Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Hardy Har Har

The latest Magnum Opus from Rockstar: Red Dead Redemption 2 (The redemptioning) has just been released ... and I'm not impressed. Yes, it's large; yes, it's pretty; but from all I've seen it looks to be just one giant slog.

I had that same experience with Shadow of Mordor and, coincidentally, the initial RDR. At the point where we've played the full range of mini-games is the point where the game should end - except they do not. Nothing is gained by drawing out your game time by a factor of 2,3 ... or even 10 in RDR2's case. The reason I no longer play Assassin's Creed games is simply because I don't enjoy the grind. I enjoyed the first game ... but subsequent sequels just doubled down on bloat and collect-a-thons and a completely nonsensical story-line.

For all the reverie directed toward RDR2's polish, I can still say that the gameplay remains steadfastly last-gen. Let me say that again: the fundamental game remains exactly the same. There are exactly zero advancements to this new sequel and exactly zero challenge to the dumb-as-something-really-quite-dumb adversaries. The way Rockstar ramps up the difficulty is simply to throw a bunch more goons in your direction. You don't even need to take cover as you have insta-heal items and insta-fill dead-eye meter potions. For those of you unfamiliar, Dead-eye is a cheat-mode built into the game. When initiated it puts everything in slow-motion while you paint multiple targets with red crosses before you mow them down with zero challenge.

But the fans of this series would say that 'It's about the story' and, apparently, this may be its only saving grace. In the classic world of sequels this one unsurprisingly turns out to be a prequel, with the main story arc focussing on the origin for one of the core characters from the first RDR. But that isn't a good enough reason to play through. The problem lies in the need to have an open world but also have a tightly-governed story. I think Shadow of Mordor did a far better job of building an organic story with its Nemesis system which chronicled the rise-and-fall of your adversaries as you either killed their leaders or were killed in the process. The problem with RDR2 is that for its story missions there is only one way it can play out. You will end in a 'try again' screen if you deviate even slightly from what the story scripted. It reminds me of those canned FMV games where there is only one path through it. Yes, you may have a little more freedom now but it does still boil down to the same thing.

And that's, really, the problem I have with Rockstar games. Here are the fundamentals of what they prioritise (e.g. GTA 4/5, RDR1/2):
  • Realistic reproduction of world locales
  • Realistic depiction of characters
  • Strongly curated story path
  • Realistic side missions
  • Realistic/accurate music
  • Realistic voice acting 
  • Realistic excuses for collecting various items (collect-a-thons)
  • Overly-long game time
  • Overly-repetitive missions
  • Overly-serious tone
  • Bringing the movie feel to a game
Note that fun is not on that list. They are more focussed on realism and film-making (yes, really) than actually providing a good experience. In my opinion, the last fun game was Grand Theft Auto Vice City which played up the 80's era and had a bunch of fun lampooning the classic movies of that time. There was still a story (with some great actors) but it was overshadowed first-and-foremost by an overall sense of fun. Somewhere along the line the game producers lost sight of why we play games in the first place. At this point Rockstar should just rip the band-aid off and start creating movies because they sure as heck aren't creating games anymore.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

It's getting harder to like you

With the increasing demand to always be improving comes additional expense. And, naturally, with more expense comes additional risk. In what, may you ask? Well, this could correlate with pretty much everything - but, in this case, I'm talking about the video games industry.  Paradoxically, it is the game industry's fear of risk which may well end up causing a complete collapse in their franchise and customer base. It seems like every time I look at an established franchise they are adding new features which were not devised to benefit the player but pork barrel the company's earnings. For example:

It is not enough that we purchase the game; they want us to be continually striving toward social (and anti-social) interactions with your fellow gamer. Needless to say, this service also includes plenty of micro-transactions to bolster and tailor your player with virtual possessions and show up your ability to purchase more than your next compatriot. Naturally, they will state that this is to cover the costs of running the servers - but we all know their true agenda. GTA Online is a major cash cow for what was originally built as a stand-alone single player game. One would presume that the next Red Dead Redemption will probably require an online connection just to play the single-player game.

With the influx of gambling-based loot boxes, purchase-only avatars and vanity weaponry skins, I believe we are already at end-of-days. It is so endemic that I think there may be a revolt back to the simple of days of buy game, play game - or the retro game console as I call it. Maybe the nostalgia is a little rife but there's something to be said about not being verbally abused for using default skins while playing a compulsory team-based game of the latest COD when all you want to do is just play a game. And the best part about these retro consoles is that they don't require an internet connection just to play the game.

