Destiny 2 Beta: Eyes up again Guardian, it’s time to checkout this sliver of light

The first day has passed on the Destiny 2 beta, and everyone is rushing out to give their first impressions. At the time of writing this, the beta has been out for twenty-three hours, and while I imagine someone has been playing non-stop since the launch on PS4, the first platform to get Destiny 2, Xbox fans are surely excited for their guardians to step into the now nearly light-less beta and explore the small but interesting offer that Bungie and Activision have given us. Sorry PC gamers, you have to wait until August but rest well and assured in your delay as let’s be honest, your game should look better than us console peasants.

Back to the task at hand though, and that is my impressions of the Destiny Beta so far. In the shortest answer, I am having a pretty good time. There are issues for sure, but I think there are a bunch of good-to-great segments and improvements they have shown to leave me with a pretty positive impression of what the full game could look like.  Let’s grab a few new guns and dive in.

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Right out of the gate, let’s take a moment to appreciate the load screen music. Destiny has always had some pretty great orchestral music mixed with the choir as part of its background tracks and Michael Salvatori, the game’s composer,  really crush’s this opening theme. It instantly get’s you back into the Destiny frame of mind, taking notes from the original game, yet blends them into something, in my opinion, more powerful and passionate. If this opening theme is the bar in which we have to set the rest of the game’s music from, then I think we are in for an ear full of greatness.

Continuing on the audio train, let’s talk about the general sound of the game, from the hoarse bark of the pulse rifle, the thunderous clap of the hand cannons and the oddly heavy footsteps of your guardian as you rush your way to the ‘B’ flag or to the next jumping portal in the strike. First and foremost, we have to talk about the combat audio. Each weapon has a pretty damn satisfying growl, snap or bark associated with it and it help’s you not only pin down what class is shooting you from behind, because your teammate cannot seem to put up their damn blast wall while capturing the point, but also gives you a feel for where their attack from, whether it’s you being shot, or your squad mates firing from around the corner to let you know the fight is on its way to you.

The audio design, for these few pieces of content we are able to play, is a step above Destiny 1, as it’s much clearer to hear fire fight’s from farther away and the grenades clink’s & clanks as they bounce off the wall. These audio cues really play in as a secondary radar to players who are tuned in and listening, as the clarity in which you hear the sound of lightning, fire, and iron usually indicates how close you are to getting beaten about the head and neck by a roaming super.

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Sweeps, our beloved sweeper bot

Not all of the audio is on point yet though as I found that footsteps varied greatly in their quality, not only from a “wow that’s loud in my ears when I walk” standpoint but also how it doesn’t seem to follow the same rules as weapons and grenades all the time. While it does seem like different surfaces produce different levels of ‘clack’, there doesn’t seem to be the same level consistency here which can really mess with you, especially when in some of the more cramped and multi angle of attack points, such as the B flag on control or the indoor’s bomb plant point in countdown. Nothing says “stop throwing your boots voice” like being shot from the side when your radar say’s they are in front of you, but the audio makes it sound like they are behind you. The other audio issue I have is actually enemy weapon fire. I think part of the issue is that the queue’s we came to know and understand in Destiny 1 are not quite the same/completely new so that learning curve is there obviously, however, there are still times where I am being shot/damaged and no whine of a flayer rifle or chunky metal pang is there to notify me that someone is, in fact, trying to give me a third eye in the center of my forehead.

A quick note on the voice work. While we don’t get a ton of dialogue throughout each of the activities,  what we do get is good, as the main cast from the original game makes its return and continues to deliver a pretty strong performance. If I had to gripe, I would say Ikora’s voice actor, Gina Torres, get’s a weak line to “get angry” about and it feels slightly out of place compared to the rest of her, and the others dialogue. While I am no vocal coach, nor a voice actor it seemed like there could have been a bit more power or slight distortion to her voice as she powered up a nova bomb and leaped onto a Cabal aircraft. Ghaul’s voice was particularly good in its deep, omnipotent feeling bass, almost like time slows as his presence and voice become the single focal point of the scene. Out of every voice heard, I have issues with two of them. These are not issues as in “wow these are terrible” but more along the lines of “I don’t have the context for why they are there, and thus they sound really out of place”. Firstly is Failsafe another AI, I presume, who seems to be part of the general overwatch for missions. Much like characters and/or your ghost make comments as you progress through a story mission or strike this new character chimes in with a modicum of frequency, usually to harass/make fun of your ghost throughout the Strike; Inverted Spire. What throws me off about this assumedly female character is that the play between her and the ghost has no context yet, so seems very random and often very crude. The other voice is in control and is only heard if you capture all three points at the same time. It’s an audio clue that seems so out of place both in tone and message for this mode, as Lord Shaxx has always been our announcer/encourager of Guardian murder. This may be a place holder voice, or again like Failsafe, it could just be we don’t have the context for why it’s there and as such, think it’s odd.

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If you have not played Destiny 1, either in a very long time or at all, Destiny 2 may look like it’s the same game with some new guns and I don’t think anyone could blame you. Before actually getting hands on time with it, I also thought the game looked pretty much like the original, but once you sit down and start playing the game you start to notice the, mostly, positive changes and upgrades they have made all across the design and gameplay fronts of this game.

Right away I noticed the colour palette and while I, again, understand why some may not see it, I found the world to be a lot lusher and full of deep colour versus Destiny 1’s seemingly dry palette. There we get a very bright, sharp and cold game, where in the sequel we get a much warmer and vibrant set of colours to work with. Cloth and other fabric’s look like they have substance to them, while plate armour retains that bulk look and feel, but doesn’t feel as lifeless as many of the original games heavy gear did. Level design also feels the impact of colour saturation and emulates the same lush look and feel that cloth armour portrays. This gives your story mission the brooding darkness that inky shadows and dancing fire of a wrecked room that is appropriate, while it keeps the control map looking bright and well-worn as light grey stone absorbs all the light around it, with shaded alcoves and underground tunnels stay properly dark and subtle wet appearance.

Colour also plays a big part in your enemies, whether it’s the harpy laser beam, soldier’s blasting boulder size arc shotgun rounds from their weapons or the Cabal leaders blasting off with Inferno coloured jetpack’s and a shimmering fire shield to match, colour plays very well with your PvE experience. The Inverted Spire, the strike playable in the beta, uses both colours, the darkness of caverns, the shadow’s created by flickering flames, and ambient lighting from lights or energy sources to give you a real sense of size and depth as you traverse your way through the level. Even outside, pock-marked earth and craters break up the landscape in multi hued browns and greys, then sprinkled with a few tiny bits of fire like one of the developers was that salt the steak guy and wanted to add a bit more flavour to the level. The boss of the strike encapsulates this with the rotation of elements as you whittle down his health by chunks, not only changing tactic’s as part of its three-tiered battle but also its aesthetic, as you take on harpies and a giant void damage beast first, only to have the floor disintegrate beneath you to fall into a nearly obsidian colour room and be besieged by the oddest game of the floor is lava since that stupid meme first started. Finally, after one more fall, you are bathed in the light, but not the kind you want as it’s merely Vex milk and Lord Bag-o-bolts is throwing lightning at you like its name was Storm and this was a try out for the Xmen 2018 movie.

