Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Nice Guys

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If you haven’t had the opportunity to go to the cinema lately, or you have but you’ve just been disappointed by a plethora of uninteresting movies I severely suggest you make the time to go and see The Nice Guys, directed and co-written by Shane Black, the guy that directed Iron Man 3 and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I think he wrote Lethal Weapon as well, or something. He was definitely involved in it in one way or another.

Shane Black has absolutely no shame in parading around his love for film-noir which I also share. I loved this movie more than most movies I’ve seen in a while and certainly would put it on par, comedy movie wise, with the likes of Deadpool. I might be over selling this a bit, do you ever watch a film and it happens to tick all the boxes of the exact movie you wanted to watch, even if you didn’t know what that was? Well for me that was The Nice Guys, a neo-noir film based in the 70s starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. Russell Crowe looks like he wouldn’t even need the phone from a Hotel to knock the shit out’ve you and Gosling, who still sits in my head as a rom-com guy, has an incredible comic timing. In fact the whole film is just made up of small moments of fabulous comic and dramatic timing.

Gosling plays a private eye who is so lazy that he is only one step up from a grifter, Russell Crowe plays an aggressive man who punches people for money, like The Punisher but less violent and more fiscally motivated. As it is Film Noir there is a dame/broad that has gone and got herself killed, there are a handful of storylines going on at once and they all meet up beautifully and yet messily throughout the movie. It’s stylish, faithful to the genre in my opinion and the best thing Shane Black has done by far. I’m not sure about you but I know a lot of people who wouldn’t go and see this movie because of

a) Ryan Gosling
b) Russell Crowe
c) Film Noir

but try and talk everyone out’ve their prejudices and take them to the cinema. Do yourself a massive favour and go and watch it immediately on my recommendation and avoid all trailers, the comic and dramatic timing can be somewhat ruined by a trailer designed to tickle your interest gland and this film deserves a blind viewing.

It feels like it could inspire a resurgence in great neo-noir and could be a great introduction for people who aren’t ware of it as a genre, and for everyone who is really into it there has been a tie-in book released on the Hard Case Crime label that is worth diving into for the rest of your life. In lots of respects it is to Film Noir what The Kingsman was to Spy movies, except you can tell there is a lot more respect for the genre with The Nice Guys and I think everyone you know will love it.

Dark Souls III – Review

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by Jordan Murphy

Dark Souls III

The Lords of Cinder have left their thrones meaning that it is up to you, the undead warrior, to link the first flame and keep it burning, by hunting them down. Or you could plunge the whole place into darkness depending on which way you swing.

To delve into and explain the story of Dark Souls 3 is a much larger task. There are fans who have dedicated their time to doing it and doing it well so I recommend the Youtube channels of VaatiVidya and EpicNameBro. I’m also waiting for the day that the story and lore of Dark Souls 3 becomes a college course on its own.

Coming after Bloodborne, it was always going to be interesting to see what influence, if any, that game would have on the next instalment of this popular, yet punishing series. The art direction is the first noticeable influence as early on we encounter architecture similar to that of Hemlock Charnel Lane along with pitchfork wielding enemies not so unlike the villagers of Yharnam. The detail can be incredible and everything looks fantastic, while remaining intimidating. Gone however is blood drenched, gothic stylings and claustrophobic alley ways as we explore towering, ruined old castles, courtyards with patrolling knights and yes, in good old Dark Souls tradition, a fire spewing dragon. Now we are home and now we are ready. With our shields up we begin clumsily running past enemies we are too scared to fight, rolling out of the way of incoming archer fire and no doubt falling off of roof tops to our inevitable death.

Stepping back a little before all of that the game also introduces us to the controls of the game before throwing us up against the game’s first boss in the form of Iudex Gundyr. Removing a sword from his chest, the giant knight in armour starts whirling his lance/spear with devastating fury. Half way through this fight, and of course the many others that lie ahead, we again see in the influence of Bloodborne. His form changes as a venom/symbiote like snake creature takes over and expands his attack range asking the player to rethink their strategy. The multi-stage boss fight is a great way to switch things up and prevent them from becoming predictable and tiring (not that the boss fights in Dark Souls games ever have been). Not only are the individual fights more varied than before, but the bosses themselves have a greater range than the often complained about “another large knight in armour with massive weapon” encounters that were too frequent in Dark Souls 2. Boss fights in this series are often the most talked about aspect and provide markers throughout the game as to how you’re progressing through the game, how skilful you’ve become and how strong your character is. The journey between each encounter will equally leave you gripping your joypad wondering what you will come up against next. Other warriors, undead villagers, giant enemy crabs, the returning black and silver knights are just a few examples of the enemies that will hunt you down and force you see the words “You Died” on your screen over and over again.

Everything from combat to movement feels slicker, faster and more impactful. A new Focus Point/Mana bar gives a new tier of attacks depending on your weapon. This bar also limits the amount of time you can use spells forcing you to rebalance your Estus flasks between healing and mana replenishment. There’s a little more management involved depending on the type of character you’re building. I’ve been favouring dexterity/mage builds in order to attack fast and more frequently while being able to damage enemies from range with fire and sorcery. Timing is everything. Enemies can be relentless in their attacks and casting a spell or trying to take a swig of Estus to replenish your health at the right time will often be the difference between surviving or dying.