I have been considering building a new gaming PC so I can play multiplayer games without requiring a multiplayer tax but I'm unsure if I'll have more frustration. I originally purchased a game console so I wouldn't have to worry about poorly-optimised, buggy or incomplete games - little did I know that the game industry would find a way to break this misconception, although, I dunno ... maybe consoles still have an edge ...

Thursday, September 13, 2018

That unsettling feeling

Ah, Phillip Phillips. Your name sounds like it was created from the result of peyote and inbreeding. It doesn't help that you also create probably the least inspired and irritating music. Case in point: Gone Gone Gone - a poor man's rip-off of a poor man's English folk band. It clearly shows that your mental faculties were stressed beyond their limits with lyrics which give way to preschool-level rhyming couplets, incessantly repeated lines and a simple theme about love, dedication and loss. 

Actually, upon reviewing your lyrics, I cannot find even one line which rings true with my initial assessment. Delving deeper, the theme of the song just comes across as a disturbing, obsessive, stalkerish, maniacal and quite clearly homicidal tone toward an unrequited love interest. The song's progression also doesn't seem to follow a natural flow with opening lines (within the initial stanza) of:

'I'll be at your door tonight' ... or ... 'I'll shut down the city lights'

This is apparently to prove his dedication to her, or his willingness to perform jihadist and SWAT tactics; so far, so unhinged.

'I'll lie, cheat, I'll beg and bribe to make you well'

Maybe this implies that she is on her death bed or very sick. But, still, it doesn't bode well for his moral compass. 

'When you fall like a statue. I'm gon' be there to catch you. Put you on your feet, you on your feet'

The psychiatrist in me clearly sees his objectification of her; something to be maintained and kept under lock-and-key rather than seen as an individual in her own right. I can see similar correlations with how Buffalo Bill conversed with his victims with his usage of 'it' rather than 'you/her/she'.

'You would never sleep alone'

Which would be perfectly fine - as long as you are in a relationship with her. But lines like 'I'll share in your suffering to make you well, to make you well. Give me reasons to believe, that you would do the same for me.' clearly show that this is a one-way street and falls into the same category as Every breath you take and that he also gets pleasure from sado-masochistic stimulation.

'I love you long after you're gone'

Now that just sounds wrong. It's not if you're gone but after you're gone ... as if it's a foregone conclusion that either she escapes his clutches or dies at a time of his choosing. And then we have this doozy:

'Like a drum baby don't stop beating'

Apparently I need to explain to Mr Phillip Phillips that a drum does in fact stop beating as soon as you stop hitting it - or maybe that was his intention. Dictating when to stop drumming also implies that he controls when she dies. And then we have the natural Romeo and Juliet conclusion where he joins her in his pact to end his life upon her death with:

'Like a drum my heart never stops beating for you'

So, yes. We have naturally come to the conclusion that Mr Phillip Phillips has created an upbeat and motivational track about terrorism, stalking, obsession, murder and suicide. Your parents, Phillip Phillips Sr and Phillipa Phillips, must be so proud.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Stranger things have happened ...

Ah Stranger Things; with your retro stylings, throbbing synth and coming-of-age antics. You promised us Stand By Me but delivered Punky Brewster instead. I guess the first issue comes from the rose-coloured antics of simply bombarding a bunch of 80's schtick at the viewer. Yes, the 80's had a distinct style and everyone looks back at that time with a fondness - but I lived it. In reality the 80's wasn't actually that cool, but is used as a short-hand means of transporting you back to your youth.

Ah the memories ...

Now, having said that, the first series had a pretty solid build-up and a relatively compelling 'money shot' ending and I would have been happy with it finishing right there. Unfortunately, due to popular demand, there had to be a second season - but I'll hold off on reviewing that one before I list the pro's and con's of the first:

Solid 80's presentation is solid - I can't deny they hit all the tropes which make 80's movies interesting - they even threw in a little X-files which isn't exactly 80's but still fits in well with this Graveyard Smash (see what I did there?). Just because it directly references classic films and musical themes does not a solid film (or series) make.
Solid 80's music is solid - everyone loves throbbing rhythmic 80's synth and thankfully the drum synths were notably absent in this facsimile, and so, the 80's nostalgia veil remains intact. Because everyone knows those hard 80's drum loops are jarring.
Solid 80's media references are solid - I can see the trappings of ET, Stand By Me, IT, Close Encounters of the Third Kind but to name a few. They even stole direct shots from a lot of Spielberg's classic shots to bolster their lack of imagination (more to come on that).

