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Zone of the Enders Z.O.E (2001)
Playable, but disappointing
I rented the recently released 'Zone of the Enders - HD Collection' a couple of days ago for my Playstation 3. I'd heard a lot about it, and I am a big fan of Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear series and thought I'd give it a go. Maybe my expectations were a little too high with a name like Kojima and the promise of 'high-speed robot action', but overall, the name felt pretty... hollow.
Don't get me wrong, mind. Speaking from a technical viewpoint, the game excels - for a thirteen-year-old Playstation 2 launch title, the graphics, physics engine and fluid controls still hold up very well against the games of today. The colours, textures, polygons and pre- rendered cutscenes all look great, especially with this high-definition remaster, and I'm sure it would have astonished gamers back in 2000.
But the game has a few too many shortcomings. The story is fairly generic and forgettable, and I found myself skipping many cutscenes, combined with the awful voice acting. The player character is a young boy called Leo, who does nothing but whine and cry. Obviously the writers were trying to get the player to sympathise with the character, but we don't - it's just very, very annoying, and whenever I heard his terrible voice actor start to wail I'd attack the start button. Overall, the story made little sense and seemed like an interesting premise that could have been done very well - a boy is the only person left able to guide a mecha back to where it is needed and has to battle through a war zone to get there - but unfortunately, the writer(s) haven't pulled this off very well.
In terms of gameplay - most of the time it's fairly fun, simply button- mashing robot fighting that's a tad on the easy side, which occasionally dabbles into repetition (there are only TWO varieties of enemy - that's right - TWO) but isn't too bad. The boss fights are fun but nothing special. On a number of occasions, I had to resort to using walkthroughs, as sometimes it's too hard to figure out where to go or what to do. There is a lot of backtracking, which is very cheap and annoying, in order to obtain passcodes so you can use new weapons which you need to beat bosses to advance through the game. It's simple and fairly effective, but far from great.
Also, it's very, very short. I beat it in about five hours (I got it on the Friday night and had finished by late Saturday afternoon), and it just felt like... nothing. There wasn't an awful lot of variation to gameplay, and it just felt as if it had been over in an instant.
The controls are very, very good - fluid, responsive and not too simple and not too complex. The game gives you a very nice tutorial to show you how to use them - fast and easy to learn.
Music is where it gets tricky. The overworld theme is great - very dreamy, reminds me of old sci-fi animes from my childhood - but a couple of the levels have very droney and repetitive tunes throughout that just stick in your head. But for the most part the music was very good, especially if you're into techno, like me. So it's a mixed bag there.
Concerning the HD edition, it's pretty great. I haven't played the original PS2 version, so I can't compare them, but it looks excellent on my HDTV. The menus and design are all well-presented and flawless - plus, you get the second game (which I have not yet played and hope is better than this one) and a fabulous demo for the upcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Whether it is worth the price tag is up to you, I have not yet played the sequel so I do not know. But apparently, like the first game, it is short, so I'd recommend a rental as I'm not loaded enough to shell out £30 on a game collection I won't spend more than 10 hours on.
Overall, ZOE is an OK game, not particularly good but not really bad.
Final score: 6.8/10
What an experience, one of the best games ever made!
OK, I'm new to Metal Gear Solid. The first one I played a few months ago and it's definitely a great game, especially for its time. But, it has its flaws here and there - the dated controls and graphics, and the somewhat uninvolving story and one or two gameplay issues. The general consensus for the sequel is that it isn't so good, so I lowered my expectations. But boy, was I wrong - MGS2 overwrites all the flaws of the original and creates a gripping, thrilling, moving and often funny game that will stand out as one of my favourites for a long time.
The key issue most people moan about is that you don't play as Solid Snake in this game, but that's barely an issue - viewing him from the third person as the unstoppable 'cool' guy and playing as a slightly more relatable and sympathetic character, Raiden, had actually a much better effect than I had once thought it would be. In the first game, we barely care about Snake because he's so... awesome, there's no way he can fail. Raiden, on the other hand, is flawed - he is undermined by Snake and struggles with the mission. He's imperfect - like us - and that is why I prefer him to Snake.
But anyway, gameplay-wise it's fantastic - a perfect combination of stealth, action and puzzle-solving that's nothing short of a pleasure to do - there are no particularly annoying bits or anything and it's relatively glitch-free with enough interesting mechanics to keep you occupied. The only problem I can see here is the slightly odd Japanese control layout, where triangle is the action button, circle is select and x is back(!), which might be a bit of a pain if you're used to the normal western format - but not me, because most of my favourite Playstation games use this format anyway.
