I never meant to sit through all of Never Sleep Again, the four-hour documentary on Netflix about Freddy Kruger movies. I just wanted something to watch while I ate an ice cream cone and took a break from Watch Dogs. Yeah, I loved Freddy movies when I was a kid (one of the first things I ever wrote was Freddy fan fiction… about Freddy’s estranged brother Eddy… and Evil Dead’s Ash appeared in it… seriously), but at the age of 31, I probably haven’t seen a Freddy movie in ten years.
Considering how long ago those movies were, it’s amazing how it all came back. I remembered each and every character from the films and loved to see what the actors looked like today. There’s a healthy portion of pre-MPAA-censored footage, deleted scenes, and a look into an unproduced script co-written by Peter Jackson in which Freddy himself is the victim. Robert Shaye and Wes Craven both are perfectly candid about what they liked and didn’t like in the series.
Narrated by Heather Langenkamp, who’s from my hometown, Never Sleep Again is a surprisingly entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the iconic films. Born from Kickstarter, I expected low-quality fan service here, but it brings the goods. Outside of Errol Morris docs, my favorite nonfiction films are American Movie and King of Kong. Frankly, I like quality productions about subject matter that, at the end of the day, isn’t all that important. There’s a lot of brain candy on the net these days, but very little of it is as well-researched and funded. This brain candy doesn’t make you feel like you’re only passing the time.
I may have written about it on this very blog, but the most perplexing (and unintentionally hilarious) Elm Street scene for me is the parakeet scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. See, a parakeet explodes in midair and the main character’s father (Clu Gulager, also from Oklahoma) first suspects a gas leak before blaming it on a cherry bomb.
I wasn’t sure I wanted Watch Dogs, but thanks to Best Buy’s rewards program, I got it for under forty bucks. I had to work most of yesterday so I didn’t get to play it until later, but here’s what I think so far.
I’m sure it was hyped beyond reason for most gamers, but I almost completely lost interest in it shortly after hearing about it the first time. So my expectations were kind of low. I remembered thinking that hacking while driving just seemed like it would be awkward. It’s not, really. Then again, it’s not really hacking, either.
The game’s writing and presentation is the biggest letdown. After the expertly acted Wolfenstein: The New Order characters, Watch Dogs’ characters just feel dull and empty. Early on the campaign concocts an opportunity to meet a hacker named BadBoy17, and nobody’s going to be shocked to discover it isn’t a seventeen year old boy, which is to say nobody but the main character, anyway. That he’s so pissed to find out that his fellow hacker isn’t what the handle implies is the kind of piss-poor writing I haven’t seen in a AAA title in ages. How dare you hide your identity online, right?
While I loved Dark Souls, I would groan each time I was invaded by other players. I was just so enthralled by that fantasy world, I hated it whenever the illusion was shattered by gamertags like “EffUrMama69.” Watch Dogs’ world isn’t so fragile. The invasions (and opportunities to invade other players) are a lot more fun. I can’t believe I’m going to say it, but the 1v1 invasions in Watch Dogs have, so far, been more fun for me than the massively multiplayer free-roam in GTA Online.
I can say, for thirty-seven bucks, I’m having a blast. It’s a fun game not to be taken too seriously. It’s too bad the main character does. Oh, how I miss Trent.
Last night I went to see Godzilla at the drive-in during a thunderstorm. Whereas my limited understanding of the radar view on my phone’s weather app led me to believe the storm would pass in “ten minutes, tops,” it stuck around for half of the movie. Here’s what it looked like:
Nonetheless, I loved it. Some of you may remember I loved Pacific Rim, too, but comparing the two films is kind of pointless. That won’t stop me from doing it anyway: Pacific Rim was a good movie about giant monsters. The new Godzilla is a good movie about people. Hell, for a summer blockbuster it’s fucking Shakespeare. Now, Pacific Rim gets extra credit for including a multicultural cast and not destroying New York for the umpteenth time (I think The Avengers set the bar far too high in that regard), but Godzilla 2014 takes everything the 1998 film did and does the exact opposite.
