Daredevil Season 2 Episodes 1-4 Review


By William Shelton

Marvel Daredevil was pretty much everything I wanted it too be when I heard the the Netflix branch of the MCU was aiming to be a darker and more mature. The fight scenes were brutal and more striped back than the more family oriented film, Matt Murdock’s internal conflicts were much deeper than anything the A-listers had to deal with and the show had my favorite villain the MCU has produced by far. Unfortunately for out man without fear, the next marvel based Netflix show was Jessica Jones, which blew it out of the water in almost every way. So now the question is: will Daredevil’s second season be able to recapture the magic the first season had before it was outdone?
Short answer: no, but like season one it’s still pretty great.
The season opens strong, with Daredevil taking down a group of baddies without ever showing us Daredevil himself. This leads to what would have been a nice reveal of his costume if we hadn’t already seen it at the end of season 1, but it’s still a well paces opener. We are soon introduced to The Punisher in a similar fashion as he guns down a group of Irish moddsters with near surgical precision without ever being shown. He’s so proficient at killing that at first Matt Murdock and company believe they are up ageist an entire squad of trained killers. As good a killer as he is, even the punisher misses sometimes and one of the Irish managed to make it out alive.
By either coincidence or plot convenience Grotto (the Irishman from punisher assault) makes his way to Nelson and Murdock seeking to trade information for witness protection. While meeting with our “avocados at law” Grotto passes out from a gunshot he took and is taken to the hospital. Karen even stays behind and tries to pass herself off as his wife inorder to hind him from the punisher, who they’ve been assured will come looking.
This doesn’t work. The Punisher shows and….pisses me off.
Okay, taking a small break from the plot synopsis and getting to the political side of this. I’ve always liked the Punisher, but he’s a character that you really have to now how to write. Especially in the age of mass shootings. Who ever wrote this episode is not one of those writers. While I’m okay with the punisher shooting a bad guy in the hospital (that makes scenes with his character), when he does it here he goes I with a shotgun. The Punisher starts shooting in a crowded hospital, full of innocent people with a gun made to spread out it’s shoot range to hit targets in a wider area. This is not how the Punisher should be handled. Latter on he even cocks a gun at an unarmed elderly man. While some lip servant is paid to this all being an act and that he made sure innocent people wouldn’t have gotten hurt nothing he does here backs that claim up. While the dialogue is well written through out the season thus far and Jon Bernthal kills it in the role, this isn’t how the character should be handled….if he’s meant to be a hero. And that’s where this becomes an interesting talking point. Bernthal said he wants his role to get people talking about gun violence in America, and I can see that happen. Personally while I’m all for that pushing that conversation, I wish that did have to come at the expense of the character. For example, in the hospital scene, why give the punisher a shotgun? Why not a pistol or rifle or something more accurate? That at least would have at lest given some credence to the idea that he at lest made some effort not to kill those who didn’t deserve it, while still starting that political conversation.
Getting back on track, the first four episodes are dedicated to the fight between the Daredevil and the Punisher’s fight (which is why I’m not doing my normal 6 episode review) and it makes a pretty good mini arch. However, what made both Daredevil and Jessica Jones so great is that they were both one extended story, so having this not be the case here almost makes this season feel like a lesser entity than either of those. Not helping matters is the fact that Vincent D’Onofrio isn’t returning as Wilson Fisk, who was with out a doubt the best thing season one had going.
With all that said it’s easy to think I’m not fond of this season, but that’s not the case. It has it’s issues to be sure, but i’ve still had a blast watching it. Charlie Cox and Jon Bernthal both sell the hell out of their roles as two men on similar yet vastly different paths in life, and each scene they share is something too look forwards too, whether they’re fighting to talking. However, it’s Elden Henson as Foggy that really makes the show for me. Not only is the character funny as hell, but Foggy’s take no shit approach to lawyering and dedication to protecting the his clients makes you wish more law professionals were like him. While he may not be “the badass” of the show, he’s the guy I personally want to be like: honest, smart as hell and loyal to a fault.
The fight scenes are also better this time around, with one tracking shot fight down a stairwell being the highlight of this arch for me personally. However, I wish they’d try a little harder not to go back to under lit hallways. Last season’s “Oldboy” inspired fight was a season highlight, I’m glad we all agree, but the constant call backs to it feel unnecessary. I mean, I know there’s only so much you can do with a locations as confined as this, but fights this good shouldn’t be healed back by repetitive environments.
As of right now I’m not sure any of this will matter in the long run. Will any of this play a part in the seasons over all plot? That remains to be scene, but so far it’s been a hell of a ride none the less. I’m still of the opinion that Jessica Jones is the better show, but this is miles above what they did with season one, and I can’t wait too see what comes next.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review


By William Shelton

Release Date: October 9, 2012
Systems: PC(Reviewed), PS3, Xbox 360, iPhone/iPad
Developer: Firaxis Games
Rating: M
Metacrtic Score: 89(PC)
When the earth is invaded by an unknown alien foe, you are placed in command of the new XCOM department. On top of sending out and commanding units to combat earths new enemy it is your job to keep the facility funded, staffed and expand it as you see fit. You answer only to the council of countries who fund the program. So long as you keep the panic down in their countries you are free to battle the alien menace however you choose.
That about sums up the “story” for Xcom. While the story’s not exactly “District 9” I was never bothered by this as it helped the more global nature of the game shine through. Not only is the council made up of countries from all over the world, but the soldiers are also equally diverse in race, gender and ethnic background (even if there could have been more diversity in the character models). To me the lack of any real narrative or even major characters helped establish that this is everyone’s fight, which I appreciate. It even makes me wish there were more games that dealt with globalism and geopolitical cooperation, but this was a good start.

