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Friday the 13th: The Game

“He’s back! The man behind the mask, and he’s out of control” ~ Alice Cooper

When it comes to slasher movies there are few killers who have anything in comparison with Jason Voorhees.  He has amassed a kill count of over two hundred people. While other slashers have their kill count in the double digits; Jason has triple. When Friday the 13th launched in June of 1980—it became a huge success! Despite what the studio had to say about slasher movies, in a way, it helped propel the slasher genre. The franchise has eleven movies and one re-make.

The 80’s were a time of home entertainment—more so, the pre-cursor of today.  Where the only time we really have to leave our house is to work. Video Game consoles were taking off—allowing family and children to chuck the board games aside or into the back of the closet.  The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was wildly popular with young children and teens.

By the time the Nintendo launched, Friday the 13th was on its fifth film.  It would be four years later when Friday the 13th part: VIII was released that a video game would coincide with the release of the film.

Developed by LJN in 1989, it was one of the first survival horror games released in America.  The story of the game: You play as a group of counselors, and you must save the children of camp Crystal Lake.  The game is notorious for jump scares and not player friendly.  Overall, it failed to stay true to the F13 franchise.

In October of 2015, Gun media and Illfonic launched a Kickstarter for a new F13 game.  Based on their original idea of a multiplayer game where you play as the slasher and 8 people played counselors, the slasher would chase the counselors down and do what he does best. Kill.  Once Sean S. Cunningham saw the tech demo for the prototype, and he offered the F13 license.

Editors note: Before Cunningham offered up the f13 license, the Kickstarter project was known as “Summer Camp.”

The game itself is a collaboration of sorts: It re-unites Tom Savini to the franchise (Jason’s original designer), Harry Manfredini (series composer), and it re-unites the most important thing to the series, the only actor who has ever played Jason more than once: Kane Hodder, who will be performing the motion capture for Jason.

Being a Friday the 13th fan, it was my obligation to donate to the campaign.  I donated at the $55.00 tier and earned the right to play in the beta, which was released in December of 2016. The excitement to play was tearing at me.  The drive home from work was the longest drive in the history of the world, it felt miserably slow.

Once the computer finally booted up and I was introduced to a nostalgic opening.  It feels like you have just popped in your favorite VHS tape, the tracking finally diminishes and you are introduced to the name of the developer: Illfonic and Gun Media.

You are greeted by various shots of Jason and the infamous “Ki Ki Ma Ma” is heard. The title scene in itself is something nice.  It allows you to feel the ambiance, and you’re treated to Manfredini’s music, an ode to the classic F13 sound.

Every match begins the same, you pick the counselor you want to play and Jason is selected randomly.  Every character has a different set of skills that will help them survive the match, and the counselors get a certain number of perks.  Jason has pre-selected perks for each version you play (There are five in all. Part 2, 3,6,7,8 and Jason Goes to Hell, plus a backer original designed by Savini himself).  One of the most interesting things about playing as Jason is that you will be able to level him up and select different kills.  One of my favorites is the kill from part VIII where Jason knocks Julius’s head clean off his shoulders.  You are also able to select new kills that were created for the game.

Now, one would expect that playing as Jason is the best part of the game, not true.  The counselors are what make the game fun, sure, walking around and killing dozens of teens is a good time, however, the thrill of staying alive is where the fun is.

As the counselors, you have four objectives—either, call the police and they will meet you at a select point in the map,  fix a car and drive off the map, kill Jason, ( not available in the beta), or die.

As a counselor, you are able to find various items to help fight off Jason or stun him long enough for you to make a hasty retreat. You have the option of hiding from him in cabins, closets, and tents (playing as Jason, finding the hiding counselors will reward you with extra XP that you can use to buy more kills).  Sounds simple, right? Not, so much.  Jason has different abilities. One ability, allows you to transport Jason to any part of the map, another ability, will allow Jason to chase the counselors or appear in front of them.  The main ability players will use is “Sense”  as it allows Jason to see where the campers have staked out—making it slightly easier to hunt them.

The game is fun, at least, the beta.   It gives the feeling of fear and confusion and plays true to the F13 format.   The ambiance of the game is something that really plays into effect.  The ground is often dark and shadows play tricks on the eye.  When Jason comes close to a party or a single camper, a music Que plays to let you know he is near. While it seems cheesy, it gives the player a chance to run and hide.  The game feels like a movie.  Something, I never expected—being a longtime fan of video games and a regular player. I’m not a fan of multiplayer games, at all, with F13, I felt I was in the movie.  I would get adrenaline rushes if Jason was near and I was wounded. My fight or flight instinct would kick in and most the time I would lose or there would be a chance, I would get away, only to have Jason take his revenge, and shove a machete down my throat.  Despite, some bugs (it’s a beta, they will happen) it was an experience I will never forget and cannot wait for the full release.

Friday the 13th: The game is a rare feat, it stays true to the license. A prime of example that in the right hands a movie license can stay true to its origins. And make an experience worthwhile; other companies can learn from this particular developer. If care and passion go into a license a game can break free of the bonds and ideologies; that all movie-based games are cheap and never a worthwhile experience.

