Sinister (Film) Review

It appears that reviewing Horror films is going to be part of my so called blog as well, so I will embrace that by reviewing a new release that, again, me and my girlfriend went to see.

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I was sceptical going into this film, because (as you might just about to be able to read from that image) it was from the same producer as Paranormal Activity, a film series I think is unique. Unique as in it’s the only film series I know where nothing ever happens. Period. Ever. Three films so far. That’s almost five hours of nothing happening and somehow people still found it scary. The only way I got through the film was taking the pissing out of it mercilessly.

However, the producer also did Insidious which I reviewed early. It received a ‘meh’ rating from me. All in all, I wasn’t expecting anything great.

It didn’t start off well either. It began with the cliched scenario that a family wanted to start again so moved house. That idea is only less unique than humans needing oxygen, but okay, I’ll go with it.

Things went slightly better when it turned out that they had moved into a house where several murders had taken place (well, they happened in the backyard. That’s the guys argument) so that the main character could write a book about the deaths. The main character had such depth and complexity that I completely forgot his name.

Actually, I do remember. It was Ellison or something similar. I only remember now because at first I thought it was Alison.

Anyway, the guy finds an old fashioned film projector left in the loft by the previous residents. Instead of doing the smart thing and trying to return it to its previous owner he watches them and is shocked to discover that the films are the recordings of four family’s deaths.

That’s all the story I’ll give because I’m conscious that it’s a new film and don’t want to ruin it.

The film was actually quite scary. It was the type of film where Ellison would be walking down the corridor and you KNOW something is going to jump out or be creepy but you don’t know when. It’s not my favourite type of horror, but it does it’s job.

Ellison is an infuriating character as well. If I had just watched a family be killed on camera I would have told someone about it, like say, I don’t know, the police? But no. He just keeps watching them and trying to find out the killer etcetera and he keeps saying he’s a great father while completely ignoring his children.

And the twist at the end of the film…It was so blatantly obvious they might as well have just told you at the beginning of the film. It was very cliched, very obvious and very uninspiring.

However, the story itself is quite interesting. The videos of the family’s deaths are genuinely creepy and unnerving, so much so that every now and then I still get the tune that was played over one of them in my head, usually late at night when I’m trying to sleep typically. It’s been a long time since a horror film had that effect on me, so it has to take points for that.

The atmosphere took a fracture though when I realised that it was very unlikely anything bad would happen to Ellison (at least not till the end) so I never got a sense of danger. Sure, it was creepy and scary and if I was Ellison I would have been sat in a corner crying but I never felt like he was in any danger.

Overall, I enjoyed Sinister, as much as one can ‘enjoy’ a horror film anyway. It was different to the usual rubbish like Paranormal Activity and was much scarier than Insidious, however I am dreading the sequel (cause there WILL be one). I don’t think the ending of the film left it open to another one. It was all done and dusted and any attempt for a second film will undermine the feelings of the first.

8/10 Not unique enough for 9, too scary to be a 7. A nice little film to watch if you have an assignment to write and need to stay up all night.

First Look: Painkiller Hell and Damnation Beta

Many years ago a company called People Can Fly made one of my favourite games ever. It was called Painkiller and told the story of some bloke killing things…Honestly, this is the only game where I can say the story doesn’t matter. It was fun, fast flowing with solid combat and varied enemies. Then, last year, Nordic games announced that they were doing a reboot, sequel thing.

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The thing about the original Painkiller was it came at a time when Doom and Quake were on their way out and the rubbish games like Halo and later Call of Duty started making an appearance. The so called realistic shooters. Painkiller’s philosophy was that sacrificing realism for fun was worth it and I found myself agree completely.

I know it’s not very realistic when I could run out into a group of ten enemies and come out with nothing more than a chipped nail, but it was fun. A word most youths don’t understand now-a-days with all the realism clogging up the fun gears.

The disappointing thing is, this new reboot doesn’t seem to have changed much. The full game will be released on 31st October (Haloween. I see what you did there Nordic) so I will be doing a full review when it comes out but I played the beta for about an hour so thought I would give my opinion on it.

