Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Brutal Legend - A Review: The Most Metal of Games

The Metal Gods cannot save you from spoilers within this article! But fear not, I’ll try to avoid major spoilers because I want you to play this game.
You are Eddie Riggs – the greatest roadie in the business. Able to fix anything, build anything. Unfortunately, Eddie is stuck working for, perhaps, the worst metal band of all time – Kabbage Boy. 
After an unfortunate accident during Kabbage Boy's latest gig, a fantastically metal situation occurs which ends up with our main character transported to a strange land – a beautiful, mysterious, world of heavy metal known as The Brutal Land. Regaining consciousness, Eddie immediately finds himself in peril as three strange, crimson robed monks advance upon him wielding ceremonial swords poised to strike.

Brutal Legend sees Eddie teaming up with a band of resistance fighters, lead by Lars and Lita Halford. Eddie learns that the resistance are fighting against the tyranny of glam-metal loving General Lionwhyte and the General’s puppet-master, the Emperor of the Tainted Coil – Doviculus.
Friendships will be forged, friendships will fail, and friends will be faced on the battlefield as fate decides that now is the time to reinvigorate an ancient, powerful force.

Over the course of this game, along with Eddie, players shall uncover the main character’s true identity, battle the forces of evil and hair-metal, and bring glory to the world of metal! Of course, one cannot expect Eddie to do all of this alone, even if he is the fabled ‘chosen one’. Featuring a legendary all star cast from the annals of rock history, the world’s greatest roadie must ally himself with the real world’s greatest rock musicians and restore harmony to the metalverse. To tantalise you good people, let’s see if you can guess who may voice the following characters: The Guardian of Metal, the Kill Master, The Baron, Rima, and last but not least – Kage the Kannonier. We’ll get onto the voice cast shortly.
I bet you can’t guess which metal legend could possibly be voicing the Kill Master.
Brutal Legend is not simply a hack and slash game. Oh no. There are other gameplay elements at hand here. For example, throughout the game, players will find relics; These relics require Eddie to perform a guitar solo in order to raise them and learn their secrets. Players will notice that these solos are very much akin to Guitar Hero’s note-matching gameplay, though they do not require as much effort as a round of Guitar Hero does, and are so much shorter. As the game advances, Eddie will learn more solos that will allow him to perform multiple feats of awe. Some solos will assist Eddie in battle, while others will simply aide in his journey across the land. Other relics may reveal unto Eddie hidden musical tracks that can be played via his car – The Deuce, offer up a number of fire tributes that are used as this game’s form of currency, or simply present him another portal to the realm of the Guardian of Metal.

As with most open world games, Brutal Legend provides players with a good number of side-missions to take part in and complete. These side-missions can range from competitive racing against a demon called Fletus, assisting Kage the Kannonier with hitting his targets, or just helping out your various headbanger associates. For the collectors out there, you are tasked with scouring the entire landscape in search for special relics that will grant Eddie additional fire tributes, as well as a number of historical monuments that reveal more about the game’s backstory – a fantastic piece of lore, in my opinion. These relics and monuments can be found all across the Brutal Land, so I hope you enjoy driving.

The journey will take Eddie through a wide range of locations that could have easily been pulled straight from the cover of a heavy metal album, such as Bladehenge, the Cleave of the Impaler, the Sea of Black Tears, Thunderhorn, the Temple of the Zaulia, and Death’s Clutch. All of which are breathtakingly beautiful in their own ways. For all the times I have played through this game, I am yet to feel bored with what I see. The scenery is truly spectacular.

I mean, who wouldn't want a giant stone sword monument?
Scattered among the main story missions are several stage battles which see Eddie defending his stage while attempting to amass fans from “fan geysers” by constructing merch booths, all while attempting to complete certain objectives before a battle can be won (such as destroying the enemy’s stage). The player, still as Eddie, will enter a real-time strategy-esque style of gameplay as they must create units and command them to follow him to a particular location, attack enemy units / their stage, or defend a certain area. As mentioned previously, Eddie has the use of a myriad of guitar solos that will be of great help when defending his own stage or destroying the enemy forces. One particular solo I recommend is the Facemelter.

There is a multiplayer element to this game, but only those of you that enjoy the aforementioned stage battles will be likely to play this often. The only real unique aspect to the multiplayer mode is the ability to play as one of the villainous factions from the main game – the Tainted Coil, or the Drowning Doom. Just as when you are playing as Ironheade, players will take control of the leader of chosen team – Doviculus for the Tainted Coil, and… someone else for the Drowning Doom (look, I don’t want to spoil the main story for you, okay?) in their attempt to overwhelm their foe(s) and bring glorious glory to their team. The multiplayer mode can be played both online against other players, or offline against computer controlled opponents set at one of the five levels of difficulty available.

As players progress throughout the main game, they unlock a number of combat units that Eddie shall utilise during the game’s Stage Battles. The Headbangers, the Razor Girls, Bouncers, Roadies, and Metal Beasts. What can I say? This game is metal as fuck, it’s amazing! But while Eddie and the forces of Ironheade have their legion of loyal supporters, so too do the Drowning Doom, Tainted Coil, and the Hair Metal Militia. Brutal Legend sees to it that you have an endless supply of monstrous creatures to slaughter in order to cleanse this most holy of unholy, badass lands.

