Plaid Games: Watch_Dogs

Watch_Dogs is a good game,

but hold your horses, don’t let that be the one thing you take from this. While well-designed and at times a pleasure to play, Watch_Dogs is riddled with enough problems to warn of a lot of players.

So pretty, unlike most of the actual game, which is passable for the level of technology involved.

So pretty, unlike most of the actual game, which is passable for the level of technology involved.

So, I read that Watch_Dogs is Ubisoft’s quickest selling games or something like that, and I feel that’s down to a lot of misinformation. What I got from most of the teasers and game-play videos was that we’d be up against a crooked system in Watch_Dogs, and take it down with a clever use of hacking (and guns, since it’s basically a GTA-clone) and wit. Well, the system is barely touched upon, and the hacking is boring and easy. At least the gun-play is decent. Let’s get more into it, then.

The story of Watch_Dogs is an abomination. Or in more colourful terms, it’s wank. It revolves around Aiden Pearce, and the whirlwind of disaster he brings everywhere he goes. The game would have you think it’s a conspiracy against him, but really he brought nearly all of it on himself. Oh well. Aidan and his mentor, Damien Brenks, perform  a digital heist on the Merlaut hotel, presumably for money and information, with Aiden as point man and Damien doing the actual hacking. Damien notices that there’s another hacker on the system and tries to find out who, despite Aiden telling him not to. Aiden runs out, but him and Damien are already noticed by the system. Aiden and Damien are found and hurt by the people they tried to take stuff from. Damien gets away with a bum leg, but Aiden loses his niece, who is caught in the crossfire (CROSS-FIRE!) when fixers (supposedly hired guns, but they seem a bit too organised in general to be just that) come for him. Aiden can’t let go, and wants to get the people responsible. Then he sets off a chain of events that’ll leave everyone around him worse than before, and himself a shallow, broken sociopath. Yaaaaay. More on the spoilery bits later.

The game-play is probably the one thing that escapes the game with its dignity intact. It’s very good, but that’s expected from big budget games, isn’t it? No bonus points here. The car driving mechanics and physics are enjoyable enough to have you taking detours and joyrides. There’s a lot of different vehicles to choose from, including motorcycles and boats. The cars are on the slippy-slide side of the scale though, which can make for some frustrating high-speed driving. The gun-play and general combat is excellent. The cover mechanics, which are in just about every game ever today, are well done and the shooting feels great, if not too easy. Some enemies can tank a frustrating amount of damage, especially enervating when they run up to your face despite you offering your complaints with a semi-automatic shotgun to the face. Stealth works well usually, with the AI sometimes a it too dumb to be realistic, allowing you to use a combination of nifty hacking and clever movement to take down multiple enemies without being detected.

There are several activities you can give a go at. Some of the more mini-game ones I’ve heard are pretty bad and a waste of development time, which I have to agree with, considering how little time must’ve been spent on the story and characters. Others like Fixer Contracts, are pretty decent, giving you a break from the story and just driving around or whatever the objective is. Then there are Gang Hideouts, which are pretty stupid missions where you have a gang lieutenant to take down and then wipe out the rest of the gang for no reason other than why the fuck not. Then Criminal Convoys, where you’re supposed to take down convoys of criminals (no surprise, right?), but it’s ridiculously hard until you get extremely overpowered weapons later in the game. Finally, one of the the best parts of the game is being a vigilante, as ctOS (central Operating System, which runs most of the city’s electronic stuff) detects crime – which allows you to track down potential crimes. You then scout the location and try to intervene when shit goes down. Sometimes it’s just simple muggings and then at times it’s straight up murder you have to stop. It was really fun at the beginning, but as the story escalated, it felt a bit bland and uninteresting. Good effort, though.

The game is pretty. Not much else to say. It’s funny that it’s been billed as a next-gen game, but looks a couple years old, in all honesty. The characters themselves look pretty decent but then again, that’s to be expected.

Sound direction is decent enough. The radio has a good selection of tunes to listen to (yay for some Rise Against). The voice acting is generally good, but some characters are miscast, especially Aiden, who feels like he’s hardcore channelling his inner Bale Batman (“Swear to meeeeee!”). Guns and vehicle sound effects sound rather decent, I’ll say and be done on the subject.

