Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Fallout 3

When I first started playing Fallout 3, I said on Twitter that it was basically a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mod for Oblivion. I still think that’s true, but I also don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I was a huge fan of the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R., so when the second, Clear Sky, came out, I was expecting more or less what they originally promised in the first. But, and I think this is largely because they had to shove a second game out of the door just a year after the first, it was buggy, the maps were mostly uninspired rehashes of things from the first game, and it just wasn’t as interesting because it didn’t feel like something new.

If Fallout is a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mod for Oblivion, Clear Sky was a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mod for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. I lost interest after maybe a week, when the first patch broke all my saved games. Which brings us to Fallout 3. I loved the original Fallout, never played most of the second, and after the failure that was Clear Sky, I needed a new post-nuclear-armageddon FPS/RPG. Fallout 3 came out around the time I was giving up on Clear Sky, so I was set.

A quick diversion: For some reason, Fallout fans are among the most noxious on the internet. I’m not sure why, other than the fact that a game that, among other things, lets you get hooked on drugs and fire rocket launchers at children is probably going to attract a somewhat more deranged fanbase than say, The Sims. So I started reading the no-rules Games forum on Something Awful, “Your Console Sucks”, in an effort to get away from Serious Business Fallout fans. The down side is that now I can’t talk about the game without wondering what the most pro weapon is, or just how many sub-optimal character choices separate a scrub from a scrublord. It’s colored my impressions of the game, to say the least, in that I went in not expecting too terribly much beyond a fun distraction for a week or two.

What I got, in short, was goddamned amazing. The Fallout series made the jump to 3D in largely the same way that Grand Theft Auto did - it’s not exactly the same, but it is unquestionably better. Details after the jump.

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Bulk Movie Reviews

In an effort to get caught up with the six weeks of non-blogging I just did, and to push the last boring monolithic post down the page a bit, short reviews of the last few movies I saw.

Get Smart was entertaining, but not great. I liked it largely because I like Steve Carell and I used to watch reruns of Get Smart on Nick at Nite growing up. It didn’t seem like it could make up it’s mind whether it wanted to be a summer blockbuster spy movie or a parody of them.

The TV series had Maxwell Smart as a terrible screwup who only succeeded and survived by dumb luck and the help of Agent 99 . The movie has him as a bit of a clumsy doofus, but actually not a bad secret agent.

Carell sells it pretty well, and I particularly enjoyed that halfway through the movie, Alan Arkin (the chief) gets unchained from his desk. He’s a hilariously grumpy old man, and I genuinely thought he was one of the better parts of the movie. I thought The Rock was really good, too, but then I like pretty much anything he does. I even liked Doom, largely because it was awesome, and if you disagree you probably suck.

If that last statement didn’t turn you off on reading the rest of this post, Wall-E and Wanted are after the jump. I saw them more recently, so they’ll be a little less vague.

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Grand Theft Auto Four

I’ve been a little out of it this week, since pretty much all I’ve been doing is going to work and playing GTA4, with short naps in between. That by itself should tell you that GTA4 is pretty good, but to add some weight to that, but I did not own an Xbox 360 until last week. I bought a $350 console just for this game, and to top it off, I actually had to walk from DUMBO to Atlantic Center - a bit over a mile - before I found a store that was open, and had both the game and the console in stock (RadioShack, by the way, had 360s but no GTA for it, and no PS3s but the GTA for it).

I have no problem whatsoever with this, either. GTA4 is just that good.

As in previous installments, the game takes place in fake New York, only this time around, it’s actually recognizable as New York. No, the translation isn’t perfect - Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Bay Ridge are reduced to a narrow slum above Coney Island, Times Square is about a block from Central Park, and, rather delightfully, Staten Island is missing entirely - but neighborhoods feel like their real-life counterparts, and the attention to detail is staggering.

The cop cars look like NYPD cars. The farecard machines in the subway look like the real ones, down to the graphics on the screen. Sometimes I find my way around by thinking of how I’d get there in real life, and I wonder how much of this people who don’t live in New York really grasp. It’s insane.

Beyond the setting, there’s a lot to like here. They took out that RPG bullshit that was in San Andreas, where you had to eat food and go to the gym and grind stats before you could run around with a shotgun blasting holes in things. The driving has been made a bit more realistic, which is to say that you can still drift all over the road and flip cars over, but pulling the handbrake and jerking the wheel is no longer the best way to turn, and, to my great amusement, crashing head-first into a wall will throw your guy out through the windshield. I’ve died more doing that than in gunfights.

This is getting long, so the rest is going after the jump. No major spoilers this time.

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Iron Man

Iron Man, or, as I really think it deserves to be written, IRON MAN, is pretty much exactly what you want from a summer superhero movie. It’s better than Transformers, and leagues better than any of the Spidermen - which isn’t saying much, since I thought those were all crap. Maybe not as good as Batman, but then I think it’s a wholly different type of movie - Batman is a violent lunatic hell-bent on revenge, so the movie is very serious business all the time. Tony Stark is a womanizing alcoholic who can fly and shoot lasers, so he’s pretty much the most awesome man you can imagine.

It’s entertaining, and doesn’t suffer from that lull in the middle of a lot of action movies, between the set up and the climax, where people keep talking and having feelings and shit - it keeps moving the whole time. I wish the fights had gone on longer and had more punching dudes through buses and whatnot. The jokes work, the writing is solid, the characters are not unlikable, and casting Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark is pretty much the best casting decision anyone could ever make.

The only real complaint I have is that apparently Ghostface Killah (of the Wu-Tang Clan) had a brief cameo, which was cut for some stupid reason like “plot” or “pacing”. The reason this matters, beyond the simple fact that it is Ghostface from Wu-Tang, is that he’s been using “Tony Starks [sic] and “Iron Man” as his rap aliases for years. He needed to be in this movie, and I’m glad it was good enough for me to justify buying it on DVD when it comes out, solely for the possibility that his scene may be restored.

Spoilers and pedagogery after the jump.

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The Forbidden Kingdom

I don’t feel like this movie warrants a full review, plus I’m lazy, so here is a bulleted list.

  • It’s pretty much the ancient China equivalent of Pirates of the Caribbean. Which is to say, completely ignorant of anything like history or reality.
  • But, who cares? It’s meant to be fun and entertaining, which it is. It’s not a deep movie by any means, but the (predictable and ludicrous) plot sets up the Kung Fu well enough, the jokes aren’t completely awful, and that’s really all I was looking for. Not worth seeing more than once, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time or money watching it.
  • The fight between Jet Li and Jackie Chan was fucking awesome, and went on for probably 10 or 15 minutes. It could’ve gone on for an hour and a half, for all I cared. The climactic battle at the end was pretty good, too.
  • The Kung Fu was pretty decent, not at the level of Fearless or anything, but considering how involved Woo-Ping Yuen was, I expected even more cheese-ball wirework and people flying around. All in all, the Kung Fu is satisfying and well-executed.
  • I just want to reiterate how awesome Jackie Chan fighting Jet Li was.

It’s probably worth seeing just for the fights, but I’m hesitant to actually recommend it, since you can find much better examples of Jet Li or Jackie Chan beating up like 50 dudes on DVD, probably for cheaper than a movie ticket.