Tuesday, 25 October 2011

FREE CO-OP MODE AVAILABLE FOR WARHAMMER 40,000: SPACE MARINE

So, a while ago we reviewed the game Space Marine.
In that review, one of the very few negatives was the lack of online modes. Well, we'll take full credit for THQ announcing that there is a brand new, and free, co-op mode available for online play!


Details from their press release:

Space Marine's Exterminatus mode pits an elite squad of four Space Marines against hordes of alien enemies in a score based fight to the death. Players can choose the Tactical Marine, Devastator or Assault Marine as well as utilizing any weapons and perks available to those classes.
Each of Exterminatus Mode's scenarios, ‘Assault on Hab Center Andreas' and ‘Escape From Kalkys Facility,' feature global leader boards challenging players to better their scores by completing dynamic challenges as well as utilizing score modifiers which increase game difficulty in exchange for additional points.
Experience earned while playing this mode counts towards the game's multiplayer ranks, allowing players to earn progression in both Co-Op and multiplayer.
Jim Huntley, Vice President of Global Brand Management commented,
"We are delighted to be able to reward the loyal fans of Space Marine with a new free mode to extend and enhance their game play experience. Exterminatus will provide a rewarding new challenge to players old and new."
Space Marine's Exterminatus mode is available to download for free on the Playstation®3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC. The Xbox®360 version will be available for free soon.


XIII Vol 8: Thirteen to One review



The previous volume of XIII from Cinebook, Night of August Third, rounded of that particular story arc for our now not so amnesiac (but not yet fully memoried up) agent XIII.
At the beginning of this volume things have moved on somewhat, with agent Jones off doing her own thing (again!) and XIII receiving both an invitation one really cannot refuse and an interesting job offer…
And so, as is the way with this series, intrigue and double-cross are not far behind as XIII delves deeper into his past, perhaps putting more pieces together while an old foe is on his tail.
This volume, while having some great action set pieces (XIII’s infiltration of an enemy island is a particular highlight), there do seem to be a lot of talking heads senses in here which slow the pace somewhat, especially in the first third of the book.
Having said that, Hamme’s skill at dripfeeding the reader with titbits of information at a pace that could almost be described as torture. And the art by William Vance is, as usual, all but perfect.
This volume seems to be setting us up for some highly explosive shenanigans in the future with the aforementioned old foe and the new one XIII makes during the course of this tale.
Ah yes… that final scene. It had me laughing and almost punching the air. XIII is the sort of maverick spy hero that American writers only dream of creating.


Monday, 24 October 2011

Assassin's Creed Revelations trailer

Yes, yes... I know you're all getting excited by the new Batman game (which does look splendid) and Battlefield 3, but this is the one I'm looking forward to the most!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Legends of the law: 2000 AD creator interview ebook launche





2000 AD® has launched its first ebook collection of interviews with some of the biggest names in the comic book industry.

This first collection includes a three-part interview with the co-creator of Judge Dredd, Carlos Ezquerra, as well as pieces on the creator of 2000 AD, Pat Mills, and two of the artists who fundamentally defined the look of Dredd – Mick McMahon and Ron Smith.

In a new experiment for 2000 AD, the series is being made available in ebook format only – available through Amazon for just £1.99.

These long-form interviews from the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine are a unique insight into the life and work of seminal figures in British comics history, covering everything from their childhoods, to their time with 2000 AD and their work elsewhere. Later volumes will include interviews with more top flight talent from the world of Tharg.

“These interviews are one of the highlights of the Judge Dredd Megazine and give unprecedented insights into the creative minds behind 2000 AD and its characters,” said Matt Smith, editor of 2000 AD. “Nowhere else will you find this long-running series of long-form interviews, and these collections will allow fans to get an in depth look at the people who made 2000 AD what it is today.”

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Octocon

Team Hi-Ex headed off to Octocon, The National Irish Science Fiction convention, we are very honoured to have been asked back to be guests at this great event. Not only are we comic event organisers but comic creators ourselves, we feel very lucky to get to experience the industry from these different angles. We try to keep in touch with as many of the other related events across the UK as possible. When Hi-Ex started in 2008 there was only 4 or 5 comic events, I think there are more than a dozen now! One of the things that draws us to comics is how friendly and inclusive it is. Sci-Fi or 'speculative fiction' is similarly friendly and welcoming. This is why we love Octocon in Dublin.  We don't see other events as competition, but colleagues all working together to promote the medium of comics and genres within Speculative Fiction.

