About Me

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Greetings. I am the Illusive One. For many years now I have been a huge video game player, movie viewer, and book reader. For almost as long, I have been a critic of these things and many people respect my opinions of these things and have often said I belong on G4 doing reviews on X-Play or a similar show. Sadly that is not likely to happen. So instead I shall do reviews for you, uninfluenced by other reviewers, of video games books, movies, and, occasionally, music and political actions. I hope you find this informative and helpful. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ben-Hur Review, Happy Holidays

            I haven't said this in my previous posts, so I'll say it now: Happy Holidays everyone.  For this occasion I decided to do a review on a film that's not quite a Christmas movie, (in fact it's more of an Easter film), but still has the same kind of feel good aura around it most Christmas movies do and often used to be shown on T.V. during the Holiday and Easter seasons.  It's time for the Illusive One's Ben-Hur Review.
            Released in 1959, the film was the most epic of its time, using over 100,000 costumes, 8,000 extras, 300 sets, and the largest budget of its time.  It was directed by William Wyler and starred Charlton Heston and was based on the novel of the same name by Lew Wallace.  The film would go on to win 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Heston, and Best Director for Wyler and was the third Best Director win of his carrier.
            The film revolves around the story of Jewish nobleman, Judah Ben-Hur during the Biblical era.  After a cruel twist of fate and a betrayal of a once beloved friend, Judah finds all he loves taken from him, beginning his epic story that leads him to becoming a slave on Roman gallons, to a champion chariot racer, to an adopted son of a Roman noble, and finally back to Jerusalem where he seeks vengeance against his former friend and hopes to be reunited with his true friends and family and to fateful encounters with Jesus Christ that change his life.
            On the positive side...well...nearly everything about it is good.  It's well acted, has a great plot, and for its time had great production value with a lot of great scenes, most famous being the climactic chariot race and cleverly blended the story of Jesus with that of Ben-Hur.  While the plot may seem a little clichéd by today's standards it didn't come off that way at all.  Ben-Hur's character is dynamic and great and throughout the entire movie, you find yourself hoping he will win in the end, but also want him to find the peace that has eluded him since the start of the film. 
            On the negative side, however, the film is a bit outdated.  Most of the costumes, particularly the Roman armor, the ships, special effects and most of the fights look really bad and fake by today's standards.  A few I remember in particular are a man who climbs out of a ship with his hand missing with what looks like a piece of plastic sticking out of the stub and another where a man starts tearing his skin trying to get a chain off.  But those are the only complaints have.  Everything else is great.
            All around, this was a great movie, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.  It's a great story of a man who has the world, looses it, only to gain it back again in a different form, learning something along the way.  Maybe it's not a Christmas movie but it's still a great feel good movie so check it out. 
All Around
9.5/10
            Until next time, this is the Illusive One saying Happy Holidays.               

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fable 3 Review

          Throughout October, I reviewed a number of games in preparation for the late releases this year.  Earlier I did Fallout: New Vegas, but now it's time to do another.  This is the follow up to Fable 2.  It's the Illusive One's Fable 3 review.

