Partial Review: “Quantum Strike (V2)” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ ZDoom etc..)

Well, although I’m playing a game called “Under A Killing Moon” (Edit: Unfortunately, I probably won’t review it) at the time of writing, I thought that I should try to make sure that there is at least one “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD review posted here this month.

So, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a WAD called “Quantum Strike (V2)“. However, at the time of writing, I’m about halfway through level three (of four). So, this article will be more than just a first impressions article, but less than a full review.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port (version 2.7.9999.0) whilst playing this WAD. However, according to the text file that accompanies the WAD, it will also run with more modern versions of several other source ports such as GZDoom, Zandronum, PR/GLBoom+ and QZDoom.

So, let’s take a look at “Quantum Strike (V.2):

“Quantum Strike (V2)” is a four-level “slaughtermap” WAD that includes new textures, music, fully implemented difficulty settings (I used “Hurt Me Plenty”) and a new monster.

If you’ve never heard of “slaughtermap” levels before, they are challenging levels (like “XXXI Cybersky“, “VeryHard“, “Stardate 20X6” etc..) that contain a linear series of arena-like segments which are filled with more monsters than you can actually fight.

This shifts the emphasis of the gameplay towards survival, fast-paced puzzle solving, dogged determination, knowing when to fight (or when not to) and knowing how to use the “rules” of “Doom II” to your advantage. Personally, I really like this style of level, but it is something of an acquired taste.

Seriously, when it is done well – like in this part of level two- these types of level can be brilliant πŸ™‚

However, whilst this WAD certainly contains some good slaughtermap segments, it isn’t a perfect example of something in this genre. The main problem is that many of the monster-filled areas can feel a little bit too claustrophobic. One of the most important parts of any “slaughtermap” is that the player has enough room to run, dodge and take cover. This can make the difference between a fun level and a frustrating one.

This is especially the case with the early parts of the first level, which mostly take place within narrow corridors where there’s very little room for dodging and relatively little ammo, health, weaponry or cover on offer. At it’s best, this makes the level suspenseful. But it can also make the difficulty feel somewhat cheap, especially when the level occasionally leaves you sandwiched between two groups of monsters within a relatively narrow corridor.

The most jarring example of cheap difficulty in the first level is when the WAD’s new monster, the Afrit, is introduced during a corridor segment. This is a flying baron-type monster who has a powerful attack that spews lots of mancubus/revenant projectiles across a wide area. Although it’s always cool to see new monsters, this is a type of monster that shouldn’t be used in areas where there’s relatively little cover or room for the player to dodge.

Pictured: Not a monster that you want to meet in a corridor!

Although the first level is a rather fun level, the claustrophobic design doesn’t do it any favours. Even the “arena” area later in the level is a medium-size room that feels slightly claustrophobic when compared to the number of monsters you have to fight. This is compounded by the fact that there’s relatively little cover in this area, which can mean that the player barely has time to think or to formulate any kind of strategy.

And, if you try to hide in one of the alcoves here, expect to get walled in by ferocious monsters very quickly!

The second level has some really good arena segments that are suitably sized for this style of gameplay. However, there’s still something of a slight emphasis on claustrophobic walkways in some parts of the level.

And I also forgot to mention that you need to move along the walkways quickly, since there’s a cyberdemon in the middle of this area.

But, although this level is probably my favourite, I couldn’t actually find a way to end it. Even after all of the monsters in the final arena had died, I still couldn’t find a way of ending the level. So, I had to resort to using the “level skip” cheat.

The final battle at the end of the level is pretty epic though (and, like another cool segment earlier in the level, there’s actually enough room too!)

The third level is much more like a classic-style “slaughtermap” level, with arena-like areas, some cool-looking design and lots of monsters.

The coolest part of level three (that I’ve seen so far) is probably this bit, where you can see the level from above.

Although I haven’t finished this level at the time of writing, it is a reasonably fun example of a slaughtermap level. However, one slight criticism I have of it is that some parts can feel a little bit claustrophobic and/or not have enough cover.

Such as this part when it starts filling up with monsters (including a three-layered wall of chaingun zombies on the other side of the room!)

This WAD also takes a very traditionalist attitude towards jumping, but the levels are designed with this limitation in mind. So, I didn’t even notice that I couldn’t jump until about half an hour after I’d started playing. However, the fact that the WAD seems to force you to play the second level (and presumably the third too) from a pistol start is slightly annoying though.

Seriously, why?!?!?

Visually speaking, this WAD has a rather cool sci-fi/horror theme to it, which is vaguely reminiscent of both the original “Quake” and some of Skillsaw’s excellent “Doom II” WADs (eg: “Ancient Aliens“, “Lunatic” etc..) whilst also being it’s own thing too. Seriously, I really love the look of this WAD πŸ™‚

I also love how this WAD sometimes has different colour schemes for different areas.

Plus, I love the “Quake”-like textures on this inventively-designed crusher too.

Likewise, the new music here is really cool too, and it mostly consists of 1980s/90s style MIDI music which has a wonderfully retro-futuristic sound to it. This goes really well with the visual style of the WAD and really helps to add some atmosphere to the levels.

All in all, from what I’ve played, this WAD is a mixed bag. Yes, it looks (and sounds) really cool. Yes, there are some really fun moments to be found here (especially in the second level). However, the emphasis on claustrophobic settings and pistol starts really doesn’t do this WAD any favours.

