Justice League: First Peek

Ladies, gents, other such creatures, we got a bit of a treat today. The Comic Con Justice League trailer was recently released. And, well, A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

Poster for Justice League

First things first. I have to fess up. After seeing the last Batman VS Superman movie I wasn’t particularly excited for this movie. Save the Nolan Batman films, the DC universe has been a bit lackluster as of late (at least on the big screen). It has been playing catch-up to Marvel, and when you follow in someone else’s footsteps you generally limit your ability to make new and fun material. Having said that, it looks like DC picked out all the right leaves from their rival’s book.

Simply put, the trailer (linked below) looks F-U-N, FUN! We’ have had a barrage of dark and griddy DC universe films and series, and it’s nice to see our heroes finally having some fun, cracking jokes at each other, and all in all having a good time. It looks like Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is going around, doing the rounds of collecting heroes for the Justice League – easily some of the funnest moments in superhero movies. We get a whiff of their origin stories, some good hero-to-hero banter, and the giddy-awesome-moment of having several of your favourite heroes interacting in the same shot.

Another complaint I had about this movie was Aquaman. I never read the Aquaman comics as a kid, nor did I watch much of the TV series. To be honest, I always found him a bit of a dull character. And my first criticism, which I was eager enough to share with my geeky partners in crime at a Tim Hortons at 2AM was that he simply wasn’t made for the big screen. His costume, his powers, it just wouldn’t be entertaining in a 21st century movie. He would look cheesy and lame, and the studio would embarrass itself. Well, this mans was wrong. I was impressed with some of the early Momoa concepts, but I still had some reservations. After seeing this trailer, I want to see the movie just to watch this guy kick ass. He exerts so much raw manliness that I’m sure he could make an inanimate object ovulate. I mean just look at¬†this one…

Aquaman chugging some hard liquor, because he's a man and you're a bitch!
Aquaman chugging some hard liquor, because he’s a man and you’re a bitch!

And this one….

This dude getting absorbed into the waves like f'in Moses, but ripped, and cool, and sexy, and something something.
This dude getting absorbed into the waves like f’in Moses, but ripped, with tattoos, and cool, and sexy, and something something.

And this one…

If this dude gave me that look, I'd swallow every single criticism I made about him being "cheesy and lame" and run for the nearest planet.
If this dude gave me that look, I’d swallow every single criticism I made about him being “cheesy and lame” and run for the nearest planet.

Man crushes aside, there’s another casting that definitely perked my interest. Ezra Miller is playing The Flash! I’ve loved this dude since¬†Perks of Being a Wallflower. He’s a good actor, and he has that really entertaining quirky, dorky presence that will fit in this movie like the perfect puzzle piece. You need some comic relief and some fun to contrast the brooding superheroes, and Ezra Miller will be just that and then some. He reminds me of Tom Holland who played Spiderman in¬†Captain America: Civil War. And it’s about time we get this. Some of the superheroes we have are¬†quirky, dorky geeks just like the rest of us. And it’s fun seeing that aspect of them being given some screen time. Mm-mm-good!

You haven't even seen the trailer and you already know this kid's about to lay down some quirky sass!
You haven’t even seen the trailer and you already know this kid’s about to lay down some quirky sass!

Lastly, I am glad that the trailer didn’t reveal too much as a lot of trailers have a habit of doing nowadays. Bruce Wayne mentions a threat, we see some grim, viking-looking dudes, and that’s all we get. And that’s all we need. I feel like I go in with a limp erection in half of the films these days because act I through V have been revealed in the trailer. Less is more, people!

Trailer – Let’s get this hype train a-rollin’!¬†

Warcraft: The Beginning

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: (It’s in bold, caps letters, so you know it’s official)¬†Hello ladies, gents, and other such creatures. I apologise for my prolonged absence, but I have hitherto been indulging in all the distractions and adventures that my new Japanese surroundings provide. Also, alas, for all the robots walking around, underwear vending machines, and real-life Pokemon, Japan has its movies coming out several decades after its Western counterparts. But hopefully with more persistent¬†piracy, I’ll catch back up.

WARCRAFT_QUAD_UK_AW_LOW
So, without further ado, we have Warcraft: The Beginning! This movie received as polar reviews as they get. The outraged Alliance of all things pompous and critic proclaimed it a CGI heap pile of droppings, while the Horde of years-long fans roared their approval and clamoured for more.

The movie, as the title so wisely tells us, takes us to where the games more or less start out: the Orcs’ first invasion of Azeroth. The Orcs’ home world of Outland is quickly dying, and the Orcs seek new lands that promise life. Under the evil rule of Gul’dan, a demon possessed Orc warlock, the Horde takes its first steps in Azeroth through the Dark Portal, a magic gate that bridges the two worlds. One of the chieftains from the Horde, Durotan of the Frost Wolves clan, worries that Gul’dan’s reign will bring nothing but further death and desolation to his people. As he and his pregnant wife, Draka, enter Azeroth, he struggles to find a path that may give his people a future. On the side of the Alliance, we have Ragnar Lothbrok, better known as Lothar, vaguely known as Travis Fimmel. He’s a noble warrior and commander, and he is charged with discovering the source behind the mysterious attacks that have been plaguing nearby posts. He is accompanied by a young exile mage, Kadgar. Having recently left the Kirin Tor, the high mages of Azeroth, he too is drawn into the intrigue of the dark invasion. He goes to seek the help of the legendary Medivh, The Last Guardian, a Magus with immeasurable power charged to protect the world of Azeroth. And so the wheels of our story start spinning.

Myself, a humble half-breed, I’d have to side with the Horde. I never got around to playing World of Warcraft, but I definitely lived in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne for more years than it was healthy. Not only were the games pure fun, with many community-made maps to keep it fresh, but it had a surprisingly well written story line that made for a very immersive and satisfying campaign. The drama was good, the characters were awesome and interesting. We had the mighty Hellscream, noble Thrall, damned Arthas, the cunning Ner’zhul, and the proud Illidan, and many more. It was a fully crafted world, with intrigue, might, magic, and war. It was any teenage boy’s world, and I am sure some girls got lost in there as well.

