Monday, 31 December 2012

Video Games 2012

5. Spec Ops: The Line

A mechanically plain third-person shooter made brilliant by its willingness to engage with the uglier side of Police Actions. Spec Ops: The Line is queasy with kill frenzy mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder. Your clean-cut Nolan North action figure visibly mutates over the course of the game, transforming from an American Apparel army man into a phosphorus scarred expletive barker. Spec Ops aspires to be the interactive equivalent of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, instead it ends up being something closer to a video game version of 2000 AD's nihilistic war comic Bad Company. That's more than enough.

4. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron took a different tact to every other game based on Hasbro's action figures. Rather than let you choose your favourite from a selection of interchangeable face characters, levels were constructed around the specific abilities of set Transformers. The best stage casts you as a triple changer Decepticon named Vortex. Your task is to assault a vast, rotting metal environment in any way you see fit. Play is a free-flowing sugar rush of strafing gun emplacements as a hovering helicopter, transforming into a robot to mop up survivors, then speeding off to the next destination marker in jet mode.

3. Hotline Miami

16-bit Smash TV recalibrated as an early 80s video nasty. Hotline Miami is installation art presentation and pattern recognition stalk play. Your masked psychopath is tasked with speed running through labyrinthine apartment complexes, stomping generics for high scores. Instant restarts and zero load times for when you inevitably fluff your high-stakes kill spree.

2. Journey

A beautiful desert environment, a wispy player character, and zero HUD cluttering up the screen. As much as Journey is a wistful, undemanding platform, it's also an opportunity to indulge your inner Christopher Doyle. I spent an inordinate amount of time dragging the camera all around the world, crushing my figure down into the corner of the screen. I wanted to make him small and useless looking against the endless sand vistas.

1. Far Cry 3

Far Cry 2 was a loneliness simulator. Other people meant hassle. If they were on your side they always had a sub-mission in their back pocket to stress your resources. If they were your enemies they usually took the form of identikit drones placed along roadsides to make driving intolerable. Your Far Cry 2 life became off-road stalking; taking the long way around to avoid messy divergences. Far Cry 3 embraces this idea, making it the primary means of play rather than a side-effect of miserly design decisions.

In Far Cry 3 you are encouraged to act and behave like a beast. Unlockable skills tend towards abilities that compliment this predatory mindset. Far Cry 3 excels when you're circling your prey, number crunching their demise. When you come across the ubiquitous shanty town hideouts it's tempting to hurl grenades in and mow down the survivors, but noise tends to attract reinforcements. Instead it's tactically sounder, not to mention much more fun, to take your time. Learn their patrol patterns, mark their positions with your telephoto lensed camera, and eventually put an arrow through their neck.

Music 2012

5. Killer Mike - Reagan

Reagan gave me twin flashbacks, evoking Ice Cube spitting hard on AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted paired with the Company Flow seizure sound from Soundbombing II.

4. Grimes - Oblivion

Oblivion was a sweet little girl singing foreboding things over Escape from New York beats, with a breakdown finale that sounds like the animated prog bit from Monty Python's Meaning of Life versus the synth incidentals from Rules of Attraction.

3. Justice - New Lands

New Lands had a Rollerball meets Space Adventure Cobra vid - 70s sport sound for the first half; 80s fuck-everybody-get-shit-done calisthenics music for the second. Mix in a world class Clint Eastwood lookalike and the best torrential rain bone crunching since Billy Cole said fuck it.

2. Das Racist - Girl

Girl had the best shrieking plastic jabs since Kanye stabbed a keyboard to death on Saturday Night Live.

1. The Shoes - Time to Dance

Time to Dance took up residence in my head. I'd wake up to it. Disco alienation music with a marching band chorus line chanting spelling bee answers. Special mention to the Jake Gyllenhaal promo, unfortunately this is as close as the guy is getting to a Kim Ji-woon K-horror or a Canadian remake of Vengeance Is Mine.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Disaster Year 2012

There isn't much 2012 left and I've barely updated this month, so how about a slew of end of year award type posts? The accolades will be broken down into three categories - music, video games, and films. Expect five posts of stuff I liked for each. With any luck I'll actually finish this series. All the best for 2013!

