Monthly Archives: January 2012

So David Lynch is Still Weird: Twin Peaks

I’m going to say it right now. I am not a fan of David Lynch’s work. I haven’t seen all of it, and I haven’t yet seen Eraserhead (1977), which is supposed to be his definitive work. But I can tell you that I hated Mulholland Drive (2001). Don’t get me wrong, I can actually understand why others would enjoy his work, even if it isn’t my particular cup of tea. It’s very inventive and cerebral and a number of other colorful adjectives. But mostly, it’s just flat-out strange. So strange, that it kind of loses me.

So, as you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly jumping at the chance to watch Twin Peaks (1990-1991), Mr. Lynch’s only television series, even though I had heard many good things about it. But then, one day, I was flipping through my Netflix for something to watch and saw it under the new releases. My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to watch a couple episodes, just to see what the hubbub was about.

And now, I can say that I am kind of sad that David Lynch and his partner, Mark Frost haven’t done more TV.

Twin Peaks takes place in the fictional Washington town of, you guessed it, Twin Peaks. A young woman named Laura Palmer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, and an FBI agent named Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan) is brought in to investigate. Most of the series is just spent on the investigation of Laura’s murder and all of the dark secrets of the residents of Twin Peaks. Those dark secrets usually involve infidelity. Seriously, everyone in the town of Twin Peaks is sleeping with everyone else in Twin Peaks.

It sounds like just a procedural crime drama, and for the first 3/4 of the series or so, it kind of is. The plot isn’t really what’s interesting about the show, but rather the characters and their individual stories. And Twin Peaks is chock-full of interesting and entertaining characters.

In fact, I’m just going to say this now: Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper is one of my favorite performances in a television series ever. I adore that character. When he was first introduced, I just figured he’d just be one of those FBI agents that appear in everything that involves the FBI: obsessed with the job, practically emotionless, and rude. You know, “Not anymore, you’re not”. But he wasn’t. He takes great joy in his job, he’s very courteous and respectful of the Twin Peaks natives, he keeps the local police force deeply involved with the investigation, he’s considerate of everyone’s feelings, he’s excellent at his job and follows non-traditional forms of investigation, and he becomes visibly excited at the prospect of freshly baked pie.  And MacLachlan plays the part to perfection. I found myself smiling every time Agent Cooper appeared onscreen because I knew the scene was going to be great, simply because he was in it.

How can you not be endeared by this man?

Awesome as he is, Dale is hardly the only character, even though he totally steals the show. Besides him, most of the acting is really good. Every character with a name has their own flaws, quirks, secrets, and story. The dialogue is written brilliantly, and that combined with the quality acting really adds to the overall atmosphere and setting. Even minor characters that don’t really have anything to do with the story like Deputy Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) and Dick Tremayne (Ian Buchanan) get considerable screentime and character development so that when they are doing something involved with the more major characters or the plot, you’re still just as absorbed in the scene. You’re made to care about each one of the characters, no matter how minor, so that you never care any less about what’s happening at any particular moment.

What’s cool, in my opinion, is that most of the actors in Twin Peaks are fairly unknown. Kyle MacLachlan appeared in a couple other David Lynch projects, but at the time, that was it. And Lara Flynn Boyle was fairly well-known. And sure, Heather Graham shows up later in the second season. But aside from that, I’m sure almost all of the regular characters are going to be recognized because of Twin Peaks. Then, scattered throughout the series, there were some returning roles for more famous actors playing minor characters.

Yes, that's David Duchovny in a wig and make-up. Your life is now complete.

The weird thing is, though all of the minor characters are portrayed well, I actually have some problems with some of the more important characters. Sheriff Harry S. Truman for instance…


Yes, there is a character named Harry S. Truman, but it is not the former US President. He’s the sheriff of Twin Peaks, played by Michael Ontkean. And though his performance throughout the series is pretty solid, I’ll say this: Michael Ontkean cannot yell in anger. He does this a couple times, and every time he did, I burst out laughing. He’s just so bad at it.

And maybe it was just me, but I didn’t really care for the charatcer of Jocelyn Packard (Joan Chen). It seemed really difficult for Ms. Chen to convey any kind of emotion. The performance wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely a bit bland. I found it difficult to care about her character, which kind of sucks, considering how important she becomes to the overall story. There’s a point in the middle of the series where she runs away somewhere for a long while. While she was gone, I kind of forgot she existed until someone mentioned her.

