Monthly Archives: January 2014

#SOTU

President Obama Delivers State of The Union AddressLast night’s State Of the Union address was well-written, well-spoken, had some big ideas like raising the minimum wage and investing in the economy, yet in some ways, was basically unworthy.

To be fair, that is probably the case more often then people realize. True, LBJ declared war on poverty and Reagan noted his Social Security deal with congressional Democrats in SOTUs. It was also in SOTUs that the failed Clinton health care and Bush Social Security plans were advertised to Congress and the American people. Not the mention the ’74 SOTU in which Nixon claimed, “one year of Watergate is enough!”

Nice try, Dick!

Nice try, Dick!

What’s my problem with this year’s address? Simple. We have a do-nothing Congress. Congressional Republicans decided long ago that their salvation was in destroying President Obama. They understood very well that if Obama failed, Republicans would prosper. After All, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell actually said years ago that his “top political priority” was to defeat Obama.

Many have righteously condemned these words, but I sincerely feel as though it’s nothing personal, just business (personal was Rep. Joe Wilson rudely interrupting another Obama address to a joint session of Congress in 2009). Because McConnell and his party believe that Obama’s success is their failure and vice versa, asking them to do something major without brinkmanship to gain an advantage is too much to them like political suicide.

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So despite appearances, Raphael’s record for turtle with the worst attitude is safe.

Even if this weren’t the case, there’s a matter of negotiating strength. You can’t even begin negotiations unless you are in a position of strength. And with his ratings really low, Republicans have very little incentive to do much business with him.

How does this relate to Obama’s address? All the ideas Obama advanced can’t become law. In all likelihood this was red meat for the Democratic base. Which means that his address may have been mostly about midterm elections.

To be fair, Obama did briefly address the fact that the Republicans insist on being intransigent. He said that he will use executive powers whenever he can to boost the economy. What he didn’t say is that his executive powers are weak in this area. Not that you would have known this from listening to him.

Did he have to beat around the bush? Unfortunately, yes. The American people hate pessimism, so Obama had to be optimistic, to say that there’s reason to expect tremendous productivity when he knows that there’s not.

Ergo, an unfortunate truth about SOTU addresses is revealed: they’re not particularly honest.

Hour Of Victory

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Have you ever seen the reviews for something and been amazed about some of the things that were said about it? Well, I read and watched reviews of Hour Of Victory years ago and thought some of them were mistaken. Well, they weren’t. At all. This game really is that bad.

How bad? Let’s just say that it’s significantly worse than last week’s Predator. This game is a not even half-assed Call Of Duty clone. More like quarter-assed. I, who paid only six bucks for this on Ebay, feel like I got screwed. And if I feel screwed over, can you imagine how those who paid $50-$60 felt? Ugh.

Plot: 3 out of 10

Here’s the first clue. The manual claims that you’re destroying some superweapon built by the Nazis during World War II. That’s news to me. It seems more like a bunch of disconnected missions akin to the Call Of Duty series. Plus, we get names we don’t know, so it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Amazingly, what just I described may be the peak of the entire game.

Graphics: 2 out of 10

Was Hour Of Victory originally meant for the Xbox 360? I ask because little in this game looks like it couldn’t have been done on the original Xbox. Probably the HD capabilities, but that’s about it. Nothing in this game looks remotely comparable to, say, the Gears Of WarHalo, or Grand Theft Auto games on the 360.

And that’s not the half of it. Everything is extremely blocky. And landscape, structures, and character models don’t really fit one another. Worst is the sections of people or objects that look detached. Hadn’t these kinds of problems been ironed out a decade before?

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And now that I look at this picture, the wheels don’t even look attached.

Sound: 3 out of 10

Voice acting’s pretty bad. Same with the sound effects. Music’s actually OK, but nothing you’ll remember after playing.

Gameplay: 1 out of 10

From the moment gameplay begins, you’ll realize how much this game is ripping off Call Of Duty. The WWII setting, enemies, turrets, tanks, even the design of a hand holding your gun seem stolen from that game.

Originality aside, Hour Of Victory has rather clumsy controls. It’s not like you have to exaggerate your movements or take it extra slow or anything, but neither are your characters particularly graceful.

On top of that, the gun recoil is all but nonexistent. I guess Midway doesn’t understand the concept of giving big and powerful weapons heavy (and true-to-life) recoil as a way of adding strategy.

And then there’s the three characters, Calvin “Bull” Blackbull, William Ross, and Ambrose Taggert. Were I a more cynical reviewer, I’d conclude that this was just to add more to a game that you can complete in well under an hour. In theory, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, Taggert’s stealth is difficult to use in a shooter in which everyone’s facing you. Bull is even worse, as the cursor for his sniping mode is very slow and jerky. Only Ross is a reasonably acceptable choice. Why? Seemingly just because he’s a generic FPS character. That’s the best Hour Of Victory has to offer: almost competent execution of something everybody does.

