Games That Should Be Made – No.1… HEROES

There was a Heroes game pencilled in for later this year but it was cancelled at the end of 2008, apparently due to the declining viewing figures of the TV show (although I suspect the extremely poor sales of the ‘Lost’ game – made by the same company – had more to do with it).

I personally think this is a show ripe for the picking as a game – with all the different powers available, not to mention the freedom to invent new characters and fill in backstory for some of the shows ‘lesser’ characters this could be great.

I’d like to see it as a third person action adventure although I can’t decide on open world or linear… I suppose linear would let you experience things cinematically but it would be cool to get to choose which side you would join and generally ‘play around’ in the city.

I’m sure most of the characters powers have featured in games so they’d only need to tweak game mechanics that already exist.

Nathan Petrelli Flight: this has been done in loads of games. Iron Man, Spiderman (to an extent) and the upcoming Prototype all feature this so it shouldn’t be hard to implement. Hell even CJ in GTA San Andreas had a jet pack ๐Ÿ˜€

Matt ParkmanMind Control:

Again this sort of possession skill has featured in a few titles and again occurs in the upcoming Prototype. Any game where you’ve remote controlled something/one from a distance is how this could work.

Hiro NakamuraTime Travel: This is obviously problematic so I suspect you’d need a plot device to take this power away although we could still leave him with the ability to slow down time.

Daphne MillbrookSpeed:

Most games have a speed boost and DC Universe Online (scheduled for 2009) has it as a special power so this one should be easy to work into the game.

Mohinder SureshMutant: He only half turned in the TV series but it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine Mohinder going the whole hog in the game and becoming whatever reptilian creature he was for short bursts of super strength.

Claire BennettHealing:

Again this shouldn’t be a problem, although you would need to make sure there was some kind of threat or way that Claire could be hurt. Perhaps knocking her out rather than injuring her? Only so as not to make the game too easy!

Noah BennettNothing:

No power here but he’d have to feature in the game right? With his gun skills as his special, H.R.G (Horn Rimmed Glasses or Noah to you and me) could really bring some heat to the Heroes, whether he’s working for The Company or alongside the Heroes themselves.

Ando Masahashiย Power Up: Ando has a non-usable power that basically increases the strength of the power of whoever he is in contact with. This would be pretty useless to the general player as Ando doesn’t have any fighting/gun skills – perhaps he could be included as the ultimate difficulty test?

Elle BishopElectricity:

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InFamous on the PS3 has electricity as the main power for the lead character so again this shouldn’t be hard to do.

Peter PetrelliAbsorbing Powers: No worries here, just a case of having Peter able to use the power of whoever he was nearest last.

Tracy StraussFreezing:

tracy-straussย 

Sub-Zero anyone? ๐Ÿ˜† Don’t need to say much more than that, this would be an awesome power to have in game.

Maya HerreraBlack Death: Couldn’t really think of a better way to describe her power. I suppose this would be similar to Tracy’s but instead of freezing them you would kill them with the dark black matter.

SylarWhere do I start?! ๐Ÿ˜€ :

Well he has so many abilities it would be easy to include them in the game. Super strength, mind control, slicing up peoples heads to get their abilities etc The only thing we would need to be wary of would be making him too powerful.

The HaitianBlocking other abilites: Again this could be really cool as it would make the other characters rely on their basic hand to hand or gun skills. Would possibly make things very interesting indeed.

Meredith GordonFire: The opposite of Tracy Strauss but the same game mechanic.

I guess the main problem with all of this isn’t actually getting the powers into the game it would be working out how to balance them and keep everything consistent. I suppose the best example would be to look at DC Online Universe when it’s released and find out how (if) they have solved this problem.

Possibly the ideal would be to make the story playable online with everyone taking a different Hero through the game. Depending on how things unfold the game could have several endings, both good and bad.

I was quite disappointed to learn the planned game had been cancelled but hopefully another publisher will pick up the licence and make what could be an excellent game.

PES Through The Years…

Wow, that was certainly a trip down memory lane.

Just on my way home from the Konami 40th Birthday Celebration at Centre Point in London.

The evening focused on Pro Evolution Soccer and how the game has developed and improved since the early days of PES (back on the SNES).

