Rogue One Review

So here it is.  My dreaded review of the latest Star Wars film.  I hate anything that makes me think I am attacking a beloved franchise but a review I must do to keep an objective mind.  So here we go…*gulp*

Let me start off by saying that this was a good movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and I will have to be honest, it wasn’t flawless.  As I said, it was a good movie but there were some parts that felt off or rushed.  The action was typically Star Wars.  Massive air and land battles in the massive edge of your seat kind of way.  The ideas for the main characters were compelling.  So what happened that made it only “good” and not “great”?  What happened was that in the pursuit of the action goodness, the exploration of the characters felt weak.  The only really well fleshed out part was the explanation for the 2 metre gap in the Death Star.  This was explained in a very clever way that I, not sure about other people, found compelling.  But the character development wasn’t strong.  I would have to chalk this up to either the script being rushed through those moments or it may have been because of video editing to keep the film around the 2 hour mark. Since I have not seen the original script, I will chalk it up to video editing and hope that an extended edition will flesh out the characters more.  I didn’t feel like I was connected with the characters for the important dramatic points later on and this problem arose mostly in the feeling-rushed-and-hardly-explored first half of the film.  I won’t put the spoiler here for the people who have not seen it yet.  But I do say:  Well played, Disney/Lucasfilm!  My hats off to you for essentially doing the following meme (well, a spin off a meme that appeared on my facebook timeline a week or two ago):

People:  “WTF?  A 2 meter hole that if a torpedo hit, it would destroy a space  station after traversing a large pipeline?!?  You can’t justify that!  That’s like a pin needle hole in a basketball.  There’s no legitimate reason for that!”

Lucasfilm: “Hold my beer while I work on that…”

*While the people wait with not high expectations, Lucasfilm writes a script which results in Rogue One: A Star Wars story *

People: “…oh…”

Lucasfilm: “My work here is done.”

*Takes beer back and takes a giant swig*

*SPOILER ALERT*

I do have to say I liked the blind guy (Chirrut Imwe as played by Donnie Yen Ji-Dan) who was obsessed with the mantra”I am the force and the force is with me.”  I felt he was the second most compelling character (and my favorite) and the heroine had a decent backstory.  It was just a shame that they butchered it short.  Also, I do feel that the space battle was an homage to the giant space battle at the end of the Empire Strikes Back and the land battle was an homage to the Battle of Endor of the Return of the Jedi.  Just no Ewoks involved.

I also enjoyed the sarcastic, full of sass, droid this time around known simply as K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk).  He certainly came across as a robot I enjoyed more than the classic C-3PO and highly entertaining.  But I won’t go into too much detail about that.  So minus some character development issues, the film was a good film.  Better than Episode VII?  I don’t think so.  I will take Episode VII over this one but I would like to see Felicity Jones again in other installments of Star Wars as she had some talent for bringing to life the tough-as-nails heroine trope.  All in all, a worthwhile film to see on it’s own and a worthy addition to the franchise.  With it’s apparent success, it isn’t hard to see the studios doing other mini-stories to Star Wars as well.  I can only hope they will do one on Boba Fett and his race.  At any rate, I have died many times to bring you this review…*trails off*

PS: if that went over your head, go back and watch the original trilogy where the implied Rogue One operatives are mentioned in passing.  After all, there was only one way it could end based off Mon Motha’s statement in Episode IV before the Death Star briefing.

This is a strong 8 out of 10 tie fighters (for my Empire supporting friend). A strong entry and I look forward to more Star Wars lore-expanding movies now!

– RurouniGatts

 

Gauntlet (PS4)

Introduction

Remakes.  Love ’em or hate ’em, they are coming around like recycled garbage.  What I am getting at is that there seems to be a lot of games being remade nowadays and this includes old Atari and arcade games.  But then this is nothing new as this has been going on for generations of consoles.  Pong, Pac-Man, Spyhunter, Splatterhouse, and many others highlight this trend.  Go on.  Have a look at Amazon.com whenever you get a chance or even Gamestop, EB Games, or eBay.  You’d be surprised beyond words at the amount of remakes there have been.  And not all of them are good.  Some are or could be so bad (too many that I haven’t played because, you know, life gets in the way) that they make playing with garbage sound like fun.  In the event of it being something so bad that it is a maggot ridden cesspool or worse (and believe me when I say there have been a few), they would cause one to panic like Grunkle Stan of the show Gravity Falls when he realises that the town is celebrating it’s origins by living like their ancestors for a day.  For those of you that don’t know what that even feels like or haven’t experienced a town historical day, it plays out as follows :

*SPOILER ALERT*

*Stan squints as he raises his hand to his eyebrows as if to shield his eyes from the sun*

Grunkle Stan: Why is it all…?  Covered wagons…? Oh no…NO NO!

