The history of Pandemic Studios/The Saboteur Review

21 01 2010
Barely knew you

Cool logo though, gotta give them that.

Editors note:  This review is like 4 pages long because I wanted to tell a brief history of what proceeded the games launch and ended up writing a book about Pandemic studios.  It’s all relevant information about Saboteur though so I would recommend reading the whole thing, but obviously if you just want a game review skip down a ways.

PART 1: HISTORY

Pandemic has always been a good studio, for their entire history, or at least what I know of it, they have been making big bombastic action games that center on the ability to either blow things up or go to war on a grand scale.  The games have always been fun but never really too deep, and you got the impression that Pandemic and EA/Lucasarts were fine with that.  They liked a studio that could do quick turn around on a game and have it sell well because it was fun.  The problem was that Pandemic was too damn good at it; they released hit game after hit game during the PS2/XBOX era.  With two Battlefront titles, Full Spectrum Warrior and finally Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction.  Their success I felt was so grand because of what they were able to accomplish given the hard limitations.  In Battlefront you had 30+ things running around on screen fighting, it was like actually invading Hoth, it was pretty awesome.  Mercs let you destroy buildings with orbital strikes from fucking satellites, and the buildings actually blew up, any building not just plot critical ones.  The point is that the game engines were great, so Pandemic never really felt the need to update them or start on new things, what they had worked, plus Lucasarts was there publisher and they have a great reputation for being nice and understanding to their dev studios.

Vader time

Pictured Above: The relationship between EA and Pandemic.

At the dawn of this console generation though, the studio was purchased from Lucasarts by none other than EA.  Pandemic of course had to build new game engines for the new hardware, but because there staff is less than a 100 people, well development was what you would call ‘abysmally slow’.  Remember this is back in the Pre ’We love gamers and game makers!’ EA days.  So EA after about 1 year had put up with about as much of Pandemics shit as they were going to and told them to release a game, so we had Mercs 2.  Not a bad game really, it was just very apparent to anyone that played it that the game wasn’t finished.  The A.I. was pathetic, you basically couldn’t die, and after 20 minutes you instantly were so overpowered that nothing in the game could hope to kill you ever.  It was also ugly and every enemy said literally the same 3 phrases ‘The Merc is here!’ presumably because they didn’t have time to record three sets of dialogue based on what character the player chose to use.  But through all that it still sold reasonably well and was fun because of the foundation of the game, you get to blow up anything, I once leveled a city block with a nuclear missile that only cost a million bucks, I had a billion dollars, that’s a lot of fucking city blocks.  So the game was good but didn’t do great, Pandemic is already costing EA money, they then have to split their team of 200 employees to triple develop 3 games, Lord of the Rings Conquest, The Saboteur, and Mercs Inc.

Nuked

I had a 1000 of those.

Needless to say by 2009 things weren’t going well, so they shifted Mercs Inc. to the backburner, put their resources into Saboteur, and basically put a test of alpha code on a disc and released it as Lord of the Rings.  So that game sold like shit and now Pandemic was on the hot seat at EA sense in 3 years they had yet to produce a game that sold well(not to mention they supposedly were working on a Dark Knight game that’s development was going so bad EA shit canned the whole project).  It was around this time that Pandemic finally finished their new game engine, for time reasons Mercs 2 was made on Mercs 1’s game engine with some updates, while Lord of the Rings was made on Battlefronts engine with code updates.  So finally Pandemic can really shine in the next gen with a completely original IP on a brand new game engine, big things were expected by EA, about 6 months before launch the following trailer was released for Saboteur.

Dark, brooding, adult, and very stylish, this looked like a good game from the onset.  It had nudity but didn’t use it as a selling point; it was just there because it would have been in that time anyways.  The music was refined and fit well with the game, the very cool black and white style that went to color after the death of the Nazi guard; it all just looked good; was Pandemic finally being allowed to grow up a little bit as a studio?  Sure, but then the game didn’t demo well at E3, and even though critics and reviews thought it looked interesting, the people that buy games couldn’t give two shits, not with MW2, Uncharted 2, Batman, and a host of other big name games coming out just before it.  So as we entered into the holiday season a new trailer was released.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPhS1YgtqOg

What the fuck just happened?  EA’s marketing team took over here, now the trailer featured, explosions gunfights a wise cracking Irishman, drinking, smoking and Flogging Molly music.  Gone was the quite adult nature, giving way to a bad PG-13 action movie mentality.  This approach only alienated fans of the original idea and didn’t bring anyone new in because basically that trailer makes it look like Mercs 3: Mercs in Paris.  So about a month before release amidst 3 years and no hits, spiraling costs, shitty games, and no real good future outlook EA closed down Pandemic and sent their final game out into the world to die a slow death at retail in December.  Mercs Inc. development was shifted to another EA studio and now I will never get Battlefront 3, sense Free Radical was supposed to do it but then Crytek bought them, and then it went back to Pandemic but EA wanted the rights so that got dumped, then Grin took over but then Bionic Command was released and Grin was closed on the strength of how much that game sucked.

Commando

Looks cool tell you realize that his arm is his dead wife.

Okay so now that you know the entire history of Pandemic and more important what has preceded the release of Saboteur it might be easier to understand some of the things that I say about it.

PART 2: GAME REVIEW

Box Art

God its just oozing with style.

