I just found the most incredible new site! It boldly goes where only several hundred other websites have dared to go. Except it is slightly bolder. Actually it was written by me and I love everything I do, so I may be very slightly biased. Still, if you are reading this, you may find something of interest.
At present it does have a few articles that may seem a little familiar to some of the Scifi related articles on this site. This is purely coincidental and due to the infinite number of monkeys I occasionally use to write things for me when I’m busy. In a few weeks it may even appear that every Science Fiction article on the site has been recreated there. I assure you, that this is probably due to your approaching bout of insanity. Nothing to do with me. You should get that looked at.
I am also adding unique non-infinite-monkey-you’re-going-insane material as I go along and this will gradually increase until it is all unique to that site. It will be superb even if you aren’t into Scifi as I will be discussing all manner of fascinating things like space travel and time travel and philosophy and how I based my life on Han Solo and so on. It will be deep man!
This website now gets over 100,000 hits a month. (I know! Why? I just talk shit.) That still makes me a speck on the arse of the interweb, but it’s a start. If aliens are monitoring our planet, it is just possible that some low level alien civil servant might just read this. If you are reading this Zarg, I henceforth volunteer to be taken aboard your spaceship as an ambassador for my planet. It is an ancient Earth tradition that you get to go first if you ask first. Please respect this and forward it on to your Emperor or Galactic equivalent.
I firmly believe aliens are out there. The Universe is massive and there are a quintogigllion stars and even more planets. Surely only Creationists and medieval Catholics can manage to be blinkered enough to think there is just us. That God created all those stars and galaxies just a bit of scenery to make night-time more fun and provide work for astrologers. Conversely though, I don’t believe in UFOs. Or at least the ones that yokels glimpse or that crash near American experimental airforce bases.
Why do I, allegedly one of the greaters thinkers of the 21st century (self alleged, granted), think this?
The number of planes in the air, right now, is erm a lot. Famously, they are one of the safest means of travel. They get safer each day. It would be logical to assume aliens are even more advanced than us. So if you just work out the percentages and assume that aliens have crashed into the planet, even if just once a decade, there must be billions of the bastards up there. (Sorry Zarg.) It just isn’t likely.
Crop circles, cow slicing, UFOs generally.
Crop Circle Proof
Just because something can’t be explained, doesn’t mean we should make something up and present it as fact. Unless you are an idiot. In which case go ahead and I will snigger at you in a really patronizing way. People have recreated crop circles, the cow thing can be explained, and UFOs are explained 99% of the time. The final 1% isn’t proof of anything. It could just as easily be a flock of ghosts or some flying glow-yetis or a round God in a magic chair. If a UFO wants to be seen, I’m sure they’d just appear. If they want to be hidden, they could (even we have that technology).
Lots of cultures throughout history have myths of being held down and probed. Some might like the idea but most didn’t. It olden days in Europe (the period of Yore), people reported waking up, being unable to move and witnessed demons sitting on their chests and doing unpleasant things to them. After that, it was common for people to be held in place by witches’ magic while the witches likewise probed and fiddled. From the 1950s onward, it has been aliens. Specifically the ‘Greys’, who were coincidentally a popular alien design in Scifi movies created by people who just made shit up. The bulbous head and big eyes can actually be traced back to people like H.G. Wells and several Astounding Tales stories. None of the writers claimed to have been abducted.
The vast majority of abductions happen at night and there is ridiculous amounts of evidence pointing to sleep paralysis. Sorry but there you go. As for people ‘losing time’ but later remembering stuff… Really? Aliens abduct someone but can’t quite blank memories. Then they just do it again and again? Just how much can you learn from ‘probing’ anyway? 50 years they’ve been doing this. The only logical explanation is that it is either sleep paralysis or aliens have a weird sense of fun.
So that is why I don’t think aliens have interacted with us. I am convinced of my own logic but then I am very self obsessed and sure of myself. If you disagree based on solid evidence then fair play to you. I’m sure you have valid, well researched reasons from a variety of sources on both sides in order to reach your conclusion. If you also believe there is a conspiracy about the moon landings, JFK and 9/11 then you have my pity. You actually believe in Conspiracy Theories rather than a particular topic and are probably single or feel like you have lost control of your life a little bit. (It’s a psychological thing apparently.)
It is possible that they are monitoring us. It is what we would do in reverse. Our own satellites can watch us already, I’m sure aliens could do the same. If so, feel free to drop me a line.
Anyway, feel free to complain. With a bit of luck, my wife and I will be on a Galactic tour and will get back to you shortly.
I had been meaning to watch this for ages. I remember watching the original, set in the far off year of 2000. A more violent age when everyone wore spandex. Sadly the spandex wasn’t true although you do see a lot of lycra around.
So you can imagine my excitement when I arrived for work at the Syfy channel and saw that we were playing it that evening on the Syfy France feed.
Unfortunately, as it was on the French channel all the opening explanation was in French. My French is a bit rusty and the writing went by quite quickly but here is what I managed to translate in my sluggish brain. In the future crime levels increase. Corporations take over the running of prisons and in order to pay for it, they stage Death Races over the web. People pay a subscription to watch criminals race it out in Mad Max style cars that are armed with cool things like machine guns and napalm. They are the new gladiators.
Fortunately I could patch through the English audio tracks so didn’t have to think anymore.
Enter Jason Statham. He is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to the nick. It turns out he was a superb driver and it starts to look like maybe he was framed just to get him in the race. An evil prison governess informs him that there used to be a driver who had won four races and if he had won his fifth he would have been granted his freedom. Unfortunately he died in his fourth race. Luckily, he had been in so many accidents he always wore a mask and no one knew who he was. What he wore in prison before he had his first crash is never really explained, but hey, fuck it, who cares. Statham agrees to pretend to be the guy in the mask, a fellow nicknamed Frankenstein, in order to win his freedom and help boost the ratings of the Death Race. Apparently ratings were dropping off when Frankenstein wasn’t around. Which is odd as people watch Nascar and Formula 1 even though fuck all of interest happens and they aren’t even armed. Not even a pistol.
So Statham enters the race against nine other prisoners and there are lots of cool explosions and prison fights and general violence.