A sexy nun, or a big ugly demon? …A big ugly sexy nun demon? You decide.
Saying that this game is a metal album cover would actually be sufficient when discussing the artistic aspects, I reckon, but as this is a review I suppose I best expand this section a little.

First off, just look at the images included in this review. How fucking awesome are they? What you are seeing here is but a fraction of the beauty offered in this game. The outstanding nature of this game’s appearance is to be expected as the world of Brutal Legend is heavily inspired by the work of Frank Frazetta (a terrific artist. I highly recommend you check out his art). Sure, there are the occasional issues with clipping through models, or models vanishing when struck rather than exploding, for example; but remember, this game was released in 2009, and considering the fine work done on the rest of the graphical aspects of this game, one could easily forgive these minor indiscretions (especially since such things also happen in today's games).

Nobody can fault the character designs presented to us in Brutal Legend. From the common headbanger, to the Ratguts of the Drowning Doom – the designs are truly inspired and do not feel out of place within this Brutal Land. I mean, some of the enemy units look truly disgusting, which is exactly what they should look like, right? So many subgenres of rock are represented throughout this game and its grand cast of characters – such as General Lionwhyte’s world of glam-metal (also known as hair-metal, which is most definitely evident when you see the his faction), the Drowning Doom’s appearance based heavily upon death metal, and the Tainted Coil, whose style is based on industrial and alternative metal subgenres ( which include more than their fair share of BDSM and gore aspects). Seriously, those of you with a weak stomach may be slightly grossed out by this game.

Finally, let’s talk about the scenery in this game. I've touched upon it very slightly already, but it is, in my opinion, astoundingly beautiful. It really is enjoyable to drive from one location to another just to explore this wondrous world – from its serene fields of green that are littered with awe inspiring sculptures and remnants of the past; and dark, gloomy dead lands littered with the fallen; to a tropical-esque jungle, with so many more unique locations that are sure to please anybody who absolutely loves album artwork. Props to the world designers, and to all of the asset artists that have worked hard on making this game so very stunning.

How awesome does this mountain of bones look? Seriously!
Okay, I won’t leave you hanging any longer; let’s get onto the cast. Naturally, the first person you’ll recognise will be Jack Black. If you couldn’t tell that was him from the featured image of this article, well, damn; but you will have surely spotted him before you actually play the game as he appears in a rather good pre-main menu intro scene (guys, I’m very fond of the labour of love that went into making Brutal Legend). As mentioned above, this game is stacked full of voice talent from the world of rock music, and joining Jack in this metalverse is the iconic Ozzy Osbourne as The Guardian of Metal; Rob Halford as General Lionwhyte and The Baron; the late, great Lemmy Kilmister as the Kill Master; Lita Ford as Rima; and Kyle Gass as Kage the Kannonier. See, what did I tell you? Epic. It won’t take fans long to notice another well known voice among this list of greats – the wonderful, talented Tim Curry adds his rather distinctive voice to the game in the role of Doviculus (who else would it be?). From the world of voice acting comes Zach Hanks as Lars Halford; Kath Soucie as Lita Halford, Jennifer Hale as Ophelia; and finally Alex Fernandez as the stage manager Magnus, all to provide voices for the integral characters in this story. I mean, c’mon now – if this cast list alone doesn’t make you want to play the game, I don’t know what would.

Brutal Legend allows those of you that find swearing offensive or distasteful to censor out those particular words, a feature that I actually quite like to be honest. I have only played the game with the censor on once, as I don’t really give a toss about hearing swears, but I must say that there is a certain enjoyment that comes from hearing those familiar bleeps. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but it can occasionally add to the fun, don’t you think? Mostly though, I enjoy the game best when it is in its full, uncensored glory.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention one of the greatest parts of this game. The soundtrack is completely on point in Brutal Legend with each song being selected by Tim Schafer and the game’s music director Emily Ridgway. You cannot expect the game to have the list of cast members it has without making use of their music – The game boasts an impressive number of metal tracks that will have fans feeling as though they have gone to metal heaven. So many of the greats have a place within Brutal Legend‘s soundtrack, though some players may notice that a certain few iconic bands are missing – sadly, this is due to various legal, and personal reasons. All in all, however, I don’t believe you will be left disappointed with what you have in this game. It is very almost a masterpiece.

Notice that I say “very nearly a masterpiece“. Not all games are without their faults, and Brutal Legend is no exception. The factor that bums me out about this game is the fact that once you’ve completed the main storyline, there isn’t really a tremendous amount for you to do. Sure, there are a the side-missions, collectables and such, but everything seems to fly by rather quickly. I don’t know, really, I suppose that’s to be expected with every game, but I just wish there were a few more additional hidden storylines, as the side-missions don’t really follow any real narrative. I also need to mention Eddie’s inability to jump. I really dislike the inability to jump, something just feels missing to me. Other than these two nitpicks, nah, I’m all good. It’s a beast of a game.

