Lucien’s Review: Hitman: Season One

hitmanWhen I first heard about this game, I was annoyed.  Here we have a AAA title that is being sold in episodes.  What’s more, in order to play this game, you have to be online.  I was not going to stand for that.  I refused to participate.  Just like how I refuse to participate in releasing Final Fantasy VII remake in episodes.  However, when I decided on a whim to get the disc release of the game, and holy shit, I was impressed.  The wonders of what depression can do for a man.  Here we have one of the most fantastic stealth games ever made, with a few flaws.  All things considered, I am eager to see what comes next, even though I won’t be buying the episodes.

Have you ever wanted a game where you could actually feel like a secret agent?  If so, this is your game.  This game is at its best when you play it that way.  Agent 47 is back in action.  After the insane excess that was Hitman: Absolution, this is such a breath of fresh air.  However, much like that game, one of the biggest flaws of this one is the story.  To be honest, this game would have been so much better served if it nixed the story altogether.  Just have Agent 47 doing missions to kill people.  Play it like a Bond movie and have it be bad criminals doing bad things.  Hell, the game even frames one mission where it’s rich clients who are hiring the IDA to get justice that the legal system cannot give them.  They didn’t need another convoluted conspiracy involving some supranational entity who secretly controls the world.  This trope is so overused that I am genuinely sick of it.

The plot goes that Agent 47 is hired by the IDA as their newest operative.  They are a clandestine organization who works in assassinations.  Rich people, corporations, and even national governments hire them to do wet-work operations against very dangerous people, along with some people who slipped through the legal cracks but have some very violent retribution coming their way.  However, over time, 47 and his handler realize that they are being used by a dangerous individual to attack an organization who secretly controls the world.  To what end?  Wouldn’t you like to know?

As I said, this game is basically making you a secret agent.  Each mission has you infiltrating an open level so that you can take out a series of targets and occasionally take on an adjacent task.  The goal is to go through the level and be invisible.  The IDA values no collateral damage.  You are to be ghost, who kills with perfect silence, and never leaves a trace.  And the game gives you a plethora of ways to get the job done.  Each level has dozens of routes to get to the target.  You can take the direct approach, but shooting your way through a crowd looks bad.  The levels give you a good deal of freedom when it comes to dealing with individual targets.  Some of them have little side-missions associated with them.  Sometimes you can be a ghost and sneak around without ever having to change outfits.  There are tons of disguises and hidden goodies to help you get your mission done.  No one can say that this game is unfair.  The difficulty can be whatever you want it to be, but you are still being given as much opportunities to make the kill as you like.

The best thing I can say about this game is the levels.  Not only are the visuals fucking gorgeous, I mean holy shit, but the vast open spaces let you play around with how you want to get the mission done.  Since I love to make a kill in a way where I don’t even leave anyone aware that I was there, it feels so good when I am strolling out of a place and everyone still thinks that all is well in their world.  My personal favorite was in Morocco, where I got to walk out of the Swedish Consulate and have a massive protest outside, with me not having a care in the world.  I had just killed a guy from inside a TV booth, then dragged his body into a closet where he can rot in peace until some poor cleaning person gets to find him and the knocked-out security guard that I left him in there with.

Everything in the levels of these games plays a part.  If you get made, but are able to disappear, people will be talking about what happened.  If you kill one person in an area, other people will start to notice.  Take actions and you can see the results.  My favorite was in Paris, where I dropped a massive light display on a target and had the entire procession run screaming from the show.  That was cool.  A bit more flashy than I had intended, but sometimes flashy works.  How I dropped the guy’s lover was pretty epic.

The other flaw in this game, aside from the story, is how short it is.  With five missions and the training mission, there isn’t a lot of meat.  This is a game that is meant to be replayed.  To find all the ways that you can ice your target.  You can play each mission a dozen times and still be finding new ways to play.  Whether you go from disguise to disguise, slowly working your way to your intended target, or find a tall tower with a high-powered rifle to blow your target’s head off without anyone ever even seeing you, it cannot be said that this game doesn’t let you play your way.  Reminded me of that line in Leon The Professional, where he says that the best killer can get right up next to their target, while amateurs kill from a distance.

