Friday, July 6, 2018

Shit Family Robinson: Resident Evil 7 Review

Quick quiz: What is the best Resident Evil game of all time. Ready? On the count of 3. 1. 2. 3. Resident Evil 6. What? I’m fucking with you. It’s Resident Evil 4. Although, I have a special place in my heart for Code Veronica: X, but maybe this is me wearing my Dreamcast feelings on my sleeve 18 years later. The reason why Resident Evil 4 was so great is the same reason that Resident Evil 7 is great. It throws away tried and true gameplay techniques used by previous iterations of the franchise, while keeping enough of the stuff that make it Resident Evil, and then dares you to not shit your pants. The best thing about Resident Evil 7 is its setting. The bayou in Louisiana has always intrinsically had a creepy factor to it, especially if you have never lived there and have watched anything like Hatchet, The Skeleton Key, or the first season of True Detective. Don’t worry, you won’t be going into the depths of Carcosa, but you may wish you had by the time you get finished exploring the Baker property. This chapter in the Resident Evil franchise has you playing as Ethan, a man who has been searching for his wife Mia for three years. He suddenly receives a message from her and tracks her down the the swamps of Louisiana and a piece of property that makes you think you will see a kid playing a banjo on a porch real soon. Before you get your pig-squealing panties in a bunch you find your way inside to find out that Mia has been living there for three years, caged up by the Baker family for some reason that she won’t tell you. Before long you meet the family at dinner and begin wondering where is grandpa and if he is going to try and hit you in the head with a hammer impotently. By now you should know, either by playing the demo, or watching videos that you escape and begin playing a cat and mouse game on the estate with the members of the Baker family and this is where the Resident Evil of old comes into play. When it was announced, rather brilliantly, by Capcom that the first-person horror game they were working on was Resident Evil 7 I, along with everyone else, wondered how the series would translate to first-person and still feel like a Resident Evil game. When your journey begins running and hiding from (Handsome) Jack Baker you see that you are searching for weapons and ammo as well as herbs and certain keys to open certain rooms. Puzzles are still there to obtain specialty weapons and find your way deeper into the house. While they are not as difficult as some RE games, they do have you thinking on the run a lot. You will be finding items like cranks and latch keys that aren’t meant to be used when you have them so you will have to figure out where they go. It’s like you are in the mansion again from RE1 except instead of the master of unlocking, you are the master of getting your hand cut off by your wife. Oh yeah...your wife is crazy and is trying to help you while trying to kill you at the same time.

Luckily you will find safe rooms that let you store your gear and save your progress. Instead of typewriters, you use tape players. So it is good to know that by Resident Evil 11 we should be using DVD players. Combining items is a staple of the series and it is used really well in RE7. Yes green herbs are here but combined with chemical fluid it makes a first aid liquid that heals you by pouring it on your hands even after having it cut almost off like in the Saw movies. I love video games. Also, using your crafting skills can net you enhanced ammo for your guns and other weapons you find like flamethrowers and grenade launchers. Why do you need big ass weapons like that? Well, besides the Baker family being nigh invulnerable due to whatever the hell they are on you will be dealing with creatures called the “molded”. These wonderful bundles of joy show up and generally make your House Hunters Serial Killer Edition way more annoying. There are varying types of molded each trying to make your hoarding of ammo worthwhile. If there was one gripe with RE7 it is that I did miss another variation of enemy. If you are not fighting one of the Bakers the only other enemy are the molded and while creepy, begin to lose their general scariness a good ways into the game. One of the best things about RE7 is not its jump scares, of which there are plenty, but its use of an overwhelming sense of dread. Sometime there is absolutely nothing in the house or surrounding areas for good spans of time, but it is the thought of something being there that makes you shoot at shadows and wonder what they hell that sound was. Seriously, the sound design is fucking fantastic. Resident Evil 7 wraps up with a satisfying ending that links to the franchise making me hope this is a hard restart for the series. After floundering for so long, I don’t want to see RE go backwards with the next installment. Keep it first-person. Keep it small and enclosed like you feel inside the Baker property. Keep it scary as shit. Stay that course and the franchise looks to be back in a big, big way. If Resident Evil 4 reinvented the wheel for the franchise, then Resident Evil 7 reinvented the whole damn car the series was driving.