If I had to give what I’ve played a rating out of five, it would get three and a half.

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Review: “Resident Evil: Afterlife” (Film)

Well, after reviewing the first, second and third “Resident Evil” films, I thought that I’d check out the fourth one – “Resident Evil: Afterlife”. Although I have no current plans to review the other two films in the franchise, I’m not ruling anything out in the future.

Surprisingly, I’m not sure if I’ve seen this film before or not. Although some later parts of it looked vaguely familiar, the earlier parts didn’t. So, I’m not sure. Still, it seemed like it would be worth watching, if only to complete the second-hand DVD boxset I’ve been watching.

Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS. Likewise, the film contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS in the background of at least one scene, although they don’t seem to be that intense from what I can remember. Plus, it’s worth watching this film after the previous three films.

So, let’s take a look at “Resident Evil: Afterlife”:

“Resident Evil: Afterlife” is a sci-fi/horror/action movie from 2010 that begins with a rather cool flashback scene, showing the zombie virus beginning to spread through Tokyo. This scene is mysteriously suspenseful, visually brilliant and wonderfully dramatic.

Seriously, the first couple of minutes are like a really cool short horror movie.

A dramatic voice-over from Alice then explains some of the series’ backstory. But, after that, there is a thoroughly silly over-the-top action scene where several of the Alice clones from the end of the previous film blast and slice their way through an underground Umbrella facility in Tokyo.

Well, this is going to be a rather one-sided fight…..

However, Umbella’s boss Albert Wesker manages to escape using a futuristic cargo plane, before nuking the facility. But, the original Alice has snuck aboard the plane for some much-deserved revenge. During the fight, Wesker injects Alice with some kind of antidote that removes her superhuman abilities. But, before Wesker can shoot her, the plane crashes into a mountain.

Several months later, Alice is flying a plane to Alaska in search of the survivors from the previous film.

And keeping a video diary too, because camcorder batteries are unusually abundent in this post-apocalyptic world…

But, after discovering nothing but a field of abandoned planes and a helicopter that contains the journal from the previous film, Alice is attacked by Claire. After a brief scuffle, Alice notices that there’s some kind of mind control device attached to Claire’s chest. Once she removes it, Claire returns to normal – but she cannot remember who Alice is.

Getting back into the plane, they fly down the American coast towards Los Angeles, where they discover that several survivors are holed up in an abandoned prison that is surrounded by thousands of zombies. After a perilous landing on the roof, one of the survivors points out that there is a cargo ship called the Arcadia off of the coast that seems to be safe. The only problem is, of course, finding a way to get to it…..

And, yes, the film actually includes a logical explanation for why they don’t just use the plane.

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it is about one-third interesting horror thriller film and about two-thirds utterly silly sci-fi action movie.

Although the mixture of these elements helps to keep the film varied, it also means that the film’s narrative feels a little bit less focused than it should be. In a way, this would have been a much better film if it had focused more on the thrillingly claustrophobic scenes of horror set in the abandoned prison and less on the sci-fi action elements of the film.

Still, the film has a rather interesting three-act structure. The first third of the film focuses on Alice (and is a mixture of silly action movie scenes and more suspenseful slow-paced scenes), the second third is a really cool little horror movie set inside the abandoned prison and the final third is an utterly ludicrous sci-fi action/horror segment set aboard the cargo ship.

What? This isn’t a spaceship?

Seriously? It really isn’t a spaceship?

The middle part of the film is, by far, the best. Not only is there some character-based drama and a decent amount of suspense, but it is also the only part of the film that is actually a proper zombie movie. With the survivors trapped inside a large building, they have to rely on their wits, strength and ingenuity in order to survive. As I said earlier, if the whole film was like this 30 minute segment, it would be an absolutely amazing movie.

Seriously, this is just one-third of the film? Why isn’t it… I don’t know… the entire film?

In terms of the characters, they’re reasonably good. Not only is Alice a more interesting character now that she’s marginally less superhuman, but the survivors in the prison are a reasonably interesting mixture of characters too.

The film finally also introduces Chris Redfield, who is reasonably true to his portrayal in the classic Resident Evil games. Surprisingly though, when we first see him, he’s being held prisoner by the survivors (who think he is a dangerous convict). Plus, since Claire has lost her memory, she doesn’t realise that he is her brother too.

It might just be me, but he also reminds me a bit of Dean from β€œSupernatural” too.

The monster designs in this film are somewhat variable. The best monsters are some really creepy mutant zombies who can burrow underground and who have tentacles that emerge from their mouths. These zombies are genuinely disturbing and they really help to add some horror and tension to the film.

Hello there!

However, there’s a random giant executioner monster whose presence is never really explained (and is less scary as a result). Likewise, the zombie dogs near the end of the film seem to have more in common with the zombie dogs from the “Silent Hill” games than the “Resident Evil” games too (eg: since they use their upper body as a giant mouth, like in “Silent Hill 3”).

Yes, this giant executioner is kind of cool, but there’s no real explanation for why he’s there. He’s more like a level boss in a videogame…

Although the film’s action scenes are ridiculously over-the-top, some of them are actually pretty good.

The best one happens after a giant horde of zombies find a way into the abandoned prison, and the survivors are forced to fight them whilst escaping. This scene is filled with suspense, drama, quick thinking, brilliantly theatrical stunt work and a few cool touches (like a shotgun that fires coins).

