Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Netflix Movie Reviews"

Here's some weird shit I Netflixed recently:

Cannibal Holocaust - 3/4 stars - Italy - The first Blair Witch Project. Documentary filmmakers go to the Amazon to film cannibals. They disappear. Their film is found later and screened. The atrocities! The inhumanity! The savageness of the documentary crew towards the natives is startling! (Yes, towards the natives.) Pretty real looking guts and shit. And, oh, by the way, animals WERE harmed during the making of this film. Monkey brains extracted from a live (well, up to the point of extraction) monkey. A huge ass turtle butchered and cooked in front of your very eyes. And they kill bugs too! No shit. ASPCA eat your heart out (Get it, cannibals... nevermind.)

Mark of the Devil - 3/4 stars - German - Originally famous for passing out barf bags at every screening. It has torture scenes. Oh, my. But as you might guess, it's not nearly as disturbing in 2006 as it might have been way back when (1970.) I sought this out because it starred Udo Kier in his first big role. It was just a bonus that this was the famous "barf bag" movie I'd heard about. Udo was the awesome German guy in the Masters of Horror Season 1 episode "Cigarette Burns" directed by John Carpenter. This movie actually has some sort of story believe it or not.

I Spit On Your Grave - 3/4 stars - USA - Having selected Mark of the Devil, Netflix suggested that maybe I'd like this flick too. Oh, I dunno. It just has the longest rape seen ever in a movie. No big deal. Of course, it's really not that big of a deal. Again, this movie is old and sensationalism rarely lives up to the hype... especially decades old sensationalism. Still it's quite entertaining with a few friends and some alcohol. Plus, the chick gets the last laugh, so it's OK, right? C'mon, the alternate, though way less cool, title, "Day of the Woman" gives that away, right?

In the Realm of the Senses - 1/4 stars - Japan - According to Neflix, this movie has never been seen in Japan in its original form. Probably cuz they show too much snatch. As in any snatch. Best part? When the guy sticks a hard boild egg up said hairy snatch. And she 'lays' it out for him. He naturally eats his newly seasoned egg. Hot, no? Other than that hotness, nothing in this fucking movie made any fucking sense. Oh, wait, I forgot. She actually gives him real head on camera. Rent Download an asian porno instead.

Romance - 1/4 stars - French - Honestly, I don't even remember watching this. Again it was suggested by Netflix... this time after selecting I Spit On Your Grave. I guess it's thinking: "Like long rape scenes? Cool, try this movie 'Romance.'" I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my sister to go out on a date with Netflix. It's kinda got a weird sense of romance. Oh, wait. I remember. This was a
shitty movie about a girl that had an affair cuz her lover wouldn't fuck her. Huh? Yeah. And her choice to do the nasty with? None other than Rocco Siefriddi... Seffiedi, Seeefreeedddiii.. or however you spell that fuckers' name. You know, the porn actor with the accent. Anyway, yeah, his dick comes out in this movie. Lame.

Lies - 3/4 stars - Korean - Old Korean guy fucks young Korean girl. They get into an S&M thing... whippings and beatings. The movie gets some props for breaking up her cherry popping scene with titles like "First Hole", "Second Hole" and my favorite and yours "Third Hole." Yes, she takes it in the cornhole on her first night of sex. Nice. Way to get 'em trained early on, old Korean guy. Then again, his life turns to shit.

Anatomy of Hell - 1/4 stars - French - More hairy bush, more Siffredi. You take the good with the bad. BTW, the good is the bush. The bad is Siffredi. Just wanted to make that clear. Let's see. A fucked up chick hires this well hung gay guy to watch her 'be sexual' with herself for a few days for no fucking reason I can remember. He ends up sleep fucking her, but not before he paints her lips bright red with lipstick. Her *pussy* lips I mean. Oh, let's not forget the part where he pulls out her tampon, and she puts it in a glass of water and they fucking drink the murky pink water. Wonderful. Guaranteed to get your date to close her fucking legs up for the night.