The Saboteur is a 2009 title developed by Pandemic Studios, shortly before there closing by publisher EA.  In it you play Sean Devlin a hard fighting hard drinking Irishman who is living in Paris during the Nazi occupation.  He then proceeds to Sabotage as much as he can to aid the French resistance, his reasons are his own, but you discover them over the course of the game.  It’s a 3rd person action/stealth title that focuses heavily on massive environments and large scale destruction.  It also has a neat Greyscale to it that slowly returns to color as you inspire and free the people of Paris.

Okay so what about the game itself; was it worth all this fuss?  Is it a fitting tribute to a once great studio, or was it another victim of EA’s ‘Make money or die’ mentality to publishing?  Well as far as I am concerned it’s the best game Pandemic has ever made, it’s highly polished with an emphasis on presentation and storytelling.  Now take that with a grain of salt, because there previous few games have been nothing to write home about, so saying its better then there other games means what?  Well let’s compare to its very obvious predecessor ‘Mercenaries 2’ and see if we can come to conclusion about it.

Contrast

It's really a pretty stark contrast

Mercs 2’s story is basically Mattias(the lead Merc) gets shot in the ass by a Venezuelan dictator, so he proceeds to wage an entire war against the country and caps it all off by nuking there capital.  That’s it, no other character just tons of dead NPC’s, awesome.  The Saboteur spends roughly the first 2 hours setting up the plot and story, introducing you to several characters and giving them all history and background so you can run into them later and actually have it mean something.  Sean starts as an idealistic race car driver, but through betrayal, murder, and the invasion of Europe, he becomes the hero they needed, in the end he does it all for love though.  I mean wow, are you fucking kidding me?  Pandemic with this game really put effort into doing something good; they didn’t want to make the same crap again.  That’s the feeling this game gives you, they really wanted it to be more.  It was clearly rushed to release and a lot of what they wanted to do isn’t finished/doesn’t work as well as it could, but Christ at least they tried, which is more than a lot of devs can say these days.

Okay so the stealth mechanic is taken right from Assassin’s Creed, the plat forming is taking right from Infamous/Uncharted, the open world is taken from GTA, and the perks system is taken from Call of Duty.  So what?  If someone plays a bunch of great games and likes them and then wants to take parts from those games that worked and put them into their own, then I say more power to you.  However you have a central issue that while it has a lot of great elements from great games none of them are particularly well polished so they sometimes don’t work, i.e. sometimes you’re standing directly behind a Nazi and it won’t give you the stealth kill option.  For the most part they all work well enough to add something to the game, and certainly don’t hurt it.

Stealth

Can I Stealth Kill him now please?

Now the much lauded ‘color’ mechanic of this game is of course one of the big selling points, the world is black and white with only the red of the Nazi flag coming through.  But as you do missions and free sections of town light returns as well as color.  I thought this was purely a gimmick but it actually adds quite a bit to the game, say you’re being pursued by Nazi’s drive toward the color, staying in the black and white doubles the amount of Nazi’s chasing you, but heading to color significantly lightens the chance you will face heavy opposition.  In a game with roughly 2000 side missions it’s great to have a sort of all purpose way of knowing whether you have been there or not.  The game has a generally dark attitude to it with storytelling and presentation and this is greatly aided by the whole ‘color, not color’ mechanic.  I mean walking from a bright sunshine world with doves in it to a dark rainy world with crows (it’s cool if doves fly from colored to black and white, they actually turn into crows when they cross over) in it really adds something to the game.  It’s one of those hard to quantify things, but you just know you have to be more careful and it’s more dangerous when you cross into those areas.

Safer

See way safer in the light with the hot British chick.

You work out of a burlesque club, yeah that means there are naked ladies walking around.  Often times that would be something that is treated pretty trashily, but again Saboteur comes through with a wholly ‘adult’ design to it.  You can tell when they made you base in this area it wasn’t just an excuse to have tits, it was there to give the whole game a more grown up feel to it.  Yes the premise and the action is pretty ridiculous I won’t deny that, but it’s presented in an adult way.  Think ‘The Dark Knight’ comic book characters’ and action in a very real and serious world.  As you walk around Nazi occupied zone’s you see soldiers getting grabby with women, old ladies being beaten, and if someone fights back the soldiers on the street line up and execute them, this shit is just happening all around you.  Its little touches like that, that really make the difference for me as a player.  You see the oppression around you, you get angry about it and go blow up a Nazi sniper tower.

Nazi

Get off that old lady you Nazi BITCH!

So basically I would say this was a very ambitious project by a studio that probably should have been doing something safe at the time.  It had tons of ideas in it all of which were good, but unfortunately EA felt no need to give them time to implement those ideas and give them polish.  Still, what Pandemic was trying to do, does shows through in the game design.  You could see a studio that really wanted to break into the upper ranks of dev houses.  But the game has a great style, an adult feel, fun action, and just shit tons of content, I got 10 hours in the game and I am 3% complete right now.  Best part is that the game is going to be dirt cheap quick because of its release circumstances so you can probably find it for a great price, and I would highly recommend the game to you.

It all comes down to this for me, which of these two trailers did you think looked like the better game?

Trailer 1:           http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2gClnlzo4o

Or

Trailer 2:               http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPhS1YgtqOg

If you liked trailer 1 better then buy it because that’s really what the feel of the game is, the second is just something EA drummed up to try and excite you, but it’s not really the intent of the game at all.

Final note, install and enable the midnight show content when you get it, nothing takes you out of the game like stupid fuzzy circles over the naughty bits of all the NPC’s.

