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Halloween Blu-ray review: The Omen (2006 remake)

Well, here we are once again, concluding yet another review of yet another box set of films in the Omen franchise. (I think it’s safe to call it a “franchise” rather than a series now, given that, with the 2006 remake, any remaining hints of artistic merit have been well and truly exterminated.) The big question, I suppose, is whether or not this four-disc Blu-ray collection is worth it. My answer, as usual, is going to have to be “no”: the original 1976 film is available separately for considerably less money than the four-movie set, and it’s really the only one worth bothering with, so my advice would be to save your cash and just pick up the first one.

That said, for those who are determined to be subjected to the full Omen experience (or as full as possible without the hilariously awful 1991 TV movie), this box set constitutes an admittedly expensive but nonetheless satisfying package. The first film has received by far the most lavish treatment, and rightly so, but the audio-visual quality of the subsequent entries in the series is nothing to be sniffed at either. The Omen Collection is not exactly The Godfather Collection of horror movie franchises in high definition, but in terms of image quality and the actual running time of the bonus content, it’s comparable. All told, Fox have provided a far more generous package here than anyone had any reason to expect, and, whatever you might think of the films, at least they are to be commended for not doing this project on the cheap.

I conclude my trawl through the Omen series of films with a review of the Region A Blu-ray release of the dire 2006 remake, available both separately or in The Omen Collection. The review also concludes with some general thoughts on this four-disc box set.

Review at DVD Times.

That concludes this year’s Halloween fun. Sorry I didn’t get round do reviewing an extra film, but the time just wasn’t there. Every year, I convince myself I’ll start working on the reviews earlier, but I always end up leaving them to the last minute.

Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008 at 6:45 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Halloween | Reviews

Halloween Blu-ray review: The Final Conflict

As the conclusion to a trilogy, The Final Conflict is not even remotely satisfying. However, as I’ve said before, I prefer to look on the original Omen as a standalone film and the subsequent instalments as curious but unnecessary aberrations. As such, there’s not really a great deal to recommend here, barring the impressive performance by Sam Neill and the knowledge that, limp as it is, it is at least considerably better than the 2006 remake of The Omen and a slight - very slight - improvement on Damien: Omen II.

In which God’s followers reveal themselves to be so hopelessly inept as would-be assassins that Jesus Christ himself has to come down from the heavens to defeat Damien Thorn.

Review at DVD Times.

Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008 at 12:03 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Halloween | Reviews

Halloween Blu-ray review: Damien: Omen II

Damien: Omen II is not a very good film, and as such it’s little wonder that the Blu-ray package assembled for it is a pale shadow of that of the original Omen. Still, it’s a perfectly adequate disc and one that, once again, proves to constitute a substantial upgrade over its DVD counterpart. Whether or not that makes the film itself any better is, of course, open to debate…

As part of DVD Times’ Halloween coverage, I’ve reviewed 20th Century Fox’s recent Region A Blu-ray release of Damien: Omen II, considered by some the least awful of the various cash-ins on the original Omen.

Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008 at 10:28 AM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Halloween | Reviews

The Omen (2006 remake) Blu-ray impressions


And I’m finally done with all four films in the box set. The reviews of Damien: Omen II, The Final Conflict and the 2006 remake of The Omen are now scheduled to go live at various points throughout October 31st. (If there’s time, I may actually try to get another horror review done as well.) My thoughts on the transfer of the 2006 remake, along with screen captures, are below.

The remake of The Omen was actually one of the first Blu-ray discs to be released by 20th Century Fox, back in November 2006. As such, it mirrors most of its counterparts from that period in that it features an MPEG-2 encode on a single layer BD-25 disc. The transfer, in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it pretty good for the most part, with a good if not stunning level of detail and no obvious problems with the deliberately muted colour palette. Unfortunately, the aged codec and the low bit rate afforded by the single layer disc, combined with the moderate amount of grain that is present throughout, means that minor but noticeable artefacting is a fairly common occurrence. On the plus side, I can see no sign of filtering or artificial grain reduction, meaning that, artefacts aside, the overall look is pleasingly film-like. Don’t be put off by the blurry-looking 20th Century Fox logo at the start - immediately afterwards, the quality improves considerably.