They had various iterations of the game on different consoles.

First up we sampled the SNES version. This was a tough one to control and the shooting wasn’t great.

Tackling wasn’t too bad and the passing was fairly accurate but the shooting was where we were struggling and a lot of the goals came from the keeper spilling a save and the forward sliding the ball home.

The graphics were true 16Bit – really took me back and while the controls were different enough to keep us on our toes I managed an 8-0 victory ๐Ÿ˜€

Next up we tried the new Nintendo Wii version of PES 2009.

You use the stick on the controler to move your player, the nunchuck to direct where you want to pass and a shake of the controller to shoot. It’s all a little bit complex and there is a hell of a lot going on on screen.

I’m sure with more perseverance it would get easier and it was quite nice to have total control over the play. This one finished 1-1.

Then we headed over to the first PS2 version ‘Pro Evolution Soccer.’

This was more like it but first impressions were “whoa! How fast is this?!” I played a fair bit of this game and certainly don’t remember it being so quick.

The passing was very unresponsive, often not kicking the ball until a good second or two after you’d pressed the button.

We went for a Euro XI vs World XI which was a close game as both teams were so good – managed to squeeze a 1-0 victory and got the same result again in the next game; Germany vs Uruguay. Felt a bit bad as was the betterย @shandation team in the 2nd game by a mile but succombed to the German counter attack. ๐Ÿ˜†

Our final stop took us all the way back to the N64.

This was easily the worst of the versions we played – didn’t help that the graphics looked even worse than they should as it was on a big HD TV.

It was hard to tackle, hard to shoot and we had no idea how to change player.

Dribbling was easy and fun (a little too easy at times, although they may have been us jumping into challenges ๐Ÿ˜€ )

It turned into a bit of a goalfest and I ran out as the winner with a final score of 10-3 to round off the evening in style ๐Ÿ˜Ž

It was great fun to revisit the older versions of the game, especially as I no longer own any of them.

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Playing the previous games in the series really made you appreciate just how good the latest PES title is, even with the faults it does have.

Hopefully football titles can continue to evolve and improve with each version. FIFA has made great strides to make up ground on PES.

I used to play FIFA from the first game in ’94 right through to 2001 when I discovered PES. It’s been PES all the way since then but I am looking forward to seeing what both titles bring to the table this year.

Could FIFA 2010 really tempt me away from PES? We’ll have to wait and see.

For now I’m basking in the warm glow of nostaglia and enjoying reminiscing about great times had hunched over a control pad playing Pro Evolution Soccer.

A Simple Plan (1998) – Review (Film)

simple-plan

It wasn’t until 10 minutes into this film that I realised something was wrong. Couldn’t put my finger on it at first. Then I realised… the Coen Brothers film I wanted to see was called Blood Simple, not A Simple Plan. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

So I was watching the wrong film and yet the opening was good enough to keep my interest.

Two brothers, Hank (Bill Paxton) and Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton – who is brilliant in this role), along with Jocob’s friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) stumble across the wreckage of a plane buried in the snow in their local woods.

Upon investigating they discover the pilot is dead and the cargo is a holdall containing millions of dollars.

Hank wants to call the authorities but Lou and Jacob think they should keep the money. They feel no-one is looking for the money and it can only be from something as dodgy as a drug deal or robbery as no-one has seen anything about it in the media and the plane has been here a while.

They agree to hold onto the money until Spring and when the snow clears if no-one comes looking for the money the three of them will split the money and leave town, going their seperate ways.

What follows is a complex and taut thriller as the character’s plan unravels a piece at a time, with Hank desperately clinging to the thread that is, just about, keeping everything together.

There are betrayals and shocks as the body count grows and the lies they tell to try and cover their tracks become increasing strained.

The relationship between the two brothers – Hank who graduated college and has a wife and a baby & Jacob, who is a bit of a loner, not very intelligent but good hearted – is well formed and believable and Billy Bob Thornton gives a great performance as Jacob.

Bridget Fonda stars as Hank’s wife Sarah who ends up becoming one of the more calculating and manipulating forces at play in the whole thing.

Her idea of sneaking some of the money back on the plane to fool anyone that finds it into thinking it’s undisturbed is genius when you think about it but ultimately it’s what occurs while Hank and Jacob are doing this that starts the whole sequence of events and kicks off the main part of the film.

