Friday, 14 December 2007

Games that become movies

When a director sits down and spills his thoughts about taking a much loved computer game, and twisting it into a movie, the vast majority of us will cringe.

It is something that is very often frowned upon by any sensible gamer, as the examples so far have been contorted and mangled so badly beyond recognition, it is frankly embarrassing to watch. This is especially the case with films such as Tomb Raider, where Lara Croft is rather 'Americanised', and made to be as unsubtle and sexist as possible, making her some kind of 'girl power' Nazi. She is not like this at all in the games (the earlier ones anyway), where she might prefer to sneak about a bit, and won't immediately turn away/kill a flirting gent.

It's not just Tomb Raider that has been butchered on the silver screen though. Doom is possibly one of the worst sins ever committed to film in the history of recording. There was one interesting bit at the end, where they filmed about ten minutes through a first person perspective so it would be a little bit true to the game. Whilst it was a nice touch, it did get a bit boring, as whilst first person views might immerse you in a video game, in a movie, you miss quite a lot of the experience, being limited to some muppet's eyes.

Resident Evil is also a series that I have a particular hate for. I thought the concept of the game was survival and escaping a horde of stumbling mutant weirdos. It is about utilising basic human instincts and surviving. Why then is there a futuristic special forces team walking about a futuristic facility with laser death rays and an irritating AI computer voice? Maybe I am being picky, but it did not seem to fit into the Resi universe at all.

When I heard that they were releasing a Hitman movie, and that the role of agent 47 was rumoured to have been given to Vin Diesel, I very nearly went postal. Somehow the 'anti-Bond' xXx actor seemed very inappropriate for the role, as he didn't exactly look subtle, as a silent assassin should. Instead they cast Timothy Olyphant, which made me want to drown puppies, and then, possibly go postal.

The thing that I have against Timothy Olyphant isn't that he is a bad actor. I felt that he was very good in Die Hard 4. The thing is, when shaved bald and made to look like 47, he was not a look-a-like for a hardened assassin who shows no mercy, but more of a contestant for 'baby of the year'. He looks nothing like the part he was supposed to play, having too much of a young face.

A better person to play the role would have been David Bateson. 'Who?' you may ask? The fact that you don't know him is probably the sad fact that he was never a likely candidate (not being a Hollywood actor). David Bateson was actually the voice of 47, but also the guy they based 47's model on! Surely this makes him perfect for the role because he IS 47.

Even though I had my gripes about the lead character, I still decided to go and see it, as I do love the games. I went in with an open mind, and came out with mixed feelings. It was really odd, I actually enjoyed a movie based on a video game. The thing that I decided early on though, was not to compare it to the games, as it really doesn't stay true to them. The 47 I know wouldn't necessarily slaughter a room of people, only one of them being his target. Needless to say, it was still cool. There are also some plot differences which do not make sense if you religiously follow the story lines of the games.

A nice touch were several references to the games throughout. The pose in front of the neon lit billboard where 47 cradles his sniper rifle on his legs (seen here) was perfectly re-enacted by Olyphant. Little bits like this made me smile inside, as well as the rather cool set action pieces.

If you go to this movie, do not go in expecting to see an accurate portrayal of the game, as it is not that. It is however a very entertaining movie that I would recommend to action movie fans and computer game fans a like.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Christmas looms

As much as I hate to admit it, Christmas seems to be approaching at a disturbingly fast rate, and people are bugging me on what I want for the festive season. If I tell them the obvious, 'games', then they immediately find themselves lost in waters that they do not care to understand. For this reason, I tend to make their shopping lists a bit more precise and just write down the odd few titles that have caught my eye that I fancy trying.

This year however, I suddenly found my list which usually has some form of novelty of gadgetry scribbled on it, largely populated by games. This winter has been a gift from the games industry, as the Christmas line up actually looks very good.

At the top of my list was this wonderful offering of Crysis, the latest shooting sensation from Crytek. My first thought upon hearing this game was that I hope they don't make it go off on a weird tangent involving mutated monsters, like they did in their previous offering of Far Cry. Reading on I found out that the protagonist has a skin tight suit that gives him super human like abilities. This I had to try out as it sounded rather awesome (yes, there are varying degrees of awesomeness). Since I was under instruction not to treat myself to anything other than basic rations, in order to leave people things to buy me as gifts, I was not able to purchase it.

