I’m Paid To Catch Crooks, Not Get Them Elected – Welcome To The Punch

28 12 2016

Welcome to the Punch (Momentum Pictures - 2013)

If I were to ask you to compare the ways of life in both the UK and in the USA, you could probably come up with a big hefty list, but I could easily bet a substantial sum of money that one of the first things you would note is that in America, ordinary people are allowed to carry a Gun. It is embedded in the constitution of said country that ‘ordinary’ people are allowed to bear arms, so it comes as no surprise to the rest of us that there are a lot of shootings in America…which eventually (of course) lead to major Massacre’s more than once a year; but what do you expect from a country that has such a relaxed attitude to the distribution of deadly weaponry! In the UK we have a stricter form of gun control by only allowing certain people to have access to such weapons where as in America such a tight control of guns is factually impossible due to the large numbers of people (or more specifically gun nutters) who think easy access to guns is actually a ‘good thing’ (even though it’s probably due to this form of idealism that is causing most of the problems). I am not saying that everything is plain sailing in the UK though when it comes to gun access as they can still be attained for criminal purposes; but for this reason the UK does have its police divisions which are specially trained to use Firearms if such a time is needed (but even so this does not stop Daily Mail readers (probably) believing that our police officers should be packing – there is no pleasing some people is there).

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Released in 2013 by Momentum Pictures and directed by Eran Creevy; Welcome to the Punch is a British Action Cop Thriller about a Policeman who ends up teaming with a noted Gangster he has a score to settle with after uncovering a deadly conspiracy within the British Police Force. The film’s script is noted for being voted third on the 2010 Brit List of the best un-produced film scripts.

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One night in London around Canary Wharf, a heist is pulled off by a team of crooks led by Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) who escape on Motorcycles. In hot pursuit is Detective Inspector Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) who defies orders by chasing after them unarmed, only to be shot in the leg by Sternwood. 3 years later, Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel) is arrested at a London Airport after a failed heist and is in a critical condition in Hospital. Max still works for the police force, but is held in low regard by his Chief Inspector; Nathan Bartnick (Daniel Mays) due to his actions and everyday has to remove water from his shot leg. He teams up with Detective Sergeant Sarah Hawks (Andrea Riseborough) in trying to convict former army man Dean Warns (Johnny Harris), but who is let off the hook after a witness changes their statement. When news reaches Max regarding Sternwood’s son, he sees this as a chance to get revenge.

After a failed attempt to capture him, Sternwood arrives in the UK to take care of his son and asks for help from old friend Roy Edwards (Peter Mullan). With a recent spate of shootings in London, Commander Thomas Geiger (David Morrissey) is campaigning for his officers to be given better equipment in dealing with crime and sees this whole Sternwood resurgence as a way to score points in his favour. He allows Max and Sarah to take command of surveillance at an open hospital where Ruan Sternwood is being treated, hoping that Jacob Sternwood might take the bait. Things end badly however, as Max’s determination results in a gun being shoved in a civilian’s face, Ruan later dies in Hospital. Jacob Sternwood meanwhile undertakes his own investigation into what happened to his son, and lays a trap at a local Hotel where Nathan and another policeman; Harvey Crown (Jason Flemyng) take the bait, and after a small gun fight Harvey gets killed. Sarah meanwhile finds evidence regarding to a containment delivery on the river Thames. When she arrives she finds a container filled with weapons, but before she can escape she is killed by Dean Warns.

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With Commander Geiger’s blessing, Max is sent out to bring down Sternwood once and for all, and a lead on Nathan takes him to a small club, where Max runs into Sternwood, but before he can kill him, both men are ambushed by Warns and Bartnick. Bartnick is killed in the resulting fight, with Sternwood saving Max and escaping in a van. Sternwood orders Max to take him to his son in the Morgue, but while there they run into Detective Juka Ogadowa (Daniel Kaluuya) who tells Max that he is wanted for Sarah’s murder. Sternwood and Max manage to escape and go to Dean Warns’s Nan’s house where they use his Nan (Ruth Sheen) to get him to take them to the containment yard where the container full of guns are. While there, they also trap and capture Commander Geiger who informs them that he set up the means for the recent spate of gun crime in the Capital and helped to ship in the guns, so that when the correct political party took over, he could supply officers with the equipment they needed to protect themselves better. At that moment, armed men sent by Geiger’s PR Jane (Natasha Little) attack the yard, but Max and Sternwood are able to defeat them, killing both Warns and Geiger in the process. With the police on their way to the scene, Max considers shooting Sternwood, but lets him go, and is arrested on the spot as Sternwood flees the scene.