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When it comes to the design of the characters themselves, I find them to be actually quite pleasing to look at. I am not sure if it’s a trick of the eye or my mind playing tricks on me, but I feel like all of the Guardians are slightly taller, giving them a lankier look, then adding in their respective armour set’s to fill out the ‘bulk’ of the character. Titan’s, pictured above, feel like they take up more room sideways than in the previous title, while Warlocks and Hunter’s retain their slim/wiry nature, but have a bit more diversity in their silhouettes are different both in body type and movement. While obviously, a giant cloak will give the hunter a unique form, it just feels like the armour for each class has been tweaked slightly more to give it that extra oomph.

One thing I have noticed is that weapons look great in your hands. There are lot’s of little tweaks to weapons we already know, like the Shotgun, Fusion Rifle and Scout Rifle to make them look neat, and the new weapons like sub machine guns and grenade launcher have a similarly sleek design, but there is an oddity when looking at someone else holding a weapon. That oddity is that it doesn’t seem to stand out as much as I thought it would. This could be because of how most weapons are held close to the body, or because Bungie wanted to not have “rifle peak” be an issue they had to worry about, who can say. All I know is that you know what weapon is shooting you when it starts firing, unless it’s a hand cannon, as that seems to be the only weapon that stands out, in an almost cartoonish nature. Manufacturers are back, and we get to see various weapons from the no name smiths of the vanguard and crucible, as well as Omolong, Hakke, Suros and a newcomer to the gunsmith world: Veist. The Veist weapons look like cousin’s to the weapon’s from the last expansion, Rise of Iron, in Destiny vanilla, as they are not that appealing to look at and feel almost like a kitbashed version of the weapon group it is a part of. The weapons themselves are perfectly fine, minus the side arm which is a dumpster fire in the palm of your hand, they offer some unique multi purpose perks that other weapons do not, at least as far as I have found so far. As with the original, Destiny 2’s weapons have multiple perks that allow you to tweak the weapons and offer the same infuse function as before, along with a skin mod slot, for that all pink weapon set. The real question will be how the elemental mod’s for secondary weapons work if you lose them on replacement and if other mods can be put in, so you have two kinetic weapons but one has more perks because of the mod.

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While it is always fun to ‘gun’, the armour you don as part of the ‘run’ portion of that phrase is a unique bag. Currently, we only have a couple sets of armour to base opinion off of, and each class set’s focus on resilience, mobility, and recovery. Using a Titan as an example, we see that the main focus of the base set is resilience, which seems pretty reasonable. Going into the details of the armour you see that, much like weapons each armour piece has an infuse, shader mod and empty mod slot. At this time we don’t have any idea what type of mods can be used in armour, but I hope some of the mods include things like cooldown reduction for grenades, melee, and power, super or otherwise. The other aspect of armour is their perk set, again mirroring what Destiny 1 did in spirit, but altering in execution. No longer is Strength, Intellect, and Discipline there to help you manipulate your cooldowns and turn you into a Voidwalking dispenser of death or a Striker Titan with more charged strikes than Thor the god of Thunder but more on that in a moment. The perk tree for each piece of armour has, currently, two options which help you shape the basics of your character. Staying on the Titan, your basic armour starts you off with a very high resistance, but extremely low mobility and low-moderate recovery. If you go into the details of your armour you can change its perk from regeneration to mobility, much like the expanded sub-class tree from Destiny 1. I am not sure if the same values, such as max armour, in Destiny 2 function the same as the previous game, I am not a numbers guy and don’t fully grasp how to properly test and articulate those types of results, however I am sure we will see a numbers video by someone like Skillup or Datto sooner rather than later.

All this talk of weapons and armour brings up another interesting, and potentially frustrating aspect of the beta and possibly the full game upon release: the subclass tree. In the original Destiny, there were a ton of options for each subclass, and for the most part, people stuck to one or two builds. Whether that was a PvP and PvE build, or a strike builds versus a raid build, the idea of ‘wow look at all the options I have’ it gives people choice or at least the illusion of choice. In Destiny 2, there is really no choice. You still have your three jump options, which by the way if you’re an Arcstrider Hunter, prepare to get mad as you have no blink, and you still have the three grenade options to choose from. However now your skill tree is restricted, so far in the beta, it could be expanded more in the full version, to two different sets of four abilities. Even within this restriction, players cannot change their skills, though again this may change later on in the beta.  This has been a particular sticking point in some people’s craw due to the seemingly dumbed down nature it presents to the player. It’s not often that you want fewer choices, especially in a game that is trying to re-focus its efforts on making the game more gun/skill focused but also diverse for its base. I am in this camp myself, as I was hoping for a more diverse and unique play style to be added via new and fun talents instead of being restricted like we seem to be. I can, however, understand the other side of this point as not only does it A) make it easier for the devs to work/balance around for both low and high levels of play,  and B) give them a chance to make the talents they are keeping in more flavourable and allow for some new fun ways to combo powers with teammates.

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This is a brief snippet of a match I played, and I include it for two reasons. The first is I am vain, and I want to show off something I did, and the second, and more important of the two reasons is to talk about some of the game play elements which is where, in my opinion, the beta starts to have its biggest issues. Fear not, the sky is not falling, as the experience has been mostly enjoyable however Bungie still has issues in this verticle slice of a new game that its previous game had for three years. Let me elaborate;

Like mentioned in the section about sound and audio, most of the time things are spot on. The throaty hoarse nature of the Nightshade pulse rifle fit’s right in with the Phosphorus MG4 sub machine gun as you and a teammate blow some smelly hunter out of existence or the whoosh of eternal flame as the Dawnblade ignites and begins to hunt. The issue, however, comes into play much like every other FPS, Destiny 1 included; “I was around the F*!#ing corner, how did I get shot” or the ever popular “How did I get melee killed, no one was on the radar”. I am sure there are other’s that people find uniquely annoying but these are my personal two hells when playing any FPS, and especially within Bungie’s ten-year trilogy in the making. This problem has persisted in the first Destiny since launch and was one of the major issues I was hoping to have resolved, or at least be so rare in happening, that when it did, I could brush it off as just that, a random rare occurrence.

In the last thirty games I played, I was killed through walls or around corners at least once in every game. Initially, I felt that it had not improved over the first game at all, but after some quick camera work and replay reviews I saw that the majority of my close deaths were “legit”, and I quote that because clearly it’s still bullshit that I died and they didn’t, queue winky face. Another issue I came across and heard a few other, more prolific in the Destiny scene, say was that the auto aim assist seems to be slightly off. I found that SMG’s and Auto rifles had a slightly off lock on as you track a runner and especially noticeable in both hand cannons and slow firing scout rifles. Another minor gripe I have is the ‘double ko’ punch still happens fairly frequently, and there are more times than I care to count of Lining up a charged melee attack, from any class to the back of someone’s head, only to have them turn around and kill me then die from my attack. These type’s of things are not game breaking, but they are frustrating to happen in PvP, especially the new competitive mode where there are only a select amount of revives in the mix, a needless death really start’s too sour your perception. While it doesn’t bother me too much personally, I know competitive players have raised the issue “where has the 1v1 gone”. This is extremely prevalent in Countdown, but I shoot and get shot in duo/triple team’s on a regular basis in Control as well. The lower time to kill, lack of one-shot grenades and shotgun/sniper moved to power weapon slot have pushed the PvP modes into a much stronger partner or 4 man stack queue, as you want people who you can coordinate with on things like grenade spam, super usage, and the aforementioned team shooting.

