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Sci-Fi-London Oktoberfest

The Oktoberfest is now over and, as an experiment, it seems to have gone well. As ever, the all-nighters were the big draw, and when I ran away last night, just before they started, the cinema was starting to get a bit on the full side.

I mainly spent the evening playing Dead Space, EA’s first foray into survival horror. In space. I saw it back in May, as EA sponsored the main festival and did a press day for Dead Space at the cinema, letting a bunch of journos play the game on the big screen and talk to the producer and writer, Anthony Johnston, and it looked quite good, but they had a bunch of demos pods out yesterday so I took the opportunity to have a play.

I stuck my initial thoughts up on Phreadz (another shiny video thing that I am playing with) last night when I got back, but in bulleted list form:

  • Graphics and sound appear to be quite nice and atmospheric
  • Loading times are horrendous, but it was quite old code we were playing (hence a couple of other bugs that popped up)
  • Controls are pretty good, but take some getting used to (as you often need to do a bunch of stuff at once) – all the buttons do pretty much what you’d expect though
  • Release is October 24th – they were going for Halloween but then found that everyone else in the world was releasing games then as well.

And an addendum:

  • I preordered it today at Game.

They cut down their normal demo roadshow experience, which normally involves a 2m x 4m shipping container split in two, with one half containing a “Dead Space Video Experience” and the other a guy dressed as Isaac, the main character, who jumps out at the end of the video and drags the helpless victim into the other side. At which point he hands them a game controller, removes his helmet and explains, in a soft welsh accent, how to play the game. I’ve been told that most people screamed, but not as to whether it was before or after the explanation. They’re focusing a chunk of effort on real-world promotion, rather than the web side of things (although as the Phreadz thread points out, they do have a rather good website promoting the game) and were giving out one of my favourite advertising freebies a few weeks back – Dead Space underpants. There was a rumour that at least one guest of “The Container” needed them…

Other than Dead Space, I didn’t see anything on Friday night, but I got in nice and early on Saturday morning to see the first ep of the upcoming Star Wars Clone Wars animated series (in a special, security guards with night vision goggles showing) as well as JJ Abrams’s latest, Fringe.

I was rather impressed by the Clone Wars ep – having heard so many bad things about the new animated film I was expecting to be disappointed, but turned out to be pleasantly surprised. It continues the storyline in between Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clowns, the same as the last two animated series, and the first ep borrows heavily from the first of those two – a small squad of clone troopers trying to get Yoda through to a meeting, set upon on their way by a droid army. The animation is pretty good, with Yoda’s bouncy fighting fitting into the animated world much better than he did in live action, and the story, despite the slightly cheesy “message” (of cherishing individuality despite being clones, is pretty good with solid characterisation and Yoda’s backwards sentences not being too cringeworthy. Dooku’s apprentice is back and being moody, and the droid army fails as comic relief even more than in the movies, despite continuous attempts at humour, but it pulls together well. Unfortunately I don’t have Sky, let alone Sky Movies Plus, so I won’t be able to see them when they come out. I suspect that a DVD of the series (each ep is 22 minutes) may join the pile when it arrives in public.

My last thing was Fringe. Within a few minutes you realise that it is X-Files done by the guy behind Alias, and I don’t think I need to say any more than that. It’s silly, the team they establish is quite an interesting idea (although they seem to be toning it down by the end of the first ep) and the sfx are good. It’s the setup episode, so I give them some leeway on the acting and characterisation, and it seems worth a watch. The 3d typeface is crap though. Available on a torrent near you now, as it started in the US a month ago, or probably on a satellite channel sometime soon – they must have run out of episodes of First Wave by now, surely?

Anyways, the next festival is at the end of April 2009 and until then I’ll have to make do with my freebie haul for the year – the complete Voltron, the first three Children of the Corn films and the Scanners¬†trilogy. I haven’t finished watching the pile from May yet…

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