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Welcome to the Punch is a very interesting film, but one that I would not usually concern myself with watching. Yes there are a lot of independent British gangster based films that are produced year in year out but most of these don’t really grab my attention. When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was a very good trailer and was sort of suckered in with the line that stated that one of the executive producers was Ridley Scott (I know); but the trailer still grabbed me enough to keep it in mind. I eventually got round to going to the cinema to see it and was absolutely blown away by it. While not necessarily the best film of 2013 (my 4th favourite overall), it was a film that while released early on, was one that remained in my mind and would not let go of.

James McAvoy

Welcome to the Punch is not really a gangster film, nor is it a knuckle dusting, all guns blazing shooter movie, what it is, is a solid British Police/Cop film. What do I mean by this? Well, it is a crime film with elements of gangster films but is not one in search of blood lust. What we have is a decent detective who has had his pride shot after an incident wanting some form of restitution. Due to his past failings though he is held in low esteem by his superiors and is sort of made a joke of and as such has fallen on hard times in his personal life. Meanwhile, the super criminal who has pulled off a heist which he can safely retire on, is forced to return to his home country when his son is in danger. This means he has returned, and the detective sees this as an opportunity to settle a score with him plus return into the good books with others. While all this is coming to a head however, the incidents surrounding this turn of events begin to unravel and a much darker conspiracy comes to the fold which means that the two great enemies will have to leave it for later as there is something they both need to settle first and need each other to pull it off. What we have here basically (or as basic as I can get it) is a big action packed detective story with a boiling vendetta ready to erupt engulfing the entire city with it, but still comes with that murder mystery formula that works so well along with the big explanation as to what has exactly been going on and the real crooks revealed, but in the end succumbs to a very tragic end for the hero. It’s like a great crime novel, something that if it wasn’t McAvoy and Strong, could well be Harry Bosch (have not read a single novel, but my researched understanding suggests that he would fit the bill).

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To back up its story, Welcome to the Punch comes with a small but still powerful cast of actors and actresses who deliver some amazing characters in the process, seemingly suggesting that without the actors, the characters would just not have worked. The film does of course have it’s one timers of interest who deliver little such as Ruan, Karen Edwards (Dannielle Brent) and Harvey Crown, to more included characters who still have a little but not a lot such as Juka and Jane, but all of these really go far to enhance the film’s story and setting (not to forget the city of London itself, especially when you listen to the wise words of Luther creator Neil Cross who sums up London’s character status better than anyone else), but the film’s small cast enables these varied roles to really stand out and warrant such a pedigree of acting. I do find Johnny Harris’s role a ,little clichéd in the form that he is a bruiser with little social life and has to engage a lot of heavy breathing, I just couldn’t see why he could not be more like Mike in Breaking Bad or even Buck in Far Cry 3, real characters with a unique personality but are still hitmen to a cause; however his insertion as a gun for hire really allows himself to develop a characteristic which suggests a real hitman, less an armed thug with little allowance to talk. The character of Nathan Bartnick is as unpleasant as the early morning traffic jam on a rainy day, but I suppose that’s the point. He does not come across as pleasant, but given that he is the first end level boss of the film, you can’t really introduce him as a nice man, more of a feeder into something bigger, and let a more major character present himself favorably in the eyes of the audience only to flip at the last-minute.

David Morrissey’s character is that of someone you could confuse of being a mayor if it was not explained that he is actually a police man. He is introduced really well and works hard to present himself as being a supportive influence on Max and who comes across well with the audience as a result. He is a strong leader with a lot of hope and a big heart, really showing that he sees the best in people. All that turns around in a trice however as he is revealed to be the big bad instigator of the film’s events, less a leader, more of a manipulator, whose long career has provided an insight into the criminal underworld, and one he knows how to manipulate to get his wish. His heart is in the right place, and is not looking for a position of power, not a megalomaniac, more a lunatic who thinks that with enough prodding he can get the best outcome. It’s a real shock turn of events that leaves you reeling, as for the great majority of the film; he is one of the good guys. Peter Mullan is an inspired casting choice as his veterancy on the British independent scene means he can slip into a variety of persona’s and can come across anyway he likes. For instance, in this he is introduced as something of an old gangster and a possible mentor to Sternwood, however he comes across as something of a respected member of the community with a lot of power under his belt, and while he is on the initial bad side, he does prove his worth and becomes a trusted ally to all those who side with him. He maybe a retired gangster, but he still comes with a real whack of a punch while still allowing a real sense of sanity to creep in on those around him.

