Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Rise and Fall of Splatterhouse

Having recently played through the reboot of Splatterhouse on PS3, it was a pleasant surprise to find the three original Splatterhouse games available to play on the disc. It led me to read up a little on the history of the games and find out how a potentially great IP such as this has re-emerged on modern consoles just to fade back into obscurity again.

First released in 1988, I distinctly remember seeing the original Splatterhouse in the arcades in Japan as a child and being both disturbed and intrigued all at once. A simple side-scrolling horror beat ‘em-up, the macabre subject matter, copious gore and violence lingered in my mind as being a unique game of its time.

You can watch a longplay of the game HERE. (If you don't know what a longplay is, that’s explained HERE.)

Obviously, by today’s standard the gore and violence of the original games are pretty tame – now everything is just amped up to a ridiculous degree as can be seen from this side by side comparison of posters.

The one on the left is the poster for Splatterhouse 2 released in 1992 and the one on the right is a ‘homage’ version of the same poster but for the more recent 2010 game.

After gaining popularity as cult games, the series was revived in 2010 with the new reboot of Splatterhouse released on consoles. Whilst not really groundbreaking, the game managed to successfully translate the gameplay into an ultraviolent 3D action brawler with more blood than I have seen in any game to date.

I particularly like how it is an entirely new game in itself and yet homages the old games with its setting, characters and enemies as well as love for the horror genre in general, with numerous references to H.P Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Re-animator and Evil Dead.

However the game failed to do well commercially due to two factors – firstly an initial moment of trouble during production when the publisher Namco Bandai dropped the original development team BottleRocket and moved all the production internally.

Despite recovering from this and gradually building up the hype again during production, the second killer stroke came when Namco Bandai hit financial difficulties and dropped all support for the game with no advertising, promotion or demo leading up to the games launch. Further on it was revealed that the whole development team had been laid off.
With lacklustre reviews (some say the lack of payoffs to big reviewers contributed to this) and minimal exposure, Splatterhouse spectacularly tanked and with the development team disbanded a sequel or any future addition to this IP is highly unlikely. You can read all about the debacle HERE.

Although not a massive fan of the Splatterhouse games, I love their style and have an admiration for their legacy – and personally (although this would likely never happen given the events that have transpired) would love to see the main character Rick appear as a guest character somewhere along the line in the Soul Calibur or Tekken Series.

One can only dream…

26 Nov 2011

Friday, 18 November 2011

Film Roundup - October

So there was no ‘Film Roundup September – Part 2’ – I lied! Muhahahaha!

Well the lack of recent updates are to blame for this, but also the lack of films watched – but anyway I’ve combined those with last month to bring you… ‘Film Roundup October!' (Insert Fanfare here!)

It’s been a good month as almost all films watched have been exceptionally good and come recommended for you to watch.

First up we have Ironclad, the story of a group of rag-tag men holding off the siege of Rochester Castle from the vengeful King John.

Despite budget limitations, the film excellently portrays brutally gory medieval battle scenes, and boasts an excellent cast - most notably the insane ranting of Paul Giamatti as the King convinced of his divine right over the land (despite having just signed the Magna Carta) and Brian Cox as the grizzled leader Albany.

So if you like your historical epics realistically portrayed with lots of blood, mud and severed limbs, then Ironclad is for you. Oh, and there are lots of Vikings and Mackenzie Crook doing a Legolas too!

You would expect (being a high numbered sequel) that Scream 4 would surely suck some serious ass – but surprisingly in this case you would be wrong. Kevin Williamson is back on board as the script writer, and the deaths are back to good old fashioned no nonsense stabby stabby nastiness that the ghost-faced killer was originally known for.

Once again the film acknowledges its position in the series as well as its place in the modern horror film genre as well but keeps things fresh by boldy stating ‘all bets are off’ – meaning pretty much anything can happen. Anyone can be the killer and anyone can be killed.

This is brilliantly pastiched in the opening film within a film within a film that sets you on edge right from the get go. So despite not reaching the heights of the original Scream (released all the way back in 1996!) Scream 4 is an unexpected worthy entry to the series.

