Monday, October 8, 2018

Apocalypse Now? Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review

Since 2013 the rebooted Tomb Raider series has been my second favorite video game franchise (behind The Last of Us). I have gone through the first game so many times I can normally finish it in 2 to 3 sitdowns and play it once or twice a year. And with that comes the completionist in me that has to play Rise of the Tomb Raider after each time I play through the first game. Rise made some great progression over the first game including making crafting more in-depth and making the terrain much more varied and larger.

Now 5 years later we come to the end of Lara's origin trilogy, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which heads to South America as Lara continues her fight against Trinity from gaining the power to reshape the world. In doing so she ends up starting the apocalypse so...oops. Don't worry, that is not a spoiler it happens fairly early in the game and is the catalyst for the main story. This gives a great reason for Lara and Jonah to have some real tension between them and often Jonah will say something to Lara (like "everything is not about you") and you sit there and say "tell her, Jonah". She is so blinded by her hatred for Trinity and trying to stop them that she may have inadvertently helped them begin what they have wanted from the beginning. It is a suitable backdrop for the last part of a trilogy.

Shadow takes a lot of the improvements from Rise and builds on them. While not a noticeable upgrade you are still able to gather resources for crafting arrows, special bullets, etc. The market system is more varied with multiple places to buy and sell goods. Costumes are now craftable also with you hunting down certain animals and materials to create outfits that have special buffs on them. One aspect that was a little disappointing was the skill tree system. While I like the look of it, a lot of the skills seem superfluous and are there as a reason to grind.

The hubs in Shadow are easily the largest seen in the series. Where Rise added 2 or 3 main hubs as a catchall for hunting and side missions, Shadow makes Paititi and the surrounding area feel more alive with populated towns that are filled with quest givers, rare animal hunts and the small side challenges from the first 2 games, like finding hanging frog statues around the city, for more XP.

Likewise challenge tombs have been brought up in difficulty from Rise. The first Tomb Raider had challenge tombs that were easily solvable and Rise did a great job of upping the difficulty to where you had to put actual thought into solving them. The tombs in Shadow are no joke. While they won't make you feel dumb like playing Myst for the first time they will have plenty of moments that make you ask "what the hell am I supposed to do". Shadow has made challenge tombs worthy of their namesake.

The story has a few problems that could have drug down the finale if the game wasn't as much fun to play. The main antagonist, Dominguez, is described as the heart of Trinity, but during most of the game you are dealing with family issues and a tribal conflict in Paititi. It is like they forgot the Trinity stuff until about halfway through the game. There is a mention here and there and there are Trinity troops to kill in ever more inventive ways that make Lara an almost full-on serial killer, but for it to be Lara's main focus, the actual group of Trinity is largely forgotten.

I am not saying the story is not good. Quite the opposite. I loved the tribal environments and family drama, but it seems wedged in with the finishing of the Trinity storyline. If this had been a continuation and shown how Dominguez became the main leader of Trinity it would have been perfect. The climax of the game, complete with giant set pieces that the first 2 games are known for, are writing off Trinity in dialogue as you are hopping and ziplining around. It seemed a bit anti-climatic.

Thinking on it more it makes me think they had this great idea for a story, but knew they had to get Trinity out of the way somehow and shoehorned them in the game. There is a moment in the game that seems it is setting itself up for a possible civil war within Trinity that goes nowhere and you are left wondering why that was not the avenue taken.

Some of this sounds like sour grapes, but don't let this make you think that I did not like Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I will always say yes to more Lara Croft adventures. While some of the story does not fit well, it is more than enjoyable and my favorite setting from the 3 games. Ancient South American culture has always been one of my favorite things to look into historically so Shadow scratches that itch. The controls are as good as ever and combat feel fluid. Challenge tombs live up to their name and when the plot is focused on the tribal elements Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a fitting end to Lara's origin trilogy.

8.5 Ancient Aliens Memes out of 10

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Spinal Tap: The Predator Review

Remember when action movies in the 80's would just start? Like you go to the theater or fire up a VHS tape and you get the title of the movie and we are off to the races. Back in the day when movie were between 90 and 110 minutes and moved at a good pace while giving you some ultra bloody action, bad or dirty jokes and you didn't feel like you just raced an emotional marathon?

The Predator is here to remind you.

Shane Black finally gets a chance to write and direct a movie in the franchise he got his first real acting start before becoming one of the most prolific screenplay writers in Hollywood and a pretty successful director. For the most part The Predator works as sequel, albeit still nowhere near as memorable the original.

Basic movie synopsis: a Predator has come to Earth to give humanity something of use to fight off what is coming (no spoilers) and is hunted down by an uber-Predator trying to retrieve said secret. Put simply an uber-Predator is an 11 foot tall big mother fucker that makes the other Predator look like Kevin Hart. You get a group of Army misfits which includes Boyd Holbrook (the metal-handed baddie from Logan), Keegan Michael Key, Thomas Jane (Punisher playing Army guy with Tourettes), Theon Greyjoy (hopefully not a forced eunuch in this) along with a few others, join them with Olivia Munn and the kid from Wonder, sans the face makeup, and you got yourself plenty of fodder for a Predator.

I have to give Shane Black some props for a few things in The Predator:

-Having Sterling K. Brown be a complete, unmitigated dickhead. We loved him in The People vs. O.J. Simpson and, from what I have heard, housewives across the nation thinks he is the best thing in This Is Us, so it is good to see him not giving a fuck and being a big asshole.

-Getting Gary Busey's kid Jake to be in the movie. That's right, Shasta McNasty himself plays a scientist and I like to think in my mindspace that he is the kid of Busey's character from Predator 2 that took up his obsession.

