The right game at the wrong time: The bitter divide over The Last of Us Part II and its unfortunate release in a year like 2020

The Last of Us Part II gets new free dynamic theme, hands-on at ...

Image from Android Central (protagonist Ellie embattled literally and metacontextually)

2020 opened with wider spread acknowledgement of the terrible Australian bushfires destroying much of the titular nation continent. It was also coinciding with the United States extra-judicially murdering the top ranking general of Iran and nearly plunging America into yet another needless war, one that could’ve led to a third world war in many people’s minds.

Once the bushfires and the threat of hot war passed, a respiratory illness originating from Wuhan, China literally plagued the most populous country on the planet until it spread to every continent save the one place it couldn’t: Antarctica of course.

Early on, China, Iran and Italy were the ones who suffered most until the terrible response in prevention and quarantine for the virus led America to have the most cases and deaths of any nation on the planet. Brazil’s also horrible response might have it eclipse our numbers by Summer’s end.

On top of that, the coronavirus has led to the greatest economic crisis in American history with unemployment numbers far eclipsing both the 2008 great recession and even the Great Depression of the 1930s’.

On top of that and perhaps further fueled by frustration over those issues came worldwide protest over police brutality and misconduct with the inciting incident for the as of this writing ongoing protests being the brutal, nearly 9 minute choking of an innocent man in Minneapolis, all by a group of cops who knew they were being filmed and verbally accosted but simply didn’t care.

The world has not seemed so volatile in such a long time, least of all in my limited life experience, having been born less than thirty years ago.

Multiple incidents from history that were occurring separate from each other like the 1918 erroneously named “Spanish” Flu, occurring and helped spread by the concurrent First World War, the economic crash of 1929 that created the Great Depression and the race riots of the 1960s and of 1992 in LA are all having a new variation at the same time.

When it comes to the American psyche, it is in a poor, deteriorating place. A recent poll( that I didn’t myself take) revealed that as of June 2020, only 14% of Americans consider themselves very happy. Only 63% of Americans consider themselves strongly patriotic, a steep decline from the last polling year of 2013. The world is unhappy, sick, scared and very uncertain of what the future will bring.

Will we get overwhelmingly desired positive change in a system that is tailor-made to protect its own interests and curve popularly desired top-to-bottom reform? The defeat of Bernie Sanders’ populist election campaign that was running on many poll-approved policies by the establishment Democratic Party through a last minute consolidation around status quo standard bearer Joe Biden has left many feeling cold to any hope.

Even as protesters nationwide continue to press the issue, helped along ironically by the police’s widespread brutality against them garnering sympathy and support, is even that enough against the many in power where absolutely nothing can dissuade them from the seductive promise of maintaining the awful status quo through monetary favor?

With a broken system having seemingly intractable power and many fearing honest to god systemic collapse being the only way that system could be defeated at this point, what is the average American to do? Well, if you have the money, which could be a serious question for more than a few, than why not play an engrossing well made video game?

If you’re looking for a quality experience, especially with the highest selling console of this generation, the PlayStation 4, then there is by Metacritic score no better option than the newly released The Last Of Us Part II.

Its opening review scores tallied to an incredible, weighted score of 96 out of 100. As more reviews have poured in, not including the few that do not score theirs, it is now at 95 out of 100, the same score as its beloved, acclaimed predecessor, The Last of Us from 2013. The original just so happens to be one of my current all time favorites.

And yet, it does not appear to be truly as acclaimed as the critical consensus would have you believe. While there were some critic detractors, it is absolutely nothing compared to the preemptive and scathing consensus of gamers who have been exposed to the unfortunate leaks for the game from late last April. I myself have been exposed to them, my curiosity over the negative response to them too great.

Of course, for the fairness of all who either weren’t thankfully exposed to the spoilerific leaks as well haven’t played the game yet, I will not be mentioning a single, solitary thing about them. There may be some inferences and mild hints as to why there is such pushback, but that’s it.

The user score for TLOU2 is 3.4 out of 100, a far cry from the professional opinion. Seeing as how the game launched just yesterday, it would be nearly impossible for one to have played the entire game without rushing through it. Even the rushed attempts wouldn’t allow an honest takeaway of course.

Yes, some non-reviewers did get advanced copies and could’ve finished the game but the majority of the the overly negative reviews are meant to express opinions, honest or not, that have been bubbling for a month and a half.

As was noted by none other than a YouTube reviewer (Skill Up) that didn’t have a positive opinion of the game, The Last of Us Part II has had over 20,000 user reviews in the span of roughly two days. The lifetime number for the first Last of Us is around 9-10,000. Just a reminder, that game is now seven years old.

So, the vast majority if maybe entirety of those Metacritic scores are based on those who have not yet or won’t play the game, base it entirely on their unfavorable opinion from the leaks, have only played a portion of the game or are just trolling with no actual investment in what is going on with the game.

This is far from the first time that Metacritic has had this problem. The contested eighth episode of Star Wars, The Last Jedi, was also review bombed on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Over time, the user score came to reflect a less severe but still divided opinion of the film.

Unlike the second Last of Us, The Last Jedi was not victim to pre-release leaks tainting the preconception of Rian Johnson’s contested entry into Star Wars. At least that film’s detractors detracted once the film was out and they had actually seen it.

Captain Marvel, a recent entry in the gangbusters success that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was also plagued by preemptive “review-bombing” as it’s called. There were no spoiler-related leaks for Carol Danvers’ cinematic debut, but a mostly sexist backlash at the character and her having the “Captain Marvel” mantle.

There were also some that may have had less mean reasons for disliking Captain Marvel before and after her launch, like just finding the character not interesting enough or the film being too obvious in its pro-female empowerment message. Whether or not anti-SJWs were the direct reason for the film’s backlash is beside the point.

What’s happening to The Last of Us Part II is not new. It’s not even the first time it’s happened for a video-game. Even crazier, sometimes the review-bombing tactic comes from a not so misguided place.

In 2012, Mass Effect 3, the hotly anticipated trilogy capper for one of the most acclaimed space sci-fi video game properties ever, was released to critical acclaim as expected and hoped for. But for both fans and critics, that game had a now notorious catch in its reception: the ever despised ending(s).

I won’t delve into why that was not so much contested but outright hated as that is one lengthy tangent and I do love my tangents. The point is, eight years ago, people review bombed Mass Effect 3 in protest of the game having a very poor destination in store for those who crafted their own tales through three pretty large and great games.

Some games are reviewed bombed, not so much for poor narrative direction but in terms of practices the game is pushing. Star Wars: Battlefront II(2017) was blasted mostly due to the gambling-like nature of its micro-transaction system, which often kept away important multiplayer features through a randomized item system that you had to unlock through a grueling amount of online playtime.

Being able to play Star Wars heroes and villains just one time like Luke and Darth Vader involved nearly a day’s worth of play. To say nothing of how the “loot box” system gave you the “option” to get around playing for them by paying real world money for hopefully a good, grabbag haul. So, gambling in a Star Wars game, that is accessible to children. Not a good look and the huge poor user scores on Metacritic made note of that.

It wasn’t just reflecting a unfavorable opinion of the game, it was an act of protest towards publisher EA’s greedy practices and a desire for them to stop. I wonder if the review-bomb campaign for TLOU2 also counts as protest, but there is a difference between protesting narrative choice and monetary manipulation inserted into an otherwise okay Star Wars experience.

Getting back to the major point of this article, I don’t personally think it is just considerable disagreement on what the leaks spoiled to disgruntled, maybe even heartbroken fans of the original. It is not just that some may have bigoted disagreement with the inclusion of gay and trans characters. The main playable protagonist of the game, Ellie, was already revealed to be gay in the well-recieved expansion for the original game, Left Behind.

I think a great number of dissenting voices against The Last of Us Part II, both professional critic and gamer, are upset by how, necessary or not, the sequel is more dark,bleak, violent and willing than ever to challenge your sympathies with its characters than even the original, which was thematically and tonally, far from a picnic in its own right.

