Frag with MAG

So, Zipper Interactive’s new PS3 game, MAG, was released today in Europe. It gives players the chance to interact with 255 other PMC-wannabes in huge, patchy looking battlefields. You take on rolling objectives as part of an eight-man squad – parachuting, reviving and fragging your way to victory. With three factions to choose from: Valor, S.V.E.R. and Raven, players are also part of a worldwide meta-game to see which private military company stands tall.

Last September, I spent some time with the EU beta but didn’t find it all that exciting. Even with the several hours I played it for, I couldn’t understand very much of what was going on – as this video by Giant Bomb can attest to. It’s one of those games that you really have to dedicate an inordinate amount of free time to. A cool concept, but after sampling Battlefield 1943’s version of online-only warfare, I think I prefer a smaller scale battle where I can goof off without having to pretend I’m in the army.

Out of Print

Bail out! Bail out! The paper ship’s sinking!

It’s with much regret that I must tell you Platform was been dealt a near fatal blow yesterday. After a week of unease the headless chickens up top came down on us hard and completely cancelled Platform Magazine’s print run until further notice. This is the first time the magazine has been axed like this in its 20-year history.

Despite fighting for our corner, the editor was kept out of the ongoing talks until earlier this week. The only silver lining here is that we haven’t been closed entirely. The magazine will still appear on our website and, hopefully, this crisis will force some of the other editors to start uploading material to the website more often.

Naturally, I’m totally bummed about this. But I’m not going to let it deter me from the goals and ambitions I have for Platform this year. In the words of our designer, “we’ll survive this, we always do.”

Style-’em-up

The new music revolution has arrived!

OK, maybe that’s a bit premature, but today the very first single from Gorillaz’ third album, Plastic Beach, goes on sale.

‘Stylo’ is the name and it marks Gorillaz return the music scene following their 2005 album, Demon Days. The track was played in demo form during Damon Albarn’s Radio 1 takeover in January 2009. There are guest appearances on the track by Bobby Womack and Mos Def, something I can’t wait to hear for myself. That’s what I love about Damon Albarn’s music – it is unpredictable.

This single is also download only – a big change from the physical, and even 7”, releases of the band’s previous commercial singles. Disappointing, as I was really hoping on getting hold of a physical copy with Jamie Hewlett’s evocative artwork. Just check that cool muscle car, Noodle’s exigent pose and Che Guevara-like attire, it’s like something out of a Vogue photo shoot.

Last week Gorillaz.com got a makeover after four years of hiatus. There was also controversy on the very same day when ‘Stylo’ leaked across the internet to the delight of thousands of egger fans (not including myself). Fortunately, the band was quick to respond and posted the song on YouTube as well as on their own website so that fans could listen to the track early.

Not wishing to have my own enjoyment of it spoilt by the opinions and critique of fans and ‘music experts’, I’ve kept myself clear of the streams… until now that is. Today I’m downloading ‘Stylo’ to listen and enjoy. I’m definitely going to do my best to get hold of a copy of the promo CD, too, because I need that single art in my collection.

I’m hoping not to overdo it, but I’ll certainly be talking more about Plastic Beach in the lead up to, and after, its release on 8 March 2010.

Wanted: Joanna Dark

Thought I’d give you a taste of the more risqué side of Joanna Dark with this post’s accompanying image, taken from a cover story that appeared in the November 2005 issue of FHM. I’ve always found video game characters appearing in ‘photo shoots’ for men’s magazines to be extremely tacky, but such was Microsoft’s heavy marketing madness for the game, and Xbox 360 console, back in September 2005.

So to the real purpose of this post, Perfect Dark: Second Front – the second Perfect Dark novel from the very capable Greg Rucka, and a direct sequel to Janus’ Tears.

Battered, bruised and in no fit shape for combat, Joanna Dark is rushed to the medical bay in the book’s opening chapters. While Jo is still recovering in the Carrington Institute medical bay, a doppelganger is out there causing a big stir by silencing the CEOs of two hypercorporations. Naturally, this doesn’t go down well with dataDyne (the biggest and most ruthless of them all), who target Jo for a vindictive assassination. Still not running at one hundred percent, Jo must track down her troublemaking double and clear her name before it is too late.

As the continuation of the Perfect Dark saga, Second Front captures the shadowy proxy war between the businesses of the future in frightfully close detail. The mock dataDyne and World Financial Times-Independent press releases give a great sense of the mediated ramifications of what really goes on in business. The chapters focusing on Cassandra DeVries are of real interest, as it is interesting to see how this woman is assimilated into the fold of the world’s largest hypercorporation and how she ultimately becomes a more bitter, headstrong woman because of it.

Jo’s story, too, feels more personal and has some pleasant human moments, such as her café meeting with the very sophisticated, Portia de Carcareas. Still not a big fan of her moral actions, but it is ‘kill or be killed’, I guess. Other characters do seem to have developed over the course of the Perfect Dark canon (Jonathan Steinberg and his uncomfortable, almost self-condemning, relationship to Joanna is a favourite of mine), however, it still does not feel as though Jo herself is evolving. She’s still stuck fighting her past, both mentally and literally in this novel. But, all told, this is another exciting read in world of Rare’s red-haired hired gun.

