Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards - Mark Out Moment of the Year: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots



Mark Out Moment of the Year: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots


Colon overload!

Wilful suspension of disbelief and the Metal Gear series go hand in hand. Even discounting the near-future cyberpolitics storylines, you're left with a game that's completely devoid of any interaction for long stretches. Early on the in fourth Solid series entry, even the barest of steps will trigger yet another lengthy pad-down movie sequence, easily distancing the impatient player. If you're not interested in the latest minute detail in a barely glimpsed character's life, MGS4 is an endless interruption of naval gaze hell. You'll feel held to ransom that the dull movie indulgence unspooling before you might contain some clue vital to the next area, so you won't skip it. You can't skip it. You'll watch. You'll grow to hate Hideo Kojima. That's if you despise the cut-scenes; if you love them, if the tiniest fragment of tail-eating sub-conspiracy thrills you, MGS4 had treats galore!

Kojima's intention has always seemed to be that he wants you to relate to Solid Snake as a character, not an avatar. You're participating in his adventures rather than driving them. Not that Snake ever shapes much of his own destiny, he's a sluggish warhorse perpetually drafted into hot-spots to eradicate the mess. He's the trump card reacting to the latest in a string of insane plots to create government toppling soldier utopias.



1998's Metal Gear Solid saw a retired Snake reactivated into service to sneak around undoing the schemes of a psychotic brother, and his motley crew of superpowered soldiers. MGS1 emphasised Snake as an underdog; unlike those he faced, he lacked any kind of special / magical abilities, he didn't even have a gun to begin with. All Snake has to keep him out of trouble is the player. Snake is so fragile, he can barely even trump the two patrolling guards that prowl around the first screen. Intro credits still rolling, you could find yourself prematurely dead if you try to engage them. You have to wait, and angle past them. MGS1 taught the player to study patterns and search for weakness. Boss battles seemingly unwinnable if the player did not keep their wits about them.



Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty teased another Snake centric adventure, before yanking the figure back, withholding him from the players. Instead you were saddled with Raiden, a green cyber-soldier, who had barely seen any non-simulated action. Raiden frustrated the action himself, constantly (and automatically) interrupting play to seek reassurance from his intel team. Teeth where gnashed. Solid Snake breezed in and out of proceedings, always several steps ahead of the befuddled user and Raiden, even apparently betraying them. Kojima sought to re-establish Snake as some unknowable mentor figure, able to rescue the player, then impart Kojima's personal philosophy at games end. If the user selected that this was their first Metal Gear game when beginning their quest, Snake's section was skipped, heading straight to The Big Shell. After completion, Snake's mission became selectable. New users would likely shake their head at this unlock portion, Snake handled no differently from Raiden; he had no greater skillset or abilities, and his myth-making early encounter with episode mcguffin Metal Gear Ray was something of a disaster. That was the point though, Solid Snake isn't a superbeing, he's just a dog-eared soldier, trying to make a right.



Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater went back to the root of the problem, casting Snake as his clone father. Perhaps skeptical that players would form any kind of bond with a character that amounts to Satan in the series, Kojima implemented an exhaustive medical bay that had to be constantly referred to. If Snake was shot, the bullet had to be yanked out, the wound disinfected, and bandages applied. If not, the characters stamina would rapidly drop until inputs became sluggish, and imprecise. A crushing liability in a stealth action game. Rather than become an irritating sub-chore, the medical maintenance aspect of MGS3 instead engendered sympathy for the character that would become Big Boss. He was a fragile toy. The narrative had this Snake jumping through hoops trying to make sense of his mentors defection to the USSR, and his place within back-stab black-ops missions. This Snake begins MGS3 as a post-war patriot, by the end he's so disgusted with his countries double dealing, he goes AWOL.



Which brings us to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. A prematurely decrepit Snake slings on a synthetic muscle suit and wanders off out after his evil twin. Kojima involves us with the character by inflicting upon him a stress bar that fills rapidly if out in open conflict too often. Snake must retreat to the shadows and smoke a tab, or ice-compact his aching back. Kill too many set-dressing PMC stooges, and Snake will vomit his guts up, disgusted. MGS4's finest moment (and subject of this award) though comes deep into the final chapter. Snake is aboard his nemesis' nuclear death barge. He's disposed of the last of the superpowered trauma unit his brother sic'd on him, and he's stumbling his way towards an upload point for the super-virus he's carrying. First though, he must cross a tunnel flooded with searing microwaves.

Rather than making a side-line observer of the player, the barest of controls are handed the user to steer Snake through. Health artificially diminished by a series of shuddering fits, Snake is extremely fragile wandering into this flesh-cook hell. The screen splits to show Snake's friends battling desperately against ridiculous odds to buy him enough time to make the upload. All you can do is push the figure forwards with the Left stick; even with the analog nub held fully forwards, Snake can manage no more than an injured limp. You push him on and on. Steam starts squealing out of his armour as the synthetic muscles glow and rupture. Snake collapses to his knees vomiting and bleeding, as friends scream and plead in his ear.



You're hammering the Triangle button just to keep him from stopping. Snake's wheezing heart is pound-high in the sound mix. No matter how fast you're bashing the move button, an insistent prompt keeps appearing, as if your efforts aren't enough. It's an exhausting, relentless task. Snake's health depletes to nothing, miles away from any sort of conclusion, before switching over to a rapidly disappearing stamina bar. Through your action, Snake is literally giving it everything he's got. You and Snake contorted in agony, pushing him forward inch by inch.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards - Cream of Zombie: Dead Set



Cream of Zombie: Dead Set

Charlie Brooker's Dead Set had the jogging dead lay siege to reality TV mecca, the Big Brother house, for five nights. Originally shown on Channel 4's increasingly dunderhead Heat-magazine channel E4, Dead Set was an island of throbbing nasty in a sea of Friends repeats. If you haven't seen it already, please do. Stop reading this clap-trap and go and find yourself a copy. It's very excellent indeed. Dead Set stands head and shoulders above the heaving mass of me-too run cadaver flicks, that have spilled out all over the road in the wake of Danny Boyle and Alex Garland's 28 Days Later. Yes! That does include Snyder's Dawn of the Dead copyright reactivation, and Spanish lovely REC.

