Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Two C's of Television

I'm pretty rubbish these days at keeping up with TV. What tends to happen is I'll accidentally leave a a show alone for awhile then end up ploughing through 4 or 5 episodes in one sitting. However two shows that I do my best to stay on top of are Castle and Chuck. Quick warning, one or two minor spoilers are placed within.

For those that don't know Castle is Nathan Fillion's current show where he stars as Richard Castle a author based in New York who works with NYPD Homicide Detective Kate Beckett on 'interesting' murders, and its doing quite well for a change with a full second season. Chuck is Zachary Levi as Chuck Bartowski, slacker turned spy by accidentally absorbing a super computer into his head. Chuck, beyond all expectations, managed to get a third season thanks to fan outcry and one hell of a push by Levi and Subway.

Now these two shows don't have a great deal in common. Sure both are comedies, but one is a murder mystery while the other is James Bond hijinks with an unlikely main star. However, the one thing they do have in common that I'm going to discuss is their romantic angles.

Both shows try that long held TV tradition of the male and female leads being perfect for each other but never actually getting together. A process that Moonlighting famously worked so well with, until they made the mistake of finally getting Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd together and ruined all of the chemistry. X-Files did it well and apparently Bones is doing a great job of it too. Chuck, however, is not.

I'm getting infuriated with how the romance is progressing between Chuck and Agent Walker as they've keep getting together then something happens that means they can't be and both mope around moaning that they can't be with the person that they love. Then one of them will make the mistake of trying to move on and the circle begins a new. Season 2 ended with the two finally together, only for Chuck to cock it all up between seasons and Walker being pissed off with him for a couple of episodes till she realises that he does still love her.

On the other hand, the relationship between Castle and Becket is one of the best done I've ever seen. Two people blatantly meant to be together but both are totally oblivious to it, while everyone else around them can see it plain as day. Even to the extent of an interviewer assuming they were because of how Castle acted. The latest episode contained had them both go on dates, and in that wacky way of TV end up in the same restaurant and spending the entire time running off to talk to each other about the case.

Now I just can't believe I've written an entire post about relationships. I'm going to go do something manly like play Darksiders and spill gallons of demon blood to make myself feel better.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pocahontas in Spaaace

I finally saw Avatar this weekend. Not at the Imax as Smith and I originally intended but we still saw it in Real3D. It’s a shame we didn’t get to live our Imax dream but it would have been another two weeks and I’ve come so close to people nearly ruining it for me that I just couldn’t wait any longer.

The story is good. Nothing amazing, and as many people before have pointed out, highly derivative of other works. It is enjoyable and a thoroughly fun movie though.

The thought and detail that’s gone into the world is incredible. Good sci-fi and fantasy have a good grasp of the cultures of their races. Avatar goes so much further. Not just with the Na’vi where the story dictates that they’re culture is worked out, but the biology of the world.

However, where Avatar really shines is the special effects and the 3D. Not once during the movie did I find myself thinking the CGI was ropey. In fact I didn’t even think about it all and just accepted it. That’s one hell of an achievement. Watching a film that’s something stupid like 90% CGI I accepted Pandora and its creatures just as much as any human character on screen. The 3D was wonderful too, spending the majority of the time just adding depth to the shots and making the world just feel that bit more real and immersive. Only once or twice did they pull “WOW SOMETHING FLYING AT YOU” that the other 3D films ram down your throat, and those were the times that I caught myself rolling my eyes.

That said I loved the film. Not sure how it’s going to stand up on the small screen, even with new fangled Blu-rays. News of 3D TVs may help it but they’re going to be ridiculous prices for a while. I still say that outside of the cinema 3Ds not going to take off in any major way until some genius invents a way of it working without glasses. Then we’ll have holograms and that’s a whole different story.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Look Back At Brain Munching

Another week of broken PC and its been a bloody busy one too. So busy I've been struggling a bit for a topic. Since its been mentioned elsewhere, at a secret location hopefully to be revealed soon , I've been playing Resident Evil: The Dark Side Chronicles with Smith on the Wii. A console that's apparently starting to turn into something I bought just to play on rails shooters.

Dark Side Chronicles is alright, I can't help think Umbrella Chronicles did it better though. Most of the improvements to the game don't really seem to do a great deal except for the new camera. A system that feels like it was stolen Mission: Impossible III. The camera jerks around like a demented kangaroo, at points not allowing us to get shots off at the enemies starting to surround us or completely throwing off our aim as Leon, Claire or Jack Krauser face off against some of the bosses in the game.

One of the main things that the Chronicle games make me do is look back at the series of Resident Evil as a whole. For someone who came late to the games I'm way too much of a nut. I only played the original Playstation when I was visiting friends houses and as a result it always seemed like a franchise that I was going to miss out on. When I got to uni I nearly played it, and the few people who had, made me think I should even more. But still I didn't. Finally, Capcom released a remake of the first Resi on the Gamecube and announced more were to follow. It was then that I decided to play catch up. And I did it chronologically.

