Splice isn’t what you think it is

When I saw the trailer for Splice, I predicted yet another Hollywood dud exploiting technological fears. Looked like yet another routine science-gone-wrong tale in which a monster of some sort preyed on stupid characters within a laboratory’s endless corridors. Needless to say, I wrote it off. Too many movies to watch, too little time. The director’s name, however, has been attached to the Neuromancer adaptation (which will probably never be made) so I finally decided to give Splice a try. You know, to get a feel for how awful the Neuromancer movie will be if Hollywood actually gets around to filming it.

the trailer doesn’t give away as much as most do, but it’s best to avoid it

The film opens with the birth of a human-designed creature. It’s the second of its kind—a gross, slimy monstrosity about the size of a football born in a lab whose acronym is NERD. We’re introduced to the lead scientists on the project, a couple of lovers played by Sarah Polly and Adrien Brody. They drive a Gremlin. They eat pizza at work (research scientists always eat pizza in movies). They think their slimy creature is cute. Brody’s character, by the way, wants kids, but Polly isn’t in a hurry.

The scientists are on the cusp of curing the Bad Things that tend to happen to the human body. Naturally, the beurocrats that all movies like this have conspire to take the project away. The scientists’ goal isn’t profitable for their investors. The public, they say, isn’t ready for what would probably be the world’s greatest achievement. Whereas this comes off as nonsense in most movies, the company people actually make a good point. So does Polly’s character, who counters with the line, “If we don’t, someone else will.” I don’t know about you, but I’d rather Americans pave the way in this kind of research as opposed to, say, North Korea. Considering how fast technology advances these days, we can avoid the inevitable, but for how long and at what cost? So here’s the first breath of fresh air: this isn’t an anti-science movie. It’s actually pretty thoughtful, though not particularly deep. Still, it’s more than a bunch of fatty technobabble and pretend morality.

Naturally, Polly goes through with the project against the wishes of the company. It results in what some might call a monster which sort of resembles a human fetus outside of the womb. The scientists keep it secret, but this of course causes one complication after another. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be waiting for the standard horror stuff to start any second. Thankfully, the usual shit doesn’t come until about the last seven minutes of the movie. By then it’s not that bad. The movie’s often bizarre and wonderfully gross in the way of Cronenberg’s The Fly. The “monster” (and I’m trying not to give too much away here) has more in common with Frankenstein’s monster than you might suspect.

When was the last time you sympathized with a movie creature? I can’t remember my last time. But this movie does it and it does it well.

So. Do you like body horror? This picture’s got it. You like character-driven science fiction? Well, I’m glad to say this is one of the few decent examples of it in the movies. You like dance scenes? There’s a pretty good one, at least if you’re as wrapped up in the movie as I was. Sure, sometimes you know where it’s going, but that’s part of the fun: the suspense comes from knowing none of this can turn out well for our heroes.

If this is the guy who makes the Neuromancer movie, maybe we’re in for a treat after all.

First impressions of Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

It’s hard to explain how much I like the Metal Gear Solid series, so just take my word for it: I really like it. I love the blending of American and Japanese. I love the kooky seriousness of an armless character who steps into a battle and, for lack of a better phrase, lends you a hand. I love purposely complicated plots and the plethora of characters, love the homages to American cinema so heavy they verge on rip-offs, and of course I love Tactical Espionage Action. God help me, I even love the cut scenes. Hell, that’s probably the reason I enjoy the games more than most—they’re movies you get to play. As for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I loved that one, too.

well, I didn’t see any daylight in my game

Having played MGS: Ground Zeroes, I cherish the previous games even more. It’s apparent now that stuff is probably over. It’s the end of an era and it ended so damn abruptly. I wasn’t ready for it. I’m sure a lot of other fans weren’t ready for it either. I can’t help but feel Ground Zeroes’ updates feel less like Hideo Kojima trying to serve his fans and more like him trying to expand his market.

Let me preface the rest by saying this is a good game. Perhaps it’s currently my least favorite MGS game, but with a series so spectacular, that really isn’t criticizing it much. Whether it’s worth thirty dollars is up to you. Maybe this post will help you decide. We’ll see.

