Quick Fix: 2013 in Film (aka Bitching About This Year’s Movies)

I’m back! For those who didn’t know, I spent the last week on vacation in Cincinnati and Atlanta and so getting out that last Apes retrospective entry was a bit of an ordeal… that said, I’m back in Canada and good to get back down to business on the blog! Before we get into the rambling meat of this entry, I want to mention that the open beta for Battlefield 4 has been up for almost two weeks now. If you haven’t checked it out yet, then do so ASAP (it’s free)! I’m only able to play it on the PS3 right now (which is extremely inferior compared to the PC beta), but I’m looking forward to playing on PS4 as soon as it launches.

2013 might be the best year for gaming ever. The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite would both be effortlessly Game of the Year winners if they hadn’t come out in the same year as GTA 5 (although I’m still rooting for The Last of Us). However, the same cannot be said for Hollywood, as it seems to me that 2013 is one of the most disappointing years in popular film in recent memory. Now to be clear, I’m talking about “major” films in the public conscience – there’s always good festival fare and indie darlings, but these usually fly under the radar of the general public. It should also be mentioned that we’re just getting into Oscar season, so the big Best Picture candidates are going to be making their way into cinemas quite soon, if they aren’t there already.

Here’s your Big Five winner right here.

Anyway, as you can probably tell I’m a bit of a film buff. Certainly not as much as some people, but I’ll usually see 15-20 new movies each year (not counting the films I then catch up on in the next year, at which point I’ll be closer to 35-45 movies released in any one year). That said, 2013 has been extremely disappointing for me – I’ll usually see any movie which interests me, but it’s now October and I’ve only seen 8 2013 films (Evil Dead, The Purge, Kick-Ass 2, World War Z, Iron Man 3, Oz the Great and Powerful, This Is the End, Red 2 and Gravity). Of these, I’d only say half were in any way decent, with Gravity being the only one which I thought was actually good (seriously, FREAKING SEE IT!!!). Sure I’m missing some high-profile films, but looking through the general consensus of what was “good” this year, I’m basically just missing Star Trek Into Darkness, Side Effects, The Conjuring, The World’s End and Rush. Unfortunately, these are disproportionately outweighed by the disappointing, mediocre or bad films released this year. Among the major disappointments were Gangster Squad (I seriously was predicting Best Picture when I saw the trailer), The Purge (how the hell did they screw it up so badly!?!) and Man of Steel. Legendarily bad films have all seemed to converge on 2013 like a plague: Movie 43, InAPPropriate ComedyA Good Day to Die Hard, The Host and Scary Movie 5 to name a few. Then there’s the just plain uninspired which was the rule rather than exception during the summer movie season: Jack the Giant Slayer, Olympus Has Fallen, The Hangover Part III, The Lone Ranger. Hell, even high-profile indie films weren’t spared as Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling both destroyed their reputations with Only God Forgives. Sure, there’s always more bad than good films in a year, but this year it seems to me like the good stuff is in much lower supply than normal, and the disappointments were far more high-profile.

I don’t have all the answers for why 2013 has been such a disappointing year in film. However, it has gotten me thinking about one particular issue in Hollywood which I’d like to address (and which is a factor in some of this year’s releases). As usual, Hollywood is concerned with making money, but this year they seem to be taking more of a stranglehold on it and compromising their productions in the process. One of these trends which has reemerged recently is taking an R-rated film and editing it down to PG-13, because PG-13 films have the widest prospective audience. Now obviously this is hardly why 2013 has been a bad year for cinema, but it is a contributor in the downfall of at least one high-profile example. World War Z was totally neutered by its forced PG-13 rating. Now I’m not one of those ratings snobs who believes that every movie would be improved with an R-rating and gratuitous violence and nudity (hell, I agree that Robocop wouldn’t be all that much worse if they cut it to PG-13), but some subjects don’t lend themselves to a family-friendly audience. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I don’t think that a movie about mass human extinction, cannibalism and visceral violence really would be best served by being PG-13. As a result, then entire film feels compromised, an issue which doesn’t even get fixed by the Unrated cut (the zombies seem to just jump on people, bite them, and then run away). This is a Hollywood trend which has been annoyingly pervasive since at least 2004, with such examples as AVP, Live Free or Die Hard, Terminator Salvation, Priest, Taken and Taken 2. Of course, the upcoming Robocop remake is coming out with a PG-13, which is going to further create backlash against this trend (even if it isn’t as abysmal as everyone is predicting it will be). As someone who loves good movies, I wish that studios would have a bit more faith in their audiences and give their filmmakers a bit more freedom… but that’ll be the day.

On an unrelated note, here’s a picture of some fat cats…

UPDATE: Since posting this I’ve also watched Gangster Squad and Machete Kills, both of which were rather average, held back by disappointing elements (this seems to be the trend with 2013 releases… I’m curious to see what I think about Man of Steel when it comes out on DVD).

Video Game Review: Tomb Raider (2013)

I’ve never really had much interest in the Tomb Raider franchise. There was always a stigma of sexism which surrounded the series due to Lara Croft’s sex icon status. If you were a guy and you played Tomb Raider games then you only wanted to stare at her boobs and ass. However, with the release of the Uncharted series, Indiana Jones-style adventuring was back in vogue and an intriguing reboot of the Tomb Raider series was announced that finally piqued my interest. It was going to star a vulnerable, unskilled Lara Croft. It was going to be more about survival than action. It was going to have a very mature story. Lara was actually going to be realistically proportioned. Stigma be damned, as soon as it was announced the Tomb Raider reboot was on my must-play list. Did the game manage to live up to the hype? Read on to find out… (Note that this is only a single-player review, I didn’t bother with the unnecessary multiplayer mode.)

Tomb Raider opens in a bit of a mess. I’m not referring to the whole sinking of Lara’s ship and dead bodies kind of mess: I mean that it fumbles the narrative and gameplay right out of the gate. It starts in media res which might be fine for an action-focused game, but this really hurts the narrative off the bat. If they had given the game a real opening, maybe I would have known who the secondary characters where and maybe I actually would have given two shits about them. However, story seems to have been set aside in favour of an Uncharted 2-style explosive opening – a terrible compromise in my opinion, since it hamstrings at least the first act of the game. In fact, the opening also features a jumble of quick-time events and scripted set-pieces which feel like its hewing too closely to the Uncharted formula… don’t get me wrong, I love the Uncharted games, but their formula doesn’t work in every game. It’s kind of like how after Die Hard every action movie was set in a single location, or how after The Bourne Ultimatum every action movie had quick cuts and shaky cam: it just reeks of studio-enforced money-grubbing pandering to the lowest common denominator.

While the game’s opening was a bit of a mess, there are some great mechanics underlying the gameplay. The game features an XP system which is very fun, encouraging you to maximize the yield of your actions to level up. It might be a little tonally-off for the young, vulnerable Lara to be headshotting everyone with her new bow, but it’s forgivable. The game also features a weapon-upgrading system based on finding salvage, which changes the weapons as one would expect it to. However, there are also some very cool upgrades, such as explosive or incendiary ammo or the ability to get burst-fire on your pistol. In addition, the game features plenty of traversal options when you unlock the pick axe and rope arrows – the game ends up playing like a funner version of Assassin’s Creed as Lara finds herself traversing the environment (although these can be somewhat imprecise… I died from failed jumps more than anything else). Finally, while the narrative might be half-baked and the secondary characters aren’t given their due, Lara Croft herself is given a proper development and is actually fairly well fleshed out. Her development is quite natural and actually works into the game with the player unlocking new abilities and weapons.

However, as I’ve alluded to, weak point of the game is definitely its story. Between the gameplay, the half-baked characters and the script, it just doesn’t convince. Why should we give a damn about any of the characters when we don’t even know anything about them (barring Conrad Roth I suppose)? Most of them are just there to be plot devices… especially Whitman, who you know is going to be a traitor as soon as he appears on screen. Lara’s supposed to be vulnerable and just barely surviving, but how are we supposed to believe this when she survives a dozen falls from extreme heights by pure luck? Or how about when racks up a bodycount in the hundreds all by herself? This particular problem definitely feels like an Uncharted ripoff – Lara just so happens to land on an island inhabited by cultists of the “murder everyone for no reason” kind. Narratively, Tomb Raider just doesn’t lend itself to the requisite third-person shooter bodycount and the game actually gets quite tedious at the points where it turns into a linear shootout (especially because enemies LOVE throwing molotov cocktails which force you to move from cover and back over and over again). The game’s also just gratuitously violent at times, seemingly just to hammer home that it’s “gritty” and “mature”. There’s one section which is a total rip off of The Descent where Lara falls into a random pool of blood. There’s also dead bodies and guts just lying all over the island for little discernible reason… I guess because the bad guys are cultists and all religious people are mindlessly violent and irrational… *ahem* That said, the game didn’t really have any real reason to not get itself a Teen rating, because the gore that they threw into the game is just unnecessary.

Even worse, the game is supposed to be about survival and makes a huge deal about having a hunting system, but it’s 100% optional – you get a bit of XP for killing animals and some salvage if you have an upgrade, but that’s it. Tomb Raider would have really benefited from a Metal Gear Solid 3-style survival system where you have to keep Lara from starving to death, and would have certainly helped make the game feel less linear than it is. A related issue is that you don’t even have to worry about non-human enemies, because the only ones that appear are a small group of wolves at the start of the game… and then that’s it. I never saw another wolf after the cultists showed up. That’s just a damn shame. Killing human enemies makes the game feel like another boring third-person shooter…

I guess the bottom-line is that Tomb Raider isn’t what I was hoping it would be. I was hoping for more of an emphasis on the survival aspect, but what I got instead was a game with great mechanics buried beneath an Uncharted-wannabe (oh the irony). That said, as the game progresses it becomes quite fun in spite of its shortcomings – I definitely was enjoying it by the end. However, I think the game would have benefited if it had cut the cultists entirely (or at least reduced their ranks significantly), emphasized player vs environment and survival gameplay and increased the number of puzzles. In fact, the puzzle-based sections were the highlights of the game. The Uncharted series has always struggled with its “puzzles”, which typically are insultingly easy, but Tomb Raider‘s puzzles are very fun to attempt. They’re not particularly difficult, but they are very satisfying to complete when you figure them out. Anyway, with those elements the game would have been much better – of course once you beat the game you can travel back to the hubs and do just that. Hmm… I might have to go back and go do some open-world tomb raiding unshackled from a mediocre third-person shooter narrative…


By the way, the next Retrospective series should be starting in about 2 or 3 weeks. I’ll be finished school on the 20th of August, and so will have more free time once again at that point – it was hell finishing the Resident Evil retrospectives and just finding time to write blog posts since the start of July when school started up again. That said, I’m really looking forward to writing about the next series – it’s a personal favourite, which should alleviate the negative feelings which tend to permeate the Retrospectives. Until next time then!

Retrospective: Resident Evil – Retribution (2012)

Welcome back to part five of the Resident Evil retrospective! In this entry we’re going to cover the fifth (and thus far final) movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Retribution! However, just before we get to that, I want to highlight a somewhat relevant article I read recently about how fanboys are ruining Hollywood. Considering that I’ve been criticizing Paul W.S. Anderson for deviating from the games, this might make me seem like a biased fanboy… but the truth is that I don’t really give a crap about the Resident Evil games. I’ve played a little bit of most of them, but they’re not really my cup of tea – gimme a Metal Gear, Battlefield or Splinter Cell game any day of the week. That said, I don’t think the authour of the article defenders their position very well – they call on fanboys to piss off because they can’t write off a movie for making deviations from the source material. In some ways I can actually agree with this, but the way they presented it is questionable. He seems to be writing this as a response to Man of Steel and World War Z, stating that (SPOILER) why should it matter if Superman kills Zod? In this respect, it is a betrayal of what the character stands for and also creates major scriptwriting issues in the future (if Superman is willing to kill, then why won’t he kill his enemies when the going gets tough from here on out?). The changes in Man of Steel change fundamental aspects of the character themselves, not the way that they’re presented. On a related note, World War Z has nothing to do with the novel beyond having some type of zombie in it – if you’re going to change the source material that much then you might as well just give it an original name. The only reason I can see them not doing so is because it will allow them to market to an existing audience. However, I did agree with some elements of the article, such as when the authour defends Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. I may not care for Resident Evil, but I’m definitely a Tolkien fanboy… and I actually quite liked The Hobbit in spite of its excessive length. It is extremely faithful to Tolkien’s book and appendices (with the only major exception being the stuff surrounding Azog), moreso than The Lord of the Rings was. On its own merits, The Hobbit was quite a good movie, and people who write it off due to it not sticking to the book solely or for being too long (I honestly found that it didn’t feel like 2 1/2 hours) are really missing out. All-in-all, the authour makes some decent points, but I can’t find myself in agreement with them for the most part.