Friday the 13th breaks that mold, not only for horror games but multiplayer games, as well.

Kurt Thingvold, no stranger to Machine Mean, was born and raised in IL. He finds passion in writing, which helps calm his demons. He grew up in a tough household that encouraged reading and studying. He spends his time writing in multiple of genres. His published his short story, Roulette, which can be found on Amazon for $0.99!!! When not writing he can be found playing games, reading, or attempting to slay the beast known as “Customer Service”, which, he fails at almost every day. As mentioned, Kurt is a frequent flyer here on Machine Mean, you can also check out his previous review on Ridley Scott’s legacy movie Alien here.

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Universal Monsters in Review: Pinball Wizard

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The history of pinball games is an interesting subject. The 1930s, the same as the Universal Monster era, is ultimately when the game began, though an argument could be made for the development of the machine since the 1700s in the form of Bagatelle, a billiard indoor table game. Starting in the 1930s, there were Payout Pins, in which coins would drop out of the game, and Flippers, a Penny Arcade game where the players used a “bat” to launch balls into a scoring mechanism and even an early era pinball game called TILT! The exclamation point was to further the excitement one ought to feel when playing the game. By 1936, the invention of pinball bumper came about, consisting of coiled springs that allowed the ball to rapidly bounce around the playfield, forever changing the modus operandi of pinball. Pinball was also not without its enemies. In a 1957 article published by Better Homes and Gardens, advocates called for the ban of pinball games. Some American cities had already fallen suit, in January of 1942, New York mayor LaGuardia banned the game throughout his city, which wouldn’t be overturned until the 1970s. The issue advocates and lawmakers were having was a failure to distinguish slot machines from pinball machines and the fact that many just wanted to play pinball for the sheer enjoyment of the game. Starting in the 1980s and running through the 90s is when horror themed pinball machines really took off. Some of the most popular ones included Freddy: A Nightmare, The Addams Family, Gorgar, Scared Stiff, Elvira: Party Monster, Twilight Zone, and Monster Bash, just to name a few. These games gave players another way of experiencing the universe of their favorite monsters, including those of the 1930s-1940s Universal variety. Here to talk to us some more regarding Universal Monsters most infamous pinball game, Monster Bash, is our guest author, Kit Power.

Monster Bash

By: Kit Power

Because I know what y’all were really thinking as you slogged through my four thousand word essay on ‘The Bride Of Frankenstein’, back in March – ‘Yeah, yeah, Kit, all well and good, but can’t you tell me more about this pinball table?”

Your wish is my command.

Before I start, though, in the interests of honesty, I have to confess something important: I haven’t played the physical table. I love pinball but was born about ten years too late for the heyday. One of the very, very few positive things about growing up in the ass end of North Devon was that there were two local pubs that still had machines. So I got to play Star Trek: The Next Generation, Judge Dredd, and later the Tommy table (based on the musical). ST and JD just ate my money, for the most part, but Tommy I absolutely owned – I remember one afternoon going in there with a single pound coin (which back then got you 3 credits) and playing for over 3 hours.

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But that was ‘98 or ‘99, and the art of pinball was already dying. Seeing a table in the wild is a rarity these days, and the time when any arcade of a decent size had a whole rack of them is long gone.

Luckily for shut-ins like me, there is, at least, Farsight Studios and The Pinball Arcade.

The press release version is, they buy real tables, take them apart, photograph each bit, then render them in 3D software, emulating the actual ROM used in the original machine to simulate the experience with as much fidelity as possible. Now, I only have one data point for this, because the Star Trek table is so far the only one they’ve digitized that I’d previously spent any time with, but I can say with some confidence that they have absolutely nailed the physics and feel of that table, so I have no reason to suppose that their talents are not similarly in evidence on the other tables in the collection. So, what follows is based on the experience of playing a simulation of the table rather than the thing itself. That bucket list moment will have to wait for when Tarantino comes knocking for the film rights for GodBomb! Hey, I can dream. 🙂

So, Monster Bash – as previously noted, a 1997 table by Williams, of which 3361 units were manufactured, according to Farsight Studios. The plot of the table (no, really) is that six of the iconic Universal Monster crew – The Creature from The Black Lagoon (hereafter Gil), The Bride, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, Dracula, and The Wolfman – are putting a band together, with the end goal of playing a gig in ‘Transylvania Square Gardens’.

Of course.

To achieve this – well, it’s pinball. Keep the ball in play, and hit a lot of shots.

Or, in more detail…

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So there’s six creature games, each of which has ‘win’ states, which award the instrument for that creature (Gil plays Sax, The Bride is on vocals so claims a microphone, The Monster has an organ(!), Dracula is on lead guitar, with The Mummy on Bass and The Wolfman, of course, on drums). Playing all six games, win or lose, sets up the ‘Monster Bash’, which is the table’s wizard mode. Wizard mode is basically the ‘win’ state of a pinball game. Typically a multiball with a generous ball saver period (meaning 30 – 45 seconds where any balls you lose are replaced) and huge jackpots on all targets. If you’ve ever looked at the mind-boggling high scores on a pinball table and wondered how they were achieved – wizard mode is how. It’s always tough to achieve, and aside from Tommy, something I’ve never managed in real life (brag – though for Tommy, I managed it three times in one game).