But the one that really gets me is the character of James Hurley (James Marshall). I think he sucks. I think every line of dialogue that he speaks is boring. And this kind of punches the series in the face, because James is an incredibly important character. At least early on, he is. I just don’t think the performance is any good. At first, I tolerated him because he was important, and I was interested enough in the story to tolerate one poor performance. But later on, he just grated on my nerves. There’s a point near the end of the series where he leaves Twin Peaks. Everything he does has nothing to do with anyone else. The things he’s doing don’t affect anyone that’s actually part of the story, so why should we care about what happens? Perhaps it would have been intertwined later, but we’ll never know. More on that later.

Besides the mostly good characters and acting, there are a few little things that David Lynch and Mark Frost added that really helped to immerse you in their show. Example: Twin Peaks is a port town, so throughout the day, ships would be docking and departing. So, every once in a while, you’ll hear a foghorn in the background. It’s never too loud or invasive, and many times, you probably wouldn’t even notice it. But this tiny little detail that most other people wouldn’t have bothered with adds tremendously to the atmosphere of the show, even if it’s only subconsciously.

You may have noticed that I haven’t talked much about the story. That’s because there’s a lot to talk about.

Like I mentioned earlier, it starts out like a simple, procedural, murder/mystery. And it continues this way for a great deal of the series. It’s good and gripping, but I had always seen it referred to as a sci-fi/drama. And I simply couldn’t figure that out. There’s very little of that iconic, utterly mind-imploding, super-strange Lynchism. There are a couple really bizarre scenes thrown in there involving a dancing, garbled little person in a fancy red suit. But they’re usually dreams or hallucinations or something, so they’re going to be weird. They’re dreams.

Throughout the first part of the series, there’s really only one thing that’s clearly out of the ordinary: the mysterious man with long, dirty, white hair and a jean jacket. And though a jean jacket is certainly out of the ordinary, that it not the thing to which I’m referring.

But then, later on, Twin Peaks takes a hard left turn and enters the city of “Whaaaaat?!”. It’s straight up bizarre. And it takes a little while to get any idea about what’s actually happening. And I suddenly understood why it was called sci-fi (though honestly, I still think that’s wrong. It’s more like supernatural fantasy). You finally find out what happened, who killed Laura Palmer, and it turns out that it was much more otherworldly and supernatural than the first part of the series had implied. It’s actually really difficult to make any sense of it unless you sit and really think about it.

That’s usually where David Lynch loses me. Take Mulholland Drive for example. It spent so much effort just making the movie weird and confusing and symbolic that it was difficult to really develop the characters enough for me to actually care. And though the movie is visually and cinematically appealing and deeply symbolic, since I didn’t really care about the characters, I didn’t really care about the movie.

And that’s why I think David Lynch should do more television. With a long series like Twin Peaks, he was able to spend much more time developing the characters and allowing me to care for them before thrusting me into his signature weirdness and symbolism. It’s not easy to fit that much symbolism and oddness plus enough character development into a two hour movie. So, as a result, I hate Mulholland Drive, but love Twin Peaks.

Sadly, the show only got two seasons. The ratings dropped for various reasons and Twin Peaks was never renewed for a third season. This meant that the final episode ended on a huge cliffhanger. That’s really sad considering how inventive, innovative, and flat-out good the show was. There was a feature-length film prequel entitled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me released a couple years later. I haven’t seen it yet, but since it’s a prequel, it obviously doesn’t bring any closure to the series, so I haven’t gone out of my way to get it.

This review is a milestone for two reasons. One, it’s my first television review. And two, I got through the whole thing without using a curse word!

Story: 9/10

Acting: 9/10

Cinematics: 9/10

Total: 9/10

Not The Video Game: Parasite Eve

I know when most of my American readers see the words “Parasite Eve”, the first thing they are going to think of is the 1998 PS1 game and maybe its shitty sequel. But this is not what I am here to talk about today. I’m here to talk about what came before it.

Allow me to whisk you back to the distant past. The year 1995. During his graduate studies to become a pharmacologist, a young man named Hideaki Sena decided he wanted to write a sci-fi/horror novel. What he produced was immediately lauded by the Japanese public and instantly started winning awards. That little novel of his was, you guessed it, Parasite Eve.

