February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
Techland’s FPS/RPG survival horror game Dead Island is the open world, almost, MMO version of Left 4 Dead. However, there are major differences that make it an experience worth trying out.
First, this game is, oddly since it is FP viewpoint, primarily a melee combat game. Sure one of the avatars is a gun specialist, which I played through as, but guns are really absent until almost half way through the game and then ammo is very scarce until the last couple of levels. Also, guns are almost exclusively used by me to kill human enemies as they did not have the stopping power to put down the zombies until you can manage to modify the guns.
Which brings me to another difference from L4D: Dead Island has many, many weapons and weapon mod blueprints to find, do side-quests for, and ultimately scrounge parts to craft.
I also really liked the nice feature of driving vehicles to run over zombies. It is a really nice touch: GTA Zombie edition. The vehicles even have places to carry other players in co-op or to haul items around. I even loaded up a truck with propane canisters to bomb an especially hard to deal with zombie horde.
Even the mutated zombies, while drawing lineage from L4D, are freshly interesting. There is the obligatory exploding zombie and spitter (Though Dead Island’s Floater is way more gross/cool than acid reflux zombie,) Rams (straight jacketed giants, that will run you down and stomp you.) There are regular “walkers,” fast moving “infected,” heavy hitting and extremely hard to kill Thugs, and then Undead Bruce Lees called “Butchers” who have martial-arts like skills, will duck your attacks and tear you a new one. I dealt with them largely by running them down with vehicles: they were that tough.
The story is pretty much what you’d expect from the genre. Survivors try to evacuate and help other survivors while being guided by a mysterious puppet master issuing objectives for the player. The quests and side quests kept me engaged and I especially liked/found useful the Russian Drunk-Ass Girl who will buy champagne off you with diamonds, CHA-CHING. I made the trip out to her bungalow many a time.
Another feature I toggled to play with was the “keep zombies the same level as you” option, which I think was designed to make the game harder. I thought the game was just right with it selected. Even returning to areas you explored were kept fresh with harder zombies.
The world building was well done with only the jungle areas feeling a bit contrived and restricted. The slums were terrifying, maze-like warrens that used all three dimensions and rooftops were islands in a zombie ocean. Too bad there were humans up there that didn’t like me on their turf. It ended badly for them. Also, those goddamn Infected can climb, so I had to listen for their tell-tale wails.
My gripes about the game include:
- Dialog that begins the game is written as if you are alone, shifts to dialog written as if I am there with all the other toons.
- Characters not being played still show up in the cut scenes, but aren’t bots during gameplay at least like L4D.
- The game does a bad job of tying up the loose ends of the survivors you did so much to help.
- You trade one bad-guy for another as your puppet master with no choice/input.
- Weirdness in the loot drops on containers. I.E. sometimes the game gets “stuck” and you get the same item over and over from containers, and I am not talking about computer case drops, which are consistent.
Overall, I appreciated the game and will probably play through as another toon, the DLC, and try out co-op, too. It is rumored that a sequel or possible MMO version is in the works with the domain “Dead World” being reserved by the developers. I will be on the watch for this as a Zombie Survival MMO will be good times.
Reviewed by Josh Peery
February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
The way the world perceives the USA is largely through the lense of our media, especially film. I interact with a lot of people from all over the world and I always find it interesting when they comment on something in the US as “just like the movies.”
Act of Valor I think works as equal parts a filmic memorial monument to fallen warriors “down range” and message to the world that this is how the SEALs throw down. The first part is easily evident from the listing of every fallen Naval Special Warfare soldier since 9/11. The second part I deduced from the perfect balance of near and present danger foes of the US depicted by the film:
- Russian Arms Dealers / Smugglers
- Islamic Extremists spanning Chechnya to the Phillipines
- Drug Cartels and FARC guerrillas
- Human Smugglers tunneling under the US-Mexico border
The film depicts active duty SEALs engaging these groups with lethal precision and contingency, ultimately willing to die to complete the missions and save lives of not only their countrymen, but of their teammates.
This use of real SEALs is partially successful. Using non-actors is always a gamble and challenge for even the best of directors. Here I will not blame the SEALs for stilted line delivery, but the director and writers for not working with them better. It has been reported that the mission operations were scripted by the SEALs themselves. This paid dividends in the action sequences and where using the SEALs was successful. One could argue having advisors during production would be similar, but having the SEALs vested more completely in the production insured the realism.
My suggestion for fixing the film: Candid filming of the SEALs talking about the auxiliary issues could have come across less stilted and hard to watch. Give them the topic and roll film while they talk about it and edit after the fact. Could have been much better, I feel. Also, I think the directors McCoy and Waugh should have watched more Peter Watkins films to get the gritty realism via pseudo documentary.
One other bone I have to pick with the dialog was the heavy use of military acronyms and jargon. I am the above average student/aficionado of military science and if I was scratching my head, I can imagine others might be totally lost. Sure, it lent a realism to the film, but they used high-tech looking map overlays and infographics, why not have a “pop-up” defining some of these terms, it would not be any more jarring than the other graphics, in my opinion.
One other thing about mixing actors and non-actors: I think you go all one way or the other. That way there is less chance that the cache of the actors will impact the film. For example, when Emilio Rivera appears on screen as a human smuggler, Mr. Platt leaned over and whispered “Where’s the Sons?” (of Anarchy) in which Rivera plays Mayan MC gang leader Marcus Alvarez. Also, Rosalyn Sanchez gets underused other than as a punching bag.
