Tuesday, 31 December 2013

VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER



A new The Raid 2: Berandal trailer, providing evidence that melee weaponry and car stunts have been added to Gareth Evans' mayhem repertoire.

Films 2013

5. You're Next


















You're Next's strength was in the ways different characters contextualise the danger they're in. The Davison family respond to having crossbow bolts fired at their heads as an ingrained collective, complete with interpersonal baggage. They're so self-obsessed that even in the face of annihilation they cannot conceive of a situation in which their own egos are not being managed and coddled. A life of privilege has prepared them for nothing other than success. They expect to win; they cannot think in any other direction. They approach the assault emotionally, responding to a filmic scenario in a filmic fashion. They discern narratives within their struggle and cater to them. They are fools. Erin, an Australian interloper masquerading as pliant arm candy, is completely different. At rest she demonstrates the kind of quiet self-assurance that needlers often mistake as passivity. Galvanised into action, she reacts quickly and logically, upending genre conventions by stamping them prone.


4. Gravity


















A 90 minute long panic attack that moves and functions on prehistoric story beats. Gravity is pure incident, Dr Ryan Stone evolving before our eyes from the kind of person who frets about losing a screw cap into a human missile. Her craft and crew shredded, Stone has to pick her way along international space debris until she finds a tin can secure enough to take her home. Disappointments and outright failures became the norm, mutating her sense of expectation. Stone changes from a single function component into a badass overseer, able to grapple with her situation and pummel it into compliance. Like You're Next, Gravity uses gender prejudices to turbocharge the will to power. Alfonso and Jonás Caurón understand that taking someone soft and reticent and turning them cold and hard is much more satisfying than seeing a military industrial man succeed.


3. Drug War
















Protagonist is a slippery designation in a film like Drug War. At a glance, law and order man Zhang Lei fits the bill as he doggedly pursues a narcotics ring. Lei creates opportunity through a series of charades, adopting the identity of the last drug kingpin he met to woo the next. Lei is following a breadcrumb trail though, he has rules and regulations to consider, his success aligning with the wants of an all-powerful collective. He's a little too remote to truly root for. This interpersonal disconnect allows focus to shift onto Timmy Choi, a cowed drug lord who initial registers as cowardly and compliant. Of course he's nothing of the sort. He's just plotting, waiting for an opportunity to shift events in his favour. Drug War seems to be about how responsible ideology rarely translates into an exciting movie experience. In real life a well-oiled machine succeeding by inches is preferable, but entertainment mediums need people like Timmy Choi taking child hostages.


2. Milius
















Milius is devastating. The documentary begins as a long overdue reappraisal of John Milius's contribution to the movie brat movement, covering everything from writing and directing AIP cheapies to being credited by Francis Ford Coppola as the main creative force behind Apocalypse Now. The documentary describes its subject as the go-to guy for boiling, bullshitting machismo. In between acting out anecdotes, we learn Sean Connery regularly had Milius employed to punch up his roles. Clint Eastwood fawns over Conan the Barbarian. George Lucas makes no attempt to hide a genuine love and affection for the man.

The doc charts a rise and fall then seems to be heading towards a wider reassessment. Suddenly everything falls apart. The effects of the debilitating illness that John Milius suffers are amplified by the situation, and I'm not just talking about my own selfish desire to see a Milius helmed Conan sequel. We see a man who has earned the respect and admiration of his peers struck down in the cruellest possible fashion. Milius then becomes a piece about how difficult, impassive older males attempt to articulate their love for each other. They can't just say it, they have to describe it using sports metaphors and denial.


1. Django Unchained

















Django Unchained talks about identity and the ways in which extreme social situations impact upon it. Despite the ubiquity of the reading, it doesn't seem to me that the film is about an extravagant German transforming a humble slave into a superman. Instead it's about Schultz and Django's partnership providing a safe, stable environment that allows the former slave to reassert a personality he's always had. The rodeo shitkicker we see at the film's conclusion is, judging by Broomhilda's reaction to him, the man Django has always been. It isn't a comic book super state, it's the defiant one who stole Broomhilda's heart. We don't know him because Django has had to bury that person deep inside himself, lest he attract trouble.

This is the pantomime at the heart of Django Unchained. The white, master characters enjoy wild, overblown personas. They are indulged. Their social status and the colour of their skin allow them to act without filter. The black characters are not allowed this luxury. They have to pore over their statements and reactions, checking them for perceived provocation. While the white characters flirt outrageously with destruction, safe in the knowledge very little can trouble them, the black characters know death can come at any time. One wrong look could be their end. They are thus adept at behaving in a way that causes minimal offence - childlike, inferior. Anything that makes the people with power feel bigger.

King Schultz's fraternity helps stabilises Django, but it doesn't transform him. That comes in the hope that he can be with his wife again. Django Unchained is, at its heart, a deeply romantic film. Django exists to be with Broomhilda. It isn't just love or want, it's need. Next time you watch the film look at Jamie Foxx's performance when Schultz tells Django where his wife's name came from. The second Django realises he's going to discover something new about his love, no matter how tangential the relation, he abandons what he's doing - in this case eating - to sit in rapt attention. Passed over during award season and frequently described as the weak link in Django Unchained, Foxx is actually the calm, collected centre of the film. He knows the stakes better than anyone else and won't do anything to fuck up his last chance at happiness.

Also Liked:

The World's End / Pacific Rim / Only God Forgives / Spring Breakers / Ender's Game / Fast & Furious 6 / Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods / Elysium / Prisoners / Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 / The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Friday, 27 December 2013

Video Games 2013

5. Saints Row IV
















Like playing a sandbox game with all the cheats on. Instead of a plethora of systems that barely hung together, Saints Row IV knuckled down on a basic combat stream and piled on the power-ups. After very little time at all your player character would be gliding between skyscrapers hunting XP orbs and zooming through traffic like The Flash. Saints Row IV marked the point an ugly GTA copycat became the spiritual successor to Crackdown.


4. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
















The most enjoyable thing about Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was how few limits were placed on your basic movement. Rex Colt ran with the kind of clip that gobbled up even the most long-winded objective trek. Hill summits were briskly mounted and there was no fall in the game that would damage you. Designed to play like the end-game of a lengthy campaign, Blood Dragon was the short, e-number answer to a generation of games woozy from feature glut.


3. Papers, Please
















Ever wanted to be a miserable cog in the communist machine? Of course you have! Papers, Please lumbered you with a lottery job that barely covered rent, then offered you a slither of power. Almost unplayable in quick sessions, Papers, Please piled on the bureaucracy, demanding you check and re-check a stream of permits and pass cards. Disinterest - the natural response to escalating, self-defeating responsibility - was kept in check by a results screen that gleefully detailed your failings as a provider.


2. RESOGUN
















A Mega Drive scrolling score attack that used the power of the PlayStation 4 to construct a series of cityscapes built out of tiny, fracturing voxels. RESOGUN's strength was compulsion, you were always chasing the perfect game. Scraping though a stage wasn't enough, did you save all the humans? Did you deposit them in the safe zones when your multiplier was maxed out? What scores have your friends got? Just one more go then.


1. The Last of Us
















The seventh generation was unusually long. Systems costs exorbitant 80s hi-fi prices out the gate, and everything remotely successful was iterated. Stagnation held sway. The visible video game mainstream became a yawning chasm of sequels, each propped up by poached mechanics and flavour of the month interaction. Everything resembled everything else.

The Last of Us stuck out because it looked a little further back than rhythm action battle prompts. Most obviously, Resident Evil 4's upgrade system was smuggled in, forcing the player to deal with permanence. What's going to get me to the next checkpoint? Deeper pockets for bullets, or a holster that lets me hold another pistol? Who says I'm even going to find one? The Last of Us was also Hideo Kojima's basic sneak 'em up, bitten and infected. Melodrama dialled way back, replaced with a video game approximation of the paternal love story central to The Road. Horror pops on triumph.

Also Liked:

Grand Theft Auto V / BioShock: Infinite / DuckTales: Remastered / Rayman Legends / Gran Turismo 6 / Proteus / Battlefield 4 / Call of Duty: Ghosts / Ridiculous Fishing / Call of Juarez: Gunslinger / Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Remastered / Tomb Raider / Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Music 2013

5. TV on the Radio - Million Miles



Luxurious swooning shot through with a lonely, crippled spaceship despondency. Last survivor signing off!

4. Run the Jewels - Get It



Dust Brothers headaches attended by irritating Kanye-on-SNL sample stabs. Music to dress up in oversized mob jackets and roll cars to.

3. Carpenter Brut - Obituary



Cyborgs in leather waistcoats jog dancing under overflowing drainpipes in Kabukicho. Much Cruising! NSFW promo clip.

2. Charli XCX - SuperLove



CLAP SYNTH. CLAP SYNTH. Sofia Coppola dressed as Betty Boo scribbling in her journal about some deadbeat she deigns to fancy.

1. Anamanaguchi - Endless Fantasy



A crashing wave of euphoric Master System music. Sounds like what beating Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time feels like.

Also Liked:

Icona Pop - I Love It / Lazerhawk - King of the Streets / Sadsic - Chamber / Zantilla - Call Of The Manticore / Gesaffelstein - Pursuit / Ryan Hemsworth - BasedWorld / Kanye West - Bound 2 / CHVRCHES - Lies

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Die Hard 2: Die Harder


















A vulgar cocaine sequel about an ego-driven maniac who is always right. Die Hard 2 recontextualises the vulnerable hero of the first film, taking a guy who has the ability to weep for his failed marriage and turning him into a Schwarzenegger analogue. Although he shares a writer credit on Die Hard, screenwriter Steven E de Souza isn't interested in constructing a progressive, mutation arc for John McClane. Die Hard 2 instead moves with the same mechanical grace as a mid-80s Austrian Oak film. In short, this McClane is an arrogant, insistent prick.

Die Hard posited a situation in which McClane fluked an inside track on the mayhem, thanks to his smarts, but mainly his geography. He was embedded. Die Hard 2 attempts something similar, but frames it on a hunch. Couple this with a sequel think that demands every stake possible be raised and you end up with a hero who spends the majority of the film seething and screaming at people. An interlude in which McClane accidentally roughs up a meek janitor, doesn't apologies, then shakes him down for blueprints is a particularly brutal structural grind.

Fortunately this overindulgence extends to everything in Die Harder. A tidal wave of invectives is matched by some truly nasty, brain haemorrhaging violence. This is unrestrained, unreconstructed male wish fulfilment cranked all the way up. Harder also enjoys a kind of mystique thanks to some BBFC deletions made on its original release. Trimmed for a 15 rating then incessantly beamed into my mind on pan and scan VHS, the 18 edit, complete with icicle injury detail, still registers as wonderfully, gleefully, excessive.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - TOSS BACK



I don't care if the game's six years old, as long as IJQI keeps making Call of Duty 4 videos, I'll keep posting 'em.

Vid

Call of Duty: Ghosts - SHOUTCAST



With team killing all but impossible thanks to the ricochet mechanic, the majority of the Call of Duty troll clippers seem to have lost interest. Thankfully, StoneMountain64 has a fresh take on lobby wind ups.

Vid

METAL SLUG 3



Vid

Thursday, 19 December 2013

HIDDEN PALACE



Previously only accessible as a corrupted mess via cheat cart hack codes, the scrapped Sonic the Hedgehog 2 level Hidden Palace Zone has been given a new lease of life thanks to couple of committed fans and a recent mobile release. Using assets only available in Beta code, and level layouts suggested by pre-release magazine appearances, Sonic sceners Taxman and Stealth have created a wonderful, speculative stage tucked away in a dark, cavernous corner of the main game.

