Friday, 23 March 2018

Assassinating a movie

Game movies: Assassin's Creed (2016)


I don't normally review movies on my blog, or mention them much, even though I love watching many of them. But I thought to give it an exception as I have recently got around to watching the Assassin's Creed movie. The one from 2016 with Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons in the lead roles. I never got around to seeing it in the theatres and finally picked it up very reasonably on Blu-ray.

Not that I feel the genre of making movies out of famous videogames is a very successful one, I really only recall the Silent Hill movie from 2006 as being the most decent one and a good conversion from gaming to silver screen. The Tomb Raider ones with Angelina Jolie weren't too bad, but suffered from fairly generic stories. After watching the trailer and seeing what seemed like a fairly high budget, I had a slight hope for Assassin's Creed to be at least quite decent. Sadly though, it falls into a mediocre and forgettable affair.



There's nothing really wrong with the production of the movie, lets get that out of the way first; It's well filmed, the fights are well choreographed, the transition from modern surroundings to ancient ones are done well. In general, the whole production value seems to be at a high level, so technically there's nothing here to point out in a bad light. The storyline and the presentation of the main character is what pulls AC down.

We alle know that the AC games have a modern storyline, which explains the need to go back into ancient times to solve puzzles and mysteries. In a strange change of events though, the focus of the movie seems to shift back to giving the modern setting far more screen time than the ancient one. Where as the game series got a lot of criticism for shifting between the modern current era to the ancient times far too often in the first release and changed this by giving the player far great game time in the ancient setting from AC2 and onwards.

This change in focus made you care more about the ancient ancestor than the current main character, but this movie focuses on Michael Fassbenders role as Cal in modern day. Don't get me wrong here though, it's done a far better job than the first game in this part and pulls your interest more into the current time period from the get go. However, this gives the viewer little incentive to care about what's happening in the 1492 setting of medieval Spain. It's just a backdrop which annoyingly interrupts the plot with fancy action and parkour skills. The fighting is well choreographed with lots of cool moves and fights, but it just feels so uninteresting and bland to watch. The ancient Spain looks grey, brown and dull, far too computer animated for my liking. There's nothing you wish to care about there and the movie certainly doesn't want you to care about it either.

With it's obvious plotline and stereotypical ending, Assassin's Creed sadly turns into a very mediocre affair from there on. The modern setting opts simply for some extremely obvious plot twists and ends up following a route that seems like a boring safe one with predictable outcomes.

The AC movie could have been so much more considering the game series leaves a lot of room for tons of ideas and settings. None of which I feel are very utilised here. It feels like the people behind this movie kinda just played the first game and then really didn't bother to study anything else. The movie will leave AC fans disappointed and for non-gamers it will just seem like a generic movie with a sort of time travel twist.

Skip this one, just doesn't add anything to the AC franchise at all.

Rating


★★

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

BioSpace?!

Prey



Platform tested: Xbox One
Released: 2017

Review: The original Prey, that came out in 2006, was a game that had been in considerable development time, it was positively reviewed but didn't quite make an impact. This new version is a re-imagining of the Prey premise, and not a sequel. it's heavily inspired by System Shock, which again Bioshock was inspired by. Although Prey is set on a space station it has a clear artistic inspiration from Bioshock and plays very much like it. Metroidvania type exploring with new areas unlocked after abilities that make it possible to backtrack and open them.

A great premise for a solid game then? Absolutely. But once again we see Prey failing to capture the interest of large sales numbers, but that only means that you can pick this up for a bargain!




Prey's beginning level sets the tone of the game and instantly throws a plot twist onto the player. It's a neat way to quickly get the premise and setting of the story out of the way, while still retaining a shocking and revealing moment. Set on a seemingly abandoned and huge space station, you quickly realise something has gone terribly wrong. The enemies are quickly introduced; shape shifting and aggressive aliens called the Typhoon. They're part of some experiment going on in the space station. This shape shifting ability gives way for some neat jump scares; suddenly a chair can change into an alien and start attacking.

Gameplay is close to Bioshock too; at first you rely on a wrench(!), then obtain guns and after a while you have the ability to scan and learn more power related attacks from the aliens. These powers work much like magic in a traditional RPG, letting you fire massive energy blows to enemies across the room etc. Combining these attacks are key and of course searching every little drawer and shelf for ammo, food and parts to build new weapons and upgrades. Although you could call out the game at being almost copycatting Bioshock, I personally didn't mind. It's a good game to be inspired by and Prey outdoes it's inspiration with more options and a far deeper gameplay system anyhow.

I loved wandering around the space station, travelling from a main hub to various areas such as laboratories, sleeping quarters, indoor forest areas and offices. There's always a main goal to complete and follow, but alongside there are lots of side stories with individual goals. The artstyle is beautiful too; with a classy retrostyle to the design, often blended over to high tech and modern areas. It's a great sight to behold and the non-gravity outside areas feel intense and lonely, further immersing the player in a beautifully designed world. I really enjoyed soaking in all the atmosphere of the specstation, simply because of the great design that's gone into it.




Prey is a tough game to finish, it's difficulty is much like Bioshocks; unforgiving at times. Prey even more so, there are some areas you encounter such hostile and numerous enemies you wonder if you ever will be able finish the game. But stick with it and you become the master of collecting the right ammunition and using the right abilities to fight through.

My main letdown of the game was perhaps the rather short and should I say "typica" end to the game. I kinda liked it, but it could definitely have been fleshed out with more substance at the end. Like Bioshock though, the story tells itself throughout the game and the more you explore, the more you are rewarded with a deeper layer of knowledge of the story and what has previously gone on at the spacestation. This type of storytelling requires the player to use their imagination and try to get a feeling of the atmosphere. Much like how the diary entries in the old Resident Evil games on PS1 worked.

All in all, a must-buy for fans of Bioshock or lonely space settings. It's a fantastic first person adventure which begs the player to sink into it's fascinating and creepy atmosphere. The difficulty is hard, but rewarding and forces the player to alternate attacks and learn new methods. Exploring is key and definitely a nice change of pace from shooters rushing from A to B.

One of last years top five titles and a warmly recommended game for those seeking a lengthy and well designed world to sink hours into. I found the progression of the story and gameplay well structured, keeping me interested until the very end. Do this commercially sleeper hit a favour and buy it!

Rating

★★★★