Classy

See those tits? There fucking classy, unlike me.

Peace.





Offbeat Website of the Week: www.TheCinemaSnob.com

16 01 2010
Brad Jones 3D

The Stewardesses 3-D will drive anyone insane.

New feature I hope to make a weekly one if I can find the time, this is where I review an odd or offbeat website that I frequent.  Usually it’s one that most people haven’t heard of or seen before, or one that I think deserves to be seen by a lot more people and I want to what I can to help out.  So without further adu here is my feature on Brad Jones’ TheCinemaSnob.com

So what is The Cinema Snob?  Well simply put it’s that film critic that every fan of low budget or trashy movies hates.  That guy that feels the need to point out small flaws in editing and story and acting in films that clearly were made for about what I pay in website hosting each year (note: this is a free blog).  Is Brad Jones a snob?  Hell no, he owns Nailgun Massacre and Black Devil Doll from hell, shit he owns Turkish Star Wars.  He plays a character based on pretentious film critics in short little 10 minute videos, in them he reviews some of the worst z-grade films ever made.  They’re really fun and really funny and take a pretty good shot at some bad movies, so if you enjoy those kinds of movies, have you ever watched a Troma film and thought to yourself ‘That was funny as hell and not offensive or morally reprehensible at all’ then you will probably love the site.

3 Great Posters

Hell if you like; Zardoz, Caligula, or Evil Dead, you will like this site.

Okay so I have a pretty appreciation for the character because he actually uses the setup and premise of it in his videos.  His review of Salo is probably the best example of this; in it The Snob does the review from the seat of a toilet because like a pretentious film snob he loved the movie Salo, but at the same time is disgusted with the idea of the movie and what he has seen.  So he is throwing up constantly as he talks about it, what a cool concept for a review of something.  It brings up the idea of why a ‘serious’ film critic will hate the movie ‘Hostel’ because it’s just bloody and violent.  I myself don’t much care for the movie Hostel but it’s for other reasons.  However that same critic will love Salo even though on a base level we are talking about a very similar concept.  By the way if you consider yourself a normal sane level header individual, please god don’t watch Salo, I screened Visitor Q for some friends once and that blood is still on my hands so I don’t want Salo on my conscious too.

Visitor Q

Visitor Q: That corpse he is fucking just shit on his dick, in case you were wondering.

Other features of the site are pretty entertaining as well, Kung Tai Ted is pretty hilarious, and his Big Box Specials are both informative and….stimulating.  There are a few reviews by the real Brad Jones which I enjoy as well sense he seems to go off on tangents as much as I do.  His Public Domain Theater brings some pretty great movies, including Wild Guitar featuring the ever insane Arch Hall Jr.  I don’t really watch Bruno Mattei show that much, despite owning a lot of his stuff.  His own production company Stoned Gremlin (fuck that’s a cool name) makes movies every now and then and there usually pretty damn good.  ‘Cheap’ his latest effort is a real blast to watch, it’s about, well, Snuff movies and does so with a pretty dark approach…..okay well I guess I can’t really think of a light hearted Snuff movie(‘Hardcore’ comes to mind).  But I think you will get what I mean, it doesn’t try to dress it up or make characters sympathetic or anything, because honestly I don’t want to feel sorry for the kind of guy who would start making Snuff movies with desperate destitute porn stars.

Hardcore

Seriously its a laugh a minute.

Of course I have to mention the mascot of the whole site, the biggest badass of 80’s Godfrey Ho movies, Pierre Kirby.  Get his movies and watch them, or watch the Snob reviews of them, seriously words can’t really explain how awesome the man who plays, Ted Fast, is.

Pierre Kirby

Fast, Ted Fast, by the way I always work alone.

Overall though I think it’s a great site and it you enjoy the kind of humor that is in my site, or if you just like exploitation, low budget, remake-sploitation, or the most sacred of all films the porn parody, then you should definitely check out TheCinemaSnob.com.  Also he is a Midwesterner who has his own website about movies, and a hot girlfriend who is into anime, it’s like he was biologically engineered to be my fucking hero.

The Fourth Kind

My Hero

Peace.





Why M.A.G. will work; My Impression with the Beta.

13 01 2010
Box Art

Box art is as busy as the game is.

M.A.G. or Massive Action Game is a 2010 release exclusively for the PS3 by Zipper Interactive.  It is a multiplayer only FPS and features 256 player online matches, as well as a somewhat standard leveling up system to give all the fighting a point.

This article is written based on my experience in the MAG closed Beta that happened a few months back, not the public beta that was released a few weeks ago.  So bear in mind if you have been playing that game it might have code improvements or more maps and features.  I think with what I did in my beta test I got the gist of what the game is all about and can give a pretty accurate description of what I think of it.

MAG has 3 teams to play for; Valor, S.E.V.R., and Raven, the difference is purely ascetic and whatever you style is you should take that class, Valor is the Marines pretty much the military as it currently exists, Raven is the army of the future, think storm troopers from Star Wars, S.E.V.R. is basically some Mad Max nightmare army or underequipped psychos.  So let’s get the first part of the way, 256 players and whether or not it makes a different to the average player who played Call of Duty, Halo, Resistance, and Killzone before.  So the first hour or so that I played the Beta I didn’t notice much a difference in the fighting, probably because 30 minutes of that was spend waiting for a match to start, but I digress.  Anyways mid way through my second match, which was arguably my best match of my time in the Beta and for sure the most coordinated effort a team I was on ever put forth, a very strange thing happened to me.  I was pursing an enemy solider who I had wounded and was intending to bust his ass, when I rounded a corner I ran straight into 40 enemy soldiers and some tanks, I was promptly turned into Swiss cheese.  That was a really cool moment; it was the moment where the game really made sense to me, because it was right then that I felt like I was in the middle of a war.  Every FPS I have ever played I really wanted to feel like I was part of something greater, part of a massive struggle for something, that’s why I liked Killzone 2 so much, I would win fights and the story would progress as though we were losing overall.