*Slams the gearbox of the car into reverse, tuns the car around as quickly as he can and races the car through the streets*

Grunkle Stan:  NOT TODAY!  NOT TODAY!

*Nearly hits some of the revelers, then jams the car once again into reverse and races the car backwards as fast as he can*

Dipper: *worried* Grunkle Stan, what’s going on?

Grunkle Stan: *full of panic and fear*  We’ve got to get out of here before it’s too late!

*While racing the car in reverse, he has to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting some of the wagons in the town center and has nowhere to go after that.*

Grunkle Stan:  They’ve circled the wagons!  We’re trapped!  NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Well, badly remade games don’t create EXACT situations like that but the same panic/fear is there and all too real!  Also, this is kind of what going through a town hell bent on trumpeting its own history is like.  Hell on Earth, the apocalypse, and so forth.  I can understand learning from history is to prevent future mistakes but I’m also afraid I may have seen another side to this phrase.  People are now being INSPIRED by history and trying to repeat it.  If this is the case, then learning the history of anything is now a double edged sword.  Imagine some people being inspired by the worst of humanity of yesteryear and then trying to copy that…yeah.  A frightening thought, isn’t it?  History repeating regardless of whether we learn from it or not.  Anyways!  Getting off topic again and back to the review!

The worry of “I loved this game when I was younger.  They might’ve screwed it up!” or “I hope they don’t change the best elements that made this game good originally” perplexes our mind constantly.  At least for those that have played the originals.  But that’s just it.  You don’t KNOW until you have played them and the anticipation kills you slowly from the inside like acidic deterioration!  But whether it is a bad remake or if it is just bringing back a bad game in its original form is like participating in a s&*#^y lotto where the prize you win might be $1,000,000 but the chances of that are like astronomically against you.  Say 0.0000000000000000000001% chance of winning.

But let me put it to you that you may rest assured and sleep soundly at night.  This Gauntlet remake is not just a simple rehash and certainly has added a lot to its playability. I should know since I owned the original Gauntlet on the NES when they only had two player support.  That was before they released the second game and released the NES multi-tap adaptor to allow up to four players to play at the same time.  ‘Bout time that the NES finally got the four player action like the arcade versions had allowed you to do right from the beginning.  All right, that’s enough about the Bronze Age of video gaming history with Gauntlet!

Story

Gauntlet certainly isn’t the most overly complex story or even the most surprising.  Morak, a wizard of some description, has demonstrated his power by summoning the Gauntlet from the astral plane into the mortal realm and wants some amusement.  So your chosen character (there are four to choose from and each plays uniquely different from the others) tries to go as deep into the Gauntlet as possible, hopefully making it through to the end.  Each character has a different motivation for taking on the gauntlet.  The barbarian wants to add to his epic “legend”, the Wizard wants acquire powerful magical knowledge, the valkyrie wants to find the leader of their tribe , and the elf just wants to pillage the riches that reside in the Guantlet.  But regardless of who you choose, you have to collect the three pieces of the Sword of Tryfing and bring it back to Morak.  That’s all there is to it.

Gameplay

What the game does extremely well are the controls.  They are responsive and tight and even better, each of the characters play styles all feel completely fresh and unique from each of the other characters.  The barbarian is good at tearing through hordes of enemies with his brute strength.  Meanwhile, the wizard can combine magical properties to create unique spells.  What I mean is that you can insert a command string of two or more magical elements and that results in a magic spell.  You then use the right analog stick to aim and fire the spell.  There is no mana bar so you can keep firing at will but do keep in mind that some of the spells (particularly the more powerful ones) will have a recharge time.  So once you fire, start killing enemies with other unlimited/lesser spells until it recharges (like WoW and other MMOs).  I will admit t that this is the most annoying character to play because of having to switch spell commands constantly by putting in element combinations quickly.  This is not well suited to some of the frenetic sequences you have to battle through.  But the best comparison of the wizard’s play style is to compare it to Magica and Magica 2.  It is virtually identical in the spell casting and firing department.

