May 16 2016

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Published by under Games,Software

I’ve just finished Uncharted 4. It’s an exclusive game title for the PS4, and if you need just one reason to buy that console, this game is it. If you need another reason, add The Last Of Us: Remastered from the same game studio, Naughty Dog, to the list.

After I’ve played The Last Of Us: Remastered some months ago, I wondered how the folks at Naughty Dog would ever want to top this game. It looked like the crown jewel of gaming, and everything that Naughty Dog would attempt after this achievement would be doomed to fail for sure.

Well. I now have the answer. Uncharted 4 most certainly is the most beautiful looking game I’ve ever played – on any hardware, at any price. And it’s also one of the best story-driven computer games ever made.

The game has an entertaining Indiana Jones-style story with likeable main characters, and already in The Last Of Us, Naughty Dog have demonstrated that they are absolute masters at cinematic story telling. Uncharted 4 is popcorn cinema at its best – it can easily compete with any Hollywood blockbuster production and beat them at their own game.

Nothing is perfect, however, and there are a couple of things that make sure that Uncharted 4 won’t get a hundred out of a hundred possible points. That’s not saying much, though – Jim Murray, the author of the Whisky Bible, never awarded more than 97.5 out of a hundred possible points to any Whisky that he had tasted either; even the “World Whisky 2015” only received 97.5 out of a 100 points from him.

The action sequences in the game are almost always over the top, and sometimes they’re just a bit too much. If Matthew Reilly, the author of the Jack West and Scarecrow novels, made games, I have no doubt that this is exactly the type of game he would be making.

There’s also a lot of climbing in the game. Maybe way too much of it.

And that’s probably my only real criticism about this game: There’s a bit too much of everything in it, and maybe a little less here and there would have been nicer. But that’s just a maybe.

At the same time, despite all of its stunning beauty, the world of Uncharted 4 did not always feel alive enough. There should have been some wildlife somewhere. Non-Player-Characters and the places they crowd lack soul, lack life. Yes, there is a super-crowded market place in that game, and all computer characters in it try hard to come across as non-generic individuals, but still, the attempt fails. There’s just no soul in these computer extras.

Animal life is another problem area. I think there should be billions of insects in the jungles of Uncharted 4, way more fish in the ocean water, rats, spiders and cockroaches in the caves and catacombs and there should be some animal predators on the hunt that maybe even attack the player when they feel threatened by him. There are not nearly enough birds in the game, especially not birds that attack the player when he gets too close to their nests when he climbs across the mountains. But after all, this is still a game for consoles, not for high-end virtual reality computing clusters, so maybe we cannot have it all and need to accept certain technical limitations.

Despite these admittedly rather minor points, and in best Jim Murray tradition, I award Uncharted 4 97.5 points out of a theoretical hundred, and officially proclaim that it is among the three very best story-driven computer games that I have ever played. The other two are The Last Of Us from the same studio and the original Half-Life by Valve, which is an unforgettable classic in its own right. There are a few other gods in this Pantheon, but those three tower above the rest.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a must-have for any gamer and it definitely is a platform seller for the PS4: This game is so good, it alone justifies buying a PS4.

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May 03 2016

High-Rise (The movie)

Published by under Movies

For the record:

I’ve already watched my share of “difficult”, “artistic”, “socially critical” and “not for the masses” movies before I made my Abitur – and that was more than two and a half decades ago. So let’s just say I’ve done my homework and studied cinema and movies enough to be entitled to my own opinion.

I’ve watched the 1973 movie Themroc with Michel Piccoli as a teenager, actually liked it and got the message. Why do I bring up the classic Themroc in this context? Because at least on paper, Themroc and High-Rise with Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Jeremy Irons and a rather respectable catalog of other interesting actors have a lot in common. In execution, however, Themroc still is a watchable movie with a coherent narrative while High-Rise simply is not.

High-Rise is a disgusting pornographic snuff picture that tries to present itself as art. As if all the random, insane cruelty between the human population in the film is not enough, it also needs to butcher and roast dogs on an open fire to wipe out even the last bit of decency that might have been hidden somewhere in this sick orgy.

No, this movie is not a metaphor or an allegory of any kind anymore. It’s been a worrying trend for quite some time now that today’s audiences apparently have been brutalized to a point that they are not bothered by cruelty anymore. And I actually mean cruelty, not “simple” violence. The line between cruelty and violence is not even blurred anymore; it has become normal business even in TV series to show in explicit – and, yes, pornographic – detail how people are violated and hurt, without adding anything meaningful to the plot, story or message. It’s just there to keep people watching.

I don’t mind watching gory horror movies or hard action flicks — as long as the violence does not sink to a level of sheer cruelty, sadism or torture porn,  as long as it is comic-style violence or as long as it actually adds something to the picture.

But lately, a lot of the things that are shown in new productions are just sick, cruel and twisted and only serve the purpose of catching the attention of an audience that must be suffering from an unbelievable emotional numbness and that cannot be reached with normal means anymore.

High-Rise is one of those productions, and directors (and authors) who need to put dogs on a barbecue shouldn’t be allowed to publish their excrement and pretend its art.

And no, I am not opening this for discussion.

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