Posts tagged #review

Hyrule Warriors – Review (Wii U)

It’s been a while, but I’m back with a new game review! This time, I’ll be giving my thoughts on one of Nintendo’s latest big releases, Hyrule Warriors.

More after the jump!

Since the Wii U’s release in 2012, I haven’t really bought any new games. In fact, I have ONE game: New Super Mario Bros. U. Unfortunately, Nintendo hasn’t released a lot of games for the system in their major franchises; I’m pretty sure that the biggest release was Mario Kart 8 a few months back. Two years later, however, there are a lot of big games from Nintendo on the horizon – Super Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2, a new Zelda game that we got our first glimpse of earlier this year, and the list keeps going.

One of the releases that caught my attention when it was announced last year was a mash-up between Koei Tecmo’s Warriors series and Nintendo’s own Legend of Zelda franchise. I was stoked. If for nothing else, I’d finally get a Zelda game of some sort for the Wii U, and would have a new reason to boot up the system that had seen very few hours of actual game time from me. I’m a sucker for Zelda titles; what can I say?

The fanbase for the Warriors games has always been pretty divided. On one hand, you have people that love the strategy/hack ‘n slash series – on the other, you have folks who claim the series is boring and monotonous. I fall in the former category. While I never played the series’ main entries, Dynasty Warriors, I was a HUGE fan of the spin off, Samurai Warriors. I loved the frantic nature of the game, and how it’s very “real-time,” in that stuff is constantly going on, no matter what you do.

The Zelda/Warriors mash-up is a strange one to say the least. It’s definitely something I never thought I would see, and never knew that I actually wanted. From my point of view, the colliding of these two franchises works pretty well.


The game's antagonist, Cia
Story: 8/10
As I said in my A Link Between Worlds review, trying to explain a Zelda game’s story is extremely hard to do and, on paper, doesn’t really sound all that engaging. Most of the time, you’re dealing with two objectives: Save the princess and recover the Triforce. Occasionally (most often in recent years), it gets a little more nuanced than that, but that’s the basic gist. Combine those objectives with the fact that you have to figure out where whatever game you’re playing fits in the series’ timeline, and you’ve got yourself a right mess at times!
Hyrule Warriors expands on the traditional Zelda story (though the Triforce is still the main focus), in favor of one that incorporates some of our familiar games’ timelines and, like the titles’ very nature, mashes them up to tell what is (to me, at least) one of the most “interesting” Zelda stories to date.
My only complaint with the story is that, given the frantic nature of the Warriors series, a lot of it is told during gameplay.
“What? Isn’t that when you want the story to play out?”
True, most games’ stories are told during gameplay, but the Warriors series (this entry included) is all about constant combat and completing objectives on the battlefield while doing so. With that in mind, some of the story can occasionally get lost as dialogue pops up on the screen while you’re trying to take out hordes of enemies. This becomes very frustrating when you miss a key bit of dialogue that might help you with an objective, all because you’re trying to keep your troops safe or fighting some of the tougher enemies.   

The game's pretty, and you'll be doing stuff like this... a lot!
Visuals: 9/10
 As you all know, I’m a stickler for resolution. I have no idea what resolution Hyrule Warriors is running at, but it’s gorgeous! I have to attribute some of that (if not all of it) to the game’s art style. The only thing I could possibly say on the negative side of things is that the framerate chugs occasionally as the Wii U’s hardware struggles to keep up when there are a lot of enemies on screen at once. This isn’t something that happens all the time and is, in fact, pretty rare. But when it does, it’s fairly noticeable.

Sound: 7/10
The music in this game, quite literally, rocks! Quite a few familiar Zelda tunes are present and reworked with a metal flavor. Since the game is pretty fast-paced and all about action, a metal-influenced score is perfect. The only piece of music that I really wish was included is the Dark World theme from A Link to the Past. Sadly, I never heard it if it’s in there, and it would have been a great one for a game like this.
While the music may be great, I’ve got to dock it several points for one reason: the lack of voice acting. It’s been a staple of Zelda games since Ocarina of Time to not have spoken dialogue. Instead, all games have featured a “Sims-like” approach by having the characters start their dialogue with some kind of unintelligible gibberish. This was fine for the 64-bit era, but it really is time to start having voice acting in Zelda titles. Want to have Link remain the “silent protagonist?” That’s fine. In fact, I prefer it that way. But when it comes to the other characters, Nintendo should really start making an effort to give them a voice.
I mentioned earlier how you might miss some of the dialogue in the game, or miss an important cue related to an objective. This could have been easily remedied by including voice acting.
The other thing I docked points for: “Hey! LISTEN!” Ugh. That should have never been included, and should never be again, as it was one of the most annoying things about Ocarina of Time. It seems like you’re interrupted by it nearly every five minutes towards the beginning of the game.

All the characters play and handle differently. Lana is a prime example.
Gameplay: 8/10
Being outnumbered, swiping your sword through 100 enemies in one blow, and mild RPG and RTS elements have all been staples of the Warriors series. This entry is no different. It can be a little repetitive, but I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t get a thrill from wiping out an entire regiment of enemy troops by charging up Link’s sword and unleashing his spin attack!
To increase the replay value, as has been done in previous Warriors games, Hyrule Warriors allows you to select several characters throughout the game besides just Link. These characters all play differently and have different abilities and move sets that will keep you playing. Also, a friend can join in for some good, ol’ fashioned local co-op throughout all of the game’s various modes. Nic and I played co-op for several hours, and it was a blast! 

Controls: 8.5/10
Opting to dock the controls a few points was kind of difficult. It’s not really the controls of the game itself that I had problems with, but the design of the Wii U gamepad and pro controller. Basically, it all boils down to the fact that I don’t like the right analog stick being placed above the face buttons. Not only does it take getting used to, since it’s been below the face buttons on every controller since there were dual analog sticks on controllers, but I think it would serve this style of game more if it were placed where I’m used to (for camera controls sake). Just my personal take on it.

Closing Statements:
All in all, I loved Hyrule Warriors. Again, I never knew that I wanted a Zelda/Warriors hybrid, but I’m glad it happened. Sure, it’s going to be one of those games that people either love or get bored with quickly, but it’s definitely worth trying out. It’s action-packed, has great visuals and music, and it will definitely feed your need for a Zelda fix until the next full-fledged game in the series is released.

Final Score: 8.1/10


Posted on September 30, 2014 .

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Review)

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

There are quite a few games I would like to see resurrected or have a sequel from the 8/16-bit era. Chrono Trigger, Blaster Master, Ninja Gaiden (NES storyline and gameplay, please), Final Fantasy VI, Actraiser… All of these games, in my opinion, deserve some kind of new, modern game that pays homage to their predecessors. There are probably millions of people out there who never played Actraiser, so they have no idea how great that game was. People have been clamoring for a Chrono sequel since Chrono Cross, and I fear that people may eventually forget about the series altogether if a new entry doesn’t get released anytime soon. A modern day outing would be a perfect way to expose gamers to classic games, while giving all of us that played them originally a way to relive the past.
Lucky for us, one of the greatest games of all time - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past - has just gotten a sequel in A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS.  I’ve got to say, I didn’t see this one coming. The question is, “does it live up to the original?”
Find out in my review… which just happens to be after the jump!


Story: 10/10
The basic story in The Legend of Zelda has always been pretty simplistic, but never “great.” Go ahead and flame me. I’ll wait.

Finished? Good.

While it’s never been an involving story, it HAS been an extremely interesting concept with multiple games helping to produce a VERY involved mythology. With the recent publishing of the Hyrule Historia hardcover book from Dark Horse Publishing, LOZ fans have finally gotten a handle on how all the games connect and feed off one another (though it’s still somewhat convoluted in a few areas).
The basic concept is a princess named Zelda (always a descendant of the original Zelda) is captured by the evil Ganon and a young kid named Link (always a descendant of the original Link) has to save her by traversing the land of Hyrule and gathering pieces of a thing called “the Triforce.” There have been a few games in the series which mixed this formula up (The Adventure of Link and Wind Waker being notable entries), but this is usually the standard. In all fairness, A Link to The Past was no different, only it was, in my opinion, the best executed Zelda title even today.