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There is a fun wrinkle with Monster Bash, which is this: If you manage to ‘win’ each of the monster missions and claim the instruments, you enter a kind of super wizard mode called ‘Monsters Of Rock’, where the targets are worth even more, and the ball saver stays active for longer. If you can get that done before activating the Monster Bash, there’s a substantial bonus, but I’ve never managed that.

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of each of the monster missions:

FULL MOON FEVER: Shoot the left and/or right orbit 4 times to light a full moon and start the mode. You then have 45 seconds to shoot the orbits as many times as you can, scoring the full moon fever jackpot each time you do so. Score 4 full moon jackpots to claim the drum kit for ‘Wolfie’.

  • MUMMY MAYHEM: Hit the jets 45 times to uncover the sarcophagus and light mummy mania in the drop target. Once the drop target is hit to start the mode, shoot the orbits, ramps, and central spinner to score mummy mania jackpots. Score 7.5 million points to win the game and light the bass guitar.
  • BALL AND CHAIN: Shoot both ramps 3 times each to start the ball and chain game. Shoot both ramps a further 3 times each in 40 seconds to win the game and light the microphone.
  • DRAC ATTACK: Shoot the Dracula target on the right-hand side to spell the word DRACULA (the first time through you only need to do this 4 times, as the first three letters are lit for you). This lights Drac Attack in the drop target. Once you shoot that, a model Dracula will pop out of a coffin on the right-hand side of the play area and move slowly back and forth. Hit him five times with the ball to win the mode and light up his guitar.
  • CREATURE FEATURE: Shoot the far left target gully 4 times. On the fourth time, Creature Feature mode begins. Shoot each of the lit targets (both ramps, both orbits and the central spinner (though you can also shoot the left gully as a substitute) to win the mode and light the saxophone.
  • IT’S ALIVE MULTIBALL: To start this mode, shoot The Monster target in the center left of the playing field 7 times to build the monster. The target will then lift up, revealing a ramp. Shoot the ramp to start the multiball. Score jackpots by shooting the flashing targets, and score 6 super jackpots (by hitting the monster) to light the organ.

With me so far? Excellent. Now, let’s talk strategy…

Because beyond ‘keep the ball in play’, there are some useful tips. For example, if you complete three monster modes, an extra ball is lit, and if you go through to the Monster Bash mode and ‘loop’ the table, this chance is restored the second time through as well. Also, the monster game modes are stackable – as in more than one can be running at the same time. Even better – if you start the ‘It’s Alive!’ multiball the timer on the other games stops, which is really handy with games like Ball and Chain, where hitting 6 ramps in 40 seconds can often be a bit of an ask.

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Also, if you complete the skill shot by using the flippers to make sure the ball falls through the lit target post launch, you’ll get an item, such as a garlic clove or spear gun, that can be used to reduce the difficulty of the monster mission by one (A silver bullet, for example, scores you a free ‘full moon fever’ jackpot once that game mode has started). You use the items by pressing the launch button – pleasingly, there’s nothing in-game to tell you this, it’s just a neat little thing you discover through play – or, I guess, not.

And really, it’s a game of neat little touches. The sound is great throughout, with the side comments by the cast (“I hope he’s tall and handsome like you, doctor!” from The Bride, for instance, or “Somebody fetch me a razor!” from The Wolfman) amusing enough that they don’t grate on repeated playing. Similarly, while the table is relatively fast and the ramp entrances not over generous, it’s far from impossible to play, with a little practice. The single toughest shot is The Monster, not because he’s hard to hit but because the rebound tends to send the ball down the center gully with depressing frequency, but on the other hand, if you are anything like as bad as me at pinball, you’ll hit it with glancing blows enough times while aiming elsewhere to unlock the mode organically after a while.

And sure, it is both shlocky and goofy – they’re none of the horrors of the original tales here, this is strictly played for laughs, and if the idea of that offends you, this is probably not the pinball table you’re looking for. That said, there’s also an unmistakable ring of affection to the whole thing, if not outright love.

And if nothing else, it led me, by and unlikely and circuitous route involving the author of this blog, to finally actually watch The Bride Of Frankenstein on Blu-ray. For that alone, this pinball table will always hold a special place in my heart.

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Kit Power lives in the UK and writes fiction that lurks at the boundaries of the horror, fantasy, and thriller genres, trying to bum a smoke or hitch a ride from the unwary. In his secret alter ego of Kit Gonzo, he also performs as front man (and occasionally blogs) for death cult and popular beat combo The Disciples Of Gonzo. He is the published author of such works as, GodBomb!, Lifeline, and has contributed to numerous anthologies, including The Black Room Manuscripts, Widowmakers, and upcoming Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers.