Vid on the fritz?

MISS



Based on the slightly wonky premise that 80s video games aren't already difficult enough, NES Remix extracts stages and situations from a variety of 8-bit Nintendo titles, then challenges the player to succeed with a handicap. Obviously this all looks incredibly fun and I deeply regret not owning a Wii U.



Our second clip is a promo segment for NES Remix from the Japanese TV series GameCenter CX. Comedian and resident retro game master Shinya Arino plays against a trio of kids and probably throws the contest so as not to look mean. There are currently no subtitles available, but I'm sure you get the jist of it.

Vid 1, Vid 2

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

FINAL FIGHT CD



Vid on the blink?

JUNGLE BEAST



Aside from the dearth of melt-faced mutants, I'm a little disappointed to see Caesar painted up like a Cambodian river savage in this tease for another Planet of the Apes sequel. While I'm sure Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will deliver an ample amount of cowering human scum, I would have liked to have seen Caesar's tribe filling the mankind gap while we were off in disease control facilities feeling sorry for ourselves. With this in mind, we could've had vacant buildings tweaked and customised for the oversized chimps and their gorilla neighbours. Fanciful new technologies crafted around the ape's needs and desires. Finally we could've caught a glimpse of Pierre Boulle's original idea of a settled, civilised ape race, with massed humans as the primitive, bestial aggressors.

Vid on the blink?

Friday, 13 December 2013

Bruticus by Rui Onishi


"Looks like an enemy recovered the car, so..."



It's hard to get a handle on what Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is going to be. All released footage has revolved around the infiltration of this particular POW camp. The emphasis on rescues and recruitment recalls Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (itself intended to be the fifth series instalment at one point), suggesting a hub based collect 'em up? Systems and gameplay feedback are also front and centre, looking delightful. The ability to create a solid, working foundation of interactive expectations is an undervalued ability. The best games allow players to generate a sense of security through basic calculations - cause and effect is everything. In that sense, Zeroes looks like it's got a rugged, but flexible machine pumping away under the hood. Out in March and budget priced, Zeroes would seem to be a slimmed down, chaser experience, with the real meat to come later in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Vid

20XX BULLETIN

Regular readers may have noticed that things have been a little quiet here at 20XX for the last few weeks. This radio silence was a result of a house move and the subsequent lack of internet access. 3G updates were considered but rejected on the grounds they would be a total ballache. Rest assured though that Neo Disaster Towers is plugged in and raring to go.

I have a couple of hand-written notes lying around that could be re-purposed into film reviews, as well as the site's annual favs lists on standby. I'm also considering another The Fast and the Furious (such a terrible shame about Paul Walker) / Godzilla style franchise review. I'm currently narrowing down my options. Suggestions are also welcome. Finally, in real person adult news, Miss Disaster has agreed to be my wife. The proposal involved me on bended knee, a pitch black driveway and some rapidly cooling Chinese food. It was more romantic than it sounds. Either way, I'm a very lucky man indeed. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #1 - Fallout 3
















Fallout 3 had a thread of narrative woven through it. Identity established through statistic choices and facial feature sliders, you were set free to plod along through the ruins of Washington DC. Your main quest was to find your missing father, puzzling out his movements following an escape from an isolationist nuclear shelter. These breadcrumbs drove the game on, unlocking new areas and enemies. If you got pally with the locals, they'd offer distraction tasks that got you exploring. These missions taught you to be patient and methodical, instructing you in the basic tools of post-apocalyptic survival. Those avenues exhausted, it was up to you to create and discover your own adventure. Doggedly follow the father quest line and eventually it'd stall the title dead with a disappointing pay-off that had to be retconned through DLC.

That's Fallout 3's narrative, but it wasn't the story. It wasn't the game. Fallout was the land, and all the people in it. Fallout was wandering around a God forsaken rubble pit, stumbling across decrepit buildings and traumatised survivors. Although framed by a binary morality system, Fallout 3 frequently put the players in positions with no obvious solutions. If you found your way to the Tenpenny Tower luxury hotel you'd be confronted by a turf war between two equally unappealing factions. You couldn't do right for doing wrong. Throw in with the bigot who ran the place and he'd ask you to vaporise a thriving human settlement because he considered it an eyesore. Side with the gang of idealistic zombies and the tower's innocent human inhabitants would end up dead and stuffed into a cellar. This idea of moral uncertainty was the cornerstone of Fallout: New Vegas, a semi-sequel that relished compromise and missed opportunities.

The Fallout experience was rifling through pip-pip computer records, uncovering solemn accounts of post-war hardship. The sunken Vaults scattered about DC were an explorers paradise. Layers upon layers of burnt out living space, each housing secrets more terrible than the last. You could make allies out of dogs and mutants, and then be stuck trying to keep them out of trouble. Fallout 3 was wandering, plundering, discovering. The player as a cultural archaeologist, digging deep into the paranoid psychological state that facilitated the world's devastation. If you ever wanted to ride with The Road Warrior, or found the idea of investigating Los Angeles 2029 appealing, this was the game for you.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #2 - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
















Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ditched the moral certainty of World War II, taking the series forward several decades to arrive in the midst of a post-Cold War fog. The covert missions that formed the backbone of the campaign were nasty snatches of ruthless wet working. An assassination here. An ethnic cleanse intervention there. Infinity Ward drafted a muddled theoretical conflict, utilising hot potato concerns like break-away ex-Soviet nations and Islamic fundamentalism, to take the player somewhere other than the beaches of Normandy.

Despite this, one of Modern Warfare's most triumphant aspects was simply chatter. Your time with the 22nd SAS regiment was full of state sanctioned murder and cold-blooded euphemisms. This pally back and forth registering as gallows humour, rather than tone-deaf posturing. A mission set aboard a Lockheed gunship had an alarming, almost documentary sense of reality about it. Modern Warfare was a rare game that seemed informed by solid research instead of just raking over the same old 1980s action films.

