Posts Tagged ‘Thoughts’

Like many, I purchased Red Dead Redemption back in May, soon after it came out (my real priority was Alan Wake). Unlike many, I just can’t find the energy to finish it.

The problem isn’t the lush visuals, fantastic Western setting or even the wonderful exploration. The reason that I just can’t get together is because of its protagonist, John Marston.

Marston is a former outlaw, now settled down with a wife and child on a farm. However, the DAMN EVIL GOVERNMENT intrude in his life and threaten his family unless he goes out west and tracks down his former partners for them. It’s a simple enough motivation and it’s enough to convince me that Marston is a good man.

It’s soon after the opening couple of missions with the lovely Bonnie MacFarlane that things begin to go mammaries skyward, as Marston continually sides with a collection of absolute bastards in exchange for their help. Will they repay his kindness? Will they fuck. Everyone with eyes can see the plot ‘twists’ coming a mile off, making Marston a galloping retard in a rather fetching duster coat.

In order to gain access to the fort that Marston’s target Williamson is holed up in, you have to assist no less than three complete cock-ends. One is a grave robber/ corpse fucker who asks you to help him steal coffins before he’ll start aiding you. Another is a drunk Irish stereotype who attempts to GET YOU KILLED the first time you do something for him. The final dickhead is a roving conman, fleecing unsuspecting people of their monies in exchange for potions that don’t do anything for them. The best part is when he tells you to murder hundreds of pissed off customers while he makes his getaway.

What really made me want to punch Marston’s face off the planet is how he constantly moans about the fact that he doesn’t like killing, and the reason he left Williamson’s gang in the first place is because they started ‘unfairly killing people’. Yet he displays no such thoughts when asked to commit around a thousand murders in order to get inside the fort. If he just killed the conman, shot the Irish bloke in the arm after he was set up and completely ignored the grave robber, he could have been inside the fort in a couple of days. But, no, because he’s a ‘good guy’ and doesn’t kill people who don’t ‘deserve it.’

But it gets worse from there, as the story shifts to Mexico and Marston ends up working fo both the government and the revolutionaries in a civil war. This, naturally, has no consequences and the only decent part of this are the few short missions you complete with aging gunslinger Landon Ricketts, who is a fantastic character. After that’s done, however, he disappears and you end up slaughtering roughly half of Mexico.

Again proving that Marston is a massive twat, he somehow doesn’t realise that the corrupt, merciless, murderous, hateful Mexican government is going to set him up and try and kill him. It’s mind-boggling how this man has survived up until this point, given how many times he wanders into obvious traps and ambushes without thinking about it. Topping it all off is his sarcastic and condescending attitude towards anybody who he doesn’t feel lives up to his standards of proper parenting. It’s cheating to call it ‘morally grey’ because it just isn’t. It’s morally nothing – you aren’t forced to make a decision, you are told to go and slaughter and so you do, like a good little puppet, with absolutely no consequences.

It’s almost worth sitting through for the fantastic Northern landscape, with its lush forests, snow-covered vistas and truly epic bear fights (kill one and another turns up!), but you have to put up with Marston being, well, himself.

Maybe I’ll get around to finishing Red Dead Redemption one day. I’d like to play the Undead Nightmare add-on for it, but I dread to think what hypocritical bullshit Marston will wax about in that version.

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I’m a bit of a reader in my spare time (read: on lunch breaks at work) and I love zombies. Imagine my joy on walking into Waterstones a few weeks ago and seeing this looking down at me:

That is one hell of an amazing image. Zombies, chaos, a devasted London shrouded in the fog of war, a genuine sense of panic. What really sealed the deal for me is the survivors gathered on top of St Paul’s Catherdral. I’m not sure why, it just jumped out at me that it must be a great book based on that single part of the image alone.

You know the old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’? Well, I wasn’t about to fall for it that easily, so I read the blurb on the back as well. The idea seemed to be a brilliant one; a series of text messages, emails, transcripts and so on that are all written by different people, all of which interweave and tell a larger story in little ways. Based on that alone, I was sold.

