Why Video Games Beat Hollywood Action

Sylvester Stallone will never learn when to give up. At the roaring age of 64, Stallone has created countless sequels to classic movies that have tarnished the original idea. He’s also written and directed his fair share of disasters and starred in a porno.

But Stallone is still kicking. His most recent train wreck, “The Expendables,” proved one thing to me; video games beat recent Hollywood action films. Throughout the entire movie, aside from trying to figure out who was punching whom, I had flashes of the brilliance I’ve played in games over the years.

The fights made me think Street Fighter is awesome. The plane scene made me remember Battlefield 1942. Hell, the explosions made me think of the intensity and visceral joy of Uncharted 2. All of these games last for much longer than the 2 hours of Expendables and they’re a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

I’m not sure if this is just because of Stallone’s inability to direct and write, or whether video games are just more enjoyable because you’re interacting with them. Something just seems more pleasing when virtual fists are trading hits and you’re behind it all.

It could possibly be the rotten characters. Recent action cinema has taken a turn for “old-school.” What I mean by that is everything is trying to be as cheesy as possible. Plots consist of, “You took my woman,” or, “I’m no hero.” The action is completely over the top and, in most cases, poorly edited to look like jump cuts.

While Uncharted doesn’t have a deep plot, at least it has something that isn’t a dead give-away. Hell, even Gears of War has a plot that is more involved (well, 2 does). Whatever happened to chivalry, or fighting for something you believe in? A human element really drives home insane destruction.

To even look at a more ludicrous game, Red Faction: Guerrilla is hilarious fun. Action movies don’t go as far as this game does, but everything is in your hands and for your enjoyment. You see a building that looked at you the wrong way and it’s gone. How about that bridge? DONE!

Stallone’s film might have also benefited if there was any decent acting. Obviously Stallone knows how to act (the last scene of First Blood is just awe inspiring), but where does his talent disappear to? Statham just plays Statham, a rather over rated and irritating guy. Jet Li plays a particularly good sport to the fact that he could rip everyone in half.

It’s all very cold and no connections are made to the actor’s fates. Statham has some love interest, but he’s shown winning her over by beating the piss out of 5 guys. That will certainly work. Hell, Terry Crews and Randy Couture don’t even appear in more than half of the film. I don’t even know who they are.

And yet video games have been increasing their talent over the recent years. Mark Hamill has given some surprisingly good voice work to recent Batman games and Darksiders. Johnny Young Bosche plays a very good Nero in Devil May Cry 4. Nolan North has become the defacto hero man after his great role as Drake in Uncharted.

Of course games have bad actors, but the really great roles and the general interactivity balance the ugly out. Who cares if your hero sounds like generic man A (I’m looking at you Prototype and inFamous)? When you can pick up cars or unload on armies of the undead, you don’t really need that much in the way of charisma.

As it stands, action movies just don’t do it anymore. Unless you’re making a well edited and stylistic film like “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World,” don’t even bother. Video games have you beat and I’m sure they’ll continue to get better and more action packed. I think Hollywood should just leave the action to the professionals, or at least the Chinese. They’ve known it better for the past 40 years, anyway.

First Impression – Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (Game)

To start off, I have no real idea what Scott Pilgrim is. I’ve heard of the movie, but I never knew about the comic. It was a safe bet to assume a comic existed (why else would any movie be made?), but I just don’t know anything about comic books.

So even though I think the movie looks decent, I was getting excited this week for that release. I knew the video game was hitting the PS Store and the preview I saw from E3 had me stoked. Old School Beat Em Ups are back, baby!

Right from the onset of the demo, my friend and I were stunned by what we saw. A hilarious and short cutscene that explained what Scott was doing and who he was doing it for. Apparently Ramona is to kill for.

So when we pressed start, we laughed even more at the “Super Mario World” inspired overworld. There were even warp pipes! That aside, clicking X on the first level didn’t prepare us for the awesome we were about to digest.

The music in this game is just…wow! It’s chiptune, but in a style similar to NES games. It definitely gives me nostalgic memories of playing Mario, Zelda and even that craptastic Crash Test Dummies game. It fits perfectly into the retro motif that Ubisoft went for.

The co-op play allows you to choose from one of four different characters, all based on the comic’s “Sex Bomb-Omb” Band. You get Scott, Ramona, Stiles and Kim. Each character has a different feel and even different unlockable combos and special attacks (think Streets of Rage’s C specials).

The controls are leaps and bounds above old-school Beat Em Ups (not to say that this is better). You have two attacks (Jab and Heavy), a jump and a block button (to my knowledge, I can only think of 1 previous game with a guard). You can string together combos and juggle enemies when you get multiple people in corners.

Not going too retro, though, Scott Pilgrim also allows leveling up (something that Castle Crashers showed can be fun). Leveling up allows even more combos to unlock, along with grabs, throws and the essential “Back Attack.”

Progressing through the first level, the enemy types are decently varied. You have the basic grunts, some heavier guys that require brute force and even mini-boss-esque baddies that will take a pounding before dropping (these types get much more varied in later stages).

After killing enemies, you are given coins (in the form of Canadian currency, for fans of the comic) that can be redeemed for health items and extra lives. This gives the game the classic Mario style of collecting coins along with the more modern/RPG style of loot drops. It makes for an interesting game when you have no lives left, but a crap ton of money.

Dying is a rather interesting affair. Taking another cue from Castle Crashers, you are given the ability to resuscitate your fallen comrades by walking over them and pressing O. Even if your buddies do spend all of their lives, they can steal one of yours and continue to help.

One interesting addition is the existence of a “Special Meter.” Instead of wasting your HP to use Special Attacks (like Final Fight’s Jump/Attack combos), you are given another bar that will deplete over time after you spend the attack. If you decide not to waste this meter, then when your HP reaches 0, you are given about half of your life back (sometimes more) without dying.

Different difficulties exist, but we didn’t seem to fins “Supreme Master” too challenging. Even starting from square one, if you’re an old school fan, this will not be out of the question for you to pound through on Hard.

In short, this game is a blast. It works for numerous hours on end, as well. My friend and I put in about 4 hours before we were spent for the evening. The charm and character that this game has is just awesome.

The main downsides about this title are a lack of online co-op play and no ability to drop in/out mid-game. We also ran into a few crashing issues and glitches on Level 4, something that irked us quite a bit.

Still, for a $10 download, this game is a must for old-school fans. I’m not too sure if devotees to the novel will enjoy this, but seeing as how Scott Pilgrim is targeted towards old-school gamers, I’m sure you guys are covered.