Sunday, March 10, 2013

Capsule reviews returns!

Its been a really long time since my last blog.. lots of stuff going on in my life in the interim - which is a fair excuse. There was a time frame when I actually stopped gaming (yep!) - I got married to my "chosen one" and obviously, the priorities on the demands which could take up my free time were entirely different ;)

To cut to the chase, I did eventually rev up my PC again, though I no longer have marathon play sessions. And before I start forgetting what games I played and if I liked them or not, let me publish these capsule reviews. Please note that these includes all the games I played since my last post.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 : 85 - Yet another strong team co-op based military FPS. Vast arenas and decent AI ensure a thouroughly enjoyable and challenging ride chasing terrorists..

GTA IV - Episodes from Liberty City : 89 - Uses the rich and huge GTA IV Liberty City map to allow the player to follow the story lines of  more "criminal" types. The 3 stories intersect at times, rewarding GTA IV fans. Some new activities are also added to keep this interesting.

Battlefield - Bad Company 2 : 89 - Yet another co-op based modern war game, featuring stunning graphics, a decent storyline, great variety of locales and mission types and interesting characters mouthing plausible dialogue which keeps the players immersed in the experience.

The Witcher Enhanced Edition : 89 - A very interesting action/RPG take with the protagonist Geralt making a lot of moral choices across missions requiring dealing with humans and monsters, both friends and foes. A lot of missions are also interlinked, providing more satisfaction when multiple challenges are surmounted.

Stranglehold : 85 - John Woo presents this game and it is everything you can expect from him - superb action, stunning slo-mo and standoff sequences, unique style based kills and lots of pigeons flying around. There is also a simple story which can hold this action "movie" together. The only drawback in this adrenaline filled game is the duration - once the player starts hitting the style straps, the game can be completed in a few hours.

Dead Rising 2 : 86 - A zombie killing game with a difference! Set in a richly detailed Fortune City environment,  the protagonist is kept on his toes as he attempts to save multiple survivors and find out who framed him, working against very tight schedules. The only real downer is that the tight mission timelines dont allow for proper exploration of the city itself.. which has its own set of delights and options.

Cryostasis : 79 - Has an interesting premise.. of taking over "dead" people in the past and changing their last actions so that the present is different. This sets up an overall storyline of a frozen ship stuck on a glacier near the North Pole escaping from its grave due to the actions of the player (the beginning and the end are linked this way). Also notable is an innovative health mechanism. But, poor execution of the main concept and clunky, sometimes monotonic game play take away from the fun a bit.

Call of Duty: World at War : 87 - Yet another excellent CoD game. Set during WWII, the game follows the exploits of a US officer (fighting in Japan) and a Russian officer (fighting in Germany). With AI co-op players and a variety of high adrenaline missions, this is one long rush of FPS gaming!

Quantum of Solace : 81 - A competitive play-through of the events of "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" (the Bond movies). The graphics are average, there is not too much going on in game play variety, but still provides a fast-paced FPS game taking the story along.

Just Cause 2 : 91 - Combines the free-flowing 3-dimensional protagonist navigation of Prototype with the wide variety of missions of GTA in an amazingly huge and open sandbox world, leading to hours and hours of exciting and addictive game play. Hats off to the makers of a game which makes almost any far-fetched stunt possible. The main storyline also has a few high-adrenaline and awesome action sequences, which ensure bang for the buck.

James Bond 007 - Blood Stone :
81 - Another upto-the-mark Bond game, this time with an original storyline. Combines some routine shooter action with heavy duty vehicle chases for a fast, but short ride chasing criminals.

Mafia 2 : 85 - Has a seemingly sandbox-style open world, but, like in the first part, the environment is used just as a backdrop to drive the strong story forward. Very good single player campaign. The map is used a bit further in the DLC episodes, but not too much unique is added in them.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent : 89 - In the days of stereotyped big budget games, here comes a little gem! A moody, atmospheric horror/thriller game with absolutely no chance of "fighting" - when enemies show up, the only options are to run or hide. Superb use of environment to create an element of fear right through the game. Story unfolds as the player solves a series of interesting puzzles in order to understand his current predicament. Not too high on production values, but very very good never-the-less.

Borderlands : 92 - Takes the Fallout "huge open-world action-RPG" template, adds some really unique twists in terms of gameplay - with vehicles and innumerable guns, giving hours and hours of superb and entertaining gaming. The DLCs also provide great value, with some of them being almost equivalent to a full FPS by themselves!

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light : 81 - A standard action/puzzle solving console port with a solid collection of things to do and solve. Nothing too unique or exciting though. DLCs add very little value. Game suffers from the usual console camera angles issues. Overall good for one time play through.

Darksiders : 87 - Takes some of the best elements from multiple games (including jump-hooks & portals!) and puts them in a standard action/puzzle-solving platformer. A simple storyline also adds to the effect with the hero "War" on a path of revenge. Good variety of "combos" and "skills" provide enough challenge at each new location.

Machinarium : 83 - A very interesting and different puzzle-solving game built on the Flash platform. Has a simple storyline of a robot escaping from a precarious situation and saving his "girlfriend" robot in the process, but throws up a number of unique and sometimes complex puzzles which makes finding every solution a happy moment.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood : 88 - Yet another excellent entry in the AC franchise.. plays out very similar to AC2, with a few improvements to keep things interesting. The main story arc continues its incredible journey, with another huge twist at the ending to keep gamers waiting in anticipation for the next release.