One of the reasons I often love big movies is they can design drama around something we’ve never seen before. The reason I hate big movies is they often squander the opportunity to take us somewhere new. In Godzilla there’s a very intense, very emotional scene in the opening act. Bryan Cranston’s character oversees a nuclear power plant in Japan that’s been experiencing tremors too patterned to be attributed to earthquakes. He sends his wife (Juliette Binoche, further setting this film apart from traditional summer blockbusters) and a team of scientists into the core of the plant to investigate. I was wondering why people who work in such a large facility don’t have golf carts or, at the very least, bicycles, but hey, when a movie hits this hard so soon and so well you find yourself suspending your disbelief almost immediately.
Without giving too much away, the plant eventually collapses on the horizon as their son watches from his classroom. Fifteen years later, the entire city is quarantined much like Chernobyl. The boy is now an explosives expert for the Navy played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. He’s married to Elizabeth Olsen who, like so many love interests in films like this, is a nurse. Well, not everything can be completely original. I would say that cliche is more sigh-worthy than a full-on groan, so we’ll let it slide. The fact is, cliche or not, this is some solid acting here. When Cranston’s son finds out his father was arrested—yet again—for trespassing into the restricted zone, the son travels back to Japan.
At this point I’ve probably said too much. The trailers don’t necessarily give the best parts away, but they do rob you of the magic of seeing Godzilla for the first time. We barely see the monster at all for an hour or so and I don’t mean the director is purposely holding back in the Jaws sense—Godzilla is barely even in the movie’s first half. (That’s not to say there aren’t direct nods to Jaws and it makes me wonder how much of old Godzilla’s influence was in Jaws in the first place.) Casual moviegoers may feel cheated by that fact, but it goes a long ways towards sustaining suspense and I can’t say I was ever bored. If anything, the trailers make you think you’re in for a disaster movie starring Bryan Cranston. You’re not. If you go into it expecting that you’re likely to be disappointed.
The fact of the matter is this isn’t Godzilla terrorizing cities. This is completely different monsters terrorizing cities. Hell, it’s more like monsters being unable to coexist with humans than “Watch out for that scary monster!” There’s a scene where fighter jets begin falling out of the cloudy sky for reasons that aren’t entirely apparent at first. That absolutely excited/terrified the hell out of me. And that’s why I go to see movies like this: to see things as utterly insane as that. It’s the kind of bone-chilling stuff that made our species gather around fires in the first place.
Great movie? You betcha. Go see it. Take the kids. I’m so glad that kids are getting imaginative monster movies again. The stuff certainly worked wonders on my imagination as a child.
Despite having an unusually large collection of 2600, I know just about nothing about hacking outside of what I’ve learned in William Gibson novels and, let’s face it, that stuff doesn’t work in real life. Well, maybe I know more about it than the average person, but considerably less than anyone who actually does it. I loved Uplink, but the game is beginning to show its age. Enter Codelink v2, a 100% free hacking game that kept me up at least an hour longer than I planned last night. I haven’t tried it yet, but apparently there’s PVP hacking as well.
I can give you an idea of what kind of game Wolfenstein: The New Order is in a few words: dual-wielded sniper rifles. Seriously. Now you might expect that to be a bad thing, but it isn’t. Silly, yes. Bad, no.
I’ve been a DOOM-head since the early nineties. I’ve played every Quake and Wolfenstein game that exists. Although I enjoyed DOOM 3 tremendously as a stand-alone title, it was still a disappointment when compared to its predecessors. And only the blindest of fans would claim Duke Nukem Forever was a great game. At the least, The New Order is the throwback game I wanted from DNF. At the most, it’s one of the best shooters in years.
Do you know what it reminded me of the most in terms of exhilaration? Bioshock Infinite. That’s how good it is. Hell, it’s easily the year’s best AAA title so far.