The Omen (2006 remake)
(20th Century Fox, USA, MPEG-2, 18.9 GB)

The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake) The Omen (2006 remake)

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 8:47 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Halloween | Technology

The Final Conflict Blu-ray impressions


Once again working through my Halloween reviews for the various films in The Omen Collection, I’ve done a few screen captures for The Final Conflict. My thoughts on the transfer, copied and pasted from the upcoming review, are below:

After the slight blip that was the transfer for Damien: Omen II, image quality picks up substantially for The Final Conflict, bringing it almost to the same level as that of the original film. In fact, as far as overall detail levels are concerned, number three may actually be the strongest of the lot, albeit probably thanks to differences in the photography and the improvements that were made to Panavision lenses in years between the films being shot. Once again, the image looks very film-like, with only some minor noise reduction causing any problems for the bulk of its duration. Unfortunately, the final confrontation in the ruined church grounds lets the side down, with some over-zealous NR resulting in very waxy textures and an overly synthetic look which is at odds with the rest of the film.* Still, a very impressive transfer overall for a not exactly treasured catalogue title.

* This corresponds with the final screen capture, below.

The Final Conflict
(20th Century Fox, USA, AVC, 31.8 GB)

The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict The Final Conflict

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 8:39 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Halloween | Technology

Damien: Omen II Blu-ray impressions


Having already reviewed the Blu-ray release of Richard Donner’s original classic, The Omen, I’m currently working on reviews of the two sequels and John Moore’s 2006 remake for DVD Times’ Halloween reviews special. I can’t promise to get through them all in time for the 31st, but I’ll do my damnedest, and this afternoon I put together my review of the first sequel, Damien: Omen II. I took the opportunity to do some screen captures for this site, and my thoughts on the transfer, copied and pasted from the review, are below:

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Damien: Omen II looks significantly weaker on Blu-ray than the other two films in the trilogy. Like them, it features a 1080p, AVC encode on a dual layer BD50 disc, but detail is substantially lower. This is most pronounced in the opening sequence in the Middle East, where the image looks decidedly diffuse and almost defocused. After that, things do improve quite noticeably, but it never manages to attain the crispness of the other instalments. On the plus side, there is once again little in the way of digital manipulation, meaning that, even though the level of detail is less than stellar, it always looks like film rather than digital video. A handful of shots do suffer from an excessive amount of noise reduction, but they come and go virtually in the blink of an eye, and the rest of the film appears to be unaffected. (See 00:12:30,* 01:17:50 and 01:33:00 for the worst offenders.)

* This corresponds with the second screen capture, below.

Damien: Omen II
(20th Century Fox, USA, AVC, 31.1 GB)

Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II Damien: Omen II

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2008 at 9:39 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Halloween | Technology | Web

The depths of insanity


I got home from work yesterday to discover a veritable storm brewing over at the AV Science Forum. The topic was The Descent, one of my favourite horror films of the last few years and also one of my favourite Blu-ray releases. The controversy surrounded what can only be described as the most baffling anomaly I have seen regarding the format so far: apparently, there are two separate encodes being sold, one AVC and the other MPEG-2.

Yes, I wasn’t prepared to believe it either at first. Why on earth would Lions Gate go to the trouble of pressing two completely different discs of the same film? We’re still no closer to finding the answer to this perplexing conundrum, but what we do know is that, thanks to the in-depth investigations of AVS poster msgohan, there is absolutely no doubt that two different versions are doing the rounds. Does this ultimately make any difference to the end user? Well, take a look at the captures below and judge for yourself. They show the same frame on each of the two different discs.

The Descent: AVC encode The Descent: MPEG-2 encode

Now you can understand why people who were sold the MPEG-2 version are rightly aggrieved and demanding to know what on earth is going on. I own the AVC version and I too am not a happy bunny. After all, last Halloween I reviewed the AVC version and gave it a 10/10 for image quality, a rating I still stand by. However, the fact that there is no actual discernible way of knowing which version of the disc you are picking up when you purchase it complicates the review somewhat. My 10/10 rating, after all, most assuredly does not stand for the MPEG-2 encode, which not only features more noticeable compression artefacts, but has also been pre-filtered to remove grain and fine detail. Now I’m in the unfortunate position of having written a review that may or may not actually be valid on a case by case basis.