XCOM base
The story may not have held much allure, but the game play loop has an almost addictive quality too it. You spend your time split between missions and base building, and each reinforces the other. As you complete missions you gain new bring new alien materials back to the base to research which opens up new weapons and armor to bring into battle. When you add that to a pretty well rounded difficulty curve and base building, it becomes easy to lose hours of your life just going through the loop of “kill aliens, bring back material, upgrade equipment”. Not helping you break away from this cycle is that most research and engineering projects take time to build after you buy them, making it easy to justify playing one more mission to help pass the time before realizing you’ve done nothing constructive with your day. But hey, you needed those satellites, right?
As addictive as the loop is, Xcom still has it’s issues. The biggest being a pretty major lack in verity. While the game is good at introducing new or upgraded alines to fight there are only three types of missions you’ll be doing: abductions (kill all the aliens), terror missions (save as many people as you can and kill and the aliens), or UFO crashes /landings (kill all the aliens but try not to damage the UFO in order to maximize mission rewards) with an occasional VIP rescues sprinkled in. Making matters even worse is how nearly all of the games environments look alike. While you’re missions take place all around the globe, you never get a real senses of the country you’re in. In fact, at one point a downed a UFO only for one to land as my next mission, and both times not only was i fighting in a forest, it was the exact same one. This never stopped the game from being fun, but 16 hours in I’m dying for a change of pace.

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Customizing Soldier Load out can keep them alive and make the Deadlier

It also wouldn’t hurt if the maps were a bit bigger. For the most part the small and mostly linear maps made the game feel more like a turn based cover shooter rather than a strategy game. In fact, with a simple pallet swap this could easily have been souls as a “Gears of War” RTS. If the maps were just a bit more open tactics like flanking, suppressing or flushing would be more viable. As is though, my main battle strategy was get behind cover and either overwatch (shoot an enemy when they come into the characters sight) if nothing was in view yet or shoot at what I could see. That’s not too say no thought when in to my battles, but not as much as I would have hoped for or expected.
Another minor annoyance was aiming explosives. You movie the camera by simply moving the mouse, which is also how you aim grenades and rockets. Because of this. Whenever I went to use one of there tools I had to fight with the camera as the game thought I was trying to look at something the distance in stead of thinking I’m trying to shoot the asshole a few yards in front of me. I understand with the games verticality that the developers couldn’t have just used an overhead vew for this, but it’s hard to believe they found this mess to be the best solution and I really hope this gets fixed in the next game.

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Map verticality opens up some maneuverability, but more open maps would have been nice

The sound design was pretty spot on through out the game however. The three types of guns i’ve unlocked so far (Normal, Laser and Plasma) all sound unique enough as to be distinguishable from sound alone and the explosions sounded like they really could send foes as high into the air as they often did. The voice stabs your party says get old, but they sound fine. Hearing a muton enter the battle horrifies me each time as they keep getting harder to kill so I can never hear them and be comfortable until I know for sure that it’s dead or one of the originals and not the upgraded monstrosities.
I wasn’t expecting this. I only picked this up because it was in a humble bundle and XCOM 2 comes out next month. I have little experience with strategy games and was never really itching to get into the genre so I was more than happy to ignore the XCOM franchise. But I have to say, to my great surprise Enemy Unknown has been occupying my thoughts more than any game since the original Dark Souls. It’s fun, challenging, rewarding and has one hell of an addictive game play loop. So far i’ve played for 16 hours, and most of that has been spent putting off the end mission in order to keep playing. I really like this game, flaws and all. So much so that if it wasn’t for the fact that I know my computer wont run it, I’d seriously consider buying XCOM 2 day one.

