Review: Terry – a fly on the wall peak at London’s street culture

Writer/ director/ actor Nick Nevern has definitely found a platform to show himself off: playing the role of London yob Terry in this faux-documentary drama about a dodgy london geezer and his ‘friendship group’ cum clan. They are hooligans and this is a close up and dirty portrayal of yob culture; street thugs with knives, drugs and attitudes. The film is essentially a gritty fly on the wall peak at Terry’s chaotic life and it’s an absolute masterclass on how to make a film on budget, shot on a camcorder and with a budget of less than £500! It could be perceived as a “happy-slap” flick, but honestly, it is much more than that.

Our camera man is introduced; given a name, Charlie, and a face – metal studded with a goatee, he looks much rougher than he sounds. He’s a film student making a documentary for his end of year showcase. He never really elaborates on his exact purpose behind filming Terry and crew, but it is implied that it’s kind of a social experiment, “a human study”. His subject: a sturdy, bald bloke with a predilection for cigarettes and the word ‘fuck’. He’s the very definition of streetwise and he doesn’t take any shit.

This is Terry. He’s a waster. He gets up in his dingy apartment, sparks a fag and then brushes his teeth with his finger over the kitchen sink. He drinks 90% of the day, and the other 10% he does coke. When Terry is around, a knife is never out of reach and things can turn sour, from amiable banter to violence, in an instant. He meanders from party to party with no ambition besides a drink and a good time. It’s a different life, a different culture, and it has different rules – specifically: there are none. Spencer is like the damaged chick Terry has taken under his wing. He’s a wannabe playboy who ends up spending most of his dough on prostitutes, and he sticks to Terry like glue. The two are “basically” best friends. Billy Black is a wannabe gangsta thinking he’s a wise guy. He talks the talk but he can’t walk the walk. He pisses Terry off.

These are the three central protagonists, and although we are slowly introduced to the rest of Terry’s posse, these are the three with whom most of the dramatic action takes place. There’s a lot of testosterone motivating these macho characters, and with so much conflict between the main parties things are inevitably going to get out of hand.

Terry walks a fine line that may not even exist, between a raw, brutal drama and a feel-good buddy movie. Yes it’s brutal, it’s savage and it’s totally unapologetic, but it’s never very intense. It retains an almost light-hearted and nonchalant air throughout, which is a relief because in a different light the content could have been too dark to watch. Instead Nevern finds humour in the unlikeliest of places and it’s difficult not to be swept up in the groups good natured jibing, and nonsensical banter. The chances are you’ll find yourself grinning at the most inappropriate times!

Much like Man Bites Dog, the fantastic french faux-doc about a serial killer, Terry approaches it’s subject with no prejudice and no rule book and it encourages the viewer to do likewise. Also similarly to that film, the camera man Charlie starts out determined to remain distanced from his subjects but is inevitably engaged by them, influenced by them at times, which makes for an interesting visualisation of the effects of peer pressure, affecting both the camera man and the viewer totally subconsciously.

As with most films shot in this handheld style, usually ‘found footage’ horror ventures, the shaky camera work is occasionally over-exaggerated to the point of distraction and in an effort to remain realistic, the voices aren’t always clear in the sound mix, particularly in the pubs and clubs they visit in the first part of the film. (This could also be attributable to the aforementioned £500 budget!). However, the real achilles heel of Terry is actually the pacing. When the action kicks off it is extremely gripping and easy to watch, but it’s a long time before anything really grabs your attention. In fact, I think this is a flaw recognised by the film makers as the film begins with an unnecessary and in hindsight, quite jarring false start, presumably with the intention of sparking some interest before a low key first forty minutes.

For a certificate 18, Terry is surprisingly un-graphic and inoffensive. It is littered with almost constant drug abuse, and every other word is a swear word, but there is no gore and practically no sex, although the one sex scene is a grotty threesome. It’s likely the reason it has been donned such a high certificate is the realistic and cavalier attitude of the characters towards drugs and violence. There is no underlying moral about a correct code of conduct here, nothing to indicate whether their behaviour is acceptable or not, and without a negative stance towards these things, the BBFC will always designate certificates harshly, and perhaps quite rightly too.

