#Wargames

I hate FMV games.

Yea, I’ve said that before, but that really doesn’t apply here. You see, #Wargames isn’t a video game. And I don’t mean that in a sarcastic, dude-bro, “go back to Call of Duty you casual gamer” type of way. I mean literally it is not a video game. It’s an interactive movie by the guy behind Her Story. And it’s made in collaboration or under license or whatever from MGM under the guise that this interactive whatever is somehow based on the 1983 Matthew Broderick film. But let me make something clear: #Wargames is actually not a sequel, a spinoff, a remake, nor is it set in the same universe as that movie. It is about hackers, and that’s where the similarities end. The only connection is that the hackers use very brief clips from the 1983 movie in their hacking shenanigans. The marketplace page describes it as a “reimagining” but that still feels shady to me. “Loosely based on” would be more accurate and STILL not set right, because it doesn’t feel like the 1983 WarGames. I mean, they could have worked a Tic-Tac-Toe reference in there somewhere. But I suppose that’s a little too gamey for this not-a-game game that I bought from the game section on my game platform.

“She’s posting a review of THIS on National Video Games Day? HA!”

#Wargames is technically “season one” of a planned series. Well, I’m guessing that’s overly optimistic. The story centers around Kelly, a coffee barista by day who works with a group of misfit hackers at night. Her mother, a soldier, has been unfairly painted as a traitor by a Laura Ingraham caricature working for a Fox News type of outfit. It sounds on the surface overly-politicized, but actually it’s really just a basic “you fucked with my Mom so I’m going to fuck you” plot. It’s straight-forward, it’s lacking depth, it’s lacking character development and arcs, and the amount of interesting moments were far out-numbered by all the times I looked at my phone and asked myself how only five minutes had passed since I last checked.

Don’t mistake #Wargames for an FMV type of experience, because it ain’t. And the “interactive” aspect of the movie leaves a lot to be desired. “Interactive” suggests that you act into the movie. You don’t. You switch which of several webcam feeds is the primarily focused one. At one point, your boyfriend does a striptease while you take pictures. And by “take pictures” I mean the facade of a photo-taking app is shown on-screen and if you press a button the video feed does a still-image as if you took a photo. But those photos don’t factor into the story as far as I found, nor do you even get to review the pictures you took. But it does make a clicking sound. That counts I guess, especially if you want to unleash your inner-dolphin.

As cringey as the acting is, let’s be real here, anything is an upgrade over Matthew Broderick.

I’m not a movie critic, but #Wargames is sold on the Xbox marketplace under “games” and people are probably likely to mistake it for a Sega-CD-ish FMV title. Small aspects of the story can play out differently depending on what feed you focus on at what times, but you can literally just turn the game on and leave it running and score over 400 Achievement points. The one and only aspect of the entire concept I can give props to is that the game tells you approximately how long each chapter is. But, the story wasn’t interesting enough to warrant me going through multiple “playthroughs” to get the remaining 550 points I didn’t get. Especially since there’s no prompts or notifications that you have the ability to alter the story. At least as far as I can tell. The fact that you get achievements just for sitting through it.. I mean, the jokes just write themselves. #Wargames offers so little in the way of stimuli that it could be labeled as a homoeopathic sleep aid.

Hell, you can’t even appreciate it in the same, detached irony sort of way that you could FMV games of days gone by. The acting is bad, but not in a Sewer Shark “charming in failure” kind of way. In fact, lead actress Jess Nurse doesn’t embarrass herself at all. I mean, she often has a face about her that says “I need to fire my agent”, but otherwise, her performance single-handedly prevents it from being the worst gaming experience of my life. Oh, it CAN be bad. At times, even “cringe so hard you just added a permanent wrinkle to your face” bad. But it doesn’t seem like it’s on her. She’s too good during other scenes, so I have to chalk it up to the script and director. The other actors aren’t horrible either. Well, the boyfriend is. He’s probably the closest to a traditional FMV performance in #Wargames. He comes across like he knows this shit is schlock, but hey, the check cleared so he might as well chew scenery like he’s on an all particle-board diet.

But, what stood out to me is just how fucking bored all the actors look. And why wouldn’t they be? The majority of their screen-time is spent watching their monitors (which I’m guessing their scripts were on because if you look REALLY close, you can sometimes see their eyes moving left to right while they say their dialog). There’s a reason why film and TV uses shot/reverse-shot. Because watching people listen to people talk is dull. And hell, Nintendo already beat you guys to the market on “game where you watch people watch TV’ by 15 years. It’s called Pokemon Channel.

#Wargames, you’re more boring than this. Bravo.

I don’t have an issue with the concept of an interactive short film, or even one where all you do is switch your point of view. But #Wargames fails to entertain in every single way a film can. Dull acting, bad writing, boring characters, overly-simplistic storyline, and even film-school levels of pretentious cliffhanger bullshit. #Wargames is an “interactive movie” about hacking, but the REAL hackery took place behind the camera. It’s horrible. BUT, I think this format could work. No joke. Take 2014’s social media-themed horror film Unfriended. THAT would work under this system. And #Wargames could have worked as well. It just needed an editor. And a better script. And better directing. Probably a better supporting cast too. And more interactive elements. And a better ending. And a closer relationship to the original 1983 movie. You know what? Just change everything about it and it would have been fine.

#Wargames was developed by Eko
Point of Sale: Xbox One, Steam

$4.99 is very proud of itself for not using the obvious “the only way to win is to not play” joke in the making of this review. Which, as noted previously, wouldn’t be accurate, anyway.