Lastly, I think there needs to be a long look at the recharge rates for your melee, grenade, class ability and super. While I can understand that in PvP the focus is on gun play skill over grenade/super spam, and the low build/charge rate may seem like it makes these skills more important, it also makes them feel less useful throughout the match, especially grenades and supers. If you miss a grenade you are punished with an extremely long recharge time, even if you are a voidwalker Warlock, the only class currently that has abilities to alter their recharge timers. Super also frequently seems to be frantic in its usage as they only get charged up by the last 90-30 seconds of a match, with some never getting them at all. Back to grenades for a second, with such a long recharge rate, one would assume that grenades are powerful, yet no grenade I have found one shot’s someone from one hundred to zero, and stables like the Lightning grenade, axion bolt and all forms of sticky grenades only severely would their opponents. These two things seperately are not an issue in my mind but when you could them together it makes the ability feel very underwhelming.

That said, these problems are something that does not break the game, and not one that I see causing any real negativity about the game as a whole, they just remain as problems to fix, and hopefully, they make it to the devs plate sooner rather than later. The game looks to have a lot of promise and I am looking forward to sinking time into this game with friends, telling them how bad they are while being killed by an environmental trap and experience a, hopefully, great story with some engaging set pieces. Until the full game comes out, however, I will just go back to throwing a shield at people from across the map, looking for that long-range kill.

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Ghost in the Shell Review: The connection to this beautiful network is a bit slow

If I knew how to write the sound of a dial-up modem, I would make a slow connection joke here, but alas I don’t think it would translate as well in text as it does in an audio format. Oddly enough, this issue of translation may be one of the key factor’s that Ghost in the Shell falls short of its animated companion, however before that let’s do a quick dive into the elephant in the room that has been surrounding this movie from the start, just so we can get it out-of-the-way.

Whitewashing; To some, the epitome of evil, to others an annoying conversation they see online every time they open Twitter or Facebook. When it was announced the Scarlett Johansson was going to be playing Major Motoko Kusanagi, there was significant vocal backlash over a white actor playing what many considered to be a Japanese character. Couple this with other movies being called out, such as Dr. Strange for the Ancient one, and the ‘white guys in sand’ movie Gods of Egypt, it’s clear to see that there are some who take umbrage with not casting actors and actresses of their respective nationality in these roles. While I personally agree with these concerns, I cannot overlook the fact that the Major is a cyborg character, and cyborgs CAN be a mismatch of parts, or in this case ethnicity. The director of the original GitS, Mamoru Oshii, made a similar case as well saying “What issue could there possibly be with casting her? The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.” Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply.” So while I personally would have liked to see an Japanese actress play the character, I believe this is one of the cases where a dialogue about the ethnicity of the character can be had.

GHOST IN THE SHELL

With that out-of-the-way, let’s charge headlong into the movie itself. Right out of the gate, you are hit with a breathtaking view of the city it’s set in, which for the life of me I cannot remember what they called it. As we sail over the city, the cyberpunk aesthetics really show how foreign this world is and lays some of the ground work for the visual buffet we receive in this roughly two-hour movie. It also shows us the attention to detail that the film makers took when paying homage to its animated, and by proxy manga source material.

It is this homage however which might be the movie’s actual undoing. There is no doubt that showing love to your source material is a smart move, especially when it comes to properties from anime, video games and comic books, yet when your focus is primarily on showcasing said love over creating a true adaptation, you start to muddle your over all message and story. I think this is the trap that GitS fell into, as for each scene lifted directly from the animated movie, it misses the deeper meaning and context that these scenes are trying to address.

For example Chin Han’s Togusa is straight up human, no augments what so ever, yet his humanity in this movie is passed over so very quickly, essentially a joke to be played off of another character, Lasarus Ratuere’s Ishikawa, who is an enhancement junkie as he got a new modification so he could drink more. In the anime these theme’s are much more of a focal point to these characters, and give each team member a more flushed out personality. I will say however out of all of the characters in this movie, Batou, played by Pilou Asbæk, is handled with the most respect in comparison to their animated counterpart.

Putting focus on the Major for a moment, I want to talk about her as our vehicle or point of view throughout the movie.  Her development, not only from a character within the movie, but as an analog to themes such as what individualism is in such an over saturated world of technology is, for the most part, done fairly well. She takes many of the traits from the anime and blends them into a decently believable character. However much like the lack of depth found within the movie plot and theme mentioned earlier, Mrs Johansson’s direction and depth are also very surface level. For every great nod to Motoko animated/manga origins we get over simplification of her surroundings or feelings which makes it seem like the movie doesn’t trust its audience enough to understand a more complex story or the more ambiguous character development from its source material.

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This might be most apparent in the villain/not villain the film decides to use for the majority of its run time. Kuze is an amalgamation of different antagonists within the Ghost in the Shell universe. A hacker, a cyborg, a victim and a villain all rolled into one, and instead of focusing on one of these aspect’s individually, or straight up lifting a single villain from the movies/series GitS tries to, in an oddly funny way, create a new life out of remains of old ones. In hind sight, this may be actually a very clever nod to the premise of the movie, but it still doesn’t give the audience a character they can become invested in, especially when you take away that character’s agency and threat by hard cutting to the films other antagonist, the Hanka CEO Cutter. Confused yet? don’t worry there are many who are. As a shady CEO, Cutter has been trying to create a new breed of soldier that has all of the benefits befitting a cyborg who has human emotions, yet is completely obedient.

At the end of the day, Ghost in the Shell is a love letter to fans of the anime and manga. It’s stunning visuals bring you into a world that is full of wonder, but that wonder sit’s on such a flat surface it drains much of that vibrant colour, not only from said world, but from the characters who are inhabiting it, in favour of a safe story that doesn’t challenge you, the audience member, in any real intellectual way. This lack of intellectual honesty mean it suffers from what many video game movies have trouble with; Not fully embracing the source material in a proper way.

As with all of my reviews I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score -3.5

Destiny 2 Trailer: Snark, Splendor and the CGI cut-scene that gives us some direction for the future fight against Gary

Bungie and Activision have finally dropped their official announcement on Destiny 2.  They started off with a very clever teaser trailer that focuses on Cayde-6, drinking in a bar with our boy Sweeps, the sweeper bot from the tower, as he recounts his heroics in battle, which presumably took place just moments before he poured his drink.  His self bravado get punctuated by a high velocity round blowing out the side of the building he is in as Sweeps, my own name as I do not think any of them actually have names, looks up in shock as a new mess is made and goes to start cleaning up while Cayde picks up his pistol and starts to make his way towards the still ongoing fight further up the road, while commander Zavala yells at him over the com. Extremely well done and sets the mood for their full trailer reveal.

The full trailer gives us a much better picture of what is going on. The Traveler has taken a beating, and is potentially dead, our ghosts are nowhere to be found, and the bloody Cabal have invaded the last city of earth, destroyed the tower and blew up all our stuff! This heinous act of is perpetrated by none other than. . . . GARY!, no wait. GHAUL! A Primus, at least, of the Red Legion is the antagonist we have to face off against, and he brings with him a seemingly host of new enemies to battle. While only a CG trailer, we do see some sort of reptilian dog creatures and some huge melee based warriors who wield two large cleaver’s charged with energy. We also see variations on more traditional enemy units like the Cabal Phalanx, as their traditionally ‘iron slab’ shields have been changed to an expanding energy shield.