Everything a red blooded male could want really except for a few hot women. Brilliantly, this too has been considered. For each race, the driver gets a navigator who is a smoking hot lady from a nearby woman’s prison. Genius. It actually makes sense in the film’s premise too as it would make the races more popular. So it isn’t just gratuitous eye candy ok? It is like sexy pit-girls in Formula 1 who serve no purpose except being sexy pit-girls.
There are a few other little plot things going on but who cares?
This is a cheesy action flick with fairly stereotyped characters – an evil Russian, a tattoed Latino psychopath, a chinese Triad dude with a degree from MIT, and so forth. The plot is also fairly predictable but actually not too bad for the genre.
It is satisfyingly well acted for a violent action movie and the direction is great (if slightly confusing during some action scenes).
Did I like it?
Fuck yeah! There are a lot of shite action films out there that just leave me cold. Especially once I had passed the age of 16. (Before that, any explosion was cool and Arnie and Sylvester were Gods.) The thing is, it is all tremendous fun and highly enjoyable. Satisfyingly violent with some very cool deaths, the whole thing just works well for what it is. It does what it says on the blood stained, heavily weaponed tin. Enjoy.
I finished the single player section of this just over a week ago and have been glued to the multiplayer ever since. In case you have a short attention span and just want to know if you should buy this, then yes. Buy it. There, review done.
Alright not everyone is so impulsive, so I will continue.
Killzone 3 single player
Like all first person shooters these days, the single player takes about 6 hours. After shooting the main guy, Visari, at the end of Killzone 2, you’d be forgiven for thinking that things should be looking up for the ISA forces.
Killzone 3 baddies backstabbing each other.
Unfortunately he is now some kind of martyr, and the Helghast are more powerful than ever. A bit like if Hitler had been killed and the Nazis had had a less mental leader. In fact, the Helghast are very clearly modeled on the Nazis, what with being evil and mental but having cool uniforms.
While the forces are now huge there is a lot of infighting among the various Helghast factions which leads to fun scenes of backstabbing and murder.
Meanwhile the plucky ISA forces have been left on the planet in a fight for survival. Fortunately most of them are hard as fuck.
So there’s the story. It is pretty satisfactory and allows for lots of killing and shooting people in the face with cool futuristic guns. There are even some new gadgets like jetpacks with built in machine guns (although these just make you jump further as opposed to flying) and machine gun buggys.
There are some very cool sequences in the game that also serve as training in how to use certain devices and machines for multiplayer.
The first person section, if you care, is uber fun. I played the entire thing through in one sitting. Even though I’m clearly a busy man.
Killzone 3 multi-player
Ahh the multi-player. The maker or breaker of the 1st person genre. I have spent more time on Killzone 3’s multi-player than any other game. I would find it hard to believe that anyone can’t enjoy this. The only people who may disagree are those who love Modern Warfare 2. If you are one of those who thinks MW2 is better then I will be willing to bet you are a general’s rank and play it fairly obsessively. Put that many hours into a game and I understand your loyalty.
Unlike MW2 (which I like a lot and have spent hours on), you can actually do pretty well in Killzone 3’s multi-player from early on. You don’t just act as cannon fodder for hours and hours until you get really good kit and then in turn shoot newbs. The maps are great – some big and some small, and nearly all are multi-leveled. Sometimes three or four stories high which means you have to look everywhere.
There are also gun turrets and huge machines (like those at the end of Avatar) that you can enter and fire missiles from and generally cause chaos. Like all these games there are quite a few things that get unlocked to help make you more of a killing machine as you gain experience. Nowhere near the amount you get in MW2 but I think this is a bonus as you still feel like it is down to your skill as opposed to the fact that you just called in a load of missiles or have a massively superior gun.
There are numerous modes – the standard team deathmatch, and a couple of more objective based modes. One sees you defending or attacking places and you get impressive cut-scenes featuring the best players. The other is one of the greatest things in multi-player – multiple modes and objectives. Basically there are numerous tasks to do and the game alters while you are still in the match. One minute you are capturing something, the next you are assassinating someone, the next you have to blow something up. And so on. It’s bloody awesome fun.
I love this game. I have a few others to play but can’t seem to tear myself away. Killzone 3 is probably one of the prettiest games to look at on the PS3 apart from Uncharted. Except when people speak, which can look a bit odd. The gameplay is varied enough to always be exciting even though the story feels a bit perfunctory.
There are moments that are so spectacular I nudged my wife so she could see the incredible scenes that were unfolding on the screen. Huge wow factor moments. She seemed curiously busy though, which was a shame because some parts of this game are astounding and should be experienced with someone. I cannot recommend Killzone 3 highly enough. It is great fun and hugely varied. Firing a gun at some hapless bastard has rarely been this satisfying. Plus it’s Sci Fi, which is cool.
Here’s the gameplay. I mean, just look at it, it defies superlative.
Do you like movies? Do you consider yourself to be open minded? If yes, watch these trailers I implore you. A new storytelling medium has arrived and only a complete dullard thicko luddite could not view these and grudgingly admit that a new way for telling a ripping tale has arrived. If you dismiss these out of hand because you they are ‘just games’ then you don’t deserve to be on the internet. Go read a parchment and bore people with how cultured you apparently are. (You aren’t, you are pretentious and probably read magazines more than books but keep that a secret.) These will not replace books or films but are an additional and different way of presenting a story and are just as valid.
I saw a trailer for the new Deus Ex game in December and almost had a ‘crisis’. I have only just calmed down. For those of you that don’t like computer games but think that movies are a good way to tell a story then you are missing out. Games have become an incredible new medium for telling a good tale. They often use famous actors, characterisation can be achieved just as effectively, and the narrative can twist as much as any convoluted twisty thriller. If there’s a good director, then the visuals can be just as pant wettingly compelling as any film. Particularly as we now live in an era of powerful new consoles and life affirmingly large high-def TVs. The only difference is that you aren’t a passive sap – you actively have a stake in what is going on which leads to you feeling more involved. Especially when your controller shakes when you get shot in the face.