A Link Between Worlds might, at first glance, seem like a direct sequel to ALTTP, but it’s not. Again, we are dealing with ANOTHER Link and ANOTHER Zelda, only this time it seems as though this takes place a generation or two after ALTTP. Hopefully, Nintendo will give us some exact idea of where this one fits in the timeline.
While I won’t go into details out of fear of spoiling the game, the story takes the same exact steps to get to its conclusion as the game it’s based off of. From a nostalgic point-of-view, this is great, but from a person wanting a true sequel to the original story it may not be entirely satisfying. At times, the game feels more like a modernized remake than the next chapter in a larger tale. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is noticeable and, in my opinion, worth mentioning.  

That's what I'm talkin' about! Classic Zelda action!
Visuals: 10/10
So far, this is the best looking game I’ve seen on the 3DS. More than that, my biggest praise comes from the fact that Nintendo perfectly captured the atmosphere of ALTTP in a 3D environment. The designers even mostly kept the layout of the original overworld map from ALTTP, but changed some things around here and there to make it feel fresh.
(Speaking of 3D, turning the 3D slider all the way up doesn’t really add, nor take away from the overall effect. For most of my time playing, I left the 3D turned completely off.)

Sound: 10/10
A Link to The Past had some of the best videogame music from the 16-bit era. ALBW remixes all those familiar tunes, some with new arrangements, in beautiful sounding, orchestral quality. Some of the themes even got me a little misty-eyed from pure nostalgia. I was taken right back to those times when I would spend hours and hours trudging through Hyrule and its Dark World. The new music introduced like the new villain’s theme is extremely well done, as well.

Pop yo' self into the wall and you have the game's
very well-designed "gimmick!" 
See that crack in the wall?
Gameplay: 10/10
If you’ve ever played a game in the Legend of Zelda series, you pretty much know what to expect in the next entry. The only thing that has really changed is how you receive items and weapons. Instead of getting a new item upon completion of a dungeon, ALBW introduces Ravio, a merchant who rents items for Link to use throughout his adventure. Ravio informs Link that there is a catch for renting his items, however: if Link falls in battle, Ravio will take all of his rented items back, forcing Link to re-rent, or buy them for a pretty expensive price. While this may sound like a troublesome gameplay element, it actually works quite well and introduces a fun sort of survival element to the game - you won’t want to die because you won’t want to lose your items. For 800 rupees each, you can purchase the items permanently, but you’ll find yourself scavenging for money in order to do so. It’s a neat addition to the series which I hope we see more of in future entries of the series.
The gameplay “hook” for this game is the whole “being able to merge into walls” thing. Link can now transform himself (because of a bracelet he receives from Ravio) into a 2D painting which he can use to both navigate dungeons and phase in and out between Hyrule and Lorule (though let’s be serious here – it’s the Dark World). I found this to be an extremely interesting gameplay mechanic because it forces you to think 2, 3, and 4th dimensionally in order to get around the world.

Also, there’s no ridiculous, hand-holding helper creature this time around. You play as Link with a sword, shield and items. Nothing else. That’s the way I like it.

I enjoyed A Link Between Worlds immensely. I’ve enjoyed the other games in the Zelda series as well, but the franchise always seemed to me as though it lost something after A Link to The Past. That sense of freedom and exploration was one of the things that intrigued me as a kid when playing the old NES game, as well as with the Super NES iteration. A Link Between Worlds brings those elements back to the forefront, offering an amazing experience which puts itself right under ALTTP for me as the 2nd greatest Zelda game ever made. While it borders on being a straight-up remake, the game has enough differences that make it feel like it is its own, separate entity and, even without the nostalgia factor, A Link Between Worlds holds its place in Zelda greatness.
Is it worth $40? Look at the final score and you’ll see what I think!

Final Score: 10

(It should be noted that this is probably the first game score on The Inner Dorkdom that has ever gotten a perfect 10. J)


Screenshots taken from Google Images.

Posted on February 9, 2014 .

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Review)

Platforms: PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC

Another year… another Assassin’s Creed. Is that a good or bad thing? Find out after the jump!
**WARNING!! There may or may not be spoilers for the game contained in the review. Do not read if you don’t want to have anything revealed too early!**

I’ve finally gotten around to finishing Assassin’s Creed IV on PS4. The review may seem late, but I really don’t like to review games that I haven’t finished. Some sites do that, but The Inner Dorkdom likes to give a bit more time for games to gestate, rather than throw up a review for the sake of having it available during the game’s release window.

In fact, here’s my process for writing a review:

1. (Obviously) Play the game.
2. Start writing the graphics, sound, and gameplay/control sections, as the game doesn’t have to be completely finished in order to get a handle on these.
3. Finish the game.
4. Write the story section and final thoughts.
5. Publish the review.

In order to review Assassin’s Creed IV fairly, I have to come at it from two different angles. On the one hand, I have to review it as someone who reviews videogames on this website. On the other hand, I have to review it as someone who is a massive fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. For the most part, I’m pretty torn about what I think of the series’ latest entry. From a game standpoint, well… it’s got a lot of problems. From a fan’s perspective… I’ll just save it for the breakdown.

Breakdown -

Like every AC game, historical figures make appearances.
Anne Bonny is pictured here with main character, Edward Kenway.
Story:  6/10
Like most games, the story and mythology behind Assassin’s Creed have always been the main things I enjoyed the most about the series. I love how Ubisoft has been able to dig themselves out of seemingly impossible situations when they run into the brick walls that they create during nearly every game. I’m not being sarcastic here. I honestly think they’ve handled the series well in terms of story.
…Until AC4.
At first, I thought that the pirate themed story was going to be hugely epic, and for a while it was. After the first 10 hours or so, however, things started to become extremely boring and just plain ol’ uninteresting. I enjoyed the character of Edward Kenway (a lot more so than Connor of AC3) and hope a few more games are released to flesh his character out, but the other characters (mainly the villains) were sort of flat. None of them really grabbed my attention.
Questions that were raised in AC3 were very quietly answered, but never really talked about all that much – particularly the cliffhanger we were all left on for a year. Do we find out what happened to Desmond Miles? Yes, but it’s a pretty brief explanation. Do we find out what’s going on with Juno? Kind of, but it’s more like we find out what’s NOT going on with Juno, due to a very not-so-cleverly-devised way of continuing the series and setting up future sequels.

My biggest complaint with AC4’s story was the fact that it’s only “kind of” an Assassin’s Creed story. The main character isn’t even an assassin for about 95% of the game. Maybe I missed something while playing, but I don’t think that Edward Kenway actually EVER became an assassin during the story. One could tell that he was on his way to doing so. For about half of the game, I thought this was an interesting angle, but (again, unless I missed something) his joining of the order is never actually shown. And from the epilogue in the middle of the game’s ending credits, we’re still given no clear indication that he “took the oath.” We know from Oliver Bowden’s novel, “Assassin’s Creed: Forsaken,” that Edward was an assassin and adhered to the creed, but are the novels considered canon? In this case, and for the sake of AC4’s story, I certainly hope so.

In summation, I felt that the story of Assassin’s Creed IV was just really lazy and was only somewhat of an afterthought when Ubisoft decided to make a game with a primary focus of ship-based combat (more on that in a bit). It really didn’t have the “umph” that previous games have had, and seemed more like a side game that was only somewhat related to the series.

(Just as a side note: When I finished the game, I actually said, “What the crap? That’s it?!” The game kind of ends without warning and doesn’t really build towards an ending.)

Visuals: 8.5/10
I have to pretty much score this one in the same way I did for Assassin’s Creed III, since it looks as though it uses the same engine.  The thing that perhaps stands out a bit more for ACIV as opposed to III (and what gives it an extra ‘.5’ edge) is the beautifully rendered Caribbean setting. It’s much better looking and immersive than the colonial setting of the previous game. Though the scenery is prettier to look at, the character models in-game are a bit stiff looking – at least for the NPCs. At times, the NPCs look as though they were pulled straight from a PS2 or original Xbox game. I’m really interested to see what an Assassin’s Creed title will look like next year, when Ubisoft develops one (hopefully) specifically for next-gen hardware.