Destiny 2 redguard

Visually this trailer looks pretty awesome, there is no denying that, however it doesn’t actually give us a ton of concrete information, and there is just a lot of speculation as to how the story will unfold. If, like me, you enjoy the lore of Destiny I highly recommend checking out a gentleman named ‘My Name is Byf’ on YouTube as he does an incredible job of deep diving the existing lore, and extrapolating on new lore that is still being released.

We do know some information however, as places like Gamestop and Amazon have revealed, we know that there is a character named Hawthorne, who has survived outside the city and without the Guardians protection for many years. We also know that we are on the hunt for new weapons, and humanities scattered heroes thanks to the flavour text in the Destiny 2 collectors edition.

Here is where the speculation aspect comes in, as everything from this point onward is me spit-balling and sharing my wants over what a new Destiny game should be. On the subject of reuniting humanities scattered heroes, I think this is a nod to all of the characters we hear about in the lore. Characters like Efrideet, Tolan, Osiris, Eris Morn, The Awoken Queen Mara Sov and maybe even the Nine. Finding characters like these could be the single player campaign not only gives you a solid foundation to build your story upon, but a great way to include the lore directly into the story, and make many of their player base happy with the lore integration. The fact that Destiny’s lore was on a website and not in the game rubbed many the wrong way, as it is fun to read about what the hell is going on.

Destiny 2 New heroes

Putting aside the trailer though, what really does Destiny 2 need to accomplish, to not only fix the mistakes made on the first game, but to set themselves up for success over this games, presumably, three-year life cycle. It’s first major hurdle is Bungie’s continued adamant stance that it is “like an MMO”. This continued perception not only makes their positives seem muted; such as great gun play, which is a strength of this franchise, gets relegated to a lesser position in the conversation because the empty world, poor story telling and generally un-fulfilling loot grind overshadow it; and its negatives, as previously mentioned, get thrust into the limelight for everyone to criticize. Destiny 2 should be looked at as a Drop-in/Drop-out co-op action adventure game that happens to have hub stations to meet up with more people than you can fit in a team.

The other integral thing Bungie needs to get right is their story. Let’s be blunt here, they fucked up. Their original story was good or bad, no one outside their team knows, and they decided to change it last-minute into some sort of disjointed Frankenstein narrative. It was like Zack Snyder was cutting this game together. Visually looked great, but you could barely connect two plot points together without spending twenty minutes looking through grimoire cards to figure out what was going on. If Destiny 2 is going to continue to earn any good will back, some earned via the Taken King and Rise of Iron, then their story has to be on point. In my mind a 40-60 hour story arc, as a single player campaign, is the time-frame to try to hit. This gives your casual players a good amount of content to go through and experience and allows your hardcore grinders a solid experience they will still rush through but, hopefully, keeps them engaged longer in strikes, dailies and the like on top of their PvP and Raid schedules.

Lastly, something I would personally like to see is the advancement of gun and armour. The infusion system introduced in the original Destiny was a really great step in the right direction, but I personally would like to see more done with this aspect. I look at games like Mass Effect Andromeda, and how as you gain levels you gain access to build/research second, third, etc tier weapons which make them slightly better. If you coupled this type of mechanic with Destiny’s weapon/armour attribute system, not only would this flush out the armoury, it would allow users to really invest in their equipment and gives us, the players, a chance to really look and feel different from the thousand other players.

That said, we have to wait until May 18th to see some actual game play for the game, and that game play will help us really get a grasp on what we should be expecting in Destiny 2.

Review of The Iron Fist: Better than Kung Fury, but it ain’t no Enter the Dragon (Spoilers)

I want to preface this review with a bit of information. I am not very knowledgeable on Iron Fist from the comics, so there are nuances to the character I may not know/understand. I am reviewing this based on the merits of the show itself and the strengths of its actors and actresses. This is a spoiler review.

Netflix has been on a pretty positive roll with their Netflix series set within the Marvel universe. Daredevil has been touted across the board as excellent, while both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have been critically well received with positive fan feed back along side them. Characters like the Punisher and the team up of the Defenders, which includes our titular character Danny Rand, are in the works or finishing up their production for us to consume. On top of already announced projects, fans are speculating about other potential heroes to join the Netflix roster such as Moon Knight, The Demon Etrigan or Constantine, I personally want to see Etrigan as I like fantasy shows and a demon who rhymes is just cool.

With all of the positive momentum that Netflix and Marvel have garnered so far however is marred by the internet having issues with its latest series. The “controversies” like white washing in other movies made their way into Iron Fist, which in itself is comical, as this character is actually white in the comics as well, but I digress. Couple these casting discussions with the fact that many outlets that got the first six episodes of Marvels new Netflix series were not as entertained as they had been with previous entries. Whether it’s too high of expectations, or Marvels legitimate first major misstep, everyone was talking about it. To add fuel to this fire unfortunately the main lead, Finn Jones, made some less than, lets call them, “well thought out” comments about peoples negative reactions. However we are now a few days past the release date, and those of us who want to be part of the conversation have binged the first season of Iron Fist, so lets actually talk about it.

Iron Fist 2

The series opens with our introduction to Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, listening to some old school hip hop as he wanders down the street. Clad in ratty cloths, and an old backpack, he enters his father’s office building, only to be promptly kicked out. To be fair, if you went into the offices of a place that knew you, but you have been presumed dead for the past fifteen years, being kicked out seems pretty reasonable. Undeterred however, Danny tries to enter a second time and we get to see the teachings of K’un Lun in action. . . . and they are not very impressive. The unfortunate nature of either how these were shot or the actor himself does not lend any sort of weight or mysticism to this brief encounter against the security guards. This ‘soft touch’ or ‘half speed’ nature that many of the fights have are, in my opinion, one of the main reasons Iron Fist suffers, however I will discuss that later.

Danny makes it up to the top floor to see the Meachum siblings, Joy and Ward, and as you can imagine everyone is confused and scared because a homeless looking man is in their office building. This is not a beat by beat recounting, I just wanted to bring these three characters in at the beginning because they are the primary trinity that we revolve around, which in itself causes issues with the story. Both actors Jessica Stroup, Joy, and Tom Pelphrey, Ward, are actually solid actors in this series. Mr Pelphrey actually being one of my favourites in the series due to the constant outside forces pushing against him. Ms Stroup does a good job of being the both the hammer and the sickle when needed in their business life, and on the occasion in their personal life. Out of all the characters in this series though, I have to say that Finn Jones was the actor who struggled to make an impact in my book the most.

Whether it was from poor direction, poor script, or the actor was just the wrong choice the role if Iron Fist never feels fully fleshed out. The first episode to the last keeps the character circling the same few plot points over and over again, and each time there is a clear path to expanding upon his character they choose to avoid that off ramp and stick to their circle. This is disheartening to say the least, but frustrating in part because each of these potential divergent character flaws or branches of growth would have done the one thing Danny was sorely missing, and that is the aforementioned fleshing out. While it’s made clear that he has psychological problems due to the trauma of his parents dying in the plane crash at the beginning of the series, and a point we continually go back to in flash backs, they never allow the character to grow up. His mentality, maturity and overall morality system are based off of this one incident, which again would be fine at the beginning of the series, but not at episode thirteen. Couple this fact with that those said personality traits mentioned above radically change every couple of episodes at its best or multiple times within the same episode at worst, and you have a character that feels like a collection of idea’s and not a singular being. Not all is negative with Jones however as he does try, or at least seems like he does, to give his all for each scene. He feels honest in the quieter moments of each episode, and even though some of the lines are brutally bad, I can appreciate the effort. His spats of rage/flashback induced fear also seem to be pulled out from him well, as his physical acting in these parts match’s what someone might do or feel.