Terry is a film that could have gone in so many directions, and the final route it ended up taking might not be the best one. To borrow a phrase from Downey Jr., there are vaguely sinister undertones to the beginning of the movie, Terry is described as “not human”, and is often seen apart from the group, introverted. Or in the midst of a lively evening out, we’ll catch a glimpse of him, staring savagely, suddenly possessed by some inner turmoil and rage.

Everybody seems to respect Terry but as the film progresses you realise that the ‘respect’ is actually fear. People are afraid of him, of his irrational mood swings and sudden bouts of aggression. Terry will batter you for looking at him the wrong way and then carry on laughing. Terry’s mental instability seems to escalate throughout, and at times he goes totally haywire. His state of mind could have been an interesting avenue for the film makers to explore – indeed, initially I thought the film was a portrayal of one mans gradual descent in to insanity through a storm of drug and alcohol abuse. But not so. Nevern had other ideas in mind and in the final act, the film seems to veer off at a tangent and resolve itself in a manner quite unexpected.

Terry is out on DVD now.

An Interview with Terry’s Nick Nevern

A couple of months ago I was given the fantastic opportunity of interviewing Nick Nevern, the director, lead actor and writer of low budget, cult indie-movie, Terry. The interview was on behalf of Smell of Napalm and was first published on that website as an exclusive. Nick Nevern was a pleasure to talk with despite being on set at the time; honest, forthcoming and very friendly, I felt like we were having a drink at the pub. Enjoy the interview.

What were your goals when you set out to make Terry?

Oh, fucking hell! [laughs] What were my goals when I set out to make Terry? Just to make something cheap that people could look at in years to come say and say you know, “wow, if that guy made a movie for that little, maybe I can make one as well” you know? I think I wanted to inspire people a little bit, and I also wanted to create a story of where I lived, representing people that I knew.

In the release notes you refer to creating an honest portrayal of characters and situations you grew up with –

Yeah, absolutely man.

Would you say that Terry is in any way autobiographical then, even vaguely?

Um…not really. I was a bit of a wild kid I’m not going to lie, but I was nowhere near a bully or anything like that, like Terry is. Terry’s a bully. If you look at the people he fights in the film and the people he starts on, no-one is like, his size or his…you know, and I wanted to show that as well, do you know what I mean? People are calling this film a gangster film and shit like that. It’s not. It’s not a gangster film, it’s a portrayal about one guy who is just really unhappy with himself. So I wouldn’t say it was autobiographical in anyway, but I do know people like that and I don’t think you can play a character like that convincingly unless you’ve kind of lived that life a little bit.

You obviously have quite a diverse TV career, but in terms of films, this is your first major role – is that something you’ve always aspired to and want to continue doing?

Oh absolutely! It’s funny because I’m on a feature film right now so yeah…if Terry’s the biggest feature film I’ve ever done then this has got to be the second. I’ve done a few before but not massive parts or anything like that so hopefully that’ll change.

What film are you on now?

I’m on a film called Outpost: Black Sun. I’m playing a Special Forces Commando by the name of James Carlisle who’s basically part of a group of six special forces unit, basically fighting against sort of, crazy, nazi types.

Sounds interesting…

Yeah, it’s a bit of a mad one.

Is there any possibility that we might get a glimpse of Terry’s uncertain future in another film at a later date, or have you sort of made your statement and you’re going to leave it or…?

Well a few people have asked if I want to do a sequel and it opens itself up to a sequel obviously quite well. But…I do want to do one and I’ve got a great idea for it. I’ve got a great idea for what I would do for the sequel! Obviously I’d make the sequel a bit bigger budget, do you know what I mean, get a better camera out! I’d do it a bit differently. Same style, same documentary style, but it would just look a hell of a lot better. But yeah, there are talks of a sequel. We’ll see how this one does, if this one flops well then there’s no point. If people want to see more then I don’t think Terry’s story is over.