This leads back to The Last of Us Part II’s timing of release with the real world. Developer Naughty Dog, also renowned for their work on Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Dexter and Uncharted, could not have known nor prepared for the troubled state of the world that their latest game released in. That is not their fault.

While the dark themes and messages of The Last of Us part II, based on what I know and Naughty Dog has allowed themselves to express pre-launch, don’t necessarily correlate with the topics of the times, they do paint a pessimistic, harsh picture of humanity and what we may if not will become in a societal collapse.

This is not new to the narrative genre that The Last of Us is part of, as the wildly successful Walking Dead multimedia franchise can attest. Hell, George Romero was making that argument fifty-two years ago with the first zombie film, Night of the Living Dead. As the Heath Ledger Joker put it: “When the chips are down, people eat each other.”

The Last of Us, both the first and second games, are the latest in examining how against all efforts, it’s rarely the infected monsters like zombies or in Last of Us’ case, Clickers, that are the true danger. It is humanity, which due to the collapse of both society and communication, becomes more tribal, mistrustful of others. The bitter truth is that that mistrust is hardly unwarranted.

Maybe the first Last of Us’ release in 2013, a less miserable and uncertain time, while hardly ideal, was what lent the first game a far more accepting embrace from both players and critics. The lack of pre-release spoilers and players generally experiencing the original’s now iconic and consistently applauded twists and turns may have contributed in the first game’s near universal approval in spite of still being a grim take on humanity’s post-apocalyptic future.

Simply put, while The Last of Us Part II may very well be a excellently crafted, expertly realized tale of revenge and the tragedy it perpetuates, it’s release with such strife engulfing the world, especially concentrated in America, may make it a game that is harder to appreciate.

It might be harder for players to emotionally grasp and accept the controversial narrative path the leaks exposed, even if the game’s execution and build-up of that divisive path actually makes logical sense and expands on the original’s themes.

In a time like this, players are looking for games that while they may still have mature subject matter, aren’t quite so grim or willing to toy with player emotions like Last of Us Part II.

Released earlier this year was Doom Eternal, a mostly light-hearted yet extremely visceral experience that makes the act of brutally slaughtering evil creatures from Hell an entirely guilt-free, cartoonishly fun experience. As harsh as the playable Doom-Slayer’s actions are to demonkind, you aren’t meant to feel bad about your actions unlike the authorial and mechanical intent of the new Last of Us.

There was also the first entry in the ambitious remake/re-imagining project for Final Fantasy VII, released last April. It does feature a dystopic setting involving themes of poverty, corporate oppression, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and even the protagonists second guessing their own actions.

Yet, it’s much more palatable due to a teen rather than mature rating and having a breathtaking mixture of audio/visual beauty, much more clear cut heroes/villains overall and a more obvious invitation from the developers to enjoy the experience and have fun.

The Last of Us Part II, while not without elements that can be construed as fun or at least investing, is about experiencing a bleak tale and controlling a person whose moral compass grows dimmer and dimmer the more her pursuit of revenge takes her closer to complete vengeance.

It’s not just the divisive/ hated spoiled plot elements, its that the tone and expected mentality to play the game in is anything but escapist. You are indeed transported into a quite different world, but it doesn’t give you escape from an experience in the real world that is also not sad and dark.

Like the original, there are reportedly moments of levity, even warmth to be had which is supposed to make the dark that comes either to you or by your virtual hand feel more pronounced.

I am not saying Naughty Dog shouldn’t have made this game. It is an expression of their team and their creative talents. They likely made the game, not just to capitalize on the critical and commercial success of the first, but to push what they thought needed to be pushed story-wise from the first.

However, it would not be unlikely that the studio’s own worldview and perspective on how the world has been turning since the game began development in 2017 has painted a darker framing for the next Last of Us. Perhaps this more pessimistic title is a reflection of their own emotional turmoil at the state of affairs they have been living through, directly or not.

Neil Druckmann, the game’s director and lead on its story, bases some of the darkness and misery of the second game on his life experience growing up on the West Bank in Palestine. Perhaps the anger, fear and frustration Druckmann grew up with as a Palestinian before moving to America is part of where The Last of Us Part II draws its bitter messages on what humans are and can become.

I can’t speak for the future in general. I can’t tell you how bad or good things will become as time passes. I imagine things will get worse before they get better if even that, but I can’t know that.

I also can’t speak for the reputation of The Last of Us Part II overtime as a piece of experienced media. Will opinion outside the critic’s bubble warm to the game despite its dark, narrative intention? Will the qualities that critics have been praising in great numbers be eventually reflected with the playerbase? Have the dishonest actors in regards to smearing this game created an permanently tainted impression? I don’t know.

My mind and my hopes for what this game means to me could change drastically once I have the chance to finally play it. If it wasn’t for me being in a transitory phase of moving into a new Colorado home, I would already have started playing. Perhaps what I had then experienced in that game would’ve given a different tone to this article.

Would this article even be written had it not been for the extenuating circumstances surrounding this game and my own life? Much like how fans would be feeling had it not been for the April leaks, I will never know and not knowing that is just as frustrating as anything else regarding the compromised discourse for The Last of Us Part II and its possibly ill-timed release.


39+] The Last Of Us Part 2 Wallpapers on WallpaperSafari

Image from WallpaperSafari  (Ellie’s expression here speaks to a lot of different people now for a lot of different reasons.)

Originally posted 2020-06-21 02:30:49.

V for Victory?: Thoughts on select games from the PlayStation 5 Reveal event, including the console itself

Here are all the PlayStation 5 games announced at the console's ...

Image from Mobile Syrup (Can you spot the V?)

Nearly seven years have passed since the PlayStation 4 launched and helped bring Sony back to first place in the never-ending console wars, a bitter, divisive conflict that Nintendo and Sega began back in the 1980s.

Microsoft’s terrible first impressions with their third console, the Xbox One, hindered its success. To be fair, based on having bought one last year to replace my dying 360 and play the fifth Gears of War, it’s by no means a bad machine in its current state. A lack of killer exclusives and definable difference from Sony’s fourth kept it from achieving the glory Microsoft heavily fought for.

Even Nintendo has managed the impossible and become competitive again despite still lacking behind in graphics due to the novelty of the portable Switch and having a killer lineup of first party titles, which they rarely disappoint in as well as being surprisingly welcoming to the independent development sphere.

But now, in this time of economic, political and even societal uncertainty, the gaming industry pushes forward into the future. Nintendo, due to releasing the Switch in 2017, seems to be staying put rather than pursuing a successor.

Microsoft has already unveiled their next, fourth console, the Xbox Series X, before the PS5, showcased games running on their reportedly powerful system, relying more than ever on the horsepower that comes with the PC setup. Sure, the graphics for their games do look great, such as for the next Halo game, but there is a frustrating lack of gameplay being demonstrated.

Sony, after a very long wait in both showing off games and their console, have finally done so around the time that E3 would’ve happened. If it wasn’t for one hell of a respiratory illness going on a worldwide tour.

Was the wait worth it for me? Very much so. Unlike Microsoft, Sony actually bothered to show you actual gameplay along with the graphics. Both the Series X and the PS5 don’t seem that different visually from the current generation. That can be excused from how lifelike and detailed games have overtime become due to there being less graphical leaps left to jump to.

The focus is on making everything from this generation look bigger, more detailed and best of all consistent in performance. Gorgeously realized worlds with less frame-rate slip-ups, faster, even non-existent loading times. An ever more immersive audio/visual experience.

Sony has made a stronger argument for me than Microsoft that the PS5 will be the system to do all that and maybe a little more. I am open to the Xbox having compelling counterarguments, however.

The following are a selection of games that stood out to me to look out for down the road. Note: not all of these games are exclusive to the PS5. Some will be available on the Series X and PC and will be clarified as such. Ironically, the game that got me most giddy is a multi-platform release, but considering that game’s series history with the PlayStation, I am viewing it as a PS title first.

Spider-man: Miles Morales (exclusive/launch title)


What exactly is 'Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales' for PS5? – BGR
Image from BGR (The other man behind the spider-mask has arrived.)