The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, much like the Meachum sibblings they all give solid performances. Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing is one of the seasons strongest actors, as she supports Iron Fist throughout the majority of their time on-screen. I personally dislike how it seemed to go from “oh you’re a guy” to “I am infatuated with you because you know kung fu” over the course of. . . well I don’t actually know when, I can’t seem to find the actual transition period when going back, as it just seems like she goes from the Daughter of the Dragon to the girlfriend of the Iron Fist in the blink of an eye. It should be known I am not a fan of romance subplots, as to me they are not usually done well, though I am prepared to be told I am wrong here. If I had to pick standout actors though it would be Harold Meachum’s David Wenham, Faramir from LotR for those sweaties in the crowd and Wai Chng Ho as the always impactful Madame Gao. David’s portrayal of a man pinned into a corner but is always working the angles gives you an ally and villain you can get behind throughout the course of the show. On that same playing field is Madame Gao, much like Rosario Dawson’s character Claire, helps bridge the gap between each of the Netflix shows as part of their connective tissue. Her soft but menacing touch to every scene she is in makes her such a fun character to watch, and as events unfold you see how well she weaves her webs of deception and lies to great effect. I have to mention one more character as a personal favourite of mine as he brought the level of action up for a brief moment to where I had wanted it all season, and that is Lewis Tan as Zhou Cheng a Zui Quan, or Drunken master style, martial artist. He was only in Iron Fist for one episode, but I found him to be entertaining to watch in the fight, philosophically on point to his oath/word and brought a dry humor to the scene which was needed.

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Speaking of fighting, let’s get into what should have been the crowning achievement of this series, but ultimately fell flat in the overall picture. The Iron Fist is supposed to be a martial arts master, a point which is reinforced through exposition throughout the series, yet watching Danny Rand fight felt like watching a group fighting in water. Besides a few of the scenes I will discuss in a moment, every fight felt light, and did not have the impact one would expect coming from a martial arts-centric series. Punch’s are floaty, kick’s limply impact their opponents and throws feel like everyone is landing on pillows. There are exceptions to this however, and I think they need to be pointed out as what the standard SHOULD have been. The first one to really grab my attention was the first and second time Colleen Wing entered into an underground fighting ring. You can see her unshackle herself mentally as the rush of combat over takes her. Each blow feels like a fight is happening and the more visceral nature of these cage fights show off how Iron Fist can get their trade craft done right. The aforementioned Zhou Cheng fight two-thirds of the way through the season is another fantastic fight to draw inspiration from. This, out of all fights in my opinion was the closest thing to a “Full on Daredevil Fight” we saw, as the impact of blows to body and face looked and felt like they were happening, instead of the worst episodes of the CW’s fight scenes we were normally treated to. The second most “Daredevil fight” was when they fought Ramon Rodriguez character Bakuto in the elevator hallway. This extended fight once again felt impactful and real, as silly of a term that may be, compared to the rest of the episodes.

As I reflect back on season one of Iron Fist, my biggest negative take away is how much the main character didn’t follow any of the story arcs they brought forth in the scene/episode before them. It may seem like I am harping on it, but the inability for the character to grow out of his adolescence mentality doesn’t suit the their overall universe and, in my opinion, makes Danny Rand look like a poorly constructed character. His lack of character development is countered however by the rest of the cast being pretty on point for the most part and makes up for many of the short comings the season was hampered with. The ending of season one leaves the door wide open for much better story telling, significantly better fighting sequences and hopefully a worthy successor to this character, as it’s not quite limp, but it certainly isn’t an Iron Fist.

As with all of my reviews (going forward) I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score -4

Horizon Zero Dawn Review: The Dinobots, a Red Head and fantasy wonder set in a future world

Creeping through the brush, a young woman survey’s her surroundings. Lumbering through the canyon is a creature of gargantuan proportions, its head swaying from side to side as it scanned the area for intruders, heavy weapons twitching and re-aligning to acquire their next target. Scurrying at its feet are a pair of Watchers darting to and fro as they supplement the giant creatures cones of vision and protect its flanks.  A sharp whistle breaks the silence and a Watcher shoots up, immediately on guard and begins to pace cautiously towards the brush the sound came from. As the slender creature steps into the girls hiding spot, a flash of silver lash’s out and pierces the robotic throat, silencing any chance of alarm and putting the first part of her plan into motion. The Thunderjaw circles around a pillar, leaving the second Watcher alone, trailing its alpha predator, and once more a shrill whistle echo’s out to catch the creatures attention. Unlike its partner, this Watcher becomes an ally as its programming is overridden and the pale blue light of compliance wash’s over the machine.

As our heroine lays her trap-wires and resupply’s her quiver, the methodical pounding of the hundred ton machine becomes clearer as it rounds the corner once more, ever vigilant over its territory and both it and the, now turned ally, Watcher process their perspective new threats. The hunter stands, and raises her bow with two arrows knocked, the thrum of two Terrablast arrows send gentle vibrations up her arm. The snap of a bow-string turns into the whine of arrow heads spinning up to blow away armour chunks and the whirl of aggression from the mechanical creatures leaping towards each other. Heavy weapons are rent like so much iron and fall to the floor, forcing the gargantuan beast to move into melee range, its rage focused on the hunter who has damaged it. As she flee’s through her carefully laid gauntlet of traps the Thunderjaw is hammered by explosions and lengths of wire laid to set all who touch it ablaze, all the while being savagely attacked from the rear by our Watcher companion. Arrow after arrow are fired from every angle quickly give way to heavier weapons as supplies run low and a vicious tail swipe makes short work of the diminutive flanker. As she doges charges and blaster fire, our hunter spots the back-mounted weapon she knocked off earlier in the fight and makes a break for it. Ground shaking steps close in on her, and with a final dodge the creature crash’s through a huge stone and couple of tree’s momentarily disorienting it. This window allows for her to not only pick up the weapon, but to turn and unleash the beasts own destructive power upon it, and as it is hammered back farther and farther, metal shrieking and armour plates twisting and rending off under constant barrage, the disheveled monster finally falls, an explosive round hitting it in the side of the head in a glorious display of explosive pyrotechnics. . . . . . .  and that was the first time I fought a Thunderjaw.

If you indulged me my little story I, one appreciate it and two want to use this as the foundation for my review of Horizon Zero Dawn. Made by Guerrilla Games, the developers known for the Killzone series, and published as an exclusive on the PS4, Horizon is quickly becoming another developer who went from ‘good’ to ‘great’ when they took a chance and made something outside of their wheel house. This is a boon as they can be considered in the same pantheon as ID, Naughty Dog and CD Projekt Red for blowing the doors off of what people are expecting in a game. However lets talk about the game instead of the people behind it.

From a cynical point of view, Horizon Zero Dawn does “nothing new”. There are similar quest structures in games like the Witcher 3, crafting systems like in Farcry or Fallout. Bow combat from multiple different games and an open world story that blends Uncharted type acting with the ‘do anything you want at any time’ of today’s open world genre. If you ARE a cynic, then this might be a good place to stop for you as I am going to delve into why Horizon DOES do something new, and that new thing is how it marries all of these idea’s into a beautifully polished package, a feat that none of its comparisons have accomplished yet.

