Monthly Archives: December 2011

Stupid Sunglasses, Awesome Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Sadly, I have never played a Deus Ex game before this one. The only time I tried was when the first one was new and I was still in the “I-Can-Get-Shot-Fifty-Times-and-Still-Beat-Your-Ass-With-Bitch-Slaps” state of mind that games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark had instilled in me. So, as any Deus Ex veterans will know, I got my ass handed to me pretty quickly. It was sad. Years later, when Metal Gear Solid 4 came out, I finally got around to playing those games, and I quickly realized, “Hey, stealth can be fun!”.

So, when Deus Ex: Human Revolution was released earlier this year, I decided I wanted to play it, now that my abilities as a gamer had vastly improved. And then I started to hear things like, “This is one of my favorite games.” and “Be careful. Everything you play afterwards will be shit by comparison”. And though I knew it couldn’t live up to that kind of hype, it did get me thinking that this game is more than likely pretty damn good. It took me a little while to get my hands on it, but when I did, I put it in my PS3 (my computer sucks, or else I probably would have used that) and dug in.

The first thing I noticed was that, though the graphics were not bad, compared to the rest of my PlayStation library, they were pretty sub-par. At least, in-game graphics. You see, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was developed by Eidos Montreal, but published by SquareEnix. Square also did the cutscenes, and as a result, the cutscenes look multitudes better than the rest of the game. The character models, specifically, look a bit off. The faces and lips really seem off, especially in conversations. But, I’ve known since I was a tot that good graphics do not a good game make.

The game opens with you as Adam Jensen, the Chief of Security at Sarif Industries. Or as I like to call him, Solid Cyborg Batman. He’s seen speaking to Dr. Megan Reed, his significant other and super scientist, about her research into the reduction of the human body’s natural rejection of cybernetic enhancements, called augmentations.

I'm sorry, but every time I heard someone say "Dr. Reed", this was my first thought.

Long story short, the shit hits the industrial strength turbine hard, Megan and her whole team are kidnapped by terrorists, and Adam ends up with cybernetic arms, legs, and eyes.

That was enough to keep me interested. And though there are some slow and confusing parts, the story is where Deus Ex really outshines the competition. I will say that there are a couple parts that seem incredibly silly, but only if you haven’t played the first two games. When I rolled my eyes at these parts, my brother, an actual Deus Ex player, filled me in on a few plot points from the earlier games, and it wasn’t silly anymore. And though I feel the story took a little while to take off, when it did, it really took off. There were certainly a few “…Fuck!” and “…Damn…” moments. And at the end, there’s a huge decision that you need to make to determine which ending you get. When that happened, my first thought was, “You’re going to make me decide that?!”. It was at least a little mind-blowing.

Gameplay-wise, except for a few problems, Human Revolution is pretty damn good. The inventory system feels really aged and I spent more time than should be necessary just organizing my items. The map was a little less than useful. It’s not horrible, and I could usually figure out where to go, but it certainly had its problems. There aren’t very many sidequests, but when there are, you really need to look for them. Someone might tell you that some person needs a favor, and give you a  vague description of where they might be, but they don’t mark it on your map. So, if you don’t know where 84th Street is, you need to wander around the whole map looking for one person to give you a sidequest. And you don’t want to pass those up. Sidequests are where you get a great deal of your experience. They also don’t mark shops on the map, which seems like a pretty large oversight.

The enemy AI, though very good for the most part, seems to have a few hiccups every now and again. Sometimes, an enemy will walk right past me, so close that I could lick him (not that I would), look right at me, and still not spot me. Other times, they’ll spot me in places where no living thing could spot me and suddenly every bad guy in the area and a few robots just swoop in and murder me.

The environments could have used a little variation, too. You are almost exclusively in a city or inside a building that looks just like the inside of every other building. The maps themselves are designed fine, but I’d have liked a little more variety.

The absolute biggest problem I had with the whole game though, may actually only be a problem because I was playing on a PS3. It’s the cover system. Oftentimes, it felt really clunky and Adam often decided to look over the cover without my telling him to, and as a result, an enemy would spot me and I’d die. There is also a way of turning corners while in cover, but the way you do it is simply too slow sometimes. And there’s no way of speeding it up. Now the problem could simply be my PS3 controller. On a keyboard, you press a button and Adam moves. On the PS3, you use a thumbstick, which is a bit more ambiguous in its direction. But, even if it is all because of my controller, the cover system is far from perfect.