Despite their long-term gargantuan success, PlayStations aren’t known for having strong launch titles. It’s usually a year before anything worthwhile comes along to bolster the system as was especially the case with the PS2.

A year after its Fall 2000 launch, the console recieved Grand Theft Auto III, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 2, Devil May Cry, Grand Turismo 3, Jak and Dexter, Final Fantasy X, and cult classic Ico. What a season to be a PS fan.

If there was a good day one PlayStation title, it was Resistance: Fall of Man for the PS3 in 2006. Sadly, Resistance was the only game for a super expensive console with little else going for it compared to the much cheaper Xbox 360 that released their own killer app at the same time that came to generally define their system: Gears of War. Oops.

However, though the exact release date is not known for the PS5, Spider-Man: Miles Morales will be coming out this holiday season to improve the record as the semi-successor to the hit 2018 PS4 Spider-Man game.

At first I thought that this was the full blown sequel to Insomniac Games’ Spidey-simulator. Apparently, it is a smaller scale spin-off that does continue to some extent the story from the first, centering on newcomer Miles, who was introduced in the original as either Peter’s successor or fellow crimefighter.

It still acts as a beautiful tech demonstration for the PS5 and I think it will be meaty enough an experience to justify it’s selling price. Its setting at Christmas time gives both a visual change of pace from the autumn setting of the original game while tying in with both the game and console’s release period.

I don’t really expect much different gameplay wise except for utilizing Miles’ distinct abilities separate from Peter’s, like an electric spider-zap and the ability to turn invisible, which helps out when sneaking around and snatching up crooks, just like flies.

Following the success of Miles’ animated, cinematic introduction to a wider audience in 2018’s incredible Into the Spider-Verse, released the same year as Spider-Man PS4, it has never been a better time to get to know Miles as the second most important wall-crawler out there. Poor Ben Reilly gets shafted once again.

Just in case you’re wondering who Ben Reilly is, he’s best known for being in the Clone Saga, the most hated Spider-Man comic story arc ever. That’s all you need to know as far as I’m concerned.

Speaking of Insomniac Games….

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart (Exclusive)

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart for PS5 announced •
Image from Eurogamer (Clank and alternate dimension equivalent of Ratchet)

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of this series. I have a friend whose brother loves this series and there a few charms here and there but Ratchet and Clank has never been a serious reason for me to own any PlayStation.

I did play the well recieved 2016 soft reboot/remake of the 2002 original. I thought it was okay and visually spectacular, a great showcase of the PS4’s then cutting edge looks.

Ratchet and Clank was part of not two but three distinct franchises meant to appeal to younger audiences during the PS2 era.

There was Jak and Dexter, made by Naughty Dog, which mildly matured that series to a T for Teen audience with its first sequel. There was Sly Cooper by Sucker Punch which was a PG-rated anthropoid-animals series of sneaking and heisting games, which had you play as that world’s greatest thief, a,well, sly raccoon.

Ratchet and Clank was a Pixar/Dreamworks inspired sci-fi comedy adventure where the alien Ratchet and his straight-man robot Clank went on zany adventures which involved a very creative arsenal of weapons to wreak cartoon carnage against evil-doers. Insomniac, both in R&C and in Resistance, has a real knack for making your tools very fun to use.

What distances me from being a fan is that the humor meant for all ages can be incredibly hit or miss. On occasion, R&C’s quips and cracks can be funny. Most of the time, it falls flat or can be downright cringe-inducing. On the narrative and humor level, Ratchet and Clank is more Dreamworks or Illumination than Pixar. Graphically, it is peak Pixar level, especially now.

What makes Ratchet and Clank’s first PS5 excursion worthy of mention is the creative jumping-through-multiple-universes angle and how it can actually affect the gameplay options as well. There could very well be some new fun toys to play with and of course it looks very pretty to play through. Another way of the PS5 to show off, especially in a manner that is safe for the whole family.

Project Athia (exclusive, though rumored to also go to PC)

Square Enix's mysterious Project Athia is headed to PC – here's a ...
Image from PCGamesN (As you might tell, prepare to live your Poison Ivy fantasies.)

So, this short trailer opens with a bunch of words suited for a trailer from that one guy back in the day who often opened with “In a world where…” and so and so.

Not a terribly good impression, but then you see a very small handful of gameplay showing this mysterious young woman jumping super fast on a series of mountain peaks and then trapping a giant wolf with a bunch of vines bursting from the ground. OK, you have my attention in the right way now.

There really isn’t a whole lot more to say based on the little I’ve seen, suggesting a game in early development. Based on the title, that may not even be the final name for the game.

Also, despite the trailer boasting of this being designed exclusively for the PlayStation 5, the web article from where I got the above image stated that Project Athia may also be heading for PC as well. If that’s true, than that undercuts how special this game may be for the PS crowd. Oh well.

Stray (PS4,PS5,PC)

Stray Is a PS5 Sci-fi Game Starring the Best Cat | Den of Geek
Image from Den of Geek (AAAAWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!)

Being published by AnnaPurrna Interactive, this apparent indie game didn’t seem that interesting to me at first. More post-human than post-apocalyptic, the world is now inhabited by humanoid robots who seem, based on one piece of graffiti, sad about the extinction of humanity. Their faces remind me of early-mid 80s computer monitors and their behavior is strikingly human as well, extending to featuring robo-barbers and robo-homeless people.

However, it is the consistent presence of a single cat traversing through the city full of robots to the point where before you see the game’s logo, you figure out the real star of the game is that adorable orange,tabby cat, wearing what seems to be some tech-like backpack for some probable gameplay purpose.

Just the idea of playing as a cat exploring a post-human world is already signing me up to play it for myself. If I’m being brutally honest, this world doesn’t seem that bleak.

Sure, my species is gone and replaced with robots, but feline-kind has survived. I think both are going to be superior stewards to the planet than us, so this is actually an optimistic piece of speculative interactive fiction for me, disguised as a dystopia.

Ghostwire: Tokyo (Also for PC, console exclusive for PS5)

Ghostwire: Tokyo makes its console debut on PS5 in 2021 ...
Image from PlayStation Blog (I ain’t afraid of no ghost.)

Last year at Bethesda’s E3 press conference, Tango Gamework’s newest title Ghostwire:Tokyo, made its debut. What’s important to clarify is that Tango was founded and run by Shinji Mikami, the creator of the Resident Evil series and the guy who coined “survival horror” for RE’s genre, if not invent but popularize.

Tango started off with The Evil Within series, which was Mikami’s spiritual successor to the franchise he founded back in 1996. While not the most popular or well-regarded games, they did give Mikami’s new studio a strong enough foothold.

Perhaps that is paying off with a new game that is less about surviving the horror than getting right up in its face and martial-arts beating the crap out of it. All, unexpectedly, in first person.

Japanese-mythos inspired spirits have taken over Tokyo and most of the city’s massive population has up and disappeared like either God or Thanos localized the rapture or the snap respectively to the one mega-city.

Now, it’s up to some nondescript Japanese dude who wasn’t taken by the ghosts to settle the score. Using some pretty flashy and supernatural martial arts moves as well as a katana, bow and arrow and maybe more, you go right up to the various spooky entities,beat em up and then steal a core from them which I guess contains their soul or essence in order to defeat them.

You also manipulate or “cleanse” the local area with your flashy moves to purge the malevolent presence that has transformed Tokyo into one trippy yet beautiful looking ,shall I say, ghost-town. Come on, how could I resist?

It’s all very intriguing and quite different than the third-person survival action of the Evil Within titles, at least proving that the Tokyo-based developer is willing to think and make games outside of what is expected based on their work.

Death Loop (PS5 console exclusive, PC)

Deathloop is a stylish new shooter from Arkane Studios for PS5 - VG247
Image from VG247 (Not pictured: Edge of Tomorrow/Groundhog Day inspired first person shooter action with the aesthetic of a groovy blaxplotation movie.)