Anyway, after Afterlife, the Resident Evil series was even more popular (and reviled) than ever. Inevitably, Retribution was greenlit and prepared to assault the intelligence of audiences worldwide for a fifth time. Thankfully, the series had somewhat gained its footing, as Extinction and Afterlife were both at least watchable… could Retribution carry on this streak and turn the franchise into a true guilty-pleasure? Read on to find out…

There were quite a few posters for this movie, but this one’s my favourite. The skewed perspective and use of colour make it look very cool.

Afterlife raked in almost $300 million worldwide, making it by far the most successful entry in the franchise. While the series was basically a joke by now, it was still drawing in new audiences (especially internationally). This time around, Anderson seemed to want to draw back fans of the games, and so offered to introduce characters which had not been brought into the series yet. Based on a popularity poll, Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong and Barry Burton were written into Retribution. The marketing for the film also promised that the action was going to take place on a “global scale”, whereas previous entries were confined to the United States (barring the opening sequence in Afterlife). Also, since it performed so successfully in the previous film, Retribution was again shot and released in 3D… only this time they (thankfully) toned down the gimmicky usage of the medium. Crap almost never gets thrown at us to artificially hammer home the effect, instead it is integrated organically throughout.

Retribution features one of the largest main casts in the series. As usual, Alice is back in the lead. This time around she’s supposedly a regular human again, but you’d never know it – she displays impossible feats of athleticism and (sigh) dual wields so much that super-powered Alice would have said “Whoa, slow down girl!” Of course, at the end Alice does get all her super-powers back in the most convenient manner possible… bloody hell Anderson, make up your damn mind about how you want the character to “develop”! Actually, he and Milla did try to develop Alice in this entry somewhat by stealing a page from James Cameron. Alice finds a little girl who she becomes surrogate mother for, and then has to rescue her from the monsters near the end of the movie. It’s not even close to a stretch to suggest that this whole plot strand completely ripped off Aliens – hell, the rescue scene even uses identical framing and lighting to that film (not to mention that the kid is inexplicably cocooned as well). This whole subplot was ill-conceived in my opinion. Ripley is certainly one of the great heroines in all of cinema, and Aliens really drove that home… but ripping that off doesn’t suddenly make Alice a deep character. There’s no real established precedent at this point for Alice to be a surrogate mother to anybody, nor is it set up well at all. By throwing it in it just seems like Anderson and Jovovich just wanted to indulge their own family. To make matters worse, the relationship just makes no sense. The little girl, Becky, only follows Alice around because she thinks she’s her mother, but when she finds out that she isn’t she screams “You’re not my mommy are you?!?!” To that Alice simply quips “I am now!” As much as you’d like to be her mommy Alice, you really aren’t. Becky’s got a whole life that she can’t just forget because you decided that you should take care of her. Of course, the movie doesn’t address this because Alice has become a Mary Sue at this point, full-stop. She’s supposed to be vulnerable now, but she’s totally invincible in practice, and we’re never convinced that she’s in any sort of danger whatsoever.

If you’re a Ukrainian supermodel, you can kidnap anybody.

Enough about Alice though, onto the other characters. Retribution actually got a fair bit of buzz by bringing back characters who had been killed off, namely Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and James “One” Shade (Colin Salmon). To that I say one thing: AWESOME. Carlos and James were easily the best parts of their respective movies, and a chance to bring them back to kick more ass is very welcome indeed… unfortunately they are given little more than overglorified cameos. Like, literally all that they do is show up every once in a while and look intimidating before they get killed off unceremoniously (and another clone of Carlos gets munched by a zombie at the start of the movie). Well how about Rain then? Since Resident Evil she had become one of the most recognizable action heroines in modern cinema, surely she got a good role this time around? Umm well no. There’s two versions of Rain in the movie, a good one and a bad one. The good one runs around and is kind of funny for being fairly useless (and dies of course). Bad Rain on the other hand is such a poor tertiary villain that it’s cringe-worthy. I thought Rodriguez’s acting was bad in the first movie, but she’s just awful in Retribution. This actually really saddens me because she’s proven that she can be badass in movies such as Avatar, so wasting her like this is just frustrating. So there you have it, 3 favourites from the film franchise are brought back to much fanfare… and then squandered so badly that you’d swear that the filmmakers were intentionally screwing with us.

How about the other characters then? Boris Kodjoe returns as Luther West, and while he was pretty cool in both movies, he doesn’t really get to do much before his own unceremonious death. Albert Wesker also inexplicably makes a return after getting blown to smithereens at the end of the last movie… like, literally no one questions how he could have possibly survived the explosion. They don’t even offer a half-assed hand wave. On top of that, Shawn Roberts’ acting is pretty bad this time around. For whatever reason, he emphasizes every damn word that Wesker says, making him seem a bit odd to say the least. Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) also returns in a full-fledged role once again, but her acting is still very bad. She certainly livens things up “physically”, but doesn’t do a great job convincing us whenever she has to open her mouth. Also, I’m kind of annoyed that they decided to emulate Resident Evil 5 for her appearance. Like in Apocalypse, her outfit is distractingly impractical:

Sure, it provides eye candy, but I can’t really take that outfit seriously. As a defense to Paul W.S. Anderson though, the game series is mostly to blame for that outfit, but that said he also bears the responsibility for adapting it. I actually am kind of disappointed that Capcom reinforced the “single male loser in the basement” stereotype when they worked Jill into Resident Evil 5, especially since she’s not generally a particularly sexualized character in the series. Sexism is a big issue in the gaming industry, and forcing one of the major strong, female characters to prance around with massive cleavage damages our ability to see them beyond that (on the flip side of the coin, Chris Redfield’s muscles are RIDICULOUS as well – you see angry Internet commenters, sexism works both ways!).

Bloody hell I’ve almost written a thousand words on the characters and still haven’t gotten through them all. Okay, picking up the pace slightly, the first new addition is Li Bingbing as Ada Wong. As she puts it, she’s Wesker’s top agent… and that’s basically all we learn about her. She’s given absolutely no development, and Li’s acting is atrocious on top of that. Similarly, Johann Urb’s Leon Kennedy isn’t given any development either… but that doesn’t really matter because he comes across as a massive, stupid douche. As I’ve said before, I haven’t really played much of the games, but is Leon always this much of a dork? I know he’s a fan favourite, but between this and Resident Evil: Damnation, my opinion of him is that he has the personality of a piece of plywood. The only bright spot among the characters is Kevin Durand as Barry Burton. Again, he isn’t given much to work with, but he goes out with style. Sadly, Chris and Claire Redfield are both conspicuously absent this time around… although considering how many damn characters are in this movie, that’s probably for the best.

As for the plot… well, you might want to sit down before you read about it. I did not think it was possible for the Resident Evil movie franchise to make a stupider, more plotless movie than Afterlife, but Retribution makes that movie look like a freaking masters thesis. The plot holes and contrivances are so bad that they retroactively make the plots of the previous movies worse. Yes, you read that right. Here’s a list of the problems I jotted down while watching the movie: How does it make any sense for Umbrella to produce clones and put them in a perfectly simulated world to simulate zombie apocalypses? The movie claims that they do it to try to gain control of the T-virus, but I don’t buy this (since they don’t offer any “solutions”, they just unleash the zombies and call it a day). Why does Umbrella bother to go to the detail of creating a whole world when they do this simulation? For example, Alice finds photographs of one of her clones’ marriage to Carlos, family vacations, etc… did Umbrella stage these photographs to make things more “real”…? Why does the Red Queen need humans to do her work? Why not just release chemicals to purge any intruders (y’know, like she did in the first movie)? Why can’t she lock the damn doors? Why are the Red Queen’s mind control scarabs so stupidly easy to neutralize? For that matter, if the Red Queen is in control of the scarabs, then why did they have them on the Arcadia (since this was controlled by Wesker, not the Red Queen)? If the zombies and clones aren’t all killed in a simulation, what happens to them (since Alice finds Becky hiding in suburbia)? How does Alice know sign language all of a sudden? How can Leon and Luther get the elevator moving if the Red Queen shut down the power? Why did Luthor come to infiltrate Umbrella HQ? He’s a basket ball player, not a special forces operative! And finally, a retroactive issue – if Alice bonded with the T-virus at a cellular level, wouldn’t getting bit by a zombie allow her to get her super powers back? I could go on and on, but I found the following image macros covered some of the problems pretty well:

If it sounds like they made the film too damn complicated, that’s not the issue at all here. In fact, Retribution‘s plot is so straightforward that you’d swear a kindergartner wrote it (hmm, I wonder if Paul and Milla’s kid has a writing credit on this movie…). The plot is as follows – Alice is captured by Umbrella, wakes up in their HQ, escapes and then has to fight her way out in under 2 hours or they’ll all get blown up. I think Scott at FEARnet describes it best:

Alice is “being held captive in a massive facility beneath Russian ice, and she needs to get from the ‘lab hologram’ to the ‘Japan hologram’ and end up at the ‘suburbia hologram’ to meet a team of rescuers. Not only is this a painfully lazy and perfunctory way to cobble a plot together, but it removes any of the ‘stakes’ that may have survived from the previous Resident Evil movies. What was once a story about a zombie plague that was accidentally unleashed by a nefarious corporation has congealed into a series of progressively dumber action sequences featuring a hot, skinny redhead who simply cannot be killed.”

That’s really the jist of it. The movie has nothing at stake and we’re never really left in suspense. We just watch action sequence after action sequence, but it doesn’t have the level of enjoyment which punctuated previous entries in the series, particularly Extinction and Afterlife. This movie features a fight against two Axemen – if you remember my previous review, you’ll remember that the Axeman fight was one of my favourite moments in Afterlife. While you’d think two Axemen equals two times the fun, you’d be sorely mistaken. The fight is actually boring, an adjective I could apply to most of the action sequences in the movie. The last 10 minutes are basically an extended fight sequence between Alice and Jill, and then Alice and Bad Rain… and it just feels like it goes on too long. Why do we care about Alice fighting Bad Rain? She hasn’t really bothered Alice all that much until now, and Alice just kicked the crap out of Jill. Shouldn’t that be enough for us? That’s not to say that the fights aren’t cool or are badly choreographed, they all just aren’t interesting. How do you get that interest back? Most movies needed a coherent plot and good characters to make the action engaging, if you don’t have that then the chances of failure skyrocket. In all honesty, I can’t believe how highly it was received.

Of course, Retribution is not all bad. The opening credits are epic, delivering on the promise that the ending of Afterlife held. The movie also does some interesting things, like FINALLY HAVING CHAINSAW ZOMBIES! Why did they not do that before!? Finally, as much as I disliked the film, the ending is totally epic. If the next movie actually delivers on the promise of mankind’s last stand that we were given at the end of this film then we’re in for a treat (even though I’m 100% certain we’ll get another shit-fest).


And that does it for the Resident Evil franchise at the moment. Of course, there’s a sixth and (supposedly) final film on its way, but what about after that? Well apparently plans are to then reboot the series from the start again. Ugh, well at least we can hope that they stick closer to the games this time… and please, PLEASE go back to horror and put someone other than Paul W.S. Anderson in charge for the love of God! Also, for those interested, this is how I would rank the franchise from best to worst:

1. Extinction

2. Afterlife

3. Resident Evil

4. Apocalypse

5. Retribution

Also, as I promised at the start of the series, I’ll cover the two animated Resident Evil movies briefly – Degeneration and Damnation. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen them so this is from memory, but it should suffice. Degeneration is a pretty standard fare – in the first half, Leon and Claire are at an airport when there’s a T-virus outbreak and the pair have to survive this. In the second half, they have to take down mad scientists responsible for all this. It’s pretty straight-forward, but surprisingly well-done all things considered. Damnation was just plain crap though. It was nice to see Umbrella bio-weapons actually being used in a warzone for once, but the story and acting were terrible. It also is more of an action movie than horror, basically just existing as a tie-in for Resident Evil 6.

And there you have it. That wraps up my third retrospective series! If you liked it, be sure to comment or share it so we can build up a bigger audience here! I’ve already got my fourth retrospective series lined up, and it’ll provide a bit of a change over the thus-far standard “bad action/horror” template I’ve been utilizing on the last three series. Continue to tune in and see you soon!

Retrospective: Resident Evil – Afterlife (2010)

Welcome back to part four of the Resident Evil retrospective! In this entry we’re going to cover the fourth movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Afterlife! Once again, the latest Resident Evil movie (Extinction) made even more money than the previous one (Apocalypse) – obviously this meant that the series had to shamble on another day. Despite Extinction being billed as the last entry in the series, Resident Evil: Afterlife was soon announced… in 3D (y’know, back when people still got excited when a movie was released in 3D)! Afterlife and the game it draws inspiration from, Resident Evil 5, mark a clear tonal shift to intense action for the franchise… would it work out in the end? Read on to find out…

What is with Resident Evil and dual wielding!?!