Last Thing

How screwed are you? Pretty screwed.

From then on I poured a lot of time into MAG, and for me it got even better the more I played it.  You see when you start you have a limited weapon set and that’s about it, but as you advance in the game you start getting point to put into skill trees.  That is where it gets really great, see I love riflemen/machine gunners, maybe some limited demo work and heavy weapons, but basically a shock trooper.  There was something in the neighborhood of 25 skills to pump points into and they gave you pretty significant bonuses.  More armor, faster rate of fire, faster reload, less recoil and weapon sway, even unlocking the ability to place demo charges or set up radar.  As you pumped points into the skills your character class changed tell eventually you have molded exactly the character you wanted.  Point of reference you can re skill whenever you want and move to another team at no penalty.  That was really cool, basically this is a notion that a lot of games toy with, total customization, but never really quite pull off, it actually has a feel a lot like Borderlands, if in that game you could use any tree from any class.

Okay so how do you organize the chaos of the battlefield?  256 players is a lot to keep track of, thankfully Zipper basically invented team based online play, the guys there basically are Navy Seals at this point from all the work they did on SOCOM.  First off until you hit a certain rank you can’t even play in full 256 matches, you just don’t have the necessary skill to do so and the game knows that.  You play at first in 128 matches, and are broken down into 8 man teams each with an appointed squad leader who has proven him/herself capable in combat and competent to lead a team.  They set objectives for you to do (Defend this point, attack that point, and blow up this building) and if you follow along and play by the rules you get a significant XP bonus for being a good soldier.  If you go off by yourself you’ll get killed because you will have no backup going against other squads.  Once that objective is completed you link up with another squad to fight for a larger objective, now it’s 16 vs. 16, once that is done you move up to the next objective now fighting 32 vs. 32, etc. etc. tell eventually you are in an all out war.  So it’s not completely frantic, it starts off in a very controlled skirmish and 30 minutes later when its 64 vs. 64(128 vs. 128 if you ranked up enough) you will have gotten used to fighting with your team and it will make the experience way more organic.  The kicker is that it really works well; I mean you know the 8 men in your team by the time you really need to lean on them to keep you alive.

Set Piece

Pray Leroy Jenkins isn't on your team.

Okay flaws so far would be visuals everything a bit plain but considering what the game is achieving, I don’t really care what it looks like, and of course you were taking a hit to get that thing running.  Wait times for matches to start are pretty ridiculous, and the fear is of course if the games community dies off then what?  Can the matches scale down on the offset change that you can’t get 256 players all going at once to fill every match?  I don’t know these answers, but considering Zipper built the groundwork for the entire PSN I trust that they have thought of this.

Special mention the networking side of this, Zipper had to build new kinds of Servers just to run this game.  I am an IT professional myself and this game impresses the hell out of me, maybe 1 or 2 PC games in history can say they even attempted this before, so for Zipper to do it on a console is just impressive.

Overall I think this game has a lot of potential, if you’re not someone who runs with a Clan like me; then I think your enjoyment of it is going to be on a match by match basis because it will depend on your squad and squad leader.  But if you’re an obsessive clan player then by god this game is literally tailor made for you, you can have everyone build there characters to better suit the squad, you can have everyone work together for bonus XP.  I don’t know if I will get it right away because I just don’t have the time to put into it right now, but man I think it has a ton of potential for FPS fan to really get into it and play around with it.

Small Shootout

Damn, this neighborhood went to shit.

Peace





Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. Get on your knees bitch!(A game review)

10 01 2010
Box Art

Box isn't lieing, thats pretty much what happens.

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift is a 2008 game developed by Evolution Studios.  It’s the second title in the Motorstorm series, with the original being an ambitious but ultimately flawed launch titles for the PS3.  The main issue with the first game is that it was a very pretty arcade racer.  No story mode, no advancement of cars or classes, and most importantly no split screen multiplayer.  PR not only fixed those issues but did a good enough job that Sony purchased the studio as a result of the games success.

The ‘Oh Shit’ moment is something everyone has experienced.  Maybe only a few times in your life but you have at least felt it.  It’s the moment where something some crazy, extreme, nuts, or weird happens that it just makes you yell ‘Oh Shit!’  In games it’s really hard to duplicate this feeling, because you have to draw the player in, in order to really make someone yell like that you have to give them a feeling that what is happening is critical to their success.  Motorstorm: Pacific Rift is an entire game that’s entire design is made to make you scream ‘OH SHIT!’ as much as possible.

Moment

OHHHHH SHHHIIITTTT!!

