Great Games: Resident Evil 4


The previous 'great game' articles were about games with complex themes and characters. Games with philosophical musings on objectivism and existentialism wrapped around a gripping plot. So for a change of pace here's Resident Evil 4, a game with a plot that can be summed up in a sentence: "The president's daughter has been kidnapped by zombies. Go fetch her." 


Okay, they're technically not zombies.

 Plot

Okay, I may have sold the plot a little short. You play as Leon S. Kennedy of Resident Evil 2 fame. After having had his first day on the job as a police officer ruined by a pesky zombie outbreak Leon decides to take a more relaxing, zombie free job as bodyguard for the President of the United States and his family. Unfortunately, the day before he starts the president's daughter is kidnapped...by zombies. Of course at this point no one knows Zombies are involved. All signs point to a small Spanish cult...from an isolated village...surrounded by impenetrable forests...shrouded in a dense fog....


In the Resident Evil universe outbreaks of Zombi-ism are more common than outbreaks of chlamydia, someone really should have seen this one coming.  Anyway, for some reason not suspecting zombies the government send Leon in to find the the president's daughter and bring her back alive. A simple premise that sets up a great game. 



Leon's dropped off on the outskirts of Zombieville with little equipment save for a hand gun (and a shotgun if you're playing on the easy difficulty like the girl you presumably are). You ask a friendly looking yokel if he's seen Ashley - the president's daughter, and in lieu of a response he rather rudely attempts to slice off your face. After giving him a good shooting Leon rather obviously remarks "He's not a zombie", and stupidly stumbles upon one of the things that made RE4 so different from it's predecessors: The Zombies. 




They may not look as scary as proper zombies...but they have pitchforks.


 Gameplay


In RE4 the zombies aren't reanimated corpses, instead they're ordinary folk infected with a  parasite capable of controlling it's host. At first the 'zombies' look and act like normal humans. A fact that makes the games first set piece all the more unnerving.



The villagers have Leon cornered in a tiny house. He pushes a book case in front of the door, seemingly keeping them at bay. Then a chainsaw starts. Then the upstairs windows are smashed by a ladder. Then you begin to soil yourself. 


The thing that makes the gameplay so great is that these Zombies are not the mindless undead. They still shamble about - slowly outnumbering you from every angle - but when they get close they'll make sudden sprints and dashes, they use ladders and chainsaws, and it only gets worse.



Under the cover of darkness their eyes glow demonic red, and the longer you play the creepier they get, sprouting parasites out of the limbs you just blew off and so on. Whilst Leon's there to look cool and act heroic it's the zombies that steal the show in RE4, and I can't even begin to describe the boss fights.
Lets just say they're awesome and leave it at that. 
RE4 takes the old Resident Evil formula and kicks it up a notch, much more fast paced and action orientated than it's predecessors. The game tries to offer the best of both worlds by using a third person perspective when exploring the world or running from zombies, but zooming over Leon's shoulder when you take aim offering a first person like view. This allows Leon to shoot with great precision, the downside being when you're in this perspective your movement slows to a crawl, meaning the zombies can get to you faster than you can get away from them.  This adds an interesting dynamic to the combat, forcing players to choose weather to shoot or run in any given situation, helping the series stay true to it's survival horror roots.

Tone

Speaking of horror the game does well to maintain it's creepy atmosphere throughout. The graphics on the PS2 version were about the best I'd ever seen on that console and help sell the disturbing tone along with the soundtrack, pacing, and level design all of which are equally superb.

While I love the isolated town seemingly from the 16th century, don't think that's the only horror setting RE4 has up it's sleeve. I'd share them, but written down they read like a list of horror clichés stolen from every B-movie you've ever seen. Rest assured the game somehow pulls them off, and each one is as chilling as the last. 

Also worth noting is how the game manages to swing from adrenalin fueled action set pieces to claustrophobic terrifying ones. While it's no Amnesia  this game certainly bring the scares, weather it's caused by a mob of zombies completely overwhelming you, or one lone 'regenerador'. 

 I can't even think of a caption, these things are just scary. 

Conclusion

This game is without a doubt one of the best of the 6th generation of consoles. It's fun, scary, exciting, challenging and has one of the best collections of boss fights on a game ever. The sheer creative variety of levels and enemies is in itself enough to make this game worth recommending, but if you're a fan of horror games this one's mandatory. 


