Gaming, Movies

Warcraft Movie Review


“Step in” the Guardian of Azeroth said. Somehow I felt like he was talking to the audience. Warcraft transports us to the most beautiful fantasy world I’ve seen in films in years. It may lack the complexity of Middle-Earth, but the focused introduction of this world made it sink in so smoothly. It’s like we entered the portal where the orcs are threatening to pour in.

And then there’s the painfully boring human side of the fence where clichés pile up on top of each other wherever they’re present. It’s not like the orcs are devoid of them (family themes, cough), but things start to feel annoying when everyone’s poking into anything that has a hole in it or that looks like cosplay equipment.

The jokes whiz by like the heavily edited pace, one after the other until they feel annoying too. Warcraft is filled with flaws that are hard to forgive because they happen so often. Even the characters themselves are of cookie-cutter fare. Yet it doesn’t stop there. Characters change allegiances without much buildup, resulting in more scratching of heads than the number of redeeming qualities in the film.

When things go the way they should be though, be ready to stare in awe. Warcraft feels like the next Avatar when it comes to technology. The CGI is undoubtedly one of the best in history, and the action is visceral and hard-hitting. There is an intensity to every blow, every charge and every shout that compels the audience to survive every groan-inducing valley to witness in awe the next peak.

This should’ve been another terrible film still, even with the moments of wonder included. Thankfully the impact of every bad scene is lessened by the quick but overdone editing and light tone (prepare for the cringe, though). It doesn’t take itself seriously, not only in jokes but the look itself. This is a film based on a video game, you can hear the filmmakers scream on top of the castles, raising to the skies their fake props and b-movie level actors.

I honestly got blinded by the crew’s track record of blockbuster hits and critical darlings that I hoped this would be the X-Men moment of video game movies. The reality is we’ll have to wait a bit longer (Angry Birds arrived with muted impact) for Assassin’s Creed, fingers crossed.

This is miles away from the likes of the film I mentioned, early proof that comic book adaptations were viable. Keep your heads up, gamers, but do realize the scars of Warcraft will remain forever in our hearts. Shame on you, Charles Roven, Thomas Tull, Duncan Jones and company. You almost did it, you almost did.

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Gaming

The Biggest Game Ever Made


They did it. They’ve done the impossible. And not just in a medium everyone loves. Video games, the art form some despise for what they claim as planting the seeds of aggressive behavior in people, was the medium used to create an entire universe that might as well be described as the same size as ours.

Eighteen quintillion planets, to be exact; each potentially populated with wildlife, each composed of different environments and weather systems, all containing materials from the game’s own periodic table. All those I just mentioned? The planets, and everything inside of them, are all created by the computer. Not a single member of the small team of about ten developing the game knows what’s out there outside of the ones they’ve discovered.

No Man’s Sky proves to the world that gaming can inspire awe in ways no other medium can imitate. A person can now explore an entire digital universe, naming planets, solar systems and creatures to their liking. And it would take five billion years to see everything.

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Gaming

Hunt the Truth: Season 2 Review

Hunt the Truth season 1 was a refreshing take on the Halo canon, focusing on lowly Benjamin Giraud, a journalist caught in a situation far bigger than he ever thought it would be. Despite being the polar opposite of the flagship game series, the first season’s uniqueness was what catapulted it to success.

If season one was a personal, grounded take on Halo’s story, then two must be the natural evolution of the first given its multimillion viewing tally. Anchored by a new, stronger but less unique protagonist in ONI agent Maya, Hunt the Truth shifts from small-scale detective story to the full-blown, epic setpiece after setpiece tone of the games that inspired it. No longer restricted to one or two planets, Maya sets off, on the run after going rogue. It’s not only the action or the locations, but the characters she interacts with. Safe to say, the scale is expanded to include more humans of different social classes and even aliens.

This larger scale obviously veers away from the uniqueness of Benjamin’s story. Maya is the typical strong-willed woman we’ve come to see in recent films and TV shows and it shows in her occasionally bland dialogue. The supporting cast too is filled with comparatively cookie-cutter agents and women (sensing the theme here?), and while the action brings a welcome sense of urgency, everything feels a bit too close to the games. If the series is to expand its fanbase, then the first season’s tone is a must next season and not this, which tends to exceed the show’s grasp resulting in unintentionally over the top scenes.

The expansions in themes and scale doesn’t mangle the DNA of this series though. This is still a comparatively grounded take on the fiction, focusing for the most part on the nitty gritty happenings in the Halo universe, just more action-packed. The chief highlight for returning listeners must be Maya’s meeting with Benjamin Giraud, as listeners find out what really happened to him and his actions after last season’s ending.