There are plenty of moments where I was thinking ‘don’t do it, quit now it’s not worth it,’ but the fact of the matter is none of us know how we’d react in that situation.

The film’s tagline ‘Sometimes good people do evil things’ completely sums the film up.

All of the main protaganists are, in the grand scheme of things, good people – but $4m is a lot of money and the lengths they are willing to go to are, while not normal, certainly believable. Mainly because once they make the initial decision they end up being railroaded into making tough choices and some of the incidents the plot hinges on are born more out of panic than anything that’s been planned.

Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, The Grudge) and writer Scott B. Smith deliver just under two hours of good old fashioned twists and turns and for me the ending is a real highlight. It’s nice to see a film that doesn’t pull punches and isn’t reaching for a “Hollywood ending.”

Although I watched this in error, it certainly wasn’t a mistake and I’d recommend it to anyone that likes films with a bit of thought involved and that enjoy some suspense.

Rating: 8/10

10 Ideas To Fix Football…

As someone that watches a lot of football, both live at a lower level and televised at Premier League/Champions League level I feel that the game as a spectacle is becoming less about skill and attacking football and more about time wasting and cheating.

I know not all of the ideas below could be implemented but I feel they would certainly improve the game overall.

1) Every player to get a standard wage.

ยฃ500 a week in league two, ยฃ750 a week in league one, ยฃ1000 a week in the championship and ยฃ2000 a week in the premiership. That goes for every team and every player. The players wages would then be supplemented by win bonuses or goal/clean sheet bonuses – which can be as high as the clubs want.

This would mean the English league would still be able to attract top players to come here from abroad but that the players would have a vested interest in winning games and helping the team in the most effective way possible.

You play badly you get paid badly – bet Robinho would pull his finger out if he thought he wasn’t going to get all that cash.

Surely something like this HAS to be the way forward – I see no problem with players being paid extortionate amounts but only if they are earning their money.

2) If a player goes down injured and the referee hasn’t awarded a free kick but then stops play, the opposition get a free kick.

There are not many instances where a player is so badly injured they cannot continue or wait until the next break in play. I don’t recall seeing many in my two decades of watching football.

This would stop the now commonplace feigning injury to get play stopped – usually when the opposition are just about to mount an attack.

And none of this kicking the ball back to the defending team either. The opposition should take the kick as they would any other attacking free kick.

I can almost guarantee this would stop this nonsense of pretending you’re seriously injury when, quite frankly, you could sit/lay there as play continues and receive treatment the next time the ball goes out of play.

I’m not doubting that players do take a knock but it’s the fact the referee feels the need to stop play, usually denying the opposition a chance of scoring, that annoys me.

To add insult to injury upon play resuming with a drop kick the attacking team are expecting to return the ball to the defending team! I’m sorry why is this again?

3) Abolish youth teams for league clubs.

Now this is a controversial one but in the current climate the premier league teams just nick the lower leagues best youth players and then pay a nominal fee after a tribunal.

So my proposal is this.

Set up a proper system of leagues for UK schools similar to US colleges.

Youth players stay at their school teams until they are 16 (school leaving age) when they are entered into the annual draft if they wish to pursue a career in football.

Basically the league teams then pick players in draft fashion, up to 5 players per team over 5 rounds of picks.

So you would start with the teams coming up from the conference and then work your way through the leagues backwards from the previous years final positions (so that the Premiership winners pick last each round).

The players then sign a two year contract, without get out clauses, and move to that club.

If they are not good/fit enough for the first team they play in the reserves.

At the end of the two years the club they sign for has the option of extending the players contract for a further year or releasing them.

If they exercise their option at the end of that third year if the club and player cannot agree on a new contract the player becomes a free agent and can move to whichever club he wants.

I think this would spread the young talents across the leagues nicely and a minimum two year commitment with a third year option for the club would stop the players jumping ship too soon.

They really would have to prove themselves at the lower level to make the move to the higher leagues.

This plan would obviously involve a huge huge investment in grass roots football at schools in the UK so would never happen but I can dream ๐Ÿ˜€

4) Reduce ticket prices

Tickets

Ticket prices in the UK are a joke.