After the surprisingly decent Extinction, the Resident Evil franchise finally seemed to be settling into a groove. After releasing his Death Race remake, Paul W.S. Anderson returned to the franchise once again, but this time he was taking the director’s chair once again (in addition to screenwriting of course). Entering production shortly before Avatar was released, Anderson and company believed that 3D was going to be the next big thing in Hollywood blockbusters – as a result, they decided to shoot Afterlife in 3D. I’m actually kind of happy with the way his was handled – rather than going for the cheap 2D-to-3D conversion cash-in, Anderson decided to shoot the film with actual 3D cameras. In my opinion, 2D-to-3D conversions are one of the major reasons why 3D has become a hated gimmick in the last couple years, because it just looks awful (as I can attest having watched Voyage of the Dawn Treader, ThorCaptain America and Clash of the Titans). On the other hand, all of the most visually stunning 3D movies I have seen have been filmed in 3D (Dredd, Life of Pi, etc). Sure it costs more to do, but the result is worth it if handled skillfully. So yeah, kudos to Paul W.S. Anderson for doing the right thing.

While I’m glad they filmed the movie in real 3D, I have to admit that I haven’t actually seen it in 3D. However, I can imagine how it would look because there are some sequences which are visually stunning even in 2D – Paul W.S. Anderson can really frame a good shot. On the negative side though, the 3D is often used as a gimmick. Crap is thrown at the audience throughout the whole movie: axes, coins, knives, bullets, hell even a pair of glasses at one point (as seen above). As I said in the restrospective for The Final Destination, this is just a cheap, gimmicky way to use 3D and just kills any sense of immersion. So… umm… kudos for filming in real 3D, but way to squander it in the end, Paul.

Moving onto the cast, the film stars most of the usual suspects – Milla Jovovich is back, obviously, and so is Ali Later as Claire Redfield (who thankfully gets to do more this time around). Sienna Guillory also makes a cameo appearance at the end, reprising her role as Jill Valentine. Spencer Locke also returns as K-Mart… but honestly, who cares? She didn’t do anything in either movie whatsoever so she’s hardly worth the mention. Anyway, the major new additions in Afterlife are Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield and Shawn Roberts, taking over as Albert Wesker. I actually quite like Wentworth Miller in this movie, he definitely has a suitably badass air about him. Shawn Roberts is decent as Albert Wesker, pulling off the smug and imposing look although it comes across like he attended the Dick Dastardly school of villainy at times. Aside from the main cast, the movie also features a group of survivors in a prison, all of whom are just transparent as plot devices – there’s the useful black guy (thank God he doesn’t do street slang), the douche bag, the T&A and then the obligatory redshirts.

As for the movie itself, it opens on an exceptionally high note: the opening credits are absolutely awesome. The music, the cinematography and the slow motion all combine to make for a very memorable opening to the movie… and then the movie launches into even higher gear. Remember how Alice got ahold of an army of clones at the end of Extinction? I thought they would cheap out on this or handwave it away, but they actually go ahead and have an army of Alices attack an Umbrella Hive. This attack sequence is quite good and really opens the film on a high note… even if it’s only real excuse for existing is to conveniently get rid of Alice’s army and her super-powers to make the rest of the movie work. Yup, plot conveniences strike again, but at least we got an awesome first 10 minutes out of it.

As for the plot… well it probably makes the least sense of all the Resident Evil movies up until this point, which is saying a lot. It’s clearly just a thin pretense to support the action sequences. Put simply, Alice finds Claire (who has convenient amnesia) in Alaska – turns out Arcadia isn’t a safe haven after all. They then fly 3000 miles in a Yak-52 to Los Angeles, where they decide to land on a maximum security prison and help out the survivors there. Cue an hour of zombie action, culminating with them landing on the Arcadia (turns out it’s an Umbrella tanker) and battling Albert Wesker. In terms of plot, it’s absolutely brain-dead and the list of plot holes/conveniences I noticed while watching is just staggering. Why does Wesker carry a syringe on himself which can take away Alice’s powers (and his for that matter)… and how would that even work anyway? How the hell does a non-super powered Alice survive a plane crash unrestrained when it smashes head-first into a mountain? Why does Umbrella still want to experiment on people when they’ve already wiped out most of the world’s population? Who is Alice leaving her video blog for (it seems like just a lazy way to shoehorn in exposition)? Why is there a maximum security prison in the middle of down-town Los Angeles? How can zombies dig through solid concrete? How the hell does the Axeman make any sense? Why are the zombies suddenly Plagas? What are the chances that Chris Redfield happens to be at the same prison that Claire ends up in (not to mention that he’s apparently been locked up for about 5 years)?

While the plot is pretty much dead on arrival, that’s practically expected with Resident Evil by this point. What’s really important is that the action sequences are stunning. The latter half of the movie is littered with action and it is at these moments that the movie really kicks into high gear. The zombie attacks and gun battles are all pretty good, but the movie features three standout sequences. The first is the opening which I mentioned previously. The second is the cliffhanger ending, which is just epic and really heightens expectations for the sequel (even if you already know it’s going to suck). The third is the shower fight against the Axeman. This scene is jaw dropping… and pretty damn sexy too. Ali Larter really kills it here, and the slow motion and drops of water make the scene a visual feast. Paul W.S. Anderson should direct music videos. Seriously, just watch it:

Sure, the slow motion is gratuitous, but it’s done well (although the movie would probably be 15-20 minutes shorter if you cut out all the slow-mo in it). Resident Evil: Afterlife is a mindless guilty pleasure movie – the plot is pretty much non-existent, but the action scenes compensate for it for the most part.


Be sure to come back soon for the final entry in this retrospective, Resident Evil: Retribution!

Retrospective: Resident Evil – Extinction (2007)

Welcome back to part three of the Resident Evil retrospective! In this entry we’re going to cover the third movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Extinction! However, before we get to that I want to speak briefly on critic-audience disparity, which has come to mind with the recent release of Man of Steel (and which can be applied to the Resident Evil film franchise by its fans). Superman Returns had a high critical reception (75% Tomatometer), but had a mixed reception with audiences (67% liked it). Conversely, Man of Steel has had a very mixed reception (56% Tomatometer), but is scoring well with audiences (82% liked it). One audience rebuttal to this I have read is that critics are not fans of the property in question, and therefore do not know what makes a proper franchise film. However, this makes critics look like robots, not to mention implies that they don’t have any personal interests of their own. For that matter, why should it matter if they’re a fan of the property? If they think the movie’s bad then that’s their opinion, and the one they give to a general audience who may not be fanboys either. For example, I love werewolves. I thought that The Wolfman remake was a great werewolf film, despite the movie’s very tepid reception (35% Tomatometer and 38% audience approval). Reviews are ultimately just opinions. However, I’m more inclined to trust a critic since they have seen a wider variety of movies and therefore have more to judge a film against than the average movie-goer. As a result, I’m expecting Man of Steel to be very middle-of-the-pack when I finally see it.

Anyway despite making even more money than its predecessor, Resident Evil: Apocalypse shit all over the best period of the Resident Evil games’ storyline. With the Resident Evil film franchise basically the butt of bad video game movie jokes, how could the film franchise hope to carry on? The answer was quite… surprising to say the least. How so? Read on to find out…

Simple, but striking. The poster conveys the style and theme of the movie quite well. This poster was pretty badass as well.

At the time that Resident Evil: Apocalypse was released, the Resident Evil video games had been stagnating: new games in the series either regurgitated the Racoon City time period (Outbreak), were prequels to the original games (Zero) or remakes of the original games (REmake, Code Veronica X). However, the games were given new life mere months after Apocalypse when Resident Evil 4 broke new ground. With the Resident Evil game series attaining relevance once again, it would be fitting if the film franchise could finally achieve some form of success.

Although Paul W.S. Anderson was once again given scripting duties, the actual directing of the film was passed off to Russell Mulcahy. Mulcahy was an inconsistent but well-established director, having directed a ton of music videos. As for his filmography, he was best known for directing the cult classic, Highlander. Unfortunately, his CV also contains epic turds, such as The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior and Highlander II: The Quickening (although budget and producer interference played a major role in these flops). Still, he was certainly a step up from Alexander Witt.

In terms of its cast, most of the (surviving) main characters from Resident Evil: Apocalypse return. The only major character who is missing is Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), because she was appearing in Eragon instead (ouch, bad move…). Taking her place as the secondary heroine was Retrospectives veteran Ali Larter, who was previously featured in my Final Destination series. She takes on the role of Claire Redfield. Considering that Guillory did a fairly poor job as Jill Valentine in the previous film, this was definitely a step up. Taking the reins as the main antagonist is a minor character who appeared in Apocalypse, Dr. Isaacs, played by Iain Glen (holy shit, Jorah Mormont!). The main villain of the video game series, Albert Wesker, also makes an appearance, played by Jason O’Mara… unfortunately, he isn’t given anything to do, and just comes across as very bland rather than cunning and sinister.

The cast actually does a decent job, especially compared to the other movies in the series. By this time, Milla Jovovich has really settled into a rhythm, totally convincing us she’s a cool and killer badass. I quite liked Oded Fehr as Carlos Olivera as well – his role is expanded a bit from the previous film and we actually become fairly attached to him (although the romance between he and Alice just comes out of nowhere). Ali Larter does a decent job as Claire Redfield, although she isn’t given a lot of material to work with (a common complaint, which also extends to the secondary characters). Hell, even LJ’s role gets expanded this time around and I actually found myself sympathizing with him… that said, I was still overjoyed when he died, just because of how annoying he was in Apocalypse. I also liked Iain Glen’s Dr. Isaacs, who really brings some much-needed campiness to the proceedings. He plays the usual mad scientist role, but he’s unpredictable – I mean, how unhinged to you have to be to be too crazy for even the Umbrella corporation!?!

As for the plot of the movie, Extinction is, in a lot of ways, a massive middle finger to the fans of the games. Why’s that, you might ask? Put simply, the movie goes post-apocalyptic, killing off 5/6ths of the world’s population, whereas the video games revolve around preventing another outbreak like Racoon City and stymieing bio-terrorism. Basically, at this point the franchise has even less to do with the video games than the previous two movies did. However, I think this is actually somewhat of a blessing in disguise – this allows the movies to go places the video games never did (sort of like what a video game tie-in for a movie would die). Furthermore, it gives the movies the freedom to do whatever the heck they want within the setting. Finally, it allows angry video gamers to finally divorce themselves from the franchise all-together. As a result, Extinction marks the first entry in the franchise where the opening of the film discards elements from its predecessors to make the movie work conveniently.

Resident Evil: Extinction owes its existence to two very obvious sources – the first being Day of the Dead. Let’s list some of the familiar elements, shall we? Extinction features scientists in an underground laboratory surrounded by zombies behind a chain-link fence. In this underground laboratory, they’re trying to domesticate the zombies, showing them objects from their previous life and using them as well. Hell, even the Umbrella soldiers complain about losing men because they keep having to go to the surface. The links to Day of the Dead are just too similar to be a coincidence. The second major influence is Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (in fact, when this movie came out I called it “Mad Max with a Vagina”). While the similarities are more cosmetic than plot-related, the movie revolves around a civilian convoy scavenging for resources in a post-apocalyptic desert, who are saved by a lone badass who is left behind as they head off to a safe haven. Again, the similarities are clearly there and hardly subtle.

Of course, as with any Resident Evil movie, the plot is just riddled with holes. Why does Umbrella run amnesiac Alice clones through an assault course filled with booby traps that she has no chance of avoiding? Why is she then a “failure” for not having completed their impossible course? For that matter, are they planning on releasing clones with amnesia into warzones? Hell, why bother with this testing when they’ve already killed off 5/6ths of the world’s population? How can the T-virus kill all of the world’s vegetation and dry up most of the water? Why would Umbrella want to domesticate zombies? And how many freaking super zombies were in that small container in Las Vegas? It looked like maybe a half dozen, but they must have killed about 50 of them in the ensuing shoot out… And while this isn’t really a plot hole, why the hell would Sony want to have product placement in the movie… for Umbrella!??!!

The usual Resident Evil-related gripes aside, I actually don’t hate Extinction by any means. Sure it’s a rip-off of The Road Warrior and Day of the Dead, but at least it picked two great movies to emulate. The story also features plot holes, but they’re far more minor than in any other entry in the series. In fact, Extinction largely succeeds in that it does a good job not screwing up. There’s no stupid attempts at humour, no major editing mistakes and far less issues with the plot than in previous entries. The movie looks extremely stylish due to Mulcahy’s direction, similar to The Book of Eli. Extinction also goes to some effort to actually set up the story, giving us over 30 minutes to get situated and meet the characters (most are left undeveloped, but at least they’re introduced… unlike in Apocalypse…). Unlike every other Resident Evil movie, Extinction also manages to be suspenseful at times, despite occurring entirely in daylight (feeling silly now, Apocalypse?). On top of that, it’s less of a cartoon than the previous movies – characters actually miss their shots and people die and it feels like it means something. Hell, even freaking Carlos, a character from the video games, dies – who expected that!? It was a pretty ballsy move in my opinion, especially after they gave him a far better role in the movies than he ever got in the game he appeared in (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis). Finally, the zombie make-up is absolutely spot-on – despite having identical production budgets, Extinction blows Apocalypse out of the water visually.