The Plot
            The game begins roughly fifty years after the end of Fable 2 and Albion has entered the Age of Industry.  After defeating Lord Lucian, the hero from Fable 2 unites all of Albion under his/her rule and becomes king/queen.  The hero from the last game is now dead and his/her eldest son, Logan, is now ruler of Albion.  At first he is a fair but firm ruler, but almost overnight becomes a tyrant and the people suffer under his harsh rule.  It opens with a cinematic that explains the entire situation in the land that depicts a chicken running through the streets of Bowerstone.  You play as the Prince or Princess, Logan's younger sibling, who, after being forced into a terrible situation by Logan, start a revolution against him to place yourself as the ruler of Albion.  After obtaining the throne, however, you find that your promises are harder to keep when Albion faces one of its greatest threats of all time.
The Game Play
            For the most part, the game play of Fable 3 was identical to Fable 2.  The controls were the same, your dog did the same things, you're still able to buy and sell property, and most of the enemies were the same as they were in Fable 2. 
            One major change in the game was the way you upgraded your character.  All of the other Fable games had your character go into an upgrade menu, where you spent strength, skill, will, and general experience for new abilities.  In this game, however, in order to upgrade your character you need to go to a surreal area called The Road to Rule, where you find chests along a path that upgrade your skills.  Rather than using experience, you use these things called Guild Seals to unlock the chests that are earned through combat, missions, and obtaining friendships with people in the world.       
            Another change was the way you used spells.  In previous Fable games the ability to cast spells seemed to be innate, but in this game, the Hero must use a gauntlet in order to channel the power.  The number of spells you are able to use has also been reduced and I and many people I know were disappointed by this. 
            One irritating thing about this game is the enemies and let me tell you, they got lazy in this department.  They are almost the exact same as those of Fable 2; bandits, (though they call them mercenaries), Hobbs, Balverines and hugely overused Hollow Men.  While they did include a few new enemies that come from a desert land they don't really do anything to lift the problem, as they only appear sparsely and only in certain areas at certain times of the game.
            The jobs in this game have also changed.  In Fable 2 you could be a bounty hunter, an assassin, a black smith, a bar tender or a wood cutter.  In this game however, only the bounty hunter and black smith jobs return and adds in the jobs of a lute player and a pie maker.  The way you do the job has also changed into a button sequence rather than hitting the A button at certain times and I thought it was a great improvement. 
            The game also includes more cut scenes than in previous games.  But they and many other parts of the game were very glitchy, as trails of the characters seemed to be left behind as they walked and made playing it nauseating.  Often when getting a critical hit, the camera would remain zoomed in on the enemy in question making you open to enemy attacks.  Even the trails leading to your destinations were glitchy; often disappearing or leading you to God knows where and made the game infuriating.
             The last thing to mention in this department is the karma system.  While there are decisions to make early in the game, the major ones don't start until you become the ruler of Albion.  They mostly have to deal with the promises you made to the people who supported your rebellion and whether or not to keep them.  In the end, you can either become the tyrant you fought to overthrow, or become the greatest ruler Albion has ever known.
The Characters
            Unlike the characters in Fable 2, the characters in this game were flat and extremely forgettable.  Walter is your typical mentor, Jasper is your typical supportive butler and the rest were just as clichéd.  Even the antagonists were boring and forgettable, although it did have a decent final boss fight. 
            Reaver returns in this game as the head of a company called Reaver Industries and is your typical evil CEO and I found it a bit disappointing that you never get the chance to fight him.  Theresa is also back, once again as a kind of guide to the Hero but her involvement is minor and disappointingly lazy.  Even the dog in this game was downgraded and wasn't nearly as charming or entertaining as it was in Fable 2.
            This game was also the first to give the Hero a voice.  But the Hero hardly has any lines and the voice acting for him/her is so bad that it makes you wish they never gave him/her a voice in the first place.  All around, the characters were a big disappointment. 
The Verdict
            All around, I enjoyed this game much more then Fable 2.  The characters and upgrade system went down, the enemies remained the same but the plot was by far greater.  There was just as much, if not more, to nitpick at as Fable 2, and it was still no where nearly as good as the original Fable, it was still, in my opinion, a much better sequel then Fable 2.
All Around
8/10

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Pillars of the Eath Review

            During the summer of 2010, the cable network STARZ released a miniseries entitled The Pillars of the Earth based on the novel of the same name by Ken Follett.  The series spanned ten episodes and starred Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and Donald Sutherland.  Earlier this year, I watched this show and decided to give my own take on it.  It’s the Illusive One’s review on The Pillars of the Earth.
            It was set in Medieval England during the turbulent period after the death of Henry I, known as The Anarchy.  It mainly focuses on a family of stonemasons, the Builder family and their efforts to build a Gothic Cathedral for a prior named Philip in the fictional town of Kingsbridge.  There were also two major subplots of the series.  The first involves the daughter and son of an earl who sought to reclaim their earldom after their father is executed.  The second involves war between King Stephen and Princess Maude over the throne of England after the death of Henry I.
            The series had a great cast of characters that included Bishop Waleran Bigod, played by Ian McShane, who served as the main antagonist of the series.  He seeks to stop the construction of the Kingsbridge Cathedral, first because he wants the resources going into it to instead go to the construction of his own personal palace, then out of personal spite towards Prior Philip.  His main instrument in this is William Hamleigh, played by David Oakes who opposes and raids the monks and workers of Kingsbridge.  Prior Philip, played by Mathew Macfadyen, who wants his church built and is, for the most part, everything a priest should be.  Rufus Sewell played Tom Builder, the head of the Builder family with a lifelong dream of building a Cathedral.  Eddie Redmayne plays as Jack, Tom's stepson who is a brilliant and talented sculptor.  His skill, however, brings the resentment and jealousy of his stepbrother, Alfred, played by Liam Garrigan.  Finally there are the children of the dead Earl Bartholomew, played by Donald Sutherland.  Aliena, played by Hayley Atwell and Richard, played by Sam Clafin attempt to reclaim their fathers Earldom from Hamleigh family
            While the plot doesn’t look very compelling it is executed in such a great way, that you often forget what the plot actually is.  The series has everything in it.  It has tragedy, betrayal, romance, drama and war that all tie in perfectly with the main plot.  It was well acted and had a lot of great scenes, my favorite being where the monks and the quarry workers claim the quarry from William for the first time and has to be seen to really appreciate.  With all the subplots and length of the story there was no way this story could have been told by anything shorter then a miniseries.
            On the negative side, however, like most other historical fiction series, it tends to drag on at a slow pace.  Some of the characters were also killed off a lot faster than I expected and often left me dumbfounded.  My final criticism was that the ending seemed a little rushed and things were revealed a little too quickly, and seemed a little deus ex machina.
            All around I felt it was a great miniseries with a great plot, great characters and a great cast.  If you liked other historical fiction series like Rome or The Tutors then I would absolutely recommend this.