Anyway, let’s not end on a negative. Brutal Legend will always belong in the list of my favourite games, I am yet to tire of playing it over and over again. If you’re a fan of rock or metal music, you should definitely pick up this game straight away and get on it. Hey, even if you’re not really a fan of this type of music and just enjoy Jack Black’s style of humour, check it out. You can all do a lot worse than Brutal Legend, let me tell you that.
So, there we go. I very much enjoyed writing this review, and I hope you have enjoyed reading it. Let me know in the comments if you have played this game, and if so, what you thought of it. Oh, and before you go, make sure you check out the original story trailer for the game. Cheers, everyone.

Image credits: Double Fine Productions, Electronic Arts.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Looking Back at a Future Classic

Not so long ago, in a galaxy very close by, is an article that contains spoilers. 
...This, this post contains spoilers, so beware.
So, I know it's been out for over a year now, but I felt compelled to write a post in review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I have to say, I am such a huge fan of Rogue One, it being one of the few movies that I have actually gone to the cinema multiple times to see. It has it’s flaws, sure, but I am here to discuss the good and the bad whatever they may be. In this article, I will be discussing the film itself, as well as the most memorable moments for me as a long term Star Wars fan, and the many other aspects of the movie that cement Rogue One as a Star Wars film for the ages.

Righto, so, I reckon by now most of you will know the basic premise of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Some people and a droid steal the Death Star plans. There you go, the entire movie summed up in ten words. Easy. Okay, so obviously there’s a whole lot more to it than that. What this movie offers is an incredible story based around real people (meaning non-Force wielders), …and a droid, on a mission to bring freedom to a galaxy controlled by tyranny. The Empire is on the verge of a historical landmark; Within mere days, it will have completed the construction of a weapon of mass destruction, one rumoured to be powerful enough to destroy an entire planet. Using this weapon, it hopes to suppress the vast number of rebel-cells that have spawned throughout the galaxy which have now, as seen in Star Wars: Rebels, united into becoming the Alliance to Restore the Republic, A.K.A The Rebel Alliance. The Alliance’s spies have uncovered information regarding the existence of this so called planet killer and it is their duty to ensure this information reaches their leaders post-haste.

When Disney first announced their plans to create an anthology series, I was unsure of what what to expect. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive. I thought "Ooh, here we go, running the franchise into the ground!". The months went by, the apprehension remained. Eventually the title was revealed to the world as well as a brief synopsis of what the film would entail. I was intrigued, but I, along with the rest of the fandom, were left to wonder precisely how this film would tie into A New Hope. I don’t really have that much faith in Hollywood, I have to admit. Too many of my favourite franchises have been fucked right over, either by studio meddling, mediocre stories, shitty visuals, and so on, and I was worried that something similar was going to happen here. Then I saw the first teaser trailer. The hype grew and grew as each second passed. I cannot describe the excitement I felt. Still, I had my doubts about the film. It seemed so different to the other films. There were Star Destroyers, X-Wings, Droids, and Stormtroopers, yet there were no Jedi, no lightsabers. This was a gritty war film, only set in the Star Wars universe. The trailers came and went, new information dished out every so often just to whet our appetite. It worked. I rarely bother seeing a film on opening night, I’m not one for crowds really, but I was there in the cinema on opening night all ready to see the next instalment in the Star Wars franchise (along with a rather amazing cup shaped like Vader’s helmet, and a Death Star popcorn bowl) with an open mind. I was not disappointed.

It's a rare opporunity to drink out of a dark lord's helmet and eat out of a planet-killer.
One thing that crops up online quite often is the view that Rogue One drags on a little too much until we reach that awe-inspiring final act. I must say, I have to disagree with this sentiment. Yes, fine, it can get a little slow, but so what? It’s not boring. Bollocks. I was intrigued by the opening scene which introduced us to the Erso family and Director Orson Krennic (I am yet to read the prequel book of this movie – Star Wars: Catalyst, but I’m looking forward to reading more about these people), I was entertained by Jedha, by the scenes on Yavin IV, and by Eadu, though admittedly by this point the film did need a bit of a change of pace. So far, despite multiple rewatches, I am yet to become bored of Rogue One‘s story, and as I mentioned above, I think this film is fantastic, but that’s not to say I’m blind to certain pacing problems, or sub-par scenes. Naturally, there are a number of scenes that I could happily watch over and over, while others, maybe not so much, but we’ll discuss the film’s issues shortly.

For the most part, characters in Star Wars are either good or bad. Rarely will you see a character in between, in that 'grey' area. Sure, we’ve had falls to the Dark Side, we’ve had redemption, but as far as I can recall, this is the first time that we have seen 'good' characters murder in cold blood. Cassian Andor, a valuable member of the Rebel Alliance: obviously a good guy, right? Well, that’s not entirely the case, is it? While Cassian is indeed one of the “good guys”, he is in no way entirely “good”. I mean, he straight up murders a guy to prevent him from capture, which would obviously risk exposing what he knew about the Alliance. Yes, I know Cassian was reluctant to do this, that he didn’t really feel he had much of a choice, but it’s still murder, c’mon. Still, having said that, he is without a doubt still one of the good guys / heroes of this film, and I think we can forgive him considering he was one of the people that helped secure the plans to the Empire’s not-so-secret weapon. This is something I love about Rogue One. It introduces us to the fact that neither side is truly black-and-white. The Rebels can commit savage acts, just as members of the Empire do. It simply adds to the believability of this wonderfully diverse universe. Tarkin remains an incredibly cruel git though.

