Thursday, December 22, 2011

0.15 steps above the last - Assassin's Creed: Revelations

Assassin's Creed is a rare breed of game, I'm not sure if anyone has ever pulled of the one-game-a-year formula any better. But it's not like each game is miles above the previous installment; it feels more like adding an extra floor than making a new building, but it's such a nice addition to an already great place though.

The fourth installment (which is actually more like 2.3) is titled Revelations, which is more or less hinting at the idea that Altair and Ezio's stories will finally be rounded up and we can really move on to the meat of this story, and I really hope this is the case. Gamers have put up with Desmond going back and forth long enough, it's about time that he put on the hidden blades himself and took the fight to the Templars instead of running from them.

With that said, Revelations doesn't exactly pick up where Brotherhood left off, kinda, it's hard to explain. In the Desmond timeline, it does, the Animus has broken shattered Desmond's mind leaving him trapped inside his own little virtual world. He struggles to put his existence back together and reclaim his own identity. Sound confusing? That's because it really is. And this is where the story lacks. In the previous installments I looked forward to the Desmond portions of the game, but in this case they seem watered down, probably because of the change of environment, the familiar characters are barely voices Desmond overhears in his comatose state, making them seem distant at best. What makes matters worse is the fact that they were so pivotal to the previous game's cliffhanger ending. I was expecting a play by play of what happened after the last story ended, but what I got were barely the Cliff-notes.

The Desmond portions are also hindered by one of the two horrible new in game mechanics. When Desmond goes further into is consciousness to rebuild his reality the game for some reason switches into this absurd first person view and throws in some of the most annoying platforming puzzles I've ever seen. The controls are horrible, Desmond is granted the ability create little white platforms directly in front of him. He then climbs on to them to get to the next area. These sections are also plagued by some of the most boring narration in the series so far. Sure, we find out about Desmond's past, which has been a mystery so far, but it should have been done in a much less torturous way. And considering that this is what substitutes the amazingly fun puzzle solving of previous entries, it's a shame.

The ancestor parts are much more enjoyable, but not without it's letdowns. Once again, you assume control of the hooded assassin Ezio, this time a much older man, much removed from his prime. The problem is, he's still capable of everything he was last time you controlled him. I think this was a huge wasted opportunity. I mean, Metal Gear Solid 4 proved that using an old man can be an interesting dynamic to add to a video game, and I sincerely feel that ACR could have benefited greatly to more changes to the play style. Ezio's age seems to be nothing more than a superficial change, kind of like a character skin.

Also back in the mix is Altair, whom you assume control of for several occasions, filling in the rest of his life. These parts are actually very cool, story heavy sections. They quickly became the sections I looked forward to the most. Creative storytelling is implemented nicely and it actually does keep you invested. Oddly enough by the end of these sequences Altair is over one hundred years old, and age is implemented very well here. He almost reminds me of Yoda at the end of Attack Of The Clones.

Unfortunately, most of the time is spent as Ezio, completing a main quest that almost feels like side missions once you consider how irrelevant it is to what's really going on. I won't even go into what the story entails, the game basically tells you, to get to what you really want to do you need to do this shit first. And it just feels like busy work. Once it all boils down to the bare bones, it's a filler game. Ubisoft wanted to finish Ezio and Altair's stories so we could move on once and for all... I hope.

The gameplay is almost identical to Brotherhood, except for the locale change. Other than that, the additions of bomb crafting and the hook-blade are nice distractions but they barely merit a whole new game. It feels like a bit of an upgrade but it's nothing spectacular. I went through most of the game without using a single bomb, and they can be fun, but not really necessary. The zipline system is quite useful, when you can find one, mostly because you can only use ones that you can zip down from; and trust me, nothing is more frustrating than fleeing from a fight and finding a zipline just to realize you're at the wrong end of it.

The other awkward gameplay decision is the new tower defense mode that happens when one of your bases is under Templar attack. It's pretty bad. You kinda get thrown into the first one by surprise, and it's barely explained. The weirdest part is that they're almost optional. You never have to do it for a second time if you can keep your notoriety down. It's like the developers know how bad it is and they gave you the chance to skip it altogether. Smart move.

This game is without a doubt a filler story. Ubisoft needed to tie lose ends before moving on to the next big thing. The problem is that I don't think it needed a whole new game. This could have been shortened and been downloadable content. I still give Ubisoft all the credit in the world, this is still  a good game, it does what Brotherhood did well, it just stumbled in other areas. And the fact that it got made in a year is amazing, I just wouldn't mind waiting two years so we can fix all those little issues.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Fall TV Review Post: An Early Look (Part IV)

Last part of my look at the new shows.  Hopefully you found something you liked and might not have watched other wise...