Among Dead Set's great many achievements are rather standard superior horror piece box-ticks like: a palpable sense of dread, cringing suspense, and (80s favourite) inventive meat gaggery. Dead Set goes yet further though. In it's generosity, it includes several genre alien pluses into the mix, chief amongst these is a heroine who has an agreeable level of survivalist sense about her. Jaime Winstone's character is sensible even. How often do you see that? Virtually never. And if you do, their curtailed social un-niceties are usually pored over to the point where the jolt savagery ceases to be fun. Dead Set also has a standard middle-aged male rogue element - he's desperate to plow his own field! - but he's not a rubbish, moustache twirling bastard. Rather, he is simply several steps shyer of any dignity associated with now irrelevant social hangovers. He has grasped the desperation they face, and how low they must sink to survive. He's also a grafter.

If any of that made the series sound boring, rest assured this is also the kind of show where people say things like: "Don't open the gate Joplin you spastic!"

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards - Most Detailed Wasteland: Fallout 3



Most Detailed Wasteland: Fallout 3

Fallout 3 has a thread of narrative woven through it. You plod along after your missing father, puzzling out his movements after he escaped the isolationist Vault 101. The breadcrumbs drive the game on, unlocking new areas and enemies, and eventually stall the title dead with a disappointing pay-off. That's Fallout 3's narrative, but it ain't the story. The story's the land, and all the people in it. The story is wandering around a God forsaken rad blasted rubble pit, stumbling across decrepit buildings and traumatised survivors. The story is rifling through pip-pip computer records, uncovering solemn accounts of post-war hardship. The story is uncovering other sunken Vaults, each more terrible than the last. The story is making allies of dogs and mutants, and trying to keep them out of trouble. That's Fallout 3's story: wandering. Plundering. Discovering.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards - Never Got Sick of Hearing: Paper Planes by M.I.A.



No matter how many times I heard this through a dingy Topshop PA system, or my tinny little mobile, I never grew tired of it. Because I'm not in the least bit cool, I first heard M.I.A.'s wonderful Paper Planes on the short TV shills for stoner comedy Pineapple Express. A kid chorus satire of people's fearful misinterpretations of bad-mood clouds, married to the mournfully insistent intro beats of The Clash's equally fantastic Straight to Hell, Paper Planes went mega-meta when it got hook-sampled by Jay-Z for Swagga Like Us.

No funny business!

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards - Wasted Opportunity: Justice League: The New Frontier



Wasted Opportunity: Justice League: The New Frontier

If I'm honest, I never really expected Batman: Gotham Knight to be much cop. I hoped, especially when Yoshiaki Kawajiri seemed to be involved, but never expected. It was a cross-promotion too far. Tacky, and money grabbing, where The Animatrix was inspired. Ditto for Superman: Doomsday, an animated feature likely born out of some Warners suit somewhere remembering that the Death of Superman storyline made them a lot of money several years ago, and hadn't they better adapt that? Nope, nope. The great white hope for Bruce Timm's newly minted animated feature venture was a motion piece based on Darwyn Cooke's zip-pow Golden to Silver Age bridge: DC: The New Frontier.

The signs were great: Cooke was on-board in various consulting capacities, his in-flight pop sci-fi style had been adequately captured for standardised animation, and Justice League Unlimited mise superstar Joaquim Dos Santos was boarding a sequence. It couldn't fail! In my dizzy little head the cream of American animation, with a track record of consistent brilliance, had found themselves laser-targeted at a chunky tome of no small excellence. How do you fuck that up? Apparently, you do that by allowing the adaptors only 70 minutes of screentime for 400+ pages, and bestow upon them a budget best described as meagre to okay. Thanks!

It's not even that Justice League: The New Froniter is a disaster, it's not. It's actually a fairly decent, if undemanding, monster mash. What sticks in my throat is how good it could have been. How much richer it would have been had they had length to include era flourishes like civil rights vigilante John Henry. How much more interesting it would have been to see the obscure World War II DC heroes lauded rather than the same old super-faces. Instead it's another Superman and pals adventure. Albeit, a damn pretty one.

As a snide aside, technically speaking, it's not up to scratch either. The action scenes - particularly Batman's 30s rugged intro - lack punch panache, and the torturous speeding through kaleidoscopic alien brains is stuck somewhere in second. Presumably retakes were an expense too far. So there!

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards - Most Smokin' Sick Style: Devil May Cry 4



Most Smokin' Sick Style: Devil May Cry 4

Even though if you've cleared it once, you've cleared it twice, Devil May Cry 4 deserves a place on any 2008 rundown list I vomit screenwards. Mechanic hopelessly stranded in the midst of last-gen third person action battlers, players are led up and down a garden path throughout. Chance of environmental interaction? Nil. Invisible walls? Everywhere. The world of DMC4 is nothing more than austere set dressing, writhing about with languid Gothic decadence prettying up your smash, pow, thumps. Always at arms length. Where DMC4 in any way about exploration this would be an unforgivable shame. Thankfully, it ain't. Although the game does have an element of treasure hunting, it's really only about pulverising enemies in an overwhelming mess of combo-chain aerial rave assaults. It's about getting your fight-plan so tiger tight that nothing stands a chance - no good demons hopelessly juggled into oblivion the second they rear their smelly heads. Styles, guns and arms raced through in an unending succession of linkable jabs and thwacks. It's a Guile tick-throw. It's taking out the Tyrant with only a knife. It's preying on every minute weakness you're presented with. It's Yoshitaka Amano flavoured keepy-ups. It's playing Pong with both paddles. It's pure video games. It's all of these, endlessly repeating minute after minute. It's Devil May Cry.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards - Most Exciting Use Of A Decaying 80s Cultural Icon: Rambo



Most Exciting Use Of A Decaying 80s Cultural Icon: Rambo

Sylvester Stallone is so bulging and massive in this year's Rambo he reminded me of Frankenstein's Monster, or a Jason Vorhees bogeyman figure. He's a nightmare. Pumped full of HGH steroids, Stallone is a towering mass of vein bursting hyper-muscles. The lumbering frame and mountain-man gait is a world away from Stallone's last appearance as the titular Green Beret, there he was weepy eyes and steely sinew. Cajoled out of his stomp slumber by a pretty / dull missionary, Stallone ends the film rending his way through the entire Burmese army with an anti-aircraft gun.