Most importantly though, the action scenes in Extinction are fantastic and really mark the point where the franchise became a full-on action movie series with minor horror elements. The early battle between Alice and the zombie dogs is pretty great, and the Las Vegas zombie shootout is a thrilling climax, but the real standout is the zombie crow attack. Seriously, the crow sequence is amazing and is probably my favourite sequence in the whole franchise. It’s also utterly unique – no other zombie movie is going to give you a sequence like this. It’s a truly suspenseful, exhilarating and frightening sequence and serves as a good introduction to Alice’s new powers.

Actually, speaking of which, Alice has gone full-on God Mode in this entry. In addition to her unbelievable accuracy, martial arts abilities and general super-powers, she now has telekinesis and an army of super-powered clones at her disposal… so yeah, she’s basically an over-glorified Mary Sue at this point in the series. Appropriately, she was pregnant with Paul W.S. Anderson’s child at the time so that goes so way to explaining why he’d be fawning over her so much (and maybe also explain why she’s naked for the third movie in a row).

The only major issue I have with Extinction is its third act, which is extremely weak. Alice infiltrates an Umbrella hive and then has to fight Dr. Isaacs, who has become a Tyrant. The fight just comes across as exceptionally hokey and isn’t anywhere near as engaging as the rest of the movie was. On top of that, Alice is just too powerful at this point – she beat the shit out of Nemesis before she gained telekinesis, what chance does a more minor Tyrant like Isaacs stand? Still though, Resident Evil: Extinction manages to be a fun (but mindless) action movie on the whole, which is more than I can say for the previous two films. It’s far from great, but I can think of far worse ways to spend an afternoon.


Be sure to come back soon for part four of this retrospective, Resident Evil: Afterlife!

Retrospective: Resident Evil – Apocalypse (2004)

BREAKING NEWS!!! Microsoft has reversed its position on used games and online requirements!!! This is somewhat surprising, but it’s good to know that they actually listened to complaints. I’m still a Sony fanboy for life, but I’m glad to see that the console war won’t be a curb-stomping.

Welcome back to part two of the Resident Evil retrospective! In this entry we’re going to cover the second movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Apocalypse! Before I get into the meat of this retrospective, I just want to clarify something: I may not have left this impression when I was writing about the first Resident Evil, but I actually don’t fawn over Milla Jovovich by any means. I mean, she’s certainly good looking but she’s not an actress who I find myself particularly drawn to. That said, I know that there are a lot of people who would respectfully disagree with that opinion (and by respectfully disagree I mean screaming “WTF!?!? ARE YOU GAY!!?!!?” at me). Anyway, the first Resident Evil had been a minor financial success and ended with a cliffhanger setting up a sequel. While Resident Evil wasn’t a particularly great film, Resident Evil 2 was considered the best video game in the series at the time (Resident Evil 4 wouldn’t be released until the next year). The destruction of Racoon City is one of the most famous storylines in video gaming, being visited in two separate canonical Resident Evil games and revisited in at least a half dozen spin-offs. To stack the deck even further in the movie’s favour, it was going to use one of the greatest enemies in the franchise’s history – the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. With an attempt to go back to the storylines from the games, a more interesting setting and zombies gaining traction in the media, could Resident Evil: Apocalypse become a success? To find out, you’ll have to read on…

Maybe it’s just me, but this poster makes me think of Return of the Living Dead for some reason…

Just after completing Resident Evil, Paul W.S. Anderson began working on a sequel. However, Anderson chose not to direct this sequel – instead, his script for Alien vs. Predator was green lit and he was chosen to direct that movie. While Anderson stayed on as producer and screenwriter, Alexander Witt took over the reins of Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Similarly to David R. Ellis and Steven Quale from my Final Destination retrospective series, Alexander Witt had been in film for a number of years as a camera operator and second unit director on a number of major films, but Apocalypse was his first (and thus far only) directing gig. Perhaps realizing that the original Resident Evil hadn’t lived up to the potential, more elements of the video game stories were worked into Apocalypse so that it would be more than just Resident Evil in name only. Interestingly enough, the movie was filmed in Toronto during the SARS outbreak, adding a bit of currency to the film’s premise.

Umm… who the hell designed Alice’s outfit? Did she kill a stripper zombie after she woke up from the hospital?

Resident Evil: Apocalypse features an almost-entirely new cast of characters… which is appropriate, considering that basically everyone got killed off by the end of the first movie. The heroine is once again Alice (Milla Jovovich), who is no longer a passive bystander and occasional ass-kicker when the plot calls for it. In this entry, Alice is infected with the T-virus as an Umbrella experiment. Conveniently, this gives her super powers instead of turning her into a zombie. Apparently the whole zombie thing is an unfortunate side-effect, although none of this is really elaborated on in the movie (I had to check the Resident Evil Wiki to find that one out). The only other character who is technically returning is Matt Addison, although he is played by a different actor (and by “played” I mean that his dissected body is portrayed by someone else) and he is mutated beyond recognition into Nemesis… so yeah, basically just Alice then.

The new characters are a mixed bag. On one end of the scale, we have the characters from the video games: Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), both of whom are central to the action. Unfortunately, both are flatly characterized, trying to come across as “badasses” in basically everything they do. Carlos’ introduction is incredibly goofy as he bungie jumps out of a helicopter firing dual-wielded pistols, each round successfully headshotting a zombie. Conceptually it’s rather badass, but it just comes across as cartoony in action. An even worse offender of this is Jill Valentine:

As you can see, they transcribed her Resident Evil 3: Nemesis costume almost perfectly. However, this suffers the same adaptation problem as the original Judge Dredd did in the costume department – it just looks goofy. Jill Valentine is supposed to be a special forces agent, why the hell would she be dressed in a miniskirt and tube top? To hammer things home, Jill’s fight scenes were hampered because Sienna Guillory had difficulty moving in her costume. Could they not have picked something a little more practical… like, I dunno, her costume from the first Resident Evil? Unfortunately that’s not where the troubles end for Jill Valentine, because she suffers the same cartoonish, over-the-top treatment that Carlos is saddled with. In her introduction, she literally walks into a crowded police station and kills zombies (who, at this point, are still thought to be human). To make matters even more over-the-top, she shoots a guy’s handcuffs off. Furthermore, I felt that Sienna Guillory might have put in the worst performance of the major characters. This may not be so much her fault though, since she’s given nothing to work with on a script-level. The treatment of the video game characters makes them feel more like action movie caricatures rather than real people and really makes it difficult for us to have any real bond with them.

On the other end of the scale are the expendable and/or useless characters (of which there are many). Some are basically just transparent plot devices (Dr. Ashford and Angie Ashford), some are there just to die (the entire S.T.A.R.S. team and Umbrella special forces) and then some serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever (Terri and LJ). Terri and LJ are so useless that I have to rant about them to hammer home the point. Terri is supposed to be a professional reporter (who apparently uses a cheap camcorder for her job) who follows Jill Valentine around until she dies. She literally does nothing of importance but run around and then get eaten by zombie children. LJ’s even worse, being nothing more than an annoying, generically “pimpin'” black side-kick. Do you remember the secondary black guy in Event Horizon who suddenly turns into comic relief and helps destroy the third act of the movie? LJ and that guy must have attended the same school of gangsta slang. LJ just shows up in scenes and screams or makes really stupid gangsta quips which just distract from the plot. He’s thrown in here as comic relief, but all he really does is make you want to punch Paul W.S. Anderson in the face for writing such a useless character.

Moving onto the plot, the movie picks up right after the first Resident Evil ended. Umbrella goes into The Hive and stupidly allows all the zombies to escape. Soon after, Racoon City is overrun with zombies and quarantined by Umbrella. Meanwhile, Alice, Jill and company have to rescue the daughter of a high-level Umbrella employee if they want to escape the city before it’s sanitized. Finally, taking advantage of the chaos, Umbrella decides to test their Nemesis bioweapon against Alice in order to determine which program shows the most potential. As you can probably see already, the story is once again very thinly drawn (which is a shame because a movie set in the background of the Racoon City outbreak has ample opportunities for a great story). Plot contrivances absolutely abound. Why the hell would Umbrella open up The Hive when they know there are T-virus zombies loose inside? How lucky is it that Alice finds a fully-loaded shotgun less than 10 seconds after escaping the hospital (more lucky than the video games, I’ll tell you that much)? How does Alice know about what the Nemesis program is, considering that she was unconscious when it was enacted, and she didn’t link it to Matt Addison until later? How does Umbrella get away with dropping a nuclear weapon on Racoon City, especially considering that they let a bunch of people escape the city (and therefore spread the news about the zombie apocalypse)? How can Jill and Carlos pretend to be Umbrella Agents when there’s a televised national manhunt for the pair? Finally, why the hell do they get Alice and Nemesis to fight each other… with their fists!?! Do they plan on sending them into combat unarmed? And how would this really determine which of the two is “better”?

Obviously the story has more holes than Swiss cheese, but unfortunately I feel that Alexander Witt botched things from a directing standpoint as well. Being his first solo directing effort, I get the feeling that Witt overcompensated and ended up using directorial techniques in a really mish-mash sort of way. For example, half of the time the zombies are on screen, Witt films them at a low FPS setting, making their movements extremely jarring. Maybe Witt was going for extra terror or something, but it just comes across looking awful and overused. It’s techniques like these which make Resident Evil: Apocalypse look more like an amateur effort. I may give Paul W.S. Anderson a lot of shit, but I’ll admit that he can at least shoot a film and make it look like a very professional production. I think Witt’s inexperience also extends to making Racoon City feel like, well, a city. With very few exceptions, the streets of the city are completely empty unless the main characters are getting attacked by zombies, which is odd considering the whole zombie apocalypse thing.

The treatment of Nemesis is another major issue with this film. On the one hand, I’m glad that they went with an almost-entirely practical costume to portray him, since it looks far better than the CGI models used in the first film (although the CGI has noticeably improve significantly in Apocalypse). Unfortunately, this is a bit of a double-edged sword. Nemesis is supposed to be terrifyingly swift – I’ve played Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, and I nearly shit my pants when I saw how fast he was coming after me. However, the Nemesis costume they used is extremely bulky and makes movement very difficult. Nemesis is visibly bumbling about awkwardly and trying to slowly catch up to Alice despite the stiffness of the costume. Basically, Nemesis is turned into a big, slow enemy who’s easy to avoid… which is particularly bad for an enemy who’s major feature is chasing people. Even worse, Paul W.S. Anderson decides to turn Nemesis into an anti-hero near the end. If you remember AVP, that makes two Paul W.S. Anderson movies released in the same year where the big, strong villain gets turned into an anti-hero side-kick. This was really just a big middle finger to people who pissed themselves playing Resident Evil 3 and were expecting Nemesis to replicate at least a tiny fraction of those feelings.

However, there is one positive to Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and that’s the action sequences. Some of them are quite epic, especially Alice’s intro in which she drives a motorcycle through a church and shotguns Lickers to death. Owing to his experience as a second unit director, Alexander Witt is quite accomplished at filming an action sequence, and the film is generally at its best in these moments. If that’s all it takes to please you then you’ll find stuff to like in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, but if you’re looking for a decent story or characters then you’re going to be severely let down. Hell, even Paul W.S. Anderson thought this film sucked. How bad do you have to get for that to happen!?


Be sure to come back soon for part three of this retrospective, Resident Evil: Extinction!

Retrospective: Resident Evil (2002)

Welcome back! As promised, this is the kick-off of our next retrospective series! This time we’re going to tackle the live-action Resident Evil film franchise (as a result, the Capcom CGI films Degeneration and Damnation won’t be covered, although I’ll probably give them each a very short review at the end of the series). And since we’re going to be covering a video game movie franchise, I thought it was appropriate to mention some of the current events in gaming before we dive head-first into these retrospectives. First off, as I mentioned in a previous post, I thought that Microsoft was testing the waters by leaking the restrictions on used games and required internet connection to Wired rather than announcing them in their press conference. Turns out I was wrong (mostly anyway).

Most of you have probably already heard this by now, but it would seem that Microsoft have waffled and are now placing the used games restriction in the hands of publishers. The online verification thing is sticking as well, although it is a 24 hour verification (or every 1 hour if you’re logging into someone else’s XBOX ONE). This might be forgiven if the system was priced extra-cheap, but it’s going to be $499 (with Europe and Britain getting shafted by exchange differences). I hate to be an obnoxious fanboy, but right about now I’m extremely glad that I am a PlayStation lifer: my first console was a PS1 and I’m probably going to stick with them out of misguided brand-loyalty forever – even if the shoe were on the other foot in this instance. That said, the only real negatives I’m seeing about the PS4 right now are that online multiplayer requires a PS+ subscription and that the system is HDMI-only… both of which are features of the XBOX ONE anyway and so wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. In any case, I’m getting really freaking excited for the next generation of gaming consoles, enough-so that I’ll probably be pre-ordering a PS4 soon.

