Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Double Entendre Reflex

From time to time you may have heard me admit I enjoy hitting up the Internet Movie Database website and imagining movie characters saying their lines in an entirely depraved context. Take The Matrix for example, ‘Never send a human to do a machine’s job.’ Boom, I just turned Agent Smith from the tyrannical iron fist of virtual reality into an unsatisfied housewife. Here’s one from Harry Potter: ‘What happened down in the dungeon between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret. So, naturally, the whole school knows.’ Harry, you slut. Come on this is easy, give me a hard one (stop that, you’re not allowed to do it with my lines), how about Schindler’s Lis- no, no this ends here, you get the point.

Let me tell you what this is leading up to. I stumbled upon an old school report back from when I was 15, and was reading the teacher comments when the reflex kicked in. These report comments have to be quite diplomatic since they’re talking about somebody’s kid here, so it’s really common to see lines repeated and language so general that you’d have to keep glancing at the header of the page just to remind yourself what class they’re talking about.

‘Drake is reasonably involved and motivated, but relies heavily on teacher involvement. He has been generally attentive, sensible, and co-operative, and has worked with concentration and care most of the time.’ – Art

‘Drake shows good curiosity and has made a consistent effort, which has resulted in some pleasing marks. He has a mature involved approach, and deserves to do well.’ – French

‘Drake is mostly organized and brings the right equipment to lessons. His presentation has been good and he has used a variety of techniques imaginatively.’ – Physical Education

Nobody ever skipped class in my school.

There’s nothing else to this, I only wanted to mash the keyboard to let everyone know I’m alive in this draining heat wave while pointing out a strange thing I do to garner the response ‘That’s so Drake’, because I have thousands of unsold t-shirts with the phrase on after unsuccessfully trying to turn it into a worldwide catchphrase back in the 90s. I’m also giving you my once in a life time blessing to talk about your own idiosyncrasies in the comments. Don’t get used to it; the conversation never truly leaves me.

And neither do these damn t-shirts. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

PC Summer Sale Haul

The great digital summer sales have passed, and Gabe Newell returns to the depths to slumber till Christmas. So how did you do? I made off like a bandit, doing proud to the PC gamer tradition of buying dozens of games I will never find the time to play. Here are some of the goodies I nabbed:

Xenonauts lives up to the promise of being just like the original X-Com, except without an interface that is as outdated as the barbed wire tattoo. The aim is to fight off an alien invasion, building a network of bases across Earth and shooting down alien craft, then sending in the troops to salvage alien technology with the eventual goal of using it to go on the offensive. ‘The troops’ are squads of elite soldiers who fight via isometric turn-based battles. It’s worth mentioning that there are no shortage of X-Com clones, including the UFO series and the completely unrelated UFO: Extra-terrestrials which was featured in the short-lived ‘Bloggers in Video Games’ series I used to run. Regardless of the familiar ground, it’s still as fun as ever to customize a squad and name them after friends, celebrities, or pastries, only to watch them get vaporized. 

Lemon Muffin and Cinnamon Bun turn away in grief from the body
of Apple Crumble. She had gone to meet her baker.
What secrets could this
 ancient tome contain?

I am not without complaints as usual. Like in 2012’s X-Com Enemy Unknown (yes another one, I should make a chart) I still can’t alter the nationality of the characters, presumably to prevent me from reviving the British Empire. The interface could still be a little more helpful too, with the inexplicable inability to bring up the menu during an air engagement and nary a tooltip to spare. I had to look at the manual for a videogame. In 2014! What is this, medieval times? 

Nexus the Jupiter Incident follows space Captain Russell Crowe on an investigation of a space corporation’s sudden rise to power, leading to the discovery of lost space civilizations and alien space empires. Space. Russell Crowe isn’t really his name; only what I’m calling him since he happens to sound exactly like Captain Jack from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Good movie by the way, you should watch it instead of reading this drivel. 

The Jupiter Incident is one of those rare fleet commander games – limited number of ships mingling for some intense tactical combat. There’s a trusty old spacebar pause (not a space bar, spacebar, from the keyboard) and you’re going to need it because the difficulty curve is crazy. For a chunky portion of the game I only had a single ship, until several missions in when I was asked to command an entire fleet. Naturally I felt woefully underqualified. Maybe if they provided a workplace video (or a manual I wouldn’t read), I’d at least be able to fudge my way through.

"Hello, I'm Jean-Luc Picard, here to talk to you about the finer points of
Starship Captaining.  First challenge: selecting a trademark beverage."
"Earl Grey Tea is taken."