That’s wicked! I’d definitely like to see a sequel.

Well yeah, I’ve got a great idea…we’ll see how the first one turns out. If people like it, and it sells well on the dvd and stuff like that. I mean, I always knew this was a DVD movie. My producer Jason Maza wanted it to go to cinema which it did obviously, but I always knew that the market would be on the DVD.

Were you strongly influenced by films shot in vaguely similar style, Man Bites Dog for example –

Oh, I love Man Bites Dog!

So that’s a parallel you’re happy with?

Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s not the first time that Terry’s been compared to that in any way. Obviously Man Bites Dog really broke the mould in that style of movie. Obviously you’ve got your Blair Witch Project and stuff like that, and you’ve got your Australian movies like with The Magician which is obviously a documentary style film following a contract killer…these things have been done before I guess. But what I tried to do with Terry is…you see the thing with Man Bites Dog is it’s an amazing, original piece but it just wouldn’t happen in real life, do you know what I mean? So I just tried to making something that might actually – could – happen.

It is cool when it ends and you see that, when you read as if it’s real and you see what happened to them, you’re just like: no way!

Totally man, totally. That’s the thing, a lot of people when they watch the first 20 minutes, half an hour through, a lot of people watch it and go, “what the fuck am I watching here? What is this, seriously? Is this for fucking real mate?” And obviously as it goes on you get that its not real, or maybe you don’t, I mean, a lot of people don’t! But I was heavily influenced by Man Bites Dog and Magician and films like that really. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve got no money! Someone wrote a review about Terry saying it was “low budget for low budget’s sake,” I think it was The Times yeah? The Times wrote, “Terry is low budget for low budget’s sake.” I don’t even know what that means! I made it for £500 because that’s all I had! I wasn’t trying to make like… it’s not like I had a million quid in my pocket and I thought, “I know what I’ll do, I’ll make a film for £500”. I wasn’t thinking like that, you know what I’m saying? Some people just don’t get it. They just don’t get that I was making it because, you know, I had no money. If I had a million pound I would have put a million pound in to it and then it wouldn’t look the same and it wouldn’t have the same effect.

This is your debut feature, has it been easy getting it off the ground, developing it from concept to completion or was it a bit of a struggle? What sort of problems did you encounter?

Basically, I had the idea to do it fucking ages ago. Like it was a different idea back then, it was more of a documentary about a real gangster and then I watched Donal MacIntyre’s film ‘A [Very] British Gangster’ which follows Dominic Noonan around for three years as a gangster in Manchester and I thought, “fucking hell, the geezer’s just taken my idea”, like obviously it was a real thing, but I thought “shit, that’s what I wanted to do”. So then I just sat it on a fucking shelf for ages and then I just thought, I’ll do it, but not about a real person. So then I called my mate Ian Duck who plays Spencer and I said, “listen mate, I wanna do this little thing, do you wanna do it?” and he was like, “yeah”, so then I called Manuel and I went to school with his older sister, I’ve known him for years. Everyone in the film that you see I’ve known for fucking years, absolute donkeys you know? So yeah, I made it and then it was like 2 hours long or something. Then Jason Maza got involved and he cut it down by about 45 minutes, he edited the soundtrack, I don’t know too much about that, so he sorted all that kind of stuff, and then obviously Lionsgate and stuff got involved and it all came together in the end. It was a bit of a struggle getting it to a certain point because no-one wanted to fucking touch it! The distributors have been fantastic, Lionsgate especially, it’s a £500 movie man, and they’ve pulled out all the stops. They’re advertising it well.

Do you prefer writing, directing or acting?

