Movie Review: Zombieland

That Woody Harrelson can play something else besides the buffoon roles he seems to be condemned to can be gathered from a movies as the People vs Larry Flynt. He does however play the buffoon well, even to the point of being adorable, so he stars like a buffoon in Zombieland. He is joined by a cast of three, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin to make up a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse that has depopulated the world.

If you are a zombie nut you will be upset by Zombieland, either because you think it hogwash or because you find it hilarious. Zombieland is sheer baloney and that tends to gall people in unpredictable ways, just like it makes people giggle. The keyscene is probably the one in which Bill Murray dies, which makes Emma Stone suddenly giggle, saying; he still makes me laugh. Thus purposely ruining one of the few serious moments in the movie. The movie does at times build up to a serious moment but knocks it down flat a frame later.

The whole thing thrives on the interaction between the cast with the zombie background propelling the plot forward. How inconsequential everything is can be gathered from the fact that they basically travel from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular. As Harrelson says: some go west, stating it is safer there, some travel east, thinking it is safer there. Hence his drive is not safety, but twinkies. Just as scarce and as important as to endanger himself(and others to boot).

There is a very awkward romantic fling between Eisenberg and Stone who simply have nothing in common, but even that is in tune with the movie that turns everything upside down. The interaction between Breslin and Harrelson is much more believable, the first playing a twelve years old who hasn’t heard of Gandhi and Willy Nelson, much to the astonishment of the Harrelson who in turn has no clue who Hannah Montana is(that will be a bit more dated, I am sure).

While Harrelson plays the buffoon, Eisenberg plays the social misfit and Stone and Breslin play two sisters who make a living cheating others, out of their money before the zombie apocalypse and their cars and guns after the zombies have inherited the world.

The end scenes sees the two girls power up a theme park in the night so Breslin can have some fun. Where the power comes from doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that every zombie from miles around converges on the park, thus requiring the two men to save the girls.

Zombieland is not to be taken seriously really, which is the whole point. If that gets your feathers ruffled you better skip this one. But then you might not like Shaun of the Dead either. Which is really a shame. Perhaps refocus?
(I heard someone planned a spin off or something. I hope they rethink that, for there isn’t much to tell, unless the premise of the movie is changed into something more serious, which means it’s a different thing altogether)

Game review: Fallout 4

Enough has been said about Fallout 4’s flaws by others and I will not repeat what has been said before ad nauseam other then to note that Bethesda has finally done away with the roleplay elements of the game, which isn’t really a surprise as we shall see shortly. In fact it is the goal Bethesda has been progressing towards.

I will concentrate on what for me simply breaks a game, which is the story. In this respect Bethesda has been very consistent in that none of their flag ship games, being the Elder scrolls series and the Fallout series, have anything resembling a good story. Take the story lines of both Oblivion and Skyrim, they are very similar and just bare bones enough to get you out into the world. The world is basically a sandbox where you can roam around doing repeat missions that have no consequences. Go and kill some elder dragons up on the mountain and return to town to find out that nothing has changed. In Skyrim Bethseda has made boring what in other games is the summon of tension: fighting dragons. Next we will see fights with demons, as boring as can be(compare this to Dragon Age III)

Fallout is now the same game as the Elder scroll series. It is a sandbox game that has a flimsy storyline to get you going. It is so inconsequential that the game spends less then 10 minutes on your background story, it might be longer if you take the time to extensively alter your look.The whole story in a nutshell: a short introduction to your family, after which you agree to a place in the nearby Vault. Then the alarms sound, you run to the Vault getting while the bombs drop. You get frozen in, wake up for unknown and unexplained reasons, to see your partner getting killed and your kid stolen. Some unknown time passes and you get out of your cryogenic module, to find everyone in the Vault dead. Except for the radroaches, that is. It ends when you escape to the surface to enter the world of Fallout.

Fallout fails as a story because there is nothing to make you go out there. There is no imminent danger, no sword of Damocles or time limit. There is no evil character to beat, a threat to thwart or a world to save. The kidnapped son is supposed to be the MacGuffin that ought to get you going, but there is no pressure and, given that no time is spend on making him matter,  you basically don’t care what happens to him. In fact you know nothing will happen to him as the story won’t progress unless you talk to the next NPC in line. He is so unimportant that I even forgot his name until it popped up in my conversation options.

This game now has the option to build things, not that it matters to the world at large. It won’t get any safer or more advanced. In fact nothing happens. The same goes for the killing of all the monsters and raiders. What you get is empty looted places, not safe havens: the beginnings of a new civilization. You make a wasteland by killing everything and then that might be called peace.

