Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Green Lantern video game: God of War, Green Lantern style!

Let's face it – video games that are movie tie-ins usually stink. They almost always have poor graphics and they have gameplay that's either way too easy or impossibly hard, but never anything in between – AND they can generally be counted on to be hopelessly bound, creatively, by the movie they're based on. It also doesn't seem to matter if the original movie was a good one or a bad one – the game can generally be counted on to be bad. (Though Pixar films are visually state-of-the-art, there's yet to be a Pixar video game tie-in that looks [or plays] even half as good. The Harry Potter games started off promising and then became progressively worse in quality as the movie series grew and matured. And the James Bond video games, much like the James Bond movies, are hit-and-miss quality-wise.)

In spite of this woefully poor record, I actually picked up a copy of the new game, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters. I expected it to stink as much as any other movie tie-in. To my great surprise, though, this game is actually FUN.

Maybe it helps that the game's only obvious ties to the Green Lantern movie are skin deep. It DOES use Ryan Reynolds' voice and likeness for Hal, and there are a few design elements from the movie – but all similarities to the movie end there. If you're at all familiar with the popular video game God of War, that's what this game is – it's God of War, Green Lantern-style, and it's AWESOME.

In the game, of course, as Green Lantern, you can generate constructs – some of which, like the maces-and-chains, are incredibly cool and do a great deal of damage. (My personal favorite construct is the giant baseball bat – and Hal has surprisingly good form swinging that thing.) The graphics are even rather good quality, especially for a movie tie-in. Everything is all nice and glowy and pretty, as you would expect the Green Lantern universe to be.

It's not a perfect game, by any means, but it's very fun to play – I found it neither too easy nor too hard, and just challenging enough. There are three levels of play: Emerald Knight, Enforcer, and Poozer(!). You begin with a few basic constructs and then can form much more elaborate constructs as you gain experience. The game also follows a plot that's very faithful to the Green Lantern universe: Hal, Sinestro, and Kilowog are on Oa. Hal has been a Green Lantern only for a little while, and the three Lanterns are making funeral preparations for Abin Sur. Suddenly, the Manhunter robots attack. The Guardians tell the Lanterns to (more or less), “GO GET 'EM, BOYS,” and the game is on!

The battle begins on Oa, moves to Zamaron, and then movies to Biot (the Manhunter homeworld) before moving back to Oa. The main protagonist is Hal, and in one-player mode you're stuck with being Hal. In 2-player mode, though, the second player gets to be Sinestro, and there are some very nifty attacks that Hal and Sinestro can orchestrate together. (I'm very fond of the Baseball maneuver, shown in the following image.) And while you don't get to play as Kilowog, you do get to fight alongside him a bit – and rescue him from the Manhunters. The other Lanterns really don't put in an appearance, but the Zamarons certainly do!

The main villain isn't one that's a huge surprise for regular GL readers, but the game creators did a good job of setting up the main bad guy – and the final battle. Along the way, there are plenty of bad guys, and plenty of big (Boss) battles. The way to get through the really tough battles is to come up with the right combination of constructs (Sword? Turret gun? Battle armor? Giant hammer...?) that's the most effective against specific foes. I'm not used to having to use shields when playing first-person fighting games, but I definitely had to use them in a couple of battles here.

And, believe it or not, the Zamarons are a pain in the #%$# to fight.

A few minor gripes:

- I think I'm too used to playing DC Universe Online, because I kind of resented the fact that my freedom of movement was restricted to what this game wanted me to do – but I guess that's normal for a game like this.

- The cut scenes are rather good, but there doesn't seem to be any way to skip past them. That became very annoying whenever I ran into a Boss that kept "killing" me, and I ended up having to re-watch the same friggin' cut scene over and over and over …

- Ryan Reynolds is GOOD as Hal, but I got kind of tired of him saying “What the hell” all the time. I blame the script.

- There are some flying missions, and the controls for those are a WEE bit too sensitive. It helps a lot, though, to build up Hal's ring power so that it surges. This encases Hal in a fighter jet, complete with heat-seeking missiles!

All in all, though – FUN game! Better than a movie tie-in game deserves to be, really.

There's one small, inspired detail in the game that I absolutely love. It's a precious, precious detail that's NOT in the movie. I'm not even sure it's ever, even been explored in the comics: In the game, Hal's ring talks – just like it does in the comics. The VOICE of Hal's ring is a WOMAN's voice. A very NICE and SEXY-sounding woman's voice. I LOVE that detail. It's so perfect, and goes a long way toward explaining a LOT about Hal's relationship with his ring.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green Lantern movie review: By GL fans for certain GL fans

SPOILERS ahead: This movie was definitely influenced by a very specific GL fan – namely, longtime GL writer Geoff Johns, who is listed as a co-producer. The movie has his fingerprints all over it. Heck, even most of Kilowog's lines are straight out of Johns' Secret Origin story.