The characters are fucking atrocious. Aiden is terrible, and he’s the lead character, dammit. He has virtually no personality and is hell-bent on fixing something he clearly brought on himself for being a greedy son of a bitch. He’s got one reaction to anything, and it’s silent rage. He almost never tells the player his rationale, instead he just sits on the rail-road towards the next checkpoint. His family have basically no characters themselves. His sister seems like a well enough person, but seems a bit too easy on accepting shit coming her way. Her and Aiden have a hilariously bad conversation, breaking out sibling banter when she’s allowed a minute on the phone by her kidnapper. Oh yeah, her kidnapper, Damien. Remember him? Yeah, that’s the guy who was Aiden’s partner. He’s an even worse sociopath than Aiden and seems to have lost track of any semblance of morality. He kidnaps the sister to have Aiden dance to his flute, and does some of the most unexplained shit I’ve ever seen in a game. Oh, and he’s a mega haxx0r, brah. Then there’s Clara, the tattoo artist slash bad-ass hacker (because nobody in this game will conform to the average hacker stereotype) and love interest by virtue of being the only female character. And also T-Bone, the game’s only likeable character and goof-ball. Then there’s Jordi, who the game continually forgets is available, so don’t feel bad for forgetting about him. He’s kind of funny, but an arsehole.

It’s a good game, but nothing more. It’s not a game you’ll re-play and not one to sit glued to during the late hours. Pick it up on a sale if you really want to try it, but I don’t recommend buying Watch_Dogs, as it’s not a great load of fun compared to what’s on the market.

From now on there will be spoilers.

The story is written like some hilariously bad fan-fiction by someone who’s read some bleak sci-fi and watched a couple of episodes of Person of Interest. ctOS is hardly introduced or even discussed at all. It’s just there to be exploited by hackers. Damien kidnapping the sister (I don’t remember her name as she’s totally forgettable) is so predictable it make me face-palm hard enough to get a concussion. It’s made even more weird and dumb by him being all crazy and definitely intending to kill her and Aiden because he’s just such a bad fellah. Luckily Aiden is a bigger bad-ass and kills everyone else first. Woo. Lucky Quinn being the man behind the conspiracy is so dumb and uninspired it makes my head hurt. Why are there always really old men that are antagonists in techno thrillers, especially when set in present time. How the fuck do they even have the knowledge to do stuff related to technology? My grandmother can use Facebook, but struggles with anything more (I love her for trying, though). Then that gang-banger “Iraq” having blackmail on just about anyone in the city is so ridiculous. How does this hood-rat have so much computing talent and resources enough to do that? And the fact that they expect us to buy that he uses that to strong-arm the police of a huge city like Chicago away from his turf is laughable. Can’t they just use the ctOS to fuck him over? Nope, because hackers are cool, that’s why.Seriously. There’s another hacker called “Defalt” (lol, really?) that’s slightly foreshadowed and then owns your base up the arse. He’s then killed off a mission later, so that’s that. Epic villains in this game, Ubisoft. Let’s not forget the scene when Damien takes control of the entire ctOS and uses it against Aiden. He really hacks the entire city and brings it under his control. Of course, there’s a back-door where Aiden plants a virus, and then goes to find and kill Damien, in the most anti-climactic ending to a game in a long time.

The game should have been about Aiden and a small group of hackers fighting against the brutal ctOS and the corrupt officials hammering down on the common man. Not the most original, but effective and surely better than the mess that is Watch_Dogs. Oh yeah, you remember DeadSec? The hacking group you though would have a big part in the game. They’re hardly around, and in the end, Aiden just shrugs them off. Apparently he figures better at guarding the city. Cunt.

Don’t buy Watch_Dogs.

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Film-night: Nothing Left to Fear

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

Yeah, we get it, the title’s supposed to be ironic. Anyway, I saw the trailer on Youtube and thought it didn’t look too bad. But is this film… anything to fear (har har)?

Nothing Left to Fear is a bad film.

NLtF is about a Pastor named Dan Bramford and his family, who move to a town called Stull (there are some urban legends out there on which the film’s based, in case anyone’s interested). The people of the town are helpful and pleasant, although rather creepy – sometimes even in the view of the main characters (like suddenly just staring right at them from a distance, blank-faced). The parents are happy and excited, but the kids (three of them, two sisters and a boy) are less than enthused, given that they are kids and just uprooted for their father’s work.