And, as for the story - it starts off slow, but gets interesting with some fantastic twists - I won't ruin anything for you, but there's a few ingenious turning points and unexpected surprises that come out the blue and catch you off-guard completely. The rest of the story is straightforward but interesting and engaging, especially if you love conspiracy stories. This part of the game is one of the biggest steps up from Metal Gear Solid - rather than the strange set-up there where there doesn't seem any point in understanding the nonsensical plot, we get a rock-solid thrill ride packed with emotion as well as action.
And, much like the rest of the series, it has a very distinct cinematic feel to it - rather than the usual cramming of a story we don't care about around the fun gameplay, we get what is essentially a brilliant spy/action film come to life. The tension and the quality of this action increases towards the finale, getting better and better until it gives us a stunning ending.
In conclusion, MGS2 is a game you need to play before you die - a real, ground-breaking experience that stands out as one of the best games on the Playstation 2.
Overall score: 9.8/10
The Walking Dead: Guts (2010)
This is where it really starts...
After an ever-so-slightly disappointing first episode, this one was much better and got me into the series much more. Whilst the first episode was slow and somewhat dull, despite having a brilliant atmosphere, this second episode seriously picks up the pace, making things far more interesting and enjoyable.
Situations become far more intense with more action and more interesting plot devices, great camera work and the introduction of some very interesting new characters. We get to know Rick a little better, too, advancing the series furthermore.
Seeing this second episode has got me very excited for the rest of the series, and I am very much looking forward to episode three.
Metal Gear Solid (1998)
During the first disc, I wasn't entirely convinced. It seemed an OK 8/10 stealth game that hadn't aged incredibly well, boring at times but exciting at others. Of course, the story, graphical quality, AI and gameplay were revolutionary back in 1998 - it's like a Playstation 2 game on a Playstation 1. But still, I wasn't sure.
However, where Metal Gear Solid really redeems itself in when we move onto the second disk, where it gets deeper - figuratively and literally. The game gets darker, more challenging, and the pacing closes in to a stunning finale. It does feel like an incredibly action movie, and the plot thickens and twists especially towards the end, gripping you. After being a tiny bit let down by the first half, the last few hours of gameplay were a real refreshment.
Of course, the game's not perfect. Unless you're the most patient person in the world, you'll be tempted to skip the incredibly lengthy cutscenes, and the control isn't brilliant - but otherwise, this is one of the best games on this platform (not quite the best, I think Final Fantasy VII holds that title) and if you are at all a fan of action games, you should certainly give Metal Gear Solid a try. And before you make quick judgements like me - stick with it, it gets a lot better.
Overall rating - 9.5/10
Fainaru fantajî VII (1997)
I just finished the game, and all I can say is... just... wow. It took over 40 hours, and I loved each and every second of it. After the end credits rolled, I can honestly say that I cried. This was quite possibly the best gaming experience of my life.
From the start, I was incredibly excited and hooked. The first level immediately thrusts you straight into the action rather than being tedious, and after my first session I couldn't sleep I was so excited to play it again.
The gameplay itself was very fun. Though it used the same basic battle formula throughout, it never felt repetitive, even though it's such a very long game. I was constantly challenged and never entirely bored or annoyed. The only criticism I can think of is the random battles that pop up as you're walking, that always startle or slightly annoy me. But it's easy to get used to.
But what really makes Final Fantasy VII stand out above any other game in history is the story, the sound, the imagery, the design... it's certainly the most heart-breaking, emotionally gripping and simply beautiful game ever made. Never has a game made me laugh or cry so much, or made me feel so exhilarated. You truly feel for the characters, you like the ones you're supposed to and hate the ones you're supposed to. They toy with your emotions, and the game soon has you under its control. The art and graphics are beyond perfect, especially considering this game is more than fifteen years old!
And the music is just fantastic. The series has always been recognised for its brilliant compositions, but FF7 stands out among them all. Every time I hear a track from this game, I really feel like welling up.
By the end, you'll feel like you've just had the adventure of a lifetime. It's the best game I've ever played, I have to say, and if I could ever recommend a game to anyone, ever, it would be this one without a doubt. In my mind, it's pretty much perfect.
The Watch (2012)
Not everyone's cup of tea, but a fun ride
Though 'The Watch' is barely a masterpiece, I do believe critics are unfairly trashing it and picking on it. It's rude, loud, fun and very funny, and if you don't mind this kind of comedy you should definitely give it a go.
My expectations were low after seeing bad review after bad review, but when I saw the actual movie I did really enjoy it. Of course, there's nothing particularly memorable but it's really not hard to sit through. I myself have never been a fan of Ben Stiller or Vince Vaughn, but after seeing this I've changed my mind a little. It's not 'just a string of dick jokes' like some critics have decided to hail it, because if it was just that I'd have hated it. But no, 'The Watch' is consistently funny and never gets boring.
Just to give another example: last year there was '30 Minutes or Less', another comedy that got the same treatment as 'The Watch' - everyone decided to hate it, despite it being a good laugh and a very fun ride. There's nothing at all bad about these films, and you shouldn't expect so much from them.
