Advertisements
Leave a comment

Announcement: The New Torch Entertainment Guide Website

Hey everyone,

After  months of work and preparation, we, the Torch Crew, are happy to announce that we have a new website! Yes! Awesome. The reason for this move is basically because we are running out of space on the WordPress.com blog site, so we bit the bullet and bought a bigger server on WordPress, of course. We would never leave WordPress We love you, WordPress! Anyways, we have a new site now and we have started to upload tons of our articles there, so head over to www.thetorchentertainmentguide.com to see them  and don’t forget join the new website for updates on articles. Newsletters and other awesome goodies.

We will be transferring the http://www.thetorchslguide.com domain to the new page so nothing will really change there. We aren’t sure when we are going to transfer it to the new place but you’ll know when we do.  Here is to a new start and a new website!

 

Join us on www.thetorchentertainmentguide.com 

Don’t forget to Like Us on Facebook Search The Torch: Entertainment Guide

Follow Us on Twitter @TheTorchSL

And

Sign up for our new Newsletters

 

Thank you to all the followers we have gained through our 4 years on WordPress.com and we hope to see you other on the New site.

Signed.

The Torch Crew.

Leave a comment

MCM Midlands: A Stroll around Comic Book Village!

Comic Con came to the little town of Telford England on Saturday. Cosplayers, Universal trailers, and watching as Will and Chris went crazy over the cast of Red Dwarf, which no doubt was awesome, I found myself at home as I strolled through Comic Book Village. With names like Zombie Bear, Killer Bunnies, Madame Butter Scotch, Moon, and Twisted Dark, who wouldn’t feel a home within the square of these very talented people. We were able to interview a few of them, which was awesome, these interviews will be coming in an accompanying video, but I got to interview to myself via my handy dandy Dictaphone.

Twisted Dark is a psychological thriller anthology series written by Neil Gibson, its one of THE first comic books that actually made me say, ‘Whoa’, upon reading the first story. Neil Gibson explains that he came up with the story of Twisted Dark while working at his old job in the middle east, he looked out the window. He sawhow the labours worked and the difference between the riches and poorest survive, ” It was very interesting to me, I found it very striking and I wanted to write a story on it. That was about four years ago and I’d never done anything creative before that. I was interested in comics and tried to make one. People seemed to like what I did.”

Madame Butterscratch by Lisa Cummins was another booth visited. Comic follows the adventures of the owner of a tea shop who is one of the worlds deadliest assassins. Currently there is a kickstarter for Madame Butterscotch to create the third book in the series.

And finally, Moon, a comic based on something really awesome. The moon is a detective, it has been falling out of the sky every morning for two thousand years, putting on a suit and fighting crime. That is crazy awesome. Moon was written by Dan Thompson and drawn by Steve Pentold. It is not available in any stores but only on their website. I got to have a little chat with Artist Steve, who gave some advice to all the soon to struggling artists out there, “Draw like the dickens!” He proclaims, ” Just draw and draw and draw and draw and draw and draw…” He says “An art degree might be useful but nobody is going to look at that piece of paper with the degree on it and say you’re a good artist. They are going to look at your portfolio. Your work is more relevant than that piece of paper. If you want to be a professional, get that degree, learn the tools of the trade, but if you just want to draw comics, then just start drawing.”

There are so many talented comic writers and artists at MCM Midlands, but that was just one part of this festival of the fantastic, there were also Cosplayers and we were able to get a few interviews with them as well, check out our video on MCM coming soon. Watch this space!

1 Comment

AtomP Reviews – Far Cry Series – Part 4 – Far Cry 4

Here we find ourselves on the fourth part of the Far Cry series. I have intentionally ignored Blood Dragon as I have already done a review on it, although I will comment that it represented a return to many of the sillier and self-conscious tropes of the original Far Cry whilst maintaining that parts of Far Cry 3 that actually made it fun to play. Far Cry 4 on the other hand is the subject of this particular review, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Far Cry 4 is the logical continuation of many of the processes that began with its predecessor, and it suffers from much the same issues as a result.

 

The location this time is the Himalayas, introducing new scenery to a series that had perhaps over-used the tropical island. This new scenery does introduce some new dynamics but as a general theme it’s pretty much Ctrl-A, Ctrl-V from Far Cry 3. The enemy: a failed/criminal state headed by a psychopath bares little to no significant cultural or even social difference to its predecessor, with the Golden Path rebels fighting them being equally faceless. Well and truly lost is the reasonably aware nature of Far Cry 2, with its intentionally confused and fuzzy moral boundaries; there are now good guys and bad guys with no room for manoeuvre. I perhaps underplayed the importance of Vaas in the Far Cry 3 review, his brilliantly played psychopathic character was among the redeeming features of the game however I’m not sure the same can be said for Pagan Minh, who’s more Handsome Jack than Vaas. I suppose that there is a degree of fuzziness in the manner in which the “state” is portrayed, as the only state entity that really exists in the game is a corrupt criminal state however that merely functions to further cement the righteousness of the rebels rather than introduce any real moral disagreement. The key gameplay/story element constructed to draw decisions as moral conundrums from the player is the bipolar rebel leadership which is divided between a hard-line victory at all costs position versus a position that recognises the potential moral pitfalls of this approach. This manner of having the player decide the course of the rebel cause is interesting to some degree and adds more variety to Far Cry 4’s story than its predecessor, however it still appears frightfully transparent and scripted in comparison to the genuine mess that is presented by Far Cry 2.

