June 2009 Archives

I don't normally read tie in novels for games, films, TV, etc., but I made an exception in this case as the two Mass Effect novels were written by Drew Karpyshyn, the head writer of the game.

Mass Effect: Revelation is a fairly straighforward prequel, filling in the back story between Captain (then Lieutenant) Anderson and Saren. Without giving away any more plot than the back cover of the book, the basic setup is that an Alliance research facility is attacked by an unknown force and Anderson's team is sent in to investigate. It turns out that there is only one survivor, a woman named Kahlee Sanders (I'm assuming her name is pronounced Kay-lee) who left the base only a short time beforehand. She's the obvious prime suspect for the attack, but Anderson sees things differently. There isn't a huge amount of new information in this book that isn't already in the dialogue of the game, but it's nice to see an expanded back story. There is a strange unnatural compulsion of the author to name the fictional manufacturer of every weapon, piece of armour, etc. whenever introduced as though he is simply showing off his knowledge of the Mass Effect universe, but this is a minor niggle.

Mass Effect: Ascension on the other hand, is a much more interesting novel. It is set directly after the end of the game and neatly avoids committing to any of the alternate endings to the game by following Kahlee (now working as a scientist in a elite biotic training school) as she is looking after autistic student Gillian, whose father is a member of a shadowy underground group manipulating the Alliance from within. He is highly conflicted in his dual role as an agent and a father and has become a red sand addict - a drug which gives temporary biotic powers which he uses (or at least started using) to try to better understand his daughter. The book shows us a lot of interesting things only briefly mentioned in the game, such as the Quarian lifestyle in the migrant fleet.

Together the books neatly bookend the first game in the series, and as short paperbacks are fairly cheap and quick to read too!

If you'd like to buy either book in the UK, I would be grateful if you could use the links within this article which will help pay for the hosting and bandwidth for this blog.

There will be a few spoilers in this review - you have been warned!

I have to say I was more than a little disappointed with this film. The first one was great in my view - they kept the cast to just a few of the more famous robots and concentrated the action to a few huge set pieces - it had good pacing and built nicely to the climax. This time however, they appear to have a higher budget and have used it to increase quantity rather than quality.

There are a huge number of CG driven fight scenes in the new film. Watching giant robots beating the crap out of each other is all well and good, but for two solid hours it begins to wear a little thin. Michael Bay appears to have forgotten that you need quiet moments to appreciate noise.

There are also a huge number of new characters introduced - some of whom appear to be completely new (the constantly bickering twins whose names I didn't pick up) and others seem to be put in for fan service (Arcee for example). Most of the new characters are completely throwaway and get only a few lines at the most. The only really good new character is JetFire - the grumpy old transformer who has spent a long time as an aircraft exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum. Hearing a giant robot grumbling away and shouting "Oh bollocks" when he's groggily bumping into things after being awoken was possibly the highlight of the entire film. It's a real shame he's dead by the end of it. Soundwave was also quite cool - updated from a tape recorder to a modern communications satellite.

The Fallen himself seemed a bit of a lame threat really - he barely appeared in the film and was easily dispatched by Optimus Prime at the end. His giant "sun-harvester" weapon was more laughable than threatening.

Also, this film suffers from the same hyperactive camera work of the first. I could understand it a little in the first film, as the fast moving camera meant that motion blur could be liberally applied enabling less detail in the effects to keep the budget down, but this time that excuse doesn't seem to be the case - it's just a poor artistic choice in my opinion.

Still, despite its shortcomings I did enjoy this film and now that the Matrix of Leadership has been introduced we could well be seeing a remake of the 80s cartoon film in a few years time. I think Unicron nomming his way through the galaxy could well be the film that Michael Bay was born to make - so long as he can temper the pacing.

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