Call of Duty: Black Ops : 82 - The latest entry to the CoD series. Puts together the now standard "variety of game play mechanics played from different viewpoints" style and is set during the Kennedy-Vietnam time frame. Technically very good and plays out well over its FPS storyline.

Dead Space 2 : 89 - Builds surprisingly well on the first part, which was very imaginative but seemed to lack scope for further enhancements. The same tricks are back, the horror elements are well played out, there is more variety in the game play and the zero-gravity segments are a lot more challenging. There are some interesting storyline elements too, making it a top notch entertainer.

Bulletstorm : 87 - A super-fun return to the good old FPS genre. Game uses "skillshots" to get the players to perform kills in a number of entertaining ways. Anything goes and a combination of factors can be used to gain even more points. Gorgeous graphics and a bare bones storyline make for a superb experience - the very definition of gaming at its fun-est!

The Witcher 2 : 91 - Great follow-up to the first part, which seemed a bit rough around the edges. This sequel offers everything that a action role-playing game should provide - solid action, interesting puzzles, unexpected side-quests and moral decisions affecting proceedings in a variety of ways long after the player forgets making them! The only possible drawback is the playing time.. as the game quickly winds down after an engaging and pace-setting second chapter.

Portal 2 : 91 - Awesome game - always keeps the brain ticking and carries forward (& is better) from where the first part ended. Great dialogues, full-blown sarcasm and yet another awesome ending song make it a memorable experience. I was forced to play the co-op mode by myself (which meant I couldn't complete the last map), but even then it showed off a level of innovation matched by none. Not to be missed!

Crysis 2 : 89 - A great FPS! Uses the "nanosuit" with special powers concept to give an awesome experience. Completely changes the setting to a city under attack, but maintains the very high graphics, music and technical standards of the first part. Very fast pace is maintained and the suit lends itself to tactical gun play and interesting combat situations.

Mass Effect 3 : 91 - A very satisfying "movie-like" ending (though with some glaring loopholes) to a great trilogy. Continues the strengths of the previous 2 versions and provides a robust combination of main and side quests to play-through. As always, interesting in-game comments lend more immersion and interest to the game. The combination of weapons and biotics keeps things dynamic & fresh. Well played Bioware!

F.E.A.R. 3 : 79 - Continues the FPS-horror setup from the first 2 games and takes it to a conclusion "of sorts". The ability to play as "Point Man" & "Fettel" does add some variety to the play-through, though both versions are surprisingly the same (the game developers could have added more variety). A good-old "linear-only" FPS game!

Batman: Arkham City : 92 - A superb follow-up game. Maintains the best from the previous part and also adds enough new challenges and gadgets to keep things very interesting. The free flowing game play (no guns!!) and wide variety of combat/exploration moves make every situation unique. A solid storyline and mind-bending riddler challenges spread across a huge open-world map keep the brain engaged too. Must-play!

Max Payne 3 : 88 - Max Payne of the "bullet-time" fame returns! A much older Max is setup in a much deeper storyline and is aided by cut scenes (a lot of them) and enough spectacular action set-pieces to keep the adrenaline flowing. The only major game play change is the addition of a cover system (which has its positives), but it seems to take out a bit of the pure fun of dodging into a room full of goons and taking them out in bullet-time. However, better graphics, better audio, better storyline, better variety of sequences to play - all make this a great game.

Thats that for now... its a time of great change for the gaming world.. with the PS4 & XBOX720 (or whatever its gonna be called) also moving to the "PC" style architecture. Just goes to show that "PC gaming" will always be the best!

Till next time (which is hopefully not another 3 years).. happy keyboard mashing!

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Gaming capsule!!

The last few months have seen some hectic gaming... I now have the rig to run HD gaming and it is a real pleasure to be able to play at 1920x1080 with AA turned on.. who says PC gaming is dying? The consoles are not looking at a refresh for another 5 years (with all the new motion control devices), so PC graphics will be the peak for quite some time...

All right then, let me proceed with the "capsule" summary for the games I've played in 2010 till date... as always, contact me if you want more details on the game or on locations where you can purchase said games..

Far Cry 2 : 81 - Very different from FC1. Set in Africa with stupendous graphics and a huge open environment. But, inanely boring driving-around, with redundant clashes in between makes finishing missions a chore sometimes. "Buddies" routinely send the player to opposite ends of the map to get something done. Feels like a first-person version of GTA, without some of the fun!

Halo 2 : 84 - Continues the fast, fun and furious first-person-normal, third-person-vehicle gameplay of Halo in a story arc which sets up the final part of the game.

Call Of Duty - Modern Warfare 2 : 89 - Short play time, but a superbly current storyline switching between various hotspots in the world and a wide variety of mission "types" set in near-real graphical maps make for an enthralling experience.

Prototype : 91 - A "biological weapon" with superpowers (read parkour over anything, amazing attack and defense abilities) is the protagonist setting about finding how this happened to him in a big open-world set in New York city. Varied missions, side-plots and an ever-developing storyline lend solid effect. Being in control of such power in a world with lots of things to do makes for a lot of fun!

