Summer is (kind of) here, and what better way to celebrate the amazing hot weather we’ve been blessed with than listening to a couple of guys chatting about playing video games indoors?
Ejecting the Blu-ray from our PS4 and using it for its intended purpose for a change, the Failed Critics have booted up a computer game or two and put the movies back on the shelf for the first ever episode of our brand new sister-podcast, Character Unlock.
Andrew Brooker and John Miller host the pilot episode, kicking off with a run down from EGX 2016. It’s not just top-down racing games that John got to play, as Battlfield 1, Forza Horizon 3, FIFA 17 and plenty of indie games went under his microscope at the event.
Plus, this week Brooker chats with game reviewer-turned-game developer, Kevin Van Ord, about his career, what he thinks about early access for Original Sin 2, and sneaking Scottish euphemisms into Dwarven dialogue.
They round off the podcast by answering your questions that you sent to us via our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Want to get to know Brooker and John? Listen to find out how they met, what their favourite games are, which games series’ they would combine, and how many worms they think it takes to change a lightbulb. Hey, you asked. We answered.
If you enjoy the episode, if you have any feedback or things you’d like to hear on future podcasts, please let us know either on Facebook or Twitter (both @CharacterUnlock) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
In a weird way, I’m a little disappointed. I’m disappointed that Hitman: Agent 47 wasn’t the steaming pile of dog shit I went in expecting after reading a few reviews. I’m disappointed that I don’t get to lose my nut at how offensive the film is to the game it takes its inspiration from and the gamers it’s trying to court into cinemas to see it. But most of all, I’m disappointed that the latest attempt to bring Agent 47 to the big screen is so forgettable as a film that I simply can’t be bothered to gather up the energy to get annoyed at it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not stupid. I know that a game series primarily about sneaking yourself into a place, killing some unknown dude and sneaking out again unseen would make for a fairly boring film. Clearly the paint-by-numbers guys at 20th Century Fox feel the same because while there are flashes of the game series’ great style, Hitman: Agent 47 is absolutely more about the smash, bang and wallop of car chases and explosions than it is about stealthily poisoning some poor, unsuspecting villain without anyone ever knowing you were there. But almost to its credit, the film doesn’t go down the “everything has gone wrong, now the super-sneaky ninja dude has to go loud” route (see 2007’s Hitman and almost every killer-for-hire gets revenge movie). Instead just settling for trying to convince us that this is just how the game is played. It’s not.
The story, for want of a better word for the thing that keeps us going from one elaborate death scene to another, focuses on Katia (Boss’ Hannah Ware), the daughter of the geneticist who is singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the mythical “Agent” program; a bit of 1960’s jiggery-pokery that changed the DNA of unborn children and making them stronger, faster, tougher and smarter than average people. It’s absolutely nothing to do with Dark Angel, the sci-fi TV show that came out the same year as the first Hitman that also featured barcoded super-soldier protagonists.
On the run for most of her life, Katia is now being hunted by not one, but two different organisations. Mr 47’s ICA – strangely not mentioned by name in the film, just by their iconic logo – and the imaginatively named Syndicate International. The latter have sent their own contractor, John Smith, to do their dirty work. A man who is the result of their experiments to try and recreate the Agent program and has a few secrets (or not, if you’ve seen the bloody spoiler-filled trailer) of his own to help him along the way.
John Smith; in maybe the most bizarre casting choice this year with Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto; doesn’t rescue Katia as much as he does capture her so he can locate her father. Ripped from Syndicate International’s grasp by Rupert Friend’s Agent 47 (replacing the late Paul Walker early into the film’s production) and having her world turned upside down as he explains who she is, what her father’s work really involved and maybe most importantly, what he did to her when she was young. Experimenting with altering her DNA to make her survival instincts second to none, turning her into the hyper-sensitive paranoid mess that’s kept her alive and free all this time, he’s made her an Agent.
And so begins a cat and mouse chase across the world as the pair of assassins try to outrun Smith and his Syndicate henchmen. All while racing to get to Katia’s father before the massive organisation can torture the secrets of the Agent’s DNA out of him and create a super-soldier army of nigh-unbeatable hitmen.
