Feature: Resident Evil HD

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Re-enter the survival horror.

Despite being a proverbial clown-car full of horror clichés and god-awful dialogue, Resident Evil is for gaming what Night of the Living Dead is for film – a massively-entertaining pioneer of the horror genre.

Almost 20 years have passed since the release of Resident Evil on the PlayStation, a 5 S.T.A.R.S. game which spontaneously mutated into a franchise that ran tyrant with success, at the pinnacle of which sat Capcom’s exalted progeny, Resident Evil 4. Thousands wept as they witnessed critics put down the rabid Resident Evil 6 like Travis shooting his beloved Old Yeller (sniff); a veritable Frankenstein-esque mix of action-horror that lacked any sense of cohesion or unified vision.

However, Capcom made like Chris Redfield and got to the ‘root of the problem’ (see above for ‘god-awful dialogue’), and have returned, quite literally, to the series’ roots. Resident Evil HD Remastered is the second refurbishment of the famous mansion, an update to the 2002 GameCube remake which set the benchmark for re-imagined video games.

Born from modern technology and the inexorable perpetuation of nostalgia, the 2015 conception will purportedly make use of an immaculate 1080p on respective current-gen platforms, and will feature alternative aspect ratios (4:3 or 16:9) and classic/modern control styles to suit one’s personal preference.

With lighting and textures sharper than Barry Burton’s one-liners (‘Jill sandwich’ – anyone?), it seems wise to remember that Capcom are attempting to offer something (relatively) new, unlike the personified trollface that is Square Enix with their recent Final Fantasy VII announcement. Wiser still, do remember to take note of Wesker’s words at the beginning: ‘Don’t open that door!’.

Resident Evil HD Remastered is available digitally for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC on January 20

Feature: Share Play on PlayStation 4

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Sharing is caring

For most 20-something gamers, childhood is basking in the warm glow of a tube TV at a friend’s house at night, rejoicing in multiplayer nirvana with games like Goldeneye 007 and Mario Kart 64 in an era when split-screen reigned supreme.

Ties were tested and virtual lives were lost: ‘Watch and learn!’, friends would naively proclaim, seizing the sweat-laden controller during a particularly tricky level of Crash Bandicoot, before slinking into the silence of shame as Cortex laughed maniacally during the CONTINUE? screen.

Sibling rivalries were temporarily postponed as little brothers were desperately drafted into the fray by assuming the less-coveted role of Player 2. ‘Perhaps today is the day I defeat Doctor Eggman once and for all!’, older brothers bravely aspired. ‘Perhaps today is the day I am finally allowed to play as Sonic’, younger brothers contemplated in hope.

But years passed, and friends and families moved away in search of University, work and love, for pastures greener than the Emerald Hills of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Although the advent of online gaming bridged the inevitable separation of former classmates and gaming compatriots, the true essence of ‘couch multiplayer’ seemed reserved for the ranks of young families and FIFA-obsessed undergraduates. With Sony’s latest system software update on the PlayStation 4, however, the couch is back – and with a vengeance.

Introducing Share Play. The ability to play games online with a friend as if you were huddled together on that patterned 90s couch once more. Selecting Share Play allows you to effectively ‘pass’ your friend your controller, allowing them to take control of your game as you see it on your screen, or to alternatively ‘pass’ your friend a second controller which can be used to play local multiplayer online.

Wanting to convince a friend to purchase Destiny? Share Play. Stuck on that terrifying boss fight on The Evil Within (curse you, spider lady…)? Share Play. Or how about just dusting off those ‘local-only’ PlayStation Plus favourites like Octodad, TowerFall and Spelunky for some carefree, throwaway fun? You guessed it – Share Play.

Buzzwords such as ‘innovative’, ‘game-changing’ and ‘revolutionary’ are industry pre-requisites in marketing campaigns nowadays, but this really is the next level for gaming. Remote Play was just the beginning. This is innovation. Of course, there are always spanners to be found in the most well-oiled machinations. Alas, there are connection and latency issues abound and few developers restricting Share Play at a whim are unavoidable problems which Sony are most certainly aware of.