All in all, this was worth the wait.  It sucks that Square Enix has gone this route, but I can’t fault them for the final product.  This was one hell of a game, and I will impatiently wait to see what the next season brings us.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Kingdom Hearts II.8: The Final Chapter Prologue

Kingdom Hearts 2.8Alright, time to dole out some tough love.  Because this is a game that has some good parts, but some horrific and glaring flaws that REALLY need to be pointed out and analyzed.  It’s nice to have a final act to the plot as it’s understood now, however, the cruel truth is that for all the positive elements in this game there are some truly unpleasant realities about this three-pack that I think need to be accepted.  Let’s get down into this.

As with all the other culmination packs, this game is three games wrapped up into one.  Well, two games, really.  Actually, not even that.  One game, a piece of what should have been free demo DLC, and a long-ass cutscene.  That what it is.  Let’s break them down, one-by-one.

For anyone who says that Hideo Kojima has written some convoluted narratives, you don’t know what Kingdom Hearts’ story has become.  The first game is Dream Drop Distance.  In it, we have Sora and Riku taking a mastery exam to become true Keyblade masters.  They enter a dream world where they have to open seven keys that will unlock seven sleeping worlds.  In doing so, they will somehow prove that they are masters of the keyblade or some shit.  Yeah, the narrative is bunk.  This was a cash-grab game.  And as cash-grabs so…it’s pretty standard.

We have our two iconic characters reprising their roles.  We even have a ton of the extra case reprising their roles from the other games.  Really hoping that we get to have Axel’s iconic voice and tagline in Kingdom Hearts III.  Got it memorized?  Though, it seems that Hayden Penettiere didn’t want to reprise her role as Kairi.  Bummer.  I was really hoping that would work out.  Jesse Carter comes back as Roxas, which I love.  Dying to see him come back as Ventus in the last game.

Which brings us to the gameplay.  Anyone who has played Birth By Sleep will get this combat sequence pretty quick.  It’s not hard to follow.  We get these little spirit creatures that you can create who mix things up, but it really isn’t any different from Birth By Sleep.  Add to that more worlds that are so damn empty.  Why are all the worlds in these games devoid of npcs?  It’s so weird to me that in 2017, with limited level space, we have so little happening.  If that’s the case in the third game, I’m strangling a bitch.  This game widened out the areas a lot more, which just made it that much more noticeable how there is no one in these places but the main characters and villains.  Weird to watch Quasimodo at the center of the Festival of Fools and have it be nothing but empty space.

However, when the plot of this game rears its ugly head, it drags its ass so hard.  Granted, I am happy to see old chums from previous games coming together to kick ass.  Seeing Axel fighting against his old comrades is pretty sweet.  However, it’s not worth the painful exposition-dumping that this game has all over itself.  But the worst offense – the parts that shine of brilliance and go nowhere.

For example – anyone remember what I said would make for an awesome Kingdom Hearts III?  I said that there should be a world like Fantasia, where it’s nothing but music, without dialogue, and you get to just take in the visuals and gameplay with it.  They did it!  They fucking did it!  And I was in love!  Each of the areas themed after the areas in Fantasia were awesome!  For those scenes, I was enraptured.  But it’s so short!  Give me some Rite of Spring!  Give me some stuff from Fantasia 2000!  Go nuts!  Or even worse, you go to the world of Tron Legacy.  And they have one of the most fun segments in any of these games – light-cycle fights!  You alternate from the awesome energy ribbons to laser guns.  That was amazing!  More of that!  But then it’s done, and you can’t even play it like a racing game later!  What the hell?!

This game had a ton of potential, and there are a few moments that truly do realize it.  Then others that go fucking nowhere.  It’s such a shame.

Speaking of, let’s talk about Birth By Sleep 0.2, the second “game” in this collection.  Although, I am going to come right out with it – this isn’t a game.  It’s just not.  It’s a tech demo for how the third game will play.  And just on those merits, it is actually a lot of fun.  No joke, I had a hell of a time just going around and getting a wow out of the crazy awesome visuals in the game.