Next up we have Norwegian ‘found footage’ film TrollHunter, which despite the seemingly action packed trailer, takes a good while to actually get going with not much happening during the first half of the film. Many will be put off with the slow pace and having to deal with (God forbid!) subtitles as the story follows a trio of student film makers documenting the exploits of a man who claims to be a secret government sanctioned troll hunter.

If you can persevere through the slow first half then you will be rewarded with troll action in spades as the effective CGI, tense set pieces and deliberately open ending more than make up for it.

Apparently a Hollywood remake is in the works. No surprise there, then.

Trick ‘r Treat is a great Halloween movie because it is one of the only films out there that is actually about Halloween and not just a story that happens to occur on that day. That's one of the great things about it – the love of that holiday season is very evident and comes across very strongly throughout the movie.

Four different stories are presented, sharing characters and criss-crossing timelines (similar to Pulp Fiction) that keep the pace varied and naturally make you want to piece together the order of events.

Highlights include an effectively creepy Dylan Baker, a pre-True Blood Anna Paquin, a grizzled Brian Cox (again!) and the birth of a new horror icon – the pumpkin headed boy Sam. Or else it would have been if only studio politics hadn’t severely limited the films exposure upon its very limited release.

Still, this film is worth hunting down if you are looking for something to watch next Halloween.

Finally, we have Source Code – a mind-bending feature from Moon director Duncan Jones. Part Groundhog Day style whodunit and part exploration of quantum physics as well as the existential ponderings on ‘souls’, the nature of one’s consciousness and alternate realities – Source Code has a lot to take in on the first viewing.

Whilst the mystery involving a terrorist attack is wrapped up pretty neatly, the greater question of the fate of Colter Stevens (played effectively by Jake Gyllenhaal) and the ending will have viewers pondering all sorts of questions about what really happened and the science behind it.

But don't worry, you can also just enjoy the film for what it is on face value with great performances and thrilling action – Source Code comes highly recommended.

18 Nov 2011

Modern Warfare 3 - They Did What?!

(WARNING: This article contains big story SPOILERS so please do not read if you don't want to know what happens in the game’s Singleplayer Campaign.)

The juggernaut that is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has already smashed all records as the best selling game of all time. Even more astonishingly, I read today that MW3 has just broken the five-day sales record for any movie, book or video game that has existed EVER.

It would seem then that the game had better deliver.

Personally, I loved the game – having been slightly disappointed by Black Ops I found it good to be back and continuing the Modern Warfare story that concludes the events following on from the first two in the series.

I even played through the campaigns of MW1 and MW2 to reacquaint myself with the epic narrative before diving into the third instalment. Kind of like watching a film trilogy back to back. It was very epic and I’m glad I did it – my new big TV and surround sound headphones further amplifying the experience.

However, this article isn’t a review of the game, its actually about a specific thing that happens in the story that left many an internet fanboy enraged, saddened and confused – and my take on it. Last chance to back out if you don't like spoilers…

Ok… here goes.

On one of the missions towards the game the unthinkable happens.

Soap dies.

Now, the Modern Warfare games do have a history of killing off popular characters such as Ghost or even characters you are actively playing as such as Allen or Roach. But this seemed different.

Firstly, following the moment Soap gets injured you have to help carry him for a fair distance throughout the level, before he finally expires (incidentally this is something you also did earlier in the game but back then you end up getting him the medical attention he needed and thus saving him).

Secondly, Soap is probably the most popular Modern Warfare character (having been the main character used by the player in MW1 and as your mentor/leader in MW2 - voiced by Kevin McKidd) and having him die was a major bombshell for most players.

When witnessing that moment I stared open mouth in disbelief. ‘What!? They killed Soap!?’

I felt myself welling up as Captain Price (played by Billy Murray AKA Don Beech from The Bill) loses it, unable to accept his death.

