Cruise across the desolate remnants of Earth in the new sci-fi feature ‘Oblivion’

 

Title: Oblivion
Distributor: Universal
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo

More Entertaining Than: Moon

Less Entertaining Than: Avatar

Rating (out of 5): 4

In 2077 the Earth is a desolate waste. An antagonistic alien enemy destroyed the moon, and in doing so, this caused the Earth to turn against the human race; earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. Then the invasion occurred and it was at this point that humanity retaliated with a full nuclear offensive strategy. This ultimately won the war, but the result was the destruction of the planet. Most humans, those that survived, now live on Titan, Jupiter’s largest moon, whilst a few humans stay behind on Earth to watch over its decommission. These small teams watch over the water pumping stations that turn the remaining major bodies of water into usage energy, and additionally ensure that the defense drones that protect these huge operations run flawlessly. The alien scavengers, or what remains of them at least, are still out there and in no way can they hinder the operations humanity has taking place on Earth.

Jack (Tom Cruise) awakes from a dream; a memory actually. Before being stationed on Earth his memory was wiped as to ensure that if captured by the enemy, they could extract no useable information from him about his mission. Julia (Olga Kurykenko) was there, as always, her memory haunting his dreams as he attempts to understand what she means to him.
He makes his way out from the station he resides upon and soars above the ground in an attractive cruiser, whilst Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) remains back at the station to monitor his progress and report everything that happens back to Sally (Melissa Leo) at Command, a mysterious figurehead observing the entire mission. But when Jack is captured by the enemy, he finds himself in the presence of Beech (Morgan Freeman) who opens his eyes to the truth; and in one moment, all that he once knew is shattered completely.

As always, the banter between Tom Cruise and his fellow actors over the longevity of the feature is entertaining, well scripted and timed. The emotional connection that one character has with another throughout the feature is an incredibly powerful drive that keeps the film moving forward. True, the numerous action scenes and very attractive special effects efficaciously aid in establishing the audience’s attention to the film, but it is the emotions that run throughout its heart.

Mr. Cruise often seems to choose roles that involve being romantically involved with a beautiful young woman, and this film is no different. Right from the very beginning the film introduces us to a love story and tells a tale about a love so strong that one doesn’t have to know a person; one doesn’t have to have met a person; one doesn’t have to be even near a person, to love them more than life itself, and this is continued through to the very end.

On top of this, the film is a story of sacrifice and choice and the immense and incredible power of the human will to survive and the resolve to live free without tyranny or oppression from foreign enemies.

Some may be disappointed to note that there are no ‘aliens’ per se to be seen, so don’t go into the film expecting any little green men. Instead, the battles that take place are often between robotic entities that rove to be just as merciless as any alien could ever be.

Adjunctively, one needs to see the film through to the end to grasp the entire storyline, for this is not a stereotypically easy narrative to understand, and the only way to acutely comprehend all that has happened throughout the back story and all that is happening over the duration of the film is to see the feature through to the final frame. Throughout the film some occurrences and story elements may make little sense at all, but I can promise you that by the end, many of those lingering questions will finally be allocated answers. I can also promise you that the film’s conclusion will most certainly leave you smiling.

Apart from being a thrilling sci-fi action romance, the feature is adjunctively proof that actors the likes of Mr. Cruise can still be counted on to appear in films of an astounding caliber and that actors the likes of Ms. Kurylenko deserve more cinematic roles rather than ones on the television.

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Derek Childs storms a Castle or two in the new Halo 4 Multiplayer DLC

 

Hailed as the last multiplayer DLC for Halo 4, Castle contains three new maps for War Games.

Daybreak is a map that is rather odd and for a number of reasons. Initially, upon first glance, the map seems quite small, but upon wandering about the map for a minute or so without another player in sight, one will begin to immediately realise the sheer size of the map. Daybreak in that sense is best for those who wish to experience the game online, rather than through a split-screen setup.

The map can be efficaciously used for both deathmatch oriented battles and for team games the likes of CTF, with two easily recognisable basses allocated to the map. Each base contains a jump pad of sorts; the base to the north contains a pad that leads up a vertical chamber that allows one a great vantage point to snipe unwilling foes, whilst the one at the opposite base allows a player to quickly converge on the location of the turret, to ensure that nobody can easily escape their grasp.

Both bases contain a heavy machinegun emplacement that allows for a wide area of cover, with additional Warthogs, Mongoose and Ghosts positioned about the environment to bridge the gap between one base and another. The right side of the map is more open; the terrain a more green in colour, with a great ledge over to the side that one will probably rather not take a swan dive off. To the left, the map is more enclosed, with a cave system that one can easily become lost inside due to its repetitive structure.

On the right side moreover a Banshee can be found, which provides an unfair advantage to whoever takes control of it. However, the map seems to be ill catered for such a vehicle, because one is unable to fly to high, else they risk receiving the ‘return to the map in the next 10 seconds or get blown up’ message on their screen. This allows the Banshee to be quite easily commandeered by those on the ground who wish to rid the current pilot of their enjoyment.

On top of this, the default weapons that will be deposited into the map include none other than sniper rifles and fuel rod cannons that will prove to be of worthy assistance.

All up, Daybreak seems like a combination of many ideas randomly strewn together that altogether proves effective, though the entertainment can really only be enjoyed with a wealth of players to fight against.

The second of the three maps is Outcast, which is set within a mining installation. On the far side of the map, a vessel will often appear to escort miners from the fallen installation to safety, before returning to acquire more. However, very rarely will one have time to admire the view.

To the right, the map has a number of fantastic vantage points, some of which are additionally equipped with turrets. This allows players the opportunity to get the drop on others, which proves to be a necessary part of this particular map. The wealth of vehicles stored in this environment, from Warthogs to Ghosts, and the vast number of open roads one can drive though means that guns are not the thing you need to be most frightened of; it’s the deranged lunatics behind the wheel of a vehicle intent on splattering other players across the surface of these mean streets that one needs to keep a close eye out for.

Additionally to the right there are a couple of small buildings that one can hide inside for some brief moments of cover, and there are plenty of rocks and other pieces of debris lining the roads for one to hide behind. This becomes a necessity for when certain players decide to take control of the Wraith; you read that right, the Wraith over on the left side of the map. Much like the Banshee in Daybreak, the Wraith offers an unfathomably unfair advantage to those who seize control of the vehicle and thus, take control of the roads, for when this happens the match basically becomes a struggle for survival rather than anything else.

The last of the three maps is Perdition, which is no doubt the smallest of the three maps and the easiest to navigate around; a city where the primary reactor has gone critical, an imminent explosion however being the last of anyone’s concerns as they rush about the complex. The continuous alarms quicken the pace of the map and constantly provide the player with a feel of urgency. The centre of the map is a terrific circular platform that is shrouded in a great red light, furthering the sounds of the frequent alarm. One may wish to be careful here for although these is a railing, falling off the edge proves to be very easy – as Ron, a player who I versed discovered when he tried to run me down in a Ghost and instead found himself flying over the edge and down into the drink. I certainly hope he enjoyed the swim.

Much like the other two maps in this particular DLC, Warthogs and Ghosts are present, and the paths are very easy to navigate through, making vehicular combat an obliged necessity rather than a choice. However, those who choose to hoof it additionally gain the advantage of the default weaponry, which includes a fuel rod cannon and an incineration cannon, both of which can quickly turn the tide in any game. The inclusion of the energy sword however feels almost obsolete in an environment where one may garner very few chances to use such a devastating piece of Covenant weaponry.

For those who wish to escape the roads, there are a couple of rooms to be found on the sides, some of which are used for storage and others for high tech computer equipment. Unfortunately, these rooms prove to be the locations where weapons are deposited, so don’t expect to be able to find yourself alone in these rooms for long when the weapons start falling down around you like hail stones.

All up, Perdition especially feels like a parallel environment, with both sides of the map being reminiscent of each other, which, as previously mentioned makes it easy to navigate can also make it difficult to find where all the action is when so much of the map looks the same.

In conclusion, Castle provides the player with some frenetic vehicular combat, however I believe that the previous two Halo 4 DLC’s were more entertaining than what 343 Industries has included in this particular map pack.

Killing the Pain: Hell and Damnation is loosed on console

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Title: Painkiller: Hell and Damnation
Developer:
The Farm 51
Distributor:
Nordic Games
Release Date:
April 5th, 2013 (PS3 and XBOX360 versions),
October 31st 2012 (PC)
Duration:
Between 4 and 6 hours

Pros:
New weapon

Cons:
-Repetitive, old levels
-Dull graphics
-Very little violence
-Cliché storyline
-Pathetically short
-Voice actors seem out of their depth
-One: the average IQ of your opponents

Less Entertaining Than: Painkiller

More Entertaining Than: Bonking a hammer over your head

Rating (out of 10): 2

In Summary: To call Painkiller: Hell and Damnation entertaining would be like suggesting the act of putting a red hot iron down your trousers, or running a cheese grater over your genitals, were genuinely smart things to do.

The original Painkiller and the first mission pack that spawned from it, Battle out of Hell, which Hell and Damnation is very loosely based upon were originally designed by People Can Fly and distributed by Dreamcatcher. Sometimes when a new developer takes the seams one must question whether or not they will pay homage to the previous titles by making a game deserving of the franchise. Sometimes, much like Halo 4, the developers can surprise you by constructing a stunningly gorgeous game with a breathtaking storyline, fantastic action sequences and an alarmingly entertaining experience. Painkiller: Hell and Damnation is not one of these games, and is in fact the reason why many new developers are looked at so skeptically when taking command of a fantastic franchise and by the end of the game, the only thing requiring a painkiller, or ten, will be you, the player, after having to endure such a soporifically torturous experience.

The story picks up after the events of the last mission pack, with Daniel Garner returning to the graveyard where he originally began his pilgrimage back in 2003. Having been denied the right to see his beloved wife Catherine in Heaven, he is stuck in the hellish land that he has set to ruin over the past few titles. All of a sudden, Eve, who had betrayed Daniel back in Battle out of Hell, and who Daniel is unable to entirely trust throughout this campaign warns him that ‘he is coming’, the ominous ‘he’ being Death.

Although Hell and Damnation is, I guess, supposed to be a brand new storyline, it uses old levels to tell its tale, with a very loose, cliché and predictable storyline playing out during the cinematics that infrequently occur over the course of the campaign. On that note, you are basically forced to fight through areas and enemies that you would have already cleansed and punished previously.

Right from the very beginning you can see the differences between the previous Painkiller titles and this new addition. Fans of the original franchise may remember that the cinematic moments were utterly sublime, the graphics being beyond fathomable, with the characters, whether they be humanoid or demonic looking so utterly realistic that the movie experience these cinematic scenes brought to the game aided in absorbing the player further into the compelling story. True, Painkiller has always been a brainless action shooter, but there was a story worth telling none the same during the cinematic sequences and it is a shame that such cannot be said for Hell and Damnation.

The graphics of the cinematic cut scenes in this game are the same visuals that will be presented to the player during the levels. Now, I will be the first to admit that the graphics of the original series were a little dull and dark, but on top of this I might remind the player that the games were using an older engine. With the use of the Unreal 3 Engine to power this particular game, one may assume that the graphics would be near astounding, with titles the likes of Gears of War 3, Bioshock Infinite and Mass Effect 3, just to name a few, being powered by this graphically gorgeous engine. Now, even though Painkiller is indeed set in purgatorial realms and hellish domains, one might assume that the engine would make the environments more beautiful than they were in previous titles. Wrong! If anything, the graphics are incredibly off putting, dull and hazy, and make the graphics of the original game continue to look fresh and lively today when in comparison.

On occasion, for instance in the level Cathedral, the bright colourations of some of the environments and castle features are a welcome change. They are not stunning per se and are in no way up to the standard of today, but are still much more engrossing than the usual grays and blacks that the game seems to more often than not rely upon. At times, such as in the level Opera House, the environment is so black that it is literally pitch, and by pitch, well, you’ll see for yourself if you decide to suffer through such a level; at times you will be unable to see an inch in front of you, let alone the enemies attempting to rid you of your health. A torch would have been supportive in such a level, which actually is used later on in the Orphanage level, which, ironically, was an unnecessary attachment.

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Moving on, upon Death entering the cinematic, if you are anything like me you will be a bit at a loss as to who you are looking at. I mean, how would Death appear to you? Would this terrifying reaper be a skeletal monster with a sheath and a horse of like comparison? In Hell and Damnation, the designers obviously opted for a unique look to the harvester of souls, and with that, have basically turned him into an aquatic terror. Death basically looks like a chubby octopus with some green algae hanging from his shoulders.

In fact, a number of the characters in the game look as though they spent the hiatus between the last Painkiller and this one down at the local McDonalds, where they refused to leave, instead opting to eat their fill and then some. Eve herself, who later appears in corporeal form once more, who was originally a babe of unimaginable beauty, has decided to cover up with a few additional layers of skin. Now, I have no problem with a woman, who, unlike most models these days, actually decides to eat, so before you start sending in your hate mail and stipulating that I am a vulgar bastard, please, allow me to finish. Eve (this is the Eve FYI, who happened to have a thing with Adam at one time) is the kind of individual you would imagine to be quite special. I mean, women are naturally beautiful, so it would be natural that Eve be beautiful too, which was reflective in the previous games, but not in this one. Her hair; her face; her choice of attire; even her voice, all of this is completely different and you will in no way recognise her character.

That is the other factor you will notice. The original voice actors do not return to voice the characters, and so a bunch of new individuals have been hired on. The biggest difference here is Jon St. John who voices Daniel Garner. When it comes to voicing Duke Nukem, I would want nobody else but Mr. John to voice the character because he does an unfathomably brilliant job portraying such an action hero. As Daniel Garner though, Mr. John seems out of his depth, his deep voice being unable to convey the emotional power that was originally orchestrated in the prior titles, and it sometimes seems disturbingly humorous to have such an actor portraying a broken and defeated character. If you want someone to be taken seriously, one should hire an actor who can portray a serious part. Mr. John does a terrific job at articulating humorous one liners and other such comedic dialogue, but in Painkiller, he seems about as wooden as a tree stump.

Now, Death has not magically appeared in front of Daniel out of the goodness of his heart – he has a proposition for him. If Daniel gives to him 7,000 souls, Death will grant him his wish to finally rise up to Heaven and be with his wife. Upon this deal being struck, Death grants Daniel a new weapon, which is the only new feature of the game. Like every other weapon in the Painkiller universe it is a two in one kind of deal; the primary fire is the buzz saw, which launches a relatively strong saw blade in the direction of your target at a rather slow speed. The secondary fire is much more entertaining, and is the soul snatcher, that will rip soul’s right out from your opponents and give them to you. Additionally, you are able to aim the gun in the direction of a soul that has erupted out from the body of a fallen opponent and drag it into your character.

Old weapons, from both Painkiller and Battle out of Hell make a welcome return to the game, including, but not limited to the Chaingun Rocket Launcher, the Battle Rifle Flame Thrower and the Stakegun Grenade Launcher. On top of this, you not only begin the game with the brand new weapon that Death provides to you, but with the Painkiller device and the Shotgun Freeze Ray.

Much like in the previous Painkiller games, the goal is to go from level to level defeating the terrific amount of enemies that come in their droves to stop you. As usual, after collecting a certain number of souls, Daniel will enter demon mode, where you, the player, will be able, for a temporary period of time, to eradicate enemies with but a single shot. The enemies however are as brainless as they come, and if you can find more incompetent AI anywhere, I am almost certain that Hell and Damnation will beat that by an extra few per cent. Enemies flock towards you as though wanting to be eradicated, with no flight complex and no way to defend themselves against your attacks. On several occasions I came across enemies that ran into walls and became stuck; enemies who became stuck in corners; enemies who became stuck on the corpses of other enemies; enemies who decided to kill other enemies; the list of the blatant disregard of AI in this game is overwhelmingly never ending. On top of this, since a majority of your enemies can be eradicated with but a single shot on many an occasion, and since more of them only come equipped with melee attacks rather than long range weaponry, a lot of combatants will be annihilated before they are even able to touch you.

To make the game easier, as with previous titles, Tarot cards can be collected by completing certain objectives during the map; use only this particular weapon to vanquish the hordes of Hell; find every gold coin; find every secret area; complete the level in under a certain time constraint, etc. Due to the shortness of the game, in some levels one will discover there are in fact two cards that can be unlocked, each of which has a unique objective that needs to be completed.
Once more, the gold that is collected is used to power the cards, each one costing a certain amount to be used during a map. Each card can only be used once per map, although, like the last games, the ability to use more than one at the same time empowers Daniel considerably. Although the act of attempting to acquire the cards, along with the ability to use them can add some much needed entertainment to one’s experience, the Tarot cards are not essentially necessary, and one can efficaciously complete the game without any undue assistance.

Of course, with 7,000 souls to collect and a mass of opponents to destroy, you might imagine that, much like the previous titles in the series that Hell and Damnation will be incredibly violent; wrong again! The reason why there was such a considerably lengthy delay between the PC version and that which is on console is due to a German classifier, who stated that the game was unnecessarily evil in its violence. It is at this moment that I could make a vulgar and rather racial joke about this, but I will avoid the urge. I however did have a go at the PC version after playing the one on XBOX, and really, there is not much difference in the amount of blood and gore; both versions have very little of it. In previous Painkiller’s you almost needed to bring a towel to wipe the gore from your screen as it oozed across every surface of the environment, but in this particular game you see a quick spray of red from the bodies of those that are blown to smithereens and nothing else. Classified MA in Australia for Strong Horror Violence and Blood and Gore, if a game is going to have such a classification attached to it, then I will very much appreciate seeing all of this supposed ‘blood and gore’. Now, I am not necessarily a Satanist, but I prefer my games to have a bit of arterial red in them, and Hell and Damnation more often than not refuses to bathe the player in the bright red bodily ooze of fallen opponents.

All of the opponents you face moreover are replicas of those that you would have fought during the original campaigns, with a few changes here and there. Often when playing through a level, different opponents than the ones you remember initially fighting will appear, but the change is barely worth noting. Some minor alterations have additionally been implemented with some of the combatants, including providing the skelebones with arms and a blade to wield in each, and reducing the Skeletore, who was a terrific 8 foot tall badass with a double barreled shotgun in the original Painkiller, being strong, dangerous, and capable of using other enemies as demonic shields, to a four foot delinquent incapable of inciting fear into an ant, let alone the player.

Additionally, a couple of the original Boss monsters return for the slaughter, including the Necrogiant and Alastair. In the case of Alastair, like with the Skeletore, the developers decided to ‘improve’ upon the original design, so instead of the boss being a gigantic fire breathing monstrosity who would make even Godzilla wet his pants, they have sent him off to Jenny Craig, where they not only took off some of his muscle, but much of his height as well. The end result is this flimsy, 6 foot tall creature with goat legs, the body of a hairy chimp, two bat wings and the face of a gorilla; not exactly a fire breathing dragon now, is it?

Moving on, the levels you will fight through are from the original Painkiller game, and the mission pack, Battle out of Hell. Players may remember that Painkiller came with 24 levels, and Battle out of Hell was equipped with 10, and so it is blatantly obvious that 20 of them have apparently disappeared into the ether in this particular campaign comprised of 14 levels. You begin the game in the Graveyard level, as the player would have in the first game, and will continue on through other known maps the likes of the train station and the theme park. Other fun maps, the likes of the Military Base, the Tower of Babel, the Town, the Labs and Dead City are not included, and so, if you are anything like me, you are going to be adversely disappointed by the game’s content.

An interesting new addition to the levels though are the Boss monsters, who reign over these lands, and sometimes you see then moving about the environments in the background. When you begin the game in the Graveyard, you might suddenly experience a moment of pause as you look up to see the Necrogiant walking about the place, and later still, you may see him interact with the world by shoving his huge hand through the ceiling of a building you happen to be standing in.

Throughout the game, from the cinematics to moments during the levels themselves, random hints are provided as to what the ending will be comprised of, and the developers do not disappoint by leaving it wide open for a sequel. The ending, although rather unlikely, makes it seem as though brand spanking new content is just waiting around the corner to be explored in any potential new games that are to be made in this new franchise, I must wonder – why would anyone want to persist in this experience?

On that note, all of this combined makes for a very short game, and if you are in anyway interested in purchasing this particular title, I would recommend that you perhaps borrow it from your local video store and complete it over the course of a night, for I cannot imagine anyone wanting to experience this campaign twice.

If the developers of Painkiller: Hell and Damnation should feel anything after having completed this project, it is shame. Painkiller has been an abundantly popular series over the years, and what this game does is take everything that made the series entertaining to play and completely ruin the enjoyment for everyone. I would be seriously surprised if this dreadful excuse for a sequel manages to spawn another, and if it does, I only hope the developers do a better job than they did this time around. If Farm 51 want my opinion, it is this; if you want to create an appalling, pathetic excuse for a video game, I ain’t going to stop you; I do however recommend that you do not destroy a perfectly good franchise in the process.

IMAGE CREDITS:
http://www.nerdly.co.uk/2013/01/23/review-painkiller-hell-damnation/

http://www.tgrealm.com/blog-posts-137/tgr-blog-hands-on-painkiller-hell-damnation/