The real juice in Modern Warfare though was the multiplayer mode, an unending avalanche of feedback and positive reinforcement. Guns and loadout perks were rationed on a keen trickle, meaning there was always an interesting piece of kit to chase. Every conceivable action tallied towards some form of reward, from exciting new rifle sights to simple XP currency. There was an exhaustive list of conditions to be met, congratulating players for both the mundane and the superlative. In-game kills granted access to rewards that ran the gamut from an in-game radar sweep to a match shredding Hind attack helicopter. Modern Warfare gobbled time. There was always something new to learn, or something old to modify.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #3 - Street Fighter IV
















Despite creating the excellent polygon scrapper Rival SchoolsCapcom has always struggled to translate its premier fighter franchise into a viable 3D property. During the fifth and sixth generations the Street Fighter licence was farmed out to Arika, a dev studio full of ex-Capcom staff, for the short-lived Street Fighter EX series. EX was a love-it or loathe-it side-step, hobbled out the gate in Europe thanks to lousy 50Hz conversions. Regardless, even on 60Hz import the results never touched contemporary 2D instalments. After the wonderful, but undersubscribedStreet Fighter III series it seemed like Ryu and friends were being slowly relegated to nostalgia prompts in big-budget franchise clashes.

The Street Fighter series unexpectedly bounced back in summer 2008 with the arcade release of Street Fighter IV, spearheaded by Yoshinori Ono and The Rumble Fish developer Dimps. Street Fighter IV ditched the arena roaming of modern fighters, instead sticking to 2D planes with 3D assets. The vast cast were rendered as chunky, colourful, charm lumps, blessed with spectacular ultra move movies, and Looney Tunes injury faces. Everything old was new again. Since then the basic gameplay has been tugged and tweaked over five distinct iterations, each designed for maximum scrutiny. At the beginning of this generation Street Fighter was washed up and bled dry. Likewise, the game's parent company Capcom has struggled since the departure of high-profile talents like Shinji Mikami and Hideki Kamiya. That the Street Fighter brand was resurrected so completely during this tumultuous period is nothing short of miraculous. Let's hope Capcom can eventually get their shit together long enough to do the same for the mouldering Resident Evil series.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #4 - BioShock
















BioShock offered players a one-way ticket to Rapture, an underwater utopia on the wane. Ayn Rand's Atlantis was built to house the great minds of the post-World War II world. Artists, industrialists and philosophers crammed in tight and unburdened by morality. Cast as an interloper, players got to poke around and investigate the aftermath. With minimal friendly faces around to tell the tale, a timeline is established through exploring and collecting the diary fragments scattered about the ruin. Rapture's citizens were promised paradise but reductive class systems still emerged, eventually prompting a popular revolution. There were less obvious examples though. Everything in Rapture told you a story.

Rapture was hermetically sealed by design. This was its flaw. A healthy culture is built out of mutations and alien invasion. Foreignness informs a fluid, growing intellectual consciousness. Rapture failed because it assumed it already had everything it needed. It could only build on the elements it already had, hence Rapture is monument to an incestuous obsession with early twentieth century art movements - Jazz, Deco, Futurism. With nowhere else to turn, the city turned inwards, consuming itself. BioShock offered the chance to sightsee around this cultural apocalypse. You took in the sights. Gauche bunny art built out of murdered people. Nannies with car wreck faces that whispered lullabies to sleeping pistols. Rivers of discarded refugee clothing, patrolled by pyromanic Policemen. It was like no place you'd ever seen before. Sadly, there's been nothing quite like it since.

Friday, 22 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #5 - Earth Defence Force 2017
















Earth Defence Force 2017 was a crack compulsive shooter from budget developer Sandlot. You took control of a slender, androgynous suicide soldier, the only chap (or chapette) with chops enough to halt an avalanche of rampaging space aliens. All the atmoic age enemy archetypes were present and correct. Mutated insects, laser robots, hubcap spacecraft, and, most impressively, radioactive mecha kaiju. All massive. All aggressive.

Players got to trample the lot with a spiralling arms race facilitated by captured, flat, tech pick-ups. Weapons ran the gamut from small, useless welding torches to sub-nuclear screen wipers. The higher the difficulty, the better your technology seizure. Your hero was aided throughout by teams of endlessly enthusiastic CPU troopers that chanted slogans and died at a brush. Cities crumbled at the slightest barrage, nearly everything on-screen could be destroyed. Better still, you were never penalised for this collateral damage. As long as you made it, everything else was extraneous. EDF suffered no stealth interruptions or an enforced use of chugging, vulnerable vehicles. If allies fell, it was their hard cheese. Earth Defence Force 2017 was simply fifty odd levels of relentless enemy blasting. As pure as Space Invaders.

.45 ACP



Jason Eisener's trailer for the Drafthouse reissue of Abel Ferrara's Ms. 45.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #6 - Crackdown
















Power fantasy video games broadly emphasise environmental and psychological disconnects. Players are typically cast as lone adventurers who relentlessly come into conflict with their surroundings. Sand box games exacerbate this feeling, it's just you against an entire city calibrated to your undoing. Crackdown started you out as an athletic human, tasked with droning about a city dispensing jack-boot justice. You had an assigned arsenal, bolstered by arms seizures, with a fleet of cars back at the base. All the better to battle entrenched gangsters. So far so street level. Take your time to explore though and you came into contact with a drip-feed of floating power-ups.