The beta featured a couple of levels from the original game. That was the first disappointment. The hilarious Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw once said that a reboot or sequel should jump off from the original, explore new ideas and boot out the ones that didn’t work. The new Painkiller appears to do neither. The soul collecting aspect is still annoying, it takes a good minute or two for souls to leave your dead enemies and, while just throwing enemies at us worked brilliantly for the first game, the somehow seemed to have ballsed that up too.

I was swamped by about fifty enemies and I took them all out using the Painkiller weapon (A melee, spinning saw type device) and still came out with nine tenths health. There’s not being realistic and there’s just being too easy, Nordic.

I didn’t see any cutscenes in the beta (Not that I was looking too hard) but I’m sure there will be. I can see them trying to force the storyline down our throats when really, no one gives a crap. But who knows, maybe they’ll make the story make sense.

It looks the same game as Painkiller, just not as good. I’m hoping that they would have changed things for release, but I doubt it. I wouldn’t get my hopes up about this game if I were you. If you played the original Painkiller it will seem lacklustre and if you didn’t, you’re probably more interested in Call of Duty number two billion.

FIFA 13 Review

If you like Football and video games it’s impossible that the release of FIFA 13 has slipped you by. I tried as hard as I could to completely ignore it’s existence, but after playing it at a friend’s house, I realised I had to get it…so I did.

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As a general rule, I don’t buy Fifa games as soon as they’re realised. Partly because they’re always hideously expensive, partly because they’re always THE SAME BLOODY GAME just with new players, so I went into this game wondering weather that statement will be proved true or false.

As far as mechanics to go, what do you want me to say? There’s been about twenty of these games, not including all the Euro and World Cup spin offs. You press a button and the player kicks a ball and if you’re really advanced it’ll go into the net. For the most part my above statement is true. There are many…let’s call them…distinct similarities between this game and Fifa 12. Unfortunately they seemed to have kept the mechanics that pissed me right the hell off in the previous game.

For example, the fact it’s never clear whether your player is technically in control of the ball. Soooo many times have I pressed a button thinking my player would tackle the opponent only for him to shoot from the halfway line because apparently I had taken control of the ball without realising. And vice versa, I would try to have a shot at goal only for my player to go sliding into a nearby opponents shins and get sent off because the ball was a bit too far away, even though I had been in control of the freaking thing about three seconds ago.

There are new features, although there might as well not be. The arena from the previous games has been taken out. (The arena being a place where you could kick the ball around while you decide what to do for those who have never played a Fifa game). The most arse buggeringly annoying new mechanic is the first touch system where the flight, speed and direction of the ball determines how easily you can control the ball. But, of course, this only seems to work at the exact point where I don’t want it to. I must have played ten hours or so of the game already and have never had the first touch system work in my favour. (I’m probably supposed to press a button to make it work, but I can’t for the life of me work out what it is). I will pass the ball along the floor three feet and the receiving player will belt the ball five feet in front of him and promptly get tackled. Even more frustrating when I’m in the box and just want the bastard to shoot!

And there seems to be a delay between pressing the button and the player actually doing something! I know footballers are perceived as stupid, but we could at least TRY to give them some credit! They don’t need three seconds to pick their nose before they realise Im trying to make them shoot! That’s just when they’re stationary! I’ve lost count of the amount of times I run into the box, tell the prick to shoot only for him to take four or five more touches, STRAIGHT into the goalkeepers arms.

All of this could be forgiven if the game wasn’t bugged up the arse. I’ve been stuck on three loading screens already and had to play one match three times. At one point the game crashed when I had the audacity to pick an option out of the menu. At one point I saved the game, came back a few hours later to find that I had to play the next three matches over again because it hadn’t freaking saved.

That’s all…well, most of the bile out of the way. I feel better now, so I’ll talk about a few things I like. Although not much has really changed mechanics whys, I have to say, it feels far more unique than it’s predecessor. I play it on a pretty low difficulty (I’m crap at it OKAY?!) and even now I can never take anything for granted. During the phase where I had to play the three matches over and over again the scores ended 1-1 at first, 1-2 to the AI on my second try and 3-0 to me on my third.