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Press X to Not Die

I hate FMV games, so I can’t pretend I went into Press X to Not Die completely neutral. They’re something that had novelty appeal before my time. Novelty being the key word here. I can’t believe anyone would reminisce about the glory days of Dragon’s Lair, a title with so little gameplay that you don’t even need a game console to play it on BluRay these days. And, unlike pretty much any other obsolete game format, I can’t put myself in the mindset where anyone would rather play it today than anything else. Saying “I would rather play Space Ace than any modern crap” is just as stupid sounding to me as it would be hearing someone say “I would rather just switch back and forth between the main menu and the chapter select DVD menus than actually watch the movie.” A dull choice for boring people.

But, if you’re going to do an FMV game today, taking the piss out of it seems like a good way to go. The genre certainly lends itself to satire, on account of its legacy reading like the obituary page. A hilarious idea for a game would be a suicidal game executive trying to destroy his own company by ordering the creation of a new FMV game, so that they can go bankrupt and secure their plot in gaming’s graveyard next to Cinematronics, American Laser Games, and the Sega CD. All yours, whoever wants to actually make a satire. Press X to Not Die really doesn’t do satire too well, nor is it a satire of FMV games. It just names stuff you’ve heard of and swipes running gags from other, funnier people. Even the name itself is taken from a Zero Punctuation running gag, I guess the mindset being “if it’s funny when the fast talking British-born Australian psychopath says it, it’ll be just as funny when done by our terrible actors in front of a cheap video camera.” Comedy for lazy cynics. Hey, did you know Team Edward versus Team Jacob is a thing? You did? You’re supposed to LOL, because that’s the joke!

I too have heard of these movies. Excuse me, my sides seem to be splitting.

I too have heard of these movies. Excuse me, my sides seem to be splitting.

Maybe one or two gags over the course of thirty minutes work. I guess the player-character’s hand gestures that mock first-person games are funny for like two seconds. There was exactly one line of dialog that made me laugh. When encountering a zombie, the girl who tags along with you uses kung-fu to take it out. You exclaim “you know Kung-Fu?” She pauses and says “Apparently.”

Maybe I told it wrong.

When it’s not relying on references for humor (remember how the final zombie in Zombieland was a clown! You do? Well look, our final zombie is a clown too! That’s somehow funny, right?), Press X to Not Die relies on dialog trees to, well, set up further references disguised as humor. “This is just like that M. Night Shyamalan movie!” Ha, because his movies are bad, so that’s funny. Oh and look, the last dialog option is the Little Mermaid. Oh snap, that’s not an M. Night Shyamalan movie, so that’s funny too, because I too have heard that Shyamalan is a hack director and I too know he didn’t direct the Little Mermaid.

Oh, did you not laugh? Don’t worry. Press X to Not Die’s repeats that joke a second time, just to make sure. This is the first game I’ve ever played that feels saturated in flop sweat.

Naming pop-culture stuff without any set-ups or punch-lines is both hilarious and so easy that I don’t know why anyone bothers putting in effort anymore. Frankly, I’m surprised people can read the directory at Comic Con without choking on their own fits of laughter and dying. “5PM: Superman panel. Ha, I’ve heard of Superman! 6PM: Doctor Who retrospective. Oh my God, Doctor Who! I know about that! That’s FUCKING HILARIOUS! 7:PM: Star Wars anniversary panel. Oh God oh God, Star Wars! I know about Star Wars too! Ahahahaha gag gurgling noise bleh!

Oh, and those “gag” answers in the dialog trees usually cue up the women in the game looking at you like you’re a moron and saying nothing. Really, that’s the payoff to them. Guy says something stupid, and character looks at you like this.

Lulz? Please tell me this is lulz.

Lulz? Please tell me this is lulz.

Nope, that’s not funny. Maybe you should try it again.

Sassy female characters looking at men in disgust for saying something dumb. That's something funny people do, right?

Sassy female characters looking at men in disgust for saying something dumb. That’s something funny people do, right?

No, sorry, still nothing. Maybe you should have said “hey, remember Alvin and the Chipmunks?” or something.

As for the game itself, for an FMV game it’s surprisingly lacking in FMVish stuff to do. A few quick time events, some of which are oh-so-“fun” button-mashing sequences, though there’s often a lot of downtime between the sequences. Just a whole lot of nothing to do, the barest minimum of a concept executed as quickly as possible. It’s awful, one of the worst games I’ve ever played.

I can’t even say everyone involved at least looked like they were having fun. The lead actress constantly has a look about her like she’s kicking herself for all the decisions that led her to being in this. The acting is bad, which I’m sure will be said was done intentionally so, because you know, the acting in FMV games of days gone by was bad. The thing is, those people were actually trying to be good, which is why it’s especially charming when they’re not. Trying to be bad isn’t funny. It’s just awkward unless you’re capable actors. When you’re just fucking around and shooting footage of you and your friends, none of whom are exactly up for Oscars to begin with, making an actual effort and failing would be cute and charming. When you try to be bad on purpose, you just come across like you don’t give a shit. Who wants to pay money to play the game by the people who didn’t even try? I don’t.

My apologies if they actually DID attempt decent acting. In which case…………… wow.

Press XPress X to Not Die was developed by All Seeing Eye Games
Point of Sale: Steam

$3.99 (too much) said these guys could use a seeing eye dog. See, that’s a joke in the making of this review.

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