Someone compared it to State of Decay and indeed even that game shows how soulless Fallout has become. In State of Decay you cared for your small group of survivors and building mattered for it made your base safer and for you especially when you had to find resources that were important and in short supply. It also had a story with a definite end and a heightened pressure when more deadly monsters appeared. There were many faults in State of Decay, but you felt that it what you did mattered, you had your favorite survivors you cared for and gave the best of your equipment.

And this then compared to the empty world of Fallout. No story to be had, no characters to care for, you don’t matter, the world doesn’t matter and nothing matters. It is a sandbox where you can roam around for ever for there are always randomly spawned monsters and raiders around the corner. It has no story and no soul. How utterly soulless it has become is shown by the fact that any humor is lacking. This game is as dry as a desert and devoid of life as a graveyard. Compare that to Fallout 1 and 2.

And this is what Bethesda wants. Offering a sandbox game without a story so they don’t have to spend time on writing, without roleplay elements so they can go on forever, and with just shooting and looting. What is next? Fallout online or Elder Scrolls online no doubt. Perhaps that already exist? Maybe. It is what a MMO is basically: sand box games with a flimsy story. Soulless worlds.

Movie review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Some time ago a friend of my former partner involved herself in writing romance novels for a mass market publishing firm. She never showed any aptitude in writing before, but it was something to do next to running the family, which pinned her to her house for the better part of the day. The writing didn’t ask much imagination as the stories were pretty formulaic. Like painting by numbers she just stayed within predefined boundaries and soon enough she cranked out another cheap novelette under the name of a non-existent writer such as D. J. Barding.

The ingredients were always the same. The main protagonist was a woman aged twenty something to forty, single, and without any kids to tie her down. The man was in the same age range, but always a few years older, single as well, without romantic involvements. A setup to pursue their dalliance. Also the man was usually of a higher social standing and income group. She being a nurse, him being a doctor. She being a maiden, him being a lord. She being a student, him being a billionaire. And finally there was always something to surmount: a troubled past or a social barrier. The end saw the two joined in happy union. Usually.

Sounds familiar?
It is almost verbatim the story outline of fifty shades of grey.

At this point you would expect me to start a long list of this movie’s shortcomings, but I have to disappoint you for I am on the same page with the nostalgia critic in that this movie does the best with what it has got . In fact I will do one better. I find it a hilarious movie and it might be aiming for cult status by making a mockery of itself and of you.

There are preposterous moments such as at the beginning when the female protagonist, Anna, tells to a friend that Grey is so clean. Wait. What did she just say? I checked and, heck, she says it: clean.. Grey is clean. This is her appraisal of a guy she just met. And somewhat further into the movie he pops up in the hardware store she is working in and starts buying things as tie ribs, ropes and chains. And I doubled over laughing. Was this a promise of things to come? Would she, later on, be subjected to what he is buying together with her there and then?

And when he shows her his ‘play room’, a chamber done in black and red with racks filled with whips, floggers and canes – with only the bloody saw missing -, the only valid response would be to judge him batshit crazy and flee the premises, but instead she gapes as if he just revealed his private art collection, while at the same time listening to him telling her how he will use that stuff on her cause it is the only thing that turns him on. It is perfectly clear: they are seriously odd in the head.

More hilarious moments follow when they come to the contract he so persistently insists upon. So we get a lengthy exposition of all the particulars of the fetish contract and she even calls for a meeting to go point for point through the contract discussing such things as the use vaginal clamps and anal fisting. All things he wants to do to her.

Everything is off kilter in this movie that follows the prescription of a cheap romance flick but fills it with concepts that hail from the fetish world. He keeps on telling her how does not do the romantic thing, but for a large part of the movie he just does that, taking her with him in his helicopter, driving her around in his Lamborghini, taking her out for dinner and wooing her. He says A, but does B. And she believes B and ignores A. No wait she eventually begs him to do A. And when it happens she is really really upset about it.

This movie is a trashy romantic tale that you wouldn’t have wanted to see if it it hadn’t held the promise of kinkiness. The sin of this movie therefore lies not with the movie, but with its detractors. What did you expect? Romeo and Jullia go kinky? Pride and Prejudice in skin tight leathers? Superheroes in latex instead of spandex?  I am looking at you who goes to watch this on Valentine’s day and gets disappointed! What where you thinking?  You knew it is crap. You know crap stays crap because only in nature crap can produce roses. But ultimately what you wanted was PG rated kinky porn. That is by definition impossible. PG is not adult. If you want to see kinky porn go watch kinky porn.