This game is hard, I mean really hard, like retardedly hard, I am only on skill level 3 of 8 and it already takes 10 tries to beat a race.  I own Demon’s Souls and I am willing to bet that I have bashed my head against the wall more trying to beat Motorstorm then I ever did on Demon’s Souls.  But this adds to the overall feel of the game though, they want you to lose, they want you to hate it, they want you to feel as though the slightest mistake means starting over because you pretty much lost the race.  If they create that feeling in the player then every jump, every intense ride through the jungle, every win is just going to have such an emotional impact on the player.  That’s the success of Motorstorm it makes you really feel every race of the game, my dad was watching me play and was quite literally on the edge of his seat, and I found myself yelling after a close win.  Keep in mind that I turn off music when I play racing games because I need to hear the pitch of the motor, in other words I am not an animated video game player, ‘ice’ would be a more accurate description.

The improvements are what really make this game stand out from the previous entry.  All aspects of the game have been improved, first off the graphics, I mean WOW!  There is an early shot in the game of the island and then it zooms into a race taking place, and I swore to god I was looking at an actual island.  4 player split screen is an accomplishment as well, much like Killzone 2 this game really shows off the power of the PS3 not so much in what you see in single player but what you see in multiplayer.  It shows off the power when you play the game with 3 other people and realize that it can run the game 4 times over.  You can have 12 cars on fire jumping over an active volcano with 6 of the guys flying through the air as they get punched off their bikes and you realize the game isn’t struggling or shaking or anything, it’s just running crisp and smooth.  There is a tangible career mode now as well, work your way through different events, you unlock bonus cars and paintjobs for getting wins as well as new events.

Volcano

Is that Lava? OHHH SHHIITT!

I think if I had to name one flaw it would be in this career mode, first off some sort of options for upgrading your cars would have made the game so much longer, because right now as your progress your cars don’t get better but your enemies do.  From the start your cars stay the same but the enemies go from level 1 to level 8, so what I just have to get that much better?  What if like most humans can’t do that?  But again it all comes back to the challenge of the game, so you have to wonder if the decision to leave out upgrades was intentional, who knows.  Second off and perhaps my biggest problem with the game is locking you into certain car classes.  You have classes of cars, ranging from bikes, to rally cars to monster trucks.  They give you all the cars very early on, yet every single race has some ridiculous restriction on what cars you can drive, I understand that in time attack mode or check points, but a normal race with no special rules, why the hell can’t I drive what I want?  Especially sense the opposing A.I. can drive what they want.  It just doesn’t make any sense.

As it stands this is still a game I would highly recommend picking up, its fun and if you have friends its wayyyyyy more fun.  You and everyone around you will spend the majority of the time screaming ‘Oh Shit!’

Dinosaur

Dinosaur truck? OHHHH SHHIITT!!!!

Peace





Outpost, proof that you can find soild gold at the bottom of the barrel(a movie review)

7 01 2010
Movie Poster

Whats in the Outpost? Maybe Nazi Zombies?

‘Outpost’ is a 2008 film directed by Steve Barker and starring Ray Stevenson and most of the supporting cast of the movie ‘Doom’.  Ray Stevenson plays a mercenary that is hired along with 5 others to guide a corporate scientist into Unspecifiedistan in order to secure minerals that are currently inside a combat zone.  When they arrive at the bunker where the minerals are held they find dead bodies and Nazi flags, soon they are attacked from all sides and from within.  As the team is slowly picked off the remaining men must come up with a way of escaping the facility before there are none left.

Breather

Another reason to leave the Bunker

*Spoilers abound, you will be warned*

So there are a couple different ranges of Cinema, you have your big movies like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Rain Man’ films that resonate on an emotional level, sometimes making your cry or laugh.  Sometimes showing you mind blowing action scenes but still having a plot and story to back it all up.  ‘Outpost’ is not one of those movies, nor does it try to be one.

‘Outpost’ is a B movie but in no way does it try to hide this with a good actor phoning in a performance, or shoddy CGI special effects.  ‘Outpost’ is a good idea for a movie like a lot of really great B movies, most John Carpenter films are really cool ideas, and he just has no money to make them.  ‘Outpost’ very cleverly masks the fact that it was made for no money but only having about 8 actors in total and doing most of the movie either in the woods (England doubles for unnamed Eastern European Nation), or inside the confides of an old WWII bunker.

Now if anyone is reading this and hasn’t seen the movie ‘Dog Soldiers’ then they’re going to miss this reference; ‘Dog Soldiers’ is one of the best B movies ever made, in fact it’s so good that its almost an A movie, or as my Mom says an A- movie.  ‘Outpost’ is right up there with it; it has a silly story and some gaping plot holes, but well put together action scenes and the right kind of actors for the parts.  I don’t mean great actors, heavens no, I mean actors that are in lots of B movies.  See a key mistake some B movies make is to get good actors in them, this kills the movie because that actor will not care about the movie at all (See every Uwe Boll movie ever fucking made).  ‘Outpost’ side steps this by hiring guys who do these kinds of movies, and when they get the script for ‘Outpost’ and read it and see the production they get excited.  This is there ‘Transformers’ or ‘Star Wars’ it’s probably the best movie there going to get a starring role in so they go out and make the most of it.

Cast

It's these guys 'Citizen Kane'

As far as the story goes well yeah me and my Dad watched this movie together and were pretty much had to make up our own story as to why they were out in the woods looking for something.  It was like they remembered the sets, costumes, actors, cameras, lights, booze, but forgot the microphones.  Christ do they not have boom mikes in England?  The first 20 minutes is the set up to the story where Ray Stevenson and corporate guy talk about why there doing what they’re doing and you can’t hear a single word of it.  It probably doesn’t help that Ray Stevenson simultaneously, mutters, talks through his teeth, and inhales.  I get it he’s tough, the point is made clear by his size and level of grizzeledness.

