Angry Robot

He's Still Out There

I watched both the original and the remade Friday the 13th last weekend; I had never seen either. The remake was pretty meh, as could be expected. The original was surprisingly shitty. It’s essentially plotless until the end, when there’s a twist. But it’s not like the twist is especially powerful, since you don’t give a shit about any of the characters.

You may have heard Psycho described as the godfather of slasher cinema, and Friday the 13th seems to be the missing link, as it’s heavily indebted to Psycho. Not to say it’s Psycho-good, it’s just clearly very much inspired by.

The film has a moment of beauty, though, right at the end. And it comes with some beautiful music. I felt inspired to do a little chop-up job on both, and here it is.

He’s Still Out There from dsankey on Vimeo.

Smoke's Poutinerie

So we decided to check out Toronto’s new dedicated poutine restaurant, Smoke’s Poutinerie.


First off, this joint is popular. This is my second time going, or rather trying to go – the first time I went with a couple friends, we turned away empty handed due to the lack of seating and wheelchair accessibility. It’s got seats, it’s just that they were all full, and they were this time, too. But it was a lunch expedition, and we just took our gut-busting lard-based treats back to work and ate them there.

This is a quality poutine, no question. The fries are excellent, the gravy a nice, mild chickeny sort, and the curds authentic. The proportions – a crucial equation that has destroyed many a lesser poutine – are perfect. You can select from a number of variations, including the usual Italian and smoked meat varieties; I went with the meat-crazed “Hogtown” (bacon, sausage, onion and mushroom – while most everything in this life can be improved by adding bacon, just this once I do regret not going with a plain one to get a clearer taste of the essentials).

It’s $7 for a plain-vanilla poutine, and variations run to $8 or $9. Your cholesterol bomb comes nicely packaged in a brown cardboard box. I won’t say this is the greatest poutine I’ve had – this is it here – but it’s definitely good shit (as one would expect from a place that makes nothing but poutine).

Here’s the problem, though. Poutine is a terrible take-out food. Mere moments after the gravy hits the fries, it is waging a guerilla campaign against crispiness, and perhaps 15 minutes later, you are in a quagmire of mush. We had only a five minute walk before we could sit down and start destroying our arteries, and already the integrity of our poutines had been compromised by the inexorable pairing of time and gravy. The reasonable response to this is to get the gravy on the side, something Smoke and the gang should strongly consider. If you visit Smoke’s and it’s rammed to the gills and you cannot immediately pounce upon your Quebecois prey, ask for it that way.

During the gorging session, and before the gravy coma hit, it came up that the word on the street is that the best poutine in Toronto – nay, all of Canada! – is from one of the chip trucks out front of City Hall. Gentle readers, an expedition is assured, but it may wait until fairer weather enables on-the-spot feasting. And so until then, this poutine reporter must sign off.

Klingon Night School

Klingon Night School

Do yourself a favour and check out my friend Gord’s masterful Klingon Night School spot. And give him a vote in the showdown – I hope you’ll agree he deserves it.

Full disclosure: I may or may not be a klingon in the above video.

I Have a New Saviour

And he can ROAR.

Inglourious Basterds


Console War Wars: EndWar and Halo Wars

I’ve sampled two recent real-time strategy games on the 360, Tom Clancy’s EndWar (also available on the PS3) and the demo to Halo Wars.

RTS is a genre born on PCs that rarely works on consoles, despite many noble attempts. The key problem is control. There simply aren’t enough buttons on a console controller, and something designed with rapid mouse movements in mind doesn’t necessarily translate to analog sticks.

EndWar presents a possible solution to the control problem: voice control. Using a simple subject-verb-object palette of grammatical chunks – “unit one attack hostile two” – it’s possible to fight a battle without using the controller at all. I played through the bulk of the single-player campaign this way, and it works surprisingly well, with maybe 90% accuracy. Sometimes, you wind up using the controller because it’s quicker. But voice control is not only more graceful, it’s actually more true to what the game is simulating.

Unfortunately, EndWar has little else to offer. The missions are all the same and the difficulty curve leaves a lot to be desired. If there’s ever a sequel, it could theoretically kick ass, though.

The Halo Wars demo has only two levels, so it’s hard to judge the game at this point. But what you are presented with is a slick, carefully packaged narrative experience with simple, almost casualized gameplay. The control is traditional for console RTS – the left stick controls your cursor, and so press one face button to select units, another to give them a target. The levels required very little actual strategy. You could beat them without anything other than ‘select all units’, and so the feel was more like an action game with a little base-building than an actual strategy game.

Not to get all Sun Tzu here, but that’s a problem with console RTSes. Because the control is a lot harder and slower, the developers can never assume you’ve figured out how to command more than one group at a time, and so the combat never requires much in the way of strategy. A certain level of difficulty is required for strategy games to make sense. It’s not just the usual rock-paper-scissors system of unit strengths and weaknesses, it’s feinting, luring, splitting the defence, etc. Select all and attack isn’t really a strategy.

After watching an “Inside Xbox” video about Halo Wars (which seems to be a console exclusive, so I can’t share it with you) I can say that the potential for more advanced control is certainly there. The developers seemed to have thrown a bunch of possible control schemes at the wall in hopes that one or more actually sticks. Problem with that is the controls can get confusing. I think that Lord of the Rings RTS (Battle For Middle Earth? MiddleWar? Lord of the Wars? EndFrodo? can’t remember what it was called) had a much touted control scheme, and you could in theory assign groups and send them this way and that, but in the heat of fake battle I could never remember how to do it.

Time will tell. I’ll almost certainly buy Halo Wars, if only go get a fresh dose of Halo story action. Let’s hope the controls work out.