The Verdict: nowhere near the disaster most are hailing it as (it doesn't even have THAT many dick jokes), 'The Watch' is a hell of a laugh for its target audience at least, and it's a very, very fun ride.
Baiohazâdo: Dijenerêshon (2008)
For die-hard fans only... everyone else, don't waste your time
The only really good thing about this film is the CGI. I have to admit, it does look pretty cool. Maybe it doesn't exactly work for a full movie, but the quality is impressive. That aside, it's safe to say Resident Evil Degeneration is... quite bad. I do like the original games, and the first game in the RE series is one of my all-time favourites. But even I found this hard to sit through.
What really kills it is the script. God, it is horrible. The dialogue is atrocious, the plot is unclear and seems to go nowhere and half the stuff is ridiculous. If there was a half-decent script to combine with the flashy design it might have worked, but this is just a mess... It's really one of the worst written films I have ever seen. There is little to no characterisation, cringe-worthy dialogue and no real direction of the plot. The main character, Leon, seems fairly cool and interesting, but he's given nothing in the script. Instead, it's all just boring action.
And that's another thing. Of course zombie movies are cheesy. But boring? Zombie movies shouldn't be anything like boring. It's barely even gory. It's very unsatisfying.
The Verdict: die-hard fans of the games should give it a go, but if you're not so familiar or keen with the series, you'll be in for a long sit.
Hilarious, best comedy of the summer
While it's not exactly a perfect film, 'Ted' will put a massive grin on your face from the start. Most of the gags will have you laughing until your chest hurts, and the ones that won't will at least make you smile like crazy.
To be fair, Seth McFarlane's inexperience as a director does show in places, but with jokes pulled off so brilliantly it's often hard to notice. If you're a fan of Family Guy, American Dad or any of McFarlane's creations, you will love this. Of course, some of the jokes may be too crude for some people's tastes, so be warned. But it isn't all penis jokes and swearing, there's a lot of light-hearted humour in there too, and plenty of pop culture references and parodies (the Flash Gordon scenes are hilarious).
But, despite it being McFarlane and co's debut feature film, the writing and characterisation are very good, certainly better than any other comedy this year. In fact, even the emotional stuff is pretty powerful and you feel a lot for the characters.
Haters will hate and nitpick all they want, but 'Ted' is hands-down the comedy of the summer, the kind of feel-good comedy with unexpected, hilarious jokes flying from everywhere and just making you want to smile. It's beautiful.
See if you liked: Family Guy (series), American Dad (series), Paul (2011), Superbad (2007)
21 Jump Street (2012)
By miles the best comedy of the year
From start to finish, I had a massive grin whilst watching this film. I have to say, I can't have been more impressed. Never for a second was I bored, and I burst out laughing at every joke, and I have to say, there's not many films I can say that about.
Sure, for more mature audiences the dick jokes and sight of teens partying might put them off the fun, but teens themselves will be impossibly thrilled. It's cleverly written and brilliantly stylised, and never lets up, not for a second.
Tatum and Hill work brilliantly together, and Johnny Depp's cameo (which I was not expecting and was pleasantly surprised by) was a real treat. And even the comedic car chases and shoot-outs had me on the edge of my seat, as well as laughing my ass off.
Another good point is the soundtrack: it's exciting and has a kind of retro 1980's feel, though it isn't too retro for modern audiences.
Overall, 21 Jump Street is perfect for teen or fun-loving audiences, but people looking for something serious won't be so thrilled. I enjoyed it so much.
See it if you liked: Kick-Ass (2010), Hot Fuzz (2007), Superbad (2007), Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Will honestly blow you away... Hands-down best film of the year.
I'm not a massive Batman fan, but I decided to check out 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight' because of almost entirely positive reviews. I enjoyed them both thoroughly, and because of this I went to see 'The Dark Knight Rises' in an Imax theatre. And, I have to say, I've never experienced anything like it. I was completely mesmerised, and I certainly enjoyed it the most out of the three films in the series.
Of course, it wasn't perfect. Occasionally the plot was hard to follow, but it barely faltered otherwise. Both fans and newcomers will be immensely pleased, I can guarantee. It's certainly the ending the series deserves.
And yes, the Imax is completely worth it. The image works fantastically well. In fact, it was so effective I was afraid to lean forward during gunfights as I honestly felt I was there, part of the action! Sounds a bit exaggerated, but you'll see what I mean.
But it's not all just special effects and action stunts. The script is top-quality, possibly even surpassing The Dark Knight, with plenty of clever surprises and devices. And the acting skill is great, too, especially Michael Caine, whose emotional skills almost left me in tears.
Fans will be pleased, and it is well worth seeing whether you like superheroes or not. Out of all the films I've seen so far this year, The Dark Knight Rises was definitely the best.