Alright, enough of that, time to get to Resident Evil. The Resident Evil film franchise is the most financially successful movie series based on video games, having brought in almost $1 billion between the (thus far) 5 films. With a 6th film in production it is likely to surpass that mark, which would make it one of the most lucrative franchises of all time. Of course, money isn’t everything – despite its successes, the franchise has a rather… uh… toxic critical reputation to say the least (which we will, of course, be covering over the next couple weeks). In this entry, we will be discussing the first film in the franchise – 2002’s Resident Evil. This film has frequently been labelled as one of the best video game adaptations of all time, usually being brandied about alongside Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider. Are these accolades* justified? Read on and find out…

Going for the sex appeal are we, marketing-types? Very smart move. I also really love the colours here, they blend very nicely.

In the early stages of production, George A. Romero was in charge of writing and directing Resident Evil. Yes, that’s right – the man who invented the modern zombie in Night of the Living Dead and perfected it in Dawn and Day of the Dead was supposed to adapt Resident Evil into a film. Of course, the man was almost 15 years removed from those films at the time, but the prospect of him returning to the zombie genre was certainly an exciting one. At the time he had not returned to the genre in quite some time (and would not until the release of Land of the Dead in 2005), and so his involvement was one that generated much interest.  Romero was apparently planning on making a fairly close adaptation of the first game in the series, using characters from the game (Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, Ada Wong, Barry Burton and Rebecca Chambers). For whatever reason, Romero was fired (apparently the hardcore gamers would bitch about deviations from the plot and newcomers wouldn’t be engaged) and the film went into development hell. If you’re interested, you can actually read the original draft here… I haven’t, but if you have/do then let me know how it was in the comments.

At some point, Sony approached Paul W.S. Anderson to work on the project. Anderson was almost certainly approached for his work on the relatively successful Mortal Kombat film, and soon was both locked as both the writer and director for Resident Evil. At the time Paul W.S. Anderson wasn’t quite the hack he’s considered today (he wouldn’t release Alien vs Predator for another 2 years, and he was still living off the good will of the first 2 acts of Event Horizon), and so the decision wasn’t too troubling. Oddly enough, Anderson decided to move even further from the original story than Romero, with only the Umbrella Corporation, the mansion and monsters connecting the film to the video game series. In his own words, “under-performing movie tie-ins are becoming all too common and Resident Evil, of all games, deserved a good celluloid representation”… which basically translates too “the best way to adapt a video game is to not adapt it at all”. I’m not entirely against this line of thinking, but the movie risks alienating the core audience if it fails to “feel” like the source it’s claiming to be an adaptation of. Of course, there has to be a balance – for example, how awful will the Uncharted movie be if it’s a direct adaptation of the first game? Just make a new, well-written adventure story starring true-to-character representations of Drake, Sully, Elena and Chloe. Similarly, Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy managed to be an awesome fan film just because it captured the fundamentals of the source without being a direct adaptation of it. Many video games have perfectly serviceable plots which can be translated to screen, and Resident Evil was one of them in my opinion.

Also worth noting is that Paul W.S. Anderson was gunning for the movie to get a PG-13 rating. Yes, you read that right – a movie about cannibalistic zombies and monsters with no skin butchering people sounded like a fun time for the whole family. This sort of ties into my previous point as well – the Resident Evil games are fairly violent. Each game has a screen which warns you that there’s violent content and therefore appropriate only for adults. Hell, the game’s ESRB rating is “M” (not that anyone seems to follow that). Luckily they ended up going with an R-rating (a fairly tame one at that), but I had the same sort of problem with the recent World War Z – how do you justify making a movie about people getting violently torn apart and cannibalized and make it PG-13? You end up having to sanitize it which just cheapens the experience and practically ensures a bad product. I’m not usually someone who pushes for R-ratings like some others I could mention (would The Lord of the Rings really have been improved with an R-rating? No, no it would not). However, zombie movies they really do require an R-rating because the staples of the genre involve visceral violence and gore – taking those out with discretion shots tends to not work.

Anyway, when production began in earnest, 2 fairly big names signed on in lead roles – Michelle Rodriguez (who had been making waves as a beauty in Blue Crush and The Fast and the Furious) and Milla Jovovich (at the time, probably most famous for The Fifth Element). There were some more minor male roles of course, but these were the big two, as evidenced by the poster for the film. As a result, the movie was marketed as “sexy chicks kill zombies”. In fact, I can actually remember seeing a commercial for the film as a little 12-year-old kid, where the crux of the marketing campaign was basically “see this movie because a girl in a slinky red dress slow-motion kicks zombie dogs in the face, Matrix-style”. Oddly enough, that’s actually more appealing to me now than it was back then…

Ahem… so we’ve got pre-production out of the way, but was Resident Evil any good? Well, let’s talk about the plot first… or lack thereof. Resident Evil (and its sequels) are notorious for their shallow, illogical plots and this fact became evident in the first film. Put simply, a zombie toxin (the T-virus) gets released in an underground facility owned by the Umbrella Corporation called The Hive. When The Hive’s AI unit, The Red Queen, locks the facility down, Umbrella sends in its own private military unit (plus a couple civilians they decided needed to tag along) to infiltrate The Hive and shut down The Red Queen… of course, this releases the zombies. Based on that short rundown, can you spot a few major flaws? Like, if the AI locked down the whole Hive, why do they have to send in a PMC to investigate? Can Umbrella not communicate with The Red Queen directly, or maybe check security footage? Don’t they have failsafes or something? When they reboot The Red Queen, why can’t she just lock down the facility again? Why can’t The Red Queen warn the Umbrella Corporation that there are zombies inside? And probably most importantly why would they take civilians into The Hive with them!?! Is their m.o. to reveal Umbrella corporate secrets to damn well everyone (especially since one of the civilians turns out to be an NSA agent)?! Basically, the whole plot’s just a thin pretense… like a video game, minus good gameplay to make up for it.

No, touching your joystick does not count as “game play”.

Then there’s Alice, Milla Jovovich’s character, who is basically just a convenience. When The Red Queen locked down The Hive, she also releases some sort of stun gas which causes amnesia… for some reason, she also releases this at the Umbrella Mansion (despite it being kilometers away from The Hive), causing Alice and her fake-husband Spence to lose their memories. As a result, this allows Paul W.S. Anderson to seed us new information and skills when it’s convenient to the plot, to add some “suspense” and to allow characters to spew exposition at her. Need to suddenly deal with zombie dogs? Oh goody, I just remembered that I know martial arts, now I won’t be just a bystander all the time. There’s also the fact that Paul W.S. Anderson seems to do whatever he can to get Milla Jovovich naked – there are 3 separate scenes where she’s either completely naked or almost naked (her introduction where she’s knocked out in the shower, a flashback sex scene and the end of the film where she wakes up in a hospital). You’d almost think that Paul W.S. Anderson had a thing for her… of course, we’ll get to that in good time.

Speaking of Alice, the characters in the film aren’t very well drawn, or acted for that matter. No one really has anything to work with, but I felt that Michelle Rodriguez did a particularly bad job (which is unfortunate because in her later films she is an effortlessly badass bitch). The one major bright spot in the acting department though is Colin Salmon as James “One” Shade, the leader of the Umbrella PMC. His character is AWESOME, but dies way too early. To be fair this was a fairly clever curveball on the part of Anderson, but considering how weak the other characters were it was a bad move to kill off his best character. There’s also the fact that his death scene is pretty badass and definitely a highlight of the film.

Partly because of the weak script, Resident Evil just plain fails as a horror movie. I know that Paul W.S. Anderson can create suspense and horror – Event Horizon was really successful in this regard, at least until the 3rd act at which point it went off the rails. Unfortunately, he just plain failed to do so here, thinking that he can scare us by kicking a can off-camera a few times (hint: it’s not working). In fact, the first 40 minutes are rather boring because we’re supposed to be getting connected to the characters and getting scared by what’s happening, but fails on both accounts. The movie also suffers from using CGI on some of the monsters. I can understand having to use CGI to represent a Licker since it’s a pretty grotesque, out-of-this-world being, but the effects are just really cartoony and plastic. To make matters worse, they’re intercut between shots of an animatronic Licker which just reinforces how bad the CGI is in this movie. Think I’m overstating just how bad it is? This is one of the first zombies we see in the movie (read: it’s supposed to make us piss our pants):

Yeah, we’re pissing our pants alright… pissing our pants laughing that is. Did they render that on a PS1 to remain authentic to the game? The Red Queen hologram’s pretty awful too, with horrid lip syncing and extremely stiff movement. In fact, Resident Evil might have some of the worst CGI I’ve ever seen in a professionally-made movie… and don’t give me any “oh it’s 2002, the special effects weren’t good then” bullshit. Jurassic Park came out 10 years earlier and it looked phenomenal. The Matrix came out 3 years earlier and looked much better than anything on display here. The technology wasn’t lagging here, it was the guys who worked on the movie who are to blame.

Also worth singling out is the extremely shoddy editing, which might actually be the worst aspect of the whole damn movie. One two separate occasions, the characters get completely surrounded by zombies and then, one cut later, they’re safe with absolutely no explanation as to why this is. That’s like if in Saving Private Ryan the Americans had been getting shot at on Omaha Beach as soon as they land, but instead of showing everyone getting gunned down, they instead cut straight to them firing flamethrowers at the pillboxes. It’s very noticeable and just suggests that they probably just didn’t film the whole damn movie (because why would you cut out the exciting escape or last-second scramble to get onto the pipes…?). There’s also a point where Alice fires a 9mm pistol at the zombie dogs at least 18 times without reloading . Now I’m no expert (unless countless hours of video games factor into that), but the Beretta 92FS that Alice takes off the dead security guard doesn’t appear to have a magazine capable of carrying that many rounds (the standard size is apparently 15 rounds)… as a result, I figure it’s probably just bad editing… and really, did she need to fire that many shots to take out a half dozen zombie dogs?

All-in-all, I think you can gather that Resident Evil was a pretty bad movie. Barring James “One” Shade, the zombie dogs and some half-decent action sequences, the movie is not very well done at all. The fact that it gets name-dropped among the “best” video game movies is baffling to me – as far as I’ve seen, all video game movies have been unfortunately shitty, and Resident Evil is absolutely no exception to that.


Be sure to come back soon for part 2 of this retrospective, Resident Evil: Apocalypse!

*Of course, none of these are considered “good”. I’ve only seen Silent Hill out of these 3 movies, and while it captured the atmosphere of the town quite well, it really failed as a proper film. On the laurels of its atmosphere and cinematography alone, I’d have to give it a 5/10.

Video Game Review: Dead Space 3

I was struck with a bit of good fortune this week: a couple months ago it occurred to me that my school’s reading week coincided with the release date of Dead Space 3. I loved Dead Space, its sequel (which is easily one of my favourite games of this console generation), Extraction and most of the extended universe as well (the Ben Templesmith comic was amazing, the other comics and Martyr were decent, but the animated films kind of sucked) and so clearly I was eagerly anticipating the latest entry in the series. However, as I followed the pre-release info I was getting understandably nervous.

  • “They’re adding co-op? Didn’t that screw over Resident Evil 5? Isn’t it hard to make a horror game with co-op?”
  • “That trailer really didn’t scare me at all. It looked like a big shoot-’em-up like Lost Planet.”
  • “WTF, there are going to be human enemies this time!?”

Despite my concerns, there was still no way I was going to pass up another excursion to the Dead Space universe. So, were my fears unfounded, or was Dead Space 3 a massive disappointment? Well I suggest you read on to find out… (Note that for my first [and so far only] play through, I played on Hard Mode and did not do any co-op or get any DLC aside from what’s bundled with the Limited Edition. Also, there are some spoilers in this review, so be careful.)

Dead Space 3 opens very… dishearteningly. Basically all my worst fears seemed to be confirmed within the first 30 minutes. The prologue is pretty interesting, but it definitely emphasizes action and scripted set-piece moments over the slow-building tension and horror that the series is known for. Things get even worse when it shifts back to poor ol’ Isaac Clarke. While I’m a bit dissatisfied with the story at this point (which I’ll get to later), what really disappointed me here was the shootouts with Unitologist gunmen. This feature was incredibly ill-advised for a number of reasons. For one thing, the cover system is terrible. Isaac can crouch behind cover, but it doesn’t really provide him with much protection at all. There’s also very little hit feedback, so you can be taking damage and not know it unless you quickly glance at your RIG’s health bar. The enemy AI isn’t that smart either – they just sort of make their way to you while firing until you choose to blow their heads off or shotgun them. They don’t provide any challenge at all until late in the game when they’re attacking you from 2 directions at once or at one particular instance where 2 guys on a balcony are firing rockets at you while you’re simultaneously being attacked by Twitchers, which took me almost a dozen tries to overcome. It should also be noted that I was playing the game on Hard Mode on my first play through, so the general lack of challenge is pretty unfortunate and surprising. Finally, the gunplay is simply just not that fun. Dead Space isn’t built to accommodate a third-person cover-based shooter, and so throwing one in anyway wasn’t a very good idea.