It is extortionate some of the prices that clubs, especially in the upper league charge their fans.

I’m not saying the league should control ticket prices but I feel there is a moderate solution.

Make one stand of the ground a standing terrace with minor amenities (ie very basic toilets and refreshments) and cap tickets at ยฃ15 per match.

Make it first come first served, maximum of four tickets per person and watch it fill up. Especially at some of the lower league grounds.

This will again never happen as the clubs are out to make money but I think it’s a nice idea.

I would rather have 18,000 fans at Millwall who have paid ยฃ12 a ticket than 9,000 who have paid ยฃ24 a ticket.

5) Get rid of penalties.

Let’s be honest here folks penalty shootouts are a bit rubbish.

So, I think a better idea would be to start extra time as normal and then once you get to 10 minutes the next time the ball goes out of the play each team have to withdraw 2 players. And again 10 minutes later.

Makes no difference if you’ve had players sent off – in fact it would make the team with less players go for it more before they are completely outnumbered! Or worse still the opposition are left with an empty net to take the win.

First goal wins it, which could be when it’s 11 v 11 or 5 v 5 – someone will score eventually to settle the game.

Obviously if it gets to the stage where it’s just the keepers that could be interesting ๐Ÿ˜€

6) Introduce new technology immediately into games.

Within 10 seconds of a decision we can see a replay on TV – football should adopt a similar style to rugby in that if the officials are unsure on whether the ball has crossed the line etc he should signal to a fifth official watching coverage on TV who can confirm.

Play continues unless the fifth official decides it’s a goal in which case play is stopped and a goal awarded, if it’s not a goal play continues seamlessly.

Likewise with fouls, handball etc although this would be less problematic as play would’ve stopped anyway.

Referees do a tough job but that doesn’t mean they are the most important people at a game – take away some of the power that current rests on just one head (9 out of 10 times the linesman just agrees with whatever the ref says).

Which leads me nicely on to…

7) Retrospective bannings.

I’m not worried about hurting refs feelings. I couldn’t care less if they feel undermined.

If my star forward is injured for 9 months through a horror tackle why on earth shouldn’t the guy who’s put him out face a lengthy ban? Oh because the ref booked him during the game so we can’t change that decision.

Nonsense.

This should come in immediately, allowing the authorities to upgrade yellow cards to red cards and vice versa.

8 ) Allow challenges on the goalkeeper at set pieces.

Keepers ball!

Now I’m not talking about a forward charging the keeper over the goal line or anything but something else I’ve noticed over the last few years is a huge increase in free kicks awarded to the keeper when a bunch of players go for the ball and he doesn’t get it.

I don’t think you can award a free kick for a keeper not catching/punching a ball can you? Well someone should let the refs we get know.

It’s ridiculous, the keeper is there to stand tall – the colossus at the back ready to defend the goal. Not wilt as the ball comes in because someone is “standing a bit near him.”

Let’s get a bit more of the hustle and bustle back in games – I’m not talking reckless, dangerous challenges or elbows but this is a contact sport so let’s referee it as such.

9) Do not pay players to play for England

I’m more of a club man myself but there is no question playing for your country should be an issue of pride not price.

If the players do well enough they will make money from sponsorship etc.

Playing for England should be about representing the masses of the country, making people proud – not about how much you’ll get if you make it past the quarter finals.

10) Make the FA Cup exciting again

First off all the league teams come in at the first round proper – forget all this third round nonsense. Let’s at least give smaller teams a chance of a giant-killing.

Revenue should be split by league. 50/50 if you’re in the same league, 75/25 is favour of the lower team if you’re in different leagues. Doesn’t matter who’s home or who is away.

No teams can switch ties to the bigger sides ground. It’s played as it’s drawn.

NO REPLAYS – soooooo boring, let’s get all the ties decided over that one weekend.

Stop hosting the semi finals at Wembley – it should be special to play there. 2 teams in each competition should play there not 4 teams.

And this last one is a bit controversial – take away the fourth place Champions League qualification in the Premiership and give it to the FA Cup Winners.

——————————————————————————————-

So there you have it, my outlandish (or are they? ๐Ÿ˜† ) ideas for improving football in the UK.