 

The player character is once again an adult American male, out of his depth in the big scary world yet seemingly able to function in combat like a high tier special operations soldier. This was a problem that the game’s predecessor suffered from too, however rather than attempting to tie of this loose end with an “ironic” story, Far Cry 4 resorts to tongue-in-cheek quips and small snippets of situational irony. The question here is why not just accept that one must either write a civilian as a civilian, building the game-play around the initial traumatic combat acclimatisation period or write a soldier as a soldier. I believe that this insistence on throwing a regular American Joe into the big dangerous outside world and then having him adapt to this big dangerous world by proving how big and dangerous but good he is relates to constructing the narrative to a particular perceived audience. The average corporate perspective on their target audience appears to be a white American male aged between 15-25, and as such they build games to match. There could also be a more fundamental issue related to the deeper cultural fissures that lead to this insistence on producing this righteous American male character thrown into the chaos of the world, the same cultural fissures that mean that young Americans still join the US military despite the now obviously dubious nature of every mission that it’s undertaken in the 21st century. Although with all that said, I’m tempted to say that whilst this issue does appear to exist, it’s actually far less prevalent in the average gamer than corporate types think because the average gamer is now far older than their assumptions that we’re all 15 year old Mountain Dew swigging, Doritos munching XBox gamers.

 

The gameplay of Far Cry 4 is much the same as its predecessor but with a different terrain set. The player continues to travel the map eliminating side-quest icons, decimating the local wildlife with automatic weapon fire and generally faffing about. There are story missions which are somewhat reasonable, but once again only really function to gate off half the map. This, like Far Cry 3, is a pale imitation of Far Cry 2; it is a stripped down and sanitised variant of that game with all the even remotely controversial aspects gone. This follows the trend that Far Cry 3 started, a Far Cry designed for accessibility with any aspect of ‘difficulty’ or ‘difference’ promptly removed at the behest of focus group bullshit and sales targets. I understand that the game must be profitable, but that doesn’t mean that one must follow the nasty corporate bullshit that is so clouded by a perceived fickle target audience. As it is though the game is essentially a giant colourful gun-filled theme park, like its predecessor somewhat but with the last vestiges of an interesting narrative experience gone. The co-op supports this vision and whilst it is undoubtedly a huge amount of fun to run around blowing things up with a friend, that may be just about the only time it is. This theme park gameplay is what draws me back, and I will admit that without the co-op it doesn’t really draw me back. I should discuss the co-op in more detail really: It allows the completion of just about everything, bar story missions, with a co-op buddy. This is essentially the best bits of the game, played in the best way possible and there is no doubt that if you have someone to play with, co-op is the way to play. Worth mentioning though are the multiplayer bugs which can include but are not limited to a fairly serious desync between clients regarding things like mission and vehicle spawning, more than once was I killed by an invisible truck that was entirely non-existent on my client. For the most part the bugs are actually quite fun and I’ll happily live with some silly bugs for the ability to have an open world sandbox. That being said, the game client downloaded 1.3GB of data the other day which was apparently the data for a paid DLC that I did not own and fixed none of the bugs experienced in multiplayer, it would be nice for them to fix the base game before trying to milk extra revenue from DLC…

 

As it stands Far Cry 4 is still a new game and therefore is going for full priced triple-A game pricing. My copy is an included-with game for a graphics card and it was received as a gift from a friend with whom to play co-op with and he got his copy as part of Ubisoft’s cleanup after the latest AssCreed debacle. Neither of us had actually bought the game yet because frankly, it was difficult to justify forking out that much money for the game. My recommendation regarding Far Cry 4 is that unless you get a (legal) free copy then wait until it goes on sale or the price has dropped adequately that it isn’t silly expensive, until then buy Rimworld or something which will likely give more hours of enjoyment for less and support an indie developer. Or alternatively if you’ve never played any Far Cry games, go and buy the rest of them for about the same as Far Cry 4.

 

This entire review series occurred because I couldn’t quite bring myself to review Far Cry 4 in isolation, as it doesn’t exist in isolation. The history of the Far Cry series changes how one looks at Far Cry 4, as the likes of Far Cry 2 put it to shame in many if not all aspects. Now perhaps it will be seen as unfair, the manner in which I attacked Far Cry 4 when at times I’ve had a good time with it. Perhaps it is unfair, the manner in which I’m laying the responsibility for the direction that the series is being taken at the feet of Far Cry 4, but that doesn’t change the way Ubisoft are watering down Far Cry in order to appease a phantom audience and wasting the potential that was offered by the first in one sense and the second in another. Taken in isolation Far Cry 4 is fun to play, the story has been moved out the way enough to be inconsequential and with it the narratives, themes and issues that could be explored are ignored. As a dumb modern first person shooter theme park the game is entertaining enough and in co-op is a laugh (especially with the bugs), it just suffers in context.

 

Far Cry 4 on Steam:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/298110/

 

Far Cry 4 Website:

http://far-cry.ubi.com/en-gb/home/index.aspx

 

 

3 Comments

Second Life Marketplace Tutorial: Make a RSS feed for your store

Have you ever found yourself wishing there was an easy way to show people when you have new things for sale on the marketplace? Maybe you want to show the latest items on your blog automatically?

What you need is a RSS feed. A RSS feed is an automatic listing of the latest “articles” on a website. That is how the sidebar widget on this site knows what our latest tweets are and that’s how Google knows when you’ve written a new post on your blog.

The Marketplace has no built-in function for RSS, but I have found a way to add your own. I’ll show you!

 

First you need the URL to your store, with a slight modification. Go to your store on the Marketplace (marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/[yourstorenumber]). Change “Items per page” to 96. You’ll see that the URL in the address field changes to a long and complicated string. Copy this whole string and head over to Feed43.

Marketplace

 

Here you can make an account for free, but that’s not necessary for this. Click the link that says “Create your own feed”. Here you’ll get a lot of options and I’ll take you through them all. It’s not as complicated as it looks.

In the address field, put the URL you copied from your store then click Reload. Step 2 unlocks and here you’ll set the “rules” by which the feed will fetch information. I’ve already found what “tags” to use, so you can just copy paste from here.