Ray Stevenson

Grizzled to perfection.

Once we get to the bunker though, man that is when it gets fun.  *SPOILERS AHEAD* Once they arrive and get the lights fired up in the bunker gunfire erupts from outside, and then after 5 minutes it stops, no bodies, no shell casings, nothing.*SPOILERS DONE* The director does a great job of setting this up because no one is established as a central character aside from Stevenson and corporate guy(seriously I don’t know his name) so you really have no idea who is going to get knocked off next.  ‘Below’ did a really great job of this too, everyone seemed like a likely target.  You’ve got; Trigger Happy guy, Black guy, Religious guy, Redneck guy, and Irish guy.  You tell me which of them would go first, they play on the fact that every character is completely forgettable, and it actually generates suspense.   *SPOILERS AHEAD* So yeah eventually were down to just Redneck guy, Religious guy, Ray, and Corporate guy.  Corporate guy comes up with a plan to get rid of the….oh yeah.  So I have no fucking clue what the bad guys are in this movie, there not really Zombies per-se, nor are they ghosts, there definitely Nazi’s so let’s just say that being a Nazi is enough to justify being shot.  There leader is like them, but for most of the movie he just sits there and looks dead, he needs to get shot in the head before he gets angry enough to kill anyone.  But I digress, anyways, they lure the Nazi’s into the bunker in a fantastically staged gunfight sequence and active the machine that kills them, and it works!  For about 15 seconds at which point they come back to life and kill everyone…yeah! *SPOILERS DONE*

Basically what you have here is a move from a bin at Wal-Mart, but a really good movie from a bin at Wal-Mart, so good that you and your friends will probably sit down to watch it and make fun of it.  But a funny thing will happen about 30 minutes in, you’ll actually start to just like it and watch it because it’s good.  Not Hollywood blockbuster good, but if you’re the kind of person that loved ‘Dog Soldiers’, ‘Below’, ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, or ‘Assault on Precinct 13’(1976) then this movie is a can’t miss for you.  If you’re everyone else I would still give it a shot, hell there killing Nazi’s what else could be better?

Dead Duo

Also this happens, more then once.

Peace





Dragon Age: Origins, Impressions and History

5 01 2010

Box Art

Bloody Dragon + hot Witch = SALES!

Are you yanking my chain BioWare?  You want me to honestly believe this game was made in 2008 for release in 2009?  This game is like a 40 year old whore, you can slap some high definition textures on it to pretty it up, but when you get up close its still looks about as good as you can when you’ve had sex for money for 30 years….or something like that.

Too much Surgury

Yeah pretty much like that.

Anyways the story goes that BioWare has basically been working on and off on this game for nearly 7 years now, mostly in secret without ever showing it off.  Then when EA bought them last year they wanted to make Mass Effect multi-platform but Microsoft’s legal time (which is probably as big as Bioware) put a stop to that, probably because they didn’t want to lose one of the three franchises they have left.  So EA came back to BioWare and told them get something out the door, so they got their old game out, unfortunately they didn’t have time to update its engine, just time to slap some new textures on things and do some voice over work.  It’s kind of like the God of War Collection, updated graphics from old source code.  Considering how much praise was heaped onto this game in the last few months, you got to wonder what would have happened if it had been released in 2000(I would have played Jade Empire and not given a shit, but some would have cared).  Basically the end result is something that looks about one generation old, but the trick here is that BioWare is so fucking great at making games you completely forget about that after about 30 minutes, roughly half way through an Origin story.

So yeah I felt that was an interesting story to tell; now onto the impressions of the game, from the first 6 hours or so I have played.  First things first, this concept of a totally new experience each time you play because each character’s reasons for doing what they do changes based on what you do.  Now because I wanted to do this post I went back and started a second character so I could accurately talk about the differences.   My first character was an Elf Warrior who grew up in a slum and then killed the son of a nobleman because he raped his cousin on his wedding day.  My second character a Human Mage went on her quest because her father was murdered during a Coup.  Now that’s a really great gimmick, how this game puts the ‘Origin’ in Dragon Age: Origins, and definitely helps when starting a game because now through all the massive conversations you get different conversation choices, and basically write how the character behaves for the rest of the game.  Now when you get into the game, beyond the 3 hour ‘Origin’ story the game depends on you to keep it different with how you build your character, because pretty much the rest of the game is exactly the same regardless of your Origin.  How and what NPC’s say changes but that’s about it.

Darkspawn

I'd kill it just for being so ugly.

Now the game itself is pretty much Knights of the Old Republic just fancied up a bit, the biggest changes coming in the form of party control.  In KotOR your healing and buffing items were in a pool and at any time any character could just take one and heal them.  Otherwise they would just fight and kill stuff, pretty simple but it made it easy to fight with a group because you didn’t have to worry about everyone.  DA:O decided to complicate the fuck out combat by making you babysit every member of your team.  One guy in my first party died no less than 6 times in 30 minutes because he refused to use a healing item on himself, now granted I can switch to him and use this wheel thing to pause the game and heal him myself, but I shouldn’t have too.  That makes combat a monotones task to keep everyone alive and fighting.  They can do special attacks and buffs on their own why the hell won’t they heal on their own?  Okay so I am being overly critical of a small thing, but god if you fight every 5 minutes in that game for 60 hours that is really going to piss me off after a while.

