Thursday, 31 December 2009

Disaster Year 2009: The Hurt Locker

Rejecting any formal narrative, The Hurt Locker instead focuses on the last few days of rotation for a bomb disposal unit in Baghdad. Jeremy Renner's Staff Sergeant William James is drafted to the team after their previous commanding officer perishes in a preventable explosion. James' instinctive, adrenalised style agitates the reeling team, previously used to cautious book plays. His drive is puzzling through the improvised explosive devices by hand, neutralising the threat at source rather than retreating for a controlled detonation. He wants to beat the bomb makers by undoing their work. The defusals are fraught affairs, jets relentlessly scream overhead, and any civilian gawker could easily be a plain clothes sniper. James keeps his team deep in the danger zone, confident his grandstanding deconstructions will defer interference. This apparent thrill-seeking is underscored by some rigid emotional ethics. James is a father, and seeks to protect, sublimating his feelings for his estranged family by forming a rapid connection with a cheeky street vendor. Unlike many of his colleagues, James sees the Iraqis around him as people, rather than troublesome aliens. This isn't the entirety of why he does what he does, James takes an almost sexual pleasure in locking horns and thwarting detonations, but it is part of the make-up that pushes him on.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Disaster Year 2009: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 boasts an utterly bombastic single player that trades its previous installment's creeping wetwork for high octane air punching. Levels are not simply passed, you're blasted through them at hundreds of miles an hour, leaping and grasping at dangling salvation. Action is split between two fronts, an all-out invasion of the United States and a spy game super-narrative that eventually mutates into a disavowed sneaking mission. Infinity Ward pic n' mixes beats and flourishes from the last few decades worth of action cinema, weaving them seamlessly into the mongrel whole. Finish that and you unlock Special Ops, an off-shot dedicated to brief, cooperative remixes of core gameplay. It's a ruthlessly arranged highlights mode, consisting of 23 bulletin length epilogues. Missions consist of snowmobile races, million dollar sieges, and aggravated auto-destruction.

The real juice in Modern Warfare 2 though is the multiplayer mode, an unending avalanche of feedback and positive reinforcement. Guns and loadout perks are rationed on a keen trickle, meaning there's always an interesting piece of kit to chase. Every conceivable action tallies towards some form of reward, from customisable handle titles to simple XP currency. There's an exhaustive list of conditions to be met, congratulating players for both the mundane and the superlative. In-game kills grant access to air support that runs the gamut from an air-dropped resupply to a match shredding Apache helicopter. Land a 25 streak and you can call in a tactical nuke, killing everyone. Even the teething problems have been entertaining: players have occasionally found themselves dumped into bugged infinite ammo matches, maps groaning under a relentless grenade spam. Others shored up in eighteen man games on six man maps, post-death respawns becoming harassed opportunities to pick off other recent casualties. Rumours have flown around about private match invites that lead you to games that grant millions and millions of points for the most simplistic of actions. There will be more. Since release, Modern Warfare 2 has gobbled time. There's always something new to learn, or something old to modify.

Disaster Year 2009: Mos Def - Casa Bey

Disaster Year 2008: The Wrestler

The Wrestler toys with the inherent fallacies of an idealised hyper-masculinity. Randy The Ram is a professional wrestler, he must exude a sense of healthy virility. Ram gamely complies. His hair is golden, his muscles tanned and throbbing. He resembles an 80s rock mentored idea of a manly outlaw, all manes and brawn. That's the image, but The Wrestler explores the upkeep necessary to maintain the illusion. Ram must preen and obsess to sustain his identity. Behind the rugged masculinity is a feminised dedication to body image. He must visit tanning salons to keep his body a sunburnt brown, his brittle hair requires constant bleaching and dyeing for consistency. He's chasing his own fiction. The buffed exterior also hides a battered interior. Ram has heart problems, he needs glasses, and occasionally wears a hearing aid. His body is shattered. Joints require tape and pad bolstering, he winces when he stands. His muscles are mostly prop, swelled through a strict regime of chemical injections and supplements. Taking to the woods for a post heart-op jog, Ram can barely manage a trot before shrinking into convulsive panic. The injury extends to his own sense of self, he's unable to think about himself in any terms other than adored. Although charming, he struggles to make and sustain connections. He longs instead for the crowd. He destroys himself for them.