That said – I loved the movie. I really didn't expect to love it, but I was pleasantly surprised. So (I think) was most of the audience I was sitting with. I only read Roger Ebert's review prior to going to see the movie, because he and I agree more often than not on movies. He thought the movie was reasonably entertaining, so I figured it was worth my time and money. Hey, it's the Green Lantern universe, which is one of the most interesting universes in super-hero comics. That alone makes the movie worth at least a look-see.

Mr. Sea and I saw the movie Friday night at Trader's Point here in Indy. We sat in on the 2D version, and the theater was PACKED. Best of all, it was packed with people who were mostly wearing GL t-shirts, so I know we were in gloriously geeky company. As a whole, the audience seemed to really enjoy the movie. They laughed, and they CHEERED and CLAPPED. It's been a while since I sat in a theater with an audience that was having so much fun.

I also thought the movie was surprisingly kid-friendly, for a PG-13 film. There are some very slight hints at sexuality that would go over most kids' heads, and the villains can be a little scary, but I wouldn't hesitate to let Mighty Mite watch this movie. She loves action movies and super-heroes, and I think this would be a fun movie for her. GL fans expecting the blood and gore of the GL Corps comic would be VERY disappointed, though. GL fans expecting to see Secret Origin word for word are also going to be disappointed.

MANY longtime GL plot details and traditions have been changed for the movie, but they didn't bother me in the slightest – and I've been a Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) fan for 40 years. It's a MOVIE, not the comics. Quality-wise, it's not Dark Knight or Spider-Man 2 (it does drag in a couple of spots, and some of the editing is choppy), but I thought it was at least as good as the very first X-men movie.

Ryan Reynolds is FUN as Hal and gets some good lines ("By the power of Greyskull!"), and Blake Lively is a much better Carol Ferris than I thought she'd be. Bless her heart, she actually gets to do the ONE THING that I always wanted to see in the comics, because it's something I've always suspected of Carol (though for YEARS in the comics, Carol didn't let on about this AT ALL): In the movie, she recognizes Hal as Green Lantern ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. Best of all, she gives him HELL about his lame attempts to hide his identity (“I've seen you NAKED!”). It's beautiful – and very funny.

Actually, I thought it was a very funny film in general, especially for Hal Jordan fans. Let's face it -- Hal Jordan, the comic book character, is rather dull, and though Hal IS very heroic, he's also an arrogant jerk. Half the fun of being a Hal Jordan comic book fan is watching how his much-more-interesting supporting cast REACTS to the fact that he's such an arrogant, yet heroic, jerk. The movie is no different -- the other characters, including Hal's friends and family, give him hell every chance they get, and Ryan Reynolds does a good job of playing straight man to all of the verbal AND physical abuse hurled his way. It's hilarious, and very much in the spirit of the comics. I can understand how it would be off-putting to casual or more high-minded fans, though. (Just WHY is this a-hole a super-hero? Because the ring chose him. Sorry -- yer stuck with him.)

Tomar-Re and Sinestro are PERFECT, though this Sinestro comes across as so professional and noble, it's hard to picture him as the ruthless dictator that he becomes in the comics. A small scene halfway through the end credits, though, does point to impending corruption – and a good reason WHY Sinestro would become a villain.

There are LOTS of details that probably don't need to be in the movie -- except that they're there for certain GL fans. For example, Hal's brothers and nephew are in the film, in one scene. They don't need to be in the film -- it's a wasted scene. It's there only for people like ME -- "OMG, it's Jack and Jim! And Jack is giving Hal hell, as usual -- COOL!" The movie is FULL of throwaway stuff like that -- stuff that's probably completely lost on average viewers.

A few gripes: I've already mentioned that some of the scenes drag a bit, and some of the editing – especially when the movie switches back and forth between what's going on with Hal and Hector – is a bit choppy. AND it's yet another FRICKIN' super-hero origin story – I am SICK to DEATH of origin stories – but, oh well. There's also the obligatory hero-training scene – which really doesn't accomplish much in the way of training, but it's there to give Kilowog and Sinestro something to do. Also, some changes have been made to the villains Hector Hammond and Parallax that I don't really care for, but they make good sense for the movie. There is also a great deal of romance in the film (not sex, but ROMANCE) -- which viewers are either going to love or hate, depending on their level of interest in Hal's love life. All in all, though, I loved the movie, and it made for a good, entertaining night out.

