The Girl With All The Gifts & The Last of Us: A Dual Review With No Spoilers

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I watched The Girl With All The Gifts since I was very interested and decided it would be a good while before I could get to the book.

Well.

It’s…okay. It’s not the revelatory burst of cool originality I’d been led to believe, and it’s nowhere near as good as the other zombie flick I saw recently, the Korean Train To Busan which is a revelatory burst of cool and one of the best films in this genre ever made.

The Girl With All The Gifts is kind of tedious, the characters sketchily drawn, and the story underdeveloped. That said, I’d have probably enjoyed it more if it weren’t for one thing:

I’ve played the video game The Last Of Us.

The Girl With All The Gifts is like a clumsy echo of The Last Of Us. It has a similar theme, similar setting, suspiciously similar ideas (The Last Of Us came out a year before the novel). I’m not saying it’s a rip-off, I doubt it is. But the thought occurs.

And while The Girl With All The Gifts is a so-so zombie flick with a few new ideas, The Last Of Us is a goddamned masterpiece.

The Last Of Us is one of those works of art which elevates its medium. It isn’t just possibly the greatest narrative game ever made, it isn’t just a more satisfying cinematic experience than most films…it is literature.

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The writing, the direction, the art design are all phenomenal. The acting — and acting it is, full motion capture by the actors, with all the subtleties and complexities of real life, and eyes full of humanity — is amazing, and moving, and heartrending. And the characters are real the way the best characters in any medium become real, we live with them and die with them and feel their pain and occasional bits of joy. The settings are gorgeous, a civilization fallen and returning to nature. And the music…good lord, the music. My wife Nydia and I both tear up when we hear just a few notes of this game’s theme.

The Last Of Us, all by itself, entirely justified the money I spent on my PlayStation 4. All other pleasures I get out of it are gravy.

The Girl With All The Gifts just can’t compete. The only reason I’ll remember it is because it’s such a dull shadow of the game that got there first.

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Good Memories of 2009, Day 8: Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters, The Video Game

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Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, this is pretty much an official sequel to the first two films, and is a lot better than the movie Ghostbusters 2. A lot.

The original actors return to do their own voice and motion-capture performances. Bill Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as the intrepid foursome, Annie Potts as their nerdily hot secretary Janine, William Atherton as bureaucratic douche-bag Walter Peck, with Alyssa Milano and Brian Doyle Murray joining the cast as the new love interest and the mayor.

The player takes the role of the new guy, a young rookie stuck with the job of trying out the newest, untested equipment. That equipment of course includes the proton beam, the ghost trap, and the PKE meter from the films, but you get three new weapon types to play around with (the slime gun proving the most fun).

The game captures every element of the Ghostbusters franchise perfectly. The writing is sharp and clever. The performances are lively and dead on. The gameplay is tight and exactly what it should be. The locations are complex and colorful and highly destructible. And the ghosts are varied, entertaining, and multifarious.

The storyline is far better than I’d expected. It starts in familiar territory, with new encounters with old friends like Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and to be honest I had my doubts about that. But they fully rationalize the inclusion of the old stuff, making it an organic part of the present storyline, allowing you to enjoy the nostalgic encounters early in the game, then moving into lots of new, original material. I’m glad they did this. It was loads of fun blasting the Hotel Sedgwick to pieces, and the battle with Mr. Stay Puft proves to be even more epic and fun than it was in the first film.

Apparently the actors all had so much fun making the game, they finally agreed to do another film, and Ghostbusters 3 is set to start filming next summer.

I played this on the Xbox 360. It’s available on PC and Playstation 3, but if you’re deciding between the Xbox and the PS3 version, definitely go Xbox. The PS3 version’s resolution is 56% of the Xbox version (I base this on several online sources, not on my own observations, and I have both machines, so I’m not speaking out of any particular brand loyalty). There is a Wii version as well, but it’s effectively a different game, with more cartoony graphics.

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CARNAGE!

What’s the term?

Oh yeah.

OMFG.

The reports are popping up from Sony’s exhibition for journalists of God of War 3, coming sometime for the Playstation 3, and it sounds incredible. Michael McWhertor at Kotaku says it’s “like a threesome for your eyes.”

For the uninitiated, the God of War series follows the adventures of a belligerent Spartan antihero named Kratos as he cleaves his way through ancient Greek mythology. Kratos is one of the best fantasy characters in any medium to appear in many years, the reworking of and visual design for the places and creatures of myth in the games is amazing, and the stories are truly epic both in scope and scale. Though the games are all about savage action, there is even true pathos in Kratos’s tale…particularly when you finally discover what happened to his family, and where his skin attained the ash-white color that led to his being called the “Ghost of Sparta.” Kratos doesn’t have a bad attitude, he is bad attitude incarnate, but he has reason.

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I love God of War. The first two games were on the Playstation 2, and they were gorgeous, pushing that console’s tech to its limits. The actual third game, God of War: Chains of Olympus, was made for the PSP handheld, and captured the GOW experience perfectly even on a totable screen. God of War 3, on the Playstation 3, promises to be exponentially more impressive; the character model for Kratos alone this time around (with actual muscle flexing and skin that has pores) takes up four times the amount of memory that the PS2 had in full.  Apparently much of the game actually has Kratos traveling across levels that are literally the bodies of the mythical Titans, moving around while he’s battling on them like animate mountains; Sony says that the Medusa level from GOW 2 (the largest level in the existing games) would fit in the palm of the Titan Gaia’s hand in GOW 3.

I’m really excited about this game, and I’m ready, because we have a PS3. We already had an Xbox 360, but I finally bit the wallet and got the Playstation a few months back, once the Blu-Ray/HD DVD war ended in Blu-Ray’s favor. But I’d decided months prior that I’d be getting a PS3, the day I saw the announcement that God of War 3 was in development.

Here’s the new trailer. Note that it’s not just a CGI cinematic, it’s fully rendered in the game engine, so you’re seeing the game itself (and not even in its final, fully developed form)…