Disaster Year 2008: Fallout 3

Fallout 3 tracks the complete lifetime of a messianic scavenger. Born to a super-scientist in an isolationist underground community, you live your fragile years through a personality snatch best-of reel. Stats and physical make-up sliders finished with, your adult doll stumbles out of its relative safety bubble into what's left of Washington DC. You'll have the outline of an individual, attributes and attitude established through rationed skill points, but nothing indelible. Your task is to craft a personality through experience. Alone in a hostile wasteland, what will you do to survive? Who will you help? Who will you kill? Players are offered a bare thread of narrative, tracking a wayward father, but there's no hurry. There are ramshackle communities of brutalised loners to discover. Get pally and they'll offer distraction tasks that get you exploring. These missions teach you to be patient and methodical, instructing you in the basic tools of post-apocalyptic survival. Those avenues exhausted, it's up to you to create and discover your own adventure. It can be about helping to bring a sustainable water source to what's left of civilisation if you choose. It can equally be about butchering and cannibalising those weaker than you. It's up to you. It's your hell.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Disaster Year 2008: Beyoncé - Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)

Disaster Year 2007: No Country for Old Men

A great many thrillers are undone by a pervasive buffoonery, characters are routinely intellectually slighted in service to the needs of an advancing narrative. There's an idea that it's inadvisable to make your characters islands of forthright capability as it might upset some of the dimmer bulbs out there. Better to follow formula. Usually these calculative oversights are compensated for with explosive spectacle. The audience is harassed into forgetfulness, their attention led away from the lapse in believability by something exciting.

Not so No Country for Old Men. You could argue that having Josh Brolin's Llewelyn Moss return to a scene of slaughter with water for an afflicted is a cheat, facilitating as it does the central pursuit thread, but it's an action based on a kinder, more emotionally human instinct. His pangs of reflective conscience separate him from his terrifying enemy, a spectre man named Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, who entertains catastrophic 'principles'. Moss has Chigurh's money, so Chigurh follows Moss. Both are cagey and self-sufficient. They are also accomplished trackers, able to posit solutions and counter-solutions to problems. They share a reluctance to seek any outside help or comfort, maintaining their shattering bodies with improvised medical care and destructive sleight of hand. So successful are they that they barely meet. Instead they delicately circle, picking at each other's worlds.

Disaster Year 2007: 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 you against an entire city calibrated to your undoing. Crackdown starts you out as an abilities heightened human, tasked with droning about your city dispensing jack-booting justice. You have an assigned arsenal, bolstered by arms seizures, and a fleet of cars back at the base, all the better to battle entrenched gangsters.

Experience and floating pick-ups eventually raise your abilities far beyond the mortal realm, to a point were you barely need equipping. You are now the weapon. At peak you can leap tens of feet vertically and horizontally, your territory now in the sky. Landscapes are transformed from street level grime to skyscraping loneliness. Battling with criminals begins to seem less vital, they can be thwarted in brief, hopping blitzkriegs. Your interest shifts to exploring and testing the upper limits of your character's physicality. Can I make that jump? Can I get to the top of that building? This agenda break also emphasises the condition of your assigned doll, a blank slate super-soldier unwillingly locked into reward tasks and undaunted by morality. You don't explore your super-identity by crushing inferiors, you deconstruct it through escape.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Disaster Year 2006: Children of Men

Based on a PD James novel, Alfonso Caurón's Children of Men believably portrays a certain kind of society shuffling towards extinction. The human race has been sterile for nearly two decades, affecting a worldwide mindset of total nihilism. Eye-catch news snatches shorthand a variety of global catastrophe, including a throbbing mushroom cloud on the New York skyline. The only country apparently left functioning is mainland Britain, which has devolved into a muddled fascist extermination state.

The frame crowds with rotting cages and temporary internment facilities, full of depressed peoples in the process of liquidation. Wake-up newscasts are preceded by chummy infomercial ads for government issued suicide pills. Grasping terror cells bomb cafés for anti-establishment lip-service. Something terrible has happened in Liverpool. The British populace sleepwalks through the misery, crowding their desks with vile trinkets, and blubbing about celebrity deaths. It's a post-apocalyptic Blitz spirit tempered with an acute emotional repression, and pigheaded inflexibility. Everybody still shuffles into their awful cubicled workplace; despite Bexhill's transformation into a smoking death camp, capital nights are still spent down the pub. While the rest of the world has exited in a rationalised orgy of self-immolation, this country stockpiles works of art and worries if there will be anybody left to appreciate them. Britain maintains. Children of Men is bold and telling where the Wachowski's anaemic adaptation of V for Vendetta, issued the same year, is simply puny.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Disaster Year 2006: Earth Defence Force 2017

