 2007.  It received average reviews at the time despite looking, sounding and being a competent game.  The game sees you as a disembodied spirit who is able to possess 6 different members of an elite paranormal squad of soldiers each with their own weapons and set of abilities.  The games story was written by horror master Clive Barker.

At the beginning of time God created a failed being called The Firstborn, being too powerful God sealed it away.  Throughout time the Firstborn has manipulated people into trying to free it from its prison, to combat this an order of priests called Jericho were created to close the breach whenever it was opened.  In the lost City of Al-Khali the breach has once again been opened, this time by cultist Arnold Leach.  The present day members of Jericho are dispatched to close it.  Each time it has been closed through the ages it has taken a bit of the time period into the Firstborns prison meaning each time more and more of the Prison must be battled through.


The locations in this game are really cool, a trip through time via the 1940's, the times of the Templar's, Roman times and Sumerian.  Each time period has its own distinct look, feel and even sound to it with the enemies changing to reflect the period also.  In the 1940's you battle monsters with guns fused to themselves, going back you get enemies with flaming crossbows, Centurions who fight with spear and shield as well as a host of cool bosses.  In each time period within the Firstborns prison a different key figure is in control who runs that particular layer.  1940's sees you fighting the zombie Nazi Hanne Lichthammer for instance.  Each time zone has its own story which gives weight and believability to the world.

You control a disembodied spirit (someone who is killed in the opening chapters).  You can possess the other team members at will who each have different magical powers.  Xavier Jones is able to project his mind onto enemies, Abigail Black has telekinetic powers (such as being able to control her sniper rifle bullets), Frank Delgado controls a Fire Spirit, Billie Church can use blood magic to bind enemies, Simone Coal can distort reality, while Paul Rawlings can heal the squad.  Each has their own distinct feel but for the most part I stuck with Black with her grenade launcher and magical sniper rifle only really changing to other characters when I was in a confined space.


The game looks really good, each location has a real solid feel to it.  The violence is continuous but as your only fighting monsters never feels over the top.  Popping enemies heads in two is always satisfying, as is blowing them into smithereens.  The blood on the enemies does look a bit like jam being really thick, but there is plenty of it, even rivers of the damn stuff!  Most the time you will trigger waves of enemies who will advance towards you while you hold your ground and tactically take them out.  Most annoying are explosive enemies who must have their weak spots destroyed before they reach you and explode. There are times when squad members get separated which add some depth, especially sections where you only have access to one member making those sequences nervous affairs.

When a team member is downed they don't die, they fall to the ground awaiting your healing to bring them back.  Only when all 6 members are downed do you really die.  Loading times are quite long and there are a few ill advised quick time events but overall the game is lots of fun. It is a bit odd that the further back in time you go the easier it gets.  The opening levels full of machine guns and mortars are a lot harder than later stages.  By the time you reach the Sumerian levels enemies do not even have projectile weapons anymore!  The bosses are quite cool though, each quite different to the last (a favourite of mine was a fat man suspended by chains who rips open his own stomach to spew stomach acid at you!)


I have recently replayed through the game on Hard and had lots of fun with it showing that time has been kind to it.  The game is very cheap now so I recommend if you after a decent FPS that is a little different that you pick this up.  Also on the PC and PS3.

SCORE:

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Devil's Rejects - Horror Film Review


Rob Zombie is one of my favourite Directors, his style of directing along with his affinity for grimy, seedy locations and ugly violence makes him stand out.  The Devil's Rejects is the sequel to House of 1000 Corpses but where that was a pastiche of films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills have Eyes this is more of a road trip film.  The first film focused on the victims but this time around the villains are the stars of the show.

The film starts with a Police assault on the dreaded 'House of 1000 Corpses' of film one.  With Firefly family members arrested and killed two of the psychos manage to escape; the crazed Baby (played again by Rob Zombies wife) and Otis; her brother.  They call the clown Captain Spaulding (yet another family member) and warn him of his impending arrest.  Arranging to meet up at a pre arranged location they head off to a remote Motel out in the desert.  Hot on their heels is insane Sheriff Wydell who is after their blood due to the murder of his brother (in the first film).  He believes he is on a mission from god and is only interested with revenge, he has no desire to see the remaining family members arrested.


The Devil's Rejects looks beautiful with the dusty desert setting and 70's feel (appropriate seeing as the film is set in the 70's).  Some of the special effects are done digitally which is sadly apparent, this is mostly confined to gun shots.  By focusing on the bad guys instead of innocents the film risked becoming too dark but humour is injected into proceedings to make them at least vaguely rootable.  After a nasty first third in which a travelling music band are butchered in their Motel room things lighten up as the 3 Firefly members reunite and head on their road trip to an old friends strip joint.  It is here where you really see the bond these three have,  played out through a few funny travelling scenes.