In the field for Global Search Pattern, put:
<div class=”clear column span-6 last product-listing gallery”>{%}<div class=”column span-6 last footer-paginate”>

In the field for Item (repeatable) Search Pattern, put:
<a href=”{%}”{*}class=”product-title”>{%}</a>{*}<span class=”price”>{%}</span>

This will get the raw data with the link to each item, their name and their price.

Feed43 01

You can change the Feed Title and Feed Description if you want, but leave Feed Link as it is, that will lead to your store page on the Marketplace.

In Item Title Template, put {%2}

In Item Link Template, put {%1}

In Item Content Template, put {%3}

The percentage blocks are placeholders and the numbers represents the information taken from the raw data. In short, you got the item link in %1, the name in %2 and the price in %3 and you’re letting the page know where you want to put those things. Press Preview.

Feed43 03

You can now click the link that pops up to get to your RSS feed. This will never expire, but if you want a link with a name that’s easier to remember, you need to sign up for an account. We’re all done, as long as you have that link, you’ll have a RSS feed for your store.

Feed43 04

I hope you found this tutorial useful. If you did, please share it with your friends.

Leave a comment

AtomP Reviews – Far Cry Series – Part 3 – Far Cry 3

In continuation of the Far Cry series it’s time to look at Far Cry 3. The previous two games in the series both managed to be very different games whilst also managing to retain a degree of continuity, Far Cry 3 is both an exception to this rule whilst simultaneously reinforcing it. Far Cry 3 is to Far Cry 2 what a Big Mac is to a burger: all the pieces are similar but one feels distinctly more commercial and artificial. This is not a pre-judgement by any stretch, trust me on that, but it is merely a statement that Far Cry 3 manages to not be Far Cry 2, for better or for worse.

 

Many of the trends in game play mechanics that Far Cry 2 introduced carry on through into Far Cry 3. There is an open world, where completing side missions will provide weapon unlocks and other perks, the collectible system is expanded to the nth degree with a considerable amount of roaming around necessary and the general open world sandbox game play that was part of what made Far Cry 2 so compelling is present. Gone however are the respawning checkpoints, instead outposts are cleared out which will in turn clear out the vast majority of enemy presence in the surrounding area. I can see why this was done, the respawning checkpoints made getting around in Far Cry 2 difficult… but that was exactly the point. The point of the respawning checkpoints was to avoid player complacency, so that no matter how powerful they felt they would always have a sense of risk in even the simplest mission, it operated to maintain the hostility of the environment towards the player, fitting into the overall theme.

 

Far Cry 3 operates on a different theme to the second game with the player assisting the Rebels (good guys) against the invading mercenary forces (bad guys). This is yet another attempt at a post-colonial plot, however it is nowhere near as well constructed as its predecessor, yes that had the advantage of recycling an existing story but still Far Cry 3 struggles. The conflict is too transparent, too black and white. The combination of the white-man, his corrupted local warlord and the vicious hand of the market into an amorphous blob of “baddie” is a complex message portrayed with all of the elegance of a potato shape stamp. The “Rebels” as well suffer the same semantic fate, existing as the Oriental answer to the “baddie” Occident: a people steeped in absurd traditions barely comprehensible to the westerner and fuelled by drugs and chants. The player character is intended to be a westerner of such distaste that no even the intended western audience can tolerate him, however this same intolerable fool is transformed from the Occidental extreme to the Oriental extreme. The intention of Far Cry 3’s plot and setting is, I believe, very much along the lines of Edward Said’s Orientalism, however the point was lost when it stopped being a parody. Perhaps the author’s intentions were good: make clear the ridiculousness of the still pervasive post-colonial Orientalist attitude that in making a parody so absurd that it can only be a critique, but I feel that the audience was wrong. Far Cry 2 managed to convey much of what it did through having game play that cemented the theme and plot of the game: the portrayal of central Africa, with its complex multi-actor conflicts and post-colonial hangups was made more real by breaking weapons, respawning checkpoints and malaria. Far Cry 3 has missed this point because the game play supports the simplified world-view that the audience of such a game want, whilst the narrative wants to deal with issues of far greater complexity. The literary equivalent would be writing a critique of post-colonialism with the reading age and understanding of a 5 year old.

 

The game play then: which is to most intents and purposes an expanded but sanitised version of its predecessor. The weapon upgrade system has borrowed a great deal from more popular, dare I say it, simpler games within the genre. Much of the game feels this way, for example the weapon breaking is now gone and once a weapon is picked up from an enemy that variant is unlocked permanently. I’d like to say that Far Cry 3 is bad because it shoe-horned in Assassin’s Creed game play elements, but I can’t as I am unable bring myself to sit through the utterly dull unskippable cutscenes, especially when the first person and actually compelling Dishonoured exists. Either way, the game play in Far Cry 3 becomes a map clearing operation, moving between exploration points, without any real danger once the local outpost has been cleared. In a significant twist of irony, in pulling respawning checkpoints out of Far Cry 3 in order to satisfy a certain under-educated demographic Ubisoft managed to turn Far Cry 3 into a glorified “walking simulator”, a genre that the same demographic loathe and vomit proverbial bile on whenever and wherever they can. The open world game play of this sort is fairly entertaining, the sandbox nature is certainly freeing for the player and it’s quite possible to avoid the pitfalls of boring island fever by ignoring the outposts completely. What you won’t be able to do is get to the other half of the map, which is locked behind story missions which are a whole rant of their own.