Earth Defence Force 2017
is a crack compulsive shooter from budget developer Sandlot. You take control of a slender, androgynous suicide soldier, the only chap (or chapette) with chops enough to halt an avalanche of rampaging space aliens. All pulp flavoured sci-war enemy archetypes are present and correct: insects, robots, hubcap craft, and stomping radiation beasts. All massive. All aggressive. Players get to trample the lot with a spiralling arms race facilitated by captured, flat, tech pick-ups. Weapons run the gamut from small, useless welding torches to sub-nuclear screen wipers. The higher the difficulty, the better the technology. Your hero is aided throughout by teams of endlessly enthusiastic CPU troopers that chant slogan and die at a brush. Cities crumble at the slightest barrage, nearly everything on-screen can be destroyed. Better still, you are never penalised for this destruction. As long as you make it, everything else is extraneous. There are no stealth interludes or enforced use of form lugging vehicles. If allies die, it's their hard cheese. Earth Defence Force 2017 is simply fifty plus levels of enemy blasting. As pure as Space Invaders.

Disaster Year 2006: Gnarls Barkley - Crazy

Single cut recall tainted by endless rotation on Jamster ringtone shills? Rediscover Gnarls Barkley's Crazy in this slow, mournful arrangement. As seen on the BBC's since extinct Top of the Pops franchiser.

Disaster Year 2005: A History of Violence

In A History of Violence, David Cronenberg toys with a variety of male empowerment fantasises, finding them ultimately incompatible with a functional human identity. Viggo Mortensen's Tom Stall becomes a local celebrity when he expertly demolishes a couple of stick-up killers attempting to rob his diner. Elsewhere, emboldened by his father's aggression, Jack Stall savagely beats his lunk-headed, high school tormentors. Both acts bypass any sense of catharsis for the perpetrator, instead leading to further complication. Jack's fight back lands him a school suspension and a vague threat of legal action. Tom's fallout is much worse. His violence catches the attention of a Philly mobster convinced that Stall senior is actually a lapsed Irish gangster.

In both cases Cronenberg and screenwriter Josh Olsen examine the transformative nature of brutality. Jack feels both empowered and eventually revolted by what he is capable of, tracing the instinct to damage back to his father. Violence is an alien reaction to him, so he attempts to reject it. In contrast Tom slowly changes into another person. As his situation becomes more desperate another persona begins to emerge - the criminal identity he discarded. Mortensen's eyes fix into a lizard stare, his movements become measured and slow. He appears to be reverting into a prowling, cautious beast. Even his sexuality distorts. Previously a befuddled submissive, Stall becomes a forceful stairwell sport fucker. Unlike a great majority of formulaic action cinema, this mutation is not positioned as a healthy male ideal. Instead it is a destructive obstacle that must be overcome before Tom can realign with his family.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Disaster Year 2005: Resident Evil 4

No escape! From the get-go, Resident Evil 4 locks you into a survivalist think pattern. Early progress sees you stumble into a psychotically aggressive township brimming with scrabbling sickle swipers, and sack-head chainsaw brawn. Immediately cast as an interloper, players must scramble in and out houses, setting up temporary defences in an effort to survive this onslaught. Your foes are no longer stumbling, un-thinking zombies, they're a directed mob, in the thrall of diseased cult. Enemies doggedly pursue the player, smashing through windows and doors in an effort to destroy the invader, progress dictated by where your attackers aren't. The soundtrack thunders with a melody of clashing metals and panic shrieks as you desperately micro-manage the dregs of your ammo.

If Resident Evil 4 was simply this experience, it'd be worth a year end position, but it's not. Survive the village, and you can journey into an inquisition castle full of mangonel armed Omega Man zealots; you'll plunge into a rotting industrial space prowled by a Fincher draft biomech; you'll pick through a lab haunted by indestructible, reconstituted flesh shapes. You'll ride a mine cart, harpoon a sea monster, phone-in chopper support. More, more, more. Resident Evil 4 is constantly throwing new information at the player. Ever evolving locations bleed into each other. Enemy types are reconfigured, rearmed, then recalibrated before being pushed aside for something deadlier. Injury feedback on enemies cues context sensitive hurt animations. Your menu chest heaves with currency and upgradable weapons. It even gifts you an escort character that can keep herself out of trouble. Resident Evil 4 is a relentless procession of fun. A game stuffed to bursting with form mutating ideas, onion peel area secrets, and unending alarm. Disaster Year's game of the decade.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Disaster Year 2005: The Chemical Brothers - Galvanize

Disaster Year 2004: The Incredibles

Bob Parr is a former superhero slumming it in the suburbs thanks to an ungrateful public. Every day he squeezes himself into a satirically small vehicle and commutes to and from an awful cubicle farm. His evenings are spent gazing into the middle distance, ignoring his family, and dreaming of the past. His only remaining connection to a hero identity is the odd night spent listening to a Police scanner with a former super-colleague.

