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3:12 AM on 09.17.2012

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Alright, here we go...

Retribution picks up exactly where the last one left off, which, after the continuity-breaking introductions of the last two films, is at least one good thing I can say about this film. Alice, Claire, Chris and a bunch of no-name Umbrella prisoners are getting ready to chart a new course for the world on their cargo ship when a brainwashed Jill and a bunch of Umbrella commandos storm the ship, knock out and kidnap Alice and...who knows what happened to the others? The no-names appeared to be either killed or captured, but did this happen to Claire and Chris? We won't find out in this film.

So Alice is taken to an underwater reseach facility in Russia. As Umbrella is known to do, I'm sure. After fumbling around a bit, Wesker (Wait. Isn't he dead? Again, we'll never know how he isn't) reveals over the monitors that he has assigned Ada and another strike group to rescue Alice. And that's basically how the rest of the film goes: Alice and the others need to escape the facility before the facility blows up and drowns them all.

Let's get the good stuff out of the way, because it's a short list. The first time Ada meets Alice is a scene ripped straight from Resi 4. You know, "try using your knife next time". That was a nice touch. Barry Burton is a part of the secondary strike team, and while he looks ten years too young, this is probably the only time bad acting has helped the films. The guy who plays Barry is almost as wooden and awkward as the Barry from the original game. He also has a very "I have THIS!" moment, which was nice-ish.

I believe Retribution also sets a new record for the amount of time it takes Michelle Rodriguez to die. And because of reasons I will explain in white spoiler text later, she dies several times throughout the film. We're taking it to the extreme!!

That's about where the good stuff ends. Retribution is possibly the worst of the series thus far, mostly due to the fact that there is a constant theme of zero payoff.

The action in this is set almost entirely in slow motion, much like Afterlife, and this robs action scenes of their gratuity and excitement. I might have been able to forgive that if the setpieces were decent, but the setups for the fight scenes in this film are hilariously disastrous.

Remember how Alice fought an Executioner Majini in the last film? Well, what's more dangerous than an Executioner Majini? TWO Executioner Majini! What's scarier than a licker? A GIANT licker! What's more terrifying than zombies? Zombies that have guns and look like the ones from Dead Snow! I am baffled at just how unoriginal and small in scale these fights are. And because Alice has lost her super powers, there isn't much to them but constant "blat blat". Tired and lame.

Not much to expect from the acting, but that's par for the course. Milla Jovovich continues her badass yet characterless Alice, Ada sounds the part but doesn't quite look it, Wesker still sounds like a British Agent Smith and the guy playing Leon looks and even sounds closer to Luis Sera, in my opinion. It's his beard, I think.

The big problem is the plot, though. Hooollleeeee crap, some of the nonsense they place in this plot puts the midway point of Apocalypse to shame. In terms of non-spoiler stuff, the facility's realism is an obvious contrivance, but one I could accept if the structure within was clear cut. The facility houses a number of huge testing chambers, resembling New York, Moscow, Toyko and a random suburbia, built for testing the effects of a viral outbreak. It's unclear at the beginning whether it's all holographic or not, and it causes some discrepancies in regards to environmental items (cars, weapons, etc.).

As stated before, we're not going to find out what happened to two of the "major" characters from the last film, and they don't even attempt to explain how Wesker survived. Not a throwaway line, not any fresh scars, nothing. He may as well not have died at all in the last film for all the difference it made here. Same with Luther, the non-descript minor character in Afterlife that just showed up alice and well on the mainland. He's now a part of the strike team. Why? How?

But to discuss the broken plot more, I'll have to dip into spoiler territory. I'll be using tiny text for this section, so skip past it to the next segment of normal text if you wish. If not, highlight it and read on.

[size=7]Barry's final moments are when he's playing hero, telling Luther and Leon to fall back to the elevator while he holds Umbrella off. They then bring out a captured Ada as collateral, but he heads out, gun in hand, deliberately gets shot, gets one more shot at an Umbrella guard before dying. I was guessing that he was trying to do this to buy Ada a distraction, but she doesn't do anything during this time, meaning Barry commits martyrdom for nothing.

One of the last fights is against a Las Plagas-ed Michelle Rodriguez on a frozen tundra. Alice eventually shoots the ice beneath here feet, she falls in and a ton of zombies...who can now breathe underwater, I guess, close in and kill her. The far shot of around a hundred zombies in the water piling on Rodriguez just looks so incredibly, unforgivably, implausibly silly and, oh yeah, why aren't they going up after Alice? And how can they fucking breathe down there!?

And then we get to the ending. Alice, the freed Jill, Ada, Luis/Leon and this film's Newt make it to the White House, which is being overrun by hordes of various nasties. Wesker...who is now President, I guess, gives Alice back her power...after previously taking it away. He then explains that the White House is the last bastion for humanity, and if they are wiped out there, the race will face extinction at the hands of the Red Queen, Umbrella's sentient AI.

It's unclear how much time passes between each of these films, but we went from Raccoon City being overrun to the T-Virus turning the world into a desert to everything being sorta alright but not really to holy shit, we are the last surviving people on the planet Earth. Inexplicable does not begin to describe it. Also, why does the Red Queen want to destroy all humans? Especially since she is happy using many of them as her army?[/size]

Throw in at least two instances of "dead" guys twitching on screen (nothing to do with zombification) and you have a nice fat pile of crap for a film.

0.5/5   read

11:39 AM on 06.26.2012

First impressions of Skyrim: Dawnguard

That other big piece of RPG DLC out today, Dawnguard is the first expansion to Skyrim, with a premise centering around vampires and vampire hunters. How does it far? I couldn't tell you in whole, because I couldn't quite finish it just yet, but here's what I've experienced thus far.