That description for the image is basically a good description for the game itself. From the studio that delivered the open-ended explore-and-play-your-own-way fun of Dishonored and Prey 2017, comes basically the same tenets of at least the former game but with a chronological twist.

You play as Colt, one badass brother of a guy who is stuck on a visually resplendent but darkly mysterious island called Black Reef. For whatever reason, everyone on the island has one mission when they’re not enjoying themselves with the island’s accommodations: kill Colt.

Colt has a mission as well if he wants to escape the island: find and kill eight individuals who’re responsible for Colt’s imprisonment. All before midnight. There is a huge catch though. If Colt dies and trust me you and him will, he reverts back to the beginning of the night when he washes up on the island.

But he remembers everything. He is stuck in a time-loop as the title suggests and he learns more and more until he can perfect his run, defeat those eight in time and escape. But, there is a catch within a catch within a catch. There’s an enforcer on the island called Julianna whose mission is to be the biggest impediment to Colt’s escape, his primary nemesis in the endless loop.

The interesting part is that Julianna is playable. In a multiplayer component, you control her and enter other player’s games and take down Colt yourself. If that seems unappealing, then you can opt of that option interfering with your playtime and a computer controlled Julianna, ostensibly easier, will hunt Colt and you instead.

It’s all very interesting even if the time-loop concept is familiar. I’ve never quite seen it done in a video-game to this extent and Arkane Studio’s craft in creating eye-catching levels to traverse at your leisure with so many options to get the job done is in full effect.

The weapons themselves are also quite stylish and many of them fit into the early-mid 70s’ blaxplotation atmosphere which is mostly novel for my tastes. There could be some limitation in overall play, based on the time-limit and only ever being in one, albeit large, location to hunt eight targets all at once.

Then again, Arkane’s talent has been in making experiences which aren’t necessarily lengthy, but full of opportunity to go back and do it again in a very different manner. This is one experiment on their earlier games crazy enough to just might work.

Resident Evil :VIIIage (PS5, Xbox Series X, PC)

Resident Evil 8 Revealed for PlayStation 5!
Image from ComingSoon (From zombies to parasites to mold monsters to werewolves.)

This is one case where the rumors and leaks from a game appear almost entirely accurate. Yet, it doesn’t suck the excitement from me for where the original survival horror series is going next after its 2017 return to roots with the seventh entry.

As Resident Evil returned to earlier entries and re-imagined them to both acclaim, in RE2’s case, and disappointment, this year’s RE3, the people behind the first person seventh game were wondering how to push the foundations of their well regarded return to form. What should they use as inspiration?

Well, how about the beloved Resident Evil 4 from 2005? The game that changed the series into a more action focused experience that ultimately went too far in that direction with the fifth and sixth games. 4 however, managed to balance a genuine horror experience with the action, while also being one of the most rollicking,self aware B-movie experiences possible.

RE8 however, based on its title, is looking at the first and second acts of RE4 as the biggest source for ideas. The first portion of RE4 was in a forest and village section in the most remote,technologically backwards part of Spain imaginable. The potential horror of being a stranger in a hostile,strange land was played to iconic effect there.

Then, by the middle portion, you enter into a castle,or castellen considering the region, filled with macabre, Gothic traps and scares, all while outlasting a Napoleon-looking midget who rules the place. RE4 gets really weird here but in a fun, never breaking up the gameplay/horror balance manner against all odds.

RE8 takes place in a rural, more outlandishly in the past then ever part of Europe, strongly hinted to be Transylvania, Romania of all places. There are no vampires( at least not yet), but there are certainly werewolves and a regal coven of witches to watch out for!

RE8 seems to be taking the visual aesthetic of RE4 and trying to make it a grimmer, less tongue-in-cheek affair. Despite the aforementioned presence of werewolves and witches, it’s important to note that the supernatural does not exist in Resident Evil. It’s all out-there science fiction and pharmaceutical medicine gone horrifically wrong or in the villain’s opinion, horrifically right.

I all but guarantee that every supernatural looking thing, like the werewolves, are the result of the series trademark viruses and parasites used to make monsters referred to in-universe as bio-organic weapons(B.O.W.s).

Furthermore, the more outlandish sights like the giant castle looming over the village, the witches with their magical abilities and even the anachronistically old look to the village and its people could all be a trick of the mind.

Some of the leaks/rumors surrounding RE8 was that part of the newest virus’ effects is hallucinatory. Meaning that a whole lot of what you see as the playable character of Ethan, returning from RE7, isn’t real or highly exaggerated to play on your psyche. The danger however is very real.

It somewhat reminds of the Scarecrow’s fear toxin from Batman and that is an ingenious and overdue way for Resident Evil to try new ways to scare and threaten the player that wasn’t possible before. As for RE4’s ludicrous excesses, you just had to roll with it, which was easy due to how damn good the game was and still is.

Much like a fellow survival horror series Silent Hill ,which is explicitly supernatural and psychological in its horror, much of the horror in Resident Evil VIIIage could come not from the obvious monster coming at you down the hallway or road but in not always being able to trust your own eyes and what exactly you just witnessed.

The trailer for the game ends with series veteran and master B.O.W. slayer Chris Redfield showing up at Ethan’s house and coldly murdering the character’s wife in a seemingly out of character manner. What’s real and what isn’t? That is some new fear for the series and a welcome one at that.

Pragmata (PS5, Xbox Series X, PC)

Capcom announced Pragmata during Sony's stream | Rock Paper Shotgun
Image from Rock Paper Shotgun (As you might tell, the world has literally gone topsy turvy.)

What is this game about? Without gameplay, I’ll probably couldn’t tell you to save my life.

I first thought that this was a stealth teaser for of all things, Bioshock 4, which I’ve heard is actually in development. There’s a guy in an advanced looking astronaut suit who scans a road in what might be New York and comes across a mysterious, blue-dressed girl who based on her eyes could be a robot.

Next to the girl is a holographic cat who is partially transparent and seems to be the girl’s friend. As the astronaut tries to greet the girl, all of a sudden the sky glitches out and a satellite falls through a screen that is supposed to be the sky. Gravity at that same time starts going wonky and both the astronaut and girl start floating up towards the descending satellite.

Before the satellite hits them, the girl scans it with her eyes and a 3D-printer like machine on the astronaut’s suit creates a canister for the astronaut to fire with his gun. It forms a rope-bubble around the duo to protect them from getting hit by the satellite and then proceed to fly into the hole the satellite made and fly into outer space, finally somehow landing safely on the surface of the moon.

Once there, they look at the Earth which is upside down and the girl ponders what it is. The astronaut says it’s “Freedom.” End of trailer.

So, I thought it might be something about Bioshock due to that series having big, diving suit fellas called big daddies whose role is to protect creepy girls called little sisters in the underwater city of Rapture.

Ever since 2013’s Bioshock Infinite opened the road to show off alternate universe versions of what amounts to the same general story involving big armored guys protecting mysterious little girls, that is where my hypothesis sprang from.

However, that theory is quickly debunked once I recognize who is publishing and developing the game for a 2022 release: Capcom. Capcom is a Japanese game company with no association with the American Bioshock series, so if there’s a connection, it might as well be visual even thematic influence from those games and nothing else.

Certainly looks cool and the promise of “freedom” from the astronaut along with the ability to seemingly craft whatever you wish from that portable 3D printer does open up some interesting ideas to chew on as to what Pragmata will be two years from now.

Horizon II: Forbidden West (Exclusive)

Horizon 2: Forbidden West Official Screenshots
Image from Future Game Releases (If only the Shire could see us now, Mr. Frodo.)

Horizon: Zero Dawn is viewed as one of the PS4’s most profitable and best exclusives, released back in 2017. It’s intriguing mix of a distant post-apocalyptic future with advanced artificial intelligence taking on the form of animals big and small was one of, if not its most successful selling point.

It was also noted for being a clear example of games embracing more female heroines, especially in a manner that was not clearly sexualizing them. So it came to pass that the legend of Aloy was born, a young, flame-haired warrior/hunter searching for the truth of her world and the dark past that created it. For all the elaborate answers for humanity’s strange new world, yet more await. What to do but go West, young Aloy.