Sound: 7/10
The sound design is great, effects-wise. Gulls and other birds, ocean waves, and cannon fire all sound extremely authentic. The voice acting is pretty good, too. Unfortunately, the area in which ACIV’s sound lacks is the music. Personally, I thought that Lorne Balfe’s score for ACIII was excellent, as was Winifred Phillips’ score for AC: Liberation. It’s a shame that Brian Tyler couldn’t capture the same magic. The score is not bad by any stretch; I just thought the themes in ACIII and Liberation were much better and more memorable. I’m really surprised that, with as much critical acclaim as she received for her soundtrack to Liberation, Ubisoft didn’t give the scoring duties to Phillips. I’d really like to see what she would do with a main, numbered title.

Way too much of this....
Gameplay: 6.5/10
Black Flag goes back to the exploratory greatness of ACII-Revelations and brings back an almost overwhelming sense of things to do in the Caribbean world they created. From assassination contracts to finding buried treasure, almost everything you could think of to do in a pirate game is here.
That being said, I don’t like ship combat. To me, it feels extremely clunky and I found myself absolutely hating anytime a ship-related sequence would start. The ship combat was something that was praised (for some reason) in ACIII, so naturally, Ubisoft had to implement it into the newest iteration (plus, the fact that this is a pirate game, ship combat and travel makes since). I didn’t like it

...not nearly enough of this for my tastes.
then and I don’t like it now.  I also don’t like that so much emphasis is put into Edward’s ship, the Jackdaw. Having to constantly upgrade your ship, as well as your character, just seemed like a bit much. But I have to admit, disabling an enemy ship, boarding it, taking out its crew and looting its cargo are very fun and rewarding experiences.

Control: 4.5/10
I already mentioned the ship combat, but what about control of Edward himself? Remember in my ACIII review when I talked about Connor running up walls or jumping off things I didn’t want him to? Yeah, that hasn’t been changed. In fact, it seems like it’s worse. There is a chase scene about midway through the game that frustrated me to no end with how many times I had to do it just to get it right. The scene wouldn’t have been all that difficult if the controls were better, but the game forces you to do everything perfectly in order to succeed. I really hope the developers go back to the original “puppet-style” controls from pre-ACIII for the next game, or that they at least try and tighten up some of the controls.

I’m a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, so of course I liked ACIV. I’ll continue buying new entries in the franchise for many years to come. I mainly just felt that there was “too much pirate in my assassin game.” For new players, though, a lot of the game’s flaws might end up being a huge turnoff. That’s actually what I remember thinking while playing: “Man, if I’d never played an AC game before, I’d probably hate this one.”

So is it worth $60? Personally, I don’t think so. I’d say that around $30-$40 is a bit more reasonable, given the quality of the game. A mediocre and lazy story, average music, frustrating ship combat, and poorly implemented control features rank Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag as one of the lowest in the series for me.

Final Score: 6.5/10

**NOTE: I have played and completed the singleplayer DLC, Freedom Cry. In my honest opinion, if that would have been the basis for AC4’s plot, I think I would have enjoyed the game much more. Unlike the main game, it seemed to have more emphasis on actually being an assassin. I award Freedom Cry a score of 8/10.



 Screenshots taken from Google Images.

Killer Instinct - Review (Xbox One)

In the mid 1990’s, Mortal Kombat was huge, Street Fighter was pretty much just as huge and Killer Instinct was the new kid who sought to meld the two franchises into one unique fighting game. Though its time on the gaming scene was short, KI has been a much loved franchise and fans have clamored for a sequel since 1996’s KI2.
Originally published by Nintendo (developed by Rare, makers of the Donkey Kong Country franchise)
in 1994, the rights to the Killer Instinct brand were acquired by Microsoft Studios when the company bought Rare back in 2002. For years, many KI fans hoped for a new sequel in the franchise and were hyped beyond belief when one was finally announced in 2013 as an Xbox One exclusive developed by Double Helix Games.
How have the 17 years between KI2 and the new game treated the franchise? Find out after the jump!


Story: Non-existant (…yet)
This is a fighting game, so story has only rarely ever been the most important aspect of the genre. However, with recent blockbuster-quality story modes in games like Mortal Kombat (2011) and Injustice: Gods Among Us, a great story to back up the brutality is starting to become the norm. KI, however, has no story at the time of this writing because... well… it hasn’t been released yet. Instead of including a story mode, Double Helix instead chose to focus on the core fighting mechanics of the game. I think they made the right call, but I also think that this could be related to the rushed development of a game for a rushed console, which I alluded to in my Xbox One review.  Just like many of the Xbox One’s features, KI is missing a lot of features at launch. Story mode and an arcade ladder are two of them… not to mention only 6 playable characters.

Visuals: 10/10
Killer Instinct is the first fighter developed on next-gen hardware and it shows. The characters, while looking as though they take a bit of influence from Street Fighter IV’s designs, are beautifully rendered, particle effects from a well-placed fireball are amazing, and the game outputs at 1080p (one of the only Xbox One titles to do so). Characters move smoothly and backgrounds are simple, but look great. There’s no shortage of great visuals here. Everything looks stunning.  

Sound: 10/10
Everybody who plays fighting games (and some who haven’t) has heard someone yell, “C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!!!!” at some point in his or her lifetime. This classic phrase, and every other notable shout of the KI announcer, has been expertly recreated in the new Killer Instinct. The sounds of combat punch you in the gut like no other fighting game to date. And getting punched in the gut by sound is always fun, right?
Speaking of getting punched in the gut by sound, the original KI was always known for its exceptional music. The new game doesn’t disappoint. The classic Killer Instinct theme is perfectly remixed and modernized for 2013. In fact, music plays a significant part in the game. When you go for that devastating Ultra combo to finish off your opponent, the music goes along with, and is perfectly scored to every single hit. In the pause menus, some ominous, swelling chords are accompanied by a note from the KI theme’s melody for each option you highlight. This is almost like a mini-game in and of itself, as you try and match the melody to the chords.
As I pointed out to my friend, it’s like the developers knew how much the original music meant to the franchise and tried to make it an integral part of the new KI experience.

Gameplay: 9/10
From what I’ve played so far, KI’s gameplay is pretty top-notch. The combo system is fluid, the moves are easy to pull off (well… they’re supposed to be. I’ll get to that), and you can pretty much mash buttons to make your character do some really flashy stuff. But that’s not a good idea to do against someone who knows what they’re doing.
Double Helix made KI a game for everyone. For casual players who just want to sit around and beat up their buddies, KI is a decent game and there is a lot of fun to be had in doing so. For people who really want to get into the game and learn its intricacies, it’s almost overwhelmingly deep. Learning how to break combos alone takes a good amount of practice and patience. Luckily, the game includes a “Dojo” mode which teaches you every single aspect of the game and it’s one of the most intensive and thorough tutorials I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. In dojo mode, you’ll learn everything from how your regular attacks work, to countering combo breakers, and even how frame data works. It’s a lot to take in, but with some practice, you’ll be on your way to fighting like a KI pro.

One thing I should probably note is the Xbox One controller when used to play KI. The game itself is great, but using the pad is, in my opinion, an utter disaster. “Dragon punch motions (Forward, Down, Down Forward)” are extremely inconsistent with the Xbox One d-pad, as are quarter circles used for the majority of the special moves in the game. It’s manageable, but it can be pretty frustrating most of the time – especially given how simplistic the combo system can be. Also, KI is a 6 button game, meaning there are 3 kick and 3 punch buttons. Game pads for titles that use this layout (like Street Fighter, for example), have always been troublesome due to mapping the heavy attacks to the top of the controller (usually the triggers). My hand literally cramps up while trying to pull off longer, more difficult combos. Especially those you’ll come across in the dojo mode. (As I write this, the muscles in my right thumb and palm are aching severely from doing the last lesson of the dojo.)
Since the controller isn’t that good, your best option is going to be to pick up the MadCatz TE2 fightstick, which is currently and unfortunately the only next-gen fighting game controller. All your old arcade sticks won’t work on the new hardware (which is stupid and makes no sense whatsoever, in my opinion). I wasn’t too crazy about dropping $200 on ANOTHER fightstick, but I’m glad I have it preordered. I think my overall experience will improve once I’m able to play the game on something it was designed for.

