Sunday, February 24, 2013

Silent Hill: HD Collection Xbox 360 (SH3)

The ugly cover is only the beginning...

I finally got around to really giving my time to SH: HDC. Why’d it take so long? At first, I waited for the patch. Then the patch wasn’t coming for the Xbox 360. I did Downpour and Homecoming, and then this one. When I started I was in the middle of my third move the 2012 year. I had to leave people I have become attached to, and it was particularly hard. My comfort is not found in chocolate or ice cream or chick flicks. It’s in my favourite video games. One of my all time favourites is Silent Hill 3. To stop thinking of my shitty life, I dedicated a week to getting all the achievements. Since you can easily play SH3 in about 2 hours and 30 minutes, getting all the achievements was not as hard as I was expecting. If you’re an achievement whore, this game is easy, but you also have to get all of SH2’s achievements to get them all. As of posting, I still haven’t gotten the achievements for SH2 on Hard Mode. And yes, I know that this post is long overdue, and it was difficult to organize between the two games, new and original, and the console differences.
Disclaimer: I love SH3. I love SH the universe. If I could only play one series for the rest of my life, this would be it. I still have my PS2 copies, and I will always love these games. I’m not opposed to change, but it better be change for the better.  

            HD remakes of PS2 games are not the kind of things that I get very excited for, especially if there is not going to be new content. That being said, the HD graphics are...alright. Necessary? No.

Yay! Now we get to see the PH rape scene in HD! And the scene where James puts his arm into the disgusting toilet without even rolling up his sleeve!

Well, now I can die happy! </sarcasm>
            That being said, the graphics still leave something to be desired. The fog has been redone. Previously, the fog was used to hide the environments loading on the streets of Silent Hill. Additionally, it added to the creepy atmosphere-you can never quite see far enough ahead to feel safe. Now, the fog seems to be further away, giving you a larger area that you can see. But I don’t think they changed how the game loads. Outside, it is easy to run too fast for the game, causing lag and moments where you can see the environment building itself before it can be hidden by the fog. My Xbox froze 3 times outside on the streets. I have a new model Xbox, less than a year old, and as far as I recall, it has never frozen on me before this. Why does lag (like what happened in SH: Downpour) happen in games? While it wasn’t as bad as SH:D, it shouldn’t happen.

Post PS3 Patch
The patch did fix some graphical issues (but the patch was only released for the PS3). If you want a comparison, go to Youtube and do a search. The patch gives noticeable results, but not enough for me to care. However, there are still a myriad of graphical issues on the PS3, even with the patch. So in the end, an Xbox 360 patch wouldn’t have done much good anyway, because Konami gave us a Band-Aid when we needed duct tape. And Konami blatantly ignored one whole console.         
What’s funny is that the current god of the SH franchise is Tom Hewlett, who basically blames the glitches on the data they were given to port. He claims that they were given incomplete archive data, so you know…totally not their fault for delivering a broken game. However, everyone is citing the fact that Blue Point Games (who did the HD ports for the Metal Gear HD Collection, which is multiple orgasms on a disk) takes retail versions of the games and uses that data, so they always get the final version. Oh hey…that makes way more sense than using incomplete archive data! So...why didn’t anyone tell Tom Hewlett how to do this? *Face palm.    

Gamespot PS2 versions of SH2 and SH3 VS SH: HD (prepatch)

Voice Acting
            This is probably what everyone is talking about. And I’m going to talk about it because while I am a rabbit, I wear sheep’s clothing.

How do I feel about the new voices?
            The voices are...meh. I don’t know WHY this game needed new voices. Oh, wait, yes I do. It’s because Konami figured recording new voices would be cheaper and they probably didn’t expect Guy Cihi (original voice actor of James) to raise a fuss. And Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and a few others wanted to carve their names into the fame that is SH2 and SH3. And quite frankly, I used to be a fan of McGlynn. Her vocal tracks for the Silent Hill games are phenomenal and they will be songs that will probably stick with me forever. I love her songs, but I cannot respect the woman. The arrogance of this woman that oozes from her statements about the original and new SH voice actors is astounding. And she mistakenly calls Mary/Maria Marie. At least try to pretend that actually care like you say you do. You can watch a clip of her talk on Youtube, two sources being here and here. At the very least, I think they should have included the option to have the original or new voices on both games, not just SH2. I have to wonder, what was keeping them back on having the original voices on SH3? Heather’s original VA was, in fact, easy to get a hold of, contrary to the rumour that was circulating that they just couldn’t find her.     

            For the next part of the review, I will be focusing on SH3 of the HD Collection. I will post the SH2 portion at a later date.