Snatch enough and eventually your abilities were raised far beyond the mortal realm. Max out your stats though, and you'd barely need equipment. You were now the weapon. At peak you could leap tens of feet vertically and horizontally, your territory now in the sky. This created an immediate disconnect. Your landscape was transformed from urban grime to an airy, skyscraping loneliness. Feuding with criminals began to seem less vital, maybe even trivial. They could be thwarted in brief, hopping blitzkriegs, your limits rarely tested. Interest shifted to exploring and testing the upper limits of your character's physicality. Could I make that jump? Is the top of that building within my reach? This agenda break also emphasised the condition of your avatar, a blank slate super-soldier, unwillingly locked into reward tasks and undaunted by morality. You didn't explore your super-identity by crushing inferiors, you deconstructed it through escape.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #7 - The Last of Us
















The two most engaging video game experiences I've had in the last twelve months were the HD re-release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Naughty Dog's critical darling The Last of Us. Despite some cosmetic differences, the two games have a lot in common. Both are third person action games with an emphasis on scavenging. Your primary means of propulsion in either was a hunched, reticent crawl. Impatience punished with a retry. Players should have been scouting ahead, logging patrol patterns and looking for holes. Lots of time to think then. Why did this feel so fresh?

The seventh generation was unusually long. Systems cost exorbitant 1980s hi-fi prices out the gate, and everything remotely successful was iterated. Stagnation held sway. The visible video game mainstream became a yawning chasm of sequels, each propped up by poached mechanics and flavour of the month interaction. Everything resembled everything else. The Last of Us stuck out because it looked a little further back than rhythm action battle prompts. Most obviously, Resident Evil 4's upgrade system was smuggled in, forcing the player to deal with permanence. What's going to get me to the next checkpoint? Deeper pockets for bullets, or a holster that lets me hold another pistol? Who says I'm even going to find one? The Last of Us was also Hideo Kojima's basic sneak 'em up, bitten and infected. Melodrama dialled way back, replaced with a video game approximation of the paternal love story central to The Road. Horror pops on triumph.

Monday, 18 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #8 - The Orange Box
















Nestled in amongst three stellar Half-Life campaigns and Team Fortress 2's class clash was Portal, a short, sharp first-person puzzler. Ingenious teleportation guns aside, Portal lingers longest thanks to some genuinely good character-based writing - quite the coup considering the player controlled protagonist, Chell, was mute. Basically, Portal was Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream if the central hyper-computer was a malfunctioning incompetent. Like the Ellison overlord, Portal's AI GLaDOS had long since outgrown her pre-programmed parameters. She was stuck regurgitating basic sequences, going senile in the process. Instead of openly sadistic trials, GLaDOS strung Chell along through a rotting obstacle course with the strangely specific promise of cake. Sections of the testing area were missing, the gun turrets had developed empathy and any sense of meaning had long since evaporated. When Chell finally disobeyed, GLaDOS threatened her like an admonished child, desperate to cling onto her fading glimmer of half life.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #9 - Red Dead Redemption
















Aside from freeing Rockstar's free-roam template from dull health management, Red Dead Redemption excelled at providing an incentivised narrative. Although players likely didn't care too much about John Marston's imprisoned family, we were made to understand that our cowboy figure did. Marston yearned for their safe return. Balance for this single-minded questing was provided through the detailing of Marston as a character. He was a charming mix of grumpy, dead-pan mean and roughly hewn industrial gentry.

Marston's voice, provided by Rob Wiethoff, was a constant presence in Red Dead Redemption. He grumbled during fetch quests and yelped at danger. Success was often greeted with cheers. Rockstar San Diego crafted a hero you couldn't help but like. The studio also worked hard to make Marston's quest seem lightly absurd. There's a constant suggestion throughout that his efforts were in vain, and that his family were long gone. When an opportunity for contact finally did arise the player's feelings matched Marston's own. Both were tentative and fearful. This was Red Dead Redemption's greatest success - the player and avatar in emotionally alignment; desperate to get home, but terrified at what they might find when they get there.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #10 - Canabalt

















iPhone games often struggled mapping the multiple inputs associated with modern video games. In poorer examples players wound up with confusing drag-tap gymnastics, or, even worse, a controller map stamped on the screen. Not so in Adam Saltsman and Eric Johnson's fantastic Canabalt. Tasked with making your escape from a fracturing city, players assisted a speeding pixel man with well timed jump taps. Your tiny suit man was always running full pelt, you never had to worry about directional control, player input was simply judging the best time for him to jump. Stress came in the form of an ever-changing course. Buildings cracked and sagged, sinking beneath you. Alien machinery crashed in your immediate path, and building tops frequently failed to sync up. Canabalt was designed to be played as a rolling series of attempts. Failure wasn't penalised with anything other than an instant restart, repetition was nixed thanks to random course generation. You never knew what was coming next.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #11 - Mushihime-sama Futari (Bug Princess 2)
















Mushihime-sama Futari was the antithesis of mud brown 3D shooters that tracked sweaty muscles through Gothic ruins. Viewed top down and two dimensional, the game world was a pastel coloured fantasy zone, full of augmented dinosaurs and purple haired princesses that rode laser spewing stag beetles. Feedback was total - enemies disappeared in fiery turquoise clouds, their seizing bodies expelling amber gems to amp your score. Far less intimidating than its bullet hell peers, Mushihime-sama Futari was an arcade shooter that wasn't afraid to let players progress. Smart bombs could be stored as a kind of hit collateral, allowing players to take a few extra strikes before they lost a life. Bullet streams were rapid and taxing, but manageable. Mushihime-sama didn't force you to memorise a series of impenetrable attack patterns, instead it provided an immediate danger to the player, then armed them with enough speed to respond. Mushihime-sama was Capcom's 1942 filtered through magical princess anime OAVs, played at two hundred miles an hour to shrieking synth beats. Pure 16-bit gameplay.

Friday, 15 November 2013

MIA X The Partysquad X KENZO - YALA



Vid on the fritz?