Having to use the Xbox One controller at launch is really my only real complaint about Killer Instinct. It’s a great fighter that can be as deep and engaging as you want it to be. Is it worth the $40 download for the “Ultra Edition?” In the long-run, and considering the fact that you also get the original Killer Instinct arcade game in the download package, along with two downloadable characters about a month or so down the road, I would say yes. Sure, there are some missing features that will be added later, but none of that is necessary for you to enjoy the game. Also, if you want to play as only Jago, you can get the entire game for free as a sort of demo. I’m not exactly thrilled about this particular sales model, as I hope developers choose not to adopt the practice of releasing half-featured games, but I think KI is worth the full price of admission if you own an Xbox One.  It’s a fun fighter and lives up to the hype of the Killer Instinct franchise. Here’s to hoping we don’t have to wait another 17 years to get a sequel!

Final Score: 9.6/10 (score will be updated when more features are released)


Images taken from Google Images.



Xbox One - Console Review

The final next-gen console has been released and I spent almost the entire weekend playing it. Is the Xbox One good? Did mine actually work? What about that $500 down payment? My review is after the jump!

Disclaimer – As with my review of the PS4, this review is based on MY opinions, as they are subject to MY tastes. I do not owe allegiance to any gaming platform and am only offering an honest opinion as someone that has been a serious gamer since the original NES. I have owned nearly every major console produced since Nintendo’s first except all of Sega’s, the TurboGrafx-16, and the Atari Jaguar.
(I say “nearly” because, hey, I was a kid. I didn’t have my own money back then. I didn’t start buying my own consoles until the PS1)
I’m not intending to fuel the console wars, or anything of the sort. I just want to give you guys an unbiased look at these consoles from a technical standpoint.


Launch Library – 7.5
Like the Playstation 4, I wasn’t impressed with the Xbox One’s launch lineup either. In fact, the only two reasons I bought the system were 1) multiplayer games (since I already pay for an Xbox Live subscription) and 2) Killer Instinct. So does that mean that Killer Instinct makes this the better of the two latest consoles’ libraries because of one game? Unfortunately, yes. That doesn’t mean Killer Instinct is a bad game, in fact it’s great, but only one exclusive available at launch that I’m interested in is still disappointing. But in all fairness, that’s one more than the PS4 had.

Console Design – 7.5
In my PS4 review, I mentioned that Sony’s console looked like “a crooked 1980s VCR.” I also mentioned that the Xbox One was better looking. After actually seeing the console in person, however, that opinion changed slightly. It does, indeed, look better than the PS4, but man that thing is huge and looks even MORE like a 1980s VCR (only not “crooked”)! The console is even about the size of one of the first VCRs I remember having as a kid (a top loader).
That being said, it’s still pretty slick. The quality is rather pristine and the build is sturdy, making you feel as though you just purchased something worth every penny of your $500. The Kinect (which I WILL NOT use. More on that in a bit) looks ridiculous sitting on top of the system, though. It looks like someone ripped off Rob the Robot’s head, stretched it, and stuck it on top of a huge VCR.  For those of you who don’t know who Rob the Robot is, go look him up.

The Controller – 9.0
The Xbox One controller had the potential to be perfect. I really loved the Xbox 360 controller, but to myself and most fans, there was one glaring flaw: the d-pad. With its small, circular design, games such as those in the fighting genre were virtually unplayable on the 360 controller. With the Xbox One, Microsoft redesigned the d-pad with a more traditional take. However, it still doesn’t operate as well as I would like it to. Each direction “clicks,” rather than feeling smooth like most d-pads, including the PS4’s. Other than that, Microsoft kept the design pretty much the same from their previous console. Oddly enough, a 3rd party controller for Xbox 360, the Razer Sabertooth, is a much better design than either the Xbox 360 or Xbox One. If the controller would have been an identical copy of Razer’s, I would have given it a perfect 10.

Interface – 6.5
Here is where things start to go a bit south. First, I’ll say that I absolutely hate Windows 8. It’s designed for the “tablet generation” and complicates things greatly in its attempts to simplify them. This is also true of the Xbox One’s Windows 8-based operating system. Like the Wii U, everything you try to do loads an app (which takes too long to load. More on that in a bit), which is pretty unnecessary.
My friend and I were attempting to play a few matches online in Killer Instinct when I found out just how overcomplicated things had actually gotten. On the Xbox 360 when you wanted to invite someone to whatever game you were playing, all you had to do was click the Xbox home button on the controller, go to your friend’s list, and push X on the friend you wanted to invite. In a matter of seconds, your friend was connected to your lobby and you were ready to play some multiplayer. Simple, huh? With the Xbox One, I’m not really sure how it works! My friend and I were looking for some way to invite someone specifically to a game, but all we found was that the Xbox will automatically connect you after you’ve chosen to host a game. It works, but it really makes no sense to me. Like, what if I have multiple friends who are playing Killer Instinct and I just want to invite one of them? Does it show me a list and I pick who I want to play with? Is this just a bug with Killer Instinct? I’m sure there’s somebody reading this that thinks, “Man, he’s an idiot. The process is [insert ridiculously stupid Windows 8 process here].” But to me, this is an example of Microsoft changing something that was ridiculously simple and effective to begin with, yet overcomplicating it with their next product/update.
It’s not the first time the company has done this kind of thing. I’ve been using Microsoft products since the late 80s and this has pretty much always been their philosophy.
The operating system doesn’t cater to those who would rather navigate the OS with a controller, either. Instead, the entire thing was designed to use Kinect motion tracking and voice commands. Also, some of the apps which don’t require Kinect to use certain features, do require you to at least have it plugged in. What’s the point of that? All this would probably be fine if my Kinect actually worked in the first place (more on that in a bit, as well)!

Power/The Insides – 8.0
I can’t really speak from first-hand experience, as I only have one game and it’s a fighter, but the insides are supposed to be almost exactly the same as the PS4’s. This means that yes, games will look better than they did on the previous console. But there’s one glaring flaw in the Xbox One’s architecture: most games don’t display in native 1080p and are instead upscaled from 720p. To some, resolution may not be that important, but come on; it’s 2013. High-def televisions are pretty much the standard and tech should support their highest resolutions. Also, if you’re going to make me lay out $500 for a console, shouldn’t the thing be capable of more than, or at least be on par with, its lower priced competition?

Flaws – Doesn’t get a score due to the randomness of each console’s problems, but they’re worth mentioning
The PS4 had its share of launch-day woes, but in my opinion, they don’t compare to the amount and severity of problems reported (and experienced firsthand) of the Xbox One. Bad disc drives, “green screens of death,” inoperable and barely functioning Kinect sensor (supposedly you have to yell at it to make it work most of the time), etc.
I wasn’t as fortunate this time around, as I was with the PS4. My Xbox, as well as two of my friends’, experienced a few problems, some to greater degrees than others (mine seemed to be hit the worst). Here are the problems I personally encountered over the weekend:

1. My Kinect doesn’t work.
I don’t want to use the thing anyway, but in order to use the Upload Studio app to edit a Killer Instinct video clip (a feature which, as my friend informed me, DOESN’T require Kinect while editing), I have to have the Kinect sensor plugged into the console. Why is that? All I want to do is edit the length of a freaking game clip with the DVR feature! Why does the Kinect have to be plugged in to do that?
When I plugged the Kinect into the system just to unlock the editing feature, the Xbox One wouldn’t recognize it, saying that it was unplugged. Apparently this is a known problem, and could possibly be fixed in a firmware patch in the future. Right now, Microsoft is having people send back their consoles for replacements, claiming “hardware failure,” but I think I’ll wait for an update to see if that does the trick.
[UPDATE: Since the Xbox One's first firmware update after release, my Kinect works as it should. Not that I have any reason at all to use it, but at least it works.]