It also gives a big middle finger to those who wanted so see their desire to have a continuous sexual stimulus, cloaked as having a ‘special’ relationship, a joining of spirits, vindicated and branded as a lifestyle. BDSM isn’t. You do it cause it turns you on. Just like using butt-plugs all the time : it is a fetish. And it remains disturbed if you need to hurt someone else for pleasure even if it is with consent and even if you label it differently. And that is what this movie shows you bondage fetishists and that is why you hate it .

 

 

 

 

 

Movie review: Er ist wieder da.

When Hitler wakes up in Berlin in 2014 he is confronted by a thriving
modern Germany that, much to his surprise and regret, has not been destroyed
in the Götterdämmerung that he had staged at the end of World War II
and which he thought was the only thing his country  and people deserved for
failing him, their Fuhrer, and destiny.

Hitler, seen as a satirical comedian, soon rises to national fame as a
freelance reporter sniffs him out and sells him as a gimmick to a
commercial television station who use the mass murderer to prop up
their popularity figures. The internet then does the rest.

The movie is at times slow and, I must say, boring, unlike the
trailers, five of them, that are made with fast edits and snappy
satire. The trailers in no way represent the whole movie, as the
situations are far and in between and only at times, mostly in the
second half, does the movie gain the same speed and snappy witticism
that the trailers have.

The big message in the movie is that if the fear of foreigners gets the
better of the average German, numbed by commercial television,
democracy will give a new Hitler another chance to rise to power again.
This comes a bit towards the end as most of the movie is about Hitler
being seen as a funny figure that nobody takes serious and just laughs
at or makes selfies with.

There are some brilliant moments in this movie. One is were the bunker
scene from der Untergang is replayed scene by scene, but with the staff
of the commercial TV station replacing Hitler and his circle.

Another is where they show how Hitler becomes viral on the internet and
YouTube, which is where the movie shines with fast edits and visual
tricks and  which shows exactly the emptiness of it all as I experience it
nowadays: it doesn’t matter what it is about as long as it gets you the viewers. It is regurgitating words.

A great scene is where Hitler looks at a mountain range, comments on
how beautiful it is and then throws an empty coffee cup into the grass.
He pollutes that which he finds pretty. It is Hitler used as a mirror
for all the people who do the same, but now that Hitler does it it
gets meaning. This has to be placed next to his remark that the only
party he would ally with is the Green Party, because they value nature
and thus they value Germany.

We have some snappy comments on the current day German politicians, but
this is as temporary as anything as most of them will be nobody’s in
ten years time, perhaps with the exception of Merkel.

It also comments on the emptiness of commercial television and
shows us the silly ultra right wing fringe groups who are mostly a sad
bunch and no threat to society except for some of the numskulls being
pretty violent.

But the major flaw of this movie is a serious one: it skirts around all
of the big issues. The problems with Islam gets nary a mention. Only at
the end we suddenly get to see that Islam exists and even Wilders gets
injected and the latter in such a cowardly way it offended me, for even
though I am not a supporter of him and his ideas I think it is unfair
to show him as a kind of new day Hitler.  Also
unmentioned is the fragile economy and the big millstone of the
European financial situation that hangs around the neck of Germany. In
fact Europe and the European Union hardly gets a mention at all.

This is all the more surprising given the fact that Hitler rose to
power partly because of the global financial crisis of 1929. But the
movie doesn’t even mention this, but instead harps on about Germans
with their petty problems with foreigners and the threat that this
might pose to democracy because that is what might get a new Hitler
elected.

But what irks me the most is this totally warped vision of modern
Germany that this movie offers. If there is one country(I can think of
another country: Japan) that is unlikely to ever get a new Hitler
elected it is probably Germany. The Germans of today are vastly more
liberal, vastly more democratic and far less struggling with their past
than they were back in the 30’s where the average German was a
conservative, disliked the Weimar republic(it was more or less
imposed), in fear of both right wing and left wing violence in a
country in turmoil because of a deep financial crisis and suffering
from a post war trauma(a surrender that never truly sprang from a defeat,
unlike World War II: in which it was made sure that it was a real
defeat: hence unconditional surrender).