Hunt the Truth’s biggest success is that it isn’t content to repeat what made last season successful. It continues the momentum, building up until the epic, emotionally-involving conclusion. It switches relevant topics previously discussed with new ones. Yet with this eagerness to try something new, they’ve committed the unfortunate act of letting vision take over the execution. What results is an uneven yet ultimately satisfying entry in this hopefully long line of Halo side-stories. With an ending that leaves strands unresolved, I’m optimistic there will be a third one as I’m anxious what more can they explore in the series’ deep lore.

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Gaming

This Console Generation’s Biggest Advantage

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I’ve been a gamer since the PS1 era, and I can tell you for a fact that for every generation since then, the only significant, wide-reaching gameplay evolution involving multiple publishers and platforms has been online play. I find that very surprising considering everyone says gameplay is what truly matters in a game. The focal point in every debate it seems, has been graphics and processing power. This generation though, has the potential to stand out from the rest.

Open world gaming has been here for a longer time than many can imagine, but now there are more games than ever with that mentality, and much much more when you consider those that use it in smaller doses. Rise of the Tomb Raider has playground-like sections where players can tackle objectives if and when they want. Not only that, but the level showcased at Gamescom 2015 indicated that you can also choose which path to take or how to eliminate threats. The concept goes as far as offering a non-lethal option for the hardcore type.

This year had Avalanche Studios’ vision of the Mad Max universe and Hideo Kojima’s last Metal Gear releasing the same day. The surprise hit Dying Light arrived at the beginning of 2015 and the critically-acclaimed finale to The Witcher trilogy hit store shelves last May. The fact is, I could mention twenty more I’ve read about coming this year and the next that have this sandbox mentality, and there could be hundreds more.

I’ve never seen a gameplay trend of this magnitude take over a console generation before, and gamers are right to be excited. First of all, more paths to take and more ways to play equals higher replay value, requiring multiple playthroughs to get the most out of every game. Second, players feel more empowered and immersed when they ARE the protagonist, crafting their own stories in these fantastical universes, unlike in other games where players go along a linear path, experiencing the same situations in every playthrough.

This coupled with the indie games explosion of recent years represents a massive shift in mentality for creators, publishers and gamers alike. And now, with Virtual Reality headsets right around the corner, players are increasingly more empowered and immersed in their games. Games now, more than ever, have the power to inspire and stir emotions and finally win everyone’s approval on whether it’s an art form.

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Gaming

My Top 5 Best Games of E3 2015

These are my top 5 games of E3 2015, judged by how impressed I was from their respective showings. I watched a ton of E3 content this year on YouTube, and if you’ve read my previous posts then you already know how much I loved this particular crop of games. Without further ado, here’s My Top 5 Best Games of E3 2015:

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  1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

This game has Hideo Koijma written all over it. And while it’s sad to know this will be his last (Konami’s parting ways with him after development’s done), at least he’s going out with a bang. It’s ironic then that instead of being a traditional MGS, the fifth iteration is more of a rebirth for the franchise, which bodes well for its future. Expect open-world infiltrations, more options than ever and lots of creative ways to deal with enemies.

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  1. The Last Guardian

Seeing The Last Guardian’s massive dog/bird hybrid for the first time in years and taking advantage of PS4’s graphical prowess was like the first time I saw that infamous E3 2005 trailer of Killzone 2. In short, I was completely, utterly amazed. It’s not just the feathers, no; just as unexpected was the perfectly-animated star of the show. It moved and behaved like a real animal, and it made him all the more believable.

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  1. Horizon: Zero Dawn

Talk about surprises. First it was The Last Guardian then this: a brand-new IP from graphics powerhouse Guerilla Games, and an RPG mixing prehistoric and post-apocalyptic themes, no less. I’ve got high hopes for this one, as I’m curious how much farther the studio can push the PS4’s power and the gameplay reminds me of Monster Hunter.

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  1. Doom

Could this be the Mad Max: Fury Road of video games? Reboots don’t always translate to better games, but if this reveal is any indication of the final product, then we’re in for a fast-paced, no holds barred thrill-ride. Expect lots of severed limbs, demon guts and “big effin’ guns.”

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  1. Fallout 4

Bethesda sure dropped a nuclear bomb of a game reveal for this highly-anticipated post-apocalyptic RPG. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of Fallout, then take comfort in the fact that it’s from the creators of Skyrim and will probably raise the bar once again for role-playing and open-world games. Fallout 4 didn’t hold back at this year’s E3, and expect the same when it launches this November.

Honorable Mentions

There were many noteworthy games at E3 2015, so it’s natural there will be a few notable omissions on every best-of list. These games were also great, just not as earth-shattering as the previous list:

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Total War: Warhammer

Angry Joe had a great interview with this game’s battles designer in his YouTube channel. Total War has long been known for its historical settings, but this one’s set in the popular Warhammer fantasy universe. It’s not quite as faithful to the source material as you’d want it to be (not a lot of troop customization), and the series’ recent struggles with enemy AI dampens expectations a little, but the promise of aerial battles, massive spells and units and story-driven quests are enough to tickle the Total War fan’s fancy.