3.5/5

Intro to Film: Amelie Review


By William Shelton

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amélie” is about a young woman who, as a child, was raised in near total isolation from children her age. This lead to her, as an adult, living a life of solitude but wishing for more out of life. One day she finds a hidden collection of old trinkets in her apartment and decides to find their original owner and return them. Upon seeing the now old man’s joy upon reconnecting with his childhood memorabilia, Amélie decided to become a regular “do-gooder” and try and make as many people happy as she can. While on this quest she soon meets (or more accurately, she sees) a young man and falls in love with him, even though she hasn’t actually spoken to him. Luckily for her, he soon drops a booklet of pictures he has been collecting and she finds an excuse to talk to him, but her lonely upbringing makes her to shy to just give it too him. Instead she continues her game of trying to make people happy while making he perspective lover jump through a ridiculous amount of hoops in order to not only get his book back but also to learn who she is and how she feels.
Amelie is one of the oddest and most annoying lead characters in recent film history. While it’s easy to understand and sympathies with the shy introvert at first, by the mid point of the film her antics are more akin to something The Riddler would pull. When she first starts trying to make people happy all she does is call the guy from across the street after leave the item next to the payphone where she left his old toys. But when she finally manages to give her new found love back his book, she puts him through a ridiculously over complicated scenario, forcing him to a specific point only to have him go back to where he started. These are not the actions of an introvert nor are they the action of a shy girl who doesn’t want to confront her feelings: this is the kind of things people do when they want to mess with peoples heads. To see further proof that Amélie just likes messing with people, look how she treats the poor guy once he finally comes face to face with her. She leaves him a note telling him to be at her cafe at a certain time, then still refuses to talk to him upon his arrival. Instead, she has a coworker slip him a note, then she gets sad when she thinks he mistook her note for something her coworker wrote.
While the title character is somewhat hard to put up with, the film’s not totally without merit. One scene near the mid point of the film, where a rude shop keeper is rather great, and the clear highlight of the film. The film becomes more subjective here than it is throughout the film, giving the viewer a much a clearer scene of what the shop keeper is feeling. The scene ends with him aiming to call his mother, but instead calls a psych word. The close ups and odd angles really give this scene a sense of unease which helps it stand out from the rest of the film. The unfortunate thing is, there’s just too little of it. While there are a number of odd scenes throughout the film (like people in pictures talking to some one in real life, or pictures of the same person having an argument with themselves), it ironically feels like avant garde by the numbers.
While the film starts as a “fun” film about the importance of being kind to others, it almost seems more interested in telling people to stay out of other people lives. Most of the people that Amelie “helps” ends up upset or anger and all together worse off than they were before her help. For example there is man who frequents her cafe in order to stalk an old girl friend of his. Amelie ends up seting him up with a coworker, a shy and germphobic woman. While the two do end up hitting it off (leading to a pretty hilarious sex scene), the stalker soon then terns his predatory gaze from his old girlfriend to his new one, and she ends up having a break down over it. Nothing is learned, nothing gained and that’s true for nearly every one she interacts with. The one time she does manage to make some one truly happy, it is based off a lie. And even when she meets with the man she’s fallen for, they have sex once and the view is meant to think this romantic, but there no emotional depth to any of it due to the fact that they never actually speak to each other.
Amelie is not an all together awful film, but it is a worthless one. There is nothing here that hasn’t been done before and done better. It’s not sleezy enough to be fun on an visceral level, it’s not deep enough to really engage the viewer on an emotional level and it’s not odd enough to view for the sake of simply see it. It does do just enough right to not be hatable, but not nearly enough to stop it from being overlong and dull.

Score: 2/5

My Grade: 20/20

Intro to Film: Close Encounters of the Third Kind Review


By William Shelton

Close Encounters is a 1977 science fiction film by Director Steven Spielberg. The film centers around Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) an average man who encounters a UFO one night while investigating a blackout. Upon experiencing the alien craft Neary’s life begins to tear itself apart as his wife doesn’t believe what he says, his kinds think he’s a joke and his mind is contently filled with a strange image he can’t seem to place. He soon finds that he’s not alone, as he meets a woman named Jillian (Melinda Dillon) who’s son was taken by the same craft he saw. Once the two learn what the image they’ve been plagued by is, they team up and head out in order to find the find the alien ship once again.
One of the most fascinating things about the film is how optimistic it is. The government team that is sorting out the “first contact stuff” is made up of both American and french members and at one point does anyone thing mindlessly shooting at our new galactic neighbors is a good idea. It’s somewhat odd then that the film choices to focus on Roy Neary, as he is something of a detail to this core concept. As the film start Roy is the kind of guy who will “jokingly” tell his children he’s going to beat them for basic misbehavior and try and sway them into doing things he’d rather do. And while he does change in the end into being a more open person, but he is still rather unlikable. As he slowly begins to be devoured into the image the UFO has placed in his head he makes no real effort to explain to his wife and children what’s going on. When his wife decides to leave him his biggest concern his that she isn’t dressed properly. And wen the film ends he has not only started a relationship with another woman, but he also joins the aliens without so much as a mention of his wife. No “tell my wife I love her” or “i’m sorry baby” not even a “see, I was right all along”. He just does not care about her or his kids at all. For a film that is mostly about people coming together it is just such an odd choice that the main character would be so willing to leave his loved ones behind with out a second thought.
However odd the choice in main character was, the gravity over the overwhelming positivity can’t be understated. For example of this, look to the well known scene near the end when mankind has not only encountered alien life, but has also started to communicate with it. In most movies man kinds first encounter with extra terrestrial life involves man kind getting its ass handed too them and the climax is about man kinds managing to fight back the invaders. Here, however, man kind greets these unknown life forms. They play music to each other. The start a conversation using a common language. No shots are fired, no one dies, no one is even harmed. It’s a beautiful scene that caps off a beautiful movie.
Again, the point of this really seems to be taking an optimistic stand on living with outer and learning from each other. While it’s not an omnipresent theme throughout the film, the necessity of none violence towards outsiders seems to be on the forefront of the films mind. Could this be a statement on immigration or on accepting refugees asylum? It’s hard to say with out proper context of the era’s political climate, but it is an interesting thought.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a great film from one of the best film makers of all time. It’s not quite as good as some of Spielberg’s other works, but it is still an brilliant example of why he’s considered one of the greats.

Score: 3.5/5

My Grade: 19/20

Fez VIDEO Review


That’s right: this is my first video review. I’ll include the writen review too for those who’d rather read it. However, if you wouldn’t mind watching the video and telling me what you think, i’d appreciate it.

