Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prince of Persia - Movie Review

Score: 7/10 
Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time
Studio: Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Distributor:  Walt Disney Pictures

Release Date: May 28, 2010

Jake Gyllenhaal -Dastan/The Prince
Gemma Arterton - Princess Tamina
Ben Kingsley - Nizam

Pros: Great action sequences utilizing some impressive parkour inspired by the game, Banter between Arterton and Gyllenhaal is much like the game and equally enjoyable, Gyllenhaal stays pretty true to the role and makes a great PoP, The rewind effect proves entertaining, Ostriches!

Cons: Dialogue chock full of cliche' lines, One too many staring contests between Arterton and Gyllenhaal, Story that is quite predictable, ending that left a little to be desired

When it comes to video game movies, I remain unimpressed. After the slew of recent titles that lead only to disappointment, it's hard to consider a movie based on a video game to be one of anyone's "must see/must own" list. The movie either relies too heavily on the game material, or is just a cluster of terrible that went far from the original game entirely *cough* House of the Dead (2003) *cough*. Either way, capturing what makes a game fun and transferring that into a two hour movie is a challenge in itself. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a step in the right direction for movies that are based off video games. The movie took some of what made the game great, while throwing its own material into the mix.

The movie opens with Prince Dastan getting adopted into a royal family and sacking a holy kingdom with his brothers under the impression that they are making weapons for their enemies. He eventually bumps into a guy carrying the dagger, gets framed for murder of the king, and must prove his innocence while stopping the plan to use the dagger to unleash an apocalypse. While the story remains pretty predictable as to what will happen, they at least attempted at shaping one on their own. I can't imagine a two hour movie with just three characters and a bunch of sand monsters (via PoP:SoT game plot) providing a lot to keep you awake as you yell at the screen that he should lower the bridge with the lever before climbing the stairs first. It's a meh plot riddled with the typical "This is your destiny" lines, but it's tolerable and enough to hold your attention.

Gyllenhaal fulfills the role of the prince, contributing the sarcastic wit and nonchalant attitude we knew from the game. Arterton and Gyllenhaal provide plenty of back and forth through the movie, and fill the roles that the Prince and Farah established in the game quite nicely. It was that continual flirty relationship established in the game that helped the player form a liking to them, and it is nice to see that it remains present in the movie as well. If they would just stop staring at each other while the dramatic music plays over and over, it would have been much nicer. I lost count of how many times this occurred about halfway through, and started trying to see who blinked first. Kingsley makes a pretty decent baddy per his usual role, but it was Alfred Molina (Doc Oc from Spiderman 2) that provided a nice unexpected addition to the film. His comedic performance and witty retorts as a desert sheik gave the movie a nice boost. Plus, he races Ostriches, which was oddly very funny to watch.

The high point of the film was the action sequences. The fights used many parkour elements that may seem familiar to fans of any Ubisoft title. There are plenty of action sequences adorned with wall runs, post hopping, and any other platforming element you remember from the games. It was almost a textbook page from any Assassin's Creed or PoP fight, and provided something that both the audience and gamers could enjoy. Couple this with the spiffy sand rewind effect, which gave you an outer body experience as you watch events rewind, and you have some nice visuals to behold.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is one of the higher ups among movies based off of video games. Although nothing extraordinary, it does pave the way for future gaming movies, giving a nice flicker of hope that the transition from game to movie is quite possible. All in all, it's a decent action flick that does not rely too heavily on the game. Besides that I can finally say there is a video game movie out there that is not too bad. Take note Uwe Boll.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Google's Pac-Man Took 4.8 Million Hours from Working

It was just another day using a search engine until we realized it was so much more, an interactive Pac-Man game to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the legendary game. Many of you got sidetracked, but how much time was sucked out of productive work?