The Serial Zombie

Being the first comic based on Capcom’s widely recognised zombie-harvesting series, Resident Evil, I have read, I was surprised by how tame the artwork is in Resident Evil: Fire and Ice. The trade paperback I got my hands on actually contains all four Fire and Ice issues from 2000-2001, as well as additional shorts from WildStorm’s original Resident Evil comic.

The main course here was put together by a large team: Ted Adams and Kris Oprisko writing; Lee Bermejo, Shawn Crystal, Carlos D’Anda and others on art duties.

I’m not at all versed in Resident Evil’s ongoing story, so I shan’t bother with too much exposition with this one. The long and short of it is Umbrella is up to their old tricks as usual, and STARS’ dispatch Charlie Team to unearth and put a stop to the threat.

Even in its perfect bound, ad-free paperback form, this miniseries feels slim on fresh ideas and doesn’t hang together all that well editorially. Part of the blame could be that it is a four-part limited series trying to emulate a globetrotting zombie tale, but it’s really trying to do too much.

Action takes place in two separate locations before the climax in Alaska. There are a fair amount of characters too and, though there are one or two moments where you get to see their soft side, you’re never really given an opportunity to connect with them. The worst part has to be the framing. While it’s pleasing to see the artists holding back on the blood and gore that’s customary with most comic books of this genre, the art feels too shadowy and leaves the reader with no real sense of place.

Top this off with a crop of cacti arranged like the biohazard symbol, which also happen to conveniently hide something integral to the last five minutes, and you’ve got a miniseries that more than falls short of satisfying.

Coraline: Shock, Horror and the Other Mother

Over the Christmas break I finally had the chance to sit down and watch Coraline in the comfort of my living room. I had been intrigue by this film ever since I came across the large poster ad for it at Cineworld, Nottingham.

Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, after discovering a door to a ‘perfect’ dream world, the titular character is caught up in a manner of strange encounters. Coraline is forced to grow up, which is something only a handful of Western animated feature films really challenge with young protagonists.

Dramatic, with lots of black humour and rather more scares then I had bargained for, Coraline is an exemplar piece of stop-motion animation. One of the spookiest and most twisted tales I’ve seen in a long time.

Edge of Reason

I have finally conceded and subscribed to Edge Magazine. After years of flicking through the magazine by newsstands and picking up the odd copy now and again, I have become a full subscriber to Future’s most respected video game magazine.

When I was 12, my parents got me a subscription to Official PlayStation 2 Magazine. Since then I’ve picked up every copy I can get my hands on (including some of the earlier PS1 magazines I missed). Content with my carefully arranged and collated collection of PlayStation magazines, I wasn’t about to subscribe to Edge, and start another back issue hunt.

In years pasted I use to find Edge’s mix of consumer magazine and B2B publication to be a little odd. But the design – simple and conventional, yet elegant and bold – has always fascinated me.

So, late to the party as ever, I’ve decided to sign up for this regular slice of ‘video game culture’. Now into its 211th issue, I wonder if I’ll ever able to track down the 200 odd issues I overlooked for a fair price? Either way, it’s going to be nice to get two print magazines every month now.

Holmes cracks another one

“It does make a considerable difference to me having someone with me on whom I can thoroughly rely on,” quips Holmes, as he and his loyal friend Watson infiltrate the barren residence of a deceased alchemist.

They’re on the trail of Lord Blackwood, a murder obsessed with the occult, and a man that was pronounced dead but days ago. Yet, by some manner of trickery, he walks again. For these men of science and logic the situation is most irregular – though, highly intriguing, I’m sure.

Amid all this madness, controversy and university work I’ve still managed to find a spare moment to reenergise my creative mind at the pictures. And what could be more thrilling than an adventure story cum buddy flick mixed with more than hint of late 19th century splendour? Yes, the brand new 21st century version of Sherlock Holmes is a darn good thrill ride.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have a strong chemistry that translates perfectly to their on-screen partnership of Holmes and Watson. Downey maintains a rigorous level of concentration and unapologetic acuteness throughout – a persona that seems very convincing for a mind as brilliant and easily bored as Holmes’. His somewhat larger-than-life English accent makes him all the more endearing too.

And Law makes a good straight man to Downey’s unintentional bungling. As you’d expected they’re friendship isn’t without complication and it is interesting to see the lengths they go to help one another, even if it never feels as if their friendship is truly in jeopardy, despite Watson’s engagement sub-plot trying to embed this.

Mark Strong also plays the sinister and deluded, Lord Blackwood, and to great effect I might add. Romance is introduced by Rachel McAdams masquerading as the lady-you’ll-regret-before-you-forget, Irene Adler. The film dispenses with a traditional lovey-dovey affair in favour of one which has more comedic and dramatic kick.

There’s plenty of sleuthing and trademark Holmes reasoning, which are explained in some brilliant fast-cut exposition scenes. The relationships feel genuine and even the secondary characters have one or two golden moments themselves. What’s more, the comedy has a way of creeping up on you when the action has already moved on, spurring you to laugh at some of its less overt wit. Its late 19th century setting is also wonderfully realised by Guy Ritchie and the production team.

In all, wonderful characterisation, a devilishly good plot and a half-finished Tower Bridge to top things off. I’d say that’s a winner, old man.

“Excellent deduction, Watson.”