Mark Strong

The way that a crime lord is presented can seem very samey at times, which is why it’s nice that in this case we have someone a lot different. Jacob Sternwood is a criminal who has earned a great deal of respect from his peers and is a real tactician in the execution of a crime, his attitude to what he does though comes across as less a scheming villain, more someone looking for the opportunity to get away and be set up for life. He is suggested of being a hard worker, someone who if he was not a criminal would more than likely be real working class hero whose hard work pays off in dividends. He is a criminal though, but in the same style as what I have suggested, he is a criminal hero of sorts and is just looking for enough to live a nice relaxed life. This is strongly suggested more when his son gets into trouble, as he cares greatly for him, even more so to re-enter harm’s way to check up on him and pursue a vendetta on his behalf. Into this we have the rookie detective sent to bring him down; someone who took it too far and is now forever paying the cost for it, and has a low self-esteem due to his past behavior. He does have a strong support network around him, but his determination to get back onto the good track of life means that he does not really see it until it is too late, and as things spiral more out of control for him, he really begins to understand that there is no real way out for him, and sadly, that’s what does happen. Though while Max does go all out to prevent total Chaos, it ends tragically for him, creating a deep uncertain future that there is no coming back from. James McAvoy and Mark Strong work well off each other, as McAvoy still presents that young but experienced character with deep forgotten hopes and repressed memories, while Mark Strong presents that real strong determination but one that makes him human; not machine nor monster; together creating two very relatable characters.

James McAvoy and Mark Strong

More than anything about this film, the real highlight has to be Sarah Hawks played by the incredible Andrea Riseborough. I could not get enough of her character. She is not an assistant to Max, nor is a running partner in learning, but someone who deeply cares for him and is making it a personal mission to find a way to bring the real Max back. In many scenes she surpasses Max and you really begin to feel for her, and can see a lot of hope and future for her, thinking that she will be the big hero (or at least should have been the lead character). She presents incredible energy in a tough world, not delivering charisma or charm but more a sultry aggression, one that is fighting to be let out, but continues to maintain a level of professionalism. It strikes me though, that with a film about the police and crime, that none of them can spot the real crime in progress, that of the death of Riseborough’s character. It still annoys me to this day that Riseborough’s character was killed off as I simply wanted more of her in this film. She is more what McAvoy should have been than he plays, so why could they not have killed him in a shock twist and allowed her to take over from him. She was incredibly enjoyable and whose death is the real crime of this story.

Andrea Riseborough and James McAvoy

Welcome to the Punch does not carry a heavy burden of Special Effects, but does come with some terrifically choreographed gun fight scenes including some nicely, all be it brutally realistic scenes of the use of injection needles in James McAvoy’s leg, plus a whole heap of excellently devised shooting matches and even a pretty good bike car chase scene in a surprisingly quiet late night Canary Wharf. Any other scenes of adrenaline pumping action really come down to the human level of chases scenes on foot, plus the raw primal instincts of the cast as they deliver very realistic characters, all who appear to be on the edge of mental breakdowns in such a stressful world (come to think of it, the bike chase scene in the underground tunnels does sort of make me think of the opening scene in Blade: The Series). The film’s soundtrack meanwhile (composed by Harry Escott) is a very varied selection of tracks that that range from small low key pieces, to high-octane shouts, all dependent on the scene in hand. For the most part the film relies mostly on a sophisticated level of silence as the characters are talking and only brings in the noise as the time for talking comes to a close. Even when the music is needed, it decides to play tracks that suggest more a moment of thought rather than a moment of action; not necessarily a bad thing, just very different. Scenes that carry a piece of note include the opening heist, Max’s Flat, the attack on Sternwood’s Icelandic villa, the near kiss, the early container, post Sarah’s death, nightclub shootout, the Morgue and the Credits (not forgetting the wonderful piece of music from the film’s trailer, no idea what it is sadly).

Welcome to the Punch is a very satisfying crime thriller. It is a film that is at a good length and carries enough mystery, but not too much to heavy interlace with the scenes of action so as not to confuse itself nor the audience. It is a film with a good sophistication of action sequences, while also presenting a prolific cast of characters and delivering a deep sense of emotion. Yes, it does have its down parts (such as DS Hawks’s Death!) but it also has a lot to make up for that (except DS Hawks’s Death!) and carries on to create a brutally realistic film with a tragic un-turn-around-able ending that makes you question what the future holds and if the villains actually got away with it or not. At the same time though it does go on to question real world ideas such as gun control, the arming of British Police officers; and also delves deep into some of the deepest levels of corruption that we may never see in some of our most trusted institutions. Altogether, I think it is a rather superb film that does something very different to those around it, creating a rather unique if but small experience for all those willing to give it a shot.