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Killer Croc: a few things you might want to know

Just this past week the biggest announcement to date was released regarding the casting of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (LOST) as the one and only Killer Croc. Okay…so maybe not the biggest news concerning the upcoming live-action adaptation of Suicide Squad. Perhaps you might consider Jared Leto as The Joker to be the biggest news. Or maybe Will Smith as Deadshot. Well…as terrifying and dastardly as The Joker and Deadshot may be, Killer Croc remains my favorite among the Batman universe villains. Killer Croc is easily twice as frightening as any other baddie. And not just because of his appearance, no. But because of who and what he is — how he came to be, and what he remains, human at our most basic level. Here’s a little skinny on Killer Croc. Just a few things you might want to know:

Mutation

Killer Croc was born…different. A genetic disorder that gave him his reptilian appearance. As he grew older his strength increased and he found he had the ability to regenerate. However, regeneration came with a cost. Each time, according to comic book lore, Killer Croc uses his gift he becomes more animalistic or reptilianistic, if you will. Not just in behavior but in appearance as well. My first introduction to Killer Croc was in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), however, in that series he was not very impressive. Just some grey looking dude with a bad attitude. My second introduction to Killer Croc was my favorite because he was at his lowest most primal state, in Batman: Arkham Asylum. I can still remember the feeling of both awe and dread, thinking: ‘I have to face off with this dude later? Jeezzus!’ But underneath it all, Killer Croc is still human, despite his appearance or behavior, no matter how much he wants people to think otherwise.

History

Killer Croc wasn’t always Killer Croc. He was Waylon Jones, for a time. A classic trademark of Batman villains, Mr. Jones was not born a monster, but became one through years of abuse and torment. In his case, because of his monstrous outward appearance. In fact, according to comic book lore, “Killer Croc” was a nickname bullies gave him when he was just a boy. Eventually, Waylon disappeared and only Killer Croc remained. He’d spend the majority of his young adult life in reform schools or behind bars. After prison, he joined a traveling circus and performed by wrestling giant alligators to the death under his destined name, Killer Croc. This is the background I hope writers use in casting Killer Croc in Suicide Squad, the circus performer gone rogue. But its doubtful they’ll make use of his history. There is a point in some of the comic storytelling where Killer Croc tries to take over the mob in Gotham. When that plan fails, not just because of Batman’s heroics, but because Bane breaks his arms, he pulls a stint in Arkham Asylum. After escaping, he flees into the sewers, becoming even more bestial, and consuming human flesh.

Suicide Squad

To the best of my knowledge, Killer Croc was never in any of the old Suicide Squad comics and his role in the film has been undefined, for the time being. However, there has been a directorial tease regarding where the new upcoming movie will take us, Arkham Asylum. As mentioned above, in the hit 2009 video game with the similar title, Asylum could very well be the place Suicide Squad bumps into Killer Croc. As much as I would love for the big baddie to have a larger role in the film, I have a gut feeling he’ll just be making an appearance or playing a part through a small portion of the film. Say, prison escape or something like that. Discovering Killer Croc in Arkham will be the best way to introduce this largely unfamiliar character to larger audiences. As Arkham is both dark and creepy, it would make the perfect setting to showcase the monstrous Killer Croc. The movie is set to release next year, but hopefully we’ll get more details as they become available.

Who is YOUR favorite Batman baddie? Let us know in the comment section below!


Resident Evil Director’s Cut: 18 years later…

If you’re like me and you’ve had your nose stuck in a new/old Stephen King book (i’m currently reading The Shining BTW) and/or working on the next big writing project — editing and formatting till blood starts to drip out your ears and you’re wondering how much more hair you can pull out before you start resembling Jean-Luc Picard, than you’re probably just now finding out about the new upcoming remastered edition of Resident Evil. That’s right folks, you heard it here (but most certainly not first) our beloved and most cherished PS1 1997 introduction to survivor horror is being polished up for the next gen consoles, including: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC. The release date is slotted for tomorrow Jan 20th 2015. And the price is set at $20.00 according to BloodyDisgusting(dot)com.

It is somewhat frightening to think that its been 18 years since the original released on PS1. The same year Resident Evil released, I got my first job working at Subway back when they used to cut the bread in a V instead of how normal people cut bread, through the middle. It was a crappy job to be sure, and I went home reeking of baked bread every day. But it was all worth it! With my very first paycheck, I went out and bought a PS1. And guess what game I got to go with it? Yup. Resident Evil Director’s Cut!!! It was an amazing game — still is, which is why I’m assuming the powers that be have decided to remaster it. Resident Evil was my introductory course in survival horror. Till this day, I cannot exactly say what got me into horror, it was either the Night of the Living Dead remake or Resident Evil. Regardless, my heart was set on the dark and macabre. One of the best moments (and there are plenty) from the game was in the long narrow hallway at the beginning. One moment your just walking around, minding your own business, and the next mutated dobermans are coming through the windows! Great jump scares to be sure. And during the late 90’s, I gobbled up everything and anything zombie — though admittedly, I was a Romero purist at the time (still somewhat am) and did not care for the dark comedy rants of Return of the Living Dead. In my growing age, I’ve come to adore the significance of Return of the Living Dead…at least for the first one. The others are still garbage, if you ask me.

