Monday, November 28, 2011

Fright Night

  I'm thoroughly convinced Colin Farrell is a cinematic chameleon. He may not be as versatile as the greats, but he's certainly a damn good actor, and brings something silently refreshing to the role of "Jerry" the next door neighbor/vampire.  Also worth seeing this for is young actor Anton Yelchin, showing up in 2009's Star Trek and Terminator Salvation. Turning in very good performances in both.
I found that this role of teenage horror movie protagonist fits him very very well. He's young, likeable, and isn't obnoxious in the role. A problem I find with many teen actors.

  I haven't seen the original Fright Night so I cannot really compare, but on its own merits, I found this remake to be lots and lots of fun. Creative and scary, and at times has a nice streak of humor in it, (as all horror movies like this should have). I can't elaborate alot on the movie. It has lots of great moments and clever pieces of dialog, and a really really cool and satisfying climax. I enjoyed this movie thoroughly and its definitely worth recommending. 
  Fright Night is a pretty competent movie overall, having only spotty flaws here and there, and manages to be a surprisingly good time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Saints Row: The Third

  Scroll down just a bit and you'll see its no big secret I loved Saints Row 2. It was wild, fast, and able to be completely yours. Unlike other specific sandbox games  where you can create your own protagonist, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas (both of which I am very familiar with and are personal favorites) the character creation options didn't stop at just your face. In the Saints Row games, you can pick your own voice. Although choices are limited, you can understand how a Fallout veteran like myself might be thrilled with the prospect of not having to read every line your character says, instead, he actually speaks it.  In Saints Row The Third, I went in with extremely high hopes, and massive expectations. I don't think I'd ever been so excited for the release of a new game.  I will buy almost any game that boasts extensive customization capabilities, and I think its a tad unfortunate I discovered Saints Row 2 first.

  Lets start with the cons. Saints Row The Third, on its own footing, hardly gets anything wrong at all. A few glitches here and there, some mildly annoying AI, but otherwise its a strikingly solid game.
But for people who've experienced the second game... we felt the loss instantly.
  For those who pay attention to detail, several facial detail sliders had been summarily condensed into one new 'Style' slider for each tab: Eyes, Crown, Forehead, Ears, Nose, Lips, et cetera...
While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, in fact its a welcome change, but it does sacrific some finer tweaking options that were a must for people creating well known faces. In my case... I made Vin Diesel... but now I can't get the slant of the eyes just right. See? For most this will be no problem at all, but for Saints Row 2 players, we felt the pain. You know how many hours can be spent running around as your favorite celebrity? Beating random people senseless and running over old people?
So anyhow, ontop of those tiny almost irrelevant details being axed from SRTT, the clothing situation has also been changed.
  Gone are the layering options. You can no longer equip seperately an undershirt, overshirt, and coat.
Tops and bottoms are solid pieces now. If you buy an open zip-up hoodie with an ugly shirt underneath it, you're welcome to change the color for the most part, but nevertheless... you're stuck with said shirt. In #2, that wasn't an issue. At all.  Along with reduced clothing options, gone is the need for so many clothing stores. Sloppy Seconds, Branded, Impressions... all gone. Here to stay is Leather & Lace, Nobody Loves MeLets Pretend, and the new Planet Saints.  Yes people, these are just clothing stores.
  But again, for those who aren't so fickle about their appearance... no harm done eh?
Also missing is the size, varried terrain, and scope of Stillwater. The city from #2. Now you're in Steelport. A mostly drab town. Not really all that unpredictable as far as pedestrians go. In #2, the streets and sidewalks were thriving with personality and such, this feels mostly gone from SRTT.

  Now moving on to the pros.
Stillwater was way more "alive" so to speak. Thats not to say that Steelport isn't without merit. This new city is much more atmospheric and colorful than the rather ordinary looking Stillwater. Nothing in Steelport looks generic. Its a banal cesspool of neon lights, hookers, pimps, and flashy looking S&M clubs. I'm sure I'm overlooking some notable locale worth mentioning, but make no mistake, there are LOTS of memorable locations.
  The hand-to-hand combat mechanics have been revamped as well. Gone are the 'fighting styles' of #2, and while many may mourn their absense from this game, I am MORE than happy with the new lil sweet spot button they've put in there. For the PS3 users, clicking R3 at someone while sprinting will unleash a short but brutally sweet melee move on them. Whether you're flipping over them, flipping them over you, or just using your shotgun like a bat and slamming it between their legs right into their nads', you can be sure it never gets old.  Dont worry, you can also use your standard attack buttons to delve out some good ol' "one-two" action when you don't have any weapons equipped.
  And now, with a reduced weapon roster, we're able to upgrade our weapons now! Extended clips, snap-on grenage launchers, lazer sights, scopes, special ammo types, silencers, and more. Its a very very welcome feature. Your two lil .44's may not do much against combat armor when you first set out to wreak some meyhem in the city of Steelport, but upgrade them to level four and you're a force to be reckoned with.
  Also as well as having some cool new cars to trick out in your personal garage or at your local Rim Jobs, driving mechanics have been overhauled. In #2, driving was unexciting and kinda clunky. In SRTT, driving is a blast. You feel like you're going much faster, and nitrous isn't a completely useless thing anymore, and its also super fun to just drift around corners and break out into doughnuts. Super fun.
  Ontop of all this, the missions themselves are as exciting as any number of cinematically inclined cutscenes. You may consider this spoiler-ish, but trust me... having a mid-air fire fight after jumping out of an airplane is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

  There are so many situations here where you feel like you're an action hero in a summer blockbuster as bullets fly, cars explode, and you're making sure you look as damn stylish (or absurd) as possible in the middle of it all. Certain missions feel like you're pulling off a Mission Impossible stunt, rappelling down the side of a building, or jumping out of a helicopter to crash an enemy pool party on top of their huge skyscraper. Certain other missions fell like you're in the middle of an urban war movie, or a full on John Woo crime movie with the slow motion shootouts and all the jumping over sofas while shooting two large calibur bullets. Its all very intense and dynamic and feels very natural in SRTT, the gameplay itself, during these epic battles, feels very fluid and vastly improved over #2. Everything does. From running, to jumping, to beating someone's face in feels and looks much more natural and fun.