So get over yourself. The next generation of entertainment and storytelling is here. Watch these three great examples of what can be achieved in a narrative sense and if you don’t they look at least slightly intriguing, then you are dead inside. You might as well watch Eastenders, read the Daily Mail and drink high strength lager while waiting for death. The review for the superb Uncharted 2 is here: http://thewordofward.co.uk/?p=634. The game plays like an interactive Indiana Jones film. With chapters and hot women and magic stones and chases and everything. It’s fucking awesome. Here’s the trailer:
The next trailer for a game set in L.A. in the gritty ‘noir’ period full of sexy dames and violent but well dressed men in hats. Rather aptly, it is called L.A. Noir and shows a completely different type of tale to that found in Uncharted. Although you still get to shoot people.
The final trailer in this trio of awesomeness is Deus Ex: Human Evolution. Deus Ex hasn’t come out yet so it may be crap. In its favour is the fact that it is the third game in the franchise and the first two were genuis and no part 3 of anything has ever been bad. (Don’t question that statement too closely, it may be flawed.) Anyway, check out the trailer. It’s like Bladerunner crossed with the news.
Ok I’m done. I will stop repeating myself. I find myself increasingly enjoying games as my disappointment with most new films increases. Next week: a review of Transformers 2. Just kidding.
Continuing with my ‘robots will take over the world’ theme, here is something even cooler and scarier than the Aggressive Quadrotor I wrote about recently. It is a robot controlled by a rat brain. Which is pretty awesome unless you’re a rat. Presumably the robot currently heads for the nearest bin and hangs out there. Like in the Simpsons when Mr Burns puts Homer’s brain in a giant robot and all it does is eat doughnuts and nap.
I now have a dilemma about what to do when I die a couple of hundred years from now. I was going to get frozen and then reawakened when they have the technology to make me live forever and all the women wear nothing but spandex. Now I’m toying with being Robocop. Unlike Robocop though, I’d like my private parts to still work or there isn’t much point in survivng.
So without further ado, here is a very cool video of ‘Ratbot’. They should have had a clear perspex dome so you can see the brain but I’m just being picky. Maybe in Ratbot 2.0
This is where it begins. Rise of the machines. I don’t understand how scientists – generally huge Sci Fi fans – can watch films like Terminator or Matrix and then go to work and create stuff like this. Don’t they care? Or are they like me and think that a world ruled by robots while a surviving group of generally attractive humans fight back is actually a fucking brilliant future.
Check out this new helicopter thing. It’s pretty impressive. Give them lasers and make them swarm and surely mankind’s struggle against evil emotionless robot overlords is just months away. Or a huge one with a massive machine gun and rocket launchers. Call it the Killotron 3000 or something
Yes, this is a review of the film Kick-ass. Although it is, what with this being my writing, an actual ass kicker of a review.
I’d been meaning to watch this film for ages as it poses a question I have often asked myself. ‘Why aren’t there any masked superheroes?’ Surely some martial art obsessed, do-good, eccentric, nutcase would have tried it by now. You read the odd story but nothing I would describe as cool.
The film follows a geeky teen called Dave Lizewski, who tries to answer this question. He gets a green wetsuit and becomes a character known as ‘Kick-Ass’. His first time out he gets the shit kicked out him and is then run over. He keeps plugging away it at and comes to the attention of two successful but unknown masked crime-fighters. Who are hard as hell. They set out to take down a gangster and mete out some righteous justice.
One thing that surprised me in this film was just how violent it was. Which is obviously a happy discovery for someone with a cinematic bloodlust such as myself. Legs get lopped and bullets blast through heads. If you are easily offended and don’t like bad language or blood, I politely suggest you fuck off and watch some other movie. Actually it isn’t that bad at all, I just wanted to swear and use some mild alliteration.
The highlights are Nicholas Cage and his young daughter played by Cloe Moretz – who are Big Daddy and Hit Girl. There’s also good music, a hot chick, lots of humour. And fights. If that doesn’t sound good to you, then you are probably more grown up than me. Check out ‘A Single Man’.
I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed this film. It’s funny, violent and enjoys lots of references to geeky things like, predictably, comics.
Imagine a more fun version of Watchmen. Well worth watching.
This book is a gem. It was written over 50 years ago but deals with topics still relevant today.
The story is about a star-class copysmith Mitch Courteney who works for Schocken Associates, one of the two main advertising agencies in the world. This is a pretty elite position to be in as the world, including governments, is ruled by advertising. It’s capitalism gone maaaaad! To be a good citizen you have to be a good consumer, which is actually pretty easy for most I would imagine. The baddies are known as ‘Consies’ who are essentially environmentalists.
When Mitch gets the job of trying to make Venus sound like an attractive place to be he suddenly finds himself up against both the Consies and an evil rival ad agency. He then starts to learn all about the world.
I loved this book. Sure some of the writing feels a tiny bit dated but it is chock-full of good ideas and characters. There’s even a womanising, heavy drinking, dwarf astronaut. Mitch Courteney himself is a pretty unrepentant bastard when we first meet him but he slowly changes when people start to do him over and the reality of how others live dawns on him.
I would highly recommend this. It’s a cracking read set at a furious pace. Buy it now! It’s a classic.
Every review and pre-release bit of advertising for this film promised a spectacle. Avatar did not disappoint. Especially in 3d.
First, the story:
Jake Sully is a marine in a wheelchair. His brother is killed and Jake gets the chance to take his place in a program where his brain can control an avatar. The film begins with his arrival at the unbelievably lush green and generally wonderful-looking planet Pandora and he is shown how to control the avatar. He obviously enjoys being an avatar as he can run around and do athletic stuff. Eventually he infiltrates the local population who are called the Na’vi. They are tall, blue, hard to kill and strangely attractive.
As he bonds with the Na’vi in his avatar body, he is also learning about a plot by the evil humans when he wakes up to his human existence. The majority of the humans are evil scumbags – half are working for the greedy ‘Company’, who want to exploit all the natural resources, and the other half are violent gung-ho kill-em-all booyah marine types with sensible haircuts and mega-cool weapons.
How could he not like this lady?
Eventually Jake falls in love with Neytiri, a native lass. Who can blame him? She stunning and limber and wears practically nothing. He also realises that all the humans – bar Sigourney Weaver, a couple of scientists, and a feisty hot pilot (Michelle Rodriguez) – are so awful they are almost stereotypes. He sides with the Na’vi and there is a brilliant war.
I didn’t really need to tell you the plot as you can probably work out everything that is going to happen from the trailer.