Resident Evil 5 : 87 - Another solid "RE" offering, filled with all the things which make this series a success (specifically RE4). Full length co-operative gameplay (a partner plays alongside) and an attempt at on-vehicle shooting are the new additions. Good graphics and a competent storyline add to the effect. Limited ammo and constant challenges keep the player at an edge through-out, adding to the thrills.

Assassin's Creed : 86 - Set in parallel timelines, with a present day commoner acting out the memories of his ancestor, a member of the Assassin's Creed. The story develops in both timelines, making an otherwise repetitive game a gripping one. Missions involve planning and executing high-profile targets.

Assassin's Creed 2 : 94 - AC2 is required to show that AC1 was just a simple and repetitive game with an abrupt yet interesting ending. Better in almost every way, with a great storyline linking up fact and fiction (past and present) to give an immersive feeling. Has an absolutely stunning climax which sets the stage for the third (& hopefully final) part.

Bioshock 2 : 90 - Very similar to part 1 (except towards the ending), but the plasmids and the strong father-daughter sequences, along with an interesting storyline revealed in tidbits along the way , ensure that the game remains as entertaining as ever.

Section 8 : 81 - Meant to be played as a multiplayer, but has a short single-player campaign which demonstrates the fast and furious gameplay on all the built-in maps. Swoop down from the sky for some combat!

F.E.A.R 2 - Project Origin : 86 - Back to the good old FPS genre! Continues the story from the original, providing solid and entertaining gameplay, though the scares are not that good in this game (except for short durations, like in the school). Slow-mo shooting is as fun as ever.

GTA IV : 90 - Yet another interesting GTA offering, with enough activities apart from the main storyline to keep things really interesting!

The Chronicles of Riddick - Escape From Butcher Bay : 89 - A "rare" game, having surprisingly good usage of a movie license. It has the stars, it has the voice acting, it has the graphics and it really has a good game! Combining FPS elements with stealth and adventure, leaving Riddick on the edge with no gun power for a majority of the time as he tries to escape from the high security Butcher Bay prison.

The Chronicles of Riddick - Assault on Dark Athena : 82 - Carries on the neat gameplay from the first game.. introduces a couple of new features and a better storyline, but still somehow lacks the "playing-at-the-edge" feeling of EFBB. Solid FPS never-the-less.

Metro 2033 : 85 - A FPS set in a richly detailed post-apocalyptic world, with very little "computer game" type help.. leaving the player to take stock and figure out situations. A nice mix of challenges - shooting, stealth, riding.. Different enemies - humans, aliens, ghosts. AI is sometimes flawed with enemies spotting the player even when they shouldn't be. Nothing really original but a solid experience never-the-less.

Mass Effect 2 : 91 - Scores over part 1 in almost every way.. better graphics, more action, more engrossing storyline and sheer variety of gameplay easily provide over 40 hours of gaming. Captain Shepard returns from the dead to re-build a crack team to take on a new threat to the Universe.. and the mix of various alien species, different weapons and biotics makes for a heady experience!

Mirror's Edge : 82 - An interesting new take on gaming, with the main protagonist being a "runner" moving across a city, using the rooftops, parkour-style. Every level is an adrenaline rush, with some spectacular stunt jumps thrown in for good measure. But, the underlying storyline is not very strong.

Soldier of Fortune II - Double Helix : 83 - Considering the time when it was released, this is a very good FPS, with a wide variety of locations, mission types and scenarios to play through.

Left 4 Dead 2 : 82 - Continues with a package very very similar to the original L4D setting up a team of 4 people to fight against hordes of "infected" in order to survive. Would probably get a much better score if the multiplayer components (the main offering) are considered.

Prince of Persia - The Forgotten Sands : 83 - Yet another solid Prince offering, with puzzles, magic skills and combat spiced up by a simple storyline arc.

Singularity : 85 - Introduces an exciting new gameplay mechanism, the TMD (Time Manipulation Device). It is also coupled with an interesting base storyline which gives it the potential to be the next Half-Life! But then, the TMD is used only for routine FPS maneuvers save for a couple of awesome pre-set sequences. It still makes for a very good shooter, but how much better it could have been...

...thats it for now... I will retreat into my lair again to make use of the latest hardware on the latest games...

Until next time... happy fragging :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inception - Blows your mind!

A movie review from my side after a very long time.. This is one movie I have to document in case I lose my mind in the future and need to re-visit the art of Inception :)

From the time the buzz started building for Inception early this year, the question on everybody's mind (mind, not dream!) was : Can Nolan match the staggering achievement which was "The Dark Knight" (not to forget his filmography leading up to TDK)? The answer is a resounding yes.. with quite a margin!

I first watched the movie on opening day.. and I was highly impressed. I am a sucker for parallel story-lines which interact with each other and this movie takes that genre to a completely different level. But, after the credits rolled, even after discussions with friends who watched the movie with me, there were a lot of open questions.. I watched the movie a second time today, and now I am left with only a few questions... almost everything fits in and is explained at some point in the movie..

And for people walking in to see the movie without being corrupted by a lot of internet reviews and spoilers (it is some experience to watch the unexpected concepts unfold), I would firmly recommend a second viewing.. it reveals so much more than is immediately apparent..