Tarkin, seen here about to create yet another desert planet.

Now then, it's time to talk about my favourite moments of the film. Which should I start with? Ah yes, it’s the slaughter of those Rebellion soldiers by the Dark Lord himself – Vader. Rogue One are no more, the Rebellion ships have either evacuated or have been destroyed, and in the bowels of a defeated Alliance ship, fear has spread among the troops. A matter of utmost importance is at hand – the gathering of the technical readouts of the Death Star. Once the data has been transferred to a data-disc, their escape can begin. Unfortunately, the ship is fucked, absolutely fucked from the battle, and a door will not open. Ignored by the rest of the panicking crew, the trapped troops stop banging on the door as they turn to face the silent darkness. Heavy foot steps can be heard in the looming blackness ahead, accompanied by that iconic breathing we all know so well. Silence. A lightsaber is ignited, and there stands Darth Vader. The panic-stricken soldiers unleash a barrage of laser-bolts at the Sith to no avail. He slices, he dices, he cruelly launches a soldier up into the air and pins him against the ceiling; he passes the trooper only to strike him with a back-swing of that red blade. Holy shit, it’s intense. When I first saw this moment, my mouth was agape. It was exhilarating to see Vader so dangerous, so ruthless. We've never really seen Vader unleashed in this way before. This is one scene that will stick in the mind of everybody that sees the film. Incidentally, it also adds to Vader’s frustration at the beginning of A New Hope. He has chased, captured, and boarded this ship that he knows for a fact holds the Death Star plans, yet the captain and Princess Leia herself have the balls to outright lie to his face. They know he knows, and here they are denying any involvement. That’s brazen. That’s so fucking awesome. You have to applaud the guts on these two.

I couldn’t talk about the most memorable moments of Rogue One without mentioning the Hammerhead Corvette. Fuck my sides! When we first saw the Hammerhead Corvette appear on screen, both myself, and the friend I went to see the film with were ecstatic (we’re both very big fans of KotOR)! Not only do we get to see the return of these iconic starships into canon, but we actually get to see one effectively used against an Imperial Star Destroyer (arguably the greatest starship in the Star Wars universe). Seriously, hark back to when you first witnessed this moment. Did you get chills? Did your mouth droop open? I did, and mine did. I had such a huge grin on my face. What a beautifully spectacular scene. The saddest part, however, other than the destruction of two Star Destroyers, was the unfortunate demise of the Corvette as well as its crew. If you watch closely as the Star Destroyer plummets into the planetary shield, you’ll see that the Corvette is still attached to the Star Destroyer. I think that every supporter of the Rebellion should take a moment to celebrate the sacrifice made by the brave crew-members that took part in this suicide mission. True enough, Rogue One and their strikeforce were the true heroes of the Rebellion at this crucial stage in the war against the Empire, but without the sacrifice made by the crew of the Hammerhead Corvette, Rogue One’s attempt to secure the Death Star plans would’ve been in vain as they would simply not be able to transmit the plans off the planet.
Of course, Rogue One is by no means a perfect movie. It does have a number of flaws, some of which can take you out of the movie in a flash. For me, there’s the issue of the Bor Gullet. Captured by Saw Gerrera, Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) is subjected to torture by tentacle monster.

I’ve seen enough Hentai to know blah blah blah blah blah…

Right, okay, this is the first thing that bothered me. I don’t know why, but for some reason I hate seeing this kind of giant tentacle monster in Star Wars. They don’t fit into the universe in my opinion. Okay, yeah, the Sarlacc is fine, the Dianoga (that weird little squid thing that attacked Luke in the Death Star’s trash compactor (spoilers)) is fine, but Bor Gullet and those Rathtar thingies from The Force Awakens? Ehh, no. I just don’t like them. What’s worse is that this one can read minds. Maybe this is thing took me out of the movie because I all I could think of was The Majestic from that one American Dad episode where Jeff is on board a starship full of Roger’s people and, yes, gets his mind read by a giant tentacle monster.

That is but one minor issue out of a few for me. A second issue I had with the film actually took place not too long after the first. As much as I loved the cameos and various references to the other films in the series, Rogue One just went one or two cameos too far for me. The cameo I’m referring to is from Star Wars: Episode VI‘s very own Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba. During my initial viewing of Rogue One I was fine with their appearance, it brought a little smile, but upon subsequent rewatches and understanding of the movie’s time-frame, it doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not referring to the time between the ending of Rogue One and beginning of A New Hope, but specifically to the time between their brief appearance and the destruction of the holy city. Basically, as soon as Jyn bumped into them, they would’ve had to run from the area, straight onto a ship and fuck right off out of the area before the Death Star erased the city from existence. Again, nothing major, but still worth mentioning. Actually, quickly before I move on, I know a few people have an issue about the fact that at one moment they’re on Jedha, and the next they’re pissing it up in Mos Eisley on Tattooine, but that isn’t really an issue when you think about it: Firstly, we’re not exactly given the precise number of days that pass between their cameo and the ending of the movie, but more than that, we must remember that a number of days pass during the beginning of A New Hope up until their fateful encounter with a lightsaber wielding hermit. That’s actually plenty of time for them to hyperspace away from that doomed city and have a celebratory drink in a dive-bar.

