Friday, July 31, 2009

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince (Movie Rant),30368/

To say I've been disappointed with the Harry Potter movies would be an understatement. It's amazing to me that J.K. Rowling's novels, so full of wonder, wit, excitement, and heart, could be rendered so stale, derivative, and lifeless on the screen (with the exception of Alfonso Cuaron's take on Prisoner of Azkaban).

My dislike of the films grew so great that the wife and I quit going to see the movies in theaters after Goblet of Fire, and we didn't even finish Order of the Phoenix when we watched it on DVD, which was even more rushed and lifeless than Christopher Columbus's direction of the first two Harry Potter movies. I wouldn't have even watched Half-Blood Prince if a friend from out of town hadn't ask to see it while visiting. And I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Yate's take on Half-Blood Prince. His skills as a director - or, at least, his skill at making a Harry Potter movie - have substantially improved since Order of the Phoenix, and he successfully captures some of the emotional core of the original story.

All the problems of Potter franchise are still here, though. There's still too much plot crammed in from the novels, with most of the beats too rushed, making the big moments almost impossible to care about. Most of the actors, while extraordinarily talented, don't feel comfortable or right in their roles (Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith being the two exceptions that spring to mind).

The smaller moments work quite well, though. And Yates actually removes action sequences from the book, instead of adding needless ones (a first for this series), which gives the story a little more time to build properly. With The Deathly Hollows being split up into two features - and Yate's improvement as a director - we may finally get two Harry Potter movies that live up to their source material.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 - There is Only War (Release Day)

Downloading the update as I type, and it's slow going on Steam - thanks, I imagine, to all the traffic. I participated in the Beta of this mutiplayer update, and despite some bugs, I found it to be a solid improvement on what was already my favorite RTS since the first Dawn of War. I didn't think Relic could make this game more addicting, but they did. And that's eight new multiplayer maps released for free to all owners of the game. Kudos to Relic for excellent customer support.

I'll hold off my detailed opinions until I play the final product for a few days, which looks to have been tweaked quite a bit since the Beta release earlier this month. Looks like my download is ready, so I'm out.

Oh, one last thing - the game is on sale for 50% off right now on Steam. So if you don't have it - and have the rig to run it - now's the perfect time to get it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gears of War 2 (Dark Corners and All Fronts DLC)

Those who keep up with this blog know my feelings about DLC on Live. I think you're paying too much for too little - especially when DLC packs are comprised of nothing but new multiplayer maps.

First off, I'm a cheap bastard. That's an established fact. I watch for sales and wait months, even years for items to drop in price. My geek appetites are veracious and have limited funding. I never thought I'd say this, but the All Fronts DLC pack, a collection of all previous Gears 2 downloadable content, including the new Dark Corners expansion (more on that below), is actually quite a deal at twenty dollars...if you haven't purchased any of the other Gears 2 DLC packs in the last few months.

All Fronts is more in line with a traditional expansion pack for a shooter in the pre-Live days, which typically had around 5 hours of new single-player content, a handful of new weapons and baddies, and several new multiplayer maps/features. I doubt the deleted chapter, Road to Ruin, lasts even an hour - but combined with 19 new multiplayer maps, All Fronts is, in Live terms, a steal for new Gears 2 players or gamers who quickly burned out on the game and jumped ship to another shooter.

On the other hand, I'm disappointed to see that the Dark Corners pack, 7 new mutliplayer maps and the aforementioned Road to Ruin, is priced at a whopping fifteen bucks - the first time, to my knowledge, that a single DLC pack has been priced above the standard ten dollar price-point. I imagine that fan reaction to this one is going to be negative, though I seriously doubt it will stop people from buying it. I'm not going to pick up the All Fronts pack (I don't play Gears 2 multiplayer), but I'm going to follow this one closely. Hopefully, this is the first and last time we see DLC of this size priced above ten dollars.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peter Jackson and Halo are Never Having Make-Up Sex (Confirmed)

Man, file that under "what could have been." Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp not being able to make their version of Halo isn't on par with The Beatles breaking up, but it's still one great artistic opportunity missed thanks to, according to Jackson, some corporate suits who couldn't play well with others. Hopefully, whoever cocked this one up gets a swift, powerful karmic bitch slap in the near future.

Between Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp's skill as filmmakers and the strength of the Halo universe, their version of Master Chief's story could have been a sci-fi classic. Not only that, but I can't see a Halo movie - especially a good one - making less than $300 million in the U.S. alone. It would have been a win-win.

