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LGR – The Movies – PC Game Review

January 27, 2020


[Keyboard typing noises] It’s summertime. Or at least it is right here, right now. When I’m recording this and that means summer blockbuster movies. You know, the giant, bombastic, over-budgeted, often overblown things that are not very good at the end of the day, I mean, some of them are, and so many of them are not. You often come away from them thinking, You know what? I could do it better! Well, can you? Can you really? Well… Today, we got a game that lets you put that to the test. “The Movies,” developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Activision in 2005 for Windows PCs, with a Mac version following suit a year later. And yes, it’s from the same Lionhead responsible for the “Fable” and “Black & White” games, so expect similar levels of snarky British humor. “Your studio, your stars, your movies.” Your greed, your failures, your fault. Because this is Hollywood, so don’t expect any handouts. And yes, this is the Premiere DVD Edition of the game, which came on a single DVD instead of multiple CDs. Rather appropriate for a game about movies. And inside the box, a DVD is exactly what you get, alongside a bonus CD featuring extra game content and a nicely detailed manual. It’s a solid reference, but thankfully “The Movies” features interactive tutorials as well, if the walls of text are too much to absorb during your morning log snap. And while we’re here, “The Movies” also got an expansion pack in 2006 called “Stunts & Effects,” which added the ability to hire stuntmen and a slew of other enjoyable features. I’ll be showing the game with this installed already, since there’s really no reason not to. “The Movies” starts out with some movies, which is good, because if it only featured static screens, I’d be skeptical of its qualifications. The main menu then appears and wastes no time in letting you know that, yes, this game features a main menu. Don’t bother trying to go online because the service was shut down in 2008, which is lame because it lets you do some neat stuff, like sharing movies and earning virtual currency. Ugh, I can’t help but lament the crapload of games today that will suffer a similar fate soon enough. Ah, sad state of the gaming industry aside, starting a new game can be accomplished in a few ways. You can either start a normal game with all the simulation intact as intended, start a normal game halfway through the campaign, or start in Sandbox Mode, which gives you a ton of cash and helpful cheats to let you fool around with movie making. After this, you’ll be able to choose a logo for your company, as well as name for both the studio and for yourself. Be sure to choose something to stand the test of time, because you’ll be playing from the years 1920 to 2020 and beyond, if you so desire. In the beginning, you’ve got nothing but blank space, but hey, in Tinseltown, that nothingness is unfettered opportunity, kid! So quit slackin’, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and make somethin’ of yourself! First thing’s first, you’ll need a place to do business and your studio lot can be filled with a huge number of buildings that let you do everything from hire actors to entertain VIPs, to write scripts, to filming and editing motion pictures themselves. No one ever leaves the studio, and as far as you’re concerned, there’s nothing outside of these walls. So make the best of it! People will start cueing up outside your door, looking for work. Everyone from potential janitors, to film crew members, to young actors looking for their big break. Everyone comes with an existing set of skills and attributes, that will make them more or less suited for any potential jobs. So, although you can promote a janitor to lead actor right off the bat, it’s probably gonna end as well as you would expect for hiring a janitor as a lead actor. Now, once you’ve hired the required screenwriters, it’s time to come up with a script. This can be done either by selecting a genre, or by coming up with your own script entirely using the in-game editor. And, man oh man, is this deceptively involved. There are hundreds of props, scenes, sound effects, pieces of music, filters and camera angles to choose from and if that’s not enough for you, then you can dive into Freeform Mode and even mod the game with more content later on. This is quite simply brilliant, and is probably the best in-game movie editor I’ve used, only overshadowed recently by GTA V’s Director Mode. For a while, this was one of the easiest ways to make “machinima,” or films made using in-engine video game assets. And it’s a lot of fun. There’s just nothing quite like taking a serious screenplay and going all avant garde with it. [random sound effects] As soon as you’ve got a script, good or bad, you can start filming on any sets you’ve constructed. If you want, you can even watch the complete filming process, or even get into the nitty-gritty of camera placement and background selection along the way. Stunts are also an enjoyable part of this process, if you’ve