31 March 2014

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 5/10
Verdict: Worth watching for Matthew McConaughey's talent.

After watching McConaughey's performance in True Detective I just HAD to see this movie and these are my thoughts of it. In short: it's an okay movie with a brilliant actor in the main role. The longer version follows:

Dallas Buyers Club is one of those movies that tell a story of a one-man army fighting the evil and greedy government. A couple of times I even had a feeling I was watching a light version of The People vs. Larry Flint, one of my favorite movies of all time. Now when I think about it, there is a weird coincidence since Woody Harrelson, McConaughey's partner from True Detective, is the main actor in that movie. Weird indeed!

Anyway, Dallas Buyers Club is about Ron Woodruff, a simple electrician from Dallas who learns that he has HIV and AIDS. All this is happening in 1985 when not much was known about HIV, especially among "the simple folk" who alienized anyone suffering from the disease. Ron was told he has no more than 30 days left to live, but he soon finds out about drugs that could help him, drugs that were not on the approved list by the US government. So his struggle for life and fight against the authorities begins.

Again, McConaughey is simply brilliant in this piece. He does an amazing job in portraying a dying man that refuses to give up and is ready to fight til the very end. Another pleasant surprise is Jared Leto's transsexual character Rayon - I couldn't believe HE was Jared! He lost so much weight and looked so strange... simply amazing. The next big name is Jennifer Garner but to be honest - her role was too small and almost unimportant. And that is what is wrong with this movie - it's all too much about Ron that all other characters are absolutely marginal. The story is okay, the acting is phenomenal, but there's that little something that's missing to make DBC an outstanding movie.

At the end of the movie I wasn't moved nor sad, as someone might expect to be. It just ended and I turned the channel to watch a football match, completely forgetting about it, up until this morning when I decided to review it. It's worth watching for Matthew's acting and that's about it.

27 March 2014

Deus Ex: The Fall (2014)

Game score: 35%
Platform: Steam, PC

It's a rare chance for me to review an actual new game so I am very excited to take it. The thing is - I usually get games on super sales or in bundles and I cannot even remember how I got this one. I do remember I had it before it was available for actual download and play on Steam and that I had to wait for a certain date to "unlock" it.

Those who know me will tell you boring I can be with all the talk of Deus Ex. The original Deus Ex that came out in 2000. I remember how amazed I was with that game back then, it just blew me off right from the start. Even today I claim it's one of the best games ever made, seriously! Its sequel was a big disappointment, while Human Revolution was a nice surprise. Now, based on my experience with Human Revolution I really expected a lot from The Fall. What I didn't know up until recently is that The Fall was originally made for mobiles - I just don't really care for mobile games. If I did, I certainly wouldn't be so excited about the new Deus Ex game since most of the mobile conversions end up being a pile of crap. Unfortunately, I was right.

Deus Ex: The Fall tells a story of Ben Saxon, a former mercenary who used to work for Tyrants (the bad guys from Human Revolution) and the problem with Neuropozyne shortage. Neuropozyne is a drug that all augmented humans use to fight the body's rejection of augmentations and without it bad things may happen. Long story short, Ben goes on a mission to find a replacement drug in Panama City.

The game itself weird right from the start. After the usual tutorial mission where you learn how to move, shoot etc... you learn that you cannot jump. No jumping in 2014? In a FPS game? Seriously? You cannot even reconfigure the controls in the game at all. At all. I personally never reconfigure the controls (unless they are reeeeally awkward, which is rare and most usually ends up in me giving up such a game whose controls problem is the least of the problems it has) but such an option should be mandatory. Even shooting the enemies can be a problem, I am not even sure if the available crosshair is accurate. It seems to work fine if you zoom in on the enemy, but nothing happens if you just fire at them! Not always, but a lot of time. If you do manage to hit someone and they die - prepare for a surprise: 5 seconds later their bodies evaporate. This is a perfect spot for a smiley with big, surprised eyes, isn't it?

However, there is a way to actually enjoy this game. Sneaking. If you decide to go into stealth mode and avoid enemies, hack consoles and hide from cameras, you are in for a much better experience. It will even earn you an achievement if you complete the game without killing anyone. It is as if the game creators are aware of how much they screwed up with the combat so they are giving you a hint on how to have more fun with their game.

The graphics are simplified from Human Revolution, which is kind of expected from a mobile game port. If you think HR had too much yellow and amber - prepare for MUCH MORE. I had a feeling I was playing a game on my Hercules Monochrome monitor I used to have in 1992 (it was one of those weird monitors that had orange and black instead of white and black). NPC models are recycled versions of each other but it's not too bad, at least for me.

There's also a plenty of bugs all over the game. I saved a game before entering combat with 2 enemy soldiers, died and reloaded. They were gone. The controls are sometimes unresponsive, especially in game menus - you click on OK or BACK or whatever, but nothing happens until you try it again. A harder mouse button push might help, no matter how illogical it may sound. What else... Ah! Hacking. In case you didn't play Human Revolution - to hack a door you need to play a mini game (shown on a screenshot) to reach a certain module before the enemy anti-hack reaches you. However, sometimes you cannot zoom out enough to actually click on the next module. I haven't found a way to fix that and I even tried changing resolutions and using a window mode.