All Around
9/10
                

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Illusive One's Look At Bioware

          I recently received an email from GameStop that advertised the preordering of Mass Effect 3.  A teaser trailer for it had already been released, so I went to YouTube to check it out.  All I have to say is that I'm already hooked.  It's due for release on the holiday season for 2011, but I figured this was as good a time as any to do a review on the games and other games by Bioware as any.  This one however, will not be a review for any particular game they did, but more of an overview on their games in general and more detailed reviews of the games will come in the future.  So for now, I present to you the Illusive One's Take of the games of Bioware. 

          Bioware is a game company that was founded in 1995 and has released dozens of games since.  Originally, most of these games were released only for PC and made it hard for casual gamers to play their games.  The most notable of these were the Neverwinter Nights series and Baldur’s Gate series that were based off of Dungeons and Dragons.  But the game that really put them on the map, however, was the 2003 video game for the XBOX, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  Taking place 4,000 years before the events of the rise of the Galactic Empire, KOTOR centers around an unnamed Jedi with no memory of who he is and who eventually becomes a key player in the current war between the Jedi and the Sith.  While I myself never played this game, (I never had the original XBOX), I have been told it is a great game and is one of the greatest Star Wars games of all time.  While I can't vouch for that, I do know that it was the first to really establish Bioware as a gaming company that focused on plot and characters just as much, if not more, then general game play and was one of the earlier consul games to introduce a karma system into the game play.
          Over the next few years, Bioware didn't develop too many not worthy games.  They had next to nothing to do with the KOTOR sequel, The Sith Lords and instead made the game Jade Empire that was released in 2005.  This game I have nothing to say about as I have never played it and only recently heard of it.  With the dawn of the next generation systems like XBOX 360, Wii, and PS3, Bioware put together what would be, in my opinion, one of the greatest space operas ever conceived.

          This game was Mass Effect.  It was released in late 2007, and had one of the greatest plots and environments I have ever seen in a video game.  Taking place in the distant future where humanity is now part of an intergalactic community called the Citadel, the game follows the story of Commander Shepard and his/her efforts to stop an alien named Saren from bringing back a species of alien machines called the Reapers to the Milky Way Galaxy and destroying all intelligent like in it.  While the controls and the game play are a little stiff and clunky, it's one of the few games I have ever played where the plot was so good that it made me forget about its flaws in game play.  I was so impressed by the whole idea of the Mass Effect Universe that I consider it to be the greatest space opera ever put into any form of media, behind only Star Wars.  It's a great one, so check it out.


          Unfortunately, this was also the year where Bioware fell under the thumb of the evil empire of game making, Electronic Arts, or EA Games and I have mixed feelings on this.  On the positive side, Bioware has been making more games in the past few years then they had in their first five years of business.  On the negative side, however, it seems like the games are slowly but surely losing their great elements of plot and characters and replacing it with more commercially accepted elements of game play.  But more time must pass and more games must be released before I can make a final judgment on this.

          Back to the games, a new franchise for Bioware was stared with the release of Dragon Age: Origins in late 2009.  The game is considered by fans and developers to be the spiritual successor to their Baldur’s Gate series, which had long since become a dead franchise.  In this game you take control of a warrior part of an order known as the Gray Wardens who do all they possibly can to stop a race of orc-like creatures, known as Darkspawn, from overrunning and destroying their world.  While I love this game, it, at times, seemed to be a medieval fantasy version of Mass Effect and a collection of all the old fantasy clichés rolled up into one game.  The clichés, however, are almost ignorable as they come off very fresh in the game, not at all unlike the way old action clichés came off as being fresh in the Indiana Jones films.  An expansion to this game was released in April of 2010 and at least eight pieces of downloadable content were released within a year of its release.  Like most Bioware games, it has a great plot and great characters.  The game play was a little irritating and very similar Final Fantasy XII and I'm not much of a fan of it, but like Mass Effect, I can overlook it because it had such a great plot to it. 