A Real Young Girl - 2/4 stars - French - Fucking weird movie about a 15 yr old-ish French country girl that is getting her hormones on. I never watched it all the way through. It kinda freaked Claire out. I mean, they show her bush and everything. And she really does look 15. Euros man. Crazy fuckers. Nothing much to say about it. I mean, the girl's cute. That's about it. Oh, and she throws up on herself
like no big deal in one scene. Yeah.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"The Da Vinci Code Review"

The movie, not the book... fuck reading. I don't have the patience to sit and stare at thousands of words until they entertain me. Reading is far too time consuming and an archaic form of entertainment as far as I'm concerned. It's akin to gathering the family 'round the ol' RCA to listen to the latest radio drama.

That being said, it's not too surprising to know that I only had a very vague idea of what the hell this movie was about. I knew it was based on some hotshit book that sold tons of copies, and only right before I went to go see it did I find out that religious freaks were boycotting it. Yes, I was that clueless.

I honestly expected it to be a lot more about Da Vinci and a lot less about Christianity, but that explains the religious nuts being all up and arms about it doesn't it? I'm quasi-Cahtolic, and I still don't get why Catholics get their panties in a bind over works of fiction like this.

Anyway, I liked it. It wasn't the best movie or even story I had ever come across, but it was definitely not bad. There were certain elements that I felt were a little silly, but I'm not sure if the movie or the book was to blame. For instance, as soon as it was revealed that the Grail was a person, I knew it was Sophie. It was ridiculous to even pretend that the audience wouldn't figure that out right then and there (though it's definitely possible for even me to underestimate the general public.) Also, why the fuck did Sophie's 'grandfather' make shit so fucking hard to figure out? To protect the secret? The puzzles were so convoluted that it was easily possible for no one to be able to makes sense of the clues. If the location of the Grail was so damn important, why would he risk it being lost forever by creating all those impossibly random puzzles? Silly I tell you.

However, for the most part, if you suspend disbelief for long enough, the story isn't too bad. You see, the REAL reason for those crazy-ass puzzles is to entertain the reader/movie-goer. Traveling from place to place, figuring out clues, avoiding the bad guys, cracking the code. Exciting! Drama! Adventure! And indeed, there were enough twists and turns that kept me focused (although Claire did fall asleep in certain places.) It kind of reminded me of an Indiana Jones adventure with fewer tribal natives and a far less cool protagonist.

And as far as characters go, I expecially liked Silas. His parts in the movie were fucking awesome. If Silas was in the scene, people were like... Oh, fuck, what's gonna happen now? He evoked emotion and tension. Teabing was great too. He had some awesome lines, and I was genuinely convinced by his convinction. So, yeah, Magneto did a great job. Too bad the other characters weren't as interesting. I mean Hanks was OK, but I really didn't give too big of a shit (maybe a shart) about Sophie. She could have easily been relegated to flashbacks and an appearance towards the end. I just didn't care about her.

It was interesting to me that there didn't seem to be any true 'bad' guys. Sure, there were people that chased our hero around, but I really can't fault any of them. The Bishop was doing what he thought was right. Silas was doing what he thought was right. Fache was doing what he though was right. Same with Teabing and Sophie. And really, who are we to say which faction was right or wrong? I could see both sides of the argument, and didn't really know who to root for. Hell, even Sophie didn't know if she was going to let the cat out of the bag once she found out she was the Grail.

Overall, I'd recommend this movie for those that enjoy thrillers/mysteries. If you're a fan of the book, you'll probably like this movie too because it appears that the movie is quite close to the book (according to what I've read about the whole Da Vince Code thing.) I'd say this movie is 8 times better than the Transporter.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Sony PS3"

The PS3 details have been announced. Wow. $499 for the basic model and $599 for the full blown version. Wow. I am honestly surprised. I was thinking that it would be $450 tops. And I didn't even consider the possibility of them releasing two versions. I think Sony is in trouble. They're going to be a year late to the game and with a console that's 50% more expensive too. I know that their $599 console has some cool features like built-in WiFi, a fat 60GB HDD, a motion sensitive controller (Hi, Nintendo!,) and an HDMI port, but damn... that's a lot of money for your average Joe Gamer.

I know I'll be buying one of course. The Deluxe model please. And I know that their initial allotment will sell out because there are enough hardcore gamers out there to snatch them up, but its hard to make it in the games business catering to the hardcore gamer. I mean, you can do well for yourself catering to the hardcore, but you're not going to be the industry leader. And I doubt Sony will be happy relinquishing their industry leader crown.