As msgohan quite rightly puts it:

Not at all what I expected. So much for a nice, fair codec comparison. The Descent has been Warner’d! What numbnuts at Lionsgate thought this was a good idea?

You can see a whole series of captures, saved as lossless .png images, comparing the same frames from both versions, here.

Posted: Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 11:26 AM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Halloween | Reviews | Technology | Web

Alan Jones on Mother of Tears

Mother of Tears

Reviews of Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears have been pouring in for some time now, some good, some bad, some split right down the middle, but, for many fans, the review they have been waiting for is the one penned by all-round Argento expert Alan Jones. After much anticipation, he has finally written a few words on the film, as well as its Rome premiere on Halloween.

As to the film itself, well, it’s not the conclusion to the SUSPIRIA and INFERNO trilogy any of us wanted to see.


While it’s easy to criticise LA TERZA MADRE (occasionally different to the US MOTHER OF TEARS version) for what it isn’t rather than what it actually is - a gory, campy supernatural romp - the main problem with the film is simple. The layers of ethereal artifice given by lush cinematography and arch style to the prior two classic films lent their fractured stories a further atmosphere of palpable fever dream unreality. Stripped of that, and saddled with Fasano’s dull realism (his DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK photography was superior), the film’s equally episodic narrative comes off as contrived, crude and kitsch. Why on earth didn’t Argento use again the vivid colour palettes that made SUSPIRIA and INFERNO so fabulous to look at? He had the chance in Jace and Adam’s jewel-bleeding concept, but axed it as too fairytale instead of embracing its rich atmospheric possibilities.


Claudio Argento said it best at the premiere performance. He told me, “For the general public it’s a good solid movie, for Dario’s fans I’m not so sure”.

For the full piece, which includes several photographs from the premiere, head over to Dark Dreams.

Posted: Tuesday, November 06, 2007 at 9:53 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Halloween | Reviews

Look what came today

Hellgate: London Collector's Edition box

Above: Hellgate: London Collector’s Edition box

Shipped from Kentucky on October 29th, due for release October 31st… arrived in Glasgow on October 31st. Of course, I ended up paying a premium in customs charges, but it’s so rare that I actually order a collector’s edition package of a game (the last one was World of Warcraft in 2004) that I’m not going to complain too much.

Considering that the actual contents of the package takes up very little space, the box is massive, and might seem like overkill to some. Basically, you get the game on a DVD, a second DVD featuring a making-of featurette, various trailers and galleries, and the score in .wav form, as well as a poster map of the various levels in the game and 106-page comic book. Not as grandiose as some of Blizzard’s Collector’s Editions, admittedly, but some nice stuff all the same.

Unfortunately, there seem to be a few hitches when it comes to the game’s optional subscription service. The subscription sign-up process has actually been removed while the matter is investigated, which, as you can imagine, is upsetting a lot of people who planned on subscribing as soon as they got the game so they could enjoy some of the exclusive Halloween content.

There’s also the slight matter of the Founder’s Option, which was promised to those who pre-ordered from selected retailers (Gamestop, from whom I ordered my copy, being one of them). Essentially, the Founder’s Option allows you to pay a one-off fee of $150 to receive a lifetime (the game’s lifetime, that is, not your lifetime) of “ongoing content”, rather than paying $10 per month for this material, as everyone else who wants this material will have to do - a good deal if you plan on playing the game for more than 15 months, which, given the developers’ track record with the Diablo franchise, is a sure-fire thing. Unfortunately (guess what?), it seems that a lot of people did not receive the pre-order keys required to enable this option, myself included. I haven’t decided whether or not I want to go down this route ($150 is a lot of money to lay down in one go, regardless of the developers’ pedigree), but, as you can imagine, I was a bit miffed to discover this oversight. I’ve emailed Gamestop and am hoping for a solution to this problem before too long, because the Founder’s Offer is only available until the end of November.