The plot goes that Aqua has been wandering the Realm of Darkness ever since Terra was taken over and Ventus’ heart was lost to the darkness.  Now she is trying to find her way to her friends, but time has no meaning in this place.  She’s been wandering for almost ten years, and it’s worn her down.  You can clearly see that she is tired of this endless drifting through shadow, and wants to go back home with her friends.  However, when the darkness beckons, and destiny comes into play, we get to see Aqua do random shit that goes nowhere.

As I said, it’s a tech demo.  A very pretty tech demo.  On visual and gameplay merits, it actually is a lot of fun.  If this is what to expect in the third game, then color me impressed.  However, the cruel reality is that this game clocks in at under 3 hours long, and the plot is weak as fuck.  This game should have been DLC for $5, or a free demo for the third game.

Which brings us to the final part of this game – Back Cover.  A cutscene that decides to fill us in on the events which led up to the original destruction of the world and the Keyblade War.  As well-voiced and beautiful as this digital film is, the cruel and honest truth is that it isn’t a game, and I could have watched this shit on YouTube.  Hell, most people will do that.

I am trying to be nice here.  I really wanted to like this.  However, the unfortunate truth is that this collection was INSANELY over-priced and not even remotely worth what they are asking for.  If you want, wait for the price to go down if you are truly a die-hard Kingdom Hearts fan.  For the rest of you, just skip it.  A YouTube synopsis will get you caught up the rest of the way if you have gotten this far.

Final Verdict
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

ghostbustersI finally got around to seeing it.  That’s right, because I’ve been bored and sick and laid up, I finally got around to seeing this remake that was so polarizing.  The Internet lost its shit about this movie.  The SJWs came out and made this film their hill to die on.  Sony was caught deleting comments in order to try and advertise this movie on how much people hate it.  Turns out, that was a bad idea.  See, when people hear that a movie is hated by everyone, that usually causes them to have some follow-up question.  Such as – why does everyone hate this movie?  At which point, they may do a little investigating, and discover that nothing in this movie looked good.  And let me tell you, all the people who believed that this movie was going to be some epic fail, I wish.  It’s not good, but this idea that it would be so bad that there would be a lot to make fun of is sadly too much for this movie to hope for.  I haven’t been more bored watching a “comedy” film in my entire life.

I remember when Nostalgia Critic did his review of that cinematic abortion that was Master of Disguise, he said “there’s only so many ways that you can say, ‘that’s not funny.'” And he is absolutely right.  There are only so many ways that I can say that the new Ghostbusters isn’t funny.  Ever.  I have laughed more at Wayans brothers sewage than I have at this movie.  At least with those they are so terrible that you can occasionally get a giggle out of what a piece of shit it is.  This?  This was tedious and if I hadn’t have been sick, I would have switched to something else.  The power of disease, people.  It’s amazing.  I’ve never watched any of Paul Feig’s other works, but if this is what he makes, then I am just that much more glad to have Edgar Wright making movies.  I’ve drawn it out enough.  Let’s talk about this…movie.

The plot isn’t a continuation of the Ghostbusters story, or even a soft reboot.  Nope, the original Ghostbusters are totally shit-canned.  It’s a hard reboot, only this time with chicks!  That’s right, this is basically just the original Ghostbusters, minus all the charms, wit, comedy, chemistry, and with chicks.  You can basically see where the plot is going to go from the start by keeping that in mind.  There isn’t a single deviation, aside from a queef joke or two.  Because that’s SO funny.  Ugh…

What to harangue first.  Let’s talk about the “effects” in this movie.  See, while so much of the rest of the film is boredom, the effects are pure ass.  These effects were dated in 2000!  I’ve seen Saturday morning cartoons with better CG.  Hell, Beast Wars looked better, and that was dated as fuck!  The ghosts in this movie look so bad, and it’s so clear that they were never in the room with these people.  I can only imagine what filming was like.  “Hey, look surprised at the green screen!”  Say what you want about the original movie, but at leas it looked like something was in the room with you.  For the days when practical effects were still a thing.