2. Apps occasionally force-close.
I’ve had a few apps close on me for no apparent reason, including Killer Instinct. (One of my friends has also experienced this a few times.) Not only that, but I had the system completely power itself down randomly while I was downloading the game. Luckily, when I turned it back on, the download resumed where it left off.

3. Apps have locked up, or take a ridiculous amount of time to load on occasion.
I’ve had this happen a few times. So far, Killer Instinct has locked up on me twice, and my friends list and other apps have taken too long to load. This is a problem (load times) that my friends who have an Xbox One have all experienced. What’s really strange, however, is the fact that for us, apps all take a different amount of time to load. This is the first time that I’ve ever heard of a console taking different amounts of time to load the same thing on different consoles. Is it a deal breaker? No, but it’s really weird. I hope that this is something that can be corrected in a firmware update.

4. I don’t know if my disc drive will play Xbox One games. (Not really a problem yet, but I thought I’d mention it)
Again, this is a known problem, but I have no real way to test it, as of yet. Hopefully it does, but I’ll have to borrow a game or something from one of my friends to find out. With Kinect already not functioning, I’m a little worried that I might have the disc drive errors as well. I’m not sure if this only affects Xbox One games, or any type of disc you try and feed it. I’ll try it out soon and update the review accordingly.
*UPDATE 12/8/13* My disc drive DOES work. :)

After all that negativity, is the Xbox One worth $500? Given the problems that the system is having, I’m going to go ahead and say no. My advice: let all the kinks get worked out first, and then buy the system. If you’re a fan of games like Halo, Gears of War, etc. (which I’m not so much), then the Xbox is still going to be the system for you. Killer Instinct is a great launch title, but in my opinion, it doesn’t justify taking the risk of a defective system at the moment. Also, there are a lot of neat features such as the Game DVR that are rather tempting, but a lot of promised features have been left out until future updates – more so than the PS4. In my honest opinion, I think Microsoft rushed this console to production and it’s showing.
All in all, it’s a decent console, but I was hoping it would be better. Like the PS4, I’m sure it will have a great library of games and cool features in the future, but neither console is absolutely stellar at the moment.


Final Score: 7.7 / 10


Posted on November 29, 2013 .

Beyond: Two Souls - Review (PS3)

In my opinion, Quantic Dream really hit it out of the park with Heavy Rain. It was a game that either punished or rewarded you for the decisions you made, just like so many great point-&-click adventure games before it. The thing is, though, Heavy Rain wasn’t really a game, it was an interactive movie. That isn’t said with any disrespect to Quantic Dream, it’s just the honest truth. Heavy Rain was focused more on its story and character development than actual gameplay, relying on phenomenal acting and writing to move the game along. Their latest effort, Beyond: Two Souls, does these same things, only on a much more epic scale.


"'re a member of the coast guard youth auxiliary?!"
Yeah, that was a very subtle Back to The Future reference...
Story: 10/10
There’s really no other word to describe Beyond’s story than phenomenal. Jodie Holmes, played excellently by actress Ellen Page, is attached to a ghostly entity she calls “Aiden” that has “haunted” her for her entire life. Aiden allows Jodie to see things and interact with people in a way that no normal human can. This has forced her into certain situations which find her in the care of Dr. Nathan Dawkins (Willem Dafoe), a paranormal researcher and the story brokenly chronicles Jodie’s life from a child to adulthood, and her struggle to find her place in the world with such a strange gift.

While the narrative has been criticized for “needlessly” jumping around several points within Jodie’s life, there is a reason for this, and I didn’t find it frustrating, distracting, or anything of the sort. Beyond: Two Souls has one of the most original stories I’ve experienced in a long time.

Ellen Page after being mo-capped.
Ellen Page as she's getting her face mo-capped.
Visuals: 10/10
I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but current-gen consoles are showing their age compared to the capabilities of the PC. However, Beyond features some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen on them. As I’ve said before, I’m really impressed with how good developers are getting at facial motion capture technology. Games like The Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed III and Tomb Raider have all had great facial capturing, but they pale in comparison to Beyond. Ellen Page LOOKS like Ellen Page. Willem Dafoe LOOKS like Willem Dafoe.

In addition, this game has some of the best lighting effects I’ve seen in ANY game – console or otherwise. Great lighting can mean the world to games nowadays and Beyond has it in spades. There’s a section of the game that takes place out in a desert area, and in my opinion, it looks 100% real. There’s really no time while looking at this game that it doesn’t look as though you’re watching a movie. It looks that good.

Sound: 10/10
The voice acting is spectacular. Again, as I’ve said many times in my reviews, voice acting in games just continues to get better and better. Here, you’re dealing with two Academy Award nominees and at no point can you imagine them recording dialogue in a sound booth. Like with the visuals, you feel as though you’re watching a fully acted performance rather than a videogame.

Speaking of which, Ellen Page delivers what is, in my opinion, the performance of her career. I’ve seen her in things before, and while she is a good actress, she’s always been a foul-mouthed cute girl, taking on roles that showcase just that (Inception and X-Men III being notable exceptions). I find it funny (in an awesome way) that a videogame is what she should win an Academy Award for, and I remember thinking, “If this was a film, she’d be smothered with critical acclaim. Since it’s a game, though, her performance will probably go mostly and unfortunately unnoticed.” It’s a shame, too. I’d like to see her take on more roles like this.

The overall sound design is pretty good too, but I honestly can’t remember any musical cues. The score was composed by Norman Corbeil, who composed Quantic Dream’s previous two titles, but due to his death in January 2013, was completed by Assassin’s Creed III composer, Lorne Balfe. I can’t necessarily knock this score for not being memorable, as the story was so engaging that I just honestly didn’t pay attention to the score. Maybe on a second playthrough, I’ll give it a more intent listen.

In this game, the Green Goblin plays a ghost-doctor!
Gameplay: 9/10
In my recent Resident Evil article, I mentioned my hate for quick time events. True, I hate them in Resident Evil games and the way Capcom implements them, but here, where the game is built around the QTE, I’m fine with them. Do they add anything to the experience of Beyond? Not really, but they make you feel like you’re interacting with the story, so I guess they’re ok. Personally, I’d rather just have a playthrough of Beyond on Blu-Ray so I could watch the story at my leisure.

My only real problem with the game play is that Jodie and Aiden can be difficult to actually move at times. This isn’t terrible, and I’ve seen much worse in other games, but I have to dock it a point because it became slightly frustrating during some of the more intense, action-oriented sections.

Overall, this game impressed me even more than I thought it would. Great acting, writing and graphics pushed it over the limits as far as gaming goes. But really, it pushed it to the limits of what I’ve seen in storytelling lately. In a world where Hollywood can’t come up with an original idea to save their lives and instead they rely on other works to either remake or adapt a story for the big screen, Beyond: Two Souls stands out as a truly original experience.

So, the question I always ask for you, the reader, at the end of all my reviews: “Is it worth $60?” In my opinion, Beyond is worth $100. That may sound a bit much, but as far as a visual narrative goes, it doesn’t get much better than this. Well, except for maybe Breaking Bad or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

And one more thing: Don’t believe the other reviews out there. Most of them are just mad because they didn’t get sent review copies of a triple-A title. This game is definitely worth your time and I highly recommend it to those looking for an awesome story.

Final Score: 9.75/10


Screenshots taken from Google Images.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Review (PC, PS3)

I’m not that crazy about MMORPGs. It’s not the genre itself, but the fact that you have to pay money to play them. True enough, every game costs money to play (aside from things like Rock, Paper, Scissors and playing Tic-Tac-Toe in the dirt with a rock), but MMORPGs usually charge a monthly fee in addition to the money you initially spend to take the game from the store or download it. Companies that charge players to play their games are basically doing so to run an ever developing game, one which will require server maintenance and constant patching. So in other words, it makes sense for companies to charge for playing something like an online RPG.

