Monday, 31 October 2011
Friday, 28 October 2011
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Perhaps aware that much of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's original piece was gobbled up by the Christopher Nolan franchise, Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery, and Tab Murphy's adaptation of Batman: Year One doesn't attempt to swell events with tacked on action spectacle. Instead we get a lean, mean, war journal; bulletin events and headlines from the first twelve months of Batman's war on crime. A few dopey clarification lines aside, Miller's headache speak survives intact, dominating the film's mood and motor. Mazzucchelli isn't quite so lucky. The outline of the artist's figure frames remain, but they've lost their scratchy, sweaty quality. Likewise, the putrid colours of the newsstand issues are lost in pastels. Aside from Ed McGuinness's action figure drafts, the DC OVAs have struggled to replicate individual artistic ticks. Year One is no exception, but at least Miller's writing is allowed to pop.
Benjamin McKenzie reads Miller with the dull clip of total psychosis. A performance, and presentation, unafraid to portray a multimedia character thinking like a serial killer. Bryan Cranston synchronises perfectly with James Gordon, the actor incapable of giving any reading that doesn't throb with a wounded, conflicted masculinity. Cranston is adept at finding the dark, secret corners of married males - the light frenzy of leadership, or the cold-sweat panic of responsibility. Cranston gamely plays along as Miller's writing exposes the heroic Gordon in unheroic ways, creating flaws and imperfections that colour, rather than void, Gotham's human face of justice.
We've had many Miller adaptations in the last few years, but none of them, not even the Miller co-directed Sin City, have given a complete account of his beguiling, hysterical ability. Sin City deleted the abuse and illness that informed a lunatic like Marv. Zack Snyder's 300 forgot to acknowledge that Leonidas knew he was a fascist battling on behalf of someone else's democratic ideal. Miller's skill is that he can place a recognisable psychological state within the confines of comic reality. He invests his characters with fanatical drives and masochistic kinks that play like truth in worlds teaming with super-identities. This Batman then is the closest yet to full-Miller. Find his indelible mark in the lack of excuse used to justify Bruce Wayne's behaviour. There are no asides to contextualise scenes in which Batman promises to mutilate a criminal. Gordon is framed considering his gun while his heavily pregnant wife sleeps. There is no levity, just the suffocating desire to punish. Extremity of thought, as well as action. This is Frank Miller. He trades in seizure chivalry.
First level footage of Battlefield 3's single player campaign, on Xbox 360 with the 1.5GB HD textures pack installed. For comparison's sake, here's the same gameplay without the install. As much as I like the synthetic digital camera fizz, DICE's most impressive work is always with their soundscapes. Buried underneath all this peerless demolition Foley is a machine-man throb that sounds like Brad Fiedel's T-1000 theme played in reverse. Hopefully, the rest of the campaign is a little more ambitious than bleeding edge corridor shooting.
With Sonic the Hedgehog's Lead Programmer Yuji Naka hard at work helming a Mega Drive sequel in America, it fell to to Sonic's creator Naoto Ohshima to develop a separate release designed to take advantage of Sega's new supplementary hardware, the Mega CD. Sonic CD featured crisp J-Pop anthems, and animated cut-scenes by Toei Animation and Studio Junio, as well as a time travel gimmick that allowed players to leap back and forth undoing Dr Robotnik's techno-pollution. Despite a PC port, and an appearance as part of a GameCube / PlayStation 2 compilation, Sonic CD's initial release on an expensive, niche system assured the title the dubious distinction of being the least played Sonic game. Thankfully, this forthcoming digital release looks to be fairly definitive, adding in the instant momentum of Sonic the Hedgehog 2's spin-dash attack, and retaining the Japanese soundtrack that was removed for the original American issue.
Monday, 24 October 2011
The outlook's pretty bleak for national monuments in this latest piece of Modern Warfare 3 hype - France's Iron Lady looks like she's about to topple over. Despite some appearances to the contrary, Modern Warfare 3 runs on a new version of the standard Call of Duty engine. Unofficially referred to as IW 5.0, this iteration allows for the faster streaming needed for all the vast, brutalised urban landscapes on show here. The warhorse IW 3.0 engine, used by such titles as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops, continues to heavy lift behind-the-scenes for Activision's 007 titles.
Sat across from a woman he's decided loves him, James Caan's Frank starts to talk about surviving in prison. How he had to deconstruct and eliminate basic drives and feelings to operate within a rigged, brutal, system. It transformed him. He is an individual, isolated by design, successfully working a small, capable crew. He's at the top of his game, but beginning to realise perhaps he needs more. His career isn't satisfying. Meticulously plotted diamond heists are no longer challenging.
In spite of this, Thief isn't about a man opening himself up and successfully experiencing the simple joys of life. Quite the opposite, Thief is about a man attempting to embrace a regular Joe existence, and realising how vulnerable that makes him. It creates targets, that allow people to threaten and attack him. Entering a corporate structure robs him of his freedom. His hit-and-run heisting incompatible with a machine that wants to industrialise his process. This terrifies Frank. Michael Mann's debut feature locates a monastic, Bushido core in precise criminality. To excel, your emotions must be dulled, you must act as if already dead. Eliminate all ties. Retaliate like a savage.
Making-of clip for John Carpenter's working class classic They Live. Looks like Roddy Piper and Keith David had a ball shooting that back alley slugfest. Carpenter makes a pretty nifty point about the foreign policy of They Live's aliens, and their desire to turn the United States into a subordinate, third world nation. That doesn't sound familiar at all.