The event embraces; sci-fi, fantasy, comics, steam punk, horror and pretty much whatever else you can think of. Hi-Ex goers would have recognised many of the guests, and possibly not us as we would have looked a lot more relaxed compared to how you see us in Inverness!  We both had the opportunity to talk on various discussion panels and Vicky ran a workshop on 'How to draw Monsters and Demons'.  Some of the discussions were really thought provoking, raising questions such as why women are more reluctant to join in panel discussions than men and how event organisers can redress the gender balance?   We also have some more very entertaining guests lined up and ideas for activities after the weekend.

We'd like to thank the Octocon team for their supreme efforts to pull together a deliciously smooth and enjoyable weekend.
Hi-Ex's Richmond on a panel with Hi-Ex regular guests, Micheal Carroll, Sally Hurst and John Higgins.

Guest of Honour John Higgins- Currently working on Judge Dredd, gives a talk about his career in Art.

Ian Sharman, Rich, and Alan Nolan discuss humour in comics.

Alan takes part in the 'Exquisite corpse' a live comic jam in front of an audience.

Rich talks with Eoin and Ciaran from a new Irish Comic anthology 'Lightning Strike' and Artist Barry Keegan, on making comics for beginners.

If any of you get the chance to go to Octocon we thoroughly recommend it!  Meanwhile bear with us while work on a new Hi-Ex website is on-going and we work away behind the scenes to bring you a brilliant event in Inverness next spring.
remember we are also on twitter = @HiExComicCon and

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Digital Daughter



And while we're on a roll and blogging nice things about other people, we should point you in the direction of Digital Daughter.

The are a brilliant new band fronted by the incredible singer and artist Sally Hurst!
As well as possessing a voice that would make angels weep, you can also see her talents on display in the latest issue of the Judge Dredd Megazine where her colours grace the Judge Dredd strip!

Check out the band HERE!

Octocon!



This weekend is a rare one for us at Hi-Ex! in that we'll be relaxing!
Well, sort of... we'll be at the Irish National Sci-Fi convention OCTOCON this weekend where we'll be taking part in various panels and workshops, so if you are there please come and say hello!

As well as the wonderful us, there are some excellent guests, friend of Hi-Ex! and Judge Dredd writer extraordinaire Micheal Carroll will be there, as well as their guest of honour: the legend that is John Higgins!

You'd be a fool to miss it!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Clinic review



The first shock in this movie comes at the very beginning, and it has nothing to do with the movie itself. No, it is the sight of the wonderful Andy Whitfield in the male lead role that was a bit of a jolt, and just served to bring how much he’ll be missed in the role of Spartacus.
Anyway, on with the movie!
The story starts on Christmas Eve 1979 in the Australian desert, which is another jolt for those of us used to freezing cold snow and bitter winds at that time of year. So we join a young couple as they head across country for the holidays. Stopping off at a cheap motel for the night, things start to go bad when Cameron (Whitfield) finds his pregnant fiancée Beth (Tabrett Bethell) has gone missing.
So far so horror movie. But this movie quickly sends the viewer in a different direction than the one the viewer may be expecting from the set-up. While we see some of Whitfield doing the strong husband act and trying to find out what has happened to his wife (really Australians – do you really dislike your country cousins that much? Or is every remote Australian town inhabited exclusively by sinister weirdoes?), this is very much Bethell’s movie. 

And, I should warn you, it is a grim one. She wakes up in a bath full of ice to find that her baby has been removed and we follow her as she and a group of other women who have had the same thing happen to them try to find out just what the hell has happened to them while they are being staked through the clinic by a mysterious figure...
The story itself has a nice (nice is not the word really, but you know what I mean!) old school horror story feel to it. To me it has the atmosphere of one of the novels of Richard Laymon. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I suggest you check him out, he really is one of the unsung masters of the horror genre.
To me true horror, as I am sure I have said here before, is where people are doing bad things to other people. I find supernatural horror to be much less scary than ‘real’ horror. And that is not to say that movies like Hostel, Saw 58 and the like are scary. They are not. There is a difference between meanness and gore and scaring people.
And there are scares in this. There is a touch of the Saws about it in places, but this is not a torture-porn gorefest, although there is some gore in there.
No, there is an actual story going on here, and while I was a bit annoyed at a brief flirtation with a possible supernatural element, this was explained well in a rather nice twist. Yes, the twist does require the viewer to swallow a gigantic coincidence or two, but that’s okay.
And pleasingly for a modern horror movie, after all the darkness and death and misery, it was nice to have a genre movie that ends on a note that could be interpreted as hope for a change!
The Clinic is released on DVD by Universal on 17th October.