The other absolute biggest problem I had was the first boss. The fight with him is, simply put, poorly designed. In order to fight  him effectively (especially if you don’t want to use cloaking, like I did), you have to pretty much ignore every instinct that the game has been building in you from the beginning, because no matter how stealthy you are, he can just throw a shit ton of instant-kill grenades constantly and blow you up. It’s bullshit. But everything after that is much better.

But for its few shortcomings, Human Revolution’s gameplay has many more aspects that are far ahead of the curve.

Its Augmentation System gives you the freedom to play the game however you want. You can play the game several times and do things completely differently every time. Depending on how you spend your experience points, you’ll have to think your way through the game in radically different ways, giving it huge replay value.

I have to mention the story again, because fuck, the story is good! It brings up a lot of questions that are incredibly important in real life. It makes us think about what it really means to be human.

The dialogue is superb, and the way you go through conversations make it that much better. The characters’… well, character, is conveyed really well simply by how they speak and what they say. And when you’re going through a conversation, you can really feel the kind of influence that its having on both characters. I really felt like I was playing the role of Adam Jensen.

Speaking of conversations, the voice acting is, for the most part, pretty good as well. Sure, Adam kind of talks like Batman through the whole game, and though it seems silly at times, his voice acting is never outright bad.

The boss fights (with the exception of the first one) are intense and creative. The final boss fight is, sadly, incredibly easy, but still pretty cool.

It never treated me like a brain-dead butt like so many other games tend to do with their constant tutorials and stating of the obvious. Every tutorial, you can choose not to look at. I never felt like I was being talked down to.

The music, for the most part, is not bad, but not memorable. A couple tracks really stick out in my mind, though. The songs that were  good were very much so. But I understand why the music was subdued. In any game where stealth and listening to enemies is so important, you don’t want the music distracting you. So, they saved all the really good music for boss fights and parts where stealth was slightly less important.

So I guess the big question is, does Deus Ex: Human Revolution live up to the hype. The answer is… no. But barely. I had a great time playing it, save for a few really frustrating parts. All-in-all, it’s the kind of experience that I really wish I could get from more games. It’s obvious that a lot of thought and effort went into every aspect of the game in order to make it more than just killing enemies to get to the next stage of the game.

Also, Adam’s sunglasses are really stupid.

Now, rating this is going to be tricky. If you’ve read any of my other posts involving video games, you will have noticed that I include Graphics in my ratings. But in a game like this one, where the graphics are very much not important, I question if I should even include that category. This is a game where the graphics do not add or subtract anything from the overall game. Sure, the character models look a little weird, but not so weird that I couldn’t ignore it (like Nier). If that’s enough to make you rate a game like this lower, then I’m not sure I understand you at all. So, I have decided to include the category, but not factor it into the final rating.

Gameplay: 9/10: Were it not for the few frustrating, little problems, this would have gotten a 10 easily.

Music: 8/10: It’s very situational. When it’s important, it’s great. When it’s not, it’s almost unnoticeable.

Graphics: 6/10

Story: 10/10: Easily the best story of anything I’ve reviewed thus far.

Overall:  9/10


I Won’t Do This Kind of Thing Often

And by that, I mean posting something on a day besides Tuesday. And that thing being one song.

Whenever I review music (you know… whenever I get around to doing that), I’ll review a whole album. But in one or two cases, I may hear a single song that I need to share. This is one of those times.

I was listening to Porcupine Tree’s In Absentia album (2002) as I was driving somewhere. It was all pretty good. Weird, but good. I didn’t have a single bad thing to say about it, but I wouldn’t rave about it either.

Then I came to this song…

…and holy crap! I heard it once and nearly wept like a small child. Yes, I get emotional over my music sometimes, I admit it. I didn’t even listen to the rest of the album. I just kept repeating this one. The weird thing was, even though I couldn’t understand the lyrics the first time around, it was still tugging at my heartstrings. I think it says a lot about a song if it can wreck your shit emotionally, even when you don’t understand it. It’s the guitars that got to me. Not to downplay the singers’ voices’ roles in the shit wrecking. Because they’re pretty damn great, too.

Then I looked up the lyrics… and the emotional trauma got worse. I nearly wept all over again.

Everything about it is just so beautiful and heartfelt. And for some reason, it stirred up some strange memories in me that I will not share. It hurt to listen to it, but in the best way possible. It’s the perfect song to listen to if you ever need to feel depressed.

It’s rare that I will ever refer to anything as perfect on this blog… But I think this song may be.