GENEPOOL (Happy New Year).

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The Lost Reviews – Arms Dealer

21 10 2016

Arms Dealer

Tutorials are a major importance to Video Games, without them, chances are we would have no idea how to play the game. It would be complete guess-work as we play the first level over and over again hoping for a hint as to what we are supposed to be doing. Thankfully, that’s why we have Tutorials. Tutorials though don’t have necessarily spoon feed you with information, they could either present just the core details to you or let you work it out from there, or they could be simple prompts at the side of the screen, and rely on you to implement them and discover them yourself. Tutorials themselves could even be a part of the game, and when effective enough could become one of the most memorable parts of the game; a good example would be Age of Empires II for instance. Recently I have been playing another game that too has a memorable tutorial, but all for the wrong reasons.

Age of Empires 2

Arms Dealer (produced by Case in Point Studios, LLC) is a game about buying, selling, trading and shipping weapons around the world to some less than reputable characters. As a new person to the gig, you have some money to which you can begin to build your empire, but to start with you need to buy some guns, make friends and maybe build some form of transport. You start in a country, and from there can buy weapons, while also buying intel on countries to get the prices up and down during buying and selling as well as get involved with auctions. As the game progresses you will need to watch your back as agencies from around the world are looking to bring you down, so while you are earning cash and reputation, you will also be building up your prison sentence should you get caught. Well that’s the theory of how the game works or should work, just depends how much you age by the time you get past the tutorial.

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The game comes with a nice clever interface. It provides you with a map similar to DEFCON and Pandemic 2 to which you can plan where you want to go, buy weapons from, and who to sell them too. The game also comes with an intuitive scheme of windows, much like your desktop; which you can move around willy nilly to your heart’s content to get the best input system possible for you to play the game. It’s sort of like that snap feature on Windows 7 (just without the ridiculous advert). The game controls and input are pretty basic as the only real control you will need comes from your mouse. You just simply click what you want to click, while moving the in game windows around to suit your comfortably.

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The in game map and windows are nicely made, and the images of weapons and vehicles are nicely detailed, and the in game text is nice and easy to read. It’s just everything else is pretty terrible. Some of the in game buttons don’t look like buttons, so you don’t know how to press them, or if you can press them. Some of them are actually pretty small and hard to click on and some of the text is not exactly helpful as you are trying to find an action and you don’t know where it is or how to find it either.

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The real issue with this game for me though is the flipping tutorial. Now most in game tutorials will try to restrict the amount of writing it puts on-screen, other than of course direct and intuitive information, the information you need and want, in order for you to play the game. Sometimes a tutorial will even have some form, of spoken dialogue, so you don’t cause yourself any un-required eye strain. Here though the dialogue boxes have no spoken word, and contain nothing but tiny text, in a small window, and guess what, there is a lot of it. Some spoken word would be a great deal of help here just so you can get a touch more detail, without hurting your eyes. But that is not the worst of it. Due to the amount of windows and text boxes you will be opening during the game, there is a lot of reading involved, and unnecessary moving of windows because the tutorial window demands the centre screen, and so always moves itself back into place, which is not helpful. Worse is still to come, as the text is not descriptive enough and asks you to press buttons you can’t find but according to the tutorial…..’EXIST!’ So you start looking around for the button it tells you to press, but you just can’t find it. And then the windows start to throw a sissy fit, as if you accidentally close a window (but more likely do it on purpose just to get it out of the way), it sort of reverts back to an original state, forcing you to start all over again (not to mention; the lag).

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The windows feature is a nice add-on, it’s a general shame that it just does not work properly. How are you supposed to see this wonderfully detailed map when sooner or later the whole screen is just going to be filled up with in-game windows! How a game like this, which in fairness should strive, like all games, not to create a nuisance is supposed to work is beyond me. Why can’t the windows work like the windows of an installation screen? Instead of you opening up windows to complete an over the top action, why can’t the screen change automatically, by pressing a continue button or something. When you purchase an item off Amazon, you don’t need to open several windows to complete the action, because the window changes automatically to the next step. It’s simple, very simple, so why does this game then thrive to do the exact opposite and be a nuisance.