Personally, I think Blu-Ray fucked them. First, it caused a delay in the shipment of the PS3. Now, it's causing the PS3 to be expensive as fuck. Way to go. I don't even think that the public is ready for either HDDVD or Blu-Ray. People only recently rebuilt their movie library with DVDs after tossing their VHS tapes. Now they're being asked to rebuild it again? It's too soon. The only saving grace is that the new HD disc players are backwards compatible. That helps, but I still don't see too many people re-buying their movies on an HD disc format anytime soon... at least not en masse.

Blu-Ray on PS3 is akin to the boneheaded move Nintendo made opting for a catridge based N64. They'll survive, but they're not going to lead. Sony's reign at #1 will end. Who'll take over #1 spot? MS? Perhaps? Nintendo? Possibly. But count Sony out of the top spot this time around.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Silent Hill Review"

Hmmm... why does it seem like I only review horror movies? I don't even consider myself a horror movie aficionado. Maybe it's because they're often so bad that they piss me off enough to make me write something up about them. Or Maybe its because I feel compelled to warn others not to waste their time or money on them. No, wait, those were my motives for reviewing the "The Transporter"... a horror of a movie more than a horror movie, but still, it's scary that it got a sequel. What the fuck was I talking about? Oh, horror movies... Silent Hill. Right.

Before release, many of the gaming websites who are usually cynical about game-to-movie adaptations were opining that Silent Hill could actually be pretty good. The trailer looked very Silent Hill-y. The script writer, Roger Avery, was a huge gamer who was so hardcare that he even restored old Atari arcade uprights as a hobby. It had a decent director in Chris Gans (also a gamer.) And most importantly, Uwe Boll had nothing to do with it. The game community just ate it up. Who can blame them? They were starved for a even a decent game-to-silverscreen flick.

Then came the first sign of trouble: no advanced screening for reviewers. That's never a good sign. Personally, I never like to read reviews of movies that I plan to see. So it didn't really bother me that I couldn't use movie reviews to gauge my expectations. When I heard that there were no advanced sceenings, it was more of a "Oh, shit. That better not mean it's gonna suck!" reaction. Even still, I went to go see it with the not-so-high hopes that it would be the best video game movie yet. And you know what? I'm not so sure that it wasn't.

Most of my friends hated it. Then again, most of my friends are idiots. Now I'm not going to say that Silent Hill was a great movie, but it doesn't take much to take the Best Video Game Movie Ever crown. C'mon... what it's up against? Mortal Kombat? Tomb Raider? Resident Evil? It's not like those movies are in danger of ever making the AFI top 100 movies of all time. Honestly, I don't know what my friends were expecting out of Silent Hill. A direct game-to-movie script? *MORE* gore? Bare breasts? Hmmm... honestly, there's never too much tittage in horror movies as far as I'm concerned. I mean, if you've already got the R rating... Right? Right.

So what things did I like? Well, first of all, I liked the mood. It 'felt' like Silent Hill. I also liked how they explained the fogginess and how the town was evacuated so quickly. I've only played through Silent Hill 2 so maybe some people were more bothered by the lack of strict adherence to the game script, but I didn't mind it. If you're trying to condense hours upon hours of gameplay into a 2 hour movie, you're gonna need to change some shit around, and I think Avery did a decent job of it while Gans did a good job of visualizing it for us.

And what didn't I like? The worst thing about the movie, for me, was that even though it was way long for a horror flick, that they wussed out and summed up the 'why?' in a spoken 15 minute segment. It felt to me like they were telling the story, and then they ran out of time so they just broke down and hand fed us the reasoning for everything so that they could get to the climactic boss battle at the end. It would probably have been better as a Kill Bill-ish Vol 1/Vol 2 deal. Though I'm sure that was not an option as far as Hollywood business goes.

Also, while I liked Avery's handling of the setting, his dialogue sucked. I absolutely hate hearing the audience laugh during horror movies, but some of the dialogue in Slient Hill was so absurd that I could totally understand why the audience was chuckling in some places.

Overall, I liked Silent Hill. And it seems like most gamers liked it. It was just the critics that hated the shit out of it (and my stupid friends.) Kotaku had a post on how movie review sites like MetaCritic and Rotten Tomatoes had complied overwhelmingly negative critics' reveiws for the movie while the user ratings on those same sites were overwhelmingly positive. Even on IMDB, Silent Hill has earned, up to this point, a respectable 6.7 out of 10 rating. If you're wondering if you've missed anything by not playing the games. Probably not. Like I said, I only played through one of the four Silent Hill games myself.