Like most American audiences, I played the video game first. And I really enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoy it even more now that all of the science-speak involved in it does not go right over my head. But, I found it weird that one of the characters was talking about past events and a similar phenomenon that happened in Japan. We, as the players did not get to see these events, and I for one, found it really strange that they would be talking like that.

Some time later, I discovered that the game was based on a horror novel, and it was that to which the character was alluding. So, I eventually got my hands on it and it sat on my bookshelf for another couple years as I moved three times and kind of forgot about it. Then, early last year, I finally said, “Fuck it! I am reading this damn book and there’s nothing you can do about it!”.

So, after finally reading it, did Dr. Sena deserve such immediate adoration? Well… yes and no. While the actual premise is interesting and well-founded, and it’s all backed up with Dr. Sena’s scientific knowledge and understanding of microbiology, the actual narrative of the novel is a bit disjointed and poorly executed.

Now, I read the version translated by Tyran Grillo, so maybe it was just a less-than-perfect translation. Even if that were the case, that’s actually only a small part of it. Poor translation or not, I think when outlining the order of events in the story, Dr. Sena could have used a little help.

Example: Parasite Eve begins with the wife of the main character (named Kiyomi) getting into a car crash. The accident causes brain death and sets in motion all of the events to come. Sure, that’s fine. But peppered throughout the rest of the novel are weird flashback moments told from the point of view of the now dead woman. To me, these flashbacks always destroyed the flow of the novel. Most of the time, you don’t get any new information from them. I think they were supposed to give us some sort of insight into the antagonist or explain exactly what’s going on. But, the whole first 3/4 of the novel are already doing that. Maybe they were supposed to build tension and mystery? But again, the rest of the book was already doing that. Perhaps it was some kind of character development? But if that were the case, why should we care, really? We know first thing that she’s going to die. That’s her whole purpose. If we are supposed to be made to care about this woman, it should be through the words and actions of those that survived. In fact, that would have been better for the characters that are actually moving the story forward. It would have given us better insight into the main character’s (named Toshiaki) psyche.

If he absolutely had to have the flashbacks in there, he should have opened with them. We should have been made to think that Kiyomi was the main character and grown to care about her, and then she should have died. It would have been a big surprise, and I think we would have become much more involved with the events to follow. And I know that kind of thing can be effective, because Alfred Hitchcock totally rocked that plot twist in Psycho (1960) when Vera Miles got shanked in the shower part-way through the film. It would have built the mystery much higher, and I wouldn’t have been saying, “Yeah, I already know what’s happening. Do we really need to know all of this?”.

Even if all of that had been sorted out, there are still several other problems that I need to address. The big one is the point-of-view switching. Every time a new chapter begins, the narrative switches to the POV of a different character. This is not an easy thing to do well. It can be a great way to learn about individual characters and build dramatic irony*. A great example of effective POV switching is Myst: The Book of Ti’ana by Rand and Robyn Miller. It’s something that I really hope to be able to emulate in my own writing (not here, of course. That’d be downright silly). A great example in ineffective POV switching would be… well… Parasite Eve by Hideaki Sena. So many chapters could have been removed entirely and the story would not be any worse for it. They give us no new information, or some new information on a character that doesn’t matter. They simply don’t move the story forward, and sometimes stop the story altogether.

I mentioned briefly above the author took 3/4 of the book explaining what was happening. That wasn’t really a joke. After the initial car accident and death of Kiyomi, it takes a long time for anything to happen. And if you had a problem with all of the science talk in the video game, stay far away from the novel! Dr. Sena spends more of the novel explaining  microbiology, the purpose of every piece of scientific equipment, the exact procedure of kidney transplants, etc. than anything else. And though I kind of enjoyed learning all of that information, I’m willing to bet that most people reading a horror novel don’t really want a science lecture. A lot of the scientific information that he gives us has no real bearing on the story itself. I can respect trying to combine entertainment with education, but Hideaki included a bit too much of the latter.

And because of that, the horror aspect of the novel suffers. There are some tense and creepy scenes here and there, just to remind us that we are indeed reading a horror novel and not a microbiology presentation. So then, he kind of has to squeeze all of the horrific stuff into the last 70 pages. And once that happened, everything definitely became more exciting, but it became less about the feeling of horror and more about grossing out the audience. He had to fit an entire novel’s worth of shock value into the last quarter of the book, and it certainly suffered for it.