Any guesses for what my third and final main issue with Rogue One was? Oh come on, you must have something. Yeaaah, you got it! The CGI in regards to two particular characters. By now, even those of you who are yet to see the film will no doubt know that both Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia make rather impactful appearances in Rogue One. Now, this has been somewhat controversial among the Star Wars community and the world of Hollywood in general; the reason being the fact that Peter Cushing has been dead for almost twenty-three years at this point in time, and some people are worried that this will be the start of a new trend of resurrecting long deceased actors. Honestly, myself, I don’t really have a problem with the digital resurrection of actors / characters in situations such as Rogue One (as it is a prequel to a decades old movie) as long as it serves the story and isn’t done just for the sake of it, and, more importantly, is done with the blessing of the actor’s estate / family. In regards to Princess Leia’s cameo, this particular ethical issue didn’t exist at the time as Carrie was still with us. It’s worth noting that Disney have since stated vehemently that they will not be using CGI to continue Leia’s story past Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Let us talk now about the quality of the CGI characters in this film. To myself, and many others, the CGI simply feels a little jarring. Don’t get me wrong, The CGI is amazing for what it is, absolutely outstanding, but it just does not hit the mark. There’s something a little off with it, and I cannot tell exactly what it is. It could be the lighting (it’s difficult to get lighting correct), or it could even be the eyes. I do not know. Anyway, aside from the ethics of using Tarkin and Leia in this film, the quality of the CGI has also been a major talking point for the people that have seen Rogue One. Remember all of that bollocks about that damn dress and if it was black / blue or white / gold? Well, the debates regarding Tarkin and Leia have been in a similar vein, with some people stating that Tarkin looked completely real, while Leia looked fake, and vice-versa. To me, both looked fake (though Tarkin did look arguably more realistic than Leia did. Truthfully, I don’t even think they went with a great soundalike for Tarkin either, but hey, what can you do? You have to work with what you have, and despite the fact I could tell these two characters were CGI, I fully appreciate the effort put into recreating both Peter Cushing and a younger Carrie Fisher by the team. Seriously, kudos to you all.

If her face was the correct length, this could’ve been unnoticeable as CGI, I think they maybe made it slightly too long.

In my humble opinion, the pros massively outweigh the relatively minor issues I have with Rogue One, and all in all, Gareth Edwards and the team behind it should be commended, for they have delivered us one outstanding Star Wars movie. It may actually be one of my favourite movies of the whole franchise.

Before we wrap up, I need to discuss both the visuals and the soundtrack. Oh my giddy fuck! The cinematography in this film is on point. There are countless shots from this film that I would love to use as a desktop background! The Death Star firing upon Jedha, the Star Destroyers, the Hammerhead Corvette, Vader’s pre-slicey-dicey stance, and just so many other moments, they’re genuinely beautiful for various reasons. It’s impossible to view this movie and not find at least one shot you like. In terms of the score, I think Michael Giacchino did a stellar job, especially when you consider the ridiculously short amount of time he had to write the music for this film. The man was only given four and a half weeks! Still, this is the genius behind LOST’s soundtrack, so it’s not really all that surprising that he knocked it out the park. There are a number of tracks that I enjoy from the soundtrack, but I have listened to none more than “Your Father Would be Proud of You”. It’s the track that plays during the final moments on Scarif as Jyn and Cassian are atomised. As soon as it was available to buy, it went straight into my music library.

Anyway, that just about wraps this post up. It’s a bloody long one, isn’t it? Trust me, it could’ve been way longer, I am sometimes overly passionate about the things I like. I never even talked about how fucking amazing the battle over Scarif was (absolutely fucking amazing, if you must know), or Mads Mikkelsen’s role in the film. There’s just so much to discuss with Rogue One, but a limit on how much you can write for a post, and I could easily go on and on. But hey, if you want to discuss Rogue One some more, feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to know your thoughts. Until next time, dear readers, you take care.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Slayaway Camp - A Review: Member 80's horror movies? Ooh, I member.

One day not too long ago, today in fact, I was watching a video by the wonderful Jim Sterling on that YouTube website you may of heard about. It was a 'Jimpressions' video where the man himself voices his opinions on various video games that have been unleashed upon the world. Now, the video game Jim was discussing at this particular time was a newly released game on Steam that I haven't heard anything about before today - It's name? Slayaway Camp.

Slayaway Camp is a game that immediately drew me in thanks to its use of morbid humour, strangely adorable art style, and of course, the many fantastic references to the greatest horror movies of the past few decades. The most obvious homage that you will no doubt instantly recognise (thanks to the banner image for this review) is to Friday the 13th. You control Jason Voorhees Skullface, a violent mass murdering kind of guy, as he navigates a range of locations, mostly based upon a summer camp, on a mission to disembowel, maim, and completely fuck up the days of many unfortunate teenagers.

