2015: The Year in Review, Part Two: Insidious to Star Wars

macbeth-2015-poster-4

Haven’t read Part One? If not, you’re trespassing! Fifty lashes of the whip! Get back there and read it now, or else it’s waterboarding for you!

Look what I’ve gone and done. Whereas last year’s post had some reviews that were only two sentences long, I’ve inadvertently spent far more hours and written a lot more for the films of 2015 in an attempt to do them justice. I’m sure this is a good thing though, because it will give all of you lovely people a better impression of what these films are really like, even though I’m a nobody whose opinion means fuck all in the grand scheme of things.

For fears of being TLDR, I decided to split the year into two halves to make things more manageable. This second part is a real emotional roller coaster, with as many soaring highs and plummeting lows as a moderate drug user. There’s disappointing dinosaurs, a couple of bad puns, a Satan reference, two Michael Fassbenders and even a certain science fiction film that is apparently a big deal. It’s riveting stuff, believe me.

I’d like to take the opportunity here to thank all of you who have ever read anything that I’ve written. Every time someone reads one of my posts, it really means a lot to me and makes all this work I put in worth it. If you like my content and agree with my arguments, great! If not, well, we’ll arrange a fight some time. I’ll probably lose, but my dignity will be intact.

Enough preamble, let’s get on with the show… (more…)

Advertisements

2015: The Year in Review, Part One: Birdman to Mad Max

IMG_1292

Well, well, well. 2015. It’s been a fantastic, multiple record-breaking year for movies, and there wasn’t a James Cameron in sight. It is also the year in which I – the lad who keeps banging on about how Transformers 4 is an excellent piece of cinema – was very sniffy about two super-successful blockbusters I by all accounts should have loved (more about those later). A handful of films that were released this year (and at the very end of last year) have already entered my pantheon of absolute favourites, heralded by trumpeting and angelic choruses, while a small few have plummeted to the dank, fecal depths of pure awfulness, heralded by a single insignificant fart, squeezed out and forgotten.

As with last year, I’ve been saving up my cinema tickets in the hope that I’ll fall off a toilet and have some eureka idea of something cool I can do with them, so I have a paper record of every film I’ve seen this year and when I saw it. With this, it is my intent to succinctly review each one of the blighters for your reading pleasure or displeasure. That’s 36 reviews, some of which are of movies I’ve seen almost a whole year ago. It’s going to be tough, like SAS boot camp, but it’s all for the good of humanity and, amazingly, that includes you.

Ready? We’re in for the long haul… (more…)

Four Guys One Sofa: My Top 5 Local Multiplayer Games

towerfall 2

It seems weird these days that most games would rather your friends be countless miles away than right on the sofa next to you. The glory days of the split-screen seem to be behind us, moved over in favour of push-to-talk chat and ping. I still don’t even know what the fuck ‘ping’ is, just that I often have a problem with it.

While pwning noobs can be a lot of fun, and online multiplayer is a cool way to socialise with friends you don’t often see, nothing beats having some mates over for some good old couch co-op or competition. Whether you’re working as a team or dicking each other over, games are inherently more enjoyable if you’ve got chums to share them with, and if they’re in the room with you it means you can punch them, too.

With split-screen multipayer seeming rarer and rarer in the big releases, it’s great to see it returning to form as the focus of many new games, especially independent titles. What’s more awesome, is that even more games are beginning to be intrinsically geared towards having up to four players. If you’re lucky enough to have three friends and multiple controllers in the same room (I know it’s hard, both are expensive), it means a far more involved and exciting game session, with a lot less pad-passing and a lot more ‘friendly’ punching.

As Christmas and New Year’s shenanigans are fast approaching and, for a short time, people will pretend each other don’t smell, I’ve decided to compile a list of my top 5 games to play in four-player local multiplayer. Every one of these has a hefty mileage at mi casa, and are the bread and butter of my game nights. If you’re looking for something new to play with the lads/gals, look no further. And don’t punch too hard. (more…)

The Beast From 2003: A Retrospective Review of War of the Monsters (PS4)

War of the Monsters - PlayStation 200001

One of my biggest regrets in life will always be trading in my PS2 along with its accompanying collection of games. Don’t get me wrong, the copies of Devil May Cry 4 and Pokemon Pearl I got out of the trade tided me over for a while, but the loss of the previous three DMC games, the original Monster HunterShadow of the Colossus and a whole host of other games soon hit me like a frying pan to the face.

