Clan 404

...spiffing

Damned PR gurus

05 Jun 2007 by ShogZ

Apparently, according to one of the PR firms commenting on the god awful new London olympics logo:

"...it takes more than jagged writing to make something 'edgy'..."

I hope they don't critique music as well. Cos I'm all about jaggy.

X Men Legends II: PSP

30 May 2007 by ShogZ

Being as the nazi fucks wonderful gentlemen [ed] who run this place removed my, massive, badly imported videos, for the ridiculously beurucratic reason that they broke the website, I have to resort to other articles.

Therefore it is with some measure of pride and a hint of prejudice I am going to review the Xcellently titled (See what I did there), X-Men II: Rise of Apocalypse for the PSP.

The game itself has been out for some time and is available on most formats and consoles. It recently migrated over to PSP and is really a fantastic game for the handheld system. For those unfamiliar with the game or plot, it involves the straight-laced, gay rights X-Men and the nasty, axis of evil, brotherhood working together to defeat Apocalypse, who is some form of super mutant bent on the destruction of earth because his head is so small in relation to his body.

The game is best described as a party-based RPG, giving you access to a diverse selection of marvel x-men heroes, of whom, you play four at a time. But XML2 has a few tricks up it's tightly fitting sleeve to mark it out from the crowd. As well as your basic stats and skills upgrades, you get the chance to add abilities and other fun stuff to your mutant warriors.
Customising costumes, equipment and even allowing some input to the AI behaviour, for those characters you're not playing, is really useful.

The combat is real-time and great fun. You beat, smash and super power your way through enemies. Burning them, turning them to ice, levitating them and hitting them with psychic energy all at once. In the later levels when your chaps/chapettes are really ridiculously strong the sheer mayhem on-screen is a joy to participate in.

The game doesnt suffer from the normal limitations of early characters being pants, or unlevelled characters you dont use. The computer kindly keeps all unused characters roughly the same level as your core party, allowing you to drop in other mutants and heroes as you require their unique abilities.

The game is tough enough and long enough that you feel really like you're playing an adventure and for those who are only quasi-familiar with X-Men (Me, for example who knew Colossus and Scarlet Witch had a thing?) it's accessible and fun to play. That last line probably sums up whats best. It's got all the depth you could want (Skill games, trivia quizes for extra xp, character adjustment and skill trees) whilst being simple, fun and accessible. Don't want to mess around levelling characters? Fine the computer will do it for you. Don't want to care about equipment and stuff? Again no worries, let the AI auto-distribute, which it does averagely well. Of course if you're hardcore and want that extra +1 speed or to juice out that +2% to all resistances, you're going to want to handle these things yourself.

The graphics on the PSP are fantastic, looking much like a lesser antialiased version of the original console version, it's very nice to look at with good particle and lighting effects around. The cell shaded style of the characters works well on the handheld and the third person camera angle is a good overhead save for the PSP's processor. The only criticism on graphics would be that the areas can be very dark in some levels meaning you'll occasionally miss things or walk past objectives. The minimap is worth its weight in gold here, but still on a handheld perhaps tuning the brightness and contrast for the mobile market would have been better (I once jumped Magneto into a giant black hole I should have seen from a mile off. Sadly I had chosen not to give him +1 flight=goodbye Magneto.). That's not to say the game isnt perfect in dark conditions, but with reflection it can be a pain to see on occasion.

The audio is very well produced with scores similar to the X-Men and Spiderman movies. Large ochesteral movements accompany the heroes into batle and creepy, lesser tracks help them wander round science labs and jungles. The character voices are extensive and well acted. Each character has samples, speech and things to say all well acted and without any annoying pauses or random lapses in conversation (Silent Hill, stop using people with downs syndrome to do the voices...). All in all the audio is top notch.

Control is fairly easy, the thumbstick is intuitive and simple to employ, holding down the right paddle results in mutant powers being ready to use, wheras default controls mean the buttons punch kick and jump etc. Very easy to grasp. It's a little more fiddly to use the health and power potions mid-combat or to switch x-men but easily learnable after a few levels. There are never any truly frustrating control moments.

The gameplay is a joy. Smashing the living crap out of a host of baddies and searching through the levels is never a grind as the game has lots of variety and unlockables. Plenty of secret charcters to get hold of, secrets to expose and the odd bonus round and X-mansion training sweet all add to the variety and let you do a few side things if you get distracted. The game is never too hard or annoyingly easy, but it can be a pain in the ass to run across a level and then have to go all the way back when you've found the key or femidom or whatever. Still, an average RPG gripe which is not life threatening. But by far the best feature in gameplay is found by combining x-powers to create super combos (For which you get an XP bonus) it's great. Example? I use Magneto to float a guard towards Colloses who upercuts him into a wall and then Nighcrawler teleports in, grabs his limp body and teleports him over a drop, lets him go and teleports back. All rewarded with a nice thunderous, announcer 'COMBO'. Cool.
Gameplay has some issues, notably around the AI. They're ok at not getting in the way, they can be slow to come to your aid and, very rarely mind, they get lost and die. The only real gripe with teamplasy I have is that the AI never perform combos of their own volition. Literally never. If you're playing one character the others never do something together whilst your otherwise engaged. They'll fight other enemies sure, but annoyingly you have to set up all the combos. Still, if they did you'd get all that extra XP for no reason I guess.