It means that I can’t go into a game thinking the match is already won, which is something I’ve been striving for for a long time. In Fifa 12 I was at a point where the current difficulty level was far too easy, but the next one was far too hard. I like it when I have to work for a victory. It would be nice if I wasn’t fighting the controls as well as the AI though. Sometimes it feels the ‘difficulty level’ translates to ‘how crap the controls are’.

And there are minor details in the game that add a little extra to it. The new career mode looks fantastic. You start out a young up and comer and have to mature and develop as a real footballer would, including going out on loan. My Pro started playing for Everton and immediately got loaned out to Doncaster Rovers! While I have no strong feelings one way or another about Doncaster, I really like the idea of not being ready for Premier League football. During previous Fifa titles I got bored playing for the same team over and over. The top level gets boring after a while.

And after every match, you get a nice voice over from some bloke who reads out the scores for you. A really nice little touch. I love feeling as if there’s stuff going on around me. Like there’s a big world that I’m just part of rather than the game placing blinkers on me. You also get regular updates during matches about current scores, penalties and red cards. All in all it makes for an immersive game.

So can I recommend it? Probably not. Cause, let’s face it, if you enjoy the Fifa games you’ve probably already bought it or plan on buying it and if you don’t enjoy the Fifa games you probably haven’t read this far into the review.

8/10 – It’s the same game as Fifa 12 but tarted up a bit and with, overall, slightly tightened up mechanics. If you are still playing Fifa 12, I think an upgrade to Fifa 13 is ultimately worth it.

Insidious (Film) Review

Something a little bit different today, last night my girlfriend and I were trying to find a film to watch. We fancied a horror, but couldn’t find anything that interested enough. In the end we settled for a film from last year (2011) called Insidious.

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I was a little bit sceptical at first. I do like my horror films, but I always find there is a fine line between what makes a good and a bad horror films. The bad ones through you in straight away not giving you a chance to feel for the characters at all and the horror is more at the situation the people are put in. Whereas a good horror film will spend a few minutes characterising so that when the horror  starts happening you’re scared because you don’t want the characters to die.

That’s why I think the Saw films did quite well. No matter how much gore and blood featured  in the film, in the end, the audience liked the character of Jigsaw and that’s why they kept coming back. It also explains why the series declined slightly after (SPOILER WARNING) Jigsaw died.

There is a third category for films to fall into that I like to call the “Paranormal Activity” category. This is the category where NOTHING EVER HAPPENS. I’ve seen two of the Paranormal Activities and I can honestly say I can’t remember a single interesting thing happening in them except a couple trying to make a sex tape.

So which category does Insidious fall in? Well, not the Paranormal Activity category, luckily. One of the early scenes is the heroine playing the piano and singing which is scarier than anything that happens in Paranormal Activity.

So the story SEEMS to be somewhat cliched. A couple are having a rough time of things, so they move to a new house for a fresh start. It starts to feel like the house is haunted, the woman gets scared, the man says she’s crazy until she starts getting hysterical and their son falls into a coma.

At first I thought the film was going to take an unexpected twist when the man (I can’t remember any of their names. I think the bloke was Josh, the son is Dalton and the girl was Renai…Renee? something like that) finally agrees to move out of the haunted house. It was at that point I was like “Oh? They move out of the haunted house? A little bit anti climatic, but at least it was original and much more realistic than them staying there”. But naturally, whatever is haunting them follows them.

I was really impressed by house they set the scene for this haunted house setting, then suddenly change it later. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t seen it, but I will say it turns out that the house isn’t haunted. It’s actually something very different.

And of course, the “twist” ending could be seen coming a mile away.

Overall, not much scary about it though. At some points things would jump out at them in traditional horror style, doors would randomly close etc. I didn’t really find myself scared at any point, but I did find myself getting immersed in the story. A lot of effort went into creating something different with more originality than most horror films coming out at the moment. It’s not perfect by far. Not being scary is quite a handicap for a horror film.

