Culture

Not yet Famous

Avoiding any vulgar innuendo in this post about a comic book-inspired game, let me tell you why I can’t wait to become infamous.

Coming from the successful studio behind Sly Cooper’s devious capers, Sucker Punch, you take control of the electrically-charged Cole in the open-world superhero serial, inFamous. I’ve been a comic book-lover since the first time I saw the animated (and live action) escapades of Batman & Robin on TV when I was about four. The animated series of Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer and Marvel Action Hour all quickly forward, along with toys, costumes and comics. My brother and I use to play Batman Forever: The Arcade Game – which isn’t the greatest side-scrolling beat-’em-up, but boy we sure played the hell out of it back on PS1, Spider-Man (PS1), and a host of other comic book-inspired adventure games. Spider-Man 2: The Movie, I’d even go so far as to say, is one of the greatest superhero games ever and holds a special place in my gaming heart.

Sufficed to say I pretty much ‘geek out’, for lack of a better term, when stuff like inFamous is announced. Complex characters dealing with real life social problems juxtaposed with the complete destruction of an urban city and one man with the power to either help or hinder its residents. I can see why people are already calling comparisons to NBC’s much loved Heroes series, but there is a lot more to inFamous in my opinion.

The very nature of this being an open-world (or ‘sandbox’ if you prefer) game, and a superhero one at that, gives it tremendous potential. I’ve never really been into Grand Theft Auto but the appeal of driving around an environment at your own pace, doing whatever you feel (within the context of the game) is hugely enjoyable. I must have played Spider-Man 2: The Movie for many, many hours just swinging around New York, webbing up thugs and rescuing balloons. After a while though I will admit things begin to tire.

With inFamous, if the developers can balance the factors of story driven motivation and freeform gameplay with a broad selection of challenges to undertake, this may be a whole new shock to the system just waiting to be unleashed. Being a fan of Sucker Punch’s earlier work on PS2 – following the cartoon crimes of Sly Cooper and his gang – I also have great expectations for what set pieces and events may unfold in Empire City. I’m not at all trying to second-guess the developers by plotting out my hopes for the game before I’ve even played it, but my observations of their previous developments give me bit of an idea of what we might see.

With the Sly Cooper games Sucker Punch was particularly good at creating open-world hub levels and making use of them in the context of actual gameplay. For example, in Sly 3 there’s a hub world set in the Australian outback. Over the course of several jobs you complete a lemonade drinking contest (hey, it is E rated) in the local bar, steal keys from patrolling guards, destroy some polluting vats and then proceed to crush half of the world you’ve been traversing with a runaway bulldozer. While the PlayStation 2 hardware certainly had its limitations, in terms of scaling, drawl distance and graphical effects, Sucker Punch did everything they could to connect the separate elements of their worlds and make them fun.

If anything, their love for comic book artwork and stylistic character design alone would convince me to buy inFamous. All of this and I’ve not even mentioned the story. An explosion destroys half the city, and now Cole and bunch of criminals are running around with superpowers. Cool! Seriously though, the trailers and gameplay movies that have been released look phenomenal. Killer beasts made out of junk and scrap metal, exploring the city with Cole as if it were an oversized jungle gym, drawing power from the city’s electric grid and tossing shock-bombs at enemies. Yep, I’m totally wired for some inFamous right now. June can’t come soon enough.

Culture

Watchmen: below the waist?

Have you heard about the Watchmen? Well before I happened to pass one mesmerising promotional poster, coming out of my local movie theatre, I had no idea what this whole craze was about. And come to think of it, I still don’t because I haven’t even seen the movie or read the graphic novel. The movie is out now I’ve been fairly excited to see it. I’m a sucker for comic book movies, so when I discovered that Watchmen collides two of my favourite themes – comic book heroes and maverick detectives – my interest peaked quite considerably.