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 11:16 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Games | Halloween | Technology

Halloween HD DVD review: Underworld: Extended Cut

In terms of bonus content, Sony Pictures’ recent US Blu-ray release of Underworld, which ports over most of the extras from the standard definition release of the extended cut, is definitely preferable. For those who are restricted to HD DVD only, however, this release provides a magnificent audio-visual presentation of the film that I struggle to imagine being bettered.

Concluding this year’s Halloween special, I’ve reviewed Concorde Home Entertainment’s HD DVD release of Underworld, a film which may not offer much in the way of seasonal cheer, but at least has vampires and werewolves in it.

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 10:47 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Halloween | Reviews

Halloween DVD review: Inferno

Unlike the Definitive Edition of Suspiria which I reviewed earlier today, the differences between this iteration of Inferno and the earlier Anchor Bay release are not a clear-cut case of something being “wrong”. Rather, they constitute a decidedly different-looking version of the same film, but one that is probably equally accurate to Argento’s vision. While dedicated fans will undoubtedly wish to pick up both DVDs, those only looking for one to add to their library are advised that both editions have their own strengths and weaknesses. The choice is up to the viewer.

Continuing the joint celebration of Halloween and the Italian theatrical release of Mother of Tears, I’ve reviewed the recent Italian R2 release of Inferno, Dario Argento’s third film in the Three Mothers trilogy.

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 10:45 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Halloween | Reviews

Halloween DVD review: Suspiria: Definitive Edition

The so-called Definitive Edition of Suspiria proves to be anything but: a thoroughly disappointing release whose only claim to fame, beyond buggering up the look of the film something rotten, is its nifty tin case. And thus the quest for the definitive DVD release of Dario Argento’s masterpiece continues…

To celebrate Halloween, and to coincide with the Italian theatrical release of Mother of Tears, Dario Argento’s concluding part to the Three Mothers trilogy, I’ve reviewed the recent R2 Italian “Definitive Edition” of the first instalment, Suspiria, which comes in a nifty metal tin.

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 10:43 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Halloween | Reviews

Halloween Blu-ray review: The Descent

The Descent is one of the most impressive high definition releases I have seen so far, not only for featuring a stellar transfer and solid audio support, but also for featuring one of the best modern films released on either format thus far, and for being one of the few Blu-ray releases to not only port over all of the extras from its standard definition counterpart, but also for including an array of HD exclusive bonuses. Yes, the lack of true picture-in-picture means that the effect is not as seamless as it could have been, but this is overall a magnificent release and the best Blu-ray disc I’ve seen.

As part of DVD Times’ Halloween 2007 coverage, I’ve reviewed last year’s Blu-ray release of The Descent, and excellent presentation of Neil Marshall’s superb horror film put together by Lions Gate.

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 10:39 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Halloween | Reviews

Attention spookmeisters!


Well, in just a few hours it will be All Hallows Eve, and, as promised, I have some spooktacular reviews for you. Unfortunately, the list is somewhat shorter than I would have hoped, due to my coming down with a nasty case of writer’s block, which didn’t clear up in time for me to get through my entire list of titles. Still, here’s what you can expect to see tomorrow:

  • Midnight: The Descent (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • 6 AM: Suspiria: Definitive Edition (R2 Italy, DVD)
  • 12 PM: Inferno (R2 Italy, DVD)
  • 6 PM: Underworld: Extended Cut (R0 Germany, HD DVD)

Unfortunately, I’ll be out at work all day tomorrow, so I won’t be on hand to post links to the reviews themselves until I get home. If you just have to be at the front of the queue, I suggest you loiter around DVD Times and watch out for them as they materialise. Unless you have anything better to do, that is.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 10:08 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | HD DVD | Halloween | Reviews

Halloween: what can you expect?


In just a few days’ time, it will be Halloween, and, naturally, I’m planning a splurge of horror-themed reviews for DVD Times. Last year, I concentrated mainly on covering HD DVD releases, but this year, things are going to be a little more balanced across the three formats I cover. So, provided I can actually churn them out within the next 8-9 days, here’s what you can expect to see:

  • The Descent (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Halloween (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • House of 1000 Corpses (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Inferno (R2 Italy, DVD)
  • Suspiria: Definitive Edition (R2 Italy, DVD)
  • Underworld: Extended Cut (R0 Germany, HD DVD)

Now, I’m aware that that’s a bit of a tall order, particularly given that I also have work commitments and my PhD to think about, not to mention a review of the Blu-ray release of Oldboy, plus one of Blue Underground’s new release of The Stendhal Syndrome when it arrives, so I don’t want to promise anything. I’ll do my best to finish as many of them as possible, though.