Just imagine my perplexity when I finally get my hands on Ground Zeroes and, 150 minutes later, I beat the game. Yes, there have been plenty of advance reports that the game was short. And yes, I actually did get the memo that the game could be beaten in under two hours. You probably thought the same thing I did: surely that was only a player speeding through the game. That person obviously doesn’t take the time to smell the roses. So I got the game and briefly wondered when it was going to feel like MGS.

Well, it only feels like MGS to me in the intro cinematic and in the one at the end. The stuff in between feels more like an ultra-refined Splinter Cell. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not a bad game. The engine is fantastic. The controls are smooth. The graphics are a notch above what you might expect.

Still, I’m not the most impressed guy out there at the moment. At the end of the day my two hours, I enjoyed the experience. I felt the story arc was solid despite the brevity and the lack of a firm conclusion. I wasn’t as distracted by Kiefer Sutherland’s voice acting as I expected, but maybe that’s only because there’s very little of it.

While we’re on the subject of things I didn’t like: Skullface’s voice sucks. It’s undeniable that it simply doesn’t fit the badassness of the character we first heard voiced in Japanese. That there isn’t some kind of encounter with him is disappointing as well. I’m not saying we should have gotten to kill him in the climax or anything, just that we should have been able to see more of him than we already saw in the previews.

But let’s face it: we just paid $20-30 for a game that could have just as easily been inserted before Phantom Pain’s opening credits. Maybe Hideo Kojima was experimenting, maybe it was a mistake, maybe he just wanted us to have an advance preview—that I’m not going to speculate on. In case it seems I’m dwelling on the length of the game, that’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is I had a craving for classic espionage action, not to mention a shitload of characters leading me down an increasingly complex plot. Unfortunately that itch has yet to be scratched.

Yet that’s why I plucked down the dough. So if you’re coming from a similar angle, maybe you’d do better to avoid it. 

I say in the title of this post that these are my first impressions, despite beating the game, because I plan to give it some more time and hunt some of the collectibles. Perhaps I’ll give it a proper review in the future.

King of Tokyo is a fun filler game

I love modern board games, particularly of the science fiction variety. My favorite is Android: Netrunner, but it’s hard to convince people who aren’t crazy about that sort of thing to play. While I’d rather be playing Twilight Imperium (haven’t touched it yet because I know it’d be a wasted purchase) or Exodus: Proxima Centauri (same story), the fact of the matter is stuff like that’s a pain in the ass to teach to filthy casuals.
So instead of blowing nearly a hundred bucks on Level 7: Omega Protocol (yet another game I’m dying to play) I selflessly went for King of Tokyo. Yes, it’s a blast to play a few times in a row, but think of it more as a gateway game for people who still think Monopoly and Clue are the tits. And comparing its price to the other games I mentioned, it’s a bargain.

You control your farts well: South Park Stick of Truth

Back in the 90s there were a couple of Beavis & Butt-head games. The Genesis version wasn’t bad, but when burping and farting were your primary attacks, the novelty wore off quick. I had concerns Stick of Truth would be in the same category. I’m not above toilet humor, but few can do it with, uh, well… charm.

There really is something charming about Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo. I can’t put my finger on it. His wife is an angry alcoholic. One of his kids was born with a nut in his head so he’s not the brightest nugget of his bunch. Yet Mr. Hankey has the right attitude about life, you know? I know a lot of people who didn’t have such a shit life, but they’re a lot less pleasant to be around than Mr. Hankey.

Yeah, I can’t believe I’m talking about a family of turds, either. Yet that sums up South Park. Gross but charming. Cartman is our generation’s Archie Bunker, the most satisfyingly politically incorrect character since Al Bundy. Meanwhile The Simpsons have lost steam and Family Guy wasn’t much more than a passing fad. South Park has always remained fresh, no doubt because of how insanely topical it is.

The Stick of Truth isn’t very topical, but neither was the movie, Bigger, Longer & Uncut. It’s a wise decision. Considering how long it takes to produce projects like this it would have been about as fresh as Avril Lavigne. While we’re on the subject of its long development, I don’t entirely see where all that time went. Yeah, the animation is relatively pitch-perfect, but each episode of the television show is pulled off in a matter of days. And while the combat system is surprisingly smooth I don’t think all the dev time went there, either.

