Roger Ebert’s Silent Hill Review

I had a nice conversation with seven or eight people coming down on the escalator after we all saw “Silent Hill.” They wanted me to explain it to them. I said I didn’t have a clue. They said, “You’re supposed to be a movie critic, aren’t you?” I said, “Supposed to be. But we work mostly with movies.” “Yeah,” said the girl in the Harley t-shirt. “I guess this was like a video game that you like had to play in order to like understand the movie.”

I guess.

I watched the Silent Hill movie today. It is bad.

BUT, as I ranted about on Twitter, I don’t know if the movie is bad because it’s a bad movie in and of itself or that it’s bad because it’s based on a game series that…isn’t really that great—at least when presented in any format other than a game.

Think of Ebert’s criticisms against the Silent Hill movie. It’s hard to figure out what the hell is going on. Plot lines don’t make any sense.1 The dialog is lousy. The acting is too.

Sounds to me like he could be describing the games, too.

That, and the movie is set up for gamers, but tries to set a tone much like The Ring in, I assume, an effort to appeal to a mass audience. It didn’t work. This was a gamer’s movie, like many other movies based on games.2

This is why I’m always skeptical of movies based upon video games. Video games are enjoyable in game form, but in movie form they haven’t figure it out yet.

  1. Ebert writes:

    Rose has come here with her daughter Sharon because the girl has taken to sleep-walking at night, and standing on the edge of high cliffs while saying “Silent Hill” in her sleep. Obviously the correct treatment is to take her to the abandoned town itself. 

  2. I would argue the same point about other movies based on games, like Resident Evil, DOOM, Street Fighter, Super Mario Brothers, Double Dragon. I haven’t seen the Hitman movies, so maybe there’s a glimmer of hope there. Also this:


Uncommon Achievements and Trophies

I’ve been dabbling on Playfire, giving it all my online game accounts so it can track my achievements on Steam, PSN, and Xbox Live (my old ones). One thing that Playfire can do is show you all a game’s achievements/trophies and show you how common they are.

You risk getting something spoiled for you, but it’s interesting to me how uncommon game completions are. You can generally see a downward curve as achievements are found later in the game. Take Fallout 3, what I’m playing through lately1. The trophy I received last night has only been unlocked by about 45% of players. I’m only about 5 hours into it.

Some other examples.

Only 33% of players finished that Aliens vs. Predator Game.


In Mega Man 9 on Xbox Live, only 17% of players finished the game (IT IS HAAAAARD).


I don’t think these are completely accurate. The RE5 page claims that 100% of those tracked completed the game.

But it’s very common that all these games that people enjoy, like the highly-hyped Skyrim right now, will never be finished by those who play them. Some of my friends have hyped up a game to me only to move on to the next thing to come out.

The process of walking around a nuclear wasteland is more appealing than finding your dad…or finding your dad isn’t worth 30 hours.

  1. My thoughts on Fallout 3 so far are probably best represented by tweets I made while playing, in chronological order. Joel asked me how I liked it. I like it like it’s a sore tooth I can’t stop poking.


You Down with AvP? No, Not Really.

I’m not into winter sports and activities, so cold weather is what I call Xbox weather. I’ve started off this season of my winter olympics by finishing the Aliens vs. Predator game from last year.

The AvP game from the early 2000s was one of my favorites on the PC. I’d set aside some time to play it, turn off all the lights, close my windows, and have the marine campaign let me relive the Aliens movie for the first time again.

But this version from 2010 felt like more of the same. Instead of feeling like I’m playing the Aliens movie, I felt like I was playing a rehash of the earlier game.

All my enjoyment of this mostly applies to the marine campaign. As an alien I’d climb walls and ceilings and get disoriented. The Predator campaign feels like the marine campaign as an afterthought, but with cooler toys. And the finishing moves don’t make a whole lot of sense to perform, especially while people are shooting at you. Also, what’s the point of harvesting all the civilians as an alien? They don’t turn into little face huggers that can assist you. They don’t do much of anything from what I could tell.

I wish that instead of making the same game three times—for marine, alien, and predator—they would just make a really awesome marine campaign instead of making you play through the same levels differently.

Aliens vs. Predator: Not horrible, but if you aren’t a fan of Aliens or Predators, skip.

Kirk Hamilton on Amnesia

For Paste:

Allow me to share that I have had no more flatly terrifying moment in recent memory than I had in Amnesia, standing stock-still within a tiny patch of darkness, staring at the floor and… waiting as some unspeakable shade wheezed and grunted behind me. Unable to turn around, unable to look, praying that my mind wouldn’t snap and give me away… This is horror, folks. That terrible wait for the imminent unknown.