According to BloodyDisgusting, the game will retain all it original glory. The biggest difference will be a more fluid control scheme (whilst maintaining the original controls as a second option for purists) and the graphics. They’ve also ditched the awesome live action scenes and replaced them with animation. The graphics are obviously redone. And the soundtrack has been refurbished as well, impressively so, according to the reviewer over at BloodyDisgusting. The story hasn’t changed, which is good because the story was amazing to begin with. And if the price is as Bloody reported ($20) by the weekend I’ll be taking a nostalgic journey back into the coagulated world of Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield and the S.T.A.R.S. unit as they investigate not only the missing Alpha team, but the reported missing persons surrounding Spencer Mansion.


Quick Review: Dragon Age Inquisition

Any long time reader of the blog here will know that I am a huge fan of Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise. Yes, despite the faults with both Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3, I am still a fan. Why? Bioware can weave a story like no other. Though, they ought to be careful, lots of indie companies and writers are coming out of left field with amazing stories and even more engrossing games. Consider the recent positive release of “The Evil Within” as just one example of amazing storytelling from the fantasy given folks over at Bethesda. Bethesda, personally, is not a game producer in which horror springs to me. Fantasy, yes. Terror induced nightmares, no.  But they did it, and its all for the better because hopefully it’ll keep other game developers on their toes producing even better stories and games. However, we’re here to talk about Dragon Age Inquisition. So lets chat.

The Ugly:

I was really excited about the release of Inquisition. Again, I love the series. I love creating my own custom hero and going forth on quests and dungeon raiding, and all that nerdy mess. As a writer, my medium is horror. I live and breath horror. So, fantasy games like Dragon Age allow me to step back and breath from fresh air before lunching back into the pit. So hopefully my now, you can imagine my excite with the release of a new installment. And there I was, Friday night, all to myself. Wife was out with friends. Kid was spending the night with grandma and grandpa. I was all alone!!! I insert the disk. Feet dancing away in delightful anticipation. And what do I get? I big oh 10-15 min. loading time. Apparently, without warning (thanks Bioware) the game will take up 7G’s of storage space. This wasn’t a problem for me, though not everyone has that much memory. So this is my first taste, after all the waiting, I have to wait some more. No big deal. Be patient, right? Okay…moving on.

To help clarify, I do not own an Xbox One. I’ve got the older sister, the Xbox 360. The Xbox One will be in the foreseeable future, but not yet. Not until I’m pretty much forced into forking over the hefty funds to purchase one. But with games, like Inquisition being offered on the 360, I feel like the change is not yet necessary. Or is it?

Dragon Age Inquisition is offered on a wide range of platforms, including my own 360 version. But maybe it shouldn’t have been. Let me explain. Once the loading time finally finished and I got to the game itself it became very apparent this was not the game I was sold. For the last Dragon Age that will be offered on the 360, no doubt, I expected something — more. The graphics will elementary. Plastic even. The custom options for your custom hero are languished, at best. When I heard you could add scars for your character, I got all nibbly bibbly! But when I went to look for it during my character creation slot, the scars were no where to be found… even worse, the beard option and hair options are equally despicable. You almost have to make your character as bland as toasted oats in order not to look unbearably manikin.

Look. I don’t want to sound like a sour apple. I have no idea if this game looks better on the next gen console than it does on the 360. But there are a lot of faults with this game. Mostly with the way it looks. The game play graphics, the sound effects, everything…its all weird, and, well, lazy looking. I feel, with the product that is in front of me, like Bioware rushed it out the door to meet the Holiday season, forgetting to do some coding with the 360 version. Hopefully, some of these issues can be resolved with some simple updates. I just pray they take the time to do them.

The Fetching:

Okay. With everything I don’t like with this game, there’s a lot of it that I do like. The story, though choppy at first, is solid. I felt thrown into the mix without a narration. Okay Bioware, this is basic storytelling. You need a narration. Once I got my feet on the ground, the story started making more sense. And I am currently enjoying the game a lot more. The combat system is fun, much like the second game. The areas are massive. And the side quests are plentiful. Almost to the point where you’ll spend hours in just one area. The new details are also fun. Like with the War Room. I feel like I am actually playing the part of Inquisitor. Plenty of looting, despite the super small text font. There are plenty of new twists to the game to keep your interest. I am just into the very beginning of the game still, as I spent most of my weekend hanging out in Hinterlands. I eventually had to walk away in order to experience more of what the game has to offer. I did get to watch a giant and a dragon duke it out on the coast and then was able to take down the giant. Just watch out for the flying boulders. The impact will kill your character. The options for strategy look impressive, though the party characters all ready come equipped with general combat common sense, which is good. Plus there is an added feature, the “run away!” approach. I had to use this Monty Python strategy a few times against annoying fade creatures.