Torchwood The Lost Files review



This is a collection of three original Torchwood adventures that were broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
As this is Torchwood, the stories vary widely in quality, but when they are good, they are absolutely brilliant.
As these stories are set before the events in the Children of Earth storyline, they feature (and this is a massive spoiler for those of you who have not watched that particular series) Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones.
First up is The Devil and Miss Carew, which is a pretty good tale, and it is always good to have my favourite Torchwood character, Rhys, played as always by Kai Owen, take centre stage in a tale.
Next comes Submission, and apart from a wonderfully punny title, it also provides a unique location – a deep sea submersible (you see what they did there?). As befits the location, this story is high on claustrophobia and as befits Torchwood, it is also fairly low on internal logic. Still this is a solid tale.
The last story in the set, The House of the Dead, is far and away the best of the bunch. I had by this time, resigned myself to this being a pretty by the numbers affair, and the fact that the wonderful Eve Myles takes very much of a backseat in this one did not bode well for my enjoyment.
But then writer James Goss provides an astonishing rug pull just when the listener least expects it, and this story goes from pretty good to essential.
This latest release from AudioGo may be a bit of a mixed bag, but I’d go as far as to say that it’s worth it for the final story in the set alone.

Orbital 4: Ravages review




If you recall my review of Vol 3, I bemoaned the fact that it ended at the point it did.
So it was with this in mind that I opened this volume, fully expecting it to pick up exactly where the last had left off. I should have known better.
There was a moment’s confusion for me as I had to pick up the threads of the story as it did not start where I assumed it was, and the book is all the better for it.
Reading through the book again I find myself being amazed at both the pace of the story and how that pace is maintained the entire length of the 56 pages.
Plot threads and hints that have been sown in the preceding books come together here and are woven together expertly by writer Sylvain Runberg.
Art and design by Serge Pellé is extraordinary, but I have already spoke about this in the previous review, so go there to find out what I thought of the art.
No, the big thing here is the story itself. It is strong and exciting and when the big villain is revealed it is a great moment. The reader is treated to some astonishing panels of art that leave the reader feeling disorientated and not knowing exactly what the hell is going on. It is one of those scenes that is just beggin to be recreated up there on the big screen.
 And as if that is not enough, the story contains at least one hefty gut punch for the reader who will, if they respond the same way I did, not quite believe what they are reading.


Doctor Who The Doomsday Quatrain



As with last months Sixth Doctor release Recorded Time, this latest Seventh Doctor Who does that thing where they have the Doctor meet an historical figure so famous that you are amazed that nobody had thought about doing it before.
While last month the Sixth Doctor met Henry VIII, here we have him rubbing shoulders with the most famous seer who ever lived: Nostradamus.
Nostradamus has predicted the end of the world. The Doctor knows it can’t be true, because, as he informs us, he has already see it… but the thing is Nostradamus does seem, if things are to be believed, to be correct.
There is a lot to enjoy in this story. There are plenty of unexpected twists and turns in the narrative – it went in a completely different direction than the one I was expecting on a number of occasions. It has a memorable cast of characters, and each is very well acted.
While most of the glory on the acting front will, no doubt, go to David Schofield in the role of Nostradamus, for my money Caroline Keiff was the strongest of the guest stars.
McCoy is his usual great self, and writers Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie give him some deliciously authentic Seventh Doctor lines, which McCoy delivers with obvious relish.
I as also delighted and slightly miffed that a continuity issue I had thought of based around an offhand mark from the Fourth Doctor is dealt with expertly. I doubt it is something the normal listener will even noticed, but it is a nice Easter egg for the die-hard Who nerds.
Once again, a winner from Big Finish. I can only hope we hear more from this writing team again soon!


Doctor Who The Lost TV Episodes Vol 3 review pt6



In the final part of our review of this rather magnificent box set from AudioGo, we will have a look at The Moonbase.


The box set is rounded off with this story, which sees the return of an old foe…
Well, not really an old foe. As this is only their second outing, the Cybermen are still a novelty act. But such was their popularity in there debut story, The Tenth Planet, another adventure was quickly commissioned.
As entertaining as this is -  Cybermen are my favourite Who villains and I’m always happy to see them back – this is more or less a retread of the same ground covered in the previous tale, with an isolated base on the moon substituting for an isolated base in the Antarctic.