Yes, the characters actually have to use their brains as well as their guns in this part of the film.

Conversely, the action scene near the beginning of the film is utterly silly. It literally just consists of a group of Alice clones fighting masked henchmen in a variety of acrobatic ways. Unlike the action scene I mentioned earlier, this one just feels like spectacle for the sake of spectacle. It’s just a few minutes of acrobatic fighting, without any real suspense or tension.

Some of them even bring swords to a gunfight…. because it looks cool, I guess.

In terms of set design and special effects, they’re reasonably good. There’s a good mixture of grim post-apocalyptic locations and eerily bright sci-fi locations here. Plus, the Tokyo-based scenes at the very beginning of the film look really cool too. The film’s lighting is at it’s best during the scenes set in the abandoned prison.

Seriously, there’s some really cool lighting in this part of the film πŸ™‚

Likewise, although the film relies more heavily on CGI effects, most of them are reasonably good – with the highlights being the spectacular explosion (or is it an implosion?) in an early part of the film, and some of the monster effects.

Even though it’s clearly CGI, this scene still looks brilliantly spectacular.

Musically, the film is reasonably ok. Although there aren’t really any stand-out moments, the background music fits the events of the film fairly well.

All in all, this is a fairly good film that could have been so much better. The middle part of this film is absolutely excellent, and is filled with suspenseful zombie-based horror and post-apocalyptic drama. It’s just a shame that most of the rest of the film is utterly silly. If only the whole film was like the middle part of the film….

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least three and a half.

Review: “Resident Evil: Extinction” (Film)

Well, after reviewing the first and second “Resident Evil” films, I thought that I’d check out the third one – “Resident Evil: Extinction”. However, I’m still not sure how many of these films I’ll review (hopefully, I’ll review the fourth one sometime, but I’m not exactly sure when).

Although I remember reading the novelisation of “Resident Evil: Extinction” when I was about twenty, I can’t remember if I’ve seen the film before. I’m pretty sure that I have, but I can’t be 100% certain, so it seemed like it would be worth taking a look at.

As usual, this review will contain SPOILERS. Likewise, the film itself contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS/IMAGES, although I don’t know if they’re intense or sustained enough to cause issues. Plus, this film is best enjoyed after you’ve seen the previous two films too.

So, let’s take a look at “Resident Evil: Extinction”:

And, yes, I know that there are six films (although this probably explains why this second-hand DVD boxset was so cheap).

“Resident Evil: Extinction” is a sci-fi/horror/action film from 2007. It begins with what appears to be a recap of the events of the first two “Resident Evil” films.

We see Alice awaken in the shower with no memory and begin to explore the mansion. But then she finds herself inside the laser tunnel below the mansion and it quickly becomes apparent that something isn’t quite right. After dodging the lasers and crawling through an air vent, she finds herself inside Racoon City Hospital.

So, this isn’t re-used footage from the previous film!

However, the hospital seems to be filled with random deathtraps. And, after dodging a guillotine blade, Alice is machine-gunned to death by some kind of futuristic landmine. As she dies, several scientists appear and carry her body away.

Well, that was a short film! What? There’s more…

They carry her body out of the building into a desert and throw it on a pile of identical cloned bodies. The camera then zooms out to reveal that all of this has happened inside a desert research facility that is surrounded by hordes of zombies.

A simple fence is enough to keep the zombies out?!?!? They’re strong enough to tear metal grilles off of windows later in the film.

The film then cuts to a voice-over which explains that, several months after the events of the second film, the world succumbed to the zombie virus and has been reduced to a harsh wasteland filled with nothing but survivors, the undead and the remnants of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation.

Meanwhile, the real Alice is exploring the Utah desert in search of survivors, whilst the other survivors from the first film have joined an armoured convoy in Nevada – led by Claire Redfield (Finally! It’s about time she showed up in these films!).

Better late than never, I guess.

Whilst all of this is going on, Dr. Isaacs is talking with Albert Wesker (again, Finally!). Wesker is now the head of the Umbrella Corporation and he allows Isaacs to continue his research into finding a partial cure for the zombie virus, so that the zombies can be used for forced labour. But because Isaacs’ cloning program hasn’t worked out well, he wants to track down the original Alice in order to use the antibodies in her blood…

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it combines the best elements of the first and second films. Thanks to the good mixture of slower-paced suspenseful horror and thrilling fast-paced action, this is a fun, scary thriller film πŸ™‚

In addition to this, the film’s post-apocalyptic desert setting really helps to make this film a rather distinctive entry in the franchise too.

Yay! Post-apocalyptic wasteland!

The horror elements of this film work surprisingly well. In addition to the usual zombie-based horror and some more suspenseful scenes, this film also includes things like a genuinely creepy scene involving a group of deranged survivors, a few well-placed jump scares and a cool little homage to George A. Romero’s “Day Of The Dead” (when some scientists attempt to train a zombie). There’s also a greater emphasis on gory horror too, with this film being somewhat more gruesome than the previous two films.

Yay! It’s a homage to “Day Of The Dead” πŸ™‚

The thriller elements of this film work really well, with the survivors often having to fight or evade both groups of zombies and infected crows too. There are also enhanced zombies and a large monster too.

Like in the previous film in the series, the action scenes are all really well-choreographed. However, this film also tones down the “silliness” of the action scenes very slightly- with the combat seeming very slightly more suspenseful and realistic. Plus, since these action scenes occur less often than in the previous film, they are often more thrilling (since they’re contrasted with slower-paced scenes).