I was not the biggest fan of Horizon: Zero Dawn though I did appreciate its great graphics as well as the AI-animal ecosystem that Aloy learned to manipulate both for her survival and for fun. The overall story and the Hero’s Journey theme surrounding Aloy were less compelling to me.

Aloy never fully clicked with me as a character though the attempt by the developers to do so did feel genuine. Her being a vessel for the player to learn the truth of the world more than anything else made her passable. But there is yet room for her to grow and perhaps Horizon II: Forbidden West will bring me around to actually liking her.

It is a great sign of the times, at least for video games, that what is a pre-rendered trailer and what is actually indicative of being powered by the PS5 is impossible to distinguish. I may have well seen everything in Horizon II’s trailer as being the genuine article and yes, it is a grander, more gorgeous vision of a breathtaking post-apocalypse than ever before.

Horizon II hints at much that would compel me to return to Aloy’s world. The new Pacific coast setting offers a massively overgrown by nature San Francisco to explore, with the skyscrapers having become enormous trees to possibly climb.

Half of San Francisco has sunk into the ocean but that won’t deter Aloy from seeing it due to having some scuba gear to see all of Frisco. New secrets to uncover are inferred such as Aloy turning on a hologram that has a Chinese dragon float around her out of the ground.

New and dangerous robot-animals are to be discovered, overcome, even tamed, like the Miyazakiesque giant snapping turtle. And of course, can’t ignore the human element that will try to ruin Aloy’s day as not all of the surviving tribes of man are so friendly.

The ones that have made giant mumakil-sized robot elephants their steeds to fight Aloy likely aren’t ones for conversation.

It is epic, it is massive and it might become one of the PS5’s most prominent demonstrations not just of processing horsepower but of applying it to a scale rarely pulled off before in any game.

More than anything, Horizon II: Forbidden West promises that the PlayStation 5 will not lack for ambition, whether or not it succeeds is for the time being, irrelevant.

The PlayStation 5 itself

This is what the PlayStation 5 looks like: PHOTOS - Business Insider
Image from Business Insider (Pick your poison, everyone.)

It’s not just the ambition of what the PS5’s library of games have to offer that is making a good sales pitch, it’s that Sony’s next system is also forward thinking, while not being entirely dismissive of the past.

As you can see above you, assuming the picture actually loads once this article is published, is that the PS5 gives disc users like myself for the most part a desire to stick to tradition or for those who’re simply done with the arduous process of buying a game at a store, taking it home and then putting the disc in, a streamlined option in the digital edition.

In that regard, the PS5 is a transitional piece of hardware. Considering the ongoing dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic which we might not be rid of no later than 2022, not having to risk your life to buy entertainment will be a major selling point. But Sony doesn’t want to alienate those who still like the disc system that the PlayStation made an industry standard back with the original PS1 system.

The console reveal also gives reminders of the PS5’s audio/visual promise of including, possibly bundled with the system and controllers, a 3D wireless headphones, a media remote and HD camera, to make it the immersive entertainment bundle for the next half decade or more.

Finally, to close, consider the console’s look when it isn’t on its side. Notice the curves which give off the “V”. At least you know for certain now what the name of this article is referring to, if you hadn’t figured it out already.

The future, in at least one way, is filled with promise. At least there is something at all to look forward to. Of course, a stiff price during an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression might tempt us to temper some of that enthusiasm.

Originally posted 2020-06-16 22:58:59.

Ocean Man: Stephen Hillenburg 1961-2018

Image from Consequence of Sound and owned by Nickelodeon

If Nickelodeon has a Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, it is undeniably Spongebob Squarepants, still running after debuting 19 years ago. The show is also Nick’s Animaniacs in the same way Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra is their Batman Animated Series, though the former is lit much more brightly and differs thematically, in all fairness. Perhaps the greatest miracle of Stephen Hillenburg’s defining creation is how such an intentionally annoying figure like the titular Spongebob has endured in the hearts and minds of children and adults for so long, even after the series has long since peaked in quality, from its golden years of 1999 to 2005, in which Hillenburg worked as show-runner. The show received an award winning Broadway show, that must mean something has gone seriously right.

Hillenburg started off working for a Marine institute in Orange County, where in an educational comic for the Institute, the Intertidal Zone, a progenitor for his porous creation, was featured, as Bob the Sponge. Eventually, after working on an early Nickelodeon show, Rocko’s Modern Life, he eventually came up with Spongeboy, who would later become the aquatic icon we all know today. The rest is 11 seasons and counting of nautical nonsense of varying degrees of quality, a legion of internet memery that endures in popularity and applicability and even two critically and commercially films, with a third planned for 2020.

As his time working at a Marine Institute implies, he had a lifelong fascination with the great deep blue, and credits the famous undersea explorer, Jacques Cousteau, as an influence on his career. Spongebob Squarepants is deliberately absurd and inaccurate in its depiction of underwater life. For one, gravity as we land-based creatures know it exists to often humorous effect and the titular character is based not on an actual sea sponge but clearly, a sink’s. It’s a fun way to pique an audience’s interest in the ocean and its denizens, and save for Finding Nemo, no other piece of popular culture has been as successful. Suck it, Aquaman.

What perhaps ties up Spongebob’s enduring legacy is not so much the pseudo-realistic world of Bikini Bottom, but the characters Hillenburg placed in it. The main cast has been connected to a popular and even widely accepted by the cast and crew fan theory that seven of the cast, in this instance Spongebob, Patrick the starfish, Squidward, Sandy the Texan squirrel, Mr. Krabs, Plankton, and SB’s pet snail Gary, all represent the seven deadly sins. Comedy is often successful due to the flaws of characters sympathetic or otherwise, and the theory which Hillenburg suggested in the DVD commentary of the first season works very well.

Spongebob represents a nonsexual lust, in the sense he craves the love and respect of everyone in Bikini Bottom, especially Squidward. Squidward, often wanting to be left alone by everyone, especially Spongebob and Patrick, is wrath, apparent in his great anger and frustration that follows. Mr. Krabs, Spongebob’s boss at his job at the fast food restaurant, the Krusty Krab, is the easiest to guess, in that he is greed, due to his memetic love for money. His entrepreneurial rival, Plankton, wants the formula to Krabs’ coveted Krabby Patty formula, the secret sauce that makes the Krusty Krab a success. Plankton is envy. Spongebob’s best friend, Patrick, is incredibly lazy, despite his companionship with Spongebob and considerable strength. Though he is quite the eater, he represents sloth much more than gluttony. Gluttony goes to Spongebob’s Gary, who like most pets, loves you mostly for your ability to feed them. Gary is shown to be considerably smarter than other pets, which might imply that it is more than instinct that drives his hunger. Finally, there is Sandy Cheeks, a female Texan squirrel and the only non marine character in the show. She is shown to be fervently proud to be a Texan as well as an adventurer and often takes considerable risks for her ego. She is pride.

With exception to Plankton and maybe Mr. Krabs, none of the cast is necessarily villainous and that makes it all the more enjoyable when a show once dismissed as black and white kids’ fair or worse mindless entertainment, can convince with a comedic, all ages look at some of our own everlasting hangups. No show is ever memorable if everyone is perfect. Though not explicitly about screwing up, as is the underlying theme of the much more adult Venture Bros., it helps that something concrete and relatable is in Stephen Hillenburg’s legacy work, and perhaps as the decades continue on, Spongebob Squarepants will last because he made one of the most well known family shows of all time chaotic yet paradoxically concise. Paradoxes are often at the heart of some of the best things in life. For one, it makes life and its creations all the more interesting. Say what you will for the overall package of Stephen Hillenburg’s Spongebob, it grabbed and held your attention even if you were over the age of 15. That’s an accomplishment few do and ever achieve.

Originally posted 2018-11-29 21:09:00.