I pull off the road
East of Baldock and Ashford
Feeling for my cell
In the light from the dashboard

Hissing from the road
The smell of rain in the air con
Maybe check the news
Or just put a tape on

Lighting up a smoke
I’ve got this feeling inside me
Don’t feel too good

If I close my eyes
And fell asleep in this layby
Would it all subside
The fever pushing the day by

Motor window wind
I could do with some fresh air
Can’t breathe too well

(She waits for me. Home waits for me.)

I guess I should go now
She’s waiting to make up
To tell me she’s sorry
And how much she missed me
I guess I’m just burnt out
I really should slow down
I’m perfectly fine but
I just need to lie down

We’ll grow old together
We’ll grow old together
We’ll grow old together…

You Don’t Give a Monkey a Latte!: My Curious George Review

I was never really into Curious George as a kid. So when his first cinematic release came out in theaters in 2006, I found myself not caring.

Flash forward a bit. My girlfriend, her brother, and I are at their house eating pizza. We have the TV on just for background noise, and suddenly, this little movie comes on. We keep it on, again, just for background noise, but as it goes on, we find ourselves paying more and more attention to it.

We were all very pleasantly surprised.

That’s right. Considering this movie is based on a series of children’s books that basically had no real plot, there was a surprising amount of entertainment value to it. I found myself honest-to-goodness laughing more than once. Yes, it really helped that I was in the company of people that I really like, but still. Curious George was really good.

It stars Will Ferrell as The Man in the Yellow Hat (named Ted in the movie), Drew Barrymore as Ted’s love interest, Maggie, Dick Van Dyke as the elderly museum owner/father figure, and David Cross as the antagonist. Eugene Levy shows up in there, too. That’s a great cast! Say what you want about Will Ferrell, the man is suited perfectly to cartoons (being a real-life cartoon character himself).

A bit of trivia: Will Ferrell and David Cross would later go on to co-star in Megamind, another awesome animated movie.

All that being said, there are definitely a few weird things to discuss.

The whole plot centers around Ted. Considering the movie is titled Curious George, the movie spends an awful lot of time with Ted and his problems. This is another case of the title character getting gypped on screentime (but it’s not nearly as bad as poor Zekrom).

Also considering the title of the movie, George is only referred to as George about six times in the whole movie, all within the last half hour or so. Ted does not call him George until a group of kids tell Ted to name him. Before that, George is simply referred to as ‘Monkey’ (which is a misnomer in and of itself. George is a chimpanzee, which is an ape, not a monkey. But I digress).

But honestly, neither of those are really problems. They’re just little oddities that bug me personally. To be perfectly honest, I can’t find any major problems with it.

Put simply, it was great fun to watch. There are a lot of silly lines, and many times, it actually feels like Will Ferrell is doing his iconic ad-libbing, which is not easy to do in an animated movie. So, either Will Ferrell is more of an improvisational genius than I first imagined, or the writers really knew how to write around that kind of stuff.

The animation is done really well, and the whole movie is really bright and colorful, as it should be, considering the source material. I know most kids’ movies go for bright and colorful, but Curious George really seemed to go all-out in making the movie look as vibrant as possible.

That’s the best still picture I could find, and it really doesn’t do it justice. There’s a lot going on, and in most cases, that would be distracting, but through the whole movie, no matter what kind of crazy shit is going on, the animators still managed to keep George and Ted as the center of our attention. That’s actually pretty impressive.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie is not perfect. There are a couple problems that need addressing.

Like I said earlier, the movie spends all of its time on Ted. That’s not inherently a problem, but again, it’s called Curious George. Most people don’t go into it wanting to see the movie dominated by The Man in the Yellow Hat. They want to see George being a cute, goofy, little monkey (ape). And though George is sufficiently adorable, I’m betting most kids (and adults) were saying, “When are we going to get back to George being a monkey?”. But if you go into it knowing that Ted is the main character and not George, you find that the movie holds up anyway.

The other problem I had was the antagonist’s motivation. David Cross plays Bloomsbury Jr., the son of the museum owner that Ted works for. And through the whole movie, he’s trying to sabotage Ted so that the museum goes out of business. He does this so that he can… build a parking lot? I think I got that right. And if so, Junior is either the most horrible person ever, or the writers don’t know how bad guys work. Sure, it gives Ted something to lose and a reason for all of the conflict, but the motivation itself is so bizarre, that I have a hard time buying it.