Unlike in “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”, the whole film doesn’t consist of scenes like this.

But there’s still the occasional enjoyably silly moment too.

One thing that really helps is that there’s more character-based drama. Although you shouldn’t expect massive amounts of characterisation, the film focuses more on the lives of the survivors as they try to find more fuel, stay alive and work out where they can hide from the zombies.

Likewise, the film’s villains also receive a certain amount of characterisation too, with the charmingly sociopathic Dr. Isaacs being an absolutely brilliant villain. Wesker, on the other hand, really doesn’t get enough screen time or characterisation.

Seriously, Wesker only appear in about three scenes. Three!

Carlos and LJ seem less like the cartoon characters they were in “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” and more like tough, but realistic, characters. Although Claire Redfield is nothing like the videogame character she’s based on – she comes across as a reasonably realistic and well-written/acted character, who reminded me a little bit of Sarah Connor from “Terminator 2”.

Yes, this isn’t even vaguely accurate to the games. But, this scene is still pretty cool nonetheless.

Likewise, Alice is still the same badass action heroine that we all know and love. However, her psychic powers have increased slightly since the ending of the second film, which have led to her being somewhat of a loner since she fears what they might do to those close to her.

The film’s supporting characters also include a few other interesting characters, such as a teenage girl called “K-Mart” who is Claire’s protege, a character called Betty who seems to be LJ’s girlfriend and a cowboy-like guy who, for some bizarre reason, has a British army rifle (that he uses as a sniper rifle).

Seriously, how does he even have this gun?

These supporting characters help to ensure that the film isn’t just about a few main characters – which helps to add some suspense and depth to the story. The fact that the survivors also have to protect a group of kids too helps to add some suspense to the film.

In terms of the film’s special effects, set design and lighting – they’re really good. The film uses a combination of practical and CGI effects, both of which seem to work reasonably well. Likewise, the film’s bleakly bright desert settings are contrasted wonderfully with some rather gloomy chiaroscuro lighting too. The film’s desert setting also allow it to include lots of intriguingly creepy abandoned buildings too, which helps to add some atmosphere.

Such as this creepy abandoned radio station.

Or this ominously disused petrol station.

In terms of the music, the film is reasonably good – with the highlight being a piece of music (that sounds eerily futuristic and distinctively “Resident Evil”) that repeats during several establishing shots. Likewise, when the survivors’ convoy is first introduced, the scene is set to Iron Butterfly’s “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida”. Somehow, this piece of 1960s music works really well in context, and sounds suitably epic.

Although “Convoy” by C. W. McCall would have been hilarious in this scene!

All in all, this film is a brilliant mixture of the suspenseful horror of “Resident Evil” and the thrilling action of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”. It is ninety minutes of pure post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror fun. And it is probably the best film in the series that I’ve seen so far.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get somewhere between four and four-and-a-half.

Review: “Resident Evil” (Film)

Well, after reviewing “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” recently, I thought that I’d go back and take another look at the first film in the series.

Although I ended up buying a DVD boxset of the first four films (since it was actually cheaper to buy this second-hand than buying the films individually), I don’t know how many more of them I’ll end up reviewing.

Anyway, “Resident Evil” is a film that I first saw at the cinema when I was thirteen. Ever since I read in a games mag that they were turning this videogame series into a film, I just had to see it (and, luckily, getting into the film under-age wasn’t as difficult as I had feared). I was so excited! It seemed like it would be the coolest thing in the world. But, when I actually saw it, I felt somewhat cheated. The film seemed to be very different to the games that I had enjoyed so much.

But, given how my reaction to seeing “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” changed when I revisited it as an adult, I was curious to see if what I’d think about the first film in the series would be any different over a decade and a half later. And, yes, seeing this film again totally changed my opinion of it.

Needless to say, this review may contain SPOILERS. Likewise, the film itself contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS/IMAGES, but I don’t know if they’re intense enough to cause problems.

“Resident Evil” is a sci-fi/horror film from 2002 (starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius and James Purefoy) that is very loosely based on the “Resident Evil” videogame franchise.

The film begins with a voice-over that explains how the Umbrella Corporation has become one of the most powerful corporations in America. The film then cuts to one of the company’s secret underground laboratories, where a vial of mysterious blue chemical is released by an unknown character.

Don’t worry, the vial is made out of CGI – it’ll be fine!

A while later, the facility suddenly goes into emergency lockdown. The lifts begin to malfunction dangerously and the facility’s central computer looks on impassively as the crowded hallways are flooded with halon gas and the sprinkler systems begin to drown the scientists working in the laboratories.

Remember, safety first!

Back on the surface, a woman called Alice wakes up in the bathroom of a stately home with no memory of who she is or why she is there. After she explores the house for a while and encounters a mysterious man, a team of masked commandos suddenly burst through the windows.

They arrest the man and tell Alice that she is one of the company’s operatives. They have been sent to the house in order to investigate what has happened in the laboratory below, and they want to take Alice and the mystery man with them…

Well, this journey isn’t going to end well…

One of the very first things that I will say about this film is that it is much better than I remember. Unlike the action-packed sequel, this is a proper horror film.