  Also Saints Row The Third is not without a certain emotional weight, even though it doesn't hang karmic choice on you like inFamous, there are choices you make that will affect the game, and other stuff happens thats completely out of your hands, and its all kind of emotional because you've stayed with these characters for a long time, You get the in-jokes, you know their quirks, you can feel all of it pretty closely. You're definately connected to it all. Without this weight and sense of family I think that SRTT would be a completely hollow experience, and given the fact I'm saying this about a game in which you can beat someone over the head with a giant purple dildo-bat whilst dressed up as a big furry animal mascot... its pretty impressive.

  If you give it a chance, and overlook whats not here from #2,  you'll find a wacky, crazy, funny, intense, action-packed, and rewarding gaming experience thats FULL of clever surprises and twists, and definately worth investing your time in.  Although if wacked out raunchy humor, or over the top violence isn't your bag... stay far far away.
However if you can appreciate this stuff, and if you chuckle at all those nut shots in "America's Funniest Home Videos" than this is definately for you.  I love this game, and I deeply enjoyed every second of playing it.  It gets my full recommendation.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saints Row 2

  I don't think its any big revelation that lots of video games take themselves very seriously now.
We have widely appealing crime stories ala Grand Theft Auto IV, intense sci-fi thrillers like Dead Space 2, and flat out action games like the Uncharted series. Going to buy a video game now, is almost like browsing for a movie at a rental joint. 

  Call me nostalgic but despite my love for the current wave of cinematically inclined video games, begging to be taken seriously, I miss a slightly older generation of games. Ones that came attached with a laundry list of cheat codes, and hidden areas and all kinds of fun stuff. Now, we have to pay for 'DLCs' to get all the extra stuff. Back then you had to either enter a ridiculously long code straight into the menu, or defeat some mega boss on insane difficulty levels. I miss that kind of gameplay.
  I want to now slap myself for not discovering Saints Row 2 sooner. Or maybe I discovered it at the perfect time. Either way... it was a godsend.
  Its frequently compared to GTA IV because of its sandbox open world style, its focus on the criminal underworld, and its general approach to gameplay. However, Saints Row 2, is not a game on its hands and knees begging to be taken seriously. In fact it seems to be doing the exact opposite: pistol whipping you over the head, yelling obsceneties in your ear, telling you to just enjoy the ride.
  Its an insanely immature game. Loaded to the brim with tasteless wanton destruction and bloodshed, and removing all moral and ethical consequences from sight. Its wall to wall guns, pole dancers, fast cars, foul language and lots of loud explosions.  Despite it unfolding like it was written by a teenage wannabe white boy rapper with a predilection for all things violent, it is most definately cinematically inclined and gloriously so. 

  Although the graphics aren't the best, or even remotely so, the cinematics at the beginning and end of every action packed mission, feel like you're watching an action movie, with big impressive stunts (i.e. jumping out of a helicopter, and into the top floor of a towering sky scraper) and fast paced action scenes. Mind you, this is just in the cinematics, and its also just the tip of the iceberg.

  I played through the game with select cheat codes enabled, never feeling guilty, because the game is already so over the top its not a big leap to want to feel invincible in this world. Even with infinite health, ammo, and my pick of military grade weapons, thats not to say I had the whole world in my hands. I found myself constantly fighting against a timer, or racing against a time restraint, trying to keep my "homies" alive, or struggling to complete a mission in general. Its no cake walk, but the codes certainly made me feel like I was an invincible action star in the latest summer blockbuster.

  I also found the amount of customizable things to be wonderfully self-indulgent. You start off the game, and you're allowed to create your own protagonist. Sex, age, build, facial features, hair styles, personality traits, and even a choice from three voices (per gender). This in itself had me sold already. I love personalizing my own protagonist in any game, getting to create a completely unique one from scratch is always a special treat. Especially so in this game.  The customizing doesn't end there either.

  The story begins with your character emerging from a coma, induced by some explosion taking place in the previous game, and now you find your gang, the 3rd Street Saints, to be gone, your home drastically changed, and several other new cutthroat gangs have dominated alot of territory. Welcome home to the city of Stillwater.
  You have to recruit new gang members to resurrect the Saints, and fight your way to your rightful place at the top of the food chain once again.  So in this epic urban adventure, you can customize the general look of your gang (ninja clan anyone?), the cars your gang use, your own personal garage full of cars and such, and even eventually... aircraft. Fun yes? I thought so too.
  You can also buy up "cribs" all over the city and add your personal touches...
*cough-stripper poles-cough*

  And from there access your wide inventory of purchased guns, and general weapons, your ever expanding wardrobe, a mini game about a zombie apocalypse, the option to re-view those epic cinematics, and your personal cash vault that restocks over time. All this is an epic setup to hours and hours of open world fun and getting sidetracked on mini-games and tongue-in-cheek 'activities' even long after you've completed your last mission. The game is blessed with a dark sense of humor, and at times even a well placed bit of satire, and it all goes towards creating a very enjoyable and unique game that is for the power-hungry gun-freak in all of us.

  If the point of video games is to be totally immersive, this game does it in spades. The only things that could possible have as much totally immersive, open world, reckless, limitless, fun... is Saints Row: The Third, (which I will be buying)... and/or a Star Trek holodeck.