RescueTime, makers of productivity tracking and optimization software, looked at the average time that its users spent on Google's pages on Friday, noticing normally they spend 11 seconds on a Google page, but on Friday they spent 45. Basing off those results for the users online they found this:
• 4,819,352 hours of time lost. This is above the 33.6 million man hours of attention Google gets on a regular day.
• More than $120 million in lost productivity, assuming the cost of the average Google user is $25 an hour (that's pay plus benefits.)
• I like this quote the best: "For that same cost, you could hire all 19,835 google employees, from Larry and Sergey down to their janitors, and get 6 weeks of their time."

So how long did you play Pac-Man on Friday?

Kotaku Source: Google's Pac-Man Sapped 4.8 Million Hours of Productivity

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Red Dead Redemption - Review

Score 9.5/10

Red Dead Redemption
Xbox 360/PS3
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: May 18, 2010

Pros: Huge world to explore, presentation is flawless in making you feel like you are in a Western movie, Slew of weapons and outfits, satisfying side missions that are worth investing time into, easy to pick up and play while hard to put down

Cons: Lift the heavy veil of presentation and underneath lies GTA, Occasional bugs and AI troubles, controls and cover system can be clunky in tight spaces

Ah, the old West. A simpler time, where if someone was on your land you could simply shoot them instead of calling the cops. Rockstar games took this phrase literally, and the result is an open world Western simply named Red Dead Redemption. The formula of GTA combined with elements of the old west not only produce an incredibly fun open world sandbox, but perhaps the best Western game of all time.


You play the role of John Marston, an outlaw that once ran with the wrong kind of people. He arrives at the American frontier with a single mission, to pursue an old member of his gang. The story unfolds and more of Marston's past is revealed as you play through the game, encountering a delightful cast of colorful characters. The voice acting proves top notch, with movie quality cinematic sequences and entertaining exchanges with the local townsfolk. Characters range from humble farm wives to sadistic grave robbers, each promising to scratch your back if you scratch theirs. The story proves interesting enough to keep your attention without discouraging exploration, and the character of Marston is a joy to play.

This is a game that feels like it is actually alive, even after you turn off the console you still feel like the world did not stop at all. It has the same appeal that GTA had in an open world where you never really know what awaits you around the corner. Bars are teeming with life as rag-time piano music blares over the talking patrons. You continually get flagged down by pedestrians, some begging for help and others looking to take advantage of your kindness. A twang of a banjo accompanies your ride into the sunset over the desert. The setting truly feels like you are just some guy in a world where much more is going on than you can control.

Visually, the game is stunning. Dusty roads that kick up as you ride along them, character models that move and act realistically, and a sunset that is always a joy to behold. The time of day really plays a large part in the visuals, influencing some jaw dropping shadows and lighting effects. Even at night, the sky is littered with stars, swaying you to ride to your destination yourself in place of the quick-travel option.


The game works much like you would expect, you have set destination points to carry out the main mission, or you can simply skip the primary goal and explore the world. The missions prove enjoyable, each one throwing in a new element or weapon for you to play around with to mix things up. These go from simply missions of attacking a bandit hideout, to chases through canyons, all the way to escorting a moving train and taking out anyone who gets close enough. The variety in the missions keeps things interesting, and continually has you guessing as to what could be next. You end up doing everything you want to do in a Western game, from dueling to jumping on a moving train.

Gunplay works much like a typical third person shooter. You get to cover, your poke your head out and use the trigger to snap to an enemy, shoot, rinse and repeat. Dead Aim mode makes this more interesting in providing slow-mo targeting that automatically locks on to key points of a target as you sweep your reticle over them. Releasing the trigger always provides a satisfying finisher as John lays waste to anything marked in a hail of bullet fire. They are pretty lenient in the amount the gauge fills up, encouraging you to use it often.

The true high point of the game lies in the open world you have at your disposal. There are a slew of minigames to play to take a break from the missions. Horseshoes, Liar's Dice, and Texas Hold 'Em are just a couple of the small minigames that entertain you. You can take up a night patrol, keeping watch for coyotes or bandits. You can get drunk in the local saloon and start a fight at the bar. The variety of options to pursue in this daunting world is immense. This allows the player to shape the world their own way, becoming an outlaw or home town hero. Much like other morality element in games, this influences how a town will react when you stroll in, closing their doors in fear or welcoming you with open arms.

