Games that Need More Credit- Predator: Concrete Jungle

It’s time for change! A breath of fresh air. A breath that involves inhaling the nostalgic scents of burning metal, smoke, and blood. Rather than following what has become my regular routine of finding a new story and writing an article, I have decided to write about a game that has been out for a while, putting my own little twist on one of my cowriters’ (Dylan) “Better Late than Never” segment. Today I am going to talk about a game which I think did not get the credit which it was due. While this game could possibly have gone by without you knowing of its existence, you probably know about the franchise which birthed it: Predator.

Predator: Concrete Jungle was a game for the original Xbox which hit shelves in early 2005. Created to ride the fan wave made by the film Alien vs Predator (AVP). Naturally, as all video gamers do, I presumed that this game was going to be horrible- a simple attempt to gain more money from the fan base- however, when I bought it, I was surprised. While this game was no Skyrim (clearly, as it came on the original xbox, in a time when gaming was still adjusting to more advanced consoles), it still had its merits.

The Game’s Story

In the summer of 1930, a Yautja (Predator) hunter came to ‘New  Way City’ to hunt the greatest of prey- man. According to the introductory narration, we can assume that the creature had been there for some time, earning the nick name “the New Way Devil”. The Devil had taken to hunting and killing gangsters and mob bosses, and his hunt was coming to an end. However, the devil slipped up, and on the night where he killed Bruno Borgia, the God of Gansters, he sustained serious injury (you find out how later in the game). Dropping his advanced equipment, the Devil fled, making for his final target before leaving the planet. This is where the player is given control of the Predator.

Players must carve a path through a mob of rioting prohibition-era gangsters. When the last of his victims dies, the player must return to their ship, however the floor collapses beneath you en route, trapping you underground. Predator fans can probably predict what happens next. Bound by the ways of the Yautja, who do not want the population to know of their existence, the New Way Devil activates his ships self-destruction sequence, hoping to wipe its error and existence from the Earth.

The predator had the misfortune of surviving the explosion, and was forced to face the harsh judgement of his kin who arrived shortly after the explosion. Exiled to a desolate planet, the predator had to fight and survive to live his life of shame, atoning for the sins and consequences of his grievous error in judgement. However, we soon discover that the predator must atone for that and more, as his actions on Earth sent ripples through time, effecting the world in a way that was never meant to be.

One hundred years pass, and the New Way Devil has survived his exile. When his kinsmen arrive, he presumes that it is time for him to return to his people- but he is wrong. After watching a recording aboard the ship, he sees that humans found his hunting technology and adapted it into their own machinery, which was used in turn against his kin. As a result of this, he is sent back to earth, where he must atone for the sins of his past, and avoid further damaging the future.

Game Mechanics

Now, as this is an Original Xbox game, it is not surprising that the game will have its bugs and faults, however Predator: Concrete Jungle’s gaming mechanics have more negative aspects than positives. Most of these aspects can be blamed on poor programming and the game engine.

Let us start with one of the largest problems, which is a source for many other issues. The developers could not decide on it’s genre of game play. Instead of focusing on a certain specific genre (such as a stealth adventure, Action RPG, etc) and building on it, the game slapped a general ‘adventure’ genre sticker on the product, which resulted in it having numerous but unrefined game features and playing styles, which result in awkward mechanics for the gamer.

For instance, there are some platforming elements in the game, as players are forced to scale buildings and leap from roof to roof, however it feels as though the developers took the mechanics of Super Mario and made it into 3D. The jumping system is primitive at best, and the mobility lacks any particular vigor that you would hope for while being in control of a massive Yautja warrior.  The game lacks a ‘recharge’ system for health/shields/energy (though it was not as prominent when the game was designed), which means players have to go on a wild goose chase to find health packs and power sources. While this is a negative feature to some gamers, others would find this to be appealing, as it forces them to be more conservative with their tactics and use of powers.

As with most adventure genres, this game comes with several different environments, though most are urban and seem to be similar in regards to the tactics used around them- the environment diversity really just boils down to industrial indoor, dense urban outdoor and industrial outdoor. The world itself is set in numerous non-linear stages that allow players to roam freely within the confines of the environment. These environments were cast in low res X-box graphics, which gave them a boring appearance after a while. The game fails to captivate players visually, though it does have ample amounts of gore to entertain more sadistic gamers.

