Wednesday, 26 August 2020
As a non-American it's difficult to process the intent behind Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's meticulous rendered CG Ronald Reagan. Since lead developer Treyarch have priors with uncritical portrayals of controversial right-wing figures - 2012's Call of Duty: Black Ops II featured Oliver North as the player character's CIA adjacent handler - I think we can assume Dutch's portrayal will be similarly fawning, reminiscent of the gravely statesman seen in early Michael Bay movies. Anyway (to focus a little more closely on Cold War as a gameplay proposition), looks like players get to zoom around airstrips in Chevy pickup trucks, releasing explosive, radio controlled cars. Like the killer in The Dead Pool.
Not gonna lie, that weightless mass of spinning doughnuts looks absolutely delicious. Nour: Play With Your Food is pitched as an interactive Instagram food blog; players are directed to mess around with their eats, jabbing at the new DualSense controller to activate secret snacking scenarios.
Monday, 24 August 2020
Return of Sabata opens with such promise. Lee Van Cleef's gunslinger clambers around a warped fun house, blasting assassins to acid rock licks while a committee of evil green overlords look on, impassive. Van Cleef prowls this cluttered, canted arena like a tiger, the opposing gunmen full of nerves and trepidation. They back away at his approach, Sabata's presence so powerful that the snap of his revolver reload is enough to extinguish candles. Disappointingly, this surreal touch is quickly punctured, then outright abandoned, replaced with a scattershot plot centred around Sabata's reflex objection to sales tax.
Gianfranco Parolini's final stab at Sanata is awful, a film full of dangling threads and character relationships based on shallow, physical proximity rather than anything organic or, God forbid, logical. Van Cleef, presumably bored with the role, catapults himself into full-on parody. This is the unbeatable cowboy reinterpreted as a gurning lech - Sentenza pulling comedy faces, hurling nerds at flustered showgirls then striding along a narrative path that amounts to running circuits around the saloon that houses his best girl, Annabella Incontrera's underused Maggie. Excruciatingly discursive, Return of Sabata's main contribution to the character's collapsing mythos is a few peculiar notes of violent bigotry - Sabata proudly fought for the Confederacy and also displays an open contempt for gentlemen of Irish descent.
Sunday, 23 August 2020
What sights: Ray Fisher's Cyborg idly directing a swarm of missiles towards their target; Henry Cavill's Superman striding around in his black recovery suit; Joe Morton's Dr Stone, blasted to atoms like Dr Manhattan. Best of all, Darkseid as a barbarian conqueror, lumbering up with an enormous cosmic axe to cleave the HBO Max audience in two.
Saturday, 22 August 2020
Wednesday, 19 August 2020
Although organised into the Sabata series by a cautious American distributor, Adiós, Sabata, the latest mysterious stranger movie from writer-director Gianfranco Parolini and co-writer Renato Izzo, is very much its own thing. Yul Bryner plays the title character - called Indio Black in the original Italian release - less a hawk-eyed gunslinger and more of a robotic folk hero, working with Mexican revolutionaries to expel genocidal Austrians from their war-torn country. This politicised framing offers something that both the Sartana series and previous Sabata film have lacked - a consistent objective that runs deeper than, basically, greed. In this way Adiós allows its characters to be portrayed as heroic; they're risking their necks, working towards a higher, altruistic, ideal.
By providing this basic decency, Adiós can more easily create sequences and situations in which we fret for the lives of Indio and his allies. The character's hardscrabble patriotism gifts them a fleeting sense of interiority, whether or not the film actually seeks to pursue a psychological perspective. The film's bad guys - an occupying Austrian army - tap into something a little more abstract than the usual corrupt officials too. Gérard Herter's pompous Colonel is introduced firing a succession of rifles from his balcony. Instead of clay pigeons, the Colonel blasts fleeing Mexicans; prisoners of war who've been corralled into pens then told if they can make it to the compound's gates, they are free. These broad, easily understandable, stakes add an extra layer of satisfaction to the film's explosive, concluding action scenes.