Most critics have loved this film for its sheer spectacle and wow-factor. They are correct. They have also occasionally criticized it for having a weak plot. I think people are missing the point here. The film is amazing to look at, has no boring bits, and a story and characters that I liked enough for me not to feel it detracted from the film in any way. I found myself empathizing with the Na’vi and hating the humans. Especially at certain destructive parts. I got involved with the people and the story.
Evil warlike humans. With cool stuff.
I think critics and certain insecure cinema snobs should realise that people go to see certain films for different reasons. If you want to taut gripping plot that twists and turns – see a thriller. If you want heart-wrenching drama, watch a harrowing film about the holocaust or a chick-flick where someone dies really slowly for half of the movie. If you want shallow meaningless action with no story and crap characters – Michael Bay will sort you out. If you want action that is well directed, has good likeable characters, flawless sequences and moments that remind you why you like the cinema – then James Cameron is the man. (and Peter Jackson.)
The world of Pandora is staggeringly beautiful and believable. The 3d technology invented for this film really adds to that. The kit that the humans use is huge and impressive. The creatures that the Na’vi ride around on are similarly awe inspiring. The battles are incredible.
I like all sorts of films. Even romantic comedies. To put this film in a category is fairly easy. It is one of those films that made me happy to be in a cinema. You are drawn into a world and see a spectacle that you haven’t seen before. When the 3d kicks in and the film begins I felt like I had done on very few occasions – the original Star Wars (when I was about 6), Aliens, the Matrix, and Lord of the Rings are a few. Watch the trailer, see if you like it, and expect more of that.
In summary – I fucking loved it and haven’t seen anything like it in years. If you have any imagination or sense of wonder you will probably like it too. If not, stick to your soaps and celebrity mags.
I just saw this on youtube and holy bollocks it’s awesome! Apparently the guy made it on a relatively small budget but with top notch equipment. The figure being quoted is that he made it for $300 but that doesn’t seem to factor in all the necessary gear, paying extras, crew, and so on. It is still quite an achievement and a testimony to the power of computers and youtube and communication.
Anyway it’s cool. After watching the new Day of the Triffids and reading a book by Larry Niven called ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ (about the earth after a comet hits) my world seems full of End of the World scenarios right now. There must be something wrong with me because I sometimes think it would be quite cool. Mainly because I wouldn’t have to worry about going to work or paying bills or tedium like that. In reality of course, it would suck. No online PS3 games or imported beer or pizza delivery. Or tv shows about Triffids, books about comet armaggedon, or clips on youtube. for that matter.
Let me state this first: I am a massive Hitchhiker fan. Not to the point where it becomes sad-loner going to a convention level, but damn close – I’ll probably take my wife. I first read the initial trilogy when I ten and Life, the Universe and everything had just been published. I immediately wanted to become a writer and started to write my first ever novel right then. I still have it at my parents house.
I have since read everything Douglas Adams has written. Several times.
So when I first heard that a new Hitchhiker book was being written I was initially excited. Then I thought about it and started to worry. How would someone go about this? Try and mimic Adams exactly? Surely that wouldn’t work, as he had such a unique voice. Try their own style? Too distinct and it would hardly be book six, more an adventure ‘in the world of Hitchhikers’. I was concerned.
Unbelievably, in my humble opinion, Eoin Colfer somehow managed to get it pretty spot on. It feels like a continuation of the series but is clearly not written by Adams.
The characters are well done and are the people (and aliens) we all know and love. Arthur Dent, with his quintessential English-ness and obsession with tea and baths, was pretty much modeled on Adams himself. Colfer wisely moves him from the centre of attention. Most of the main protagonists seem to share the limelight fairly equally with perhaps Zaphod Beeblebrox edging slightly ahead. Which is never a bad thing. The original trilogy didn’t really flesh out the characters much and it never really felt all that necessary. The latter two had a bit more characterization but not as much as this.
The original books were more about character types progressing through a series of adventures and ideas. This is more about the characters. Fortunately they are all familiar and enjoyable characters. In addition to the usual cast of Arthur, Ford, Trillian, we have Random Dent (who first appeared in Mostly Harmless), Thor (yes the god who appeared in The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and Norse mythology), Wowbagger the infinitely prolonged (that guy who accidentally became immortal and is now trying to insult the universe in alphabetical order), and a load more. They are all good.
It is here that I noticed the biggest difference. Colfer spends a lot more time on the characters and description of places than Adams ever did. Consequently the pace feels slower. Mr Colfer is a great writer so this never feels too detrimental to the book but you get the feeling that if Douglas Adams had written the same sequence of events it would have comprised about half the number of pages with no loss.
Another difference is that the original felt a lot more philosophical. It had a lot more epic ideas dealing with, for example, life the universe and everything. The scope felt bigger somehow. And Another Thing… follows a lot more of a linear narrative without so many of the huge ideas tackled in the originals. Taken as an episode, this doesn’t matter all that much, it just felt different.
The book is thankfully, very funny. There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments and by that I mean I actually laughed out loud – as opposed to an internet buffoon in a forum typing LOL each they come across something mildly amusing. As I stated above, Mr Colfer is a great writer and fortunately, he is also a funny one. The little asides as the ‘Guide’ interrupts the narratives are there although at times they veer dangerously close to being slightly formulaic and this was never the case with the original. They never quite cross that line though, and are generally amusing and add to the novel.
So was I disappointed? No. Not at all. This is a superb book. Not as good as the originals, but I guess I was always going to say that. As an episode of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy it works well. It is just a bit different. The difference is that between an awesomely funny philosopher/sci-fi writer (Adams) and a more modern but almost as funny sci-fi writer. It is not quite as good or far reaching as the originals but it is certainly a welcome addition to the series. The title is apt. Highly recommended.
The story follows a group of drug users in California in the far-off year of 1994. Actually, the date doesn’t really matter, the book is barely science fiction. The futuristic setting (for when it was written) is simply a device to allow for a drug that doesn’t exist and new techniques for undercover cops.
Anyway, the main protagonist is a druggie called Bob Arctor who is actually an undercover narcotics agent called Agent Fred. Arctor, like his friends, takes a drug called ‘Substance D’ (or Substance Death) and he slowly finds himself addicted. Substance D causes the two hemispheres of the to ‘disconnect’ leading initially to confusion and disorientation and ultimately to brain damage. A bit like Jaegermeister.