9 Carcosas out of 10

Friday, June 22, 2018

Plenty Dreadful: Vampyr Review

Remember when Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate came out and some were excited because the setting of late 1800’s London is a favorite of history buffs? I do because I was one of them. Remember when the game released how boring it was on a level unheard of in Assassin’s Creed games? I am including 3 which may the be the worst Assassin’s game ever. Well take that boredom and ramp it up to 11...or turn it down to…-11? I don’t know how boredom scales work. Is it like an opposite effect? I don’t know.

Anyway, that is Vampyr. 

Dr. Jonathan Reid has returned to London after serving in World War 1 and we begin the game with him waking up in a pile of bodies and he has a thirst for blood. Yep, our doctor is a vampire if the title was not enough to let you in on the news. He takes a job at a local hospital that lets you choose to save or sacrifice everyone. Patients, doctors, random characters. All for your dining pleasure.

The environment of 1918 London is pretty spot on. While not a true open world, the map is a good size. There are areas that are safe zones where you can talk to characters to get side missions and then areas with respawning enemies which include other types of vampires and the local guard as well as vampire hunters. Also a basic leveling system for you and your weapons and looting to find parts for upgrades. Like the game itself, it is nothing special. 

Combat is serviceable. You won’t get any flashbacks of Batman Arkham games, yet it is done well enough. You will hit camera issues especially when fighting multiple enemies which happens a lot. Again, it is just there.

There are some uniques systems in Vampyr that make the game different than anything else. First off the game has no difficulty setting. The games difficulty is determined by how willing you are to fully embrace your new powers. If you choose to spare people you will not get experience to level up your character and enemies will be harder as the game progresses. On the other side of the coin you can choose to make Whitechapel and the surrounding areas your own personal buffet and get stronger and keep the game on more of an even keel. 

To make the choice mean more you get to know the citizens in each area. As you learn more about them through hints and dialogue their blood level goes up and you grow the amount of XP they will give you if, or when, you decide to sacrifice them. This really is a new and great way to make the characters and choices you make mean something. It would be even greater is it wasn’t so...extremely...uninteresting.

When you play a dialogue heavy game like Mass Effect long conversations are a welcome thing because you are wanting to learn more about the races and motivations of everyone. Vampyr tried to make the options mean this much, but actually getting through all of the dialogue is as much fun as pulling your nose hairs out one by one as someone rips wax paper off of your taint while watching Showgirls. 

I do think we need more games like Vampyr in the gaming arena. We are stuck in a "it's either an indie game or a multi-million dollar budget triple A game" area. While it didn't work here, we need more of its kind to help give the market more variety.

Vampyr is not a bad game. It is just...boring.

And this is coming from someone that really, really likes The Order: 1886.

5.5 Lugosi Lee Oldmans out of 10

Friday, June 8, 2018

2018 E3 Predictions

-Nintendo will announce a Labo that you build to make into a set of goggles for your Switch and when you activate it the screen turns red. You realize they were playing the long game to bring back the Virtual Boy.

-We get a gameplay demo of The Last of Us 2. It won’t involve Ellie and will make people be assholes when they should just shut the fuck up because Ellie is going to be the main focus of the game. Also we get a release month that will be delayed. I will say March delayed to May.

-Gears of War 5 will be shown. It will be a Fallout 4 announcement with the game releasing sooner than everyone thinks. I will say late September. Batista will come out and Batista Bomb Phil Spencer and announce the Gears of War movie.

-Sony’s one more thing at the end of their show will be a trailer announcing that Syphon Filter is coming. To remind everyone about the game Shuhei Yoshida will tase a random person in the audience.

-Halo 6 trailer will be shown with a 2019 release. Halo: MCC will be put in Xbox Game Pass and will still have problems despite patches.

-Ubisoft will show off The Division 2. It will look amazing and not look near as good when it releases. 

-Rocksteady will not show off their game that is totally not Superman even though it is Superman. 

-Bethesda will finally show off Starfield. It is actually a large open world game based on the comic Saga. I will dance naked in the streets as celebration. 

-EA will bring back Fight Night. All fighters will be in lootboxes and you must unlock them by random chance when you fight with your created character who must be upgraded by lootboxes that unlock when you find the ultimate lootbox hidden in a random lootbox. 