Unfortunately, you are forced to use a turret or vehicle at times. You see, the controls for these contraptions are just as bad as Bull’s sniping. Worse, the shots are extremely inaccurate, to the point where if the cursor is not indicating that you’ve locked on, you probably won’t hit unless with ricochets (which seem to hit a lot more than in other games).

All this might not score so low if not for the glitches. Let’s just say that you can lose for no apparent reason. Just pathetic.

Challenge: – 4 out of 10

The worst part of this game is how stupid the Nazi soldiers are. They will do such weird shit as run in to fight hand-to-hand, shoot at their own cover, stay out of cover, do nothing, or even teleport around. Yes, it’s that bad. This is the most absolutely moronic A.I. I have ever seen.

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Yes, that’s an enemy who’s shooting AWAY from me.

How easy the game is depends on how you play. These Nazis ordinarily couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, but I mentioned that ricochets seem magnetically attracted to you. When you learn to avoid fighting near walls, this is an easy game.

Overall: 0 out of 10

I missed Bomberman: Act Zero, so Hour Of Victory has to be what I consider to be the worst game of the last generation. It’s also literally one of the worst games of all time, right up there with Action 52 and Superman (N64). Not long after this piece of shit was made, Midway went out of business, its franchises (such as Mortal Kombat) having been auctioned off. Good on them.

Predator

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Last week I reviewed the movie Predator. Now I’m reviewing the game based on it. Maybe I should have this sort of arrangement more often. Or maybe not. Because movie licenses have a price tag and the game developer wants to get the game done soon enough to release it alongside the movie, movie-licensed games don’t have high standards. If you don’t believe me, take a quick glance at the popular “angry game” subgenre of reviews over at Youtube. You’ll be amazed how often licensed games are attacked.

Predator, alas, is no exception. On the contrary, it is very representative of bad games based on good movies.

Plot: 3 out of 10

This is something that makes me wonder if the developer, Activision, even tried. First of all, the text in the cutscenes is really bad. It’s not only uninspired, the game often runs out of space so sentences cut off and are picked up in the next set of text.

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To what? To what?

It’s a few stages before you have your first of numerous battles with the Predator. You’re fighting humans and animals before that. This would seem to imply that the game begins with you storming the camp where hostages are being held by terrorists. Except that the first cutscene explains that the Predator has already killed everybody but Dutch. What’s up with that?
Graphics: 3 out of 10

What gets me is how undetailed everything is. The sky is just a bunch of black, while rock formations are just two or three rocks copied over and over. Sometimes they’ll change the color of some rocks to make them look different. Other than that, Predator is one of the most artistically monotonous games I’ve ever played.

Character designs are just as bad. Dutch’s gun and hair look more like photoshop outlines. Plus, I have a hard time believing that he’d wear pink on a jungle rescue mission. Enemies don’t look too bad, but they’re below average.

Notice that Dutch is in a marksman's animation even though the gun is up above.

Notice that Dutch is in a marksman’s animation even though the gun is up above?

Sound: 4 out of 10

This I can deal with. The songs are actually quite acceptable. Pity the sound effects are lousy and unmemorable or this would have an average score.

Gameplay: 2 out of 10

Dutch handles awfully. You won’t notice it right away, but when you have to start making tricky jumps, you’ll be falling to your death because you’re used to the controls of other games. You know, the ones that are worth a shit!

The problem is that Predator is kind of like the 2D Mario games if you glued down the run button. Oh, wait, there’s truth in the graphical ends of land in Mario games. My bad. Between the hypersensitive controls and bad hit detection, you’ve got to be extra careful about every jump. Otherwise off the screen with you.

By Stage 3 you’re pretty sure that the gameplay can’t possibly get any worse. Have a little faith. Remember those cave areas in old games like Zelda II that had the floor protruding up to represent a rise? They’re in the cave stages of this game as well. Only you can walk clean through the walls between floors to your death. That’s right — you can walk right through the walls and fall. So you’ve got to keep reminding yourself that the walls are not walls.

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Just in case you didn’t believe me.

I guess that’s the end of the really bad shit. Oh, wait, it’s not. You have three weapons: Machine Gun, Lazer, and Grenades. Actually, there’s not much substantive difference between the first two weapons, they’re just doing a graphical touch-up on one weapon to “create” a second.  Except that you need the Lazer to beat the Predator at some points. The real problem is that Grenades take awhile to activate. So skip them? Trouble is, the game forces you to use them. For instance, one stage is full of enemies too low for you to fight without Grenades (you can’t punch while ducking).

So why not a 1 or even negative score? Because there is a type of stage that puts the shooting center-stage and constantly scrolls forward. The graphics in these stages are just as horrible as the rest of the game’s (hence, no mention of them in that category). Still,, they play just barely tolerably.

Challenge: 0 out of 10

Don’t be fooled. This game is hard. But not because of ingenuity. No, it’s hard because, as noted, it controls like an explosive plane crash. With a totally unqualified hero, you’ll likely die a lot. And although there is an option to “Continue,” that still starts you completely over.

If you think that the lack of continues implies that Predator isn’t that long, think again. there are over thirty stages. You should be careful about having that many for a good game, never mind a shitty one with no continues. If many of today’s games are extremely lenient with checkpoints, this is the opposite extreme.