Right, it is now time to document my interpretation of the story... so, if you haven't seen it yet - TURN AWAY.


This is not going to be in the exact order shown in the movie.. I will attempt to put things in a way they can be explained..

Extraction is the art of getting into a persons dream in order to obtain some top-secret information.
An architect is the one who builds the dream.
A target is made to enter (or voluntarily enters) this dream and the target "populates" the dream with his thoughts and sub-conscious.
A host (not actually defined in the movie) is the one who is actually hosting the dream. A host cannot dream in his own dream.
Other "extractors" can enter a dream and influence the target and also go further levels down a dream. They are also responsible for actually getting the secret information.
The architect (initially) and then the host (when active) can modify a dream. But, if there is too much modification, the target's sub-conscious will realize that something is wrong and it will attack the host/architect/extractors who are causing the modifications.
In a dream, the brain works faster, meaning time runs slower. This effect is compounded as the level of the dream increases. So, 10 seconds in real time can amount to hours in a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream.
If anyone "dies" in a dream, they wake up in the level above.
A person can also come out of a dream with a "kick" which is some designated action (like sudden jerk) which will break his/her sleep.
A person will come out of a dream if they are "timed out" too.
A totem is an unique object with unique properties that only the owner knows about. It is used by the owner to ensure that they are not in another persons dream (with too much extraction and seeing real-world objects in dreams, people may no longer know which is real and which is not).
Typically, the architect will build a bank/safe in the dream where the target automatically places his/her most secret thoughts. The job of the extractor then is to get to and open this safe.

Ok.. this is enough "concept" for describing the first half of the movie..

The movie opens with a shot of Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) talking to an old man.. Some wild theory can link this to the next scene, but I am going to ignore the scene for now..

The actual start shows Cobb & Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), his associate, making a pitch to Saito (Ken Watanabe). Cobb is the world's best extractor and he offers to help Saito protect himself, provided Saito reveals his mind to Cobb. Saito says he will consider this and exits. Meanwhile, Cobb meets Mal (Marion Cotillard) who seems to have some sort of hold on him.
Cobb finds the location of Saito's safe and steals the documents there. But, Saito and Mal interrupt him. Mal has alerted Saito that this was a dream.
(Dream Level 2, Target - Saiko, Architect - architect1, Host - most probably Arthur - but not shown clearly)

Now, we know that this entire episode was a dream level.. The group is actually "dreaming" in an apartment somewhere in the Middle-East. In addition to Cobb, Arthur and Saiko, the architect1 is also present here. For the return, Arthur and Saito are killed, while the architect1 makes Cobb take a kick. After a short fight, Saito realizes that this is also a dream level, as the material used on the carpet was not the same as he had put in his mistress' apartment (which was their location).
(Dream Level 1, Target - Saiko, Architect - architect1, Host - architect1)

Then, we finally get back to reality, where the entire team is sitting on a train somewhere (& dreaming) in east Asia.

Cobb and Arthur were thinking they were working for Ceilo Corp (I didnt catch the name properly), with the aim of ransacking business secrets from Saiko's mind. but in reality this was a test which Saito had conducted to see their capabilities. They manage to impress Saito but as far as Ceilo Corp is concerned, they had failed. They attempt to escape, but the architect1 betrays their location and Saito catches up with them and makes a proposition : Make an Inception in return for Cobb's freedom.

Some story catching up here : Cobb is accused of killing his wife (who is Mal) and so is on the run from US Law Enforcement.. He has 2 kids back home, but is unable to return to them. To earn a living, he is now involved in the illegal activity of extraction. Saito's offer is to make all the charges against him disappear.

More concept time :
Inception is the art of planting an idea in another person's mind (as against stealing it). It is much more difficult to do (many think it impossible).
The only way an inception will work is if the idea is put in deep enough and it is simple enough for the target to think that he/she came up with the idea.
Positive emotion will work much better than negative emotion for inception.
Inception would require 3 levels of dreams and with the kind of sedative needed to get so far, a person killed in a dream level actually enters a "limbo" state (& doesn't return to the real world).
Limbo state is the deepest level of dreams and a person can get stuck there for years and years. A person can return from the limbo state by dying (but they dont know that) or by "time-out" at the real world level. But the "time-out" works out to be so many years of desolateness at the limbo level that the person would have lost his/her mind.
Limbo is kind of "shared". Anyone who dies in a dream enters the same limbo. Limbo is totally desolate except for things built by the people who have been in that state.
A kick will bring a person one level up.
Music can be used to warn extractors that a kick is coming and allows synchronization.
External elements (like leaning, water) can penetrate dream levels, typically only 1 level. For example, if a person is pushed into water, the next level is flooded. This is not always true.. similar to how some (not all) real life elements penetrate dreams.

Back to the movie..
The "inception" Saito wants done is to convince the son (Fischer, played by Cillian Murphy) of a business magnate to break up the business empire after hisfather's death. This company is going to run Saito's company out of business - and hence the request.
To get this done, Cobb assembles a team. A new architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) - the brightest student of the man Cobb learnt from, a forger Eames (Tom Hardy) with the ability to disguise himself as someone else and a chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao), who makes special chemicals which allow 3 levels of dreams.