The All-Inclusive:

I’d give this new installment 3 out of 5 stars. I was/am disappointed on how rushed the game looks. Again, my review here is for the 360. i pray the One version is cleaner. But the more I play Inquisition the more I like it. And no doubt my rating will go up to 4 out of 5 stars if only Bioware actually puts out a patch and update all the messy glitches. If you have not yet purchased the game, you may want to wait and see if Bioware actually does put out a patch. Or, if are a hardcore Dragon Age fan and do not want to wait and can put up with mediocre graphics, then by all means. As I said, the game is growing on me, though it shouldn’t have to and if this was any other game from any other production company, I may have returned to sender! In summary, the graphics need major improvements, as well as the glitches; while, the story and combat systems are impressive.


The Fate of Mass Effect

Mass Effect 3

If you tuned into the last Bioware induced post a few months back, during the late summer months, Machine Mean discussed, to some extent, rumors and overall fate of the continuation of the Mass Effect universe. We discussed the terrible three choice ending of M3, as well as possible future directions. The web is still abuzz with fan fiction rumor, but the continuation as been, more or less, confirmed. Bioware producer Michael Gamble, in answering a fan question regarding any new DLC for M3, responded with “nope. Citadel was the last DLC, we have a full, brand new game to make!” With that being said, i’m sure every subject of the nerd kingdom had already assumed as much, but then again…with as much hate over the ending to M3, many of us nerds were left with nagging uncertainty. At this moment, I think its rather safe to exhale. There will be a new Mass Effect…perhaps as soon as 2015 (best guess). 

Whatever direction the new game will take is still highly conjecture. No one knows for sure. I’ll be praying that its not a prequel as I want the very memory of M3 behind me. It happened. It was horrible. Lets move on. From some of the stuff leaked during PAX, in a closed meeting with a few hardcore fans, Bioware reps asked a few interesting questions that could lead to some insights in the direction M4 (or whatever its eventually called, but for now, for clarity, lets just call it M4). Here are a few of the questions:

1. What does N7 mean to you? (Most interesting question. Sounds something similar to what was discussed on Machine Mean back in August)

2. When asked if the group preferred a prequel, sequel, or something new entirely, the group responded overwhelmingly that they preferred a sequel. (Which sounds good to me because, though some prequels are necessary, it would feel like a waste of time and effort with Mass Effect.)

3. Two new species was revealed; however, the group was asked if they had to choose two from the already existing pool to leave out of the game, which ones would they choose. (The revelation of two brand new species sounds amazing; the two the group by % choose to leave out of the new game were the Krogan and Quarian species’. I can get behind leaving the Quarian’s out, to be perhaps included later on in a DLC, but how could they vote off the Krogan’s? They are the most badass species in the entire Mass Effect universe!!!)

The rest of the presentation basically was to talk about having a more detailed armor customization and crafting better looking species for in-game play. There was also some talk about bringing back the feel of M1, which is also something we talked about here back in August. Don’t get me wrong, M2 was an amazing game and highly replayable, but the feel and mood and tone of M1 was what really set the series apart from other RPG’s. If you want to check out my source for all this new info, watch the video by RocketChainsawAU  below:

 

mass effect2For now, it looks like we’re going to get something similar to what we here at Machine Mean speculated back in August; except for having a story crafted around the Specters, we’ll get an N7 based story. The only nagging issue with an N7 story is that it limits the chances of having an multispecies character option to nill. Best to my knowledge, N7 is a human special ops team. Will the N7 story still be awesome? Maybe, but less than if they allowed character creation to branch off a little more, giving the player to choose a foundation other than human. Just like the Specters though, N7 is an area that hasn’t been fully explored before. So even though we know what it is and have heard about in our past adventures with Shepard, it will be entirely new.

Until then, we’ll have to keep our ears to the ground and hope more credible information will be leaked.

 

 


The Sound of Sci Fi

Good science fiction stories will reach its audience at every level possible. What began as short story collections, beginning in the 1950’s, how sci fi entertains has spawned into something greater. From video games to 3D IMAX theaters, the evolution of our modern technological marvels has given these science fiction stories the ability to reach audiences in ways never though possible. With humble beginnings, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), Invaders from Mars (1953), Forbidden Planet (1956) and many more terrified and captured the imagination of adolescent baby boomers and addressed some of the cultural attitudes and fears of the day. And since then, sci fi has only grown more elaborate and celebrated.

As stated above, good science fiction reaches audiences in many ways. Some people dig the cool special effects. What began as puppetry has evolved into CGI created wonders, some good, some amazing, and to be honest, some down right horrifying! And there’s also the story itself, the characters and the things that drive the plot to final conclusion. Some come at you, some of slow cookers, and other can be as mind boggling as the special effects. And then there’s the music. However, what began just from simple beginnings with orchestras has evolved into full fledged techno symposiums. Some on the best science fiction has come with even more remarkable scores. Consider the following list of amazing sci fi soundtracks:

1. Mass Effect

You may have read this already, but Mass Effect, despite its more recent story setback with # 3, has one of the best soundtracks for a sci fi video game I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening. This simple techno score transports my minds eye to somewhere in the distant future, which is of course, the entire point of science fiction in the first place!