Anyways, the valkyrie has the use of a shield and can use it to reflect/defend against projectiles, a spear to dash in a straight line through enemies for a short distance, and a sword slash for tearing through hordes of enemies (the most versatile character in my mind).  Then there is the elf, who is the fastest moving of all the characters.  He not only has access to the bow and arrow as his normal attack but he also can evade by diving away or through enemies.  He also has access to bombs with a slight detonation delay.  His arrows fire in a style similar to The Real Ghostbusters arcade game back in the day. If you don’t know that, then think of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime for a more recent reference.  That is, one stick to move the character and the other to fire their weapons.  The elf’s arrow fire in the same manner.  He was fun to play despite having the lowest attack power of all.  But his bombs make up for it though and evading traps and enemies with the dive roll was fun as well.  All the characters have a super attack that requires one potion (and each one has a unique ability with this as well).  So be prepared to adjust your play style to the abilities of the character you choose, know their strengths and weaknesses, and remember them for when you go into a vicious competitive game of Gauntlet.  Like I said, in this game, you can be either helpful or competitive.  Or the lesser known “accidental competitive” when you accidentally shoot food that someone needs because they are about to die.  I can only imagine the real life hostilities that occurred because of those accidents in games of this nature (I am only presuming at this point because so many people must’ve played multiplayer with this by now)!

I almost forgot!  You can even purchase equipment, items, and other things in between levels using the gold you collect from the levels.  The weapons change your attack abilities (except the basic attack), items bestow you with additional boots/benefits, and you can customise your hero with the purchased robes, helmets, belts, etc.  But this is only limited to the equipment that your selected character can equip.  You can tell just by looking at their outfits what they can and cannot equipment.  They won’t do much for you other than change the appearance so investing in the weapons and relics (which give you additional benefits) would be the focus early on.  I mean they are essential to the gameplay and I would dare compare their necessity like clean air for breathing.  Ah well…

Conclusion

So in the end, I am proud to announce that this game is one of those “WORTHY” remakes.  Wish I could give the studio a big frickin’ sticker the size of the building to put on their building to let people know that they succeeded!  So instead, I want to give them a crown for a job well done!  It captured the essence of Gauntlet in a way I thought would be hard to do but Arrowhead has done an excellent job and exceeded my expectations!  I admit that I was cautious (and had set the bar very low) but they certainly proved that worthy remakes are possible.  Keep up the good work Arrowhead and I hope to see some more good remakes or heck, hope that they will be brave and try to do something new as well. I wait with abated breath for your next fun game!

I give this game 8.5 shields out of 10 (mostly because I keep “accidentally” neutralizing food in the game.  A single-player game no less!)  At any rate, I hope you all have had a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever and I hope you have a great New Year as well!

– RurouniGatts

The Flash TV Series Review: How The Flash Drives Home Forgotten Values (Season 1 & Season 2 Review)

“Things aren’t always what they seem.  Fear can play tricks on us, making us afraid to change course.  Afraid to move on.  But usually hidden behind our fears are second chances waiting to be seized.  Second chances at life, at glory, at family, at love.  And these opportunities don’t come around everyday.  So when they do, we have to be brave.  Take a chance and grab them when we can.”

-Barry Allen aka “The Flash”

We all have seen some form of superhero movie/TV show at some point.  After all, it is the latest and current craze to sweep the entertainment medium.  What makes them unique and engaging is the seriously deep and thought provoking ethical issues they bring up. While people may not have “superpowers” in real life, it certainly makes one think about the application of these issues while you watch them.  These issues range from ethical scientific experimentation, responsibility and responsible use of power (like political power), how people not like oneself interact with each other, how they should be regulated (if they are a danger to the population), how they should be treated in a population, what rights they should have, the ethics of using very powerful weapons/personnel as a controlled military strike force or SWAT team with/without oversight, and so forth.  But I am more interested in the morality side of these movies/shows.  These are mostly in the realms of “If you had the power to help someone, would you?  Would you help them even if they wronged you or if there was no other choice?” and the list could keep going on for a while.  These questions are more relevant to our lives as the social systems that are currently implemented around the world are now bringing it to the forefront.  I can hear you ask why already.  But to illustrate my point, here is an example:  Suppose someone is being thrown under the bus for something at work, but you have proof or recorded everything the higher ups have said or have done .  Would you step forward and put in your two-cents to save them?  Or would you let them be thrown to the wolves?  Or if they knew that you knew they have manufactured evidence to use for their own agenda and tried to threaten you, would you back down and yield to them while accepting the punishment no matter how unfair it is?  Or would you stand up and still fight the good fight even if it was essentially a kamikaze defence?  These are the kinds of workplace issues that are now cropping up in modern society by the wrong people who are holding back progress.

Anyways, I like The Flash for this reason and can really appreciate that it tackles subjects that are far more understandable/applicable to the real world despite the surreal setting it fits itself in.  After all, the function of stories are to teach us ethics, morality, and to make us think about how things might play out or present various viewpoints you might not have considered.  In other words, it presents us with various aspects of life we learn to deal with in which Barry Allen is also having to come to terms with despite being a superhero and this is how we, the audience, can associate with him.  Moreover, out of all the quotes in the show, I think the most powerful one was the quote mentioned at the start of the article.

