By GunstarRed 11 Comments
This is a big week for sparkly new video games on magical new systems. I have Titanfall being all roboty on my PC and there's some military superheroes and grungey Troy Baker-ish douchebags coming later in the week, so how do I spend my time preparing for the nextest of next gen games? I spend it playing the video game equivalents of my top ten favourite movies. This came to me during one of my insomnia fueled nights watching T25 and Nutribullet infomercials. "Hey, why don't I play all of the video games based on those movies wot I like." It was actually a pretty good idea come to think of it and far more doable than I'd have ever imagined possible. Obviously I'm going to have to stretch here and there and there's only one film I'm struggling to find a definite game to play. In the event that I don't come up with something before the third (Possibly fourth.) part I have a handful of backups in my not-quite-top-ten-but-close list.
The first three movies in my list are Hard Boiled which naturally resulted in the official sequel to that movie and dumb shootathon Stranglehold. A game that I already own and haven't really played much of since its release in 2007. Jurassic Park which had plenty of games to choose from like the SNES and Mega Drive movie tie-in's which I had already played a ton of when I was younger, but don't have the means to do so now without an emulator. This is something I feel a little bit awkward about doing, so instead I have played the far more crazy dinosaur fighting game Warpath: Jurassic Park. And finally the only animated movie on my list which also happens to be jerky anime for jerks... Ghost in the Shell. So obviously I've set a certain kind of tone here. I like robots, dinosaurs and shooty guns which are all pretty well represented in video games. This also gives me an excuse to re-watch and maybe reevaluate my top ten list of movies along with a bunch of games I'd never considered playing, had avoided or even knew existed.
Movie: Hard Boiled (1992) / Game: Stranglehold (2007 Xbox 360)
Stranglehold is a weird thing. It's a sequel to a much older Hong Kong action movie that plays like a game (Max Payne) that was trying to emulate John Woo's (Director) style. Which gets even weirder when you consider John Moore's wretched Max Payne movie is trying to emulate the action from the game based on the other action movies with the sequel game that plays like the other game. Got that???
Stranglehold is the continuing adventures of Inspector 'Tequila' Yuen from the movie Hard Boiled. Tequila, as he is only referred to in the game is a no nonsense cop that has no time for authority and knows when shit has to get done, it has to get done with dual pistols and a hundred dead bad guys. As unorthodox as this approach to police work is it gets the job done. It also helps that Tequila is invulnerable to bullets and has infinite ammo.
We start the story with a cop being murdered, shot right through the badge which is probably the ultimate insult to a cop. We then get the usual cop movie office arguing where the higher ups are all like "There's nothing we can do about this." But our hero voiced and modeled by the actor Chow Yun Fat isn't having any of it and sets out to mess up a large portion of Hong Kong. The weirdest part about the voice acting in the game is that some actors are not native English speakers (Like Chow Yun Fat.) and some of them just have an American accent. I find this Jarring at times. I would have liked an option to change all the dialogue into Cantonese, but Chow Yun Fat does a pretty decent job.
The game immediately drops you into a market place where someone has conveniently placed a clue for our hero and a couple of pistols. As soon as the game begins enemies keep popping out of doorways in the environment and start shooting at you. You can use the right stick to do the standard aiming and pull the right trigger a couple of times, but if you pull the left trigger something magical happens. Tequila jumps through the air, the screen turn sepia and everything slows down which is convenient for lining up your aiming reticule with the center of people's faces. Thankfully Stranglehold has some of the most generous aim assist I have ever seen in a game and you can pop a succession of bad guys heads before you have even hit the ground.
For as shallow as this game is there is something satisfying about constantly flopping into the scenery and dual pistoling twenty bad guys. Tequila's movement is designed around interacting with the environment, so if you hit a table you'l slide over it or land on a trolley and it will continue to roll as you shoot people. You can even steer its movement resulting in some strangely comical moments of silently rolling on your belly into an empty corridor. The environment plays a big part in the enjoyment with a large portion of the scenery completely destructible. The first level has you shotgunning melons in slo-mo along side bad guys heads and shooting down neon signs that crush enemies with a satisfying blood splash. After returning to this game after quite a while I have to say that I was having a bunch of fun, giggling to myself about the amount of absurdity happening on screen. The game is seven missions long with each chapter coming in at about an hour which is possibly a little longer than it should be, but at least they try to mix it up on occasion, like when the game pretends to be Desperado and gives you a couple of guitar cases full of guns and ammo, an on rails helicopter sequence, protecting a jazz band from stray bullets and a laser maze you need to navigate without triggering bombs.