This opening doesn’t have the same sort of “oomph” that Dead Space 2 did: in that game, the opening cinematic laid the groundwork for that game very well, and then when the game started in earnest I literally shouted “HOLY SHIT!!!!” All that without having to resort to over-the-top theatrics to try to get your blood pumping. In short, Dead Space 3 has lost most of the sense of subtlety and tension that the previous games fostered, something that the opening hour demonstrates very well to all the people who feared such a thing.

Anyway, once you get beyond the first couple chapters, Dead Space 3 starts to pick up a bit. The chapters spent in space feel largely like classic Dead Space gameplay… with some refinements and new issues of course. One notable difference is the new crafting mechanic, which allows you to customize your weapon, its attachments and upgrades, then add further upgrades in the form of circuits. The crafting benches also allow you to make health and ammo packs, as well as other items. Put simply, the crafting mechanic is very handy and it’s fun to put together a super-weapon: I took the DLC Evangelizer Carbine + Shotgun attachment and it lasted me the whole game as my mainstay weapon, just tweaking it with new modifiers as the game went on. The only downsides to this system are that enemy encounters can be a bit of a joke as you blow them away with your super-gun, and that I miss having 4 weapons to switch between for different situations instead of 2… yeah you’re technically still running 4 different guns now, but that also means you’re down the alternate-fire from the previous guns as well. It also sucks when you’re in the middle of an encounter and then suddenly find yourself needing to reload, losing the use of one of those guns. The other issue with crafting is that you’re never going to be short on health or ammo packs… not that the game doesn’t provide you with tons of them anyway. Health and ammo are ridiculously plentiful in Dead Space 3, even in Hard Mode. I literally never ran out of ammo in this game. In contrast, the last 1/3 of Dead Space 2 was an intense exercise in ammo conservation. I had to get really good at dismemberment, stasis and kinesis if I wanted to survive… in Normal mode, no less. In comparison, Dead Space 3 is a breeze.

Another new feature in Dead Space 3 which I really liked was the addition of optional side-quests. While they’re all just a half-dozen Necromorph encounters to get a key to unlock a door, then a couple more encounters to find some epic loot, the developers did a good job ensuring that they stayed interesting… even if they begin to grow stale towards the latter point of the game. Some of these are co-op only, but that didn’t bug me too much in all honesty. I hope they were a little more diverse than the single-player ones in any case.

Those disappointed that Dead Space 3 would be on a planet shouldn’t be too put-off, since they’re actually going to spend quite a few hours in space. However, the action soon switches to Tau Volanis, which is where the game actually manages to wring out a few scares and intensity. In the first 30 minutes or so that you’re on the planet, you have to keep your body temperature regulated or you’re freeze to death. This makes it pretty dangerous to be outdoors for very long – especially in a fight where you’re given another way to die on top of being eviscerated by Necromorphs. The Feeders also will scare the piss out of you the first few times you run into them. They can be dealt with without confrontation, something this game desperately needed. Trying to sneak past and distract them is intense, they’re creepy little bastards and if you alert them then it can be hell trying to deal with them coming from all directions. Enemies also occasionally burst out of the snow which can be startling (although not nearly as much as I would have expected it to be).

The stretch on Tau Volanis largely continues the same problems of the rest of the game, however. Enemy encounters are unfortunately still very straight-forward: Stalkers, my favourite enemies from Dead Space 2 for their clever AI, are reduced to simple and predictable foes since they’re far more aggressive now. Encounters can also get infuriating as enemies have a tendency to drop in behind you unannounced while you’re fighting waves of foes. It’s not scary, it’s just annoying. The planet setting has some great potential to be just as terrifying (if not more) than space, but the game does not live up to this promise. Just imagine how scary it would be to be in a blizzard with limited visibility, but hear Necromorphs creeping up on you just outside your field of vision. Or how about backtracking through a non-combat area only to discover a fresh set of footprints followed you through that area – OH SHIT, WHAT/WHERE IS IT?!?!

For the purposes of this review, I feel the need to mention the latter chapters since some new issues arise there as well. On the positive side, super-charged kinesis is EPIC. Tearing the limbs off of living Necromorphs never gets old, and throwing whole Markers into the eyes of a giant monster is probably the coolest thing in the entire game. However, the last chapter was a massive piss-off. Ignoring the physics of running and fighting on a giant rock which is flying through the air towards a living moon, the game doesn’t tell you that there’s a blizzard behind you which is tearing said rock to bits if you don’t move fast enough. I literally died here about a dozen times with absolutely no explanation and was understandably frustrated until I just ran through the level. The lack of explanation here just ticked me off, and could have been easily fixed with some dialogue along the lines of “oh shit Isaac, the ground behind us is disappearing! Run!” The final boss fight is also exceptionally easy (although this seems to be a Dead Space hallmark at this point), although it was also very cool at the same time.

Moving on to other notable aspects, the story is a bit of a convoluted let-down in Dead Space 3. The scene is set for Isaac’s personal journey, but the game fails to set up the events transpiring in the universe at large. Apparently an army of Unitologists have overthrown EarthGov and are causing Necromorph outbreaks across the galaxy through terrorist actions! Holy shit, that sounds insane! Unfortunately, the game doesn’t set-up, elaborate on or provide closure to these events at all, which is a damn shame. Hopefully we get some extended universe pieces which cover these developments, because whoever wrote the script for Dead Space 3 didn’t seem to care. The secondary characters are also really throw-away, I couldn’t really remember who they were or even really care when they died. Simply, the plot is nowhere near as engaging or coherent as the previous games were, but I’m glad they did not default to the “Necromorph outbreak occurs and character X has to survive it” template which nearly every other Dead Space media falls into.

Other things worth noting are that this game is far less violent than the previous 2 games were. This is surprising and odd, and really just seems like another side-effect of a shift to a mass-market focus. Honestly, there’s only 1 really violent on-screen death and the camera jumps away from it after a split-second. On a more positive note though, the co-op mode is very unintrusive and should set the bar for co-op modes in the future in my opinion.

Considering how much bitching you just read through, it probably sounds like I absolutely hated Dead Space 3. However, honestly I did enjoy it: the basic mechanics of the series are very enjoyable and the game adds some fun new elements to the mix. That said, the game does not live up to the expectations that the rest of the series established. Put simply, EA and Visceral sold out with Dead Space 3, toning down the series’ horror elements in favour of the lowest common denominator shooter/action market. I can live with that if that’s the future of the franchise, but if so then they should build the next game to be action from the ground up, rather than tack it onto a horror framework.

Bottom-line: Dead Space 3 is a lot of fun, but it’ll be a disappointment if you’re a fan of the series.


Movie Review: Noobz

So recently I stumbled across this review of a video-game movie called Noobz. Normally this wouldn’t excite me all that much, except this particular review ravaged the film. As a bit of a purveyor of bad cinema and crappy-movie lover, I instantly knew that I had to track down this film and review it for myself. Was it really as bad as Dan Ryckert said? Well, read on and find out…

So what exactly is Noobz? Well it’s supposed to be a comedic road-trip movie about a clan of gamers trying to get to the biggest gaming tournament in the country, celebrating gaming culture along the way. Honestly, that’s a bit of a rote scenario for an independent film (see Fanboys for Star Wars, One Week for supposedly “Canadian” culture, etc), and Noobz really doesn’t distinguish itself from the other similar movies in the genre… well, not in a positive way anyway. Why not? Well for one thing, it does a really, really poor job capturing gamer culture. While I didn’t like Fanboys, its one redeeming feature was that it captured the Star Wars geek culture pretty well. Noobz is closer to One Week in that it shows a really stereotypical view of its subject matter… except, in the case of Noobz, this is a really BAD representation. The director and star, Blake Freeman, was actually a professional gamer… a decade ago. Based on the content of the movie, it seems like this is where all of Freeman’s “research” came from, because it’s a woefully outdated and portrays gaming as the domain of anti-social nerds. This MIGHT have flown back then, but this is 2013: basically everyone games now, and nerds are actually coming in vogue as well. You’d swear this movie was made by CNN or something based on the way it portrays gamers, not someone who is apparently one himself. Furthermore, he just completely fails to capture gaming culture in general. One of the most glaring examples of this is that there’s a Frogger tournament at the same tournament that the main characters are at. However, only 2 people enter it because coin-op gaming isn’t “cool” anymore. Now it doesn’t take a lot of research to know that retro gaming is a huge subculture right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if such a tournament actually had more competition than a modern shooter. Another issue is covered here:

“There’s a passing mention of Frogger, but the only gameplay footage from the fictional Cyberbowl video gaming championship is based exclusively on Gears of War 3. While it’s clearly a form of product placement, it’s a bizarre choice at that: Gears of War 3 isn’t a championship level game by any means (especially with the atrocious host-advantage issues in multiplayer).”

Watching the movie, I actually speculated that this was the case, but it’s nice to see it confirmed. That said, I’m not really all that knowledgeable about tournament-level gaming (I’d imagine that PC gaming, particularly Counter-Strike, would be probably the #1 choice for competitive play…?), but it’s notable that this stuck out as clearly as it did.

In addition, Freeman shows only the worst aspects of gamer culture. You know that douche bag 12-year-old screaming racist and homophobic slurs on your headset every time you boot up a first-person shooter? Basically every character in this movie is that kid, except that they’re like that 24/7 and not when they’ve got the anonymity that a headset provides. Sure, some of them probably are douche bags like that in real life, but Noobz disproportionately presents every gamer as someone with some sort of major personality flaw. The “heroes” are stereotypical dicks living the Jersey Shore lifestyle (with the “dudes” and “bros” thrown around CONSTANTLY throughout to cement this), and every single female character is either a grotesque hag or a sex object. And, of course, everyone is shocked to discover that the girl gamers are actually good at video games… this, unfortunately, is probably a stereotype which actually persists in this culture, but Freeman isn’t exactly putting this part in here to make any sort of statement. I think the worst part about all this though is that Blake Freeman really seems to think that he’s portraying gamers in a positive manner, because you get this sense all the time when the character Andy spouts off his ramblings about how major league gaming should be considered a real sport. While I’m not entirely sure I’d call them “athletes”, pro gaming clearly takes a lot of skill and deserves some respect, but Noobz isn’t doing this culture any favours.

I think it’s also worthwhile to go deeper into each of the characters… because boy do they ever deserve to be torn apart. Each and every one of them is a one-dimensional stereotype: there’s Cody, the slacker with major anger management issues. Next is Andy the optimistic dude-bro who’s in love (read: wants to screw) with Rickie, a girl gamer on the other team (who isn’t really given much characterization beyond “is hot”). After that is Oliver, the massive screw-up who is also an extremely flamboyantly closeted gay (the movie tries to make his sexuality ambiguous, but the scenes where he runs around in lipstick, screams like a girl, constantly tries to suck his friends’ dicks, etc pretty much destroy any possible sense of ambiguity that they could have tried to foster, instead turning him into a hugely offensive stereotype). Finally, there’s Hollywood, a disabled kid who I believe has a severe form of asthma… of course, everything about him revolves around his juvenile sexual fantasies and his breathing apparatus (apparently it’s supposed to be funny when his air supply gets cut off and the kid is freaking dying in front of us). Seriously, even in the end credits he apparently writes a hit hip-hop single called “Let Me Breathe”, because everything in his life apparently revolves around his disability.

As you can probably glean from the descriptions of the main characters, Noobz is offensive as a bus full of dead babies, but you don’t know the half of it. The portrayals of Oliver and Hollywood are really the worst of the bunch (apparently gays aren’t considered “men” in this), but there’s also plenty of casual racism and sexism. Did you see the picture above of the black kid with the comb in his hair? I’m pretty sure you can guess exactly how they portrayed him in this. There’s also a scene where an Indian gas station attendant acts like a ridiculously racist caricature, and tells the cops he’s white so they won’t discriminate against him. It seems like Freeman thinks that he’s being clever and satirical, but it really doesn’t come across that way: I mean, is are we really supposed to believe that he is making fun of racists by being racist and then simultaneously calling out racial profiling at the same time in some sort of inverse-satire cluster-f–k? Short answer: no. Instead, I really get the feeling that Blake Freeman is just a hardcore opponent of political correctness, suggested by the scene where the douchey little black kid gets a free ride on “DeezNuts Airlines” (“thank you for riding DeezNuts!” …I did not make that up) because he claims that he’s being racially profiled by a white attendant. While I hate political correctness as much as the next guy, Freeman isn’t using offensive material to make a statement or to be satirical… he seems to just find offensive things funny for no other reason than it’s offensive. Even in this department, they fail because they recycle the same old offensive jokes over and over and over again.