My Rating: 7.5 x better than The Transporter.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"The Hills Have Eyes Review"

Just saw this movie last night... I'll get to the point. It sucked.

I know, I know, most horror movies suck, but for some reason Claire and I were under the impression that this was supposed to be a good movie. I thought I remembered hearing some positive buzz about the movie, and I vaguely remember the ads being somewhat interesting. But to be honest, I didn't really look into it very much. I saw this as a postive thing as the last horror movie I went to see where I didn't know much about it was the American version of The Ring, and that movie was quite good.

Anyway, spoilers abound...

First of all, we thought this was going to be something about some hills out in a dark forrest area with a dilapidated house sitting on top of some hill that was really an ancient demonic ritual site or something like that. Instead its about a family of vacationers that get stuck out in the desert of New Mexico and fall victim to a bunch of nuclear fallout mutants that all look like Sloth from The Goonies. Even worse, the majority of the movie is set during the day. Not scary.

If you remember the tagline for this movie "The lucky ones die first." You'll know another reason why I was so disappointed. That line implies that 1) the ones that die at the end, die the worst deaths and 2) that a lot of people will be dying. Neither are true. Three 'good guys' die. Three. Well, four if you count the guy that killed himself, but I don't think that should count because I think he was more of a 'bad guy' anyway. And as for dying first? The guy that dies first gets his head bashed in and is burned alive. Pretty horrible death, isn't it? How do the 2nd and 3rd people die? Shot. Yep. Shot in the belly and shot in the head. I don't know about you, but having my skull bashed in and being burned alive sounds much worse than being shot to death.

Another gripe... the movie takes forever to get to the good stuff. You know how only three people die? Well, it takes almost half of the movie for that to happen. And then they all die within 15 minutes. Boring.

Finally, I suppose there was some message that we're supposed to have taken to heart. Something about the government displacing families from their homes or some other non-issue these days. Who cares? I want to be entertained, not preached to. Fuck off.

This movie was a huge disappointment. I give it a 5.5 out of 10, but at least it wasn't The Transporter.

Monday, January 16, 2006

“Dead or Alive 4 (Xbox 360) Review”

I love Street Fighter II. (Yes, this is a DoA4 review, but indulge me, dammit.) I mean, as far as I’m concerned, fighting game-wise, nothing has topped it. Ever. The Street Fighter II series has some intangible qualities that no fighting has ever been able to reproduce, much less improve upon. The gameplay is simple, yet complex. The characters are now iconic. Hell, even the music is memorable.

But even still, instilled in me is the ever growing need for something newer and shinier, something better than what is already nearly perfect. No sooner had I mastered wake up dragon punches all those years ago that I started looking for the next ‘it’ game to replace it. Early on, it was Mortal Kombat. Killer Instinct made a run for the fighting game title. Then you had the barrage of SNK games. Some were good. Many were horrible. But in the end, even the good ones couldn’t compare to SF2.

Then came the 3D fighting games, and soon, button mashing became a viable fighting game strategy. This sickened me. Never in its admittedly short history, going back to Karate Champ, had the fighting game genre ever been even remotely easy to play. If you were a newb at Street Fighter, and you played someone that even kind of knew what he was doing, you got destroyed. End of story. Too bad. So sad. Suck it up and try again. And again. And again. Just like everyone else before you. All SF2 players had to go through this rite of passage before even being able to consistently throw a fireball, much less use it at the right time, or ultimately combo into it. SF2 took skill.

And these 3D fighting games, man, I mean, button mashing… ugh. And yeah, OK, I admit that button mashing isn’t going to win you any tournaments. But still, it gets you a lot further than it should. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not blind to the fact that 3D fighting games take skill to master, but it’s just not satisfying. Punch, Punch, Kick, Punch. Should *never* be considered a ‘move.’ And furthermore, it shouldn’t take 1/4 of a life bar away if you connect with it. (This is what sucked about KI, by the way.) Sure you have the timings and counters and shit like that, but honestly… all that stuff just seems… not… cool, I guess. It’s not that it doesn’t take skill to play games like Virtua Fighter or Tekken or Dead or Alive 4, it’s just that the skill needed to play those games just seems sort of gay. It’s kind of like being good at synchronized swimming. It’s hard and shit, no doubt, but wouldn’t you rather be good at real game like football or basketball or even golf?