Stanley Stan Lee”the Man” Lieber 1922-2018

Image result for stan lee 1960s

Image taken from The Hollywood Reporter

Stan Lee created roughly 327 characters, mostly for Marvel Comics, over the course of his 95-year lifespan. A considerable portion of those have now appeared in cinemas, to say nothing of television live action or animated and video games. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become in only a decade, the most financially lucrative  film franchise of all time, beating Harry Potter, Star Wars, and James Bond 007. And it’s all because the right man was at the right place at the right time in the early 1940s, when Marvel went by “Timely”.

They’re varying reports on how Lee actually began his revolutionary career in comic books from varying sources. This is not helped by Lee having been a master self-advertiser who controversially often kept the spotlight away from other critical figures in Marvel’s early 60’s renaissance. Figures like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan, Don Heck, Robert Bernstein, Gil Kane, Don Rico, John Buscema, John Romita Sr., and his own still living brother, Larry Leiber. Much like Walt Disney  for his titular company in a sense, he went from being a creator to a decades spanning apologist for Marvel and the comics industry at large. He helped make what was once part of a considered disposable genre of popular culture into a leading aspect of our overall culture. The nerds, in time, won. Lee led the charge in the 1970s going forward into today, his porno stache’ along for the ride, though it eventually evolved into a kindly uncle/grandpa stache’.

Of the 327 characters I managed to source from wikipedia, the characters and their respective connected film series of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther as well as the teams like The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, can be traced back to Lee, though it’s debatable how much actual involvement he had with the original, obscure Guardians. The next MCU film, Captain Marvel, will be the first with no direct or indirect relation to Lee, as the Guardians of the Galaxy movies have had Lee’s Groot and (possibly) Yondu. He did help create the original Captain Marvel, the heroic alien Kree called Mar-Vell, which will be portrayed in the upcoming film by Jude Law, so I guess I should say that the film does have a notable connection to Lee after all, just not in titular character exactly.

Aside from honoring his legacy, most people are now fixated with what his final cameo appearance will be in the MCU, to say nothing of other non-MCU properties like possibly X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The fourth still untitled Avengers has been confirmed to feature Lee as has Captain Marvel. It’s uncertain if Spider-Man: Far from Home, the last Phase 3 MCU feature has an appearance by Stan the Man. Honestly, I feel his last appearance being in Avengers 4 would be the most appropriate, as the next Avengers is being signaled as the “end of the MCU as we know it”, not the end of the film universe period, but an end, nonetheless. Considering a big number of his characters will be signing off next year, including Downey Jr’s Iron Man, Evans’ Captain America, Ruffalo’s Hulk and maybe Hemsworth’s Thor, it would be a poignant conclusion in more ways than one.

Stan Lee will also very likely be featured at the 2019 Oscars’s “In Memoriam” section of the show, and it would be frankly insulting if he wasn’t. If I had to choose a clip to be used for Lee’s part of the Memoriam, it would be the final post credits scene from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, where Lee, in a spacesuit, panics as the bored alien “Watchers” leave him alone, tired of his tales. “I have so many more stories to tell! At least give me a lift home!” That would be Excelsior in remembrance. Nuff said. Ever.


Originally posted 2018-11-13 20:43:08.

Sunday Ramble IV (Black Ops 4)

Image result for black ops 4 ruinImage from PCGamesN and owned by Activision and Treyarch


As I attempt to refinish Mass Effect 2 and 3 for this blog in honor of its franchise’s tenth anniversary, I felt that I should continue my dormant “Sunday Ramble” series. The topic this week is one that feels quasi-personal to me, since I used to be a regular player of the Call of Duty franchise. From the original game in 2003 to 2012’s Black Ops II, I have played every entry up till that point and generally enjoyed all of them, though I wouldn’t start playing the multiplayer until Black Ops 1.

2013’s Ghosts was the first entry in the series I can remember genuinely feeling disinterested or turned off by and the lukewarm reception it got vindicated my feelings. I returned to playing with  Advanced Warfare the following year, initially skipped Black Ops III the following year, actually tried out the detested Infinite Warfare both out of curiosity and yes because of the Modern Warfare 1 remaster forcibly included to string more dollars out of me the year after that. I haven’t nor plan on playing last year’s WW2, which brought the series back to its roots with mixed results from what I’ve heard. Now we reach Black Ops IIII, which excluding spin off titles, is the fifteenth entry in the series. Including the first game’s expansion, United Offensive, there’s been a Call of Duty game every year since I was nine.

My first impressions before I learned about the Scrooge- levels of greed involved in this year’s installment were not kind. Aesthetically, the game looks very similar to the look and style of its predecessor which for the first time since 2011’s Modern Warfare 3, did look like a rehash rather than an actual sequel. Yes, there are differences which are noticeable. The advanced movement system of thruster boosting, wall-running and dashing introduced in Advanced Warfare is gone and the series is back to “boots on the ground” as the fans wanted it. It seems to take place setting wise in-between the events of Black Ops II and III, a middle ground which still has enough of a futuristic tone to use more out there weapons like a giant pile-driver to seismically smash opponents or the ability to spread fire around an area. The “Specialists” of the last Black Ops are back and as my friend Angel pointed out, it has more of an “Overwatch” feel than ever with certain characters having abilities that can be unleashed after a certain amount of time has passed in the match or through your performance in-game. Black Ops III actually beat Overwatch to the punch by half a year but its safe to say that the latter’s execution and popularity has given people a forgivable amnesia of what came first.

BO4 has been criticized for finally eschewing the singleplayer or story campaign that was available every year since the beginning in favor of small “tutorial” missions where you get to understand the specialists abilities tied to a pinch of backstory. The exact same thing occurred with Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege and overtime the risks for that title paid off as Siege is now a popular and enduring multiplayer experience nowadays. It doesn’t hurt that Rainbow Six isn’t annualized and thus new worthwhile content is released after launch for years rather than a year as is Call of Duty’s practice.

Another reason for the singleplayer’s removal aside from the understandable lack of people who don’t actually play or finish singleplayer, as was definitely the case with BO3’s polarizing co-op format, is the Battle Royale mode.  Titled “Blackout“, it is viewed by very many as following a trend rather than creating one of its own, which 2007’s Modern Warfare 1 definitely did for the multiplayer formula. With the explosion of popularity for games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, the former though dwindling in success thanks to the latter, it seems as if people are already growing weary of “Battle Royale” as a genre. What is the genre about? Like the Japanese cult classic film of the same name from 2000 as well as The Hunger Games’ novels and movies, a large group of people, often a hundred, enter a match where the goal is to kill each other any way they can until only one remains. Sounds grim but pretty cool, right? Not if familiarity breeds contempt. That concept clearly hasn’t bothered a series like Call of Duty too much considering a decade and a half life span at this point. So, a mode people feel sketchy about, in a series of games which aren’t really geared towards that style of gameplay. It doesn’t help that competing military shooter game Battlefield V will also have a BR mode, and that series is seemingly much better suited, with its much larger maps, possible tactics and so forth.

There’s also the Zombies mode, which instead of one or two maps of survival content, there’s three perhaps to make up for the singleplayer absence as well. Perhaps people would still not be that hard on the latest COD if it wasn’t for the awful, awful manner in which Publisher Activision is promoting the game. In order to get any of the zombie and multiplayer content post launch, you have to buy the Black Ops 4 pass, which is the only way possible to access a seriously large amount of content which should be available anyway to start with.  Getting the pass or the “deluxe” edition of the game can cost up to $100 dollars. For an annualized series, that’s grossly inexcusable.

Perhaps if I was a committed Call of Duty player, I would feel much worse about this, but I’m not. I have other interactive ways to pass my time this Fall season when the game is released. For one, there’s Battlefield V, whose biggest hurdle is not so much with the gameplay or how it’s being sold, as it actually looks pretty watertight, especially coming from publisher EA and their debacle with last year’s bitterly despised Star Wars: Battlefront II. It’s the questionable tone and historical accuracy, particularly of females fighting in a WW2 scenario. Wouldn’t be an actual problem if they showed French, Russian or maybe Chinese female soldiers. They do show in the story mode Norwegian female resistance fighters that existed, but they have predominantly shown British female soldiers that did not and thus the outrage, however actually important it really is. Would still prefer that to BO4.