Plot and premise (no spoilers): In other Elder Scrolls games, and the last two Fallout games, DLC quest usually began with a journal entry essentially prodding you into the direction of the quest. This time, it seems you need to head into a major town before someone will come up to you and say "Hey, we're vampire hunters. Want in?". This, of course, happened to me only after I bested a dragon roaming through town. So he'll send you off to Fort Dawnguard at the back end of Riften, where you'll get the crossbow (more on this later) and have to go investigate a dungeon filled with vampires who want something. And that something sets into motion a bloody feud between the hunters of Dawnguard and an ancient vampire clan.

It doesn't seem like a bad story, all up, but it doesn't go for the throat, either. I picked the Dawnguard side because I'm a traditionalist, and it felt like a straight mix between the Winterhold College quests and...whatever that warrior guild quest line was.. It keeps things moving but not to places very exciting.

It feels like the questline is trying to go for the same stakes as the main quest of Skyrim, but I feel Skyrim managed to adequately convey this through how aggressive the dragons were and how domineering their presence became, and I don't feel like the same has happened here. If you take the Dawnguard side, vampires will sporadically pop up in towns, assaulting the villagers much like dragons, but...they're only slightly more capable humans as opposed to the great forces of the dragons.

Gameplay: On the Dawnguard side at least, the majority of quests are straight dungeon runs, and are probably more combat based than the rest of the game. It's also worth noting that the dungeons seemed darker, so turn that brightness up or bring a torch or light spell. Aside from that, and a partner who will follow you for much of the proceedings, these dungeons seemed pretty run of the mill, albeit very long even by Skyrim standards. Not necessarily bad, but Skyrim didn't really lack for dungeons. Is there anything else to keep this expansion interesting? Well...

Enemies: The vampire force in vanilla Skyrim seemed tossed aside in favour of werewolves, which would have been good if they weren't so overrated. The vampires in Dawnguard are quite a bit better. Relying on bloodborn abilities that can really inhibit their enemies, such as draining health and crippling their speed, and also having these bitching yellow eyes sometimes, the vampires are a decent foe, though not spectacular. They have a unique set of armour this time around as well. They will sometimes have pets known as Death Hounds; black dogs with red eyes and a metal collae which is worth a lot as loot. They're kind of easy, but they look cool.

Also added to the mix are gargoyles, which seem like really good enemies. They're surprisingly fast and can hit fairly hard. My warrior could go toe-to-toe with one, but even just one more meant trouble. They can burst out of their shells which blend into their surroundings, just like "real" gargoyles and work well with the psuedo-gothic atmosphere a lot of the expansion provides.

Elsewhere, there are skeletons which took me one hit each. So that was lame.

Vampire Lord: Obviously, I didn't go this route, but early on, you have the option to have the ability to turn into a vampire lord, which seems like a transformation akin to the werewolf ability. I can't say for sure, but if it is like the werewolf ability at all, I want nothing to do with it. Lycanthropy actually made my character a lot weaker, completely antithetical to what the ability was supposedly there for. It appears as if vampire lords are a lot more balanced, with the ability to switch between a magic type and melee type on the fly, and they do look really cool.

Vampirism itself seems like the norm: you contract the basest form from fighting vampires, you don't cure it before you go to sleep in a certain amount of time, you're a vampire. Again, I tried to keep out of this as much as possible because I wanted to be as traditional as possible, but the option is there. It doesn't seem as if sunlight or fire are the big enemies for vampires this time around, but then I could just be bitter that neither worked against them while I was fighting them.

Crossbows: After years of absence from the franchise, the crossbow finally makes its return to the game, and you can get one basically from the start of the expansion. I gather it ties into your archery stat, which wasn't very high for me or it would have done damage against those bandits I fought. But the mechanic appears fine, with the basic advantages and disadvantages versus a regular bow. Again, it uses bolts instead of arrows, so it feels like a return to Morrowind if only in a small department.

I have one issue, and that is the secondary attack it grants you. It's a melee bash, but it looks to do not much damage but drains as much stamina as a two-handed power attack. Um, why? Otherwise, it feels like a fine addition to the Skyrim arsenal, and a welcome returning ally from Morrowind.

Horse combat: Apparently. I don't know first hand. I never touch horses in Skyrim.

"Final verdict": I don't think it would be really fair of me to make any real suggestions when I couldn't even get through one questline, which I knew going into would be the less interesting of the two anyway. Still, if I were to weigh up everything at this point, I don't know if 1600 MSP is worth it. Shivering Isles and many of FO3's and NV's expansions cost less but gave you more. It's a tough one. Maybe I'll get back to you when I finish it, maybe not.

Still better than the Carrie Underwood DLC that came out for Rock Band today, though.   read

2:10 PM on 06.23.2012

Skullgirls characters in WWE '12

If my soundtrack review wasn't enough of an indication, I kind of like Skullgirls. So I decided to make them in WWE '12, because seemingly no one else has. Seriously, I couldn;t find them for download, but there are twenty different variants for Kane when he's already in the game.

Yes, I kind of screwed up Painwheel's dress, among other things. But overall, I'm okay with what I came up with. Questions? Comments? "You majorly fucked up!"s? I'll be happy to respond to any.   read

10:15 AM on 06.14.2012

Lowlander2's quest to beat every Sly/Ratchet/Jak game in 2012

Yeah, I'm "borrowing" Magnalon's formula here. Hope you don't mind.

I feel like I'm starting to become jaded to videogames. Burnt out, exhausted. After putting in Red Faction: Armageddon and noticing just how bloody by-the-numbers it was, that was the moment I could too clearly see the struts behind the paint, so to speak. It was like listening to the extremely popular, and extremely simple, ballad, Glycerine. After hearing how four-chordy it was, everything just unravelled from there.