So you’re probably thinking I hate Dead of Alive 4. The strange thing is, I don’t. As I said, I’m always looking for that one game to supplant SF2 as the best fighting game of all time. So I’m always welcoming the next big fighting game with open arms. Unfortunately, DoA4 isn’t the ultimate in fighting games. But, I begrudgingly admit that it’s still quite a bit of fun.

Perhaps I’m influenced by the fact that DoA4 is my only fighting game option on the Xbox 360. Or perhaps I’m enchanted by the online aspects of the game, or even by the hi-res boobies. In any case, I like this game. I admit it. And that should mean something from a guy that has hated nearly all 3D fighting games.

Graphics – 8.4

A sore point, for me, about the Xbox 360 is the lack of truly jaw dropping graphics in the 1st batch of games. DoA4 is among the games that disappoints graphically. Perhaps, it’s unfair to judge something based on how you think it should be, but you know what, I never said I was going to be fair. The graphics in DoA4 should be much better than they are. Period.

Of course, DoA4 has the obligatory jump in resolution and texture detail, a less than apparent jump in polygons, and a very nice framerate. Ho-hum. Boring. What I wanted to see in this generation was gameplay graphics that matched the graphics in the pre-rendered endings. Instead, what I got from my Xbox 1.5 was DoA 3.5.

Let’s take the characters’ hair. Where do I even start? It’s ass. The long flowing hair on the DoA 4 characters looks simply terrible. Terrible. Terrible. Terrible. Why did they bother with long flowing ‘hair’ if they make it look more like magical ribbons that seem to move of their own volition… independently of any implied game physics… even going as far as going through the characters’ bodies. I mean, the hair polygons clipping into the shoulders of most of the characters is really noticeable. If they couldn’t do the hair right, they should have just left their hair short like in previous games.

The backgrounds are pretty good I guess, but nothing too great either. I really like the waterfall level. But when your character falls into the water, I want to see their clothes get wet. I want to see their hair droop down, soaked with water, and I want to see droplets of water go flying from their hair as their heads are popped back with a nasty kick to the face. But apparently we’ll have none of that.

The graphics are simply adequate with respect to the rest of the Xbox 360 games. People who jizz in their pants when they talk about the graphics would also probably be quite happy playing with an empty egg carton. They are easily amused. The graphics in DoA4 are nothing special people. Let’s be real.

Gameplay – 9.0

This is the real heart of the game. SF2 looks like ass by today’s standards, but the gameplay keeps me coming back again and again. I’m happy to report that the gameplay of DoA4 is decent. It’s got a nice feel to it, and while it’s very spam friendly, there are some definite skills that can be learned that will allow you to dominate less experienced players. Countering is one of those skills.

Let me just say that what I call a ‘counter,’ the game calls a ‘hold.’ Let me also say that whoever named the move where “you stop an opponents attack and retaliate against it with an attack of your own” a ‘hold’ is an idiot. It’s a fucking counter. Using their logic, a ‘throw’ would probably be called a ‘maneuver.’ Most likely this same idiot (probably Itagaki) is also the guy that named the guard/counter button, the ‘free’ button. Why not call it the ‘defense’ button? I chalk it up to the long history Japanese people have of being retarded when they name something in English. “Donkey Kong” anyone?

In any case, countering is a big deal. Apparently, it was a much bigger deal in earlier versions of DoA because it was overpowered. It had a long window where the counter was active, and it did way too much damage. The counter window has been reduced in DoA4, as has the damage performing a counter does. These are good things. That being said, there are 4 different ways you can counter in the game: forward + free (counters mid kicks), back + free (counters mid punches), up-back + free (counters high attacks) and down-back + free (counters low attacks). That means, if you’re really just guess as to what your opponent is going to do next, you only have a 25% chance of countering. Or more importantly, you have a 75% chance of getting pummeled. A word to the wise, don’t guess on what kind of counter to use. If in doubt, simply block.

The good players can pick up the attack strings being used against them and intelligently counter the last or next to the last attack. This is where being spammy gets you your ass handed to you. If you always do the same three fucking punches, a good player is going to start countering you.