Hitler wasn’t elected because Germans hated Jews. Hitler was elected
because of the chaos and the promise that he would end it. And he rose
to power not because he was democratically elected, but because key
people, politicians and business men, very anti democratic people at
that, supported him by perverting the democracy they hated in the
misbegotten idea that they could control him, profit from him or
otherwise gain an advantage or even, yes even, replace the republic with a system they preferred.

This is totally at odds with modern day Germany and somehow
arguing that a new Hitler might arise because modern day Germans have
issues with foreigners is a silly notion that insults a country and its
inhabitants and then to compound this by totally ignoring all the big
issues that actually might cause a Hitler to rise makes it a super
silly nonsense movie that has no relevance to anything and can only be
valued as being slightly funny but otherwise… pointless.

 

 

 

 

Movie review: Divergent: Insurgent( 101 % special)

Tris is Divergent.

Not ten percent.
Not forty percent.
She is one hundred percent Divergent according to the Divergent scanner.
We are halfway into Insurgent when this is established for a fact by the bad guys who capture and subsequently scan her. What Divergent exactly is remains a mystery, but it has something to do with the ability to survive a set of trials in a computer generated world whose sole purpose seems to be to kill people when they fail the tests. These trials allow her to unlock the key to a secret power her mother died for. Not that Tris(Shailene Woodley ) volunteers for these tests. Not at all. Tris is forced by the nefarious Jeanine Matthews(Kate Winslet) who makes all Divergent people, mostly young girls on the face of it, go through these trials, thus making her a cold hearted killer.
Whatever Divergent is doesn’t really matter, what is important is that Divergent makes Tris different(and you saw that coming don’t ya?). And 100% Divergent makes her 100% different.

Insurgent is the second installment in a series of three I read afterwards. I just picked it because I wanted to see a movie like this and the picture on the cover looked the most interesting. I happened thus to pick the second one in a trilogy. So I might have missed some important knowledge and unfortunately I cannot find much explanation on the internet. Why, for instance, is almost everyone in this movie twenty something? Even Kate Winslet, playing the head baddie, has her face plastered over so the age gap between her and the rest of the cast and notably Shailene Woodley doesn’t stand out to glaringly.
At first I thought there was a kind of Logan’s run theme underpinning this story but it is not even remarked upon as curious that everyone in the movie is young, with only one or two people looking to be middle-aged. For a while I was fooled in thinking that this movie had a kind of Inception theme:, with the world that Tris thinks is real actually being a virtual full of young people like Second Life is filled with young avatars and as virtual as the computer generated world she undergoes her trials in.

There is actually a case to make for this concept, as almost the whole movie is filled with features that feel trite so to speak(some would say: lame), which made me think that at some moment in the movie it would be revealed that it is all an illusion and Tris is actually hooked up to a machine producing fantasies for her, like happened to humanity in the Matrix.
There is the ‘Amish’ theme, where people are dressed in more simple and rougher clothes. There is the ‘hippy’ theme were the peaceful faction, with long gowns and long hair for them ladies, including flowers in your hair, denounce all violence and ask Tris to leave cause Tris isn’t like them. There are the science guys, cold and arrogant. There are the bad guys, dressed in black leathers and sufficiently cruel. There is a group of factionless on a train headed by a guy with a punk haircut and a leather coat and offensive attitude.
We get dished one run-of-the mill character after the other, all as cardboard thin as the next one. Tris in comparison looks all the more real when surrounded by these staple characters, which make the movie feel like a setup to some grand twist. It never happens.

What is left is a kind of replacement anger for a group of people that apparently thinks so low of their audience as to serve them plot that lacks any originality with characters that are as unoriginal as can be and dialog that is trite. The movie feels like a drag which is compounded by the fact that it is actually longer than your average feature.There is nothing memorable about this movie, hence it is utterly inconsequential. It fades from memory already.

Movie review: American Sniper

american-sniper

Just like Fury isn’t a movie about World War II, American Sniper isn’t about the Iraq wars.
Nor is it about 9/11 and it’s aftermath.
And certainly not about an American Sniper.
This movie is about America.

This is what a hero should look like according to yourself, Eastwood tells us.. Did you not decorate him? Did you not buy his biography in droves. Did you not read the book from cover to cover? Did you not gulp down the story of an all American blond haired, blue-eyed Caucasian guy with a pretty girl-next-door wife, who goes out to protect the greatest country on earth?
A man of duty?
A man of inner nobility?
An all American hero?

This is why it doesn’t matter whether the movie is set in Iraq, the Outer Hebrides or Middle Earth.
This is why it doesn’t matter who the enemy is.
And this is why it doesn’t matter whether the movie contains a truth or not.
The only thing that matters is the larger than life depiction of an unblemished hero.