Parr yearns for his past life, although not as an alternative to his new role as a provider. He loves his family, and delights in his children's fledgling abilities. His wife Helen, formerly Elastigirl, has adapted well to normal life, causing Parr to further subsume and conceal his discomfort. Rather than a middle-aged virility tantrum, Parr's longing is more about the knowledge that he has a very special gift but is unable to use it. In his current position he is completely unable to help people. It torments him.

The first act of The Incredibles is suffused with an almost overpowering sense of sadness. The denial is destroying Parr. His hair is lank, his eyes pitted, and gut hanging. In the absence of heroics, Parr has taken a position at an insurance company, a body ostensibly tasked with comfort. Instead it is ruled by a vicious grey lump who worries about his shareholders' margins, and slanders Parr for his instinct to help.

Salvation eventually arrives not in escape, but sharing his dreams and aspirations with his family. They become a unit, each member's skill-set complimenting the other. The Incredibles is the most emotionally sincere examination of costumed adventuring in a functional human context. Writer / Director Brad Bird is able to compliment the usual Pixar wonder with a craft honed after years of service on heyday The Simpsons. The Parrs are much more than zippy cartoon facsimiles, like their Springfield set antecedents, they're a rounded, believable group of people.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Disaster Year 2004: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

For the third game in the Metal Gear Solid saga, series director Hideo Kojima shifted focus off millennial subterfuge, winding the clock back to a 60s set inception event. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater details the super soldier souring that facilitated a dreadful future. Players are cast as Naked Snake, the CIA trained secret agent that goes on to found a couple of psychotic paramilitary nations, and provide the raw code for his clone son Solid Snake.

Equipment skews lo-fi, forcing a more deliberately paced advance - sites and clearings must be ruthlessly scouted before proceeding. The jungle stranded Snake also requires a constant upkeep. He must be fed to keep his motors running; sweets and mythological delicacies offer the greatest boost, but positive tastings can be developed through repetition. Any wounds Snake acquires must be swiftly dealt with. A bandage isn't enough, injuries must be stitched and disinfected before dressing. This menu heavy micro-management instills a protective player-toy bond. It stresses the physical frailty of the Snake figure, whilst the narrative drives him into ever more dangerous situations. It also establishes a sense of human failing in a character previously portrayed as an archetypal bad father. This sympathy deepened by the constant betrayals Snake must shoulder. As Naked Snake limps to the finish you realise there was method in his madness.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Disaster Year 2004: Graham Coxon - Freakin' Out

Disaster Year 2003: Oldboy

An oafish salaryman is abducted and imprisoned in a facsimile living space. His indifferent captors offer no explanation, or sentence. For the next fifteen years Oh Dae-su's light is bulb sourced, food a perpetual fried take away, and his sleep cycle maintained with Valium gas. Suicide attempts are swiftly thwarted; all he can do is box the walls and think on what dreadful thing landed him there. Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi's manga, from which this is adapted, posits the confinement as a necessary step to realising a new hyper-masculine identity.

On page, Oh Dae-su becomes a stoic mensch in the Golgo 13 mold; a brawn totem who beds and broods. Park Chan-wook's film retains the muscle memory training, but allows his lead to unravel. The incarceration dismantles Oh Dae-su, stripping him back to something venal. Aggravated repetition has reconstructed him as a prowling beast, possessed of considerable violence. This dominant, animalistic persona proves useful when thugging his way closer to the parties who stole his life, but can it readapt to less base drives? Choi Min-sik's Oh Dae-su is a queasy centre in Oldboy. His revenge is characterised not by equaliser triumph, but rather an instinctive necessity. A reason is the only thing that can make sense of the existential demolition perpetrated on him. It's the only real drive he has left. Complicating this further is a constant prickling fear that he actually deserves what happened to him.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Disaster Year 2003: R-Type Final

Video games very rarely ever deal with the idea of consequences. Enemies are slaughtered, landscapes altered, all the player can do is zip off to blitz somewhere else. Not so R-Type Final; it plots a course through the ruin. Mechanically Final is a sidescroll shooter, a primitive, almost inception video game form in which a lone player battles a vast armada of foes. Final dials down the sense of invasive scale, instead positing limping dregs as challenge, and tight-fit geography as peril. Whilst players rarely ever have to dodge screen swamp bullet deluges, they do have to methodically pick their way through destitute battleships and hammered outposts. You're not resisting an onslaught, you're chasing the survivors, annihilating what's left of the fleeing invasion force. The rout takes you through a wheezing field hospital into space, where a final encounter with an amorphous techno-biology can mutate you into something horrific: a being that cannot stop fighting and doesn't distinguish between friend or foe.