Sheriff Wydell is truly insane, and not a character you can root for despite him being the films 'good' guy.  His methods are cruel and brutal but deserved, the Firefly family are evil and deserve to be punished for all the innocent people they have killed.  Seeing the shoe on the other foot for a change is good, a whole night time sequence late in the film is an amazing piece of directing with events turning into the surreal.  Violence runs rampant through the film, as does a theme of torture and revenge.  The effects are mostly good and appropriately wince inducing (such as when giant nails are hammered into someones hands).  The films ending is amazing, bringing to mind the fantastic end to 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'.  The soundtrack really amplifies this with a 70's feel and including the classic Free Bird.


I know this review is not great, disjointed and meandering but thems the breaks, sometimes you just gotta ramble till its done.  All that matters is the score right?  Plenty of violence, nudity and grime provides an entertaining and brutal road trip.

SCORE:

Monday, 4 April 2011

Battle: Los Angeles (2011) - Sci-fi Film Review


I wasn't really too fussed about seeing this film, I had heard about it but not actually seen any trailers for it.  I thought the film was shot from a hand cam for the duration and it was only when watching that I realised it is actually much more traditionally shot.

The film is about an alien invasion, alien ships have landed next to cities all around the globe and as the title suggests this film takes place in LA.  The city is slowly being over-run by robotic aliens; a squad of marines (including Aaron Eckhart as Sgt. Michael Nantz) are dispatched to locate civilians hiding out in an abandoned Police station behind enemy lines, they have 3 hours to rescue the civilians before the army orders a massive bombardment on the area designed to wipe out all enemy forces.  Things don't go according to plan, the aliens are far better equipped than intelligence suggested and it turns into a battle to not only get back to safety but also to find a way to stop the alien attackers.


The film looks amazing, the special effects are to a very high quality and the surround sound of the cinema really made it seem like bullets where whizzing by.  Explosions, gunfire, and the technology of the alien invaders all looks really authentic and does not look fake or out of place.  The film seemed to me like a cross between the videogames Modern Warfare and Halo, mostly helped by the way the film at many times did feel very game like with Marines gun sight perspectives used a lot, as well as 'boss' moments such as when the Marines come under attack by an alien version of a tank.

The film tells the story of a small squad of likable but generic marines, it seems purposely that a lot of high action points occur away from these Marines who have been given a minor task to carry out that bears no importance to the war effort.  The acting is of a consistently high standard but everything is very predictable; such as the Marine who sacrifices himself to save his friends, the Marines conveniently discovering the aliens weakness (and from that point onwards having no trouble killing them), and blasted Michelle Rodriquez who seems to play exactly the same character in every film I have ever seen her in.  There is lots of American bravado and corny one liners, and even a few Hoo-Rahs but it isn't hammered in as much as in some films (such as the cringe worthy Americanism of Independence Day).  It just focuses on this one area of the world rather than make it the saviour of everything.


Where Battle: Los Angeles succeeds is the way in which it takes a tired story and makes it feel fresh and new, you have seen everything before, there are no new ideas but it is all executed so wonderfully and even the many many stereotypes for this genre of film don't get in the way of a real solid action fest from start to finish that while not totally able to tug on your heart strings at least knows where they are.

SCORE:

Saturday, 2 April 2011

General update for April 2011 - April Fools Edition


First of all I received a message about a cool zombie flash game site, it can be found at www.zombiegames365.com.  The site features a load of zombie themed flash games including a lot of crud but also some gems.

Another month, still unemployed but still sending off CVs to various companies so I can get some dollar bills coming in to feed my horror purchases.  With Dead Space 2 done there is the DLC Dead Space: Severed to play and I noticed that there is another Dead Space animated film out titled Dead Space: Aftermath.  The i-phone has a Dead Space game out also which details how the Necromorph outbreak started on the Sprawl, kinda annoying as I would like to know that myself but don't have access to an i-phone.


Scream 4 is coming to cinemas in the middle of April, I have low hopes for this film as they have steadily decreased in quality with each new instalment, the non-willingness to kill off any of the series core characters is annoying, so I assume all the usual suspects will once again survive, boo.

I have started reading a zombie anthology book titled 'Zombie' the introduction was interesting so I am optimistic the book will be good, one of the stories is done as a series of Twitter updates which is quite a cool idea.  I still have plenty of horror games and films to watch so lack of posts shouldn't be a worry for me.  Keep on horroring...