2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Besides already packing an impressive conspiratorial cyberpunk story line, Deus Ex also gives us an amazing score to boot.

3. Half Life 2

Half Life’s “Hazardous Environments” score is synopsis with the entire Valve production company. Regardless, its still an awesome score, especially in its above entirety.

4. Halo

Did you think I wasn’t going to mention Halo in a list composed of mostly video games? Yes, as we all know or should know, Halo has one of the more memorable soundtracks, combining a mix of techno with Gregorian chant and is one of the more guaranteed songs to be featured @ Video Games Live concert.

5. EvE

Okay, to be honest, I never stepped into the massive sandbox world of EvE; however, for a game i’ve never played, it has one of the most hypnotic scores to grace my nerd ears. Almost on par with Mass Effect and that is most definitely saying something!

6. Almost Human

It might be strange to list one none video game score amongst a sea of video game soundtracks, but Almost Human has, at the moment, the best sci fi score out there. It may be unfair, as the composition comes from the collaborative genius of The Crystal Method. But be-that-as-it-may, the final credits score captures the very essence of modern science fiction so well and so perfectly, how could I not mention it? If I was to have a sci fi wet dream, this is the music i’d want to hear 24/7. Its not crazy get up and dance like retards techno, its moody techno, and it fits me perfectly!

 

What are some of your favorite science fiction scores? Leave your thoughts in the comments box below!


Batman Arkham Origins & the Symphony of Emotion

October is crawling. The anticipation of both Halloween and the release of Batman: Arkham Origins is almost too much! While Halloween is easily sedated by simply screening the many wonders of horror and spooktacular films, like: The Thing, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Frankenstein, and so on; but, what can be done to quench our unsteady nerves as we wait and wait and wait, as it seems, for Origins’ release? Besides playing one of the two predecessors, Asylum or City, the only thing left is to tediously scourge and watch as many YouTube videos as we can muster. Such as the below video from RobotGamer1HD:

Which isn’t half bad. Here, we at least get a look at some of the game play. What did you think? Awesome, right?!? Seriously, thinking back when Arkham Asylum was first released, who would have thought the game (before you played) was going to be so amazing? The greatest part was being able to put ourselves into the story and from the very get-go, was so pleasantly surprised how much the game did not suck. How being competed wasn’t a complete waste of time (cough-cough Mass Effect 3). One of the most clever parts with this new generation of Batman games…and yes, clever, are the stories, the little tugs on our emotional heart strings, pulling us deeper into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and making us a part of his world: from the Asylum, being dosed with Scarecrows toxin and subjected to nightmarish flash backs of when mommy and daddy got shot, and with Arkham City, when Wayne’s very life was on the line through the entire game, the poison within slowly eating away on our insides. Plus, plenty of action to make the game masculine enough to call ourselves men (or ladies, whatever the case may be)! Here is one of the newest clips for the upcoming Batman release:

While there isn’t any actual game play; the story is very much alive in this just shy of a minute TV spot. Here we see the catalyst for Batman’s existence. Besides the original CGI Origin video released several months ago, this particle clip is my next favorite. Why? Sure, its rather simple and also rather short. Where you don’t see much; you feel plenty: the raw energy of vengeance being transformed into something greater, something criminals would fear and victims hope. The reason why so many of us nerds love the series and are, again, excited to don the mantle of masked vigilante and take part in one the greatest story arcs yet created.

Batman: Arkham Origins releases in just over a week! Oct 25, 2013…


Resident Evil: 11 year review

Resident Evil, for all its flawed and confusing movie adaptations, cannot seem to lose its 1990’s nostalgic luster. Who can honestly say, despite all the years of watching Millia Jovoich in a constant one woman carnival, that they still do not have some fondness for the franchise, or the original game at the very least? Being scared witless as decaying dobermans crashed through the windows of a hall previously thought cleared, will forever be how I understand and love Resident Evil (Directors Cut): as survival horror at its best. And it might seem silly now, especially with how gruesome video games have become, but back in 1996, this was good stuff; still is in my opinion. Who can forget this particular scene below?

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Turning the corner, this was our first encounter with Resident Evil’s zombie, and our lives have since been forever changed! The Romero styled walking corpse was the big appeal with Resident Evil as a video game, for me at least. The other monsters were cool, but the zombies were the foundation. And the zombie, one could say, was the contributing factor for the original movies success with fans. Albeit, when Resident Evil became a film, it was already fighting an uphill battle, especially when considering how in 2002, video game movie crossovers were all stinking awful (Yes, even Mortal Combat was not as good as it could have been. Nerd blaspheme? Perhaps, but its honest). Paul W.S. Anderson definitely had a monumental task ahead of him. However, before moving on with this review regarding Anderson’s take on Resident Evil, we need to mention the original writer/director tasked with bringing this beloved game to the big screen, George A. Romero. That’s right folks, the undead king himself was hired after directing a popular Japanese commercial for the Resident Evil 2 video game, back in 1998. Romero’s script remained close to the original story with the game, keeping Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine as the main protagonists and the plot evolving around the mansion located in the Arklay Mountains surrounding Raccoon City Forrest. There were minor changes to some of the characters and to the story itself, but these were minimal and did not overt the overall story in any negative way. Thankfully Romero’s script still survives, you can check it out here.