Although it still has a sensible running time (97 minutes), this film actually takes a decent amount of time to build up suspense and atmosphere – with the first zombie attack not even happening until 37 minutes into the film. Likewise, although there are certainly thrilling moments of action in this film, the emphasis is much more firmly on horror, suspense and storytelling than action.

Unlike in the sequel, these types of scenes are the exception rather than the rule.

The fact that most of the film takes place in a confined underground laboratory really helps to add a sense of claustrophobia and tension to the film. This is in keeping with the spirit of the classic “Resident Evil” videogames, even if the characters and the details of the story are very different.

The film’s suspense is further increased by the fact that the laboratory is being run by a sociopathic artificial intelligence called the Red Queen, who has no compunction about killing people.

Likewise, when the zombies appear in this film, they often appear in overwhelming hordes that the main characters have no chance of actually defeating. This usually means that the characters often have to rely on their wits more than on their guns, which also increases the level of suspense in the film dramatically. The fact that the characters also realise that they only have a limited time to escape the facility helps with the suspense too.

Yes, the characters actually have to rely on their brains (in order to stop the zombies eating them).

As for the horror elements of this film, they work reasonably well. Although this film probably won’t give you nightmares, there’s a good mixture of jump scares, grisly moments, atmospheric horror, body horror, monster-based horror and character-based horror.

In terms of the characters, this film is reasonably good. Although there isn’t really that much in the way of deep characterisation, the characters often come across as vaguely realistic soldiers and operatives, rather than superhuman action heroes. Likewise, this is one of those 1990s-style thriller films where there is slightly more focus on teamwork than on individual heroics too. The film’s cast all put in a reasonably good performance too, with no glaringly obvious examples of bad acting.

The film’s special effects are reasonably decent for the time too. For a film made in the early 2000s, some of the CGI effects are good- with the highlights being both the film’s famous “laser grid” scene and the Red Queen’s creepy hologram.

Because you can’t have sci-fi without lasers!

Some of the film’s CGI monsters and CGI models look a little bit dated though. However, many of the film’s effects seem to be timeless practical effects, which still work reasonably well.

In terms of the film’s set design and lighting, it’s fairly good. A lot of the film takes place in an underground lab that looks both coldly futuristic and ominously disused. As you would expect from a sci-fi horror film, there’s also a decent amount of cool-looking high-contrast lighting. However, the film also uses bright, harsh cold lighting reasonably often too.

Not only is the lighting wonderfully ominous here, but this office looks both old and futuristic at the same time.

And this area looks a little bit like something from the “Alien” films πŸ™‚

Not to mention that there’s quite a bit of cool high-contrast lighting too πŸ™‚

As for the film’s music, it’s reasonably good. Especially near the beginning of the film, the music is often used to build tension and suspense in a reasonably effective way. Another stand-out moment is that Slipknot’s “My Plague” plays during the end credits. Even though I’m not a massive Slipknot fan (although “Wait and Bleed” is a pretty good song), this song is surprisingly catchy and it has a really cool chorus.

All in all, this is a reasonably decent sci-fi/horror film. Whilst the characters and the story differ greatly from the games it is based on, it is at least reasonably close to them in spirit. Instead of being a ridiculously fast-paced action movie, it is a slightly slower-paced suspenseful horror film (with some fast-paced moments). And, on it’s own merits, it’s actually a reasonably good film.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Review: “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” (Film)

Well, I thought that I’d take another look at a film that I really enjoyed when I was a teenager. I am, of course, talking about a film from 2004 called “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”.

Back then, I’d really been looking forward to this film because, although the previous “Resident Evil” film was different to what I’d expected, this sequel looked like it would be more faithful to the source material. Needless to say, I ended up seeing it at the cinema and it really knocked my socks off πŸ™‚ So much so that I actually ended up getting it on DVD a year or two later.

But, now that I’m somewhat older, I began to wonder if the film was as good as I remembered. So, I thought that I’d take another look at it.

Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS. Likewise, the film itself contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS/IMAGES (but I don’t know if they’re fast or intense enough to cause problems).

“Resident Evil: Apocalypse” is a sci-fi/action/horror movie that is both a sequel to 2002’s “Resident Evil” and a partial adaptation of an amazing 1990s videogame called “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis“. Although it can be watched as a stand-alone film (since it contains a recap at the beginning), it is best watched after seeing/playing the two things I mentioned earlier.

The events of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” are set into motion when a team of scientists from the nefarious Umbrella Corporation make the questionable decision to re-open the sealed underground bunker from the first film. Needless to say, a horde of zombies pour out and – within hours – Racoon City is in the middle of a full-blown zombie apocalypse.

Hmm… It’s probably because the science team’s budget was spent on silly wrist-mounted computers rather than on some kind of rudimentary zombie-proof barrier.

After evacuating some of their key scientists, Umbrella decides to seal off the town. Unfortunately for the zombies, elite police officer Jill Valentine is stranded inside the town with a reporter and another elite officer called Peyton.

The zombies really don’t stand a chance…

Meanwhile, some of Umbrella’s elite private troops, led by the rugged Carlos Olivera, realise that the company has deserted them. Whilst all of this is going on, the automated systems in the city hospital release Alice (from the first film) from stasis.

Cue a vaguely “28 Days Later” – like scene (that re-uses some footage from the previous film)

And, if that wasn’t enough, one of the evacuated scientists realises that his daughter has been stranded inside the city. Hacking into the city’s CCTV and phone network, he contacts the survivors and offers them a deal. He’ll guide them out of the city, if they rescue his daughter….