Like in most horror films, religion is one of the most creepy things there are. Clancy Brown is good as Pastor Kingsman, the reverend Dan is supposed to replace. To audiences, he’s obviously an antagonist, given his hard face and overly warm, welcoming way. The eldest sister gets the hots for the local handsome dude, and both actors are absolutely terrible, making their scenes super boring.

Oh hey, it's everyone's new favourite horror-gimmick: Black-mouth.

Oh hey, it’s everyone’s new favourite horror-gimmick: Black-mouth.

Dan seems like a stable guy, grounded and guided by his faith. Wendy, his wife, seems pretty strict but pretty nice in general. The daughters are flirty/outgoing and sarcastic, respectively both idiotic flirtatious teenagers. The boy seems interested in science and has an ant farm. Yay. No one in this film has any character.

Half an hour into the film and I’m getting worried. While the townspeople are creepy and all, the plot isn’t going anywhere for the first third of the film. Not even any foreshadowing. Like, this is pretty bad. The performances aren’t much to write home about either, except Kingsman, of course. To the surprise of nobody, Kingsman is weird as fuck and seems to be preparing something sinister. The slut elder sister starts having nightmares (admittedly, these are pretty fucking creepy), and apparently the younger is “it”. Time for some more scenes with the worst two actors in the film. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. I’m ready for people to start dropping, already.

STalest duo I have ever seen on film. Zero charisma and acting chops.

Stalest duo I have ever seen on film. Zero charisma and acting chops.

Half-way in, still nothing going on. Sorry, this is kind of a spoiler but this is ridiculous. This isn’t horror, it’s an absurd teen drama. Honestly, you could cut off the first 45 minutes and not miss anything.

The editing is pretty shit at times. There are some mistakes that somehow make it on film, like a dance scene that looks more like a rehearsal; and a scene where the boy’s prop fails on camera, he reacts to it, and then continues his action anyway. Hurrrrrrrr.

The film does go from 5 to 100 in escalating the horror, and the horror is actually pretty decent to start off. Five minutes later it goes back to being stupid. The enemy- or whatever you want to call the bad thing, actually uses a fucking sleeper hold to subdue one of its victims, instead of, you know, dark magic or something disgusting. We’re treated to a terrible jump-scare as a close up of a victim is supposed to be scary, but the make-up is fucking terrible, so they add a terrible sound effect. The way to defeat the evil is stupid and the gimmick itself is fucking moronic.

To nobody's surprise, there's a rip-off of the famous walk made famous way back in The Exorcist. However, just crawling forward, or "Reverse Excorcist-walk," as I like to call it, is terrible.

To nobody’s surprise, there’s a rip-off of the famous walk made famous way back in The Exorcist. However, just crawling forward, or “Reverse Excorcist-walk,” as I like to call it, is terrible.

This is a bad film and the makers should feel bad. The nightmare scenes were pretty decent, but everything else was garbage. Do not see this absolute joke of a horror film. If anything, the child actor was pretty decent.

Wanna hear the twist? Sure, here it is. The religious people we’re to find pretty creepy are actually the good guys, apparently. This is retarded. They are the ones to, by opening a gate to what we have to assume is hell, corrupt the youngest daughter (the one that could act, sadly, so we’re stuck with the dumb blonde – guess who lives in the end) by having her be possessed by – once again, we have to guess – who we assume is Satan. She kills the mother and father (Anne Heche and James Tupper earning possibly the easiest pay-checks of their lives as they act a couple scenes and have tame death scenes) and the boy of the family (who, let it be known, is left behind not just once, but twice, by our stellar hero-heroine couple who still are pathetic actors) and chases the sluttier (not by much, since both girls need to find boys to survive – this is a horror film after all, gotta reinforce the most tired stereotype of all), elder sister to a church, where she’s basically de-possessed and dies after her sister gets her wrist slit and drops blood into the spawning pool. The eldest sister is the lone survivor of the family and goes on to remain in the town and lure in more families, as is hinted at by the ending of the film. This is so stupid. We’re never shown why the townsfolk are pushed to doing all of this, and we’re not even sure if they aren’t the bad guys. I mean, they are the one’s that summon the fucking evil. Why would sacrificing nearly an entire family satisfy the devil? It’s not just one, either. Kingsman has scars from cutting himself all over his arms. I get it, by the way, Kingsman = King’s (God’s) Man. Way to phone that in. Is he lazy and just wants to be fed, like a lazy noble gets his grapes?