To be honest I prefer acting the most. Acting is where I started, it’s my bread and butter. Direction is something I’ve only got in to recently after Terry. I’ve just directed a music video for a guy called Snakey Man, ‘Making Moves’, it’s on YouTube, it’s featuring Noel Clarke, and it’s the actual music video for Terry, so there’s loads of cameos. So yeah, I’ve only done a few things, and I obviously want to do more, but acting is my bread and butter without a doubt.

What would be your advice to any aspiring writers and directors?

You can do it! If I can do it, you can do it! The Times said, and I quote, “The actors showreel is dead. Now all aspiring film makers need to succeed is a camcorder, a few willing mates and a few like, unbusy weekends” or something like that yeah? They were trying to diss me. They were trying to fucking diss me, but it’s true. If you’ve got people around you that want to get involved and do this: go and make your film! It doesn’t matter if it’s on a camcorder or a mobile phone or a 7D or a Red, you know? Make your film man. Don’t be shy, don’t be scared, don’t care what people think man. If you’ve got a story, go tell it.

Lastly, a question on a lighter note – what’s your favourite film?

Oh, what’s my favourite film? Oh man, we were talking about this on set actually. I don’t know, there’s so many.

Alright then, top 3! List a couple.

Obviously I’m a big fan of, you know, your Godfather’s, your Goodfellas, your Scarface’s…but I’m going to tell you, and this is an exclusive now! [laughs] My favourite film…of all time…is…Young Guns. Have you seen it? With Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and a couple of others, and Young Guns 2 is the first ever movie, I’ve cried since, but it was the first ever movie that made me bawl like a baby man. I watched that, and when the geezer dies in it…man, it was…I haven’t cried so much since Jamie Mitchell died in EastEnders man.

How old were you when you watched that then?!!

[laughs] But anything by Scorsese I’m a big fan. And British films. I love British films. Anything British. Anything British I fucking love. Dead Man’s Shoes, that’s a fucking good one.

Well, thanks very much for your time Nick, and congratulations on a great movie.

In the spotlight: Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine loversNormally when writing a review, I have the Napalm guidelines niggling at the back of my mind; the format, the structure, the word count. I’m grateful for this film to be writing totally independently, as Blue Valentine is a film that invites much more intimacy from the viewer.

I’m going to kick off with a quick note about the direction and the creative team behind the film as Blue Valentine is a piece of perfectly constructed on-screen theatre. It was directed by Derek Cianfrance and it’s his first feature film in over a decade, and only his second ever. His thoughtful style of direction gives a lot of credibility to the film’s subjects, and his handling of the more carnal scenes in particular stands out as honest rather than racy or erotic. Special kudos should also go to the fantastic costume designers and make-up artists. The changes in era, both through fashion and emotionally are very clear. Gosling’s diminished/ receding hairline is somewhat distracting, but only because I kept asking myself how they’d succeeded in changing him so drastically scene to scene.  Following the brawl he has with Michelle’s ex (and the father of his child), one could swear that his nose is actually out of joint!

Anyway, I digress. Blue Valentine is about a married couple who are struggling to sustain their relationship. More specifically, they are failing to sustain their relationship, and there’s a sad inevitability to the depressing outcome. It’s not abundantly clear exactly why their relationship is suffering but that’s largely irrelevant, and instead the focus flits between their history (their beautiful love story), and their present unhappiness.

Many movies expect you to suspend your disbelief to some degree (if not entirely), but Blue Valentine doesn’t require the same. On the contrary, it is the reality of the circumstances within the film that make it so poignant. In fact, it would be safe to say the only suspension of disbelief required is to take for granted that Ryan Gosling could be so forward almost to the point of being sinister, and yet remain utterly charming. (A feat he has achieved for the second time here, the first being in another heartbreaker, The Notebook).