And Eastwood doesn’t hold back and goes one step further.
The American sniper invades, for it matters not.
The American sniper shoots enemy soldiers, because they are not.
The American sniper takes out women and kids, because they are not.
.
Any unease that an American soldier might have shot a someone in violation of the Geneva-convention is taken away by clearly depicting the enemy for what they are: they are orcs

Is that what really happened, America? Was every civilian death such a clear case of the enemy using any means whatsoever and thus justifying a reaction in kind? Did you really wait for the civilians to show their hostile intent before gunning them down?Did the fog of war not exist? Or did you flatten their houses and mow them down with machine guns before they could become a threat? All to protect the greatest country on earth?

Perhaps it was Eastwood’s intent, or perhaps not, but the movie is a mirror to what America is not. The more shinier the American sniper becomes the starker the contrast with reality this picture is.

The American sniper is all what an American soldier should be like..
So unlike reality..

Movie review: Fury

fury

Whenever a Tiger I tank and SS troops appear together in a movie you can bet the federal gold reserve on it that this movie is not about historical accuracy. This doesn’t mean that Fury has no a sense of historicity, but world war II movies are actually never about world war II but about the spirit of the time they are made in. If you don’t believe me, just (re)watch Kelly’s Heroes and compare it to Saving Private Ryan.

The spirit of Fury isn’t a pretty one if we are to take our queues from the crew that operates her. During most of the movie they never display any redeeming quality that would endear them to us, they are a truly sad crew. We have reached the bottom of the well as far as humanity goes. Even Apocalypse Now isn’t as gloomy as this one. These are dark times were the best are the worst or the other way around. Well, not as bad as the enemy perhaps, who even hang their fellow country women for refusing to resist the invaders in a time that resistance is futile, but as bad as can be and only marginally so.

The key scene is one where Brad Pitt together with Rookie invade a house where two German women hide out. it is one long protracted threat scene that screams rape with every frame. If you have seen Der Untergang, or have read the Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan, you will be aware of how these women would have felt. It isn’t a pretty sight to behold.

Fury has a scary anchor point, which is that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it, because you have been told to do it and nothing else matters. It reminds me of a phrase of the game Mafia II: in the war the president pointed the finger at whom to kill, now it is the hand that pays me. This movie is thus about moral bankruptcy.
In a human society there is no place for any of the crewman of Fury with an exception perhaps for the rookie who is the least tainted. Society can not work with the scumbags that war has created, and who have traded in their morals and compassion for the command: go forward and kill regardless.

They are the walking dead.

It just needs a bullet to remind them that they are.