By William Shelton

Release Date: May 1st, 2013
Systems: PC(Reviewed), PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360
Developer: Polytron Corp/Phil Fish
Rating: E
Metacrtic Score: 91

Before I begin this review I’d like to give a great big “Thank you” to Lorin Grieve, Iain Hopwood and Laura Kate for graciously gifting me this copy of FEZ. Together these three run the bi-weekly “Year of Steam” Podcast where they review games in their steam backlog. If you like my work I highly recommend checking out the podcast as it’s very similar and these three are simply fantastic people. You can find them on Itunes or @YearofSteamPod on twitter.
If nothing else Fez is one of the most relaxing games i’ve ever played. There is no combat, death only sets you back a few seconds and the puzzles, while challenging, are meant to be played at your own pace. All together this creates one of the most serene experiences I’ve played through in a long time. While I might not have mainlined the game like I did Dark Souls, Shovel Knight or Fallout, Fez’s calming atmosphere kept me coming back, especially after stressful days.
The story, for what it’s worth, is that a mysterious cube has shattered in your two dimensional world, granting you a Fez with the power to control the third dimension. As such it is now your job to collect all the peaces of the cube and bring 2D order back to the world. Once established the story takes a back seat, allowing the player to jump right into the puzzle solving. However, there is one…let’s call it a “visual gag” near the beginning that freaked me the hell out and I still can’t tell you exactly what the point of it was.
Game play wise Fez works like most other 2D platforms: you use the directional buttons to move and spacebar to jump. What makes Fez stand out however, is your ability to control the environment. By using the “A” and “D” keys you can turn the world to the side, giving you access to new areas and platforms. Not only that, but the perspective shift also allows for previously disconnected elements of the world to take on new forms that can help you progress. For example, two disconnected ladders might become a unified whole once you look at them from a different angle. While the logic of this breaks down when you apply…any thought to the idea, it still remains an interesting (and more importantly, “fun”) mechanic that is put to good use throughout the game.
Unfortunately there is one major flaw that holds the game back: navigation. While the in game map does show you what areas you’ve been to and how many paths there are connected to your current location, it doesn’t show you how to access most of them. Often this made heading back to a previous area a chore as I’d have no idea if I was going back the way I came, backtracking to an already cleared puzzle room or heading off to a new area all together. While my annoyance is tempered somewhat by the consent amusement each new area provides, i still can’t over look how frustrating it is finding my way back to the starting area after only a few hours. Even with the fast travel system navigation remains the games biggest blemish as you can only warp to and from certain locations.
The music mostly serves to establish atmosphere, but there is a certain beauty too it. Much like Akira Yamaoka’s work on the Silent Hill games, I wouldn’t listen to the games soundtrack on its own but I can’t imagination playing the game while listening to anything else either. I tried playing the game while listening to one of my podcasts or youtube play lists, but it just wasn’t the same. To be fair though, Death Angel and Kreator were probably not what Phil Fish had in mind when designing the game.
All in all, I really enjoyed Fez. I may not play It as regularly as other games, but knowing this is in my steam library and that can keep going back to it makes me very happy. If you haven’t played this yet I absolutely think you should give it a look.
And remember, if you like this review you can find the rest of my work over at Poor Mans Geek (dot) wordpress (dot) com.

Score: 4/5

The Exile Empire Review


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Author: Joshua Done
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: The Zharmae Publishing Press
Rating: 2.75/5

Before starting this review it is important to know that I’m reviewing this book pre the request of author Joshua Done and the copy I’m reviewing was given to me by the publisher. This will not effect my review in anyway but I feel professionalism in matters like this calls for transparency, so I wanted this to be the first thing you knew.

I don’t read as much as I use too. I’m not sure why this is, as I use to be something of a book snob. But as time has gone on i’ve turned more towards TV, Movies and (of course) Video Games for my entertainment needs. So when I was offered the chance to review Joshua Done’s novel “The Exile Empire” I thought “sure, why not. If nothing else this will give me an excuses to start reading again”. Unfortunately, while I wouldn’t say the book is bad, it just didn’t captivate me the way I need a book too in order to get really excited about it.
The book is set in the 25th century: for hundreds of years Mankind has pushed into the stars, creating innumerable colonies and raising the population to over 13 trillion. But that changed when the Harvesters attacked. When the two spices met war broke out, and mankind lost. For there, things only got worse. In a last ditch effort, the humans staged an attack on the Harvesters homeworld only to find it already under attack. In little time this new combatant, aptly named The Death, put the Harvesters to ruin, and their turned their attention to man kind. In just over three hours the unimaginably large swarm of The Death had over run all human defenses, and sent what little of mankind was left scattering into the stars once more, looking for a new home.
And that was just the Prologue.
The book proper opens with man kind still looking for a new place too call home while also having to deal with the surviving Harvesters. Things aren’t going so well until the humans meet Prince Tinek and his strangely humanoid people, the Illani. They too have been driven off their home planet when a war broke out between them and the Tarin’Tal. The Humans, after learning that the Tarin’Tal are a much more manageable for than the Harvesters, decided to help Prince Tinek and his people in exchange for some land to call their. Does the plain work? Does the human race find a new home, or are we destined to travel among the stars forever, never knowing the feel of grass and a cool breeze again? You’ll Have to read the book to find out.
I said earlier that I didn’t think the book wasn’t bad, and I mean that, but there are some issues I find hard to overlook. The first is the books need for an editor. While this doesn’t read like a first draft, but there are a lot of times where I felt like if some one called up Done and said “this bit doesn’t make a lot of sense, could you reword it” the book would have been better. For example, in the Prologue he mentions how Fleet Admiral Hancock “…tried to console himself with the justifications of war, rationalizing that the authority of the Harvester War Charters validated the slaughter.” This make it sound like he’s trying to justify his actions, but then we latter learn that this is more him reflecting on the brutality of The Death. While I understand that just witnessing something like this can lead to the same level of PTSD Hancock is clearly suffering from, I can’t help but feel that id Done had reworded this, or rearranged the order we got certain information in the book would have benefited tremendously.
The second issue is that, with all the inspirations the book wears on it’s sleeves, it never manages to live up to any of the. There are pretty clear parallels between this and both “Battlestar Galactica” and “Enders Game” and the only real thing this book has above either of those is that Joshua Done isn’t the Homophobic prick Orson Scott Card is (which, to be fair, is a pretty big plus as far as I’m concerned). A lot of the time, after I got done with a reading session I’d head over to netflix and see if they readied BSG because I was so reminded of it, but not as fulfilled as I was while watching the show. In the shows absence I’m glad to have the book, as it does hit the same notes, just not as well. Kind of like a subpar but not unlistenable cover of one of your favorite songs.
The best thing I can say about the book is that i’ve read a lot of first efforts from writers I love that are much worse than this. If you’re looking for some good pulp sci-fi you could do worse. This isn’t in “so bad it’s good” territory, but it’s more a “there’s nothing else on so why not” kind of thing. Personally, I found I’d read a chapter a day or every other day and was satisfied. I do think you’ll enjoy the book, just temper you’re expectations.