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it is best watched when you are a teenager. It is pretty much the textbook definition of a silly, cheesy “so bad that it’s good” action movie. But, even so, what a silly film this is!

Fun fact: This melodramatic explosion comes from an airbourne motorbike that has been machine-gunned after a monster has climbed onto it in mid-air.

Everything from the brilliantly cheesy dialogue to the ludicrous action sequences to the ridiculously rapid-fire editing is totally and utterly silly. Yet, it still works! Although there’s a bit of suspense, characterisation and backstory – most of the film just consists of the characters fighting zombies and monsters in a variety of creatively melodramatic ways.

And, yes, this is one of the more boring combat scenes in the film!

Occasionally, the film shakes things up by having the characters fight evil henchmen too.

And, yet, this works! Although the film tries to have a few serious dramatic moments, it really doesn’t take itself ultra-seriously. It’s a silly, mindless action movie that knows that it’s a silly, mindless action movie.

In other words, it’s pretty much a parody of the genre. All of the characters can shoot with pinpoint accuracy, there’s never a shortage of guns, the laws of physics are more like suggested guidelines, there’s at least one explosion every 10-20 minutes or so and there are plenty of “badass” one-liners too.

This film is gloriously immature and doesn’t have an original bone in it’s body. But, this doesn’t matter, because it is fun.

Like this melodramatic headline. Somehow, despite a full-blown zombie apocalypse, the local newspaper still has time to print an extra edition..

Or this “totally not influenced by ‘The Matrix’ ” choice of weapons. And the “I can’t believe it isn’t ‘The Matrix’ ” slow-motion bullet scene in another part of the film. But, well, wouldn’t “The Matrix” be cooler if there were zombies?

In many ways, this film is both similar to and different from the action movies of the 1990s. Whilst it includes more of a 1990s-style focus on team-based storytelling, the team in question contains several cynical, near-immortal, individualistic warriors.

Likewise, whilst the film contains the kind of highly-unrealistic premise that would have been more at home during the more innocent days of the 1990s, the emotional tone of the film is more in keeping with the “serious” mood of the early-mid 2000s.

Yes, it’s a team-based action movie with an unrealistic premise. But it has a gloomier 2000s-style emotional tone and more 2000s-style characters.

Interestingly, this film both is and isn’t faithful to the story of “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis”. Yes, the Nemesis appears – but he has a different origin story (and a slightly different personality). Jill and Carlos also both look a bit like their videogame counterparts, but their personalities are a lot more aggressive and “badass” when compared to the game. There’s also a sequence that has been almost directly lifted from the intro movie from “Resident Evil: Code Veronica” (but with Alice instead of Claire Redfield) too.

Yay! It’s a homage to the real Resident Evil 4 πŸ™‚

If anything, this film is more of a sequel to the first “Resident Evil” film than an adaptation of the classic “Resident Evil” videogames. But, unlike the first film, it’s a ridiculously fast-paced “badass” sci-fi action movie rather than a slow-paced, atmospheric and suspenseful horror story.

There’s no need for carefully conserving ammunition, puzzle-solving or methodical exploration here!

Surprisingly, for a film based on a well-known zombie horror franchise, there’s relatively little in the way of gore. Whilst the film certainly isn’t bloodless, there’s more of a focus on fast-paced action than on grisly horror.

Even so, there are still a few grotesque moments here, such as a classroom of zombie children, a decaying skull or a character who has kept one of their zombified relatives alive. But, these are almost the exception rather than the rule.

For example, a classic zombie-movie style scene where a character is devoured by a horde of the undead is almost completely bloodless.

In terms of the characters, Jill and Carlos are just generic “badass” characters a lot of the time. Alice actually gets a bit of characterisation but, for the most part, she’s another “badass” character. The film’s various supporting characters also help to add a bit of individuality, drama, humour and/or suspense to the film too.

In terms of lighting, special effects and set design, this film still stands up reasonably well to this day. Yes, there’s some mildly dated CGI effects in a few of the monster-based scenes. But, many of the effects are timeless practical effects. The pyrotechnics and fight choreography are also really good too. Plus, the Nemesis looks suitably formidable too.

Or, more accurately, he looks a little bit like something from an Iron Maiden album cover. Which is also awesome πŸ™‚

CGI effects aside, the only thing that will really tip you off that this is a film from 14 years ago is the fact that the characters use payphones more often than mobile phones.

Plus, since this is a film in the horror genre, the lighting looks absolutely brilliant too. Likewise, the set design is a videogame-like mixture of realistic and futuristic locations too.

The best lighting in the film has to be the 1980s-style neon lighting here.

The film also makes extensive use of blue/orange lighting too.

However, in terms of editing, this film often uses a ridiculously fast-paced editing style (especially near the beginning), which makes everything seem a little bit trite and abrupt at times. Still, at a lean 90 minutes (approx) in length, this film never gets dull, bloated or boring.

In terms of music, whilst the music in the film wasn’t that memorable, one interesting fact is that the music credits at the end of the film list Cradle Of Filth’s “Nymphetamine” as part of the soundtrack. Although this song is absolutely brilliant, I can’t remember actually hearing it during the film. But, since Cradle’s “Nymphetamine” album came out the same year that the film did (and the soundtrack is apparently from Roadrunner Records), it’s possible that they just added it to the CD soundtrack to promote the album.