 

The story missions in Far Cry 2 were not entirely different from the side missions, they were a certain geographic space with an objective and the rest was up to you. Far Cry 3 decided to pull its story missions from the hand-holding single player bullcrap that CoD and Battlefield have made so prevalent. They are the single most in-the-moment frustrating thing about the game, as much as I have qualms about many of the deep-seated issues in the game it was the story missions that drove rage-quits. There is no choice, no option and no freedom. The player is either following a very tight corridor (ironically carved through the open terrain) or is literally forced into an on-the-rails vehicle section. Game difficulty becomes a farce at this point, as given the choice of attack angles and methods the hardest difficulty is an interesting challenge in the sandbox, but in the story missions it becomes an irritating retry festival of irritation as the limited health and specified weapon sets ensure rapid death every time. I’m not complaining that the game is too hard, I’m complaining that these frankly awful story missions don’t belong in the game at all. It’s like giving someone a cake but only allowing them to eat the jam from between the layers, with a very specific and ill-suited chopstick. It is this odd combination of two very different game design theories that generates much of the real-time frustration and I assure you that if Far Cry 3 had existed only as its story missions I would be lambasting it into the ground.

 

In general though, once you’ve looked past the deep-seated issues with the narrative and avoided the awful on-rails story missions Far Cry 3 is a lot of fun, it’s a ridiculous sandbox playground with the occasional cat turd buried in it. There’s also the slight issue of Uplay which is a requirement, and due to being fairly new, you’ll need a reasonably powerful PC running Windows. This is far from a toaster game, and to be fair if you have the hardware to run Far Cry 3 then you probably already know it. In short, I think the game can be picked up pretty cheap nowadays, £15.00 (approx $23.00) on Steam.

 

Far Cry 3 on Steam:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/220240/

 

 

Leave a comment

Album Review: Hantasi – Vacant Places

Contending quietly for the mallsoft microgenre, Hantasi finds deviance from the vaporwave breed by situating it’s proverbial a e s t h e t i c s in a more traditional setting. Visions of old America are set into a dizzy swing-and-sway by way of rose-tinted horns, slow ragtime pianos, and jovial summertime romanticism. Fleeting reveries of carousel rides effervesce in a hypnotic swirl on opener “Welcome” to immerse the listener into the nostalgic “Lobby”. Bustling noir jazz looms over “Bookstore”, while on the flipside “2nd Floor” opts for sea salt ice cream and sun-bleached boardwalks. There’s even something for fans of more typical mallsoft, such as the drifting echoes of “Abandoned” or the dainty and muffled “Restroom” – and of course the more characteristically vaporwave “Food Court”. The vaporwavey sense of commercial grandeur is ever-present, but it takes a look at it from a fresh perspective.

Though catering to different eras, the mission is the same – create a desolate atmosphere by visiting abandoned mall tracks, and doing it while filtered through the haunting echo of overhead speakers and low fidelity. Vacant Places may be brimming with life in theory, but as the name suggests there is no one there to listen to these scenic embellishments. As merry moods make way for merry times, there’s an obvious lack of human presence where you expect there should be, and this fact nips at your feet through the entire album. No families crowding around the carousel, no actual shoppers at these cornucopia kiosks and vendors – only the ominous groaning of these tracks echoing endlessly down vast empty places of gathering now completely wasted. Sure, “Welcome” was a resplendent carnival at one point, but underneath the entirety of the track is a dark low-end that reminds you these sounds are bouncing off of empty walls. The package reeks of the ambient goodies mallsoft fans happily indulge in, and does it without pandering to the idea that all abandoned malls are from the 80s.

 

Name-Your-Price download and stream it here

Leave a comment

AtomP Reviews – Far Cry Series – Part 2 – Far Cry 2

The Far Cry franchise has been around for some time now and the evolution of the series has produced some radically different games which for the most part each manage to represent their own individual era and the tropes associated with it. For this reason I’m currently writing a four part series with an article covering each game. This week we are looking at the second game in the series: Far Cry 2. Far Cry 2 represents quite an interesting shift in direction for the franchise and set many of the tropes that were fleshed out in the later games. For its uniqueness and change in direction Far Cry 2 earns itself a Marmite effect, it’s loved by some and hated by some with little in between.

 

Unlike its predecessor, Far Cry 2 is an open-world sandbox with the only gating being between the two areas which are determined in terms of unlock by story mission progression. Rather than player progression being measured through a narrative directed series of levels and connecting corridors Far Cry 2 allows players the ability to roam free across the map completing both story missions and side missions. The side missions allowed unlocks of weapons and such, which could then be purchased and used in innovative and fun ways. The game never pushed too hard on this open-world RPG-esque acquisition of gameplay elements, there is no levelling per se thus avoiding the playing to-make-the-numbers-bigger game. This is significantly different from the original Far Cry, as was discussed last week and this is probably where some of the displeasure came from upon receipt. For anyone looking for the narrative driven linear shooter structure, coming away from the likes of Far Cry and Half Life, Far Cry 2 is going to be a slap in the face. In those examples the narrative is unavoidable, refusing to play a “story mission” as it were would result in being restricted to a single level. Far Cry 2 however is such that avoiding “story missions” is fairly avoidable until the unlock for the next half of the map becomes something you desire, however in terms of choice, it’s the players’. The interesting thing is really that this doesn’t so much represent a move away from the traditional tropes of the original but instead expands those areas where it experimented. Far Cry 2 represents the logical extension of the wide-open levels of the original, the choice of a stealthy or aggressive approach and the option to approach an objective how you want to. The choice of approach is even present in story missions, something horribly omitted by later iterations. Missions are triggered based upon an area rather than time, which means that if you really want to swim up on the target area from behind and confuse the AI, you can.