Blizzard’s cinematics are legendary, despite the shaky success of some of their games, I don’t think any fan could ever put a hand on their heart and claim that a Blizzard cinematic was merely OK. It is then little wonder that someone put 2 and 2 together and realised that the Warcraft universe was ripe for the big screen. When I heard about this movie, I had my doubts, but the trailer, and later the viewing, quickly banished my doubts.

As a fan of the Warcraft universe, you can’t help but be at awe at a full-feature cinematic. And that is more or less what this movie is. Even though it is a movie, it is still very much so one large cinematic. And it has all the strong suits of a good cinematic: gorgeous and immersive visuals, interaction of impressive characters, and entertaining conflict. This movie is almost entirely all green-screen. However, all the combat looked absolutely brilliant. I was very worried that we would just get the usual Hollywood shaky cams and poor action directing, but the movie looked every bit as good as the Blizzard cinematics in that regard.

I got absolutely giddy seeing the floating city of Dalaran, the ABSOLUTELY gorgeous Stormwind, and the barren wastes of Outland. And when I saw the shrowded¬†statues next to the Dark Portals, nerd chills were aplenty. Now, this is far from a great movie, and really, you just shouldn’t take it as such. The critics hated it because, really, without any background love or knowledge of the story, this is just one big, cheesy, epic fantasy. But as such, this big, cheesy, epic fantasy gave the fans everything they wanted and more. The battles were glorious, the landscapes and props were absolutely on point, the characters were decently acted (which doesn’t say much, but still a plus). There’s a few moments where you are watching this movie and you feel like you stumbled into a high school play written by the local D&D champion, but you just shrug it off and quickly forget about it as the movie continues to deliver so many awesome little gems that you have grown to love over the years.

And as such, I think it is fair to say this movie was a success. If you’ve never played or read anything Warcraft related, this flick might not be for you. That being said, if you are open to just some good old-fashioned fun and fantasy, you might still enjoy it if you remove the broom handle from your posterior. Much worse CGI pornos have come out in the past and with more critic acclaim at¬†that. As cheesy as some of the movie undoubtedly is, it rests on the pillars of what is actually a very well crafted and written world. So even with its weak moments or three, the engaging and immersive world of Warcraft pulls you in.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review ( Spoilers)

FA PosterLadies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas. And what better way to get in the Christmas Spirit than to rip into probably the most anticipated movie of the year. Yes, after decades of waiting, Star Wars is finally back, captained by none other than J.J. Abrams himself. It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror – upon finding out that that Star Trek guy will be directing the new Star Wars movie, and then were suddenly silenced. I fear something great might have happened.

Our little space opera takes off several decades after Episode VI. In the absence of the Empire, a new organization has taken to terrorizing the galaxy. The First Order, lead by the mysterious Snoke, and his apprentice, Kylo Ren, have made it their mission to colonize the galaxy, only meeting resistance from, well, The Resistance (lead by Leia). However, they have another agenda as well – track down and kill the last of the Jedi. After the battle of Endor, apparently Luke attempted to rebuild the Jedi order. He had a small group of students whom he was trying to teach the Jedi ways. One of his students, Kylo Ren, got seduced by the Dark Side, and proceeded to kill Luke’s apprentices. Now Luke is the last Jedi in the galaxy and he has gone into hiding. No one knows where he is. No one except a little droid called BB-8. Princess Leia has sent out her most daring pilot to retrieve a last piece of the puzzle that may reveal Luke’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, the First Order shows up unexpectedly, and the last piece of the puzzle is sneaked away by young BB-8 before the Storm Troopers can get their hands on it. BB-8 wanders across the path of a young and unexpected heroine, and so our story begins.

Rey_1
Our young heroine, Rey.

So first things first. The structure of this movie is built in strong parallel to Episode IV. Things are looking bad for the Resistance (Rebels), and the last hope rests in the hands(?) of a Droid sent out to seek out a Jedi. Droid finds him(it?)self on a desert planet (Jakku) where it stumbles across the path of a young hero(ine) unsatisfied with their current life. That is how we are introduced to Rey, a young woman who is a daring smuggler. She wanders off into the deep dessert seeking valuable parts in abandoned ships. She is quite likeable, she is determined, she’s fierce, and she seems to have a strong moral compass – particularly showcased when she has a chance to sell BB-8 for more food packs she has ever seen, but chooses to keep him instead after forming a bond with the droid. In many ways she is an improvement on Luke Skywalker from the earlier movies. She seems to have more going for her as a character, and she continues to impress as the movie goes on. There’s a particularly strong scene where she is being interrogated by Kylo Ren. He uses The Force to read her mind, but as her own powers begin to awaken she manages to turn The Force on him and reads his mind instead. She sees his fear and his doubts about himself and his destiny. It’s a really good scene, and huge development points for Rey get scored. She goes on to join the Resistance despite whatever doubts she has about herself, and continues to rise to every new challenge presented to her. Definitely a job well done.

Finn, after witnessing the face of war.
Finn, after witnessing the face of war.

We also have Finn, a young Star Trooper who deserts The First Order upon being in his first battle. When he sees the horror, violence, and destruction that The First Order brings he is severely shaken up. I think that is actually one of the movie’s stronger points. This is a sense of realism that we have not seen in the Star Wars movies (early or old) until now. The horror of war is a very serious topic which actually gets addressed quite decently by means of Finn. War isn’t glorious, war isn’t adventurous. It is brutal, ugly, and destructive. So when he leaves the Storm Troopers it feels like a very legitimate moment. I don’t feel like it’s just a plot being pushed along, it feels like some really genuine character development. So again, the big ups for J.J. Abrams. Finn’s loyal to a fault, he’s quite funny, he’s a bit of a goof-ball, but he has a good heart. He becomes good friends with Rey, and I really enjoyed their interactions together.