Overall, The Fall is a big disappointment for any true Deus Ex fan. It just feels cheap and not worthy of Square Enix and the games we are used to get from these guys. I know it's a conversion, but with a little effort (and less amber!) it could have been an amazing game. This way... well, I told you, it is possible to enjoy it if you play it in a very specific game, but that's not it. You should be able to pick your way through, as what we are used from Deus Ex.

Oh, and there is only ONE save game slot. You are warned!

18 March 2014

A New Beginning (2010)

Game score: 80%
Platform: Steam, PC

A New Beginning is a classic point-and-click adventure made by Daedalic Entertainment in 2010. I've recently played and completed it and I wanted to share my thoughts about it with you. Also, it's currently on a week-long sale on Steam so you can save some money if you decide to get it.

The story of A New Beginning is set in the future where Earth is devastated by climate changes and human kind is facing extinction. A group of scientists sets up a team, provides them with a time travelling device and gives them a mission: go back in time and prevent the disaster! Their goal is Bent Svensson, an eco-scientist who "invented" blue-green algae that can supply enough energy to power the entire world... but is unfortunate enough to live in the time where money is everything and is impossible to fight the nuclear energy tycoons who pull all the strings. That time is late 20th century. During the game you will be playing with two characters: Fay, a radio-operator from the future and Bent Svensson, the scientist I mentioned before. You don't get to pick a character to control, instead the game switches from one to the other as the story progresses.

As I said, it's a typical point-and-click adventure with an incredibly simple interface and controls - right mouse button brings up the inventory on the bottom of the screen, while left mouse button moves your character and offers actions for highlighted objects. That's it - simple and easy. The puzzles in the game range from super easy to normal, they are rather logical and there are never too many available rooms in the same time, so getting stuck is nearly impossible. The only problem may be caused by the infamous pixel hunting, but it's far from annoying as in some other adventures. If I remember right, I only had problems with two items I couldn't see and one was at the very beginning.

Voice acting is average. Some lines are rather good, but most are plain average. Same goes with graphics - it's just average. Cut scenes are made in a comic book fashion with "low frame rate" and the rest... well, look at the screenshots I posted. However, this being an adventure game, neither the sound nor graphics are all that important!

It took me about 9 hours to complete the game and if it wasn't for a bug I encountered I may have been even quicker. The bug I mentioned was at the very end when I had to connect some wires to get specific numbers, but after about 45 minutes of futile reconfiguring, I gave up and looked up the solution online. I was puzzled when I saw the solution because I already tried it and it didn't work. It did, after a reload. The other bugs are mainly language errors: when you click on an object you might get possible actions in a language different than the one you chose, but it really is a minor thing.

Overall, it's a fun game. It has its flaws, but its simplicity makes it fun. The story progresses fast enough to make you want to see what comes next and that's what's really important. Steam version has 28 achievements and they are all rather easy to get if you don't skip mini games and explore everything on the screen.

10 March 2014

True Detective, End of Season

And there it is - the end of first season of True Detective. And what a season it has been! Right from the very start, the captivating characters of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart lead us through eight magnificent episodes and delivered a satisfying finale. Satisfying? Yeah, I had a few ideas that would have made it even better, but I don't think the majority would agree with me. And I don't want to spoil the end, in case you are a reader that hasn't seen the last episode yet or hasn't even started watching at all. Just trying to avoid spoilers!

What happens next? HBO is working on season 2 already, but we will see a whole new story without Rust and Marty. Both Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey have confirmed that they will not be coming back and I am thrilled with that decision. It's just that this entire season is a masterpiece of its own and it should remain as it is - without unnecessary sequels that often spoil the original. Just think of the Matrix... trilogy... why did it have to be a trilogy?

That's it. The thing I both love and hate about HBO's shows is their length. Love - because it's actually perfect, not stretched out for commercial reasons, and hate - because... well, those are great shows and we get to miss them! Fortunately, it's almost time for Game of Thrones - only 27 days left to go!

06 March 2014

The Americans

Early 1980's, Cold War USA. Soviet spies are literally everywhere, living among the population as American citizens - working, raising kids, attending little league games... they are living their lives just like any other American would. But once they get a mission - it's time for action.

The show covers two such spies, Elisabeth and Phillip Jennings (their real names are unimportant as they are forbidden to ever use them, just as they are not allowed to speak Russian... ever!) during the Reagan era. They didn't know each other before they were sent to United States about 15 years ago and they were ordered to pose as a married couple. To make it even more convincing, Elisabeth and Phillip now have 2 children who have no idea who their parents are. Their own children are born Americans, just as the people whom their parents are fighting against. How fun is that? Oh, and the sugar on top is their first door neighbor Stan Beeman who happens to be an FBI agent.

I don't want to go into details (as usual) and I will just say that this is a show worth watching. Its filled with action, espionage, counter-espionage, lies and deceit. I like how the producers paid attention to details and did their best to emulate the early 80's with latest inventions (such as the amazing Intellivision!) or hit movies (good old Lucas and Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back). And Soviets really speak Russian, not English with Russian accent. A minor thing, but I really like it that way.

The Americans is a fantastic show that will make you feel weird if you are an American yourself. You will be cheering for an old enemy and against your own country, but hey - it's just a show so don't feel bad about it. This show can be a real eye-opener, proving that there are no good and bad nations - just superpowers fighting for control.