Games Aren’t Supposed To Be Fun

Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter in Slate’s year-end gaming club:

…you’re dead wrong that “fun” is the point of video games…Games, for me, are supposed to be interesting or engaging, and can arrive there in any number of ways. But fun? Who cares about fun? This “fun” shibboleth is so often used to validate games’ overall lack of ambition—something that Black Ops has, yes, a ton of…I’d like to see the game-makers bring a little something more to the table than mere escapism, mere “fun.” And whatever, because Black Ops fails at being fun! It’s repetitive and dull.

I haven’t read all of these yet. Start here if you’re interested.

Riven coming to App Store

Seems to me that the iPad is the perfect platform for these games…not from a technical standpoint, but from a “oh my god this game is taking FOREVER I wish I could sit in a recliner to figure this shit out AAGGGGUUUHHH what’s with this PUZZLE!!!” standpoint.

Riven is expected to be available within two weeks.

We’re Living In The Golden Age of Game Music

Kirk Hamilton at Gamer Melodica on today’s game music:

We appear to be living in a bit of a golden age of game music at the moment, huh? Folks may bemoan the loss of the classic chiptune themes of the 80’s and 90’s, or say that game music has lost its soul, but I don’t buy it…The indie, mobile and downloadable scenes are opening the door to a lot of fresh blood, and it seems like every week I’m hearing a creative, interesting, or even groundbreaking game soundtrack.

Seriously. Golden age of game music. Tell your friends.


I guess you’ll have to listen to the Brainy Gamer to hear what their recommendations are.

Videogame music is more like film music now

This All Things Considered story about video game music composers discusses how video game composing gigs are viable contenders in the composition job market.

But that’s videogame music today. Back in the 1980s and 1990s there were shorter themes. Nearly every gamer my age can probably recognize themes from Mega Man, Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Sonic, and other old school games. I’m not sure if the same can be said for many of today’s games, with perhaps the exception of Halo’s main theme and Final Fantasy games.

Games in the late 80s and early 90s had short themes lasting under a minute that would loop over and over. Do today’s games have that? Seems like today’s game music is usually atmospheric and ambient in composition like film scores.

I don’t think it’s that composers are finally coming around to accepting video game music as an art form. I think it’s that video game music has come to a point where it’s much more like film music, giving composers a new challenge that’s similar enough to what they’re used to working on.

On the other side of the spectrum, it’s no coincidence that some of my favorite electronic musicians make music that sounds as if it’s influenced by video games of the late 80s and early 90s (Mux Mool is a good example). It’s more socially acceptable to listen to them instead of the original sound version of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack.

Someone at Capcom Please Explain…

Here’s a standard Nintendo cartridge:


Mega Man 3 was a 3-megabit cartridge, or about 375kb of storage.

Now here’s how much storage Mega Man 10 on Xbox Live Arcade takes up:

Screen shot 2010-12-03 at 8.18.16 AM.png

172 megabytes.

How did that happen?

EDIT: Ok – HD graphics/sprites, other game modes, music is probably stored as an audio file instead of a tracker file (or whatever they used to use) – but seems like such an exponential increase.

The Single-Player Campaigns Are Alright

Eric Frederickson writes for Games Are Evil about if we’re approaching the end of single-player campaigns.

About the difference between CoD: Black Ops and previous titles:

One little change, though, could have a big ripple effect. In the multiplayer menu, there’s an option to skip the initial menus altogether and boot straight into multiplayer; none of the start-up logos, and no option to hit the single-player mode.

Say what you will about Activision, but this is a great read of their audience. They know exactly what sells their games. While so many games are adding multiplayer on as an afterthought – Dead Space 2, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – to varying effect, this change to Black Ops makes it clear just which mode is the afterthought in the Call of Duty games.

If there’s a trend to completely skip single player it didn’t begin with Call of Duty. Remember how big a deal it was when Quake 3 was announced without a major single player campaign? Same thing with Unreal Tournament. They did have single player campaigns, but it was really just bot matches. That was over 10 years ago.

I think this is just Call Of Duty. All the games on my list to play (Mass Effect 2, Amnesia, Alan Wake, others) have engrossing single player campaigns, or so I read. Maybe that’s me – a guy who had to spend 20 minutes calling Xbox Support to cancel my Live auto-renewal.

Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress are other multi-player focused series without much of a single player campaign, although they both come from a developer with two other highly-anticipated single player campaigns on the horizon (HL2: Episode 3 and Portal 2).