Henry and Kristel prepare for Doomsday

“There are fine lines between referencing something, borrowing from it and beyond that: by duplicating the original.” Kristl said.
“Hm? Where are you going with this?” Henry sort of woke up mid sentence..
“Take this line for instance, it consists of letters.. and these are hardly original..as we only got twenty six of them and virtually nobody adds any new ones to them. So you have seen these letters a trillion times and you will see them again a trillion times.”
“Yeah.. although…I understand some Asian languages have tons of them. Maybe even new ones?”
“For the sake of the argument I stick to the language I know..”
“Ah. Fair enough.”
“So we combine letters into words.. which are not really original in themselves as most are being reused again and again. But sometimes people make up new words, but that is rare.”
“Like fabbleak..” Henry said.
“Fabbleak?”
“Just thought of it.. it sort of expresses a state between being flabbergasted and feeling weak.I added an extra b just so you don’t make a mistake with fableak.. which sounds more like a word you use for a famous person who needs to go.. toiletside.. you know.” Henry made a vague gesture with his right hand.
“Right.. but unless fableak..”
“..fabbleak..”
“..fabbleak takes off as a new word used everywhere, we will not see it being used much. Unlike words as..”
“Much?”
“Much is a wordt that is used much”
“So words are combined into sentences and there you might even get something original. And then there is the next level… where sentences are combined into paragraphs and  the next where paragraphs are turned into stories and bigger stories have even things like chapters or sections or even books.”
“Right. So what?”
“Well.. the whole point is that reusing sentences from someone else does not make a new and original story and neither does the reusing of ideas from other movies make a new original movie unless you add something to it yourself or arrange them into some unique way.”
“Ah.. I see where we are going.”
“Doomsday explores the line between referencing something and just piling other peoples ideas onto each other and adding nothing to it. So this movie borrows from Resident Evil 2, then steals from escape from New York, then is inspired by Aliens then turns into Mad Max, then becomes some kind of knight movie and so on. Actually they even added in V for Vendetta with the government bad guy Canaris looking and acting like that Creedy from V for Vendetta.”
“I guess. It is just a movie to entertain. Not something that should make history..”
“Right.. but it does not even do that very well. You see, the major problem is that you then require some group of charismatic characters spouting one-liners. Maybe these are not people you like, but at least people that catch the attention.. but nobody seems to actually stand out.. I mean McDowell and Hoskins almost seem to reach that point, but the main lead certainly does not. It is as if they are deliberately held back.”
“Well Rhona Mitra stands out: she is attractive and muscled enough to make her fighting believable?”
“But her Eden character simply fails to stand out somehow.. she is not Alice from Resident Evil, nor Snake Plisken from Escape From New York, although they try hard to imply the link with her one eye. Nor does she stand out like Selene from Underworld.. even though her dark complexion and English accent sort of seem to point that way. “
“Well.. I think it was entertaining in some way, but nothing to write home about. Kinda strange that they kill of that weird looking chick that is on the front of the advertisement so soon. I think she was only in it for like five minutes.”
“That perhaps that illustrates the point. When they have something that stands out, they kill it off…just to avoid having something that might raise your interest.”
“I was a bit befuddled about that whole knight scene. Suddenly we were in the middle-ages.. it just needed some grey bearded wizard and a little fellow to turn it into lord of the rings…”
“Yes.. well.. if they had added them, it might have even amounted to something..” Kristl said.
“Also strange that the people turned to cannibalism while the group runs into a enormous herd of cows and well. You can eat cows… ”
“And while they have no gun they do have cars as if getting or making fuel is easier than making gunpowder. Let alone keeping a car operational..”
‘Well, perhaps it is time to stop trying to see reason in this one and just say: another hot chick flick that is pointless…YAY..” Henry said and he laughed at his silly joke.
“Pointless chick flicks!  Let’s hope there won’t be a sequel or at least not one made in the same fashion.” Kristl said, “Pointless chick flicks.. very funny.”
Henry ducked into the corridor to head over to the kitchen to make some coffee. This way he avoided a confrontation over his joke.. for the moment.

Movie review: 2 Nekos went Ultraviolet(but remained logical)

“I like to learn from movies,” Jenney folded her hands just after correcting her glasses.
“And?” Krisp smiled. She had already stood up, being unable to sit still for long times.
“What?”
“Did you learn anything from Ultraviolet?”
“That swords make excellent torches.”
“I knew that!”
“It is new to me,” Jenney said.
“Everyone knows.” Krisp gestured wildly with her hands, “You know… like everyone. At least I think they do…”
“Except for me…”
“Uhmmm…Except for you.”
“Like everyone has coffee breaks in the middle of fights?”
“Yes. Priorities. We all need priorities. Ice cream is one, coffee breaks is another. Except that I don’t drink coffee.. but it is the thought that counts!”
“Talking about breaks… is it me or did you find the in between fight bits also rather.. How would I say that politely….”
“Confusing?”
“Good word that. I think someone must have said at some point while they were doing the cool fight scenes: ‘Guys, we need something to tie these scenes together so people know what is going on. Guys, we need a plot. So someone get busy and write one’.”
“What is a plot?” Krisp asked.
“Uhmmm. Let me think..A plot is what makes the movie make sense. You know. So you go like… ‘Oh, now I get it’!”
“I see.”
“So someone wrote one. A plot, that is. During a coffee break,” Jenney said and shifted her glasses a bit.
“That is helpful!”
“And then they fitted the fights scenes to the plot. And then someone said: ‘look these don’t match up. It doesn’t make sense.'”
“Does it have to?”
“That is exactly what the writer of the plot said. And the director agreed. We have a plot and we got some really cool fight scenes. The movie is done!”
“I bet they were glad.”
“Of course they were. For a movie with a plot is always better than without one.”
“Great!” Krisp said.
“But I think they sort of felt uneasy anyway. So they decided to spice the fights and in between bits with CGI.”
“CGI????”
“That is graphics.. it is what you use to make scenery or creatures that don’t exist or are hard to film. Like Gollem, or dragons or science fiction cities. It is like painting, but with a computer.”
“Ah. Fake pictures.”
“Which is okay, until they get noticeable. Then you feel like someone is whispering in your ear: fake.. fake..not real.”
“I thought I ignore that voice. Spoil sport voice!”
“And then they blurred Ultraviolet’s face.”
Krisp nodded.
“Cause, you know.. Ultraviolet is ugly.”
“Is she? Poor Ultraviolet.”
“But you can’t tell, cause they blurred her face.”
“But I don’t think she is ugly,” Krisp shook her head.
“Why not. How can you tell?”
“Because of logic.”
“Logic?”
“She is pretty because the ugly people were not blurred.”
“Oh….”
“Logic!” Krisp held up two fingers close together.
“Yus…Logic.” Jenney said a bit uncertain.