The Captain America movie is next! Can't wait!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Hunkering down for the "storm of the decade"

Indianapolis has been a pretty darned lucky city this winter, so far. We've had more snow than we usually get, but we haven't been socked with truly horrible winter, like other parts of the USA. However, it appears that our luck is about to change. There's a massive ice storm headed our way, and everyone is calling it the "storm of the decade." SO, I've been stacking firewood in the house, making sure plenty water, milk, bread, batteries, icemelt, candles, and flashlights are available, etc., etc. Our house doesn't usually lose power during storms, but I'm trying to be ready for anything.

Everyone stay safe out there!

Friday, January 21, 2011

DC Universe Online IS pretty darned addictive

I repeat -- I really didn't expect to like this game as much as I do. Yes, I did pick up the full PS3 version once the game was released -- and I think I've mostly been "living" in the DC Universe since then. It doesn't help that my brother and several friends ALSO have the game and we've been getting together online to go beat up bad guys -- or beat up good guys. Gosh darn it, I am HOOKED.

The game is still kinda glitchey and has been experiencing a few "growing pains," resulting in some downtime. So far, these are merely minor annoyances, and the game environment has been sailing right along without too much trouble, at least from a player perspective. I have to say, design-wise, this is one of the better MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online game) that I've seen. I recognize a lot of functional elements from other EA games, like the James Bond and Harry Potter games. Flying is still my favorite thing to do -- but, oh, the powers you can assign your characters are FUN.

Take Alligator, for example. Alligator is a lovely thing -- a villain I created. She's essentially a big female version of Killer Croc -- except she can turn into a pterodactyl. Now THAT's fun.

My favorite character so far, however, is a hero. I couldn't resist recreating my favorite public domain character from the Golden Age -- the Green Lama. He's been running around the DCUO Countdown world, and I've gotten him up to level 22 so far. My version looks a bit more blantantly superhero-ish than other versions (including even Alex Ross's interpretation), but I think he's still recognizable as the Green Lama.

Actually, for an obscure public domain character, the Green Lama has been a busy boy of late -- what with being an active superhero in Dynamite Comics' lineup , and starring in a pulp novel by Adam Lance Garcia. I haven't read that novel yet -- I really need to pick it up. For now, though, I'm gonna continue to have fun putting Jet through his paces in the DCU.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Superman's wardrobe is going up for auction

Here in the Indianapolis area is a man who owns a great deal of Superman live-action film memomorabilia. After trying unsuccessfully to showcase his collection in a local "superhero museum," Dane Nash has run into a bit of misfortune. Financial problems have forced him to liquidate his collection in a court-ordered auction, to be held January 22.

There are some impressive items in this collection, especially if you're a Superman fan. In particular, it includes Superman costumes going all the way back to George Reeves.

It's sad that the guy has to give these things up -- but if he's in financial dire straits, it's probably a good thing that he DOES have these items available, to help bail him out!

I wonder if this is the same man who used to own the Batboat from the old 1960s Batman TV show? It did used to be here in Indy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Oh, I DO love to fly!

I really didn't intend to get hooked on this game. I curse my brother every day, because if not for him, I wouldn't even OWN a PlayStation 3 (PS3). But, darn it, over the holidays, he downloaded the Beta version of DC Universe Online -- and I got hopelessly hooked. The Beta is down now -- it was pulled off the network the other night in preparation for the official finished game release, which is next Tuesday. YES, I went out and reserved a copy, so I can pick it up and install it on Tuesday. I miss the Beta, and must have the game -- which is probably EXACTLY what Sony, Warner Brothers, and DC hoped would happen to a great many gamers. CURSE THEM!

Oh, but it's FUN. The premise is this, and it's an old JLA chestnut with a twist: Lex Luthor drops in from the future to inform Supes, Bats, and Wondy that Brainiac took over the earth because all of the heroes and villains were too busy wiping each other out to stop him. SO, Luthor came to the past to warn everyone -- and also to infect the earth with Brainiac-created nano technology that enables ordinary folks from earth to become super-powered, so they can join in the fight. THAT's where the players come in.