Let me explain without giving away many specific spoilers for those that haven’t seen it yet.  So consider that a spoiler alert.  In the process of going through life, it is basically inevitable that we will make mistakes.  In fact, it is basically a guarantee like death and taxes, according to Benjamin Franklin (I apologise for the US reference if you are unfamiliar with US history).  In this case, the Flash (aka Barry Allen) has made so many that he just kind of shuts himself off emotionally many times.  Some of the other characters do it as well as it is a natural response to emotional pain.  Why feel at all when the possibility of emotionally hurting is pretty high and painful?  He even makes a statement at one point during the series where he says that every time he feels he scores a victory, he also feels like he loses.  Some examples of this is are missed opportunities to free his dad or even trying to confess to the person he loves when she has her eyes on someone else because he was too slow or afraid to act.  Not to mention that sometimes he is not fast enough or powerful enough to save someone in time.  But as the series progresses, these situations just eat at him and it kind of makes him more upset and more angry as it continues to happen like a non-stop steamroller.  It even has the same effect when he keeps being reminded of these events or even when he dwells on them with him being emotionally broken.  Not just once but numerous times.  Possibly even more times than a regular human being has put up with in a normal life.  But what keeps him pushing forward?  As far as I can tell, it boils down to one thing:  hope.  Hope is what keeps a person pushing forward, to persevere in all things. When you despair, that is what drags a person down to doing nothing.  Once you fall into despair, desperation, and/or sadness, it is the pit in which you can almost never return.  For some, this results into desperate actions whether it is suicide, murder, and so forth.  The second main villain, Zoom, is a result of this kind of path when you abandon hope.

But in the case of Barry, he has the support of his friends with whom their bond is virtually unshakeable.  Sure, they have had very rough times and due to incidents in alternate timelines and dimensions, it has been rocked it to its very foundations.  But in the end, those bonds are what keep Barry going no matter what.  This is something we can all take away from this and yes, this is a very corny moral but a very important one.  Especially when dealing with people who are contemplating suicide.  I’m sure if Barry was on his own, he would’ve ended up becoming another Zoom due to being corrupted by hate, vengeance, and sadness.  But the obvious motivation of protecting the others and hope is what kept him from going that way.  And along the way, he gets additional chances at life and is now starting to take them.  Something I am learning to do myself at this current time and feel is very valuable to us all.

Anyways!  In the end, this is an excellent show with great morals and characters as well as a very convoluted plot involving time travel, the multiverse, and dopplegangers. All of this in two complete seasons and arguably the best superhero show I’ve ever seen.  I look forward to watching season 3 at some point when it comes out on DVD or blu-ray but I sure hope it gets here in a flash!

-RurouniGatts

No Man’s Sky (PS4)

Introduction – The Sky’s The Limit

I know this is said to be a “game”.  I use this term loosely as I think it doesn’t quite fit the criteria to be called a game.  I believe this is where the harsh criticism stems against this highly ambitious title from the internet at large.  I believe expectations was that it was going to be more action packed (a la Star Wars, Wing Commander, etc) but instead what we got was a survival/exploration simulator.  If you put it under that context, it actually does what it does quite well.  There are some game-like elements like taking on space pirates, meeting with alien races, and crafting components to help in your survival.  But for me, this is the ultimate time killer.  Just to zone out and take in the virtual outer space and the galaxies that occupy that empty void.

But this doesn’t mean the randomly created planets and wildlife are not always fun to explore.  Repetitive, yes.  But I’m not playing it as a game.  Just as an experience.  Even if the algorithm is easy to predict after a while, it is still enjoyable just to cruise around outer space and see what there is to see.  After all, isn’t that what we enjoy about the science fiction genre?  To explore and see what is out there beyond our own tiny planet and beyond our own existence?  Also, life forms may be similar due to the composition of their environments (for those that follow evolution).  An example would be the frogs that exist across the globe.  They may have similar shapes but different patterns, sizes, and defense mechanisms that were developed to suit their environment. It is highly likely that if two planets have similar atmospheres with minor/moderate differences, it is not unfeasible to imagine this same situation occuring on two different planets.  But I suspect this won’t satisy the fact that the polygons and the bone structure they form for the creatures are fairly simliar with each randomly generated creature.  Ah well…I’m willing to overlook that at the very least.

Story

As far as I have experienced, there is no story.  But rumors suggest you are just trying to get to the center of the universe.  But you do encounter the lore of alien races and you slowly collect words for the languages of said alien races.  This also enhances your linguistics so you may understand them more easily, whether you actually interact with the ones you meet or just read markers along the way.