I would like to see a sequel, maybe next year, with a similar story but with more horror aspects. Now that they have one film explaining their main selling point, a lot more of their next budget can go into set pieces. Personally, I am looking forward  to Insidious 2 and may even be tempted to see it at the cinema, which’ll be the first time that’s happened in a long while.

7.5/10 – It takes a major hit for not being scary. However, I enjoyed it and I really liked the story, so it’s convinced me to be lenient. A good little waste of an hour and a half at least.

The Binding of Isaac Review

I am incredibly poor. I have been for a while. Those of you who have actually bothered to read all my reviews will realise that, because the newest game I have reviewed is about five years old. Spec Ops being the only one released this year. However, I am about to improve on that by reviewing a game that’s only about a year old! Go me!

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The Binding of Isaac is an independent game designed by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl (Thank Wikipedia). I believe McMillen had a hand in Super Meat Boy, but I’ve never played it before. It has been given the classification “action-adventure” which is a genre I’m almost certain doesn’t exist. They just slap that on anything that they can’t classify. I would call Binding of Isaac an action plat former.

You play as Isaac, a small naked boy who is running away from his murderous mum through the basement of his house. The game takes heavily from the biblical story of the Binding of Isaac where God demanded a sacrifice from…Whatshisface, in the form of his first born son. When Whatshisface was about to kill his son (Isaac) God popped up and said “LOL! Only joking!”. (A quick google search shows that Whatshisface was actually called Abraham).

But that’s not all they rip from the bible. They use the book of revelations a lot, including the four horsemen, although this always infuriates me. Did you know Pestilence isn’t a horseman? Never has been never will be. The four horsemen are, War, Famine, Death and CONQUEST. Conquest being the anti-Christ. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, back on topic, they also have biblical objects as items throughout the game, such as actually being able to find and use the bible itself, the dead sea scrolls etc. So, as you can tell, pretty heavily biblical references, but they treat it almost as a parody, without the humour.

Isaac is running through the basements, naked and crying as I said and being attacked by strained, twisted creatures which he beats away using his tears. That’s right, he defeats the monsters by crying at them. And my dad said that there was no point crying at bullies. This game proves him wrong!

I’m trying to think of a game to compare it to, but I can’t really think of any. The closest I can come up with it side scrollers like Golden Axe. There’s five or six enemies in a room that all die in one to four hits. Once you’ve killed them all you move onto the next room. You have to defeat the boss monsters to move onto the next level and on each level there is a treasure room, with a free item in it, and a shop where you can spend coins on items.

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The mechanics of the game are mostly good. You can use the mouse or arrows keys to fire your tears and W,A,S,D to move around the room. What does annoy me no end, however, is the fact that Isaac can’t shoot diagonally, yet enemies can. Really, really unfair. But then, that’s the game in a nutshell. It seems to be designed to frustrate and infuriate.

You start off with three hearts and lose half a heart for each hit you take (a whole heart in later levels) and you have one life. That’s it. If you die, you start THE WHOLE GAME AGAIN. It took me over ten hours of gameplay to finally defeat mom at the end, and even then I discovered there were more ‘secret’ levels and a brand new final boss.

Some of the enemies have really cheap attacks as well, like the jumping spider things that can only jump a certain distance, unless they feel like ruining your day in which case they seem to be able to jump the length of the room and are therefore almost impossible to avoid. Or the fireflies that shoot three pellets at you, but they start off in the air so it’s really hard to judge where they’re going to land until you’ve already lost four hearts.

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The bosses are arbitrary as well. The selling point of the game is that the levels are randomly generated, so no play through is ever the same. The bosses are also randomly picked at the end of a level. It creates a curious scenario where on the penultimate level you can face a piss easy boss, but on the next play through face the toughest boss in the first level and get completely decimated.

And, of course, the items are randomised as well. Which means in the first level you could get a game breaker, like the laser tears and plough through the rest of the game in minutes, or you can play every level getting through by the skin of your teeth and only ever receive crap items that do nothing to help you.

