Review by JMenthol

"Two Half-Asses Don't Make A Whole"

The Movies is one of those games that tempts you with hours of fun in the store, but once you get it home, fails to deliver. I had some pretty high hopes for this game, but even the installation process was irritating and, quite frankly, invasive/spyware-ish. Speaking of, let's begin there...

So! I get home and start installing. Everything seems to go well until I try to actually play the game... at which time I get an error reading "CD/DVD emulation software detected, please disable this software and try again." Huh? I wasn't trying to emulate anything, the legitimate game CD was in the CD-drive... what gives?

After checking the tech support website, I discovered that the game scans your computer for programs such as Alcohol 120% and CloneCD (among others). If it finds those programs, it FORCES you to disable them if you want to play. After fiddling around with my installation of CloneCD and doing everything the website instructed me to do, it STILL refused to run. Finally I uninstalled CloneCD, at which time all my issues magically resolved themselves and the game promptly booted up. Thanks, Lionhead, real nice of you to give me a heads up before I bought your game that you'd make me uninstall software you don't approve of... oh wait, you didn't.

Jerks.

Well, I was still pretty excited, maybe all that mess would be worth it... I started up a new game, ran through the tutorial (which had about a million annoying pop-up balloons), and off I went on my studio adventure! This was fun for about the first hour or two. Now, while the tutorial was long and bothersome, it failed to explain many key elements of the game. For example, it took me about 20 minutes of fiddling around and checking the manual to figure out how to destroy a building I didn't want anymore. Not very intuitive. Soon after, the gameplay quickly degenerated into a micro-management nightmare. After a few decades you are forced to constantly pamper and attend to your Stars using an interface that is hardly up to the task (I could go into all the reasons why, but it'd take many, many pages).

This is all complicated by the fact that it seems like you can never hire people when you need them. You need more/better staff to improve the reputation of your studio, but the only way to attract people to work at your studio is to have a high reputation... Suck! Meanwhile, every 20 minutes or so you are forced to attend an awards ceremony that usually involves watching the hosts give lots of great rewards to all the studios except yours. Then it's back to more whiney Stars, staffing problems, and Directors having nervous break-downs and developing alcohol abuse problems as your cash vanishes before your eyes.

Sigh... The audio and graphics I found fairly pleasing, but as far as actual game mechanics, interface, and fun factor go, it is probably the worst of any tycoon-style game I have ever played. I did enjoy it for a few hours, but it got very old, very fast.

But wait! What about the whole "Make Your Own Movies" aspect that was promised? Let's give that a shot!

First, you have to write your own "script," or put together a series of locations/animations, and assign players to their roles. This sounds simple and easy, but it is not. For one thing, you cannot simply plunk a character into a location and start moving it around. You choose your location, and then you must scroll through a huge list of pre-created animation paths. Once you choose a path, then you can assign a character to that path. While the list of animations is impressive, in almost every scene I found myself wishing for an animation that didn't exist. "I want my two main characters to get in a car and drive away." Well, there's a Get-In-Car animation, and a "Driving" animation, but nothing in between, sorry. "Can I make my own animations?" No. You also can't control the camera, or do anything else that would give your little movie any variety or individuality. Enjoy!

The interface for choosing your animations is also very confusing and frustrating. Animations aren't always provided with adequate descriptions, and you will often find yourself digging through the bin for quite a while before you can come up with something that remotely fits what you had in mind (if you do at all). For example, it took me about three hours to put together my first custom movie, which lasted a whopping 4 minutes. THEN, you have to save the script, shoot it, and take it to post production for editing.

Post Production will be instantly familiar (yet infinitely disappointing) to anyone who has used digital video editing software. You can move clips around. You can cut them, you can delete them. You can fade in, or out, or place subtitles, but that's it for visual effects. You can have ONE musical piece per movie, no more. If you want more music, you'll have to import it as a sound-effect and place it on the sound effects track (so no sound effects during your other music). Additionally, if you delete ANYTHING from any track, it will skew your sound effects, subtitle, and music tracks, and you'll get to move every little clip back into place manually. In short, it blows. I spent about an hour and a half editing that first 4 minute movie of mine, and towards the end, for no apparent reason, one of my most important video clips disappeared. This screwed up all my other tracks and ruined the movie. There is no undo button, no way to reverse an error without going to a previous save. If you do manage to finally create a movie worth exporting, you can only export in .wmv format, and at one weird resolution that you can't change without hacking the game files.

Machinima creators: It's not worth your time. Maybe in a few months when some patches come out and the community fixes the game for the developers, but right now save your money and pick it up in the bargain bin.

Basically, The Movies is a half-assed tycoon game and a half-assed animation/editing studio. Neither one is very satisfying after a couple days of play, and you'd probably be much better off spending your money on a full-fledged game or video software suite. I don't recommend it in its current state, but it could potentially get better with patches and time.

Final score: 6/10


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/05


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