Chimpomatic

Harris Pilton's 2009 Gaming Round Up

Various

I can't claim to be any kind of authority on video games. My history of gaming is patchy to say the least, having been an early gamer back when we used "home computers" for such things, but then never owning a PS2. Also, I tend to stick to games which involve shooting at things - so if you're looking for a well-balanced, concise round-up of the gaming year, you might want to look elsewhere.

My gaming life is divided between the Xbox and the DS. The DS is still the best hand-held gaming device on the planet - with an almost resolutely lo-fi approach both sonically and graphically, it's success is down to gameplay and elegant programming. The PSP (with it's high-end graphics and sleek design) is not pulling in the kid-gamer dollars. In the world of so-called casual games (video-crack, more like), the monkey on my back was mostly Peggle and Scribblenauts. Oh, and re-playing the mind-numbingly addictive Cradle of Rome line-'em-up.  As for the Xbox, now I look at the amount of games I've been through this year, I can't believe I had much time for anything else.

The much hyped Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 has been ridiculously successful (sales-wise at least), but in my opinion they done jumped the shark. Brilliant, visceral and engaging for sure, but also short, non-sensical, and rather too easy. It certainly delivered plenty of "fuck me!" moments, with breathtaking use of lighting and sound, but they messed with the multi-player, which is clearly a case of fixing something that wasn't broken. Infinity Ward are edging dangerously close to believing their own myth rather like Bungie have with Halo - all self-aggrandising seriousness and stirring martial music that can't be optioned out of your gameplay experience.

Special mention for post-release support goes to two games in particular. Firstly, Burnout Paradise: here's a rare example of a games developer (Criterion) being willing and able to respond to feedback from gamers. On it's initial release, Burnout Paradise was laced with flaws (ie not being able to instantly re-start a race), but Criterion got on the case - addressing issues, improving gameplay, adding decent downloadable content, and then re-packaging the whole lot at a mid-range price. Excellent work those men in Guildford. The other impeccably supported game was Gears of War 2 - with regular DLC packs of high-quality maps, top-notch graphics and sound, and new gameplay features. Had a lot of good times with online friends fighting off the dirty horde.

We nearly saw the birth of something revolutionary this year, with the release of the most ambitious Xbox Arcade game yet - Battlefield 1943. This was only available as a download, and did not feature a solo campaign. Instead, 4 large maps of territorial contest, planes, boats, jeeps and bombing raids with 24 people fighting online. Sounds good, but bit off more than it could chew. To start with, this game didn't even work properly online for the first week due to "unexpected high demand" or something. Then, once it was working, it wasn't quite as smooth as it should have been. Call me old fashioned if you like, but when I point a machine gun at another player who is only 5 virtual meters away from me, I'd sort of expect him to fall down - all dead, like.

A couple of this year's releases didn't quite make the top-list but are worth a mention (a mention? Hey, thanks Pilton, they only took two years to develop). Wolfenstein (not Return to the Son of Castle Wolfenstein, or Wolfenstein 3 or...) is a game I was getting pretty juicy about. Loved the originals and raised my expectations. Turned out ok, but fell a bit flat for me when (after much enjoyable gameplay) my save file corrupted and I couldn't be arsed to go back through it. Batman Arkham Asylum looked great and played really smoothly - yet was the most on-rails game I played all year. Still good though. Also Flashpoint delivered some enjoyable play - the polar opposite of MW2 this is a game that strives for realism even if that meant spending a large percentage of your mission time walking or running over endless landscapes in order to avoid combat with enemy patrols. Realistic, yes, but essentially lots of dull moments punctuated by some very tough firefights. Halo:ODST was the game for which Blockbuster was invented. A week's hire, rinse it out and forget it ever existed. Nothing original about it, but nothing really wrong with it either. Halo is Halo is Halo - the game that thinks it can fart higher than it's own arse.