Now although the death of Soap is indeed tragic, I stand by the developers Infinity Ward for their decision for the following reasons:

Having Price die instead would have had less of an impact emotionally on the player as it borders on the cliché. As the duo of Price and Soap have fostered the father/son dynamic over the course of three games through constant quipping and camaraderie, it would be no surprise (narratively speaking) if the older one died, leaving the younger to want to avenge him and thus ultimately replacing their mentor.

The phrase ‘no parent should outlive their children’ rings true here and makes the situation all the more tragic and Price’s actions at the end of the game in hunting down Makarov become more of a personal vendetta and the ending all the more cathartic for it. In fact once the deed is done, Price isn’t even concerned for his own safety or escaping, he just sits there in front of Makarov’s hanging body and whilst smoking a cigar, his driving purpose now complete. World War Three was over at the end of the previous chapter but now his personal fight is too.

The tragedy of Soap’s death at the time of his passing is further compounded by the revelation that your character Yuri has some previous connection with Makarov (referred to by him as ‘old friend’) and therefore the player feels directly responsible for their beloved Soap’s death, an ingenious if a little contrived move by Infinity Ward - as it turns out you aren’t really.

I think Soap’s death can be justified in the game as it throws a curveball at the audience (who would probably have been expecting a major character like Price to die instead in this game) to create a shocking event in the story that you genuinely didn't see coming and makes the denouement at the end all the more satisfying for it. And besides, the reality is that warfare is cruel and harsh and bullets and explosions don't discriminate when you are in the thick of battle.

Being a dedicated hardcore soldier and unlikely to have a normal life and family outside of his work, Soap was a son to Price in all but name and the tragedy of war is conveyed through Price’s (and the audience’s) feeling of utter loss by bucking convention and pulling the rug out from under the player and their expectations.

Players of the game should be right in feeling outrage and sadness at this story event and if they feel even a miniscule amount of what Price must have felt then Infinity Ward have succeeded in making us feel empathy for the characters.

So although I loved Soap and was saddened at his death in the game, I feel ultimately it was the right thing to happen in terms of making the narrative of Price's revenge on Makarov more effective.

(You can watch the whole scene from the game HERE).

17 Nov 2011


Okay, so I’ve been away for a while – almost a month, but hear me out. I have excuses, see! Yeah, enough of this lameness, I need to get back on it again, stay focused and disciplined - cos that's what its all about really isn’t it – aside from just gabbing about random stuff I like, which is just a bonus really.

So yeah, the excuses…

Firstly, I have been super busy with work stuff – not only have been doing lots of filming and editing (and still a fair amount to do) I have been travelling up and down the country cramped up in car full of people and luggage. Sardines would be mocking me with their amount of leg room.

Not only within the UK, but we also drove to Belgium. That's right BELGIUM – that country in Europe. By Car.

Anyway it’s all good fun even though it was super long. Combined with other work related things this explains half of why I haven’t updated this blog in a month.

The other half can be summed up in two words: Dark Souls.

What’s that you ask? The spiritual sequel to my favourite game ever Demons Souls, Dark Souls has met my high expectations and exceeded them. Seriously, this game is awesome.

I wont go into too much detail about what makes the game so good (as I may save that for another write-up) but lets just cover the main points.

Firstly, its super addictive. The game itself is pretty challenging but infinitely rewarding because of it. Although death can come swiftly and often it just makes you want to keep playing regardless to regain what you've lost and to overcome the obstacles in front of you having returned with one of the most precious of commodities within the game: knowledge.

Now this isn’t some in-game currency or stat, by this I mean the actual knowledge the player has of what traps are awaiting around the corner, enemy placement and attack patterns, boss weaknesses etc… Since everything in the game has the capacity to kill you easily, knowledge literally is power, allowing you to evade death just that little bit longer and inch forward further into the depths of the game.

Anyway, I’ll write more on this later but just to say I have spent many hours on this game (hence the lack of blog writing) finishing the game over three times in a row (to get the Platinum, natch!). Needless to say this game has surpassed Demons Souls to become my most favourite game ever.

So yeah, hopefully Ill be able to get back on the regular updates for your reading pleasure now that I’ve finished with that game…

For now….

8 Nov 2011