There’s one last thing that I need to mention. As you may or may not know, Japanese culture is not exactly at the forefront of respecting women. And it kind of shows in a few parts of Parasite Eve. It’s weird, because women are the absolute most important part of the novel. There are extremely intelligent women all over the place. A woman graduates with a PhD at the top of her class at the end. So, it seems Dr. Sena doesn’t really have a problem with women and understands that they too can accomplish great things… But… there are still one or two parts that made me cringe, simply because of their lack of respect. Remember how Kiyomi was brain-dead? She’s taken off of life support and is going to have her kidneys donated. As they are prepping her body for surgery, the book goes out of it’s way to point out that the dead woman’s nipples were hard. And the fourteen-year-old girl that receives one of Kiyomi’s kidneys? As she’s being prepped for surgery, the author makes a point of describing her pubic hair.

Now, I’m not a prude or anything, but I cannot think of one reason for including that. Is it somehow important that we know about the teenage girl’s pubic hair or the dead woman’s hard nipples? No. It’s not pertinent to the story. It’s not entertaining. It’s not interesting. Fuck, it’s not even sexually arousing (unless you’re into necrophilia or pedophilia. And really, Dr. Sena, is that the kind of audience you want to attract to your novel?)! It’s just scummy. It takes these women, for whom you seemed to have at least some respect, and turns them into objects. And that, dear readers, is not cool.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s some kind of severe culture gap, but to me, those just seem like horrible things to include in your novel.

All of that aside, the actual premise behind Parasite Eve is solid. The premise alone is enough to bring my rating of the whole book up from Okay to Good. I think had Hideaki teamed up with someone that had more experience with fiction writing, it would have gone from Good to Holy-Shit-Mind-Blowingly-Awesome-Blargh! But instead, it’s just good.

Since this is my first book review, I’ll explain my rating system. Unlike movies and video games, a novel is not easy to break down into categories like Graphics and Acting. They’re much more imagination based, so instead of rating different aspects of the book and taking the average, I’m only going to rate two categories: Story and Storytelling.

Story: 9/10

Storytelling: 3/10

Total: 5/10

*For those that don’t remember, dramatic irony is when the reader/viewer has information that the characters do not.

A Million Little Problems: Hunted: The Demon’s Forge

I’m always on the lookout for new co-op games that can be played on one screen. That’s why I have games like Resident Evil 5 and Castle Crashers. Online gaming is cool and all, but there’s something to be said about playing a game with someone else in the same room, and most game companies just don’t make enough games to take advantage of that. That’s why Hunted: The Demon’s Forge caught my eye. Based on the little bit of gameplay footage I saw before playing it, it didn’t look like the best game, but I needed something new to play with the girlfriend, and it certainly didn’t look bad.

I was right about it not being the best game. What I ended up with was a game that frustrated me to no end, but I couldn’t help but defend.

Hunted seems to start in the middle of a story of which no one told the beginning. As a result, it’s a little jarring when the game starts and your expected to sympathize with these characters in this world with no context. You find out certain things as you play, such as elves being all but extinct because of minotaurs. But without any real exposition at the beginning of the game, it takes a while to get into the characters’ shoes.

But once you do, you find that their interaction is actually believable and entertaining. I liked them by the end of the game.

What’s cool about Hunted, however is how you play. There are two playable characters: Caddoc, the overly cautious, slightly Australian melee expert, and E’lara, the brazen, elven bow user. Depending on which one you control, you play the game in radically different ways. When you control E’lara, the game plays a lot like Gears of War with its cover system, but with its auto-lock system, it allows you to run-and-gun (so to speak) easily. When you control Caddoc, you whack things with a sword. There’s a little more strategy involved than that involving a shield, but it boils down to a hack-n-slash type game. E’lara has a melee weapon and Caddoc has a crossbow, but those tend to be very situational and are hardly ever used. That, along with the variety of magic and abilities you can learn, give the game some good replay value.

Hunted is very linear in its gameplay. You just go from chapter to chapter, act to act, killing enemies and solving puzzles. But sometimes, you can find little side areas to explore. These little tangents are good for taking your mind off of the fact that the story isn’t really any good. They’re normally pretty combat-light and have some creative puzzles for you to solve. And it’s usually these areas in which Caddoc and E’lara tend to have their best banter.  And you’re always rewarded with some kick-ass equipment. You feel good about yourself.