Ariadne is not supposed to be part of the actual "Inception" action, but she learns that Cobb has created a world of his memories (acting against his own advise) wherein he is keeping Mal alive and this is the reason he can no longer be an architect. Whatever he knows, she also knows, being his own creation. Mal was now bursting through his sub-conscious and disrupting any plans he was making - in an attempt to keep him in limbo with her. So, Ariadne also joins the action.

The team studies Fischer and notices that he has a godfather Browning who was also his dad's right-hand. Fischer's dad didn't really love him and Fischer considered Browning to be someone close to him. So, the team decides to use this angle - make Fischer believe that his dad loved him and Browning was actually trying to take over the company. Also, because the dad loved him, he wanted him to be his own man.. which meant not taking over the company, but splitting it into smaller parts and starting afresh.

The "inception" team is 6 members : Cobb, Arthur, Ariadne, Saito, Eames and Yusuf.

When Fischer's father dies, he takes the body from Australia to the US. Saito buys out the plane he travels in so that the team gets a clear 10 hour window to work in (this translates to about 10 years in level 3).

This they plan to achieve in 3 dream stages (most of this plan is made up as the events occur, but I will present as a block) :

(Dream Level 1, Target - Fischer, Architect - Ariadne, Host - Yusuf)
In this stage, the Inception team kidnaps Fischer and demands the code to a locker from him. Eames impersonates Browning and says that the dad had created an alternate will asking for the empire to be split. Fischer doesn't believe this since he thinks that the dad thought he was a disappointment. He also knows of no locker. They force Fischer to spew out six random numbers as a combination. In an unexpected twist for the team, they are attacked. It turns out Fischer has been trained against extraction and his sub-conscious was trying to save him from the Inception team. They get on a to a van (driven by Yusuf) to escape and enter level 2 while on it.
Sidenote : It is raining here because Yusuf forgot to pee before the inception started!

(Dream Level 2, Target - Fischer, Architect - Ariadne, Host - Arthur) (Yusuf cant enter)
In this level, Cobb attempts the risky proposition of telling Fischer that he is in a dream and being attacked. Cobb makes him believe that Browning was not really kidnapped at level 1 and might have hand a hand in it. This creates enough doubt for Fischer's sub-conscious to bring Browning into level 2 and admit guilt. Cobb says that Fischer must now enter Browning's dream to understand what his dad really wanted. This level is a hotel and the 6 numbers Fischer told are used for 2 rooms where most of the action takes place.

(Dream Level 3, Target - Fischer, Architect - Ariadne, Host - Eames) (Arthur cant enter)
This is set in a snow station. Fisher is told to crack open a safe here. The safe has the same combination Fischer told in level 1 and contains a paper-fan he made when was a kid. His dad also says he was disappointed that he "tried" to be like the dad, instead of being his own man. This would plant the seed that the dad really loved him and wanted him to split the company. And this would successfully complete the Inception.

But before this can happen, there are a lot of problems coming from Fischer's sub-conscious attacking them at every stage. Also, Mal tries to interrupt and Cobb is able to resist until the point when the team misses the proposed first kick (the van going off the bridge in level 1, room floor bombed off at level 2). At this point, he realizes things are getting crazy and asks Ariadne to reveal shortcuts in the architecture added by Eames. Once he knows this, Mal enters the picture and shoots down Fischer before he can get to the safe. Cobb has an opportunity to stop her but is not able to pull the trigger. Also, Saito had got hurt in level 1 and it finally catches up to him and he dies in level 3, sending him into Limbo.

So now, the van is off the bridge which means level 2 has become a zero-gravity space. Cobb realizes that there is another opportunity available in about 10 seconds at level 1, when the van hits the water. Arthur would have to come up with a way to get a kick in zero-gravity level 2. He rigs up everyone into an elevator and plants explosives which would force a drop and hence a kick. Meanwhile, Fischer is killed by Mal and Cobb is dejected thinking the mission has failed. But then, Ariadne comes up with a plan - go into limbo and revive Fischer. This means that they would need a kick at level 3, so Cobb asks Eames to set up explosives to collapse the building they are on.

The inception team on the plane (real world) actually has a lot of time, but the events at the other levels leave them with very little time to return to level 1.. so the kicks at all levels need to be synchronized.

(Dream Level 4/Limbo, Target - no one really/Mal is closest, Architect - Cobb/Mal, Host - Cobb) (Eames cant enter)
Cobb and Ariadne enter Limbo. They know that Mal would be hiding Fischer knowing that Cobb would come after him. They find her and Cobb finally confesses his guilt. While experimenting with Mal, they had entered limbo. They lived a long life there.. but Cobb got frustrated as time went on. He wanted to get back to reality, but Mal didnt. She locked her totem away in her "safe". So, Cobb "incepted" the idea that this was a dream (this was how he knew Incpetion was even possible) by getting into her safe and spinning her totem, permanently. But this simple idea was magnified and Mal felt that she was in a dream even when she finally came back to the real world. She wanted to die at every level and get back to reality, even when she was already there. So, she had committed suicide believing it to be escape.

Cobb offers to stay back in Limbo if Mal tells where Fischer is. She does that. Ariadne gets Fischer and pushes him off the building just as Eames uses a defibrillator on him at level 3. This brings him back to level 3 and he completes opening the safe. The "Inception" is successful.