          In January of 2010 the anticipated sequel, Mass Effect 2 was released.  The plot of the game revolves around Shepard trying to stop a race of creatures, known as Collectors, (who are revealed to be servants of the Reapers), from abducting people from human colonies for unknown reasons.  Most of it involves Shepard recruiting team members for his/her mission and sometimes came off as being a space opera version of The Magnificent Seven.  The plot of it wasn't as good as the first and is where my concern of EA's influence comes in.  Many of the great plot elements of the first game, however, revolved around the discovering and learning of the Mass Effect Universe and I don't think there was any way they could have matched this a second time around. 
            The game play, however, was hugely improved as were the characters.  The clunky and stiffness of the first game is gone and you get more involved in the lives of your team members.  Each has their own unique personalities and past experiences that make them great.  The decision from the first game also passes on to this game and makes it very interesting to see the results of your actions.  Even though it lacked the same kind of plot as Mass Effect, I would still highly recommend this one.  You won't be disappointed.




          So, what's next for Bioware?  Well, as I stated above, Mass Effect 3 is due for release in the holiday season of 2011 and I can't wait for it.  The sequel to Dragon Age Origins is due for release in March of 2011 and from what I know about it so far, seems like it will be good with new takes on the world of Dragon Age.  Bioware is also due to revive the Knights of the Old Republic franchise with an MMORPG entitled Star Wars: The Old Republic, due for release some time in the first half of 2011 and has been in development for years.  But for now, all the fans of these games can do is wait and hope that EA Games doesn’t fuck Bioware up.  Until next time, this is the Illusive One saying,                        

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Illusive One's Top Ten Villain List

          I was recently at IGN.com, comparing their reviews to that of my own when I noticed a Top 100 Video Game Villain List and took the time to look through it.  Needless to say, I was more than a little surprised at some of the names that appeared and didn't appear.  It had some surprising ones like Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid Series and Mario, (in his only appearance as a villain), from and an old Donkey Kong game.  There were also some weird ones like Mechanical Hitler from the original Wolfenstein and a few essential ones like Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII and Dracula from the Castlevania series, but I was surprised at how many great villains were left out. 
           I had been planning my own release of a top ten villains list for some time, but seeing this list has given me the encouragement I needed.  This list will not include only video game villains but villains from books and movies as well.  Keep in mind that there are many games I haven’t played, many books I haven’t read, and many movies I haven’t seen, so consider this an incomplete list for now and I may up date it with a new post in the future.  Until then I present to you with an evil grin, The Illusive One's Top Ten Villains.

         At number ten, Jack of Blades from Fable.  While some people may disagree with me on this, Jack of Blades was easily, in my book, one of the greatest video game villains of all time and represents all that is evil in the Fable world.  Before the game took place, he and his followers attempted to subvert Albion to his rule.  When they refused he destroyed Albion, not once, but three times until he was temporarily defeated and lost his great weapon, the Sword of Aeons.  In the game he slaughters and burns down entire villages, burns down the Guild of Heroes, and butchers anyone in his path in order to regain his sword and to once again attempt to subvert the lands.  The final battle with him at the end of the game was also one of the most epic I have ever seen in a video game, and for that reason alone deserves a spot on my list.

          At number nine, Zeus, from God of War 2.  I haven't played God of War 3, so I can't comment on his character in it but in 2, he was bad ass.  He was unmerciful, unrelenting, and just as, if not more, vengeful then Kratos, destroying Sparta just out of spite, after he believes he has killed Kratos.  The final fight with him at the end of the game was just as intense as the fight with Jack of Blades in Fable and I consider it one of my favorite endgame boss fights.  Hopefully soon I will have the chance to play God of War 3 and will be able to expand on this, but for now, that's all I have for Zeus.



          At number eight, Hannibal Lecter from the Hannibal Lecter series.  Need I say more?  Well I will anyway.  For those of you who don’t' know, Hannibal Lector is an insane but ingenious doctor who kills and eats people.  While he is captured fairly early in the series, it doesn’t stop him from manipulating detectives who come to him asking for his advice in tracking other serial killers.  He does so hesitantly, but always has a hidden agenda, whether it involves getting the detective killed, getting them promoted, or getting him out of prison.  In three of the five films, he is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, easily the best and received an Oscar for Best Actor in a Lead Role, even though he hardly has any screen time and deserves a spot an anyone's villain list.