Still, the movie is targeted almost exclusively at small children. When that happens, the plot does become less important. And everything else does make up for it. Even though it is for small children, I never felt that it was talking down to them or even distracting them with loud music or any other kind of sensory overload. Like I said, the movie is very bright and colorful, but they still manage to keep George and Ted as the primary focus.

All in all, I had a great time watching it. And I imagine if a small child was present, it would have been even more enjoyable. Even though the plot is a little… squiffy. The excellent animation and casting allow it to take a backseat and make Curious George just plain good.

Plot: 6/10

Cinematics: 9/10

Acting: 9/10

Overall: 8/10

The Pokemon Movies Continue to Disappoint: Pokemon the Movie White: Victini and Zekrom

Before we start, I’m just going to say this. As you read this blog, you’re going to find that I am, put bluntly, a Pokemon nut. You know their tagline? “Gotta Catch ’em All!”. Well, I  caught ’em all.

Recently, a new Pokemon movie was released in theaters. This would be the first one since the third movie (we are now into the double digits). And it would only be in theaters for one weekend. So, I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to go see it, even though I know that Pokemon movies tend to be disappointing. So, I loaded up my girlfriend and bought our tickets. We walked into the near-empty theater and waited patiently for the movie to start.

And I have to say, had the girlfriend not been there to hate it with me, the whole day would have been a waste. Pokemon the Movie White: Victini and Zekrom… was bad.

Allow me to clarify. In Japan, two Pokemon movies were released at the same time: this one, and Pokemon the Movie Black: Victini and Reshiram. Here, they decided to release White in theaters for a weekend and then air Black on Cartoon Network the next weekend. I’ll review Black as soon as I see it.

That said, the best part of Victini and Zekrom was the child in the theater loudly naming every Pokemon that appeared on screen. That and the fact that there was something called the Dragon Force. I couldn’t help but laugh every time it was mentioned.

“What’s the Dragon Force?” It’s a shitty metal band that inexplicably got famous simply because they can play a guitar really fast.

Pokemon used our name in a movie. Does this mean we have talent now?

The biggest problem (besides everything) was the plot… Or lack thereof. At first, it seems there’s going to be something interesting happening, but then it doesn’t. Up until the last half hour or so nothing happens. There’s no conflict or plot development. It’s just, “Aww! Look at how cute Victini is being! Let’s focus on this for the next hour.” And when something finally does happen, it’s so lackluster and you’re so bored and gone, that it doesn’t even matter.

I can’t believe I’m making this comparison, but I’m sort of reminded of Michael Bay’s Transformers bullshit. Here, we have Reshiram and Zekrom, two creatures so powerful that they can create a whole continent battling each other. But instead of paying attention to that, we’re focusing on Victini eating macaroons (that’s not a joke). By the time you actually get to see the battle, it only lasts about a minute, and by that time, you’re only wishing the movie was over. It’s especially weird, because Zekrom is a title character. But he has less screentime than any other speaking part in the whole movie. And that includes Team Rocket.

Speaking of which, why was Team Rocket in the movie at all? They show up on-screen only about three times at about forty seconds each. In that time, they don’t do anything! Not one thing. They talk to each other a little, but that’s it. They don’t take out any Pokemon. They don’t plot anything villainous. Hell, they don’t even interact with any other characters! No joke. The only people that the members of Team Rocket interact with are the other members of Team Rocket. Why were they included at all!?

Also, every time Cilan talked, I wanted to hit him. I haven’t been able to keep up with the show, but I had no idea there was a character quite that bad.

Those are the big complaints. Aside from those, there are only a few small things to complain about.

The acting is… well, bad. But it’s a Pokemon movie. You can’t expect too much from that.

The few battles included in the movie are all really stupid. Especially if you enjoy playing the games and see all of the problems with them. I’m sorry, no Pikachu can beat a Serperior. And type-advantage or not, an Oshawott will not beat an Emboar. And do you know what Victini’s Ability does? It raises your Pokemons’ Accuracy in Double and Triple Battles. It does not, however, make a Scraggy so powerful that it can beat a Hydreigon with a Headbutt. The show and movies have always been bad about stupid shit like that, but this seemed especially annoying to me.

Is there anything good to say about the movie?

The animation and special effects are okay… That’s honestly all I have to say about that.

That’s about it.

So, if you’re some kind of Pokemon completionist, then I suppose you should see it. Besides that, it’s probably be best to avoid it like Pokerus.

And yes, I know that Pokerus is beneficial.

