Posts Tagged ‘3D’

Often I may be commenting on games, films, music or books that are somewhat outdated but somehow I have managed to miss. Hence ‘From the Vaults’… Onward!

Developer: Chair Entertainment, Epic Games

Producer: Microsoft Game Studios

Platforms: Xbox Arcade (reviewed), PC

Price: 1200 points (purchased for 600 during sale)

As Muse so eloquently put it, “Our time is running out”, and boy they weren’t wrong! As the years roll by it seems harder and harder to devote any real time to gaming. Jobs, relationships, doing your own washing, it all ensures that daily there is less and less time to sit down and session one of your favourite games. I remember fondly the days of my youth, sessioning Ocarina of Time after I returned home from school, not a care in the world. Now you’re lucky to squeeze in a few hours after a long day at work, and that’s if you find the energy from somewhere to avoid monging out in front of Dave. What was it Peter Parker used to say? ‘With great age comes great responsibility’, or something like that….

Beyond the diminishing time frame that increases as each year rolls by, the gaming industry itself continually makes it harder to divide your time. Games are released in increasing number, with bounding rapidity on multiple formats. Think about it, how many top quality titles have there been released within the last month and continuing into the next few? Fifa 12, Battlefield 3, Arkham Asylum, Modern Warfare 3. And that’s on top of all the games you have undoubtedly mounted up on your shelves, unfinished or even unopened! As games get more and more replayable, attempting to collect all those bloody achievements or trophies, with the ever-increasing amount of DLC and the days spent levelling up with online multiplayer, is it any wonder that many people immediately avoid the prospect of purchasing arcade or indie titles. There’s just not enough hours in the day!

However, conversely, an unavoidably strict daily schedule is the very reason why arcade titles catch my eye. Despite my fervent desire to complete the single player campaigns of all the games I own, often I find myself struggling to immerse myself in a full title. Instead, it’s much easier to get involved with a game you know is going to have much smaller scope and therefore less play time. This, accompanied by a half-price sale offer, made it impossible not to add an additional game to my collection. In this instance, Epic Games Shadow Complex.

We all know that Epic are predominantly known for their renowned third-person sci-fi shooter series (say that three times in quick succession!), Gears of War. Epic by name, epic by nature. Clearly, they have set themselves an impressive precedent, but can they live up to this with their ongoing releases? Let’s explore….

Jason...... Bourne perhaps?

Importantly, Shadow Complex is entirely different to their Gears of War trilogy. It’s a 2D shooter (well seemingly) in which you play a single character, Jason, who’s primary objective is to rescue his female companion Claire. One day whilst travelling along some kind of nature walk, Claire stumbles upon a hidden subterranean base…. as you do. She is subsequently captured as a spy and imprisoned deep within the base’s walls. That’ll teach her for not using a Natural Trust walkway; textbook error! As the eponymous male hero, your job is of course to locate and rescue the clumsy damsel in distress, not easy with a smorgasbord of minions seeking out new intruder (that’s you!) Yet, soon your mission takes on a much more global significance as Claire’s captors are discovered to be hatching a plan to invade San Francisco. Roll up Jason, the classic hero archetype with a classic hero name (Argonauts/Power Rangers) as he somewhat frivolously decides to take on the whole operation. What a guy, what a guy.

Foam bridge it up!

Despite the game’s name, the plot really is that simple. It is never really explored much beyond this fairly superficial level which, arguably, is a constraint of the game being an arcade title. Alternatively though, when you look at Gears it can be observed that narrative complexity is not really Epic’s forte. The plot is certainly secondary to the gameplay in Gears of War, which is clearly mirrored in Shadow Complex. In this case though it does not appear to leave any lasting damage. The game is so detailed and there is so much to remember in the way of back-tracking that it is beneficial to coast through a very straightforward plot, but more on this later.

The introduction to Shadow Complex is very successful. Where many games supply you solely with an opening FMV explaining what kinda shit is going down (bear in mind this does happen after the introduction here though), SC provides the gamer with a minute-long playable section. Suddenly, the game casts you into the deep-end with no real explanation of the control system or your abilities, leaving you to fend for yourself by spamming away optimistically. Although brief, the player is given a moreish insight into the potential of the games combat system and its interesting 3D perspective.

A note on this; although the game is predominantly a 2D scrolling shooter (there are a few sections where the use of a turret gun enables a first-person perspective), it is accompanied by an impressive 3D background. This interesting perspective initially seems a little odd, perhaps as a result of it feeling a little out of the ordinary. This soon subsides though as the user witnesses how successfully it functions. The background is interactive, with enemies located on multiple planes of vision creating a variety of combative action. The game automatically changes your line of fire so that you are able to effectively shoot enemies in both the back and foreground. These changes are executed timely and accurately, key for maintaining the fluidity of the game.