This year also finally saw the release of Resident Evil 5 - in which the musclebound Chris ventures into Africa for some wholesale zombie slaughter (sorry, 'infected'. They're not zombies anymore). Jill doesn't nearly become a Jill sandwich this time - and in fact those Japanese translation quirks are wholly missing from RE5 - it plays like a global release, looks like a global release and - my goodness - it was a global release. Once I got used to the lumpy control system, and acquired some decent weapons, I had a wail of a time wading through the increasingly ridiculous scenarios and quick-time fights right up until the bit where you get to fire two RPG's into Wesker's eyes (while he's in a volcano). Beat that.

So, you may ask, since you've wasted so much of your time playing video games this year, what turns out to be game of the year for Harris Pilton? The answer comes with the unexpected late arrival of a classic shooter - Borderlands. A first person shooter with a visual style somewhere between Tank Girl and Metal Hurlant. The joy of this sandbox shooter is that it never forgets it's a video game - never tries to be realistic, pitches it's dark humour just right, and constantly serves up new weapon variants and character abilities. It works well online as a co-op, and the game adjusts the enemy AI to match the skills of the human players - getting considerably tougher when gamers have more collective experience. Borderlands has already delivered an excellent download pack and has promised a sequel for release in 2010, and the completion of the trilogy a year later.

Sadly, there's only so much time a man can devote to the noble art of videogaming, and thus I can make no comment on a slew of other much touted releases including Assassins Creed 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Forza 3, and Sheffield Wednesday nil.

#Harris Pilton

15th Dec 2009 - Tumblr

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Surveillance

Modern Life is Rubbish

Continually clichéd rock romance that never breaks into originality.


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13th Oct 2018

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England is Mine

Dry Morrissey biopic that gets arty by avoiding using any Smiths songs.


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7th Oct 2018

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The Only Living Boy in New York

Decent rehash of vintage indie movie tropes.


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7th Oct 2018

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Hostiles

Mumblingly wordy western that’s big on self-importance and low on drama and tension.


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25th Sep 2018

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The Disaster Artist

Muddled biopic with occasional moments of eccentric comedy madness.


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22nd Sep 2018

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The Boy Downstairs

Like a long episode of Girls that’s all about one of the more boring characters.


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16th Sep 2018

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Shot Caller

Slightly confused slice of post-Michael Mann LA crime.


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7th Sep 2018

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Ingrid Goes West

Sympathetic retread of Single White Female, with added #hashtags.


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26th Aug 2018

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Jumanji

Welcome to the Jungle

Fun updated reboot with added Breakfast Club.


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26th Aug 2018

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Justice League

Low-tide mark for super hero movies. I only finished watching to see how bad it could get.


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14th Aug 2018

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Song to Song

It’s a cover version of every other Mallick pic, but the setting is inspired and the improv from Gosling is enjoyably enthusiastic.


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8th Aug 2018

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Paddington 2

Well written, well paced sequel. Surprisingly competent and heartwarming.


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4th Aug 2018

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Death Wish

70s pot boiler that lazily meanders through a series of mediocre set pieces.


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23rd Jul 2018

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Thor

Ragnarok

Enjoyable change of pace for the super hero genre. Comedy wins.


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21st Jul 2018

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How It Ends

Great concept, but shoddily directed and utterly devoid of jeopardy.


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17th Jul 2018

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Anthropoid

Small scale wartime espionage flick. Decent, but a bit laboured.


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15th Jul 2018

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Geostorm

Sub Roland Emmerich swill, with Gerard Butler saving the world from crazy weather.


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13th Jul 2018

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American Made

Derivative but fun romp through 80s CIA drug and gun running.


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12th Jul 2018

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The Outsider

Brutally sincere, painfully thin yakuza flick. Jared Leto goes full Gaijin.


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6th Jul 2018

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The Snowman

Huge misfire from Tomas Alfredson, with a multitude of bizarre choices. Like a bad 80's VHS rental.