In the so-called ‘Console Wars’, Nintendo have occupied a niche market which is set to further explode in popularity upon the release of Super Smash Bros. 4, and with Microsoft’s proverbial hype-train that is Halo: The Master Chief Collection quickly gathering steam, Sony needed a literal game-changer to propel them into the new year. And boy, with all the games November will have to offer, Share Play is unmistakeably the console exclusive worth having. All hail the couch!

Feature: P.T.

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P.T. – please phone home…

Playable Teaser. An exciting new feature of gaming, P.T. is a hair-raising, interactive demo revealed this week to be the embryonic stages of a classic horror franchise. Turn up your headphones, and turn down the lights. This is Silent Hill(s).

Produced Together by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, the creators of Metal Gear and the dark fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth, this hellish nightmare is the spawn of a match made in heaven. And with The Walking Dead’s Norman ‘Daryl Dixon’ Reedus in tow as the supposed protagonist, it is a promising project indeed. Although the extent of Kojima’s direct involvement with Silent Hills is currently as foggy as the eponymous town, this short sampler uses ingredients worthy of his most signature dish. Particularly a fourth wall-shattering puzzle element which would not be amiss in the first Metal Gear Solid – a real codec moment of sorts.

Positively Traumatic, this teaser reasserts a notion thought by many: video games are the true medium of the horror genre. The game leaps seamlessly between subtle sounds and full-frontal terror; it is a wholly consuming force and the player is imprisoned in the driving seat. This is acute psychological warfare and a fine example of inescapable escapism, all contained within a simple ‘L’ shaped corridor. With a bathroom that is guaranteed to give you that sink-in feeling, to a ghostly wail which soon materialises, this certainly isn’t a case of ‘Who Ya Gonna Call?’.

Perpetually Terrifying: from a creepy inception to the heart-pounding denouement (or the lack of, for many people. Seriously, why won’t the damn phone ring?!), P.T. exerts a literal spectrum of lighting and noises which will rattle even the most stoic of gamers. Of course, when the constant perturbation becomes too much, it is incredibly satisfying to ‘nope’ your way back to that soothing Playstation 4 dashboard music at the push of a button. Ahh…

Potentially Terrific, what remains to be seen is to what extent this is a bona fide tech demo, or merely an ingenious marketing ploy. The sheer immersion created from a simple first-person perspective would be a welcome feature in the final product, and the success of cult favourites Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent suggest this is the perfect perspective for survival horror. Of course, the third-person staple of the series will be beckoning, but Silent Hills is certainly a lovingly crafted love-child thus far, regardless. Opening doors has never been more alarming.

P.T is available on the Playstation Store now

Feature: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (soundtrack)

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Bueller..? Bueller..? That’s right: although no official soundtrack was released for this classic, coming-of-age comedy from the king of Brat Pack, John Hughes, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sports some of finest collaborations of music, nostalgia, liberty and eighties teendom. From Sigue Sigue Sputnik to The Smiths, to Yello and General Public (with their oh-so-fitting ‘Taking the Day Off’), Hughes has the decade of New Romanticism and electro covered, and it is so choice.

The film’s most iconic moment, of course, is when Ferris hijacks a Von Steuben Day parade. If ‘Danke Schoen’ doesn’t make you want to shake it up, then ‘Twist and Shout’ will inevitably get you goin’ now, just like you knew it would. ‘You can never go too far’, Ferris asserts with the unmistakeable conviction of adolescence. Only someone who is self-assured enough to compare himself to John Lennon could attempt such an audacious feat, and have audiences on their own feet. ‘I don’t believe in Beatles’, Ferris emulates, ‘I just believe in me’. A good point indeed.

Although best remembered for their hit single ‘Life in a Northern Town’, it is The Dream Academy’s achingly bittersweet ‘The Edge of Forever’, a gorgeous slice of dream pop, which elevates this film from simply moving to eighties epic. Soundtrack nirvana. How can Ferris possibly be expected to handle school when there’s music like this?