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #12 - No More Heroes
















The gamification of the single male dilemma. Aspiring assassin Travis Touchdown lived in a shitty apartment full of dust and wank prompts. The city around him was an anonymous jumble of brick warehouses, spotted with pop culture outlets that sold nothing but wrestling tapes and gaudy t-shirts. Unlike other video game cities, there wasn't very much to do in No More Heroes. Presumably this was because Travis' had an extremely narrow world view. He just wasn't interested in anything other than himself. Since our hero was a complete narcissist, there were a few token sops to self-improvement. There's a gym to improve stamina which, thanks to having to pump the Wii Remote like a dumbbell, inspired an actual sweat. Brand new special moves could also be learnt by visiting a bar and getting into fights with a drunken, surly Russian. Most open world games are stuffed full of distractions. Acres and acres of malfunctioning content, designed to actively waste the user's time. No More Heroes bucked this trend, narrowing its focus onto one sweeping hand gesture, the Wii Remote as lightsaber, and then working hard to make that as fun as possible through buzzing feedback and exploding enemies.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #13 - Hot Springs Story







































Even more addictive than Kairosoft's other iOS treat Game Dev Story, Hot Springs Story gave you a plot of land and asked you to maximise the monetary rinse of every square inch. This fleecing began by placing cold fizzy drink dispensers next to the blistering baths. Played at peak, visitors rooms were encircled by a maze of tempting amenities designed to mug them quick and bounce them home poor. Like Game Dev Story, which taught you to despise your indifferent audience, Hot Springs Story exposes another bleak truth at the heart of the capitalist experience. You erect a resplendent, luxurious palace not for any aesthetic or Godly concern, but simply as a means to swallow up as many people as possible and make their wealth yours.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #14 - Batman: Arkham Asylum
















Loosely patterned after Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, Batman: Arkham Asylum arms players with a Kevin Conroy voiced action figure stranded in the bowels of the titular madhouse. With umpteen hostages to rescue, players must creep and throttle their way to Mark Hamill's institute ruling Joker. Rocksteady's enterprising approach to licensed properties is best expressed in their playground. The environment bristles with a queasy duality. Victorian decadence, with rough utilitarian upgrades. A twilight world of cramped crawl spaces, and forgotten cave foundations. Rocksteady have built Arkham like a seizing mindscape - layers and layers of barely credible security actions papering over huge, alarming fissures. The asylum is total malfunction, a space scarred by the madmen it houses, and the spectral owners that haunt it. There's even a reptilian monster, prowling its deepest recesses.

Monday, 11 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #15 - The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai
















The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai was like playing around with an interactive version of a school exercise book, its pages filled up with inky, lesson wasting, violence doodles. Stylistically, the artist is operating somewhere between Mirage Studio's Ninja Turtles comics and the grungy miserablism of James O'Barr. Characters are hunched and pained as the march towards their splotchy oblivion. Created by one-man dev team James Silva, Dishwasher would be notable on aesthetics alone. It genuinely feels like you're engaging with one person's imagination, all their favourite toys and tropes chucked into a meat grinder with themselves cast as the heroic kitchen staffer. What makes Dishwasher exceptional though is the Capcom fluid combat system. As well as layering in monochrome blitzing and crash-zoom reward prompts, Silva understood the importance of sound cues. As chaotic as the on-screen action got, the distinct, actionable noises ascribed to enemy attacks and player movement ensured you were never working with incomplete data.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #16 - Mass Effect 2
















Your very own Joseph Campbell space opera. Mass Effect 2 begins with the ludicrous, trillion dollar resurrection of series hero Commander Shepard - last seen transforming into charcoal in an alien planet's upper atmosphere. Messianic credentials firmly established, you're let off the leash to cad about the galaxy gathering together a motley crew of double hard space bastards for a suicide mission. Mass Effect 2 was Blake's 7 by way of Habitat furniture, a lovingly rendered homage to trashy 70s airport books in which humanity played the swinging dick bad boy to a stuffed shirt alien alliance. Mass Effect 2 remains the best in the series thanks to the extra credit missions that informed and enhanced the endgame charge. Didn't bother getting to the root of your gang's various personality disorders? Expect to be penalised with death and calamity. An unfussy cover shooter dressed up with hilariously callous mini-games, icy post-human electronica stuck ringing in your ears.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #17 - Battlefield: Bad Company 2
















Aside from a single player that failed to make much use of the engine's various strengths, the only thing that let the otherwise excellent Battlefield: Bad Company 2 down was the community. On release it was a struggle to find a squad that wasn't entirely concerned with pitching up tent on a hillside armed with a camouflaged Ghillie suit and a scoped rifle. To get the most out of Bad Company 2 you needed objective minded team mates willing to fill action dictated roles. Stumble onto just that, and Bad Company 2 distinguished itself admirably. Unlike Halo's shield heavy war of attrition or Call of Duty's micro-calculation bum rushing, Bad Company 2 cast you as a fragile component in a vast theatre of war. Players were tasked with finding their place in an ever-changing conflict. Is your team low on re-enforcements? Switch up and become a hyper-mobile medic and zap them back to life. Allies fond of junking valuable equipment? Ride shotgun as an engineer and fix their mistakes. Find your niche in a cohesive whole and any minor success could mangle the ambitions of team boring sniper.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #18 - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
















Saddled with a story best described as disastrous, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots instead excelled through incident interaction. With his evil twin causing trouble in the Middle East, a prematurely decrepit Solid Snake eases his broken bones into a muscle suit to go off after him. Series director Hideo Kojima involves us with the character by inflicting a stress bar upon him that fills rapidly if he's left out in open conflict for too long. Fill the anxiety gauge and Snake must retreat to the shadows and smoke a cigarette, or slap an ice pack on his aching back. Kill too many PMC stooges and Snake will vomit his guts up, disgusted. Although nowhere near as involving as series highpoint Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, MGS4 is notable for its forward-thinking approach to difficulty scaling. Lower settings could be played as a Rambo sim, while the expert difficulties demanded a fractional pace with movement dictated through learnt enemy patterns and ballsy opportunism. 