Silent Hill 3 (HD Collection)
Hi, I consumed Ester's
high school experience.
SH3 Graphics

At times the graphics appear to be washed out when compared to the original. In the PS2 version of the amusement park dream, there is a sepia-colour fog rolling about. It is not in the HD version, reducing the atmosphere quality. Overall the lighting is better, removing the black splotches that the shadows made. It makes the setting more naturalistic, though I liked the surreal quality of the lighting. You’re trapped in/infected by the Otherworld, a whole different reality. Making the lighting naturalistic blurs the lines between the safe reality and the uncertain and dangerous predicament that Heather is dropped into. Overall the whole thing is just meh and unnecessary. 

SH3 Voice Acting
"Is every person here a mental case?"
What I liked about Heather’s character was that she is a very normal character. She’s quick to anger, loves her father, and is determined to get revenge, even though at one point it would be totally easy to drive away and not go to Silent Hill. Heather’s new voice, played by Amanda Winn-Lee, sounds so nasally. You know what it sounds like? A grown ass woman trying to sound like an anime character. The old Heather, Heather Morris, sounded much more natural, and the new Heather lacks the enthusiasm in key moments (i.e. “Don’t talk about my dad like that!”-of course, the noise of her hand hitting the door is absent, killing the intensity of the moment). She was alright during the climax at the apartment, though I dislike that they altered Heather’s speech to Claudia. OMG, they added a swear, now Heather means business. Like no one took her seriously before. Don't try to fix what isn't broken. 

"You know that only God can
save us."
The new Claudia, voiced by Laura Bailey, is bland. I feel like she lacks the conviction of old Claudia, played by Donna Burke. She does try to sound like the old Claudia to no avail. Claudia is a religious fanatic. She knows, without a doubt, that she can bring God. God will come and purify the world with fire and usher in a new paradise. She will create a new world that is free from all suffering. Her convictions are unwavering. When she set out to do her task, even though she knows that her sins are too great for redemption, in her heart she knew she is right to do it. And I feel like Bailey just doesn’t convince me of these deep aspects of her character. Most of the time she sounds bored. This character is integral to the plot. She is the antagonist and has an emotional connection to Heather. She orders an atrocious act that shatters Heather, causing her to switch from her “let’s escape from all this crazy BS” to “let’s vivisect Claudia” mindset. With her new voice, she is basically as threatening as a cardboard cut out. Story complexity just went down the toilet.

"Monsters? They look like
monsters to you? Don't worry.
It's just a joke!"
Vincent. Oh, god, poor Vincent. His old voice revealed just how messed up he was. It was unsettling. The new VA, Yuri Lowenthal...isn’t creepy. His voice lacks that certain nuance that makes you unsure about him. He holds all the answers, but he is clearly lying and quite possibly mentally unstable. With him, you’re never quite sure if you should trust him. Everything would be so much easier if Vincent would explain everything to Heather. she says, “There’s something wrong with you too.” I feel like the new Vincent tries to play down what made Vincent’s character so awesome. It’s like putting eyebrows on Claudia-it’s part of the character, don’t mess with it. I know that they thought the original acting was weird. And it was, in a very good way. This new voice actor sucks phallic imagery. And you'll know him as the VA who does Sasuke Uchiha's voice from Naruto.     

"That's fine. Nobody's gonna cry
over my grave anyway."
The original VA of Douglas, Richard Grosse (who sadly passed away before the game was released), was fantastic. The new VA, Kirk Thornton, sounds more gravelly, like the VA was pushing the “detective” stereotype. The old Douglas sounded natural. The new VA is trying to emulate the hardboiled noir guy. He tries too hard and it shows. If I had never heard the original VA, overall I would say that the performance was fine. Nothing to be excited about voice acting wise, but alright.

Sorry, Heather, the good points aren't
up here,either.
Don’t buy the game for the graphics or the new voice acting. Don’t even buy the game new. Borrow it. Rent it. Buy it used. Don’t support a team of arrogant jerks. In the end, I don’t know why they bothered other than to have a piece of SH pie with their names on it. SH3 is watered down and subpar. Good for achievements.

*Note: Most of the pictures came from the Silent Hill Wikia

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fictional Character Valentine’s Day List: 2013 Men’s Edition

Everyone has them. If you play video games, read books, or watch television shows, you got ‘em. The fictional characters that you want to be real to whisk you away. You lie in bed at night with your significant other and think “Why can’t he/she be as amazing as [insert fictional crush]?” And when you see some other fictional bimbo getting your soul mate, you fly into rampages and swear that it can’t be cannon.
            I consume a rather alarming amount of media and I am exposed to characters that are supposed to make me fall in love with them on a daily basis. Some characters just…do it for me. I get attached to their charm, their courage, their intelligence. So much so I lament the fact they are fictional and all men cannot compare. Instead of wallowing in reality, I make lists. Today I introduce you to my list, as of 2013, in a rough, but certainly not definite order, from least to most desirable, of all the fictional men who have stolen a chunk of my heart, thereby ruining me for real men.  