Our mysterious antagonist.
Our mysterious antagonist.

The other new character I want to cover before getting into the universe and overall broad strokes of the movie is Kylo Ren. Now, I went into this movie not reading any of the fiction in the Star Wars universe, so Kylo Ren was a total mystery to me. From his first scene, I was quite impressed. He bore a strong resemblance to Darth Vader, he was intimidating and he was a huge mystery. He carried himself with a sense of power and purpose. He demonstrates a strong use of the force – stopping a blaster shot in mid-air for a prolonged period of time, using the force choke, reading people’s minds. All this held true while the mask was on. When the mask came off, he was a scared little boy throwing temper tantrums. He went from baring the resemblance of a strong Sith Lord (Yes, I know he’s not a Sith) to an arrogant boy who has some semblance of Force-power, and abysmal duelling abilities -as demonstrated at the end of the movie. He literally loses a duel to Rey, who has literally never used a lightsaber before. So in that regard, he was a bit of a disappointment. However, in the movie’s defence, it could very well be that he is being built up for something greater. This is the first movie in a trilogy, and maybe he is intentionally made to be more human and vulnerable than what we’re used to in a villain. That being said, as a movie that stands on its own (despite it being a trilogy), he was definitely a let down.

Now for some broad strokes. I understand that this movie’s a continuation of the original saga, so it obviously makes sense that some of the old characters are in it. However, besides delivering fan service, I feel like they were more or less over-indulgent cameos. Leia, Han Solo, C-3P0, R2-D2, Chewbacca, all felt like shadows of their former selves. And it’s not because they acted badly, or because they were written badly. But it’s because they have¬†no story. They have no purpose in this movie (save maybe for Han Solo). Through Episodes IV-VI, it was their story, their adventure, and their development. But this movie is very much about Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. However, when a third of the movie is devoted to showing me these old faces that don’t really have that much involvement in the main story, it made the movie feel weak in a lot of places. Also, in a strictly practical sense, that was a lot of time that could have been spent expanding the universe and developing the plot – as opposed to getting a¬†wink, wink, nudge, nudge, every 10 minutes. I understand that it’s been over 30 years since Star Wars fans have had the opportunity to see their classic favourites, but just sticking them in a movie like this isn’t really the way to go. This is a new trilogy, telling a new story, and it shouldn’t be afraid to make its own way and tell its own story. It shouldn’t have to be slave to fan-service in order to be successful. My hopes are that there will be less of this in the next two movies.

Moving on, the cinematography in this movie is a point to discuss. I am really impressed with how J.J. Abrams shot this movie. Obviously modern technology was used to edit the movie, but the look of it is very much the same as the original trilogy. The creatures, and droids, a lot of the special effects look¬†THE SAME. And that’s quite a good thing, actually. Imagine watching a Star Wars continuation with everything looking hyper-realistic and detailed out. It would feel alien. Abrams recognizes that he is continuing an already existing visual medium, and that deserves a lot of respect. Well done. On a similar note, the soundtrack was also 110% spot on. Abrams brought in none other than John Williams to score this movie, and after watching it and hearing the music first hand, I think it’s fair to say that he was the only man for the job. I am aware that this sounds a little nit-picky, but imagine for a moment how difficult it would be to pick up another director’s work, from a different time period, with different technology, with a different crew, and then now, to remake that exact same feel and look. It is a¬†VERY tall order, and Abrams managed it with flying colours.

Star Wars: A New Hope (1983 edit)
Star Wars: A New Hope (1983 edit)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

The last thing I am going to cover is the strong parallel between this movie and Episode IV. Again, I understand that Abrams is a fan of the saga, and I understand that he wants to pay his tribute to the Star Wars gods. However, you can’t make great things unless you are prepared to write with as much confidence and imagination as Lucas did when he made the original three. While some of the things I mentioned earlier about this movie are really amazing, there’s an undeniable parallel between the two films. Tatooine – Jakku, Rey – Luke, Darth Vader – Kylo Ren, Death Star – Death Planet (Did we really need another one of these in a Star Wars plot?), R2-D2 – BB-8, Old Ben Kenobi – Old Han Solo, death of Obi-wan¬†Kenobi – death of Han Solo. It’s just too much. I kind of enjoyed a good chunk of the movie, but another equally big part of it was just an ongoing omage. I came to see a¬†new¬†Star Wars movie, not the biggest love letter to George Lucas.

With everything said here, I won’t even bother telling you if you should see it or not. It’s a new Star Wars movie, of course you should see it. Go out there and experience it first-hand. For all its faults and drawbacks, it is still quite the cultural phenomenon, and therefore, quite the experience. May the force be with you ūüôā

Star Wars Battlefront Review

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

Journey to a galaxy far, far¬†away…

This is Star Wars Battlefront, a game that revels in its own accuracy of being the most picturesque Star Wars game to date, along with very good sound design, and enchanting worlds to immerse yourself in. Yet, beyond the rusty exterior of its brilliant frontier; deficient substance takes this Star Wars game far, far away from what it should mean to be Battlefront.

“Just look at this…the ground, the vegetation, the California forest…oh wait there’s an AT-ST right there!”

Beauty On The Surface

Visuals
Let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way. This is the best looking Star Wars – no! This is the best looking video game I have played in years! From the shimmering and sheen of the ferns on the forest moon, to the finishing touches on the tutorial level (look off into the distance to see them!), this is by far got to be one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. The love DICE has for Star Wars is on open display. They’ve crafted the level of detail down to the finest of scratches from the original props themselves. Read my The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review for more information on the technique behind the graphical prowess of both games. It’s hard to find any faults in Battlefront’s visuals. Aside from some repetition in the hallways of some maps, I’ll say it again, this is a god damn beautiful game. However, I can’t escape the feeling that too much effort went into making this game look like Star Wars, and they forgot about how a great Star Wars game should feel and play. All face value and not enough substance makes for realistic accomplishments of development milestones.