When you tire of shooting bots alone, the multiplayer proves equally entertaining. You are dropped into a lobby...or..well...the world. The open world acts as a lobby, allowing you to designate a point to meet up with whoever else is in the lobby. You can then form a possee, and explore the world together, hunting or causing mayhem. Certain areas act as maps for deathmatch or objective type games. You can quickly hop into these without having to ride to them if you feel obligated to jump in. With free co-op missions soon to come, the multiplayer acts as a way to play with friends without losing that open-world feeling you get from the single player. The main problem lies in both latency and general online communities. Since launch most servers have been laggy and a few session have kicked me to an immortal loading scene. This can be patched later on, but the terrible online will of another player cannot. Be warned, dropping into a game of free roam, 90% of the players will kill you for fun. Grab some buddies for a private match for a better experience.

The game is not without flaws. There are, of course, continual bugs you may encounter. Sometimes the guy you are meant to follow will run the complete opposite direction as he is suppose to, othertimes people walk away as you are talking to them, or you turn in a bounty and have Sheriff's shoot you for funsies. They are sparse, but enough to make you scratch your head. The cover system takes getting used to, as I found myself continually snapping to walls at inopportune times or being shot even when clearly in cover. While not a bad thing, the formula for the game is basically GTA. You go to the big letters to start missions, there are designated places to save your game and rest at, the combat is practically identical; you get the idea. While this in no way makes it bad, it does leave the question of the potential Game of the Year title. This element could actually hold it back, as they really did not stray far from the established formula to try something new in general gameplay.


Rockstar somehow manages to do it again, despite the repeat formula. The new setting and obvious Western movie influence keeps the gameplay mechanics alive, while making a game that is incredibly fun to pick up and play and hard to put down. After several shootouts and dozen of games of poker, it is evident that Rockstar did their homework in bringing the Western civilization to the gamer at home. This is not just a great Western game, but the best one I have played in a very long time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Final Boss

The high point of any game, the culmination of all your hard work, the final test in your abilities....the final boss battle. The ultimate fate of every game will typically include this entity, one last battle to decide the fate of the world. We all have our favorite final boss battles, the one that stood out among the years of gaming. So what elements combine together to make the final boss such an event to remember?

  • Anything but Ordinary
    • Glados - (Portal)
    • Sixteenth Colossus - (Shadow of the Colossus)

Too many final boss fights take the typical approach of tacking on a health bar, maybe a form change, and fighting it out until their health is depleted. This tactic works fine most of the time if compensated accordingly, but there are the occasional final bosses that add on another element to make it a cut above the competition. In particular, the Glados fight in Portal provided one of the most hilarious boss battles ever encountered. Not only did it take more of a puzzle approach then a straight fight, but Glados spouted the best lines of dialogue ever uttered by a video game villain. A simple exchange of dialogue was all that was needed to make this a fight to remember.
  • It's Not Over till it's Over
    • Andross - (Star Fox 64)
    • Mother Brain - (Super Metroid)

Defeating a final boss is usually not enough, and some of the more memorable ones involved a daring escape. Much like the Predator, these guys do not simply lay down and die, but go out with a bang. The daring escape always made the fight even more enjoyable, and no game proves this better than Star Fox 64. Andross decides to finish himself with Fox, but a spirit from beyond guides you out of the fire. With a wall of fire closing in on you and the slight chance of taking a wrong turn, the player remains on the edge of their seat to escape the blazing inferno.
    • A Funky Groove to Kill to
      • Safer Sephiroth - 'One Winged Angel Theme' (Final Fantasy VII
      • King K Rool - 'King K. Rool Theme' (Donkey Kong Country)

      A boss must have his own music, a track not previously heard in the game. Just throwing in a typical beat will not cut it, this track must be incredible in its own right. A prime example of such a track is the One Winged Angel boss them from Final Fantasy VII. The introduction alone matched that feeling the player had of setting their eyes upon a giant and powerful entity beyond anything they have seen before. The rest of the song fueled the fight, with blaring segments and a full on orchestra driving every hit forward. The fight was a prime example of how something as small as the music that was chosen can impact the overall feel of a fight.