Fuck this film. The title isn’t even remotely symbolic. Obviously the town will always live in fear of the devil rising up. Why was it even made?

Film-night: And Soon The Darkness

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

Yay, I watched a film.

Sadly,

And Soon The Darkness is a bad film.

Well, there you have it. It’s such a shame, too, because the premise looks great: “When two American girls on a bike trip in a remote part of Argentina split up and one of them goes missing, the other must find her before her worst fears are realized.” (thanks, IMDB – coincidentally I nabbed all the images from there as well) It’s a simple, but effective premise, leaving lots of room for twists and great acting. Sadly, this film has almost none of each.

So, you might just assume that this is a b-flick with a list of b-actors. Not true. The film’s three leads are bona fide great actors. Let’s see who they are, then.

Amber Heard, who is surely most remembered for action (Drive Angry) or comedy (Pinapple Express), is the one you’d expect to throw out a hammy performance making us cringe. Not the case. She’s the best out of the three main draws in the film. She also had the best material to work with, so she had a bit of a handicap. She plays Stephanie, the more sensible of the female lead duo, and is the one who is sent on a depressing chase after her friend is kidnapped. She also seems to have a bad track-record with guys, and is thinking about getting back with her ex, who we’re told isn’t a great dude.

Odette Annable (at that time, known as Odette Yustman – fun fact, she was in Kindergarten Cop with Arnie), who you might know from her stint on House, plays the party-girl of the duo, Ellie. She’s hot and she knows it, flirting around with the lads. After a small fight with her friend, she ends up being kidnapped, and largely disappears from the film. Pretty bland character that we’re not really told to root for. There’s almost a relief when she ends up being kidnapped, because her friend is by far the better person.

Karl Urban plays a guy. Really though, his name is Michael, and he’s a brooding, mysterious guy who keeps showing up around the girls. It saddens me to see Urban get such a shitty role, because he’s a fantastic actor. He brings a cool and actually rather creep vibe to Michael, but not enough to make him truly remember-able in the long run.

Special mention goes to César Vianco, who puts in a great performance as corrupt and incredibly creepy policeman Calvo.

To the story, then. Two girls are on a trip in Argentina with some sort of cycling expedition. They break away from the group, to spend the night in some seedy area and go dancing, with plans to join the bus the day after. Which they do, and then they go on in peace. Ha, no. They of course almost get in trouble as Ellie picks up a dude, who turns out to be pretty aggressive in wanting to bed her. After Michael pops out to intervene, the man is chased off. The not-so-dynamic duo end up missing the bus and decide to see the sights while they’re there. They go to a waterfall, and end up having a little fight when Steph wants to go see the caves. While they are separated, the aggressive lad from last night shows up and kidnaps Ellie. Stephanie shows back up and can’t find her friend. Michael shows up from nowhere, and creeps her out. He claims to be a nice guy and wants to help her. We later find out that Michael is looking for his friend (or girlfriend, I really can’t remember), who also went missing. Apparently, girls have been kidnapped here for some time and then smuggled off to Paraguay. Ellie would apparently fetch a good price, as she is American. And so the two go off on a hunt for Ellie, in the hopes they aren’t too late.

The thing that makes the film bad is that it’s so unbearably predictable. Everything happens as you suspected it would. Spoilers are below. I also watched The Hunter, which is a much better film. I’ll try to write some words about it later. If you like the concept of And Soon The Darkness, but didn’t like the film or were persuaded to avoid it – check out Eden Lake. Very similar film, but done correctly. I’ll warn you, though: It’s very disturbing.

To no-one’s surprise, they take help from a cop that turns out to be a corrupt arse-hole, and are forced to do the looking on their own. Stephanie stumble onto the right place to find Ellie, but is noticed by the guy who kidnapped her friend. A chase starts, but ends abruptly as the man shoves Ellie onto a rock, and she dies. Well, that happened rather sudden, indeed. Stephanie goes blind with anger and attacks the man, when Calvo and Michael shows up (Michael had earlier been caught by Calvo when looking around – both knows the other guy knows about them and it’s a nice little cat-and-mouse game between them, which is the only intriguing part of the film. In a surprising moment, Michael gives in to the lure of being able to see the girl he’s looking for and ends up being shot and killed by Calvo. Damn, you don’t see that happen often in films. At this stage, it’s apparent that it’s a damned bleak film. Calvo and the guy captures Stephanie and plans to sell her. Things go awry and in the end, Stephanie ends up killing Calvo. I was kind of disappointed. It was well on it’s way to being another Eden Lake (if you haven’t yet, look it up – endlessly disturbing film) but then copped out a generic ending with Steph getting away clean.