Hitman: Agent 47‘s biggest problem comes in its attempt to imitate one of the greatest stealth games ever made. A game that I have, on more than one occasion, wasted more than the length of the film in trying to get past one kill, or get around one group of guards that I don’t want to face head on. It’s ironic that the parts of the movie that remind me the most of the games; an exceptionally hostile area that 47 and Katia must navigate without being noticed is a great example; are the parts that while enjoyable, are the most infuriating parts to watch as a fan of the franchise. The tension, the trial and error nature of an area like this is what makes the games so great. But on the big screen, while the feel of the games is there and those of us that have successfully steered their way through scenarios like them will be smiling in recognition by the end of it, it’s just all too… easy. Every costume change, every time the light shines off of 47’s garrotte, the film got a brief smile from me but it was quickly wiped from my face when the action was ramped up and suddenly I’m watching a game of Audi vs. motorbikes.
As an action film, Agent 47 is relatively competent. It could do with its pacing being tightened up a little but it certainly delivers in all the areas that you would expect it to. Action scenes are visceral and violent, with enough gruesome deaths to fill a Saw reboot and decent enough hand and gun action. Hitman certainly delivers the fun, loud parts of the wannabe franchise starter in spades and doesn’t shy away from putting a bit of blood on the screen. A little twisty and turny, the story does an alright job of keeping these scenes together and in check and while obvious to most, the surprise twist of the end was still a decent nod to the effort some of us have put into just getting one clean kill in the film’s inspirational video game franchise.
Hitman: Agent 47 gets a sly recommendation from me, if you want to switch your brain off and watch a poor man’s Transporter for a couple of hours you could do worse. But if you’re going in with hopes of a faithful recreation of an iconic stealth death simulator, I’m afraid we’re now hanging our hopes on Michael Fassbender and next year’s Assassin’s Creed movie. Considering the amount of effort that went into turning the story into a Hitman film, that effort would have been far better spent writing an original story to tie to kills together, keeping it away from the judgemental eyes of gamers everywhere and perhaps starting a franchise of the strength of the film, and not its inspiration’s name. Because this, my friends, is not Hitman.
In addition to telling us about the five worst video-game movies last week, Andrew Brooker is back again to take a look at the other side of the coin and reveal of the best.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
Next Week! Hitman: Agent 47 arrives next week. As I type this I’m watching the booking pages for my local cinemas refresh hoping for a decent show so I can get a nice early screening and get my fill of video game stupidness. As the days go on I’m getting a little more excited for this movie and I’m hoping and praying that it isn’t complete wank. I’m not looking for award winning cinema; I’m looking to disengage my brain for a couple of hours and just enjoy my time with Agent 47.
So, as my own rebuttal to last week’s Worst Video Game Movies; my super-duper scientific research continues in making the list I’m hoping 47’s latest entry makes it to. Here’s my five favourite video game movies.
5] Silent Hill (2006)
Budget: $50 Million
Box Office: 97.6 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Now, I refuse to care about the Rotten Tomatoes score for this film; or any film for that matter. The thing that gets Silent Hill onto my list is the atmosphere. The original Silent Hill is one of the creepiest games ever made; using the restrictions of the old technology it was made on to it’s advantage and filling the entire game with a thick fog that hid just how slowly the game was being rendered in the background; but as far as creepy atmosphere is concerned the town of Silent Hill is best in show and the film does a fantastic job in replicating it.
Granted, the story takes a mental left turn away from the lore towards the end, something I have lambasted game and book adaptations for in the past, but with enough fan service and actual scares to keep your average fan happy, I can heartily recommend Silent Hill.
4] Mortal Kombat (1995)
Budget: $18 Million
Box Office: $122.1 Million
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Come on! COME ON! It’s Mortal Kombat! The mother of all fighting games turned into one of the most fun video game movies ever made. How can I not put it on the list? I am writing this on the 20th anniversary of the film’s original release for crying out loud, I can’t NOT talk about it.
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (the not-entirely-shit Uwe Boll), MK‘s legacy speaks completely for itself (spawning a bloody awful sequel that almost made my previous list) The story of Christopher Lambert’s lightning god Raiden, dragging the worlds best fighters into another realm to fight in a tournament to decide the fate of both worlds. Silly fights and rubbish special effects fill the screen as the Alien Vs. Predator director squeezed as many of the game’s dumbass story elements as humanly possible into a 100 minute definition of “junk food for the brain”.