The saying about judging books really needs an addendum: ‘never judge a book by its cover, or the blurb on the back. If really in doubt, scan the first few pages quickly in the bookshop, else you’ll be ripped off.’

This book is awful. Words cannot stress this enough. ‘Zombie Apocalypse!’ is single-handedly the worst piece of crap that has ever been shat across the pages of a book. I’m actually angry that trees were felled to mass-produce this godawful pile of wank.

Where to begin? Well, due to the fact that it’s written by lots of different people, there are massively inconsistent shifts in tone throughout. Ninety-nine percent of the stories here are appalling. The other one percent is usually saved by some convincing writing (shout outs here to Lisa Morton’s ‘They’re Coming to Get You!’ and Kim Newman’s ‘Minutes of Meeting’, both of which are engaging and entertaining, though are let down by shoddy endings.)

Because most of the chapters in the book are recordings of interviews or transcripts of discussions, most of the characters within the book talk in a way that no human would do, ever. My favourite example of this is near the start, in a transcript of a female journalist’s dicataphone recording as she breaks into a secure government digging project (smart move, that). In order to set the scene, she narrates the dimensions and the appearance of the rooms she moves through, everything she can see.

‘Shit, I just bashed my head on the ceiling, which is really low.’

It’s like reading a Garth Marenghi horror novel. The best part is the ending, where she bumps into a real zombie – the first in the entire novel – and realises that it’s actually her friend, who arroused her suspicions about the site to begin with. What does she do? She stands there, telling her clearly dead friend all of the damage that she has on her face! Seriously-

‘Something has half-eaten your eyes and there’s something reddish-brown inside your mouth and you’re still moving, what happened-?’

Imagine that this sort of dialogue took place across the entire novel. Oh yes, it really does. It starts off funny and then becomes painful. Then I realised I’d spent what little money I had on this book.

Naturally, the need to have everything be bleak and to have the zombies destory everything wins out over the need to tell an enjoyable narrative. This usually means, then, that each chapter ends with the narrator dying, becoming infected or doing something completely stupid. The only thing this does is break down all th realism that had been built up. One of the worst offenders is a diary written by a thirteen year old girl. It’s fairly interesting, but far too long – it’s broken down into three different chapters – but really suffers from having a stupid ending. She gets a scratch on her hand – not deep enough to break the skin – by a boy she knows, who himself is not infected. Somehow she then becomes infected and, we’re left to imagine, kills everyone she’s hiding out with.

Perhaps the book’s biggest offence is the fact that the zombies have no story-to-story consistency. While Max Brooks’ outstanding zombie epic ‘World War Z’ not only took the established zombie conventions but improved on them, ‘Zombie Apocalypse!’ has the zombies doing whatever the writer wants them to do.

In one chapter a zombie:

-Lurches forward so fast the man chasing loses sight of her
-Recognises the danger of an oncoming SWAT van
-Veers out of the way of said van
-Climbs over an industrial fence
-Escapes from sight
-Grabs a police dog
-Impales said dog on a fence
-Overpowers the staff of an ambulance while the vehicle is moving
-Drives the ambulance by herself
-Continues driving even with one tire shot out

That’s ludicrous. The zombies veer wildly between being the shuffling dead of film lore and being the fast moving zombies of recent years. There’s no continuity to any of it. One chapter states that the dead float in water – it’s a plot point that prevents a character from crossing a river. Two chapters later, the dead not only sink in the water, but there are enough of them to pull down a plane that has crash-landed in there with them. Zombies are eithe rdesperate to get in and attack survivors, or, in one case, will calmy wait outside, smiling up at the person inside who is infected and wait for them to take the people out. Zombies can also write letters, diary entries and text messages. The best part is when a several hundred year old zombie a) spots car keys on the floor, b) picks them up, c) opens the car door, d) starts the car, e) drives the car down the road, f) crashes the car and g) climbs back out and continues stumbling around.