Most critical appraisals of the film seem to be undecided about whether it's exploitative for featuring a real conflict zone complete with gore-gag grue; or that it's anti-exploitative for showing the pulverising realities of modern conflict. I suppose it's unfortunate (as far as the issue goes) that it's tied to an 80s style one-man army narrative, with Stallone winning the day. Although, would anyone want to 'be' what Stallone is in Rambo?

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards - Best Kirby Reprint: OMAC



Best Kirby Reprint: OMAC

Beating off stiff competition from the Fourth World Omnibuses, is Kirby's techno-terror take on Captain America: OMAC (One-Man Army Corps). Lasting only 8 issues, OMAC detailed the plight of Buddy Blank, a workhouse nobody mutated by blinking AI Brother Eye into a mohicaned war-god. His job? To UN the world with uncompromising piledriver blows! Cancelled mid-run by DC, OMAC disappeared in a blur of hastily reworked apocalypse. Collected in a handsome hardcover in May this year, OMAC was a Kirby-dot treat.

Disaster Year: 2008 Awards

As 2008 winds down to nothing, it is usual to take stock of the past year. Celebrate its highs, snort wearily at the lows. In blog land, it's an easy way to plump out your end of year posting too; who can be bothered to write lengthy discourses at the tail end of the year? Certainly not I! I'm plump and fed! There's dominoes on the telly! That needs watching.

Continuing this fine tradition of easy splurge content, I present, dear reader, the Disaster Year 2008 Awards. I've decided against any Top 5s or 10s. They make me do a shudder. I haven't experienced enough of anything this year to go around making such bold declarations. Plus, you know, it can get pretty boring totalling up the same old things everybody else loved. So, no to all of that. Instead, I will be awarding specific accolades to individual pieces. It's more fun that way. No really, it is. I even dreamt up what the award would look like. Gaze on this blurry, indistinct jpeg:



Can you make out the oil freighter lanced through the skyscraper?

Imagine that in cheap pewter. There you have it.

Sketch Sunday: Kalibak the Cruel

Kalibak is Darkseid's first son. Unfortunately, despite his obvious excellence, Kalibak is usually mired in a endless round of complete incompetence portrayals. Poor Kalibak; dimwitted and brutal. Always an obstacle, never a summit. It's all very sad. I have hope of him gaining some currency in any plain of the DC multiverse. Perhaps replacing his overexposed father as a frequent super-menace for goody two-shoes team-ups - Darkseid should be an omega threat, not some nattering jobsworth. Ho-hum. Created by King Comic Jack Kirby, Kalibak was first glimpsed in New Gods #1, the compliant shade to Orion's rebellious astro-zip. Kalibak currently enjoys full Kamandi tiger-drag in Grant Morrison's Fourth World mash-up Final Crisis.

Here he is in his original body duds, getting his solemn on.

Doctor, Doctor.



Did you see the Doctor Who Christmas special? It was rather excellent all told. The Next Doctor briefly teased an eleventh Doctor in the form of head-muddled David Morrissey. Morrissey's Doctor bandied about, mixed up in a rough and tumble tit for tat with some Victorian bound Cybermen - showing off their latest flesh splice; a nasty animalistic critter called a Cybershade (seen above, bothering a man of gentry). That wasn't quite the goods though. Breathless, exciting, and exceedingly polite, but not the goods. No, the goods shored up later with Dervla Kirwan's Mrs Coulter flavoured workhouse overseer Miss Hartigan, and her well-mannered suffrage in the face of Cyber augmentation. She wasn't for turning. No sir. Hartigan ended the episode wired into a Bruticus sized, industrialist Iron Giant. Stomping, vapourising, spewing smoke and such.



Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Birthday Mr Jesus!

All the best for the festive season my dear Disaster Year readers. May all your Christmas wishes come true - unless they're mean or rubbish. Hoping to get up some year end list making up in the next few days; time and relative dodging permitting.



In the mean time, warm your bits on disaster year 1987's finest tribute to this here time of year. Remember: stealin' from Santa ain't right!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Sketch Saturday: A Ninja Turtle

A Ninja Turtle this week, and frankly it could be any of them! Kevin Eastman's initial renderings of the light-stepping vigilantes tended towards the uniform - all four decked out in red masks, only their weapons differentiated them. No wonder Playmates Toys Inc et al found it necessary to colour code them. Despite the acres of merchandising that followed in their wake, the Ninja Turtles actually started off as a hyper violent cult comic. Intended as a parody companion piece to Frank Miller's then current Daredevil tenure (not to mention allusions to such varied works as Ronin, Marvel's New Mutants, and Dave Sim's Cerberus the Aardvark), Ninja Turtles kicked off a minor self-publishing revolution. Unfortunately, most of it was opportunist tat.

My favourite was always sci-fi whizz-kid Donatello. Although, I did like the idea of shuriken tossing, cape-clad fifth Turtle named Kirby...



Cowabunga!

Friday, 19 December 2008

DAICON III and DAICON IV



Rooting around for Gunbuster info, I happened upon some snappy shorts. Daicon III and Daicon IV are amateur animation pieces produced by DAICON Film for two Nihon SF Taikai conventions. The DAICON Film group would go on to found the Gainax animation studio, responsible for such delights as Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise, Gunbuster, and FLCL - not to mention rolling remake franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion. It's especially interesting to see key Gainax themes already in place: hidden-strength waif kids involved in fraught pop culture love letter wars for a start.

The two Daicon shorts are unfortunately tied up in numerous legal wrangles preventing any kind of retrospective release. Ho-hum. That'll learn 'em for using Playboy Bunny outfits without greasing Heff's palm. Not to mention their complete failure to clear the cream of late twentieth century pop culture icons the world over: Bunny Girl beats Vader!

Anyway, here's them shorts:

DAICON III

DAICON IV

Enjoy!

Gunbuster the Movie



Aim for the Top! Gunbuster is a six part OVA series, released in Japan in 1988, it was the directorial debut of Neon Genesis Evangelion mope-mind Hideaki Anno, and the second commercial project for fledgling studio Gainax. Starting out as a tit-bounce sports show parody, Gunbuster quickly pulled the rug, morphing into a bleak treatise on space war sacrifice. Under review here is the 2006 theatrical-run re-edit that parred down six thirty minute episodes into a ninety odd minute feature, better to run alongside newly minted sequel series Diebuster.