All narcotics officers keep their identities secret from everyone, including the police, so when Agent Fred goes to where he can view the surveillance footage of his/Arctor’s and his mates’ house he has to wear a mask (that flashes hundreds of different faces across it every minute, which is cool). As Arctor gets more involved in the drug world he becomes addicted to Substance D. His brain hemispheres lose connection and he grows ever more paranoid and confused. As his brain splits – so do his two personalities. Agent Fred starts to grow more and more convinced that Arctor is a major player in the drug world. He starts to investigate himself…
Philip K Dick is one of my all-time favourite authors and A Scanner Darkly is one of my all-time favourite books. The book is primarily about drug addiction and self-identity. Philip K Dick took an unbelievable amount of drugs in his time and also lost a lot of friends to addiction. He knows what he is talking about. There are some very humorous and very authentic stoner conversations. There is a guy who is convinced he is covered in bugs and they are starting to spread. One guy tries to kill himself by overdosing but it goes wrong and he descends into a trip where a multiple-eyed being from another dimension reads him his sins for all eternity – after 11,000 years the being finally reaches where he discovers masturbation.
Dick’s books generally deal with the themes of what is real, what makes us human, identity and perception. He’s one of the finest examples of the science fiction genre that I like. I have a friend that refuses to read science fiction that was written after 1980 as he claims that older sci fi was more about ideas and philosophy. Dick is one of his favorite authors as well.
A Scanner Darkly is funny, thought-provoking and ultimately, sad. It is one of the few books I have read where I actually sat for a few moments after finishing thinking wow. Just writing this review makes me want to read it again. Don’t see the film and be done (I haven’t actually seen it) – give this a go.
First off, the plot. In 1982 a spaceship arrives and stops overJohannesburg. There is some shaky footage of a command pod detatching and crashing to earth but it is never found. It turns out the ship is full of insect-like aliens who are refugees. They get transported to ‘District 9’ – an area that soon becomes a shithole of a slum like lots of the others that were in Jo’burg during Apartheid. They are nicknamed ‘prawns’ and treated like crap.
Wikus gives eviction notice to aliens
Cut to the present (well next year actually, but that’s immaterial,) and due to lots of local pressure the millions of aliens have to be moved to a new district outside town. The whole thing is controlled by a group called Multi-national United (MNU), and the fellow placed in charge of the move is a very likeable man called Wikus van der Merwe. While Wikus is giving the eviction notices and searching the slum, he gets some stuff sprayed on his face that makes him ill. Later, at hospital he finds out that he’s mutating into an alien. The plus side of this is that he is now the first human who can use alien weaponry. This doesn’t turn out to be a huge plus for him as the MNU now want to dissect him. He escapes and mayhem ensues with cool guns.
There is obviously a lot more going on but I will give away too much of the plot. What I have mentioned here can be pretty much gleaned from the trailer.
The movie is presented as a sort of documentary with news footage, CCTV footage, and hand-held camera stuff. This gives an air of reality to some pretty unreal goings on. It could so easily have gone wrong or been dull like the Blair Witch Project but it doesn’t. It works superbly.
Wikus with a big alien gun
The two principal reasons for this are the director Neill Blomkamp, and Sharlto Copley who plays Wikus. Both are brilliant. The direction never falters and keeps the action exciting and pace focused. Producer Peter Jackson has picked his protege well. Copley plays the role of Wikus – from likeable bureaucrat to panicked human to determined fighter – with skill. Occasionally events conspire in the film business and relative unknowns can create a unique, enthralling, and brilliantly watchable film. This has certainly been the case here.
In case you can’t tell, I loved this movie. It was refreshing to see something new and exciting in the cinema. There have been some accusations of racism and a fair amount of controversy surrounding the movie but they are all by the usual touchy people saying the standard predictable things. If anything, the main bias is against humans as a whole. We suck.
If you like movies, action, direction, or anything to do with the cinema – go and see this. On top of all the above the alien weapons are really, really cool and brutal. Something for everyone.
Knight Rider 2.0 man! New car, new cast, new rocking theme tune. The original was a fun, if somewhat shallow, series following the adventures of a smooth talking, hard hitting ladies’ man (played by the Hoff), and a futuristic talking car called Kitt. While it could never be described as brilliant, it was fun.
The new series is much the same, except there is a bigger cast and they are all better looking. Including the car. I actually quite liked this new version although I doubt I’ll ever go out of my way to watch it but if it was on, its very watchable.
The main guy is actually pretty likeable this time. Which is an improvement. He’s supposed to be the Hoff’s son, so he has some pretty big shoes to fill! The main person in charge (after a few episodes) is a hot chick who may or may not get it on with him at some point. But obviously will. There is also a hot Chinese chick who shows her stomach a lot and a geeky guy who plays a geeky guy who played the geeky assistant to the president guy in Battlestar Galactica.
KITT is predictably quite cool and can do all sorts of modern type stuff with computers and head-up displays and nanites and EMP weaponry and so on. Plus it impresses women.
I’ve only seen a couple of episodes and it was fun. Consequently I think it may be cancelled by now. Why do modern networks never give shows a chance? I watched this on Sci Fi Uk and it is considerably better than the shite on what’s going out right now on my Russian channels – season nine of Walker Texas Ranger (yes nine seasons of this Chuck Norris crap) and season six of Hercules (which is quite good fun too, but hardly superior).
They cancelled Firefly too and are now on my list. This being cancelled is a shame but that was a crime.
If you can catch it, it’s worth a watch. Especially if you like men or women or cars or action. The Hoff even appears in the pilot.
In inFamous You play a delivery man called Cole, who lives on a roof with an annoying friend and is dating a woman called Trish who whinges a lot. (Although this is kind of justified). One day there is a massive explosion in the city and you wake up in the middle of a huge blast crater with special powers. You can control electricity. Which would be pretty exciting. Although as far as I can see, he can never wash or drink liquid again.
There seems to be a disease that is turning people either ill, or mental, so the government blockades the city, declares quarantine, and shoots anyone trying to escape. A bit like Escape from New York but with less cool characters. (And there it was a prison.) Cue the rise of fairly unique gangs on each of the islands that comprise the city. As the inFamous story unfolds you learn more about yourself and the shadowy figures and groups behind everything. The story is actually pretty good with stylish comic-book cut scenes that really add to the superhero theme.
