Thursday, February 10, 2011

Greatly Disturbing The Force

Many people think that since I used to have a goofy Star Trek picture on my profile, I am one of those 'anti-Star Wars fans. To them, I say bah! In fact, for many reasons I may be a bigger Star Wars fan, (mostly considering how disgusting the Star Trek franchise has been in the last few years… please don't make me hurt you J.J Abrams!).

So due to my high nerd status, you can imagine how eagerly everyone is waiting on my review of Star Wars: Clone Wars.

This is only sort of from Lucas the Hutt, (oh come on people… have you seen how he's let himself go?!).

I say sort of, because he only came up with the idea and did nothing else beyond signing the checks.

This one could also be called Episode two and a half, stuck somewhere between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Mostly it deals with Obi-Wan, Anakin, and his new Padawan Ahsoka Tano, (who is actually kind of cute in a young alien Togruta sorta way).

Originally debuting in the theater, I was eager to see a new Star Wars movie like any self-respecting nerd, (even if it is digitally animated), but I sensed a great disturbance in the force… or actually maybe it was just in the hard chiseled look of the characters. I mean seriously people, why do they seem to look like they were modeled after Mount Rushmore???

If this were 1998, the look of this movie would have been very cutting edge, and show an amazing advancement, but it seems like nobody at Lucasfilm has ever heard of Square Enix! Check out the recent character for Final Fantasy XIII.

Not only does the Clone Wars animation look like blocks of wood, they moved like they had a stick up their ass. I will confess, the Clone Troopers looked very good, as well as the droids and most of the environments, but the harsh rigid look of the characters really took away from any realism the movie and series could have had.

Sadly, this was not my only problem. Why do we have to endure no-name voice actors for most of the characters we are very familiar with??? Maybe I could have accepted one person not being available, but the majority of the characters were read by someone else. The only exceptions were Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), and Anthony Daniels, (duh). I mean seriously, are Hayden Christensen (Anakin) and Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine) that busy these days or was Lucas the Hutt holding out the credits on them??

But wait, there's more…!

Star Wars has certain expectations that are ingrained into your brain from many years of Lucas the Hutts brainwashing of the masses. First and foremost, one name: John Williams. You know the score, (um… pun intended), as soon as you see the Star Wars title, you expect to hear a certain theme song. Denied! Fine, you want to use a different composer, but just give me the freakin' opening credits people! Beyond this glaring faux pas, the rest of the music was actually fairly decent and had a different feel from anything John Williams had done. But I could not forgive them for instantly reminding me this did not feel like Star Wars.

The pain continued to build when I was also denied any type of opening scroll to read. Maybe I don't come to a movie to read, but the opening scroll is another expectation in the Star Wars universe. Instead, we were given a very cheesy narration to explain the status of the galaxy. At this moment, I almost walked out thinking I was in the wrong theater.

And at no point does anyone say, "…I've got a bad feeling about this." Although, they did say it twice in Episode IV, so maybe that will make up for this one.

By now maybe you're thinking there is nothing good about Clone Wars. Well, that's not entirely true. It feels a bit obvious the movie was made more for kids, who I think will really enjoy it. It does have a lot of good solid action scenes, and the story is fairly decent, even if it is a bit simple. Many of the new characters are also very interesting.

Is all that enough to save it? Eh…

On the other un-severed hand... the television series based on the Clone Wars movie is featured on Cartoon Network. Somehow it works better on a smaller screen, (assuming you're like me and aren't rich enough to afford the 60 inch DLP). The stories are 30 minutes (well, after commercials maybe 20 minutes) and each one continues to the next episode. I still feel the same way about the look of the animation, but the stories are actually pretty decent for the most part and add a good amount of action. In later seasons, they've realized maybe their fans are growing up (or already grown up), and started writing for this type of audience. If you're eager for your lightsaber fix, and want to know what happened between Episode 2 and 3, check it out... but try to overlook the block design of the characters please.

In the meantime, let's talk about Square Enix again shall we?

Mmmmmm… *insert digitally enhanced drool here*

Something To Scream About

I love my survival horror video games! Oh sure, I enjoy my Tomb Raiders, and God of War types but I can never get enough decent …boo’s. I guess I just enjoy being scared. I don’t mean ‘threat of nuclear war’ scare, or ‘why won’t this rash go away?!’ scare. I’m talking good old fashioned ghosts and monsters type of frights.

So when Deadspace was released (for Xbox, PS3, and PC), I thought this could be right up my dark demented alley. You play as Isaac Clarke (named after sci-fi authors Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), who is part of a rescue team sent into deep space to figure out what happened to the mining ship, USG Ishimura. It seems they decided to stop sending communications after they brought a giant ancient artifact onboard. Maybe it had something to do with all the ships crew turning into disgusting monster/zombie/aliens.

There is a lot that is familiar in Deadspace because they borrow heavily from other horror movies and games. But is it an homage, or rip-off? I see bits of Event Horizon (one of my favorite movies), Silent Hill 2 (one of my all-time favorite games), Alien, and Bioshock sprinkled throughout. But this game seems to lack the soul of its source material. There are constant moans, groans, growls, rattles and bangs heard throughout the ship as it slowly falls apart around you, and there are plenty of ewwww moments as well. But is it as scary as a Silent Hill, or the Fatal Frame series (one of my other all-time favorites)? I think I jumped maybe twice during gameplay, (but I did so in a manly sort of way of course).

The overall story felt a bit drawn out to me, especially when you pretty much know how it’s going to end. And nothing is more annoying than being an errand boy, because everyone seems too lazy and/or terrified to walk out of their comfy safe zones to fix anything themselves. I spent most of the time just following the ‘objective path’ clicking on things without really knowing what I was doing or why.

They did do a lot of things right however. One of the best parts of this game is the way they keep you totally immersed in it. That means no opening up your inventory to catch your breath and get a quick health drink! Sure you can open your inventory, but it’s done as a heads-up-display. So while you’re enjoying a cool refreshing beverage, an alien/monster can tear your leg off. Even the cinematics are all rendered within the game, so there are no put-down-the-controller-and-watch-a-cool-movie moments, because you don’t know when things will suddenly throw you back into the action again. And yes, the visuals of the ship and space were very impressive, but I still miss the fully rendered movies.

I also enjoyed the over the shoulder camera for this game, (I prefer this style over a first person shooter, I guess because I want to see my hero getting his ass kicked). Once you get the hang of dismembering the alien/zombies, it is actually a lot of fun. There are a few different weapons available for purchase and upgrades, (purchase?!? Seriously?!? So in space, nobody can hear you scream but apparently they can hear you swipe your credit card!). Don’t worry too much about cash, because the monster/zombies carry tons of it so you can pick their pockets when they’re dead.

But most offensive to me, was the voiceless, faceless hero, Isaac. Didn’t we do this in Bioshock, Halo and Metroid? Being the strong silent type is one thing, but with so many interacting with him, why wouldn’t he speak?!? I want a hero with attitude I can look up to like Kratos, or Dante, or Lara Croft, or Mario… well, maybe not Mario so much. So Isaac as a character is a bit of a disappointment for me.

I would still recommend Deadspace, if you’re into this kind of thing. Maybe I’ve been a bit desensitized over the years and maybe for the average person, it is a terrifying game. There are also plenty of cool mini-games and replay-ability, (and the zero gravity stuff is a mix of fun and disorienting!). But seriously, for the current price of $29, how scary is that??

Moan groan growl rattle bangs… boo,