Mankind's initial light speed steps into the cosmos are marred somewhat by an all-out attack by giant insect Space Monsters. Zip-king flagship The Luxion is sunk, along with series heroine Noriko Takaya's father. Flash forward several years, Takaya is moored in a military training academy, struggling to make sense of mecha space armour. Comically inadequate, Takaya is still short-listed for space war by her crippled coach. Why? She's got guts! Resulting montages, and something of an explanation for Takaya's oafish piloting (sensory overload), are excised here. Plot rolling forward into space without ever really crystallising why such responsibility should rest on such a passive character. This lends the first half of Gunbuster the Movie a darkly comedic quality - Takaya consistently caught up in events monstrously out of her depth.

These deletions, as well as drastically reducing girl-crush star student Kazumi Amano's role, highlight Takaya's similarities to another Anno hero, Shinji from Evangelion. Both are rootless children shouldering a world shattering burden they never actively pursued; a pair of reluctant kids tangled up in someone else's idea of who, or what, they should be. This idea even extends to this form fiddling release. Gunbuster the Movie's streamlined narrative direction raises some interesting questions about director's cuts and after-the-fact rearrangement. With the jiggly fan service the series pioneered all but gone, and Takaya's melodramatic relationships trimmed to fleeting connections, the series loses its schizophrenic identity; allowing the feature to concentrate on off-world alienation. Is this an attempt on Anno's part at integrity injection? It certainly brings the piece further in line as a prototype offering of what would become the Evangelion phenomenon. Or is it simply a sensible arc attempt operating within a halved timeframe?

The first four episodes rifled through in record time, full undivided attention is turned to the fifth and sixth segments in which Takaya finally begins to shine, and the cost of deep space pugilism is explored. Such favouritism is excusable, since this is where Gunbuster transcends its mecha show forebears, arriving at a mood and place unique to the genre. Takaya literally slips out of Earth time during her war. Whilst only a year passes for her on the light-speed frontline, decades pass on Earth. Friends and rivals living out the entirety of their lives while she remains, essentially, a child. This is what makes Gunbuster special. These elements are the main meat of the story, rather than endless rounds of alien bashing. Gunbuster expertly juggles these hard sci-fi time rulings with triumphant 70s mecha action tropes in the penultimate encounter, and melancholy monochrome forever war for the finale.



The fact remains, Gunbuster is a rare, and genuinely affecting piece of animation, whatever the form.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

See Spirit Run. Run Spirit, Run.



Frank Miller's The Spirit is quickly, not to mention hilariously, acquiring the reputation of the The Worst Movie of All Time! Root around any self respecting movie news outlet and you'll find scores of earlybird reviews damning the piece for nebulous mis-steps such as: "Poor direction!" It's all quite a coup for Miller, who also currently writes The Worst Comic of All Time™! All Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder. He's the internet's Sultan of Shit 2008.

Sifting through the hate there does seem to be an agitatedly aggressive movement against Mr Miller, reading between the lines you detect a sincere whiff of class system pigeon holing: Miller's done comics so he has no business approaching motion pictures solo. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino where his training wheels on Sin City; the former a micro budget jack of all trades, the latter a genuine cinema titan.

Isn't it a little churlish to suggest that Miller, who lets not forget put Batman back on the map with The Dark Knight Returns, is so dense he failed to pick up a trick or two from the duo? Miller's already an accomplished student, uniting such disparate image disciplines as caricature, Neal Adams bronze men, Jack Kirby big feet, and manga motion. Even if he's not your cup of tea, isn't it obvious he has pedigree?

Anyway, enough defending the millionaire Frank Miller. In all this crap kerfuffle, six or so scenes from Spirit have oozed there way online. Links below. Brief thoughts too. Share yours in the comments!

Hospital Scene. Tight little encounter between our hero and a lady whom I assume is the Chief of Police's daughter? Nice little broad strokes outline. Some decent back and forth flirt play-acting too. Easy to see Miller projecting here! He loves all the ladies!

Common Criminal. A touch flat - especially Eva Mendes' gun pull sweep. It's a similar sort of soundstage floundering that Sin City suffered from in a few scenes.

Alley Fight. A goody. Unites some pat RoboCop invincible justice deadpanning with a throw away scene from DKR, in which Batman breaks and punishes a potential rapist. Silhouettes are never quite as bold as pen and paper, but it they ain't slobby.

Killing Baldies. Lethal justice with a touch of Tex Avery. I never tire of Miller's war poetry monologues either.

Eye Candy. Skit scene. Scarlett Johannson and Eva Mendes zing argue there way around dull plot machinations.

The Spirit versus The Octopus. More Tex. Pile on those absurdities! Had this scene featured splatter fountain Verhoeven grue I'm sure people would be struggling to get their pants off.

Judging from these scenes, The Spirit's greatest crime is sidelining cruel cool for something a little more daft. Crime of the century! Oh well. Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy eventually found its audience.

Terminator: Optimistic



Terminator: Salvation
gets a lengthy trailer. Viewable here. Even in this abbreviated form, it's interesting to note the long takes of action rather than quick-burst epilepsy edits. Maybe McG has it in him after all? Christian Bale is exactly as good as he always is, his John Connor a massive step-up from the coddled, impotent non-entity of T3. Also rather exciting that this moment montage would have us believe SkyNet routinely has malformed proto-Terminators sling on T2 anti-kill iconography to tear through panicking prisoners. T-600! More like that! Series echoes continue with a confused pacifist Terminator stumbling through Reese lines - perhaps hoping to further blur the lines between aggressor / protector. Elsewhere, Bale's adventures tap into that other great wasteland masterpiece Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior - hulking cobble-cab hightailing from rapid seeker hunter killer bikes. Dead against crowbarring in an impossibly clean love interest though. Who cares? Is it Hollywood law? Mind you, given her delicate condition, she's probably just one for third act heart strings. Ouch!