It also looks good. Yeah, sometimes the environments are really gray-brown and boring. And occasionally, things become blurry or difficult to discern. But otherwise, the characters look good, the weapons look good, the environments look good, the magic effects look good. It’s nothing great, but it’s an overall good-looking game.

Now, if I were to end the review here, I could easily give Hunted: The Demon’s Forge a good 7 or 8. But…

It has so many itty-bitty problems that drag the whole experience down.

There’s no regenerating health or magic. And though that’s not inherently a problem, it is when there are almost no healing items. Health potions are very few and very far-between. There are usually little item caches in between action sequences, but sometimes, those action sequences last a long while. And when at maximum, you can only carry three health potions, you tend to run out pretty quickly. Even this wouldn’t be a big problem if you were guaranteed health potions at each item cache. But, I swear, the game seems to pay attention to what you need the most and give you everything else. The item drops are random, so there were times that we were completely out of health potions and we got six magic potions are the item cache. Otherwise, during the few times that we were really hurting for magic potions, suddenly there were health potions everywhere and we had to leave them behind. They were completely unusable. And even this would have been acceptable if every enemy didn’t have perfect aim with its arrows or the ability to completely wipe out your life bar in a second in melee.

Like I briefly mentioned, the action sequences were very hit or miss. Sometimes, they’d be great fun. Challenging, but in a good way. Other times, I felt like the game was stomping on my crotch while force-feeding me ammonia. It could be the sheer number of enemies, enemies spawning behind you for no discernible reason or from areas that you can’t see. It could be the enemies are in a position where it’s near impossible to hit them, but they hit you no problem. It could be one enemy that can destroy you in a second in a cramped hallway with no room to maneuver. Or it could be some situational thing. Example: There’s one area where you are being fired upon by catapults. There are a ton of fucking enemies littered about between you and the catapults. The catapults can hit you no matter where you are, so you need to keep moving, but there are enemies everywhere that murder you if you go too far forward, so you need to kill them, but then the catapult hits you for a ton of damage and you fall down, then you take about five seconds to get up (that’s an awful long wait in video game time), and by the time you get up again, the catapult is ready to fire again, so you have to move, but there are enemies in the way, and so on. And this is made even worse if you don’t have any healing items (which is pretty likely).

Because of situations like this, the game loses a great deal of its appeal. During these sequences, we found ourselves going from reactive, action-based combat to dying several times and just memorizing where the enemies spawned and changing our actions based on that. And that’s no fun. But that wouldn’t have been a big problem if there were only a couple parts like that. But they came up far more than they should have.

And no matter how well the action sequences were done, they still would have gotten extremely boring. There’s almost no enemy variety. It’s been a while since I’ve actually played, but I think there are only four enemy types and a couple bosses. There are the wargar (orcs, basically) which comprise the vast majority of the enemies. Arachlings, which are bug-like creatures that attack in swarms maybe three or four times throughout the whole game. Skeletons, which only appear in the tangential areas I mentioned previously and during the final boss fight. And minotaurs, which are annoying as shit.

Reviving a fallen ally is a joke, too. I think I could have forgiven every one of the above problems if this wasn’t so bad. It can only be done with revival potions (completely different than health potions). If one person is downed, the  other has to toss them a potion. Only three of these can be carried at one time (at maximum). And if you run out, good fucking luck. It was like fucking Christmakwanzukkah whenever we found just one of those fuckers. If you’re out of revival potions and one person is down, you both lose. They’ll crawl around helplessly for a few seconds and then die while the other person watches, equally helpless. And since the damn potions are so rare, it’s going to happen a lot! I’m sorry, but in a game like this with no health regeneration, an item should not be required to revive a fallen ally. And if it is, you should be able to carry more than three. Or they should be more common. Or you should be able to do something without them.

Let’s look at Resident Evil 5 for a second here. They did it right. If one person runs out of health, they enter the DYING state. In this state, they limp around, unable to fight. And one more hit will kill them, thus ending the game. They will also bleed out after a few moments and die, thus ending the game. But if the other person can get to them in time, they can use one of their healing items to bring them back with some health. But if they are out of healing items, the game isn’t over. They can still bring them back to fighting condition, only in a weakened state where one more hit will automatically bring them back to DYING. That’s fair. But in Hunted, you can have one person with three health potions and a full life bar and the game is over the second the other person falls down. That’s not fair. That’s bullshit.