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6th Jul 2018

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Bone Tomahawk

Brutally violent, post-Tarantino western. It’s all a bit mechanical.


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2nd Jun 2018

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Solo

A Star Wars Story

Reasonable, forgettable addition. Overfilling that mysterious back story.


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1st Jun 2018

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Atomic Blonde

Lazy double-crossing spy drama, directed with a certain amount of swagger.


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24th May 2018

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The Florida Project

Stylish, incredibly depressing portrait of life on the margins.


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12th May 2018

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Brawl in Cell Block 99

Minimally written and confidently directed, with a brutally violent third act. Starring thin Vince Vaughn.


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4th May 2018

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Last Flag Flying

Unofficial sequel to The Last Detail. Surprisingly slight effort from Linklater.


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29th Apr 2018

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Alien

Covenant

Another tired entry, trotting out the same old tropes, plus new nonsensical gibberish.


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13th Apr 2018

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Star Wars

The Last Jedi

Every moment is undermined by a gag and the few serious scenes are sloppily handled.


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13th Apr 2018

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Spider-man

Homecoming

A third crack at Spider-man. Fun-ish, but it’s zero-stakes, zero-jeopardy. Bit smug too.


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31st Mar 2018

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Wonder Woman

Another garish super-hero flick. Slightly above average, mainly by being more old-fashioned.


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30th Mar 2018

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Slow West

Overly dry, eccentric western. Jarmuschian overtones.


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16th Mar 2018

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Wind River

Incredible, tense, original thriller. A western with snowmobiles.


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14th Mar 2018

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21 Years

Richard Linklater

Career retrospective doc that keeps it fun and doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.


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11th Mar 2018

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The Mummy

Blockbuster-by-numbers as Universal clumsily attempt to build a franchise.


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24th Feb 2018

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I’m Now

The Story of Mudhoney

Unsurprising history run-down, enlivened by the band’s ferociously DIY attitude.


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21st Feb 2018

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The Cloverfield Paradox

Some good ideas, buried by shambolic direction and storytelling.


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20th Feb 2018

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Get Out

Intense, eerie thriller that’s surprisingly straightforward and a little old-fashioned.


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30th Jan 2018

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Colossal

Disappointingly slow, underdeveloped and literal monster metaphor from Nacho Vigalondo.


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27th Jan 2018

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The Light Between Oceans

Long, but moving and stylishly directed period drama. Fantastic cinematography.


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15th Jan 2018

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Logan

Grown-up superhero flick. Handled far better than most, but ridiculously violent.


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6th Jan 2018

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By the Sea

Slated by the critics, this is a stylish, slight, small movie - with two massive stars in it.


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6th Jan 2018

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Kong

Skull Island

Fun, original take on an otherwise ageing property. Apocalypse Now meets Watchmen.


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5th Jan 2018

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The Ones Below

Clunky Brit thriller that telegraphs every one of its sub-Hitchcockian twists, despite the decent premise.


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3rd Jan 2018

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Vol 2

Stylish, fast-paced, amusing antidote to the endless stream of generic superhero movies.


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27th Dec 2017

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La La Land

Disappointingly slight award winner, that doesn’t find its stride until 10 minutes from the end.


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27th Dec 2017

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Bright

Left-field genre mash-up that pitches itself just right. Solid action, good humour. Thoroughly enjoyable.


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25th Dec 2017

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I, Daniel Blake

Bleak, real-time journey through the realities of living on benefits.


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25th Dec 2017

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Star Wars

The Last Jedi

Shambolic sequel that squanders the promising set up from JJ, plus 40 year… https://t.co/SdXpv8B5hj.


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21st Dec 2017

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ET

The Extra Terrestial

Kids on BMXs sticking it to the man. What could be better.


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19th Dec 2017

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Life

Lifeless sci-fi horror. Gravity meets Piranha.


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12th Dec 2017

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