Monthly Archives: July 2015

No Man’s Sky: A Preview

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky: a Preview

Instead of reviewing a game for my second entry, I’ve decided to write a short post proffering my apprehensions regarding the upcoming release of Hello Games’ sci-fi adventure No Man’s Sky. Much of the response to the release has been unequivocally positive, increasing to levels of childlike excitement every time a new gameplay mechanic is publicised – something I don’t quite understand.

For those who don’t know, No Man’s Sky is a game centred on the exploration of an entire universe of procedurally generated planets and alien lifeforms which, according to Hello Games, gives players the chance to explore approximately 18 quintillion worlds (that is a real number). This, in turn, should allow each and every player to discover something unique to their experience with the game.

As great as this sounds, however, I worry that the difference between worlds and creatures will be far less inimitable than people are anticipating, resulting in something more akin to Spore or a modern Final Fantasy game i.e. a small stock of basic animal templates with nothing more than a simple colour palette swap to suggest diversity and individuality.

The second aspect of the game garnering attention is the freedom to play the game in a variety of styles (which is becoming an increasingly common selling point for games). Although there is a defined goal, in this case, to reach the centre of the universe, the way you achieve it is entirely subjective. You can be a trader, conqueror or scientific explorer as you make your way to the universe’s heart, depending on your preferences. Indeed the developers have stated that it’s possible to complete the main story without once setting foot on any planet if you had such a desire. Titles such as Spore and Heavy Rain, are but two examples of games that have attempted something similar (Heavy Rain in a narrative sense) aiming to give the player complete freedom and the ability to forge a unique experience. Both games fell short, however, eventually delivering something which is no less restrictive in terms of style and narrative than the majority of games, implying the implementation of such a style in video games is something the available technology can’t quite realise at this stage.

Finally and for me, most disappointingly, current trailers show graphics that pale in comparison to other PS4 releases such as The Witcher 3 or Metal Gear Solid 5. Now in a game that’s heavily focussed on exploration and discovery, I feel this is a major flaw. Demo videos showing players traversing interstellar space depict interstellar space in a far less majestic and impressive way than last gen games such as the Mass Effect trilogy. Lastly, the use of a garish, saturated colour palette exaggerates this less than impressive style and makes the animals look like caricatures.

Something that’s definitely not a dinosaur

Ultimately, this isn’t a great disappointment personally as I have a rather large list of games I’m itching to purchase for my PS4 in 2016, however as a fan of science fiction and astronomy generally, I sincerely hope my trepidation proves to be premature and incorrect.

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The Hustler (1961)

The Hustler

The Hustler – IMDb 247/250

Firstly I would like to apologise for the long delay since my last review, I have been house hunting and working like a real grown up! But I’ve found time in my busy schedule (it really isn’t all that busy), to finally get my review up of the 1961 film The Hustler, starring Paul Newman, Piper Laurie and Jackie Gleeson.

Paul Newman gives a fantastic performance as ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson, a small time pool hustler looking to join the big time, high stakes gambling scene of pool, hoping to win big money as well as showcase that he really is the best pool player in the US.

However not everything goes as planned for ‘Fast’ Eddie, as he finds himself well and truly beaten by famous pool player Minnesota Fats, played by Gleeson, and the film tells the story of Felson looking to gain retribution for that defeat, but also come to terms with who he is as a person, with Piper Laurie playing the troubled Sarah, an alcoholic who gradually shows Felson what it truly means to be a human, but only after a horrible tragedy can Eddie see what really matters.

The film I have to say starts extremely slowly. The 24 hour pool marathon between our two players Felson and Fats really does drag at times, and I found it extremely hard to get that invested in a pool game. It has to be said it does exude the draining and exhausting nature of this pool game, especially for Felson, whose excessive drinking throughout the marathon game begins to take its toll, and we as an audience feel how tough it is on him , but my overarching feeling was simply please let someone win this bloody game.

I'm afraid nothing can make pool that gripping

I’m afraid not even Paul Newman and Jackie Gleeson can make pool that exciting

The Hustler is very much an American film, and it really has this feel, which is perhaps why I didn’t connect with it, we primarily play snooker not pool, so perhaps if I was from the US I would have felt somewhat more attached to this film, though saying that a movie about snooker doesn’t sound all that appealing either.

Once the pool match was finally over the film began to greatly improve. It wasn’t simply a film about pool hustling and the sport but a real look into the reality and dynamic of winning and losing, of human morality, and of course, how hard it is to drink that much whiskey and continue to function. The drinking in this film put the characters of Mad Men to shame!

I thought the acting throughout the film was tremendous. It was the first time I had seen Paul Newman in a film that wasn’t Cars and I can see why he was so highly thought of as an actor, and George C. Scott did a brilliant job of capturing the opportunistic and villainous nature of Bert Gordon, and would have been Oscar nominated for the role if he hadn’t turned it down.

I found Piper Laurie’s character highly interesting as well, and she did a great job of giving the character of Sarah real depth without blatantly stating what this woman was going through, as we never truly learn much about what made her the way she is. The end for her character was also really surprising for a film of this time.

But although the second half of the film was a big improvement on the first, I really thought the movie dragged, and at a running time of over 2 hours it was far too long, and though characters such as ‘Fast’ Eddie and Minnesota Fats are memorable, sadly I just couldn’t build any connection with the film they were in, and when I start looking at the clock while watching a movie I know something must be wrong.

What I didn’t know is that The Colour of Money is a sequel to this film, and Newman would go on this time to win the academy award for his performance as Felson. The Hustler did do enough for me to want to watch The Colour of Money and see what happened to his character, though strangely, although perhaps better known than The Hustler, The Colour of Money isn’t on the IMDb top 250 list.

I can see why The Hustler is thought of so highly, particularly in America, it feels like a  classic piece of American cinema, but I do think an English audience would struggle to really build much of a connection with this movie, even if they can enjoy and sympathise with the characters.

My Rating: 5/10

Paul

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