The final word on the game is multiplayer. You can co-op the story mode with a link to link between PSPs via wifi or you can..And this is the best...Connect to the net via your wireless network and play with up to four friends online via the inbuilt (Non subscription) Gamespy service. Brilliant fun. The co-op is where this game's really at and if you've got a friend with a favourite X man and you do too, there is no excuse not to link it up and get it on. COMBO!

All in all, if you like games, comics, breathing, sex or chocolate you should get this game. Its well devloped for the PSP, and barring a few slow load times it's absoloutly a great conversion and a reason to buy the handheld. Considering you can now pick this up pre-owned for £12.99 (Thanks Game, I'll have your babies) there's no excuse. As Professor X (Voiced by Jean Luc Picard) would say in his alternate identity:

'Make it so'.

Oi!

24 May 2007 by ShogZ

Who's deleting my posts?

Plusnet a minus

22 May 2007 by ShogZ

It looks like UK ISP, PlusNet has had its email servers broken into.

If you're on them or have once been then its safe to assume your primary or secondary email address may now be in the hands of the nations favourite spammers.

Looking good there webmail, looking good...

28 Weeks Later - It gets better

21 May 2007 by ShogZ

Once more unto the breach of reviewing films I shall tread, because there's nobody here so it matters not if my efforts are well received.

28 Weeks later is a worthy sequal to the popular and small budget 28 days later. A zombie / survival horror flick it's hard to imagine how they'd push a sequal further than the complete annihilation of the UK and it's population which occured in number one.
The plot centres around a survivor of the first outbreak, living in the NATO established quarantine zone in Canary Wharf, London. Similar to Land of the Dead, Canary Wharf and it's environs are the 'green tower' or militarised sanctuary against the outside.

However, the infected have long since starved to death and the military are 'clearing out' the suburbs of London before returning more refugees en masse. This could be where the film goes wrong, focussing on the military and its role in fighting zombies, but it doesnt do an Aliens. Instead the plot remains focussed on the reunion of the family and the key characters.

I dont want to give too much away but you'll know from the trailers that Robert Carlyle (Star of trainspotting) is our lead man, he also turns into our lead zombie fairly sharpish and runs amok inside the 'green zone'. The ensuing carnage amongst military and civilian population is good to watch and the 'scorched earth' policy of the US general in charge is also a painul reminder that outbreak's really can be handled by just culling the civilian population.

I love this movie for several reasons, some of which are like the first. I'm a fan of the horror genre, and this is the type done to its best. Some critics have accused the film of lacking direction, not knowing whether its a mass zombie killing spree (Flying a helicopter into a field of the undead was pretty heavy) or Blair Witch style survival horror (Navigating the London underground using a single night vision scope). For my part I'd say it was neither too much of one or the other. The movie retained a good balance of 'shlok horror' and believable tension throughout.

Certainly the opening and later scenes were good stuff. Watching a helpless victim tied to a gurney having their throat ripped out and their eyes pushed in (A homage to the finale of the first film) were seriously horrific, in that close camera, all spit and bile, non beautified London film making style.

The movie doesn't go for effects over quality, with the zombies being the most outlandish of effects other than the napalm. The use of sound and music is very well balanced and I was pleased that my favourite guitar piece theme made it back from the first film. Even the pregnant pauses are used well, with the 'jump' cycle being exploited by the filmmakers to the full, including messing with the the 'third times the charm' approach.

The film does have its downsides, probably casting, being the biggest groan. The two lead children are fairly annoying but remain fairly unpretentious throughout, with the girl being marginally more annoying than the boy. She looks like an advert for heroin sheek in topshop most of the time, which doesnt help but she's a believable enough heroine. Robert Carlyle is a star, really bringing life to the undead. His zombie manages to stand out despite having no dialogue and being amongst hundreds of others. It goes to show that movement and body language are still worth a lot when it comes to acting.

Further moans on casting however include the male and female adult 'hero' leads. These two US Forces personel are pretty much non entities, she's the smart capable doctor type who's identified a cure for the rage virus and he's a sniper with a conscience. Pretty 2d as far as characterisation goes, but watchable nonetheless.
There are other holes too, notably in the plot. The initial outbreak occurs because the military sheppard everyone into some kind of carpark and then fail to guard the fire exit. This seems a little lame, its kind of excused in that Robert Carlyle is able to move about the compound freely, but then how does he use his pass and pin when he cant even remember to stand upright?

The film has a few light moments, which act as good relief to the unrelenting horror and tension of the duration. I didn't find myself fidgeting at all and never worried about the pacing too much. Additionally it made a few points without having to labor the issue or be overly political. Watching US Marines patroling Londons streets and shepparding the residents was somewhat uncomfortable, despite being a benign occupation. A subtle point well made.

I should also explain my positive bias on this before summarising. The movie is set very near to my residence, in an area I know well. Seeing your own neighbourhood destroyed onscreen and overrun with zombies is fantastic and adds to the personal realism of the scene. The fact that you can see my house in one scene is really cool. Indeed a friend of mine worked in the production crew. But all that aside, I dont like this movie because it's local or because it's good horror done better, I like it because it's damned good.

All in all well worth waiting twenty eight weeks for, see it at the movies if you can and snag the directors cut on DVD when you get the chance. Good stuff.