So yeah, the modern generation might be pissing me off. So perhaps it's time to take a step back for a while. I recently bought the Jak HD Trilogy on PS3 and thought to play through all the games in that franchise this year, obviously inspired by Magnalon's quests to conquer Zelda and Resident Evil. however, I later thought, due to Jak being kind of limited in the number of games, and the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection being pretty close to release, and feeling a need for a goal over the university break, I dcided to tackle all three mainstay PS2 platforming franchises.

Most games in these franchises have lots of secrets to collect, but for the most part, I'm just going to stick to clearing the main story. I won't shy off collecting things, but I doubt I'll have the inclination, let alone the time, to do them all.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy - PS2 (owned), PS3 (owned) - (Completed in May 2012)

The original game is a pretty big part of my childhood gaming memories. It was a game I got on my birthday after renting it a few times, and it's something that I've beaten so many times now. After grabbibg the collection, however, I endeavoured to grab that platinum trophy to settle the score once and for all. And so I did. And I still had a lot of fun along the way.

In my opinion, this deserves to sit up alongside Super Mario 64 and the like as a classic 3D platformer. It's a well-crafted, varied and, most importantly, fun as hell collect-'em-up. It's still pretty stunning how you can gaze upon the landscape and see worlds you know you'll get to visit. It creates a rare sense of wonderment and is arguably as much an eye-opening moment as the first steps out of the sewers in Oblivion.

Negatives? These days, there are visible design constraints, notably some silly invisible walls and slopes which will randomly slide you off. The humour is a bit corny and saccharine, although I feel Daxter managed to remain just about endearing even throughout the series. Your mileage may vary. Other than that, not really. Easily one of my favourite PS2 games of all time.

Jak 2: Renegade - PS2 (owned), PS3 (owned) - (Completed in June 2012)

Ah yes, the controversial one. At the time, and even now, I thought it was ballsy and sincere enough to be worth the change. Besides, I'm not terribly sure how far they could have gone with the original world, especially since no one ever bothered to elaborate on the mythology, which had the potential to be interesting. So yes, I support the drastic change in tone of Jak 2.

As for the rest of it...maybe it was really good once upon a time, but even when playing it way, waaay back when, I had a lot more issues with this game than I could have ever had with the first. Chief among them is the difficulty. Even today, this game is hard, and not in a completely fair way. You see, this game has guns, but it does not have a reliable shooting mechanic, due to how twitchy aiming is and the fact that there is no strafing. Progress can sometimes seem Sisyphian in nature, and it was a slog to play through once, let alone this second time.

I generally like the dark, industrial atmosphere even when interspersed with other random environments for other levels, and there's still a good degree of variety on offer, but Jak 2 is simply drawn out. It's one of the few games I would call too long. When it was finished, I didn't really feel proud, just glad it was over. If the game had any style, my senses were made numb to it by the repetition of playing certain stages over and over.

Jak 3 - PS2 (Owned), PS3 (Owned) - (Completed in June 2012)

Besides renting it for a night as soon as it came out, I didn't touch or even buy this one for a long time. Hell, my PS2 version was a preowned copy at a flea market. So what was the big deal? Why did I dodge this game for a long time? Honestly, I don't really know. Maybe Jak 2 did more damage than I thought. Playing it this time was pretty good, however.

The game tones down the difficulty to a reasonable level this time, and cuts down on the shooting and hovercar driving by a measurable amount. It is also perhaps one of the single most varied games ever, at least in terms of what the main missions expect you to do. One mission you'll be shooting on the foot, the next it's a race, and then a hanggliding mission, and then a turret sequence and so on. Pretty much each one of these missions types are polished as well, which is why it's baffling as to why most are only ever used once.

The variety actually hurts the game, mostly in the game's story, but also in the fact that power-ups and upgrades can seem like unnecessary gimmicks. The game gives you twelve different guns, whilst I only ever really used two.The first half also tries to input this light/dark eco dichotomy, but again, I only used Light Jak's healing power and, sometimes, Dark Jak's kill everything in the room move. Whilst the game itself isn't short (although it's notably shorter than Jak 2, thank God), the game feels a bit schizophrenic. It's still a very good game, though, and good enough for me to essentially keep playing through in one sitting.

Jak X: Combat Racing - PS2 (Owned)

The opening theme to the game is QOTSA's ...Millionaire. That should be all you need to know to get an idea how far off the rails this game's tone is. The gameplay felt that way too, with the cars crashing way too much. It was like they tried to cram Burnout into Crash Team Racing, with the outright speed of one and the physics of the other. This is one I'll have to have an open mind on when revisiting, because that paragraph made it sound horrible, and it can't be that bad...can it?

Daxter - PSP (Owned), PS2

Well, technically, it's my sister that owns it, and I might just bite the bullet and buy this and The Lost Frontier on the PSN Store for the Vita; the thing needs more use. Aside from that tidbit, I know virtually nothing about this game. Different dev studio, and that's about it. I won't be expecting a lot, truth be told.

Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier - PSP (Owned), PS2

Again, might be using my sister's copy, or might just buy and play on the Vita. They said there was a very aeronautical theme to the game, and given one of Jak 3's last trials, that bears ill tidings. Other than that, pretty clean slate. I think my sister beat this one, but didn't tell me what she thought. Heh.

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus - PS2, PS3 (Owned) - (Completed 2012)

One rental was all the experience I had with this game before the playthrough this year. It kind of felt sandwiched in between both of the other franchises, even if the dates may not have supported that, and I was worried that the whole thing would be a little...second-rate, so to speak. As it turns out, I was correct.