Ryan Gosling as Dean
Imagine having the class to pull off that suit

Speaking of The Notebook, there are definite comparisons to be made between the two films. Gosling’s character in both is forthcoming, confident and intensely passionate. In both films his characters almost force their love upon their counterparts through persistence and straight up challenge. For instance, in The Notebook Noah hangs by one arm from a ferris wheel, saying he’ll let go unless Allie (Rachel McAdams) concedes to a date with him. In Blue Valentine, upon intuitively sensing that Cindy is concealing something from him, Dean threatens to jump off a bridge unless she is honest and open with him. Both films play with the idea of actual madness as a result of love, that to be ‘crazy’ in love is to the untrained eye still just crazy. Both Noah and Dean definitely have their ‘unhinged’ moments and share the passion that is polluting their sanity.

The controversy in America over the NC-17 rating Blue Valentine was initially cursed with was over the sexual content of the film. It was eventually overruled, and the certificate reduced to an R, but it’s an interesting issue, because it struck me that the sex scenes aren’t sex scenes in the conventional sense, they’re love scenes, which is perhaps exactly why the MPAA found cause for alarm. People are uncomfortable watching emotionally charged, lifelike love scenes, particularly when they’re not shot with soppy lovestruck smiles on the characters’ faces. As Gosling himself said in interview:

“I just think that 10 people that live in the valley, representing parents across America is… how is that possible? They just make these decisions and they decide for these parents what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. So, their tolerance of violence is so different to their tolerance of sexuality, and if there’s violence involved in the sexuality, it’s somehow perceived as entertainment, but if there’s love involved with sexuality it’s seen as pornographic, and therefore not acceptable.”

It’s a curious paradox, but I think he’s right.

Throughout the film it is hard not to sympathise with Gosling’s character Dean, as it is very much Cindy who has fallen out of love with him. The efforts he goes to to maintain and then reignite their flare are desperate, but clearly romantic, and he is evidently very much in love with her despite the uncomfortable rough patch they find themselves in. Cleverly, both characters are likeable in their own way, which leaves the viewer in somewhat of a quandary as to whose side to take. Gosling seems rational; his arguments are sound, his logic irrefutable, but there is no overcoming raw feelings, and Cindy is unhappy, which kind of takes precedent over other considerations, of which there are many. Take for example their child, Frankie (Faith Wladyka – a perfect piece of casting), where does their relationship leave her? On the one hand it would be unpleasant and unfair to raise her between two parents who are sick of one another, and on the other hand it is also questionable whether an all out separation would be equally damaging. These are real dilemmas facing real people day in and day out, and one of the reasons Blue Valentine is such an effective film. It relates to you directly.

Personally I did find the film distressing, with many parallels to my own relationship (which is thankfully still in it’s youthful and love smitten days – long may they live), but Gosling’s wife shares a similar name to my girlfriend, a similar ambition (both desire(d) to be doctors), and I would parallel myself with Dean in some ways too, unfortunately in some negative lights: arrogant, pedantic, occasionally self-righteous, but on the flipside, romantic and deeply caring. It’s easy for a film as convincingly portrayed as this one to get under your skin and I don’t think it’s unhealthy to seriously think about the troubling issues it raises.

It would be dangerous to say much more about Blue Valentine without ruining it through spoilers, or in the very least over analysing it (as an excellent English teacher once described to me – “cutting a canary’s throat to see what makes it sing”).

It is evident that both lead actors have tremendous talent. Michelle Williams was essentially unknown to me prior to this film. Sure, I’d seen Brokeback Mountain, but it didn’t make much of an impression (that’s another story for another time), whereas I’ll definitely remember her face after this one. Gosling, of course, one of my favourite actors, can apparently do no wrong, and here he brings another very human character to life with incredible conviction. While there are talents like these on display, I look forward to the future of film.

LoveSpeaking of which, Ryan Gosling has been confirmed to star in a remake of Logan’s Run and will also be hitting screens again soon in Crazy, Stupid, Love. and Drive, both due later this year, following which he’ll appear in George Clooney’s The Ides of March alongside George Clooney, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Clearly a man moving up in the world. I’m more than happy to watch him climb.

The Social Network – a masterclass in film making.