While the gameplay itself is rather standard, it still manages to be an incredibly fun experience. Having only played two hours of Slayaway Camp at the time of writing, I find myself eager to continue instilling terror into the lives of these teens, but hey, articles don't just write themselves now, do they? The aim of the game is simple - you merely have to choose the correct path to navigate through in order to destroy these people and then escape the area before the fuzz arrive (in some cases). Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it is. ...up to a point. Jeez, some levels have had me racking my brain over just what the fuck I'm doing wrong, and then I realise just how much of an idiot I am, get onto the right path, and move onto the next killing ground.

To me, one of the most entertaining parts of Slayaway Camp is the imaginative, gruesome death-scenes. I mean, c'mon, you can literally crush somebody's head with a book using a kill-moved called, what else? Yep, "Face Booked". There is a healthy number of ways to dispatch the victims, though one of the downsides, which I should mention, is the fact that you will see many of the death-scenes multiple times; This quickly starts to feel incredibly repetitive and thus make them lose quite a bit of their entertainment value. It's easy enough to look past, I guess. It is but one flaw in an otherwise terrific game.

My favourite aspect of this game is not found within the gameplay, nor is it the creative ways to send people into the eternal darkness that is Death's realm. No, it is the main menu. What better menu is there for a love letter to retro horror than a video store?

The videos that you see in the image above actually form the various levels of the game, and each one, so far, has unlocked a brand new killer. I genuinely love this feature, it really fits with the overall theme of the game and manages to invoke an odd feeling of nostalgia. I can recall being a child visiting the various video stores, it was like being in Heaven. I loved just wandering around looking at all the movies and games on offer, and if I could, I'd try to convince my parents to get me something. Horror was my jam. I've always been a big horror buff, even from a young age. There's something so uniquely wonderful about being scared shitless (whilst remaining entirely physically safe of course).

During the credits, played whenever you fuck up, there is a huge list of famous horror characters (that I won't spoil here), and I'm currently unaware if they're there purely to reference their status as horror icons, or if they are unlockable characters for the player. I know that I am definitely holding out hope for the latter. 

I would be entirely remiss if I failed to mention the exemplary work done in terms of the music for the game. A band called Gnü Truntion has provided the soundtrack for Slayaway Camp, and let me tell you, they have done a terrific job. In general, the instrumental music featured absolutely manages to perfectly emulate the style used in those old horror movies that we all know and love. While those songs are all well and good, I should mention the theme song and the track that plays over the credits: "Only the Strong Survive", and "Love is Like a Machete". These two tracks are standout. I think you guys will enjoy them, I certainly did.

But anyway, here we are at the end of the review. So, to wrap up, I suppose I best offer my overall thoughts on the game. Well, it won't come as a surprise to you at this point that I loved it. Slayaway Camp has great replayability value, truly enjoyable cut-scenes, a good sense of humour, I adore the art style used, and can easily see myself spending many more hours playing through this game without getting bored. For £4.43 (usually £5.99), what do you have to lose? Yeah, okay, £5.99, sure, but in my opinion, this game is worth the cost. Kudos to Blue Wizard Digital for their highly enjoyable game.

Slayaway Camp is now available on Steam.
Image Credits: Blue Wizard Digital.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Punisher #1: A Review

Well, it's finally here! A series that I have been waiting for since Marvel's ANAD line-up was announced: The Punisher. I have been a fan of The Punisher comics for a good few years now, with my first introduction to the character being the 2004 series "The Punisher" by Garth Ennis, a truly brutal, riveting read.

Let's start at the very beginning, the first thing we see of this new run: the cover.

Spooky scary Punisher
I have to say, I really like it. I mean, look at it! Of course it would depict a skull, what else would it have been? We see Frank Castle's cold eyes staring up at us, ripped over the skull, seeing red. Even if you have never heard of The Punisher before, you know full well that this will not be a story for children, y'know, if the parental warning wasn't a big enough clue.

I suppose now would be a good time to start discussing the content. First off, it just wouldn't be a Punisher comic without cold-blooded, savage murder-sprees. When the Punisher finds his target, there's no stopping him. Enhanced via a drug that "turns $# %@-ass shrimps into soldiers with one toke", a couple of guys try to take down the man himself. Ha! They must be on something to think they ever stood a chance, enhanced or not. The Punisher dispatches the pair quite brutally, which, let's be honest, is one of the prime reasons for us to read these comics, right? Though I do find it confusing why they freely depict intense gore at the same time as censoring swear-words.
We are also introduced to Face, CONDOR's second in command, a man that would've loved to meet Scott Snyder's Joker. Punisher villains do tend to have violent hobbies, but this guy really goes for it with his private collection.

In terms of story, there's not really much to say at this point. It's the usual Punisher set-up, Punisher kills, the law turns up late, drug manufacturers are evil, and questions are raised. Let's be fair though, it is only the first issue, and we cannot judge the whole story based upon one chapter. I can't say there were any moments that really stuck out to me, nothing that I'm sure to remember in the months to come, but what we were given deserves a chance to evolve into something bigger, bolder, unique. I'm genuinely looking forward to discovering more about the characters introduced here as we go on.