There isn't really anything wrong or bad about the game, but it just feels like a looser Crash Bandicoot game with some stealth elements thrown in. It wasn't exactly Splinter Cell, or even Metal Gear Solid, when it came out, and no amount of charm in the world can get me to really love this game. And there is charm to be found. I really liked the suave, smarmy character of Sly Cooper, and out of all three franchise's main characters, he'd probably be at the top. The game itself, however, feels too rote and by-the-numbers to be truly memorable. Good, but not great.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves - PS2, PS3 (Owned) - (Completed in June 2012)

I have played a fair bit of this and 3, but have yet to complete either, mostly due to progress being sporadically spread out across siblings' profiles. I'll just play through it on my own, of course. So far, the more open-world, freeform elements are appreciated, but neither really has the variety to be engaging for very long. I gather this one will be a slog to get through, even if the game turns out to be good.

Extended thoughts: Well, the game wasn't very good anyway, but it was certainly a slog. Barring a few moments of brilliance when the formula is turned on its head, each mission feels exactly the same. The game is incredibly drawn out, forcing you to do things multiple times to complete one task. It gets very aggravating. Never touching this one again.

Sly 3: Hono(u)r Among Thieves - PS2, PS3 (Owned)

This game's biggest drawcard is that it has more characters, which means more variety, which is what the Sly series desperately needs, but the gameplay still feels so similar to 2 that it's insane. I want to play through each of these games once more, not twice through!

Sly 4: Thieves In Time - PS3

Obviously, this one isn't out yet, but I will endeavour to grab it soon after it lands. Soon after, that is. I might be too burnt out to grab it straight away.

Ratchet and Clank - PS2, PS3 - (Completed in July 2012)

I remember renting this again and again and again but never really getting through it. I didn't lack for a memory card or anything like that, so I don't know why I was always starting again. Maybe enough time passed between each go round that I forgot what I was supposed to do. Either way, this is one of the biggest haunting nightmares in my personal pile of shame, and when the HD Collection comes out, it's payback time.

From what I remember of it's quality, it was damn good. It had a similar sort of feel to Jak and Daxter, with its slight Metroidvania touches and a colourful graphics set. The game was pretty tough, being perhaps a little too limiting on health for the amount of enemies you have to fight, but that might not be the case now that I can actually comprehend patience in games. Look forward to this one.

Extended thoughts: Aside from a slightly juvenile script and some clunky combat, it's great. Not Jak and Daxter 1 great, but great. The platforming is great and the flow is varied, so it accomplishes a lot in what you want in a 3D platformer. The combat leaves much to be desired, but it's still a very fun experience. Recommended.

Ratchet and Clank 2: Locked and Loaded/Going Commando - PS2, PS3 - (Completed in July 2012)

I have played this for all of an hour, and that was when my cousin came over. Whenever he brought the PS2, we usually played Dynasty Warriors, so I suppose it was a nice surprise to get this one instead. I really don't have any opinions on this game as of yet.

Man, I haven't played as many of these games as I thought...

Extended thoughts: No doubt this is a great game, but something stopped me from completely getting into it. Maybe it was the difficulty. It was pretty easy up until the game asked you to buy armor. There is a sort of lack of variety too, but the genius weapon levelling system encourages variation in weapon use without being too grindy like R&C3. I like it, but it's not as good as the first game.

[b]Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal - PS2 (Owned), PS3

This, I have beaten. Many times over. It doesn't have the polish of the earliest titles from either Ratchet or Jak, but it made up for it with sheer gusto. The explosions in this game were so good. Like, better than the original Mercenaries good. I do really like this game, even if it drags on just a tad, but I'd need to play this just one more time to make sure.

Extended thoughts: It drags on for a bit and there is too much grinding for weapon and health upgrades. Aside from that, it's gold. The sheer scale of the firefights pretty much nullifies the relative lack of platforming in my eyes. Endlessly playable.

Ratchet: Gladiator/Deadlocked - PS2 (Owned)

I have also played this over at least three or times, but I couldn't tell you why. I certainly wasn't very impressed with the limited gameplay this time around. Unlike the other two sequels, you could tell this was cooked up in a mere year. It was fun on a basic carnal level, but it was short and uninspiring all round. Even the guns weren't that great from what I can recall. Again, I'll play it again just to make sure.

Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters - PSP (Owned), PS2

I played this at a friend's house for about ten minutes. My impressions? It's Ratchet and Clank on the PSP; no more, no less. I can't imagine that really changing when I sit down and play it for sure. Everything so far just seems to point to that conclusion.

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction - PS3 (Owned)

This is essentially the game version of The Empre Strikes Back for me: I have played every part of this game individually, but never really sat down to play it all in one myself. So far, it does seem like Ratchet and Clank was successfully brought to the PS3. It's not a revolutionary game, but weapons and environments look great and there is just enough new material to keep things interesting. Not sure how much that will actually change on a full playthrough, but we'll yet see.

Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest For Booty - PS3 (Owned)

Yeah, get rid of all your guns after ten minutes and leave you with none for pretty mcuh the rest of it. Maybe it was time for a real shake-up, and being a "download only" chapter, it has more leeway to be gimmicky and experimental, but the gameplay just looked too dry. Watching my mother play through this game just left me bored at the sight of it.

Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack In Time - PS3 (Owned)

Watching my mother play through this one, A Crack In Time appeared to be the most ambitious title to date. An everpresent open-world element, lots of exploration and space shooting, and a higher focus on distracting Clank sections. It looks full to bursting of ideas, which is definitely a good thing. Unfortunately, it also appeared a bit monotonous and glitchy, but perhaps that was just because my mother's a completionist. I am not going to have the same strategy when playing these games myself.

Ratchet and Clank: All For One - PS3 (Owned)

Oh man, I was skeptical as hell when I heard about this game. 30 FPS with low grade textures? Four-player co-op? With Doctor Nefarious? I was worried. Playing it a little bit, however, it's pretty good. The change into a psuedo-top-down format works because it's relatively fresh and keeps enough of the R&C spirit and mechanics to be familiar enough. It does, however, seem like the kind of game that will get very boring over long play sessions, which will especially suck for me.