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The first thing anyone notices about Horizon Zero Dawn is its beauty. The game is gorgeous and, in my opinion, doesn’t have an equal on console, as well as rivals some of the best looking games on PC at the moment. Whether its sneaking through the brush, luring your enemies to their death or pounding the trail on the back of a mount racing through a nest of Glinthawks, the game just flows like warm maple syrup. Everything feels like it is in its right place, as I enjoy the mundane aspects like climbing, because it feels good to do, as much as battling a pack of Scrappers or Ravagers. Simple aspects like running both look and feel solid, while leaping off of a boulder or performing a drive-by on the back of a Strider flow from beat to beat with rarely a stutter. Watching the fog in the forest burn away as the sun comes up and you catch glimpses of the wild life scurrying away from you or catch the faint glow of a machine on the distance.

While it has many virtues to its looks, there are some clear downfalls to be seen throughout the entire game. The primary source of these complaints come from the facial animations in the cut scene’s and dialogue interactions. While they still look great, characters mouths don’t quite line up with what they are saying, and their eyes and head start to turn/shift in odd ways as you learn more about a quest or receive thanks from a stranger you have helped. What makes this small gripe so noticeable is the fact that the rest of the experience is handled with such polish that it stands outs so starkly. There are also instances of ‘glitchy dead’ or corpse dancing, though for myself it has only happened once and while you get smooth animations as you one hand vault over a piece of debris, you occasionally see the floating head of a Carja guard as you are approaching. Again this isn’t a major gripe, but it is noticeable so should be mentioned.

Looks aside, I think it is important to move directly into combat, as they have a stronger relationship in this game that most. Out of every aspect in Horizon Zero Dawn that we typically judge a game on, the combat is the crowning achievement you should walk away with. As a third person action game, the shooting mechanics, primarily bow, are second to none. As you upgrade Aloy’s abilities you can gain the ability to knock multiple arrows, to help apply status effects, or the time dilation while jumping to line up that perfect head shot. You can slow time down naturally while aiming without jumping to help you time your shots on charging or flying targets and use the brush to silently kill enemies you lure towards you. Couple this with the ability to set up trip wire traps, tether creatures to the ground and set up individual traps all over to foil enemy flanking attempts and you have a robust combat system to play with over the 30 plus hours you can spend in-game.

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What makes these systems so praise worthy is just HOW fun it is to use them. I spent twenty hours in the starting area, running around killing creatures in different ways. Watching the previously mentioned beauty as Watchers twist as they spin up their leap attack, or dodge and loose a pair of arrows into the side of a charger as it barrels past are simply pure fun. As you progress in creature size and complexity, you upgrade your weapons and get new ones that allow you to change the way you play like using the slingshot for area denial or large group damage. You can hide and corrupt a herd of creatures and watch them battle each other to the death, then stroll in to collect the loot, polishing off any stragglers. Lest we also forget that you can actually override creatures, so gain your self a battle companion which aids you in any nearby combat that happens.

I could extol the virtues of the combat all day, but there are negative aspects. From a general perspective, I have friends who don’t like the fact there is no lock on functionality. As a primarily ranged game I personally think that this would hinder the system, but eye of the beholder and all that as I see the rare time you should be relying on your staff you are already kinda boned. Also in the potential negative camp is how the game deals with large groups of mechanical enemies. It is easy to get overwhelmed if you’re not paying attention which can lead to some frustrating deaths, though again this is more of a personal problem and not one I truly consider a game fault.

One aspect that I do find true fault with is battling against human AI. The issue doesn’t stem from the ability to “whistle-kill” an entire camp from the front door, though that is silly, but in the fact that human on human combat seems so lack luster compared to battling even the most basic of the robotic inhabitants. The human AI in general seems to be incredibly dumb as they will run through open fields to attack me in melee only to turn around and run back to cover, all the while I am shooting them in the face, neck, and chest with arrows. When enemies do get into melee range of you, or used specialized arrows you should look out. I have been taken for seventy-five percent of my health by one specialty arrow, and trying to duke it out in melee with even one brawler can result in huge chunks of your health disappearing much quicker than you would expect.

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Like with all games, there are two other important factors to consider, the audio and the story. While story is important and I will get to that at the end, I feel that the audio in Horizon Zero Dawn really stands a cut above. Whether you are running in the open planes, your feet thudding against the hard packed dirt, or the hard jingle of Oseram Arrow Breaker Heavy chain mail and plate as you leap through the forests dodging Ravager fire the sound always plays as a companion to your story and fights. The throaty grumble of a Snapmaw you may not have seen in the water beneath you saves you from an untimely death, while the whir of a corrupter allows you to dodge attacks from behind as you fight it’s companions. Combat aside, the musical scores that come filter in from the villages and towns brings a haunting serenity to your travels, sometimes hearing nothing but your own labored breathing from a long run, other times being engulfed in the chants of a congregation as they pray to their god. And sometimes as you check your phone for Facebook or Twitter, because we all do it, your head starts to bop as you are entertained by a nightly band that has just started its set from the local inn.

The meat and potatoes though is the story. While I know what happens, I have not personally finished the story on my play through, as I am going for the platinum trophy. That said, I will not be spoiling the story as the game is still relatively new. What I will say about Aloy, and her journey is that it is both incredible and subdued. We play as a young woman, who is strong, resourceful, witty, empathetic and funny, YET it doesn’t feel like someone is blatantly saying “Hey your playing as a girl”. This point may seem odd, but its hard to ignore in todays games media, or any genre culture media, the push for diversity in both character lead and stories told for. Much like The Last of Us dlc Left Behind is one great example of how diversity and progressive story telling can be done, and the way Aloy unfolds as a character keeps you engaged with her and her story and her story is an interesting one. The trailers say as much but you are an outcast, raised by a fellow outcast Rost, who teaches you the way of your people, and your adventures stem from those teaching and the questions you have from the time you were a small child.

I also found myself really engaged with side characters you meet, some near the beginning of the game, others near the end, which again I won’t spoil.  I engage and learn to love them because of how the developers tackle the issue of race, religion, sex and status by not really addressing them. Aloy is part of a tribe that has matriarchs, yet there is no hate or vitriol to be had from that scenario. Other tribes take societal, religious and physical appearances from all over the map.  I have seen Celtic, Norse, Native American, Aztec, Japanese, Zulu, Arabic, and Mongolian influences from the real world, with Dwarven and Minotaur traits pulled from the fantasy world. We cannot forget the druidic and shamanistic natures which many cultures have shared. This world feels like it has been lived in for a thousand years, and that has given us a rich pool to wade into and experience.

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A small but important note is all of the images you see here, are taken on the regular PS4, as I spent a good five or six straight hours just finding great shots.I truly fell in love with this game, something I have not done in a long time and I think this last shot above is a perfect summation of why. In Horizon Zero Dawn you are a tiny vessel in a world of metal wonder and whether its delving into its valleys, or climbing to its peaks, the Horizion is really the limit.

As with all of my reviews (going forward) I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score -0.5

Logan Review – Regenerating a love for the Berserker in all our hearts (Spoiler)

It is odd for a movie, especially one in the comic book genre, to leave you both fiercely grinning and wiping a tear from your eye. It evoked images of every Berserker rage we should have seen in previous movies past, along with the incredible compassion Wolverine has with younger female characters, a trait we have seen often. With our, seemingly, last snikt to be had, let’s get into a review of Logan.