The human characters are even worse. One man even posts on Twitter while he’s being attacked, another goes mad and decides to go and hunt down any survivors, one is force-fed cooked zombie meat (which has the strange ability to make her immune from attack) and then decides to go and eat other humans as well and all of them go on and fucking on about their personal histories and and their loves and hates. It doesn’t add depth or backstory, it’s simply another thing that nobody would ever talk about in real life.

Adding to this the fact that everybody knows where the zombie came from and you’ve got a horror without anything horrifying. ‘World War Z’ gave one tiny hint as to their origin, but never pushed it. ‘Zombie Apocalypse!’ rams it down yours throat for the entire first half of the book. Apparently the specific church that the government are tearing down was a) a burial site for religious devouts who believed in a certain type of reincarnation and b) was also a plague pit in the 1600s. The plague idea gets dropped and picked up again every few chapters (someone usually mentions fleas) and everybody in the world seems to know the names of the two diabolical men who built the church. Nothing that gets explained ever seems to make sense. Most of the time, the writers just repeat what other chapters have already laid down and act like it was their idea.

To call ‘Zombie Apocalypse!’ the worst book I’ve ever read would be an understatment. ‘Zombie Apocalypse!’ is the only book in my entire life I’ve ever taken back and gotten a refund for. And I’ve read Tom Cain’s ‘The Accident Man’ (shudder).

So this really a warning – don’t judge books by their cover, their title or even their blurb. Until someone invents a device that can detect books that you’ll like simply by pointing at them, we’ll just have to keep using handheld consoles for entertainment.

For some reason, I really like the few zombie-related killing achievements available on the 360. Since the first Dead Rising challenged me to try and eradicate the population of Willamette (53,594), I’ve gone out my way to try and accomplish them. I spent hours planning my route, divising the quickest methods and finally executing the original Zombie Genocide achievement and it was time well spent. While the six hours of driving over zombies may have frequently drifted between being horribly stale and incredibly funny, I was rewarded for my hard efforts with both an achievement and a new gun – the Real Mega Buster, which is every bit as great as it sounds.

Left 4 Dead had the same achievement (Zombie Genocidest – 53,595) and while I never quite got it – it’s a hard one to get, and downloading ‘The Sacrifice’ for some reason wiped my progress in zombie slaughter – I always did my best to do as much damage as possible. I even went for the same achievement in Prototype (Trail of Corpses – 53,596), although that takes significantly less time, thanks largely to a tank armed with a small tactical nuclear device.

Imagine my joy when I saw not one, but two incredibly silly carnage achievements in Dead Rising 2 – Zombie Genocide 2: Genocide Harder (53,596) and Zombie Genocide Master (72,000). I knew I had to go for it.

The difference this time was that it took so much longer to get around to even attempting. Firstly I found that I had to earn $2 million in order to buy the SUV. Then I discovered that I would needto find a cunningly-placed magazine that would triple the SUV’s damage endurance. On top that, I discovered that I would need to manage my time like a bastard.

My first attempt ended after 12,000 kills, when I realised that I had wasted too much time and a quick bit of maths told me that I was never going to make it. Essentially, you have 76 in-game hours to achieve this – the first four are to allow you to gather all the things you need and to begin. After that, you have to kill a thousand zombies an hour, every hour.

It was really quite depressing. You have to be focussed in order to avoid the many obstacles in the way and you also need to keep a constant count of how well you’re doing versus the clock. Adding to that the fact that you have to save and reload after every lap (otherwise you can’t keep the SUV) and you have one tricky bastard.

By the end of the run – which was completed in installments over several days – I was exhausted. I’d gotten the achievement, but what was the point? For the first time, I really felt like I’d wasted my life. I didn’t even get a cool new weapon.

Hey, how’s it going?

Sorry I’ve been away for a while, things have been hectic. I’ve got a new position at ThatGamingSite where I need to post game news everyday. I was also recently appointed the lofty position of Nintendo Editor over at ConnectedConsoles, something that’s hugely exciting for me (even now, two weeks later.)