Batman Vs Superman: Superman 4 The Quest for Peace


Director: Sidney J Furie
Screenplay By: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Release Date: July 24, 1987
Run Time: 93 minuets
Rating: PG
Score: 0/5

When I decided to use a numerical score I swore to myself I would only give a game or movie a “0” if it did one of a few things: If it actively endorsed harmful stereotypes while contributing nothing else to human existence. While “Birth of a Nation” is one of the most racist films of all time, there is a reason it is shown in film classes, so I would still have to give it at least a 1 (or maybe 0.5). But that is one of the kinds of films I would consider giving a 0 too. Another qualifier is if the movie is so bad I cannot finish it. You see, with nearly every film there is something to learn, even if the lesion is “how to to make a movie”. Superman four meets the second qualifier.
Even with “Superman 3” of “Batman Forever” I could stomach the stupid long enough to finish each film, but here….just no. I respect myself too much. And you should respect yourself enough to not watch this either.
The plot: Superman destroys every nuke on earth. Luthor uses this as an opportunity to create a villain called Nuclear Man and…no one will ever care. Every plot point is done in the stupidest possible manner, almost as if this was a first graders first draft. And the acting just makes all this stupidity so boring. At least with a Movies like “The Room” or “Birdemic” the awful and stupid is done so bizarrely you can;t take your eyes away. Here I was nearly asleep after 10 minuets. Screw this movie, Screw everyone who made it and Screw Warner Bro’s and DC for allowing this to be made.
Hell, even as someone who is against nuclear proliferation I found this movie to be stupid. I’ve seen after school specials handle hard topics with more grace and entertainment than this. People say it was the movie “Steel” that killed the superhero movie genre until the tipple threat of “X-men” “Blade” and “Spiderman” came along, but after watching this, i’m surprised Tim Burton was able two make “Batman” within the same decade this came out.

*Note: No, this doesn’t get a damn trailer. It doesn’t get any pics. I want to rid my mind of this as soon as possible, so i’m not going to re-watch any part of this or look at any pictures from it.

Poor Man Reviews: Heavenly Sword


Release Date: September 12, 2007
Systems: PS3
Developer : Ninja Theory
Rating: T
Metacrtic Score: 79

You know what the gaming world need? More female protagonist. You know what the gaming world doesn’t need? This peace of shit game. There is nothing salvageable in this mess. The story is bland, the fighting is dull, the sound is annoying and it’s so ugly it’s almost painful to look at. There is nothing, NOTHING good here. So, please join me as we take a walking tour of sewer of bad ideas.

Story:
You play as Nariko, the eldest daughter of the king of…whatever the name of this world is, you wont care, trust me. The tyrannical King Bohan aims to take over and in order to do so is looking for the titular “Heavenly Sword”, an artafact Nariko’s clan holds sacred. Once he gets to close to attaining it Nariko decides to use it herself. The sword gives her unrivaled power, but it also begins to drain away her life.
It was right about there that I noticed that I didn’t care about anything this story had to say. There are a few ideas sprinkled throughout the game that could be interesting, but the game never makes you care about any of it. For example, most of Nariko tribe hates her, as there was a prophecy that a man would be born who would…save the world or something. But where Bohan invades and starts kicking ass, everyone blames Nariko because she’s a woman. That could have been interesting. That could also have been a meaningful look into how male games looked at women in and around the industry. And hell, look at how male gamers respond to Anita Sarkeesian, and this kind of this idea becomes even more appealing. Unfortunately what we got was a cast of dull charters, a bland script and one of the worst voice cast i’ve ever had to listen too.