3] Dead Rising: Watchtower (2015)
Box Office: Unknown
Rotten Tomatoes: None
Dead Rising: Watchtower is a bit of an anomaly. No theatrical release at all; debuted on the United States’ free video service Crackle and went straight to Blu-Ray in the UK. Released in March this year, the film adaptation of one of the silliest zombie game franchises is easily one of my favourite films this year.For those that haven’t played the games, each one follows a new protagonist as they fight through hoards of zombies in a world where the zombie infection is accepted and controlled with medication, but things have gone horribly wrong. What makes the games something a little special is the stupidity involved in them. The only way to survive in Dead Rising is to find two weapons and weld them together to make bigger weapons. Until you’ve played it, you’ll never understand how I lost hours running around the map with a mate laughing my childish arse off firing masses of rubber cocks across the screen using my dildo launcher and poking my buddy with a giant foam finger gun!
The film sticks to this level of stupidity. It’s gross, it’s violent, but it’s completely fucking stupid and it knows it. Only really for fans, but it’s one of the best ways to waste two hours in recent memory.
2] Resident Evil (2002)
Budget: $35 Million
Box Office: $102.4 Million
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
This is a strange one for me. Considering how pissed I got at Doom for taking more than a few liberties with that iconic game’s story, to laud the first Resi film as my second favourite in this list when it’s pretty much universally hated by fans of the game for the same thing is pretty hypocritical of me. Luckily for me, I don’t care.
Resident Evil kicked off a franchise of some of the most fun action films to grace my blu-ray collection. Substituting the horror of the early games for an action thriller feel with an amnesiac, combat ready, Milla Jovovich taking on an underground lab filled with zombies as her and a special forces team try to stop an outbreak and escape the subterranean complex and the mansion that’s hiding it. Sure there’s a stinker in the six film long franchise; and the quality only really dropped with the most recent (but not quite final) instalment; but there’s no stopping this series and with Paul W. S. Anderson getting the last chapter made as you read this and promising a worthwhile end to (not an actual RE character) Alice’s saga, I have nothing but faith that we are in for a treat when it comes out next year.
1] Hitman (2007)
Budget: $24 Million
Box Office: $100 Million
Rotten Tomatoes: 13%
Agent 47’s first trip to the big screen is, without a doubt, my top video game movie of all time; and one of my favourite junk food, sick day kind of movies. Now, I made Owen watch this back on the 150th podcast just because I wanted him to give it a butcher’s and he really didn’t like it. I’m sorry to say, that Owen is wrong and we’re no longer on speaking terms!
One thing our esteemed leader did get right though, was describing it as a wannabe Luc Besson film and I’m absolutely alright with that description. The always awesome Timothy Olyphant dons 47’s iconic suit and tie and brings all the ham-fisted action of Besson’s finest work. Maybe without the finesse that the legendary filmmaker does, but no film based on a video game was ever going to get that level of director involved in it.
Hitman does an excellent job with what it has. Another film on this list that sacrifices the game’s lore to make sure that we aren’t bored to death by the film’s pace. Agent 47’s story is far too long and complicated for a 100 minute movie, so we get the bare bones of the legend on screen and are left to either remember, guess, or simply not care about the parts that we aren’t told. Whichever option you choose, I can absolutely recommend Hitman to any game fan, any action film fan, or anyone that just fancies seeing good old Mr. Olyphant in a suit and tie killing people in an ultra cool, ultra slick fashion.
If Hitman: Agent 47 is half as fun as this telling of the suited assassin’s story, I’ll be coming out of the cinema a happy man next week.
Honourable Mention – Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
While not in any way a video game movie; it is, in EVERY way, a video game movie. Even the most casual of gamers can see that the film’s tagline, and adopted subtitle, “Live. Die. Repeat” is absolutely endemic of the trial and error nature of video games and playing them. Who of us hasn’t spent hours endlessly playing the same sections of a game over and over again hoping to just get it right this time?
The film, which arguably belongs to Emily Blunt and not her stuntman co-star, took on even more of the video game world when it was released the same year as shooter powerhouse Call of Duty introduced exo-suits to its players; making us all look like the rows and rows of suited soldiers from the battlefields of Edge of Tomorrow.
A movie that is absolutely about video game checkpoint abuse, I can’t not mention Edge of Tomorrow in this little list of mine.