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The Movies

Score: 89%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Media: CD/3
Players: 1* (see Gameplay)
Genre: God Games/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

The Movies starts the way the movies started -- back in the 1920s, when film making (and film) was in its infancy. The plots were simple, the action was simple, the scripts were simple and the actors and audience were simple. Instead of custom soundtracks and multi-million dollar computer-generated effects, you had a pianist in the theater and some fake weights and banana peels on the stage during the filming. The Movies recreates this era nicely; even adding post-processing to your early films so that when you view them, you get that sepia-tone look with scratches and even an occasional hair caught on the film. This tickled me quite a bit.

As the game proceeds, you'll have access to more advanced film-making technology and supplies, as well as access to more modern outfits and special effects. You'll also have access to the clothes from earlier eras, so you can make a period piece should you have the urge.

You have some control over the scenes when shooting your films, as well. You can choose from different camera angles and select from different emotions for your actors to use during a given scene. These can greatly affect the final outcome of your movies, so take a hands-on approach on the movies you actually care about and, if you can't find the time to do so on all of them, then let your director make the choices for those you can't get to.

While there is a little bit of music that you can use and a small but decent library of sound effects, the more interesting aspect is that you can create your own sounds and use them in the game. The provided sound library is limited, but you'd be surprised at how you can reuse sound effects by looping them or combining them to create a strange sound that, given the proper visual context, seems to fit perfectly. A person kicking a robot? Use a gunshot combined with a metal clank. That same robot hitting the ground hard and landing on its butt? Another metal clank combined with the sound of shattering glass. A hovering UFO? No problem, just stack several long car skids back to back and layer some electrical sounds on top. Don't believe me? Try it! Be precise with your timing and you'll amaze yourself and your friends!

Ah, but like I said, the good part is pulling up a chair, grabbing a microphone and recording your own sound effects and even dialogue. Not only can you record your dialogue, but your characters will lip-sync to it! Record a line, place it where you want it in the time-line and assign it to an actor. Voila! That actor will mouth the words when they play. Too cool!


If you like simulation games, but you feel that your creativity and vision is going to waste on them, then The Movies may be perfect for you. You'll find a good bit of management to keep you busy. Even micromanagement can be found here, but in a deeply appreciated twist in these sort of games, the little details are things that you have the option of managing, not things you have to manage. For example, if you train a director correctly, they'll do a pretty good job of directing your movies for you. If you prefer to make sure that the shots are the way you want them to be, then you can jump into the storyboard at the shoot and select exactly how you want the shoot to go.

Even though there are some low level management details that are optional, there are a lot of items that you will have to manage. You'll be responsible for building your studio and selecting your stars, directors, extras and right on down to your maintenance people. If you want a street on your studio lot, you'll have to put it there, which means that you'll also have to be able to afford it.

A large part of the management job will be people management. You'll need to make your actors practice, get them to relax, have them talk to each other and work together to build up some chemistry and then use the media to you advantage to keep the people interested in your actors, your movies and your studio in general. You'll also want to try to win some awards, as the public generally likes a studio to have some sort of critical acclaim. The movie awards are for various things from best actor to best picture and (eventually) even best studio facility, so you'll want to work towards making your studio the best in every regard -- or at least the ones you think you could win in.

If you play long enough, you'll gain access to more sophisticated sets, more and more costuming options and the ability to make your own scripts using the Script Editor. There are a couple of different ways to use the Script Editor, though. There is the simple editor that sets up some constraints on your script (much like those of the 5 paragraph essays you wrote in school) and the the Advanced Editor which allows you to create a free-form script. Be warned though, the formulaic constraints came about because they work. It will allow you more creative expression if you create a free-form script, but you'll be taking a bigger risk. (That's why most studios stick to the formulaic approach in real life.)

While The Movies is designed to be a single player game, it allows you to actually create movies using CGI movie stars of your own design. The fact that you can record vocal parts and have the characters say them makes it perfect for getting your friends to help you out on your latest film projects. Get them to do the voice acting, then you mix it in post-production. The management parts are purely one player, but the creativity can be more fun when shared with some friends. Activision has a online community to allow for aspiring movie moguls to share their movies they've created with The Movies - and some of them are pretty good, believe it or not! You can check it out here, if you're interested: The Movies Game website.


Even though The Movies limits the micro-minutia management requirements, a large amount of the challenge in succeeding in The Movies revolves around the management aspects. You need to make sure that you are adding new sets to your lot to keep your movies fresh, finding fresh faces and training your actors to get more captivating performers and performances and keep your scripts coming. You can't be a successful movie studio without scripts. You'll also need to landscape your studio lot to make it a more attractive place to work, archive your movies when they're not making any more money for you and keep track of the latest movie trends and current events so you can focus your upcoming movies at your target market. If the world has grown tired of comedies, you don't want to create another one.