I will be posting more stuff here soon – I have a few more Alltern8 links for you, as well as a buttload of game reviews. I’ve recently seen The Expendables, The A-Team and hope to see Inception (all of which will get the review treatment) and I’m listening to the new Iron Maiden album – again, review as soon as I can find the time to squeeze it in.

Stay frosty.

Liiiiiiinks

Posted: April 9, 2010 in Musings
Tags: , , ,

Here we go again:

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
The Cleveland Show: Episode Eleven
Sonic Classic Collection
Pure Pwnage Teh TV Show: Episode One
Ashes to Ashes: 301
Doctor Who: 501
Red Steel 2
Pure Pwnage Teh TV Show: Episode Two

I know you might not be interested in reading all of them, but if you pick one and click on it a few times a day (you don’t even have to look at it, just open the page a few times), you’ll really be helping me out.

Moar Links

Posted: March 31, 2010 in Musings
Tags: , , ,

Sorry about this current cycle where I vanish for two weeks, reappear, post loads, then vanish again. As always, I’m playing catch-up with a bizarre workload I’ve managed to produce from nothing. Here are some links until more things appear without warning:

The Cleveland Show: Episode Ten
Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll
The Cleveland Show: Episode Nine
The Nerd Zone: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (Act 3)
The Nerd Zone: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (Act 2)
The Nerd Zone: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (Act 1)
The Cleveland Show: Episode Eight

Shutter Island Review

A film directed by Martin Scorsese, the World’s Greatest Living Director (™), is always cause for celebration, and this is something entirely new – Scorsese’s first proper attempt at making a true horror film (not including Cape Fear).

US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to the remote mental asylum facility of Shutter Island to figure out how child murderer Rachel Solonda managed to escape from a locked cell. Unfortunately for them, all they meet are brick walls in the guise of Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley). The Marshals are very quickly forced to ask questions of what is really going on behind the scenes. Where is the missing patient? Why are the patients afraid of the lighthouse? Why is a Nazi scientist present at the institution? The answers are extremely troubling.

If that plot summary didn’t sound like anything like a horror, then that’s because it isn’t. in fact, Shutter Island isn’t remotely frightening, terrifying or psychological. Whether this is because of the source material, the director’s relative inexperience with the genre or simple mis-marketing, it’s not clear. The truth of the matter is that Shutter Island is a mystery film with horror framing – merely used for decorative purposes, instead of the focus.

The film still packs a mighty punch, expertly layering mystery upon mystery, clue upon clue, weaving a delicate pattern of intrigue designed to keep the viewer guessing for the duration. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is and thus most – but not all – of the mystery can be unravelled well in advance of the climax.

As you’d expect from a film carrying the Scorsese (™) brand, the film is often visually stunning and breathtakingly beautiful. Daniels’ many terrible flashbacks and haunting dreams are given incredible power via the director’s eye for detail. Indeed, after some of the scenes featured here, it might be wise for Scorsese to consider a World War Two picture as his next film.

The acting, too, is exemplary throughout, with every scene, every question, ever nuance and mystery completely depending on the earnestness of the actors. As always, Leonardo DiCaprio is nothing less superb while Mark Ruffalo provides equally stellar support. Ben Kingsley manages to claw back a huge amount of respect after Thunderbirds, Bloodrayne and The Love Guru. Jackie Earl Hayley makes the most of a single scene as a chance to prove why he’s one of the fastest-rising names in film at the moment.

But despite the wealth of incredible talent on offer, the film is missing something crucial: emotional investment. There’s a strange sense of detachment that pervades most of the film and seeps through every frame, distancing the audience from the characters. Even though Daniels has seen unimaginable horrors – all of which are handled with expert precision – it still feels weirdly unreal an inaccessible.

Overall, not a bad experience, but not a scary one. As good as the names in it, but not as deep as it should be.

3 stars