Plot: 2/10

Cinematics: 5/10

Acting: 3/10

Overall: 3/10

Uncharted With a Vengeance: Uncharted 3 Drake’s Deception

Sadly, I am now out of Die Hard titles until I play the fourth installment of something.

But more importantly, I got around to playing Uncharted 3: Drake’s Decpetion recently. I had nothing else to do that day, so I ended up playing for about eight and a half hours straight and beating the game. It was definitely good. Was it better than Uncharted 2? No. Not even close. Was it better than Uncharted 1? Maybe. I don’t really remember Uncharted 1.

The good news is, Sulley’s back. And not just for a few minutes at the beginning of the game, like in Uncharted 2. He has more screen time than any other NPC. For those that don’t know, Victor Sullivan is Nate’s cigar chomping, mustachioed mentor when it comes to stealing treasure. And if the Uncharted movie happens the way it should, he’d be played by (a slightly skinnier) Craig T. Nelson opposite Nathan Fillion as Drake.

The other good news is, the game looks amazing. Seriously, play until you get to the desert and just watch the sand effects.

Sadly, that’s where the improvements end. Don’t get me wrong, the game’s really good. But when compared to the second one, well… It really falls short.

This could have just been me, but the shooting mechanics did not seem as precise while I was playing Uncharted 3. There were even a few times, when using one of the sniper rifles, that I actually saw the bullet physically move through an enemies head, but the game said I missed (and deprived me of a headshot). This made using any single-shot gun, besides a shotgun, really difficult to use. It never got so bad that it took away from the general enjoyment of the game, but it did get frustrating and I found myself beating people up with my bare fists far more than I should have.

The story is basically the same as the last two games. Drake finds evidence of immense treasure, but it turns out to be something other than treasure, and the antagonist wants to use it to take over the world. And don’t complain about spoilers either. I called it within a minute and a half of gameplay. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. When I finally did discover what the treasure really was, I found myself saying, “Oh, that’s cool! …But how do you plan on taking over the world with that?”. On the bright side of the story, the game does go in to the development of Nate’s and Sulley’s relationship. At the beginning of the game, you get to play for awhile as young Nate and you get to see how he met Sulley. When this first happened, I groaned because I was afraid I’d have to go through a flashback every twenty minutes. But I was pleasantly surprised. They got all of the pertinent information out of the way in one flashback, so I ended up glad. Also, like the second one, the story takes place some time after the last game. A ton of shit happened between the characters, but they don’t actually tell you what. They just make some vague allusions to past events and you have to infer what happened for yourself. I don’t like that, but the Uncharted games do handle it much better than games such as Dragon Age II. The events in question really aren’t things that these characters would want to talk about, so they avoid the subject. You know, like actual people.

One of my favorite things about the Uncharted series is the dialogue. It’s witty, it’s funny, and it’s believable. It was a bit less so here. It was still good, and I found myself laughing more than once. But, I never had my sides split like I did with the first two games. There also didn’t seem to be as much of it. But, I’ll admit, that could just be me.

What I’m trying to say is that, with the reused story mechanic, and the not-as-good dialogue, I found it much harder to become immersed in the game as I did with the last one.

I also liked the level design in the second game better. This is mostly just preferential, but I felt that the levels were not nearly as intense. There’s a point where Nate gets sucked out of a plane, but I never found my heart racing like I did with the train/cliff sequence in the second one. And when Uncharted 3 was intense, it was usually because it was being overly difficult. There were definitely a couple parts that were not well-designed. My mind immediately goes to the part where you’re on a castle wall with four or five guys with rocket launchers firing at you with perfect accuracy, and the only way you can fight them is with the aforementioned defective sniper rifle. The rockets kill you in one shot, and even though there are three other people on the wall with you, they’re all aiming at you all the time. And with five of them there, there’s hardly any time to aim your shot before exploding.

That’s the biggest problem I had. When things were difficult, it wasn’t because of any skill-based challenge, it was because of poor (well, less good) level/enemy design, which just makes the game frustrating. Dragon Age: Origins was guilty of this as well.

There’s also no proper final boss. I live for bosses, and this one was basically just a guy that you fight hand-to-hand like everyone else, just a bit tougher.

So, with all of that said, I’d say yeah, play it. But don’t play the second one right before it.

Gameplay: 8/10: Mostly the same as the first two, but with a few problems the second one didn’t have

Music: 7/10: It’s pretty good, but nothing really caught my attention

Graphics: 10/10

Story: 7/10

Overall: 8/10