Disaster Year 2003: Dizzee Rascal - Fix Up, Look Sharp


Disaster Year 2002: Blade II

Guillermo del Toro's Blade II ditches the sophisticated, European inflections usually tied up with Vampire lore. Sexual corruption is replaced with a physiological compromise that recalibrates the corrupted as a feral sub-strain called Reapers. The opponent vampires of Blade II are a scuttling infestation, man-high plague rats agitating for a fix of blood. This undead underclass isn't interested in creeping seduction; they have no use for genitalia. They don't want to fuck, they just want to feast.

Del Toro's adjustments make sense of a folklore mainstay that typically makes prey of man, whilst coveting our romantic messiness. A predator should be a predator. A lion doesn't, in any recognisable way, empathise with an antelope. Why should a Vampire? Del Toro delights in his new species, their grotesque life cycle laid bare. Their barbed, flowering protrusions are given hero shots, backs crack and ooze as filtration systems erupt during feeding. There's even an exposition slanted autopsy sequence that roots around the peculiarities of this insect efficient mutant. Blade II gave us all that and still found enough time to allow Wesley Snipes to deliver an incredible, stalled suplex.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Disaster Year 2002: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Rockstar North followed up Grand Theft Auto 3 with obscene speed, producing this pastel accented summer holiday. In contrast to Liberty City's docksider sprawl, Vice City is all beaches, high-rise spring-ups, and neon smog burns. The update adds missile speed motorcycles; a variety of aviatables; and a massive shipment of hysteria weaponry. Missions are structured a little looser too, players can catch a cab ride straight back into action should they fail. It doesn't quite provide the much needed checkpoints, but it's a gesture. All this topped off with a caricatured 80s time-frame that firmly locks this title in an Americana wonderland, reconfigured out of Dundee kid deconstructions of import television and scuzzy gangster epics.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
is also the only, to date, installment to be rooted around a central celebrity appearance. Ray Liotta stars as Tommy Vercetti, a venomously aspirational thug clashing with his surroundings. Little effort is extended to disprove the notion that you are playing as Henry Hill vacationing in De Palma land. This doesn't work as a disconnect though, Vice City's tone is consistently referential. The game more an escalating TV stunt playset spectacular than a tome serious criminality muddle. Everything geared towards fun and sweaty excess. Players scheme and plunder with their Liotta doll to secure bankable real estate, then kick back and collect the vig. The allowance quickly rolls in, offering easier access to the bigger toys. Vice City is the boozy spend-thrift entry, dizzy from an unexpected windfall, and generous to a fault.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Disaster Year 2002: Beck - Lonesome Tears

Always a sucka for soaring melancholia. Dim them lights, close them eyes.

Disaster Year 2001: The Royal Tenenbaums

A roustabout pappy attempts to weasel his way back into his family's affections after years of neglect. Gene Hackman's Royal is a blunt force curmudgeon, possessed of a lank, sozzled grandeur. Inappropriate comments stream off his tongue. His children are a gaggle of overripe proteges, each having floundered somewhere along the way to becoming an adult. The film opens with each child, now grown, having a mini-meltdown before returning to their picture book family house to seek refuge. The world's hostile; they're not special anymore.

Flanked by embassies, the building is a vast, roomy headspace brimming with trophies and cupboards full of boardgames. It's the kind of dwelling that demands watercolour diagrams and a fold-out cross-section. Wes Anderson's mise en scene does a fair facsimile, asides are packed with bold Futura font legend that functions as information and punchlines. No snarks though. The Royal Tenenbaums keeps it tender. The characters are swept along on their adventure by a mixture of Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts Jazz, and invasion punk poppers. Sweet when it needs to be, brutal when it doesn't. A film for people who, on occasion, miss being valued for having a robust vocabulary, or being able to read at speed.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Disaster Year 2001: Devil May Cry

Begun as a Resident Evil entry, with a combat system based on Onimusha bug findings, Devil May Cry defied its derivative origins to become a charter example of the extreme combat sub-genre. Devil May Cry is at once a then-gen nitro remix of Biohazard spook-mansions, the sole successful 3D update of Castlevania explores, and a riveting recalibration of abandoned side-scroll tick jab gameplay. The game features multiple swing weapon disciplines, each staffed with a assortment of unlock special actions, as well as ever escalating lead shooters.