Ringer (CW)

It's been a while since we last saw Sarah Michelle Gellar in her own television show.  The iconic Buffy the Vampire Slayer star is back for a show in CW called Ringer.  She plays Bridget, a woman trying to get her life back together.  That is, until she is the witness of a professional hit.  She escapes and seeks shelter in New York City were twin sister Siobhan resides in a great apartment, with a great marriage and what is seemingly the perfect life.  Until her sister disappears in open sea and Bridget takes on the personality of her sister in order to escape from the people that are after her.  Thing is, her sister is also in trouble.  Yeah, the premise is pretty bad and the show is also pretty bad.  I have to admit, I was only able to stomach the Pilot and it was pretty terrible.  It looked bad and the acting was dreadful... especially from Gellar.  Now, I don't know why I expect different from CW shows, but most of them end up disappointing me.  The exception to this rule is, of course, Supernatural.  I have read that it has gotten better after the Pilot, but I'm not giving this a second chance just yet.  There are many other things I'd prefer to waste my time on than this.

Recommendation: Unwatchable


Suburgatory (ABC)

I have to admit that when I saw the poster and then read the blurb for this show, I was immediately uninteresting.  Another show about people from the city moving to the suburbs/country/farm/whatever where they obviously don't belong.  In this case, the father/daughter duo of George and Tessa played by Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy move to a place where fake boobs, fake smiles and makeup abound.  I didn't really want to see this show, but actually found myself enjoying it.  You can draw parallels with other high school movies where the lead is out of her element like Mean Girls or Easy A.  This show has something of the latter in it.  Jane Levy is cute and likeable while also being witty and a cynic at times.  Sisto also does a good job at being the single dad completely out of place in the suburbs.  They probably could have gotten someone better to play the bitch at school.  Charly Chaikin is pretty bad.  Cheryl Hines is pretty great at playing the annoying Dallas.  Alan Tudyk as Sisto's incredibly rich friend is also pretty good.  This is not a great show, by any means, but its a fun show.

Recommendation: Casual Watch 

The Secret Circle (CW)
So, the CW seems to be churning out teen fantasy left and right.  It's too bad that the only worthwhile series from the CW is Supernatural.  The CW already has demons and vampires, so it was obvious that witches is what was left.  Apparently, the parents of a group of kids were witches and now their sons and daughters have gained the powers of the parents.  Sadly, the kids are too interested in each others love lives and whatnot.  The characters here are just completely uninteresting.  Of course, the Twilight/Vampire Diaries crowd will probably eat this up for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but not me.  It was pretty hard to listen to the stilted dialogue and the idea that all witches seem to be emo for some reason or another.  Even the father of one of the witches has a haircut that 16 year old with a penchant for self mutilation and screamo would die for.

Recommendation: Unwatchable

American Horror Story (FX)
And then came this little number to freak us the fuck out when we least expected it.  Horror is not really a genre that is well represented in today's tv landscape.  Now, I have only been able to see the Pilot, so that is what I am going to base this recommendation on, but I didn't need to see much more to know that I wanted to see more of this.  The show stars Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton as Ben and Vivien Harmon.  Together with their daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga), they move to Los Angeles to start a new life after the wife finds her husband cheating on her.  More of the secrets of the family are revealed in the pilot, but instead of answering any questions you might have had, you only have more questions.  There are a host of creepy characters that pop up during the episode that really make the show creepy.  If it was only the dark side of the family that we saw, it would get old fast, but for example, the maid is incredibly interesting especially because it is not explained (once you see the episode you will understand what I mean).  The Harmon's are not just the run of the mill wrong place and wrong time victims.  These characters are deeply flawed and damaged.  I look forward to seeing what the show will bring to the table.  And to those complaining because of its content, stop trying to regulate what other people watch...   

Recommendation: Definite Watch
Person of Interest (CBS)
Probably one of the shows with the most hype around them for this group of new shows and its easy to know why.  With a cast like this one, people will take notice.  James Caveziel goes from playing Christ to playing an ex-CIA hit man who teams up with a scientist, played by the always creepy Michael Emerson (of Lost fame).  Harold Finch (Emerson) creates a machine that predicts when a terrorist act is about to happen.  He found out that this technology also predicted whenever other random acts of violence would occur.  The premise is a lot like the movie Minority Report, but the characters get more time to be fleshed out and become interesting as we see sequences of how Reese (Caveziel) became a hit man.  The side story with Taraji P. Henson as a police detective in her search of the vigilante which is obviously Reese, need more fleshing out but its still an interesting show.

Recommendation: Definite Watch

A Gifted Man (CBS)

This show has also gotten some good reviews.  I mostly disagree with them.  It deals with Dr. Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson), a surgeon who recently lost his wife and now she sort of gives him advice from 'beyond'.  It's not a new premise or anything, but the show has a fatal flaw that the shows with self-centered main characters have to deal with... Dr. Holt is unlikable.  Even just watching the first few minutes, I knew I didn't like him.  I guess that might be the point of the show, but is it?  Shows have been trying to emulate the House formula and been failing because no other character is as likable and cheerable as Dr. House.  While some have tried and succeeded, this one has failed.  I guess I will give it a little chance to convince me, but the whole mystical hocus pocus crap around it makes me not want to do it.

Recommendation: Casual Watch