Story: 1/5

Game Play:
With how little damage your main weapon does in this game I think a better title would have been “Heavenly Butter Knife”. I wish I cold say that that was the only issue with the game play, or even that it was the biggest issue with it. Sadly, this is also dull and boring, but at times it’s even broken.
The main game play gimmick is that the Heavenly Sword can take three shapes giving you three play styles (normal, speed and power) that you can switch between at a moments notice. Again, good idea, miserable execution. The “God of War” like hack and slash game play is never as tight as it should with any of the combat styles, making each battle feel as if I am giving hits and suggestions to Nariko instead of orders. When you add that to the insane amount of hits each enemy takes to put down the fights just become overlong spectacles you almost wish you were a part of.
Another issue with the game play is the blocking. Someone thought it would be a good idea to make the blocking button the same as the heavy attack button, meaning that you never know if you re going to block or attack. Then some one decided that that was too easy, so certain attacks can only be blocked when you’re using the right form. Meaning you often have to switch styles mid combo, the the triangle button and hope Nariko does what you want her too.
In better hands this could have made for a sweet, “Devil May Cry” like hack and slash. Instead we get a game that is almost painful to play that isn’t even all that fun to watch either. And I still haven’t gotten to my big issue with the game play yet.
Twice in my time with the game I had to play as Nariko’s sister, Kai. Kai is set up the same way as River for “Firefly” was: mentally unstable but highly capable. Unlike her sister Kai uses a cross bow and her segments are kind of like a shooting range. I did the first one of these segments four times on two different play through. Only twice did the controllers work the way the game said they should. Twice in that bit I could not aim, at all. I had to restart the entire game, twice, to get the game to play right. When it happened the second time I just quite playing. This game is broken. It’s as simple as that.
If the rest of the combat was fun I could have over looked this (docking a few points sure) but it’s just not. This game is as bad to play as it is to listen too or watch.

Game Play: 1/5

Music and Sound:
Like I said before, this game has the worst voice cast I’ve ever seen. Eben when the voice fits the character, the performance is either too over the top or underdone. It also doesn’t help that who ever was directing the actors had no idea who these characters were or what their personality were so the cast just flip flops between random personality as if they are giving each one a test drive until something sticks.
But I guess I should be thankful to whoever mixed the games audio. Because that person is so bad at their job that the voices are almost inaudible at times. A scene will start out with a lot of yelling, but then everyone seems to have noticed a sleeping baby and are whispering only to START YELLING AGAIN. This Is piss poor work, but I am almost grateful as it meant I didn’t have to put up with the rest of the piss poor work from the sound department.

Music and Sound:

1/5

Overall Score: 1/5

Who is this game for:
I’ve recently meet a few feminist women (who were kind of scary) who seemed to wholeheartedly believe that the only media worth consuming was that witch has a “strong” (I.e, one dimensional power house that could do no wrong and never get hurt) female lead. If that is your thing, and you don;t need anything deeper, like good writing, well developed characters or anything in the realm of competent game making: here is a game for you. If you do want a little more, look else were.

Poor Mans Reviews: Just Cause 2


Just Cause 2

Release Date: March 23, 2010
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Rating: M
Metacrtic Score: 83

“Just Cause 2” is a frustrating game to review. A lot of what makes the game fun and worth while for the player are just that: fun and worth while, but it made playing the game with the intent to review it in a timely manner a tedious chore. Other parts of the game should make it more fun to play, but are almost always working against itself. Because of all this, i’m going to give you my opinion on the game upfront, knowing that the overall score of the game may seem contradictory to that opinion.
“Just Cause 2” is a fun game that I encourage you to try out, especially if you like B-action movies. If you can’t get enough of movies like “Planet Terror” or “Machete Kills”, I have a feeling that you’ll love this game. Just like those movies, the game is cheep and unpolished, yet some how it’s better for it.

Story:
As C.I.A. Agent Rico Rodriguez, you are sent into the fictional country of Panau with two objectives: 1) find you old mentor, Tom Sheldon, who has gone dark while undercover in the area and 2) help tear down the new leader, Pandak “Baby” Panay, who overthrew the old leader and has institutionalized anti-American polices. In order to do this you must help three different radical anti-government agency’s with their own motivations that you will never end up caring about.
I said easier that the game has very much inspired by B-movies, and that inspiration shows from the get-go. The voice acting is never really “good” but most of the time it gets a pass for over the top performances that are well suited for the tone of the game. AT least it does in the opening cut scene. After that, the cut scenes just kind of become…cheep. As in, they are almost all copy and pasted and reskined in order to hurry you up to the mission itself. Almost all the missions start with the head of one of the criminal groups driving up to you, telling you what they want done, then you look at whatever equipment they gave you. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the missions themselves have very little verity. Each of the missions I played were essentially variations on “capture the base”, with contexts given only to change the set dressing. But when you get right down too it, how much verity is really needed?
The guys at Avalanche Studios seemed to know that the main draw to games like this is the ability to cause as much wanton destruction as humanly possible, so they made that the main focus of the game. You unlock story missions by doing side missions (witch normally included causing chaos) and you unlock side missions by, well, causing chaos. When the game is at it’s best it is little more than long stretches of anarchy as you blow up government compound, the go on the run only to be chased down and having to take the action on the road. But when that anarchy is really all that’s being offered, it can dull the sensation a bit.
But as I said before, a lot of what made the game fun makes it a pain to review (at least for me, as I am doing this is my spear time yet still trying to keep a semi-professional schedule). That comes into play here, as it took so long to generate enough chaos to open up story missions that I didn’t get to play many of them. I’d like to keep playing until I was able to get further into the story, but I can tell you that that would take so long as to nearly render the point of my page obsolete. I’m still going to rate the story based on my experience with it, but i’d encourage you to look for a second opinion on the matter.