What makes Devil May Cry so exciting is that your armaments never become irrelevant. There's always a new way to use them; danger foes can conceal unforeseen weakness to an action you've all but discarded. Everything you acquire has a specific function, and used correctly can whittle mob health in seconds. Devil May Cry's combat system enjoys the kind of depth usually only seen in impenetrable frame-count fight sims. It's fun though. The hero, Dante, is a smart mouth upstart. Endemic genre stoicism discarded for pure glee whoops, and chatty eye-rolls on Boss re-encounters. Distraction side quests provide tasks that get you thinking about how to push the limits of your moveset. There's even a super-identity trip to the Fantasy Zone that sees a seething Space Harrier Dante chasing after a marbled Father God, interact tuned to on-rails blaster. A wonderful game.

Disaster Year 2001: Super Furry Animals - Juxtapozed with U

Who can resist a friendly robot commiserating with his human pal over escalating house prices?

Disaster Year 2000: Battle Royale

The last complete film by Kinji Fukasaku, based on a novel by Koushun Takami. A class outing for problematic teens is hijacked by the government to serve as the latest victims of the Millennial Educational Reform Act. Pupils are tagged with explosive collars, armed, and cast out onto a deserted island where they must fight until only one is left. This action is categorised as a last ditch attempt to keep order in a country apparently ravaged by teenage delinquency following an economic meltdown.

Modelled on the director's own bleak teenage experience working in a World War II munitions factory, Battle Royale displays a profound mistrust of adults. Fukasaku's sympathies lie firmly with the children. The grown ups in Battle Royale are damaged and ineffectual, prioritising their own needs over their offspring's, creating what they believe is a savage generation. Rather than modify their own behaviour they create a blunt force lottery to scare the young into compliance. In contrast to adult perception, the children here are a meek, romantic assortment, disinclined to violence. Alliances are formed, and uneasy but functioning communities established. The tournament is revealed as a sham, needing to draft psychopaths in order to ratchet up the body count.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Disaster Year 2000: Marvel vs Capcom 2

Attention grab deaths. Wild power fluctuations. Endless interfering cross-overs. Being a superhero is absurd. More so if you're a supervillain. Fixed in a constant orbit, doomed to replay the same scenarios; victims of half thought-out universe statistics, and magpie readers with perpetually waning interest. This is the condition of the modern big two superpower, an unlikely basis for an interactive cash-in, but reflected perfectly in Capcom's royal rumble. This fourth stab at franchise collision sees Marvel vs Capcom 2 shed any real sense of restraint. Simplified control system aside, the game is tuned big, awash with screen filling death beams and impossible mid-air jab gymnastics. Players chose from a roster of 56 fighters, selecting three for snap-in tag team fun.

Little effort is required to provide a rolling illusion of extreme superplay, characters are assigned a bleed-in skillset, allowing attack chains that frequently stumble into the hundreds. Expert play though is a seizure spam of jump-in assists that somehow never stagger gameplay. Frame counts memorised, and constant calculations made to take better advantage of any punishable missteps. Marginalised characters can shine, page snatch abilities given foe trumping supremacy thanks to a keen desire to keep the game vaguely balanced. Everyone gets their moment, reigniting fan interest, and weaving a brief insight into the priority concerns of duelling super abilities. Marvel vs Capcom 2 represents a successful marriage of western iconography, and post-Z chakra hysteria. Marvel's characters filtered through melodramatic Japanese hero ideals, and the world's finest pugilism template.

Disaster Year 2000: Radiohead - Idioteque

The later half of my 2000 was spent floundering around in a different city occasionally attending university. Inflexible essay deadlines meant many late nights bleeding into bewildered days. In particular, I remember bumbling around a park on my way to hand something off with Radiohead's bleak beats buzzing around inside my head. I felt nauseous and swamped; effects accentuated by the sharp indistinct shrieks you tend to pick up on when you're running on empty.

2000 - 2009

As we enter the last month of the decade, a look back on just the last year seemed inadequate. Instead, I've opted to select a few favourites from each year, getting a relevant embed or noodle up. Expect three categories: Film, Video Game and Music. Hopefully one of each for every appropriate year. Enjoy!