Batman: The Brave and the Bold



New Batman animated TV series! The Brave and the Bold is Cartoon Network's latest kiddy bat-offering. Vaguely based on a long running DC team-up comic series, although (unlike the comic) recognition factor demands triple A hero Batman is a front-and-centre mainstay. Thankfully not attempting a tot rated Dark Knight piece (unlike the truly bizarre Batman 2009 annual clogging up stocking filler shelves in Waterstones), season opener features a Dick Sprang cub scout master Batman putting junior hero Blue Beetle through his paces. Blue Beetle must learn to rise above bat-worship bumbling and make full use of his Guyver armour! This is accomplished by rescuing blob people and socking it to Mike Sekowsky and Gardner Fox's slave ship dick Kanjar Ro. Brave and Bold further embellishes Batman's long standing animated representation of studied, feet-thinking perfection, by adding some sarky vet wit to the mix. It's a snappy twenty minutes of gee-whizzery, ably directed by Transformers: Animated and Teen Titans alumni Ben Jones. The best bit though is the opening credits sequence; if quick-cut promises are kept, we can expect an avalanche of minor DC heroes - some even too obscure for JLU. Step forward Jack Kirby's animal apocalypse survivor KAMANDI!

Dear Mr Jones, if you can work OMAC in, you've got yourself a guaranteed DVD boxset sale. You have. You have. You have.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sketch Sunday: The Incredible Hulk

Day late! The shame. Continuing a vague Avengers theme, here's The Incredible Hulk being incredible. Hulk's easily my favourite of the 60's Marvel heroes. He's not even a hero, he's more a big grumpy troll Hyde, usually seen thumping about, attracting negative attention. Hulk first sulked his way through a comic in May 1962 in a comic named after his incredibleness. Quite right too. Hulk has lately tended to attract artists (John Romita Jnr aside) more taken with rendering impossible Muscle Beach prickery than Kirby's original take of a broad uber-neanderthal. That's my favourite, and what I tired to do here.



HULK IS MIGHTY!

This Is How It Ends: Transformers: The Headmasters



Phew! Finally got through all 35 episodes of Japan exclusive Transformers animation series: The Headmasters. Despite my earlier assurances, an overarching plot does begin to develop in the last third: new line headliner Mega Zarak has his heart set on blowing Earth up good. The Autobots are simply appalled at his vulgarity.

Here's a brief rundown. After the complete destruction of Cybertron - which Galvatron manages to survive, despite being at planet-tearing ground zero - the new toys faff about the Galaxy being boring. Galvatron eventually dies by falling off an iceberg, paving the way for Zarak's slowburn reign of terror. New characters are introduced every other week (mostly evil ones weirdly - Japan's notorious for slighting baddie toys), with formerly bee's knees cool characters regulated to bumbling idiocy. The Decepticons at least attempt to raise a smile by exterminating any race they happen upon, but throughout the middle chunk it's all deathly dull planet hopping. Ho hum! Thankfully the show goes Giant Robot Show trope mental in the final third; super weapons, counter super weapons, power of friendship conquering all: the works. Best of all is the sublimely ridiculous notion that Decepticon Ninja bastard Sixshot secretly has a heart of gold. Stranded on an asteroid with Movie brat Daniel, Sixshot decides to do a Piccolo, becoming bestest friends forever with the simpering tween. He's a professional see? This intergalactic war thing's just his day job!

By series end Sixshot is through with the backstabbing Decepticons, taking up a new role as Daniel's unseen lethal protector. Any bot who gives the child grief gets a right ninja thumping. This daffy turn of events is made even more excellent by the fact that Sixshot is easily the most psychotically capable Decepticon throughout the series.



He's a Decepticon's Decepticon if you will.

Sixshot's season wide crimes include: murdering two tiny child like friends of Chromedome for laughs; kidnapping and torturing kid friendly sidekick Wheelie; and most dastardly of all: killing the shit out of Autobot Earth commander Ultra Magnus! Remember him from The Movie? He got no Matrix of Leadership love. Sixshot bombards the unlucky Autobot with tons of laser fire until Magnus trips over all perished. Ouch! Sixshot does a cackle and flies off. In a series were all the other Decepticons end up all mouth and no trousers, Sixshot stands triumphant: no mouth, and absolutely loads of trousers thank you very much.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Batman: World Class Dick



Batman! He's the best thing ever isn't he? Looks like everyone behind the fairly recent Justice League Unlimited TV series agrees. Here's 7 odd minutes of him staring out (New) Gods, holding back his even meaner future self, and fronting Martian Manhunter FOR NO REASON.

STOP STARING AT ME!

Ugly + Ugly = Beautiful



A pair of heta uma style ads for the Japanese release of THQ's Saints Row 2. How do you sell a threadbare gangster sandbox game in Japan? You have ugly animated caricatures argue over sexual identity! Obviously! Yikes.

The first ad in this rather excellent series - see it here! - runs something like:

Grotesque Male : Hey you, weren't you a guy just yesterday?
Poison from Final Fight: No! I've always been a woman!
Grotesque Male: Don't joke around with me!
Poison from Final Fight: I'm not joking around!
'Her' face goes sex swap mental.
Grotesque Male: Gah!

The second, apparently, is discourse on how to say 'Man' convincingly enough for the street. Translations swiped, and embellished, from mOre's post on Kotaku - who ran the story several days ago.

Pushing the character customisation is a wise move, it's easily the deepest aspect of the title. If you're prepared to put the time in, you can mold some decent celebrity action figures for yourself. Check Fryaga's character creation guide over at GameFaqs for a replicate leg-up. Incidentally, mega popular Japanese gaming rag Famitsu rated Saints Row 2 at a frankly staggering 35/40. Someone's obviously doing something right. A big PHEW that GTA IV got a 39 score though.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Sketch Saturday: The Mighty Thor

Norse God of Thunder! Another oldy. For shame eh? Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's take on Asgard's number one shitkicker first appeared in Journey Into Mystery #83; saddled with a frail human alter ego by his grumpy pappy Odin, Thor consoled his godness by flouncing around bopping Easter island head-men into bits. I'm rather happy with this piece, mainly because, for once, I have managed to draw an adult male who doesn't have a face writhing with frowny stress lines.