Of course this is not to say that it is not without merit. The story is a good one, and there is a wonderful sense of menace and claustrophobia to he had.
One cannot help but imagine how powerful the scenes of Cybermen sneaking into the sickbay to spirit away bodies would have been when first seen. And this sort of horror does somewhat put paid to the claims that ‘modern’ Who is becoming too scary for children. It has always been too scary for children (at least from an adult point of view, children will tell you different).
As with the previous missing adventures collections, it goes without saying that this one is all but essential for the Who fan as well, and I for one cannot wait until Volume 4!

Doctor Who the Lost TV Episodes Vol3 review pt5


Part five of our review of this box set from AudioGo features The Underwater Menace.




This one is great.
However, I fear that it is great for all the wrong reasons!
As with The Highlanders, this one sees the main cast all in full flow. They are clearly having a great time and enjoying each others company, which lifts their performances to a wonderful level.
Things are not so strong on the supporting actor’s front though. I don’t want to single anyone in particular, but some folks seem to believe they’re on stage at a Christmas panto!
(By the way, Anneke Wills, in a great interview in on the bonus disc that comes with this box set is not at all coy about naming names!)
As for the plot… well, it is utterly ludicrous! Zaroff is a spectacular villan in the James Bond mould. But the scheme he has embarked upon here is one so fantastic and over the top it makes the machinations of Goldfinger and Hugo Drax seem positively pedestrian!

And of course I know that criticising the more fantastic elements of the plot is easy to do. But these things do not present themselves as a problem if they are sold well by both the writing and the acting, it’s just that this is not quite the case in this instance!

I mentioned the disc of extras earlier. As it is stored in the box with this story, I’ll mention it here.
As well as the long and very entertaining interview with Wills, these is also an equally interesting and informative documentary about incidental music throughout the history of Doctor Who. No! Wait, honestly, it is very interesting! Trust me, it is more than worth a listen.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Assassin's Creed Revelations - unlock the Animus



I  make no apologies for blogging about this game again, because I cannot wait for it!

Ubisoft have just announced a new website for the upcoming Assassin's Creed Revelations, which you can find here.

As there is a chance to win a holiday there, I don't know why I'm even telling you about it, I should really be keeping it a secret...



Flesh The Dino Files review


               

This hefty collection contains the original series of Flesh, Book II and the recent revival series Texas, as well as a few extra that we shall come to presently.

So, we start off with something from the very first issue of 2000AD.
Reading this now as an adult, it is hard to imagine the impact it must have had on me at the time I first read it at the age of eight. The very fact that I can still remember it so clearly decades later says a lot about the powerful storytelling.
The first episode is nothing short of lunacy. It bombards the reader with an incredible amount of ideas and visceral imagery. In the six pages of the first episode we manage to get introduced to the main characters, have the premise of the story told to us, witness a herd of dinosaurs stampede over a cliff, see a man eaten by a giant crocodile and are treated to the brain searing sight of a headless T-Rex, blood spouting from the stump of its neck, trample to death a group of unlucky cowboys.
Of course this is merely a taster for what follows. We still have Claw Carver and Old One Eye to meet yet.
Flesh Book I is a brilliant slice of comics.

Such was the popularity of the first series, it was rather inevitable that a sequel would be along.
Book II is essentially the same thing as Book I, only the action has been shifted from the Creatatous Era to the Triassic and relocated from dry land to a massive factory rig in the middle of the prehistoric ocean.
This series is not as powerful as the first, mainly because it retreads a lot of the same ground plotwise and some plot points are nonsensical or even contradictory. But it does have a number of saving graces.
Chief amongst these is the art, which is provided in each episode except the final one (and even then, one of his panels is cut and pasted in) by fan favourite Massimo Belardinelli. His idiosyncratic art style is perfect for depicting the alien world that is the Triassic.
The other main saving grace is this:


Which is unquestionably one of the best comic book covers ever, and I am here to tell you that Beri’s giant scorpions truly are the stuff of nightmares.

Then we have a brief stop gap in the shape of the Claw Carver tale Hand of Glory. This was originally in prog 1526 and marked the return of Ramon Sola to comics after many decades away. It was received coolly at the time, but rereading it here, it is a very good tale, well told and not anywhere near Sola’s best, is still very good. It’s just a pity he didn’t continue to draw comic strips after the reception this one got.

Then comes Texas, in which writer Pat Mills cleverly harks back not only to the fairly recent Carver tale, but to the events in prog one over thirty years, or thirty million years, before, and does so seamlessly.
That’s not to say that this reboot does not have its problems.

Like most modern comic strips, it suffers too much from decompression. This may seem like a strange thing to be saying about a 2000AD strip, and it is – compared to American comics this is still a tale told at a break-neck pace - but compared to the pace of the original series, it is slow!
There are some strange ideas in here that don’t quite come off for me – like the paraoralophus having a cry that will kill everything around them. I can’t quite see how this would work from an evolutionary point of view.