Wolverine as a character has always been at odds with its movie counterpart. As a PG13 rated series in the X-Men, we have never really seen the animalistic nature of the Weapon X project in full swing until this movie. As a personal fan of the character since my real introduction to him in 1991, I have always wanted to see the rage and sorrow that good writers brought to the character, and while previous movie entries have tried, none have succeeded like Logan.

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The first five minutes of the movie show how broken down and beaten our Old man Logan really is. Relegated to a limo driver to stay alive and support Charles and Caliban as they hide out, he has to do everything possible to protect his livelihood aka the limo. Que the group of scumbags and a bloodbath ensues. Even in the minor rage we see towards the end of the fight, it is ever-present that there is something wrong with our anti-hero. This fight also shows us the brutal nature of the R rating, which pulls no punch’s as men are dismembered and disfigured with absolute authority.

Putting aside the violence for a moment, it has to be said that Hugh Jackman crush’s it in his portrayal of Logan in this movie. Taking bits and pieces from the Old man Logan comic book and mixing it in with ideas of family, self loathing, depression and the faint rays of light known as happiness play themselves out across the world-weary brow of Logan. Throughout this movie there is an underlying pressure which bubbles to the surface that causes not only Wolverine, but Charles, Caliban, Laura, and the villains known as the Reavers to shift violently into this movies R rating. This shift is not only what keeps the movie on its relatively quick pace but also helps you grow with the characters as they struggle with their life choices and battle their own demons. Putting aside the few instances in which the movie slows down, which I will talk about in a bit, the movie flies by for just under two hours and twenty minutes.

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While it is easy to extol virtue onto Hugh Jackman for this, in my opinion, Oscar worthy performance one should not sleep on the rest of the supporting cast. Patrick Stewart as Professor X gives not only the best performance of the character to date, but also manages to make the use of fowl language both funny and meaningful. You never think of that character as one to lower themselves to such a vulgar level, yet the first F’bomb you hear him utter not only makes you laugh, but gives you a moments pause to consider the situation they are in for that relationship, one of father and care taker of a troubled youth turned into one of bitterness, regret and strained loyalty.  His death scene in particular shows the terrible burden he realizes he did but also on how Logan took the burden of that travesty upon himself to spare his mentor the pain and anguish.

While he had a small role, I think it is worth talking about Stephen Merchant as Caliban. He had a small amount of screen time, even less than the villains of the story, but I feel his presence was akin to the ‘voice of reason’ for Logan’s perpetual darkness that he drudged through. This is plays again in the fact that he is ultra sensitive to sunlight, so his light in the darkness role plays twice in a somber yet humorous nature. The motif of shadow and light play in one final time due to a taunt thrown at him by the Reavers leader upon capture, and utters as a final defiance before his sacrifice to try and aid Laura and Logan in any way possible with “Beware the Light”.

Before talking about the incredibly talented actress in Dafne Keen, I want to touch on the villains of the movie. As mentioned before, our bad guys consist of a enhanced para military type unit called the Reavers. These cyborgs don’t sport all the modifications from their comic book representations, but hey we can’t always have a guy with tank treads rolling around now can we. Special mention should be given to Boyd Holbrook however as he walks the difficult line that all villains of this genre have to walk. His character, Donald Pierce, does an excellent job of being menacing, smart, and sophisticated without being cheesy, bland or overbearing. His understated animosity and aggressiveness towards, coupled with his brief star struck nature meeting Logan when looking for X23 is just one example of how a constant pressure applied to a wound, in this case Charles, Logan and Laura on the run, make for a great villainous intent that doesn’t need an overbearing nature we would expect from other comic book movies. He may not be Loki, but Donald Pierce might be one of the best villains in a movie with super powers.

Now to talk about the woman who stands toe to toe with our failing berserker, the incredible Dafne Keen. The short version of her character is she is a clone of Wolverine, made with his DNA in a lab somewhere and as a new version in the weapon X program, x23 to be exact, she was supposed to be a new weapon to be manufactured. For every inch of height disparity between Laura and Logan, Mrs. Keen makes up for in pure savagery when she unleashes her own brand of fury upon her enemies. It would be easy to think that a tiny girl would be dangerous, yet ultimately ineffective against men thrice her stature and estimated skill level, yet nothing could be further from the truth as not only is she a trained killer, but for someone so young she couples her brutal efficiency with her speed, agility and penchant for groin/near groin shots puts her high on the little murder girl spectrum.

For most of the movie X23 says nothing, instead preferring to communicate in pensive or glowering stares to all but the Professor. Her attitude give her a larger than life body in which we see her slip in and out of. On the one hand, the aforementioned murder girl vibe sits comfortably within her character as not only a clone of Logan, but as a defensive mechanism that any kid may try and reenact when treated as poorly as she has been. The other side of that coin falls into her softer side, the child peaking out of the animal that is caged within said child. A perfect example of this is her riding the mechanical horse and as she grows frustrated with the ride ending, and not understanding how to make it work, she resorts to a nature she knows works, violence. Que Logan with a quarter and stern gaze, and we see Laura’s demeanor switch back to that pensive stare to Logan and back again to the child, enjoying a ride on a mechanical horse.

Thankfully James Mangold, the writer and director was not content to make a tiny ball of rage be the only side we see from Dafne Keen’s performance. Once she starts talking, you feel the passion of a character looking for love, being scared, and trying to understand why a man, who feels like her doesn’t love her. If that doesn’t stab you through the heart then you could be a Reaver.

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As both simultaneously wind down the story and ramp up the violence, I think it is apt to actually touch on how violent this movie is. At an R rating, the fowl language is one thing, but rarely have we seen the R rating bring us the level of pin point carnage we see in Logan. The image above is actually one of the more tame images to choose from as we see the skull get pierced, slashed and eventually blown away, not to mention the copious amount of limb rending, flesh tearing and flurry of bladed blows to the face neck and chest of this movies more regenerative characters.

As stated in the first sentence of this review, I was grinning from ear to ear in every major fight, as I found Logan’s use of violence to be so inline with the character and the story that I couldn’t contain my happiness and excitement to see what unique way a man would die next. Morbid as it may sound, the brutality not only shocks you but it deepens the stakes we see as the movie progresses. Whether its Logan struggling against the telepathic outbursts of Charles Xavier, punching his claws into the wall as some sort of makeshift climbing pick only to stare into the eyes of men he killed or the fury and rage of a juiced up Logan in the forest frantically running and murdering yet still looking to protect the children he would as a member of the X-Men.