Another thing that develops are your abilities and your karma. You learn more skills as the game progresses and the learning curve as you master these new zappy powers is actually pretty easy. There are various city zones without electricity and each time you start up the generator you get a blast of electricity and a new skill. Some of them are very cool but it feels a bit artificial. I know it is a game but I find it mildly annoying when you gain a power in a game like this and suddenly it turns out to be the very thing that’s need right afterwards. It’s like a mini tutorial, which is handy, but it subtracts from the, er, reality. I won’t gripe about it here but this sort of thing seems to be a tedious unrealistic necessity in games (like in 1st person shooters when you find ammo and a drink that heals physical wounds in a clay pot or something).
Sliding along power cable never gets dull
At first you are limited to just one island and travelling around is slow – although you are pretty damn nimble. You unlock other islands as the game progresses (like GTA) at the same time as finding other ways to move about. Like zipping along train tracks and power cables or even flying. These are fun and easy and look fantastic.
In fact all the controls in inFamous are easy and intuitive and by the end you truly feel mega-powerful. I just thought it was a shame there wasn’t more to destroy. Don’t get me wrong – there are cars and people you can chuck about and blast but if you’re nice, you have to be a bit careful.
I should talk here about being good. Like other games (eg Fallout 3 or Knights of the Old Republic) there is karma. You can be good or bad. This is a great idea and adds to replayability. When you are good there are posters of you everywhere looking heroic and noble. Everyone loves you and gathers around cheering and taking photos whenever you pause for a second. When you are evil a much cooler poster appears with half your face and half demon skull. Whenever you stop for a second people hurl abuse or stones. Which is a pretty dumb thing to do to someone who is evil and has mega powers – especially given how fun it is to throw a car at them. The more good deeds and missions you do the better karma you get. And vice-versa. There are three grades of good/evil until you are either famous or infamous and each grade unlocks even more abilities. Which is all well and good except that there is no point in being neutral. In Fallout 3, for example, there are advantages for whatever state you choose. People fear you or like you and do better deals. Too good or bad and some won’t deal with you, and so on. In inFamous you will miss out on a ton of abilities if neutral – it is only worth your while to be a goody two shoes or out and out bastard.
If you’re evil your electricity goes red. Because that’s what happens…
InFamous is a sandbox game with sidemissions and game missions and lots of other little tasks. There are also missions that are exclusively good or evil. They’re all fairly fun but unsurprisingly the evil ones are better. In fact, the whole game is more enjoyable when you’re a bad guy. You don’t have to care about innocent people, you can just blow the crap out of everything that moves. It also makes it easier.
InFamous is a great fun game but it lacks any real depth. You can’t alter the main character in any way, some missions are a bit repetitive, and you don’t feel as fully immersed in the world as other games manage to achieve. You can cause a lot of chaos in the city but there doesn’t seem much point. You don’t feel like you’re going to get anything out of it. There are no repercussions. In Grand Theft Auto you can go mental and crash cars into traffic, jump out and blow the resulting pile of automobiles up with a grenade. There would be a satisfying explosion, cars flying everywhere, and dead passers by. You take take all their money and occasionally weapons but at the same time become wanted and the police get called in. If you start shooting them the FBI and army and helicopters and so on turn up. There are advantages and consequences and escalation and thrills. Do this in inFamous and nothing happens except some burnt cars.
Don’t get me wrong. The game is great fun, looks fantastic and plays brilliantly. There’s no need to become the insane overly violent psychopath I tend to become in games like this. You will very probably love it. Just not for long. You will play the game as good, then as bad, then you’re done. The story doesn’t vary that much for each karmic state – just enough to warrant two play throughs. You will finish after your two 10 hour sessions and think “That was fun, what next?”
InFamous is recommended, great fun, good-looking, has an intriguing story, is stylish and definitely worth a go. It’s just a bit shallow.
Halting State by Charles Stross is set in the not too distant future. Scotland has devolved (in a political not Darwinian sense), gained independence, and the world is even more saturated with information technology and computer nerdiness than ever before. In an online game a load of orcs and a dragon rob a bank and nick a load of magic swords and armour and amulets and other valuable goodies.
At first you’d probably agree with one of the protagonists in thinking ‘So what, it’s a game’ but in fact the theft spells almost certain doom for the computer company that hosts the bank in the virtual game. As in life now, with games like World of Warcraft, these magical items go on sale for quite surprising money on auction sites. More importantly though, if people lose faith in the game a multi-million company can go down the crapper. These games are big money.
So that’s the plot. The start of it at least. As the Halting State goes on the stakes get increasingly higher as things develop. Western civilisation is at threat and people start to die. There are spies and assassinations and advanced technology and thrills aplenty.
The novel would score quite high on the nerd scale if there was such a thing. A Warp Factor 8.5 perhaps. It is full of computer techno/gamespeak. Being a bit of a spod myself, I was ok with the game stuff like MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game in case you care) but got a bit lost, and to be honest, mildly annoyed for the first couple of chapters with the sheer amount of ‘don’t I know a lot of acronyms’ and general geekness. Stross is doing this on purpose but it can be frustrating.
Another thing I thought might be annoying is the fact that all of Halting State is told in the ‘stream of consciousness’ style like the classic As I lay dying by William Faulkner (a bit boring) and the even more classic The Stud by Jackie Collins (a bit daft). In case you aren’t familiar with these literary gems – each chapter has a character’s name and it is told by that person. It doesn’t prove much of a problem here except occasionally for a Scots accent used by the police character. Which is done phonetically and unnecessarily and why I can’t be bothered to read Trainspotting. Stross can just say that the character has a Scots accent and then write normally. I can imagine the rest. It’s pretty rare here, so don’t worry.
Even more uniquely, the tale is told in the second person present. “You walk in a room” and “you are reading a superb review” sort of a thing. Initially my heart sank when I read this as I thought it would piss me off but I actually got quite into it. It really draws you in. I’m assuming that it is supposed to blur the boundaries between a classic writing style and games such as Dungeons and Dragons or the superb ‘choose your own adventure’ Fighting Fantasy books by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. Which were immensely popular with sad lonely types in the 80s when I was at school. (Deathtrap Dungeon rules by the way.)