Story: 2/5

Game Play:
The game world is huge, with lots of varied locations, ranging from snow covered mountains and lush jungles. It’s also too big and, outside of preset location, has little to do. Games like “Skyrim” of “Fallout 3” might use the size of the world and your slow trek trough it to add an element of the random, of chance. Another wanderer might come up to you and ask for help, and you know that at anytime you could be attacked. Those games knew that simply having a huge game world wasn’t enough. Here though well….
You’ll never go too long without causing chaos, but when that is all you are doing, with no emotional connection as to why (as you did in “Far Cry 3”) and with the incredibly unpolished game play, it’s just not as fun or as cool looking as it could or should be. Often times, when I did decide to go do a mission, the act of getting there was so painfully tedious that I ended up blowing it off to just not be bored on the way there.
Again, I think this is an issue with playing to review more that it may be an issue with the game itself. You see, a lot of the issues here should be fun, and would be If I could just enjoy the game, but as it was I just found them frustrating. Like, for instance, your ability to move through the world. I don’t mean to keep beating on this drum, but this is the largest of my issues. It should be fun to grapple to the top of just about everything, jump off, then parachute down, using the grappling gun to sling shot your way across the island. It should be fun to jack almost every car, motorcycle or plane you see and ride them like surfboards. But most of the time I found they just weren’t. Or at least not as fun as they should have been. The parachuting was slow and hard to control and the helicopters (while much better than the ones in “GTA 5” in my opinion) were almost impossible to fly and aim (to shoot, I mean) at the same time. The worst part, by far, were the cars. Almost any tempt to turn ended with me doing an uncontrollable drift. Worse yet are the physics. Once, while driving, I hit someone on a moped. I shot backwards as if I had just been hit with a RPG. And what of my victim? They went on their marry way as if nothing had happened. This wasn’t a one time occurrence.
I don’t think I understood what the game was aiming for until a few hours in, in the middle of a gun fight. You see, if you take the time to aim and shoot with precision, you’re going to end up dead. This is a game that encourages the “spray and pray” strategy. So much so, that once I wasn’t even properly aiming at the enemy (the reticule was noticeably to the left of who I was “aiming” at), yet hit him with every shot, as if the game just went, “screw it, that’s close enough”.
The game isn’t about precision, it’s about fast paced nonsense and fun. And again, it would have been…if I was playing for fun. Or even if I had a real “reviewing work day” were not all of my gaming time is spent trying to get a review done. But as that’s not where I was at the time I was playing the game, all of these semi-minor annoyances just kept piling on to where, near the end of my time with the game, I hated playing it. I can almost assure you you will have fun with the game.
The fact is, I don’t really know how to score this part of the game. Sure, I had some fun and I almost know you will too. Sure, I know that most of my issues with the game came from having to play it for review, but i’ve never had that issue with another game before. Every other game managed to make the play time either enjoyable or was just bad. Should I hold the game accountable for failing to be fun when played professionally when that is never really the point of games? Unfortunately, yeah, that is kinda my job here.

Game Play: 2/5

Music and Sound:

Well, at least this is one part of the game I have no mixed feelings about! Most of the sound is pretty mediocre. The explosions all sound very nice, as well as most of the vehicles. That’s really all the good things I have to say about the sound. The voice acting is really bland and sounds like the voice cast was just bored most of the time. The only exception I found was in the first cut scene. It was big and dramatic and clearly aiming no higher that a “B-movie”, but it was fun and gave the game a scene of identity and, at the very least, got me excited to play the rest of the game. After that the cut scenes just lose all energy. I think it would have only helped the game to give us more of that through out. So yeah, there really isn’t a lot to care about in terms of sound.

Music and Sound: 2/5

Overall score: 2/5

Who is this game for:
Someone who has a lot of time to kill and can over look a lot of issues. More importantly, people who want a fun game, even if that fun is somewhat shallow.

Poor Mans Reviews: Sleeping Dogs


Poor Mans Reviews: Sleeping Dogs

Release Date: August 14, 2012
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: United Front Games
Rating: M
Metacrtic Score: 83 (PS3)

“Sleeping Dogs” sits comfortably between what we know to expect in an open world game and the foreign. Things like world navigation and mission structure will be familiar to anyone who has ever played a game in the “GTA” franchise, but a focus on hand to hand combat and more serious tone to the games story may seem odd to citizens of “Los Santos” or “Steelport” and have them wondering when the “satire” is going to kick in. The real question is, however, does this balancing act of ideas work?