Posted: Monday, October 22, 2007 at 7:41 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | HD DVD | Halloween | PhD | Reviews

Hell’s warming up nicely


Well, it seems that, so far, no-one is interested in my little Hellgate: London beta giveaway, so I’m going to leave the offer open for the time being. In the meantime, this post may whet your appetite. That’s right: the non-disclosure agreement has finally been lifted:

Beta NDA Lifted
The NDA period for the general Beta test is officially over! THANK YOU all for being as good as you have been on this. Feel free to post, email, phone call, and alert your local news station about your play experiences!

I’ve waited for this moment for a long time. Seriously, you have no idea how frustrating it is having all sorts of gameplay experiences but not being able to share them with anyone.

The first and most obvious question to answer is: is it any good? In short, yes, it’s excellent, and potentially a worthy successor to Diablo and Diablo II. For the longer version of this answer, read on…

Hellgate: London

The initial pitch for Hellgate: London was “Half-life 2 meets Diablo II”. Essentially, what we’re talking about is an action-oriented role-playing game, similar to Diablo, but played using the controls and mindset of a first person shooter. Depending on the weapons you’re using, the game can be played from either a first- or third-person perspective, using the mouse to look and the WASD keys to move, much like in any FPS. Brought over from the Diablo world are the basic yet intuitive class, skill and item system, allowing you to select a character class with its own unique appearance, statistics and abilities, and to develop those statistics and abilities as you gain experience, all the while decking the character out with the cool weapons and armour dropped by the various mindless monsters that you hack down or blow up throughout the course of the game’s five Acts (initially, the first two Acts were provided in the alpha, with the third being opened up in one of the final builds before the launch of the beta). It’s not rocket science, but it works.

Hellgate: London

At the time of its launch, six character classes will be available to players, all of which were playable throughout the alpha and beta (there are plans to add additional classes at some point after the game’s release and make them available to paying subscribers). There are essentially three overarching factions, each of which has two classes which are essentially different iterations of the same basic framework, with access to their own unique abilities and their own specific strengths and weaknesses. The Marksman and Engineer are both part of the Hunter faction, for example, but whereas the Marksman specialises in long-range gunplay, the Engineer’s skills are primarily focused on the creation and control of various traps and robots. Likewise, the Summoner and Evoker are both Cabalists, with the former focusing on summoning and controlling demons, while the latter deals direct damage using various heavy-duty spells. Finally, the Templar faction consists of the Blademaster, specialising in advanced swordplay and fast hit and run attacks, while the Guardian is more of a defence-oriented tank character.

Hellgate: London

All this means that there is either more or less variety than would initially appear to be the case, depending on how you look at it: while it’s true that there is a fair amount of repetition among the two different classes found in each faction, it certainly provides more variety than the original Diablo with its three classes. Some, however, might consider this to be a slightly artificial way of increasing variety. Many people, I’m sure, would prefer to have access to both Blademaster and Guardian abilities (for example) within the same character, and to use their skill selection and stat point assignment to take the character in whichever direction they choose. Certainly, my own experiences with the various classes (I’ve played all six and taken three - the Blademaster, Marksman and Evoker - through to the end of the third Act) suggests that there is less flexibility within them than there was in Diablo II, where there seemed to be an almost infinite number of different builds for each of the seven classes, depending on which skills you specialised in and how you assigned your stats.

Hellgate: London

It’s entirely possible, though, that this has now changed, since a recent build update radically altered the functionality of the skill system, bringing it closer to Diablo II in terms of the number of points that can be sunk into each ability. (When I first joined the alpha, most skills could be levelled up a maximum of 3-5 times, in contrast to Diablo II’s 20. This, understandably, meant that it was not uncommon for players to spread their points widely across a large number of skills, instead of pumping a select few. Late on in the beta, however, the system was modified so that most skills ended up with around 10 levels, encouraging players to focus more on researching a small number to their highest level.)