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #19 - Devil May Cry 4
















Mechanically stranded in the middle of 2001, players are led up and down a garden path throughout. Chance of environmental interaction? Nil. Invisible walls? Absolutely everywhere. The world of Devil May Cry 4 is nothing more than baroque set dressing, prettying up your smash, pow, thumps. Were DMC4 in any way about exploration this would be an unforgivable sin. Thankfully, it isn't. Although the game does have an element of treasure hunting, it's really only about pulverising enemies in an overwhelming mess of aerial rave assaults. Styles, guns and arms raced through in an unending succession of linkable jabs and thwacks. It's preying on every fractional weakness you're presented with. It's a throwing a sonic boom with Guile then rushing in for the tick-throw. It's taking out Resident Evil's Tyrant with only a knife. It's playing Virtua Cop with both guns. It's pure video games. It's all of these things, endlessly repeating minute after minute. It's Devil May Cry.

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs #20 - Dead Rising
















An obstinate zombie stomper that put you on a clock and demanded replays. Dead Rising's joy came in its tangents, mistakes, and wild tonal shifts. It presented itself as a game made specifically for American tastes, whilst taking endless pot-shots at the consumer culture that drives that country. Assigned a shlubby reporter and stranded in a mall seething with the undead, players were left to their own devices. This was a generation shift measured in volume. Dozens of on-screen characters and umpteen items scurried away to bash them with. Players could pursue a conspiracy, leading to an after-action mode, or dress themselves up as Mega Man whilst cracking zombies over the head with luminescent bowling balls. Your call. 

20XX's Seventh Gen Favs

With the Wii U already out and Microsoft and Sony's bruisers on the horizon, it's time to bid a fond farewell to the seventh console generation. To mark the occasion, 20XX's presents a wildly incomplete twenty game countdown featuring some of the games I've enjoyed playing these last few years. Heads up! Not to take the sheen off, but the list doesn't contain a few acknowledged classics I never quite got around to playing, most notably Demon's Souls and Super Mario Galaxy. I'm rubbish like that.

Remote Mines in the Complex by Zac Gorman


Lazerhawk - King Of The Streets

Saturday, 9 November 2013

3D WORLD



The Wii U's big game this Christmas is the sublime looking Super Mario 3D World. Taking cues from the American version of Super Mario Bros 2, each of the four available characters (Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad) has different strengths and abilities. The mushroom gulping gang can all be controlled simultaneously, sharing from a pool of lives. Stronger players are also able to pick up anyone struggling and carry them to safety.

MY BIG KNIFE



Developed by Tribute Games, the team behind Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game, and featuring art design by Paul Robertson, Mercenary Kings is a Kickstarter backed side-scroller that takes the run and gun ethos of Metal Slug and marries it to the shoot looting of Borderlands. Due in the unhelpfully non-specific time frame of Winter 2013, Mercenary Kings is another PS4 console exclusive.

VOXEL



PS4's day one secret weapon is Resogun, a kaleidoscopic shooter tied to a series of shattering worlds. If you're a PS+ subscriber, Resogun is free at launch.

THE FUTURE IS NOW



Speaking of next-gen fighting games, here's 2D brawler Legend of Raven from Nicalis, a team of ex-SNK devs. Set in 1926, Raven imagines a divergent Showa era in which fascism and political totalitarianism are traded out for scrappy, isolationist ninja cops. Legend of Raven features hand-animated characters by Kotani Tomoyuki, the resident King of Fighters artist during the NEST series.

HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER



This PS4 viral probably heralds an imminent Ultra Street Fighter IV announcement for Sony's new system. The console could do with a beefier fight game library - a tarted up Injustice: Gods Among Us just isn't cutting it. Wouldn't it be fun if it was something a little more left field though? The abundant 16-bit sound samples are probably for recognition's sake, but an upscaled HD Hyper Street Fighter II or the original 1987 Street Fighter rebuilt in the IV engine would be splendid.

Friday, 8 November 2013

KEEP QUIET / SINGLE FILE



George Romero's advert for Resident Evil 2, starring a young Brad Renfro. Always wondered if this ad campaign was an attempt to fob off Romero seeking any remuneration for all the lifts from his Dead films. The SWAT team vs zombies idea the series is built on is straight out of Dawn of the Dead. I remember some early footage from the cancelled version of the sequel on GamesMaster featuring the player characters fumbling around with some twisted security shutters. Although most people assumed this meant the game was set in or around a mall, it's more likely it was intended to be part of the ultra-modern, riot proof police station that anchored that games events.

Samurai Jack by Andy Suriano


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Call of Duty: Ghosts - CRANKED





Call of Duty: Ghosts is out and naturally everyone fucking hates it. Down with The Man! Stuff you Kid Popular! And so forth. I haven't had a chance to go online with it yet, waiting to get my mitts on the PS4 version, but I have had a go of someone else's Squads and campaign mode. If nothing else, Infinity Ward's latest bot battle does a fantastic job of recreating online player habits. Shotgun rushers pinball around the map blasting anything that moves, while one AI always posts up in a corner with a light machine gun and waits for traffic. The studio has obviously been running gobshite metrics.

Single player starts dreary with breadcrumb trail missions and an ultra paranoid framing device that ties itself in knots to frame the American player characters as underdogs. Eventually though a nifty country hopper emerges that reminded me of the industry sabotage missions of the World War II era Call of Dutys. The vehicle sections are especially strong, ranging from a helicopter aside that feels like god powered killstreak training, to a turbocharged tank assignment that comes on like a cross between World at War's blood and steel interlude and Sega's Model 2 pip Desert Tank.