This would be all well and good if you were going to be playing the game… well… forever, but if you’re like me, you can’t stick to just one game for that long. I find it hard to justify paying a subscription fee for a game that I’m not going to be playing as heavily a month or two down the road. Thank goodness for the ability to cancel subscriptions, right? (More on that in a bit.)

The first MMORPG that I ever played was Final Fantasy XI. When the game was first released, I had no intention of buying it. The fact that a main, numbered series title in the Final Fantasy franchise was online-only and required a subscription fee just turned me off completely. Then, one day while hanging out with a friend of mine, that friend of mine had another friend that had the Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XI. He told me he’d sell it to me for about $5, so I bought it – if for nothing else but to actually own every main series FF game (as you all know, I’m something of a completist). For about a week, I kept the game on my shelf, debating on whether I should pony up the cash necessary to start playing it.

I decided to take the plunge and tell SquareEnix that I would pay them $12.99 per month to play the game.

Once I got in, I’ve gotta say that the game was pretty well-done. The graphics, art direction, music – all the stuff that you’d expect from an “alright” Final Fantasy title were all there… save for an involving story.

FFXI’s story wasn’t terrible, it just didn’t grip me like previous games had, since it was an actual role-playing game. You didn’t play as a character, you were the character, something that I wasn’t accustomed to as a fan of the series since Final Fantasy IV. Regardless, I found the game to be pretty fun until I hit the point when a party was necessary to progress.

FFXI used a combat system which is probably familiar to most MMORPG players, but was new to me at the time: Class-based. This means that whatever character you decide to play as, you take a certain role in combat. For me, I had chosen a “fighter” character (your typical sword and shield user), so that meant that I was what everybody called “the tank.”

For the longest time, I had no earthly idea what people were talking about, but once I figured out that a tank’s job in combat was to primarily take damage while other people did the damage dealing, I was good to go. The problem was, I didn’t “go” for long. FFXI’s leveling system was extremely slow (therefore, extremely boring) and I just didn’t want to take all that time to get to the experience level that most other FFXI players were at and probably had been for around 2 years at that point.

I canceled my subscription after about 2 months of play.

Since then, I’ve gotten into other MMORPGs that have gone the “free-to-play” (or F2P) route such as Star Trek Online, DC Universe and Dungeons & Dragons Online, and I swore off subscription-based games completely.

That is, until Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

I never bought into the original FFXIV. Along with my swearing off of subscriptions, I had heard that the game was basically crap and that players weren’t happy with the final product, so I pretty much stayed away. But it still killed me that there was another Final Fantasy title that I probably wouldn’t buy.

After a short time, SquareEnix announced that they would be completely updating and overhauling FFXIV.  I didn’t care. I still wasn’t going to buy the game. It wasn’t until a week after the game’s release (and re-getting into FFXII on a PS2 emulator) that I decided to check out the new version. I looked up some videos, and while I can’t say that I was “blown away,” the game actually did look like a lot of fun (and the leveling system was much faster). So just like with FFXI, I took the plunge once again and decided to pay SquareEnix a monthly fee to at least check the game out.

NOW the quasi-review starts!

Story: 6
I’m not going to go into the details of FFXIV’s story, as it’s not the greatest in the world. Basically, a cataclysmic event hits the land of Eorzea, causing things to change throughout the world. This is pretty much SquareEnix using an in-game excuse to change problems that players initially had with the game. It’s pretty clever, but it’s also kind of funny when you read into it. I’m sure that to players who played the original version, it’s even funnier. There are some pretty standard RPG tropes like an evil empire and such, but I think that sometimes the story seems to get in the way of the player just going out and building their character up, as I find even myself skipping through lines of dialogue while trying to get the next quest going. This is something that I never had to do with all the previous FFs.

Visuals: 8
For an online game, FFXIV is pretty to look at. In fact, it’s the best looking one I’ve seen yet. The fact that the game was designed to be played from multiple platforms (PS3 & PC) on the same servers means that some of the graphics have been toned down to accommodate the aging PS3 hardware. That being said, it’s still an online game, so the graphics for FFXIV aren’t going to look as good as XIII or the upcoming XV, anyway. A good deal of graphics processing goes into putting tons of fully animated avatars on the screen at once, thus contributing to the lower quality of the graphics.

Sound: 9
Uematsu is back! A lot of old Final Fantasy musical flourishes are back that have been missing post-XII, so from an auditory standpoint, fans should be rather pleased. At one point, even the battle music from the first FF game makes an appearance! Pretty much all the music and themes you would expect from a Final Fantasy game are all here, which is something I can’t say about FFXIII (which had a good score, regardless) and probably won’t be able to say about XV once it's released.   

My main character, based off the protagonist in a story I'm writing.
Gameplay: 7
FFXIV is your standard MMORPG. You basically run around doing “fetch quests” for NPCs and grind for experience points while moving through the lackluster story. Even the main HUD for FFXIV is nearly identical to other MMORPGs. To some, this may seem as though FFXIV is a retread of something they’ve already played. Indeed, the concepts and design aspects of FFXIV are exactly the same as something like Star Trek Online, as I had absolutely no problems while figuring out the various controls. Honestly though, I don’t know how developers would go about designing MMORPGs any differently at this point; this seems to be the standard simply because it works, though it does add a lot of monotony to the genre as a whole.

One thing that I particularly enjoy is how the game eases you into playing with other people throughout Eorzea. There are training instances (a multiplayer session that occurs when enough people have queued up the event) that show you how the course of battle flows for each player related to your specific job. By this point, I already knew how combat worked in this type of game, but for new players, this can be an absolute blessing. Also, helpful popups appear after every new aspect of the game becomes available, so you won’t be wondering how to use your defense buffs right in the middle of battle or how to craft materia to socket into your armor. You absolutely have to pay attention to these popups to make yourself effective, though. Fortunately, the tutorials given are evenly spaced throughout the game and never really seem to overwhelm the player with too much information too soon.  

So why should you play Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn if it’s pretty much the same as most MMORPGs you can play for free? Really, it all boils down to personal preference and where you want to spend virtual-time. The fact that I have sold my soul to the devil twice for Final Fantasy is enough to show that I’m a fan of the series, so I personally like playing around in that world. So if you’re a Final Fantasy nut, then this is the online game for you and is worth your hard-earned money every month. If not, and you just like playing a game with your friends and building stronger characters together, then definitely go for one of the free games. There are tons out there that operate exactly like FFXIV and cost absolutely nothing.

Final Score: 7.5 (See, not EVERY game is "super awesome" in the eyes of The Inner Dorkdom!)

Logo image taken from Google Images. Screenshot made by me.

The Last of Us - Review (PS3) *Finally!*

(Note: Sorry about the extreme lateness of this review. I’ve been meaning to post it since I finished the game during release week.)

The Last of Us is one of the hardest games I’ve had to review yet. Based on the glowing reviews since its release, that probably sounds kind of strange. Have all the 9s and 10s the game has received been warranted? Perhaps.

Naughty Dog, developers of the Uncharted franchise, have created a game which is an odd mix of horror, humanity, post-apocalyptic fiction, and thought provoking themes, all while relying heavily on several tropes that permeate a lot of current, popular fiction. This is both a good and bad thing. From a story standpoint, you can see most things coming from a mile away. From a gameplay standpoint, you’ve probably played this game a million times before. The difference here is that Naughty Dog executes these fiction and gaming tropes in a way that’s never really been done in a videogame before. Probably the only thing that comes close is Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead.