Dude, where's my brain? Just because you can reference great films doesn't mean you are great by proxy. You basically monster-mashed your way to something which on paper looks okay but fails to separate itself from anything but a trip down nostalgia lane. You will probably note that every review of this series begins with 'If you loved this <80's reference> and this <80's reference> then you will love watching this <poor facsimile>.'
Dude, where's my heroine? It's nice that old Winona still gets work, what with her kleptomania and generally hopped-up nature but I'm not sure it was actually acting. Basically she plays a washed up crazy woman who acts compulsively and trashes her house for reasons. So, really, not too far-removed from reality.
Dude, where's the rohypnol? Maybe it's just me but the whole romance angle between chicky and lead actor seems kind of one-sided. Basically dudey takes advantage of a drugged-out girl and force-kisses her. It comes across all parts rapey - and I'm pretty sure even chicky realised she could do a whole lot better than him. And she can, oh yes.

I'm sure your personality is just great ...

All in all, despite pandering to nostalgia, the show ends admirably and the mysteries are tied up satisfactorily.


About 80% of this season is filler and begins to feel like something JJ Abrams would have created - except even he would have reined it in. It feels like one giant What do we do now? To further bolster this lack of direction, we are introduced to a ginger ass-kicking chick who don't need no boys and an icky Billy Ray with a penchant for bad taste in mullets and receding hairlines. This meandering show just paces out a page-worth of progress over the series and ends with the moral that men are useless and that the only way to do anything is if you're a goth girl ... or a ginger girl ... or a deranged drug-addled klepto who decides to deface her home again. Yes, the guys do things but it's only through the direction of a strong woman's guidance that anything is actually accomplished ... because reasons

I get tired of the male bashing agenda of Hollywood (or ruling bodies) but who am I to deny our ongoing movement toward a world that decides to oppress all those who happen to be stupid, white or male. You will note that almost every franchise is realigning with women - either to be trendy or because they were told. Terminator, Ghost Busters, Ocean's are now all woman-only affairs. And you will also note that if you happen to be female and dark-skinned and (hopefully) ginger then you have hit the jackpot, since the trend is to have ginger/African-origined strong female leads to show men how to truly be heroic. I cannot help feeling like it's pandering rather than justified but, having said that, that doesn't mean I do not condone strong female leads - just that it comes across a little disingenuous if every show is following this trend. I think the only reason that Marvel movies don't have more female leads is because the stories were created back when Stan Lee was allowed to be chauvinist and sexist. But, hey, at least they have Domino - and she was definitely the best part about Deadpool 2.

Now, where was I? And so, to conclude, Season 2 was a waste of time for everyone involved (including me) and that girrllll powerrr remains ever-so trendy but smacks of condescension and pandering.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Thought police on patrol

I now turn my focus towards political correctness ... or, as I like to call it, bloody stupid people expressing their discontent for anything they deem sensitive toward some under-represented minority group.

Now, I'm sure I've riled some person with my use of bloody (you offended those with anemia or those presently suffering from stab wounds), stupid (you offended me or those of us unable to think for themselves) and people (you offended those who choose not to identify as a people even though they are presently bloodied and stupid) - but that is my point. You should not have to second-guess every word you utter (or write) just so you don't put someone's sensitivities ever-so-slightly askew. That is not to say that you should be given carte blanche and allow every hate-speech monger their moment in the sun; just that you could take a moment not to get riled up if I say 'all hippopotamuses are ugly.' In the end it's just one opinion amongst a sea of seven billion. My perspective does not represent the collective perspective but it is still valuable as it is my own which was formed within the dwellings of my mind - now back to the task at hand:

Political Correctness is a doctrine enforced by a minority for the sake of their own flagellation. We are steadily moving towards an Orwellian state which may not be ruled by force but by being publicly vilified for not towing the line of a steadily double-speak language. I've already noticed untruths being thrown into conversation and a far-too-long bow being drawn on irrelevant things (personally I still think Capcom should posthumously be held accountable, those philistines). It is becoming quite ridiculous. In a not-so-distant future our current speak would be translated into something like this:

'All-entities-are-perfect-in-their-own-way (unless said entity wishes to conform to no known measure, in which case, simply referred to as a non-deceased entity)'

- oh wait - that would mean that deceased entities are now ignored. Let's try that again ... 

'Entities/non-entities-deemed-undiscriminated / ungendered / pertinent / impertinent / undetermined / unable-to-be (but perfectly capable of being)-categorised access way'

or Manhole. 