Would love to hear what people think or if you have any ideas you would suggest?

Watchmen – Film Review

As someone who only really became aware of Watchmen when the first trailers for the film were released last year I was tempted into reading the graphic novel over the Christmas break.

I hadn’t read a ‘comic’ in about 18 or 20 years and didn’t really have much of an interest in them but with the film version coming up I figured I would give it go.

What happened, as I suspect it does for a lot of people, is that I couldn’t put it down! I really enjoyed it and so my interest in the film reached an even higher level. ๐Ÿ˜€

Watchmen tells the story of a group of former vigilantes, who discover they are being targeted one by one.

The story takes place in an alternate 1985 where costumed vigilantes have been outlawed for almost a decade.

The Watchmen consist of the following costumed ‘heroes’:

The Comedian

Employed by the government when superheroes are outlawed, The Comedian is a nasty piece of work who seemingly doesn’t give a damn about anything. It’s his murder that kicks events off to their dramatic conclusion.

Rorschach

Rorschach is the only member of Watchmen still active and fighting crime. He wears a white mask with a constantly changing ink blot to cover his face, is a brutal fighter and feels he needs to take a moral stand against the filth on the streets.

Nite Owl II

Nite Owl II is a lot like Batman, he has a similar style outfit and is more likely to use gadgets than weapons. The only differences are that he works as part of a group rather than alone and that away from the costume he’s just a regular guy.

Dr Manhattan

Scientist Jon Osterman became Dr Manhattan when he was caught in an “Intrinsic Field Subtractor” in 1959. This gives him abilities far beyond what man can comprehend, let alone ever dream to use. He is also employed by the US Government and is dating Silk Spectre II when the story begins.

Silk Spectre II

The daughter of the original Silk Spectre and lover of Dr Manhattan – Laurie Juspeczyk hits hard and fast, using her smaller frame to launch herself at opponents. She became a superhero to please her mother but seems to relish the role when she steps back into costume.

Ozymandias

Veidt

Ozymandias retired when the law was passed and concentrated on his business under his real name: Adrian Veidt. He made no secret of his former ‘secret identity,’ in fact using it to boost his business with toy lines etc. Said to be the smartest man in the world and certainly the most public of the Watchmen following their retirement in 1977.

Everyone said Watchmen was unfilmable. I personally didn’t agree but thought it would depend on what parts of the novel were used as to whether it was successful or just a big mess.

And so late last week I made my way to Leicester Square with a couple of mates to take in, what was expected to be, a visual feast.

From the opening scenes with the death of The Comedian and the flashbacks to past heroes, I knew this was my kind of film and as far as I was concerned Zack Snyderย had nailed the gritty, gloomy film noire style that the novel had. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

This is a brutal film – there are broken bones, blood and an incident involving hot fat to name but a few.

The fights are well chreographed and while the slightly overpowered punches and kicks suited the film, I had always imagined the Watchmen as fighting normally – hard and fast but human all the same.

The CGI for Dr Manhattan is breathtaking and the whole look of the film was impressive, with Archie (Nite Owl’s flying ship) also looking great. The backdrops also had a brilliant style and it was a wonderful visual experience.

It’s obvious that this has been a labour of love for Snyder and on the whole he stays true to the novel where possible.

The ending is different and, although I suspect it would enrage fans of the graphic novel, I have to say I thought it was a better way to finish the story.

Of course, this was the theatrical cut so we won’t see his full vision until the director’s cut release on blu-ray/DVD. Be warned though, even the theatrical cut is almost 2 3/4 hours long! ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

The music used throughout was excellent, with the exception of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” being used over a sex scene – which was the wrong side of cheesy. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Watchmen was a great film with excellent special effects and a wonderful, if at times confusing, story to tell.

Discussing it with a friend afterwards he said he was worried that reading it first might’ve meant the film made less of an impact – I disagree, in fact I feel it gives it more of an impact.

It isn’t imperative to read the novel before you see this film but you may find some of the plot hard to get a grip on if you don’t. Not to the detriment of the film but enough that I’d recommend checking the book outย if you get a chance.

This is certainly a film I would recommend to everyone – it’s not your average superhero flick, so it might not be to everyone’s tastes but they should certainly watch it and come to their own conclusions.