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I have to mark this game down sadly, which is a shame because overall I really wanted it to be good. I held high expectations and hope that this would be a fun game. I like economic/trading games like this, because generally they are games which don’t require you to complete in one sitting. It’s not Call of Duty; it’s a nice small game which could either be played in short bursts or long periods. It’s like Evil Genius: you don’t have to play it for a long time if you don’t want to, you could play a quick snippet, and play more when you wanted too. The game has some nice points, a wonderfully detailed map, and some nice pictures of guns (which if that is all you want, then great, perfect game for you), but if you want more than that; I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. I hope this game can be salvaged, because I feel that it is a wasted opportunity full of potential. I think that this game could have been really good; a proper enjoyable little gem with plenty of hours of game-play; But right now; I feel like I wish had not wasted my money on it, even if it was a cheap purchase!

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GENEPOOL





Top 5 Weapons I Would Choose In The Hunger Games

18 05 2016

Katniss Everdeen

I love The Hunger Games, by that I of course mean the combination of the Film and the Book, not necessarily the setting of jumping into an arena and having to kill people. A few years ago, after the release of the first one, I remember an interview that was conducted on some of the cast members who were asked how they would act inside the arena. Now for me, I would more than likely just hide in the corner, and cry my eyes out until I was either dead, or just go mad and become some kind of psychopath. In my head though, it’s a completely different story as I would see myself being like Blade and just be invincible going round killing everyone, but that is very unlikely. Anyway I thought I would do a post on what my ideal weapon choices would be in the arena.

M110A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer

Now I decided to sort of be semi-realistic in my choices. For one, I know I cannot bring anything in to the ring, so it prevents my 3 main options: Godzilla, a M110A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer and Lisbeth Salander; although fair point, Lisbeth Salander would receive double points for having access to a cool leather jacket.

Lisbeth Salander

It’s certainly better than wearing those swimming outfits in Catching fire. I mean, what would you prefer; the swimming costumes from Catching Fire, or a Cool Leather Jacket?

Anyway, under the point that I can’t necessarily take anything in, this list is made up of choices I would choose if they became available in the arena themselves. Now, I do realise that this list may seem a little bit rushed. I have had these dreams for a while of what I would choose, but have only just decided to do this as a post, and in the end, I don’t think I have used my imagination all that much, and this list is made up of more practical stuff mixed with things from Movies, and so I may eventually regret my choices (apart from the leather jacket), and do another one of these in the future with either some additional thought, a selection of weapons from the films/books, things I just made up. Anyway, here are my choices of what I was able to simple cobble together.

Mortis

5. Mortis – What could be better than if one of the choices was the robot Mortis from Robot Wars? What could be better than Mortis, the best robot in all of Robot Wars? Now he would be ranked higher if it wasn’t for the case of a remote-controlled robot being relatively impractical as you would spend most of your time behind the robot directing it rather than looking out for the girl from district 6 creeping up on you. But forgetting that bit, its axe would be so deadly an attack, you don’t necessarily need to kill anybody, just puncture them and let them bleed out. It’s a grim idea, but it might be easier on your conscience.

M4A1

4. M4A1 Assault Rifle – Ok, this one is mostly based on what fun I could get out of MW2 Multiplayer, but yeah. Why not choose a Gun? It makes complete and total sense; you can get it over with good and quick as long as your aim is good and true. Why not add the attachable grenade launcher, then that way you can set fire to any forestry around you and force people out before shooting them. Ok, it relies on you not wasting ammo; but why on earth would the Capitol only give you one clip?

Crossbow

3. CrossbowKatniss Everdeen had her bow and arrows; I would have my Crossbow (even though I should point out this is all hypothetical and I don’t actually own one). It’s similar to the above mentioned Gun, but this time it’s a bit more quiet and lethal. Yes, I can see a Crossbow coming quite handy in the Hunger Games, and I don’t mean just some old relic of a device, no! I mean a proper modern beast of a weapon, similar to the one used in Brainiac: Science Abuse for testing armour in a modern civil war, or like at the end of Reign of Fire when Christian Bale’s character kills the Big Dragon.

Quarriors

2. Quarriors Dice – If you have no idea what those 2 words mixed together mean, it’s obvious you have not played my Favourite Board Game. In Quarriors (using a similar sort of game play to Dominion, if you know what that is), you roll and collect dice to attack other people. Dice can be used to summon spells, and summon monsters. Just imagine it, you roll the dice, and in a similar vein to Yu-Gi-Oh, Monsters and Spells come out of the dice to attack your enemies.