Stranglehold has you destroying most of Hong Kong in the first few missions. Not content with destroying all of the drug labs at the docks our supercop decides he needs a change of scenery so he travels all the way to Chicago with the sole intention of shooting up a dinosaur exhibit just to piss Patrick off only to to return to H.K in the back end of the game because he had forgotten to mess up the slums and some triad dudes house. The game throws in a few bosses like a couple of helicopters, a fat man with dual shotguns and a supposedly intense face off with a dirty cop you thought was your friend. This boss fight is completely bonkers because he can do all of the same moves as you so you see him jumping through the air in slo-mo in real time and sliding on his chest with dual pistols. Unfortunately for him I can slow down time on top of his slo-mo time where I killed him by using my barrage mode in which the game grants me infinite SMG bullets for a few seconds. He had no chance while I lazily aimed at his face and pulled the trigger. Serves him right for having a nap at my feet.
You have a little meter at the bottom of the screen that lets you use screen clearing attacks called 'Tequila bombs' where Tequila spins around as doves fly about in proper John Woo fashion and you get a slow mo shot of everyone in the room dying. There's a couple of other uses like a heal and the barrage mentioned above, but there is also a precision aim mode where you follow a camera of the bullet flying into the aimed-at part of the body. There's some fun shots of people holding their necks as blood splurts out or dudes holding their crotches. It's juvenile, but I have a pretty childish sense of humour so I'm ok with it.
Stranglehold is a fun time if you don't think about it too much. It gets the spirit of the movie spot on. I watched Hard Boiled the other night and it is still full of some of the best action scenes John Woo has ever produced. As incredible as Face/Off is he was never able to recreate the mayhem from the movies he made at home. There's some fun references in here like a text message where an earlier Woo movie - Bullet in the Head is referenced, and the meter-filling paper cranes that Tony Leungs's character Alan makes that are for every person he kills amusingly enables even more death. It's full of flashbacks, dead girlfriends and some shockingly bad faces and hands. There's even a section where Triads in trenchcoats drive boats through doorways trying to kill you. Probably even sillier than the movie... John Woo even sells you unlocks at his bar. How cool is that!?I will probably never understand why Tequila lights cigarettes only to discard them seconds later, and it's weird when your daughter throws a bad guy over a balcony only to shriek in horror when she realises he fell to a bloody mess below, but that's not what this game is about. It's about endless enemy doorways and jumping on trolleys. Oh, and Chow Yun fat does a James Bond-y Turn, pose and shoot the screen thing at the end... Perfect.
Movie: Jurassic Park (1993) / Game: Warpath: Jurassic Park (1999 PS1)
I'm going to assume that when John Hammond said he would make the park run better by not relying so much on technology the second time around he didn't mean that he was going to turn it into some sort of illegal dino-fighting bloodsport arena.
It's a good idea though. Kids love dinosaurs, adults love dinosaurs, dinosaurs love to eat other dinosaurs, it's a win for everyone.
When you start up Warpath: Jurassic Park it seems promising. The atmospheric music evokes the movie and various menus have snarling Raptors in grass or T.Rexes hiding behind trees like the worst Cretaceous assassin ever. There's some nice animation on these dinosaurs and they look pretty good for an original Playstation game. Warpath is possibly one of the stranger Jurassic Park games. 3D fighters like Tekken were big on the PS1 and Primal Rage was the only other real attempt at trying to make a dinosaur fighting game previously. Warpath is pretty much the Raptor Vs T.Rex fanfic I wrote as a child. I'm sure if this game came out when I was a child I would have thought it was the best thing ever... I had already defended Primal Rage on the SNES far more passionately than anyone ever should. Even I should have known better back then. (Although to be fair dinosaurs and stop motion are two of the best things ever.)
There's the usual collection of modes - Arcade, Survival, Team etc, so I set out to complete the game with all of the available dinosaurs. Initially there is only eight dinosaurs to choose from, with another six to unlock. Luckily the favourites are there with their names shortened giving them all a nickname. It's funny to see the Vs screen with things Trike Vs Anky. As you beat the game there are a couple of unlocks along with the extra dinosaurs like a weird dino-history mode where a man tells me no expense has been spared and gives me sounds, a list of other dino's that lived at the same time and some height information. Funnily all of the dinosaurs contained within the game all fit into the Cretaceous period, a complaint I remember hearing when the first movie came out. It's a nice inclusion and it doesn't really need to be in here. It gives the game some educational value, but lets be honest what you're here for is dinosaurs murdering other dinosaurs and Warpath has all of your dino-murdering needs covered.