As a player, I got to create my own character, with my own powers, choose a mentor (Supes, Bats, or Wondy for heroes; Luthor, Joker, or Circe for villains), and go kick butt. I chose the hero side and Wonder Woman as my mentor -- and created a character based on my favorite ol' public domain GREEN hero (more on that some other time). THEN I got to run around. OH, it was fun. My character can fly, and flying is wonderful. I hadn't expected it to be as much fun as it is. I could have been a speedster, or an acrobat -- but, really, nothing beats flying.

Game environments so far are split between fully-realized versions of Gotham and Metropolis. It's downright surreal to be able to run around these two cities and go pretty much wherever I want. My character was based in Metropolis, so that's where I did the most exploring. Some details still need to be hammered out by the game creators, but I had a heck of a lot of fun running around the city. Nabbed a few muggers, too!

There's too much to explain about this game, so I'm just going to touch on a few things I did and/or noticed. (Anyone who wants to know more can visit the game's official site at -->

- The JLA satellite is HUGE, but well worth exploring. The funniest thing I encountered early in the Beta launch was Supergirl hanging around in the Meta wing, dressed in a skankier-than-usual version of her costume, with bikini briefs in place of her skirt, and no cape. I went up to her to talk to her and she said, "Cool costume! Wonder if I should change mine? Maybe later." Several days later, I met up with her in the same place, and she was back to wearing her skirt and cape -- and looking a LOT less skanky. Too funny.

- The villains do have a Hall of Doom, but I didn't explore it too much.

- Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill DO voice Batman and the Joker. Hooray!

- Oracle provides remote assistance to hero players, and Calculator assists villain players. It's a really nice setup.

- Players can choose to engage in PVP (player-vs-player) mode or not. You don't HAVE to interact with other players, though it is encouraged. You can also form teams and what not. Teams can pool their resources and create their own online virtual group bank accounts and make group equipment purchases. (They can also host dance parties.)

- I got to team up with Zatanna to fight Felix Faust. It was FUN. I also got to take on ALL of the Titans at the same time, who had been possessed by Trigon. That WASN'T so fun. I got my butt kicked several times before I figured out how to stop 'em all.

- Players start off at level 1 and can progress all the way to level 30. I got up to Level 15 -- and STILL managed to get my butt kicked by Bane, who was a measely Level 10. Grrrrrr.

- Did I mention that I love flying? I love being able to fly away from a battle when I'm getting too close to getting knocked out, and then just hovering somewhere until I regain enough health to rejoin the battle. It's also so PEACEFUL to be able to fly high above the city, or the water, and just -- fly. There's something very, well, ZEN about it for lack of a better word. I just love it.

- The cities are full of kiosks containing tour information by Booster Gold, in the best Booster Gold fashion. The recordings are a hoot.

- Every player starts off in a Brainiac ship, where Brainiac is supposedly keeping captured humans to try to remove his nano technology from them. Every player "wakes up" on the ship and has to escape -- every single time a new character is created. It's kinda monotonous if you want to create a bunch of different characters (a hero AND a villain, say). EXCEPT, one time I was shocked to encounter Ambush Bug up there! Yes, Ambush Bug is present in the game, and he seems to pop up wherever and whenever he pleases.

- I DID encounter several Green Lanterns, including Hal. Actually, my encounter with Hal was kinda weird. I was exploring Metropolis and found the Daily Planet building, which had been "bottled" by Brainiac. Hal was there standing on the sidewalk and apparently just looking at the building. I walked up to him -- and if it's possible for a virtual gaming character to look startled, he came awfully darned close. He responded with a sort-of "welcome-aboard-and-thanks-for-fighting-the-good-fight" and then flew away. It was WEIRD.

- While exploring the Metropolis energy plant, I ran into a full-blown Sinestro Corps War. There were Green Lantern and Sinestro Corp members all over the place, beating the tar out of each other. They were all Level 22, so there was no WAY I was wading into THAT battle. However, a Sinestro Corps member came after me and I had no choice but to fight him off. I actually beat him! And then I immediately got the paint kicked out of me by a whole bunch of Sinestro Corps members who jumped me in retaliation. When I came to, there was a Green Lantern chick standing over me, offering to buy or sell equipment or fix anything of mine that was broken. I just took the opportunity to get outta Dodge, so to speak.

- I wasn't TOO surprised to see a LOT of Marvel fans running around, with Marvel-based creations. One player I talked to said, yes, he WAS a Marvel fan, but the game looked so cool that he just HAD to try it. He loved it and said he wished Marvel had something like it. I had to explain to him who Booster Gold and Oracle were. He was a bit shocked by the whole Barbara Gordon tale.

So, that's it. I'm HOOKED. I'm DOOMED. Soooooo DOOMED.