The game I was saddest to see go was War of the Monsters, developed by Incognito Entertainment and released on the console in 2003. Inspired both by Japanese ‘kaiju’ monster movies (think Godzilla) and 1950s American sci-fi (think Earth vs the Flying Saucers), WotM is a 3D arena-based brawler in which up to four giant creatures battle to the death, leveling buildings and causing chaos as they go. I have very fond memories of it, being one of the first games I experienced in split-screen multiplayer and becoming a game night staple right up until we were parted.

And so it was with a little internal squeal that I heard a small number of PlayStation 2 classics had been released on the PS4, and that one of them was War of the Monsters. I dutifully handed Mr Sony my eight British pounds and, at long last, we were reunited.

I booted it up and jumped straight into ‘2-player’ (Old English for ‘multiplayer’) to face off against a friend I played the game with ten years ago. The nostalgia levels were 8,999 (not quite 9,000), but does the Beast from 2003 stand the test of time, or does it shatter our lovely rose-tinted glasses with its giant monster foot? (more…)

Live the Life: The Best Pirate Game Never Made

jolly roger

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that pirates are awesome. My fascination with the Golden Age of Piracy (1650 until around 1726) really began when I was at university and decided to write an independent study on the wreck of Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. I found the subject of piracy so interesting that I chose to write my final year dissertation on the pirate port of Port Royal, Jamaica.

Golden Age pirates were without a doubt criminals, and many were bloodthirsty murderers, but there is something about their lives of freedom on the Seven Seas that people have found captivating ever since Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. This book is also responsible, however, for popularising a whole host of pirate cliches that still dominate our perceptions of these figures today. Buried treasure sure is an alluring concept, though in reality it was a rare practice, and as cool as plank-walking might seem, the single recorded incidence of it wasn’t carried out by pirates. Talk Like A Pirate Day may be a fun diversion on 19th September, but of course real pirates didn’t actually talk like pirates at all.

I’m sorry if it disappoints you to learn that pirates weren’t as yar-har-fiddle-di-dee as you might have previously thought, but the reality of piracy is far more enthralling than a couple of swashbuckling types with stripy shirts, eye patches, peg legs and hook hands.

Did you know, for example, that Blackbeard never killed a single person before the battle that ended his life? He instead created a terrifying persona, growing a huge, monstrous black beard, lighting fuses in his hair and spreading stories about how he was the Devil incarnate. He was known to take some of the men down to the hold, close all the hatches and set fire to gunpowder, filling the space with thick smoke for a game of last man standing. He would always be the last man, sat calmly in the corner, breathing in the smoke like a beast from hell:

‘Let us make a hell of our own, and try how long we can bear it.’

– Blackbeard

As mothers tucked their children into their beds, they would say ‘beware Blackbeard, for he will take your soul’, telling them horrific stories of the man called Edward Teach in order to scare them into being good boys and girls. Even Blackbeard’s own crew swore he had supernatural attributes, reportedly seeing strange shadows and ghostly apparitions on the ship.

As you probably assumed, Teach was not a demon, but simply a very clever man. He knew the power of reputation, spreading the Blackbeard myth to instill a crippling fear into anyone who might come across him. If you saw a ship approaching yours flying the Jolly Roger of Satan himself, a dark man standing on the deck with smoke billowing out of his flaming head, you would give him what he wanted. Blackbeard never killed anyone because he didn’t need to.

2000px-Pirate_Flag_of_Blackbeard_(Edward_Teach).svg

Blackbeard’s flag

With pirates being as awesome as they are, they’re a natural fit for video games. That said, I feel that to this date the ultimate pirate game still doesn’t exist. The wildly successful Sid Meier’s Pirates! came close for many (regrettably I am still yet to play it), though most modern gamers will be familiar with pirating through the lauded Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

AC IV puts players into the fancy boots of pirate Edward Kenway, who in series tradition joins the ever-present Assassin Order to war with the equally ever-present Templars. The game gives you command over a ship, The Jackdaw, and a shanty-loving crew and allows you to sail the Caribbean, battling and plundering other vessels on the high seas. It was barrels of rum – uh, I mean – fun, but it was still emphatically an Assassin’s Creed game rather than a straight pirate game, requiring you to progress through Edward’s linear story rather than experiencing the true freedom of piracy.

assasins-creed-BF2

Edward Kenway in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

It is with this in mind that I have come up with the features that I would have in my dream pirate game. If this were to be made, it would be the pirate game to end all pirate games, the holy grail of virtual sea doggery. Without sacrificing fun and exciting gameplay, it would be an accurate representation of piratical life and allow muggins in his mum’s basement to experience the immersive thrills of being a savvy, scurvy-ridden lad with a cutlass and a rag-tag band of drunk, toothless cutthroats at his side. This is the past. This is the future. This is the past colliding with the future. This is the… puture. Ahem. Full sail ahead. (more…)