The game has an interesting variety of weapons (which fell under two groups: thrown/projectile/Special and main weapons- which consisted of your Glaives and Combisticks). While some were the generic swinging blades of death that had a hand full of unique animations, others were very fun to use, such as the Smart Disk, and the Helmet HUD, which allowed for voice recording and mimicking as well as a whole boat load of different vision modes. These weapons, which usually could be upgraded, made for some entertaining and gruesome in game kills.

But what point is a weapon if you have nothing fun to use it on? Well, if there is one thing that Predator Concrete Jungle does right, it is allowing for a diverse array of enemies. While this doesn’t hold a candle to massive modern games in terms of the unique enemy collection, it was one of the few games that did it at an interesting extent in it’s time. We got to fight foes, old and new, including humans, cyborgs, weaponized mechs, the notorious black serpent like ‘Xenomorphs‘ (From the ‘Alien’ films) and even other Yautja. This put the numerous weapons to use, as some weapons worked better on certain enemies than others, which would prevent a player from obtaining a super weapon and using it for the entire game.

All in all, the mechanics of the game weren’t all that impressive, which is why it was not noticed by many gamers, as most reviewers were turned off by this factor.

Conclusion

All in all, while the game was low end in terms of graphics and general gaming mechanics, I do not believe it to be to the point where the game should automatically be written off. Its story and fun factor makes it worth a short term rental. After all, how many chances do you get to play as a Yautja in a large open world environment? If game developers decided to revamp the title, I believe it could be profoundly successful, since we have the technology to make the game visually captivating, and refined game engines to allow for smoother mechanics.

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5 Must-See Doctor Who Episodes

The madman with a box has stolen the hearts of people worldwide.  Doctor Who, now nearing it’s 50th anniversary, has grown from being a cult British sci-fi show, to being a global fandom phenomenon.

So, how, exactly, does a new fan get started on their own adventures in the TARDIS?  What episodes should a new fan watch first?

Here, a ranking of the five must-see episodes for any new Whovian!

5 Must-See Doctor Who Episodes

5.  Blink

Of course, this countdown is not complete without the most famous episode of the relaunched (2005-present) Doctor Who.  Blink gives us our first look at the Weeping Angels, one of the most terrifying, memorable monsters in the show’s history.  While the Doctor is not featured very prominently in this episode, it is still a fan favorite (and, actually, it has been many a fan’s first episode.)

So why should a new Whovian see it?

“Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.”  Need more be said?  Blink is, without a doubt, one of the most quoted episodes.  It has been ingrained into the show’s folklore, becoming one of the most recognized and referenced episodes, and, essentially, a must-watch for those new to the show.

This episode also features the adorable and talented Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow (who, sadly, has not made a second appearance on the show.)  She alone makes this one worth the watch.

4.  Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday (two-part story)

Rose Tyler was the first companion of the relaunch era, and is, inarguably, one of the most beloved.  Doomsday marks the character’s (unwilling) departure, marking one of the most pivotal moments in the series.  Also, this two-episode story pits two of the Doctor’s most famous foes against each other — the Daleks and the Cybermen.

So why should a new Whovian see it?

This is definitely one of the most emotional stories of the relaunch era.  Among the most memorable moments is the goodbye between Rose and Ten at Bad Wolf Bay, a scene that has moved many a Whovian to tears.  David Tennant and Billie Piper deliver, their performances in this episode are brilliant (yes, pun intended, fellow Ten fanatics.)  Just keep the box of Kleenex nearby.

Also, watch for the verbal battle of wits between the Daleks and Cybermen, another must-see moment.

3.  Turn Left

Turn Left is the “Butterfly Effect” episode, exploring the concept of a small decision’s ability to drastically alter one’s life.  A Time Beetle attaches itself to Donna, reversing her decision of where to turn at an intersection one morning, causing her, thus, to never meet the Doctor.  Chaos ensues as Donna’s life — and the entire world — spiral out of control, with no Doctor to help.

So why should a new Whovian see it?

This episode really showcases Donna Noble — and it’s a wonderful episode.  Catherine Tate steps up to the plate and brings her A-Game to this one, and Donna really shines as a character.  It’s also worth it to see how Doctor Who handles the somewhat-cliche “Butterfly Effect” plot.

Another thing that is often overlooked about this episode, is the fact that it sheds some light on the importance of the companions, as it shows what would become of the Doctor if he traveled alone (spoiler — it’s not good!)

2.  Silence In The Library

An immense library containing every book ever written, a little girl with a huge imagination — and a thrilling episode that will leave anyone who watches it counting shadows for a long while.  This is what Silence In The Library offers us.   This episode also marks the first appearance of River Song,  a character that will be of extreme importance later on (though, if you ask why or how that happens, well… spoilers!)

