San Andreas

Viewed – 13 October 2015  Online rental

I can’t say I’ve been all that drawn to Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson as a movie star and was never into American Wrestling.  However this disaster action flick seemed like an easy choice for an evening’s entertainment, and hell – isn’t The Rock in everything these days?

San Andreas

He plays a Helicopter rescue officer who becomes embroiled in the search for his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and teenage daughter after a series of devastating earthquakes rumble through California.  In the grand tradition of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich this is primarily an excuse for effects wizards to really go to town as we witness mass destruction, sky scrapers toppling and the hoover dam bursting … all done with some impressive CGI and excellent set design.  It’s glossy, loud, intense and very exciting as we watch various individuals try and survive an event that is literally tearing the west coast of the united states apart.  It wasn’t hard to get caught up in the story either, with The Rock harbouring regretful memories following the collapse of his marriage, and having to watch his wife move in with another guy (a slimy Ioan Gruffudd).  Yet this is also where the story starts to get rather familiar.

San Andreas 2Yes this is pretty clichéd stuff, the troubled hero trying to piece his family back together and it takes a cataclysmic event for him to realise what he’s missing.  Also we get some awful stereotypes such as the typical Hugh Grant-like English lad who is clearly going to be a love interest for the (predictably) hot daughter.  Add to this a scientist (Paul Giamatti) who nobody listens to at first (he may as well be Jeff Goldbum), and some very predictable near-miss almost deaths and – despite plenty of energy and quality effects – I was entertained but not at all surprised.  It also get’s pretty crazy towards the end (that cruise ship bit…).    Yet although failing to re-write the disaster movie rule book, and sticking a bit too rigidly to formula … for a solid two hours entertainment – I’d still say this is worth a watch.  Oh and, The Rock wasn’t bad either.

Verdict:  3 /5

L.A. Noir – impressions

This was one of my big hopes for 2011.  Rockstar Games’ much anticipated cop adventure game, borrowing from the likes of Grand Theft Auto as well as movies like L.A. Confidential.  The hype surrounding it made a big noise about the revolutionary facial technology that can put real actors into a game world, and the prospect of playing a game that is less about running around with a gun, and more about investigating crime scenes and interrogating witnesses, certainly made me sit up and take notice.  So what is the game actually like to play?

You are ex-war veteran Cole Phelps, starting out as a beat Cop who quickly rises through the ranks, going from Homicide to Vice to Arson.  At first it feels ver much like GTA in the large open world (you get a fully re-created Los Angeles to explore) and being a good guy instead of a criminal is refreshing.  Once you get into the meat of the game, searching crime scenes etc, it’s very unique and interesting, and looking for clues is quite unlike anything out there, that I have played at least.  Also sitting down and quizzing witnesses or suspects is done well, with a system where you must ask questions, which are based on the evidence and clues you have found, and going by what answers the witness / suspect returns, you can choose between believing them, doubting their honesty or calling them a liar.  At first this is tricky to get to grips with, but once you understand what the game is asking of you, getting the job done and putting criminals behind bars can be very satisfying.

Graphically this is impressive, especially as far as the characters and various people you meet are concerned.  The technology is very good, even if the odd recognisable face (did I just spot Matt out of Heroes?) can look a little weird.  The city although very detailed pales in comparison to GTAIV for things going on and stuff to do, and can’t hold a candle technically to Mafia II either.  Also the game suffers quite badly from frame-rate slow down, and it’s obvious that the game world isn’t fully realised with many repeated lines of dialogue from pedestrians and a fair few bugs.  But it creates a great atmosphere of 1940s America though, and for that at least, it does what it came to do.

My main gripe with the game is the repetitiveness of the cases.  I am about half way in, and so far nearly every murder has been a woman and the investigations have constantly resulted in the same on-foot or by car chase, which is nothing we haven’t seen done many times.  Ok, the on-foot stuff is fairly slick, but when you’ve done it five or more times in a row, it gets boring very quickly.  I feel overall that this is a game with a great technology behind it and some good ideas, but for my money at least, it just doesn’t feel very well realised and lacks the variety and compelling story to make it much more than bargain bin fodder.  The kinda game you won’t regret buying cheap or trading-in for, but it’s not one I’d recommend at full price.