Terminator Model T-800 by Halfdan Pisket

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It's getting to the point where I cannot believe directors actually want people to see their films in 3D. Do they have any frame of reference for the consumer experience, or are they just watching tech demo rushes in isolation? Nearly three hours of 3D The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is just punishing. For a start it's like watching the film through a dirty gauze. Rapid movements are unreadable blurs. The Temple of Doom delights of the collapsing Goblin under city, presumably the film's action highlight, becomes a swaying, sickly CG mess. I was aware of a computer animated Gandalf gliding through a series of perils, but there was nothing but distance between me and the on-screen palava.

Firstly the Gandalf drifting across rickety bridges was clearly an animated render rather than a struggling Sir Ian McKellen, so any idea of excitement is jettisoned. 1980s action films taught me to view action in terms of a carnival sideshow - it's always more exciting if someone stands to get hurt. You cannot injure rig nodes and texture maps so my brain switches off. I become a passive observer. Secondly the glasses you're forced to wear lend the entire enterprise a blurry, sunglassed distortion. Take them off and you get a free demonstration of what it's like to have cataracts. It's not ideal. 3D is kind of bearable if the film is a zippy, sub-hundred minute action film, but The Hobbit is three hours of theme park incident. Anonymous dwarves juggle plates and bumble through sequences drained of any sense of danger. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is three hours of endlessly digressing asides that clog up the film's narrative arteries. It plays like a film designed for the kind of people who huffed out of Harry Potter screenings moaning that the filmmakers have ditched Hermione's Elf Rights subplot. Bores basically.

Sketch Saturday: Iron Man

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Galvatron by Warwick Johnson Cadwell

Commissioned as a Christmas present to myself, here's Warwick Johnson Cadwell's take on my favourite Transformer, Galvatron. This piece was ordered through Mr Cadwell's online store. If you want to see more of his recently completed commissions, check out his blog. The last few posts are chock-full of nifty takes on pop culture properties. Aside from this Emperor of Destruction, my favs are the Nausica√§ of the Valley of the Wind and Iron Giant pin-ups.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Hobbit

Cowardly glutton Bilbo Baggins is contracted by a band of dwarves to play burglar in this truncated adaptation of Tolkien's The Hobbit. Rankin/Bass's NBC TV special is lousy with folk music musing and variety show percussion, tailor-made for storybook and cassette tape merchandise. At a little under 80 minutes, this Hobbit has a contracted, episodic quality that plays nicely with the meandering pace of Tolkien's tale. Exciting characters are introduced then discarded, among them a draft of Gollum who looks like an amphibian's idea of a cuddly toy.

Japanese animation studio Topcraft, a precursor of sorts to Studio Ghibli, render the tale in a style reminiscent of British illustrator Arthur Rackham. This version of Middle Earth is beautiful. Flocculated watercolour backgrounds contrast sharply with sinewy figures covered in heavy black line work. The staging is flat, violence typically depicted as a kind of kaleidoscopic unreality in which vanquished foes dissolve into still images that careen around the screen. The Battle of Five Armies is seen from a bird's eye view - heaving, indecipherable dots clashing and collapsing like some primitive tabletop video game. There is no joy in the action, the fighting is brief, heavy with injury and regret. Unlike many takes on this particular kind of fighting fantasy, the viewer is urged to delight in the imagination that has been applied to creating this world, instead of the usual goblin stomping.


As a child I had a thirty minute VHS tape used for taping all the cartoons I missed while I was wasting my time in school. Seen as how the only thing I was interested in was warring robots, this tape tended to have nothing but fragments of Transformers episodes on it. Presumably when Transformers was shown as part of TV-am's Wide Awake Club it was split into at least two parts to ration out over the course of the program. You don't want the kids switching off after they've had a complete violence fix do you? Much better to keep them glued to the programme, suffering through adverts and waiting for a conclusion. This would explain why my tape never had a complete episode of Transformers on it. It was always set-ups, never conclusions. Thanks to YouTube and, in particular, uploader AeonMagnus, I can now share almost the exact contents of that tape with the wider world. So here you go, two wildly incomplete middle-acts from a 1980s animated toy brochure.

Chasing paper / Getting nowhere

Up until now advertising for The Last of Us has tended to concentrate on injury and body-morphing ultra-violence. While we do get to see a few mutants having their feet blown off in this new trailer, there does also seem to be a complete brand re-alignment going on. With The Walking Dead TV series finally (allegedly) settling into a palatable groove, I suppose it makes sense to cut a tease that reads like an interactive instalment of AMC's post-apocalyptic show. Gameplay wise, it's hard to discern what you'll be tasked to do here. Open world? Platform sneaking? This ad is instead heavy on implied narrative promise and what looks like QTE enemy grappling.


