Destiny Beta – impressions


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Today marked the launch of the Destiny beta for all Xbox One Gold subscribers.  The game already released in beta (trial) mode for the PS4 and now available on all four formats, prior to the game’s official launch on September 9th … is the latest big name game from Halo creators Bungie.  I’d call it a cross between Mass Effect, Halo and those massively multiplayer RPG’s like World of Warcraft.  You create your character, from several races and classes, then you are taken into the game, where a robotic floating ‘ghost’ revives you from the dead on a post-apocalyptic earth.

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Your initial quest is to find a space ship to fly up to the tower, the hub world where you can buy weapons, meet up with other players and go on missions.  It’s fairly standard fair for an MMORPG (although you are free to play it alone) but looks state-of-the-art.  Bungie’s graphics engine is superb, and runs excellently on the XB1 and looks near-identical to it’s PS4 counterpart, as online comparison videos have proven.  Lighting effects, water reflections, particle effects, terrain and characters / animation are all top-notch and this really feels like a next-gen game from the very start … at times the vistas and locations on view are breath-taking.

A good example is this opening footage from Youtube user Maka91Productions:

 

I’ve only played a couple of hours in the Beta and am enjoying it a great deal.  The gunplay is very tactical (you can’t just run in all guns blazing… you have to take it slow, pick enemies off, or it’s game over very quickly … very Halo).  I haven’t sampled the other mode ‘the crucible’, a traditional player verses player death match / hard point arena with various maps – but am sure it will be a worthwhile inclusion.  But what I do want is that beyond the missions here, there is a good, deep and immersive story, which I know Bungie can do, and a return to the awe and complexity of the first Halo’s narrative would be very welcome.

It’s worth noting that the only concern at the moment with the Xb1 version over the PS4 version is that the beta is 900p resolution, compared to the PS4′s 1080p.  Now Bungie have stated that on release the full version of the game will be 1080p / 30fps on both next-gen consoles.  Will this come at any cost, performance, graphical detail / effects?  A video over at IGN.com seems to rubbish such doubts with gorgeous looking footage of Destiny in full 1080p glory.  All I can say is this is the game I was thinking of getting a PS4 for … but now I’m not so sure.

Roll on September 9.

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Clerks


Viewed – 20 July 2014  Netflix

I don’t know what inspired me, but I suddenly had a desire to finally see this cult favourite slacker comedy from the nineties.  Kevin Smith’s brand of pop-culture and crude comedy has garnered him a healthy fan base with hits such as Mallrats and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back as well as more serious efforts like Red State and Dogma.  Yet I was a bit late to the party and never got around to this popular debut until today.

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Randal and Dante are two bored clerks at a convenience store who spend their time discussing such topics as hermaphrodite porn, the ending to Return of the Jedi or which woman Randal should be dating from the two in his life.  Meanwhile outside local small time drug dealer Jay struts his potty-mouthed stuff with best bud Silent Bob.  This is funny, low-rent entertainment, shot in grainy black and white and with many funny lines and oddball characters (the guy checking the eggs, the chewing gum salesman…) but it’s not a comedy for the easily offended .. it gets very crude at time (…People say crazy shit during sex. One time I called this girl “Mom.”).  Yet if you like Kevin Smith’s movies, you’ll certainly find much to enjoy here and the characters, especially Dante are well written and mostly realistic, even if some events stretch plausibility (the dead guy?).

A cult favourite it may be, and as the first movie by a director, quite daring – but the sheer throwaway nature of it’s humour and concept stops it from being the classic some may consider it to be.

Verdict:  3 /5

50 First Dates


Viewed – 19 July 2014  DVD

If someone hadn’t borrowed me this, I wouldn’t have ever watched it.  I don’t really go for romantic movies, and have never been that bothered about popular comedy star Adam Sandler.  However I must admit to being pleased that I did!  Sandler plays Henry, a womanizing guy who works at a sea-life centre, and has a fear of commitment.  One day he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and for the first time he finds himself really falling for her innocent charm and beauty.  Yet the following day, when he goes to talk to her again, she has no recollection of him.  You see, Lucy has short-term memory loss and only remembers him for one day – the next, he’s a stranger, and he has to woo her all over again.

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This is a great idea for a romantic comedy and also quite a touching tale of wanting to be with someone but unable to truly be together from her point of view.  It’s sort of sad too, certainly giving my emotions a run for their money surprisingly.  Comedy is laid on fairly thick (Sean Astin’s lisp…) by supporting characters (including an annoying Rob Schneider), and at times it gets a bit silly and crude (walrus vomit anyone?), but this adds some flavour to what otherwise would have been a little too sugar-coated.  Barrymore & Sandler are very good and believable in a tricky situation, and it was also great to see Dan Aykroyd in an extended cameo.

A very charming, feel good and thought-provoking experience that was much better than I initially expected.

Verdict:  4 /5

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy


Viewed – 16 July 2014  DVD

I had wanted to see this much talked about comedy for a while.  I have a liking for Will Ferrell, that former Saturday Night Live comedienne who proved so likable and funny in the popular yuletide hit ‘Elf’.  So sitting down to this was quite enticing.  Farrell plays Ron Burgundy, a TV channel anchor in the seventies who see’s his chauvinistic, macho persona in jeopardy when he falls for a pretty and ambitious reporter (Christina Applegate).

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From the off it’s clear this may have been a fun sketch on SNL, but does it hold up to a full length movie?  Not really.  Burgundy as a character is a limited ‘gag’ that’s been done before and his surrounding news team, featuring the likes of Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell are equally limited in their appeal.  The pairing of Farrell & Applegate works well enough as they make for fun rivals, but after a while the forced humour and the general gooning and pratfalls gets tired.  The idea just isn’t all that special, and despite obvious enthusiasm from the cast – the general feeling I was left with was of a simple gag milked for all it’s comedic value, of which there was only very little.

That being said it’s not like this isn’t funny.  Farrell gets some good moments (his encounter with Jack Black, his descent into self-loathing), and a showdown between rival news teams with cameos by Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller proved quite funny.  Overall though, this was a movie trying to be a lot funnier than it clearly was.

Verdict:  2 /5