In between movies, it's a good idea to have your actors practice their acting skills for whatever genres they good at -- or whatever genre you need actors to be good in. If you don't have a good action actor and current trends indicate that you need to make action flicks, start training an actor in that genre so they don't deliver an abysmal performance and hurt your box office sales and chances at an award. You should also bear in mind that certain actors and actresses have inherent skills for certain types of movies, whether it be that they've had a dramatic childhood or a comedic figure. You'll want to determine the genres your actors are most suited for and use them in those genres. Also, watch out for too little variation. If you over-expose an actor, the critics and the public will get tired of seeing them on the silver screen. My suggestion is to use them as directors if they have a lot of experience in a genre. Especially, if you've invested a lot in their ability in that genre.

If you really find that things are too difficult to manage, you can change the gameplay options and cut out certain parts of the game. For example, you can completely bypass your part in shooting the movie. You can cast your movie, drop it on the "Shoot it" area and then almost immediately take it to release. Essentially, you can play the part of a producer, concentrating on managing your studio and selecting the movies to produce. Be warned, however, as it seems that your camera crew will gain experience much slower if you don't actively participate in the filming of the movies. This will tend to hold your ratings back a bit. I suggest playing through the filming parts for a while to get your camera crew some experience and then, if you like, changing the options and playing producer.

In general, progressing through the game is not too difficult, but winning awards is not easy. In other words, it's easy to play The Movies, but it's difficult to master.

If you find yourself stuck and you're struggling for ideas on creating your own movies, you can see what others are doing with The Movies at the community website.

Game Mechanics:

I was quite pleased with the variation of scenes that can be put together with The Movies. True, if you try to create a very long movie, you'll find that you'll either have to get creative with your scene selection or you'll run into some limitations, but carefully choosing camera angles, and different sets would allow you to reuse some of the scenes without it being too obvious. Just look at some of the examples on the community website and you'll see how varied and, well, good some of these movies can actually be.

While I was playing this game for review, a patch was released that fixed some technical issues and improved performance for some ATI hardware, but there was a technical issue that persisted past this update. Specifically, I found that when I got done shooting a movie and viewed it in the in-game player, my characters would appear as shadows, with no lighting effects or texturing. It's very strange for an entire flick (short though it may be) to look like an intro to a James Bond film. Luckily, the export found in the post-production feature works correctly, so it's not a total loss. It's just a little aggravating; it's obvious that they can make the playback work -- it works in one part of the game... it just doesn't work if you view in that one place.

This game is not for everyone, mind you. It takes patience to play through the simulation aspects and possibly even more patience to set up costumes, write scripts and lay up your scenes. In addition to this patience, you'll need to be creative and somewhat clever to put together a truly entertaining film. However, for those aspiring movie makers out there who are dying to try their shot at making a flick of their own, this may be just the thing; not only can you write your own script, dress your own actors and sets and then even provide voice-overs and title screens for your production, but you might accidentally learn a thing or two about the history of the film industry in the process.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

3D Hardware Accelerator Card required - 100% DirectX® 9.0c compatible 32MB Hardware T&L-capable video card and latest drivers, An English version of Microsoft Windows® 98SE/ME/2000/XP, Pentium® III 800MHz or Athlon&tm; 800MHz processor or higher, 256MB RAM, 8x speed CD-ROM drive and latest drivers, 2.4GB of uncompressed free hard drive disk space (plus 500MB for Windows® swap file), 100%DirectX® 9.0c compatible 16-bit sound card and latest drivers, 100%Windows® 98SE/ME/2000/XO compatible mouse, keyboard and latest drivers, DirectX® 9.0c

Test System:

Sony VGC-RA820G Desktop PC: Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition, Service Pack 2, DirectX 9.0c, Intel Pentium 4 540, 3200 MHz (16 x 200), Intel Grantsdale i915P, 1024 MB (DDR SDRAM), AMI BIOS(11/16/04), RADEON X300 Series (128 MB) [ATI Radeon X300 (RV370)], Sony SDM-HS73 [17" LCD] Monitor, Aureal Vortex 2 (AU8830) Audio Accelerator, Intel 82801FB ICH6 - High Definition Audio Controller [B-1], Maxtor 6Y200M0 (200 GB 73 GB free(after install), 7200 RPM, SATA), HL-DT-ST DVD-ROM GDR8163B (16x/52x DVD-ROM), PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-108 (DVD+R9:4x, DVD+RW:16x/4x, DVD-RW:16x/4x, DVD-ROM:16x, CD:32x/24x/40x DVD+RW/DVD-RW), Standard 101/102-Key or Microsoft Natural PS/2 Keyboard, HID-compliant mouse, Intel(R) PRO/1000 MT Network Connection

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