Excited to see my final impressions of these games? Couldn't care less? Sad I'm not doing Playstation Move Heroes? Have any strategies for the order I should do these games? Nothing at all? I'll be updating this each time I beat a game, with my final thoughts and maybe a little extra.   read

8:32 AM on 05.30.2012

The Sniper 2 is available for sale on PSN--sorry, SEN today!

2:25 PM on 04.28.2012

Skullgirls soundtrack review

Skullgirls, the all-new 2D fighting game on the block, had its soundtrack released on iTunes and Amazon a while ago.

So let's review it!

Mostly a joint effort between Flower's Vincent Diamante and the Castlevania series' Michiru Yamune, Skullgirls is an attempt to lead a 50s infused game (well, somewhat) with a jazz tone, as well as some common tropes in fighting game soundtracks. Some of the tracks are exclusively one genre, some try to mix and match different elements and some are just there for kicks.

A lot of the songs are indeed straight up lounge jazz headed by Diamante (with some by Yamune and others), with bouncing bass and all the hi-hat and ride cymbals you can eat. These tracks occur during menus, segues, cutscenes and the credits. The first track on the album, Echoes, consists of a mere few trumpet blasts. It's the very first track in the game as well, and in both instances it's a good set-up for the tone of it.

Other “lounge jazz” exclusives include Pedestrian Crossing (the main menu music), an excellent investigatory, buzzing piece, In Rapid Succession, a fast drum beat mized with bongos to create some tension within its two minutes running time, and probably the most conventional song on the album, the credits theme, In A Moment's Time. It's a well-weathered vocally performed female soul/jazz piece with some “hilarious” lyrics and a pretty kvlt piano solo that inevitably leads into a beautiful orchestral outro. It's probably my favourite song on the album.

As far as jazz generally goes...I couldn't actually tell you how well it generally stacks up. I suppose some of this could have potentially gone into L.A. Noire if circumstances were different, at least in terms of overall tone. These songs are calming and chill, and are impossible to hate in any measure, but then jazz may not be for some.

You have some more eccentric and experimental tracks, mostly headed by Castlevania's Michiru Yamune. Castlevania's music has always been both atmospheric and memorable all its own, and Yamune's talent has not failed her here. She pretty much takes the mantle of all fighting stage music. Each one of these has its own motif to go with the visuals (obviously, this does little for the album itself), and each follows its own trade pretty well.

Moonlit Melee has the more jovial elements of jazz mixed with mysterious electro-orchestra that's just as much fun to listen to outside of the game. Skull Heart Arrhythmia, the boss battle theme, projects a great amount of scale and progression with great use of opera vocals to create en epic mood.

Other tracks of this sort fare less well. Learning One's Craft, the training mode stage, has nothing to call its own except this pseudo-industrial sound effect which just sounds terrible. The Lives We Left Behind is a bit too slow and generic for a fighting stage song, although it has its own very interesting elements buried within. All of these songs suffer from longevity issues, going for six minutes and having to repeat once or twice within that time, with The Fish Man's Dance arguably taking the worst hit.

In between these tracks, you have a smattering of assorted themes, like cutscene music and menu music, as well as a bonus Japanese rendition of In A Moment's Time, which is quite similar to the English one. No duh, right?

A lot of these bonus bits were built for specific characters and endings. You can tell, for example, that Shenanigans and Goings-Ons is Peacock's song with how jaunty and novel it is. It's not just the ordering or title that gives the organ-blasting Fugue of the Three Goddesses away, either. A lot of these tracks are perfectly fine in the game, but vary in how well they translate outside of it. This may be a good thing in the long run, as it shows that the Skullgirls soundtrack was built in and around the game instead of the composers simply trying to make good music.

I've heard rumblings that some songs from the game are missing in the soundtrack. I could not tell you for sure, but I have played Skullgirls quite a lot, and nothing appeared to be missing. Perhaps there is a Painwheel “theme tune” I'm skipping out on, as nothing on this album calls out to here like other characters' themes, but again, I cannot give a definite answer.

Skullgirls is a very decent 2D fighter, and the soundtrack on the whole follows suit. Giving the entire thing one listen isn't recommended due to how long some of the tracks can be without giving equal value in return, but it does appear to be one of the better videogame soundtracks of the year. It's currently running for $10 US on iTunes, and I'd wager it's worth the money if you're into this sort of thing.

We'll have to see how it can stack up against Lollipop Chainsaw later this year, though. The battle for best videogame music isn't always large, but it is a tenacious fight.

8/10   read

10:45 AM on 02.03.2012

Videogame movie reviews: Gamer (2007/2010)

I figure it's time for me to move on to a general film regarding our favourite pastime. Gamer was a big budget movie with seemingly indie promotion, stirring up buzz on a few websites and failing to see widespread for years. Its Tomatometer is very low, in the single digits, I believe. Does it deserve it?

It is the near-ish future, and a man named Ben Castle has brought interactive entertainment to the next level. His two hit games, Slayers, a multiplayer shooter, and Society, a simulation akin to Second Life, have taken the world by storm. Both games rely on a special and unique tecnology, in which players control the bodies of other humans.

But it's okay, because the ones being controlled in Society are "actors", paid volunteers, and the ones being controlled in Slayers are death row inmates who have a chance to get out. If a contestant wins 30 consecutive rounds, the inmate is released. Obviously, this hasn't happened by the start of the movie, but one close to winning is Kable (Gerard Butler).

From then on, it's a conspiracy thriller much in the vein of Equilibrium, where Kable teams up with the Humanz, a group led by Ludacris fighting against the mind control technology Castle may be planning to implement, in order to get his wife and child back from Castle.

Most of the "game" stuff is well implemented. The idea of VR control in massively multiplayer games and a new breed of FPS is an exciting prospect indeed, and they make it seem likely in some manner. They also kind of "get" it, but at the same time, they don't.