          At number seven, The Illusive Man from Mass Effect 2.  While technically not the villain of the series the Illusive Man, voiced by Martin Sheen, still fits the profile of a true villain perfectly.  In the Mass Effect Universe he is the head of a terrorist, pro-human organization, called Cerberus, who seek human dominance over the universe.  I consider him to be a modern day Blofeld, the leader of S.P.E.C.T.E.R. and a villain of the James Bond series as the way they operate and their goals are very similar, (lacking the  Persian Cat).  Throughout the game he cleverly manipulates people to his own end with his calm but commanding presence and constantly puts Shepard in harm’s way without giving him all the information he needs and is always one step ahead of everyone.  His true nature as a power hungry monster is not revealed until the end of the game and his cleaver hiding of this gives him a place on my list.


          At number six, The Joker from the Batman series.  Undoubtedly the greatest comic book villain ever conceived, the Joker first appeared in the comic book Batman No. 1 and has since become Batman's greatest villain and one of the most popular villains of all time.  Over the years the character has effectively changed with time.  He was first a psychopathic who used poison gas, then changed to the comedic, campy idiot, played by Cesar Romero in the Batman series of the 60s, to Jack Nicholson's unpredictable, psychotic, yet, hilarious portrayal in Tim Burton’s 1989 film, Batman, to the Mark Hamill Joker of Batman: The Animated Series, and to Heath Leger's unforgettable performance in the 2008 film, The Dark Knight.  Take your pick of which is the best, but I think anyone would agree that the Joker deserves a place on any top ten villain list.   




          At number five, the Dahaka from Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.  Introduced in the second game of the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Trilogy, the Dahaka was portrayed as a relentless, nearly indestructible, juggernaut, (with a weird dislike for water), who was a kind of guardian of the time line.  When the Prince didn't die in Sands of Time, as was his destiny, the Dahaka appeared to correct that mistake.  He relentlessly pursues the Prince for this goal and this made for the most heart pounding, palm sweating, pursuits I have ever played in a game. 





          At number four, Darth Vader from the Star Wars series. Once again, do I even need to explain?  Well I will anyway.  In the original Star Wars Trilogy, he was the great evil everyone feared.  To the Rebel Alliance, he was the faceless monster that led the Empire.  To the Empire he was the boss you didn’t want to work for.  Encountering Vader would always mean you were screwed.  He kills those who fail him without restraint or mercy and has no trouble torturing people for no reason and the number of lives that must be sacrificed to achieve success means nothing to him.  While Return of the Jedi and the prequel trilogy set him up as more of a tragic hero, I think most people will still agree with me in saying he is one of the greatest film villains of all time.  

          At number three, The Demon, from Running With the Demon.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the Word and Void Trilogy by Terry Brook, it was a trilogy he wrote in the late 90s, that featured an endless war in our world between servants of the Word and of the Void, (essentially Order and Chaos).  The servants of the Word are Knights and the servants of the Void of are Demons who relentlessly hunt each other to tip the balance to their side.  The description of the character was kind of vague as it constantly changed forms.  It killed in cleaver, deceptive, and unpredictable ways and had an attitude that was one of the greatest I have ever seen in a book.  The way the character was described fits a psychopath perfectly and is very impressive because it was done only with written words.  He is undoubtedly the greatest villain Brooks ever created and is one of the greatest of all time in my book.



          At number two, The Man in Black, from Lost.  For those of you who haven’t seen the final season of Lost I would recommend skipping this one, as it contains a few spoilers.  The Man in Black first appeared as the Smoke Monster in the series and represented all the supernatural fears of the Island to the flight survivors.  As the series progresses, he carefully manipulates the survivors and the Others to doing his bidding and kills all those who defy him, or who he suspects may be a threat to him.  He frequently takes on the forms of the dead to confuse people, directing them all to his ultimate goal of killing Jacob, Jacob's his potential successors, and destroying and escaping the Island.    








          Now who could possibly top all of these great villains?  Well, to tell you the truth this one is a little obscure compared to the others.

          At number one is Bayaz, from the First Law Trilogy.  Most people, sadly, are not familiar with the First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, as it has yet to gain the same reputation as other fantasy series like Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, or Shannara so let me just give you a basic run down.  The series focus around a few central characters in a kingdom known as the Union as it fights off barbarian invaders from the north and a Saracen like empire to the south, with Bayaz carefully pulling the strings of the Union government.  He is described as a well built elder man with no hair and a large gut. At first he comes off as being a kind of stricter version of Gandalf with a short temper, working to help the Union, but eventually reveals himself to be an evil man just as bad, if not worse, then the villains of the series.  Various twists occur in the final book of the trilogy that reveals him to be the monster he is.  He cares nothing for human life or liberties, has no trouble sacrificing millions of lives for his rivalry with other magi and delivers some of the most demented and ego reducing monologs I have ever read in a book or seen in a movie or video game.  And that is why Bayaz is number one on my top ten villain list.