As for Mr. Anderson’s take, its hard to hate it completely, especially considering how well it fared as an early crossover when all the other crossovers at the time sucked ass and other obstacles he faced, including die-hard Romero purists who had heard about their icons rejected script and boycotted the film. But Anderson did an honest revision on the story, stepping away from the video game hierarchy, though not completely, and creating an original piece that could navigate, as best it could, around angry nerd criticisms. This is also the film where the crooked ankle zombie walk became popular, so kudos to the actor who made that possible! However, with the positives, there will also be negatives, so lets divide this review between the two.

The Goods:

RE the good

James Purefoy is one of the best modern horror villains (see The Following). He’s not monster, per-say, he just has a different perspective on life; he’s a character, not a caricature , and a part of that is why he’s so enjoyable to watch on screen. Another positive and enjoyable aspect from the film was the Umbrella Special Ops Team, sent into the mansion to breach the underground laboratory. Watching these guys (and girls) was like watching a squad of Colonial Marines, complete with their own tuff as nails Private Vasquez, or as I like to call her, 1980’s Michelle Rodriguez. Obviously, Mr. Anderson had a solid and well scripted cast, which helped develop an enjoyable atmosphere of suspense. The zombies were good; though, there were some unnecessary attributes we’ll discuss with the next section. The dogs were awesome and traditional, to an extent. Though I wasn’t really thrilled with the whole “red queen” A.I. scenario, it definitely added to the mess of humanity verses our own creations; the age old warning against unrestrained scientific development. Another positive was when Matt Addison shouted “Get over here,” a totally awesome nod to Anderson’s video game movie crossover, Mortal Kombat. And, the general overwhelming feeling of eeriness felt throughout the entire picture, even after the cheesy action sequences.

The Uglies:

RE the bad

Despite Mr. Anderson being able to pull off something decent, he still fell into the action-horror trap: overusing CGI. We won’t get into the deep end of the debate, but let me mention, again, that CGI has its place and can be used in horror to its benefit; however, directors tend to overuse computer graphics because in the long run its cheaper than developing awesome hand crafted effects. Be that as it may, the issue with CGI is that technology is constantly improving and the programs and designs we come up with now will look totally cheesy later down the road. Horror movies should be built to last. Consider Carpenters masterpiece, The Thing (1982),if you need a reference for a how an amazing timeless piece of horror should look. During the plot development, there was an unnecessary “ticking clock” scenario playing out; when in the end, the other guys end up being able to open the sealed doors. Their mission should have been a plain and simple rescue and intelligence gathering op. Anderson using the Hunter as the “big bad” when he should have used the Tyrant, was also disappointing. With the Tyrant, he could have skipped over the worst CGI created creature ever (though, to his credit, the Hunter probably looked cool 11 years ago; but then again, this adds to my above argument regarding the use of CGI).

The Bottom Line:

Mr. Anderson’s take on Resident Evil wasn’t horrible, though it could have been much (much) better. And i’ll always wonder how George A. Romero’s movie would have looked like, but then again, because he was turned down for this flick, Romero was then able to work on his Land of the Dead script, which he finished at the dawn of 9/11 (thus having to go back again and redesign the story for the new “normal”). Sometimes, even though we don’t really understand it at the time; things end up working out. Ultimately, Resident Evil was enjoyable to watch, and should most certainly be added to you’re zombie playlist for Halloween. You could also throw in the second adaptation, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, which was, in my humble opinion, just as good as the first. What could be said that hasn’t already been said? Sometimes horror moves fail to stand against the test of time, but even 11 years down the road, Resident Evil isn’t half-bad. And secretly, i’m hoping for a future remake based more on the video game. Maybe even perhaps a completely fresh reboot with Romero’s vision in mind! How awesome would that be? And lastly, how could I end this review without giving kudos to Anderson’s nod toward Romero (pictured below). Respect yo!

RE the nod


Dragon Age Inquisition: interviews and teasers

Okay, its been a few weeks since we last talked about Bioware’s upcoming addition to the Dragon Age universe: Inquisition. From just the small amount of clips and pictures and interviews, this new installment definitely looks like something worth getting excited about. During PAX Prime 2013, back in late August through early September, Adam Sessler interviewed Dragon Age: Inquisition’s executive producer, Mark Darrah, for a detailed look at the upcoming game. I’m sure by now you’ve already seen and watched and enjoyed a ton of video coverage; however, we’re talking about Inquisition, at this point, there is no such thing as “just another promotional video.” So, sit back and enjoy this detailed interview.

 

There you have it folks. Fall 2014 is still a far way off, but no doubt there will be more teasers to follow in the coming year. Hopefully, we’ll get a deeper look at character customization and this new addition with the “Keeps,” and followers, both old and new.