Fuck, shit, arse, crap. Sorry, I've got turrets.

In essence, the gameplay is extremely similar to the original 2D Metroid series. The protagonist must navigate a vast 2D world, destroying waves of enemies they encounter in each area whilst seeking their updated objectives. Like Metroid, the game is separated into very distinct sections, separated by sporadic save points strategically placed around the map. Initially you begin with a limited armoury and moves list, essentially just jumping, climbing, shooting and melee (allowing for a stealth strategy to be deployed as with many shooters on the market these days… or you can just shoot the shit out of everything in sight!) This simple core gameplay deepens as you progress, obtaining new weapons and abilities that increase the creative potential of combat and exploration; a particular favourite is the Foam Gun, try attaching a grenade to it! Further Metroid influence can be seen in the very deliberate back-tracking element to the game, forcing the player to re-examine areas previously explored with their new weapons or abilities to progress with the main story or to locate the many hidden items dotted around the map. Particular areas are inaccessible until you locate alternative weapons – shining your torch on blockades reveals a specific colour that can be destroyed with varying projectiles (much like Metroid), for example, red sections require missiles – ensuring that game progression is somewhat linear whilst allowing for significant personal exploration.

For this back-tracking element to function effectively it is vital that the game has a detailed but clear map, which it does and is undoubtedly inspired by Metroid. See for yourself:

Shadow Complex - Metroid: Notice much difference? No.

Now, although the map looks vast, perhaps scaring you a little about the explorative element, it also offers some vital help with back-tracking. Doors that require particular unlocks to open them are marked in their specific colours on the map. However, there are numerous vents and windows that can be accessed which are not marked, so better get that memory working! Where’s Dr Kawashima when you need him? Additionally, all hidden items are marked on the map as a question mark whenever the user enters the room in which they are located. This ensures that items are rarely missed, providing a useful guide for all you completionists out there. Although this sounds like it’s too much support, almost cheating, your memory and spatial awareness are still very much engaged as many items are only accessible later in the game, requiring you to remember which ones need which ability, and in what very specific ways.

For a thorough review, it is important to mention replayability, which this game certainly has. With achievements demanding at least a second playthrough, back-tracking to collect every item and three sets of challenge packs, you will certainly play Shadow Complex beyond that initial run. The latter are interesting hologram-style challenges which will aid in you in learning particular techniques that will prove to be vital in your quest; with rankings that can be compared on Live with friends and globally there are competitive layers to this gaming onion.

Melee attacks are usual for keeping covert.

The only criticism I have found of Shadow Complex, and perhaps it’s one that many people would find particularly damaging, is that it is too similar to Metroid to be a simple homage, or influenced by it. With a map that absolutely resembles that of the classic Nintendo title and very similar gameplay and game progression, especially in the method of gaining access to doors, you cannot help but feel that it is somewhat a rip-off. But fuck it, I LOVE METROID! Ok, so it is disappointingly unoriginal. Worse still, there is no way that the developers could have ever got away without the comparison being made and I’m sure they were fully aware of that fact but happily ignored it.  There is such a fine line between being influenced by something and completely stealing the idea, and unfortunately Shadow Complex appears to fall in the second camp. However, it must be said that the inventive change of perspective effectively enhances the gameplay of this title, creating a vital distance between the two franchises. Despite the seemingly shameless gaming theft, Shadow Complex is a bug-free pleasure to play from start to finish and one not to be missed.

So what have we learnt? Despite the torrent of full-release titles due for release towards the end of this year, arcade games cannot and must not be avoided. Sure there is almost certainly a whole heap of awful arcade and indie titles out there, but make sure that you do your research first!

Oh and don’t hike anywhere that isn’t registered by the Natural Trust, you never know who you might meet.

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First of all, to avoid any confusion, this post does not relate to my blogging absence and subsequent return. I would never refer to myself as ‘King’. However, if you would like to do so I shall only blush horribly like a typical suede-headed Irishman and smile contently.

Actually this post refers to the return of animated royalty, the Disney wonder that is The Lion King. Insert generic 90’s childhood whoop of nostalgia here >

Why does this exist? Talk about polishing a turd....