          Well that's it for my Top Ten Villain list.  If any of you disagree with my choices I encourage you to comment on why.  Once again, keep in mind that there are many games I haven’t played, many books I haven’t read, and many films I haven’t seen and this list my change in the future.  Until next time, this is The Illusive One sighing off.



 






 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Crazy Heart Review

            Throughout 2009, their were a lot of great films released, that included The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Up, District 9, and Inglorious Bastards.  The one I want to talk about, however, is one that was fairly over looked by most audiences and kind of seemed to sneak into the Oscars.  This is the Illusive One's review of Crazy Heart.
            Released into theaters on December 16th, 2009, the film stars Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a once famous, alcoholic, washed up country singer trying to get his life and carrier back in order; a performance which earned him Oscar for Best Actor.  It costars Maggie Gylinhall as Jean Craddock, a reporter Blake falls in live with, Robert Duvall as Wayne Kramer, a bartender and Blake's best friend, and Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet, a former protegee of Blake's who replaced him in the spotlight.
            Other then that their really isn’t much to say about this film.  It wasn’t unlike The Wrestler, where the whole store is fixated on one character and everyone else just revolves around them.  It had great acting and a great plot to it.
            On the negative side, however, it's one of those kinds of films that is all about plot, acting, and the struggles the main character goes through and is not for everyone.
            All around I really enjoyed it but have reservations about recommending it.  If you just watch movies to laugh, see explosions, and a ton of gore, I'd say skip this one.  If you like movies like The Hurt Locker, The Wrestler, Frost/Nixon, and Their Will Be Blood, then I absolutely recommend seeing it.

All Around
9/10  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wizards First Rule Review

            I recently found myself going through a lot of my old books with the intention of donating them to my local library when I came across the fantasy novel, Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind.  It was Goodkind's first novel and the first book of the Sword of Truth series.  So I decided before I donated this book I would write a review on it.  This is the Illusive One's Wizard's First Rule review.
            The plot of the book revolves around Richard Cypher in the aftermath of his father's brutal murder.  He encounters a woman named Kahlan in the woods one day and in doing so gets involved in her quest to find an ancient wizard and to stop an evil emperor named Darken Rahl from using an ancient magic that will enable him to rule the world. 
            The only positive thing I have to say about this book is that it had believable characters.  Other then that it's all bad.  Their was way to much talking, crappy fight descriptions, and various events that didn't seem to have any purpose other then filling up pages.  To summarize this book in a single sentence, it's five hundred pages of descriptions of terrain, walking and dialog, a hundred pages of shitty fight descriptions, and about two hundred pages of suspense with endings that leave you hungry for more. 
            The only redeeming factor about this book is what the wizards first rule is.  It states that people are stupid and will believe anything as long as the want it to be true or are afraid that it is true.  In my experience with people, this is true.
            My final recommendation is to stay away from this shit-fest of words that tries to pass itself off as a fantasy book.  The few sequels I have read are no better with endings that are just traps to lure you into the next book.