So, do I recommend Binding of Isaac? To be honest, I don’t know. It’s another game like War Commander where there are plenty of negatives, and yet I don’t seem to be able to stop playing it. For some reason going through twenty playthroughs getting destroyed and rubbish items seems worth it for that one run where you get the best gear in the game and smash your way through with ease.

It’s a fun little time waster. It’ll take you attention for a few hours, maybe even more like thirty hours if you get into it as I have. But it won’t distract you from games with more depth. If I had Mass Effect and Binding of Isaac in front of me, I’d grab the Mass Effect disc every single time.

7/10 – A fun, shallow little game. It’s the kind of game where you will play for ten hours or so then get bored, then try it again in a few months and find yourself hooked game. However, it’s not a patch on most mainstream titles.

War Commander (Facebook Game) Review

A mixture of illness and work has prevented me putting up a blog as often as I would have liked. Truth be told, I haven’t played enough games recently to do a review, so I thought I would review the game I’ve been playing while ill.

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War Commander is a Facebook game developed by Kixeye and was first shown to me by a work colleague. He invited me to it to fulfil his invite a friend mission and I promptly got hooked, so I blame him for the loss of my social life.

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The game itself is a bit of a cross between internet war games such as Travian and mainstream real time strategy games such as Starcraft. From Travian, it takes the ridiculously long upgrade times (Anywhere from 5 minutes to a week) the large PvP focus (as in, if you don’t want PvP don’t play it) and a heavy clan or guild emphasis.

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From Starcraft, it takes the mechanics. You attack bases and can control your platoons as you wish, using diversion tactics, aerial assaults or whatever strategy you can come up with. In the end the game becomes taking out the opponents defences before ransacking the rest of the base for resources.

Occasionally there will be special events in the game, which liven it up no end. Usually they take the form of destroying special enemy bases, or defending against waves of attacking enemies. While fun though, these can also become repetitive. Some kind of freshness definitely wouldn’t go amiss.

As I said, the mechanics are very Starcraft-esque, right down to the units shouting affirmatives whenever you click on them. I just wish they had ripped off the control system as well. The controls in War Commander are frustrating at best, and ball buggeringly annoying at worst. The amount of times I tried to tell my units to run away because they were getting there asses handed to them only for them to do a neat little pirouette on the spot that, I admit probably would have scored high in a ballet competition, but did little to impress the enemy in a war.

Or the amount of times I tried to select my air units because, again, I was getting decimated, and for me to manage to select all but three of them and have to watch as the rest of them abandoned their comrades because in order to select the aircraft you have to click on the ground that their floating above, not the graphics themselves. How stupid is that? You want to select that unit? No no, you can’t click on it. You got to click slightly under it moron! Didn’t you even know that?

The game can be frustrating in a lot of ways as well. A lot of the people on the game seem to live only to annoy you and will flame in the world chat given half the chance. Some of the wait times are ridiculous with the best tank you can get in the game taking a few MONTHS to upgrade fully. And if you want to get resources quick, the best way is to attack rogues (NPC bases) and steal their stuff. But all the rogues have just three or four different base layouts, so killed one of them, killed them all.

So the question after the last few paragraphs is, then why have I spent most my time playing it recently? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the few games that can say you need to use tactics and be telling the truth. You try and go head first into a base and your units will be killed, stuffed and mounted above the enemies fireplace before you can yell “Charge!”.

Or maybe it’s because I enjoy real time strategy anyway. Starcraft is one of my favourite games ever, even though the second one was disappointing. Or maybe it’s because I love the idea of someone halfway across the world jumping up and down on there hat in frustration as they log on to see their base looking a lot more like rubble than when they left it.

I’m not sure if I can recommend War Commander. I’ve had and still am having, lots of fun with it. But I can easily see how the negatives would outweigh the positives for some people, especially those who have less patience than me.

It’s a nice little time waster, but not the kind off game you can lose yourself in.