Overall: 2 out of 10

Easily one of the worst games on the NES. Alas, the majority of games based on movies back then were not all that much better. They have significantly improved since then, but a popular license is still something that should provoke suspicion and not optimism.

Predator

predatorArnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch
Carl Weathers as George Dillon
Bill Duke as Mac Elliot
Jesse Ventura as Blain Cooper
Elpidia Carrillo as Anna
Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator

I am not an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan. I generally find his movies to be shallow, badly acted, of little plot, and not very well-scripted. Not to mention how clumsy the Austrian bodybuilder sounds when he’s playing an all-American (a cheap shot, I gotta admit). With all that in mind, I must say that I like Predator. The story may not be anything great, but the character interactions and sense of fear save this movie.

Arnold plays Major Dutch Schaefer, a soldier who is assigned to lead an attempt to rescue hostages. This is an obvious reference to the hostage crises of the 1980s. Things change when a monster known as the Predator begins killing members of Dutch’s team with pretty glitzy-looking camouflage.

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Glitzy-looking for the time, at least. Now? Nothing special.

The characters are pretty interesting. Dutch is a humanistic field commander who finds it appalling that many of the pen-pushers have no more respect for the lives of soldiers than they do for household appliances. The second in command, CIA operate George Dillon, ends up being a representative of those pen-pushers and even ends up deceiving Dutch about their true assignment. This makes for some quite interesting character conflict.

Like the Aliens series, Predator is as much a horror movie as an action one. And it’s really scary. Director John McTiernan (who also directed the popular Die Hard) knows the arts of timing and chilling pauses that make the viewer know fear. And the Predator proves to be a particularly fearful villain.

Since the Predator can blend in with his surroundings, it’s almost impossible to not be ambushed by him. This is also done quite well. Dutch trying his best to spot him is illustrated effectively and emotionally, not unlike the hobbits trying to avoid being spotted by the nazgul in the Lord Of the Rings. It’s a far cry from those action movies of the early-to-mid-’80s in which someone would win a firefight with a squad without even taking cover.

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Check out the eyes. Someone needs some happy pills.

Useless trivia: this movie has three lines you’ve heard before:

“I ain’t got time to bleed.”

“If it bleeds, we can kill it!.”

“Kill me! I’m here! Kill me!”

If there is any criticism to be made of Predator, it is that we never learn much about the Predator himself. He’s basically just a monster with futuristic technology who kills people. But even this isn’t too bad. It adds to the horror that we don’t know much about him.

All said, Predator succeeds both as an action movie and as a horror movie.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Clash Of the Titans

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Sam Worthington as Perseus
Gemma Arterton as Io
Ralph Fiennes as Hades
Liam Neeson as Zeus
Alexa Davalos as Andromeda
Mads Mikkelsen as Draco
Ian Whyte as Sheikh Suleiman

A remake of the 1981 film of the same name, Clash Of the Titans is a film set in ancient Greece. And you know what a movie is about when it’s set in ancient Greece, right? The myths about Zeus, Hercules, and Aphrodite.

Alas, this concept has been done much better than in this movie. In fact, Clash Of the Titans really isn’t about Greek myths as much as it’s about fighting big monsters. This could work, but not with such shallowly developed characters and a very weak plot.

A disc menu without bonus features or even a scene selection great sign.

A disc menu without bonus features or even a scene selection. Great sign.

Basically, we have the classic “mortals prove that they are not just the gods’ toys” story. And the half-god, half-man Perseus is the one who sets out to prove it. This is something that has worked before, but in this movie, we skip through the usual part where people are slow to believe that they can stand against the gods to very few doubting it. There’s not even an attempt to match Mel Gibson screaming “freedommmmmm” in Braveheart, I’m afraid. Another bad thing about the plot is that there’s not really any particularly compelling supporting character. No Han Solo (Star Wars) or War Machine (Iron Man) equivalent.

In a rather large liberty taken, we are told that Zeus thrives on our worship and Hades on our fear (who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy should be clear). I’m no expert on the Greek myths, but I don’t think the gods were dependent on us. Didn’t they exist before humans? Their whole purpose was to be something bigger than the Greeks to explain things they couldn’t understand. I think this may be one of these cases of Hollywood making the gods less powerful than they were in the mythology.

The acting is not very good. It’s not atrocious or anything, but it’s uninspired. Well, except for the always great Liam Neeson as Zeus. Otherwise, most people sleepwalk through their performances like they just want to get back to smokin’ pot offset.

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The end of production celebration on the set of Clash Of the Titans.

Of course, the fights with giant monsters are Clash Of the Titans’ real attraction. The CGI models of the monsters are very well-done, as are the fights. So yes, this movie has great action.

But subtract good acting, supporting characters, and plot, and the good action doesn’t really make it worth watching.

Clash Of the Titans is one of those movies that thrive on effects and action. It’s far from the worst movie ever, but it is worse than average.

Overall: 4 out of 10