A game review: Dead State(a tale of errors, a chicken, a murderess and a ghost.. and lots of zombies too)

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(Note: This review is about the Early Access version and not about the full release. I have not had the opportunity to replay the full release game. )

Welcome to my review of the game Dead State,  which is about to hit the market on the Fourth of December, according to their press release. I have to excuse myself for making a rather long post, but I have to because I initially made a review based on wrong assumptions and now, after playing, this game for about 70+ hours I feel that I can make a better judgement of the game.

First an introduction:

You are in restaurant. The waiter asks what you would like to eat and offers you the opportunity to select the ingredients yourself. In fact, you are invited to visit the kitchen and point out what you would like to have, to tell how much of it you think is sufficient and to describe how you like it to be prepared. After doing so you return to your table to await what must be a memorable eating experience.
Some time later the waiter enters the room holding aloft three plates.  He walks over to you, puts one plate in front of you and then tosses the ingredients of the other two on top of the first plate and then shuffles the heap of food. He leaves Then wishing you a most enjoyable meal.

This then, is the condition of Dead State at the end of early access: full of things that would make for a memorable gaming experience, but the overall result is a mess.

But first let’s get you an idea about what kind of game this is.

Dead State is an isometric role play game set in the zombie apocalypse where you take charge of a group of survivors holed up in a school in Texas. The game has two parts: one part is managing your group of survivors, the other part is heading a party of up to four characters to scavenge for supplies, do quests and deal with the various enemies.

Those who are familiar with fallout 1 and fallout 2 should be at home with the mechanics of this game.The game has two map modes that each come with a different way of movement. There is a strategic map that you use to travel from one location to another in which time progress as you move. This movement can be done in three ways: on foot, on horseback or with a car. Each mode has advantages and disadvantages: foot is slow, but cost nothing; travelling on horseback gets you there faster, but requires food for the horses and the car is the fastest of them all, but costs fuel; a resource that is scarce.

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The strategic map…early game(left) and late game(right)

The other map is the local map. Local map movement occurs on a tactical map and is real time until combat is imminent. In combat mode you move turn based. As far as I can tell there is no progression of time on the local map.

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Local map movement: real time(big picture) and turn based in combat mode(insert)

During combat mode actions cost action points. Walking cost one point for instance, fighting with a small weapon three, shooting a handgun perhaps four, up till complex attack movements which cost perhaps eight points. Therefore, the more action points you have, the more you can do in one turn and the more powerful you become, provided you have other good fighting statistics as well.

Characters have varied attributes and varied skills. Your main character can be customized at the start and can be developed further during the game. Other characters also develop, but you can’t control that directly. They grow over time on their own, although it seems as if you can steer this progress by assigning them to do jobs that require a certain skill which they will thus improve.

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Character sheet

You can improve your base by building various upgrades like a wall, a watch tower, a science lab and a recreation room. These upgrades often enable other upgrades or give the ability to create new objects, like the science lab, which allows you  to create such things as improved armor, antibiotics and ammunition for guns.

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The job board where you assign jobs such as building upgrades for your shelter. To the right an overview of various upgrades you can build.

The game has a kind of flow.. At first even a single zombie is a challenge, but gradually as you and your companions get better equipment and advanced skills they become less of a threat and you deal with looters, gangs, rogue cops, militia and finally the military.  This shift in enemies means also a shift in weaponry. At the start you deal with you enemies with melee weapons, later on you start to depend more on ranged weapons.

I would like to special mention is that the game has implemented that people killed by zombies become zombies themselves. Which is a great idea. In addition the game also makes zombies appear when you make a lot of sound and especially gunfire, most notably shotgun fire  draws in zombies. This is also a nice aspect of the game.

One important aspect of the game is handling the community of survivors. You become the leader and thus you have to deal with various challenges, like recruiting more survivors, getting to know your fellow survivors, assigning them jobs, bolstering their spirits, handling conflicts, dealing with community politics and making decisions, including those concerning life and death. It is up to you to deal with the situation.

