Monthly Archives: October 2011

Rumor: Doom 4 postponed

It’s still a rumor at this point, but apparently Bethesda and Zenimax have decided to postpone Doom 4 after Rage‘s lukewarm reception:

A source claiming to be close to the publishers of the recently-launched RAGE has told Kotaku that, at a recent “company wide” meeting held in Dallas, Bethesda and parent company Zenimax made the decision to “indefinitely postpone” development of Doom 4. The apparent source says that Zenimax and Bethesda made the decision based on the “the issues and reviews” surrounding RAGE’s launch, which in their eyes has demonstrated “a serious lack of confidence in the project management at id”. (source)

I imagine Zenimax had high expectations when they acquired Id Software in 2009.  At that point they didn’t have any plans to interfere in the way Id Software made their games, but that’s bound to change now that Rage has fallen somewhat short of the mark. Maybe they can force John Carmack to kiss and make up with John Romero. A man can dream.

doom 4 logo

Random Movie Round Up: The Proposal

I don’t just watch new movies all the time, I seek out plenty of older ones as well. Some of them are really damn good, others are utterly terrible, but I have decided to write something  about all of them and their redeeming features (if any). I will do this in a new category, the ‘Random Movie Round Up’. First up is The Proposal (2009), a thoroughly generic romantic comedy that does get one thing right.

Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock in The Proposal

Romantic comedies are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve been on a Ryan Reynolds kick lately, so it was inevitable that I would stumble upon The Proposal at some point. The film pits Ryan Reynolds against Sandra Bullock as assistant and ‘boss’. Bullock plays a high powered Canadian book editor who works in New York. However, she’s been too busy to bother with all the immigration paperwork, so her superiors have to inform her that she has to go back to Canada. In an effort to avoid deportation (and a little gender role reversal), she forces her assistant, Reynolds, into marrying her so that she may keep her life in New York. Reynolds has no other option if he wants to keep his own career going, so he agrees. Luckily, Reynolds already had a family weekend planned in Alaska, which is the perfect opportunity to announce the marriage and the perfect setting for a movie.

Now, you’ve all heard this story a thousand times: it all starts out strictly business and even though both Reynolds and Bullock are highly attractive single adults, it’s unfathomable that something would ever happen between them. But, somewhere between the fake kiss and all the inadvertent touching and rubbing, the unlikely couple starts to fall in love (surprise, surprise). Of course, there’s the usual denial, ex-girlfriends, animal related mishaps and misunderstandings to keep it interesting, but otherwise it’s all very predictable. What I wasn’t prepared for, was the level of chemistry Bullock and Reynolds had on display.

Maybe it’s the fact that my girlfriend is in New York for six months (and I’m feeling lonely here in Amsterdam). Perhaps it has something to do with the age difference between Reynolds (1976) and Bullock (1964). Or it could be that they’re just great actors, but I found The Proposal to be pretty erotic at times. The witty banter and snide remarks do a good job of establishing the balance of power between protagonists, but it also builds up a great deal of sexual tension. In one such instance Reynolds is arguing with Bullock when they’re standing outside (family looking on from inside the house). Bullock is supposed to accompany his family on some annoying trip they’ve organized. As she objects, Reynolds brandishes a particularly great grin and tells her there’s no way out of it, furthermore she should give him an intimate hug so as to keep up appearances. The way in which Reynolds proceeds to grab Bullock’s behind might be a little childish. And yet, you can’t help but feel a flash of excitement as you consider this type of forbidden encounter. The Proposal exploits these moments expertly.

Sadly, the film is dragged down by the type of slapstick only a mother-in-law could love. It has no place in a film that aspires to be anything more than bottom of the shelf videostore type garbage. What’s even worse is the offensively mediocre soundtrack. I swear, they must have a machine somewhere that composes this drivel with the press of a button, no actual person can be writing this stuff. And music is so important! Take Cameron Crowe’s Singles (1992): a better movie than The Proposal (on most levels), but not all that special either. However, the moment you put some Alice in Chains in there, *boom* it’s a cult classic. Great music won’t fix everything of course, but The Proposal would have been much better if it had a soundtrack that could speak to people.

I’m just going to say this as a disclaimer:  The Proposal is a terrible film, but it’s still exciting to see Reynolds and Bullock go at it for ninety minutes.