Without even trying, I can come up with a better system that even incorporates the revival potions: Revival potions can be used from a distance and behind cover. They bring the fallen ally back to fighting condition with full health. If you are out of potions, or want to save them for later, you can run up to your ally, potentially exposing yourself to damage, and revive them with a small amount of health. As you can see, it’s very similar to Resident Evil, but with the inclusion of the revival potions, it adds another level of thought to it.

Though the revival potions are the biggest problem, had they fixed any one of the problems listed above, I would have really enjoyed the game. Instead, what I got was a big pile of unfulfilled potential.

Gameplay: 5/10: It would have been much higher, but the little problems ruined the whole score, bringing it from very good to perfectly average.

Music: 5/10: I don’t remember the music, really. So, it couldn’t have been very good or very bad.

Graphics: 8/10: Far from perfect, but besides a few dark and muddy environments, they’re still pretty good.

Story: 5/10: I certainly didn’t hate it, but it definitely wasn’t the most creative or compelling.

Overall: 6/10

Those who have played the game will notice that I left something kind of important out. Included in Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is something called The Crucible. From what I’ve gathered, The Crucible is some kind of map creating tool where you can build your own customized maps. And you unlock more stuff for it by collecting gold in Story Mode. The reason I leave it out is that I did not try it, so I cannot say anything about it one way or the other. It seems like a cool idea, but I can’t imagine that it’s so good that it would change my rating of the whole game.

Sega Should Stay Away From Shooters: Vanquish

You know those games that really get no attention? Either through lack of advertisement, lack of interest, or simply because it’s not part of a mainstream video game series. Vanquish was one of them. I know I had seen some kind of advertisement for it, but it wasn’t really well-known.

From what I remember of the ad, it looked like a lot of fun. You were controlling some armored guy or a robot or something and he was rocketing along the floor shooting at giant robots and shit. At the very least, it looked fun. At the most, it looked like someone was finally doing something mildly original with the shooter genre. I was wrong on both counts.


The gameplay footage promised high-speed shooty action. The back of the box boasts: “High octane gaming at its most explosive and exciting.” And they’re just fucking lying to us.

I’m going to start with what I did like about it, because it’ll be short.

Graphically, it looks good. It’s not my favorite, but its sufficiently detailed and bright. It was almost always easy to know what I was looking at and where to shoot. The music was also good. It’s kind of techno-rave, which normally, I wouldn’t like, but with the kind of action and atmosphere, it was well-suited. A couple of the enemies looked cool. There were only a few very minor glitches, so it ran from beginning to end without problems.

There, I’m done.

Now for what I didn’t like.

What bugged me almost immediately was the voice acting and dialogue. The characters didn’t really talk like people. They talked like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser (without the accent, of course). They were constantly spouting off stupid one-liners. Normally, I’d be cool with that… if it was done right. In Vanquish, they weren’t even good one-liners, and often, they were out of place or totally didn’t fit the situation. The voice acting itself was, at its best, generic, and at its worst, really fucking grating. And that’s kind of weird, considering the cast included Lee Meriwether. They also borrowed lines from things that don’t suck. Someone lifts a line word-for-word from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (1997). And they did it in such a way that they weren’t so much paying homage to it (which I think was their intention), but actively comparing the two… Bad idea, Sega.

The story is, put bluntly, retarded. Basically, it boils down to, “Evil Russians take control of super weapon. Shoot robots.” Sure there’s a plot twist, but it comes at a point in the game where I simply couldn’t care less, and it wasn’t even surprising. I just wanted the game to end so I could come here and review it. There’s some kind of history behind the plot, but they don’t go into it… at all. I can make a couple educated inferences, but aside from that, there’s no exposition.

And that’s odd, considering how many fucking cutscenes the game fucking has! At this point in gaming history, cutscenes should be sparse. An opening cutscene, a closing cutscene, and perhaps a few interspersed throughout the game at major plot points. There should not, however, be a cutscene after every single action sequence! For a game that’s so “high octane”, you certainly have to stop playing the game an awful lot just for superficial cutscenes. And, after almost every cutscene, there was a point where you suddenly have to walk really slowly and let the dumb bitch guiding you through the game talk your ear off. It boils down to, poorly executed action sequence pew pew, cutscene, walk really slowly. And as such, the game had no flow whatsoever. I can understand why games in the past had cutscenes. They needed to show off their new technology, to show just what could be done. But at this point, we’ve seen it. Cutscenes don’t look that much different than actual gameplay now, so what exactly are they demonstrating by putting so many in there. All they did was make the game come to a grinding halt.