I really liked this game, maybe it was because I didn't have any prior knowledge ruining my experience but it was good and I really liked the two characters on screen at the same time. I've always wanted Capcom to go go back and tell what happened to Billy after he left Rebecca on that mountain top. It would have been nice to have co-op though and some of the monsters were a bit crappy. Giant frogs I'm looking at you.

I may have played an updated version but I can see why this started a massive franchise. The game is brilliant. I really liked the fact that depending on who you played as changed elements of the game. Sometimes I wish I could have played the original so I got to experience some of the terribly translated dialogue and the B-Movie intro but seeing it serious really helps the game, especially as they tweaked the story to fit into the mythology a lot better.

I remember switching this on for the very first time having just finished Zero and the remake of One and being disgusted at the graphics. Then the controls. The version on the Gamecube was a re-release of the original Playstation version. Not even the Dreamcast version which had a couple of updates. I convinced myself to at least make it through a playthrough as Claire so I'd know the story. Before I was even halfway through the Police Station I was looking past the dog shit graphics and the nearly decade old controls as I was enthralled. Soon as I finished Claire's story I started Leon's within minutes. I was hooked. Then the game really blew me away. Unlike Resi 1's two stories that were the same game but with a couple of minor changes and different subplots Resident Evil 2 was a totally separate game. You barely did anything as Leon that you had as Claire. Despite 4's revolution of the series and 5's co-op, Resident Evil 2 rates as one of my all time favourite games. Not just of the series but of every game I've ever played.

I've never played.

I liked it, it had a lot to live up to as I went straight from 2 to this. It wasn't amazingly strong. It does have the unfortunate position of being the only game in the series that I've never completed (that I've started anyway). I got up to the Tyrant in the airplane, had the wrong ammo and the fight was just unbeatable.

I covered already.

The co-op was cool but My God they fucked up the inventory system. Still, can't wait for the DLC.

With the news that the series is getting another overhaul I'm really interested in where it goes next. I also predict that we're going to see at least one more Chronicles game that covers 4 and 5.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Deline of Microtransactions?

Not the original post I had planned for today where I spoke about how I nearly bought Left 4 Dead 2 but changed my mind when I found out Darksiders was out this week and just how FUCKING BUSY this year is in gaming. Unfortunately, my PC went up shit creek without a paddle and I can't get at anything on there. I'm now writing this from my flatmate decrepit old laptop that needs 10 minutes whenever you tell it to do something. Which is a right pain in the arse when I'd planned on actually doing quite a bit of work today.

So instead I'm going to concentrate on a topic I was going to lightly touch on in the original post. That of DLC. Last year saw one of the biggest moments in Downloadable Content when Rockstar released its first Grand Theft Auto episode, The Lost and The Damned. And bloody hell was it good. I loved it, possibly more then the game it was an expansion for. Now up until that point DLC had nearly always been rather small, offering the odd new level or some equipment. It was the dawn of mirco-transactions in console gaming and we had premonitions of minor add-ons coming out for all major games and it'd be a mind field to work out whether something was worth the money and bandwidth. Notable exception including Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion, but since Oblivion is also the very first highway robber of DLC with its woeful Horse Armour it manages to represent some of the best and worst qualities of what DLC can be.

The Lost and the Damned changed all that. With that, you got practically a second game. Suddenly Force Unleashed's extra level of 40 minutes play for nearly 8 quid was even more obvious as a total rip off. 2010 brings numerous DLC's to many games, some have even been out for awhile. Resident Evil 5 is receiving two packs, length hasn't really been disclosed but you also receive extra characters for Mercenary mode. However, Capcom are also giving us some 'costume packs' for Resi, which if anything like Force Unleashed's will be a huge waste of money. Assassin's Creed 2 is also getting two packs, both are full blown chapters that had to be cut from the game due to development time, one is even based in a new area.

However, they all pale in comparison when it comes to Bioware and Dragon Age. I realise that this game has become something of a promised land to me but screw you all. To start with Dragon Age seemed to be following the same tried and true method of DLC, small chunks. Return to Ostagar, the third of these chunks has just been delayed, much to my dismay as I've been powering through my second play through to be ready for it. However, Bioware announced earlier this week “Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening” a full blown expansion like we used to get back when you had to buy them from shops, and like Rockstar gave us last year, twice. From the sound of things it IS going to be out in shops too, something Rockstar did as well when they released Ballad of Gay Tony, and having spoken to some insiders this was mainly due to the fact that sales for The Lost and The Damned online didn't match up to what was expected.

The one thing about this that annoys me is that its expected in March. As I said at the start of this, this year is one of the busiest years of gaming yet. March is one of the busiest months for good games too. Bioware are starting to sound like they're going to be treating Mass Effect 2 the same. Then again they said the same of the first game and we only got two packs, over a year apart and the second was atrociously bad.