Hellgate: London

In terms of actual combat, the gameplay differs radically depending on whether the character you are playing is primarily focused on dealing melee or ranged damage. Melee combat, almost exclusively the domain of swords, feels a bit like a twitchier version of Diablo. Due to the fact that movement is now controlled by the WASD keys rather than by clicking the mouse, you tend to be a lot more mobile and, as such, do a fair amount of retreating and drawing monsters away from their friends so you can dispatch them one by one without being overwhelmed… although that’s not to say that you won’t ever get overwhelmed. It happens, and when it does, it’s absolutely lethal, even for the so-called tank character, the Guardian. Basically, if you end up being surrounded by enemies - something which happens with alarming regularity, particularly when you are operating in first person mode and can therefore only see straight in front of you - escape is virtually impossible, while the slow rate of healing (increased somewhat with recent patches) makes it virtually impossible to stand your ground for more than a few seconds. Broadly speaking, you can expect to die a lot, particularly if you’re playing a melee class, given that, in order to deal damage yourself, you have to be right in the thick of things.

Hellgate: London

Ranged characters, meanwhile (and I’m basically including both Cabalist and Hunter classes in this category), play like something akin to a stat-heavy, reflex-light FPS. These characters are best played from a first person perspective, but, unlike your average Quake or Unreal clone, your aim and reflexes are of considerably less importance. In Hellgate: London, there are no bonuses for dealing, say, a head shot, and ammunition is unlimited, so it really is a case of holding down the mouse button and pouring out a constant stream of bullets/fire/goop/etc. (Some weapons, however, actively discourage this, with an accuracy penalty coming into effect after a few seconds of continuous fire.) Instead of dodging about and circle-strafing (which you can certainly do, although they’re less effective than in most true FPSes), more attention is placed on the various skills at your disposal, and the statistics of the various weapons you pick up. There are some absolutely crazy guns out there, including one which fires a horde of green insects which attack your enemies by slowly draining away their health.

Hellgate: London

I must confess that, when I first heard about the inclusion of a tactical faction (the Hunter), I was a little sceptical. After all, I was initially worried enough about the FPS elements that were being added to the game without the inclusion of what I assumed would be a sniper class. As it turns out, though, the Marksman is my favourite class by far. The first person perspective feels like a natural fit to the game’s mechanics, and there’s something incredibly satisfying about tossing a grenade (or firing a rocket) into a group of enemies from afar and watching them all spontaneously combust. The enemy AI is mostly pretty weak, but there’s something quite satisfying (and strangely appropriate) about mowing down hordes of moronic zombies, and the sheer scale of the battles is impressive, especially in this age of 3D graphics, where maintaining a decent frame rate often makes it difficult to have many characters on the screen at any one time.

Hellgate: London

Most of the negatives are part and parcel of what you would expect from the next game from the creators of the Diablo franchise: the storyline is pretty rudimentary, and there really isn’t a whole lot of strategy to the combat. It’s more a case of having fun running up to hordes of enemies and painting the floor red with their blood. There is also a rather worrying amount of repetition on display, with the same small number of tilesets and enemies showing up repeatedly throughout the first three Acts (more variety has been promised for the rest of the game, but I’m slightly wary of this, given that, prior to the third Act being made available, we were told to expect an Act that was both large and varied, when in fact it turned out to be neither). To be fair, the repetition factor has been toned down somewhat with more recent builds, with with more variety being added to the randomly generated level layouts, but I do understand the concerns of those who are claiming to find the gameplay monotonous.

Hellgate: London

Personally, though, I’m not worried. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve had to start again from scratch when a new build has necessitated a complete character wipe, and yet it still remains fun. My pre-order of the Collector’s Edition has been made, and I’m looking intensely forward to receiving it soon after Halloween.

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2007 at 9:10 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Games | Halloween

Hellgate golden giveaway


It’s official: Hellgate: London has gone gold! The game, due for release on Halloween, has been completed and the master disc has been sent off for replication.