Aggro Crab's Going Under is another beautiful looking dungeon crawler, this time set in a hell for failed tech start-ups. Players take control of an unpaid intern (naturally), bashing around a pastel world full of warped examples of otherwise chummy corporate artwork.
Supergiant's Greek myth dungeon crawler, Hades, washes up on Switch shores. Usually find it quite difficult to get excited about rogue-likes but Hades is stunning; a fluid looking bells-and-whistles scrapper blessed with an art style that hovers somewhere between turn of the century Capcom, Jamie Hewlett's Tank Girl and Hiroyuki Imaishi movies.
20XX fav Untitled Goose Game is getting a two-player update in September, allowing you and a friend the opportunity to gaggle about sleepy villages, thieving and honking in tandem. Developers House House also assure us that one goose will be able to drag the other around in a box, should the mood take you.
Sunday, 16 August 2020
Writer-director Gianfranco Parolini and co-writer Renato Izzo follow up their If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death success with Sabata, a lighter take on the same sort of gunslinging mortician concept. While the Sartana series rambled off into incoherence under Giuliano Carnimeo, Parolini and Izzo's second pass at the material is dramatically simpler, with fewer turncoats and a posse of established, agitating, enemies standing in for Sartana's whirlwind betrayals. Although the supernatural element that kept Pray for Your Death exciting is reduced to background radiation here, the mere presence of Lee Van Cleef lends proceedings a cackling, calculating, centre.
Van Cleef, as you would expect, carries Sabata, a film plotted very much like an American television serial. The actor, even at rest, is a striking visual proposition though: glaring, beady eyes and a sharp, bird of prey nose that terminates with tidy moustache and a shark's smile. Physically, Van Cleef plays Sabata unhurried but decisive, obviously harkening back to his two roles in Leone's Dollars series - the expert Colonel Mortimer and the cruel, obsessive Sentenza. Gianni Garko's assumption of an executioner's outfit in the Sartana series is dress up by comparison, these are Van Cleef's robes of office. In this way Sabata instantly feels lived in, a sequel with no previous instalment. The explosive, roller coaster shoot-out that concludes the film, just another notch on Van Cleef's pistol grip.
Wednesday, 12 August 2020
Devil May Cry 2 fans rejoice! For ¥980 you can nab yourself everybody's least favourite incarnation of Sparda's lad and a rearranged DLC mode for the forthcoming Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster. Presumably the other gameplay tweaks and expansions provided by the PS2 release of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Maniax will already be integrated into this re-release?
Hit with a cease and desist from MGM several years into their recreation, the team behind this Unreal Engine 4 remake of GoldenEye 007 have decided not to junk all their hard, but legally actionable, work. The developers are forging ahead with Spies Don't Die, an original piece indebted to 90s first-person shooters, using their already completed assets.
UPDATE 14/08/2020: Gameplay video of a recreated GoldenEye Silo level replaced with a statement from GoldenEye 25 dev Yannick Zenhäusern after the former video was delisted from YouTube.
Monday, 10 August 2020
Giuliano Carnimeo and Gianni Garko's Italian western series concludes with Light the Fuse... Sartana is Coming, yet another entry that starts off strong before rambling off into complete nonsense. Light the Fuse's opening act briefly swings the character back towards spectral unease by having him saunter into shot just as a couple of corrupt peace keepers murder a Judge. Naturally, Sartana intervenes before turning himself in at the nearest penitentiary - a collection of barred, blistering pits, dug into the earth then filled up with lawbreakers.
This prison setting allows Carnimeo to explore a previous untapped knack for cruelty. Sartana is urinated on after asking for water and an uncooperative inmate is doused with acid in an attempt to loosen his tongue. Although not unusual for Italian Westerns, this sadism is quite surprising for Sartana, a shoot-out series that doesn't otherwise dwell on injury or the application of pain. Gunshots, rather than blowing meaty holes through men, tend to either strike them dead or, when somebody is making a point, graze their skin.