Story: 10/10
The Last of Us, at first glance, falls into the zombie-fiction genre. The thing is, it’s not really a zombie game. Like the premise for most stories in this genre, an unknown virus is unleashed on the world’s population, turning people into flesh-hungry monsters that feed on other humans. The bitten are then transformed into zombie-like creatures which continue the cycle for every person that they bite. This eventually spreads to the point that the entire world turns into a creature-filled wasteland with a few people left doing whatever is necessary to survive. Yes, that sounds like a zombie game, but it’s really more about a man and a girl who form an extremely strong father/daughter bond and the choices they make to survive.
The story centers on Joel, a man who loses his daughter (Sarah) during the initial outbreak. In the beginning, Joel is presented as a good man and father to Sarah, but by the time the actual story begins (20 years after Sarah’s death), he has become like the rest of the world: A man who will do what he must to stay alive.
Now a somewhat cold mercenary, Joel is tasked with escorting a 14 year-old girl named Ellie across the country since it is said that she may contain within her a cure for the infected.
What may seem like a simple premise actually turns into a harrowing adventure much like Stephen King’s The Stand. That story also dealt with people trying to make their way through the country and the new dangers a post-virus world might present. Joel and Ellie must traverse abandoned cities and towns to make it to their various destinations, all the while battling other survivors, cannibals, and the infected.
The things I like most about any story, whether it is a novel, comic, movie, TV show, or game, are well-developed characters that you can identify with and care about. Joel, Ellie, and the relationship they develop, are extremely well thought out here, surpassing the clichés that rear their ugly heads at every turn. But even then, the trope of the “father / daughter” relationship is thrown at them and it still works. This is due in part to the game’s fantastic writing. The story flows naturally (though it’s a bit slow in the beginning) and by the time it’s over, you feel as though you’ve been on just as much of an adventure as Ellie and Joel.

Visuals: 8/10
For a console game, The Last of Us is gorgeous, though I’ll admit that I’ve been quite spoiled with the capabilities of the PC. Some “jaggies” are present due to the limits of 720p and occasionally the framerate stutters, though that’s virtually non-existent.
The character models in-game can be a little hit-or-miss at times, but the environments are what makes the visuals shine. Even dilapidated, moss-covered buildings look beautiful in combination with excellent lighting effects. Everything looks as though it actually exists in the real world, giving an authentic look to a game which is trying to look as realistic as possible.

Sound: 8/10
Since this is an action/survival-horror title, music is not really that prominent. During character moments and cutscenes, the music fits quite well, but is nothing to write home about. One thing that I found interesting is that the closer Joel and Ellie get to an enemy, the music ramps up and intensifies. For gameplay purposes, this adds a lot of tension as you sneak around while being down to your last few bullets.
The voice acting is perfection. There have been a lot of games recently that have had superb voice acting, but The Last of Us hits it out of the park. Honestly, the voice work in this game (coupled with the writing) puts most Hollywood actors and writers to shame.   
As far as the environmental and overall sound design, it’s ok. I’ve heard better from games like Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed III. I just felt as though the sound could have been a lot better for the sake of immersion, especially since the game does this so well in other areas, but it’s just really generic.

Gameplay: 8/10
The gameplay is nothing necessarily innovative, but at the same time, it’s solid. If you’ve ever played Rockstar Games’ Manhunt (PS2/Xbox/PC), you’ve played this game. The stealth aspects and gunplay are nearly identical to that title. The only difference here is that you’re up against zombie-like creatures and other survivors, rather than demented gang members. Limited ammo and resources always leave you feeling like you may not make it through the next section of the game, making you resort to other paths (like stealth) to get through. You’ll have to be smart if you run out of ammo, and because of that, the game really does have a feeling of true survival-horror. It’s actually possible to avoid combat altogether 90% of the time if you want, but doing so is much harder and more time consuming.
Speaking of time consuming, this game is loooooooooooong. Or at least, it feels that way. I kind of took my time with it, searching everything and taking part in any nuances I found, but my final play time was around 16 hours. That’s pretty long for a 3rd person action/survival-horror game and it makes you feel as though you’ve been across the entire country on foot, just as a game of this magnitude should.
One minor complaint I had was, by the time I finished the game, I felt as though using “zombies” as enemies was not really needed since you spend most of your time fighting survivors. I guess the developers felt like they needed something a little creepier to fill up the empty space between obstacles that a virus-ridden world would present.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Last of Us. Again, it does nothing new or innovative with any of its aspects, but Naughty Dog’s execution of things that have been done before is excellent. Just give it some time, as it takes about 3 or 4 hours before the game starts ramping up and getting good. Honestly, I was bored out of my skull for the first 20%, but when the characters started growing on me, I really started to settle in and enjoy it.
But that’s what makes this game extremely hard to review: For every one bad or questionable aspect I found in the game, I found 2 awesome aspects. The story, writing, acting, solid gameplay, and realistic environments, more than make up for any shortcoming that The Last of Us might have.
The big question: Is it worth $60? Yes. If you’re a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, this is definitely one of the best games out there.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Image taken from Google Images.
Posted on September 28, 2013 .

Man of Steel - Nic's Impressions

Well Internet, I've seen Man of Steel. And, well, much like I was after seeing Star Trek Into Darkness, I'm conflicted.

Warning, SPOILERS follow...

In fact, for us here at the Inner Dorkdom the scene after the movie was very similar to the one after Into Darkness. We were having our post-movie credits-are-rolling conversation about the movie. Some in our group really liked it. Others were not impressed. When it came for me to give my input, there I was again, in the middle, only able to say, "I'm conflicted." I couldn't give a simple, "loved it," or, "hated it." In some ways and on some levels I really enjoyed it. And in others I was disappointed. And, again, just like immediately after Into Darkness, I couldn't initially sort my feelings out and put them into words. On the drive home with Josh (who loved it) and Liz (who hated it) I started trying to, particularly what disappointed me about the film. But it didn't go well. Again, too many emotions and responses all intertwined.

I think the reason this happened with Man of Steel is the same reason it happened with Into Darkness. In both cases we have a reboot of a franchise (sorry J.J. Star Trek, but for most intents and purposes that's what you are) that I have a familiarity with, an affinity for, and thus, expectations regarding.

So to sort out my feelings, I'll begin by doing what I did while pondering Into Darkness.

If I evaluate it just as a summer action movie:
No doubt it's a well made action movie. There are plenty of action-packed scenes (especially in the latter half of the film), heroics and villainy of a very high order, and lots of stuff that goes boom (grain silos, Sears stores, IHOPs, 7-11s, dozens of Metropolis skyscrapers). Indeed, the action scenes themselves are full of impressive imagery and intense kinetic action. My problems with it on the purely action movie level are the same that I have with any film that really goes in for the distinctively modern trends in action movies (shaky cam, muted colors, action sequences that go on a bit longer than I'd like, a Hans Zimmer styled score--in this case composed by the man himself).

If I evaluate it as science-fiction:
And I should. Superman is an alien. Superman stories, though the extent to which they emphasize this varies, are science-fiction stories.

And as a science-fiction film, I think it really works. It's not as deep as some sci-fi, no doubt. But, for my money, it works much better on the sci-fi level than Into Darkness does. In Man of Steel the science-fiction elements are more than just the backdrop used to give flavor to a story that with minimal tweaks could be set in realistic modern day. (Which is, as you guessed, how I felt about Into Darkness, although perhaps I'm being too hard on it.) The science-fiction elements are integral to the story and plot here. But, it should be noted, they don't completely overshadow it.

If I evaluate it as Superman:
Again, having been a fan of Superman for years, this is where I bring certain personal baggage with me. That is, expectations, or at least preferences, based on my previous experience with the franchise (which is not in-depth on the comic book side, although I did read Superman comics as a kid).

With my Into Darkness impressions I tried to filter out the Nic-specific baggage and evaluate it just in terms of it being Star Trek. I think that approach made sense because Star Trek, a franchise less than 50 years old, has only had (and, I admit, technically still only has) one continuity. Different shows and films have their own unique flavors. But nonetheless I think one can look at Star Trek as one cohesive thing.

