Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Ten Video Games 2010: Red Dead Redemption

Aside from freeing Rockstar's free-roam template from dull health management, Red Dead Redemption excels in providing an incentivised narrative. Although the player likely does not care about John Marston's imprisoned family, we are made to understand that Marston does. Marston yearns for his family safe return, it is at the forefront of all his dealings with his world. Plainly, it's his motor.

Balance for this single-minded questing is provided through the detailing of Marston as a character. He's a charming mix of grumpy, dead-pan sour talk and roughly hewn industrial gentry. He grumbles at fetch quests, yelps at danger, and cheers success. His voice is a constant presence in Red Dead Redemption, a charismatic commentary on your actions. Rockstar have created a hero that is incredibly easy to like; although his home life is an abstract, it quickly becomes important to the player because it is important to their beloved toy.

also work hard to make Marston's quest seem lightly absurd. There's a constant suggestion throughout that his efforts are in vain, and his family are long gone. So when an opportunity for contact finally does arise, the player's feelings match Marston's own. Both are tentative and fearful. This is Red Dead Redemption's success, the player and avatar emotionally aligned; desperate to get home, but terrified at what they might find when they get there.

Ten Video Games 2010: Bayonetta

Platinum Games to the rescue! In just a year the studio has carved itself out a marketplace niche by being utterly focused on providing the kind of entertainment Capcom, and the wider Japanese games industry, are now either reluctant or unable to deliver. In Bayonetta, ex-Capcom staffer Hideki Kamiya has gifted players an onion-peel action title to rival his own masterwork Devil May Cry. The systems and armaments conceal a yawning depth that allows each and every weapon to be situation usable over the game's vast array of difficulty options. Levels are short, and battles are briefs whirls of constant movement. Bosses tower like stained glass skyscrapers, forcing your hirsute porno-witch to scramble all over their surface hunting vulnerabilities. Bayonetta is daft, totally engaging, and blessed with a fan's eye for detail.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Ten Video Games 2010: After Burner Climax

Like Game Dev Story, this is a slight cheat. After Burner Climax has existed as an arcade cab since 2006, but it took until this year for the title to finally see a home console release. AM2 gleefully pick up where Yu Suzuki left off, crafting a full propulsion screamer built on speed and missiles, and missiles and speed. Reach certain play goals and you can monkey around with dip switch settings to greatly increase, or decrease, the difficulty of this coin-op coin guzzler. Bulletin short and packed with an entire nation of jet fighters to mangle, this is Sega operating at maximum understanding of their full-throttle legacy.

Guitar Army by Freddie Wong

Sci-Fi Revoltech Skeleton Army

Ray Harryhausen's Skeleton Warrior, from Jason and the Argonauts, rendered in six-inch plastic action figure form by Kaiyodo, for their fantastic Sci-Fi Revoltech line. As photgraphed by TheFwoosh.


As a supplement to the last post, here's the arcade game Shredder's minions were seen pumping their swindle coin into - NARC by Williams Electronics. Play as an anonymously fascistic bike helmet enforcer! March through slums, exterminating identikit hoodlums and sundry no-hopers! They've probably committed crimes!

NARC games like a candy colour adaptation of Frank Miller's RoboCop 2 treatment, with added Rolling Thunder style back-stage wanders for the coin-op crowd. Arrest those hookers! Trash all the explosive marijuana plants! Hope the Final Boss isn't a giant repulsive head! Why this isn't available on Xbox Live or PSN is beyond me.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Jeff Proctor

Jeff Proctor's one sheet for schizophrenic kids treat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mr Proctor's image is dense with movie milieu. Tick them off: an imprisoned Splinter flanked by Williams arcade cabs, Raphael's scratched up shell, and delinquent kids rocking Misfits tees. Sold out instantly! Natch.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ten Video Games 2010: Super Street Fighter IV

Despite formulating the completely excellent polygon scrapper Rival Schools, Capcom has always struggled to translate its premiere fighter franchise into 3D. The Street Fighter licence was farmed out to Arika for the Street Fighter EX series, a love-it or loathe-it side-step brand, hobbled out the gate in Europe thanks to lousy 50Hz conversions. Regardless, even on 60Hz import the results never touched contemporary 2D installments. After the wonderful, but undersubscribed, Street Fighter III series it seemed like Ryu et al were being abandoned to nostalgia prompts in big-budget franchise clashers. Woe was us!

The Street Fighter series unexpectedly bounced back in summer 2008 with the arcade release of Street Fighter IV, thanks to Yoshinori Ono and The Rumble Fish developer Dimps. Street Fighter IV ditched any pretense of arena roam play, instead sticking to 2D planes with 3D assets. The vast cast were rendered as chunky, colourful charm lumps, blessed with spectacular ultra move movies, and Looney Tune injury faces. Super Street Fighter IV is the third iteration of the IV series, with a fourth, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, on its way. The title heaves with features, from the re-introduction of Final Fight's bonus vandalism stages to minute frame tweaks for combo connects and a comprehensive suite of multiplayer matchmaking. It's an exhaustive package, designed for utter scrutiny, and maximum replayability.

Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force / Rage Against the Machine - Renegades of Funk

Monday, 17 January 2011

Jurassic Park Theme (1000% Slower) by birdfeeder

James Bond recommended! Thanks to George Lazenby's Twitter feed; enjoy birdfeeder's dirge-slow recalibration of John Williams's Jurassic Park Theme. It's an hour of negative space and soaring Vangelis synthetic buzzes.

Ricky Gervais vs Golden Globes

"Knowing that Ricky Gervais will never work again means a lot to me, I'm going to make sure of it."
-- Harvey Weinstein, CO-FOUNDER, MIRAMAX FILMS

"The next time you want someone to qualify your movies, go to another guy."

"He's been terribly nasty and horribly rude and I think he's genius."
-- Andrew Garfield, SPIDER-MAN

First Glimpse of First Strike

A behind-the-scenes shill for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops map pack First Strike. Tough to get a bead on these new arenas, but Treyarch seem to be stressing environmental hazards and highlighting sops to alienated load-outs - who cares if Berlin Wall is optimised for sniping? Black Ops isn't. Warping landscapes is an interesting proposition, makes you wonder how vital those paths will be and how many you can obliterate.

Heracles by Mike Hawthorne

As seen on Mr Hawthorne's blog.

Ten Video Games 2010: Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Apart from a single player that failed to make much use of the properties various strengths, the only thing that let Battlefield: Bad Company 2's otherwise excellent package down was the community. On release it was a struggle to find a squad that wasn't entirely concerned with pitching up tent on a hillside armed with a camouflaged Ghillie suit and scoped rifle. To get the most out of Bad Company 2, you needed objective minded team mates, willing to fill action dictated roles. Should you stumble onto just that, Bad Company 2 distinguished itself admirably. Unlike Halo's shield heavy war of attrition or Call of Duty's micro-calculation bum rushing, Bad Company 2 cast you as a fragile component in a vast theatre of war. Players were tasked with finding their place in an ever-changing conflict. Is your team low on re-enforcements? Switch up and become a hyper-mobile medic and zap them back to life. Allies fond of junking valuable equipment? Ride shotgun as an engineer and fix their mistakes. Find you niche in a cohesive whole, and any minor success could mangle the ambitions of team boring sniper.

Ten Video Games 2010: Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

Almost anti-formulaic in how it presents an ancient brand. Legacy gameplay is largely junked, to explore what can be done with the basics of the Pac-Man formula. Rather than individual seekers, enemy Ghost behaviour is simplified to a huddled, mob mentality. Wake a Ghost whilst getting your chomp on in Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, and it'll ride your slipstream, waiting for a mistake. The more Smartie coloured phantoms you disturb, the longer the pursuit trail, until you've got a vast, snaking conga line snapping at your heels. Couple that danger-play with a slow-motion zoom to highlight potential mistakes, and an emergency bomb to shrug off pursuers, and you get a speed focused love letter to Namco's greedy little critter.

Wang Chung - Dance Hall Days

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Ten Video Games 2010: Game Dev Story

Beginning on the cusp of the 8-bit console era, Game Dev Story charts the progress of a video game start-up. Studio named and coders hired, early perils include high licence costs for console development, an unmotivated staff, and an indifferent audience. Although dressed up with cutesy micro SD stylings, there's a ruthless heart beating in Game Dev. The tippy-tappy stat management masks a small business headache simulator. You too can experience the joys of employee loathing, and industry exclusion! Players meander on as the years mount, perhaps hitting on a vague formula for success. The temptation to run this winning combination into the ground is total. Whether or not Game Dev Story bears any relation to actual game development is irrelevant; this iPhone remix of a decade old Japanese PC title allows an uncomfortable glimpse into any newly successful business. The wealthier you get, the further away you slip from your niche exploitation beginnings, often to the point were once loyal customers begin to resemble a mob of ugly discontents. How dare they reject your latest masterpiece! They should be grateful you make anything for them at all!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Ten Video Games 2010: Call of Duty: Black Ops

It would be gross hypocrisy not to include Call of Duty: Black Ops. Although in many ways a disappointment, like past installments it continues to swamp free time. If nothing else, it's a one-stop spot for online enabled friends to meet up and eviscerate each other. As a package, Black Ops is lopsided. The single-player peaks very early with a Soviet space program sabotage, only ever returning to such pulpy delights when it flashbacks to a post-war trip to The Artic Circle to exterminate shivering science Nazis. The rest of the campaign is an ignorant limp through death corridors, staffed by poor people, whom you exterminate with million dollar prototype weapons. Although the actual title suggested promise, Treyarch have failed to fully engage with the isolationist psychosis that drove America's wet work industry. Everything is reduced to a one-note holy crusade against Godless communists. Gameplay rarely dips below fun, but the agenda leaves a sour taste.