All Around
4/10
       

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street Remake Review

            As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a big fan of horror movies.  From the classical silent films, to the golden age of Universal chillers, to the Hammer remakes of the 50-70s, and to the slasher genera of the 80s horror movies had been great, disturbing, and fun.  In recent years, however, horror movies have taken a turn for the worse and have made a habit of remaking classical and foreign horror such as Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Ring, The Grudge, Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man.  I recently saw this movie so I decided to give my take on it.  This is the Illusive One's A Nightmare on Elm Street remake review.
            Let me start off my saying Freddy Kruger was probably the greatest slasher villain ever and is undoubtedly the greatest character ever created by Wes Craven.  Unlike earlier slasher icons like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, Freddy had a voice, a face, and didn't kill camp councilors or baby sitters with a machete or a butcher knife.  He killed people in their dreams with knife fingers.  These things alone made Freddy the greatest of the 80s slasher villains and the dream idea opened up tons of possibility’s for the ways he could kill people and insured fresh ideas for each movie.  There would be a total six movies, a spin off movie, a short lived T.V. series, a crossover with Jason and now a remake.
            Like a lot of modern remakes, it’s close in plot and style with the original.  Jackie Earle Haley did a pretty good job of replacing Robert Englund as Freddy and went back to demonic Freddy of the original movies, (although he was prone to a wise crack or two).  There was enough gore in it to satisfy my personal bloodlust, but at the same time, it wasn't to over the top.  In addition it introduced a kind of dream walking that supposedly comes with sleep deprivation and causes the character to lose their sense of reality, adding to the blurred lines of dreams and reality.  It also added more back story to Freddy, showing him as an accused child torturing pedophile, instead of a sadistic killer and actually gives the viewer the idea that Freddy might just have be innocent, which was a pretty good twist on the original story.
            On the negative side, the movie was definitely a slasher movie.  It has all the old shock clichés of slashers such as the killer popping up in the background or foreground of the picture and people in disbelief that what's happening is happening.  The acting with a lot of the younger cast members, in particular, is bad and seemed lazy.  Another gripe I had was that I felt they showed too much of Freddy's face.  In the original movie, the rooms all seemed dimly lit, more focused on the victim then on Freddy, who seemed to be constantly shadowed.  In this movie, however, they kept his face in full view whenever he was in a scene, giving him a less demonic appearance.  Finally, some of the special effects were bad, particularly when he puts his claw through someone.  It’s obviously CG, and makes me miss the old Tom Savini-style gore effects.
            If you like slasher movies and the Friday the 13th remake then I recommend this one.  It was definitely better than some of the sequels to the original and is better than a lot of the other remakes that have come out in the past decade but still not as good as the original.

All Around 7/10
                  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jason and the Argonauts


As stated on my first post, I shall be doing movie reviews as well as books and video games.  For my first movie review, I decided to do one that is universally considered to be classic.  It's time for The Illusive One's Jason and the Argonauts review.
            Released in 1963, the effects in this movie are considered to be the master work of stop motion animator, Ray Harryhausen.  But was the movie itself actually that good?
            The plot of the movie revolves around Jason of Thessaly, based on the mythical character and his quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece at the end of the world and to reclaim his murdered father's throne. 
            On the positive side it follows the myth fairly well, cleverly combining the best elements of the journey to and from Colchis into a single voyage.  It depicts the Gods using the world as their own chessboard and the mortals as their pawns in their never ending games.  The stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen are well done and are the spectacle of this movie and have inspired countless film makers and special effects crews.  The most famous of these was the battle with the skeletons and was a fight that would never be surpassed using stop motion animation.
            On the negative side, however, this movie is very outdated.  The acting, to put it lightly, is very bad and didn't seem to have much effort put into it.  It's the kind of acting you would probably expect to see in a 50s/60s matinee movie.  A lot of the miniature sets were obvious and some of the background scenes, particularly the ones with the Cashing Rocks, look really fake and requires a lot of suspension of disbelief not to laugh at.  The final issue I have with this movie, (and I know I'm not alone in this), is the ending.  I won't spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but the ending leaves you hanging in a way that makes you feel that the story is only half over.
            All around, it's a decent movie and must see for any lover of Greek Mythology.  I say watch it if you can get past the outdated feel to it.  If not, don't bother.