As a compromise I got the demo and all I can say is wow. I never thought that a game would offer so much random fun. It has all the properties of an amazing shooter and it looks stunning, but that's not even the best bit. The twisted delights of this game kept me hooked on the demo for hours. I was picking up Korean soldiers and throwing them into houses which then collapsed like cardboard boxes. I was turning my cloaking device on and sneaking around guards, making them shoot their own shadows. The attention to detail is phenomenal!

Another request on my list to Father Christmas is Gears of War for the PC. It looked so good on the Xbox 360, that it really made me consider getting one. Thankfully, Epic Games decided to bring it to PC with everything improved and even added sparkly new content. This means that I can now look at Xbox 360 owners with a smug grin and laugh at them because they had the stunted prototype version whilst the PC gets the advanced offspring.

As far as the game looks though, even on the Xbox 360, the most appropriate word that comes to mind is 'cool'. The graphics look crisp and have had a lot of detail put into everything, from the main characters armour, to the arch ways you run under. Also the camera angles look quite interesting in some shots where you can control it to give the you the most tactically sound view of the carnage that is happening around every corner.

The other big title on my list is one that I am a bit skeptical about. Call of Duty 4 looks like a great game, and from what I have heard, has outstanding multiplayer. One thing that bothers me is how can the heroics portrayed in the world war two story lines of the first three games possibly be translated to urban combat in an unspecified region in 'the middle east'. This game will need to tread carefully through a mine field of political correctness, as the recent conflict in the middle east is a bit of a touchy subject at the moment.

Going back to the point about heroism, its one thing in a world war two game to sneak into an enemy compound, and against all the odds, blow up some anti air defense to allow allied planes safe passage. Surely the same 'hero' factor will not transfer to strolling into the line of sight of said compound, and nuking it from orbit via strategic use of a laser pen. Maybe that is a bit of an extreme example, but I have not played the game yet, and with the focus being on 'modern warfare', these elements could well have snuck in.

This being said, it still looks like an enjoyable romp which will leave behind it many limbs and body bags, just what you need to de-stress yourself after a day of university/real work.

You may or may not have guessed from the games listed that I am a PC gamer rather than a console junky. I don't have anything against consoles, I just don't have the money to buy one. Luckily for me I have friends who do though. Everybody wins (especially me).

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

A new blog is born

Hello everyone!

I have finally decided to throw myself into the mixed slurry of the blogging world, which I have a few pre-conceptions about.

I am here with a mission. I do not intend to write about how my feelings are affecting me, how a loved one has left me, or (in excruciatingly painful detail) diary the odd day in which something interesting happened to me, but the rest of the internet would rather circumcise themselves than read it.

Instead of spilling my daily goings on, I shall be blogging about one of my main passions in life, gaming. Not in the betting sense of the word, but rather in the way which utilises a computer of some kind, and more often than not, skill to master.

Reviewing games in this little dark corner of the internet will prove difficult and rather futile, as proper websites can have advance copies of said games, and not have to shell out cash for a copy when it hits the shelves. I only wish I had the luxury of bottomless pockets, and more to the point, bottomless cash reserves.

I will focus this on more 'feature' based ideas on the world of video games, giving opinion pieces, and perhaps spreading the word of some great things I can uncover in the week. There are some true gems out on the internet to find, and I intend to unearth the more relevant, non-disgusting ones, such as Deus Ex 3 teasers.

For the time being, I shall introduce myself. My name is Anthony, and I play games more than an unhealthy amount. The fact that I made it to university is nothing short of a miracle, and I hope to chase my fascination of games into a career one day. The print journalism degree I am working towards also helps to narrow my sights on the goal of cracking into video games journalism.

I particularly enjoy games where the ultimate goal is to kill something/everything. Hopefully this does not put me on the path of being a serial killer one day, as some of the worlds politicians would like us all to believe. That rant shall be saved for another day however.

My current favourite games are the Halflife series, Portal (pure genius by the way), Hitman: Blood Money (honestly, not a serial killer) and EVE: Online (internet spaceships). This is my list at the time of writing, and it will probably have already changed by tomorrow.

As far as my other internet activity is concerned, I am a writer for the EVE: Online fan generated magazine, the EVE Tribune.

My pseudonym when I play, or write online, is some variation of 'Desert Fox'. I picked the name when i was 14 because I thought it sounded cool. It was not until later when I realised my chosen online name was also shared with Nazi tank and field commander, Erwin Rommel. This does not deter me from using the name, but does make me consider my own taste a bit.

In the short term I intend to sex up this blog page a bit, and have a play around. New entries should appear weekly at the very most, but I am yet to completely figure out a schedule.