None of the violence hits quite as hard or bloody as the set pieces with X24. This clone of Wolverine is a pure ball of rage, akin to the escape of Logan when his moniker was Weapon X. The battle between new and old reads like every fight between Sabertooth/Deadpool and Wolverine  we want to see. Another reference that came to mind, and one that has been echo’d online quite a bit, is Terminator 2 which I think is incredibly accurate. In the last duel between them blood spills in the liters as both man and clone rend flesh from each other, one spending the last of his rage and anger to save a small girl and her friends, while the other seethes an unstoppable aura of rage and a regeneration factor to match, its clear the outcome is not in our heroes favour. Much like the performance he gives, Hugh Jackman’s death, and subsequent salvation are masterfully executed and just add to the prestige of the actor and the character. His salvation, comes at the hands of Laura, his daughter with an adamantium bullet he meant for himself, and while she robs him of a demise he thought he wanted, she gave him a peace he would have never found. The love of a child and the weight of despair lifted from his shoulders due to that love. Talking about his death chokes me up a little even now, as I have been invested in this character and mythology for over twenty five years now, and I personally find it to be the cap to a story I have been experiecing since I can remember. The final cap drives home the finality of these characters with Laura quoting the movie Shane, which she and Professor X watched in a hotel room. As she mimicks the speech that Alan Ladd’s character says to a small boy as a funeral speech, you see the similarities between new and old, not only with the movie’s character reflecting upon Logan, but upon how Logan reflects and influences Laura. As the children leave one final homage to the heroes she believed in, the X-Men, she turn his cross on the side to something simple and pure, an X

Logan in my opinion is the movie to beat this year. Not just from other comic book movies, but from films in general. It will be hard to beat the gut punch you receive as you sit with these characters, and there is a good chance the action will not be matched for years to come. As with all of my reviews (going forward) I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score 0

 

For Honor review: Scream, Aim, and toss your enemies off a cliff! (Final review)

Ubisoft Montreal might have had a magic mirror into my heart when they started thinking up this game. As a long time proponent of action adventure games which focus on combat For Honor is a seemingly perfect package of visceral combat, fun customization and easy to learn but hard to master combat system.

For honor is a third person action fighting game which dives deeper into the traditional heavy and light attacks normally associated with action fighting games. Make no mistake, you are still aiming to crush your opponent’s head or lop off a limb, but the combat system has its feet firmly planted in the tactical nature that most associate with higher level traditional fighting games such as Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. In For Honor, you have three stances which correlate not only to how you attack, but also how you block. So if you are situated to swing on your left side, any attack’s coming from that side, your opponents right, would be auto blocked unless you are in mid swing or other more advanced mechanics like parry’s, guard breaks and unblockable attacks.

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What is fantastic about each faction, such as the Knights shown above, is that every character has the same base mechanics; light attack, heavy attack, block, parry and combo chains to do continuous damage yet each character plays in its own unique way. Even within the loosely based class system of Assassin, Heavy, Vanguard and Hybrid those characters have a different skill set you need to master to truly blossom in battle.

Mastering the characters you think are interesting or cool is both the focus and the detriment to the game though. If you focus merely on one character you start to fully realize their potential but then struggle to identify the nuances of others. I personally Play the Conqueror and routinely find myself struggling against the faster more agile assassins of each faction. If you are looking to hone your skills, the practice mode has a couple of bot’s which help you anticipate certain characters move sets as you increase the difficulty.

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There are six games modes you can pick from, five of them being multiplayer modes like Dominion, 1v1 duels and 2v2-4v4 elimination match’s while the sixth mode type is the single player. The single player runs you through six levels for each faction and in my experience so far, just finishing the knight campaign, it is a fun way to learn each of the characters at a basic level while helping newer players come to gripes how each character attacks and defends. The slightly annoying aspect is that if you already did the practice mode, which grants you some in-game currency called steel, then jump into the single player campaign, you will get these same tutorial prompts over the course of the campaign. Minor gripe, but I didn’t see a place in options to turn that off.

The real meat of this game however is in its multiplayer mode. I personally prefer Dominion as I am still trying to ‘git gud’ in duels but each mode brings you as a fighter into a well designed and beautiful looking world in which you can unleash your rage against your enemy, or just troll them and throw them off the side of a cliff, which is great when you do it to someone but incredibly rage inducing when it happens to you. One thing I will mention if you are duo queuing in duels is be honorable, fight your fight and if you win wait for the other fight to finish before jumping into the combat, if your teammate lost, and you should see many players do the same in return. The “honor of the duel” seems to be pretty well-respected in these match’s but every once in a while you come across a pair of shitheads who bring shame to their family.

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Not all is mead and cherry blossoms however, Ubisoft decided to run it’s multiplayer match’s off of a peer-to-peer system which, as many are painfully aware of, can cause issues with lag if you are fighting against people with poor connection or on the other side of the planet. Like many PtP connection they try to match you with users close to you so your connection is good, but you don’t always find those games, and on more than one occasion I am battling against people/ in Asia, Germany and Spain and the game starts to act a bit wonky. This has also caused issues with connecting to games in general as there are many times I have sat in a search lobby for two to three minutes only to be timed out. *After playing for a couple of weeks now, the peer-to-peer connection is still an issue that players have to deal with and it hurts the flow and pacing of most fights. Getting random disconnects, or taking five minutes to load into a match can really put a damper on your spirit to play.

Another aspect which seems a bit lack luster is their currency system, or I should say their acquisition of said currency. Like I mentioned above the practice mode gives you two thousand steel, while advanced practice mode gives you an additional fifteen hundred. However after that your steel generation is tied to your performance in combat and completing daily missions. All give you exp and steel but the quantity varies and if you are still learning the game, there are some missions that will be very difficult to complete.

Finishing up the review

After putting in another twenty or thirty hours, I can say my opinion of For Honor has shifted slightly. While still an overall positive review of this game, I think Ubisoft has, once again, harmed their own property with poor choice and sloppy implementation. Lets break down the last pieces of this review with the completion of the campaign and delving into some higher tier player vs player combat.

On the side of the story, For Honor delivers a pretty enjoyable single player experience. Each chunk, one for each faction is split into six missions. These missions are there to not only teach you about the various classes, as stated above, but also to break up the potential monotony of playing the same class. I played the game co-op on the realistic setting which increased the games difficulty up a bit for most of the game, but had random huge difficulty spikes, usually when it came to a boss. The end boss battle against Apolyon for example is utterly brutal, and made even more difficult with the addition of more enemy npc’s due to the co-op mode. On any other difficulty you get a well paced, albeit simple, story that is pretty enjoyable to play.

While I have enjoyed my time playing For Honor the bulk of its game play, the multiplayer, really started to show its short sighted nature over the last week or so. In the 1v1 and 2v2 dueling modes, the game is at its absolute best as you are competing straight up with another person’s skill, an aspect of the game I think the developers really nailed home. However once you start getting into the 4v4 game modes; elimination, dominion and skirmish, break down both the games skill and tactical nature of game play. Feats allow the player to alter their character in ways that are hard to predict, so in one fight you could hit harder, regenerate off of killing minions while in the next game you could face off against someone who has two ranged attacks which do huge damage to you. While I get the added flavour and surprise factor of these feats, it does detract from the actual fighting mechanics in For Honor.

Speaking of fighting mechanics, it seems once you get into a 4v4 game type, the concept of one on one fights, challenging capture points and tactical thinking while playing goes right out the window. No one fights in any meaningful fashion as it boils down to ganging up on lone targets, and running away from any fight that isn’t two to one in your favour. This really cuts down on the finesse of For Honor’s combat system and frankly segments the community a bit when it comes to the game overall. You have those who are looking for the skill based combat of duels and 2v2, and in the opposite camp you have the murderfest of the 4v4 game types.

At the end of the day, I still enjoy the game, as I have said a few times now. I find the combat enjoyable and the experience with friends to be an extra entertaining time as we yell and curse about being thrown into pits, hit by friendly teammates bleed damage and win that sweet 2v1 battle by the skin of our teeth. As with all of my reviews (going forward) I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score -2.5 

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