The fighting is pretty wonky featuring some terrible hit detection with your connecting attacks often resulting in you taking more damage than your opponent. There's like four different classes and all of the dinosaurs have their own trick, and by trick I mean that one spammable move that lets you win 90% of the time. The best thing about the fights is the crazily out of place announcer. To begin with I was mildly amused at the Mortal Kombat-esque shouts of Flawless when you bounce that Spinosaurus off of an electric fence over and over, but the more I played it the crazier some of the dialogue was. I ended up with about two pages of notes with announcer dialogue and I'd love to put all of it here, but I'm not entirely sure this game deserves that amount of writing.Some of the best are when you lose or continue with gems like "Your insurance is paid up right?" and "Clear the spectators, he's coming back!" Now, I'm not one to pick the big dumb holes in video game logic, but not only are they letting the public watch these violent fights to the death, they're exposing them to explosions, volcanoes that are about to go off and by the announcers own admission they haven't even put the containment fence on. I sure do hope that Pachycephalosaurus has paid his insurance though.
It is a nice bit of fanservice though. Every dinosaur has its own intro animation and some of the arenas are fun like the boat from Lost World where the T.Rex continually recreates that bit in the movie where he jumped onto a yellow explosive barrel. and there's the car stuck in the tree when the Carcharodontosaurus bends through some seemingly elastic trees. That's a pretty common thing that happens in this game. When the Triceratops breaks out of its cage it bends and distorts like something out of a Looney Toons cartoon. There's a good ten to twelve backgrounds and they're all pretty fun with a lot of environmental hazards and dudes, dogs and Compsognathus's for you to tail whip or munch on. This one time I ate a goat mid combo. It was pretty great.As I mentioned before the trick to winning is finding the one move that works best, most of the attacks are bites, tail whips, headbutts and horn charges. Some of the animation of the moves is cool. The way you bite into one dinosaurs neck and hurl it into the ground where you proceed to pounce on it and snack on its belly is fun to do despite the amount of glitching through each others body parts. The one other move the dinosaurs do that seems 100% accurate is that a bunch of them can do kung fu kicks. This is best displayed by the Velociraptor. Did I say Velociraptor... I meant MEGARAPTOR! This thing is fucking huge. Everyone knows the movie was full of lies despite claiming to be a documentary, and the Velociraptor was about the size of a dog, but this Raptor is MEGA! And it's like the Jet Li of the dinosaur world. It has swipey kicks and flying kicks and is generally the coolest being in all of Jurassic Park. Warpath has some weird shit going on with its dinosaurs. it tries to stay sort of grounded by having the dinosaurs do dinosaurey things, there's no silly hats or alternate costumes here, but some of the win animations are crazy like Pachy does a somersault upon victory and a couple of them seem to start breakdancing or crotch thrusting. These are some well trained dinosaurs, but I guess some of them had to die for the paying public. I'd like to think Hammond stuck to his word and this kind of entertainment is affordable to all.
Warpath isn't a good fighting game, but it has its heart in the right place. It's always funny to see Michael Giacchino (Star Trek, Incredibles, Lost etc) listed as the musician on a game like this, even If I knew he was responsible for a bunch of video game soundtracks in the past like the original Call of Duty and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. The instruction manual lists the 'Voice Talent' as the lead tester on the game which probably explains a lot of its weirdness, but it has its charm (" Get this thing out of here before it starts to stink!") I'm glad I played it though... I could have played countless other Jurassic Park games, but this seemed like the weirdest, not quite as weird as I was expecting, but silly enough to be entertained for a handful of hours. The reward for finishing the game with all of the dinosaurs is a live action video featuring a triceratops playing frisbee advertising an amusement ride in Florida. Was all that time worth it? I dunno. What I do know is that the Tricera-hop is a majestic thing.
I am a certified dinosaur expert* and after careful consideration I've decided not to endorse this game.
Movie: Ghost in the Shell (1995) / Game: Ghost in the Shell (1997 PS1)
Ghost in the Shell is quite possibly the most late 90's game I have ever played. It's the kind of game they'd be playing in the movie Hackers if they weren't already playing that fake version of Wipeout in their fancy hacker club. This game has the anime, the robots, the cyperpunk and most importantly music with a thumping techno beat.
Ghost in the Shell has some impressive animation upfront, animated by Production I.G who were responsible for both the movies and the TV series. They have provided some flashy shots of spider tanks shooting up rooms, quick cuts of naked robot ladies and Kusanagi gasping in an overtly sexual manner while all wrapped up in wires. There were probably a bunch of 14 year old boys replaying that intro over and over because there's nothing like hot anime cyber-ladies and machine guns right? There's about ten minutes of really nice animation overall with about five of it tied to the story and another five tied to various win or lose conditions in the training mode. I'd have probably not seen a lot of those throwaway sequences if there wasn't a 100% complete save file cheat.