Heimdall

1. Equipment from Thor – When I think about me being in The Hunger Games, one thing that always comes to mind is the film Thor, quite possibly because the night on the day that I first saw The Hunger Games, I went home and watched some scenes from Thor. Anyway, I have decided to call this bit Equipment of Thor (I know it does not sound all that exciting), because there are 3 things I can think of that would be quite useful to have in The Hunger Games. As to how you would get them is relatively obvious, basically you will be covered in lightning like Thor and receive the equipment as it is bonded to your body. Anyway, the items in question; Heimdall’s Armour, Heimdall’s Sword, and Thor’s Hammer. It’s all you really need isn’t it, just the basics, and the hammer could prove to be a useful escape route as you could just plough through a wall or the roof, or better yet, send the hammer flying and destroy the Capitol, end of The Hunger Games, everyone is free, let’s go home. Basically, all this time, I just see myself becoming Thor while also receiving some equipment from the mighty Heimdall too.

GENEPOOL





I Miss MAG

29 07 2015

MAG (Zipper Interactive - 2010)

MAG is a game I have mentioned on this blog on numerous occasions. It was a game produced by Zipper Interactive for the PS3 that was entirely multiplayer, meaning that there was no real single player mode……….apart from a little tutorial. The idea behind MAG (Massive Action Game) was to have one giant multiplayer battleground where up to 256 players, split into two teams and fight each other. At the time of release it was both revolutionary, but also risky as no-one could see a game with so many players working. Well, when it did work, it was a really enjoyable game.

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Out of all the games I have had on my PS3, I think it was the one I was most committed towards. From the first day I got it, to almost every day since then, I was playing on it. I was fighting in giant battles with players in my chosen faction against another faction. I was shooting enemy players, healing my teammates and securing objectives. While I wasn’t the best player in the game, I was doing well at it enough to enjoy it. If my PS3 had a time calculation thing on it (like games on Steam where it shows how many hours you have played games for), MAG, even to this day might still be my most played game on the console.

MAG Factions

The Faction I originally chose was Raven. I liked the futuristic, technological look of them, and I played the game right through to I think level 60, where players could then change the faction as Veteran, to which I did to become a fighter for Valor. As the game progressed I levelled up through several varying ranks and even got promoted to Team Commander, where I could lead a squad of 8 men including myself. As the game went on I also upgraded my character and received new weapons and skills. It was a game I liked as it gave me reason to continue, plus I enjoyed it so much, despite the fact that I probably died more times than killed people, but I don’t think I was too bad. The levels were good too, while most of the time it was restricted to just a few maps and objectives, some of these were large and varied enough to keep me interested. When new expansions came out I purchased them too, even if the demand for those levels eventually just dried up. On top of that, it had vehicles, paratroopers, guns galore, and a terrific soundtrack, plus an opening video. It’s E3 trailer from 2008 was pretty sweet too, and was the reason why I wanted to play it.

But eventually, it just began to die out. Levels began to get harder to get into, it was hard to fight on missions you wanted to as it relied on other people wanting to play them too. Then eventually, it’s time came, as the servers were announced to be shut down. I quickly traded in my copy somewhere, just so I didn’t have a dead useless weight in my collection that couldn’t be played again.

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It’s true; I really do miss this game. I could only play it downstairs as that was where the best internet connection was to play it. I enjoyed it more than multiplayer on Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2, as MAG had things to strive for, while CODMW2 just didn’t for me. It has left me with some terrific memories, but sadly is not the same as playing it. I will just have to find something else to play instead, and wait until another game like it, maybe, one day (hopefully) comes along.

MAG

GENEPOOL (maybe if a new Frontlines game is made, it could be the multiplayer for that?)





Shadow The Hedgehog: The Final Word

17 06 2015

Shadow The Hedgehog (SEGA - 2005)

Several years ago, I used to collect Official Nintendo Magazine, I still have them actually. It was back when I was a big gamer and played on mostly Nintendo consoles. Eventually though, maybe two years ago, I just stopped collecting them, I don’t think I actually had a proper good read of one for a year before that. Anyway, the magazine continuously changed every few issues to keep it fresh and one of the magazine sections that stuck around for a while was a readers section. This was where anyone who wrote letters in, or (more commonly) from the online forums would get a say. When it came to the online forums, ONM used to show a pie chart of percentages of what people talked about most that month, and one of the most commonly featured topics in the pie chart was a lot of people showing their support for a spinoff game of the Sonic the Hedgehog series; Shadow The Hedgehog.