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Rising Star Games are set to publish yet another Cave manic shooter with questionable attitudes towards the fairer sex. Hooray? Like Deathsmiles, DoDonPachi Resurrection features submissive teenyboppers acting coy in-between rounds of grinding up continent sized robots. Video games can be a terrible place. Male characters get to delight in their might authored carnage, ladies are stuck simpering like playthings. Why aren't video game women allowed to be confident? Why is their competence incidental? Iffy sexual politics aside, Cave serves up the finest in bullet smothering microplay, it's just a shame they marry this hyper-intense twitch play to the demented doodlings of slobbering, panty sniffing shut-ins.
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Monday, 10 October 2011
Sunday, 9 October 2011
Lacking a numerical designation and originating on Sega's Dreamcast system, Resident Evil Code: Veronica X is considered the black sheep of the biohazard family. The remit here is lightly experimental, a fevered break from the Raccoon City milieu. Pre-rendered backgrounds have been dropped in favour of real-time environments. The usually fixed fright frame can, on occasion, pinball around to track your creeping steps. It's a faint escalation, allowing the game to further obscure immediate dangers, and your proximity to them. The stately home horror of the main series bleeds in around the edges, but for the most part Code: Veronica is set in desperate, depressing spaces, stained with industrialised murder.
The player starts in what can only be described as a concentration camp - bare, concrete brutalism spotted with the odd wooden barracks, and patrolled by rabid Dobermann attack dogs. The graveyard heaves with emaciated, sexless corpses that stagger and moan pathetically. Make it to the plush living quarters of the jailors and you'll find lightly obscured monument to blitzkrieg machinery. Escape, and it's off to a frigid gulag, scored with straight lifts from Brad Fiedel's terrible future Terminator score. Even for a horror game, Code: Veronica is ruthlessly downbeat. Unavoidable superfoes drain your dwindling resources, allies just grist for infection, and destruction. Your ultimate enemies are two incestuous science siblings with infinite money to pursue their derangement. The unfolding narrative positions them as manufactured reincarnations of a brilliant aristocratic scientist, their dilemma built around the creeping dread they feel at their lack of permanence. Played today, Code Veronica is an antiquated, almost clumsy experience. Resident Evil's tank controls frustrate, and there's a level of crisscross backtracking early in the game that borders on satirical. Adjust to these eccentricities though, and you discover a tightly mapped objective sequence that dares you to speed-run.
Less than a month until Modern Warfare 3 hits, time for another hysteria trailer! Over the course of three games, the Modern Warfare series has shifted from World War II missions in a contemporary setting to the kind of denied-ops meta-narrative usually seen in Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid games. This campaign clip almost ignores the idea of an America under siege to focus on rhetoric posturing between a Russian radical nationalist and a Cockney war criminal. We're in the realms of superheroics here. A weightless shoot-out on a Presidential airliner only serves to make this point explicit. Considering the countries Call of Duty mainly sells in, and the conflicts we're currently involved in, maybe that's the only tasteful way to conceptualise war on this scale? Last year's Medal of Honor struggled to juggle what it saw as an 'authentic military experience', and basic gameplay demands. The result was a dull, dawdling single-player, spotted with a morally detached jingoism that revelled in the implication that Pakistan was next on the Coalition of the Willing's international hit-list.
More clutch gameplay from Daigo. In the first clip, Mr Umehara's Balrog follows a total rush round with some teasing rope-a-dope, before throwing out dizzy combos for fun. Clip 2 sees Daigo's copper Ryu win back a round from almost being perfected on Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition. Listen to that crowd! Don't even give Daigo an inch. He plays fighting games like a Dragon Ball Z character; you're never beating him, you're just making him angry.
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Takara's issue of a re-designed Masterpiece Convoy. This new draft of Optimus Prime lacks the blocky, marionette quality of the MP-1 Convoy. The MP-10 iteration is more dynamic, with the kind of spikey anime dimensions favoured by Studio OX's Generation 1 promo art.
Image courtesy of Higekuma Toy Toy.
Saturday, 1 October 2011
A lithe young woman contorts and stretches her body into spikey yoga angles. She wears a body sock that covers every inch of her from the neck down. She is fed from a stainless steel dumbwaiter, her food drugged. She molds endless clay busts with make-up materials, and is desperate to mutilate herself. She is trapped, and surveyed. Treated like property, owned by a brilliant surgeon with a mahogany tan, and a kink for opium. He pores over her form, examining and assessing. Molding her. Making her perfect. The Skin I Live In is about domination and control, a glacial dissection of gender roles in sexual power plays. Regardless of class, or intellectual standing, men in Skin want to fuck and overwhelm their women. They are uncomplicated and naive, assured by their capacity to penetrate. The women are duplicitous and conniving, concealing agenda. They feign the submission their partners desire. In Almodóvar's film having a vagina doesn't make you weaker, it makes you stronger. It allows you to trap.
2D superstar Daigo Umehara uses everything in his arsenal to eke out the slimmest of victories in Super Street Fighter II X: Grand Master Challenge. These clips are always fun to watch. Fighting games are built on systems with endless situational variables - some moves cancel out others, and certain sequences can be chained into each other in such a way that beats and recoveries are missed. Every input you make has a value and weakness. So, what's your next move? What's your opponent doing? If you miss your next hit, where does that leave you? Even if you know exactly what's possible, it can be quite another thing to actually accomplish it. Above all, this clip demonstrates the value of passive intimidation. Sometimes, Daigo's copper coloured Ryu is doing nothing at all, letting possibility fuck with his opponent.