But the real fun is to just explore new worlds and do what they said in the Star Trek motto…”to boldly go” where no human has gone before.  To be blunt, this game is more like Star Trek and far less like Star Wars.  Even if subspace travel feels like I am riding in the Millenium Falcon taking on the Kessel Run in about 14 parsecs or longer.  I mean 12!  I am so sorry, Han Solo!  That mistake won’t happen again!  Please don’t let loose the wookie!  I am allergic to laser blasts and fuzz balls that aren’t cats, dogs, mice, or rabbits!

Gameplay

I’ve heard the rumors and they seem to compare it to Minecraft.  That is most certainly one segment of the “simulation”.  That is to say that you do spend a fair amount of time collecting resources and using them to build/upgrade your ship and equipment or to make necessary materials.  You use your multitool to mine materials and it can also be used as a weapon if the situation calls for it.  The other major portion of this “sim” is traveling from planet to planet in space.  Admittedly, I get the best emotional rush everytime I come into land and see the ship look like it is burning up as it plummets through the atmosphere, careening towards the planet surface.  The hyperdrive space travel is just as fun simply because the light show you get just makes you think of the VFX used for the Millenium Falcon when it is making a jump.  I’ve had only one space pirate attack so far but I’ve only jumped once between galaxies when it happened.  I am spending too much time on the planets I have uncovered and still want to explore more of each one.  Mind you, I’ve already spent many hours on this game already.

Needless to say, it still hasn’t gotten old for me on either of these points.  I think the best article that gave an excellent description of it came from Kotaku when they interviewed the studio Hello Games prior to launch by almost two years.

Anyways, at the start of the game, you have to repair your scanner.  This is actually somewhat important as it is how you earn credits in the game without having to sell materials.  Once you have repaired your scanner, you use it to start scanning materials and naming everything you find.  This is fun at first and you get credits to spend when you do so.  But after a while, it just gets tedious.  It certainly puts into perspective what the first explorers/biologists of our tiny Earth had to go through.  Well, besides causing environmental damage and wiping out the natives (Spain, I am looking at you for the exploration of North and South America with the pigs and horses that came with the conquistadors).  Back on point though, you can just submit the automatically generated names of the flora/fauna instead of manually renaming them.  The same goes for the planets and universes you discover as well.  They can be renamed as you discover them as well.

However, I am at a loss as to how to make an appropriate analogy of this game.  But let’s give it a shot.  The analogy involves a witch that brews a potion that will only work for those that want it to work.  It blends all the best elements from other ingredients (game genres) and ends up in a giant vial, ready for consumption (official release).  Those that were looking forward to the exploration with a brief periods of combat were well rewarded, I believe.  So this “potion” worked for them.  The other portion that just wanted to start a massive space war and set all hell loose in space everywhere, got shafted.  Or rather, they feel shafted.  Instead, they started hell…hell on the internet on whether the game is worthwhile or truly massive.  To see a list of reviews, check out Metacritic for an aggregate score from different sources and wildly dissenting opinions.

Conclusion

All in all, I would put myself in the camp that liked this game.  Why?  Simply because it allows me to do what I used to dream of doing, exploring space and its wild frontiers.  At one point, humans were making steady progress towards this goal until they turned on each other and decided to fight wars instead of uniting towards a grand goal of human expansion.  And then the internet came to help spread hate!  A true pity really…

Anyways, back on topic.  This game I would give a solid 7 out of 10 black holes of awesomeness.  I’d give it higher but I have to dock it for some minor glitches here and there, the similar bone structures of the creatures (aka: the lack of variety) and how long it takes to find the right materials to make the important equipment.  Ah well, back into the darkness of this awesome galaxy to avoid the controversy that is almost as bad as the Trump vs Hillary presidential race.  Forward ho into oblivion!

-RurouniGatts

PS: And yet here is another gameplay sampler.  I can hear you already:  PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!  JUST STOP WITH THESE!  Well, too bad!  Just kidding!  Enjoy it by clicking here.

1/1/2017 UPDATE:  Thanks to some conversations with my brother-in-law and some research, now I know the real reason for the anger.  I didn’t look at any ads for this game at all which is why I was sheltered from the “false advertising” of this game.  Steam had taken an extraordinary step involving this game as well.  Because I didn’t pay attention to the ads,I had no expectations to disappoint.  Just a game I looked at on the shelf and said to myself “I’ll give it a shot”.  Apparently, that was the better approach to it.  Sometimes, marketing just gets carried away with something and this was one of those times.  But the Star Wars expectation versus Star Trek analogy still stands but now it is assisted by the ads that misled gamers.  My deepest condolences to those that had high expectations due to the ads when the game was nowhere near it on the delivery.  A tombstone has now been made in honor of your expectations.  As for the game, I will still enjoy it for what it is and not the expectation that many had.  It is just a game that was a victim of over-promising and under-delivering.