Gremlins is a curious film. It spends a good deal of its run-time devoted to outlining the dynamics of a dwindling small town. Property owner Mrs Deagle holds financial sway over the community, with the local bank deep in her pockets. The snarl faced harridan swaggers around town jumping queues and making threats. Sick children are deadbeats, and cute, mischievous dogs are to be put to death in the most hideous ways. There seems to be a bubbling sub-plot about duplicitous land grabbing, with the locals on the verge of vanquishing this capitalist pig to seek financial self-determination. When a cack-handed inventor smuggles a cuddly critter into this milieu there's an idea that this will be their salvation, doubly so when this super-pet begins wildly reproducing after being exposed to water.

Thankfully, this twee, heart-warming premise is almost immediately junked. Like the central creature, Gremlins mutates from a cutesy Christmas special into a ruthless little video nasty. Peripheral characters are either explicitly killed off, or disappear completely following the varmint's apocalyptic midnight orgy. The majority of the human cast we spent the first act meeting are jettisoned to concentrate our attention on an army of cackling little bastards. It's easy to understand why, the Gremlins are a delight. Pure animal mischief operating with YOLO mindsets and calibrated to Looney Tunes violence cues. Everything is hilarious to them. They have zero sense of self-preservation, as a species they think nothing of breaking their bodies for their craft.

Gremlins is a film completely in love with its monsters, and the possibilities they offer. Massive stretches of the film revolve around time-out sequences where we get to see the Gremlins just being themselves - drinking, smoking, dancing. They perform little skits that usually end in dismemberment, seemingly for their own amusement. Their manic, frat-boy tastes are only calmed by pre-dawn screenings of vintage Disney. Maybe this is why Gremlins is so entertaining. It's not interested in delivering on ramshackle set-ups and boring arcs. Instead it's obsessed with puppetry and sight gags. It's a film firmly aware that seeing Judge Reinhold stumble around a reheated yuppie b-plot is about a millionth as engaging as seeing a three foot tall demon gobble up a handful of glass.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


I'm quite fond of Die Hard 2: Die Harder. It's not a particularly organic sequel, instead it's an amped up, vulgar re-mix of the original. Similar stakes and beats, but with an amphetamine emphasis on increasing the foul language and punishing violence. It's a mechanical approach to devising a follow-up, it reeks of film as heavy industry, but it works here. The whole film takes on a kind of encore quality. A victory lap full of throat-cutting and icicle attacks. This smokey teaser is interesting, I'd never seen it before for a start. Bruce Willis stumbles, rather like a confused old man, through the kind of smokey tunnel you'd expect to see in Alien, Fox's stablemate franchise. It's also pretty upfront about being a rehash, if anything it revels in it.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Captain Venom by James Harren

Conan by James Harren

John Parr - Running Away With You / Restless Heart


It's still early days, but there does seem to be a marked lack of superplay clips available for Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Maybe I follow the wrong YouTube channels, but at this stage commentator focus is pitched squarely at teaching and explaining the various systems and mechanics in place for this years sequel. Although both clips embedded above are basically class specific tutorials, they do have some nice streaking. 20XX fav TheSandyRavage fools around with one of the more obviously useful shotguns - the Remington 870 MCS, while Maximilian pairs the futuristic B23R with a RoboCop soundboard.

Perhaps this is just how the YouTube commentator scene has evolved. The Theatre Modes included in the last few Call of Duty games have rather turned up the noise ratio on gameplay clips. Anybody with even the barest inclination can edit and upload short bulletins from their latest triumph. Established personalities, who often make their living by maintaining a steady stream of subscriber content, have to be seen doing something different, hence chatter lead instructionals. It's also likely that this lack of sustained killstreaking has a lot to do with the wonky connectivity issues most people seem to be experiencing. Here's ELPRESADOR struggling through a typical game.

To be fair to Treyarch, this is always a problem with Call of Duty games, especially in their first weeks of release. Treyarch's problem, like Sledgehammer Games and Infinity Ward's last year, is that the overall design of the actual multiplayer experience does very little to hide these problems. Like Modern Warfare 3 maps are small and dense with choke points. With map knowledge bordering on zero, most players tend to charge around blindly searching for prey. Couple that with a game pace that favours one specific class of weapon - in this case the dash flexible sub-machine guns, and you have an experience not unlike a total clusterfuck. The first week of release was awash with players sprinting around hipfiring compact bullet hoses. It reminded me of Call of Duty: World at War, Treyarch's 2008 instalment in which nothing could hold a candle to an MP40 coupled with the Steady Aim perk.