I don’t think I was prepared from some of the reactions I’ve hear though. Rorschach’s ruthless approach to justice (Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau now seems a poor comparison) didn’t deter me, but I had no idea that the movie was going to contain such mature scenes as frontal nudity and severe violence (as reported by friends who’ve already seen it). Then again, coming from 300 director, Zack Synder, I guess I should have expected as much. When I first saw 300 I was pretty grossed out by some of the scenes, but I’ve come to really enjoy the graphic artistry of it all.

Somehow though I’m not sure I’ll see Watchmen in the same light. With so much talk about how “Watchmen changed the face of comic books” I’ve already had my preconception about what it might be. I think I was hoping this movie might fall somewhere in between Spider-Man and Sin City – iconic, gritty and full of character, but at the same time, not outright hitting you in the face with sex, drugs and skin-crawling violence. Well, guess I was totally wrong about this one.

Regardless of the critics reviews (which I have not browsed) and the unavoidable word-of-mouth comments I’m hearing, I’m still excited about the movie. As long as this seedy, adult world is brought to life on-screen with competence, quality production values and, above all, an engaging narrative, then I’m should leave satisfied. And you know what? If it’s good enough maybe I will pick up the graphic novel.

Culture, Gaming

Invasion day: Killzone 2 arrives at last

Killzone 2, PS3, 2009, 01 (1280x720)Killzone 2 is out. Now that’s four words I almost thought I may never write. It’s also a little strange writing this post about the game now, on its release day, when I haven’t a PS3 within 10 metres of me to play it. I never envisioned this would be how I would spend my day on the release of such a long-awaited title.

Well I’m not hugely bothered. In fact, I’ve already played the game for review, and had a fantastic time doing so. The whole atmosphere and concept that Guerrilla Games has created – in regards to assaulting this hostile world with a couple of trash-talking soldiers, arriving on some extremely vulnerable landing craft – is very exciting, to me that is. I don’t wish to say too much about the game itself, as it’s only just come out, but I would like to say a couple things about my own feelings towards Killzone 2’s journey from hype to home console.

Diary, Media

Reflections of a gaming editor

Tea in B&W, 10/04/2013, by Monique Prater (1000x563)Personally, like all my experiences with the media, and critique especially, so far, playing a pre-release copy of Killzone 2 for review was a daunting challenge. There was limited time and the build the PRs sent us (Platform) was also 90 per cent complete – despite my requests that they send a finished review copy. These issues meant that I had to take a lot of things into account as I played the game for review. For example, the loading hitches that occur as the PS3 streams new data from the Blu-ray disc were rather poignant. But, due to the copy I was playing not being 100 per cent complete, I felt unsure whether to mention this fact or not. In the end I decided that there were other, more pressing, issues with the game that I could give an accurate judgment on, even from this pre-production build.

Culture, Music

Lions, tygers & bears

Jazmine Sullivan, 2008, J Records press photo 01 (975x548)Impulse. That’s what got me to buy Jazmine Sullivan’s debut album, Fearless, and it’s also the reason I wrote this post when I did. I’m not one to follow the music industry closely at all. In fact, the very idea of zealously buying singles from the so-called ‘pop music’ top ten just sickens me. That’s not to say that there aren’t many good artists around nowadays, it’s just that image and mass appeal has become so much of a factor in today’s music industry that I find it extremely hard to encourage myself to trawl through the endlessly unoriginal rehashes just to find the ‘good’ stuff. The phrase ‘style over substance’ has never been more fitting.

Art & Design, Culture, Diary

Part II: Unrocky road to nowhere in particular

I must admit, Nottingham – my present county for the academic year – is a strange place. Well, not so much strange, rather it’s hard to describe the actually atmosphere and cycle of life that goes on here. You may expect Nottingham to be like any other city, and you’d be right: people travel, the city centre is always packed on Saturdays, people give you that same awkward stare when you accidentally brush passed them, deep in thought.

Diary

The journey begins…

The beginning of any journey is always filled with uncertainty. When you leave the safe, toasty-warm haven of your dwelling and set out on a misguided journey of discovery and adventure there is no telling what you may encounter.