Wow. I’m simply full of praise for the team behind The Social Network. Surely Hollywood, not to mention the premium TV channels that have shunned him in the past, are now clamouring for more scripts by Mr. Aaron Sorkin. I’ve written of my admiration for the guy in the past, and I’m sure I will again. His script is quick-fire, quicker witted and utterly compelling. It is saturated with Sorkin style; rapid conversations that are just too smart to be real, multiple topics and scattered trains of thought covered in dialogue scant sentences long, and of course, a sense of humour, all of which combines to create real momentum and audience involvement. (There is also reference to cocaine, a pivotal point for Sorkin due to his own habit earlier in his career. How much that storyline adheres to the truth I’d be interested to know…) At the cinema screening I sat through, the entire auditorium was totally attentive all the way through, an uncommon circumstance these days. And by these days I mean, days in which cinemas are largely attended by loud dickheads who eat and talk and annoy.

Fincher’s direction is top notch as per usual, great pacing, a broad contrast of ups and downs; that emotional rollercoaster people love to speak of was well an truly rolling and coasting.

Equally impressive is the casting and the cast. Even Timberlake, and I can see it’s not going to be long before ‘even’ won’t belong at the beginning of a sentence like this, gave a spot on performance as the infuriatingly slimy and cock sure, Sean Parker (Napster creator). Eisenberg was at his best. Sullen, sharp, unlikeable – a perfect Zuckerberg and last but not least, our beloved friendly neighbourhood Andrew Garfield, playing the hard done by Eduardo Saverin, in what might be his last interesting role for a while as he dons Spidey’s suit.

Except he’s not really last, because three more of The Social Networks greatest assets need a mention.

Well, actually, this is where it gets confusing, because two of those ‘assets’ are actually one person. Armie Hammer, whose acting career is just about to go boom, plays both Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and does a hilarious job of it (in the best possible way). Meanwhile, their friend Divya Narendra is played by Max Minghella, another character with a relatively small role who really jumps off the screen and makes an impression.

Ultimately, I think that’s why The Social Network is going to be such a highly regarded film. It offers a spectacular example of film making on every level. Fincher’s on a role, I really hope Sorkin is too. The trailer doesn’t really do it justice but take a look anyway:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB95KLmpLR4[/youtube]

Mark Kermode’s Rants. Or Rather Reviews…

Thanks to Adam Cross for drawing my attention to the frenetic, exasperated ramblings that are Mark Kermode’s Film Reviews. I’ve not listened to them on the radio (5 Live on Fridays), although I understand that’s when they are broadcast if any of you want to tune in. I have however checked them out on YouTube and they’re really enjoyable and entertaining to listen to.

I think there’s a couple of things makes a review enjoyable – primarily passion. Kermode has got stacks of passion, he positively overflows with it. Agree with him or don’t, but he’ll no doubt have you smiling to yourself, nodding or firmly exclaiming “damn right!” as I did.

Here’s his review of Sex and the City 2, perhaps his most incredulous and enraged. This is part one, it links to part two at the end. I suggest it’s also worth having a look at The Hangover review, largely because I share his views about it and the people who enjoyed it 100%. Let me know what you think.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daOfhAGGuo8[/youtube]

Hot Tub Time Waster

Found another amusing and accurate film blog that’s worth checking out – My Own Worst Critic. I discovered it when I was getting photos for a recent review I did of Hot Tub Time Machine. Micah, the man behind Worst Critic, has also done a review, somewhat less scathing, but arriving at more or less the same conclusion. Anyway, have a read of both.

Mine, over at The Smell of Napalm.

His, My Own Worst Critic.

Hope you like them, don’t bother with the film though!

p.s. I’m aware I’ve been a bit slow updating the ‘last watched movie’ sidebar – it’s a bit of a hassle updating to be honest, but I’ll get on it soon! In the meantime, you can more or less keep track on my ‘last film I watched’ page.

Halo 3: ODST

I’m kicking off this new category with a review of ODST, perhaps jumping on the pre-release hype of Halo: Reach, due to fall Spring 2011. So if you’ve not played this game, you still have a good 8 months to familiarise yourself! First published Sept 23rd 2009, Ciao.