Sound Design
Sound design in Battlefront is Star Wars at its finest. Aside from the unbearable and hilarious voice acting of the heroes and villains, everything else is top-notch. Like the attention to detail in visuals, audio stays on target and immerses you in the ambiance. Blaster fire, vehicles, and sounds of the Ewoks running away from anyone nearby. The best sounds in the entire game come from thermal grenade explosions and the famous vehicle screams in the sky. This too helps to make Battlefront look and sound like Star Wars, but as I’m alluding to, it doesn’t cover up for the overcompensating in¬†multiplayer the game provides.

“Don’t worry Lord Vader, I’ve got your back! Oh shit where did that impact grenade come from?”

Multiplayer

Keep It Battlefront Stupid
Star Wars Battlefront is simplified for a casual gamer, and tailored to your very excited Star Wars fan. However, I feel this approach to accessibility sacrifices proper game play design, class/ squad teamwork, adequate controls, and overall team balance. There’s no class system like in the former Battlefront games. Customization is limited to a few cards, weapons, and few appearance alterations. It is clear this game is attempting to reach as wide an audience as possible. And the game suffers in replay-ability and hopes to call fans back for new maps and game modes covering up for its lack of deep features and complexity. Games can be intricate and unique; that’s what makes them enjoyable and frantic. In scrapping god knows what from Battlefront 3, Star Wars Battlefront becomes quite stale and repetitive, and is simple to a fault.

Game Modes
Nine game modes span across only FOUR worlds. You can tell right away there is an obvious intent of the developers to recycle assets. The game modes offered are fun for a few rounds, I quickly lost interest in other game modes after about 20 hours of play. Walker Assault, Drop Zone, Cargo, and Supremacy being the most entertaining, while other modes like Droid Run or Blast seem to be unpopular and difficult to find people for matches. Many of these game modes are one-sided as unlocks are required to improve balance the more you play, and teamwork extends to dropping shields and blasting away at a Walker. While nine game modes sounds like a lot, and it is, only FOUR worlds speaks loudly to the consumer. But I’ll go on about this later towards the end of the review.

Game play Balance
For all of its wrongs, Battlefront does make a few rights. Game play is fun. Unlocks, and star cards make customizing your own soldier a battle of combinations in its own right, although these fun aspects of the game are hidden behind superficial customization such as pointless appearance unlocks, worthless emote unlocks, and a difficult to navigate user interface. With star cards you get a maximum of three cards per hand that allow you to pick and choose your load out that may include: a jetpack for a vertical advantage, or a star card that has limited amount of charges or uses. The ability to use a partner’s hand of cards allows you to use weapons and abilities to give your team an edge. Pretty soon I found myself just purchasing charges instead of purchasing what I really could use, better weaponry to counteract the unbalanced game play.

The release version of the game was quite unbalanced. Combat seemed to be most of the time who could land an impact grenade first, and exploit bad spawns with your barrage launcher. Spawns were also uneven, sometimes you’d spawn and get the jump on an enemy, and other times you’d spawn right into a metaphorical sarlak pit of enemies. One time I spawned as Princess Leia right in front of enemy storm troopers and only lasted about 10 seconds. DICE has since patched and made updates to balance, however my score reflects the release version of the game as that should be the final version!

“Spawn. Die. Repeat. Roll the DICE for a kill.”

Vehicular Man’s Laughter
Unbalanced combat falls to the ground and takes to the skies. There is a lack of rebel vehicles and support especially in-game modes that are dependent on vehicles and anti-vehicle weapons. Against all odd doesn’t really work well for rebels in the multiplayer arena. Anti vehicle weaponry is withheld to new players until later levels, which is counterproductive to the casual approach of the game.
Land vehicles like the AT-ST are fun to play while you can stay alive. Get in the right position and you can take out enemies from a far. However, I found myself dying quite quickly after spawning on Hoth. Even trying to hide behind a downed AT-AT couldn’t offer me any protection. It took awhile to find the vehicle pickup, and to be destroyed right after spawn was ridiculous.

Flying vehicles are equivalent to flying a Battlefield jet around in a death match map space. In the release version of the game, vehicles are too fast for the space you are given and controls are way to sensitive. If a game is made for PC, especially with the accessibility approach ever apparent, it’s surprising that flying vehicles are unnecessarily difficult to control. And that’s only the beginning. Speeder bikes for the forest moon of Endor are laughable. The controls are way too sensitive be default and using the mouse is a battle. Try steering a speeder bike and evading trees at the same time, hell I would crash into that tree myself! Controls and extra abilities from previous Battlefront games that made vehicles fun to use are gone.

Heroes & Villains!

You may be wondering about each character and how it affects game play. Well, as of release, picking the right Hero for the right game mode can result in long kill streaks. My longest streak lasted 20 kills with Luke Skywalker. Equally so with Darth Vader in the Beta. These characters are ridiculously good. But again, the game suffers unbalanced hero combat as players can dominate the field similar to a Call of Duty game. Time limits from the Beta should make a return.

Heroes
Luke Skywalker wields his Return of the Jedi light saber and wardrobe. He is the opposite to Lord Vader with similar powers to influence the battlefield. Han Solo shoots first with his DL-44. His attacks are: shoulder charge, lucky shot, and charged shot. Princess Leia is more of a team player hero, and can bring along with her Alderaan Body Guards, which is an interesting dynamic choice in battle. She can drop pickups and shields to support other players. This is really the most coordinated you’ll have to be during Battlefront if you are lucky to even be a hero, let alone see a hero pick up.

Villains
In contrast, Darth Vader is the most fun character to play. Carrying his red light saber and dawning his cape, he’ll show you the wicked powers of the dark side. He is the most daunting with his saber throw and force choke. Oh I cringe when I hear the sound of a thousand throat muscles constricting. Emperor Palpatine is the funniest of the character, no really. He is like a super villain out there. Shoot lightning from your fingers or spin through the air like that one time he did that in Episode III. Emperor also can spawn bodyguards to aid him in battle. He seems really out-of-place, but compliments Leia the only way DICE could. Boba Fett is quite powerful, and another good reason to bring back time limits for Heroes. His jet pack is stronger than any other unlock. He is able to fly around and can become an easy target, but can gather range kills staying back from the fight.