With a few tweaks, The New Order could be Inglourious Basterds: The Video Game. You play William B.J. Blazkowicz whose favorite pastime is killing Nazis. The game opens in 1946 and the first thirty minutes of the game aren’t very impressive. It feels like Return to Castle Wolfenstein Lite, to be honest. Then, after a laboratory explosion leaves a chunk of shrapnel in B.J.’s skull, the character spends the next fourteen years comatose in a mental hospital. He wakes up just in time to slay the Nazis who have orders to shut the hospital down. In this version of 1960, the Nazis have won the war. The Americans surrendered after the bomb was dropped on New York. Famous songs of the 60s now have Nazi counterparts (see above video for House of the Rising Sun).
Severely culture-shocked, B.J. interrogates a Nazi commander with a chainsaw in order to find out where the members of the resistance are being held. Naturally, he breaks them out and finds himself battling the baddies all over the world… and the moon. Yes. The moon.
Now, I wouldn’t say these are brilliantly written characters, but for a (former) id title, it’s got character in spades. B.J. is a surprisingly sympathetic killing machine and his love interest—the woman who took care of him while he was in a coma all those years—is quite believably rendered both in appearance and voice. Having played Rage, I’m completely surprised by how real these characters seem in id Tech 5, even if they are presented as little more than caricatures. I liked these characters. They weren’t just excuses to further the Nazi-slaughtering action. I have a feeling the writers fleshed these characters out a lot more behind the scenes because, while they appear simple, they don’t feel simple.
Take, for instance, the paraplegic Caroline Becker. When she and B.J. are reunited in 1960, they take turns listing their injuries and injustices in an attempt to one-up the other. The pissing contest is concluded with a hug, at which point Caroline says, “Good to see you, William.” For all the people complaining the game is short on character, I think they’re missing the point. That’s not what the game wants to be—it’s the equivalent of complaining about the character development in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. As for what the game wants to be, it rises well above the call of duty.
Which isn’t to say the game is flawless. You’ve no doubt heard a lot of reports the game isn’t as linear as the demo which journalists first saw a year or two ago. These reports are misleading. You’re constantly told what to do in great detail by another character(“B.J.! Get up to that ventilation shaft and try to ambush the bastards!” etc.). On top of that there’s almost always a little beacon pointing you towards an easy-to-miss objective. I understand younger gamers don’t have the patience for getting stuck the way those of us older gamers do, but I do miss not having my hand held through each and every turn. Even so, there are a lot more secrets and hidden power-ups than any other game in recent memory. Completists certainly have their work cut out for ’em.
As for the multiplayer? There isn’t any. I can’t say I had a lot of fun with DOOM 3’s multiplayer and what they tacked onto Rage wasn’t even worth the bandwidth. I can’t say I expected an id title to lack multiplayer, but I’m not missing it. They focused on what really counts: a kick-ass game with very little fat.
What makes the game really special is the way it feels, something that doesn’t translate well to trailers and Twitch streams. You’ve got to play it yourself to truly appreciate it. And whereas there are so many games I don’t even play to the end, I have a feeling I’ll start this one a second time. Maybe that’s the DOOM-head talking, but I have the feeling a lot of id-virgins will feel the same. This certainly ain’t Call of Duty and I can only hope “The New Order” refers to a new trend in first person video games.
The first draft of my novel has been done for a while now, but I’m currently working on a reader draft for early criticism. I figure it couldn’t hurt to post my query letter, so click the tab above (The Enclave) or just click here to get some more info.
This project has consumed the majority of my time (not to mention daydreaming) for the last two years and then some. It’s been hard not to talk about it until now, but talking about something before the first draft done is the equivalent of public masturbation. That and it’s a surefire way to lose interest.
Again, here’s the link. You’ll find some more concept sketches and an early draft of the query I plan to submit. There’s also an excerpt from the very first chapter.