Moving on to the art, well, what can be said? If it wasn't for the fact Steve Dillon can only draw one face, I'd enjoy his art (and yes, I do find it amusing that there is a villain known as The Face in a comic drawn by a man who can only draw one). I don't like to bad-mouth a person's hard work, but for the sake of this review, I must offer my thoughts.

Art-style is a crucial part of comics, and Dillon's inability to vary facial features is incredibly distracting. If you're a fan of the Punisher comics, you're no doubt familiar with Dillon's design for the character; for me, well, I find it horrible. The Punisher is a man who goes around slaughtering criminals on a daily basis, I feel like Steve Dillon's design (face) is a little too cartoony for the character. Compare this with Leandro Fernández' art style for the 2004 run:
This is a page from one of my favourite arcs in the 2004 run. This is the style I love for the character.
Frank is PISSED!
Anyway, onto the more positive aspects. Aside from the facial issue, I don't actually mind Dillon's style. Sure, I may not like how he draws Frank Castle, but that isn't to say that the man cannot draw, because he clearly can. He is not afraid to offer up a healthy portion of blood and guts, which is good because, y'know, The Punisher. I have to give kudos to Dillon for the final page of #1, what a great visual to leave us on.

Overall, this issue was a good read. It could have been better, sure. Did it feel like a first issue? No, not really, but still, Ms. Cloonan is off to a promising start, and I look forward to seeing where she takes one of my favourite comic characters. I would love for Cloonan to introduce us to some truly memorable moments and adversaries that go down in Punisher history. Punisher #2 cannot come soon enough, and I hope you guys will join me in reading it and message me your thoughts.

Well, that's me done, dear readers. I hope you enjoyed reading my opinions on this propitious series. I'd like to continue writing reviews, especially for The Punisher (2016-), so I would be incredibly grateful for any feedback offered. What did you like? What didn't you like? Am I talking out of my backside?

The Punisher #1 is available now. Written by: Becky Cloonan, Art by: Steve Dillon, Cover by: Declan Shalvey.
Image Credits: Marvel Comics.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Why Game Development, Oli?

The power of entertainment media astounds me. The fact that a person can get completely immersed in a new world, be it digital, or in your own mind (induced by the written word) is amazing.

One of the reasons I became focused on game development is because when I was having a difficult time, I was constantly looking for ways to lose myself, and entertainment media helped me so much. I could forget all about any problems I was having, I could be someone else, I was someone else: A hero, a villain, a lovable rogue (depending on which game I was playing).
Video games became one of my main escapes. I think a lot of people underestimate just how much video games in particular can help a person who needs an outlet. Sure, TV shows and movies can help with escapism as well (LOST will forever hold a special place in my heart), but there's just something so personal with gaming. You are involved, interacting, and in some cases; actually shaping the world, rather than simply watching things play out with no input from yourself.
Anyway, back to my point, I'm focused on game development because I would love the opportunity to make a video game that helps people who need that escape, who need to forget themselves for a time. Not a game specifically made for such a purpose, perhaps, but as long as something that I worked on helps someone feel better, even if it's just for a while, it'll be worth it.

I Submit to Peer-Pressure

Over the past few weeks, I've started to learn how to model using 3D software (specifically Blender). As I've mentioned before, I am aiming to be an artist for the gaming industry, so learning 3D is essential.

Luckily for me, there are a butt-load of tutorials all over the internet, or y'know; YouTube. I've been using these tutorials to make models of dinosaurs, houses, fields, low-poly landscapes, and I've recently started working on a lightsaber. To be perfectly honest, most of the models I have made so far are, in my opinion, terrible. SO TERRIBLE IN FACT, THAT THEY SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY! Hence the the title of this post. One of my friends has told me that I should actually go right ahead and post screenshots of anything I'm working on.
Most of these models are still works in progress, and really don't look very great, but hey, I'm only a beginner, and I'm putting in the work to improve.
Anyway, enough of my babbling bullshit, here are a few examples of what I've been working on so far:

Okay, first up is the throne of Erebor. This was actually the first model I worked on without the aid of a tutorial. This image is slightly out of date as I've now replaced the floor. I'm going to sort out fixing the textures whenever I work on this next.
If I had the money, I'd commission someone to sculpt me a real Erebor throne.

Okay, next up is a low-poly lonely volcano in the middle of a sea. This was purely intended to be practice for lighting, water, and node-compositing. I feel the lighting is a bit off here, but overall, I'm happy with how this has turned out so far, particularly the water. I think I'll add more features to the volcano and lava.
I don't think I'd like a volcano lair. Too much maintenance.

Finally, here's the lightsaber that I've been working on. This is my current project, so it's far from finished. I still need to add textures, improve the lighting, and piss around with the nodes. Obviously the blade is supposed to have a much more impressive looking glow to it, but I haven't reached that stage yet; that's done in compositing. I'm happy with how this is going.
I'd also like a real, working lightsaber, but I doubt that'll be happening any time soon.
I'd show off the 'work in progress' T-Rex, and Hobbit-Hole, but they still require a lot more to be done.
So yeah, there are three examples of what I'm working on, and hopefully soon, I'll have the completely finished versions to show you, as well more 'in progress' models.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Billy and the Cloneasaurus

When I was a child, I was captivated by a unique theme-park. What made this park unique, you ask? The attractions. It wasn't your traditional theme-park with rollercoasters, waltzers, and bumper carts, no; this park had dinosaurs! I know you know which park I'm talking about!