Embedded above are a few Day One clips from TheSandyRavage and his hetero life partner fickmoley. Moley leads with a tickbox rundown of multiplayer features that sounds pretty fucking rad. Slight health allowance is fine by me if enemies drop at a similar speed. Asymmetrical maps that promote roaming is music to my ears. Black Ops 2's three route rush to the middle never really went over with me. It revealed the bleak black heart behind the series - a callous meat grinder designed to leave players permanently unsated. Solid connectivity is the big surprise though. After last year's bullshitathon the idea of consistent latency seems faintly wonderful.

It's always difficult to get a bead on Call of Duty multiplayer. Aside from an online feedback loop that delights in regurgitating the same tired phrases that the speaker imagines defines him (or her) as a unique thinker, even fans are a curmudgeonly bunch. There's no consensus on which instalment is best, gamers usually coming down in favour of whichever one they played first. As for me, I want speed, burst-fire death sticks, and streak rewards worth chasing. Although I'm feeling a little burnt out on the series, it sounds like Ghosts has at least the first two covered.

MAXIMUM VIOLENCE 2



Gareth Evans, refusing to rest on his laurels.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Battlefield 4 - RAGE



I've neither posted nor viewed an ELPRESADOR vid in a good long while, so it's a comfort to know, regardless of what game he's playing, he's still constantly about three seconds away from hurling his pad at the wall. I think it's fair to say that Battlefield 4 could be looking better on current gen systems. I don't know about you, but I expect to be able to use iron sights from second one in multiplayer. I'm not really a massive fan of having to wait for the kill-view textures to slowly load themselves in. It's a shame no-one I'm following on YouTube is posting any PC stomping. All being well though we should get some prettier feeds when the Xbox One and PS4 versions release.

Call of Duty: Ghosts - SAFEGUARD



Three hours before Call of Duty: Ghosts hits, here's Syndicate with an extended clip of Safeguard gameplay. As it turns out, Ghosts is lousy with horde modes. As well as offering the choice to put a stomp on ETs, players can trick out houses with machine gun turrets to repel more terrestrial enemies. As far as I'm aware, Safeguard has three distinct flavours - a twenty round chaser, a forty round binge, and, if you really want to punish yourself, one with infinite waves.

Slime Pit Buzz-Off by Chris Faccone


Sunday, 3 November 2013

GIANT GOD WARRIOR APPEARS IN TOKYO



Screened ahead of Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo in Japanese cinemas, Shinji Higuchi's Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo is a tokusatsu short depicting the Seven Days of Fire that gives birth to the world of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. God Warrior was written by Hideaki Anno, who recently received Miyazaki's blessing to pursue a Nausicaä sequel.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Jackson and his Computerband - Arp #1

Halloween by Greg Capullo


Prince of Darkness













The complete unravelling of Judeo-Christian power structures rendered as a series of scuffles between wimpy grad students. Prince of Darkness finds the apocalypse during a burn-out study hall weekend, in which promising physics pupils are gathered to pore over a seven million year old cannister full of anti-life. Easily the least kinetic of John Carpenter's film, Prince of Darkness is instead a prowling mood piece designed to stress unreality. Action is threadbare and unconvincing; the finale little more than playground shoving. Rather than hobble the film though, this authentic clumsiness informs it. It's just another misshapen piece in this queasy whole.

Prince of Darkness is about an idea so big, the protagonists can't process it. If a two thousand year old manuscript is to be believed, there is no celestial structure in place. God doesn't exist as we know him, there is no heaven or afterlife. Humanity is completely alone and the heart of destruction resides in the basement of a skid row church. To deny us hope, Carpenter fills his film full of anti-stars. Although presentable, everybody seems marred in one way or another. There's no obvious avatar of salvation. No sinewy muscles or keen mind to beat a path. Success is achieved accidentally, and opportunistically. The collective muddles through, but there is enough trace failure to unravel everything later.

Krispy Kreme - Halloween

Monday, 28 October 2013

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - SKILLS



IJQI with the skills.

BENDY FINGER



A recently surfaced blooper reel for Star Wars. Outtake delights include drunk Cantina aliens acting belligerent, the cream of British acting talent pulling faces, and wildly over-egged explosions. That Storm Trooper looks concussed! If nothing else, this two minute montage gives us a brief glimpse at the raw shit poor, thankless Marcia Lucas had to beef up.

Call of Duty: Ghosts - EXTINCTION



Call of Duty: Ghosts gets its own horde mode courtesy of Extinction. Up to four players get to lug around digging equipment while skulking aliens swipe at their ankles. As is usual, kills generate currency to buy gun emplacements and other lethal gadgets. As popular as Treyarch's Nazi Zombies is, I've never felt like it held a candle to Modern Warfare 2's Spec Ops suite, so it's a shame to see this reskin replace it. The popularity of these zombie modes baffle me. I get that they help drive DLC sales (like that should mean anything to me), but I've always found them aimless time sinks. There's something about the deliberately obtuse metagame, and lack of win condition that just rubs me up the wrong way.

Power Glove - Motorcycle Cop

Friday, 25 October 2013

Ender's Game


















After repelling an alien invasion, mankind recruits children to fight an abstract counter-attack. Hoping to tap into the flexible morality of juveniles, the all-encompassing International Fleet scoops kids up at a young age, then pumps them full of kill co-ordinates and deprives them of sleep. Training is experienced as a series of games with win conditions that not only account for cataclysmic sacrifice, but seem to require it. For a film being sold as kiddy franchise kick-off, Ender's Game is incredibly upfront about the emotional violence being perpetrated on these pre-teens. It posits a universe in which the individual is only useful as an amoral aberration, able to dispense with notions of human value and knuckle down to a percentages game. These children aren't loved or encouraged, they're deliberately placed in harsh, damaging circumstances in the hopes that their injuries will temper rather than break their resolve. Ender's Game is the best science fiction war film since Starship Troopers.