ONM Magazine

I never actually looked into those topics on the forums, my forum footprint overall was pretty low; however it always interested me to see people defend Shadow the Hedgehog. I remember first reading about the game and being a fan of the Sonic series at the time (and also my liking for the character of Shadow), I was excited about it. I remember even getting a copy of it for my GameCube when it was first released, and remembered hearing friends and other people talk about their opinions for the game, where the result was normally positive. One thing I did not understand though, was why (roughly) 25% of the readership of the magazine wrote on the forums every month just to defend a specific game. The other percentages used to talk about new stuff or current games and opinions; so why is another talking about one game in particular? I mean, what was so bad about Shadow the Hedgehog in the first place. When I originally played it, I thought it was quite fun. I played it quite a lot and really got into it. Ok, it wasn’t like it had no flaws at all but I thought it was OK. With the game being nearly 10 years old now, I thought I would reminisce a little by looking back at it and giving a more hindsight view on what I thought of the final product. While the post may say “The Final Word”, this probably, more than likely, won’t be the last time someone talks about this game, but due to the interest in people defending the game, I thought I would give and highlight my thoughts on the game, then hopefully come up with some overall rating for it (I probably won’t do this again in the future as it probably won’t work).

Shadow

1. Setting – Shadow is a hedgehog (like sonic, but black in colour) who has something of a mysterious past that comes back to him in flashbacks he doesn’t relatively understand. For the most part he is a loner and only cares for himself and some mysterious girl called Maria. One day, an Alien Invasion by a race known as the Black Arms suddenly happens. At first he doesn’t care, but is then approached by the races master; Black Doom who says that if Shadow can bring him the Chaos Emeralds, he will reveal Shadows past. The alien invasion setting then sets the game up for the player to take shadow on a story plot that allows the player to take different routes and discover and play different levels while also discovering Shadows Past. The games’ setting is pretty interesting and as its core point of storytelling goes, it’s pretty cool; however it’s all over the place. One moment you are fighting off an alien invasion, the next, you are nowhere near the invasion, to doing something that happened 50 years previously, or fighting a completely different enemy altogether. Because you are not too sure of where you are supposed to be, it feels more like a game without story than a game that sort of promises to tell you a story while discovering it yourself at the same time. While it is interesting to discover new things and experiences other bits, for a story telling adventure, it’s a bit poor. 2/5.

S4

2. Gameplay Part 1: Storytelling – The game offers you choices of routes to take from level to level, meaning the game is not linear. In fact the game uses a story tree which allows players to pick a route to take and follow it to where it goes. To do this, they have 3 choices of mission per level (as far as I know, I didn’t get as far as the end of each story side). One route choice will take the player on the hero path, another on the dark path, and the other on the horizontal normal route. If the player goes down the normal route that just comes to the point of reaching the end of the level for the other 2 though it usually requires completing an in game goal or completing the level in a certain way. So it could be activating or finding things in level, or it could be defeating so many enemies to destroying something. Relatively simple……….in theory. It’s one of the larger issues I have with the game. The problem is, that while it sounds relatively simple; some of those side missions can turn out to be rather complex. Some are easier than others but when it comes down to either finding so many of one thing, or collecting the other, finding them in the first place can be very irritating, especially when there is only one left, and while you may get to the point of certainty knowing where it is, finding it at all again is tricky. Keeping it to those routes to get to new levels can become even more irritating if you accidently end up doing a level you may have already done once before, and when you play levels over and over again, it gets really boring. Then even if you are successful in completing the mission correctly to go onto the next stage, you may end up taking on one of the games various random bosses, which is tedious unto itself. It is a rather inventive and exciting way to play a sonic game as it is not linear and the choice of routes can be quite fun (as well as add replay value to find more levels), but in turn, is annoying. 3/5.

S1

3. Gameplay Part 2: Core Gameplay Mechanics – The games striking main feature is that the lead character gets to wield a gun. Possibly thinking; that without something extra or different, it would look just like a normal Sonic game; the developers gave an already anti-hero character his own choice of weaponry. The game bolsters a huge selection of firearms with some different per level, and while Shadow doesn’t necessarily have to use them, it does add something else to the game. Most times guns are just picked up from fallen enemies, and depending on the enemies and area will vary the choice of available firearms. I find it’s a lot like Half Life in that respect with the amount of different types, but when there is in some cases little variation it can be a bit repetitive, but not necessarily boring. The inclusion of a gun though doesn’t really seem to provide much though, as there are lots of shooting games on the market and the only thing that’s different with this one is that it’s in a Sonic game. Shadow does not necessarily need a gun however, he is powerful enough without. I think it’s more of an image thing than anything else, but I would rather him have a gun he can keep than having lots that do not last very long. After that though there isn’t much except for regular abilities that sonic can use in previous games. The only other one that stands out is in the 2 power bars that can be built up during levels. These are filled up when attacking certain enemies or doing other things of note. One is a hero bar, the other is dark and when one has been filled up it can be used. These are actually quite useful as one allows you to travel huge levels of distance in the game making the levels shorter, while the other works similarly to the Team Blast feature in Sonic Heroes where you can wipe out huge numbers of enemies that are currently on-screen. It’s a very nice feature which is also something a little bit different to other games. 4/5.

S3

4. Visuals – Visuals come down to 2 points, cinematics and in game. The cinematics look terrific and add an extra special something to the story telling side of the game. The cut scenes and in game visuals however, which use the same graphics look rather basic and can put a sour note on the games look. For the most part the visuals don’t look that bad, but when considering that the visuals for some cut scenes don’t use the cinematic look, it just looks basic as if it was done half-heartedly. The cut scenes are nicely done in what they are trying to say and set up the levels well, but compared to what is achieved in the more cinematic cut scenes, they could be better. The opening cinematic though is fantastic and really helps to set up the feel of the whole game. 3/5.

5. Bosses and other Characters – The boss levels are not exactly varied. My experience mostly ended up with me takin on mostly Dr. Eggman in boss matches that were quite hard. The only other boss levels I had were against the black bull alien thing and the heavy dog, both of which were still pretty hard. The end boss for all my attempts was the Egg Dealer which was a lot more simple (and enjoyable) but weird. It was the case that once you knew how to defeat it, all you needed to do was just keep hitting it with your homing attack. The other thing about it was its choice of when to enter the game. One of the last levels on a route of the tree was the black comet where you would expect to find some kind of alien monster to fight. No; for some reason it was Eggman. It made more sense when I was in Eggman’s base, but not on the comet. Apart from the Egg dealer, Boss levels were pretty weak, if it was not for the choice of music to go with them, which ups the score for it a little. As for the use of other characters in the game that you randomly meet on the way in some levels, I think it’s rather pointless with the only good new character being the commander of G.U.N. (and some allowance to Black Doom, but only a bit). 2/5.

Omega E-123

6. Levels and Multiplayer – The levels in the game were nice and varied if but a bit dodgy. It’s sort of all over the place with areas depending on the routes you take. However the choice of levels and the things you can do in them are a relative improvement compared to the storytelling side. The levels are designed in strange combinations with some being like classic Sonic levels (platforms and lots of running), while others are like mazes and slow routes with lots of fighting. And then you have the completely weird ones like the circus based world, and a couple inside computers. The colouring of the levels is sometimes bright and sometimes dark but with plenty of variation. While the things you can do in the levels are really up to the story direction, the levels are much better in contrast. Multiplayer I did not get to play much of except on one occasion, however it was weird and fun to experience. 4/5.

S2

7. Soundtrack – For all the game’s up and downs, there is one thing that does not disappoint: the game’s soundtrack. While the levels, characters, missions and bosses are constantly in a state of mismatch, the one thing that does work is the choice of music to the game level. While some levels are similar to one another, great care has been taken to make the soundtrack work and meet the feel and look of each level. Added to this is the soundtrack for the boss levels, cut scenes, characters, cinematics and even the credits; which altogether makes something that works at a consistent rate, and not only that is both enjoyable, and memorable at the same time. I will probably go more into certain pieces of soundtrack in a later post, but particular ones to look out for include the opening cinematic theme (I Am… All of Me), Digital Circuit, Sky Troops and the end credits theme (Waking Up). 5/5.

So, that’s the game in essence, so now to work out its score. So ‘add the numbers together and then divide by the number of categories.’ 2 + 3 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 5 = 23 ÷ 7 = 3.285714285714286. So to round it to a reasonable number, I would say it gives Shadow the Hedgehog as score of 3 making it something of an average game of highs and lows. It has great gameplay mechanics, interesting levels and a fantastic soundtrack but is somewhat hindered by everything else.  It’s not completely Pants, but it’s not really Great either. You might be able to see something else in it than I didn’t, but altogether; that’s what I think f Shadow the Hedgehog. It will more than likely still be debated for some years to come, but for now, it’s somewhere in the middle (plus I have other things to do).

Vector

GENEPOOL








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