Singleplayer Has Lost Its Campaign

No campaign, just training, ai battles, and “survival” mode. What happened to EA’s directive of only putting games up for sale that have both singleplayer and multiplayer? For a game that costs $79.99 at retail value is unacceptable. Any sort of excuse for a singleplayer in Star Wars Battlefront feels rushed, and could’ve been way better. For brief moments we see cut scenes of small exposition for what could’ve been. As a fan of Star Wars, I know that story matters, and for a game that could’ve made a significant impact, it left out a critical piece of art. All that remains is the finest piece of junk in the galaxy.

Money Talks

I’ll have my next thousand words for you, but first, we’ll let these images do the talking to let your anger flow for the next paragraphs…

“God, is that what I think it is? OK going 3rd party for this. Got it for a decent $50.”

“Imagine what it costs for Australians. NO! It gets better!”

“………… …… ……. …….”

“No really…. ….. …… ….. … …”

Other Issues

Disconnect
Disconnection problems have been occurring since the beta. Keep in mind I’ve only had this problem with this game. An EA game of course. I couldn’t reconnect so much so that I’d just close up the game after at least 20 tries. You know normally you’d be able to connect effortlessly like with Battlefield, or hell, even in Titanfall, but this would boot you out after waiting 20 seconds in the pre match lobby. No, longer, even after the map loads! This was by far the most frustrating aspect of the game. And even DICE was like…ya you lost connection to “EA Servers” hey not us!

Beta and Release Sound Clipping
Another issue that occurred with an EA game was sound clipping. Once I got the sound clipping issue figured out, I could enjoy the music and the true breadth of sounds available. I had to raise the bit rate of audio output to the highest to remove the clipping issue. Why this would be like this in Beta and at release is beyond me. How could they have not heard this? View the sound clipping issue if you’d like in my Drop Zone Beta Game play video. Anyways I fixed it. I could peacefully try to tolerate everything, and try to enjoy the game.

“I find your lack of [content] disturbing”
On to the real light and dark of the matter. I find the game’s lack of… content… disturbing. I could talk for hours about this, but I like to start with this comparison as it shows two distributors for who they really are. Let’s compare Battlefront to a popular Valve title in Counter Strike Global Offensive (CS GO.) Which game has more maps? CS GO. Which game has more weapons? GS GO. Which game is multiplayer only? Both! Ah ha! And that’s when you really think to yourself well which game will have more longevity and community…obviously CS GO. Price tag for CSGO? $16.99 I think you know where I’m going with this one…

Seduced By The Dork Side
Oh and before I forget another obvious thing lets go into the price tags… for standard edition alone it will cost you $79.99 (CAN) for the base game, but wait there’s more! For $10 more at $89.99 you will get extra worthless content including a ridiculously overpowered and unbalanced weapon that will kill you in pretty much one hit. I’ve seen servers littered with this awp..i mean OP weapon. Next lets jump to the ULTIMATE EDITION which according to EA is “yeeeeee the most populahh” Jesus fucking Christ. You know, I’m supposed to be reviewing the game content in itself, but this is god damn ridiculous. You know what I’m reviewing? The price tag for the game content that should be there! Cough up $159.98 (CAN) for the base game, worthless unlocks you can get while playing the game, and a season pass ($69.99 CAN) we know absolutely nothing about! This game should be worth $49.99 max. This has to be malpractice in the gaming industry. This is unethical. This is, oh what the hell, you’ll buy it anyway eh? IT’S A TRAP!

Less Is More?
If the ol’ saying “less is more” is fundamental to the way Star Wars is, then EA has seduced fans into purchasing less for more. EA. It’s in the game……if you pay $159.98 that is. For a publisher that once had the slogan…”Challenge Everything,” they have fallen off the side of their flat earth on this flat world view they now have of the average consumer. It seems like ever since they released Battlefield Premium, they could slowly raise the price of add on content, and gouge us as if we’d never notice. No wonder this company has gathered so much distaste.


Return of The Review

Load up a map and you’ll fall in love with the world you’re in because the fan boy in you will love that it looks and sounds like Star Wars. It’s a love hate. Feel me, I enjoy this game. Battlefront offers enjoyment in small bursts, and is fun to play for awhile. But any enjoyment fizzles out, because really this game was rushed/ realistically put together to cash in with the release of The Force Awakens. There were several years before, in which this game could’ve used to become legendary, but instead the developers chose to focus on what would sell the game to the fan boys and suckers who would buy this game in a heartbeat. In no way can you say this game lives up to the hype and the quality of its predecessors, because any positive would be followed up with an over glaring negative. We like to think less is more in the original trilogy, well at least Star Wars Battlefront lives up to that.

Light
Beautiful environments
Quality sound design
Heroes and Villians are fun to play for awhile
9 gamemodes for different ways to play the game

Dark
Lack of content: only 4 worlds, no campaign,
Difficult PC controls for flying vehicles
Superficial customization
Balance issues, lack of teamwork required
Doesn’t live up to its predecessor, especially with modern standards for quality


 

Final Score 2.5 / 5

Buy it if you are a hardcore Star Wars fan!
Buy it from 3rd party for more respectable price, or later on sale if you can wait.
Don’t buy it if you have a distaste for EA, this will only fuel your hatred!

Ex Machina: A Review

Reviewed by Vladi

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, summer is here and with it the promise of decent cinema. In the glorious month of May there are a few exciting releases. It’s easy to get overshadowed by the hype of blockbuster giants such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Mad Max. However, one pretty kick ass movie also came out recently which is well wort our notice.

