In the front of the book Perdido Street Station, you are given a simple map of the city of New Crobuzon: its precincts, rail lines, and rivers. But it does nothing to illustrate the complexity of this city built under the ribcage of a gigantic skeleton. The architecture is a confusion of grand houses, billowing factories, crowded markets, and grimy rookeries. The population is an unruly mix of humans, khepri (women’s bodies with insect’s heads), vodyanoi (amphibians who shape water like clay), cactus-men (self-explanatory), and other more unusual inhabitants. Even science includes the psychic Remaking of flesh into bizarre and obscene forms, computers made of gears and sprockets, and alchemy is studied alongside atomic theory. New Crobuzon is a city always on the edge of crisis and all that is required to tip it over is a little push.
This push originates from Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a scientist whose controversial theories have gotten him shoved from the mainstream. So he takes jobs where he can find them. One job comes from Yagharek, an outcast member of the garuda (a noble race of nomadic birdmen from the desert). For the crime of ‘choice-theft in the second degree’, he had his wings cut off. Yagharek hungers for the sensation of flight and offers a lot of money to Isaac to make it possible. Isaac begins by getting all manner of birds and winged insects to study their modes of flight. One particular specimen is a multicolored grub that will only eat dreamshit, the newest drug on the street. What the grub becomes when it emerges from its cocoon will lead Isaac, his friends, and the city itself into a waking nightmare they might not awaken from.
Written and Directed by: Luc Besson Starring: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker
Released by: Sony Pictures Region: 1 Rating: PG-13 Anamorphic: Yeah buddy.
My Advice: Borrow It.
A big ball of Evil is heading straight towards Earth. Assisted by the evil businessman and gunrunner Zorg (Oldman), it will extinguish all life on the planet. Why would Zorg and the ball do something like that? Because they’re Evil. The only thing that can stop them is the Supreme Being, who is actually a young woman (Jovovich) who doesn’t speak any English. She happens to runs into (or crashes into) cab driver Corbin Dallas (Willis) who just happens to be an ex-soldier. Along the way, the flamboyant DJ Ruby Rod (Tucker) and the priest Vito Cornelius (Holm) join them on their adventure. This unlikely band of misfits has to stop the Big Ball of Evil (and its entourage) from destroying the Earth.
Developer: Red Storm Entertainment Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment Platform: Win 9x/Me/2000/XP ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
The No. 1 complaint I hear about first-person shooter games is that they aren’t realistic. People seem to want something that they can relate to more than the worlds portrayed in Doom or Serious Sam.
If that’s your complaint, then this is your game. Ghost Recon (referred to as GR) is a first-person shooter set in the world of Tom Clancy’s novels. As the game opens in the year 2010, we learn that the Russian government has been taken over by a group of hard-line Ultra-nationalists. The Russian war machine is being readied for an invasion, with troop movements and buildups at Russia’s western border. Only one force stands between the Russian front line and the former soviet republics: the Special Forces group known as the Ghosts. They’ve been tasked with running interference against the Russians until the bulk of the NATO force can mobilize. The game puts the Ghosts in your hands, leaving their fate (and the fate of nations) within your grasp.
The rules of the GR universe are simple. There are no hit points. There are no bosses. There are no levels. You and your team of riflemen, demolition experts, snipers and heavy weapons “support” specialists are tasked with completing several goals during each mission. How you achieve these goals depends on your playing style as well as the makeup (and experience) of your squad.
Game play is divided into two sections: the mission briefing/squad selection stage and the actual mission. In the briefing you are given your objectives for the mission and any relevant information about the enemy presence in the area. During squad selection you have the opportunity to select soldiers based on their specialties and their statistics in key areas of combat, like stealth and weapon use. After you have completed a mission you will also be able to use this screen to allocate more points to these stats, giving the player an incentive to play smart and keep a squad alive.
Game play during the mission will be familiar to anyone that has played a FPS game before. Aiming is done with the mouse, while moving and all other functions critical to the mission are done via the keyboard. One particular aspect of gameplay worth noting is the command map function. With this tool you can see a crude map of the mission area and where your fireteams are at the moment. By utilizing a control system on the map itself you can direct your squads to separate waypoints and targets, all while leading one team yourself. Through efficient use of the command map it is possible to attack three targets at the same time, just as a real specops unit would. This gives the game a feel of realism well beyond what GR’s competitors have to offer.
