I thought since I study film, and these are two newly released game fan films, I’d chuck my two cents worth into a comparison/review of them.
The films in question are Fallout: Nuka-Break uploaded on January 24th and Beyond Black Mesa (Half-Life) uploaded on January 21st. (No spoilers will be dished out, so you can read without ruining the endings)
To start off, the idea of a fan film of your two favorite video games was an exciting idea for me, but I was prepared to be disappointed. I probably would have been sad if they were hollywood translations of these two games that, in my opinion, blazed the trail for post-apocalyptic storytelling. So luckily it was pure enthusiasm that fueled the two small groups of independent filmmakers that made these two films, not money and target audiences.
Now, if you think this means I wasn’t disappointed and had the best time of my life, that is not entirely true.
Half-Life: Beyond Black Mesa
(It’s actually just Beyond Black Mesa, but for all intensive purposes it is a Half-Life fan film)
Beyond Black Mesa is about the US Marine called Adrian Shephard who appeared in the Gearbox Software-developed 1999 expansion pack of the original Half-Life. In the film he basically goes around, fights some Combine and some supposed “Headcrabs”, meets up with a chubby guy and an attractive lady and they do some stuff that I don’t understand. I THINK the whole film is a message broadcast to any survivors left and the film is about them having to climb a seemingly specific set of stairs to broadcast the message that you are watching. Not sure how they all knew that’s what they had to do, because they only just meet each other and none of them speak in the entire film.
There was one thing in Beyond Black Mesa that made me sad. This Half-Life tribute is set in and around the Half-Life region of Ravenholme, and if you have played Half-Life 2, you’d know that it’s a place where the Combine dropped the headcrab torpedos the hardest. In the game, the only people alive in the area is you and a crazy priest wielding powerful words and a nifty shotgun. In Beyond Black Mesa, there were two problems. The headcrabs were replaced by standard zombies picked straight from Dawn of the Dead. I hate to say it, but this minor change ruined most of this adaptation for me. If the filmmakers couldn’t get people with Headcrabs on them, then why didn’t they just solely focus on the Combine army instead? Also in the game the Combine and the Headcrab infected humans battle each other, but in this film it seems to have no relationship at all. The second problem is in the game most of the time you were alone, especially through Ravenholme, to heighten the fear and tension of how hideously outnumbered you were at times. In the film Adrian Shephard is alone against the Combine but has two strangers he meets when the ‘Zombies’ attack. There are only like three zombies in the film if I recall correctly, not too scary. It watered down any fear I had for the main character’s safety. Also the existence of the narration suggests that everything will be fine in the end. One last thing: in the expansion Adrian Shephard was assigned to cover up the Black Mesa incident, but in the film he is trying to let everyone know it happened?
Despite these grievances that would make the hardcore fans feel a little bit cheated, it’s a neat little film, very pretty for just one person editing and directing the piece. If you want to watch a crowbar fight, you will be sated. Also the twist at the end is pretty awesome.
If you read the last review and thought ‘what a nasty person, it wasn’t that bad’ then you will be pleasantly surprised by what I have to say about Fallout: Nuka Break.
Fallout: Nuka Break is a charming story about a typical Fallout wasteland ‘family’ that we all know and love. a Vault dweller called Twig who shoots first and asks questions later, not because he is a loose cannon but because he is a coward; a Ghoul named Ben who likes a bit of a joke when he can be bothered to open his mouth; and a sassy ex-slave named Scarlett who is more or less the brains and the glue that keeps the group together. This combination of characters is simultaneously strange but makes so much sense for the Fallout universe. In the story basically they are just walking around doing what you do in Fallout games: trying not to accidentally kill people, getting jumped by bounty hunters, looting, using VATS and witty banter – a LOT of witty banter.
In comparison to post-apocalypse films (dialogue and visual appearance wise), Beyond Black Mesa is The Road and Nuka-Break is Zombieland. Nuka-Break is a wonderfully cheerful look at life after the apocalypse. It is incredibly faithful to the games and the plot and dialogue is possibly even better than what you’d find in a Fallout installment. This film is worthy of the Fallout franchise, and if Bethesda tries to take this down off YouTube it would prove that they are too big for their boots.
There isn’t much else to say about this except watch it! Or do what I did and go on ps3youtube.com on your PS3 and download yourself a copy in 1080p to enjoy over and over again