 

Halo: The Masterchief Collection – Part 1 of 4 (Xbox One)

Introduction – In The Beginning, There Was The Word…

Ahem….to the Xbox community, there is only a handful of words that justify the existence of the mighty console(s) and assert its dominance in the minds of its fanatical devotees. But one word stands so mightily above the others, almost divine in origin.  A bit of the saying by a Mr. John Brown in the show Ghost Hunt.  For those unfamiliar with the show, here is my spinoff of the quote:

“In the beginning, there was the word.  The word was Halo.”

That’s right!  We are revisiting the classic Halo that has been bundled in the packaged deal of Halo: The Masterchief Collection.  Normally, I would say you guys missed out on the blocky polygons and hazy textures that came with the original Xbox release.  I still partly blame it for my bad eyesight.  But the good news is that with the press of the button, you can now re-live what your predecessors played through with the eye-straining original graphics!  Why you would want to torture yourself with that is beyond me.  But at least it brings back good memories of the multiplayer rocket-arena days, which was the only way we found extremely high entertainment value in Halo.  Anyways, on with the review!

Story – Hail To The Chief (The Masterchief, That Is)

Considering how this is  Bungie’s and Microsoft’s most defining game series as well as having established one of the most cherished character icons ever created, the story can be summed up in the following:

In the future, humanity will be fighting a war for survival against an alien race known as the Covenant.  The Covenant worships an ancient race called the Forerunners, whom had fought against a vicious race called the Flood.  The Flood devour anything and everything.  Probably souls too if they were given a chance.  But the Forerunners had a backup plan for these little dybbuks when they run amuck.  That is to destroy everything and deny this species any possible food source for which they may survive on.  In other words, set off a massive chain-reaction explosion utilising the Halo ring arrays.  After all, there were more than just one you know.  Now it us up to the Masterchief to do what he can to save humanity from the Covenant, the Flood, and quite possibly the death of everything in space.

Gameplay

The gameplay, as far as I can recall, pretty much defined and solidified the FPS controller setup.  Right trigger to shoot your gun, left trigger to throw grenades, and so forth.  Thank god they made the LB and RB buttons replace the functions of the black and white buttons of the old xbox controller.  The original buttons were tiny and easy to miss when you wanted to switch grenade types or turn on your light.  Yes,  I consider the evolution of the Xbox controller to the controllers of the Xbox 360 and Xbox One a welcome relief for backwards compatibility!  It just ticks me off they don’t play the entire library of Xbox games.  For those too young to remember, I am talking about the library of games belonging to the monster black and green machine that had the weight of an elephant!  Or perhaps a wombat.  Whichever works for you.  Another example of how the controller evolution worked so well was playing the NBA Live 2003 on Xbox which was made a lot better with the backwards compatibility of the Xbox 360!  Anyways, moving on.

So Call of Duty and the slew of FPS’ thereafter, you can pretty much thank your daddy for your control setup.  Happy Father’s Day to you Halo!  And Halo, say happy Father’s Day to Doom and Wolfenstein 3D!

Graphics

“Look!  We must be in the future!  Everything is so shiny!”                                                      – Caboose from Red vs. Blue

Ok.  I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about the graphics but this needs to be discussed in this case.  In this collection, you have the option to switch between the original graphics and the new shiny, polished, updated graphics in Halo anniversary edition. What is mildly amusing is that you can switch between the two at any time with the press of a button. While this is a great feature, I just can’t understand why anyone would want to go back to the fuzzy eyesore graphics of the original.  Yes, they were great and cutting edge at the time but with certain levels that seemingly felt neverending, I have to conclude that it ruined my eyes!  F!@*in’ blocky graphics and hazy textures!  And curse you Bungie!

Anyways, the new graphics are nice and certainly bring an aged classic up to speed.  But I am impressed with how shiny 80% of the structures are and how the light sources reflect off of them.  Caboose really hit the nail on the head with his earlier statement.  I now need sunglasses just to play it!  No, it has nothing to do with the gamma adjustment of the TV set.  It is just how harsh the lights reflect off the building surfaces of the actual Halo ring installations themselves.  On the INSIDE!  Ah well, the game is pretty with the new graphics.