got the appropriate expansion installed, mainly because things can go horribly wrong. Wonderfully, horribly wrong. After filming wraps, you can take the film into post-production to fine-tune things you can amp up the PR campaign to get the hype train rolling, or you can just toss it out into theaters and see what happens. Each movie has a chance to make or break your studio, depending on the risks taken and the choices made, and with most of your success riding on critical reviews, there’s nothing in the way of creative accounting or tax write-offs to save you here. The way you manage all of this in “The Movies” is a bit unique. Definitely a far cry from the ’90s PC games that inspired it, like “Hollywood Mogul” and “Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair.” Each building cuts away to show a blueprint underneath when you mouse over it. But instead of clicking on menus or rooms directly, you click and drag different context-sensitive objects and people into them. This makes sense eventually, but it often lags and feels clunky, even after a dozen hours of playing and getting used to it. It doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the game at all, but sometimes I’d just rather have a simple menu to perform simple tasks, like adjusting salaries. Instead of having to find the right building, and opening it up and dragging an object onto a blueprint and then navigating to it, it’s just little convoluted. Speaking of buildings, you’re by no means limited to the starting ones. If you begin your career in 1920, there are very few buildings to worry about. But as the medium evolves and technology marches on, you’ll find you need more and more to stay competitive. Silent pictures are fine and dandy until that pesky “Jazz Singer” comes along and shows everyone the future. Black and white is great until color shows up. And static backdrops are fine until cameras and audiences progress enough to make the fakeness apparent. Historical events also affect the industry as a whole, which I think is fantastic, because it really takes it from being a silly sandbox to something more believable. Wars affect action movies. The Great Depression affects comedies. The Teenage Revolution affects romances, etc. It’s all done in a very tongue and cheek way, with radio DJs and newspapers rattling off the latest news with a healthy dose of exaggeration and satire. And there is no shortage of off-hand remarks and lampooning of the Hollywood lifestyle, too, especially in regards to the stars you employ. With each film you’ve produced, stars and directors will rise and fall in popularity depending on how they do. Not only that, but their self-image will depreciate depending on everything from salary to the clothes they’re wearing. So keep them entertained, give them a makeover, give them their own trailer. Heck, even build a clinic to provide pro bono plastic surgery, if you need to. Just don’t bombard them with too much food or alcohol, since eating disorders and alcoholism are a thing here, and rehab takes away from valuable filming time. But those things can also prevent them from throwing tantrums and going off the deep end with attention seeking antics, so a steady but cautious flow of vices is a good thing. Industry award shows are another reason to keep them on the straight and narrow, since they’ll please the people receiving them. Providing you unlockable items and granting your studio more prestige, which helps attract more talent. There’s a lot more, too, but you get the idea. You make movies, you micromanage the crap out of your employees and see what you can get away with in the cutthroat world of show business. Man, “The Movies” is still such a good game. I ended up playing this for far longer than I needed to for this review simply because it stayed fresh after all these years due to the open-ended gameplay and creative freedom it allows. It’s a shame the online portion got shut down and that no one is currently selling it digitally because I’d love to recommend this as a purchase on GOG or Steam. But still, it’s easy enough to find second-hand and it seems to work just fine on my newer PCs on modern operating systems. So, if you run across it, I’d say pick it up without hesitation. Whether you like the business management tycoon game aspect, or just want to mess around with making movies about evil chickens, “The Movies” is a ton of fun and remains one of the best of its kind. And if you enjoyed this video about a game about movies, then perhaps you would enjoy my other videos about games about other topics. This is LGR, and I do new videos every week with new stuff arriving every Monday and Friday and you can subscribe to be notified when those days happen, if you forget how weeks work. And you can always Twitter me and Facebook me and all that kinda social stuff as well for other things throughout the week. And also Patreon, if you would like to become a patron, see videos early and get some signed floppy disks and other cool perks. And, as always, thank you very much for watching.

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