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and listen once in a while, you could miss it.

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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The Volt in Our Stars

It may seem redundant to describe The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as ‘amazing’, and yet here we are. Where director Sam Raimi fundamentally failed, the aptly-named Mark Webb (500 Days of Summer) skilfully conducts an aptly-titled superhero sequel, weaving an intricate narrative web of high-voltage villains and sentimental undercurrents which don’t succumb to the same plot overload that short-circuited Spider-Man 3.

Where Raimi’s second instalment showcased a burdened Peter Parker (played by Tobey ‘Marmite’ Maguire) struggling to balance his dual identity, Webb’s follow up shows the wisecracking Webhead (Andrew Garfield) fully embracing his world of masked vigilantism. That’s not to say Spidey is completely carefree, and his tenuous on-off relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is pushed to new heights, particularly by the re-introduction of Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Not to mention the bumbling Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an Oscorp employee who is obsessed with the webslinger – a soon-to-be supervillain who suffers a case of crossed wires, in more ways than one.

If the first addition to the galvanised reboot offered anything refreshing, other than Garfield’s acting prowess, it was that Webb can spin achingly authentic and searingly intimate human moments with such believability that it’s hard not to notice an awkward degree of cinematic voyeurism. Of course, this is in large part aided by the magnetic on-and-off-screen partnership of Garfield and Stone, who repeatedly tug at the heartstrings until threadbare. In a film that gravitates around the world of science, it’s wonderful to see so much chemistry between the couple, who effortlessly generate as many sparks as Electro’s voltaic violence.

Naturally, CGI is paramount to any silver screen superhero success, and while the last film drew some criticisms for some not-so-special effects in places, the quality has been massively amplified this time round. Charged with electrified energy, the visuals genuinely crackle and sparkle, and the spectacular, slow-motion sequences are undoubtedly some of the most thrilling blockbuster set-pieces to grace the big screen. Seeing Spidey’s bullet-time reactions as he goes to such lengths to protect each single bystander makes for marvellous viewing, and goes to show why he steals far more hearts than the Man of Steel. Hey, they don’t call him your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man for nothing.

Although sidestepping the landmine of narrative convolution, there is a small sense of incoherence especially in regards to character development, or the lack thereof. Dillon’s disposition switches like lightning, flashing quickly from unassuming victim to generic antagonist, whilst his transformation is not nearly as emphatic as Alfred Molina’s complex Doc Ock. But despite some minor forgivable flaws, there is little to fault in our stars; this is a shockingly well-executed affair, and these few frayed wires offer minor resistance to an otherwise electric performance.

The fault in our stars is that most fans, particularly our ever-omniscient comic-book fans, know how the film is going to end before it even begins. There is a pervading sense of inevitability throughout, personified quite literally by Denis Leary’s haunting cameos, and the funereal toll of a clock tower is just all too familiar to some. And here we are: like Peter, senses tingling yet powerless to stop what is fated to be. Nevertheless, you can’t help but enjoy every single minute of the ride. Amazing indeed.

9/10

Review: Only God Forgives

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Oscar Wilde once advocated a curious notion: ‘All art is quite useless’. A sentiment which, in many respects, can be applied to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, a neon-drenched nightmare which is every bit as ostentatious as it is daring. A film which, paradoxically, is rarely a film, but a glorified PowerPoint presentation of electric aesthetics – a compelling case of style over substance.

Julian Thompson (Ryan Gosling), is a US expatriate part of a drug smuggling operation. A disquieting man, Julian is brother to Billy, a violent sociopath who is murdered after killing an underage prostitute. When their mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), arrives in Bangkok, she demands Julian to seek the men that killed her son; this is a story of vengeance and deep-seated mother issues, set in the criminal underworld of seedy Thailand.