And don’t get me started on the level designs.  In the later stages of the game where you are running long gauntlets and mazes, the levels feel like they have a repetitive architecture and can easily disorient any gamer that hasn’t memorised the maps.  Or it could be a brilliant plan by the Forerunners.  If we make the buildings repetitive and disorient the invaders, maybe they will get bored and go home.  Or make the players stop playing the game as I have witnessed on a few occasions.  One thing that should have been added to help people that are new to the first Halo game is that there should have been an objective marker that indicates the direction that you need to go in.  I know most of us can play this blindfolded and in our sleep because we have played it for so many years but you know, you gotta help out the noobs after all.  They want to be just like us, the ultimate uncouth gamers!

Conclusion

The game is just how I remembered it on the oringinal Xbox with the exception of the new graphics.  The controls are just the same (if you discount that the black and white buttons are now replaced by the LB and RB buttons, a welcome change) and still plays fluidly with an engaging storyline to boot.  All good times and brings back great memories!  But ultimately, it was the multiplayer that sold it back when it first came out and it is no exception here.

I do have one word of warning.  Anyone remember the episode of the Simpsons where Homer kept jumping across the US embassy’s side and the Australian side of the line and kept going back and forth until the marine punched him?  The episode called “Bart vs. Australia”, I believe.  Same thing with the one-button graphics switching.  If you do this, the punch in your face will most likely be eyestrain followed by a nasty migraine!  You have been warned.

All in all, this game is a 7 out of 10 Spartans on a warpath.  Again, hail to the chief…the Masterchief!

-RurouniGatts

PS: In case you were wondering, here is the sampler video.  You can see two glitches, possibly three, if you count the one guy looking like he is being crucified during a Flood attack.  See the video here.

 

Diablo III – Reaper of Souls (PS4)

Introduction – In The Beginning, There Was Dial Up (The Tool Of The Devil!)

Ah…the Diablo series!

How I have loved thee!  I admit that since it’s inception where it was the first to offer four player cooperative RPG through Blizzard’s Battle.net service, I was enthralled.  Or at least, that’s what I could recall about the very first Diablo (despite that it had a VERY nasty single player with the randomised dungeons).  But here was the catch with the whole Battle.net service:  dial-up was the predominant form of networking communications (before LANs and advanced forms of networking that we are spoiled with today).  What does that mean to you if you have never lived in this period?  Frequent communication drop-offs (disconnect) and sometimes freezing gameplay resulting in speedy catchup (extreme lag).  And not just simple one second lag.  I mean the kind that would induce the modern user to unexplicable rage fits.  After all, the modern user has no patience.  I mean seriously.  You wait patiently in a checkout line for three minutes and someone is already losing their sh#@ at another customer or register.  Actually, I am digressing.  Since this was done by connecting to ISPs (Internet Service Providers) through analog phonelines, this meant that making and receiving calls was impossible (unless you had a classic 1990’s cell phone on hand with you).  This was a good way to block out calls from telemarketers, survey takers, and the random unwanted people that would call for no good reason just to drive you nuts!  All good reasons to hog the f?!@in’ phone line unless you got in trouble with the tribal elders, of course!  But a situation like this would force one to only play the game solo.  Which is what I did.  But I digress again.  Anyways, back to Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls!

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition_20160810102132

An actual quote from the game’s loading screen LITERALLY will tell you “Wizards are proud of their pointy hats”.  Can’t imagine how happy this wizard was when she got her first one pictured here…

 

Story

If the name isn’t some kind of giveaway, you are after the Lord of Terror himself: Diablo. He is continuing to wreck havoc on humanity in new…and let’s just say “interesting” ways.  I won’t say much more than that because if you aren’t familiar with the Diablo titles by now, you must’ve been under a rock!  And no spoilers for you if you have been under a rock!  What I will say is that Diablo himself is never one to shy away from the “manipulative bad guy who keeps getting away” trope, for sure.

Gameplay

Over the years, the gameplay mechanics that defined this “classic” RPG series has not changed much.  Ok.  I should say almost not at all.  The only difference this time is that it limits what powers you can choose in each of the slots.  You won’t be able to have access to them right off the bat because standard RPG conventions state that you will gain new abilities and add them to your repetoire  only at specified levels.  I personally preferred when they allowed you to map any skill to any button on the first Diablo III game (I played this on the PS3 when this happened) but with the Reaper of Souls expansion, they removed that ability.  I mean, WTF?!?  You are now forcing me to adhere to your rules, Blizzard!  I take offense to that!  Like a conservative that can’t own his/her religion or patriotism.  How dare you tell me that my defensive spells (presuming you play the Wizard) are now strictly to the square button and the triangle button is my area of effect spell?  What if I want it mapped to my L2 button or something?  But the good news is that Blizzard apparently thought this through and in order to map any skill to any button, all you do is go to Options -> Gameplay -> and select Elective Mode.  Kudos to you Blizzard for catching that near folly.  You also get your choice of three NPC helpers to help you through the game, but you have to find them first.  I get the sneaking suspicion that most of the people chose the rogue as their constant companion and I should get a survey to see if that was the case.