Halo 3: ODST has proved that Bungie can do it again and again without losing any of their flare or the franchise’s value. The Halo series has become so elevated in computer game culture that it has a multi-million strong fanbase lapping up everything and anything related to it, from merchandise to collector’s edition boxsets selling at £60! How do they do it? How can game developers Bungie continue to churn out popular, original and strong story based material with such finesse? Because there is no denying it, having played Halo 3: ODST the past few days, it is already one of the best games I have ever played.

The graphics are not groundbreaking for the most part (although there are sequences which take your breath away). It seems to be running on the same Halo 3 engine with perhaps slightly more intricate detail. The available weaponry is almost the same as the previous game with a few slight modifications: more grenades than in the past, the ability to wield the same pistol as in the original Halo game (‘Combat Evolved’), a flamethrower etc. Health works in a similar fashion, again tweaked slightly – you have a certain amount of stamina (basic damage resistance) before you start losing actual health. Your screen flashes red to warn you when this is going to happen. Night vision adds a new visual element to gameplay but doesn’t really change the style of play. To be honest, in all these areas it scores highly, but no better than a lot of other games that achieve the same things. So where does it gain points?

Story line. The Halo story line has always been phenomenal and this game portrays a different angle to the fight against the Covenant. The style in which the story is portrayed to the gamer is unique I think as well. Essentially you are an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST Unit) who wanders the streets of New Mombasa trying to establish details regarding the rest of your crew; their whereabouts or what happened to them. Each time you discover a clue, they are all located in different areas of New Mombasa you are transported in to a playable flashback sequence which forms the basis of each new mission. It may sound a little complex – it isn’t.

Emotion. This might not be something you expect when playing a game, to be moved, to experience thrills, fear, tension, and sadness, but playing ODST I found myself on the edge of my seat, shouting aloud, laughing at the marines as they banter with one another, and from such highs, to feeling a profound sense of melancholy as your character, the Rookie uncovers the tragic fate of one of his crew members amidst the barely lit, neon darkness of the futuristic city, New Mombasa.

Soundtrack. Award winning composer Martin O’Donnell scores the beautifully eerie, sweeping soundscapes that accompany you on your adventures in ODST. To my mind, without his incredibly dramatic compositions Halo would not have the following or the reputation it enjoys today. From pumping, distorted guitar driven rock to fuel your adrenaline in battle sequences, to haunting, lyrical melodies as you explore the dark streets, constantly unaware of what awaits around the next corner or watching you from a close rooftop, O’Donnell has the music to match the occasion. I own the soundtracks to the series independently of the games because the caliber of music is so high.

Multiplayer and online experience. Naturally, xbox live and Halo go hand in hand. Rarely if ever has there been a game with so many players constantly playing. Halo 3 was release back in 2007 and is still one of the most popular games to be played over xbox live. If my gaming experience is anything to go by, ODST won’t let the fanbase down. In addition to a tonne of new maps (3 brand new, but since Halo 3’s original release about 9 new maps have been added), a new combat mode has been introduced named Firefight. It works similarly to Gears of War 2’s ‘Horde’ mode, pitting you and up to three other comrades against an onslaught of foes, wave after wave with the basic aim of surviving for as long as possible as the difficulty level increases.

I really feel ODST has raised the bar once again for the standard of First Person Shooters and story telling through video games. It’s well scripted, solidly structured and thoroughly produced to ensure that the niggly little details that so frequently plague it’s competitors are nowhere to be seen here. Another fantastic game from the guys at Bungie Studios. I look forward to Halo: Reach (Falls 2010) but don’t make it too soon – I want to be able to fully enjoy all that ODST has to offer – a great deal.

ODST lands with a £40 price tag as of release, with the option of a collector’s edition (including a unique ODST controller and preliminary access to the Multiplayer Beta of Halo: Reach in 2010) priced at £60.