For example, they acknowledge what ping is, and it's a sticking point for one of the fights, but the creators don't seem to understand that if ping that cause several seconds of delay in a match exist, it's not professional. Pro gamers work in lagless environments; to have lag in such an event is dumb.

One of the side Slayers also teabags another...or at least that's what the other characters tell us. They got the fact that it's merely crouching repeatedly down, but it looks off, too forced, especially the way his arms are also up in the air and how everyone says, "that guy got teabagged".

While the games front is solid but flawed, there are a lot more problems with the rest of the movie, but chief among them is a lot of the acting. Castle, played by Phillip Michael Hall, or whoever he is (Dexter) acts in a very intrigiung way, miming a blues classic while Kable fights a bunch a goons in his house, but he's not very authentic, which makes it a bit awkward.

The most annoying character is easily John Leguizamo as another con in a similar situation as Kable. He simply does not shut up, constantly muttering to Kable and just being an annoying wad. He doesn't take up a huge part of the film but he certainly leaves a bad taste. There's also a Terminator-alike who's as dull the wit of Brink's AI.

The biggest problem, however, is the pacing. The first half is fairly balanced, having exposition and mystery in between each round of Slayers. However, after that chapter ends, the film moves far too quickply, wrapping up pivotal plot events far too quickly. The mind control mechanic that took Castle years to implement is literally dismantled with one touch screen click. The last 10 minutes finish the movie so fast it's embarassing.

Gamer is fairly ambitious, however. The aesthetic and mood liken to a more gratuitous Blade Runner, although when I say gratuitous I really mean it. The technology is sort of interesting and the overall vibe is quite original.

The pacing is kind of crap, but it's a nice short curio. Certainly not worth all the hate. Mileage will certainly vary, but overall, I enjoyed it and I recommend a rental when you're bored.

2.75/5   read

11:16 AM on 01.25.2012

Ode to a fallen icon: The times of Micah C.

Earlier, this happened. For the uninitiated, Micah C(armichael?) was an editor at Blistered Thumbs, a videogame website most notable for housing Angry Joe. Take that as you will.

But Micah's is an interesting one, a certainly very wayward individual in the crazy world of videogame journalism, and I'm bored, so let's take a break from my movie reviewing habits and take a small look at what should have been one of the field's most controversial contributors.

First off, how does he tie in to Destructoid at all. Let me start you off with this link. And this one. And this one also.

He does not like Jim Sterling very much. Sift through his blog and his Twitter feed and according to him, Jim could do nothing write. He did not know how to play games, how to look at them properly, how to analyse them, how to review games, how to report news (to be fair, I think this is true). Jim's immoral, rude, disgusting. In his final days, he even went for the weight remark. And yet, he contested that he did not hate Jim and may have grown to like him if they had ever met in person.

Micah was a proud man; very proud; and as you can see, excessively so. He claimed to not hold a grudge against anyone, and yet ceaselessly reported on Jim; I asked what he thought of the Mario Kart 7 review and he, like the rest of the idiots, thought there was a problem. He claimed that facets of a game were objective and inarguable, yet called Deadly Premonition a game with a bad story, which makes it clear he didn't play through the whole thing before judging it, something he hates. This indie reporter asked us not to be surprised when he "called us out" for certain things he deemed wrong.

There was something about his passion that became alluring to me over time, as well as his pure difference to everyone else out there, which makes him similar to Jim. He certainly held himself on a pedestal, and I get the feeling he had some contempt for a few of his fellow writers. One of the names is absent in the final farewell, though this may just be due to forgetfulness, which sadly isn't unwarranted; Shaun Kromwell is not very prolific as a writer, and he's a brony.

As for Micah's writings and opinions himself...

He professes that he tries to write completely objective reviews, and puts out indisputable scores, yet he awarded Dragon Age 2 his number 3 spot on his GOTY list and wrote what I consider to be a very skewed review on MW3. Whether or not his logic has basis in reality, I think we all agree that Dragon Age 2 was not wholly received very well. Critics and regular gamers alike gave it mixed reviews. It doesn't matter who was right. The point is that with something this inunanimous (is this a real word?), claiming to have the final word is downright insulting. People scorned his review for obvious reasons, and he didn't take all of it lying down.

As for Modern Warfare 3, I think if you read the review, you might have the same thoughts I did, that this seems like more of a way to stir up attention. He stated later that if he was being completely personal, the game would have received a 2. If we're playing by his "objective guidelines" book, a 2 would implying completely broken mechanics and no fun at all. And I realise he didn't actually give it a 2, and had no intention, but it still seems a bit sensationalist if you ask me. I almost felt like he was judging the community and wanted to get back at them.

Ah, yes. His major design philosophy to his work. I made a short remark about this in one of my comments on another community blog about objectivity, but I basically said there that player experiences and expectations are too different for anyone to claim to have all the answers. Trying to write for an audience wider than yourself is a noble goal, but you cannot possibly reach everyone. It's a fool's errand.

So why did he walk away from the game entirely? Did he grow disillusioned with all that was wrong with this field, much like Ben Paddon moving on about a week ago? His final tumblr post hints that there was pressure from his friend, who may indeed be Paddon asking Micah to follow in his footsteps. It also potentially hints that it was less than amicable, that talking about it would lead to some "big internet drama". But I can't really imagine this going on with anyone at Blistered Thumbs, unless Shaun did something bad enough to be left off the farewell list. But I highly doubt this. Shaun is a docile and inoffensive person.

Did he simply get pissed off enough at Sterling's antics to think that the whole field could never come back from his corruption (my hyperbolic interpretation of his thoughts, not mine)? Only two men know the answer, I think, and that's Micah and God.

Well, he's religious. I don't have much of a stance.