I’m talking about Ex Machina. The movie is directed by Alex Garland, best known for¬†28 Days Later, and¬†Dredd.¬†If none of those movies add credibility to his name for you, take away this: the man’s a master of mood and suspense. He orchestrates his films very precisely and knows exactly how he wants you to feel and think through each separate scene. In that sense, his films feel very complete and very unified. Kind of like an album that’s an album and not just a casual selection of songs. In that respect,¬†Ex Machina is no exception.

The plot should be no mystery to most people. It is the not too distant future and we are developing AI. Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a search engine mogul invites Calep (Domhnall Gleeson), one of his top employees, over to his house/lab to help him test the most advanced AI made to date, Ava (Alicia Vikander). Unlike simpler AI, she doesn’t have just a narrow question-response programming, but instead she is developed to form a consciousness of her own. So it’s up to Calep to interact with her and to see if she can pass the Touring test, a test developed by Alan Turing to see if an AI can fool a human into thinking that it’s a human. And that’s it.¬†Do robots dream of electric sheep?

I think AI has been addressed a lot of times in cinema, with movies like A.I. (duh), Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, I Robot, Transcendence, Ghost in The Shell, and more recently, Chappie.¬†And while many of those movies pose good questions about the nature of A.I. and its impact on the human condition,¬†Ex Machina takes it a step further to try and visualize what it would mean to have true A.I. What would it mean to birth a consciousness into our world? What would it mean to give that consciousness access to the internet, the most condensed source of information that we have? And more importantly, what would this A.I. think of us? How would it react towards us. Would it like us or hate us? Would it want to befriend us or destroy us? These are questions that I find can be absolutely chilling if you begin to comprehend just what the answers might be, and this movie does a great job of flirting with some of them.

Am I human? How do I know I’m not a robot?

The pacing is absolutely perfect. No scenes are fillers, none of them drag, and none of them are cheap. The mounting tension is handled very professionally, gradually building without your notice. An effect reinforced by a very solid soundtrack which has a narrative of its own. You could take this movie, play it on mute, and just play the soundtrack with it and it would still make sense. The music fits the story like a glove, and adds goosebumps up and down your spine on more than one occasion.

The cinematography also deserves a nod as the shots are set up beautifully. There’s a strangely calm and quiet grace with which the scenes follow one another. For a movie that’s a thriller, the shots are very calm and composed. Almost meditative. Yet that seems to only draw you into the movie more, making you want to jump in the protagonist’s shoes and make his decisions for him rather than just watch as a spectator.

This movie was a lot of fun. It is beautiful to look at, it will get you thinking, it will explore a very interesting concept, and it will probably disturb you on a few occasions, something that I think is the hallmark of any good sci-fi-the ability to shake your confidence in the world you live in. 4/5, very well made. Go give the theaters your money!

By the end of this movie, this scene should probably haunt you. Despite the movie being a thriller, there’s a lot of moments that just stand out on their own. Just so well constructed that they put you in a temporary state of awe and wonder.

Chappie: A Review

Do androids dream of electric sheep? Do celebrities make bad actors? Does a dog lick its own balls? Yes, and so does Chappie. 

Chappie is a film written and directed by Neill Blomkamp. It stars Sharlto Copley as Chappie, Dev Patel as Deon Wilson, Chappie’s creator, and Hugh Jackman as an angry, steroid ridden, ridiculously terrible antagonist who doesn’t deserve a name. Also, Die Antwoord, but more of that later.

The movie takes place in Johannesburg, where crime has been rampant. With the help of new police Scout Droids, however, the government has been able to establish order again. Deon Wilson, brilliant young programmer is the designer of these scouts. And while happy with his success, he is more interested in creating AI that can feel and think for itself. An AI that can develop its own emotions and own personality. Enter Chappie.

On the other side of town, we have Die Antwoord, a small group of heist criminals. They get in a bit of trouble with the local gangs, and need something short of a miracle to get out of a massive loan that’s hanging over their heads. How can they hope to steal enough money in time to pay their way out of death? Enter Chappie.

For those of you unfamiliar with Die Antwoord, they are a South African hip hop duo known for their explicit lyrics and music videos. They have a pretty crazy¬†sound and image. Apparently the director was a big fan, so he decided they had to be in his movie. But to act a certain role, or to do a small cameo? No. They are more or less the main characters and spotlight of this film when Chappie isn’t yammering away in his awesome South African accent. They don’t even act, they just play themselves. And while they can be highly entertaining at times, there’s no hiding the fact that they are plain ridiculous.¬† They can’t act, and their personas don’t really have a place in this movie.

To the movie’s credit, it asks a lot of interesting questions about AI. It brings up the notion that personality, human or otherwise, may one day be boiled down to a highly complex mathematical algorithm. It asks some good questions about what makes us truly human, truly ourselves and not someone else. It makes a very good case for sentient machines being more than just that. In that regard, the movie truly does deserve a thumbs up.

Also, I would be doing a great disservice to Sharlto Copley if I didn’t mention how good his performance was in this. Any scene we have Chappie in, it’s hard to imagine that somebody actually¬†acted out his performance. That he wasn’t just merely created like that, the perfect, endearing, little robot. His mannerisms, gestures and voice are absolutely spot on. Any scene he’s in, he absolutely steals the screen for the better. He could actually make me forget about the Die Antwoord parts of the movie and make me feel like I’m watching a good film again. However, inevitably, the Die Antwoord parts kept coming in, louder, and dumber in sequence.

Much like District 9, Blomkamp’s last successful film, you have a very good idea and concept which is executed very poorly. The narrative simply doesn’t carry its own weight. The writing is outright laughable in many parts. Any scene with Hugh Jackman is absolutely cringe worthy. Don’t get me wrong, Hugh Jackman is a GREAT actor. But in this film, everything he has to work with is a train wreck. Even the tone is all over the place. You go from Disney/Spielberg “aww” moments, to slapstick comedy, to people being graphically disembodied, to heart-wrenching drama… It really feels all over the place. The movie’s tone and direction are definitely not unified and defined.

