Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Splinter Cell: Conviction Demo Impressions

Yeah, so I’ve played this demo through 17 times now. 17 times, and it’s been different, invigorating and exciting each time. The interesting thing is that while it still has the ambient feel of a Splinter Cell game it plays completely differently and, dare I say, it’s the way I’ve always wanted to play Splinter Cell.

Sam Fisher has become a complete badass. In previous installments he was almost like Spiderman, hanging from above and making funny quips when he takes guys out. Sam Fisher liked his job and he had fun with it, sometimes it was like he was toying with guys for the lols. Now he’s angry and he doesn't have time for screwing around.

Spiderman would have said something like "Ouch, that can't be lucky" Or some shit. Moments later Fisher just kicks this guy in the beans.

The main difference is the ease in which you can take enemies out, but also the strategy you must employ to do so efficiently. You have the ability to ‘mark’ up to three targets and then, should you put yourself in a position to have an unobstructed line of sight to each of them, you can simply press a button to have a slow-motion head shot take down before they can react. They don’t even have to be in the same direction. If there’s two in front and one behind Sam he simply shoots the last guy by crossing his arm under his armpit and shooting without even looking.

Okay, so he looked this one time. I promise that usually he's so badass he doesn't have time to look. This was just like, an off day or something.

The caveat is that to refresh the ability to execute in that fashion Sam must get his adrenaline pumping by taking someone down in hand to hand combat. Let me tell you, that stuff is just as efficiently brutal as anything you’ll see in God of War. I would really rather not be punched in the throat with a gun.

So the puzzle of Splinter Cell is no longer one of hanging from a rafter waiting for the guards to pass so you can sneak into the missile silo. The puzzle is sorting out how to eliminate all of the guards in the most efficient and deadly way possible. See, as far as I could tell you can’t pick up bodies and hide them as in previous version. I guess Fisher just doesn’t care anymore. So what you find yourself doing is attempting to kill everyone in the most efficient manner possible. With the new Sonar vision you can actually size up an entire warehouse and plan out how you’re going to go about enacting swift death with about 3 seconds of sonar viewing. Then, you leap from the shadows, break a man’s neck, shoot a locking mechanism dropping an engine chassis on 2 guys and then one, two, three guys with silenced bullets in their head. When the Foreman comes out to see what the hell just happened he gets a kick in the knee and two bullets through his ribs. I guess Sam Fisher just like, owns the warehouse now. That's how it works right? It's his.

Aw man, now we can't even rent it out for parties or whatever.

The stealth mechanics feel just right. It’s forgiving while still being challenging, especially on the realistic setting. And it’s much clearer whether you’re hidden or can be seen. The game feels gritty and angry and you find yourself both flinching at the brutally but nodding with grudging respect as Fisher removes every obstacle in his path in his search for the man who murdered his daughter. In fact, if you’ve seen 2009’s ‘Taken’ then you’ll know exactly how the game feels. I for one will be pick this gem up come April 13th.

Until next time, remember that two deadly assassins are better than one.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Invisible Car

A short while ago, Mr. Bryan Piitz, of web series Viking Dad , offered to shoot a short script I had written. I said gosh yes. And the rest was history.


The result was "The Invisible Car," which was shown at the 2009 Barrie Film Festival Short Film Showcase, where it won Best in Simcoe County, Audience Choice Award, and Least Visible Car Award. I made that last one myself, out of paper mache, but I takes what I can gets.

Here it is.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grand Schlep Auto

George Carlin used to say that there were things people just didn’t admit. People will readily admit to being bad at math, or clumsy, but nobody admitted they had a lousy sense of humour, or were a bad driver. In the spirit of the late Mr. Carlin, may I say:

I’m a bad driver.

I remember mentally preparing myself for that first G2 test I took years ago. After reading and re-reading the point sheet, I realized that the initial score was so high, and the demerits you received were so low, you’d have to literally break every rule in the book to get low enough to fail. The only other way was an automatic fail, which you got if you broke the law.E asy, I thought. I mean, it’s not like I was going to drive through any reds, right?

Humility, thy name is stale flashing yellow arrow.

Forget the old meanings. It is as if they never were.

This was the start of an illustrious career of not driving. As a person who is interested in projecting the fragile illusion of confidence in lieu of the real thing, I make a point of habit to avoid doing things I kind of fail at. To my mind, this means I spend more time doing things I am awesome at, which means there is more awesome in this world, less fail, and you all can sleep soundly at night with the knowledge that nobody is going to come careering through a stale flashing yellow arrow and ruin your Thursday afternoon.

Unfortunately for me, the things I am good at do not always coincide with the things I am negative good at. This leads to exchanges like this:

“Okay, so I’ve had a few. Can you take my car and drive it a block?”