In fact, for a supposed “comedy”, Noobz is deathly short on laughs. I can honestly say that I did not laugh at any of the jokes in this film, which is pretty pathetic. The only times I did laugh were in sheer disbelief as I literally yelled out “WTF, did they seriously put something that stupid in the movie?!?” This is pretty brutal in the scenes with Greg Lipstein (a play on Billy Mitchell) which might have been funny for the crew but translate really awkwardly to the rest of the audience who are sitting here thinking “what the hell is wrong with this guy?” Furthermore, the comedic set-pieces are really tenuously constructed. Take, for example, the scene I mentioned earlier with the Indian gas station attendant. Cody goes into the gas station to pay for their gas and get some snacks, but comes across this little shit of a girl. Of course, the two begin going at it, insulting each other with dialogue that doesn’t reflect human speech in the slightest (that might be an odd criticism, but the dialogue in this scene is just totally out of tone with the rest of the film). Then the girl’s mother believes that, because Cody is hugging her daughter, that he must be a pedophile and proceeds to taser him without explanation. Then the Indian gas station attendant launches into his ridiculous shtick. This is honestly some of the most contrived comedy I’ve seen in a movie, and it’s just not handled very well (uhh, no pedo).

Anyway, in the end the “heroes” lose to the girl gamers (who were far more deserving of the prize money anyway), but get signed to Mountain Dew… except they don’t, because 2 seconds later in the credits they reveal that the guy was arrested for impersonating a Mountain Dew executive (WTF!? Is that even a crime?!!), but I’m not really sure that I care, because the main characters were such huge douche bags and they didn’t learn or earn anything from the events of the movie… so it makes things completely pointless. Congratulations, you just wasted an hour and forty minutes of your life!

Bottom-line: the only positive thing I can say is that Freeman is a competent enough director, but he severely needs some better material if he ever wants to amount to anything. Noobz is not that material. It has a bland story, non-existent comedy, garishly offensive and doesn’t even portray its own subject matter with any sort of reverence. Unless you’re looking for a really bad movie like I was, stay away!


5 Reasons Why Raiden (Still) Sucks

I’m a big fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, counting Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots among my all-time favourite video games. Yes the overarching story is very convoluted and loopy, but the stories in the individual games are amongst the best in gaming. Equally importantly, the gameplay is very fun, free and humorous, giving you the sorts of options that no other game series can get away with.

That said, the series isn’t perfect. There has been much ink and fanboy rage spilled over the issue, but upon the release of Metal Gear Solid 2 there was a lot of criticism leveled at the protagonist, Raiden. The flowing blonde hair, the whiny attitude and annoying girlfriend were all starkly at odds with the series’ regular hero, Solid Snake. Of course, most Raiden apologists have clung to this notion, saying that people simply don’t like him because he is not Solid Snake, and for no other reason than that. As a result of the criticism, series creator Hideo Kojima gave him a major makeover in Metal Gear Solid 4, turning him into a sword-wielding  cyborg ninja. The makeover seemed to work, as many peoples’ opinions turned around and suddenly people wanted to play as Raiden again. That wish is finally coming true soon, as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is going to be released in the coming weeks. It looks like Raiden has finally redeemed himself…

…actually, no. He really hasn’t.

Put simply: Raiden still sucks. “Why’s that?” I hear the fanboys crying, demanding blood. Well let me enlighten you through 5 reasonable points…

Note, I unfortunately haven’t played MGS2 in quite some time, although I have played through MGS4 recently. This might affect my views on MGS2 somewhat, although I’ve made sure that my reasoning doesn’t hinge on that game too much. Also MAJOR FREAKING SPOILERS!!!

5) Whiny as all hell

Watch this video. Within the first couple seconds Raiden’s bitching about not having the card key he needs. Then skip to about 0:45 and see how long it takes you to throw up in disgust…

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s not a flattering appraisal when your action hero’s most consistent character trait is that he’s very whiny and angst-ridden. It makes it incredibly difficult for me to empathize with a character who refuses to help himself, but this is basically Raiden’s defining feature. In MGS2 Raiden spends much of the game uncertain of himself, whining about his situation to his girlfriend over the Codec whenever you try to save. Basically the only reason why he gets through the game is because “Iroquois Plisskin” motivates him to do so. In the process Raiden actually begins to develop as a character. By the time he got ahold of the ninja sword near the end, it was time to nut up or shut up, and I actually found myself enjoying Raiden finally. Ok, so they laid the groundwork for the character here, getting the painful origin out of the way so we can have a badass sword-wielding dude in the future…

…except no, this bright future kind of got thrown to the wayside in MGS4. Raiden believes that his girlfriend has a miscarriage and runs away from home because he’s so sad, becoming a cyborg ninja in the process. So clearly Raiden hasn’t learned his lesson – if anything, he’s even whinier and angst-filled than ever. Seriously, half of his dialogue in MGS4 is in the vein of “You wouldn’t understand…” and “I have no future…“. Kojima gave Raiden a ton of power, but Raiden just doesn’t care and it really robs his character of any real essence. I mean, he looks cool when he’s battling a dozen Gekkos, but it’s really a superficial fight – there isn’t a lot of narrative weight behind it because Raiden just doesn’t care. Worst of all, when he reunites with his family at the end of the game, Raiden doesn’t even acknowledge Rosemary – clearly he still wants to run away from his problems, and it’s exceptionally grating.

Now with Revengeance on the way, the question is – is this element going to continue into the future? And if not, is the character still going to feel like Raiden?

4) Revisionism
Remember what I said about the ends of MGS2 and how all Raiden’s character development got thrown away? What are the chances that this is going to happen again in MGR:R? Pretty damn strong I’d say. At the end of MGS4 Raiden became human again, putting aside his cyborg ninja get-up to live with his wife and son. Once again he finally seemed to have some sort of happy future ahead of him, but MGR:R looks like it’s giving Raiden another make-over.

This reminds me of the (terrible) Resident Evil movies. Its main character, Alice, is very badly defined, and in every single movie in the series they have been rewriting her in an attempt to make her interesting. Of course, this creates a jarring tonal shift between each movie, but it’s painfully obvious that their attempts at revisionism are hurting any chance of establishing a character identity for the series’ freaking protagonist (for example, Alice went from an everyday security guard, to experimental warrior, to superhero, to badass bitch and now she’s a Ripley-wannabe). Similarly, the constant revision of Raiden is making the character arcs of the previous game worthless. Ideally, each narrative should build upon the next and give us some development. Despite all my criticism, Raiden has a great backstory which can be mined for material with ease. With any luck, MGR:R will do so and finally give us a consistent story for Raiden.

3) God Mode

When I first saw Raiden destroy a half dozen Gekkos and Vamp in his introduction in MGS4, I almost shit myself in amazement. In the back of my mind there was something niggling me, saying “this is totally ridiculous” but it was also really, really cool. Suddenly everyone wanted to play as Raiden again if he could pull off moves like that. However, it soon becomes apparent that Raiden is retardedly unkillable. He nearly dies from stab wounds from Vamp, but later he gets crushed by a giant battleship and somehow suffers even less damage. Even then he’s able to continue fighting despite missing both of his arms. Unlike Snake, whose death it seems is inevitable and very possible at any given moment, Raiden is basically invulnerable and overpowered in MGS4, making him a rather boring character (and making his whininess even more grating). One of the best moments in MGS2 was when you controlled naked Raiden through Arsenal Gear – he was very vulnerable at this time but it was one of those moments that endeared you to the character.

2) “Badass” to the detriment of the story
This one is related to the previous point. Remember the part about Raiden getting crushed by a battleship? I’m not done with that yet. Just watch this:

While I’ll admit that the ending of that sequence is very sad and incredibly well directed, this is probably my least-favourite sequence in all of Metal Gear. It’s just so stupid and makes absolutely no sense. “Well wait,” you might say, “you’re arguing about sense in Metal Gear? This is a series where psychic connections are made with severed arms (amongst other things)!” While that is the case (and, I might add, most of the retarded plot points in the series come from MGS2…), this one just takes the cake in my opinion. Just watch it again… Raiden somehow stops a massive, speeding battleship… by standing in front of it… on flat ground… which is breaking up (and has had no trouble breaking up until that point I might add)… and somehow stabbing himself in the foot makes the ship stay in place longer… the idiocy of the whole situation is just head-smackingly terrible. It literally is one of the main reasons why MGS4 isn’t my favourite entry in the series. Here, Kojima overcompensated to make people like Raiden, and did so to the detriment of the game (and considering how important story is to any Metal Gear game, that’s pretty bad). If he had died it might have made this a little less criminal, but the fact that he lives with nary a scratch (somehow he lost another arm?) means that this whole sequence was horrendously unnecessary.

1) He’s not Snake

Ok, I made fun of this argument at the start of the article, but in all honesty it really does boil back down to it… although not in the way that a defender of Raiden would hope it to. A Raiden-fanboy would argue that people hate Raiden simply because he is not as badass as Solid Snake is. However, I believe the real case is that Raiden is simply a worse character overall. Look at MGS4 again – Solid Snake is an old war veteran, fighting his last battle and racing against time to kill his arch-nemesis before he dies. He’s frail, beyond his prime, and fighting on anyway. All that matters to him now is completing the mission and ending his father’s legacy. Solid Snake is badass, but it’s because his character has been defined as such, and he earns the distinction. Similarly, Big Boss (Snakes father/genetic progenitor) earns his distinction as a badass through his character development, rather than because he looks like Snake… in fact, Big Boss is easily my favourite character in the entire series simply because he has such a great character arc. Unfortunately, Raiden isn’t nearly as compelling as either character, in part because they insist on rebooting him in each subsequent game.

That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement – as I said earlier, Raiden has a great backstory as a child soldier and the effects this has had on him provide the perfect material for a great character. Sadly it has been wasted thus far, but I can always hope that they actually go somewhere with him in the future.

BONUS: MGS2 Commentary
I, like many MGS fans, was rather disappointed with MGS2… not because of Raiden (I knew about the twist by the time I played), but because of the ridiculously convoluted plot, which was dense and incomprehensible even by Metal Gear standards. In recent times, people have been defending this, saying that Kojima intentionally was creating the first post-modern video game. To that I say… yeah, you’re right. It was damn impressive in that sense. At the same time, I have hated most of the post-modern fiction I have read. I might appreciate them on a technical level, but they typically refuse to be enjoyable. MGS2 suffers from this by having plot twists invalidating plot twists that had been revealed 5 minutes earlier, logic that was tenuous by the series’ standards (the psychic arm…) and confusion piled on top of confusion. In a sense… the story is a total mess, and in a game where the story is as important as the gameplay, that really hurts.

In addition, I have a lot of difficulty going back and playing MGS2 now… I had fun with it when I played the first time (I fondly remember disarming the bombs on the struts still), but now the controls are exceptionally clunky. Compared to MGS3, which struck a balance between complex controls and player freedom (not to mention the free camera in Subsistence, MGS2 feels ancient. I dunno… at some point I’ll try my hand at it again, but I honestly had an easier time going back to MGS (or even the first 2 Metal Gear games for that matter).

5 More Tips for Battlefield 3 Players

I want to preface this article with a story of 2 kids on headsets that I played with a couple weeks ago. We were playing in a DICE server, the most popular maps/modes from the base game. The whole time, they were bitching about how the enemy team was cheating, spawn camping, ripping them off (how the hell did he kill me, I shot him first!) and so on. I found them incredibly grating, and so wrote down their PSN IDs for future reference. Later I checked their BF3 stats and… they suck. Hard. They both had around 20 hours of experience. One of them had less than a 0.5 K/D ratio, while the other had around a 0.38. Kiddies, the enemy is not to blame for your poor performance – you are. Try to keep that in mind.

My previous BF3 post covered most of the basics that an aspiring noob should know, but it was hardly comprehensive. This post covers a few more tips, and is based on my own experiences so it’s a little more opinionated (as you’ll soon see). That said, I’m sure you’ll agree for the most part and will find this info very helpful.

5) Laser Sights/Flashlights… not a fan
I see people rocking Laser Sights all the time, and I just can’t fathom it. Flashlights are a little more rare now since DICE nerfed them, but they still show up from time to time. However, this brings me to my point – why do people still use these things? Both give away your position to the enemy very easily, and the blinding effect is really poor. I can honestly say that I have never been killed because of the blinding effect preventing me from killing someone (if anything, they already had the drop on me). In fact, I find the blinding effect easy to compensate for – just shoot towards the middle of the light, or take cover. I think it’s pretty telling that when my enemies’ laser sights and flashlights have given me more kills than deaths that they’re a pretty terrible weapon attachment.

That said, they have their useful situations, but I would never turn off my useless attachment every time I spawn on the off-chance I might need it someday. The laser sight in particular gives you better hip-fire accuracy. However, I personally have learned to just take my silencer/RDS P90 and compensate.