 

In addition to some of the more sweeping changes the second game also introduced small things that turned out to be surprisingly important. Take the weapon system, unlock the weapon with a side mission and it would become available in good condition from weapon stores however pick-up a weapon from the ground and it will be in an appropriate condition considering the circumstances, ie, horrifically bad. This means that whilst the run, gun and replace tactics of other shooters can work, more often than not the weapon will be in such poor condition that it will most likely jam. The same can also be said for the ammo in higher difficulties as enemies have very little on them when looted, although at the highest difficulty I reckon that this is taken a little too far as the enemies will happily expend countless magazines at you if seen but only have a handful of rounds if killed stealthily, but hey it’s a Stalker-esque problem. It was changes like these that pushed Far Cry 2 into being something new, perhaps not entirely new in the genre (see Stalker) but certainly something new for a mainstream shooter. Another addition to the game which is interesting and makes the world seem very alive and hostile is the respawning checkpoints. In many shooter games that could be considered open-world the act of clearing an enemy base or checkpoint will render that area clear of enemies however Far Cry 2 has them respawn, this makes the world seem alive and dangerous but at the expense of convenience as on higher difficulties just reaching your destination is far from a sure thing. Some didn’t take to kindly to this, but then they probably didn’t like the setting, the actors, the weapon mechanics or the malaria and I hope they enjoy their boring uninspired jingoistic Call of Duty crap.

 

Take for example the geographical setting and the mechanics built into that: Whilst the player has free-will within the sandbox there are also certain limiting factors beyond just the edge of the map, one of most controversial of these from a gameplay standpoint is the malaria system. The player contracts malaria very soon after arriving and must complete a certain type of side mission in order to acquire more malaria medicine, failure to do so will lead to the disease killing the player. This is an usual addition to the game and in my opinion an interesting one that further cements many of the themes that the game explores. The game is set in a fictional collapsed Central African state, with the principal actors in the conflict being two rebel factions whom are unsurprisingly linked to Afrikaans speaking bush soldiers as the game progresses. For this reason the game never gives any clean or easy answers, The Jackal, the gun-runner you originally came to the country to find spares your life within the first half an hour of gameplay which sets the tone of the moral fuzziness that the entire narrative immerses itself in. There are no good guys, both rebel groups are as brutal as they can be and The Jackal acts more as an agent of chaos, which is appropriate considering his occupation. There is a great deal borrowed from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, to the extent that it can be considered a modernised adaptation. On that Far Cry 2 does what neither its predecessor nor successors manage, to have a narrative so morally muddied by themes of civilisation, violence and (post)colonialism that its actually fairly profound and intelligent. This is not a game where the player character is a special all-American hero, nor is it some jingoistic patriotic circle-jerk, it’s a game where the whole damn situation is fucked and your solution to it, what you went in there thinking would solve the problem is actually proving to be petrol on the fire.

 

Central Africa and its rather difficult past problems with colonialism and the more difficult problems with postcolonialism is a hugely under-explored topic in a game genre that is generally obsessed with conflict and violence. (It’s generally under-explored in most media really). I think it may be Far Cry 2 and its reception among some that manage to show exactly why this is: The region and its various conflicts don’t fit into the neat and tidy politics at the heart of the first person shooter genre, there are no American good guys, or Russian/Muslim bad guys, no perfectly orchestrated “shock and awe” campaigns, no modern weapon tech porn, there are are just people and chaos and killing with whatever will do the job. The relationship that later Far Cry games have with these themes is tenuous by Far Cry 3 (which does a great deal “ironically” in an attempt to make up the distance) and completely irrelevant by Far Cry 4 which is essentially just a big, colourful gun-filled theme park. I’ll discuss these in their own respective articles, but needless to say they don’t manage to match what Far Cry 2 is and in many areas represent a regression.

 

The setting also altered the manner in which the game is played, along with the gameplay traits that I mentioned earlier. The player can go from fighting in dense jungle to almost desert to savannah in what is a very varied world. The game also has a day/night cycle, dynamic weather and some interesting fire and physics simulations that alter how situations may unfurl. One of my more vivid memories from Far Cry 2 was on a highest difficulty playthrough attempting to survive in an abandoned sandstone constructed African style village with an M249 and a rather significant number of people looking for me, it was a challenging situation to be in. There is actually a great deal more to say on Far Cry 2, however for the sake of brevity and your sanity I will stop here, all I can say is that if you have any interest in a slightly left-of-field shooter which puts its successors to shame then Far Cry 2 should be on your wish list. The game is currently available bundled with its DLC for £9.99 (approx $15.20) from Steam or DRM free from GOG for £6.69 (approx $10.15). It’s a reasonably old game so even mid-range desktop hardware should be able to run it without too much drama, it is however Windows only although the Wine DB entry on it looks fairly promising if you’re on Linux and are willing to use Wine.

 

Far Cry 2 on GOG.com

http://www.gog.com/game/far_cry_2_fortunes_edition

 

Far Cry 2 on Steam:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/19900/

 

 

Leave a comment

The Torch News Week 4

Martin Scorsese Shelves Presidential Documentary 

Legendary Director Martin Scorsese has scrapped his half finished documentary about former US president Bill Clinton. Two years of footage have been shelved due issues over control. The former President reportedly wanted more control over the project including the interview questions and the final cut of the documentary. A spokes person for TV network HBO commented, ” It’s not happening soon but that doesn’t mean its not going to happen.”
Star Trek Alien Closed Beta

Game developers Samba have announced details regarding its second closed beta for their new free to play game Star Trek Alien Domain The second closed beta was launched on Jan 22nd 2015 and is scheduled to run on February 6th 2015.

Relay for Life of Second Life Season Announced

Relay for Life once again comes to the virtual world of Second Life for their
11th Season. This years season called, the future is now, will kick off on March 7th 2015 and will run to August 2015.

 Powerglove Lead Guitarist Says Farewell

Boston Metal Band Powerglove said farewell to their lead guitarist Chris Marchiel, via an annoucement on their Facebook Page. Chris comments in this farewell to their fans, that he could no longer split his focus between becoming a game developer and music. He states, “Powerglove was a huge part of my life and always will be, and in the world of music it’s basically a miracle to spend a decade in a band and truly part as friends.”