So why should a new Whovian see it?

River Song.  There really is no bigger reason to watch this episode.  Fated to become the Doctor’s “equal”, River is one of the most mysterious characters in recent Who history.  Love her or hate her (the fandom seems to be very polar about her), this is a crucial River episode.

1.  Vincent And The Doctor

While most episodes of the show go for more towards the sci-fi route, Vincent And The Doctor is one of those rare treat episodes, where, instead, the focus is on a “real life” historic person or event.  In this episode, the Doctor, along with Amy Pond, visit famous painter Vincent van Gohg.  This episode explores the meaning of art, the impact of it, and a process that many an artist will be familiar with — dealing with pain and suffering through their craft.

So why should a new Whovian see it?

Simply put, this is one of the most beautiful episodes of the relaunch era.  Even for those who are not fans of van Gohg (or not even art appreciators in general), this episode is a must-see.  It showcases the emotional depth Doctor Who is capable of, not to mention this one gorgeous special effects sequence with The Starry Night.

Of course, the humble opinion of every Whovian is that all the episodes are worth watching.  But, for those wanting to get a small taste before deciding if a marathon is worth their time, these five stories should serve as a good starting point.  So, if you are looking to hook a new friend on Doctor Who, or you are curious about it and wondering where to start, these are definitely five to watch.


Andie is the resident Doctor Who expert (read; “obsessed fan”) of The Nerd Nexus.  Other notable fandoms of hers include Resident Evil and Harry Potter — expect plenty of blogging about all three from her.  You can also catch her on Twitter (@OhHiAndie).

Better Late than Never: From Paris with Love

Spy movies. While this genre was once major in Hollywood with films such as the ‘007’ series, it is dying out. We see less and less spy movies every year, and personally, I find that their quality is also diminishing. Knowing this, I did not expect to be impressed with the film ‘From Paris with Love’. The only reason I was actually compelled to watch it was to see why John Travolta randomly shoots some chick in the head (A famous scene that has been made into a meme). When I finally sat down to watch it after it, I decided that perhaps it was not a waste of time after all.

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Information

Title: From Paris with Love

Film length: 92 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure/

Staring: Jonathon Rhys Meyers, John Travolta

Average online rating: 6.0-6.5

Rating: R

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Synopsis

From Paris with Love tells to story of a young ambassador’s aid named James Reece (Jonathon Rhys Meyers), who seeks to be promoted to a higher rank within the United States Embassy in Paris. While most associate embassies with long lines and passport photos, there is a grittier nature behind them in the film, as they host and orchestrate foreign espionage and combat missions carried out by trained Special Operatives. Deciding to toss the young-but-brilliant agent a bone, the embassy assigns Reece to a mission, accompanying special agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta) on a secret assignment.

The witty banter begins as soon as Wax enters the film, as we see him caught in a conflict with French Customs official. This is not a physical conflict however, instead, Wax has been detained for bringing illegal materials through customs. What did he bring? Guns? Drugs? Spy Toys? Oh no, he brought something far more menacing than that; Charlie Wax is detained for bringing canned energy drinks to France. After Reece saves the day by running interference, and granting Wax diplomatic privileges with a pretty red sticker, the real action begins.

Wax and Reece travel through Paris, wreaking havoc where ever they go, including, but not limited to, a Chinese Restaurant to shut down a drug ring, ghetto to shut down a terrorist organization, a brothel to…well, you figure it out, and all of this leads to a climax in a diplomatic Summit. Through out the film, more and more is revealed about why Wax is in Paris, and Reece soon realizes that he may be in over his head. With the promise of being granted field-agent status, Reece attempts to pick up the pieces behind his destructive partner, hoping to some how emerge from this all unscathed. Good luck with that buddy!

So a bad ass, a nerd and a hooker walk into an elevator

Review

As I said before, this film surprised me. While it is far from being a five star academy award winner, it has value in its own sense. One of the reasons spy movies are dying out is because they become predictable. We can always expect some level of betrayal from the agency, and an unhappy ending to a  certain degree, where the bad guys are dead but the hero does not feel any better.

While ‘From Paris with Love’ follows some of these cliches, there are other moments where we see genuine content and are pleasantly surprised. The combination of Travolta’s gun slinging die hard attitude with Myers’ reservations and inexperience is an example of a cliche that plays out well enough to ignore, and mistake for originality.