At any rate, the gameplay style is still the same as PC version but they “tweaked” it for the console version.  Instead of point and click due to its PC/Mac origins, you just use the left analog stick to point the character in a direction and whatever enemy is highlighted in red, it will be attacked by the power assigned to the attack button you pressed afterward.  Keep making your character face an attack direction and mash the attack button or buttons repeatedly until the enemy dies or the horde of enemies dies.  Wash, rinse, and repeat for hundreds…no wait.  Thousands of more times for hours on end.  Let’s be honest.  This is the “staple” gameplay mechanic that has defined the series since it’s conception.  Diablo 3 has not strayed too far from that mechanic either.  They made two other additions for the console version and the first is that they included a “lock-on” feature so no matter how you move, you will always attack that enemy as long as you don’t let the button go.  This is indicated by a yellow triangle over the enemy that is highlighted as you press the “lock-on” button.  Any attack button pressed will be directed toward the enemy with the yellow mark.  Any attacks that aren’t your basic attack will require a cooldown before you can use it again.  And this is where it will be divisive among players.  You have one camp that will love the RPG genre and will put up with the admittedly monotonous “gameplay”.  I myself love this genre and and just like to blitz my way through a horde of enemies.  That is, in a Battousai the Manslayer of Japanese historical mythology kind of way.  I imagine plenty of other people got bored with it and went to go play a FPS of some sort.

At any rate, the other “tweak” that was a major separation of the console version from the PC version was that they now have a dodge ability just by flicking the right-analog stick in any direction.  The character will instantly do an action hero style saving leap in the direction indicated.  And let’s not forget, you get rewarded for…and there is no polite way of saying this…”vandalism”.  Yes, if you can destroy a certain amount of objects within a specified time, you get rewarded!  In my case, I got a speed boost!  You know, just in case the police happen to be on your tail for graveyard vandalism (or stealing a peak at Leah’s diary when she indicated that it is not polite to read it while you are in her room with her standing right there in your party).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Music/Sound

I have always enjoyed the audio quality of Blizzard’s games.  And Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is no exception.  The voice acting is spot on and there are many characters that have interesting quirks.  The two men in Tristram’s bar come to mind for their high entertainment value.  Also, the haunting and dispiriting nature of the soundtrack captures the impending hopelessness in a way that will leave you thinking that a rapture is just around the corner.  Or more likely, a Hell and Heaven lead armageddon is on it’s way.  In fact, I think the “BOOM” noise was from downstairs.  It might be an indication that if I don’t clean up the messy exploded  microwaved pizza, there WILL be an apocalypse on my life in the near future.  If you don’t hear from me in the future, you will know why!

Conclusion

This game will easily shave hours….umm…I mean YEARS off your lifespan.  While the story is decent, it was the presentation that makes the game one of Blizzard’s finest.  I will forgive them for the lack of control customisation…ok.  Maybe I won’t.  Just this one time though!

In case you were curious as to why I didn’t cover graphics, it’s because I don’t see it as that important.  I can hear many of you asking why.  Well, my answer is that the medium is now using a wide array of styles from the art medium.  If someone likes the Art Deco style, they will hate games with an cell-shaded anime style or modern 3D style.  This in turn results in plenty of people who will downgrade a game simply because of the graphics.  I am more interested in how a game can pull you into its world without the graphics.  Music, audio, backstory, dialog, and lore are all important to me.  You have to make me care as to why I have to do what my character is being asked to do these things.  Make me care about my teammates.  That’s it.

However, if the graphics are really that important to you, then more power to you!  But there will be a day you will get so old, you will barely see anymore.  That is when the graphics crispness will be a moot point.  But anyways, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls does pull me in and is a solid all around RPG with pretty good graphics, though it was nothing too fancy save for their jaw-dropping CG movies in between acts.

I give it 8 out of 10 hell-spawned demons and I’m certain the game would even be more enjoyable if Diablo said the following borrowed/modified dubbed line from Monokuma of Danganronpa fame:

“I look out and you know what I see?  A few nephalim that aren’t dead!  Major bummer! That’s why I am going to light a fire under your tucases to get things moving.  Maybe a real one.  Don’t tempt me!”

…’Nuff said.

-RurouniGatts

PS:  If you want to see the short gameplay sampler I made of a wizard running around in the crypts, you can see it here.