Ester York’s Fictional Character Valentine’s Day List: 2013 Men’s Edition
(Mild Spoilers!)

Hannibal Lector

Appears in: TheHannibal Lector Series by Thomas Harris and the film adaptions. Played (better) by Anthony Hopkins      
Yes, I know. I know. I am completely aware that he eats people. Let’s get this out of the way. He only eats the “free-range rude.” These are people I dislike anyway. How many times have you encountered someone in this world who is debased and moral-less? You think I’d really just like for this person to go away. Lector, an educated and brilliant psychiatrist, is classy and traveled. He does what most people only dream of. Admittedly he goes one step further and eats people. Once you figure out why he is compelled to do it, it is an awww moment. And my fascination with the character is actually not new. Google it. It's a thing
The reason why he is so low on the list is because I couldn’t trust him to make me dinner. Also, he has been caught in the past. Do I really want to keep moving around? What if I have a house and a job and what about all my nice, neat, flaming little shit?

Patrick Jane
Appears in: The Mentalist

Jane used to be a con-artist, pretending to communicate with the dead and read minds. Then he called out a serial killer, Red John, on television. Red John retaliates by killing his wife and young daughter. He joins the California Bureau of Investigation to lend his stellar people-reading skills and to ultimately enact his revenge on Red John.
On the outside Jane is witty, perceptive, and intelligent. He manipulates people for his own ends (which are usually good) and he always gets the criminal, using techniques that are legally questionable. In the inside, he is conflicted. His mission is to kill Red John and beyond that there is nothing for him. I am all for vigilante justice. It is raw and personal. It was Jane's hubris that led to Red John killing his family and he shoulders that burden everyday that his nemesis still lives.
Jane is hot, snarky, a sharp dresser, intelligent, and totally deserving of my crush. The reason why he scores so low on my list is because in the end, he is complicated and, quite frankly, emotionally damaged. How do you compete with a dead wife, child, and vigilantism?

Paxton Fettel

                Fettel is the product of Armacham Technology Corporation's  super-secret Project Origin. As a psychic, he controls battalion of clone super soldiers with his mind. During the first game, it is revealed that Fettel has rebelled and taken the soldiers on his own mission to avenge his mother, who was experimented on by the same company in the past. His mother has a psychic link to him as well, and he goes to kill everyone involved in her project.
                To experience the memories of other people, he…eats people. But just a bit! And while, yes, this is cannibalism too, it’s not like Lector. Lector wants to eat people.  Paxton wants information. Also, he might have mommy issues, but for good reasons. I feel like he would be the kind of guy to stand up for you-and believe me, it goes along way with me. Also, he’s psychic. You probably wouldn’t have to pay for anything in a store ever again. And he has an army. An army you can use for mundane tasks like carrying your groceries. He’s also driven to get shit done. No more couch potato boyfriends! 

Solid Snake

Appears in: The Metal Gear Series and has cameo appearances in many other games.

Oh, Snake. Calm, handsome, intelligent, self-sacrificing Solid Snake.  Some might call him a loner, but do loners make a secret handshake with their best friend? Nope.  When called a hero he denies it. (It’s ok Snake, you’re the hero of my heart.) How many times has he basically saved the world from impending doom? He infiltrates and hides and shoots and has flirty banter and tranquilizes and he just always knows what the fuck is going on-*inhales*
And he has a ridiculously sexy voice. It makes me melt every time I hear it.  Something about him just drives me to throw my panties at him.
Downsides: he smokes, is a flirt, and ages quickly. The latter issue is nearly moot because even as an old guy he is beyond HAWT.  He tends to die a lot though…at least with me. SSSSSSNNNNAAAAAAAAAKE!

Francis Morgan York/Zach

Appears in: Deadly Premonition.

No one has any idea how much I am in love with this character. He’s the FBI criminal profiler sent in to solve a murder mystery gripping the town of Greenvale. Every morning he looks into his coffee to get a message for the day that may or may not relate to the case. He is an 80’s B-movie film buff, and used to be a punk-rocker. He has a large scar on his forehead that extends into his hairline and some slashes on his cheek. He is able to fight with the Shadows-monsters that appear with the purple fog. Most importantly, he frequently listens to a voice in his head, an entity named Zach. They have dialogue exchanges where the player can only hear what is being said by York.
                I have never encountered a character with so much personality. York is dynamic and has actual presence in the world around him. Have you ever dated someone who was so emotionless that he was a fucking robot? Or he keeps everything inside and lets everything stew in his head until it doesn’t resemble reality at all? At least with York he’ll tell you what he thinks, as long as it isn’t confidential information that will comprise his investigation. And I love to bake-something he would appreciate!
And…I have his last name. Coincidence? I think not. So, back off, he's mine.