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Captain America Review

America, F#*k yeah!
Being British I never really got Captain America. To me he seemed like a generic super hero, with the most generic powers imaginable, and the whole stars and stripes motif just seemed crass and jingoistic. He seemed to be a relic of a bygone age, when asinine patriotism was an apt response to the looming threat of Nazism. I understood why he used to be popular, but his modern day popularity perplexed me somewhat.

I was thoroughly relived then when I found out that Captain America: The First Avenger wouldn't deal with Cap' in the modern day, (Marvel are saving that for The Avengers movie), instead we get an origin story chronicling his journey through WWII. A very wise move.

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Great Movies: Eraserhead

Henry is by far the most normal character
in the film. That's how strange it is
.
Eraserhead is the feature length début of auteur David Lynch, a director renowned known for his surreal, often nightmarish films. I should point out now, Lynch's films are not for everyone.They're not easily digested or even understood. However, if you have more than just a casual interest in cinema, almost each and every one of his films is worth a look. 

Strange things happen in Lynchian worlds. Cooked chickens squirm as they are carved, women give birth to creatures that aren't quite human, actors suddenly start portraying different characters  halfway through films. Trying to unravel  a Lynch movie is often more akin to Freudian dream interpretation than film criticism.
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Bridesmaids Review

The marketing for Bridesmaids might lead you to believe that it’s an all-female rendition of The Hangover – and to an extent, it is. Judd Apatow is an executive producer, there are jokes about people vomiting and defecating, and there’s a larger than life sidekick who seems a little ‘off’ mentally. But in the end this film is a much more like a traditional romantic comedy than it is The Hangover. Sure, it starts out wacky and zany with a bunch of odd-ball characters engaging in gross-out and physical comedy, but just as all this is getting a bit over the top the movie slows down and turns into a straight up romantic comedy.
What are they looking at? Cris O'Dowd, butt naked.
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5 Reasons Why Google Plus Sucks

[Note: Since the time of writing Google has implemented several changes to Google+, so some of what you read will be a little out of date. An update is coming soon, but right now just man up and deal with it.]

Recently I've been experimenting with Google's new social networking 'phenomenon' Google+. After a just few minutes, it left me disappointed. However, in the spirit of fairness, I decided to wait a few days to see if Google+ would grow on me...it did not.

I should point out that Google+ is still in Beta testing, so there's still plenty of time for it to improve. I should also point out that despite there being over 10 million users already, at the moment I only have a handful of friends (cries whilst reaching for tub of ice cream), and I'm sure the more friends you have on it, the better the experience is.

That being said, the site still has some very basic problems that make it clearly inferior to Facebook in my opinion. So without further delay here are my 5 reasons why Google+ sucks...

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Great Games: Bioshock


Plot 

Picture the scene: The year is 1960. You're sat on a transcontinental flight in a crowded cabin. These are more liberal times so you light a cigarette, sit back and relax. Then you're in the Atlantic ocean. The plane lies scattered around you, broken into several flaming pieces. In your desperation you swim to the only landmark in sight - an ominous lighthouse in the middle of the nowhere.
Inside the lighthouse there's strange propaganda and grandiose decorations. With nowhere else to go you descend deeper into the light house. You step inside a strange submarine like device, the door locks instantly and you begin to descend. Then, in the depths of the ocean, you  see it: A huge city on the ocean floor - welcome to Rapture.
Sure, it looks impressive from the outside. But there
are some serious damp problems in this city.
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Deathly Hallows Part 2 Review

Whilst Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1  felt like the preamble it was, now with Part 2 we're finally getting the payoff. Last week in my review of Transformers 3 I noted that half the actual movie was just one action sequence. Well in Deathly Hallows Part 2, that's true of most of the film. Whilst Part 1 preoccupied itself with being tense and suspenseful and ripping off lord of the rings in as many ways as conceivable, Part 2 is a straight up action adventure from the get go. Oh, and don't let the Transformers reference throw you, it is far, far better than that. Minor Spoilers to come, but really, is there anyone who doesn't know the ending by now?
Harry dies, Neville kills Voldemort, the end. 
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Metal Gear Awesome (MGS1)


Great Games

This game is the one that first showed me video games had the potential to be serious. Not serious in a gritty, grey and brown modern fps shooter sort of way, but serious in an artistic sense.  It showed me games could have messages, could tackle issues in ways film and literature can't, it showed me games could be art worth engaging with. The first 'serious' game I ever played was Metal Gear Solid. 