If you got a Friday night to kill and there’s nothing better, this movie might be worth your dollar. It should give you a few good laughs, make you ponder a question or two. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, you might actually enjoy yourself. But don’t look for a proper film here.

Sorry, ol’ Chap.

 

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (The Movie on Fire That Burned Down Horribly)

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, today we look at the film (loose use of the word) that is¬†Mockingjay: Part 1 of the¬†Hunger Games series. For those of you who don’t know – nah, let’s cut the shit, you’ve all heard of this steaming turd, let’s get right into it. We pick up from where¬†Catching Fire left off. Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence has been rescued from the last Hunger Games by the rebels. I’m sure they have some other name, but really they are just a backdrop for Katniss’ emotional turmoil, so they’ll remain “the rebels.” Finnick and several others have also been rescued and brought to the underground headquarters of the rebels at District 13. Katniss is reunited with Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth, and her family. She is introduced to President Coin, played by Julianne Moore, which urges Katniss to spearhead their own propaganda campaign against President Snow, and in return offers to save Peeta. Though as they only report stuff that’s¬†actually happened, I don’t know why they bother calling it propaganda, but hey, it sounds more political that way. The plot conflict comes in the shape of ol’ whiny, mumbling, unsure-of-himself-and-highly-annoying Peeta. A dumbfounded Katniss stares at a TV screen as Peeta seems to have become President Snow’s face of propaganda, pleading with the other districts to not take part in the rebellion and be complacent with the Capitol. The rebels show instant anger towards Peeta, and Katniss has to reconcile the fate of her friend and the responsibilities she now bares as the face of the rebellion.

Peeta does what Peeta does best – whine and look crushed.

Honestly, that’s the best I can do without vomiting and hating myself as a pseudo-reviewer. The reality of this film is that it’s¬†EXTREMELY boring. I’m not one for mindless violence or action for that matter, but in the first two films you at least had the actual games to keep you entertained. I was highly skeptical of this franchise as it seemed to me like another¬†Twilight¬†teen fiction. However, female colleagues and friends vehemently and loyally swore otherwise, convincing me that there’s a lot socio-political factors at play which makes this series worthwhile. Well, NO. While I have to watch Katniss’ inability to make one adult decision and put the fates of thousands before the fate of just one of her friends, I have to watch what I can only accurately sum up as a dystopian American Idol. What dress will Katniss wear? How can we bring out the¬†angry¬†Katniss, how can we bring out the¬†true Katniss, the¬†Katniss that will¬†INSPIRE. And while I’m watching this and trying to figure out what’s the least disruptive way to kill myself in a movie theater, (after all I care about my fellow movie goers,) I get glimpses of one of the two scenarios. A whinefest between Peeta and Katniss, or a somber, brooding Katniss being comforted by Liam Hemsworth, whose only purpose is to be a handsome shoulder to cry on.

*Wipes away tears* You got a lot of heart, girl, and a lot of spirit. Your singing was good, and you look fabulous. Now if you just work on that 10-year-old attitude of yours, you can be a real star! 7.4! *que audience applause*

I’m not going to get into the ending of the movie so as not to spoil anything, but I will say this: under logical scrutiny, just about every premise on which the writing hangs falls apart at the slightest touch. It’s designed poorly, it has plot armor all over it, and makes this feel like a Saturday morning cartoon as opposed to a dystopian film. In reality, people die, and not just the ones we introduce 5 seconds before we kill them. In reality, cruel and intelligent dictators don’t make silly gambits that a Bond villain would. In reality, this is just silly teen fiction and its socio-political context is so absurdly black and white (rich vs poor, good vs bad) that even a high schooler should laugh¬†at this. Boring, poorly made film. 6/10, don’t waste your time. BUT, there is Natalie Dormer in it with a bad-ass haircut and tattoos. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

All hail the goddess, savior of lame films!

***SPOILERS*** Just food for thought for those of you who’ve seen the film. Let’s be honest, if this was actually written to be remotely realistic, with a competent dictator, Gale and every other commando rescuing Peeta would have entered that building only to see crossbowmen on the parapets with Rains of Castamere playing. G bloody G.

This man would get shit done. The Thirteen Kingdoms would be under his foot before you could say ‘shits gold.’

Unbroken: Movie Review

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, today we look at the film that is¬†Unbroken, directed and produced by Angelina Jolie. It’s based on the non-fiction novel by Laura Hillenbrand called¬†Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

The story is that of Louis Zamperini, a US Olympic runner, who falls captive to the Japanese during the second World War. We follow his journey from his Olympics debut to his inevitable capture. We see the struggles of his fellow soldiers and himself as they try to preserve¬†what small piece of humanity they can in the brutal and dehumanizing conditions of the P.O.W. camp. The camp is run by Mutsuhiro “Bird” Watanabe, a young and bitter corporal, who goes to great lengths to punish and humiliate Louis, mostly because of his status as an Olympic athlete. Two strong wills collide, as¬†we watch the power struggle between these two men; one a captive, the other a captor, and both unrelenting.

So, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The movie is well polished, the scenes are set up nicely with a good pace. Jack O’Connell’s performance as Louis Zamperini is alarmingly strong. He show us a great range of ability and skill as he goes through the highs and lows of the character’s emotional journey. He makes acting look easy, and he is absolutely flawless in every single shot he’s in. Nothing but respect for the man. The rest of the cast did similarly as well, though none really stood out as much. Corporal Watanabe, played by Takamasa Ishihara seemed to be a bit over the top in most of the scenes he was in, but perhaps that was just director’s take. Even so, he gave a pretty solid performance as well.

Clash of wills, Takamasa Ishihara and Jack O’Connell

What the movie really lacked was direction. While the first set up of the film isn’t too bad, with the plot unraveling at a steady pace, the latter part of the movie feels like one big drag. Not a lot of development happens, and the story’s pace slows down to a crawl. And for about 30 minutes or so, we just have torture scenes followed by motivation scenes in constant succession. And with a lack of character or plot development, this quickly becomes dull, and as a viewer you grow numb to any awe or inspiration you should be experiencing.