-Every conference will start by having a disclaimer that they know full well when Red Dead Redemption 2 releases and all game releases will be avoiding it like every movie avoids a Marvel release.

-Nintendo will finally take flak for Super Smash Bros with people asking why is it fun to beat up women and cute characters and I will only say why would you NOT want to punch Kirby in the face?

-A trailer for the Avengers game will be shown. It will be Avengers in name only and have four playable versions of Squirrel Girl. 

-A new trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake will be shown. Release date will be the March after we send people to Mars.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Millennial Falcon: Solo Review

We all know of the trouble Disney had during the filming of Solo. From Kathleen Kennedy firing Phil Lord and Chris Miller when filming was nearly done and hiring Ron Howard who reshot 70% of the movie, to actors stories leaking about how weird things were on set and even an acting coach being brought in for Alden Ehrenreich because he could not get the performance they wanted out of him, it seemed like Solo was on its way to disaster.

Box office may say that it has gone down that road, but as far as the movie goes, for me, it is the most fun Star Wars film since the original trilogy.

Solo starts out with our hero living on Corellia living like one of the kids in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Underdwellers". Forced to steal so he has shelter on a shithole planet all while making plans with his girl to get off world. When things don't go as planned and they are separated, Han joins the Imperial military all while making plans to return for her. After his militia stint ends...abruptly and meeting a Wookie named Chewbacca, he finds himself joining a small crews of thieves and he begins his path to becoming the character we know and love.

The strongest thing about Solo is its impressive cast. You have long time pros like Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton that seem to relish the opportunity to be in a Star Wars film, as well as Alden Ehrenreich, who absolutely had me wanting to see him play Han again and Donald Glover. Donald Glover. Donald Glover. When Glover's casting was announced most fans, including me, geeked out because if we can't have Donald Glover as Spider-Man, we will damn sure take him as Lando. The best thing he does with the character is that he is not Donald Glover playing Lando, it is Donald Glover playing Billy Dee Williams playing Lando. I can't overstate how many times I would smirk when he would pronounce Han wrong. Not like Hahn, but like hand without the d. You know, like Billy Dee did in Empire and Return.

Speaking of Empire and Return, Solo peppers in so many tiny nuances and easter eggs it is a joy for Star Wars fans to find them all including one scene that proves the "Han shot first" cut of Star Wars is canon. Sorry Mr. Lucas.

Ron Howard was the absolute right choice to take over directing. Besides the fact he is one of the most accomplished directors in Hollywood history, Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham, he knows how to show off the talents of his cast and keeps the action paced well with the humor and dealing with huge set pieces, both real and CG. I don't envy what he had to do. To come in on a limited schedule with a movie this large and not only finish it on time, but to make it as good as it is, got to respect the hell out of him for that.

Don't let Star Wars fatigue or your thoughts on The Last Jedi affect you going to see Solo. I thought The Last Jedi was a meandering mess and went into Solo with trepidation, but I am glad I did not let my thoughts on one film lead me to miss this. Because I would have missed out on the best Star Wars movie since 1983.

When it comes down to it, Star Wars is supposed to be fun. Sure you can have serious moments in your story, but remember watching them as a kid and how the characters stayed with you and you could watch them again and again for entertainment? When the credits rolled on Solo my first thought was "This was fun. This was Star Wars".

9 Hokey Religions and Ancient Weapons Out of 10

Friday, May 25, 2018

Cable Access: Deadpool 2 Review

Deadpool 2 opens up as you would expect. Wade Wilson is doing his thing being a fourth wall breaking asshole while he kills criminals in the most joyful, bloodiest possible.

Then it goes sad. Like, damn Deadpool isn't supposed to be this sad.

This is followed by an opening credits scene that is like the opening of a James Bond film as Celine Dion's theme plays and you are laughing after kind of being gut punched.

That is what is great about Deadpool 2. It is not just sophomore humor with tons of blood and people saying fuck. There is a ton of that. The movie tows the line with actual character development of the merc with a mouth. Yeah, Deadpool is a fully realized character and actually has layers to him unlike a lot of Marvel Universe heroes. Score one (maybe the only one) for Fox.