Lastly, I would like to add this film to my Film and Video Games class syllabus for the week I would talk about the influence of Video Games on Film. As I stated before, the film used a good number of graphic overlays; these are very similar to many video game mission and way-finding interfaces. Second, the heavy use of First Person Shooter Camera (copyright) and over the shoulder camera of the SEALs in action is a video game staple.
In conclusion, I mainly find this film interesting as a geopolitical artifact than for its entertainment value or any deeper meaning. It is a watch once kind of film and is worth the time.
Reviewed by Josh Peery.
February 25, 2012 § 1 Comment
Tomorrow’s the night when Hollywood hands out lots of golden statuettes for accomplishments in cinema. Today’s the day when I make my picks about who’s going to win.
Disclaimer: I haven’t seen all of these. In fact, it’s safe to say I haven’t seen most of them. So we’ll just see how my gut feeling works out for those, won’t we?
February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
Look, I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the SEAL teams who risk – and sometimes sacrifice – life and limb to protect our country. But just as I wouldn’t really want to rely on Leonardo DiCaprio or Johnny Depp to deal with a real terrorist threat, I think it’s a mistake to put the dramatic success of a patriotic action flick in the hands of people who aren’t actors.
The one person in the movie who really can act, Nestor Serrano, is dead within the first 15 minutes. So we’re left to ride out the rest of the movie with the rookies.
It’s especially difficult to pull this off, I think, when the stars of the movie are given rather horrible clunky dialogue to work with. I’m pretty sure Kenneth Brannagh would choke on these lines too. And what little story exists to pull the movie together has no surprises and, in fact, telegraphs the final punch from the first frames.
Act of Valor is at its best when everyone shuts the hell up and gets on with the missions, which is probably when the SEAL teams are at their best too. The problem with the missions, however, is that they play out like we’re watching a video game. It’s especially obvious when the camera goes into first-person “you are there” mode.
The action sequences are impressive, but I’d expect nothing less from a creative crew that did work as stunt men in the past. So, as an extended advertisement for the U.S. Navy SEALs, this movie’s second to none. It’s a great tribute to the soldiers who put their lives on the line in the name of freedom. But it’s rather slim on entertainment value.
February 21, 2012 § 3 Comments
Continuing on from last week, The Walking Dead episode Triggerfinger” builds up the stakes of the “Politics of the Apocalypse” (POTA.) Shane continues his pragmatic actions, saving Lori, yet lying to her about Rick’s whereabouts in order to get her to agree to go back to safety. Meanwhile, Rick saves one of the “bandits” from being Walker food, despite said bandit shooting at him seconds earlier.
It seems the group is starting to take sides in POTA as well, with Andrea backing Shane, and Lori settling into a literal and figurative marriage of convenience with Rick, believing she is in danger due to Shane’s desire for her and her unborn child. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the group breaks down in to these new “tribes” or political parties.
Dale and Hershel are pretty much anti-Shane, but Glenn and Maggie (the budding romantics) T-Dog, Daryl, and Carol and the rest of Hershel’s people are swing voters as it were.
Also, I would like to coin a new term: “Zombus Ex Machina”
Whenever the writers/directors of the show need to rachet up tension or end a set piece they bring in the Walkers, though the show’s energy is now largely focused on the personal interactions and POTA.
Also, how weird is it that Zombies are such a well known pop-culture artifact, yet no one in The Walking Dead world refers to them as such?
By Josh Peery
February 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
I know this probably makes me an awful person:
As the roadside zombies tried to chomp on Lori, I kept rooting for the hungering shamblers. And every time she managed to improvise a defense against them, I hissed in disdain. Her foolishness earned her a place on the undead dinner menu!
February 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
Growing up I didn’t always read comics books, but when I did, I read Ghost Rider. So I was kind of underwhelmed by the first film, to say the least. However, this outing of Marvel’s “Hell’s Angel” is much more interesting, action packed and actually “gets” Ghost Rider.
First and foremost, I am glad they dispensed with the love interest angle that so many comic book films, including Ghost Rider 1, think is necessary. Sure, Violante Placido’s Nadya was OK to look at, but Johnny Blaze is not that into her, calling her: “the devil’s baby mama.” Blaze does his bonding more with her son through their common problems.
Secondly, this Ghost Rider is depicted as awesome as even other Marvel heroes claim. I don’t remember the context but it is said that he is the most powerful hero on Earth (World War Hulk.) The quarry fight scene is testament to this as he takes control of a massive strip mining machine and turns it into a Hellfire Chainsaw Tank of Doom. Also, Wolverine’s healing factor doesn’t have anything on Blaze who wakes up in the hospital without a scratch after being “… blown up. With GRENADES.”
Finally, I loved the move of casting Christopher Lambert in the small role of religious sect leader and giving him a sword to behead a devil spawn. Nice pop-culture reference, guys. I also liked the eastern European and Turkish setting of this film and thought it a bit better than the usual all Marvel Heroes operate in the US mode.
Overall, the movie is what it is: a flaming-skull motorcycle rider who doles out the punishment.
But this one does it better than the first one. 3.5 stars out of 5 for flaming violence.
Reviewed by Josh Peery.