'Possible cancer causing (not that cancer is something which should be deemed bad for those who presently have it), pregnancy (although being able to create a child within your womb is an amazing thing, this does not mean that those who do not have wombs nor are associated with the female gender should be deemed inferior to those who are)-aborting (we do not condone in any way whether to or not to abort your unborn person-who-is-perfect-in-all-ways-but-not-to-the-point-of-alienating-any-other-person-who-is-deemed-inferior-due-to-having-something-other-than-that-which-said-original-person-has nor do we believe we have the right to provide a perspective on whether it is truly correct - or incorrect - (or possibly some limbo state) as to whether we deem the whole process of a woman's right to choose whether they retain their unborn individual should be that of the ...

I'm tired. 

I was describing the warning label on a packet of cigarettes. But, for the record, not all hippopotamuses are ugly:

Dare I say it, they are cute.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What's the matter, Hand Solo?

So, "Solo : A Star Wars Story" has tanked - and I could not be happier. I am at a point in my life where I have vowed never to watch another Star Wars film ever again - and they seem to be making it quite easy to keep that resolve, what with the derisive Last Jedi, paint-drying Rogue One and "that's not Han Solo" Solo film. But, really, it wasn't that surprising - and here's why:

George Lucas would be happy

The original two directors were fired because the first cut of the movie was awful. They then assigned the one-foot-in-the-grave antics of Ritchie Cunningham to pick up the pieces.

We have a feminista robot named L3-37

First of all, what's with the cringe-worthy name? For those of you who don't speak nerd, it means elite. The fact that we get a pointlessly emotional diatribe from a robot talking about 'womens' rights' is all parts ridiculous; and apparently this character is on its way to reach the upper-echelons of Jar-Jar Binks territory.

Woody Harrelson cashes a checque

I love Woody as an actor but even I can see the glazed stare - even in the trailers - and that he's just doin' it for the benjamins. At least he'll be well stocked in 'green' if you know what I mean ...

Shall I compare thee to a - line?

Despite an exhaustive selection process to get the perfect guy for the job, they neglected to notice he couldn't actually act. I'll repeat: 'Han Solo' needed acting lessons.You would think that being able to act would be the first requirement for, you know, being an actor.

Han Solo is not Han Solo

If it's not Harrison Ford playing this character (when he was of an age where he could still play this character) I don't want to know. I think even Hansel would have a better chance of playing a roguish smuggler. Instead we got this guy:

You would think that if you are looking for a ruggedly handsome guy to attempt to fill Harrison's shoes, you'd get a, you know, ruggedly handsome guy to play the role.

In conclusion ...

This is probably the best thing that could have happened for the Star Wars franchise. When the fans are disenfranchised with the latest actual sequel of Star Wars, I am actually predicting ever-diminishing returns in the world of Star Wars. At least you would hope that Disney will have hopefully learned to not lean as heavily on nostalgia and actually spend more than a rudimentary level of attention on story, characters, actors and directors for once in their life.

Monday, April 30, 2018

More like god of bore

So, the new God of War is out ... and I am pretty disappointed. In the ever-diminishing world of fantasy and deity genocide, old Kratos has now been afflicted with an annoying boy to torment his misadventures - and he has lost his blades of chaos. Let me say that again: HE HAS LOST HIS BLADES OF CHAOS (actually, they come back later ... but you have an axe for most of the game).

Where once we had the beauty of his balletic, timing-based aggressions:

We now get the stilted throw/power-up axe, wait, dodge, throw/power-up axe 

... and we have boy

This annoying little leech sees fit to attach itself every time you climb up anything. What's the matter? Does boy not know how to climb on his own? And worst of all, this boy is your son and he is used as a counter-point to Kratos' violence with words of reason and understanding. To add to this annoyance, this runt has somehow developed smarts and the ability to read rune symbols - so we have an annoying millennial showing up this lumbering neanderthal's shortcomings. In the first game Kratos killed his family - I'm not really sure why he should stop now. Oh, and by the way, Kratos has now moved onto Norse Gods. I guess this was needed considering he had already murdered the Greek ones.

Now, I am probably the first to acknowledge that the God of War series has become stale. The third was feeling very long-in-the-tooth and was a chore to get through but that doesn't excuse throwing out the baby with the bath water. Fans of the series will be insulted by this Last of Us vs Thor amalgam. Heck, he even grew a beard (although, interestingly, even in the first one they were toying with him having a full beard). Maybe I'm getting into the nostalgic part of my life but it feels like it's only God of War by name. It's a brand new game repackaged with the God of War branding. I guess if you love having a small boy writhing sensuously over your frame, answering questions about why you kill all those around you and like playing out your lumber-jack fantasies, then this is the game for you. For myself, I don't believe I'll be playing this and, based upon what I have seen on twitch, my opinion will not be changing any time soon.