The synchronised kick is started (van hits water in level 1, Arthur uses bombs the lift in level 2, Eames detonates charges in level 3) and Ariadne jumps off the building in level 4 so that they all return to level 1. Ariadne shoots Mal just before she jumps, helping Cobb to finally close the chapter on her.
Cobb stays back in Limbo saying he will find and save Saito. We now go back to the first scene with Cobb talking to the old man. This old man is Saito. It is implied that many years have passed in Limbo. (there are some contrasting old/young shots in Limbo... best suggestion is that people who realize that limbo is not reality dont age as much as those who dont). When they meet, seeing Cobb's totem reminds Saito of the original mission and seeing Saito helps Cobb to remember that Saito was supposed to get charges against him dropped in real time. Saito kills Cobb then himself and they both return to real life.. both having gone very close to losing their minds in Limbo, but saved just in time and returning just before the 10 hour deadline in real time.

The plane lands in the US. Cobb is able to get back to his children. The open ending then questions if this is reality (or) another dream level!

In summary:
Top notch acting, the best technical aspects and a superb musical score which just seems so apt.

It takes quite a visionary to actually put up a story like this on screen, keeping audiences interested and also have them follow the time-tracks, and Nolan delivers big time.

As the credits roll, the brain is numb trying to process all that it has seen (last experienced with "The Matrix") - so there are probably some slip-ups that got glossed over (one phone call from a foreigner can get murder charges dropped in minutes?).. if I find enough, I will update this blog.. but for now, I think this movie is one awesome effort advertising original content!

Whew... that was quite some experience... here are the things which I still had doubts about after my second viewing (further thinking could lead me to answers -or- more questions too!) :
1. When the van goes off the bridge (first kick, level 1), why didn't Arthur wake up?
-> Hypothesis : Maybe a "trained" extractor can resist the kick? But then, the same Arthur was used to demonstrate the kick working everytime.
-> Best answer I've read till now : Inception requires a "synchronised" kick.. meaning, to return from level "y" to level "x", the person should get a kick in both levels at the same time.
I'll have to listen to the dialogue where the music piece in introduced to confirm this.
2. Limbo comes only when people die in a dream. How could Cobb and Ariadne just enter it as though it were Level 4?
-> Hypothesis : Cobb was the only one who had been in limbo before. So, he could just enter it even when alive. Hmm... but limbo is projected as being an "end-all" - if Cobb could get in & out so easily - maybe it isnt so bad after all.

Score : 89 (Deserves to be seen in the theater, at least TWICE!!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gaming rig - Fresh 2010 Load!

After all the HDD turmoil of 2009 and what with new games not running at high resolution on my PC, it was time to get a new machine... I was waiting for the new LGA 1156 architecture to go mainstream so that I could get a non-prohibitively priced system for myself.. and 2010 was the time to do it!

These are the specs on my new rig!

Intel Core-i5-750 @ 2.66GHz
4GB DDR3 @ 1333MHz
DP55WB Intel original MB (with DMI)
GeForce 9800GT with 1GB DDR5 memory (mid-range substitute till Dx11 cards go mainstream)
1TB Seagate HDd (yeah.. Seagate - even after my last post.. there are no real options)
BenQ 22 inch LCD monitor with full HD (1080p) support
.. and the other usual stuff (I still have the 5.1 Creative speaker system from last time)..

And just like that, I am all set to play the latest games at very high resolutions :)

So, after a bit of free time which led to this blog frenzy (yeah, 3 posts is quite something), I will be back into my favorite pasttime..

So, until the next post, whenever that happens, keep fragging.. get a life!!

Seagate HDD woes

2009 was made a bit woeful for me by Seagate, though I dont think it was their specific intention to target me...

Early in the year (or it was end 2008 - the memories are so tragic that I probably blocked them out!), my old 200GB HDD crashed.. fair enough.. it had been heavily abused for about 4 years..

So, I went out and got a shiny (hmmm.. just a figure of speech) new 500GB drive.. the 200GB drive was full of unrecoverable sectors, but at least it was still detected on the BIOS.. so, I revved up some data recovery tools and after a painful 1 month, got back almost all the data I needed to recover from that HDD..

Then, after about 9 event-free months, the big bolt happened.. the 500GB drive crashed.. and this time it was not even detected on the BIOS.. which means I had a dead piece of magnetic storage in my hands.. there was no backup available.. I googled, in vain.. the only new piece of information I got was that the Seagate 500G drives had an alarmingly high failure rate (~18%) around the 1 year mark in case they didnt get a firmware update!

I went to the service center (my reseller, not Seagate direct).. and Seagate policy is : "we will replace/repair the drive with some other drive.. no data warranty".. what??!! "in select geographies, you can pay extra money for data recovery, but not in India".. this was my primary HDD - there is so much data on it that I can never get back.. but Seagate couldn't care less.. "get a USB solution for backup"... now, I can see where this is going.. more business for the company.. I was so frustrated I became a conspiracy theorist... "put out some faulty drives in the market and drive the backup solutions business to big bucks"..

Well, in Seagate's favor, all of these policies which shocked me are clearly stated right when the product is announced... its just something which very few people will bother to find out.. it would be nice if they had atleast auto-rolled out the firmware update for the faulty drives.. this is the age when Toyota is recalling cars.. the least Seagate can do is roll out a software patch..