If you’ve read my reviews on previous games, you know I’m still talking about all the stuff I didn’t like at this point. But there isn’t much to dislike about Stick of Truth as long as you’re a fan of the series. I could go on and on about why you should be a fan of the series, but some people will never see the light. Let’s put it this way: if you watch South Park on a regular basis and you enjoy RPG games like Skyrim, you’ll be in heaven. Well, maybe not if you paid $60 bucks for it. I hear it’s short and the replayability isn’t the highest.

Other than that, I have a feeling it’s not only the funniest game we’ll see for a while, but the best. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to work on my sneaky squeeker.

Altergaze: Mobile Virtual Reality

Until Oculus Rift was announced, I had written off virtual reality as the flying car idea of the 1990s. Don’t get me wrong: as a preteen I was more than certain I was going to live in a Johnny Mnemonic future long before I was old enough to drink. Then I got my first hands-on experience with such a device. I can’t remember many bigger disappointments in my childhood. Thank goodness for Palmer Luckey.
Aftergaze is yet another product that knocks my socks off on ingenuity alone. It’s not as ridiculously cool (or ridiculous) as Mnemonic’s rig, but it’s a hell of a lot more practical. If I didn’t think I’d see the consumer version of Oculus before this Kickstarter got of the ground, I’d pledge in a heartbeat. 
It’s thirty pounds for the files to print your own ($50 USD). For fifty pounds (a little over $80 USD) you can have a pre-printed kit sent to your door.

Gaming Dragons’ Stick of Truth Deal (Update on yesterday’s post)

Despite Cartman’s warning against preorders, I went ahead and preordered South Park: The Stick of Truth from Gaming Dragons, a site I reported I was unfamiliar with in yesterday’s post. This is the first time I’ve preordered a game since Duke Nukem Forever (if you don’t count the Dragonfall DLC for SRR).

Two hours ago I received a message from Gaming Dragons which promises there will be a preorder bonus. That’s the good news. Now for the worrisome news:

Dear Customers,
We have received our stock of South Park and we’re currently waiting for the game to release in order to test it.
It seems like the game is heavily region locked.
What does that mean?

·         If you’re from USA, you’ll get the Uncut version of the game on the 5th aka the release date of the game.

I’m hoping this a locality quirk because the USA release date is the 4th, not the 5th, but that’s unlikely as the site is apparently based in California, only two time zones away from me. Perhaps it’s a case of underpromising and overdelivering. The website itself says delivery of the game begins between the 4th and the 5th. Regardless, I got the game for 35% off (it’s currently 24% off at the time of writing this) so can I really complain that much if I get the game this week? Not really. It’s not like I’m hurting for games to play and I really don’t have the time for the ones I already have, either.

The original email they sent me says the following:

These terms do not apply for products that were ordered under 48 hours delivery time frame (You will receive the product within 48 hours or less).
If you have Pre-Ordered a game it will be approved and sent on release date.

TrustPilot.com aggregates user reviews on sites like Gaming Dragons, which currently holds a very high score. The problem with that is I’ve never heard of Trust Pilot before, either, and if it’s anything like Yelp I wouldn’t trust it too much. Who’s to say those reviews weren’t posted by Gaming Dragons themselves?

For the record, I think Gaming Dragons is the real deal. I’m just a cautious guy and I’ll keep you posted on how it all turns out.

UPDATE: Got my code around 4 ‘o clock this morning (March 5th). Considering the bargain I got, I might use Gaming Dragons again in the future. Now, I’ll attempt to get some game time in before work.

First impressions of Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall

When the base game released, I was in the unique position to play it all in a few big chunks of time. Right now, I don’t have as much time to spend with Dragonfall, but I can already tell it’s the superior game. Most of the gripes we had with the original are addressed. You get quick saves now and there are a lot more choices to be made. While it seemed out of character for my Mohawk-sporting decker to convince a Cram addict to seek help, the decision earned my chick karma (which is important for leveling up) and proved to be a satisfying side-quest.

My remaining complaints have more to do with the Shadowrun universe than the game itself. I like fantasy as much as the other guy, but as I don’t think it mixes well with cyberpunk I think I stand to enjoy Cyberpunk 2077 a bit more.

I may post more when I get the time to play some more. If you’d like to know more about the game, here’s wot Rock Paper Shotgun thinks.