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Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

 It physically pains me that Transformers:Dark of the Moon is already the top grossing movie of 2011. Why is it so inexplicably popular? Well the movie has some well filmed action sequences, nice use of 3D for once, and there are hot chicks, robots, and explosions. If that’s all you want from a movie then go see this, if not, then don’t. It’s as simple as that really. Transformers Dark of The Moon has all the typical strengths and all the many flaws of every other Michael Bay film , so if you liked the previous two, this one is a fraction better than those.
When robots get old, they grow mustaches.


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Thor Review

 Comic book super heroes often need a heavy dose of suspension of belief if we’re to ever take them seriously. It’s the type of thing their fanboys and girls love but that Hollywood is petrified of. If there’s a unifying aspect to the recent decade of superhero movies it’s an attempt to either mask their inherent incredulity with “science”, or just to ignore it altogether. Thus we get a Peter Parker bitten, not by a radioactive spider, but a genetically modified one. His enemy goes from a real looking goblin to a robotic goblin suit. Those blue and yellow X-men uniforms? As if anyone would wear that. These black leather ones seem much more practical and realistic. With this attitude in mind I was intrigued as to how Marvel would incorporate Thor into their vague shared continuity, as of all more ridiculous characters on the Marvel roster, Thor is king of the floating space castle. Any attempt to offer a more “realistic” Thor would betray everything good about the character, and luckily Marvel realised this and just went with it.

The basic premise of Thor is this: The Norse gods worshiped by the Vikings were actually immortal aliens from outer space. Yep. The movie is brazenly unashamed of this fact and feels more akin to a sci-fi fantasy than a comic book movie, to begin with anyway. The world of Asgard is over the top, ostentatious and looks like something out of a futuristic Lord of the Rings film via Stargate. 
Odin is definitely compensating for something.
Though I'm not quite sure what.

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Green Lantern Review

 Once again advertising has disappointed me. I remember more than 10 years ago being glued to a computer screen waiting what seemed like an eternity for a 56k dial up connection to stream a teaser trailer of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  When I finally saw it I though it looked like the greatest movie in the world. I should have learnt my lesson. Whilst The Green Lantern isn’t Phantom Menace bad, the trailers and promo material lulled me into a false sense of anticipation for this movie and I was thoroughly disappointed
One ring to rule them all.
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X-Men:First Class Review

Superman's not the only one who
can rock the cape and underwear look.
X-men:First Class is what happens when you let “Kick-Ass” helmer Matthew Vaughn direct an X-men movie. Set during the cold war the movie feels like a comic book film via Connery era Bond, and yes, that is as awesome as it sounds. That’s not to say the film is without flaws. The rushed production shows in places, and few of the cast give sub-par performances, but the film gets a lot more right than it gets wrong. 

First Class takes place years before the previous X-men films, and series mainstays such as Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm and Jean are not the titular X-men of this edition of the franchise. Instead the film focuses on the first meeting of mutants Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and their formation of the original X-men line up. Vaughn makes full use of the 60’s setting, and infuses the film with a great sense of style. I mentioned the Bond influence, but I should also point out this film features January Jones made up to look like a fembot from Austin Powers, oh, and James McAvoy says ‘groovy’, repeatedly.

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L.A Noire Review

 A collaboration between Rockstar and Team Bondi, L.A Noire puts players in the shoes of war veteran turned detective Cole Phelps as he tires to find some redemption on the streets of 1940's Los Angeles. Whilst this certainly isn't the first Rockstar game to feature a war scarred protagonist on a quest for redemption, L.A Noire is definitely not GTA IV or Red Dead Redemption circa 1944.  Sure, there's an impressive sandbox city in all it's glory, and there are exciting car chases and shootouts that borrow heavily from the aforementioned Rockstar titles, but none of these things are really at the core of L.A Noire.Instead the game focuses on the processes of deduction and investigation, utilising several gameplay mechanics that really make Cole Phelps feel more like a detective than just Niko Bellic 2.0.   


Cole Phelps is to clues what pigs are to truffles.
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