Now let’s get to the performances.  I remember when the trailer was coming out, and people were thinking that it was going to be kinda quirky and really cringe-y, that was giving this film too much credit.  Kristen Wiig looked bored.  Melissa McCarthy was actually trying, but was given absolutely nothing to work with.  Kate McKinnon was trying WAY too hard to be quirky.  There’s something for the restrained nerdiness of Harold Ramis in the original film.  But hey, if there is one thing that this new film can’t be accused of, it’s subtlety.  Every single thing that the film wants you to notice is so in-your-face that I half-expected a sign telling the audience “that’s the funny part! Laugh now!”  Too bad there wasn’t ever anything funny to go with that sign.  Oh, and the elephant in the room – Leslie Jones.  All the talk about how she is a stereotypical black person.  I wish!  At least that would have been funny!  Her character is just as dull and lifeless as the rest.  And not ONE of these actresses has any chemistry with the others.  None.  Their interactions was like watching a play in elementary school.

One of the performances that sticks out most to me was Chris Hemsworth.  In this movie, he is so fucking stupid.  Since his character meant to be the male equivalent of Janine from the original film, I have to ask – Paul Feig, is this how you saw Janine?  Did you see her as the stupid secretary?  If so, then I kinda say…fuck you.  Janine was a no-nonsense New Yorker, through-and-through.  She took shit from Bill Murray, but only because he was her boss.  To other people, she was blunt with a bit of a sassy streak.  I loved her character.  She was, what’s the word?  Oh, right, funny!  All of Feig’s talk of how women are so much funnier than men, and here I am appreciating a woman’s performance in a much better film.  To Hemsworth’s credit, he doesn’t appear to be taking any of what he’s doing that seriously.  As pants-on-head retarded as his character is made out to be, at least he recognizes that and isn’t going out of his way to do anything amazing with the role.  This is just a paycheck, to him.

Then there’s the villain.  This guy has all the subtlety of a Captain Planet villain.  It was groan-inducing.  We’re supposed to take this seriously?  Listening to this dude monologue just made me appreciate the villain in the original film that much more.  No painful monologues about how EVIL they are.  Just that creepy face and that creepy voice.  I swear, this movie tried my patience during those scenes.  It sure is nice that they have this villain explain how evil they are.  Because otherwise we might have had to have gradual character development.  That’s too much effort for this movie.

Next up, let’s talk about the cameos.  This shit was painful.  Bill Murray looked medicated.  Not a surprise, since the leaked emails from Sony showed that they were going to threaten him with legal action if he didn’t play ball.  Ernie Hudson finally got to be in Ghostbusters again.  Given how he has continually gone to Comi-Con in uniform for so long, it’s clearly something he wanted.  Funny that leaked info showed that he wasn’t a fan of this new film concept either, until he was offered a paycheck.  Though, he seems to be doing well.  After all, he was in the magnum opus that was God’s Not Dead 2, so I’m sure his career is just fine.  No need to worry at all.  Sigourney Weaver looked bored.  Annie Potts couldn’t have cared less.  Dan Akroyd was trying WAY too hard, but I guess he’s the one who actually wanted to be in this piece of shit.

But the biggest thing I have to stress is – this movie was so fucking boring.  Not one joke landed.  The only time I thought there was clever delivery was in the line after the realtor tells them how much it will be to rent the space of the original film.  The quickness of her response was pretty good.  Not funny, but at least it was good delivery.  Which is more than I can say for the rest of this snooze-fest.  I swear, I nearly fell asleep watching this movie.  Maybe that’s because I’ve been sick, but this film was about as interesting as watching flies fuck.  Not one joked landed.  That is two hours of my life that I will never get back.

Which is the best way to describe this movie.  After all the screaming and fighting about this film, it’s boring and will be forgotten in five years.  It’s another crappy reboot to add to the pile, all of which no one will remember.  That’s all for the good, if you ask me.  I wish I could give this movie a really low rating, but that would imply that it will be remembered by me.  After I publish this review, I’ll eventually look back through old posts and be like, “holy shit!  I actually watched that movie?  When was that?”  SJWs died on this hill, for absolutely nothing.  Were it not for the TERRIBLE special effects, this film would be a middle-of-the-road movie.  Let’s give this sucker a number and forget about it.