If you're disinclined to this style of play might I recommend putting some serious time into levelling up the single shot FAL-OSW? This futureshock upgrade of the old NATO fav has a nifty little trick up its sleeve. Since the weapon is designed, and presumably balanced, to fire in the singular, the damage it deals is particularly ruinous. Put enough time into any assault rifle and you'll unlock a select fire option that allows fully automatic weapons to fire off singular rounds. This attachment has quite a different effect on the FAL-OSW and the SMR, it allows these one-shot rifles to become fully automatic. For long-term players it's an amusing feature - Treyarch have essentially legitimised a way of playing previously considered cheating. It is no longer necessary to root through eBay looking for modded controller auctions; grind out a weapons skill tree for long enough and you can spam with the best of them. For maximum bullying, pair the Select Fire attachment with the Target Finder, an optical addition that highlights potential victims with little red boxes. It's so good, I can't believe I'm not getting hate mail.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Prison Pit by Guy Davis


I remember finding this paperback on a rack outside a book shop in Cornwall when I was about ten. Since Masters of the Universe and its muscle bomb mutants played an integral part in shaping my childhood tastes, this Frank Frazetta sinew strainer instantly set off a pinballing brain explosion. It's an absurd image - a hyper-muscled Conan, sporting a Viking helmet, choking out a series of green-skinned lizard men. He seems to have clobbered the lot of them with just his bare hands. Amazing. I doubt I ever read more than about a page of it, although I did later acquire a paperback adaptation of the first Schwarzenegger Conan film at a Christmas Fair whilst rooting around for second-hand Fighting Fantasy books.

This image via Cap'n's Comics.


See that fella hurling Sean Connery about the place? That's The Rock's Granddad that is. Peter Miavia served as an uncredited stunt fight co-ordinator on the fifth Bond film You Only Live Twice, presumably choreographing this desperate, sofa hurling encounter.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Anibots by Kishiaku

The Anibots were an Autobot combiner team described in early drafts of The Transformers: The Movie scripts. This unit of wild, robotic animals dwelt in the Roboto-Zoo portion of Autobot City, seemingly created by Wheeljack to act as a desperation deterrent in times of crisis. When threatened the Anibots can combine into a gigantic, monstrous form called Dragon-Beast.

Although the sub-group never made it into the final film, the idea of a band of predatory hunter animals turned up the following year in Season 3 of the TV series as the Predacons, a Decepticon combiner team. In the draft written by Ron Friedman, dated April 27th 1985, no alternative modes are described for the Anibots. Instead the team are characterised as beasts of lower-order intelligence - Wheeljack's pets essentially. Unlike the humanoid modes the Predacons feature, these pieces by Kishiaku embrace this apparent lack of sentience by conceptualising the Anibots as being able to shift back and forth between vehicle and animal modes.

The Beatles - Blue Jay Way


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

007 - Casino Royale (Climax!)

Barry Nelson's Jimmy Bond isn't the frenzied, sexually aggressive, thug we might expect. This American draft doesn't navigate his adventure with the detached indifference synonymous with Ian Fleming's British super-spy. Bond is tense, even jittery here. When his ex-girlfriend's life is under threat he's panicky and shrill; careening back and forth between telephones and allies, desperate for some sort of update. This lack of emotional control is intensified by Nelson's breeze block head and cherubic features. He looks like a safer, television friendly, alternative to Ralph Meeker. Nelson, friendly and approachable where Mr Meeker reads as louche, even dangerous. Screened live as part of CBS's Climax! anthology television series, this Casino Royale is a creaky, but intimate, run around the broad outline of the first 007 tale. 