There was a special promotion at this year’s E3, in which if you preorder Black Ops 4, you can access a set of “new” maps for Black Ops 3. It’s a set of multiplayer maps from earlier Black Ops titles that are fan favorites that have been rebuilt in the third game’s engine. However this preorder promotion is only for PlayStation 4 users like myself and to sweeten the deal, for a short time only with the service PlayStation Plus, Black Ops III can be downloaded for free. I did so, not because I wanted to preorder Black Ops IIII, but because of the three Call of Duty games I had never played, BO3 was the one I was most curious to try out. What harm can come from trying out a free game, whatever it may be?

If you can ignore the “Black Market” service, then Black Ops III is a fun, not really that remarkable but decent entry in the series. The Black Market is where the much despised “microtransactions/loot box ” system comes into play. You can spend real dollars to get COD points, which you can then spend on purchasing loot boxes which have a randomized selection of unlockable mostly cosmetic items. In other words, gambling. I haven’t spent a penny on this service, unlike with Overwatch. I got Black Ops III for free and I won’t part with any of my earned money especially at my place and age in life for a company whose eyes have become too green for their own good.

In other words, even being generous as possible, Black Ops 4 and by extension Call of Duty are stuck in a nasty mess of it own making. It’s something to boycott a game or in my case simply decline to want to buy something for ethical concerns. Adding pragmatic reasons to the fold is what ultimately wins the day. Perhaps Activision suits will stop snorting cocaine to realize the long tarnished goodwill they’ve created and will attempt, however disingenuously like perhaps EA, to get it back. But odds are they won’t. Shame.

Originally posted 2018-07-15 21:08:25.

An End for Total Biscuit (1984-2018)

Image result for jon total biscuit bain Image from GamesNosh


Jon “Total Biscuit/ The Cynical Brit” Bain has passed away from a fight with bowel cancer at the too-early age of 33. Honestly, any age is too early to die from cancer. It’s not how I would want to go out in my twilight years. I was an on and off follower of Bain’s YouTube channel for about as long, I think, as Bain was available on YT. He mostly, perhaps entirely focused his efforts on covering games both AAA and indie on the PC platform. Aside from videos detailing rants and critiques of the games industry and their often questionable practices towards the consumer, he was best known for his “WTF is..” series of videos. The videos in question were either a before or after release “first thoughts” video in which Bain would give his honest opinion on a new title.

Occasionally, he would make videos discussing in detail games he loved, such as the original Deus Ex from 2000. Sometimes it would be videos discussing other Youtubers, whether it was in defense or against them. No matter what he did, I never felt he was dishonest in his perspective, even if I disagreed with him. His thoughts on the gameplay of Bioshock Infinite (2013) stick out in my mind for how unfavorable they were against mine just as much as he shared my glee for the awesomeness of 2016’s Doom reboot.

He was not without scandal, though I use the term loosely in his case. His habit of being unapologetic in his stances, unsurprisingly created many detractors. After his passing, David Crooks, an ex-Bioware employee who worked on the beloved Mass Effect series, particularly its not so beloved most recent entry, Mass Effect Andromeda (2017), had some hateful words for the late journalist. He tweeted “that the world felt a little bit better” when he learned of his death. His main set of arguments against Bain were for critique that Total Biscuit made towards games he worked such as the Mass Effect series. Bioware’s General Manager and director of the Mass Effect series, Casey Hudson, had to apologize for Crooks’ comments, after the latter took down the tweets and made his Twitter account private.

He also gained notoriety back in 2014 over his stance surrounding “Gamergate” in that he took a “pro” position. Bain, a long standing advocate for ethical game journalism and practices in the gaming industry believed in the message the movement was apparently about. The “anti” movement believed it was a shield to protect a toxic, anti-female agenda in the industry, and that Bain’s support by extension made him sexist. The volume of Bain’s work as “the Cynical Brit” would suggest otherwise, not least of all  being the support of his wife and fellow gamer, Genna Bain.

It does not matter what was in Total Biscuit’s heart because we really don’t know. What his words, his activity online tells us is what we know and what we should remember him for. His stance on clean practices for journalism and treatment of games and the gamers should be honored even if there were times when you thought he couldn’t be more wrong on some pertinent topic. What he stood for is still alive and hopefully it will never die. Rest in peace, TB. If you can somehow still play on the other side, I hope you have GGs forevermore.

Originally posted 2018-05-28 01:45:02.

Sunday Ramble III

So much for Pacific Rim. A movie continuation I was eagerly anticipating thanks to the brilliant original from 2013 is not all it’s cracked up to be based on its reception. Perhaps if it succeeds at the box office, especially with the international market considered, a third film could right the ship. I doubt it, feeling Del Toro having had more involvement would’ve saved the project, but intimate and touching inter-species romance was his priority rather than intimate and brutal inter-species conflict. You can’t have it all.

It’s a good thing that Far Cry 5 is coming out this week as there is a drought of releases both interactive and observable in the near future. Well, not quite. I will be seeing Ready Player One sometime soon when my friend Angel is available from his busy load of work, considering he is in his final semester of college. There’s also the next Netflix season of Unfortunate Events coming this week too, so maybe it’s not all that dry after all. Aside from Infinity War, there’s only one other thing that’s on my radar for April and it is a pretty obvious one: the new God of War. Kratos, the most famous Spartan ever, aside from Leonidas and technically half the cast of Halo, is back and he’s causing havoc in the Norse mythology rather than the Greek this time around.

He has a son and a really big axe which can return to him after being thrown like a certain Marvel hero. The two of them go on a likely intentional “Last of Us” style adventure across the Norse lands in search of… something IDK. It probably has something to do with Kratos having an understandable but vicious hatred of the Gods, based off his killing spree in the original trilogy from back in the day. It hasn’t been confirmed what exactly Kratos and his son’s quest is for, but I would be surprised if not one Norse god made an appearance in any way. Imagining Kratos ruthlessly caving in Thor’s skull with his hammer has probably floated in many a gamers’ head since the surprise reveal of the new game in E3 2016. Here’s to a new odyssey for the Grey Spartan.

Originally posted 2018-03-25 22:05:14.

Sunday Ramble II

So, another Infinity War trailer is out and half the world has probably already seen it by now. I think it was awesome as always, getting the heart pumping and the mind impatient to see it all go down in late April. I am curious to see, now more than ever, how Ant-Man and the Wasp plays into this, considering how absolutely dire and quite universal the consequences of Thanos’ plans are. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man is slated to appear in some capacity in Infinity War, but if I had to guess, during the one or two credits scenes is when Scott Lang makes an appearance, possibly with Wasp in tow. It could very well be set before the war begins and Lang is catching up some in-movie audience of fellow superheroes on what has happened and how it will affect the fourth Avengers next year. I find it hard to believe that two of Marvel’s tiniest heroes won’t have a part to play in the follow up film. In a situation like the Infinity Stones, it’s all hands on deck or die.

Speaking of , I also wouldn’t be surprised by a cameo in the Infinity War credits by Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, with her own wild story to catch people up on, for one to explain how she is still in her 20s/30s despite being around in the early 90s, the time-frame of when I was born. If the Netflix heroes like Daredevil, Cage, Jones and even Punisher and Iron Fist show up for the fourth film, that would be super, thanks for asking.

One thing that is worrying me if all this Marvel hype is to be expected, is that a film I am really hoping doesn’t suck might suck box office wise. It’s coming out this week and not a single review has materialized. Thanks to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas recently, Spielberg’s Ready Player One has gotten early reviews and while the acclaim isn’t high, it’s not a terrible film either, something for me to consider if I get some free time and spare money down the line. The film I’m scared for is if you hadn’t already guessed, Pacific Rim: Uprising. I love, cheese and all, the original 2013 film. I want Uprising to succeed not only to support new intellectual properties in Hollywood cinema, but to make Eastern influenced material like the mecha and anime genres relevant in Tinseltown.