That being said, I'm going to shut up about this. Put it to bed. I'm sure both men are tired of talking about Halo. District 9 is coming out in a few weeks, and if the hype is true, Jackson & Blomkamp have a winner on their hands. Can't wait to see it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writing Update (7/27/09)

I'm up at this ungodly hour because I plan on doing all my writing before work from now on, so it's out of the way for the day, which means getting up at six in the morning from now on. I think I can pull it off, but I'm worried about getting used to, even liking it. If I'm not careful, I may end up with a desire to eat at Luby's.

The goal, as always, is for two pages a day and two hundred words or so here. I'll post again in a few weeks with how this goes.

Some good news: I may have an illustrator to collaborate with. One of our two summer temps is an excellent artist whose goal is to break into comics, which is quite serendipitous, because I just happen to be working on two comic scripts whenever my feature script doesn't want to play nice.

Last week I handed him two pages from my feature script, a mystery/horror story, and the first thirteen scripted pages for the first issue of Big F***ing Robots. I told him that the feature is my baby and I only want a few panels from key moments, like a storyboard, for me to see how he would interpret it. That one's my baby, and I want it just right. If I like the look of it, I may adapt it into comic form. With nearly seventy completed pages (out of about 120), that's three or four issues already completed that merely need to be adapted.

On the other hand, I told him to just have fun with the BFR script. As I've said before, it's a valentine to the fourteen year-old version of myself. It's supposed to be fun, and I want the creation of it to be just as fun as reading it. The only note I gave him was that I wanted it to in no way have an anime/manga look.

Keep you posted, people.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 (Mixed Feelings)

Taken from a forum post I did on blues, because I'm feeling like a lazy bastard this Sunday morning.

I see both sides of this argument.

I still don't know how I feel about such a quick release for a title that, while fun, wasn't worth sixty dollars. Despite the randomness provided by the A.I. Director, there's no hiding that the game is comprised of four segments that last about 45 minutes to an hour a piece. That's shorter than the single-player on Call of Duty 4.

I paid full price for it last year because I thought Valve would support it with numerous - and free - content updates for years to come, making it worth the investment. I never expected a full-priced sequel only a year later.

But, Valve has supported Left 4 Dead 1. There have been numerous refinements, tweaks, and additions - though there's been only one patch that actually provided new content, and that was only a new - and not terribly exciting - game mode. No new characters, weapons, or monsters. It's been disappointing.

What is odd is that they have put much more effort into Team Fortress 2, a game that, on the PC, is half the price and has a smaller global fanbase - without asking for a single penny after the initial purchase. They've worked their asses off with that game, from videos, blog content, and the class/map updates.

From reading their interviews and listening to their in-game commentaries, these guys put themselves through hell to make their art. They bust their asses for years making these games, and they support their fanbase better than any other game company out there to thank us for our support.

Who else would have given away Team Fortress 1 and Counter-Strike away free to owners of Half-Life 1? Released a Half-Life 2 multiplayer game for free after countless user requests. Etc. Etc.

I can see where one could take Lombardi's comment posted above negatively. But it sounds to me like these guys want to have fun making a game where they can focus more on the creative aspects instead of building new tech. This could still turn out to be one helluva game.

That being said, I don't play Left 4 Dead enough to warrant another sixty dollar purchase for a game that doesn't seem very different at all. This could be the first Valve release that I won't least until it gets much cheaper a year or two later. And, of course, if Left 4 Dead 3 isn't out by that time...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Force Unleashed (Sith Edition Announcement)

Well, that didn't take long...

Here I was, complimenting Lucasarts last week on some sound, customer-friendly business decisions with their re-releases of classic games on Steam, and then I read something like this. It took Lucasarts only a week to anger my blood.

I don't mind paying for DLC, though the price-point for most of the packages is too high, including Lucasart's first DLC for The Force Unleashed. But the fact that they're going on "Special Edition" with the game, expecting gamers to buy a game they own again for "deleted scenes" is Lucas.

I may give the Sith Edition a rent through Gamefly, but I'm certainly not buying it. I hope you don't, as well. First off, I'm sure the Hoth level will show up a few months after the Sith Edition's release - exclusive content on Live doesn't stay exclusive for long - so save your money. Second - and more importantly - I'm not going to support such a poor, outright greedy business strategy from this company and its owner. You shouldn't, either.

Friday, July 17, 2009

White Dwarf Archive (Debut)

This one came as a shock to me, since Games Workshop, a company that's never met a price hike they didn't like, isn't in the habit of giving things out for free, even old articles from back issues of White Dwarf.