Fleming's characters are broken down and reconfigured - James Bond becomes Jimmy Bond, a Combined Intelligence operative with a supernatural flair for the obscure card game baccarat. René Mathis and Vesper Lynd are roughly combined into a composite identity named Valerie Mathis, a French spy and former lover of Jimmy's. Perhaps in recognition of this Bond's national identity change, Felix Leiter is transformed into Clarence Leiter, a British counterpoint for the nervy Jimmy who has been blessed with a roaming, chilly, arrogance. It's interesting then - in light of the subsequent Eon film franchise - to note that zero effort is expended to portray this character as a brutal snoop. Instead Jimmy plays more like a desk guy drafted solely for his card smarts. So while he might be able to resist a round of toe torture, his subsequent break out is marked by an inexpert application of violence and, most disappointing of all, mercy.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Pre-ordered up Call of Duty: Black Ops II fans can look forward to thumping around this future-pop reinterpretation of Treyarch's most cherished multiplayer map. Nuketown 2025 is less Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (how fucking long is that stupid title?), and more Googie architecture by way of The Jetsons. Given Modern Warfare 3's maddening ring a ring o' roses map design, and what that might mean for the future of the franchise, it's nice to see this sequel at least has the claustrophobic symmetry of Nuketown going for it.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

007 - Skyfall

After a brush with friendly fire and atomic bullets, an injured, despondent Bond retires to an exotic beach to sleep around and court danger. Neither seems to make him happy. He's numb, unable to create any joy for himself. It's a brief window into Bond's thoroughly miserable downtime. He's rootless and restless by design. 007 lives to work. He's a company man through and through. Take that away from him and he's just a loose jumble of self-destructive drives searching for purpose. He needs direction. He wants a parent, basically. Skyfall explicitly noodles around with the idea of Bond as a lost, damaged little boy seeking approval. It's a reading that Ian Fleming frequently stressed in Bond's relationship with his taskmaster M. Bond wanting to please the only authority in his life that he respects. 

It's an idea that hasn't been particularly well mined in any of the previous films. The various M characters are typically defined as anonymous, interchangeable, desk jockeys; fit to issue orders and not much else. Here though, there's history. M's importance to Bond is a central conceit, underpinning the spy's war with a shade, an earlier agent that didn't quite measure up to the MI6 taskmaster's impossibly high standards. Raoul Silva is a discarded child. GoldenEye introduced Judi Dench's M as a kind of joke - could an irredeemable misogynist handle taking life-and-death orders from a tiny middle-aged woman? That was 17 years ago. In the interim this M has transformed from Bond's idea of a meddling accountant into a dispassionate iron lady entirely comfortable with feeding her agents into the meat grinder. Naturally, he adores her. She demands complete sacrifice in pursuit of results, something Bond willingly gives. 

M allows Bond to test his limits and abilities in pursuit of something he trusts is worthwhile. He almost wants to die, and lacking any workable value system of his own, defers agency to her. Mother knows best. Silva, M's other child in Skyfall, although superficially similar, thinks too much. In an aside M reveals the fallen agent outlived his usefulness when he began to make his own moves, gathering his own intelligence. He sought to impress his master with ingenuity and external action. It got him deformed and stricken off. Conversely, Bond wins his girl's heart by retreating into himself, forcing everyone else to contend with a physical manifestation of his own internal dilemmas. Skyfall doesn't play the blockbuster game. It doesn't attempt to top the last multi-vehicle pile-up. Instead the action contracts, getting smaller and tenser, until you arrive at a man prowling an abandoned space - his cold, childhood home - protecting that which he has made his own.

Devil Dinosaur by Dan McDaid


To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Masters of the Universe toys, Mattel held a Create-A-Character contest that gave the winner the chance to see their design immortalised as part of the super-sized Classics range. Winner Daniel Benedict killed it with the delightfully ludicrous Castle Grayskullman, a generic buff-man body dressed up to resemble the playset fort's boney battlements. For a wheeze, Mr Benedict also knocked together this vintage style trailer.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Expendables 2

I was quite fond of The Expendables. Sylvester Stallone's 80s action mega-mix neatly juggled a reductive police action plot, with some gonzo character moments. Each actor appeared to be playing an amped up version of themselves. Stallone was codgery but desperate to please. Statham, unlucky in love with brunettes. Li working overtime to support two families. Stone Cold Steve Austin quite happy to strike a woman. It was a film with a wrestle card mindset, turning up personality tics and tricks against a backdrop of Commie stomping and big government mistrust. All that and Sly seemed to have spent hours cruising YouTube for bite sized awesome to co-opt for the big screen. Expendables was engaged with the type of viewer who delights at record breaking pistol reloads, or seeing an American twenty-something, pretending to be Russian, chopping up the landscape with his latest combat shotgun. It was crass and shallow, but betrayed a slathering, uncompromised affection for also-ran 80s thugs and their modern equivalents.