Black Ops makes the list thanks to its multiplayer. Treyarch have tweaked Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 model, reigning in the madness to bring the series back in-line with the meat and potatoes suite of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Their work isn't perfect; pro perks are hassle to chase, the economy system is fussy, and the net coding can do an excellent impression of useless. The fact remains though, Treyarch have inherited an almost peerless multiplayer platform. Very few other franchises gift their weapons with such finely tuned heft and feedback; firing any gun in any Call of Duty feels satisfying. Treyarch's changes are mostly balance related, whiffing the easily abused, and forcing focus back onto gametype objectives, rather than killstreaking. Their additions show consideration too. Wager Matches are fun, with low-bet lobbies tailor-made for chaser action for partied up pals. Treyarch have maintained.

Ten Video Games 2010: Limbo

Armed with a child, players run, jump, and pull their way through a black and white nightmare world staffed by unknowable hostiles. Backed by a clattering, shrieking soundscape, users can expect to stumble through relentlessly cruel physics puzzles with a million different disintegration outcomes. Retries are infinite, and information is scarce. Limbo is immediate and task orientated: survive.

Ten Video Games 2010: Vanquish

Coming off an abortive attempt to wring even an ounce of fun out of Fallout: New Vegas, Vanquish was a tonic. Shinji Mikami's latest is about relentless, agitated movement; whether that be a sprint towards your enemy for a full health clash, or a zippy retreat to let your shields recharge. You never sit still. Vanquish is a rock solid recalibration of populist cover mechanics polluted with boss rush gameplay and Japanese mech-suited heroism. Play is essentially just dealing with a series of partitioned, foe heavy arenas. Juggle rocket-man skill sets and on-fly weapon load-outs, whilst harassed by an endless charge of communist robots. Short, and designed specifically for Game+ super-play, Vanquish feels like a heyday Capcom title - Godhand with guns, or PNO3 with cigarettes and dick-man swagger.

Best of? Schmest of!

Top ten lists are deadly difficult, perhaps only possible with a healthy slug of retrospect. In my experience, the rush to find something definitive can mean choosing a credibly good, but impersonal work that ends up bugging the shit out of you (I'm looking at you, Disaster Year 2009 winner The Hurt Locker). Compilers are hamstrung by international release schedules for a start, who in the UK can reasonably be expected to put together a list containing the greatest feature films released in 2010 knowing that True Grit and Black Swan can be seen abroad, but not here? It's a complete dick kick. Are we to sit patiently on list drafts long into 2011 just to see if Summer Wars and Thirteen Assassins measure up against the rest of the year's best?

Sometimes, it's simply a lack of time available on the reviewers part. Video Games suffer most here. Having taken on the vast, frontier expanse of Red Dead Redemption, does anyone have enough spare time to fit in Mass Effect 2, or Super Mario Galaxy 2 as well? What if the list maker is so crack-addict obsessed with grinding through each and every Prestige level of Modern Warfare 2 that they barely play anything else? The ten games and films that follow, while not necessarily the absolute best things ever in 2010, represent works that I either enjoyed watching or tinkering around with. In short, my time was well spent. To follow: Ten Video Games 2010, and Ten Films 2010. Enjoy!


Zangief's continued absence from Marvel vs Capcom 3 announces was starting to get a little worrying. It just wouldn't be the same if players couldn't mangle Marvel's finest with a gruff Soviet wrestler. Although it doesn't look like the Red Cyclone will be making an appearance, Capcom have lined up the very next best thing - Metro City Mayor, Mike Haggar. It's a welcome return for Final Fight's moustached one, the character having dodged drafts for both the Street Fighter Alpha series, and Street Fighter IV. Fighting games have missed his absurd, leather belt brawn.

via Kotaku

Robot Carnival - Opening

As a treat, here's Atsuko Fukushima and Katsuhiro Otomo's prologue segment to the anthology vid Robot Carnival. Outside of a few early 90s showings on the US Sci-Fi Channel, this short focused animation collaboration is little seen in the West due to boring rights issues. The US anime outfit Streamline prepared a dub and monkeyed around with the films ordering, concocting new, and superfluous, credit elements for a limited American theatre run. Time Out London list a review, so perhaps the film played at festivals in Britain? If you want to see the film in full, your best bet is either an out-of-print Japanese DVD, LaserDisc bootlegs, or YouTube.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

TheManFrowns vs Leisure Time

The Christmas holidays are nearly over for Disaster Year, so no more endless hours of aimless leisure time to fill, and consequently much less Black Ops gameplay clips to spam. I'm sure you're all GUTTED.


Hello readers! All the very best for space-age year of the future 2011! Wooo! I'm expecting flying cars any minute now!