Final Verdict
4 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Worst Game of 2016

As I said in a previous post, it has been a slow year for gaming.  This means that there have been some mediocre games that have come out.  And while some of those mediocre games bug me, like Rise of the Tomb Raider, it isn’t nearly bad enough to make this list.  I had been going to do a review of this game, but I never did.  I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.  It was so annoying.  I wasted my money on it.  I want a fucking refund.  But nope!  Because PSN doesn’t do refunds, because Sony are a bunch of greedy mizers.  This game was bad, in every way that a game can be, aside from being visually interesting.  I’ve waited to talk about it long enough.  Let’s get down into my worst game of this year…

Bound

When I think of all the complaints that people have about Gone Home, the one that always sticks out to me the most is when people call it “pretentious.”  The reason is that I don’t think that it is.  Is it the amazing game that everyone believes it to be?  Absolutely not.  It’s a misleading game about a girl being home alone, with all the marketing making the game out to have some kind of nefarious edge.  Instead, it was just a game packed full of 90’s cheese about a lesbian dodging her duties as a soldier to be with her girlfriend.  Yeah, that’s it.  There’s really nothing more to it.

Speaking of, here we have a game that is about a pregnant woman on a beach, ripping pages out of her notebook while going into a fantasy world as a ballerina character to act out metaphors for her broken life.  That’s it.  There genuinely is nothing more to it than that.  You get to go through some admittedly-cool landscapes to solve a narrative that is WAY too far up its own ass.  Plus, the gameplay is boring, repetitive, and after a while you start to realize that all the worlds look alike.  At least with Alice: Madness Returns, while the gameplay got repetitive, you had these unique environments to explore.  That made it all worth it.  Every level in this game looks exactly the same.  It got to the point that I couldn’t tell if I was moving forward or backwards in places.

Oh, and then there is the repetitive control scheme for the repetitive hazards that you come across.  I felt like my time was being wasted so many times in that fucking game.  But, you know, I could actually have dealt with that if it weren’t for the fact that the narrative is such pretentious bullshit.  It’s trying to be all vague and metaphorical, but it doesn’t read that way.  It reads as that episode of Nostalgia Critic examining “The Cell,” where he has the director dancing in the background shouting “ask me what it means!  Ask me what it means!”  Groj, I hate this fucking game.  Wasted $20 on that.  No joke, for a game that is 3 hours long, they charged $20.  Unbelievable.

And then, the game just ends.  No build-up.  No final boss.  Hell, no fucking pay-off!  Like, it gives you some bullshit choice, that I guess you are supposed to leave open to interpretation, but it doesn’t read like, that.  Again, “ask me what it means!  Ask me what it means!”  This game is every pretentious SJW circlejerk where they get to go on and on about how deep and poetic a game is.  And this is coming from someone who LIKES art games.  My second-favorite game of this year is ABZU, a game which is literally a giant underwater level with VERY smooth controls.  I am going to eventually be doing a huge Critical Examination post about that game, because there is a very interesting lore there.  But this is just artistic bullshit.  It’s some poncy art student wanting to pretend to be all deep, while in reality just making crap that looks nice, for a bit.

Fuck this game.  Fuck this game so hard.  Since I didn’t do a review of it, I’m going to give it a Final Verdict to close us out.

Final Verdict
2 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Best Game of 2016

This has been a very slow year.  After how amazing last year was, it’s to be expected.  This year has had a lot of delays, a lot of VERY cool reveals, and wonder about what will happen.  It’s looking like next year will be pretty quiet too.  I am working on my Most Anticipated Games of 2017 list, and my top entries haven’t been confirmed for next year, but it’s a decent guess that they will be released then.  I was so hoping that my favorite game of this year would be Final Fantasy XV.  After ten years of waiting, I was so stoked for what I believed to be the best display.  However, such was not the case.  That was a very good game that was being held back by a completely lackluster story and a third act that was downright boring.  No joke, everything after going to Altissia is dull a fuck.