As he deals with the depression of wanting to die, but not being able to, Deadpool meets up with a teenager named Russell that has been abused and is turning down a dark path. This is the reason the movie uses to bring Cable officially into movies and it is about fucking time. Cable is one of the few beloved characters that has yet to appear on the screen and Josh Brolin makes sure he was worth the wait. One of the things Deadpool 2 gets right about Cable is not going full speed into who he is and his family connections. X-Men history is...convoluted at best. Introduce the character here and worry about the mommy/daddy issues in another movie.

Cable comes back to the past to kill Russell for future bad reasons (see no spoilers) and Deadpool feels it is on him to keep Russell alive and convince him there is another path to go down. To do so he forms his own superteam called X-Force.

Deadpool 2 is the perfect place to introduce some of these characters that would not get love anywhere else. Domino is a fan favorite that would not have her own movie, but here she is one of the best things. I want to talk more about the heroes that make up X-Force, but for funny reasons I am not. If you have seen the movie you know why and believe me their appearances are memorable. Also, don't worry, Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus return for the fun.

As I said earlier Deadpool 2 is great not just because of its humor, but because of the back and forth it plays with emotionally. This is something unexpected especially from the sequel. The first had emotion with Wade dealing with his cancer and the journey to becoming Deadpool, but you might have expected a second movie to ham it up more because "that's Deadpool". Ryan Reynolds and returning screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick care for this character and it shows in how well the laughs and heartache are woven in the script.

So short version: lots of fucks (the words, not the action), blood, action, Cable calling people pussies, Domino deserving her own movie, Green Lantern jokes, Morena Baccarin showing why she should be Catwoman and Terry Crews.

Automatic score increase for Terry Crews.

8.5 Don't Fuck Up The New Clue Movies Out Of 10

Friday, May 4, 2018

Down in Ragnarok: God of War Review

I am just gonna cut to the chase in case you want to know if you should buy God of War if you haven't already.

God of War is fucking amazing. There is no way around it. Even if the story was not one of the best since The Last of Us, the gameplay is so fun and spot on that you could play just for the exhilarating combat and still have a good experience. Luckily the story is the best part about this masterpiece.

Yeah, I said masterpiece.

God of War (and Kratos) seemed to be a relic of the past. A game that had its time in the sun with the first 3 entries (as well as one good PSP entry) and then limped on with a prequel in Ascension that felt like more of the same. It seemed like God of War had run its course. But series director Cory Barlog decided to take Kratos somewhere he had never been before...outside the confines of Greek mythology. Not only that, but they gave Kratos a son and a deeper meaning besides just running around, screaming at everything and screwing women with button prompts.

Now the series has done something that many of its fans have done. It grew up.

The testosterone filled teenagers that began playing God of War in 2005 are now 13 years older, in their mid to late 20's, or older, possibly with families of their own and trying to navigate the overwhelming world of parenting. Now Kratos is back and instead of the chain swinging, dick laying masculinity god, he is a humbled, soft spoken father helping navigate his son through danger.

Kratos has lost his wife and he and his son, Atreus, begin the journey to scatter her ashes from the tallest peak in the realm. Don't worry, you learn more of his wife and time in between games as you make your trek. And because this is a video game things do not go as planned on the way there. Kratos spends his time cleaving creatures with his new weapon, the Leviathan axe as Atreus helps him with his trusty bow.

Essentially the game is a large escort mission. I know, I know those are some of the most dreaded words to anyone playing a video game, but much like Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us, you do not have worry about Atreus. He can handle himself and at most he will faint until the combat is over. If anything he makes the combat more enjoyable with you being able to control where he shoots arrows adding a new depth to enemy encounters. He will even hop onto enemies and attack them with his knife giving you openings to attack. It really is the best integration of an escort character ever.

There are so many ways to upgrade Kratos and Atreus that it is almost ridiculous. Everything from attack upgrades to armor and individual weapons can be personalized. Even pommels for your axe (and other weapons wink, wink) as well as armor can be changed and each set has its own set of stats meaning you have to focus on what you want to prioritize for your character, whether it be strength and defense, or luck and rune strength.

If you are a fan of mythology throughout different cultures like I am you are treated to a game that is dripping with Norse history and tales. Just like any other mythology their characters are flawed and just plain fucked up. I want to say so much about the characters you will meet along the way, but the story is so well woven that so much is a spoiler. Just know that Kratos works just as well with Norse gods as he does with Greek ones which means not well at all.  He thought he had escaped the god killing business, but like The Godfather Part III, just when he thought he was out they pull him right back in.