Unfortunately this tougher framing doesn't hold, soon Sartana is breezing through the usual double-crosses, far more excited about a shuffling automaton named Alfie - a wind-up toy designed to look like a racist caricature of an Apache warrior containing, variously, a lighter, a flamethrower and, finally, dynamite. An assassin with a custom, silenced Derringer stalks the town where Sartana is conducting his investigation but, somehow, the two never really cross paths to any significant degree. For the finale, Sartana makes good on a promise (from earlier in the film) to open a music hall. The man in black unpacking a pipe organ-cum-howitzer to conduct a symphony of carnage for an advancing, hapless, cavalry.
Sunday, 9 August 2020
Digital Foundry's John Linneman and Audi Sorlie break down Black Dog Technology's new HDMI mod for the PlayStation 1 console, offering not just digital output but a detailed image processing menu that allows users to upscale and deinterlace to their heart's content. The best bit is when Linneman and Sorlie highlight the modified system's fantastic sound output, briefly recalling an audiophile fad from the mid-to-late 2000s. At one point, high-fidelity sound enthusiasts took to buying second-hand PS1s, hooking them up to their Shindo Masseto Tube Preamplifiers, then enjoying what they described as an 'exceptionally smooth sound'.
After missing a sequel, Gianni Garko is back for Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay. Sporting a blonde horseshoe moustache and a much paler, sickly complexion, the actor now looks more like a boozy, middle-aged Rutger Hauer and less a time displaced Iain Glen. Despite Garko's reappearance, Giuliano Carnimeo's film still has no room for Sartana as a supernatural proposition, instead Have a Good Funeral's portrayal leans further into the assured, high-stakes gambler persona that previous sequels corrected to. Sartana is also firmly grounded by, not just the film's gold rush back-stabbing, but - in a first for the series - human, sexual desire.
Sartana's influence on Daniela Giordano's Abigail Benson is such that the heiress takes to emulating the cowboy's ostentatious-but-grim outfit in a combative coda that suggests a Sister Sartana spin-off that, unfortunately, never came to be. Despite this missed opportunity, Have a Good Funeral is still one of the better Sartana entries. Carnimeo's film demonstrates a firmer grasp on its upheavals, deploying twists and treachery in ways that excite rather than baffle. As always, everyone is on the make, from George Wang's Fu-Manchu-in-repose casino owner to Indian Creek's bank managers and law enforcement. Bounty Killers are incompetents, smuggled in from rival productions, as if to prove Sartana's supremacy over the Spaghetti Western prairie. As always, Garko's gunslinger navigates these dangers with ease, gleefully forking out for increasingly flowery burials as the bodies pile up.
Wednesday, 5 August 2020
Sartana's Here.. Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin starts well enough, the first act detailing the gunslinger's efforts to free a mother and her child from the grip of an overbearing bandit. This vignette, knowingly replaying beats from A Fistful of Dollars (and Yojimbo before that), represents a simplicity of purpose and morality largely absent in this series' sequels. Sartana is briefly allowed to torment and tighten the noose, again a phantom that operates slightly out of step with reality. Original Sartana actor Gianni Garko is replaced by George Hilton for this instalment, the new actor bringing an ironic, detached energy to the incessant betrayals. Hilton's face is gaunt and sunburnt, closer to a Carlos Ezquerra drawing of Walton Goggins than Garko's Eastwood by way of Iain Glen.
This substitution helps massage the decision to move the series away from an Old Testament haunting to conniving, invincible nonsense; Hilton much more able to traverse the farcical twists (including several clashes with the competitor brand that poached If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death director, Gianfranco Parolini) that Trade Your Pistol throws his way. Although Tito Carpi's leisurely screenplay lets him down, director Giuliano Carnimeo again proves himself adept at manufacturing up stress situations. Conspiring with editor Ornella Micheli and cinematographer Stelvio Massi, Carnimeo uses the brief moments where Sartana isn't present to press in on the vulnerable. Nosing into their hopeless scuffles with gold rush heavies - the camera rocking nervously in the face of advancing cruelty.