True, it’s expected that the international box office, like for the last film, may be what saves this giant robot v giant monster royal rumble flick from disaster. If the reviews are good and even better than the first, than audiences could see Pacific Rim 2 as an appetizer for what Infinity War will bring a month later. I would rather this giant beast flick succeed than Dwayne Johnson’s random as hell Rampage movie. I’ve heard that another bonus to PR2’s success could be a crossover with the Monsterverse, featuring King Kong and Godzilla. So please, America, if the movie’s good, don’t disappoint like last time. The Jaegers need your help!

Originally posted 2018-03-18 18:29:51.

Sunday Ramble I

I feel I’ve been remiss in my duties, to recall a quote from the great David Bradley, for this website. To keep a blog alive and in the minds of my prospective audience, I have to keep it updated regularly, even If there is nothing “important” to discuss, such as a movie or game review, like last month. So I’ll discuss briefly what’s on my pop cultural mind. I hope to make this a weekly occurrence, should I mind it properly.

Due to Black Panther’s astonishing success, having grabbed the fourth weekend at the top just now, a lot of people’s brains are now, as Marvel is hoping, shifting to the next big movie event for this franchise, and conveniently, the heroes of the African epic will play a huge role in Avengers: Infinity War (April 27) . It’s already being called “Black Panther 2”, due to that connection. Some have also predicted, like Andrew Bridgman of Dorkly, that BP could actually outearn Infinity War. I disagree. He (Bridgman) admits that a lot of his predictions in the past, like Deadpool’s lack of box office success, were wrong, so I’ll give him that. Yet when you consider that T’challa and other members of Panther’s cast are assembling alongside the Avengers as well as featuring just about every major player in the MCU that isn’t on Netflix, including the Guardians of the Galaxy, yeah, I can easily see it surpassing the prior film. For now, Black Panther is set on easily overtaking the first Avengers’ domestic gross, but as for Avengers 3 and next year’s untitled fourth film, they seem like the ultimate champions hands down.


There is currently a relative drought in terms of new games to play, relative being the golden word. I, for monetary concerns, haven’t tried out the Bayonetta 1 & 2 collection on the Switch. I’ve been replaying last year’s Prey multiple times and been immensely enjoying the unsung title. The next major game I’m certain about playing is at the end of the month: Far Cry 5. Despite evidence suggesting once again, more of the same admittedly great formula established from 2012’s Far Cry 3, albeit with some decent tweaks, I’m staying optimistic. For one, the season pass for 5 is actually quite promising, with some cool sounding expansions to the main game. There’s three main narrative expansions that are in the vein of 3“s beloved Blood Dragon, which is gloriously divorced from the main game in every imaginable way except basic gameplay. There is a Vietnam mission pack, which pays tribute to the romanticized and quite ahistorical pieces like Rambo and Missing in Action. The second is set on Mars, fighting aliens with all the most obvious callbacks to space sci-fi dating back to the 50s. The third revolves around, yes, even more zombies, in what is both a shoutout to multiple different flavors to zombie film, brainstormed by a fictional B-movie filmmaker. Its gameplay seems derivative of Call of Duty’s decade long proven formula.

If all of that didn’t make 5‘s season pass seem unusually substantial, there’s also Far Cry 3 Classic Edition , which will finally let me play that game with a decent rather than crappy framerate. So, things seem pretty good for a fan like myself of the series, though I admit that while I liked Far Cry 4 back in 2014, the structure of gameplay established in 3 was already showing its age & fatigue and was hoping that whatever came next reinvigorated the franchise again. Next, however, came Primal, which aside from its neat Stone Age setting and aesthetic, didn’t really do anything new, and due to the setting, your suite of gameplay options were even more restricted. I did not finish Primal. I’m hoping 5 has a few surprises in store to what is already been showcased to make it a game worth finishing, more than once being a clear indicator of a worthwhile time.

To wrap up, here are my short thoughts on Disney’s ill-received second attempt on A Wrinkle in Time as well as something more. I have never read the 60s novel, and based on my poor reception to hearing partially an audio book during a road trip, I felt even more inclined to skip it. The previews for the new movie further dis-compelled me to see it, as to be honest, aside from a little girl searching for her missing Father, I could not tell you what this whole thing is about. Based on the reviews, I was not wrong in my judgement.

The next film that I want to see and am crossing my fingers not only doesn’t suck but is also profitable is Pacific Rim: Uprising. Thanks to international box office, the original 2013 film by recent Oscar winner Guillermo Del Toro, managed to survive as a franchise, and hopefully the long in development sequel keeps this sorely needed new intellectual property going. Seeing the very Japanese “mecha” genre succeed in any way under Western hands is a joy for me, a chance to bridge cultural gaps we often don’t think about, if at all. Hopefully its success could renew Hollywood’s interest not only in new properties but in handling Japanese material properly, unlike the failures of Death Note and Ghost in the Shell from last year. I dream of an American produced Akira film(s), with get this, a Japanese cast. Perhaps both Pacific Rim and Black Panther’s non white cast, can convince Hollywood to grow a pair and at least try to do the right thing.

Originally posted 2018-03-11 19:47:20.

To poison thine self: About the Venom Trailer


I was thinking that Han Solo’s solo movie was going to be the biggest embarrassment of the year. Sure the trailer wasn’t too shabby but switching out directors and only now releasing a trailer, I’ve got a bad feeling about that. Then we get to what is the most arbitrary film of the year, a film that could still surprise, but is given off the expected impression it will not. Tom Hardy’s solo Venom movie has just gotten its first trailer and… well, it didn’t let me down in letting me down.

Even if the teaser was super cool and Venom, one of Spider-Man’s greatest and scariest enemies was whipping up chaos as well as his tongue, it would still feel hollow when you realize the context of Sony’s first superhero film in four years. For one, Spider-Man is not part of the movie, even though a story involving Venom is only as good as Spidey’s presence. He was created to be a dark, sinister reflection of the webslinger’s abilities and persona. Essentially, what if J. Jonah Jameson’s perception of Spider-Man was correct?

Without him, Venom and Eddie Brock don’t have the same narrative power and frankly, there doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to save I suppose for a possibly decent anti-hero tale with Eddie trying to make the dark symbiote that makes up Venom into a force for good rather than mayhem.

Delving into the actual merits of the trailer, it not only leaves much to be desired, for those unfamiliar with the Marvel character, you may not entirely be sure what the movies is even about. What you can observe from the preview is that Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock narrates that he has personal demons to confront, something happens to him that puts him in the hospital and at the end, we see a small glimpse of black tendrils or blackened blood veins crawling up Brock’s neck as he wiles out much to the favor of those who meme online. For all the speculation of what Venom would even look like and if he would be better or worse looking than Topher Grace’s ill conceived take from Spider-Man 3, you aren’t getting it yet.

My prejudice from the project even existing at all notwithstanding, nothing about the trailer piques my interest. It looks and feels generic, something that a film starring an entity like Venom shouldn’t come across. It spells more uncertainty for a film that was already being written off. Many still,up until now, doubted Sony was serious about the movie existing at all. Spider-Man, thanks to Tom Holland’s excellent performance, has successfully been reborn in the universe he always belonged to: Marvel Studio’s. We would all rather let Sony accept defeat and let the black webslinger have has run in with Holland’s in the MCU proper. Instead, more bad decisions weigh down a company that seems much better equipped to handle the games industry and act self- destructive to their cinematic practices. The last good film I remember watching from Sony’s line up? Star Trek Beyond,from two years prior, and even then I would be hard pressed to declare that a financial win.

Sony isn’t entirely screwing up in my eyes. There is that neat computer generated animated film coming out this Fall, after Venom. Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse. I would much rather Sony only do that little number than prevent Feige and Co. over at Marvel Studios from doing the Spider-Man symbiote film

Above Image property of Empire Online

we deserve, rather than a project that feels superfluous rather than super.

Originally posted 2018-02-09 23:02:11.