With that said, the game that took the top spot this year was one that I didn’t expect.  When I first saw the reveal trailer, I was so certain that this was going to be a snooze.  I mean, how could this possibly be any good?  So glad to see that I was wrong.  It shouldn’t have come to me as any shock, considering that It was made by Naughty Dog.  After the reveal of the sequel to The Last of Us, I am so hopeful for what I will see next.  My pick for the best game of 2016 is…

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Man did this game do it right.  So many truly great franchises crash and burn at the end.  Probably the most famous example is Mass Effect.  Right up to the very end, that franchise was so fucking good.  But then, in its final minutes, the whole narrative just falls apart.  Everything after the Victory Fleet goes to Earth is terrible.  You have no idea how depressing that was.  Perhaps the hardest thing for any franchise to do is end well.  I don’t deny, it is a tricky gambit.  But this game showed that it could be done, and done incredibly well.

First, this is the most beautiful game I have ever seen.  Bar none.  The visuals are a step above, which helps bring to life a story that has some fantastic depth.  Whether it be examining Nate and his inability to let the treasure hunter life go, or what it means to be married and have it be “until death do you part,” there are so many wonderful relationships that are examined, with the express purpose of bringing the franchise to a close.  Sure, it does bring up a plot convenience in Nate’s brother, but with Troy Baker doing the voice, along with an amazing introduction section, he fits right in.  Not to mention we are back with our main man Sully once-again.  Add in Elena giving Nate shit, and it’s like getting to go on one last adventure with a family that we have known for so long.

Then there is the fact that this game is so damn fun!  Whatever your play style, the game accomodates you.  Whether it be running and gunning, or doing what I do and getting your stealth on.  It is just so much fun to explore the beautiful landscapes and shooting up the place or picking the enemy off one by one.  We also get these wide open landscapes to explore, to take in the beautiful vistas and get to hear our characters play off each other.  There wasn’t a single level in the entire game where I was like, “wow, seen this before.”

Finally, the game brings the franchise to a definitive end with a perfect epilogue.  Nate’s place on that beach is fucking amazing.  Sure, it is a hipster house, but if I had the chance to live there, you bet your ass I would take it.  I loved this game, and it makes going through the entire franchise again that much better.  We get to see how it all ends, and that is why it is my favorite game of this year.

Until next time, a quote,

“Sic Parvis Magna, little brother.” – Sam Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XVAfter ten years in development, the final product that is supposed to breathe new life into the franchise has been released.  Sorry this review took so long, but I was working to make it through as much content as I possibly could, in order to give the best review possible.  To that end, my initial verdict is that this game is many things.  Some of them very good, others pants-on-head retarded.  Was it worth the wait?  Did it live up to the hype?  There is a LOT to talk about with this game, so let’s get down to it.

This game begins with one of the problems.  It just throws you out into it.  There is NO lead-in to this game.  There is no world-building.  It expects you to have seen a lot of the extended content, which is a real shame, because I get the feeling that there is a lot of really interesting narrative to sink one’s teeth into.  Noctis and his three friends are sent out by King Regis to go meet with Lunafreya, in order to get married and cement an alliance that could help them save their country.  From there, the plot gets all kinds of ridiculously convoluted.

Originally, this game was said to be a fantasy based on reality.  I took that to heart.  I really did.  Back in the days when this was Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Tetsuya Nomura wanted this to be a game about a fantasy world that you could believe exists.  Part of me is DYING to see what the game that he envisioned would have been like.  The cruel reality is that the game that I saw in those old trailers looked 1000X better than what we got here.

Let me put it to you like this – I have the EXACT same opinion of this game as I do Metal Gear Solid V.  When you are playing, it is so much fun.  The elements of exploring the vast, open world and chilling with your buddies, going on the endless side-quests, that part of the game is more fun than I have had with an RPG in a long time.  However, there is this retarded story that keeps poking at me to do what it wants.  And you know what, I wish it didn’t exist.

