Sunday, July 31, 2011

30 Minutes or Less?

Now a week out the high has faded, seven days since I immersed myself in all things nerd. Amazing how concentrated it is in that time and place. Ads cover the sides of hotels and trains, there are even trucks with images of True Blood characters that patrol back and forth in front of the convention center. Then, just outside the epicenter it begins to cede. Get a few blocks away and you might see someone carrying a large bag with a logo on it, few will be in costume and most will be going about their daily business. They look at us as if to say: “Oh, is that thing going on again?”

In the convention proper, what was there to experience? Long lines and greasy, overpriced food were the most common. I braved such lines for two things, Spider-Man and The Old Republic along the way I caught sight of a few others as well.

Spider-Man - Impressive. The funny, sarcastic Spidey from the comics seems to have finally made it onto film. This was an element always lacking in the Raimi films, and sorely missed. All of the swinging shots from the extra footage were wire work as opposed to CGI, which gave him more weight. To me the digital Spidey from the Raimi films always looked like he was floating through the air, as if the web he had a hold of was a prop rather than a fulcrum. Some of the scenes were in 3D, which continues to add nothing for me beyond annoyance.

Fright Night - Despite it's subject matter being close to my heart I have almost no interest in this movie. The panel did not change my mind. It did allow me to witness something I had never seen before. In a theater of roughly 6,000 they ran out of questions from the audience and wrapped up early.

30 Minutes or Less -
What was this movie doing at Comic Con? Nothing sci-fi, comic or fantasy related about it.

Dead Island - It would be difficult to live up to the promise of that first inverted trailer. I hoped it would, it appears I was wrong. Characters lips moved in no relation to the lines they spoke. The controls felt loose and floaty and the damage numbers looked out of place for a first person game.

Batman: Arkham City - Two years ago I sat in an Arkham Asylum panel. It was only a half hour long and was before something I actually wanted to see. I sat there, arms crossed on my chest with a smug look on my face. Just try and impress me, I thought. I'm a gamer, I had seen the warning signs: a licensed property, a mix of two vastly different game styles, stealth and action. Then I played it.

Everything that was great about the original is back and more. Fluid animations, bone cracking combos and every Bat-villain that can be squeezed onto the disc. I have only two complaints: the writing and the writing. Are the old Batman animated episodes cloaked in nostalgia for me or was Paul Dini's dialogue always this terrible? I fear to watch them and find out. The second complaint is a holdover from the original: Batman's internal (or external) monologue explaining to himself how to solve puzzles. "If I throw out a smoke grenade I can slip away unseen," he muses to himself standing roughly ten feet from about four men armed with automatic weapons. Do you want me to play the game or just hand you the controller and let you take care of it yourself?

Ever since seeing the first Arkham City trailers one question has plagued me. If part of the city was walled off to create this ad-hoc prison it would imply that the Arkham City moniker is a nickname or at least a recent designation. If so, then where did all the signage come from?

Kinect Star Wars - I did not play this game, but I did watch several others as I waited in line for my next entry. As a tech demo it is amazing, as a game it is not. Animations are jittery and the enemies dull. The characters are on rails and seem to be allowed only a few actions at any time. A Force Push may seem advantageous but it is only an option when prompted for it.

The Old Republic - For twenty minutes I was granted access to this universe. Given the options I chose a level 1 Sith Warrior and set out to make my name and claim my lightsaber. Perhaps not in that order. While that third of an hour rushed by I walked away feeling let down. Combat seemed uninspired, like WoW not much more than a metagame of managing cooldowns. Graphics were cartoony but the first cutscene places a part of your shuttle in the extreme foreground, emphasizing the low res texture. Mobs seemed to have no pathing or idle animations, making the world seem lifeless and stiff. The standard 3 option response BioWare dialogue tree has been tacked on and did not add much.

It is possible the game becomes better and more innovative later, but after the first twenty minutes I cannot see it dethroning WoW or even keeping decent numbers past the initial curiosity. MMORPGs are primarily played for the MMO, not the RPG. So if your friends are still in Azeroth, that is likely where you will return as well. Perhaps I am just burnt out from my time in Blizzard's playground and can no longer find entertainment in the tropes of that genre.

"I'll never teach your monkey French."

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