“Um. Maybe. Or I could bake up some nice cannoli. I’m awesome at baking cannoli”

“Yeah, um. The car needs to be moved so people can get out.”

“I know. I’m working on it. Some nice cannoli will sober you right up.”

You laugh, but it will.

If I am bad at driving, let it be said that I am triple-bad at driving in videogames. This is because my own driving is fuelled by adrenaline – the sincere, earnest physiological terror of ruining anyone’s Thursday afternoon. Driving in videogames takes my already subpar motor skills and removes the white-knuckle terror of not wanting to die for realsies. And as we all know, when you remove the white-knuckle terror, you remove the fun.

So I pitched an article to The Escapist on Grand Theft Auto 4, which was accepted. Now, I had watched my fair share of Grand Theft Auto 4. I had read my fair share about Grand Theft Auto 4, and I had even played my fair share of Grand Theft Auto 4. What I hadn’t done was play my fair share of Grand Theft Auto 4 Without Exploding In Like Ten Seconds.

The last Grand Theft Auto game I exhibited a mastery over was Grand Theft Auto 2, known colloquially as “The Last Grand Theft Auto They Made Before They Started Making The Good Ones.” It’s this little rinky-dink top down games, where the cars look like Hot Wheels and the people look like little ants. It’s basically Pac-Man, which is good for me, because I am awesome at Pac-Man. This is a helpful yardstick. For years, I had been gauging my effectiveness at things based solely on how much they were, or were not like Pac-Man.

Oh, hello photorealistic replica of New York City. You’re nothing like Pac-Man.

Borrowing King’s trusty Xbox360, I sat down over the last few days to play through the game proper. It was a mixed bag. While the game is supposed to be rife with moral and ethical tensions concerning the possibility of free will in a corrupt world, my playthrough was rife with the moral and ethical tensions of whether the place I needed to go was in walking distance.

Shooting missions were no sweat. Whack a guy? I can whack a guy. Whack like ten guys? I can swing that. But if one of those guys makes it out the back, and hops a car, then all bets are off. It usually plays out like this:

I run to another car and hop in.

I notice ten better cars I could have stolen, but it’s TOO LATE NOW ISN’T IT.

I follow in hot pursuit.

By hot, I clearly mean “Hit enough things until I am on fire.”

Bail out. Roll. Get hit a little bit by another car.

Steal that car. Serves it right. Crash that car into a bike.

Oh yeah! Bikes!

Get out. Steal the bike.

Drive for two seconds before colliding with the slightest thing and flying like a million feet.

Oh yeah. Bikes.

Steal another car. Third time is clearly a charm.

All right, now my third car is on fire. WHAT is the DEAL with this FIRE?

But wait, isn’t that the guy I’m chasing?

Go up on a rail. Bail out. Burning car flips in a terrible arc, landing on the guy I’m chasing. It explodes. His car explodes. He explodes. EVERYTHING EXPLODES.


Am I alive? Is anyone alive? Can you even call this “living?”

Every cop ever arrives, drawn to the all-consuming plume of fire of my serial failure.

Cheese it.

The upside of all this is that I constantly feel like James Bond. Like an inept, kind-of-bad-at-his-job James Bond. So, nothing like James Bond at all, I guess. More like Maxwell Smart. All this has given me insight into all those action movie guys, walking away calmly while an enormous explosion erupts behind them. Sure, they look cool. Sure, they seem composed.

Really, they’re thinking “The apartment’s only seven blocks away, and my car’s on fire. I guess I’ll walk.”

- Rook

Escapist #225: Electric Soul

For all their supposed superior intelligence, robots can be pretty stupid. They may be handy if you need someone to calculate pi to the thousandth place, but when it comes to the really tricky questions, they don't have a clue. Present them with a paradox and they'll blow a gasket. Read them a sonnet and steam will shoot from their ears. They can plot the very vectors of time and space, but they just can't fathom "this emotion you hu-mons call ... love." You'd think that with all their advanced circuitry, they could just Google it.

Escapist #223: M is for Massive

In some ways, "massive" is the perfect word to describe online gaming. It communicates a certain heft - a suggestion that our games have not just become larger, but gained shape and substance. As massive gaming models have become more prevalent, the term has only increased in usage, finding its way into a bevy of acronyms each more weighty than the last: MMORPG, MMOFPS, MMORTS, etc. Even in debates on how best to classify these games - do we stick with the oddly truncated "MMO" or the accurate but somehow lopsided "MMOG"? - there is always the assumption that whatever else these games may be, they're certainly massive. It's the one M to rule them all.

Escapist #222: Dude Looks Like a Lady

Pity the princess - all dressed up, and nowhere to go. While the hero gets to scramble about to his heart's delight, the videogame princess exists in a state of eternal kidnap, perpetually "in another castle." It is a thankless task. She sits. She waits. She does the odd crossword puzzle.