With every death lies learning. Death teaches you to be patient as always. Learn the enemy patterns, as frantic as they are. Look for the windows of opportunity to strike and upon releasing you can’t do enough damage… quickly run away and rethink the whole damn plan. I’ve found myself skipping a lot of enemies on first encounters because I was just not strong enough or skilled enough to fight them. Its all part of learning and exploration that is the real heart of Dark Souls in my eyes. The surprise, the unexpectedness, the exploration with no information of what lies ahead. This game nails it perfectly. From NPC side-quests to the optional areas and boss fights, there is a lot to miss in this game if you follow a straight line and don’t look around. This is the reason I have already started the game three times because I missed so much. Even on my third character, I ruined another character’s side quest that I had no idea about! Why did I give the Tomes to Karina of Carim? Why did I spells from her? How was I to know?

Going back over old ground in this game opens up other surprises. You jaunt through the earlier areas of the game with more purpose and confidence than before. You lose less souls because of an avoidable death before you recovered your previously dropped souls. The boss fights that once sent fear coursing through you are now an inconvenience. Your reason for adventure is different as you explore an NPCs side quest from start to finish. Dark Souls 3 is a game, like its predecessors, that keeps you coming back and it never gets old. The familiar sounds and locations, the safe haven of a bonfire up ahead and I haven’t even mentioned the music in this game. Grand, operatic themes that make the bosses more frightening and the encounters more strenuous. This game obviously looks better as it was built for the current generation, but everything else is better too. It is punishing and perhaps more so than any of the previous games (don’t get me started on Pontiff Sulyvahn), but you knew that before even starting and it’s part of the reason you picked this game up.

The community aspect of the From Software games is something I’ve never delved into so I can’t comment on that. With a larger range of invading/helper summoning signs able to be placed however, it seems that there may be more ways for other players to ruin your day. When you see a sign that tells you to jump though, be wary of liar.

DiRT Rally – Review

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by Stacey Ewart

DiRT Rally
AMATEURS, BEWARE.

I am not really all that good at any sort of racing game (except Diddy Kong Racing; I kick ass at Diddy Kong Racing. DiRT Rally has, shamefully, no option for hovercraft), so excuse me while I write this review with thinly failed contempt at how useless this has made me feel.
DiRT Rally was announced a year ago, and slid onto Windows in December, before making it to Xbox One and PS4 at the start of April. While it has not exactly been long awaited, die hard fans of Codemasters’ last rally game offering (Dirt: Showdown, 2012) have been clamouring for the bloody thing.

First up, there seems to be an awful lot of questions before they’ll let you play anything. They asked for my nationality, which I thought was a bit intrusive, but it turns out it’s just for the little flag that goes beside your name in the career rankings. So, don’t pay too much attention to that, let your imagination go wild. Briefly become Jamaican, follow your dreams.
The menus are not easy to navigate, but I was able to launch myself right into career mode, because it seemed like the most logical place to start. The initial choice of vehicle is extremely weak; the cars are arranged by decade, so you start in the sixties and gradually ‘earn’ more modern cars. I don’t know anything about cars, so I picked the cheapest one, secure in the knowledge that it would make absolutely no difference, because I am rubbish at this. It seems weird that you earn cars in chronological order, I mean, I know next to nothing about cars (mine is blue!), but I was under the impression that classic cars are, in fact, more expensive than something churned out in 2005.
Am I wrong? And is this review making my gender far too apparent?

The game itself is, admittedly, beautiful. The landscapes are lush and detailed, and there is a realism to the backgrounds and the cars themselves that draws the player in. Everything moves the way it is supposed to – cars skid on dry ground, dirt flies up in stunning, lung-destroying clouds, branches snap as you inevitably roll into a ravine. Each track looks very much like it is in the country that it says is in, which again, feeds into the realistic tone that is the highlight of the game; the point of rally racing (according to Google), so the rough terrain and that it generally takes place on public roads, so it makes sense that so much effort would be put into making this the focus of the game. When making a rally simulator, it makes sense that it would simulate rally driving, no?

The actual gameplay is tricky to master; it took a good ten races before I was able to move the car in the right direction for more than ten metres. The co-driver directions are good, if you understand what’s happening. The game itself is harsh – the time penalties for losing control of your car are downright mean (and it happens, a lot), the cars overheat and blow tyres…finishing a race at all is a test of your mental endurance. If you’re looking for a challenge, awesome, here it is.
Although, you do get an achievement for rolling your car, so that’s nice. It took all my willpower not to use the phrase ‘rally quite nice’ just now.

Anyway…
If you are a fan of the whole genre, I’m sure that this is some hell of a rally game. It’s challenging, great to look at and there’s a lot of things you can play about with (cars, engineering, leagues, online options; none of which I even attempted to nibble at). It’s a fan pleaser, that’s for sure. On the other hand, if this is your first crack at a rally game, you are going to be screaming obscenities at your television and enjoying the immaculate physics of car rolling much more than admiring the stunningly generated glory of nature that surrounds you.