It’s cool that “Nymphetamine” is in the credits, but I don’t remember hearing it during the film though 😦

All in all, this is a gloriously silly and wonderfully mindless “so bad that it’s good” action movie that is a lot of fun to watch.

It’s a film sequel that is also an adaptation of a videogame sequel. So, yes, you’ll enjoy this film the most if you are aged between about thirteen and seventeen. But, even if you’re re-watching it as a slightly more cynical and (somehow) more mature adult, then there’s still lots of fun to be had here. If you go into it expecting ninety minutes of thoroughly silly fun, then you won’t be disappointed.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least three and a half.

Mini Review: “Planisphere” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, I thought that I’d take a look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD today (wow, three in one month!). And, after a little bit of searching, I found a WAD called “Planisphere” that looked like it could be interesting.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD – but it will work on any limit-removing source port. However, since it uses the “Wolf 3D” enemies and a “Wolf 3D” texture from “Doom II”, one part of the level possibly won’t work properly on German versions of the game and/or the “BFG Edition” version of the game.

As a general note, I’ll probably be using “ZDoom” even more often, since one of the side-effects of the hardware changes I had to make to my classic mid-2000s computer a few days before preparing this review is that it will no longer run “GZDoom”.

So, let’s take a look at “Planisphere”:

“Planisphere” is a single-level WAD from 2017 that also includes new music and a new skybox texture.

Surprisingly, the accompanying text file actually includes a backstory for the level, which revolves around a train journey gone horribly wrong (which also explains why the level begins and ends beside a train station).

Plus, this WAD does the cool thing of showing you a later part of the level near the beginning of the level.

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it is a mixture of cool moments and frustrating moments. This level is filled with an interesting variety of cool-looking themed outdoor areas (eg: an urban area, a fantasy/horror/Aztec-style area, a sci-fi style area and a small WW2-themed area) and this kind of makes it feel a bit like a more action-packed version of “The Crystal Maze“.

There’s a dramatic post-apocalyptic city area.

And a pyramid too πŸ™‚ A pyramid!

You can also find a ship too πŸ™‚

In addition to visual variety, there’s also some degree of gameplay variety between these areas. The first and last areas (which overlap slightly) are fast-paced action segments. The fantasy/horror-themed area is a mixture of action and strategy, and the sci-fi themed area is eerily devoid of monsters.

The total lack of monsters actually makes this area quite creepy.

However, whilst it’s cool that “Planisphere” tries to add some variety to the gameplay, this can also make the pacing of the level somewhat uneven and inconsistent. This isn’t helped by the fact that this is one of those levels where you’re likely to get completely and utterly stuck at least once.

For example, I spent at least 20-30 minutes wandering around one area aimlessly until I eventually realised, purely by chance, that a nearby lift can actually ascend three floors rather than the two it initially seemed to be able to reach. Likewise, I almost got stuck in another area until I found a room that was “hidden in plain sight” (although, to be fair, this was a fairly clever piece of level design that relies on how a player would normally react to one type of location).

One interesting level design quirk is that there seems to be at least one totally optional area. Near the end of the level, there is a locked door that requires a yellow key. As I looked around for it, I ended up finding the end of the level instead. So, out of curiosity, I went back and took a quick look behind the door (with the “no clipping” cheat) and found a red door that contained a totally optional missile silo-style area.

Seriously, this is one of the coolest parts of the level, but it’s very easy to miss.

In terms of difficulty, this WAD is a bit of a strange one. Whilst it isn’t exactly ultra-challenging (eg: the one time you’re faced with a horde of enemies, you’re given a plasma rifle and a megasphere), the level sometimes achieves it’s difficulty in rather cheap ways.

Whether this is being very slightly stingy with the amount of ammo the player is given, or placing enemies on ledges in some puzzle-based areas etc… the moderate difficulty can sometimes feel like it has been achieved by cheap methods.

For example, unless you search thoroughly, you’re probably going to run low on ammo here.

The custom music consists of ominous MIDI music that lends the level a slightly gothic/gloomy atmosphere, whilst also being stylistically in keeping with the traditional “Doom” games too.

All in all, this WAD is something of a mixed bag. Although this WAD contains some cool-looking areas (mostly just using the standard textures too), a four-area structure and some reasonably fun moments, the pacing of the level is somewhat uneven, the amount of ammo on offer is a little bit low at times and expect to get stuck at least once or twice.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three.

Review: “The Animatrix” (Short Film Collection)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take another look at a really interesting collection of short cyberpunk films from 2003 called “The Animatrix”.

Although I saw these short films when I was a teenager (including seeing the first short film at the cinema), I pretty much completely forgot about them until I happened to see a really cool “Blade Runner”-themed anime short by Shinichiro Watanabe last year. A while later, I read that he had also directed one of the shorts in “The Animatrix”. So, I thought that I’d revisit it.

Before I review this short film collection, I should probably point out that – to get the most out of it – you need to have watched all three “Matrix” films (yes, even the second two films!). Although the collection does include several stand-alone stories, quite a few of them rely on the viewer having some knowledge of the “Matrix” films. Likewise, this review may contain some mild-moderate SPOILERS.

Plus, I should probably also warn you that “The Animatrix” contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS– although I don’t know if they’re fast or intense enough to cause issues.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Animatrix”:

“The Animatrix” consists of nine short animated cyberpunk films (revolving around the mythos of “The Matrix”) by a range of artists and directors. These films include everything from historical drama, classic science fiction, film noir, traditional cyberpunk, surrealism and dystopian sci-fi.