Outside of counters, you have a lot of other nice subtleties in gameplay like stun moves that temporarily incapacitate your enemy if they block and multiple part throws. Nothing really new here as these things have been done before, but its still doesn’t change the fact that these moves deepen the gameplay.

Matches tend to be over pretty quickly when played at default settings: 2 rounds with the ‘Normal’ life bars. Almost too quickly. Over time, I preferred to play first to 3 rounds and with the life bars increased to Maximum to allow for longer rounds. This is with regard to Vs. mode of course. For single player games, you want that shit over as fast as possible because you’re going to be wanting to get through the game quickly to unlock bonus characters and costumes.

That brings me to the modes. There are only 2 modes worth a shit in my opinion, Story mode and Versus Mode. Story mode is how you earn the majority of your shit, so you probably want to play through that a few times. It’s not too bad. The rounds default to 1 round. But Versus mode is where I spend most of my time. That and Online Versus mode, which is basically the same shit. Time Attack and Survival? Fuck those. They’re only there to stretch out the game. Having to go through those modes to unlock the last few things really sucks.

Back to the online aspect… DoA4 does a great job of giving you an easy way to experience online Versus. Basically, the layout of online is like a virtual arcade. A group of 2 thru 16 people join a lobby. Register, then they join a game. People play their game. If it’s not your turn, you wait in line and watch the others play. When your turn comes up, if you win, great, you stay on and take another challenger. If you lose, back to the end of the line. Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s awesome, and it works really well.

The only bad part of playing online is that the game can lock up on you from time to time. It generally does that when you mess around with the guide button while the game is loading. It does NOT like that. It’s easy to avoid, but it’s a bug that shouldn’t be there nonetheless. Oh, well.

What else do you wanna hear? About the Spartan? She sucks. Slow and predictable. The online lag? That just depends on your connection to the other guy. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but almost always playable. About the special DoA4 joystick? Yes, I have it and it rocks. I can’t wait to use it to play SF2 over Xbox Live Arcade. ;)

In summary, if you like how 3D fighting games play, in particular the DoA games, you’ll love the gameplay. There really isn’t a competition with regard to fighting games… soo… there you go.

Sound – 8.0

All I know is that Itagaki seems to have a hard on for Aerosmith. Why do they keep licensing Aerosmith for DoA games? WHY? Blech. Well, besides the Aerosmith, the rest of the songs aren’t bad, but they are easily forgettable. The punches and kicks and groans and grunts sound about right. The voice acting is a bit lame, however, not because it’s bad, but because it’s all in Japanese. I mean, the Americans, the Chinese, the French and German… all speak perfect Japanese. All except the Spartan. The lady who does the voice of the Spartan seemed to be the only non-Japanese name in all the credits. ;) It just doesn’t seem right that Bass speaks perfect Japanese.

Value – 9.1

If you like fighting games, you’ll play DoA4 a shitload. You can find it at some places for $49.99, but mostly it’s $59.99. Either way, if you want a fighting game, you’re gonna have to pay it. The value totally depends on how much Versus fighting you do and whether you play online. Overall, for me, it’s a great value.

Overall – 8.7

One last time: this is the only fighting game for the Xbox 360. If you liked older DoAs or even Tekken or some other bullshit, get it. End of story.


Penalty on offense. Illegal Block to the back!

That's a hardcore game of pattycake!

You were warned! No counting cards!!

Mmmmmmmm... boobies.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360) Review"

Let me start by saying that 1) I didn’t play Call of Duty 1 or any of the CoD offshoots for the consoles and 2) I hate FPS controls on consoles – two analog sticks are shit compared to a keyboard and mouse. Couple that with the fact that I normally wouldn’t play a PC game ported over to a console, and it’s a miracle that I even played CoD2 for the Xbox 360 let alone bought it.

Here’s the deal though: the game just looked oh-so-nice at the Xbox 360 demo kiosk at Best Buy. Sooo smooth. Mmmmm. I’m a sucker for a high frame rate. Then I visited another Best Buy and they had the demo Xbox 360 setup up on a big HD TV with surround sound. Some kid had set up camp on one of those comfy gaming chairs. It looked like he’d been there all day. He was playing through the CoD2 demo like he’d done it ten or twenty times before. I stood and watched for a bit, and I suddenly found myself actually considering getting the game at launch. I kept trying to reason myself out of it… thinking that it was stupid to buy CoD2 for the Xbox 360 because if I really wanted to play it, I should play it ‘properly’ on my PC. It’d be cheaper too.