First and foremost, this is some picturesque cinematography from Larry Smith – each scene drips and crackles with style, with rooms saturated in blood-stained reds and chilling blues. Beneath the thick sheen of incandescence and fluorescence is a vacuous tale, but the plot, or the lack thereof, is redundant; Refn makes for a contemporary Stanley Kubrick, directing and painting a motion picture with tracking shots as harrowing as The Shining, and plenty of the old ultra-violence à la A Clockwork Orange. As Alex DeLarge himself would say: ‘Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh’.

The Gosling name will assuredly lure many into this neon nightmare, but it’s about as much of a Ryan Gosling film as No Country for Old Men is a Josh Brolin film. No, like Javier Bardem‘s minacious character in the Coen brothers classic, this is about Lieutenant Chang: the Angel of Vengeance, divine retribution personified – a supernatural performance from Vithaya Pansringarm.

Brevity is a double-edged sword. The ever-smouldering Gosling remains silently stoic, sulking for most of the film, effectively reprising his role from Drive and exhibiting another cool performance to cement his indie stardom. The depraved dialogue, however, greatly illuminates how underwritten the narrative and characters actually are. Ergo, to many it may seem almost obnoxious, a contrived stylisation which stubbornly refuses to conform to the conventions of other crime-thrillers, or indeed, reality.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and these characters are so very cold. Inhuman almost, like Dorian Gray himself. As a result. It’s not nearly as accessible as the adrenaline-fuelled Drive. The ending, meanwhile, is as abstruse as it is disappointing. Some might say it’s anticlimactic, but the film never quite builds enough impetus to suggest there should be a superior alternative.

Art – as impressionistic as it is subjective – a visual spectacle which inevitably polarizes and divides. As for Only God Forgives: is it pretentious? Certainly. Is it perfection? Certainly not. But only God could deny the fact that this is art. Not high art, necessarily, but art nevertheless.

7/10

Review: The Wolverine

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After X-Men Origins: Wolverine managed to tear asunder everyone’s favourite clawed antihero, shredding him limb from limb with antiquated set pieces and the nonchalant walking away from explosions worthy of Hollywood’s worst B-movies, you’d be forgiven for wondering if this X-Man might finally hang up the claws once and for all.

Alas, the Wolverine returns. Following the death of telepath Jean Grey and dissolution of the X-Men, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is now an unshaven recluse who finds himself amidst a feud in post-feudal Tokyo, upon greeting his old friend Yashida, whom he once saved during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Entrusted with protecting Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko from the Yakuza, a syndicate who are perhaps as unorganised as organised crime can be, this is big trouble in little Japan for our prickly protagonist.

Heed this warning: trailers beguile, for this is not the film many will be expecting. The premise that Wolverine’s healing ability has been removed is as redundant as it is short-lived, for Logan continues to slice and dice despite sustaining multiple gunshots and otherwise fatal blows. “‘Tis but a scratch,” the Black Knight from Monty Python would attest, and it’s as hard as ever to care about the self-destructive mutant, whose only threat of danger is a blunt minute or two during the climax of this edgeless escapade.

This wounded mortal’s most mortal wound, however, is the 12A rated leash bound tightly round his neck, stifling and suffocating the Wolverine, rendering him as vicious as a common housecat, as he is prevented from afflicting any degree of satisfying damage to his enemies. The lack of authentic mutilation and lacerations again leaves a pang of disappointment, as many will be left unsatisfied and thirsting for the blood that his adamantium appendages deserve. With a love interest as cold as his skeletal core, and a thoroughly uninspired and terribly brief appearance from the Silver Samurai adding insult to injury, it’s a truly dull affair.

Unfortunately, yet another solid performance from Jackman entrusted with a few sharp jokes sewn into this average adventure cannot suture the sense that Knight and Day director James Mangold has opened old wounds. Such a shame, really, considering the previous instalment to this superhero series propelled X-Men from second rate to First Class, regenerating the fast-paced fights and excellent character development that mutated in X2. Given there is a distinct lack of Ryan Reynolds, however, and some rather enjoyable (albeit formulaic) action sequences throughout, it’s still better than Origins. But then, most films are.

Indeed, it’s interesting that a film so preoccupied with death should condemn this uninteresting antihero to life support once more.

6/10