 

Grand Theft Auto III Ten Year Anniversary

It’s been ten years since Grand Theft Auto III was released on Playstation 2, and Rockstar will be celebrating that fact with a ten year anniversary edition to be developed for a number of iOS devices:

Rockstar Games, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO), is proud to announce the 10th anniversary of Grand Theft Auto III on October 22, 2011. The anniversary is a landmark moment for the Grand Theft Auto series and Rockstar Games. The release of Grand Theft Auto III in 2001 was a pivotal step in the series’ path to become one of the biggest entertainment properties. In conjunction with the celebration, Rockstar will release Grand Theft Auto III for select new generation iOS and Android devices in the fall. (source)

I can hardly believe it’s been ten years already, though it wasn’t until early 2002, when the game was released on PC, that I actually played it. Nevertheless, it was a momentous occasion and I remember rushing through my high school final exams to get home early and play. Ever since playing the original GTA way back in 1997, which had a top down perspective, I couldn’t wait to see what it would be like to see the game from a more natural perspective. Grand Theft Auto III allowed players to do that and the result was every bit as good as one could hope. Even though the sequels were more crazy and over the top, GTA III still is the best open world game around. At least, if you’re in it for the sight seeing in a positively hyperreal city. I think it’s better realized and has more of an edge than GTA IV‘s version of Liberty City.

The touch screen controls, that will undoubtedly come with iOS devices, probably aren’t a great fit for this game though. I’d say you’re better off buying the steam version if you feel like visiting Liberty City again. Or, if you’re looking for some proper celebration, just buy this $149,99 figure of the game’s protagonist, Claude (imagine that, his name was Claude):

Claude action figure

 

Rage disappoints

This marks my third and last entry on the subject of Rage. I had high expectations for Id‘s new game, but Rage didn’t leave a very good impression. Id’s latest attempt at regaining some of their former relevance, plainly said, disappoints. That’s the long and short of it. Though perhaps it’s interesting to try and determine what went wrong during Rage‘s six years of development.

Mutants in the sewer
There's no denying that it looks phenomenal.

Rage tries to find a niche in the post apocalyptic shooter genre by combining a driving game with the excellent shooting mechanics Id used to be able to produce. Of course, driving is the one crucial post-apocalyptic trope no game has gotten right. When done well, Rage should be able to compete comfortably with games like Borderlands and Fallout 3. Games that share a setting similar to the one found in Rage (and neither necessarily had great driving or shooting elements). The Fallout franchise was rejuvenated through Bethesda’s efforts in 2008. They kept most of Fallout‘s role playing elements, but made it more accessible by giving the game a first person perspective. Borderlands found its audience, in 2009, by infusing that same Fallout style wasteland with some color and an addictive Diablo style ‘loot’ system (a system that has players hunting after valuable items much like crack addicts). However, both Borderlands and Fallout 3 focused on one aspect and did it well. Rage, on the other hand, tries to do a number of things, but fails to make any of them stand out.

At it’s core, Rage‘s actual shooting feels good, especially the way enemies react when they’re hit. The animations show mutants and bandits spinning around, falling down and crawling back up to limp toward you. It looks convincing and it adds a nice flavor to the combat. Sadly though, the rest of the combat is poorly designed: Rage can’t decide whether it wants to be a fast paced shooter or one where you have to take cover every now and then. Combined with ineffective melee attacks and an unresponsive interface (you’ll be fumbling for grenades or bandages on a regular basis), it makes for a frustrating experience that won’t be able to sustain you for very long. The driving isn’t much better, the physics are very simple and the vehicular combat consists mostly of you getting far enough ahead of the pack so that you’re no longer involved in it. And there’s little incentive for attachment to your vehicle; new cars become available through missions, you select them from a menu and you simply spawn either on a track or in the wasteland. A little more persistence in that regard would have made the car feel more like your car. It’s a pretty long way from feeling like you’re Mel Gibson, out gathering fuel for your very own Interceptor. Problems like these are probably a direct result from the paper-thin RPG and open world components of Rage. Simple fetch quests and narrow corridors disguised as a wasteland are all you will find here.

Nevertheless, it looks spectacular (if you can get it to run right). The geometry and textures, in particular, look downright amazing. Rage achieves a level of visual fidelity I would not have thought possible on my current hardware (which is starting to show its age). There are some sacrifices to make this possible: the world is fairly static (no shooting out lights, windows or coffee cups) and the game doesn’t have a global dynamic lighting system.  Still, that sort of stuff doesn’t make or break a game. The problem with Rage is that it’s individual parts never come together as a cohesive experience. And even though Id’s latest game is much better than Duke Nukem Forever (which was a complete disaster), it feels similar in the sense that it displays an old fashioned approach to modern game design.

So what do we have here then? Rage is a great looking game. And it’s obvious that Id is trying for something more than their usual FPS fare with this ambitious rpg/racing/fps hybrid. But, ultimately they lack the vision to pull it off. I wonder whether that makes Doom 4, Id’s next game on Idtech5, kind of a last chance for Id. Personally, I’m hoping for a no-nonsense, hardcore shooter. Not a Half-Life clone either (like Doom 3). Just Doom. Updated.

This review is based on the PC version of Rage.