I also think my Thor is rather dishy.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Huge Commercial Success: King Shot



Find enclosed a video interview with Chilean renaissance man Alejandro Jodorowsky. Jodorowsky, perhaps most famous for directing John Lennon's midnight movie favourite: El Topo, is thankfully /finally in a position to direct another feature after an absence of almost twenty years. Here, Jodorowsky discusses this new project, a metaphysical mobbed-up spaghetti named King Shot. Great title eh? Vid contains a deluge of concept art, sketching vivid pictures of Marilyn Manson's role as a 300 year old Pope, and the blighted wasteland he no doubt holds sleazy ego dominion over. The cad! King Shot is co-produced by David Lynch; who previously inherited Jodorowsky's ill-fated Dune project. Not the sets though, George Lucas stole them for Star Wars.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Seacons!



The Seacons are a Decepticon merge team from pretty late in Transformers' day. Disguise wise the team felt it best to not bother emulating boring things like cars or military hardware, but instead terrifying sea monsters. Not even actual sea dwelling creatures mind. Nope. Nope. They covert about Earth disguised as fictional robotic ocean horrors; occasionally merging into a giant, terrible, Sea-God thingy. Quite obviously the Seacons are completely excellent. What child doesn't want to play with grotesque brine bothering behemoths? Unfortunately, US Transformers animation was dead in the water when this 1988 squad reared their head. Not so though in Japan! Feast your eyes on this sunken treasure:

Short snatch of Seacon assembly animation.

and the Seacons taking on the second-best version of Optimus Prime lookalike: Super Ginrai.

Sketch Saturday: Mike Bison*

*or Balrog, if you prefer.

Rather than rifle through older stuff I have sitting around, I thought it'd be better to dash something off from scratch. And dash I did. You'll have to excuse the the less than painstaking approach this week. I wanted quicky grotesque, so that's what you're getting. Mike Bison, or Balrog if you don't want Mike Tyson's legal team in your ear, is a boxing mid-boss from Street Fighter II. Bison is a thundering, punch-drunk psycho who has real trouble not killing people - hence his disqualification from organised boxing, and subsequent falling in with Shadaloo's uniform despot: Vega. As the series has rambled on Bison has become slobby comic relief, usually seen undermining world-annexing plots with gross stupidity. I always preferred him as a fever-head slugger. Clearly barmy, and quite able to punch your head off your shoulders, and into a bin.



Meffy eyes courtesy of an animation error in 1994's Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. Regret that speech bubble, but I don't trust myself to paint it out without making the whole thing look even more like infant doodles.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Chase Me



Chase Me
is a wordless animated short that easily outshone the underwhelming parent feature it was bundled with for DVD: Batman: Mystery of The Batwoman. Although both pieces were directed by Curt Geda, a veteran of the various DC animated universe series', they couldn't be more different. Whilst Batwoman concerns itself with an unexciting red herring plotter about a femme fatale Dark Knight; Chase Me is simply motion. Motion, and gonzo big-cat tussles! POW!

Have yourself a gander here.*

*Not sure about YouTube's sudden preference for having a standardised 16:9 framing for all videos. Shouldn't that be a choice for the uploader when posting? Pillarboxing always tricks my mind that everything's gone beanpole lanky. It's faintly distracting! Poor 4:3 eh?

Monday, 24 November 2008

"Shit just got REAL."



Tucked in for the night, I decided to flick around the fraction of channels available to me for something to watch. The less thinking, the better. Through happy coincidence I happened across that perennial of anti-thought: a Michael Bay film. Not just any Michael Bay film either. I'd discovered me some Bad Boys 2. Jackpot!

Bad Boys 2 is a quite astonishing film, not because of any merit usually associated with even the most generous person's idea of quality; instead this Will Smither sequel is an exemplary piece of cinema for simply being so unrelentingly grotty. Miranda is flouted, countries are invaded, shanty towns flattened by 4X4s, and a lead character cuddles up to a rotting cadaver with frankly massive bosoms. If someone European had directed Bad Boys 2, it would be hailed as a masterpiece of the tasteless. Unfortunately, Michael Bay directed it, so everyone who isn't a retarded fifteen year old boy hates it (I am of course a retarded fifteen year old boy AT HEART).

This being Sunday night TV, surely all that shameful yuck was edited out? Even a station as hip to pornography as Channel 5 would baulk at screening such screaming, bed-wetting filth on God's day? Think of the children! Who cares if it's nearly midnight! But no! All the pant itching necrophilia was present and correct. Bodies where still exploding into lumpy meat! Dead breasts still jiggled! It was harrowing. Bay's 2003 love letter to poking dog-pooh did not make it onto our screens completely intact though, senseless violence aside, someone at 5 took issue with the language content of the film. Who can blame them? A typical conversation in Bad Boys 2 runs thus:

Will Smith: "Fuck!"
Martin Lawrence: "What the mother fuck?"
Will Smith: "Mother fucker, am I really seeing this shit?"
Martin Lawrence: "That mother fucker just shoot at us?"
Will Smith: "Mother fucking right he did. Mother fucker!"
Martin Lawrence: "That mother fucker!"

I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist. That's the unedited uncut Superbit DVD version (which I own). By way of comparison, here's the sickening example of Nanny State censorship I was subjected to last night:

Will Smith: "Fuck!"
Martin Lawrence: "What the fuck?"
Will Smith: "Fucker, am I really seeing this shit?"
Martin Lawrence: "That fucker just shoot at us?"
Will Smith: "Fucking right he did. Fucker!"
Martin Lawrence: "That fucker!"

Those 'saints' at Channel 5 saw fit to delete that most disgusting of words: Mother. Horrifying! Just typing it makes me right cunting sick. Minges me right off. Ugh. I feel dirty. I shall have to have a wash. With bleach.

Mock outrage and 'hilarity' aside, isn't that an interesting choice? Take a look at this swear chart, reprinted on the Guardian website:



The above chart forms a crucial part of a poll used in the media as an ongoing reference point for likely nationwide frothing should any of these dreadful words actually be heard. As you can see, out of 100 people polled 71 found the word fuck very severe indeed, whereas motherfucker inched that outrage further north up to the dizzy heights of 79. Cunt still rules the roost with 83% disgust.

There you have it: fuck is 8% less offensive than motherfucker. That's maths and charts that is. Can't argue with that. Channel 5's decision is one of severity. Rather than delete the cuss couplet outright, and perhaps spoil the mood of excess, 5 instead elected to dip the sound on the qualifying part of the swear, thus making it a fraction less offensive. Hats off to them. A much more mature practice than poorly dubbing the phrase with some mid 90s ITV standby like: 'muddy thumper' or 'metal frumper', I'm sure you'll agree. Still, you know, it was nearly midnight.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Mighty Teaser?