But, alas, I gave in and bought CoD2 on launch day. My final reasoning was that I would never actually play a single player campaign on the PC (I’m strictly multiplayer/deathmatch on the PC) and that even though I had a pretty high end PC, that it just wouldn’t look as nice as it did on the Xbox 360. Also, the rest of the launch titles pretty much sucked (more on that another time.) Oh, and Best Buy was handing out $10 off any game coupons too. So that helped.

Graphics – 8.9

The graphics are pretty good. No doubt. They are not so much ‘next generation’ graphics, as much as nice, solid graphics. The polygon counts aren’t unbelievable, but they’re pretty good. The textures are pretty good. The frame rate is pretty good. It’s just pretty good dammit!

While most of the demo (and the rest of the game in fact) runs at a nice 60fps, there are times where tons of explosions and/or smoke screens slow the framerate down to a reasonable, but less than perfect 30fps or so. But about 90% of the time, the frame rate is silky smooth.

The character models look well done. Their animation is on the nicer side of things, but they do get repetitive after a while. Seeing a guy walk up to a doorway, stand up against the wall and peek his head around the corner about 100 times kind of kills it.

Quite honestly, this game looks like a really nice PC game, which on its own isn’t that impressive when you think about how there we’re supposed to be in the next generation of graphics. However, when you think about how the Xbox 360 costs a mere $300-$400 dollars, it’s quite impressive they can muster up $3000 PC graphics in HD.

Gameplay – 9.0

Before I get into the actual gameplay, I have to bitch about the save game bug I came across…

First thing I noticed is that while I had let friends play CoD2, and they had made it all the way to the British missions (the middle part of the game), I couldn’t select the British missions anymore. It was very strange. I continued playing through the Russian Campaign and finished it. Then all of a sudden I was thrust back into the first Russion mission: a training mission. Since the game doesn’t allow you to move on until you finish the missions in order, I was confused as to why I was sent back to the start. Well, apparently the game had ‘forgotten’ that I had done these early missions somehow. I shrugged it off and re-did the first few missions. I didn’t really mind because my friends had been the ones that had played the early missions.

I moved on to British missions, and about halfway through those, I noticed my Russian missions were again grayed out as if they hadn’t been completed. Sure enough, after I finished my current set of British missions, I was thrust back into Russian Training… again. What the fuck? Something was very wrong. After some searching on internet forums, I found out what I didn’t want to find out: the game had a save game bug. Apparently, it was triggered when your profile loaded after the game loaded. It would keep track of where you last were, but not what you had completed, and if you saved in that state, you fucked yourself. Or rather, the game fucked you because it would save it in a state that let you finish off your current mission while claiming you hadn’t finished the missions before it. Which is a load of crap because you can’t even get to the later missions without finishing them in order.

Anyway, I found the work around: basically, never use the “continue to the next mission” option. Always save after every mission and then select you new mission from the Mission Select menu. Most importantly, upon first booting up the game, make sure your shit got loaded. If it didn’t, reload the game by going into the Multiplayer menu and exiting back into the Single player menu. It’s a load of shit that I had to do that, but it worked. I expect that type of shit from PC games that get patched a lot, but not from a console game.

Anyway, on to the actual gameplay… the controls were quite well suited to the Xbox 360 controller. I was pretty worried about that. It’s usually pretty fucked up trying to squeeze tons of PC controls onto a few buttons on a controller, but this worked well. I think it was because you only could carry two weapons, so weapon selection was easy. I always hate cycling through weapons on console controllers. Same with grenades… one shoulder button for smoke grenades and another for frag grenades. Easy. The sensitivity of the sticks seemed spot on as well. I really liked how when you hit the 'aim/zoom' button, you looked down the sights of the gun. Very cool and easy to use. Overall, it was just pretty nice to control. I didn’t have much problems with it.

During the game, you play as different soldiers. You start out as a Russian Soldier fighting the Germans on the Russian front. The levels are all fought on the snow covered grounds in the middle of a Russian winter. Next you move to a British Campaign where you play mostly as a British grunt with a short break as a Tank Commander. These are African missions and are all desert based. Finally, you get to play as an American soldier. These are fought in Western Europe and are the general village in temperate weather missions. All, with the possible exception of the tank missions, are very fun and quite enjoyable. The tank missions seemed a bit tacked on to me. They weren’t very deep. Still, they weren’t bad and they did offer a nice break from the FPS action.