I say this with no hyperbole. God of War in 4K HDR is the most beautiful game ever crafted. From how intricate characters are in cutscenes to the vibrant color of each new realm you discover. It takes a lot to make me just stop and take everything in while you are in the middle of a story this great. This is one of those games.

So if you want a summary of God of War here it is:

Visuals, music, production design, environments, controls, voice acting. Name any aspect of this game and it is the new standard for how large games should be handled. The care that was taken when crafting it is unrivaled. This is what happens when you have first party studios and let them take time to hone their craft and tell the story they want to tell.

We're not talking game of the year. We are in the game of the generation conversation.

10 Take Your Son To Work Days Out Of 10

Monday, April 30, 2018

You've Got Some Stones On You: Avengers: Infinity War Review we are. 10 years after Iron Man kicked of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and 6 years after Thanos turned his head after the end credits of The Avengers, Infinity War has come. There is probably no movie that has more pressure on it to deliver after such a long buildup. Not even The Force Awakens. All that had to do was be better than the prequels. Does Infinity War make good on a decade of waiting and feeding the Marvel machine money?

Yes. Mostly.

As we all know Earth's Mightiest Heroes are split apart after Tony and Cap had their billion dollar domestic in Civil War. Tony gets the heads up that this giant flying purple people eater named Thanos is coming and takes time to bitch at Doctor Strange about what to do with the infinity stone around his neck. Meanwhile Cap, Bucky, Falcon and friends are trying to figure out what to do with Vision's stone in his head from the fun Tony had from playing god in Age of Ultron.

This leads to all the players splitting into team ups that make the movie feel a bit fresh even though we have seen all of these characters in a multitude of movies. Thor is galavanting around with Rocket Raccoon and Groot, Tony and Spider-Man are trying to form a plan with Doctor Strange and the rest of the Guardians and Cap and his traitor friends head to Wakanda for some shenanigans.

This is one of the best things in Infinity War. If you are going to have a shit ton of characters at least put them in pairings we have not seen before and have them play off their strengths.

At 2 1/2 hours Infinity War is the longest Marvel movie ever, and yet, still shorter than the director's cut of Batman v Superman. I will say that they use every minute of that time. There is no down time and so many things are happening at once that you will come to what you think is a denouement for a certain set of characters only to be taken to another set where you are like "oh yeah, they are doing this". There really is a lot to digest. But that is to be expected with a movie of this size and scale.

Now let's talk about Thanos.

If I had one irk with the movie it is the mad titan. Not that he is a bad character. Far from it. He is by far the best Marvel villain because he is the only one in 10 years that has had true stakes involved with him trying to complete his task.

He finally has his gold isotoner glove and is ready to rip the universe a new asshole. Or at least that is what it seems. Don't get me wrong, his plan is not exactly kosher, but after his explanation, it isn't the worst thing someone with the power to shape the universe could do. This is one issue that movies seem to want to explore. Give the villain a pseudo sad backstory to give him reason. How about he just is an evil ass? He is almost too relatable. Especially for someone that is supposed to be the ultimate bad dude (shout out to the arcade game). Sure he does horrible things and sacrifices a lot to get his power, but his endgame is not evil for evil's sake. He is more of a universal Ra's al Ghul.

Again, it is not a huge gripe and doesn't detract from the movie as a whole. Thanos is still plenty asshole enough for everyone.

I said on social media after the movie that Infinity War was 30% great, 50% good and 20% ok. After some thought I might change it to 40/40/20. There were a lot of great moments and some great superhero saves that gave me some goosebumps and the ending, even knowing that things will be fixed (mostly) with next year's Avengers film, had substantial weight and a few scenes (which I can not talk about for reasons) actually gave me a single tear effect.

When the audience is audibly asking if that was the end of the movie and people are sitting there say "no, no, no" in disbelief, then you have a movie that did its job.

Also, can I just say how great it is to have Alan Silvestri back doing the soundtrack. He nailed The Avengers soundtrack in 2012 and was not on Age of Ultron and the movie was not as good musically (or a lot of other ways). Dude knows how to craft a large scale sound still after 30+ years.

Infinity War is the biggest Marvel movie ever, but it is not the best. That is not a bad thing. Nothing wrong with being on the outskirts of great.

8.5 Burt Macklins out of 10