Teaser trailer for Astro Boy.


This CG animation adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's most beloved creation is being handled by TMNT studio Imagi Animation. David Bowers, who previously sunk Aardman Animations' Dreamworks deal with toilet centric flop Flushed Away, is directing. Let's be positive. Even though Tezuka's original character models were apparently not worth replicating. Why continue making things grotesquely idiosyncratic, when you can iron out the creases to the point were they look like everything else? That's how you make middlebrow money! Make it look like fucking Igor. Don't scare people with originality! Don't respect the work you're adapting! You're cleverer than the fools that dreamt these characters up anyway! You've certainly got much more money at your disposal, and that's all that matters eh? If you're familiar with the material and really want to piss yourself off, read the plot description on wiki. It rabbits on about 'reconciliation with the father who rejected him'. You what?

Excellent poster though.

Man of Iron



You may have missed this one: Jon Favreau revealing on Ain't It Cool News that he is collaborating with Genndy Tartakovsky, and his team, on Iron Man 2. Sounds like Tartakovsky et al will be boarding the action sequences, whilst Favreau mixes with the actors. An exciting turn of events I'm sure you'll agree. Imagine! A Tartakovsky originated live action battle sequence that stacks shell-head and War Machine on one side, with Fu Manchu wizard nemesis The Mandarin, and his snaking dragon bodyguard Fing Fang Foom on the other. Delightful.

To get you in the mood, here's Tartakovsky's entrance for General Grievous in the 2003 Cartoon Network series Star Wars: Clone Wars. This pre-Episode III animated debut for Grievous made a promise that George Lucas' live action depiction couldn't hope to deliver on, even with those extra arms. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Call of Duty: World at War



The decision to take the fifth Call of Duty game back, kicking and screaming, to the second world war wasn't the most popular of decisions with series fans. Trading in fresh techno-turf for another rake over those frighteningly well represented six years of world-wide immolation seemed cripplingly devoid of ambition. It didn't help that Treyarch were back behind the driving seat. Their previous effort Call of Duty 3 was front heavy with slog missioning, and subject to more than its fair share of frustrate-you-up rough corners. Never mind that the game was completed in under a year, I got stuck on scenery once or twice!

Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare pole-vaulted forward several decades from the clear moral certainty of allies vs axis / good vs evil World War II play acting, to post-Cold War black-ops nation propping. It was also polished within an inch of its life. The SAS missions that formed the backbone of that game were nasty snatches of wet working: an assassination here; an ethnic cleanse intervention there. Infinity Ward worked extremely hard to create a muddled theoretical conflict frame, utilising hot potato concerns like break-away ex-Soviet nations, and Islamic fundamentalism. Players finally got to have a dabble with contemporary death spewing bullet brooms, right slap-bang in the middle of the Coalition of The Willing's War on Terror™. Hooray for topicality.

Imperialism / third-rate action movie tropes aside, among COD4's most triumphant aspect was simply chatter. The SAS missions are full to the brim with insistent state sanctioned murder euphemisms, and pally back and forth as a mask for head wringing brutalism. Purely expositional dialogue and badass zingery is thankfully elsewhere. It was a treat. Odd-number interim developer Treyarch obviously agree, they've hired Hollywood voice talent to propel Call of Duty: World at War's two pronged campaign through the dying days of World War 2. Kiefer Sutherland gruffs up as Pacific island hopper Corporal Roebuck, and Gary Oldman gives us his Air Force One best Russian yak as Sergeant Reznov.

Roebuck, like his in-game campaign, doesn't really go much of anywhere. He starts out a taciturn uber-marine and stays that way right up until his theatre exits. Reznov is similarly stuck on one-note repeat, although thankfully it's a great track: there's never a single second you're in Reznov's company that he isn't preaching genocide doctrine. Hot on the heels of the retreating Nazis, as they are pushed from Stalingrad all the way back to Berlin, Reznov is front and centre screaming for blood and blood and blood. One stage memorably ends with street fighting Soviets chasing down Third Reich straddlers. The level fades out with the rout in progress. Reznov revenge rhymes ringing in your ears, as you struggle to exterminate your fleeing enemies before the area vanishes.



Reznov is indicative of Treyarch's new direction for the WWII series: from slightly wearying bugle horn sermonising to out-and-out pulp. Bodies struck by bullets explode into meaty bleeding messes; savage attack dogs are arsenal; surrendering enemies can be callously executed. Less impressively, ropey electric guitar wailing intrudes on the soundscape, threatening to lurch the mood from cruel to very crass. The Day Today info dump story sequences that mix real atrocity footage with hyper active stats and camera sweeps also leave a sour aftertaste. Least of all the post-credits occult additional stage makes a hamfist of the pro-Veteran plaudits that close out the maker listing, no matter how fun it is.

The other big idea for this installment is fire. It's everywhere. In your hand, coming out of tanks, all over your foes. Everywhere. The Russian campaign has impromptu revolution favourite the Molotov Cocktail, flash forward to the Pacific and you get the flamethrower. I struggle to think of a weapon more directly nasty than a flamethrower. Launching sub-sonic lead through a person seems civilised next to painting them and their friends with frothing liquid hell. And paint them you do.



It's not all shits and giggles though. Whereas games like the Halo series gift the player a vast area full of finely tuned AI enemies, the Call of Duty series prefers to lead players through checkpoint incident. Cross a line and dodge the spectacle. COD is built on NFL land seizure mechanics, players assault infinite respawn choke points until they can widen a pass gap, neutralising them.

As a rule, Infinity Ward are much more accomplished at concealing these rules than Treyarch. A low in COD3 seeing unending Nazi hordes materialising out of a wall of shrubbery. World at War also features dead-end passageways that spawn countless foes, and invisible pass points that evaporate entrenched legions. It's tolerable at Normal difficulty, glaringly obvious any higher. It doesn't end there either, whereas COD4's AI assist characters were so brutally efficient you felt like you could leave them to get on with finishing the game themselves, COD5 sees friend characters milling around somewhere south of the player, doing very little to win the war. Many's the time I came across invincible priority characters either standing nose-to-nose with the enemy, or shrugging off endless lethal assaults to eventually clout noggin and 'save' themselves. I'm also fairly sure Roebuck charged around a whole level with an invisible gun, bullets spewing out of nowhere.