Leave a comment

Far Cry Series – Part 1 – Far Cry

The Far Cry franchise has been around for some time now and the evolution of the series has produced some radically different games which for the most part each manage to represent their own individual era and the tropes associated with it. For this reason I’m going to write a four part series with an article covering each game. I had originally intended to review just Far Cry 4, but quickly realised that doing so without referencing the others in the series would be difficult at best as a Far Cry game can only really be judged as one among others, not alone. This week is the start, looking at the original Far Cry. This game is of a reasonable age but don’t let that put your off, it is responsible for spawning no less than two separate game franchises and deserves the honour of doing so. Far Cry was the baby of Ubisoft and Crytek, a partnership that ended in divorce and the Far Cry legacy was divided between parties with Ubisoft surprisingly taking the game and transforming it into the quite different and experimental Far Cry 2 whilst Crytek continued on to create the Crysis series, a varied but on the whole strong set of games in their own right. Crysis however is the not subject of this series, that would be Far Cry and whilst I am itching to discuss Far Cry 2 we should really begin with the genesis point of the whole affair: Far Cry.

 

The original Far Cry was something of an interesting creature. At the time its paradise-like tropical island setting combined with its very impressive graphics engine to produce a visual treat which would make my cheap GeForce FX card sitting inside a tweaked Dell workstation scream in pain. Alas my first experience of Far Cry was this, barely scraping the system requirements and this really was the game that sparked my interest in PC customisation and building. I eventually got to experience Far Cry properly and my was it a good game.

 

The gameplay itself was quite something: if it must be described as a corridor shooter then the caveat would surely be that the corridors were immensely wide. Unlike its actual successor Far Cry 2 the original is not an open world, however many of the levels were very large and open which really allowed Far Cry to shine in doing what it does well: choice. Previous first person shooters had mastered the narrative experience, guiding the player and having them deal with certain enemies in certain ways. Half Life and its sequels are of course the master of this, Far Cry however goes a different route with the choice of approach. Even earlier shooters are notable for having large sprawling levels, but only a limited variety of gameplay styles available to utilise on these maps. Far Cry does it differently, it doesn’t mandate stealth in stealth sections, or gun heavy blasting in straight up shooter sections, instead the player is given the choice on how they approach the enemy and the objective. It’s possible to whack the difficulty down and blow through the game all guns blazing, just blasting everything into dust. Alternatively you can stick the difficulty up and take advantage of the stealth mechanics which for a non-stealth centric game (like Thief) were well developed. The line of sight mechanics, soft cover, intelligent adaptive AI and sound modelling provided a rich environment for those that enjoy a good sneak. This is a trend that the franchise has carried on throughout its various iterations, however it started here with the original. There are of course some issues to be found in this form of game design, glitches and the like which naturally occur from a series of interacting game systems that allow such a great variety in permeations. This is something that has scared many developers away from creating this form of single-player experience, as ridiculous movie-like scripted bullcrap like Call of Duty and the woeful Battlefield campaigns show an approach to game design that is so afraid of players seeing the seams that it becomes bland and featureless. Far Cry is one of the few triple-A game franchises that still isn’t afraid of showing the seams occasionally, even if they do then feel that it’s necessary to maintain a forced ironic self-awareness of the procedurally generated flaws and imperfections, however that is for later iterations mostly. The first in the series is no stranger to a little self-awareness, as the narrative and protagonist read much like the games’ early predecessors in the FPS genre: it’s only an alien invasion away from Doom’s space marine trope, and that’s perfectly fine. Far Cry doesn’t try too hard with this, it doesn’t need to because whilst its successors feel the need to inject forced juvenile irony into themselves as a self-defence mechanism against the critique of the ridiculousness created by their dynamic worlds, the original is largely immune from such issues. Far Cry at the time was not a trope in the same way as it is today and therefore the light hearted humour, silly story and self-awareness worked in the same way as in the recent Wolfenstein. (No, I won’t shut up about that game, it’s fantastic, go play it).

 

Far Cry remains an absolute staple in shooter history and is still a great deal of fun today. Whilst it may lack many of the bells and whistles that modern shooters have brought to the table: in-game economies, weapon customisation, open-world gameplay, etc, the fundamental shooter elements that make a good and entertaining shooter are absolutely present. Far Cry retains the old-school shooter approach of having one weapon per type and that’s fine, because in the original Far Cry that’s all you need, because it is very much of the old-school shooter era and form. There’s a degree of purity in it thanks to that: no side-missions or fetch quests or collectibles to spend hours running around hunting down, instead there is just an unadulterated shooter experience that focuses on exactly that, the shooting. Whilst I do appreciate the direction that the franchise has moved in terms of game mechanics and design, the original represents almost the polar opposite of what the franchise is today.

 

Today playing a campaign mission in a Far Cry game is a chore, a scripted sequence filled on-the-rails adaptation of CoD ridiculousness and an absolute farce of the focused and clean experience of the original Far Cry. The original game represents the single-player focussed campaign style that the series has forgotten, by the way of attempting to modernise the model to follow the hand-holding tropes of today. Somewhat sadly the things that make the newer games in the franchise entertaining are not the same as those that make their origin entertaining, instead the openness is what was taken from the original and expanded at the expense of the story campaign. Perhaps Far Cry managed the balance perfectly, an open enough world that still allowed for a focused narrative, perhaps its open-world offspring are attempting to have their cake and eat it too in attempting both enjoyable open-world game play and a narrative centric story mode. I don’t really think so and in fact I believe that in the design of the story elements of modern Far Cry games there is a huge amount to be learned from the original. The open-world nature of modern Far Cry games screams to be used in story missions much like the sprawling levels that made the original so appealing and revolutionary. Yes there are issues with this approach: things might break and QA becomes a nightmare of attempting to explore every possible approach and outcome that might break the mission scripting, however surely it must be better and more faithful to the franchise than the current dialectic structure of the fantastically open-world game play and the scripted hand-holding of story missions. I will explore these issues in more depth in the appropriate parts (parts 3 and 4 to be precise) however it remains relevant here as the original is the gem of the franchise in terms of a directed but open experience.