Now, I’ve sat through my fair share of 3D films looking like Buddy Holly’s special brother, and on the whole I have been thoroughly disappointed (an honourable mention must go out to Avatar though). Some of the worst offenders are JackAss 3-D, Spy Kids 3-D and Step Up 3-D. Notice any similarities here? Each of these films complete a trilogy whilst including needless and almost entirely redundant 3D visuals (ok I admit, a flying slo-mo dildo hitting Rock Kosick’s face isn’t something you get to see everyday). Is it possible that the film makers behind these sequels decided to include 3D purely because they are the third films in a series, providing them with a convenient ‘3’ already lodged in the title?! Surely this is not a coincidence…

Clearly 3D is trending in the movie world, and disparagingly this can only ever lead to a market that will soon become horribly saturated with piss-poor quality releases as directors jump on the proverbial bandwagon. After all, there are plenty o’ precedents. Take comic book adaptations. A few years back this all seemed to originate (obviously excluding sporadic adaptations from the past like the original Batman or Superman movies) with the creation of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman, what was at its best a mediocre modern take on a classic comic, praised more for its cast selection than its faithfulness to the original medium.

Homer - Duncan - Bruce

What followed was a torrent of similar titles… Spiderman 2 and 3, X-Men 1, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, Ironman 1 and 2, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Punisher, Catwoman, Hulk, Daredevil, Elektra, Hellboy, Sin City, Watchmen, Alien vs Predator, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Silver Surfer, V for Vendetta, Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon… and the flood continues with planned 2012 releases of The Avengers and the completion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. A worryingly similar process can be seen with the release of CG films, with 2006 and 2008 particularly prolific but offensive years, (check a detailed list here – How many films can you pick from this list that you would classify as masterpieces, or even watchable?), and the absolutely needless, sacrilegious modern sequels to seemingly already completed trilogies, for example, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Live Free or Die Hard, both with worryingly aging protagonists.

Inescapably, 3D is here to stay! This in itself is not an issue if we can avoid all the pap that will inevitably squeeze out of Hollywood’s backside in the next few years. I am all for digital progression and welcome our 3D interactive future, but cannot help but fearing what’s next, especially when the word ‘remake’ is thrown into the mix. This word is perhaps the most fear-inducing of all when used in reference to cinema and unfortunately it’s currently used more often than Channel Dave shows Jeremy Clarkson’s moody, pubey-headed face. With 80’s classic Footloose having just been remade into ANOTHER modern street dance film, we must sit and wait anxiously for possible upcoming remakes of Robocop, Judge Dredd, The Crow and Total Recall. So, when someone combines both a remake of an old classic with 3D visuals one can only dread what evil spawn is to be produced.

BUT! THE LION KING 3D IS AWESOMES!! Phewww. I must say, I was a little worried when I first heard about the prospect of a Lion King remake. My primary concern was what could be gained from it (apart from a substantial amount on money in Walt the younger’s back pocket). What could be achieved by re-releasing this film in 3D? Is anything going to be enhanced by updating the visuals, especially when the original animation was so ground-breaking anyway? Are they going to achieve anything but ruining perhaps one of the most well-loved Disney animations?

Imagine this scene in 3D! Wait, it exists?!

Boy was I wrong! In terms of film selection it could not be better. I cannot think of a single Disney film that would be better suited to 3D (needless to say, a 3D King Louis shaking his hairy monkey arse would bring immeasurable joy) which provided me with noticeable excitement as I entered the darkened cinema. Thinking back to the original film you can immediately envision particularly suitable sections for a 3D update, like the heart-wrenching stampede scene or the beautifully vibrant Simba/Nala escape from Zazu to ‘I just Can’t Wait to be King’. Beyond the obvious though, they have done a fantastic job in taking the original and thoroughly realising it in a 3D world. Where many films fail, The Lion King masterfully rides triumphant, on an ostrich. Often 3D is implemented on such a small scale, on so few and insignificant sections of a film, with such poor post production that it brings nothing to the final release. TLK (cause I’m street like that) includes very affecting 3D elements throughout the film, often providing the audience with a real depth of landscape beyond that which was possible in the original film. Furthermore, it absolutely enhances the energy and movement of the varying species, especially during the opening musical numbers. Pride Rock has never looked so utopian! With nothing of the original being edited, the fantastic cast, songs, narrative and charaterisation remain with a heightened visual impact improving your perfect memories.

D'awwww.

Whilst watching the film I also realised how amazing a voice cast it had (Atkinson, Broderick, Goldberg [NOT the wrestler], Jeremy’s Iron [for you Simpsons fans] and the second oldest son from Home Improvement), something I could not appreciate when I first watched it as my youthful 8 year old self.

My only fear is that now Disney will re-release their entire back-catalogue in 3D…. But until that point you have to go and see it! Your inner child will melt at the magic!

OR: I could have just said  ‘I ❤ Timon’. Either or…