Friday, 31 August 2012

Flavours of the Month: August 2012...


Napoleon Dynamite - we watched this movie so many times in the final semester of uni, to the point that we could practically recite all of it, but I haven't seen it since, until now that is. It still evades a summary as to why it's so unique and enjoyable.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - the first time I saw it I wasn't at all keen on it. A few years later and I grew to like it a lot more, despite its flaws, and seeing as Sky Movies haven't shown it (despite frequently showing Friday the 13th one-through-seven routinely), I fancied another dip into it. Yes, there are some problems, but I've come to really enjoy the flick.

Breaking Bad: Season 3 & 4 - the catch-up with Vince Gilligan's excellent drama (with pitch dark black comedy) continues apace. That moment from the final episode of season four was so good I had to watch it several times. Roll on season five!

Beaver Falls: Series 2 - not overly serious, but not overly silly, and a great antidote to the self-involved and totally unrealistic nonsense that is Skins. You've gotta love Barry too - what a state, but he gets all the best lines.

Click "READ MORE" below for sounds, vibes, and an in-depth look at the Pros and Cons of Assassin's Creed: Revelations...


Alice Cooper "Vengeance Is Mine"

Duke Nuke Forever Theme (Grabbag)

Tenacious D "Rize of the Fenix" / Tenacious D
- their self-titled album might be marginally better, but despite a couple of 'meh' tracks, Fenix proves to be a rather enjoyable aural chucklefest.

The Mamas and The Papas "California Dreaming"

Stelvio Cipriani "La Polizia Sta A Guardare"
- as heard in the movie What Have They Done To Your Daughters?

Berto Pisano "Nude Per L'Assassino" - as heard in the movie Strip Nude For Your Killer.

Guido e Maurizio De Angelis "Il Primo Omicidi" - as heard in the movie Torso (aka Carnal Violence).

Foo Fighters - their excellent set at Reading (as-seen on BBC3, who moronically decided to break the set in-half to show some Family Guy episodes), and their most recent album.


Olympics 2012 - I've never been all that interested in sport, and yet with this event taking place on home turf (with a fantastic opening ceremony from Danny Boyle), I found myself keeping track of the medals as they came in, and even watched numerous events as they took place - cheering on TeamGB. Now we've got the Paralympics to get into.

Cyanide & Happiness Vol.1 & Vol.2 - another flick through the two published books from the brilliant web comic.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations - I never played the first game, but I did play the AC2 and the follow-up Brotherhood, so bought on-the-cheap, I caught up with the closing chapter to the Ezio Auditore arc (which also concludes the life of Altair from the first game). Let's do a quick summary of the pros and cons, shall we?

+ The fight mechanics are probably the smoothest they've ever been. They feel intuitive. There could be a bit more leeway for reaction time when it comes to blocking an attacking opponent when you're in the midst of fighting another guard, though.
+ Far fewer rooftop guards. AC2 barely had any, and as such I had a blast barely setting foot on the ground among the residents of the respective cities featured in the game. However, Brotherhood spoiled that completely by covering the rooftops with guards, and as such I travelled practically everywhere on the streets. Mercifully here there are nowhere near as many rooftop guards. Less still would have been nice, but it was a significant improvement over the previous instalment.
+ Hidden tombs were mostly perfect. One where you had to chase after a boat-load of guards carrying gunpowder barrels was the ideal example of level design and camera control - you knew exactly where you had to go at all times, and at no point did the level design interfere with your controls or produce any unwanted slip-ups. That level was a real joy to play. Similarly, many other hidden areas proved great fun, even if there were a couple of slip-ups here and there.
+ The plot. Even though I struggled to follow some of it (such as the rivalries etc of the Sultan's family), wrapping up Ezio's journey (with a wrap up for Altair too, what with all that Masyaf key stuff) proved to be involving. We've come a long way with Ezio, and it was nice for him to meet Sofia - you even got a nice change of pace and had to pick her some flowers, haha!
+ The missions. AC2 had numerous rage-fuelling missions that proved to be sloppily designed, or simply buggy-as-hell, and Brotherhood favoured filler over lean design, where repetitive missions ruled the day. Thankfully there are not only fewer missions in general (Brotherhood's 33 hours compared to Revelations' 20 - 25 hours), but very few indeed inspired anger. Some were downright awesome too - such as an epic chase sequence through the countryside where you're soaring in the air on a parachute attached to a horse and cart.

- There's still far too much 'busy work' here. Renovating shops (with their tediously overlong and repetitive animations, and at-times strange placement in the game world), and reclaiming landmarks to bring the Constantinople economy back to 100% ultimately proves futile, just like in Brotherhood, with not a single achievement on offer for completing the task. Why can't many of these shops already be restored when you start? Three games full of this tedious tasking is a piss-take.
- Simple tasks involve far too many button pushes, such as transactions that should be quick. Menus, sub-menus, and confirmation alerts exacerbate this. Buying medicine, for instance, should be a quicker operation to perform. The real piss-take though is Piri Reis at the Grand Bazaar - selling numerous different types of bomb-making items involves so many button pushes and menus that it becomes a instant chore.
- Speaking of which - bomb making - beyond shrapnel bombs, cherry bombs, and smoke bombs, the range of bomb types (and their ingredients) are far too numerous, particularly as you rarely employ bombs during missions or general gameplay.
- Silly little bugs, such as your brotherhood of Assassins turning up upon your command during a mission, but failing to leave the area (thus their slot never regenerates, and you can end up with all three slots-worth of Assassins just standing around until the mission is completed). Icons or functions can disappear at random too. One time my Templar notoriety shot up to maximum, but not a single herald was on the map. I had to exit the game and return, at which point I found not only had half my notoriety vanished of its own accord, but the heralds had all returned.
- Speaking of which - heralds - each shop restoration (of which there are dozens) resulting in 25% notoriety is piss-weak. Very quickly it becomes a chore, similar to the chore of tearing down wanted posters in previous games.
- Desmond's Sequences. I got a few minutes into the first and it was so incredibly dull that I left it. Walking around a maze (in poorly optimised first-person), with shreds of back story dropped in (which could have easily been covered in well-placed cinematic sequences) aren't fun in the slightest. Thankfully they're not mandatory, but the achievement points offered up for such dull content could have easily gone towards general gameplay.
- Den Defence. I fortunately only encountered it twice (one tutorial, and once when the Templars attacked an Assassin Den). It's not all that interesting (it got boring on the second-of-two times), and the balancing is weird. Taking on armies of soldiers is easy enough, but a fire-spitting battering ram comes along and cuts through your defences like butter.
- Some control issues where movement controls, parkour controls, and a bloody annoying, ill-designed race sequence conspire to produce fury in me.
- The games really need a fresh direction now though, for many of the above reasons.

Despite numerous flaws, and as a result of numerous successes - and the chance to indulge a want for some more 'Ezio running around rooftops killing Templars' action - I've had a lot of fun with this game. Hopefully Assassin's Creed 3 will bring fresh new things to the table, cut down on the filler and busy work, and work out any remaining bugs and control issues.

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