So, all said and done.. I got a "repaired" 500GB HDD which was wiped clean (full format)... this time, I was more savvy and after the initial OS setup, I started running tests on the drive.. and sure enough, this was a "damaged" drive which someone else had returned... (aaaaaaaaaarghhhh!!)

so, back I went, with evidence of what the Seagate guys had done... its been over a month now and I still haven't got a replacement.. 2 months of downtime, tons of data lost and the travails are not over yet...

I got a new system in the interim, so I atleast have a computer now.. but will there ever be a day when hardware and software companies can be held accountable for "unrecoverable losses" in time and data? Ever?

Some of the games of 2009..

Once again, after a looong gap, an update about the games I played in 2009 (& unlike what the title seems to say, this is not a list of games released in 2009)..

.. the "some" comes about because of some hard disk woes, which I will detail in a separate blog entry..

as always, this is a "summary" review.. contact me if you are interested in more details..

Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box : 86 - Nice racer, with challenges popping up at every street corner. Impressive graphics and car collection. Can get a bit tedious having to drive to every single challenge, especially when only a few are left to do.

Manhunt : 80 - The Old GTA engine is used to setup a simple game which requires violent killings and stealth elements. Can get repetitive after a while once all the killing "styles" are discovered.

Sherlock Holmes - The Awakened : 84 - Complex puzzles in a very good 3D environment make for a very good detective game. Well worth all the frustrating minutes spent looking for that one clue which would take Holmes to the next step.

Prince Of Persia 2008 : 85 - Another classic PoP game, this time in the company of a princess who keeps things very lively. The stunning graphics gameplay as we eliminate the darkness is very satisfying. Has the usual minor glitches in terms of combat and use of console controls in a keyboard.

Fallout 3 : 92 - Post-apocalypse, Washington DC is the setting for an engaging game with the protoganist going in search of his father. Great graphics and gameplay elements in a wide-open world make for hours of engrossing gameplay. The DLC's are above average and add a few more elements to the game.

Resident Evil 4 : 87 - Has a very simple concept of "zombies" attacking the lead character wherever he/she goes. Add in a huge number of diverse and exciting gameplay elements and we have this great game in hand. Interesting storyline progress also helps keep things moving.

Batman - Arkham Asylum : 90 - Wonderful use of Batman's strengths means having a game with the lead character sans a gun, yet provides top notch combat with the escaped prisoners of Arkham. The Bat swoop from high altitudes is an exhilarating graphical experience. The story is also strong and the gadgets get more and more interesting. Dont miss!

Crysis : 85 - Starts off slowly, like a normal FPS but with gorgeous graphics in an open world, and then picks up pace towards the middle as aliens enter to make things interesting. Solid entertainer.

Crysis Warhead : 86 - A parallel story to the main Crysis game, with better managed graphics, faster action and more "cool" dialogues to keep the game moving. It is also a bit easier, and so can be completed in a much shorter timeframe.

Dead Space : 89 - Simple setting of a spaceship which gets infested with alien life, but very well utilised with a futuristic "projection on visor" HUD and an interesting selection of powers and puzzles.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Games of 2008!!

.. or rather, the games I played in 2008.. between my last game blog update and now...

I am putting up only short comments on each game, and please do contact me if you want more..

Splinter Cell - Double Agent : 86 - Very good game where we play both on terrorist side and National security side. Great graphics and good gameplay elements. But crashes for every reload in the "kinshasa" level - developers could have fixed this to make a V. Good game a GREAT game!!

Vampire - The Masquerade Bloodlines : 79 - Nice RPG where we play as a vampire - learning the ropes and then making choices to exist and help innocent people.

Medal Of Honor - Allied Assault : 81 - Old game, but given the time it came out, excellent graphics and lots of innovative gameplay.

Portal : 95 - Superbly innovative puzzle-solving game involving creating portals - takes a poor executed concept in "Prey" and gives it a super spin with GlaDOS as an amazing instructor and the best game ending song - ever!!

Gears Of War : 86 - Absolutely awesome graphics, and a very interesting "fight from cover" system, but that can be a drawback sometimes against multiple enemies. Also, a little bit frustrating "checkpoint" rather than a "save" system. Frustrating becoz we just get rid of a big enemy and then some small fry comes and hits us by accident then we have to replay everything again. But, overall very good game.

Call Of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare : 81 - Great concept, super fast action that keeps coming - no time wasted here. Checkpoint system used much better here. But, downside to all this is that game is pretty short and pretty easy to finish. No real stuff to explore or think and do.

SWAT 4 & SWAT4 Expansion - The Stetchkov Syndicate : 84 - Pretty interesting take on SWAT action. Feels realistic and rewards solid thinking and teamwork. Expansion pack adds to the same kind of fun.

HL2E2 : 92 - We continue on this fascinating adventure with Gordon Freeman and Alyx and it is as fun a ride as ever!! Great graphics, interesting puzzles, rivetting commentary and above all the one standout aspect of this series - great storyline development make this an all-out winner!

Bioshock : 90 - Very interesting premise of an under-sea city and cool "plasmid" gene modifications make for some great gameplay. Also good storyline development keeps the player hooked!!