The game is a third person shooter where you control a little red walking tank that can talk called a Fuchikoma. (I know that the TV series had something similar called a Tachikoma which was blue, but this is essentially the same.) The game starts you off with a very basic mission where it throws you into a small city area and asks you to get four codes by blowing up mechs. You have machine guns on the square button and a limited number of screen clearing grenades on circle which can be replenished by collecting the ones scattered around the city. You can blow up the mechs by shooting at them or by holding down the fire button to lock on with up to six missiles Panzer Dragoon style. Ghost in the Shell's only real standout trick is that the Fuchikoma can stick to walls and ceilings and has a fancy sliding strafe move by hitting L1/R1. You have to learn to exploit this very early on as some enemies can't shoot up and are often completely oblivious to you pummeling them with rockets if you're just out of reach of them. It's good to know that if Judgment Day ever happens and Skynet ever becomes self aware all we have to do it take potshots at the Hunter Killers from long range. The human spirit will prevail by shooting those robots from really, really far away.
Being super cautious is the only real way to play this game. The really arcadey movement, which feels very good compared to a lot of early 3D PS1 games seems to be at odds with the highly accurate and deadly enemy fire. To lock on you have to get really, really close so you find yourself inching forward getting a few lock-ons, firing and then backing off, which is made even more deadly by the constantly respawning enemies if you travel too far back. Sliding from side to side sometimes works, but the homing missiles have a nasty habit of doing their intended job and flying directly into you. How dare they!
They mix up the game a little by giving you objectives like "Destroy all the bombs in the area!" within a time limit, and there are a couple of auto-scrolling levels, both on the water and a road where you have full movement and an insane amount of enemies to contend with. These sections are completely maddening in their difficulty as the health pickups fly by too fast requiring you to memorize the layout by dying over and over and over. There's even another mission where you have to fight off another cyborg that keeps on disappearing using the Thermoptic Camouflage seen in the movie. Ghost in the Shell is made all the more difficult by there not being any checkpoints. A lot of the missions had me making my way to the boss with a little challenge and then having the boss destroy me in about a minute. Most of the bosses are giant walking tanks with kill lasers, rockets and stompy shockwave moves. There's a couple of standouts like a couple of flying mech suits and a generator core where you need to destroy all of its fuel rod things. For the most part you will fight the bosses by holding down the slide buttons and strafing all over the walls and ceilings continuously holding down the rocket lock-on hoping to score a couple of hits. If you were the pilot in the Fuchikoma there would probably be a certain amount of motion sickness and the last place you want to be puking up is in a confined robot tank. If I was that tank I'd be pissed, although these tanks are pretty cheery. There's one cutscene where one of them is clapping its hands and being overexcited in Major Kusanagi's office. The talking tanks should stay in the garage, think of all that oily mess they'd make on the carpets, not to mention their little stubby gun arms. All it takes is for one of them to have a bad day and start shooting up computers. Offices are no place for walking, talking robot tanks.
There's two main types of level over the course of the twelve missions. There's the open city areas and then there's enclosed areas set in sewers, warehouses and super sci-fi complexes. The tight corridors where you don't have to worry about backing or sliding into respawning enemies actually work out a lot better because you get to use more surfaces for being tactical. These sections seem to be a lot more plentiful with grenades and health also making for a little less challenge which helps. The game is short, but took me quite a while to get to the last mission which I could not complete. I don't have the patience to make my way through the tower, it can be crushing to spend twenty minutes creeping through the level only to be killed by a collection of rockets from an enemy slightly off screen. Maybe one day, although I've seen the ending and I can tell you it's not worth seeing.
I'm really glad I played this game actually. This was one of the more expensive purchases for this dumb idea coming in at £17 which for a complete copy of the UK version was a very good deal. I've been curious about this game for a long time. It has an artstyle somewhere between the movie and the original manga, and the English voice cast sound like the same ones from the VHS I had years ago which is cool if you're into that stuff. (Dunno about the TV show, only seen about six episodes and they were in Japanese.) It's a fun game with possibly a little too much of a challenge in places, but the well animated videos and the good controls really help. It can look a little drab and grey in places, but it does have some nice, green wire-frame mission briefs that are very similar to the stuff in the movie that plays out with Kenji Kawai's haunting music before the final battle against the tank.So this turned out a lot longer than I was expecting. The fourteen year old me could have spent the last hour watching that opening video over and over on YouTube.
So, part two will maybe be next week. I have only played two other games on my list and it all depends on how much time the new games will take up. I was a little hesitant to have this be more than a couple of parts, but I know how people are with words and things... Reading is booooring! So I'm going to split it up and make it more manageable. Feel free to say something about your favourite movie/game combo or tell me how much my movies suck, which they don't because y'know it's my list... the best list ever! Until next time where there will most likely be a little fortune, glory and bad motion controls.
Thanks for reading. Be excellent to each other.
* Based on having a dinosaur book I owned as a child in close proximity at all times.