Now doesn’t this all sound great?

Well,  here is the other side of the game…

The game is beset with many issues. Just a list of random examples: a character dies, but her avatar stays on the map the rest of the game; doors return to undamaged state when you reload a game and you haven’t bashed them open; the fresh food you gathered on the day is not preserved when you restart the game;  some doors allow no entrance after being opened; locations are unfinished; you have to reassign jobs to your characters every day even if you just want them to prolong the job; your fishing rod is removed from your inventory and put in the storage every time you enter the shelter and thus has to retrieved again when you want to go fishing again; somehow the fourth party member is afflicted by bad pathing which could make him/her run the other way and right into enemies.

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My four avatars facing off a group of zombies . There are plenty of zombies on this map, but nothing else. Note that one of my party members is Fiona.. We will have a special part about her further down.

A rather annoying aspect of the game is that there is no log of conversations so you can’t find out what you have heard the other day: you have to write it down yourself. Sometimes a character tips you on a location, this location might or might not appear. There is no check if a location has already been found nor does the location offer new things..
And more: you can build a chicken coop, but that requires a chicken, when you bring a chicken, it is slaughtered automatically because there is no chicken coop. There is quest where someone offers you to trade medicines for food, but you can’t bring food from the shelter as any food that you take to your shelter disappears into an inaccessible storage. Some quests are broken: like one where you are asked by Aggro to pick up her friend Alan at the Dublin bar: he never shows up. There is one where I got a tip to go to Eden next to the Wicked Lily. Whatever Eden is remains unclear and I could not find it.

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The chicken and egg problem: to make a coop you need a chicken, to bring a chicken to the shelter you need a coop.

One of  broken story line is the story of  Fiona Parks. At some point during the game Davis, the wheelchair guy who is your sidekick, comes up and told me how sorry he is about what Fiona did. I was left to wonder what he was talking about, but I through she was killed or commited suicide. But whenever I checked Fiona, she was alright and could be assigned jobs and taken along with parties, just like all the other party members. From that moment onwards Davis kept telling me every morning the same thing: that he is sorry about what happened to Fiona or was she did.

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Davis telling me about Fiona.. the same story every morning.

Then one time I am told she has killed someone. A trial is organized and after the trial I had her expelled, and just after the trial has finished, I am told another murder has occurred: Fiona had killed again!. After a second trial Fiona is expelled again!Then the next morning Davis approaches me yet again to tell me how sorry he is about what happened to Fiona or what she did, and the morning after that one and the morning thereafter:basically every morning I have this same conversation.

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Oh… you did do what???
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Funny detail: Fiona is a supporter of Sandy, who votes to have her killed…

After a while it becomes clear that there is no progressing storyline and there seems to be no finish to the game. There is a conflict brewing between the militia and the military, but you can’t do anything with it.. They even have accessible headquarters, but I never get the ability to talk to their leaders and even killing them outright doesn’t seem to do much. It for instance doesn’t even make the rest of the militia angry when you shoot their fellows at the militia hq. It seems like this part still needs to be worked upon.Just like for instance the suggestive skill of Karen. She can fly a helicopter and at one point this is brought up in a conversation, which seems to imply that it is something important. but what it is, has still to be revealed.

Now all of this and much more needs to be looked at(just another bone: the dogs in the game can only be attacked from the front and the back) and fixed, but we are to believe that game has entered Beta in Augustus and should be in state that will allow it to be released to market on the 4th of december. It could be that all these issues will be solved around that time, but it is strange that they haven’t been solved in the current version and I have my doubts if all these issues can be fixed in that time.

The final straw that makes me give this game the thumb down is simply the price. The developers asked to be funded via kickstarter and got more than double the money they asked for. In addition they ask a whopping 27 euro for an early access indie game(compare that to state of decay: 18 euro’s). Yet the game is not finished and I wonder in what state the game will be released. There is a lot of fixing to do and we have to believe that all this fixing is done at the time of the official launch.

Some random  things that need to be looked at:

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Some errors: at Coleman(left side) you can walk right through this barricade. Items still need icons(top middle). The interior of that shop is on the move(top right). And sometimes you are blessed with a random 5th party member(lower right). The door is no obstacle for this soldier(bottom middle)
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The ghost that haunts the shelter: Elaine killed herself early in the game, but her presence lingers on. Even the sun won’t chase her away.