Killshot

Probably still wont use a healing item.

The rest of the game is pretty standard fantasy flair; you kill beasts and evil creatures and complete quests and level up.  Ho hum.  To me the real strength of the game is the dialogue trees, man I get to a new area and I just run around talking to everyone I can.  Seeing if I can coheres them, or intimidate them, maybe find bonus quests, it’s all such fun.  See KotOR one had three conversation choices, evil, neutral and bad, and it made the game easy to get the ending you want, KotOR two had an evil, less evil, slightly more less evil, kind of neutral, neutral, Ghandi, Hitler, Jesus, Zombie etc. etc.  Basically you didn’t even know if you were evil or not.  You would say the most and nice pleasant thing available and it would still lead to a quest where you murder babies.  With DA:O they seem to have found a good medium, not easy, but not too hard.  You can still kind of see where conversations are going before they happen, but there can still be surprises.

All in all the game is really great fun, you get that sort of High Fantasy Tolkien vibe that I really dig, but it never feels overly scripted.  Enough of the decision making is left to you, I mean hell I am probably going to put off publishing this article so I can go play some more.

Peace.





Top Five Games of the year(not just PS3 either)

4 01 2010

Okay so it’s safe to say I play a ton of video games, most on Sony’s PS3 but I have played a lot of XBOX 360 games as well, and always in tune with PC games too.  So I played most of the games released this year and as always I won’t put something on a list unless I have played it or seen it myself.  So here are my top 5 games released in 2009, considering this is one of the best years for games sense the mid 90’s before LucasArts stopped making fantastic games, this was not an easy list to do.  So here we go, started from 5, with some honorable mention thrown in for good measure.

Honorable Mention:

Infamous;                           SuckerPunch(PS3)

A completely original superhero open world romp, outdated graphics and a plane jane moral choice system keep this off the list.  But don’t worry it’s still one of the most frantic and fun experiences of the year.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2;                Infinity Ward (PC, PS3, 360)

Where to start with this one, great graphics, fast paced story, action set pieces that will make you drop the controller with amazement, and addictive multiplayer.  Too many bugs and a story so full of holes you could drive a herd of elephants through it hold this one back from being truly great.

Borderlands;                      Gearbox Software (PC, PS3, 360)

What I wanted Fallout 3 to be fast paced FPS with RPG elements and most importantly; the loot!  Millions of guns, grenades, and shields to play with, keep you comeing back for more and more and more.  However the fact that I can basically get 2 levels through grinding and be over powered to the point where the final boss might as well be made out of wafers; holds it off my list.

Dragon Age: Origins;                       Bioware (PC, PS3, 360)

Bioware is probably the most respected developer of RPG’s today, and this proves why.  A Dark Fariy tale made into a game, you spend most of your time in convoluted dialogue trees, instead of the wonderful D&D rules combat engine.  Also you can tell this game was intended to be released in 1995, the graphics are pretty outdated.

Red Faction: Guerrilla;                   Volition (PS3, 360)

Blow stuff up, lots of stuff, it seems like a simple idea but it’s so hard to properly execute in games.  Although they didn’t nail it right on the head they got pretty damn close.  Everything and anything was fair game in this action romp, building in the way?  Blow it up.  Mountain in the way?  Blow it up.  The concept was simple but man it was fun.  Story sucks, gameplay is pretty basic, online is a joke, but it advanced the genre as a whole and that gets it an honorable mention.

5.  Killzone 2;                      Guerrilla Games (PS3)

Box Art

Space Nazi, seriously there space Nazi's

Killzone 2 is a FPS developed by Guerrilla Games; you belong to the ISA and are essentially trying to remove a brutal dictator from power on his home planet.  This involves drop shipping down onto an environment that is 100% hostile.

‘They will know, Helghan belongs to the Helghast’, chilling words uttered from a utterly chilling performance from everyone favorite bad guy, Brian Cox.  They are the last words you hear before your drop ship is thrown through missile propellant, arc tower fire, and AA Canons, only to land on the war torn surface of Helgan, amidst what can only be described as ‘Normandy Beach on a planet wide scale’.  Truly this game doesn’t screw around, and puts you directly into the action as quickly as possible, against a nearly invincible opponent.  Helghast troopers are like Spartans, jump higher, run faster, and shoot better.  As Sgt. Thomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko, you are tasks with leading a squad of troops into the worst pockets of enemy resistance.  The reason it’s so well done, is that every bit of the game is designed to get the idea ‘Belongs to the Helghast’ into your head.  You are not welcome on this planet in any way, from the propaganda going constantly about how evil you are, to the blowout broken homes, to the atmosphere that is clogged with ash.  The entire design is meant to put you into the world, make you feel like you’re really fighting against an entrenched population.  The graphics are incredible, best on a console, the sound design is unique giving every character and weapon a different sound and feel, and each action set piece comes together from all these elements to really blow you away.  The multiplayer takes elements of Call of Duty and Team Fortress and mixes them to give you unlock able mix and match classes but only after you have proven you have what it takes to use them.  All in all this is may be the best FPS of the year and the best of this console generation.

4.  Demon’s Souls;            From Software (Atlus)(PS3)

Box Art

Even the box art is depressing.

Demon’s Souls is a brutally hard semi-fantasy RPG developed by From Software and published by Atlus.  You play as a hero, pick a gender, pick a class, and get to saving the world from an evil darkness that has descended down upon it and is slowly sucking the life out of the everything.

