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April 12, 2004 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-04-12

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 12, 2004

ARTS 0

Hey, it was free.

Microphones' Elvrun
goes solo in Japan

0

Everybody
was kung fu
fighting .".

Courtesy of Atari

N 'UNREAL' EXPERIENCE
ATARIS TRILOGY REDEFINES THE FIRST-PERSON GENRE

By Alex Wolsky
Daily Arts Editor
Music REVIEW
Utter solitude is a bitch, but some
of the most emotional pieces of

By Jason Roberts
Daily Arts Editor

In a genre filled with sequels and spin-offs, it's
often hard to keep material fresh and engaging.
The first-person shooter is often like that -

releases such as "Quake" and
its successors lose steam over
time and spread their original
content so thin that it begins
to break down. Fortunately,
there are a few series out
there that continue to excel

Unreal
Tournament
2004
PC
Atari

ent modes - from a simple free-for-all death-
match to a team-based capture the flag competi-
tion. While it was lauded for its impressive
graphics, gameplay and remarkable artificial
intelligence, what players really enjoyed was the
intensity with which the individual and team-
based battles took place.
When the highly-anticipated "Unreal Tourna-
ment 2003" was released three years later, it
again claimed a top spot among fans. Atari and
Epic Games modified the graphics and physics
engine while tweaking gameplay and adding new
modes of play - Bombing Run, Mutant, Invasion
and Double Domination. Even though the new
engine was criticized because it was slowed down
and the popular Assault mode was dropped, "UT
2003" still delivered a wealth of bloody, aggres-
sive action.
It shouldn't surprise that "UT 2004" is every-
thing that gamers have come to expect from this
trilogy and more. As the "Lord of the Rings:
Return of the King" of the videogame world,
"Unreal Tournament 2004" is the finest install-
ment yet. Not only have Atari and Epic Games

updated the engine to run on the newest computer
systems available (the minimum requirements
recommend a 64 megabyte video card and six
gigabytes of hard drive space), they have listened
to the complaints gamers had with the prior
installment. Gameplay is as fast and ferocious as
it was in the first game, Assault mode returns in
new form, the single-player game has been given
a major overhaul - making it less linear and
more diverse - and vehicles have finally been
added (in conjunction with a new mode,
Onslaught). Even the annoying announcer has
been addressed as gamers have five different
voice options. It seems as though every detail and
quirk has been addressed. Everything works, and
it all works very well.
"UT 2004" isn't just an incredible multi-player
experience as it has always been; this will certainly
be the game "Halo 2" will be compared to when it
is released. With the latest installment, the devel-
opers have certainly thought of the game with
respect to its predecessors and made it more beau-
tiful, more playable, more powerful and more fun
than ever.

music and intro-
spective works of
art have come at
the hands of the
sheltered. After
spending several
months alone in
Norway, K
Records's fran-
chise songwriter
sought to test his

The
Microphones
Live in Japan:
Feb. 19th,
21st and
22nd, 2003
K Records

with each new release; the ' '
"Unreal Tournament" trilogy is a fine example.
Atari's latest, "Unreal Tournament 2004," is a
pristine model of how a franchise should evolve.
Beginning in 1999, the "UT" saga began as a
revolutionary endeavor focused on totally immer-
sive environments and intense, trigger-happy
gameplay. Gamers battled up to 31 other players
or computer-controlled bots in a variety of differ-

Japan lies in its flow; however, this
is ultimately due to the fact that it's
a haphazard compilation of new
material spread over three nights
but compacted into 40 minutes. A
lucid, somber "Great Ghosts" finds
Elvrum at his lyrical peak but, next
to a sprawling, overly drawn-out
"Universe Conclusion," the
sequencing seems ill at ease.
A wavering, "After N. Young"
finds Elvrum's signature production
style coupled with his wavering
voice, yet it's sequenced next to two
novelty tracks, "My Favorite
Things" and "Silent Night," both of
which are throwaways. And, while
Elvrum may always seem to be in
the halcyon days of his life, he's
always in a passive, reflexive mood.
Despite its flaws, there's some-
thing to be said about Live in
Japan: Elvrum's music is testing,
but his ability to construct a lyrical
canvas so deep and so intimate the
listener can't help but be moved.
Listening to Phil Elvrum or his
band, The Microphones, is tanta-
mount to a staring contest. It's a dif-
ficult yet alluring task that allows
both participants to ultimately
derive some kind of pleasure from
the pain; a reason to push them that
next step further; Just be sure not to
blink first.

new material on the road. Packaged
as Live in Japan, February 19th,
21st and 22nd, 2003, t h e
album finds Phil Elvrum and com-
pany bootlegging some 12 new
songs before humble audiences.
Unlike a typical live album,
which rehashes old material to gar-
ner profits, Live in Japan is filled
with songs that had never seen a
studio. Throughout the perform-
ance, Elvrum sounds haunted as he
performs alone, acoustically. And,
like his mentor Neil Young, Elvrum
has an innate ability for penning
tunes of utter vulnerability.
The biggest problem with Live in

.I

This' Return' lacks any originality
By Aam Rottenbeig
Daily Arts Editor
VSEGAERV.WA

With jokes of emasculated men and
religion, "The Whole Ten Yards" is a
clump of just about every bad stereo-
type. Director Howard Deutch seems
to be familiar with sequels: On his
resume are "The Odd Couple II" and
"Grumpier Old Men," both sub-par
sequels. And now, with his direction

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

This is not the proper way to give the Heimlich maneuver.

