Cinema is known for its stories, characters, and effects. Whether the movie is good or bad the experience of sitting in the theater is simply amazing....
Oh wait, this isn't an editorial on the magic of sitting in a theater. It is a review of Activision's game "The Movies" and its expansion pack "Stunts and Effects" -- a game which walks a strange line between the gameplay elements of a simulator and an RTS.
Before you even start the game, you have the option to launch a program called Star Maker which allows you to create you own specialized stars. While creating your character, you can change all forms of attributes for him or her. You can make them fatter than a hippo or skinnier than a telephone pole. You are also given a limited number of points to put into attribute, specialty, and addiction fields. The attribute field allows you to adjust how easy or difficult it is to keep your star happy. The specialty fields give your actor a preferred genre of movies so they can be better suited for those roles. Finally, the addiction field allows you to adjust how easily your star gets addicted to eating or drinking.
When you launch the game, you can go right into sandbox mode which allows for unhindered creation of a movie studio. Of course that is not really that fun. In campaign mode, you will quickly realize you're starting from all the way back in the era of the five to ten second movies, the 1930's. After naming your studio (I went with Plucky Production for laughs), you're off to build the main HQ for your studio and the film crew hiring building. The first set you build is a basic box set with a changeable backdrop.
Throughout the game you will be able to build three different script writing areas for your writers as well as a custom movie script building for you to jump in and make your own films. Each building allows for higher quality movie scripts to be produced. Script buildings is rewarded to you as you successfully accomplish a preset goal in the game.
Other buildings, some of which are only available with the expansion pack, include a research center--which can allow you to have film technologies before any other studio--a stunt man hiring area, stunt man training buildings, and blue and green screen rooms.
The gameplay takes its style from the RTS genre. Its all massive micromanagement without having to build a small army, granted you will end up having one at the end. You have a massive lot to build as many sets and places as you can. Of course, you can run out of room but if you do it really doesn't matter due to the fact your movies probably wont be using half of the sets you build. The major thing that was annoying was that you can't sell the sets you build so you have to use your space wisely.
Another thing you have to control is called lot prestige. The nicer your studio, the better your chances are of winning an award or two in the annual movie awards. Sadly, they didn't make it hard or even that expensive to make your lot "pretty." All you have to do is put down lots of grass. Grass is the cheapest way to increase lot prestige.
The amount of characters you can hired is based on you studio's ranking in the game. If your #1 you will have actors, film casts, scientists, and even builders standing in line to get hired. It is possible to run out of money if you hire too many salaried employees. Each actor hired will start to expect a trailer, decent to good pay, and a ton of attention around the 1960's. Most other employees are paid $1000.
The features in the game are quite good. There is a movie player which allows you to play all movies you produce throughout the game. After you beat the main "campaign" of the game you can continue and unlock all other buildings that you haven't. Other then that there is a sand box mode which gives you a small amount of cash and lets you build and mess around.
Graphically, the game stands stronger versus games like the Sims 2, but it is no modern RTS. They are still quite good for the amount of stuff going on at once in real-time.
Audio throughout the game is lame to say the least. There are some noises throughout, and voices during award shows. Character noises are very much similar to the Sims in every way, mumbles and grumbles.
Overall the game is fun and could easily make a week or two very enjoyable. There are some good and bad parts to the game but there is no "perfect" game.
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