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Just Cause 3

Talk about practical thinking. Gamers love explosions, stunts and destruction. They love open world playgrounds ripe with customization options even more. Put those two together in the most fully-realized sense of the words and you’ve got every action fan’s dream game in Just Cause 3. The only thing missing is multiplayer.

 

One Last Thing…

Microsoft did the smart move of partnering with Oculus and Valve in implementing Rift and Vive for Windows 10 and Xbox One. Sony’s coming out with Project Morpheus next year, after all. Oculus did a good show on their own, but this year I came away more impressed with Hololens as the potential killer app was finally shown. That Minecraft demo was an eye-opener for the potential of Hololens in gaming.

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Gaming

Some Standout Games from an Incredible E3 2015

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Fallout 4

You’re not gonna get mad at my predictable start are you? Fallout 4 made a splash at this year’s E3, with the world premiere gameplay, “the best gimmick I’ve ever seen” and a demo showcasing the surprising amount of customization courtesy of the dynamic game engine. Knowing this is just the beginning has me very excited indeed.

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Dark Souls 3

Now I know they only showed a trailer, but what a trailer it was. You could feel the beauty, the dread associated with every Souls game. More of those can’t be bad, right? I’m just glad we’ll be having more of what Hidetaka Miyazaki’s so good at: extremely hard but equally rewarding action-RPGs set in game worlds dripping with detail. Bloodborne was a fantastic game; Dark Souls 3 will most probably be too.

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Dreams

Media Molecule is best known for creating one of Sony’s well-known mascots, Sackboy. The LittleBigPlanet games were easy to understand, kid-friendly platformers that came with tools to create levels that you then share with the world. Dreams is quite hard to understand. I was honestly confused the first time I saw it, but the more I did, the more I saw its beauty and potential. You have to see it to believe it.

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Ghost Recon: Wildlands

I was never interested in the Ghost Recon franchise. Except maybe the first ones because they reminded me of Socom, or GRAW for the novelty at the time. Wildlands though, is a completely different beast. It’s an approach how you want it squad-based shooter set in a massive open world filled with vehicles, jungles, human settlements, etc. What a way to blast into my consciousness.

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Unravel

Honestly, if I didn’t see the introduction to this game, I wouldn’t have included it in this list. But what I heard makes this really interesting. Unravel’s concept was conceived at a family vacation, and it’s a game about love. You play a small character made out of yarn that unravels as you go further in your journey. Go check it out, it’s a charming little indie game.

Side Note: E3 2015 wasn’t all console games; Oculus had its own press conference and the all-important PC had its own too. You might want to watch them in YouTube if you’re interested in VR and/or PC gaming.

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Gaming

Doom for the New Generation

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An entire extended console generation passed without a Doom release, save for a high-definition remaster of the third iteration. So it’s understandable how gamers loved seeing the series’ iconic chainsaw pulled from a bloody corpse and used to cut enemy demons into two. Does it look good after the nostalgia wears off though?

This reboot blends elements old and new so well that it’s actually my 2nd best game of E3 2015. Both singleplayer and multiplayer look like natural evolutions of the tried and true formula. The best thing is they didn’t cut and paste Call of Duty but appropriately modernized the gameplay without sacrificing what made Doom such a blast so many years ago.

It’s a relief id seems to be back in their game after the disappointing Rage. They’ve managed to keep their graphics chops afloat with id Tech 6. This new vision of Doom looks phenomenal AND old-school, reminding you of the days when weapons weren’t limited to two slots and cover systems weren’t invented yet.

Bethesda has said Doom’s difficulty will be challenging, another deviation from today’s crop of shooters. In the demos shown, enemies big and small swarmed the environments, some even sporting jetpacks. Expect to have a fair fight, because the arsenal feels meaty from a viewer’s standpoint, and ones leaning more on the sci-fi side look appropriately powerful. New elements introduced include added agility, double-jumping and the oh-so-satisfying and over the top executions. I’ve already mentioned the returning chainsaw, but the BFG does too.

But let’s be reminded it was the multiplayer that got people talking about the original long past its release. This time over the top power-ups change the gameplay in ways other shooters can’t. The power-up shown at E3 turns players into one of the enemies they face in singleplayer, letting them use its powerful abilities including the jetpack. And that’s in addition to the gameplay evolutions I’ve already mentioned.

Doom looks to be the perfect reboot, offering old players a nice sense of familiarity while adding enough new features for a whole new generation of gamers. This year’s crop of E3 games is absolutely amazing. You’ve got to see at least some of them. See one of my recent blog posts for more information.

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