The Expendables 2 takes a different tact, perhaps trying to recontextualise the sappy, barely reconstructed personas Sly and the gang struggled with during the early 1990s. Stallone's doomed relationship with a perky surrogate son pokes at the same mutant identity areas as the last film, but the execution is clumsy. The film plays like a TV movie, with a plot better suited to an A-Team 2000 pilot than an all-in genre stomp. Director Simon West lets the Planet Hollywood trifecta burn screen time cracking gentle jokes in static set-ups whilst Jason Statham is relegated to one tiny feature thump - a knife ninja remix of Clint Eastwood's entrance in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

The rest of the original cast get it worse. The wonderful Terry Crews is made to play shotgun bitch to Schwarzenegger. Jet Li bails out after the first mission. Lundgren is a mere background player, doomed to blow kisses at Stallone's future squeeze Yu Nan. The underdog charm of the first film is jettisoned in favour of (fading) A-list indifference. It's fun to see Schwarzenegger marching forwards firing a Call of Duty gun without blinking, but it's a fleeting joy. With his fright wig hair and advancing age, Schwarzenegger is starting to resemble an overstuffed, mumpy Christopher Lloyd. The only person really trying is Jean-Claude Van Damme. His character, Jean Vilain, seems to be the only role still operating on the first film's private-life-as-action-reality premise. His sinewy, euro-trash arrogance is perfectly suited to make adversary moves against Stallone's dull macho internalism. For all its faults Expendables 2 is one of the few films that really taps into Van Damme's dickish, sport shagger appeal. If we are to suffer an Expendables 3, Stallone would be well advised to seek assistance from some of the behind-the-scenes stars of 80s action cinema. I'm sure Steven E de Souza could knock up a suitably hyperbolic script for jailbird John McTiernan to direct.

Turtles vs Oroku Saki by Bunka

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


What is a special effect? Is it seeing a computer animated sequence of Iron Man's house falling off a cliffside whilst our hero struggles to free himself from the rubble? Or is it seeing Dolph Lundgren's wrinkly red face screaming directly into camera about self-determination? Is it more exciting when your brain experiences that tranquilised buzz you associate with CG, or when you see someone real locked into ludicrous? I submit that there's more juice in witnessing a shotgun fired a few inches above a man's hairline than a million missile merchandise helicopters. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning looks incredible. They should let John Hyams do a Terminator movie.

Heads up


Shane Black's sequel formula revealed! Obliterate the house on stilts, and dump the main players in the sea. Worked for Lethal Weapon 2. Probably gonna work for Iron Man 3. I wonder how much of a wizard Ben Kingsley's Mandarin will turn out to be? Although we hear him dropping terror rhetoric and doing basic pistol maintenance, we do get a snatch of hero shots on his power rings. With the cosmic peril of The Avengers under the Marvel brand belt, Mandarin doesn't even need to be specifically magical - he could just be wielding hyper-advanced Asgard tech. Fingers crossed for a psychedelic showdown!

Saturday, 20 October 2012


Sega announce a digitally distributed collection revolving around their Model 2 arcade hardware. Debuting with the insanely successful Daytona USA (already available on Xbox Live and PSN), Sega's Model 2 board formed the backbone of their second generation of 3D coin-ops. Although their are no firm details available at this point, early word is that Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers, and the incredibly obscure Sonic the Fighters will be available separately or in a specially discounted pack. Virtua Striker and Cyber Troopers Virtual-On will follow in the new year.



Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Resident Evil 6

In a daring break with convention, Resident Evil 6 rejects every aesthetic and mechanical inroad made by previous instalments to concentrate on being the blandest possible cover-shoot clunker. Gone are the days of short, well-crafted bulletin play, replaced by yawning, seemingly endless stages lousy with miserly checkpointing and mind-numbing quick time failure prompts. Resident Evil 6 is misunderstanding and incompetence at every level. Capcom have replaced genuine ideas and thrills with the video game equivalent of buzzwords. Popular, financially successful games are strip mined for play concepts, then hopelessly mangled by Capcom's chronic indecision. Is Resident Evil 6 an action game or a horror game? Two and a half campaigns down, I still can't tell.