This game was marketed as a road trip game with Noctis and his buddies going from place to place and getting into all kinds of crazy fantasy hijinks.  And you know what, when the game is doing that, I am in love.  Everything leading up to when you leave the country to basically go on a completely-linear second half is truly special.  Why couldn’t this game have stuck with the road trip?  I can’t help but think that Nomura’s original vision eschewed a lot of the grandiose bullshit, in favor of a game that is more of a story about fighting to reclaim the prince’s kingdom?  Like, have him going around, getting allies, making some pacts with summons and gaining allies by helping people in various places?  Then, the game wraps up with Noctis taking the fight to the Empire to reclaim his home.  Sure, it isn’t the most epic story, but since when does all fantasy have to be about saving the fucking world?

I suppose I should actually talk about elements of the game, but I needed to get all that out there for when I make my last point.  First thing to know – this game is beautiful.  There’s a reason that getting to wander the countryside is so fun.  The landscapes are nothing short of spectacular.  Getting to travel around in your car (which is mostly on rails) is a wonderfully immersive experience, just getting to take everything in and listen to your friends talk.  Then you get to camp out, and each time you do, it feels like a new experience, partly due to the unique animations you get to watch as you level up.

Then there is the combat system.  Here is where a lot of people’s mileage will vary.  I loved it.  This isn’t the kind of game where you just press attack and win.  There is a ton of real strategy that you have to use if you want to do well in this game, from knowing when to block, how to react quickly to parry strikes, and moving around enemies to get the perfect strike on their blind spot, which can sometimes be very difficult to hit.  The magic is a bit different from other games.  Instead of having magic powers you unlock, you craft magic in this game from elemental gems that you can charge up magical energy from.  When you combine magic with items, you can make casting spells also have curative powers.  The mixing and matching of magic to items feels a lot like alchemy, and it is very fun.

For those who saw the summons in the game’s trailer and thought that you will be getting to play around with them, don’t get your hopes up.  You don’t.  The only time that you are able to use summons is at VERY specific points in the story.  But they are still fucking epic, don’t get me wrong.

Which brings me to the characters.  The four main characters who the game is centered around are pretty awesome.  At least for the parts that you can travel around the countryside.  They play off each other brilliantly, and it feels like four friends out on a road trip.  Noctis is a bit broody, but not to the point that it’s annoying.  Ignis is my favorite of the bunch.  He’s kind of a Mother Hen for the group, and his dry sense of humor just makes my day, every time I hear it.  Gladiolous is something of a meat-head and is brash, but you enjoy his company like the lovable big brother.  Prompto is kind of the reverse.  He is the scrawny little brother, trying his best to be a good friend and fit in.  Those four are the driving force, and for that much the game is fantastic.  You even get these little bonding sessions with each character, and all of them are fun and shed light on how likeable they are.

And then there’s the villains.  They are the driest, must under-developed video game villains I think I’ve ever seen.  Their motivations are…well, you never really know.  They are all gone because plot reasons and you never see them again.  Hell, the entire empire that you’re fighting crumbles all the sudden and that’s it, all for a REALLY forced message about saving the world can happen.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  Like, the absolute worst.  Ties back in to what I was saying about some parts of this game being awesome, and others being bad.

The reality is that this is NOT the return to form that Square Enix was hoping for.  Wrapped up inside a very bad plot is a very good game that is a ton of fun to play, up until you have to leave Lucis and the whole thing devolves into bullshit.  It’s such a shame that such a fantastic concept and some truly amazing gameplay is wasted on a story that I was rolling my eyes at the whole time.  Again, it’s just like Metal Gear Solid V in that regard.  What a shame.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Arrival

arrivalWhen the film ended, and I looked over at my darling companion, the first thing she said is that this movie was complicated.  That’s a statement that can and DOES apply to all Denis Villeneuve’s movies.  This is a guy who expects nothing less than perfect from whatever he makes, and because of that puts out some of the most underrated films that I have ever seen.  The man loves to make his movies complicated, with both themes and symbolism that you can easily miss.  When my girl and I got to talking about the movie after we got done watching, I pointed out something that I am reasonably certain I caught that she missed.  I won’t say what it is.  I hope that there are going to be some fantastic arguments with people about all the parts of the movie.  This was the most unexpected sci-fi movie about aliens landing, and it is this movie that makes me absolutely certain that the sequel to Blade Runner (one of my all-time favorite films) is in good hands.