4) Sometimes You Just Have to Charge
If your team and the enemy are stuck at a choke point firing back and forth, your attempts at flanking have failed, and your team is bleeding tickets, sometimes you just have to take the initiative and barrel in there (I’d recommend Assault or Support classes for this, or if you’re using a shotgun). I’m not going to lie, 9 times out of 10 you’ll probably die (although you may drag a couple people down with you). However, sometimes you’ll catch the enemy off guard, especially if you’re quick out of the draw. If you’re lucky, you’ll kill 3+ enemies (possibly the entire opposition on that side of the door) and single-handedly pave a path for your team to advance.

3) Persist
Sometimes, no matter what your team does, it looks like you’re totally screwed. The urge to rage-quit can be pretty strong, but it’s not over til it’s over. And by that I mean that the tide can totally shift unexpectedly. I’ve had games where my team was getting their asses kicked all game, and then suddenly, with 1 Rush objective left, suddenly we rally and hold the last base from the previously unstoppable foe (and with 300 tickets no less). The reasons for this are simply because if you have a bad team that is losing, then there will be rage-quitters, whose positions will hopefully be filled by skilled players who then turn the tide. In a recent game, I was barely pulling off a 1.0 K/D average in a game (I was about 23 to 20), but my team suddenly was boosted and I managed to rally with a 60 to 40 K/D (pretty damn good considering how badly I was doing).

If you lose a match, then a similar thing will happen with rage-quitters. As a result, the game rebalances the match by taking players on the other team and then puts them on yours (depending on your server settings anyway). In another recent game, my team lost pretty badly, but I knew that the game would rebalance after the match since most players were quitting on my team. Lo-and-behold, in the next match we shut out the enemy and I actually managed to top my Nemesis Victim streak.

Basically, if your team is doing poorly, stick with it. Consider hanging back for a few minutes and picking off the enemy more conservatively. They might turn things around unexpectedly.

2) Change Up Your Tactics
When I play, if I have tried to attack a base from the same approach but have died the last few times, then I believe it is essential to approach it from the opposite vector. For example, if I’m playing Rush on Damavand Peak, and I’m trying to capture the 2nd set of objectives, I generally hang towards the right flank and make my way into the destructible building overlooking the right objective. However, if the enemy has holed up here, and are anticipating us, I will immediately change up my approach, hanging towards the left side of the battlefield instead. Unless the enemy is smart and have spread out evenly, a disproportionate number of troops will be on the right flank, expecting an attack which has stopped coming, allowing you an easier chance at taking the left flank.

Of course, if no approach is working, refer to point #3 and keep at it!

1) Play As a Team!
This ties into my previous list’s points, but I didn’t really state it quite so explicitly: Battlefield 3 is a team-based shooter, and if you’re not playing as a member of a team, you’re going to suck. Similarly, if you’re going to set the MCOM station but don’t have any cover, there’s a very good chance you’re going to die. BF3 players, support your allies and don’t dick around uselessly! I shouldn’t have to say this sort of thing so often!

Good luck, and see you on the Battlefield!

Quick Fix: So tomorrow’s the end of the world…

I for one have come to grips with the inevitable ape uprising and will be pledging my support to our simian masters. 😉 In all seriousness, hopefully over the course of the next 4 weeks, the 2012 Doomsday bullshit will finally come to an end. I got really sick of it 3 years ago back when it started. In fact, I recall writing an email on a time capsule website which will be sent to me tomorrow… should be interesting to see it!

Also, I have another follow-up to the Connecticut shooting to address in regards to video games. Obviously, they’re getting blamed on this shooting as usual. Fox News in particular seems to blame the recent rash of shootings in the States on GTA (which had a mall-shooting level) and Call of Duty (which it humourously calls a “military simulator”… ArmA is a military shooter, but it has a much smaller user-base, not that Fox would know that). Anyway, while video games have not been conclusively linked to real-world violent acts, but I do think that if we’re asking gun nuts to make compromises then we should as well. ESRB ratings need to be better enforced so kids aren’t getting ahold of Mature-rated games. This should help to pacify senators,  keep kids off of their bloody headsets online and might finally dethrone Call of Duty. I jest, but I do hope that changes don’t turn violence in video games into obscenity.

Of course, since I live in Canada these won’t have a direct result on me outside of residual effects on the industry (less M-rated, mass-market games perhaps?). And it’s not like it matters anyway since we’re all going to die a flaming death come tomorrow.

Have a happy apocalypse!

Top 10 Basic Tips for Battlefield 3 Players

I’ve been playing Battlefield 3 since release, and while I’m not amazing by any means (currently a 1.41 K/D ratio), I am consistently one of the top players in the server when I play. That said, I’ve seen some absolutely brutal players out there (who, more often than not, are rocking headsets and acting like they’re uber-l33t). With that in mind, here are 10 basic tips for people playing Battlefield 3 (although some are pretty general so you can apply these to any shooter/paintball/airsoft):

10) Flank
Is the enemy holed up in one area? Are you able to get around behind them? Watch this video and see the value of the opening this gives you:

A successful flank like the one above can disrupt or break an enemy’s defense line and allow your teammates to advance much easier. You might not survive, but you should bring down a few of them with you.

9) Know When to Fold ‘Em
In any shooter, when you’re facing off against an opponent it’s incredibly easy to get tunnel vision. You feel like you have to kill that guy, or die trying. However, if they have the upper-hand (you’re at >50% health, low on ammo, sniper vs shotgun, etc) and you have enough cover to make a safe getaway, it might be a good idea to get your ass out of there. After that, you can set up an ambush if they choose to pursue, get some reinforcements, or at the very least heal yourself. No sense in dying needlessly.

8) Use Cover
In the above point, I mentioned that you should only fall back if you have cover. The reasons for this should be obvious – cover keeps you alive. If you’re in cover and your opponent isn’t, you have a much smaller profile and are at a massive advantage. Inversely, if your opponent is using cover, then you can beat this in a couple different ways. Either flank them, flush them out with explosives or blow it up (if possible).

7) Stay Mobile
Another common-sense tip, but one that is woefully under-used in almost every shooter… the existence of the word “camper” pretty much attests to this. Admittedly, camping a section of the board can be a good idea, but if you’re doing it it should be to help the team. If you’re just running off, camping on top of a hill and then staring down your scope for 10 minutes, I can guarantee you I am going to come after you and rape your corpse. It’ll be much more infuriating if you kill a couple people in a 30 second period, and then move. If the enemy does not know where you are, then you have the advantage.

6) Spawn Intelligently
The first BF3-centric entry in this list. Yes, it really sucks spawning far away from the frontlines, but sometimes this is your only real option. If your allies are under fire, overextended, or just in trouble generally, it’s best just to spawn elsewhere. Otherwise you’re going to have to respawn in 15 seconds anyway. If you’re not sure how things are going to go down, then watch them on the spawn screen and wait for an opening.

5) Watch Your Mini-Map
Not sure where the enemy is? Check out your mini-map. If they fire their weapon, you should be moving to flank them ASAP. Especially if you’re a sniper, since the scope is cutting down your field of vision exponentially. Otherwise, this will happen (skip to 1:00):

Now this is a good idea if you don’t have a target already won’t work for all opponents, but you can get around it by putting a suppressor on your gun. Some people aren’t so worried about this, but I know that I always put a suppressor on my weapon.

4) Situational Awareness
This applies to infantry and other vehicles as well, but in this case, I’m going to refer to tanks in particular. Tanks rock in BF3, but they have some major vulnerabilities. Among these, C4 and anti-tank mines are probably the most common. Anti-tank mines are rarer than they were in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 but they can still wreck a tank in 1 shot. The easiest way to avoid these is to use your spot button to minesweep and/or keep an eye out for mines. Or just avoid well-traveled paths.
When I was a tank-noob, for every vehicle or javelin attack that took me out, there was at least 1 other time when I got attacked by someone with C4. As a result, it’s a bad idea to charge into confined areas – guys with C4 can hide in these areas easily and kill you before you even know there was someone there. You can counter this with a proximity scanner, but you’ll have to make sure you watch the mini-map frequently. However, I prefer Zoom Optics personally. Instead when I play tanks, I treat them like artillery: sit back, fire off the main gun and bombard the enemy from afar. Then, if the enemy could be hiding in the area where I advance, I switch to 3rd-person view frequently and keep an eye out. If they’re putting C4 on me, I jump out and shoot ’em up before they have a chance to react.
Bottom-line: don’t rush in, use third-person view, kill noobs.

3) Use Your Class-Specific Equipment
Again, you’d think these would be obvious… but if I had a nickel for every useless medic or support class I’ve seen in a game I’d be a bloody millionaire. If you’re a medic, throw down health kits and revive people (don’t get yourself killed in the process though). If you’re a support gunner, throw down ammo kits (especially if someone’s yelling “I NEED SOME AMMO!!!!” at you). If you’re recon, throw down spawn points. If you’re an engineer, repair vehicles. Again, this should be obvious, but the sheer number of people who do dick-all to help out their team in this game are staggering…

2) Spot Enemies
Seriously, the Spot function should be second-nature as soon as you see an enemy. Hell, even if you don’t see an enemy, press the Spot button to see if there’s anyone there. Spot has gotten me so many kills that I’d be much worse at this game without it. Even if you don’t get the kill yourself, you’re basically designating that enemy for your entire team to bring their wrath down upon.

This whole list was inspired by a recent game which illustrated this point very well. One of my squad-mates was on his headset and talking about how he was bored of defending the objective and wanted to charge the enemy head-on. Predictably, he died soon after, but the whole team started abandoning the objectives in favour of charging like morons. As a result, the enemy snuck past them and nearly took our objectives, if it wasn’t for the 2 of us that were still defending the base.
Battlefield is a largely objective-based game, and if you want to be a good teammate, then play the f-ing objective. This doesn’t mean you have to camp right on top of it, but remain in the general area where you can defend/attack the thing through covering fire, direct attacks, etc. If you’re dicking around in the middle of nowhere because you’re afraid of dying, you’re not helping anyone.
Also, in something like Team Deathmatch, your objective should be to maximize your K/D ratio. Generally, it’s a good idea to stick to the fringes of the map, or to places with wide lines of sight and good cover. Narrow corridors are generally where the action gets funneled, but these are death traps.

Hopefully these tips help you out!

FPS’s and Innovation

I have a couple ideas for blog posts on a backlog. I’ve been planning on posting them for the last couple days, but I want to give them a better time commitment than I plan to for this one. So I came up with a short rant about the current console gaming landscape so this blog doesn’t whither and die like all my others have, haha.

It’s no secret that console gaming is pretty much dominated by First (and some Third) Person Shooters at the moment, specifically Call of Duty. At present, many people have been complaining that the market is flooded with shooters with no innovation, and the two biggest targets of this diatribe are Call of Duty and Battlefield.

This is where my little rant comes in. I can definitely understand the bitching in regards to Call of Duty: the series has had at least one new release every year for the past 9 years. Of these, the last 6 have been running  on the same engine with little in the way of differentiation between games. Admittedly I was quite a fan of the series up until around Black Ops when it started to get boring. The story mode was fun, as was 4-player split-screen, but the online multiplayer was never really my thing – give me Metal Gear Online any day of the week (speaking of which, can’t wait to play MGO3 when Ground Zeroes comes out). Furthermore, I had always played COD for the story modes – I remember having my socks blown off by the Russian campaign in COD: Finest Hour, and COD4 was absolutely brilliant. However, by the time that MW3 rolled around, the story was… predictable. Every single bloody level ends with a massive moment, whether it be something getting blown up or a main character dies for no other reason than because they needed to fill their body-count quota.

However, I do not understand why Battlefield gets tacked on with Call of Duty when people deride the current gaming landscape. Is it because it is setting itself up to dethrone Call of Duty? Is it because they’re both shooters? Is it because they’re popular? Is it because it’s not art either? Hell, I wouldn’t mind if they were bashing the modern Medal of Honor games since they pretty much are Call of Duty (cue enraged fanboys). Battlefield has only had 3 main releases in 10 years (not counting spin-offs). You might be able to make this argument when Battlefield 4 comes out because it looks like EA is giving BF a semi-annual rotation to coincide with MOH, but that’s not the current state of gaming, that’s the future.

Admittedly, I am currently a Battlefield fanboy. Bad Company 2 was like a revelation after so many stale hours spent playing COD online, and quickly became my multiplayer title of choice. BF3 has been in and out of my PS3 regularly for well over a year now. While I could give less than half a shit about the single-player, the multiplayer is where it’s at. It’s a far more team-based and wide-open game than COD, and suits my style more as a result. So when people compare the two games… is it because they both have guns? Because if you have more of an interest in shooters than simply dismissing them, you’d see that they play quite differently.

That said, I’d like to see the gaming landscape open up a bit, but considering how expensive it is becoming to make a AAA game these days (especially since the next-gen is a year or 2 away), I can’t see that happening soon. But then again, people are always bitching about how the end of ______ is near, and it’s no different with the shooter market. People need to nut up or shut up…

Wow. This ended up being longer than planned… eh oh well. Don’t turn the comments section into a flame war.