All Around
7/10

Fallout: New Vegas

Throughout October, I reviewed a number of games in preparation for the late releases this year.  Now it's time to actually review one of these games.  I held off posting this review until I got what I felt was a fair perspective of the game  This is the followup to Fallout 3.  This is The Illusive One's Fallout: New Vegas Review.
   The Plot
            Unlike Fallout 3, the plot of this game was fairly straight forward.  A new democracy has emerged in California, calling itself the New California Republic and has quickly become the dominant power on the west coast.  As the Republic expanded it stumbled upon Hoover Dam intact and usable.  Not far from it, they also discovered a city untouched by the nuclear fire of the Great War called New Vegas, (formally Las Vegas), run by the mysterious and reclusive Mr. House with his private army of robots and rehabilitated tribals. 
            However, another power had emerged east of the Colorado River calling itself Caesar's Legion and the two great factions went to war over Hoover Dam with the NCR only just emerging victorious.  The Legion's defeat, however, was not decisive and across the Colorado river they prepare for another attack.  Four years have passed since the Battle of Hoover Dam and the New Vegas Strip has remain open for business.
            You play as a courier who is hired to deliver a platinum poker chip to the strip only to be ambushed and shot in the head by a mysterious man in a checkered suit.  Somehow you survive and peruse him to New Vegas and learn of the increasing hostilities between the NCR and the Legion and ultimately decide who will rule New Vegas, Hoover Dam, and the Mojave Wastelands.
The Game Play
            The basic game play was nearly identical to that of Fallout 3 with the same leveling upgrades and the same controls.  The only significant difference is the ability to look down the irons of the gun whereas in Fallout 3 it only zoomed in.  One of the major differences of these two games is your Fame Meter.  Different towns and different factions have different opinions of you based on your actions for or against the town.  For example, working for the NCR against the Legion gives you fame, (they like you), for the NCR but infamy (they hate you) for the Legion. 
            The game offers nearly identical sets of armor as Fallout 3 other then the Legion and NCR armor.  Wearing the armor of either of these factions makes them think you're one of them and will allow you to go places that would normally be forbidden.  However, this will make the opposing faction shoot at you on sight as long as your dressed in that armor.  Depending on the armor your enemy is wearing can determine how difficult it will be to kill it.  Wearing armor, for example makes it far harder to kill an enemy then it did in Fallout 3 and requires you to buy a variety of different ammo types such as armor piercing bullets or hollow points to kill different targets.
            The guns, however, are of a much larger variety in this game.  It has has the guns from Fallout 3 but also offers weapons such as a variety of Assault Carbines that resemble M16s.  There are also other familiar weapons such as 9mm pistols, light machine guns, and grenade launchers.  Additional mods can be bought for these weapons such as sights and handles for improved accuracy.
            There is also a huge number of quests in this game.  By my count there are over 200 and most don't offer Trophies or Achievements.  These quests usually involve the main factions and the independent towns throughout the Mojave and determining their fate.  Getting sidetracked from the main storyline is easy as a result and you could spend twenty hours on the game before even getting to New Vegas.
            You are also able to recruit a number of companions in this game and much easier to control then in Fallout 3.  For one thing, they don't die unless you kill them or if the game is in hardcore mode.  They just get knocked out.  There is also the Companion Wheel, that enables you better command your troops such as telling them to wait, be aggressive, to watch your back or to keep your distance.  Each of these companions also has a personal quest that involves their past, culture, or family.  Sometimes these quests improve your characters or have the opposite effect depending on the results of the quest.
            Another noteworthy part of the game play is Hardcore Mode.  This is a mode that requires you to eat, drink, sleep in order to survive and makes for a much more challenging game.  Failure to do these things will result in death.  Ammo is also given weight, limiting the amount you can carry.  Healing items, such as stimpaks, heal over time, rather then immediately and broken limbs can only be healed by a doctor or a doctor bag.
            If there is one bad thing to say about the game play it's that it is glitchy as shit!  These glitches  include but are not limited to enemies falling through the ground, problems loading, frequent freezing, and delays in pressing buttons and the reaction of your character and nearly make the game unplayable.  Maybe this was due to the programer laziness, to a tight budget, or due to the changing of people who hate you but who can say.   A lot of these glitches are being fixed by downloadable patches for the game that have already come out or are going to come out in the near future.  Regardless, the glitches are their and it's nearly a fatal flaw in the game play.
The Characters
            Unlike its predecessor, Fallout: New Vegas did not have a great cast of characters.   While your companions and their quests are interesting the rest of the characters often come off as wooden and cliched.  Mr. House tends to come off as your typical mafia/CEO overlord, Caesar as an insane but driven leader, and Oliver as your typical pencil pushing officer.  Ron Perelman reprises his role as the game's narrator and Mathew Perry does the voice of Benny or the man in the checkered suit.  Kris Kerstofferson also has a role in this game but it's so obscure that its actually possible not to encounter his character throughout the game. 
            Danny Trejo and Zackery Levi provide their voices for companion characters, but are also obscure and missable as are most of the companions in this game.  The companion quests are interesting and it's cool to see how a lot of these characters started out and to help determine where they go.
The Verdict
            All around this game was decent.  It was everything I expected but nothing more.  It was incredibly distant from Fallout 3 in the way they took its plot.  Their was no Enclave, the Brotherhood of Steel's involvement is minor, and Super-Mutants and Gouls are rare.  In this game, the true horrors of the wastelands are the people around you where there are no true villains, only the lesser of a number of evils and is more about prospering in the waistlands rather then just surviving in it.  It show guts on the part of the developers that they were willing to take a different approach to this game whereas the plot of Fallout 3 sometimes just felt like a remake of the first two.  But unfortunately the plot just wasn't as compelling as it was in 3. 
            The game suffered from flat characters and a huge number of glitches and sometimes seemed like it borrowed to much in game play from 3.  The environment, however, was great and was truly a unique thing to bring to the gaming world. 
            If you liked Fallout 3 I say give this one a play but just don't be expected to be blown away the same way you were with the last game.
All Around
8/10