Rating: 9/10

Relentless – Simon Kernick (Book)

If you’re looking for a nice breezy read Relentless is not the book for you.

The story starts at a breakneck pace and barely pauses for breath in the entire 450 or so pages.

I actually found this style, initially at least, to be a bit overbearing. It felt a little forced and I thought the characters response to the first set of events was slightly unrealistic.

However that is obviously just a personal point of view – the writing itself was fine (apart from an extensive use of the term ‘bodily’ which was quite jarring after the fourth or fifth time) and once I adjusted to the pace I found the book to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Tom Meron is an insurance salesman with a very average life – university lecturer wife, two kids, nice house etc – in London until the day he receives a phone call from an old school friend who he hasn’t seen in 3 or 4 years.

His friend sounds like he is taking a beating and eventually he utters six words to his attacker that change Tom’s world forever: the first two lines of Tom’s address.

Believing his friend to have been murdered and the murderer on his way to Tom’s house he grabs his kids and so starts a game of cat and mouse with Tom never entirely sure who to trust.

This was never going to be a book that required a lot of brain power, most of the twists are hinted at in advance of being revealed, but then sometimes it’s nice to read a book that is enjoyable without being taxing.

Rating: 7/10

Street Fighter IV Review (PS3)

So following on from my nostalgia piece on Street Fighter II last week I’ve had some more time with the new game.

And it’s been a mainly positive experience.

Graphically the game looks stunning and whoever made the decision to take the game in this ‘2.5D’ direction deserves some serious props as it makes for a very rewarding game.

The controls are obviously as they have been for years, left analogue stick to move and then face and shoulder buttons for light, medium and hard punch/kick. The spare shoulder buttons are used as for a one button press that is the equivalent of pressing all three punch or kick buttons.

I had to move some of the controls around to make it easier for myself but this was no problem as the game allows you to map the button controls rather than making you choose a particular set up.

The game has several new additions (speaking as someone that has only previously played Street Fighter II) including focus, super combo and ultra combo attacks.

Focus attacks require you to hold down the medium punch and kick buttons to charge an attack for a few seconds before releasing. If you pull the move off your opponent will take a big hit and then fall to their knees, allowing you an extra hit or two on the way down. You can take one hit from your opponent while charging, which actually makes your attack stronger, but any more than that and you’ll be on your ass. It’s a nice strategic mechanic which adds a risk factor to a fairly easy to pull off move.

Both Super and Ultra combos are pulled off by repeating the left stick movement of a special move (ie. Dragon Punch) before hitting punch/kick (Super) or the button for all three punch/kicks together (Ultra).

Again these are familiar enough that people won’t be put off by trying to learn them but require the right amount of skill/timing that it feels like an achievement to pull them off.

On my playthrough with Ken I actually only pulled one Ultra Combo off and in a nice twist it was the finishing blow to the final boss Seth, which was cool ๐Ÿ˜Ž

I’m sure as I continue playing and experimenting with new characters I’ll be able to pull off more and more different combos.

The arcade mode is your standard fighter fare. You get a small anime intro explaining your characters motivations etc and then fight through 4 or 5 guys. Beat them and you face your rival (with another intro) and then it’s on to Seth – the much maligned super boss.

Playing on Easy, Seth was still a respectable challenge – I beat him on probably my 3rd or 4th attempt. He has the full set of Street Fighter moves and isn’t afraid to use them.

To be honest I’ve found another of the new characters to be more of a problem – Abel.

This dude is rock hard and has an annoying throw move which he is happy to use back to back for some particularly cheap shots. ๐Ÿ˜ก

Both him and Seth are beatable though and the mode provides a good challenge to tide you over until your mates arrive.

Single-player is an enjoyable experience but multi-player is where the real fun is at. Group of mates, winner stays on – these are the memories you’ll cherish. Even online, in my opinion, cannot compete with the sense of sitting in the same room as the guy you’re sonic booming.

One small niggle is the extended load times before each fight – I often caught myself thinking my PS3 had crashed they sometimes go on so long!

With a bunch of new characters and all the old favourites making a welcome return Street Fighter IV firmly throws down the gauntlet to all fighting games of this generation.

And I just can’t see any of the other contenders being better than this.

Rating: 8/10