To wherever Micah may go, I don't think I will hear from him formally again, unless I become really invested in MMA. There was a lot of questionability regarding Micah, and heart aches for his passing. He was passionate, interesting, different, a cut above the rest. If this blog seems excessively negative towards him, know that I do like him all things considered. He tried, dammit. He cared and he tried.

How about a musical tribute to to end it?

Oh yeah, that's another thing. He claims that the Jimquisition theme song is annoying, and then puts All That Remains, Slipknot and Chimaira on his playlist. WWWWWWHHA   read

10:12 AM on 01.23.2012

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)

Straight-to-DVD tie-ins to coincide with upcoming hyped material are nothing new. Degeneration was released some time before Resi 5 to get people excited for it, and if it turned out to actually be good, all the better, eh? So how did it fare?

Set between Resi 4 and 5, the movie's first half deals with Claire Redfield and a bunch of other survivors, including refugees from biological warfare, being besieged in an airport after a T-Virus loaded aircraft plunges into the building. Trapped, she then calls upon help, which comes in the form of, alongside some militia types, Leon Kennedy.

This first half, although timid in nature, is not bad. It's zombie horror-ish enough, and no worse than some of the other zombies coming out at that time (Diary Of The Dead? What?). It gets by on fan service rather than actually being a good movie, as it's way too tame to have any tension, and the writing's as blunt as anything Anderson's movies ever put out, but at least it's inoffensive.

It's also worth mentioning the 3D animation that is the entirety of the film. It's not bad, but you can see the numbers running the machines sometimes. The lip-synching is pretty terrible, though this may be due to the English dubbing coming off an engine designed for Japanese voices. The faces emote fairly well, and it supports the action scenes well.

The second half? Distinctly different in form. The rest of it is essentially Leon, Claire and one of the militia members, Angela Miller, going around trying to find out why this and why pharmaceutical company WilPharma failed to step in and help those infected with the T-Virus. The movie at this point is very slow-paced.

I personally think it feeds enough interesting narrative points on a regular basis to not get boring, and the Resident Evil canon is interesting enough, especially considering as it has a pretty good link to Resident Evil 5, which was a big deal at the time. I presume this movie's sequel, Damnation, will have something similar when it arrives sometime this year.

I also like some of the plot points in particular. The villain is a tragic one, similar to that of William Birkin, and with characters holding similar sympathies towards him.

However, far from the first half, there's no action until the last 20 or so minutes, in which there's some light zombie-ing as well as a fight between a tyrant and Leon, which looks like something that could have been in Resident Evil 4. Maybe in the upcoming game.

The action is pulled off pretty well, although it clearly signifies that the old, plodding ways of the older games were way gone in favour of the overblown antics of 4 and 5, which is a lot of why 5 didn't do so well over the years, critically speaking.

So yeah, fair to say that if you take this film too seriously, you might not enjoy it. And yet, if you don't, the deliberate storytelling might have you feeling bored long before the end of the film. I don't know. I like it, but I understand the hate all too well, and I have a feeling that this film will not hold up well at all come Resi's sooner-than-you-think 20th anniversary.

Still, credit where it's due; they got the voice actor of Leon from Resident Evil 4 back, despite the fact he was absolutely terrible and everyone knew it.


And with that, we are done with Resident Evil, until the next few films are released of course. Thank God!   read

12:03 PM on 01.21.2012

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Look at this thing: fucking Matrix!

So after two movies away from the director's chair, Paul hopped back in for Afterlife. Maybe he was tired of the movies he was writing getting critically panned and figured maybe he could recapture his glory days of at least making watchable films.

SPOILERS: He doesn't.

Afterlife kind of kicks off where Extinction left off, with Alice's clone army raiding an Umbrella facility and kicking all kinds of ass, before Wesker strips the original of her superpowers in one feel swoop (way to play it up then take it all away with little payoff, by the way) and Alice, along with an amnesiac Claire Redfield, meets up with a bunch of nobodies, as well as Chris Redfield (don't worry, it doesn't go much places) in a police station in a non-arid city overrun by the walking dead. The rest of the film is an effort to escape as well as to ultimately find Wesker and the rest of those captured by Umbrella.

Hang on, there are a lot of zombies, but what happened to the T-Virus drying up all the water? Did the writers realise how stupid that was and rewrite that? No, that would be giving them too much credit. For you see, Afterlife comes complete with the dull dialogue and narrative you've come to expect since the beginning of the franchise.

Again, why should you care about these people who are barely in it long enough to be rote roles? Some of the ways these people die quickly are stunning, like the movie wanted to hand the actors their paychecks and shove them out the door. The worst one is one Asian bloke getting smashed by the executioner Majini as made famous by Resident Evil 5's first level. Of course they would highlight that, because at this point, the Resi movies are only for plebs. God, I feel dirty saying that.

The action? There hasn't been this much gratuitous slow-motion since the Matrix trilogy, with the fight with the executioner in the shower room being embarassing indeed. Everywhere else, some fake special effects are used in place of practical ones to really hammer home the feeling that there was no craft to this movie, just a lust for money.

There isn't a lot to say about this movie, because there's almost nothing to it. The first half hour is so slow compared to the rest of the film, but that just makes it boring. The film does not improve by that point, however. It merely changes the way in which it sucks.

Really, the only noteworthy things to mention are the incredibly deliberate cliffhanger and a "homage" to the stupid bit of the first film, in which Alice kicks a giant shard of glass (which does not shatter when hit) into a dog's gaping jaw. I wasn't really mad at that point, just tired of the bullshit.

That sums up this movie well; I've expended all my energy hating this franchise in its earlier entries that I have few feelings regarding this one beside a desire to simply see it disappear forever.

And stop using A Perfect Circle so much: Keenan doesn't even want that much attention, let alone deserve it.