Angelina Jolie doing directing things, because, yeah…

Also, as most “inspirational” movies, this movie wants you to take a lot at face value. We have one or two scenes where Louis is being reprimanded by his family for his hooliganism, and is subsequently told that he’s capable of better things if he would only try. Next scene he tries, ergo said attitude for life. I understand that the movie is supposed to cover roughly 15 years of a character’s life, and that screen time is limited, but as a viewer I feel I am being cheated. Maybe it’s simply this genre of film, and not the director, but again, this felt weak. The movie tries to awe with its ques of epic soundtrack and cheesy lines as opposed to actual character development and drama. For that, it gets some ‘fail points.’

All in all, it’s an average movie. Nothing special, nothing too horrible. If you have any interest in the history of Louis Zamperini, or simply that time period/topic, you might like this movie. It’s worth its money if nothing else. If you’re standing in front of the showtimes board at the theater and you’re juggling between this and¬†Madagascar, Horrible Bosses 2, Night at The Museum 2, and other similar garbage, you might as well spend your money wisely and watch this. Otherwise, meh.

Angelina Jolie with the real Louis Zamperini. It’s based on a “True Story,” therefore it must be good. Right? Wrong.

Big Hero 6 Review

Review by Vladi

Today we look at Disney’s¬†Big Hero 6. Now before you run for the hills, allow me to give you some comfort. While Disney¬†technically did this movie, it’s really a Pixar movie. Disney bought Pixar back in 2006. And while Disney seems to have made nothing but garbage in the twenty first century, Pixar picked up the slack as one of the best animation studios. Some of their notable works are the¬†Toy Story¬†series,¬†Monster Inc.,¬†Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E, Up,¬†and¬†Brave. Yeah, that’s those guys. Pixar did what Disney couldn’t do, and that’s producing relevant and fresh animated movies with a considerable amount of creativity and innovation. Now, without further kiss-ass, we delve into our movie!

Our story takes place in San Fransokyo (will get back to this later >.<), where we have our protagonist, Hiro Hamada, fourteen year old kid with intelligence far beyond his years and a strong enthusiasm for robotics. His older brother, Tadashi Hamada, and himself live with their aunt, Cass Hamada, since their parents died. Also, he has the most epic, awesome looking, badass, silky, spiky, black hair that a real-world gaijin like me can only dream of. ¬†But, alas, I digress. Hiro’s passion for robotics has gotten him into underground bot fights, where he sharks opponents much bigger and older than himself for money. Tadashi doesn’t approve of the way his brother uses his talent, but he does the big bro thing, and stands behind his little brother, none the less.

Nerd School, from left to right, GoGo, Wasabi, Hiro, Tadashi, Tomago, and Fred.

In an attempt to better direct Hiro’s talents, Tadashi takes him to his college robotics lab, where he and his friends invent and innovate robotics technology. This is where Hiro gets introduced to Tadashi’s project, Baymax, a plus size cuddle bot, designed as a healthcare companion. Hiro’s eyes swell to the size of dinner plates when he sees all the cutting edge stuff that’s being developed at “nerd school“, and he decides that he wants to enter. To do so, he has to impress Professor Callaghan at the annual robotics exhibition. And so our movie begins. Oh wait, did I mention evil micro-bots guy with a Kabuki mask? Hmm, definitely shouldn’t have left¬†out Kabuki mask bad guy. Yep, he’s in this, he’s awesome, and he’s scary. Ergo, go see this movie! Nah, there’s more.

“All right, let me get this straight. A man in a Kaubki mask attacked you with an army of miniature, flying robots.” Seems legit.

So, one of the main themes of this movie is the loss of loved ones, and how we deal with it. Baymax, being programmed to be a caregiver/first aid robot, is concerned about Hiro and is actively trying to help him cope with his loss. And yes, even if that means learning Karate, because… coping mechanism? Seriously though, the relationship between Hiro and Baymax grows as the movie progresses. Baymax isn’t just a superpower our protagonist gets to use, he’s also a strong influence on Hiro’s development and well-being. He really becomes Hiro’s guardian and best friend when he needs him most, and honestly, it’s very touching at times.

Tokyo and San Francisco’s love child, Fransokyo.

As promised earlier, SAN FRANSOKYO! So, what do you have when you take Tokyo and San Francisco, and you put them in a locked room with a bottle of bourbon, dim lighting, and some massage oils? The answer is our setting. The city in which our story takes place is literally a merging of the two cities I just mentioned. And it looks ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! Man, it’s creative as hell! I know it’s technically just backdrop, but it is so damn REFRESHING to see studios push that extra mile of creativity. Let’s create something new; let’s creating something fun; let’s create something colourful. Hey, god forbid, we might actually make something¬†artistic! 11/10, great idea, great design, such enjoyable animation, much WOW! More of this in the future, plox.

Ahh, just one more.

Really? Nope, at least one more…

OK, last one… SO AWEZZUM!

This movie reminded me of The Lion King a little bit, in the sense that it has a theme that’s present throughout the movie, and it’s developed. A lot of animated films, and children’s movies especially, will focus on going through the motions of a successful flick – the super powers, the action, the cheesy lines, the necessary love interests, etc. This movie has very little of that, and is actually very, very, fresh. It has characters it wants to develop, themes it wants to look at, and it doesn’t cut corners getting there. It has its own story, it goes at its own pace, and it does it very well. There’s a quite a few good laughs in there, so long as there no jagged objects orbiting in Uranus, you should get a chuckle or ten. Fresh movie, good story, much feels, great design. I’d say this is the best animated film since¬†How to Train Your Dragon, so it’s definitely worth a watch. You should GoGo see it (props in the comments below if you get this pun, if not, I will cry in shame)!

Robo cuddles ‚̧