However, this kind of issue is more than balanced out by the big bad dinosaur from this series: Gorehead.
Gorehead is a survivor of the events that took place in the original Flesh series and as a consequence has become unstable in time. Yes, that’s right. He is a giant, indestructible, time travelling T-Rex!
The art from newcomer James McKay is, for the most part, very good. He can certainly draw dinosaurs and he can certainly draw people. The dinos are realistic looking and the humans well realised.
What he can’t do as well though, is draw a comic strip. There are times that the inking is too thick and the panels too complicated, leaving the reader peering into a panel that at first looks like a collection of thick black lines.
The series ends on a nice cliffhanger, and I for one am looking forward to seeing it come back, and I’m confident that McKay will be a much more accomplished comic artist by then.
The rounded off with  stories from a couple of old 2000AD annuals. They are glaringly out of place in the Flesh universe and seem to have been written and drawn by a team with only a passing knowledge of the strip, but they are interesting for historical reasons.
And finally, there are a number of pages of James McKay’s character and dinosaur sketches. These are brilliant, and show what this artist can really do when he puts his mind to it!
Now, when’s Texas Book II coming?


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Doctor Who The Lost TV Episodes vol3 review pt4



Next up in this epic multi-part review of the latest box set from AudioGo is The Highlanders.





Well, of course this one was always going to appeal to us here ay HiEx!
This is only Troughton’s second time out at the Dcotor and in some ways he is still finding his feet in the role as the writers cast about for ideas, trying out this and that and, it seems, writing some aspects of the story to go with some of Troughton’s own talents.
I suspect, although I have no solid knowledge of the fact, that this is how we have the bizarre vision (or rather, audio) of the Doctor disguised as an old lady. Luckily, these scenes are great, with Troughton throwing himself into the who thing with obvious enthusiasm. And this enthusiasm seems to have spread throughout the rest of the cast.
Everyone seems to be having a ball here.
Of course, this is a notable story because it sees the introduction of a character who would go on to be one of the Doctor’s most popular companions: Jamie McCrimmon.

And of course there is the additional fun of having knowledge of the places where they are visiting. The Culloden battlefield site is just outside Inverness, for example. And the old jail is not far from Eden Court theatre, which of course hosts HiEx each year!
Ahem… sorry, that turned into a bit of a plug for HiEx!
But apart from that, this is a solid historical piece and an enjoyable romp to boot.



Monday, 3 October 2011

War Games review



No, this is not a remake of the early 1980s John Badham movie, so rest easy!
The war games in the title of this movie are altogether more literal.
So, we have a group of young people (I’m not sure of their ages, everyone between about fifteen and thirty years old looks the same to me) head off for a weekend of paint balling, when they encounter another group of folks who prefer to use real bullets…
Things begin in a way familiar to the horror movie viewer, as we are introduced to our adventurers. There’s the nice one, the rude one, the cynical one, the one who doesn’t want to be there, and so on…
Meanwhile, the Bad Guys are much more fun. How bad are they? Well, when we first meet them, we witness one of them doing something that will leave you in no doubt they are Very Bad Indeed.
Things progress exactly as one would expect them to for a while, but when the first killing comes, it is well done and even though we know it is coming, it still manages to shock.

After that we enter a game of cat and mouse as our team get picked off one by one and, armed only with a pistol with a few bullets and a load of paint balls, they go up against a team of insane gun totting crazies.
And yes, it does sound familiar. We’re firmly in Deliverance/ Southern Comfort territory here, with a dollop of The Hills have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wolf Creek thrown in.
Still, this familiarity helps on the occasions that the narrative steps outside the expected lines and delivers a genuine shock or twist, which it manages to do a number of times.
The cast of unknowns (to me at least) are, for the most part, pretty good and it’s good to see them not being afraid of getting dirty, wet and downright uncomfortable for the part.
The best thing though, and the thing that impressed me about this movie, is the sound design. I suspect it may not be for everyone, but the use of feedback and white noise was very effective in communicating the isolation and desperation of the characters.
All in all, this is an entertaining piece of horror. Yes, we know more or less who is the one who will survive at the end, but as I mentioned earlier, the times where they manage to subvert the genre tropes make this worth watching.
I was going to say that War Games is good fun, but I don’t think that is the word… it’s maybe better to think of it as being like Wolf Creek with all the hope and feel good scenes removed…

War Games is released on DVD by Universal Pictures.