I won’t give anything away, but while I found Halting State incredibly fun, witty, entertaining and exciting, it didn’t quite live up to what I had hoped. It felt slightly lacking by the end. I don’t know what I was expecting but it didn’t quite deliver.
It’s still worth a go though. You might like it. As I said, it’s fun if you’re a bit of geek and well written. Charles Stross is always good value.
Well, I survived yet another trip to Amsterdam and have since been working a lot. Mostly for the Syfy channel. The combination of brain-battering in both places fused together to make me wonder about something that would not bother most. At least I hope not or humanity really needs to focus.
What I noticed was that alien planets in the fictional future of my childhood look different from alien planets in the fictional future of today.
The Vasquez rocks or an alien planet?
In my youth alien planets were desert but today they are forests. To be specific, in my youth they looked like the Vasquez rocks outside LA and now they look like a Canadian forest. The former strikes me as more realistic as most extra-terrestrial planets (not the gas giants obviously) are desert-like in appearance. Look at Mars. Or Venus. I should stress that this probably won’t bother most people but it does me and this is my site. If you do care and you want proof, here goes.
Star Trek Original series. Arena.
In a classic episode of the old Trek called Arena, James T. Kirk is beamed down to a planet and made to fight a green lizard thing that is the captain of another ship.
Spoilers: They are placed there by an alien intelligence to see which species should be allowed to survive. It’s a fight to the death and Kirk manages to make gunpowder and shoots a diamond at the alien with a piece of bamboo.
Which is exactly what I’d have done. He refuses to finish the alien off and humans turn out to be er, humane and we’re let off.
Notice the background?
Same episode but with alien
In the highly under-rated Futurama, cartoon Vasquez rocks:
Futurama does Star Trek
Buck Rogers went there in the 25th Century:
There’s a great bit in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey where they watch the Arena episode and then a few minutes later get thrown off the very same rocks. I couldn’t find a photo of this but here they are in preparation:
Evil Bill and Ted meet Good Bill and Ted
Ok so it is all to do with budgets and nearness to the studio. It’s just that my youth has been filled with images of the Vasquez rocks. The Flinstones movie has these rocks behind Bedrock. A godawful movie called Shockwave features them. In Friends, Joey is going to be in a low budget Sci Fi film that is set here.
Here’s Airwolf episode 1:
So there I am watching old Sci Fi juxtaposed with new Sci Fi. The difference is glaring. New Sci Fi looks like this:
As stated, it is obviously about budgets and this entry is making no point whatsoever. Except maybe don’t go to Amsterdam and then watch the SyFy channel for three 12-hour shifts in a row. Especially if you’re a bored pedant.
Hopefully soon, some big budget movie will come along and return to the planets of my youth with its Vasquez like rocks. Actually… that’s happened. Guess what movie? In a joke that would appeal to sad Trekkies, JJ Abrams’ brilliant new Star Trek film featured a picture of Vulcan.
It looks familiar and god bless him:
Vulcan in the new Star Trek. A return to Vasquez. Genius.
Killzone 2 is fucking brilliant. Sorry if this sounds like a summary and you need not read further, but it really is. It is like lots of First Person Shooters but it just does everything so well, it sets itself apart. Read on to see specifically why this is the case. Or just trust me and go and buy it now. Actually, read this first – it may not be for you if this isn’t your cup or tea. Because you’re mental or hate fun or something.
Killzone starts off in the mother ship and you are introduced to yourself as Sevchenko or ‘Sev’, a double hard Sergeant in the ISA Special Forces Alpha. You are then transported to the planet Helghast where the shit is really hitting the proverbial fan. You and your squad then proceed to blow the living crap out of everyone you come across. There is a bit more story than this, with some great baddies but the plot isn’t really up to much. Good guys vs psycho bad guys. It doesn’t really matter all that much as the game is so damned exciting you don’t really notice.
You are definitely the good guys. There is little doubt in that. You play on the side that are clearly the American forces of the future. So cue bad tactical planning, friendly fire, and cries of “Kick Ass!” as you charge forward with guns a-blazing and then the bafflement that it’s all gone tits up. The Helghast are a cross between Nazi’s, communists, and nutter fanatics. Their leader Scolar Visari is the first person you see as he gives a Hitleresque rant about how his forces will slaughter the ISA and blood will run in the streets and so on. Also like the Nazis, the Helghast have the better outfits. Just to give you an idea of how cool the enemy is, here’s an example: there is one particular type of enemy trooper you come across who is huge and carries a colossal machine gun. You are informed when you first come across one of these behemoths that it just took out an entire squad. You are also told in a loading screen that these are guys who are sealed in a massive powered suit of bulletproof armor, given a huge gun, are then fed aggressive psychotropic mind-altering drugs, and are then sent out against the enemies while constant propaganda is piped into their ears. Which is pretty cool.
Here’s the fellow:
Drugged-up Mega-Machine-Gun Man
Graphically, the game is gorgeous. Full of detail. Helghast is a shithole – like a giant run-down oil refinery in an especially shitty reddish desert. Think Planet Harkonnen from Dune but without the colourful characters. It is wind-swept and industrial and bleak. The lighting and sounds and music complement the whole effect and this in turn heightens and differentiates the various settings (spaceship, palace, etc). Most of the action takes place on the planet however and it almost feels like a real place. The details are superb and lifelike. Occasionally you are at some gun turrets or in a walking upright tank thing (like in Aliens but with guns) and as the machine gets hit, more and more cracks appear in the wind-shield. The graphics are extraordinary and one of the best on the PS3.
Now for main bit. What’s it like to play? I played this straight after playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Which is also a corker of game, by the way. In that game your character is quick (especially when you are SAS), and as you storm a enemy strongpoint your gun snaps from one bad guy to the next. In Killzone 2, it felt a bit sluggish at first. The guns were heavy and it takes longer to turn and when you jump you just feel a bit slower, as if you have more mass. I then started to get into it and realised that this was a joy. It was just different. You are carrying a heavy load and the guns are bigger and heavier. It then became insane fun.