 

As I have mentioned, the story of Far Cry is of the eighties action movie variety with a holidaying ex-soldier forced to confront a tropical island filled with mercenaries and worse. There’s not really much more to it and there doesn’t need to be, depth in narrative is not really one of the game’s aims (unlike the new Wolfenstein which actually managed to pull off a surprising amount of depth, and yes maybe I will marry it as I love it so much!) Latter Far Cry games approached story in differing ways with the second actually coming the closest to some real depth with its heart of darkness adaptation. The most recent ones, as I stated earlier, tend to use a forced sense of irony and self-awareness to cover up the inevitable seams that show through their open-world silliness. I’ll discuss these in more detail in the relevant articles, but lets just say that Far Cry 4 is probably the most extreme variant of this whereas the narrative in Far Cry 3 needs a lot saying about it elsewhere. The original Far Cry got away with what it did at the time, probably because it existed in a world uninfluenced by the tropes of its own creation, however I feel that even released today it wouldn’t do too badly although again it would be seen as an ironic or retro statement of game and narrative design, although such theorising is irrelevant because it just ends in a paradox. Far Cry is a product of its time, a focussed shooter that offered a tantalising view of what shooters may be able to become in the Half Life 2 era and with advances in technology.

 

Speaking about the graphics and aesthetics of a game in hindsight is often a minefield as the Morrowind-effect enters the frame. Everyone remembers Morrowind as being far more visually appealing and gorgeous than it actually was, anyone that has gone back to it will be able to tell you as much. Far Cry doesn’t quite suffer as badly as Morrowind however it is far from immune. The poly count is noticeably low as is the texture resolution, giving the game an attractive yet cartoony look. It isn’t bad to look at per se, but it certainly hasn’t retained the visual finesse of its much lauded half-brother Crysis. That isn’t to say that Far Cry is unplayable like some games of its era and once a short acclimatisation period is done you’ll probably be quite accustomed to and happy with the fidelity, just don’t jump clear from Far Cry 4 to Far Cry 1 and expect a similar graphical fidelity. System requirement-wise, Far Cry is an old game which means pretty much anything should be able to run it in some form or another. The last computer that I used that struggled with it had a Pentium 4 and an old Nvidia GeForce that I scraped together pocket money to buy. I believe that it’s still Windows only however I’m fairly certain that in absolutely dire circumstances it may well function in Wine.

 

Far Cry really was a fantastic game, and to a good degree remains so, as long as you’re not expecting too much from it. The game followed and expanded many of the tropes of its time and managed to spawn two separate offshoot game series from the two principal actors involved in its creation and the only other game that I can think where such a thing has happened is the venerable yet brilliant Operation Flashpoint. It’s also cheap as chips more often than not and if you haven’t played it then I would recommend getting hold of a copy and playing it through. That recommendation is just about on par with my recommendation to play Half Life and Half Life 2 for the general game fan and is up there with FEAR for the shooter fan. It’s a bit of gaming history, so much so that we’re still seeing its relatives released every year or so. Give it a shot next time you get the chance.

 

Far Cry on Steam:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/13520/

Leave a comment

#1: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

 

In this first of a series, I look at the first books in a series and tell you whether are not they are worth your time. This week it’s that awesome Sci-fi comedy that takes you into the depth of space The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Amazon  

The Audiobook read my Stephen Fry

Sf Debris’ Opinionated Look At Douglas Adam 

1 Comment

Barton’s Movie Reviews – FOCUS

On the surface, Focus looks the part as a flashy crime drama with Will Smith and Margot Robbie as the two leads however, scratch beneath the surface a little and it turns out there isn’t really a lot to the film as a whole. This is another classic case of style over substance in Hollywood.

Focus stars Will Smith as Nicky Spurgeon, a seasoned con-man who becomes romantically involved with Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) while training her up to work as part of his team of con-men. 

Nicky’s feelings for Jess start to get in the way of his work and it isn’t long before the two find themselves in hot water with those they have ripped off in the past.

Will Smith has become a bit of a forgotten man in Hollywood, which feels weird to say as he was the man of the moment around eight years ago with films such as I Am Legend and Hancock

After the dreadful After Earth and a brief appearance in the dire Winter’s Tale, it feels good to say that Focus does feel like a mini comeback for Will Smith. Smith acts far less like the plank of wood he had become in recent films and shows signs of the charisma that made him so watchable in his early career. He was one of my favourite actors when I was growing up so to see signs of a career revival is a good sight.

Alongside Smith, Margot Robbie does a decent job in making sure she isn’t just the eye candy of the film, much like her performance in The Wolf of Wall Street. She adds glamour to the film but with it comes a certain amount of bite. I cannot wait to see what she does with Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad.

While the performances are good, the problem lies with the characters. With the type of crime drama that Focus is, it is important that the audience take to the characters. Unfortunately, I just felt that there were some points that made the characters so hard to like that I just didn’t care what happened to them. 

The other main problem I had with Focus was the story. Believe me when I say that things do get a little far-fetched throughout and there are plenty of twists and turns however, there is one last twist that I fear is the point where Focus may lose some of its audience. I wasn’t surprised to see some people get up and leave at that point.

I had to pinch myself when I saw in the end credits that the film had a con artist adviser and a pickpocket designer.

Focus is certainly a bit over the top in places but it remains watchable due to the performances of Will Smith and Margot Robbie. A big deal is made in the film about remaining focused and never dropping the con, it would have been nice though if the directors had taken note and focused on making this film much better.

 

Verdict: 2.5/5

Advertisements
Leave a comment

2015 Menswear Fashion Week ~ Press Release

Siren Productions and SCALA along with Cultured the Magazine, DesigningSL, Dope Magazine, ECLIPSE Magazine, iNOVARE Magazine, L’HOMME, ModeLS Magazine, Seraphim, SL Live Radio welcome you to Menswear Fashion Week 2015 March 27th-April 4th, 2015! Menswear Fashion Week has been around for six years and always brings great fashion, exciting shows, fun parties, and fashionable men  to the forefront of the grid. We have some very exciting things planned as we take a vacation and get ready to jet off on an island hop to  tropical locals.

Siren Productions is bringing you the brightest and best of Men’s Fashion in Second Life!  Siren is so proud to have so many wonderful designers back with them on their exotic holiday this year including: Gabriel, Faster Pussycat, Akeruka, Gizza Creations, Dynasty, Vitamen, Aitui, SWAGGA, and Zibska to name a few. Having booked their ticket and joining them this year are some hot new designers Cool Nerd, CREDO, Tellaq, Tag, BOND7, ILLMVTIC, and David Heather. Siren Productions will have everything you are going to need on your vacation to paradise from hair and skins right down to shoes and accessories!

This will be Siren Productions second year participating with Relay for Life. They are so excited! Siren wanted to raise 100K last year and managed to raise 150K. This year they want to double that and raise 250K! To do that, Siren Productions has organized game nights planned with Cultured the Magazine and iNOVARE Magazine. They have a 12 Hour Dj Dance Event with SL Live Radio on the 5th of April, 2015. Siren Productions is also producing 6 hours of Art and Jazz by the sea. Not to mention all the designers that are creating releases just to benefit RFL!

In addition, fabulous themed shows including an underwater adventure and visiting the temples and ancient ruins in the tropical getaway is planned. Siren is combining fashion and music in a live concert runway show featuring MADONNA on April 5th, 2015 at 12pm SL. To follow Siren check out the website  for updated party and show information.  You can follow Siren on Facebook,

Menswear Fashion Week Page and Flickr.

If that is not enough there will be tons of new sensational clothing for the fashionable man about Second Life! Each and every designer is debuting fabulous new releases at the event! Some are even debuting entirely new collections. This will be the first place to see them and purchase them! Get them while they are hot and fresh!

Hope to see you all at Menswear Fashion Week 2015!

Yours Truly,

Lexie Jansma

Siren Productions Owner

Here is a sneak peak for the upcoming event:

Leave a comment

BARTON PREDICTS | THE 87th ACADEMY AWARDS

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. The awards season has been in full swing and it all culminates this Sunday evening with the 87th Academy Awards. 

It’s the biggest night in Hollywood and after yet another stellar year in film, the categories are full of deserved nominees and potential winners, even if the standard snub has occurred here and there.

The nominees are full of ex-winners and some searching for that maiden win that will elevate their status in Hollywood. It’s sure to be an interesting night but will there be any surprises?

Below are my predictions for eight of the awards including: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

I haven’t had the chance to see every film so for that reason I can’t predict every award so without further or do, here are my predictions…

Best Picture

Nominees:

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

And the winner is…

If I was going by what my heart is telling me then I would be saying Whiplash will take the big prize but as that is never going to happen, this is going to be a straight fight between Boyhood and Birdman. By all accounts the fight is not as one-sided as I first thought, with Birdman picking up a lot of late buzz for this award. It will be Boyhood that walks away victorious and rightly so. As well as being a great film, Boyhood is an outstanding achievement in filmmaking, the likes of which have never been seen in film before. 

Best Actor

Nominees:

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

And the winner is…

Never mind the snubs, this is going to be one of the hardest awards to call of the entire night. Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne are the two favourites and this one is going to go right down to the wire. If this was based on the single performance I would be saying Redmayne but we know that’s never the case with the Academy Awards as they do take into consideration an actor’s entire body of work. Both deliver performances of the highest order in their respective films and both would be worthy winners but I think Keaton will end the night with the golden statue in hand. 

Best Actress

Nominees:

Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)

Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

And the winner is…

One of the strongest categories in this year’s awards comes in the Best Actress category. While strong, I can’t see anyone stopping Julianne Moore for her portrayal of a woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a great performance and Moore has the advantage of having several nominations in her locker and no win as of yet.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Robert Duvall (The Judge)

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

Edward Norton (Birdman)

Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)

This is for me, the biggest lock of the night with J. K. Simmons a certainty to be crowned for his powerhouse performance in Whiplash. The other nominees might as well be practicing their expressions of disappointment for when his name is inevitably read out. No shocks at all here so lets swiftly move on.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Laura Dern (Wild)

Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

Emma Stone (Birdman)

Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)


Apart from the Academy wasting a nomination slot for Meryl Streep, this is a pretty strong batch of nominees. I would argue that it is once again a two horse race, this time between Patricia Arquette and Emma Stone, but with her sweeping all of the other award ceremonies, Arquette is the clear favourite here for her performance in Boyhood.



Best Director

Nominees:

Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman)

Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)

Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

And the winner is…

Boyhood is a great film but it wouldn’t have captured the hearts of audiences around the world without director Richard Linklater’s passion and desire to get it made. No other director has ever attempted anything that ambitious and for it to be pulled off to such effect is reason enough for Linklater to be crowned this year. Expect Boyhood to win the double of Best Picture and Director.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo)

Boyhood (Richard Linklater)

Foxcatcher (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness)

NIghtcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

And the winner is…

 

I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and one of its stand-out features was its screenplay. Full of wit, charm and a fantastic array of characters, Anderson and Guinness would be deserved winners of this prize.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: 

American Sniper (Jason Hall)

The Imitation Game (Graham Moore)

Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)

The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten)

Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

And the winner is…

I would absolutely love for Damien Chazelle to win for Whiplash. J. K. Simmons’ performance relies heavily on Chazelle’s screenplay and that surely is worthy of a win. Keeping my fingers crossed for you Damien.

And there you have it. My predictions for the 87th Academy Awards. Now watch me be totally wrong.