1/5   read

11:41 AM on 01.19.2012

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

"You bitch. You dropped my baby", said the bum-like woman as she held a shotgun to another woman completely devoid of emotion.

Must I go on?

Some time after the events of Apocalypse, the T-Virus has spread across the globe, turning much of the US (or the world...I forgot) into an arid wasteland where everyone dresses in rags and scavenges in order to survive. And there's a woman who uses shotguns on a motorbike again. And she has a dog by the name of K-Mart following her around. And now whoever directed Mad Max has a viable ligitation case.

Much of the movie is Alice, Carlos from the last movie, someone named after Claire Redfield but actually has none of her character traits, the aforementioned K-Mart who isn't actually a dog in the physical sense and some other no-names wandering around a movie set in Nevada, presumably, first merely trying to survive and then trying to escape from Umbrella who is tracking Alice.

I gotta admit, a lot of the actual sequence of events in this movie has since slipped from my mind, but let's just say that the utter retardation factor of the last movie has been ramped up yet again. Alice's superpowers, more than just enhanced speed and strength, turn out to be psychic powers allowing her to bend fire or something. Really, what were the writers thinking when they put that in there?

Y'know, forget about the links to the game, tenous and near non-existent as they are at this point, this is just a bad movie. The story starts ripping off Mad Max and then rehashes the first movie all over again, but even worse than that was pulled off.

The characters are completely forgettable, the action scenes are too fake and drag on for too long, the set design is ugly and repetitive...I don't see how people can really like this movie on any level, even on a slocky tongue-in-cheek one. This just stinks of shoddy workmanship across the board.

One of the last few scenes of the movie is Carlos sacrificing himself, blowing up a truck to decimate a large number of zombies so the rest can escape. His final action is lighting a cigarette as zombies crawl into the truck. It's not that cool, it's just corny and lame and stupid and gay (the derogatory one, not the sexual tendencies one, and I only say that because this is a hot topic at the moment kind of).

The climax of the film involves a clone of Alice killing a poorly designed tyrant with lasers, exactly like one of the deaths in the first film, before Alice calls up Wesker and the rest of Umbrella's directors telling them that she's coming with an army of clones to kill them.

I mean, this plot is full of holes and just general silliness that I can scarcely believe this really exists. Again, I think even Uwe Boll would be embarrased. At least he tries to shoehorn direct references to the games in. It never works, and you can tell he's a poser because of it, but Goddamn, he tries! This is almost as bad as Transformers 2.

I do not say that lightly.

I realise this was a poor review, but this movie frustrates me whenever I think about it. Crappy concept, crappy execution...

And we've still got one more sequel to go, and eventually one after that!

0.5/5   read

9:21 AM on 01.18.2012

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

The first film had a very mixed reception, but seemed to draw enough action, horror and game fans to being in enough money and demand to start work on the sequel straight away. Paul Anderson, however, retired to the writer's chair and left direction to Alexander Witt, a prominent director of photography in the film industry. That should already give you an idea on what this film is going to focus on.

Starting right from where the last film left off, Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up within an Umbrella lab, discovers that the T-Virus had bonded with her and given her special powers, and stumbles outside into a ruined Raccoon City. She then takes a shotgun and cop car and moseys forth to kick some ass.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, the city has been cordoned off by Umbrella and soon outright decides to seal its inhabitants inside and the hordes of zombies with them. However, soon enough, one of the executives cuts a deal with Alice, Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), some STARS members and external mercenaries in which he promises them safe passage out of the city in exchange for finding his daughter.

In essence, Apocalypse is a weird retcon of Resi 3, for the first half of the film anyway. It involves pretty much all of the characters within that game, including the mercenaries and even Nemesis. Yes, one of the plot points at the end of the last film was that one of Alice's friends was turned into what we know as Nemesis. At this point, most of us were thinking, "could've been cool. Nice way to introduce dubious moral choices, "do I want to kill what was once my friend" and all that". Yeah...more on that soon.

Most of the actual design is faithful and fine, with about as much gore as was in the last film. The zombies still look good, as do the lickers, and despite taking away his eyes, Nemesis is even pulled off pretty well.

There's little actually spectacular about the film, including the acting, which is as dull as ever, and the pacing's a bit wonky, but it's not terrible or WTF-y much. That is, except for one point in the first half and the entirety of the second.

You could pinpoint the precise moment at which you lose all hope in this series, and that's when Alice burst through a church window with dual shotguns on a motorbike. It's not even that cool in a stupidly hilarious kind of way. It's just insulting. But it gets worse.

I personally threw up my hands in disgust when Alice and Nemesis are challenged to a one-on-one fistfight. Why? This is completely antithetical to the standards of the game or the standards of...well, fucking anything. Nemesis only ever had orders to eliminate all members of STARS; he wouldn't up and do an organised karate match with anyone.

And then, he "remembers" which side he works for and start blowing up the bad guys before getting killed himself, which is meant to be emotional, but the taste of bullshit still in my mouth just eliminated any chance of that.

So our band of heroes, plus the daughter, get away in a helicopter which unfortunately inspires a scene from Modern Warfare 1, and Alice is subsequently captured from the wreckage, waking up weeks later on the set of Alien: Resurrection. It's clear that she's been experimented on once more, as she's lost her memory.

But haha, that was a ruse and she fights her way out of the building to be picked up by the remaining sidekicks. It's then implied that Alice is either a robot or under some form of technological mind control and the film ends on a cliffhanger that will awkwardly transition into nothing in the next film.

Got all that? I don't think my jaw could have been open any wider than in that sequence of events. No tie-in has been this disgraceful. I think even Uwe Boll would have been appaled at the amount of shoehorned mystique in the latter half of the film. It's tolerable up to that point, but utterly garbage past that?

None of those are even the true low points of this franchise. Buckle up, kids. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

1.5/5   read

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