What the fuck, though. Nothing ends well, no lessons are learned and Stephanie just goes away and probably goes into a depression. No story was really told all the way through. To best describe ASTD would be to say it’s a series of unfortunate events. It’s not a good film in any way and should not be viewed by anyone, other than to see the brilliant acting of César Vianco as the creepiest fucking policeman EVER.

I played a game: RAGE

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

RAGE is a bad game

So, chances are you’ve heard of RAGE. The computer-devouring creation of id, creators of DOOM, Quake and other famous franchises. RAGE was hyped to the moon and back. Did it live up to the hype? As the above statement points out, no it really didn’t. Not by a long shot.

What first attracted me to RAGE was that it looked like a vast world with tons of different factions that responded differently to you (like Fallout: New Vegas’ rep system, but actually working well). The post-apocalyptic world looked great and I was expecting a cool story. I was incredibly disappointed.

One of the reasons I decided to write about RAGE just now, is that it was absolutely broken at launch. Not just for me. Thousands of players took to the web in search of ways to fix the game they’d shelled out hard-earned dollars, pounds, etcetera for. id slammed the Graphic card developers for not releasing the correct build and there was probably shit flung the other way as well. It baffled me that how in this age a game was completely unplayable at start. The only thing more retarded is the “internet-oceans” events, where games are released at different times in the world. Digital downloads. Being released at different dates. Because you live in another country. Fuck off.

Any way. Shit was fixed and I got to play it, finally. This was about a year ago. It played the first two hours (the intro clip is fantastically animated and executed, as I got to see like 50 times as I was trying to fix the game crashing right after) and just took a rest. Then I didn’t come back to it. Why? Because it’s not very fun. I don’t have a problem with playing it. I slog along and kill dudes left and right, but after you leave the first town, the game just becomes unbearably slow and formulaic. Maybe it’s with a gleam in their eye, but id created a shitty set-up for doing things. If you’ve played RPGs, then you recognise this:

  1. The player needs an object or needs to go to a location.
  2. The player is directed to an NPC for help.
  3. The NPC has some reason why they can’t help at that very moment, and sends the player on something that’s called a Fetch-quest (This is when you go to pick up an object and bring it to the NPC. It’s usually looked at with anger because they’re usually found in all RPGs and are continuous, in that there are several tiers to them, as in first you pick up 10 rabbits for the chef; then you pick up 25; then you pick up 50; and you get the rest.) leading to them finally being able to help you.

This is the entire fucking game. I shit you not. You go to Person A, who can help you with Predicament B, but first you need Objective C. It’s Mission by numbers, in the worst possible way.

If I could relate RAGE to any other thing in the world, it’d be this: Playing RAGE is like planning and then doing your shopping. It’s incredibly boring, but you do it, so you can go on.

The story is shit. An asteroid hit Earth, and apparently we had Ark Project running, so that we could repopulate later. Well, obviously that went to shit, as you wake up X years later and all the other dudes are either dead in their pods or dead in the huge wasteland that Earth has become. You’re saved by a random dude who brings you to his random town, where you help out. It is so unbelievably stale and formulaic you feel your brain trying to squeeze through your ears. The voice acting saves it from being downright hell. Then you move on to help other places do stuff. Because herp, that’s why. People trust you for being a silent dude with armour who is good with shooting things. Sounds legit. The set-up for RAGE is stupid and id should feel bad.

It doesn’t get better. It just continues the same way.

So, what positives are there to RAGE? Well, it’s pretty. Let’s face it: RAGE is just a tech-demo. id fucked us over real bad and marketed their graphics sandbox as an actual game. I mean, it is a game, but it’s a horribly bland one. It’s even more standard-FPS than fucking Call of Duty. It’s a rail-roaded shooting-gallery pathetic excuse of a game, and I now feel silly for even paying money for it. I’ll try to finish it, but at this point I don’t give a fuck.

Save your money, and skip buying RAGE. If you want a shooter, try Bulletstorm (really fun shooting gallery, play it with a friend) or Spec Ops: The Line (best military shooter of all time).

(I’ve been watching Kurozuka, so I’ll write about that soon)