Alton Towers.
I cannot tell you just how many times I watched Jurassic Park growing up, I think it was my most watched movie ever until I discovered The Godfather movies. It was this movie alone that embedded a life-long fascination with dinosaurs within me.
Over the years, the film received two sequels. One I found hugely enjoyable, and one that... well, let's just not.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park, I've never had an issue with, I very much enjoyed it growing up. I thought it was a good sequel with many enthralling sequences (the hunters chasing the herbivores for example; outstanding!), though there were parts which could, and probably should have been omitted.
The third movie, I know I'm not alone in my dislike for. If it's on TV, I'm fine with sitting down and watching it if there's nothing else on, but they messed up so badly. It seems that a common complaint is the communication between raptors, but I never really had an issue with that. I love the raptors. Hell, I wasn't even that upset about the Spinosaurus killing off the Tyrannosaur, though I would've liked for the Rex to live. My main issues with the movie were the humans, and the plot. It didn't even really have a proper ending. It just sort of ended. The Spinosaur ran off, the raptors ran off, the surviving people ran to the beach. "YAY RESCUE!", roll credits. Alan Grant is a fine character, Sam Neill a fine actor. I feel like they were both wasted assets in JPIII.

"Wait, remind me, why did I agree to do this?"
Anyway, enough of that, I'm sure you're aware that recently a fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise was released to the world. Yesterday morning, I was first in line, and first to find my seat in the cinema. Words cannot express how hyped up I had become. I often try to avoid any hype because surely you're setting yourself up for disappointment, but with this movie, I couldn't help it. The trailers, the recently released soundtrack on Spotify, I had to see this movie.

I was in awe throughout the entire 124 minutes. I'm sure I had a smile on my face the entire time. It was just something to see John Hammond's dream fully realised, and completely operational, until, of course, it wasn't. The instantly recognisable themetune of Jurassic Park playing as we pan over the crowded Jurassic World gave me goosebumps. I was overwhelmed by the music, the visuals, the nostalgia. This entire movie experience is something that I'll remember whenever I rewatch it.

Jurassic World has a healthy dose of references to the previous movies, including what appears to be a cheeky 'fuck you' to a certain Jurassic Park III moment, and it was so brilliant to see the queen of Isla Nublar once again. Naturally, the film contained a number of references to the first park, as it takes place on the exact same island some 22 years later. I don't doubt that fans will probably notice even more 'easter-eggs' during rewatches; something that I'm looking forward to.

Jurassic World should definitely be seen as a direct sequel to Jurassic Park rather than JPIII, which is why I'm glad they named it as they have, rather than Jurassic Park IV.
I recently read a post by a Redditor who described Jurassic World as the second quest of a main storyline, whereas The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park III are the side-quests. I love that, I think it sums it up perfectly.

Speaking of games, we definitely need an Operation Genesis sequel. ...Please?
Like all movies, there were a few inconsistencies and low points, but I feel like they are easily forgivable. Though there was a particular moment towards the end that I think should have gone differently, it just kind of stuck out to me. You'll probably know which part I'm referring to when you see it.
The older brother initially bothered me as well. He seemed like a stereotypical teenage character. Disinterested in the world around him, a bit moody, always on his phone. I don't care how many times you've seen a dinosaur, who the Hell spends their entire time on their phone when you're surrounded by these creatures?! It's fine though, that doesn't last too long. Once he and his brother see the Mosasaur, he starts to enjoy the park.

Whenever a Jurassic Park movie is revealed, there are always people on the internet moaning about the way the featured dinosaurs look; how they should have feathers, and all that kind of crap. C'mon, people, it's a film, it doesn't have to be 100% realistic.
In Jurassic World, Henry Wu (the chief geneticist for InGen) finally defends the animals' appearance in this series. He explicitly states that these creatures are genetically modified species, they can be made to look however the geneticists want, and if they actually went ahead and created them realistically, they wouldn't look anything like what they do presently. I am so pleased this moment was included.

You are aware this is a work of fiction, right, guys?
Jurassic World doesn't directly set up a sequel, though it does plant the seeds for one. I think it appears to be fairly obvious which direction they want to take the franchise if they do go ahead with another film, and to be honest, I'm a little worried about it, but hey, that worry is for another time. As it stands, Jurassic World was a tremendous success in my eyes. The 'professional' critics can say what they want. They can bitch about the plot, focus on the few minor inconsistencies, but who gives a shit? I think the fans of the Jurassic Park universe will love this worthy sequel.

I would have loved to see a mid-credits scene of Ian Malcolm or Alan Grant watching a news report about the incident at Jurassic World and just face-palming, or shaking their head like they expected this kind of thing to happen.

To wrap this up, I cannot recommend this film highly enough to the fans of the original movie. I hope to go see JW a second time within the week. Let's see if I love it as much as I do after a second viewing.