There are several huge set pieces where you are fighting not just with your squad but with whole divisions. The big guns are rarely sci-fi, just heavy bastard firing machines that are brilliant to shoot with. Chucking grenades can be annoying in some games, but again they got it right. There are just enough guns to keep you interested and the tasks are just varied enough to alleviate any chance of boredom. The AI on both sides is incredibly high and they are rarely passive. Enemy soldiers will hide behind cover until they think you have stopped shooting before popping their heads out somewhere new. They will scatter when you chuck a grenade, which can be frustrating but at least it’s realistic. You have to use grenades intelligently instead – throwing them where several Helghast are hidden behind cover and then you and your squad can shoot them as they run out. Unfortunately they do the same to you. If you hide in one spot for too long you will get flanked, so you have to be alert.
You are in serious trouble
The solo play took me about ten hours to complete, which is pretty respectable and as my heart was pounding for most of it, quite a relief. I then thought I’d give online a go. As I stated before, I had been playing COD 4 before this and there the online game felt difficult. I was always at the bottom of the kill list. Somehow, in Killzone2 I fared a lot better. Maybe it is because the game is newer and you don’t get 90% of players being hardened professionals who have spend 1000s of hours on it. Both games keep the multiplayer interesting by allowing you to level up and proceed through the ranks to general. On the way you win medals for achievements like killing the most people or taking out three guys with one grenade. These medals in Killzone are separate from the ranking system and immensely pleasurable to receive. Also, as you rise you get new weapons, abilities, even new classes. As you get promoted you are only placed in battles with other players of the same rank, so you never feel it is a bit unfair when, (as has happened in other games) you get shat on by players who are generals with better armour and more powerful guns.
The Killzone maps are also well designed and balanced. With up to thirty two players in each one, they always feel right and as they are multi-layered you have to think in several dimensions or an enemy will just drop a grenade on your head. In addition to all this you get the usual multiplayer options of capture the flag and body count and so on. But here they can be played one after the other in the same game. It adds a lot more fun than I thought it would have at first as each team competes to win each section and are awarded points accordingly. You also feel like you are working together a lot more in multiplayer than other games I have played. In one section a single player is picked as an assassination target and their position is broadcast to all the 31 other players. I was picked once and I found a relatively secure room and felt genuinely nervous as my teammates all ran to my location and stood guard as the enemy converged on us. As they neared I saw my team get slowly picked off, and as the gunfire got nearer I genuinely got alarmed. Eventually both squads guarding each door exploded in blood and the enemy appeared and I was shot. A lot. Plus blown up with grenades. It was fun though. I am completely addicted to multiplayer now and that is a first for me.
I love First Person Shooters and play a lot of them. It sometimes worries my wife. Killzone 2 doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre but it does everything right. It is unbelievably good fun and if the plot is a bit second rate – who cares? You will barely remember it. The game rarely lets up and you will move from one massive set piece to the next in a frenzy of killing joy. The multiplayer is superb and you will spend a lot longer on it than the solo game, so it’s well worth your money. There are so many more elements to it than can be listed in a review, so my advise is to just buy it. If you like epic battles and big guns you will love it. I will see you online.
This game starts with your birth. Literally. You are pulled out of your mother and see the doctor and your dad – who happens to be Liam Neason (the voice anyway). The first section then follows you as you grow up, make friends and choose a career and so on. It sounds drawn out but in fact it doesn’t take too long and really adds to the rest of the game. There has been a nuclear war and by the time you hit adulthood neither you or anyone else has left your underground bunker – Vault 101 – for decades. Then your dad buggers off without even saying goodbye. Things go a bit tits up in the vault and you decide to leave.
By this point you have probably been playing for at least an hour and it genuinely feels strange and exciting the first time you walk out of the Vault and see the open landscape and ruins of Washington DC before you. The area is vast and you can explore it all. You can do this exploration at your leisure and this freedom is one of the principal joys of the game.
The Capitol wasteland
As with such freewheeling games as Grand Theft Auto or Elder Scrolls Oblivion (the latter also by Bethesda), you will most likely spend half your time following the story and the other half exploring. A great deal of thought has gone into how all the various groups of people have survived and you will find communities dotted all over the place. I loved stumbling across some of these. There are normal-seeming villages where you start to suspect that something is wrong the more you chat (cannibals?), an underground group of vampire types, ghoul cities (like zombies but friendly and chatty), virtual reality towns, a mad Russian with hookers, a ‘Mad Max’ type survivalist type town, and shitloads more. Also roaming the landscape are huge green mutants, rapid dogs, humanoid crab-like creatures, punk bandits, and so on.
On top of having your choice on where to go, you can also dramatically change your character development, the way you deal with people (and vice versa), and even the outcome of the game. You can choose attributes – strength, intelligence, etc; perks – speciality skills; even your morality. Your actions also have consequences to yourself, those you meet, communities, the world, and companions you make. The variety and difference between how the game plays out for each player is genuinely vast and satifying.
Graphically the game looks great. By that, I mean the art and design of the landscape and the characters. In particular the armoured characters that feature so heavily in the advertising and pictures like the one at the top of this piece. It is pretty to look at and convincing in a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ kind of way. Nothing special though. There are games with more detail and realistic characters both on PC and other PS3 games. This is forgivable to some extent given the epic size of where you can go. A more linear FPS for example, can afford to pay full attention to the graphical experience.
I should mention the VATS combat system. This allows you to pause the game, select a body part of the chosen victim, and then fire. You then get a brilliant sequence where you follow the bullet as it zooms toward the target before, if you’re lucky, blowing said limb off in a spray of blood. As with all games that have ever featured guns, it is at its best when you get in close and blow the head off. The VATS system is optional by why wouldn’t you use it? It’s fun and slow-mo and gory. It is slightly clunky but the first time you blow a rabid dog to pieces, you realise you don’t care.
Fallout 3 is fun but not flawless. There are some great set pieces where you join together with others to blow the crap out of some mutated behemoth or other. There should have been more of this. The combat is cool but can sometimes lead to weird camera angles. The story is actually quite satisfying but I accidently finished it before exploring several large chunks of the map. This latter fault can be rectified by either replaying it or downloading one of the newer add-on adventures that are available. Mostly though I was saddened by the fact that I got a dog called Dogmeat that I really grew quite attatched to. I then got kidnapped and lost him. He is now wandering around a fictional game on his own. Poor Dogmeat. Maybe I got too involved.
Where are you Dogmeat?
I enjoyed Fallout 3 and if I didn’t have other games to play would be still exploring now. If you like First Person Shooters or RPGs you will probably like it too.