6/10 – I don’t think it has anything except niche appeal. If you enjoy games like Travian, I think War Commander is miles better than that. If you enjoy games like Starcraft, you might manage to get into it. Other than that, I can’t recommend it to anyone else.

Spec Ops: The Line Review

It took quite a lot to convince me to buy Spec Ops: The Line. I’m getting sick of modern shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. I think they’re all the same and save for a few moments of inspiration, they fail to hold my interest.

I went into Spec Ops expecting another boring ride through the usual set pieces, but within the first few missions my cynicism was flipped upside down.

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Spec Ops is a third person cover based shooting game, which, I’ll grant you, seem to be coming out every few days. But we aren’t here for the game play. The selling point for Spec Ops is the storyline.

You play as Captain Walker. Walker and his two lackeys, one named ‘Lugo’ one named ‘I can’t remember’ are sent into Dubai a few weeks after the biggest sandstorm in history hits the city, to search out Colonel Konrad who had  been in the city trying to evacuate the citizens. Walker has no idea where Konrad is, or even if he is still alive, but instead of leaving and telling the US Military this, he decides the best thing to do would be to explore.

The story in most of these games are just a loosely related series of events. Missions seldom flow into each other because in some games you can be in different cities, or even different countries. Spec Ops is one of the first gritty realistic shooters I’ve found that has emphasis on a good story campaign.

The first few missions were par for the course. Walking down narrow corridors that the game pretends aren’t narrow corridors with a few fire fights here and there. The turning point for me game around the third or fourth mission when I was forced to walk down a narrow corridor in a basement surrounded by bodies. Blood everywhere. From what I could tell, most were civilians and seemed to have been executed.

If you have seen any adverts for this game, you will know that one of the selling points of the game is trying to portray the horrors of war. You aren’t really there to have fun. You’re there to learn what war is really about and the game succeeds in this amazingly. In most games like COD you would smash through the enemies in front of you and proceed to become the hero with no mention of civilian loss. Spec Ops makes you watch as your actions and choices condemn those around you and you start to feel the pressure.

About half way through the game when the choices started coming thick and fast, I started to feel the pressure. I tend to play games for the happy endings. In all the Fable games or Mass Effect games I try and make everybody happy and keep everyone alive. In Spec Ops, you can’t. As simple as that and boy, it starts to feel frustrating after a while.

The story is fantastic. I can’t stress enough how much I loved the story. I know my summary of it was a little vague and that’s purely because I love it so much I don’t want to spoil it for whoever ends up reading this. You will only get the impact from it if you play it yourself.

However, not everything is perfect. The actual game play, because after all, it is a game, not a book, is somewhat lacklustre. By no means bad, but not amazing either. I found it competent enough. You click and your character can usually be trusted to fire his gun. If there is someone in front of the gun they can generally be expected to fall over. That’s about it.

There is a brief mechanic where the game expects you to shoot out windows to make sand fall onto your enemies, but looking for them in the middle of a fire fight felt unnecessary when I could be using the energy just to shoot the bad guys. There are a few set pieces where you can’t progress unless you shoot out these windows, but your support characters are helpful enough to shout at you to do it until you actually do.

I forgot to mention the two support characters. Just about every game ever has to have support character’s these days. It’s some kind of law. In Spec Ops if you press a button one of your support guys will through grenades. If you press another, the other one will snipe an enemy. But again, these just seemed out of place. In order to get your sniper to shoot someone you have to have your cross hairs over an enemy and if I’m doing that, I might as well just use my own gun to kill them. Again, there are a few set pieces where this is necessary, but the game forgets about it after the first few tutorial levels.

In summary then, if you are going to play this game, do it for the story. If you are fed up with the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield, give Spec Ops a go. The game play is by no means revolutionary, but I can guarantee the story will make up for it.

Score – 8.5/10 I couldn’t bare to take a whole two marks off, so I only took one and a half off for the game play. Don’t get me wrong, I found the game fun. The fighting was adequate if nothing else, but everything that it tried to claim as unique had already bee done before. The whole rest of the mark is for the story, because, frankly, I have never seen anything like it and I doubt you would have too.