The plot of the film follows Amy Adams’ character, as a professor of language who seems to have had a tragedy befall her life.  I can’t tell you what it is.  Trust me, it plays into the plot in a big way.  While dealing with this, a series of strange crafts come to Earth from the stars.  The military asks her to come with them and help to establish contact, as they are completely unable to communicate with the beings.  The film chronicles her efforts to speak with the creatures, and decipher the one question that has the entire world on edge – what is your purpose on Earth?  A question that is far more difficult than you’d think to ask.

I cannot begin to praise how believable the elements of this film are without an INSANE level of exposition.  This feels so genuine.  So much of that pends on Amy Adams for her performance.  This woman is a rising star in my eyes of actresses.  She is fantastic in this role, and I hope to see her in more fantastic movies in the future.  The way she explains the usage of language and shows just how much of an academic understanding she has of the medium is wonderful.  When the film wants to show that knowledge, it does so incredibly well.  Amy Adams is the glue that held this movie together, and it is was damn-near perfect glue.

But let’s not cute short the rest of the performances.  Jeremy Renner is very good in his role.  You can see the development of his character from a science who takes what Adams’ character believes not seriously at all to respecting her as he sees just how good she is and how hard she is willing to push herself.  The relationship that develops between the two is believable and by the end, you feel their connection without some cliche kiss in the rain or something like that.  Just through little expressions, you see them growing on each other.

Then there is Forest Whitaker’s character.  In fact, everything to do with the military in this movie was worlds better than what you see the military like in other films.  Sure, they are quick to assume deadly intent, but you can see just how powerless and fearful they are.  This is so much bigger than any one nation, and as the situation grows more and more tense, globally, it makes sense why they are so on edge.  Whitaker grows to depend on his two experts feels real and even how he is having to obey orders when he knows that the situation is more complicated.  I hate in movies how the military is treated like some “let’s just shoot them” group.  Sure, we in ‘Murica do tend to shoot first and ask questions never, but in a situation where we don’t know if shooting might result in global destruction, even ‘Murica would have to bend to the idea of trying to find a peaceful solution.  Granted, there are some “we need to blow them up” moments, but there is enough time of them being unsure and trying to look into other alternatives that I can believe when it gets there.

Now let’s get to the effects in this movie.  I won’t claim that they are perfect.  In fact, there is one scene in-particular where Adams’ CG hair is so bad that it is kind of funny.  But this film keeps the visual effects to a minimum.  And when it wants to shine, it really does.  Since the entire conflict in the film is about translating the aliens’ language, the scenes where we get to see both sides communicating are just awesome.  I love the visual design for the language.  I wonder how much effort went into designing it.  Since Villeneuve tends to be an insane perfectionist in his movies, I get the feeling that it was a lot.

Lastly, if you are going to see this movie, keep in mind that it’s dense.  If you’ve seen this director’s other words, you should know that going into it.  It asks some pretty hard questions, and I can’t wait to get it on blu-ray so I can rewatch it and maybe do a Critical Examination of the film and some of the stuff I saw.  My compatriot wasn’t in the right mindset for how dense some of this got, but I could tell she was impressed when I took some of it and laid it straight.  Plus, I loved getting to watch a movie with her.  We don’t get to hang out nearly enough.  But she’s a busy girl.  Adulthood, am I right?

This was a fantastic movie.  It’s not for everyone.  If you are looking for some alien thriller with all kinds of action, you are DEFINITELY going to the wrong place.  I honestly recommend that anyone who wants to see this movie avoid trailers.  They spoil things.  This director doesn’t get the respect he deserves, but hopefully movies like this get him some more mainstream acclaim.  I can’t wait to see what he does with the Blade Runner universe.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick