Post E3 Hypocrisy - SONY - Admitting I like stuff

So now that I got my initial explosive rage at E3 out of my system, it's time to take a moment to address hypocrisy. For as much as I fume about the event I still have to admit that I do wait for websites to have their master list of new trailers and videos at the end of it all. Once bereft of their press conference bollocks, I can sift through the media onslaught of cinematics and try and find things I might be excited for. 

In all fairness my AAA exhaustion has more than settled in and because I know I'm not going to purchase a PS4 or XBONE. Having not really concerned myself with too much of the news regarding new releases for them both. Although I am a huge fan of the Uncharted series, I don't expect for the fourth installment to be anything drastically different outside of the impressive rise in graphical representation. The writing will still be sharp, the characters will still be well realized, the adventure will still be grand and exciting, and it will still be a quality entry in the franchise. No one expects NaughtyDog to produce a rushed out product that will disappoint. My issue with it is that, at the end of the day, it's going to be what it has always been, a third person cover based shooter. A damn fine one, that I will truly enjoy and like the other three I will absolutely adore. But it isn't so radically different that I NEED to spend an exorbitant amount of money to get my hands on right away. I can wait for the whole experience to reduce in price, and more importantly, and wait for the hype train to come to a complete stop.

If they announced Uncharted 4 to be an open world treasure hunting island adventure bigger than Skyrim and with live multiplayer co-op both on and offline, I would be far more enticed to consider it. But a single teaser cinematic trailer tells me nothing outside of upgraded graphics which is going to be wildly different to make it an unmissable gameplay experience. Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking Uncharted 4, I'm just saying I'm not rabid with anticipation to the point where I'm going to shovel my money at Sony... not yet anyway. It's going to take a whole lot more than that to sway my wanting to accrue the financial burden of what is essentially just a toy. 

To cut a long story a bit longer, if I happened to have a large amount of disposable income I would absolutely be getting a PS4, but not right out of the gate. I made that mistake before with the PS3, but that's a tale for another time. The exclusives that I care most about are all in the Playstation stable, but those games haven't been released yet, so why rush?

The previously mentioned Uncharted series ranks chief among my reasons for choosing a Playstation4, as well as God of war, and most of all Ratchet &  Clank. I consider that the trio of Playstation titles that make me know that I am a fan, because I certainly can't think of an exclusive trilogy for the competition that makes me feel the same way. However if any news comes out for those games it will be a cinematic teaser first, not a gameplay demo. And what's worse, there is still time for these to become Xbox One exclusives! Strange as it may sound, in the gaming industry at least, stranger things have most definitely happened.

My thoughts on E3 - Why I think it's a load of Bollocks

     Another E3 has come and loads of new announcements and game reveals are underway, as the hype machine finishes refueling and departs the station at light speed. I always seem to get a chip on my shoulder every year when this event rolls around, and within my circle of video gaming enthusiasts it seem I am in the minority in terms of how I view the event. Some of my friends like to watch the press conference for the gaffs and live mess-ups that are entertaining, some like seeing trailers or gameplay footage, and others watch to feel like they are a part of the frontlines of the gaming press. But I see the whole event as something far more sinister.

     E3 to me is not an event that boasts consumer advocacy to protect the costly investments of people who spend more then they should on quickly dated technology. E3 isn't a place where gamers are shown thanks for their dedication to franchises with stagnating quality by getting the requests they've been making for years. What E3 is, and last years focus on new consoles really cemented this idea for me, is a press event for shareholders. It is their open-to-the-public board room meeting where the biggest investors are shown the tricks to having people give them money for the next few years. It is carefully constructed and precisely calculated in order to give the illusion of "this is all for you because we love you,' while actually being just an elaborate slideshow of false promises and half-truths.

     Year after year these major gaming corporations bring out celebrities that have nothing to do with video games, and musical acts that are woefully out of place. That's because they are trying to appeal to as many non-gamers as possible. On the one hand, it's a good thing that there are more people playing video games than ever before. On the other more heavy handed hand, the one we are actually being presented with annually, they aren't bringing in more people with the merits of the medium that lifelong gamers have cherished/developed over years. But rather the pomp and circumstance that you would find in a magician's stage show. And that's what E3 is, an act.

     An act to make you, the consumer, feel like you are heard and cared for. But if you stop remember the empty promises of the last several E3's, a pattern emerges. False value placed on the expectations they push onto you, which you are supposed to applaud them for, and also forgive them when they under deliver. If there wasn't such fervor for something as simple as a new trailer or sneak peeks, then game publishers might not be as rushed as they are to get games out to market on time. Instead, they have to compete for the same holiday window and E3-style press events, forcing developers to push out ideas they know they aren't going to have time to complete. And that's the key word, completion.

     E3 boasts a ton of what-if's and potential to get you excited from something that will almost always be the same thing that you got on the previous generation of gaming console. A franchise like Dynasty Warriors doesn't pretend to be something it's not. It's an old school battleground hack-and-slash and it always will be. But for each Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty that comes out every single year, people treat these in such a "nothing will ever be the same" way that it forces hype to be the most important factor of a trailer. And when marketers are the most important part of your video game, then what you get is just an advertisement and an over-saturated market that ultimately hurts gamers. 

     If E3 was about fan appreciation, than there would have been a Final Fantasy 7 HD remake. If it was about catering to fans, then over priced map packs would have been $0.99 each and go towards charity. If it was about keeping their promises that they made the year before, then half of each major presentation would be apologizing for being unable to meet the very same expectations that they set up for everyone. But all these things is what E3 isn't. Because what E3 most certainly is, is hype. Because when people buy into hype they become rabid. And a rabid consumer will waste more of their money than an informed consumer will.

The trouble with Robocop

2014 saw the remake of Robocop hit the big screen. The original was a brilliant action sci-fi film from 1987 that was in no way asking to be remade. Being such a big fan of the original film I was pretty excited for the release of this movie. My enthusiasm waned with every screenshot that was released during its production, but I was reserving any judgement until after I had seen the movie from start to finish. Soon enough the time came, and despite my utter willingness to let many issues slide in the hope of a fun and competent movie, I left the cinema utterly dissapointed and somewhat heart broken. This could have been a great movie. And now with its release on DVD and Blu-Ray, I figure it's as good a time as any to air some of my personal grievances with the movie.

Let's get a few things out of the way first. The acting in this movie was pretty good. Gary Oldman, Jackie Earle Haley, and Samuel L. Jackson stand out far among the rest, and the titular Robocop being played by Joel Kinnaman wasn't all that bad either. They just didn't give him much to work with. Factoring in the poor performances of Michael Keaton and Abbie Cornish would probably average the acting in this movie to just above okay. My major gripes with the film have very little to do with the acting performances, but more so with the story and direction of the film.

The visuals are nice at the outset and I'm especially impressed with the actual Robocop suit itself, as it looked appropriately modernized and, before the all-black paint job, looked amazing. The CGI wasn't bad either at the start of the movie, when automated bipedal drones and ED-209 units patrol a neighborhood. It looked like something out of Elysium (a far better movie). Things seemed to be off to a good start when the movie first starts up, but soon after it all begins to crumble at an exponential rate.

It's when the action finally starts (and there isn't much to speak of in this movie unfortunately) that things get pretty dismal. They decided to use mostly CGI for everything, which makes Robocop dive into the uncanny valley and everyone else like they are straight out of a Playstation 2 video game cut scene. Compounded by the incredibly short cuts that don't let you focus on anything, the complete lack of choreography, and worst of all the shaky-cam, the action sequences in this will induce nausea in even the most stalwart of viewers. The director of this movie should be slapped across the eyes for not making use of the technology available in an interesting or unique way. The climactic battle where Robocop faces off against numerous ED-209 units is borderline hilarious. Robocop dances underneath one of the giant walking mechs while taking cover behind their legs and firing pot shots at the other ED-209 units. Somehow he winds up on top of one and tears out its circuitry, but the poor CGI makes it look like a deleted scene from the first God of War game. I kept half expecting quick time event inputs to flash on the screen as if I were holding a game controller.

How could this have been rectified? My first instinct is to go back to what made the first movie so memorable. The use of practical effects has helped the original Robocop to still look real. Despite their understanding of future technology looking silly by today's standards, it still comes off as being more human (pardon the pun) and easier to believe. Why not actually have actors engage in a shootout with some well thought out blocking to showcase how effective Robocop's new targeting system can be? With trick shots being emphasized to take out someone holding a hostage perhaps like in Robocop 2? But instead one of the big set pieces takes place completely in the dark. With only muzzle flashes from gunfire to light up the room for microseconds at a time. It's like something out of a Paul W.S. Anderson movie for goodness sake! When Equilibrium did this for an opening gun fight at the start of their movie, it was to set the tone and show off some weird (albeit dated looking) special effects that both represent what sets the main characters apart, while providing popcorn action for audiences who came to see an action movie. But in this film it happens towards the end of the story and you're already bored to tears at that point.

Another major, and in my opinion more tragic, loss from the original Robocop was the TV commercials. In the first movie, acts were broken up by brief news clips that were always followed by hilarious ads that did something very important. Each advertisement went a long way towards world-building for the near-future Detroit setting that was essential to making the movie as fun as it was. And although on the surface they may seem like funny diversions to break up the serious tone of the movie, they gave you a very grounded understanding of the world the movie took place in. They have been replaced by a very enthusiastic Samuel L. Jackson, portraying a very Fox News-esque talk show program that has an obvious agenda bias. But somehow, they seem to not really have an agenda, if that makes sense. The program doesn't necessarily come off as having a specific opinion about drones, one way or the other, despite that being the main focus of the shows accusations. It might lean in one direction, but doesn't make the bold assertive claims that those types of shows are known for! 

Those two major components of the remake are woefully missing or serve only to disconnect the audience to what's happening on screen. Add into that the terrible side plot of Robocop's family and his wife (who is crying in every scene she is in) and their son (played by a child actor who looks like he is on valium) and you get even more superfluous, boring footage that doesn't need to be there. The waste of a partner, who had such a strong presence in the original film, is now a character that serves only to be sidelined in an injury in order to spur the titular "hero" into action, it makes the whole experience frustrating for those who appreciate the real Robocop film. 

In short, don't buy this movie now that it's on disc to own. Wait for it to show up on HBO or Netflix and watch it there first. Even if you liked it in the theaters, I get the very distinct notion that it will not age well at all, and repeat viewings will serve only to highlight the staggering problems behind this movie.