      •  It's Just You and Me....
        • Vergil - (Devil May Cry 3)
        • Final battle with Ganondorf - (Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)

        Nothing beats the classic one on one face off. In a generation where co-op reigns king and bosses transform into something 20 feet tall, those moments when you finally get to go toe-to-toe in a fair battle prove most memorable. No AI party member assistance, no outside interference from minions, just the antagonist and protagonist facing off for the fate of the world. One fight that showcased this was the final duel between Vergil and Dante in Devil May Cry 3. The entire game built up to this one moment and instead of Vergil summoning some giant monster or drinking some elixir that made him above what he already was capable of, the fight was practically on level ground. He had a Devil Trigger, you had a Devil Trigger; he had a sword, you had a sword; he was super fast, you were...well....kinda slower. In any case, the fight was just how it should have been, a duel to the death with no outside interference.

        • When a Good Plan Comes Together
          • Ganon - (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
          • Bowser - (Super Mario 64) 

        A truly great final boss is one utilizing both presentation and a satisfying battle to end the game. Combining most of the elements above is all key in delivering some of the more memorable final boss battles. When asked which boss remains with gamers to this day, the response typically heard is the final battle with Ganon from The Legend of Zelda: OoT. After defeating Ganondorf in his castle, rescuing Zelda, and escaping a collapsing kingdom all seemed to be over. Just when all was expected to be finished, Ganondorf burst forth from the rubble, and transformed into one of the most intimidating bosses ever encountered, Ganon. With lightning raging in the background, you were surrounded by a wall of fire without your trusty Master Sword. It set the stage for a movie-quality fight between good and evil for the last time. Dodging huge blows, rolling under Ganon to get behind him and attack his tail, and landing one of the most satisfying finishing blows all made this a fight to remember.

        This blog is not necessarily listing the best final boss battles of all time, but simply what made most of them great. So now it's your turn: What is your favorite final boss battle in gaming history, and what made it stick with you to this day?

          Monday, May 3, 2010

          May Releases

           Lost Planet 2 (May 11) - Xbox 360, PS3, PC

          A sequel that promises giant bosses, four player co-op, and a vast array of weaponry. You go from shooting the outside of a 10 story salamander one minute, to jumping inside him to pump bullets directly into his heart. As far as scale goes, it seems like an impressive title you may want to check out.

          Red Dead Redemption (May 18) - Xbox 360, PS3

          The developers of GTA bring you another GTA...but western. Instead of stealing cars and running over hookers, you are getting into bar fights and having old western shoot outs. The game looks incredibly promising, with the open world feel and a slew of missions and classic western fun.

          Alan Wake (May 18) - Xbox 360

          A psychological thriller set in the Northwest. Looks much like Silent Hill, but more focused on combat. This survival horror looks to promise plenty of scares. The enemies, called "the Taken" in the game, are sensitive to light, encouraging the player to take advantage of environmental light sources and placing significant emphasis on the flashlight as a primary weapon.

          Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (May 18) - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC

          Ditching the cell shaded look of the last installment, Prince of Persia returns to bring more time-stopping and platforming parkour. Taking place in the seven year time between Sands of Time and Warrior Within, you once again play as the prince. Promising sword battles with at least 50 dudes at one time, this a game you may want to check out.

          Super Mario Galaxy 2 (May 23) - Wii

          The sequel to the Wii hit, letting you once again take control of Mario as you jump, fly, and...produce clouds through the galaxies. This time around Yoshi will make an appearance, and a more difficult and complex set of platforming has been promised in hindsight of the relative ease of the first. Expect new suits, new challenges, and the same classic fun the first game offered.