I'd rather not leave you with negatives though. I did thoroughly enjoy Call of Duty: World at War. I don't think I've played another war game that so completely enveloped the player in mind-numbing chaos. Set pieces bleed into each other - urban ruin clearance is just a wall vault away from fraught tank battling. Dispense with that and your snaking through trenches, flanking your foes with fire. It never ends. There's no respite. Aside from the horror, there's arcadey tank missions that spoil the user with massive health bars, vast amounts of overwhelming weaponry and enough raw swift to outflank squads of Panzer tanks. There's a sea plane stage that has you strafing Japanese merchant navy, scrambling from gun emplacements up and down the length of your craft. Best of all there's a sniper mission modelled after the young Captain Price stage from COD4. Stirring in a mass grave, your young Russian private is taken on a whistle stop tour of battered, occupied Stalingrad. Your mission? BLOW A HOLE IN SOMEONE!

In recent times, there's been a silent movement to eliminate anything unpalatable when depicting the second world war in games. Swastikas and Reich imagery is routinely pulled from games in Europe - there are laws against their depiction operating in at least France and Germany - flags and uniforms are instead covered in iron crosses. I've always found this more than a little alarming. Surely it is preferable to be fighting the Nazi regime than just German people? You eliminate the ideological component and you're just murdering blond uniform foreigners. They may as well be aliens, or zombies.



No matter how wrongheaded Treyarch have been with some aesthetic decisions, they are to be applauded for attempting to show war in a way that isn't bloodless or meek. The brash pulpiness may be somewhat obtuse, but at least it doesn't portray a toy soldier conflict free of any immoral dimension. Why did I enjoy setting all those Japanese men on fire? Why did I execute the Germans trying to surrender? Why did I wish the blubbering, sinking naval ships yielded floundering men to be strafed? Why did I want Berlin defended by notably shorter Hitler Youth Nazi models? I'm sick with war, and it's not Treyarch's fault.

Sketch Saturday: Bizarro

With a title like that, hopefully I've successfully blackmailed myself into rustling up at least one of these every week. I don't want to let my fans down! Fingers crossed. Let me know what you think. This week: Bizarro.

For those without the know, Bizarro is an enemy / foil to DC's Superman. Bizarro is typically depicted as an imperfect clone of the Man of Steel. The evil twin's personality usually taking the form of either comedic numbskull, or psychotic equaliser.

I went for shambolic, but punchy. Me am hate Bizarro.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Saints Row 2



I struggled to find even a second of Saints Row 2 entertaining to begin with. Tasked with designing your lead character from the ground up had me scratching my head. What did I want? I'm all for avatar customisation, but you at least want templates to work from. Where to even begin? I skipped over to the voices, of which there are three. I reasoned that once I knew the voice, I could build an image around it. A solid beginning I thought.

Three voices then. Three voices. Let's give them a listen. Confound it! Three voices, each as revolting as the last. For a male character in Saints Row 2, you have three options: black chap n' the Hood, Latino lilt, and finally a bizarre Cockney wideboy / Australian Jason Statham attempt. That's it? Can I not just have a quiet brooding Clint wheeze? Is that too much? Do you not cater for my favourite brand of cool? Whispy gentry a little too refined? Do I really have to be one of these dicks? I did. I initially sided with the faux-London accent. I convinced myself it'd be amusing to hear a Guy Richie movie alike bitching and whining at second-rate American voice over talent. It won't be that awful. It might have even been recorded by someone English. You never know!

I tried to build a Kirby comics man-mountain around the chatter. It looked alright in the in-game menu presentation bit, but running around in minimal cut in-game clothing he looked appalling. My staunch muscled minimalism had gifted me Brucey from GTA4. Thanks a fucking lot me. I hated Brucey in GTA4. His slobbering meat-headed dickery reminded me far too much of a few slathering twats that waddle around my place of work. Legs wide, shoulders back, attitude on. Each and every one of them desperate to be considered very fucking hard indeed. And now I'm playing with them, my in-game toy modelled after their deplorable persona. Good God! What if someone caught me faffing around with this lame duck attempt at masculinity? I scoured the menus to find anywhere I might partake of some drastic plastic surgery. Site secured I waddled off for another bout of self-loathing.

Eventually, after much thought I settled on the Latino voice. I married this to athletic, tanned frame, topped off with a greying corporate side-parting. From this I imagined some vague contra backstory. He's done a kill up and down South America in the eighties, then decided he liked picking on plastic gangsters for money and kicks. Innate superiority secured I began to find fun in clipped, lethal encounters with the Benetton gangs that populate Stilwater. A little later on I dressed him up in a pristine grey linen suit, with a white shirt and red / grey striped tie. My nasty little merc was gifted a whiff of class. This prism of respectability actually framed a few later callous events with a trace of humour. It's Bond appeal: thug in a suit. Avatar stepping correct, I got on with the game, which unfortunately turned out to be endless rounds of simplistic gun-battles. Nevermind!

I couldn't warm to Saints Row 2. And having spent £40 on it, I dearly wanted to. It's idea of 'cool' and 'bitching' was pitched a good ten years younger and dumber than my own particular tastes. Hating women and loving death is alright when you're fifteen and just using it to mask your own deplorable social skills, but when you're a grown-up man, it's just wearying. It might even make for a funny punchline occasionally, but that's all Saints Row 2 is: punchline. It's an endless parade of detestable shitheads, shitting on each other. I cared not one jot for any one single character or event, because they were all hateful bores. All locked out a numbskull race to out nihilise the other. Saints Row 2 doesn't want you to create a convincing ageing gangster, it would rather you dreamt up a dreadlocked, streaking, transvestite. It's only ambition to repeat what has gone before, but stupider. Saints Row 2 would love to pitch itself as the manic inbred sibling to GTA4's pretentious narrative snob. It's a pitch that doesn't hold. It's just boring. And shitty. It's a bankrupt take-off with none of the wit, wheeze or whimsy of what it's imitating. It's a game only really tolerable when the difficulty is fixed so low you can amble through its infinite shoot-outs with zero chance of stall / repeat.