Friday, November 28, 2008

Pixar Movies

Pixar Movies in Order of Their Horribleness (in descending fashion)

Cars - Boring, predictable, and trying too hard to be likable.
Monsters Inc - Too long, too many chase-sequences--although the idea was good.
A Bug's Life - A standard Pixar movie. Not bad at all, but doesn't enthrall you as much as others.
Toy Story - The beginning. The standard.
Toy Story 2 - More fun than Toy Story 1.
The Incredibles - Ripping off other people is okay as long as it's entertaining to a high degree.
Finding Nemo - Interesting concept that takes a long time to fully fulfill.
Ratatouille - An excellent film, except somehow feeling watered down to its basic premise.
Wall-E - Filled to the brim with interesting ideas, concepts, and storytelling devices. Beautiful movie just to visually experience. Gets slightly predictable, which only marginally hampers enjoyment.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots :: Tactical Espionage Action

MGS4 is an experience that can only be judged based on its predecessors (dating all the way back to 1988) and the MGS story as a whole. Since I don't have that, I won't review it. Instead, here's a list of some nice things that Metal Gear Solid 4 does that makes it not a sucky game!

- Short, brief loading screens: Although its a minor issue, loading screens can become exceedingly tedious in some games today (Assassin's Creed and Oblivion being two culprits), especially games where you must go through them constantly. MGS4 on the other hand, has relatively few loading screens (for the most part) and they all range from 5-10 seconds, which is great considering how admirable the game looks. Another nice thing they did with the loading screens was have the music carry over from the previous scene. This adds a nice flow during action scenes, that prevents the momentum from dropping.
- Gameplay Gimmick explanation: Previously mentioned in the Assassin's Creed review, that game uses the story element of "reliving your ancestor's memory in a computer" to explain how they highlight interactable objects in the background, something which many games (can and should) do. MGS4 doesn't have to rely on some kind of story gimmick--instead, it uses the concept of the Solid Eye, a device hooked up to the player that identifies weapons and items on the battlefield. The player must use the Solid Eye to find items, but it can run out of batteries, returning you to your normal vision. This is just one way that you can explain these "gameplay gimmicks," and a better way to do it than Assassin's Creed.
- Game Over Screens are given a narrative spin by having Oticon scream "Snake? Snake...?! SNAAAAAAAKE!" and flashing images of your life. This reminds the player of the larger narrative at hand, and what the consequences of dying are, rather than just quick-loading them back again with a black screen. The current game over is made much more effective because of this choice.
- Locked weapons are conveniently handled in the game. Instead of not allowing, or even not revealing powerful weapons like RPGs early in the game, the game shows them and allows you to pick them up. BUT--You can't use them because they are locked with a kind of nano-machine ID, which you can only unlock by talking to Drebin later. This allows the game to use high-powered weapons early, without letting the player get the best weapons in the game too quickly. Good design choice.
- Gameplay doesn't rely on the same few mechanics; there's tons of variation and variety in-between the missions, so you're always doing something different than before. You start off with the standard Sneak/Shoot approaches, and then you continue to get more options to that scenario, including: flashbangs, grenades, claymore mines, tranquilizer pistols, silenced guns, m249s, grenade launchers, etc. Then you have different mission goals that range from: Get through the level by killing or evading your enemies-->Try to navigate the way out of a broken building-->Track a missing person by their footsteps trail-->Tail an informant back to his hideout without being seen-->Participate in a car chase by riding shotgun-->and the list goes on.
- Character sympathization: I almost forgot what it was like to actually care about characters in video games. Solid Snake is actually a nice character to play, because you can sympothize with him in a variety of ways. His life is cut short by a premature aging process, so he is a generation older than all his friends. This process will eventually kill him off, leaving him to carry out his remaining days trying to fight to save the world. And then he gets kicked around, beat up, breaks his back, and walks around liked a tired corpse, muttering about cigarettes and whatnot.
- Music: Lastly, the music in this game is quite excellent. That is all.

So, Metal Gear Solid does some nice things. As a whole, it works together well, but it's a tailored experience. If you want this kind of experience in a game, this is the best kind you can get, from perhaps one of the most experienced and dedicated teams in the video game industry. However, this experience isn't for everyone, compared to a game like Portal.

Two thumbs up! Watch it!

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4isms

MGS4 takes place in some weird, alternate universe where all the major good guys and bad guys in the world are either relatives of each other, old friends, or frequently meet up every year. (Also known as an Anime)
To prove how realistic and movie-like this game is, the game uses the camera to collect water and snow particles on every ensuing shot-change. It doesn't matter that water collects on the screen every time a car rounds the corner. Keep doing it!
The game will start the longest, 60 minute cut-scene at the most inappropriate time for the player, such as when they must leave because they are late for school or it's half past midnight and you have to get up at 6:30 the next morning.
The most dramatic scene in the game involves a lonely 40-year old computer technician hugging his Apple laptop and crying.
Snake: So what about the PCMs?
Oticon: Liquid is trying to use GW to undermine PB's overriding code! Snake! We have to stop him!
Snake: But GW has control over the nukes. There's no way JD can do that!
Oticon: So that's why he has to use the Mark II. That's why he has to use Rex!
Snake: But why does he need JD to use Rex when he can have GW?
Colonel: Excellent question, gentlemen.

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