Interaction tends towards action concepts. Extended, entrenched shoot-outs sit alongside minimal input cinematic interludes, but the execution is belligerent. Instant kill avoiding button prompts pass in incomprehensible blurs. Camera control, and even character control, is routinely wrestled away from the player until you're not sure what you're looking at. Really Capcom, if you're going to steal Uncharted's calamity sprints, wouldn't it also be worth knocking off their (mostly) clear destinations, and relaxed input demands? Resident Evil 6 either expects players to be permanently scanning the screen to be instantly ready to tap out subliminal commands, or it's okay with them dying constantly. Bluntly, this is play utterly antithetical to the core appeal of the Resident Evil franchise - survival horror, with an emphasis on survival.

Resident Evil 4 mixed up the slow-burn formula of the PlayStation instalments, placing a larger importance on forcing advantage through action, but the survival component remained. Item management was integral to progress, as was wise use of the world's in-game treasure economy. Do you upgrade your pistol's reload speed, or do you pony up for a rocket propelled grenade launcher for the next boss? Players were given carte blanche; they could customise, and thereby influence, their interaction almost to their heart's content. In doing this Capcom created a balance between player expectation and their ability to accomplish. Resident Evil 6 is nothing like this.

Weapons are fixed by character and sub-campaign. They also cannot be customised. There are Call of Duty style perks, but you can only simultaneously equip three out of the dozens available. A 'complete', fully upgraded character is always out of reach. Your health ration is obscured by a pharmacy mechanic that wants seven inputs before you can get yourself back in the pink. That's seven inputs, real-time, whilst frantically trying to escape from enemies. Characters themselves exist in deep-focus, three-quarter close-ups that make the tight, shack geometry of Chris's campaign frequently unreadable. Cheap shots are everywhere, most noticeably in Leon's campaign were possum zombies cannot be melted until they've been allowed to attack you. If they connect, they sap player energy to inches even on Normal difficulty. Health items are next to non-existent - you're lucky if you find one full heal per hour and a half, multi-boss chapter. Resident Evil 6 is irritation at every turn.

If you attempt to play Resident Evil 6 on the terms dictated by the rest of the series you'll spend your days limping between encounters, pressing your player character up against every inch of the environment, desperately trying to locate a herb. You're much better off killing yourself and forcing a checkpoint restart to refresh your meagre health allowance. That's the issue. This is a game so poorly conceived that it's wiser to break narrative and suicide your avatar than bravely muddle on. The core problem then of Resident Evil 6 is that it doesn't mind if you die. It's actually anti-survival. We've somehow gotten to a point were skill, or even just a desire to play with a game on the terms that its genre would seem to dictate, isn't even a positive, it's actually a hindrance. Slugged through several checkpoints on fume health? You're playing the game incorrectly. The game hasn't been designed for the experience you're trying to have. Instead, it's been balanced for an idea truly horrific to any game player - repetition. Failure isn't a negative in Resident Evil 6, it's part of the routine. A by design bullet point on a white board in Osaka. The majestic, genre defining Resident Evil 4 sanded down into a benign, mulchy time-waster. You don't survive in Resident Evil 6, you simply play it until it ends.

RJD2 - The Horror


Monday, 15 October 2012

Janet Kay - Silly Games

El-P - Stay Down

via Bol


Transformers #84 by Geoff Senior

The Forever War by Chris Moore


Another micro-clip of Call of Duty: Black Ops II's Zombies mode. This time we get some zip skinny on the tool building abilities available to players. Gather relevant trash from around the crumble arenas and you can cobble together some useful items to put dents in the undead hordes. Also of note is the actual environment itself - seems we'll be scavenging around the Earthly ruins caused by the World at War veterans, and their adventures on the Moon.


To test the waters for a potential Street Fighter IV style revival of the Darkstalkers series, Capcom are bundling together Night Warriors: Darkstalker's Revenge and Darkstalkers 3 in a spiffy digital download HD collection. The port is being handled by Iron Galaxy Studios, the people behind the recent, entirely serviceable, repackages of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike and the Marvel vs Capcom Origins collection.

Friday, 12 October 2012


Criminally, Schwarzenegger only reads two chapters on the audiobook version of his autobiography Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. Here are some edited highlights from the book The Guardian is calling "(the) most unpleasant, creepiest celebrity autobiography ever!"

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Tank Girl and Gang by Warwick Johnson Cadwell

Dead nice chap Warwick Johnson Cadwell has been to chosen to illustrate the next leg of Tank Girl's ongoing adventures. This move places WJC in an artistic pantheon alongside mega stars like Jamie Hewlett, Philip Bond, Ashley Wood, and Mike McMahon. Best place for him frankly. Can't wait to get me mitts on this!

Image nicked from Robot 6.