Since Street Fighter VI is much further off than we suspected, Capcom have another season pass up their sleeve for Street Fighter V. Given that one of the PS5's big selling points is backwards compatibility, we might not even get a next-gen specific SKU of Capcom's divisive sequel at this rate. Still, at least the Osaka dev has finally remembered their wonderful Rival Schools series, drafting schoolgirl on a motorcycle Akira Kazama for V's forthcoming DLC.
Sunday, 2 August 2020
Compared to its predecessor, I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death is an immediately less engaging proposition thanks, in no small part, to the decision to abandon the previous film's supernatural qualities. The ghostly hindrance seen in If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death is replaced in this sequel by a more fallible, human interpretation. Framed for a crime he did not commit, this Sartana not only frets about his good name being tarnished, he also finds himself at a distinct disadvantage when fending off the bounty killers who pursue him - particularly José Torres' tracker, Shadow.
This sense of impending doom only holds for the first act or so, likewise Sartana's evil doppelganger commits no further bank robberies; Giuliano Carnimeo's film apparently completely uninterested in piling on either pressure or tension. While it's laudable that Angel of Death is not constructed to simply replay or remix Gianni Garko's first stab at the role, it is outright bizarre that Tito Carpi and Enzo Dell'Aquila's screenplay does next to nothing with its new, assailed premise. Pray for Your Death's crisscrossing betrayals and paranormal abilities are saved for this film's conclusion, by which time Angel of Death has long since twisted itself to a point of numbed absurdity.
While the film's plot makes little attempt to wring anything fresh from Sartana's loss of control over his image, director Carnimeo and cinematographer Giovanni Bergamini use camera movement to simulate a world slipping out of whack. The frame frequently collapses when describing gunshot injuries, sinking to the floor with the pirouetting dead. Punch outs are even better. The camera either placed directly behind an aggressor so that their arm travels right up the centre of the frame before colliding with a face or, in a later beating, the actual target of these haymakers. Punches are hurled directly at the audience, the fingers of the fist filling the entire screen. Our perspective rocks and recoils with each head-shaking impact - an agitated energy otherwise absent from I am Sartana, Your Angel of Death.
Saturday, 1 August 2020
If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death opens with a rash of betrayals - double-crosses quickly become triple-crosses before ballooning into quadruple and quintuple-crosses. This breathless, action-packed duplicity culminates with William Berger's wild, sun-burnt gringo hand-cranking a Gatling gun at a posse of assembled turncoats - his allies only moments earlier. Co-writer-director Gianfranco Parolini, working with fellow screenwriters Theo Maria Werner and Renato Izzo, use their characters, and the society they inhabit, purely as mechanisms for communicating treachery. A typical scene within the film will work to establish an implied or explicit connection between two parties before one, or even both, quietly reveal some level of deception. All in the service of securing a hoard of gold.
Every character is running an angle, teasing out information on a luxuriously furnished set then scurrying away to plot in another, well-appointed room. All, that is, except Sartana. In contrast to a town lousy with sweating, greedy conspirators (many of which already occupy privileged positions within the settlement's ruling class, it has to be said), Gianni Garko's drifter is cool and elegantly dressed. He's an unflappable expert, loaded down with trick pistols and mocking inaction. Rather than simply manipulate desperate criminals to his own advantage, Sartana actively harasses and ridicules his quarry. Initially it seems that he just wants the gold all for himself but, as the film rolls on, Sartana's derision takes on a ghostly, supernatural quality. As well as disappearing and reappearing in ways that are not humanly possible, the cocksure cowboy also survives fatal gunshots wounds - stepping out of swirling smoke, only moments later, to judge and punish those that would murder for personal gain. As its name implies, If You Meet Sartana Pray for Death is positively biblical.