-Using a lot of of the original Predator soundtrack. Yeah Predator 2 and Predators did also, but it adds a lot to the movie as a sequel.

-Taking one line to explain that Predator 2 technically took place in the future from when it came out. Predator 2 came out in 1990 but plot wise was in 1997 Los Angeles as part of the movie tradition (i.e. Demolition Man) that the near future would be crime-ridden hellholes. They say the two Predator incidents took place in 87 and 97. So thank you for the correct continuity.

One of the complaints I have seen about the movie is that there is too much humor. To that I say fuck off. How many serious, epic sized, end of the universe 2 1/2 hour event movies do we have? Sometimes it is a good thing to go into a movie and watch some action and laugh at some inappropriate jokes. What ever happened to the popcorn movie? That is what Shane Black has crafted. Does it always work? No. There are plot holes which happens in...every movie since the beginning of time and every joke does not land, but I found myself laughing out loud at The Predator's jokes more than recent comedies. Then follow that up by some "oh shit" bloody kills and that is what I want out of a movie every now and then.

At just around 105 minutes The Predator does not overstay its welcome. It feels like Lethal Weapon with a group of mental Army vets hunting a Predator, that does not have diplomatic immunity, for the first 2/3 of the movie then moves to a forest setting for the last 1/3 making it feels more like the original. This makes sense seeing as Black wrote Lethal Weapon and the story for Lethal Weapon 2. There are bumps along the way and some of the jokes miss, but overall I had fun with The Predator. Nothing wrong with turning your senses off and watching a good action movie.

7.5 Gary Busey smiles out of 10

Friday, August 3, 2018

Mustache Ride: Mission: Impossible Fallout Review

When I walked out of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation 3 years ago I said that Ethan Hunt had become an American James Bond. Of course that was the 5th movie of a franchise and you wondered how long they could keep up the string of success.

After seeing Mission: Impossible Fallout the answer is simple: as long as Tom Cruise wants to keep doing it.

What movie can claim that its 6th installment is the best one? Let's take a look.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service- Not as loved as it should be, but not the best Bond movie by far. Never a good thing when Kojak kills your wife.

X-Men: Apocalypse- Not even Poe Dameron can make this anything but a long bore. Olivia Munn dressed as Psylocke is the main winner of the time spent watching.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince- Nope, Goblet of Fire. Dragons. Mermaids. Harry with his pompadour mullet.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country- the most under-appreciated of the original Trek films. No Wrath of Khan even though Christopher Plummer chews scenery like tobacco.

Rocky Balboa- Sorry. Although naming a black boxer Mason Dixon goes overlooked for its creativity.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers- pre-Clueless Paul Rudd is not the movie you are looking for.

Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives- A third Tommy Jarvis screaming "come on you pussay!" at Jason from a boat.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare- Killing Franklin or Bash (don't know who is who) with a Power Glove helped put the franchise in the ground.

Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith- being the best of the prequels is like the biggest participation trophy in movie history.

Planet of the Apes (2001)- While not connected to the original 5 films it is part of a franchise which means I want to say that it is a massive garbage pile and has gotten worse in 17 years.

Yeah, this was a long way of saying it, but Mission Impossible Fallout is the best in the series and is 2 1/2 hours of straight crazy action while keeping the intrigue of being involved in shady government shit to its fullest. Essentially Fallout plays as a direct sequel to Rogue Nation while using Hunt as the character connection to everyone that is there from every Mission: Impossible movie back to 1996.

Honestly the bathroom fight scene is worth the movie ticket alone, then you add in Tom Cruise trying to become our Jackie Chan by injuring himself insisting on doing his own stunts at 55 and a car chase scene that is Ronin-worthy.

Saying a 6th movie in a franchise is the best one might not come across as well as you think so I will say this. Mission: Impossible Fallout is the best film of 2018 and the top action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road.

I will do you one better. Mission: Impossible Fallout is so good that when I watch Justice League and see Henry Cavill's fucked up CGI chin I will nod my head and say "worth it".

9 Cruise Couch Jumps Out Of 10

Friday, July 27, 2018

7 Shitty Consoles Older Gamers Will Remember

1. Atari Jaguar

-Because nothing says “reclaiming past glory” like a “64-bit” console with a controller that actually makes less sense than using a computer keyboard. Alien vs. Predator was admittedly awesome, but White Men Can’t Jump…

2. Magnavox Odyssey 

-Gets obvious points for being the first home console, but loses them all for having no sound and controllers that looked like you could give ultrasounds with them.

3. Vectrex

-Because who doesn’t want their video game console to look like the TV screen in the chest of Robocop 2?

4. Philips CD-i

-Besides giving us the shittiest Zelda game ever and having a controller that looks like a double-sided dildo head, it retailed for $ 1991 money.

5. 3DO

-The Steam Machine of the early 90’s. Made by multiple companies and way overpriced to compete in the home market, yet still sold 2 million consoles. Goldstar made one. GOLDSTAR!

6. Virtual Boy

-Imagine a 3DS that weighed 5 pounds, sat on a stand (because taping it to your head hurt, FYI), had two d-pads and could only be played in a red color that I can only imagine being used in futuristic dystopian societies to light our crime-ridden streets. 

7. Sega Nomad

How awesome would a portable Genesis be? Pretty awesome if it didn’t have to use 6 AA batteries for five hours of play. The back of it can get as hot as a fajita skillet from a Mexican restaurant THAT THE WAITER SPECIFICALLY TOLD YOU WAS HOT.

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.