Also adding to the feel of realism are the dynamics of the game itself. Uniforms get wet when you walk through water, and snow crunches underfoot. Enemies will respond appropriately (and differently) to the sounds of snapping twigs or gunfire. Your squad members will seek cover at all times, and won’t fire unless they have a kill shot, or you ordered them to. As you run your weapon becomes harder to control, adding a degree of difficulty to the usual “point and shoot” interface.
Where GR really wins is in its replay value. The game itself has several difficulty settings, as well as playing the “quick mission” option where mission objectives and details are changed. Add to this the fact any mission can be played in the multiplayer arena, and you have a game that guarantees hours and hours of additional play. I’ve logged over 100 hours and the game still doesn’t bore me.
Ghost Recon promised an accurate and exciting view into the life of a Special Forces unit, and it delivered. You should be able to find it at your local electronics superstore for around $40.00, and it’s worth every penny!
Written by: Roald Dahl & David Seltzer, based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Dahl Directed by: Mel Stuart Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Ostrum, Jack Albertson, Julie Dawn Cole, Denise Nickerson
Audio commentary with the Wonka Kids: Ostrum, Cole, Nickerson, Paris Themmen & Michael Bollner
Pure Imagination “Making Of” featurette
Four sing-along songs
Original featurette from 1971
Released by: Warner Brothers Region: 1 Rating: G Anamorphic: Nope.
On paper, The Sims doesn’t sound interesting: you guide the lives of Sims (the people in the game) to furnish their houses, obtain jobs, form relationships, and go to the bathroom. But for a lot of people, it becomes addictive. You can become attached to your Sims, concerned about their well being; financial, physical, and emotional. It also helps that many of the features of The Sims are done in a tongue-in-cheek style, from the funny descriptions of the various objects around the house to the swelling music when two Sims fall in love. The newest addition to this is the Hot Date Expansion Pack.
Hot Date focuses on the social aspect of the game. Your Sims have more flexibility in relating to other Sims, from how friendly a greeting can be (a wave, a handshake, a friendly hug, or a “very friendly” hug) to the subjects they can talk about (the 60’s, crime, technology, or travel). How you gauge the contacts your Sims have has also changed. Replacing the status bar on the health of a relationship are two status bars, one on how things are going at the moment and another on how the relationship is going as a whole. The biggest improvement that comes with this new expansion is the Sim Downtown.
Developer: United Game Artists Publisher: Sega of America Platform: Playstation 2 ESRB Rating: E (Violence)
Since the earliest generation consoles, pretty much every game produced has fallen neatly into a genre, making it easy to market, easy for fans to find, and easy to review, as there are “standards” of a sort for each genre of game, be it FPS, RTS, sports, RPG, whatever. And now there’s Rez. And I have to start from scratch, because, despite the fact that it’s advertised and marketed as a “shooter,” it’s infinitely more complex than that.
Rez puts you in control of a little wireframe person, zipping through what looks to be some sort of VR cyberspace computer network, full of wireframe landscapes and polygonal bad guys representing the network’s defense systems. So you zip through the network “on rails” (for the uninitiated, this means that you have no control over your movement, just your aim), and you blow up security programs, with the obligatory “boss monster” at the end of each of five levels.
Written by: Connie Willis Published by: Bantam Books
I’ve looked over the books I have reviewed so far, and found they are rather serious and somber. I’m going to lighten the mood with To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, a novel that tells the story of a temporal paradox that could destroy the space-time continuum. But this is not another Star Trek time travel rehash, trust me.
In the mid-21st century, time travel has been developed, but Time doesn’t like to be messed with. It is impossible to take anything from the past into the present. Because of this, time travel has become consigned to cash-strapped universities, such as Oxford. However when a researcher, Verity Kindle, returns from 1888 with a cat, this impossibility should have caused a huge uproar. Unfortunately, the wealthy and demanding Lady Schrapnell has commandeered Oxford to help her rebuild Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during a Nazi air raid. Since the cathedral is to be an exact copy (Lady Schrapnell’s favorite saying is “God is in the details!”), everyone is working to exhaustion including Ned Henry.
Ned has been traveling to 1940 and back so much looking for the “bishop’s bird stump” (an ugly Victorian decoration), his brain has become addled with “time lag”. To get him away from Lady Schrapnell’s badgering, he is sent back to return the cat to 1888 and avoid the possible destruction of the universe. Ned’s brain is so addled by the time lag he doesn’t think to ask “How did the cat get to the present?” or “Where do I return the cat to?” or “How do I get out of this mess?” of which there are many in the book.