What really makes this film entertaining is the seamless lapsing between hardcore gritty action, and headache inducing hilarity (and I am not over estimating how funny it is. I am pretty sure I almost sh*t myself a couple of times). Few films have ever pulled this off without losing the serious nature behind it, yet ‘From Paris with Love’ managed to do this.

With all of these good things being said, I still have to acknowledge some faults. As I mentioned earlier, we still see cliches slip into the movie, and while some are refreshing, others are aggravating and dissatisfying. Along with this, there are several scenes in the movie that can only be described as corny. Save corny for Teenage love stories, but it has no place in a spy movie.

No film is perfect, but ‘From Paris with Love’ is an interesting movie that can help you pass time on a dull day, and will not leave you feeling as though you have wasted too many brain cells by watching garbage. Plus, it is amusing to see John Travolta bald. You can find the movie in any DVD shop, though I would suggest rental rather than buying it, unless you are a die hard fan of Pulp Fiction and/or the Tudors.

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I hope that you enjoyed this article; feel free to leave comments of your thoughts below and remember to like the post, follow the blog and our twitter (@TheNerdNexus) for further updates.

Oh, and here is that meme I was talking about (be careful; it is technically a spoiler)

Better Late Than Never: Strike Back: Project Dawn

Kicking off this new series of reviews (Better Late Than Never) I’m starting with the latest season of Strike Back–a British-American television series newly hosted by Cinemax which pits Section 20–a covert branch of the British MI6–against a global terrorist known only as Latif (Jimi Mistry).

The Season Two cover of the Strike Back Blu-Ray.

This season starts with Section 20 on the tail of the notorious Latif, and their captured undercover operative John Porter (Richard Armitage), in a race against time to save their comrade. In their quest they enlist Porter’s former partner, and former Delta Force Operator, Damian Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) to aide the ex-Special Boat Service (SBS) Sergeant Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and Captain Kate Marshall (Eva Birthistle) in finding and identifying Latif after their original mission concludes in failure after the execution of Porter over a live video feed. With a wish for revenge and a need to save the world from the terror of Latif and his mysterious Project Dawn; Section 20 with Colonel Eleanor Grant–played by the ball busting Amanda Mealing–scour the world in exotic locals such as India, South Africa, Kosovo, Chechnya, and Budapest, Hungary.

This season is remarkably short for all of the action-packed power and performance that enthralls you despite the moderately shallow dialogue. Violence isn’t the only thing this show delivers as one of the leading men, Damian Scott, is a roving sex addict to the mimicking of an American James Bond. However, in the ten episode season they do manage to pack a clearly centralized storyline into the realm of spies and international intrigue.

Their mission does not come without costs. During the course of events they lose a handful of agents including Captain Marshall, but overall the plethora of terrorists that the two ex-special forces men dispatch are without equal and are almost out of the realm of possibility if it were not from the excellent use of real life tactics and maneuvers. The character of Scott was obviously cast to be a daring and careless rogue to the tune of a Han Solo or John Rambo. Often rushing into situations without careful thinking has cased more than a few problems for his counterpart in Stonebridge, but the Sergeant’s calm and cool demeanor has allowed him to swoop in and save the day multiple times, often in the same episode!

On the other end of the radio are the intel and analysis wing of Section 20. Starting with the Colonel’s second in command–Major Oliver Sinclair (Rhashan Stone) and going down to Sergeant Julia Richmond (Michelle Lukes)–is an integral part of the show’s screen time. Code-breaking, satellite surveillance, and identifying targets are just a few of the responsibilities tasked to this marvelous secret agency. Suspicion and treachery lie in the ranks of Section 20 and insubordination came to a head before being easily dealt with in what seemed to be a quick fix for a problem that could’ve lasted for another season.

If asked for one word to describe this season of Strike Back; I would have to use: Rushed. This show has the promise, but not the budget to last a season that’s on par with most basic cable television shows, and even being on a premium cable network can’t help it enough to last for too much longer in an American market. That is a sad point indeed as I feel that its generally exaggerated characters are a breath of fresh air to all of the stoic seriousness of series such as 24 and even Burn Notice. In my opinion, in order to improve the ratings and viewers, is to move it to a different time slot for Spartacus and add more than ten episodes to a season. This show has all the potential to be a great spy/military thriller, but seemingly little opportunity to prosper.

Rating: 3.8/5

Stay tuned to Cinemax on 17 August 2012 for the continuation of Strike Back in Strike Back: Vengeance (Also known as Season 3 in US)!

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I hope that you enjoyed this article; feel free to leave comments of your thoughts below and remember to like the post, follow the blog and our twitter (@TheNerdNexus) for further updates.