For the remainder of the missions, the FPS missions, you pretty much follow the Star on the radar to your next objective. Most of the objectives are quite clea, and you don’t have to run around trying to figure out what to do. You do some recon, some holding down the fort, some taking back an area, and a lot of killing of dirty Nazi bastards. If you’ve played any FPS game, you’ll probably feel quite a home.

I like the use of smoke grenades as a battlefield tactic. The computer controller Nazis actually have trouble finding you in the smoke. Which brings me to the AI. A lot of people have been touting the AI of the characters in CoD2 as really fucking awesome. I’m here to tell you that they are pretty awesome indeed. They tend to work as a team and are no where near as dumb as say… they bad guys in Perfect Dark Zero where they’re complete morons. It really adds a sense of realism and urgency to the missions to know that the Nazis aren’t dumb drones easily picked off.

Your teammates aren’t nearly as impressive. Not because they’re idiots, but because it seems like only certain team members are allowed to die. One of my favorite characters was the Scottish gunner in the British Campaign. That guy was funny as shit. And he never died. Which is a good thing, but still it was kind of obvious who the main characters of the Campaign were and which grunts were gonna get offed. Kinda like the Star Trek missions where Spock, Kirk, McCoy and Ensign Smith beam down to the planet surface to investigate hostile activity. Guess who’s not beaming back up?

Overall, the gameplay was rock solid with fun, enjoyable missions.

Sound – 9.5

The game itself is, how should I put it, engaging. No. Enthralling. No. It’s immersive. Yeah, it’s immersive. I saw a documentary on the making of CoD2, and the developers pointed out that some old soldier dude told them that once the first shot was fired, they never stopped talking to each other. This really made a huge difference in my opinion. While in most FPSs, you play a pretty much silent one man wrecking crew, in CoD2 you really do feel like you’re part of a team… a squad… or whatever the fuck you call your group of guys in military speak. All I know is that my fellow soldiers always kept in contact with me, and it was relative speech too. They say stuff like “Jerries on your right, behind the boxes!” That’s a nice touch.

I also played this in 5.1 with a nice subwoofer. Honestly, you have to. This game sounds amazing. If you’re in another room, you’d think CoD2 was a movie. The voice acting is superb and the sound effects are massive. The resonating boom of explosions, the firing of guns in the distance, the battle chatter from your teammates and the radio, they are all simply awesome. The only problem I saw was that you played a silent hero, which doesn’t make sense since your not even playing the whole game as a single guy.

Value – 8.0

At $59.99, no game that you just play through once is gonna be a great value. I got mine for $49.99, and that’s not too bad. If you trade games in, its even a better deal. You can finish the single player missions at the default skill level in about 10-15 hours. Perfect length as far as I’m concerned. If you play on Veteran, you’re looking at a lot of restarts that will lengthen the game.

There aren’t that many Xbox 360 achievements since they basically involve finishing the game at the Veteran (i.e. hardest) difficulty setting. I’m still going through the game again to do those.

As far as multiplayer is concerned. I honestly don’t know. I didn’t try it. I was turned off by the backlash of people online that have complained bitterly about lag whilst playing CoD2 over Xbox Live. If you play on LAN, I guess it could be fun, but you’re talking about rounding up 3-4 more people with Xbox 360s and the game. That’s probably not gonna happen.

Overall – 8.9

This game was solid. I highly recommend it to FPS fans, even the ones that hate console FPSs… like me. The story was engaging and the level of immersion was phenomenal. The only ones I wouldn’t recommend this game to are people that suck at FPSs and people that have played the PC version. Everyone else should go out and get this game for their Xbox 360. And apparently, everyone did as CoD2 was the number one selling title for the Xbox 360 in 2005. 


Thursday, January 05, 2006


Just testing this gamercard thing. If it works, there should be a flash version of my Xbox Live gamercard below...

Hmm... that didn't work. How about the straight up jpg of it?

OK, that works...

Fuck. I just tried it with IE. The flash gamercard works ONLY with IE. What a crock of shit.