There aren't that many articles up at the moment - and no battle reports, my favorite bit of their magazine - but they promise to post new articles every month. We'll see how they support it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Voyager: Season 2 (A Quick Question)

Why do I keep checking out Voyager from Netflix? What did I ever do to me to make myself punish me like this?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (Release Day)

Mad props to Lucasarts this summer. Between partnering with Valve to release XP/Vista compatible versions of their classic titles on Steam, working with Telltale Games to produce a new Monkey Island title, and, today, releasing a Special Edition version of The Secret of Monkey Island, Lucasarts has put their name back on the map in a very big, very positive way.

As I've said before, it's been hard to watch Lucasart's slow, sad decline these past ten years. There's been a few bright spots - mostly games made by other developers, published by Lucasarts - but for the most part, it's been like watching an Ewok fuck a football.

While I'd still prefer for them to put their energy into new, compelling titles, it's nice to see games like The Dig and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on Steam. And the price point for all their titles - including the new Secret of Monkey Island, ten bucks on Steam or Live - is lower than I expected.

Okay, Lucasarts, you got my attention. I'm impressed. But it's going to take more than some re-releases to completely win me back over to your camp...although releasing Zak McKracken on Steam might work.

I'm easy like that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bioshock 2 (Delayed);title;1

Well, shit...

The article above is an interesting one, since Strauss Zelnic, chairman of Take-Two, clearly states the decision to delay Bioshock 2 was to make "...a more compelling consumer experience and a better performing product in the marketplace."

The question is whether the quality of the game or the quantity of sales is more important to Zelnic - and we won't know that until 2010. If a delayed game turns out to be a memorable one, people shut up about the delays in a hurry (see almost every Valve or Blizzard release). Part of me still thinks that Bioshock doesn't need a sequel, and while I've been avoiding previews for it, what little I've read indicates that 2K genuinely wants to improve on the first game.

But even if it is merely a finical decision, I can't entirely knock Take-Two for it. The original Bioshock came out in late August, at the end of the traditional summer time lull for games. A lot of gamers probably found Bioshock because there was nothing else new out there. How well would it have performed in the fall of 2007, up against The Orange Box, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, and, most importantly, Call of Duty 4?

Of course, Bioshock is an established I.P. now, so releasing the game during a lull makes less sense than it did in 2007. On the other hand, it's not an established multiplayer I.P., and a release in November would have put it up against Left 4 Dead 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, strong multiplayer titles.

One thing's for certain: I can't wait till 2010.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Space Marines (First Trailer)

Somehow, even though it was announced at E3, I just found out about Space Marines this weekend. Its relative lack of coverage made me think it was just a cheap cash-in, until I found out that Relic is making it. Relic's name alone puts this game near the top of my wish list.

The trailer is rather rad - though not as impressive as Dawn of War 2's opening cinematic, which is so good that I still watch it occasionally when the game loads up (Relic should start making a half-hour CG animated show in this style.)

The game looks to be an action-RPG in the vein of Diablo or Marvel Ultimate Alliance: in other words, a "click-click-click" RPG. That means that Relic's going to have their hands full making this game match the quality of their previous 40K titles, because I've yet to play a "click-click-click" game that didn't become stale and repetitive long before the end credits.

Still, my love for space marines in any franchise - whether it be Aliens, Starcraft, or 40K - is deep and unwavering. Consider me down.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Battlefield 1943 (First Night)

Dad and brother picked it up, so I downloaded it last night.

Without looking at the instructions or playing a tutorial, I logged onto a server, not knowing the buttons or my equipment. As an infantryman armed with a machine gun, I got into a fight with an opposing infantryman. We circled around each other, unloading our weapons without doing any real damage to the other, until we ran out of ammo at the same time.

At this point, having played many a shooter in my time, I knew the victor of this duel would be whoever shot their last bullet first, because they would finish reloading their weapon first. This turned out to be me. I grinned with satisfaction at my timing/luck, watching my opponent reload his weapon.

Unfortunately, his character animation changed from reloading his machine gun to pulling out something that quite resembled a bazooka. The grin on my face was immediately replaced by a look of confusion...mingled with horror.

"Hey," I thought to myself, "that looks like a bazooka." Seconds later, a bazooka round shot out of the device resembling a bazooka - which was, in my opinion, definitive proof that it was, in fact, a bazooka.

I died...quite messily.

That alone was worth fifteen bucks.