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Mortal Kombat: Konquest

Mortal Kombat is a controversial fighting video game series famous for spine-ripping finishers that somehow got adapted to film in 1995. I believe this is the best video game movie ever made (that’s not high praise), and one day I may speak of it more. Today though, I want to talk about the TV adaptation that arrived three years later, long after the series had left the limelight. Why? Because it’s borderline softcore porn.

What the... lady, you're in the middle of breaking out of prison and only met this guy five minutes ago!
The horror!

‘Now hold on’ you may say ‘Mortal Kombat is an 18+ series, isn't this normal?’ Well you’re right about the 18+ bit, except nothing else in the TV show even approaches mature content. The fights are bloodless, and absolutely nobody gets their face melted by acid. Try to picture me at twelve years old ready to watch some gore and instead getting bikini-clad girls climbing on-top each other for a sensual oil massage. 

Pimpmasta Quan Chi in da house!
I just came to see kung fu, but the fight sequences were always between these weird scenes. It would be like if a Cadbury’s Roses Selection Box replaced 75% of the chocolate to make room for a calendar, and on it Miss July was straddling a pile of Hazel Whirls. There’s a powerful sorcerer named Quan Chi who has his own army of firm nubile demon women walking about in spandex outfits revealing every curvaceous centimetre of their nubile bodies, and it’s heavily implied they serve Quan Chi’s sordid desires or get cut off from their magically enhanced beauty. The man is basically a pimp, drug dealer, and evil clown rolled into one. 

And incase you think I’m exaggerating about those words in bold text earlier, let me add that I started hiding the videotapes of the show under my bed as if they were dirty magazines. At one point the protagonist Kung Lao runs off into the forest (he does this a lot) to find an old witch who can brew a magic potion for his friends. Well he finds the ‘old witch’ alright, and she threatens to make him her sex slave. Also, she looks like this:

"Oh noooo, please don't do tha- ok."
Maybe I’m being na├»ve and the series is more associated with this than I thought, yet once again I point out the totally bloodless fights and pose one question – who is this for? Who is the target audience? 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Elder Scrolls Online Sucks

Full disclosure: Some information may be out of date due to game updates. I was a little jaded going into this. An MMO format goes against everything the Elder Scrolls stands for. It boggles my mind why companies are STILL trying to win on a lottery ticket and replicate World of Warcraft’s 12 million subscribers, blind to the countless broken bodies of MMOs that failed before them.

The character creation screen is too dark to see any changes so I just hit all the default settings. My fresh Lizard character appears in a dingy little place, dirty bed, stained walls, kinda like the hotel room my more lewd readers wake up to every weekend. I’m about to demand first-class accomodations when a mysterious ghost tells me I’m the chosen one and must escape. 

So I break out of my cell and spot my first player, an elf with a scar across his eye. ‘Hello?’ His vacant stare is all the response I get. I run to the next room and meet my second player, a Nord with a scar across her eye. ‘Hello?’ I repeat. ‘Wasup nigga’ she so eloquently replies. ‘Fo shizzle ma nizzle’ I retort. Through the next door I end up in a large cavern filled with dozens of people, scars across their eyes, all claiming to be the chosen one. Reeling from the sheer immersion, I barely notice the rustling sound of cash accompanied by a sharp flushing noise.

For those who don’t know The Elder Scrolls is an insanely popular single-player (till now) fantasy series that thrives on allowing players to go from the highest mountain to the deepest dungeon without restriction, on providing a wealth of lore and flavour to a massive ancient continent through hundreds of in-game books (seriously), and offering welcome surprises even after hundreds of hours of play. Meanwhile The Elder Scrolls Online uses a monster’s power level to strictly control the player because MMO. The famous books of the series are back, and most people are never going to read them because MMO. There’s even a single-player plotline which doesn’t work because MMO.

And don’t forget to moisten the loaf

Not only is this a poor Elder Scrolls game, but a poor MMO too. Almost all dungeons and quests are public, so they’ll be dozens of players hanging out at the boss to offer an anticlimactic end as you get a single blow in before the big bad drops dead. Grouping with friends is a chore; the game doesn’t seem to register any action except a hit so teammates have to duplicate every tiresome activity. It feels like there’s nothing to do after a couple of weeks, or rather nothing left worth doing. One can only hope the developer has a huge backlog of content to pump out or the game is going to sink like a concrete-coated rubber duck.

Undoubtedly the deathblow for Elder Scrolls Online is the absurd entry price - £50. Plus another £10 for the Imperial Edition to unlock all the content. Plus another £10 monthly subscription fee. We’re talking roughly 120 dollars total. For that kind of money you might as well just buy your own island and hire cheap foreign workers to dress in goblin costumes.