Story:
I beat “Sleeping Dogs” a few days a go, and since then this review has basically been on hold as I looked for a way to talk about the story. “Sleeping Dog”’s story pulls off an almost impossible task of being bloated and over long while also feeling rushed and unfinished. In order to express this completely I am going to end up spoiling the end of the game, so here’s they spoiler warning.
You play as Detective Wei Shen, a Chines immigrant who has returned to his native Hong Kong to help the local police to take down the Sun On Yee Triad. Almost instantly the “overlong yet rushed” feeling sets in. As it always it in a a game like this, Wei Shen isn’t immanently accepted into the triad. And as a few people begin to get arrested suspension starts to turn towards Wei Shen. How is this settled? Wei Shen has to kill someone. That’s it. After you kill someone there is really only one time the idea that Wei Shen could be a mole, and that’s settled in a cut scene. This is a part if the story that developer “United Front Games” knew they had to deal with, but it seemed like they just wanted to get it over with. If this was the only time this happened it would be forgivable, but it’s not. Through out the game idea’s and plot lines are introduced and this finished with almost no reason or connectivity. For example, after getting in to the Sun On Yee you find that two of the local leaders are at war with each other. Your main job in the beginning is too cause as many problem for “Dog eyes” (the rival leader) as you can to prove the superiority of your group. Dog eyes is dealt with near the middle of the game, but it has nothing to do with the initial hostility. Then, for seemingly no reason, I go on to helping a movie/singers agent with one of his clients. Sure, it ties back in to the Triad, but upon starting the next story mission, I had no idea who these people were or why I was dealing with them. Then, when the game ends, it all seems for naught. Your cover is blown, the triad is still standing; nothing is really accomplished or gained. Sure, a few higher ups are either dead or in jail, but these kinds of institutions don’t just crumble when leaders are gone.
While for the most part I did find the story to be disappointing, it would be unfair to not mention the things that it does right: presentation. The overall story feels like a huge missed opportunity, but the moment to moment experience of the is one of the best i’ve seen in this kind of game. This is partially due to decent scripting and stunner voice work. Everyone in the main cast sounds fantastic. And the mix of chines and english works wonders when it comes to creating an engaging experience (side note: give yourself 100 cool points of that made you think of “firefly”). I may have ultimately not cared about Wei Shen’s journey, but it was a fun ride.
Story: 2/5

Game Play:
For the most part this plays just like every other open world game you’ve ever played. Mission icons pop up on your map, you chose witch one you want to do then drive to where ever the mission start is, watch a cut scene, start the mission. There are a few things here that elevate the game play to a point that it surpasses, in my opinion, many of the games competitors.
The first is the focus on hand to hand combat. If you are a big fighting game fan, there might not be a lot here for you, but I found the combat system to work really well. It’s kind of a mix between Rocksteady’s “Batman: Arkham” series mixed with 2006’s Bully. The combo’s are all pulled off with one button, using a mix of presses and holds on the square button. When enemies turn red you can preform a counter move with a press of the triangle button. It took me about an hour to get the hang of it, but after that there was a flow to combat that almost always left a feeling of satisfaction when I could get through a flight without getting hit. However, it did suffer from the same issue the “Arkham” series does in that enemies wont gang up on you. So even when there are five or so people wanting to cave you head in, they will wait patiently as you tackle one of there friends to the ground and beat them senseless.
Things take a turn for the worse when gun are introduced. On normal difficulty the game leans a bit too much on the easy side, and with guns it’s almost impossible to lose. The few times I died it was only because of something stupid I did (like standing out of cover). Another issue I had, although this may be in the realm of “nit picking”, is that it was too hard to get head shots. However, shooting while driving isn’t as frustrating as it is in most open world games. Not only does it give you complete control over aiming, but it also slows down time so you can aim, shoot and readjust your view so you can keep driving. That time to readjust is a god send sometimes, as in tight spaces the camera go’s a bit crazy.
With all that said the real question is: what is there to do out side of combat? Open world games live and die by there side activity, so what is there to do here? There are jade statues that can be traded for combat upgrades, random pedestrians to help and gambling and races. Those races turned out to be a surprise highlight of the game for me. Not only do I normally hate racing in games, but the driving in most games isn’t something I tend to care about very much. Here, so long as there is some space for the camera to work properly the driving is tight and responsive. Unlike games like “GTA 5” the cares don’t feel like a few hundred pounds of dead weight. Sure it’s not as “realistic”, but it is more fun, and that’s a trade off I will always happily accept. In fact, the driving is so much fun that one of my favorite side activity’s was driving as fast as I could and seeing how long I could go without crashing. Yeah, you read that right: the driving was so much fun, I tried not to crash.
As Wei Shen is also a cop, there are multi-stage investigations. These rage from Missing persons to homicide investigations to drug busts. However, these suffer from one minor issue: some of the mini games seem out of place. Like, hacking a camera from a drug bust. Yeah, that is a good idea, but why am I guessing Numbers in order to do it? And again, these are fun, but they suffer from being to easy most of the time.

Game Play: 3/5

Music/Sound:
I’ve already talked about how good the voice acting is, but that’s not the part of the sound department that I like the most. Yes, this may just be my personal opinion, but 100% of games can be improved by adding some good heavy metal. And with the amount of time I spent rocking out to Machine Head and Opeth, I think this is proof of that fact. I may have only listened to one of the radio stations, but there was more music I liked in that one station than some other games have all together. If you’re not a huge metal fan…first of all, why not?…there are a few good songs one some of the other stations, but none that I liked as much as Roadrunners station.
With that out of the way the rest of the sounds rage from passable to great. The cars all sound great, but none of the guns sound as good as they could.

Music/Sound: 3/5

Ocerall score: 2.6/5

Who’s this game for:
This is for people who want to play something a little out of the norm. This is for people who are tired of crappy “satire” from people who don’t really seem to under stand what satire is. This is for people who want something a little more serious that other sandbox games, but not so glum as most every game that came out this generation.