One of the first things that I will say about this collection is that almost every short film has a different art style. So, on a purely visual level, it’s a really interesting collection. These art styles include everything from various types of anime, to more European-style art, to early 2000s CGI, to vaguely Richard Linklater-style surreal realism, to trippy 1960s-style artwork. Seriously, there is a really interesting blend of art styles.

Like this example of vaguely European-style anime art.

To this “Playstation 2 game cutscene”-style example of early-mid 2000s CGI. It really hasn’t aged well…

One awesome thing is almost every film in the collection takes an intelligent approach to lighting. Many of the films either contain beautiful high-contrast lighting or ominously dystopian gloom. Best of all, even the scenes set during bright summer days often have a very harsh and stark quality to them. Seriously, I cannot praise the lighting in this collection highly enough!

The best examples of high-contrast lighting can be found in a short film called “Beyond”.

In keeping with the gothic atmosphere of the “Matrix” films, most of the stories have a slightly gloomy or dystopian tone, with few to no happy endings to be found. But, the collection contains a really good mixture of thrilling action, chilling horror and tragic science fiction.

However, although some of the stories work well within their 8-10 minute running time, a few feel like they’re trying to do too much or too little. A good example of this is probably “Program” – where the story ends with an unforeshadowed plot twist and the sense that it’s just a small segment of a much larger story.

This is contrasted with the two-part “The Second Renaissance” which, although it contains some cool “Blade Runner”-style location designs, “realistic” anime art, some vaguely Indian-style art, some Isaac Asimov-esque plot elements and some chilling scenes of horror, often feels a bit too expositional.

Yes, there are some cool “Blade Runner”-style parts, but there’s also a lot of exposition too.

Then again, it’s designed to be a history lecture from the distant future, so this might explain the exposition-filled narrative style. Although it’s cool that the Wachowskis wanted to show the backstory to the “Matrix” films, I can’t help but think that this backstory would work better as a graphic novel or a prose piece than an animated film.

On the positive side, the stand-out films in this collection include films like “A Detective Story”. This is a film noir-style anime directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, which follows an old-fashioned gumshoe who has been hired to look for Trinity.

Although the plot of the film isn’t that complex (although there are a decent number of background details etc..), it is wonderfully atmospheric and stylish. Not only do a lot of the background details have an “old newspaper” kind of look to them, but there’s also stuff like steampunk technology, jazz music, and almost monochrome artwork too. Plus, it’s a cyberpunk film noir anime from the creator of “Cowboy Bebop” πŸ™‚

In other words, it’s awesome πŸ™‚

Then there’s “Beyond” – which follows a teenage girl who is looking for her lost cat. Whilst searching, some local boys tell her about a “haunted” house where the laws of physics don’t apply. The house is, of course, a glitch in the Matrix.

This film has a vaguely “Studio Ghibli”-like quality to it and yet also somehow manages to contain a good mixture of slightly creepy “Silent Hill”-style horror and light-hearted whimsy. It’s awesome!

Seriously, it contains everything from whimsical “Studio Ghibli”-style scenes…

…To ominous “Silent Hill”-style moments πŸ™‚

There’s also “World Record”. This is a film about an elite athlete who exerts himself so much during a race that he briefly disconnects from the Matrix.

Not only does this film tell a focused, self-contained, character-based story – but the art style is really interesting too. It has a hint of art nouveau, a hint of anime, a hint of old western comics and probably a load of other stuff too. Seriously, the visual style of this short film is really distinctive and unique.

Seriously, the art style in this short film is really unique πŸ™‚

There are also a few films that sit somewhere in the middle. “Final Flight Of The Osiris” is a good example of this.

Although it includes some beautifully sensual romantic moments, some dramatic robot-based scenes and some backstory to the events of one of the two “Matrix” sequels, it isn’t perfect. For starters, the dated CGI animation looks like something from a cutscene in a Playstation 2 game and, secondly, the story sometimes seems like it is more “style over substance”. Plus, it’s kind of depressing too.

What? A film titled “Final Flight Of The Osiris” isn’t a feel-good comedy?

Likewise, although “Kid’s Story” includes some cool “fluid realism”-style animation (that reminded me a little bit of Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life”), the actual story of the film is somewhat generic. Yes, it provides some backstory for one of the characters in “The Matrix”, and Neo makes a brief appearance too. But, it’s neither bad nor good.

Yes, the vaguely “Waking Life”-style animation in a few scenes is really cool, but the story is kind of generic.

“Matriculated” probably fits somewhere in the middle too. Yes, the premise of the film is a really interesting one (eg: several human survivors try to convince a captured robot to join them via a VR simulation). However, the visual style of a lot of the film is too surreal for it’s own good. Plus, although the ending to this film is brilliantly chilling, it is also somewhat confusing too.

Ha! Let’s scare the robot into joining our side with this freakishly bizarre simulation!

All in all, even though this collection is something of a mixed bag and is aimed firmly at fans of the “Matrix” trilogy, there’s some really cool stuff here. Yes, this collection is a bit on the gothic side of things (so, don’t expect it to be a “feel good” collection) – but this is handled fairly well. Plus, even though it isn’t perfect, it’s still worth watching just to check out some of the creative art and animation in many of the short films.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it might just get a four.