Rainbow Six - Vegas : 80 - Another standard Tom Clancy offering. Involves team fighting and taking "cover" - good graphics, neatly done.

GTA III : 82 - The first of the GTA third-person view super-interactive series - seems a bit easy after checking out later GTA offerings, but very entertaining neverthless.

Beyond Good And Evil : 81 - really cool and interesting game - has a lot of "wacky" elements which keep the game going at good pace. Only small drawback is it has usual camera and movement problems seen in console ports.

Deus Ex : 91 - A really ambitious game (considering it came out very early this decade) trying to incorporate a number of unique and interesting features, each of which I have seen become USP's in future games. Has only some minor drawbacks like repetition of character models, which can cause confusion. A superb FPS/role-playing combo.

Deus Ex - Invisible War : 89 - More of the kind of gameplay seen in part1. Better graphics. Story nicely interwoven with elements of part1. Some gameplay improvements too, but there are other irritants (long dialogues, etc) which ensure there are still some minor flaws we need to live with.

Mass Effect : 86 - Nice mix of action and RPG elements. Story driven with game adapting itself to many decisions we make.

Grim Fandango : 74 - very interesting storyline and hilarious dialogues, but dated gameplay sometimes makes it a pain to play.

Left4Dead : 76 - Interesting game which pits a group of friends against a big gang of zombies. A smaller, smarter version of "Serious Sam" with a creepy horror twist. Would probably play much, much better on multiplayer.

So then, thats it for now from me... The time is fast approaching when I have to upgrade my system (or else) no new games will run on it :(
I will probably wait till QuadCore and a GTX (Dx10) card get into an affordable rate range before I take the plunge..

As always, till next time.... HAPPY GAMING!!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Kuselan - P. Vasu messes up... again!!

I can only say - this should have been a "good" movie - meant to showcase that even a "larger-than-life" Rajni can do meaningful roles ; but believe me, it isn't.

The film starts off ok introducing a barber (Pasupathi) who lives life with morals and a smile on his face. But even before he can be set fully, starts a round of crass comedy scenes which in turn lead to the introduction of the super-star who was a school-time friend of the barber.

From this point, until about 15 minutes from the end is sheer crap - punch dialouges, songs, etc. meant to potray this film as one where Rajni (and not Pasupathi) is the hero..

Why have a song dedicated to 75 years Tamil cinema when only photos of some 5-6 heros are shown? Is that all Tamil cinema had to contribute in this timeframe?
Whats with having Chandramukhi-2, Padayappa-2 when the shoot bus has "Kuselan" on it?
How come Nayantara is the heroine in all the movies?
An actor gets Z-category protection while on a shoot? (oh yeah, terrorist threat)
Why do you need to have songs, period?
.. and the list goes on...

The movie ends ok, but then the overall effect is not very good.

Vasu (and Rajni) should have had the guts to stick to the original movie storyline instead of messing it up for the sake of money by trying to project this as a "superstar" movie.

Score : 52 (Disappointing end for a promising project)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight - Dark and Gripping!

One first impression - AWESOME!!

Christopher Nolan returns with a superb sequel to what was an interesting (& most required) restart to the Batman franchise. Teaming up with his brother, he delivers a dark and brooding story, which keeps the audience engaged thru' out.

Batman keeps doing good for Gotham, but not everyone perceives him to be a hero... meanwhile a while knight is emerging, DA Harvey Dent who seems to have the best interests of Gotham (and Rachel!!) at heart. This seems to be the perfect setup required for Bruce - let Dent take care of the criminals and end his taxing double-life as Batman...

....until of course The Joker turns up ; a man with no morals and a sheer mission to give the people a "better class of criminal", he shows Gotham how terrorizing a person can be, holding an entire city hostage to his antics.. brilliant!!

I wont discuss the story any further becoz it would be "spoiler-time", but suffice to say it packs in a lot of bang with dark themes and moral dilemmas, every major character has a part to play and is left to question their basic ideals..

Performances are all top notch with Christian Bale and Heath Ledger deserving special mention.. It is indeed a great achievement that Nolan managed to get this much of a good screenplay into what is essential a comic-book summer blockbuster without compromising on the big-setpiece action sequences...

My only real grouse is the ending (which I dont want to reveal) and also possibly using Two-Face pretty lamely (though his story arc lends a lot credence to the Batman-Joker rivalry)..

All said and done - a real gem and possibly the best comic book movie ever (possibly, only because I havent seen all the comic book movies)...

Edit : This came about during discussions on Muhi's reply - Now that Ledger is dead (but the Joker isnt) (spoiler in white), I am really interested to see what Nolan does with part 3. "The Dark Knight" is going to be very very difficult to live upto!!

Edit 2 : I am notching up the score by 2 more points after watching the movie again. Given the way the story goes, the ending is really very well done. Its just that when I was watching the first time, Nolan was setting the bar higher with every sequence and I expected a "bang" at the end. Of course, one question remains : How & when did the Joker rig up the bombs on the yachts, without anyone noticing? Fans have already answered on imdb saying he used the 1 year period from part1 to do this, but while this can explain everything else, it doesn't explain the yachts. (spoiler in white)

Score : 84 (DONT MISS IT!!)