Yhatzee said it best ‘Truly a game that takes away half your health bar and doesn’t give it back tell you have proven you don’t need it anymore doesn’t fuck around.’  Demon’s Souls came out of the wood work and sold solidly in a very difficult early October, on the strength of the fact that it came right out and openly challenged gamers to try and beat it.  Make no mistake this game is hard, punishingly so, but once you master it and start taking down world bosses, you are going to feel like Superman.  Add that to the fact that the game would take almost 20 play through to truly ‘beat’, and you have one really great experience and some great bang for your buck.  The mood of the game is what truly stands out, its dark and miserable, and this misery is so well executed that you start to feel depressed yourself when you play it, almost as though the Old King is sucking it from you.  A dark atmosphere, brutal difficulty curve and one of the most rewarding experiences of recent memory, make Demon’s Souls a wonder to play, and by far the best RPG of the year.

3.    Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time ;                  Insomniac Games (PS3)

Box Art

The box is the most serious part of the game.

Ratchet and Clank is a 3rd person adventure/platforming game developed by Insomniac Games .  In this game you continue the quest of the universes last Lombax, Ratchet, as he searches for his best friend Clank.  Along the way you might just also save the universe and find out what happened to the Lombax’s.

Insomniac is hands down one of the best developers out there today, so it’s no surprise that there seventh entry in the Ratchet series is the strongest.  Sadly the last entry in the Ratchet series, but it gave Insomniac time to go back and look over all their previous games, they took what was best about all of them and mixed them together into a truly fantastic experience, but with a few twists thrown in as well.  That is the games strong point, the Clank based time puzzles, which had an almost ‘Portal’ level of quality.  Having to plan out the moments of 4 of you in order to open a door proved to be very challenging and rewarding.  But this all comes together using Insomniacs impressive 5th generation game engine, which allows for full 1080p visuals at an uncompromising 60fps.  The result is a game that runs as smooth and looks as crisp as a Pixar movie.  Of course there is a wide collection of wacky guns making their return here as well, from giant saw blades, to burping aliens, to exploding Disco balls, the game retains a wonderful charm throughout its well story.  The voice actors give it their all to characters they have loving played for the better part of a decade, and it all culminates in a pretty touching conclusion.  Insomniac owes a lot to their furry friend, and clearly put their hearts and souls into giving him and his buddy Clank a fitting send off, you will be sadly missed.

2.  Batman: Arkham Asylum;       Rocksteady (PS3, 360, PC)

Box Art

Batman on the cover...I'm sold.

The last great game from publisher Eidos before they become part of SquareEnix, fortunately developer Rocksteady now works for Warner Brothers new Entertainment Division.  In this 3rd person action game Batman is faced with his greatest challenge, when the villainous Joker releases the inmates of Arkham Asylum and traps Batman on the island.  You have to run through a ‘Gauntlet of Batman villains’ on your way to a final showdown with the Joker.

The absolute worst thing that can happen to a licensed property like Batman is let a bunch of video game fanboy designers, make the game.  It never works, they get to excited to be working with the characters they love, to do a good job.  This is perhaps the reason this game worked so well, early on Paul Dini was bought in to write it, for those that don’t know Paul Dini was the writer on the classic animated Batman show of the mid-nineties.  To make things better, they went out and got all the original voice actors as well.  What resulted was a fantastic experience, with one of the best overall voice casts of all time.  The entire game design is dark and visceral, showcasing the classic gothic nature of Arkham Asylum.  The story is not just strong, its movie quality, and you feel like you’re playing an extended Batman movie.  The main story clocks in at around 8 hours, but you cannot play through that game with Edward Nigman taunting you without feeling you have to go and solve his riddles which adds another 4 hours to the game.  The combat engine is incredibly brutal; in a one on one fight you are invincible because Batman would be invincible in a one on one fight.  But when you fight 10-12 guys at once the story changes quick and you have to start using the counters and bat-tools you have acquired.  But basically you click the attack button and move the stick and Batman does the rest, in incredibly vicious and satisfying fashion.  Overall though this game is a treat to play for anyone, it’s the best use of Unreal Engine this year, dare I say better then Gears of War II, the combat is visceral, the story is dark like any true fan of the show wanted it to be.

1.  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves;              Naughty Dog(PS3)

Box art

All that is man.

Nathan Drake is back and out for revenge on the trail of the mystical city of Shangri-La.  Also making amends with his old flame, taking down a psychotic war criminal, and getting payback on an old business associate.  This is the sequel to Naughty Dogs smash hit Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, it’s a 3rd person action/platforming game and received over 25 perfect review scores when it was released this year.

You can’t really grade this game on a game scale, because it isn’t a game, it’s a summer blockbuster, a much smarter Indian Jones movie.  It’s about 10 minutes into the game when you realize you aren’t just watching a cut scene and then doing some game play now and then.  No it’s much more than that, the voice acting; character animation, writing, and direction completely suck you in, giving it the most organic experience possibly of all time.  This is the shortest review of the bunch because basically everything in this game is perfect, I mean really you have to play it to appreciate it, but I had 6 people in my room watching me play that game.  They were totally engrossed by the game play, by the action, by the acting, and by the story.  I really don’t want to write a bunch of paragraphs gushing over this game, so I will simply say that the team at Naughty Dog created something wonderful with this game.  I don’t think anything like it is going to come around for a while, this is a must play for any fan of games.