Since the beginning of August, I’ve been participating in the game’s online alpha test (and subsequently the beta). The Non-Disclosure Agreement is still in effect, preventing me from posting screenshots (the one included with this post is one of the standard press shots released by Flagship Studios) or really saying anything about the game at all (seriously, I can’t even tell you whether it’s any good or not!), but I do have a spare beta invitation to give away. The beta can’t be expected to last for much longer, and it’s fairly clear that testers are playing a much older build of the game than the final retail copy, so at this stage I get the impression that the beta is acting as more of a server stress test, but if you want a bit of fun, then this might be for you.

Hellgate: London

To win my invitation, please provide the following:

1. A working email address

2. A funny joke

The person to provide what I deem to be the funniest joke by 8 PM GMT tomorrow night will win.

Read more about Hellgate: London here.

Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 3:24 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Games | Halloween

The gates of Hell open on Halloween


This Halloween looks set to be something very special. Not only does Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears launch in cinemas in Italy on that day, it has now been confirmed that Flagship Studios’ launch title, Hellgate: London, will also be seeing the light of day on October 31st. Online games retailer Gamestop have put both the regular and Collector’s Edition versions up for pre-order, including a sneak preview of what we can expect to find inside the latter:

- Special Packaging and Art Design
- Hellgate: London Game 2 DVDs
- Hellgate: London Map Poster
- 106 page Dark Horse Graphic Novel
- Unique in-game pet – Mantawraith
- Bonus Disc containing:
— “Making of Hellgate: London”
— Official Game Soundtrack

Now, as pointed out at the hellgate.incgamers.com fansite, this information has not been confirmed by anyone at Flagship, so these details should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, they are specific enough to give me hope that this is indeed the final list of extras rather than something dreamed up by a Gamestop employee in order to shift copies. In any event, it’s only $10 more expensive than the regular edition, so I’ve plumped for it… although, given past experiences with Gamestop on the Diablo II and Warcraft III Collector’s Editions, I’ll no doubt incur a heavy customs charge on it.

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007 at 4:15 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Games | Halloween

Mother of Scissors

Source: Dark Discussion

According to a news post on Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso shop web site, The Third Mother’s distributor, Medusa, have not only delayed the film’s release date to October 31st (so they can have a Halloween-themed advertising campaign), but are also demanding cuts to the film’s more violent scenes and effects. This sort of thing truly beggars belief. Did Medusa seriously think that the sequel to Suspiria and Inferno wouldn’t be violent? What is the point of this? This isn’t even a censor attempting to cut things, just a bunch of meddling executives sticking their oar in.

I suppose the best course of action right now is to hope that the news becomes widespread and a backlash from angry fans convinces Medusa to rethink their decision. Failing that, we can only hope that it will eventually surface in an uncut form on DVD. This really is the story of Argento’s career, isn’t it? Something tells me that something is seriously wrong with the way people think when Pelts can be screened on American television without any cuts, but what has got to be one of the most highly-anticipated sequels of all time for the Euro-cult crowd looks set to be butchered at the whims of a bunch of people in suits.

Posted: Saturday, March 17, 2007 at 5:25 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Halloween | TV

The Third Mother delayed

Well, I guess it’s official now: the Italian theatrical release of The Third Mother has been delayed till October. Get the news direct from the web site of Dario Argento’s own Profondo Rosso shop:

Dario Argento’s new movie “The Third Mother” release date has been postponed to next October 2007. But the picture’s alredy been finished and most probabily it’ll be screened during the next Cannes Film Market.

According to a poster at The Latarnia Forums, the reason for the delay is to take full advantage of the Halloween festivities on October 31st, which I guess is as good a way as any of drumming up supernatural anticipation. Of course, the danger is that, rather than encouraging more people to see it, it’ll be lost among the scads of generic teen horror movies that tend to be released at around the same time. Personally, I’m still hoping a semi-prominent distributor picks it up and gives it even a limited release over here, although I’m not sure how confident I should be. I also really hope we see a trailer, or a poster, or something, sooner rather than later - those snippets from a Cinecittà promo that emerged back in January were tantalising but all too brief.

Posted: Monday, March 12, 2007 at 8:13 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Halloween

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