Even the character development within the story made no fucking sense. There’s a point where someone betrays you, almost ruins everything, and you have to fight him. After you beat him, he suddenly starts shooting at his own men so that you can escape and you’re all like, “No, I’m not leaving without you, man-who-just-a-few-seconds-ago-betrayed-me-and-tried-to-kill-me! We’re like, friends or something.” And aside from that bit of “character development”, there is no character development. There was not a single character in the entire game that I gave a single shit about. So when something supposedly dramatic happens, who gives a fuck? I certainly didn’t.

Now, I’ll admit, before I even knew anything about Vanquish, I wasn’t expecting anything too spectacular story-wise. I was looking forward to rocket-propelled power sliding while firing machine guns. But even that was shit. Sure, you get to do that, but not as often as you should. Actually, you spend more of the game playing as if, rather than Vanquish, you were playing a shitty Gears of War, just rolling around and hiding behind cover, waiting for your health to regenerate. And when you do try to power slide, your suit overheats… and quickly. That means you have to run around until your suit cools down again. Sure, I understand that you shouldn’t be able to do that constantly, but it runs out too fucking fast and takes too fucking long to recharge. And to make matters worse, if an enemy gets close to you, you want to use a melee attack, right. Well, another poor choice on the part of the developers was to make every melee attack you do completely overheat your suit. That’s right. One melee attack, and you can no longer move fast. Melee attacks shouldn’t do shit to your suit! The way it is, if you use a melee attack to kill an enemy, but there are still more enemies around, there’s little you can do besides rolling around, trying not to die while your suit cools down. It’s fucking stupid! And even if you’re not hitting enemies with melee, if you get hit for so much damage, your suit goes into bullet-time mode. Sure, it helps you get away or kill an enemy so your health can regenerate, but it also overheats your fucking suit! So, with your suit constantly overheating, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain that “high octane gameplay” for any major amount of time.

One thing that I was going to include in the things I liked was the fact that you can upgrade your weapons, but that was ruined, too. You can upgrade your weapons in two ways. Either through pickups that enemies drop randomly that immediately raise your selected weapon by one level. Or by picking up a gun you already have while that gun has full ammo (?). That’s a little dumb. You should improve by using the gun. But that’s not the damning part. I mean, it’s stupid that the gun has to have full ammo to be upgraded (if you shoot just one of the 1200 bullets from your Assault Rifle, it doesn’t improve. You just get one bullet). What’s really damning about it is, if you die, the game takes your upgrades away from you. The way the system is, it takes a while to get a gun to maximum level. And to just take it away? That’s horrible. I can understand taking away upgrades if you get one and die before reaching a checkpoint. That’s reasonable. But to take them away two fucking acts later is so stupid, that I would rather not be able to upgrade my weapons at all.

And even that would not have been so bad if the rest of the game were designed even acceptably. But the way it is, enemies take too long to kill, you die too easily, enemies appear at random, enemies have perfect aim, they will only aim at you (even when there are forty other guys that are a more immediate threat), you stagger at random, opening you up to more shots, the bosses take forever and can destroy you no matter how fast you’re moving, some enemies have attacks that kill you instantly and hit you through cover, your suit constantly overheats exposing you to even more damage, you constantly get stuck on obstacles (and sometimes on absolutely nothing) while avoiding fire, your friends constantly get in your line of fire, and to top it all off, the game takes your weapon upgrades away, making the part you just died at even more difficult.

All I have left to say is, thank Arceus Vanquish is really short. It only took about six hours to beat the whole thing, even with the sidetracking I was doing to find guns.

Gameplay: 2/10: That’s sad, because it promised a good time. It could have been good, but they ruined every cool idea they had.

Music: 7/10: Well-suited and fast-paced. Probably the best part of the game.

Graphics: 6/10: They were good.

Story: 1/10: Not a single redeeming quality in there

Overall: 4/10: I wish so badly that I could rate this lower, but the numbers have spoken.