of "The Whole
Nine Yards"
sequel, Deutch
has secured his
niche as a sequel
director.
In this all-too-
similar continua-

The Whole
Ten Yards
At Quality 16 and
Showcase
Warner Bros.

tion of "The Whole Nine Yards," Oz
(Matthew Perry) re-teams with
Jimmy (Bruce Willis) to rescue his
wife from the clutches of the Gogo-
lak gang. What Oz does not know is
that he is simply a pawn in the hum-
drum plot. The ending is pre-
dictable, as writer Mitchelle Kapner
repeats the same plot twists and
exaggerates the characters' faults to

no end. Perry's physical comedy is
over the top - how many doors can
a person run into? Perry and Willis
might as well be starring in "Dumb
and Dumber" as they relentlessly
continue to embarrass themselves.
All dolled up in an apron and hand-
kerchief, Jimmy scarily resembles
Lucille Ball. A bunny-slipper clad
Jimmy "The Tulip Tadeski" is far
from his hit man days cooking and
cleaning.
All the characters in the film are
eccentric, but it is only Jimmy and Oz
who are too extreme to earn any
laughs. The quirky personalities of
Lazlo Gogalak (Kevin Pollack, "The
Usual Suspects") and Jill (Amanda
Peet, "Saving Silverman") however,

are entertaining and funny. Pollack, as
the recently released mob boss Gogo-
lak, steals every scene he's in with a
slurred accent and a cynical evil laugh
that backs his fearsome threat, "you're
a second from dead." Peet as the gun-
toting Mrs. Tudeski makes comedy
look effortless as she tries to seduce
Oz. Her eagerness for killing is unfit-
ting but amusing all the same. Despite
good or bad acting, all the characters
that Kapner has developed make any-
one's life look normal.
Supporting the zany characters is a
colorful Mexican backdrop and a fit-
ting score that is reminiscent of the
1950s. But the setting and soundtrack
flail underneath the repetitive plot and
numerous pratfalls.

Activision's "Tenchu" series stood as
the benchmark for ninja-action games
over the past few years. With its stealthy
gameplay mechanics and solid visuals,
the franchise began a following starting
back on the original Playstation. How-
ever, the latest installment, "Return
from Darkness," has two major prob-
lems facing it: It was released after
Tecmo's exception-
al "Ninja Gaiden," Tenchu:
and it's a port of a
PS2 game released Return From
last year, "Tenchu: Darkness
Wrath of Heaven." Xbox
"Return From Activision
Darkness" still
maintains the stealth elements that
made the earlier games intriguing, and
few major changes have been made.
There are initially two characters selec-
table - Rikimaru and Ayama - each
with a unique storyline and some indi-
vidual moves, which adds some
replayability to the game. As is the
norm for the series, the stealth kills are
easily the highlight of the action. Ninjas
can cling to the ceiling, hide in the
shadows and slit the throats of their ene-
mies. But gameplay feels like a tired
retread.
The most glaring issue for "Return
From Darkness" is that it is just a slight-

1
i
1
Ji
I
I
J
i
{'
J
1
I
I
I
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I

Courtesy of Activision

Those cats were fast as lightning.
ly revamped version of "Wrath of Heav-
en," released in 2003 on the PS2. The
game is ultimately the same, from the
storyline to the fighting mechanics.
Worst of all, the graphics are only mod-
erately changed from the pixilated PS2
images. This game is almost ugly to
look at on the Xbox - the characters
are blocky, the backgrounds drab and
the blood flows way too freely. With a
year to polish up the game for a more
powerful system, Activision should
have been able to brush up the graphics,
in the very least.
The lone addition to this installment
is the inclusion of an online multiplayer
mode. While the feature enables for a

lot of interesting deathmatches and
cooperative gameplay, it seems to be
tacked on as an afterthought. Xbox Live
is a feature that should be utilized more
often, but the single-player game is so
lacking in innovation that more time
should have been spent at least creating
a new scenario.
"Tenchu" is no longer the only com-
petent ninja game on the market, so the
developers cannot release half-hearted
ports and expect to sell millions of
copies. "Wrath of Heaven" was a good
game in 2003, but it's 2004 and a name
change isn't enough to justify another
purchase. Stick to "Ninja Gaiden" and
wait for an actual sequel to "Tenchu."

DVD makes 'Something' out of nothing F

and propelled by a series of unlikely
events that seem too rigorously con-
structed. The film was wisely billed
as a Keaton vehicle as she, portray-
ing the likable _._._.....__
Erica, displays Something's
levels of screen
charm not seen Gotta Give
since the days of Columbia
"Annie Hall."
Frances McDormand gives an
uncharacteristically upbeat and
charming performance as Erica's
impish sister Zoe. Unfortunately,
Jack Nicholson phones in a carica-
ture of himself: an old man preying
on younger women.
After his latest conquest, Harry
(NIir.1con) ane +n the Hamntn

home of his girlfriend Marin (Aman-
da Peet) where he encounters her
mother, Erica. They establish a
mutual but reluctant interest in each
other. Throughout the course of the
movie, they court and annoy each
other in equal parts all while moving
toward the necessary happy romantic
comedy ending despite the inclusion
of a love triangle with Reeves.
The film's more than two-hour
runtime is a bit excessive for a
romantic comedy, and with its for-
mulaic development and hit-or-miss
humor it doesn't always captivate.
The special features are thin,
including an aimless tour of the
Hamptons with Amanda Peet. With
the acknnwledLo-ment that 45 min-

So.hn'

utes of the film were cut, one would
exnect more than one deleted scene

I

intermittently fimnv hnt nverall flat

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