But it doesn't make as much sense for me to do that here, because Superman is a much more varied franchise. There have been many continuities over its 75 year history. Superman stories have been told in a number of different media, with no one medium being thought of as the one true official one. And the stories themselves have varied greatly in terms of content, tone, themes, and so on. So its more difficult to nail down certain elements, whether they be of story or style, and say, "Regardless of one's personal preferences, this is what Superman is." I do think some exist. But they are far fewer than the one-continuity of Star Trek.

So all I can do is evaluate it as Superman with my personal tastes in view. And what is the result?

First, and I think foremost, it makes my problems with the modern edgy action-movie stylistic sensibility more acute. Because it's Superman. Yes, he's the Man of Steel. But he's also the Man of Tomorrow. The boyscout. The kindly flying super-powered space alien from an old-fashioned small town in Kansas. Also, even amongst superheroes he is distinctive and one-of-a-kind. And I personally want a Superman film to tonally reflect those values and ideas. I certainly don't want it to drink so heavily from the modern "gritty realistic" style. Now, even though I think of most of them fondly, I'm not asking for a straight up emulation of the Christopher Reeves films, or even Superman Returns (which, in my mind, was a Christopher Reeves film without Christopher Reeves). I understand filmmakers today are highly unlikely to go that far. General audiences' tastes have changed a bit over the decades. But I would like a Superman film that at least, when compared with other films of its day, leans noticeably in that direction. I want a Superman movie to standout from its peers as a bit "classic," when it comes to its presentation. Man of Steel doesn't do this. In fact, quite the opposite. The film takes up the gritty style more so than most Marvel films, and ends up being, in my eyes anyway, tonally closer to The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Truthfully, of all the recent movies I've seen, I feel like Captain America: The First Avenger did the best job of capturing the vibe I'm wanting in a Superman film.

Don't get me wrong. When evaluating this as a Superman movie, it's not all bad. Not at all. For example, I thought the cast did a wonderful job. Although I still miss Brandon Routh, I was pleasantly surprised with how well I felt Henry Cavill works as Superman. He could play the serious, almost brooding side, and also the warm optimistic side (on the very rare occasions he was given opportunity to do so). Amy Adams as Lois Lane is great (though early on I feared Lois' spunkiness was going to come across more like witchiness, but fortunately that didn't pan out). Of course Ma and Pa Kent and Jor-El were wonderful. I know there's been some controversy over Michael Shannon's performance as Zod, but I personally liked what he did with the role. Laurence Fishburne was great as Perry White (indeed, his scenes helped make the whole affair feel more like a Superman movie, though I'm not sure why). And the other bit players performed admirably as well.

As for the story, which is no question the heart of any film (except for 'artsy' films, and by the way that's a technical term I learned when studying film criticism in college), no doubt there are changes made here, including a couple of significant ones. I'm personally not of the "They changed something thus its ruined forever" mindset, at least when a film is creating or working within its own continuity. Change by itself is neither good nor bad in my book. You have to look at the changes themselves, evaluate them on their own merits. For sake of time I'll only point out the one change that had the largest impact on my enjoyment of the story, and by extension, the film itself. That is, they decided to play up his alien nature to the point where, it seems even growing up in Smallville, he was an outsider. A loner. And them, upon graduation, a drifter.

Let me say that I do think the filmmakers executed that idea well. But, that choice had a profound impact on the film. And in a way that worked against my enjoyment.

On the ride home with Josh (who loved the film) and Liz (who hated it), I started trying to explain my feelings. I talked about warmth. Josh was amazed I didn't see that in the film. Liz and I talked about the film lacking a sense of fun, and again we had trouble communicating.

I've been thinking about it, and I think I've figured out how to articulate it.

Some folks say difference between 2006's Superman Returns and Man of Steel was action. The former had too little, while the latter, at least for some, had too much.

I think it's deeper than that. It seems to me that Superman Returns emphasized Superman's compassion, his relationships, his personal warmth, his emotional side. In Man of Steel, because he's a loner for much of his life, this side of him doesn't have a chance to be explored, let alone emphasized. Rather Man of Steel emphasizes his resolute moral character. Here is a 'man' who has deep convictions. He has great power, but he also has great restraint. He is not one to seek vengeance, even on those who often treat him poorly (that one guy's big rig notwithstanding). Indeed, he shows himself, at a young age even, to be willing to protect even those people. And, perhaps most important of all, he is highly selfless, willing to live the life of a drifter because of the combination of two things: 1) he cannot stand by and not use his powers to help others, and 2) his earthly father instilled in him the importance of not revealing himself to the world too soon.

Both elements, his compassionate personal relationship side and his moral resolve and strength of character, are important parts of Superman. Both are needed. If he's compassionate but not resolute he might use his powers in dangerous/harmful/vindictive ways due to those he personally loves (this is what the Jedi during the time of the prequels feared could happen if they allowed themselves to form attachments). If he's resolute but not compassionate, he comes across as distant, his desire to protect humanity becoming merely a philosophical decision.

Superman in Man of Steel is not devoid of this personal connection and compassion (just as Superman in Superman Returns isn't devoid of strong moral resolve). He clearly loves his adopted parents. And at the end of the film as he begins his new life as Superman and Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, it starts to come through again. But, again, because the story is structured as it is, throughout the film we don't see much of this side of him. He just doesn't have many relationships. He cares about 'humanity,' but we don't get many chances to see that abstract idea made personal and, well, human.

And that is why I, and I suspect others, feel like the film, and Superman himself, was lacking a sense of warmth. (It's like, I know this Superman would care about me if I were falling out of the sky or something. But I don't know that he'd want to be my friend.)

Incidentally, the scenes that did help bring some warmth to the film were somewhat stifled by the pointless shaky-cam and other facets of postmodern action cinematography (I'm looking at you, scene with Pa Kent after the school bus incident).

His being a loner also probably accounts at least somewhat for what I call the lack of 'fun' in the film. The type of thing I refer to when I talk about a sense of "fun" typically comes from personal interactions. Or, at least, it's expressed typically through personal interactions. Characters commenting to others (usually associates or friends) about what's happening ("You and I remember Budapest very differently," "Well, I hope this experience hasn't put any of you off flying. Statistically speaking, it's still the safest way to travel," "Another happy landing"), or interacting in other ways (Steve Rogers giving Nick Fury ten dollars, acknowledging his losing their bet). But, again because the filmmakers chose to tell the story they did, Kal-El/Clark/Superman doesn't interact with many other people in the film. Here's who I remember: His parents, computer ghost Jor-El, girl and jerk at diner, Lois Lane, a priest, Zod's lady sub-commander, Zod, couple of military guys. That's it. Thus, even if he wanted to give us some fun (and this Superman, being a bit broody until he truly finds his place in the world, probably wouldn't), there are few people around for him to play off of.

(Incidentally, I'd read a review that said Superman and Lois' relationship in the film isn't the big iconic romantic thing we might expect, but we can see how it could bloom into that. Having seen the film, I think by in large that's an accurate description. And I'm ok with that. But, I was thus a bit surprised at the kiss. I didn't expect it, since they hadn't really had time or opportunity to fall in love or develop anything more than an initial attraction and respect for each other. I personally would have been OK without the kiss. Let that come in the next film.)

I don't know about cinematography, editing, and music, but as for my other disappointments, I think there's a small amount of hope for the future, if the last five minutes of the film are any indication. First you have Superman's response to Lois's line about first kisses (a wry humor "fun" moment). Then there's the scene with the general and the destroyed drone. I read someone say it comes off as a poor attempt at Tony Stark / Nick Fury banter. I disagree. Does the scene channel a bit of that Marvel movie fun? Yes. But Superman isn't being anything like Tony. He's still clearly Superman, making valid and mature points. He even acknowledges his rural Kansas upbringing. And the military personnel are definitely a bit less, theatrical, than Fury. So to me the scene feels very natural...and fun. Then there's the final two scenes, where Clark explains to his mother what his job will be (guess he doesn't have to go to college for that?), and we see him arrive for his first day at the Planet. Maybe it was partially seeing the standards of Superman mythology finally start to fall into place, maybe it was the resolution of the broodiness of earlier, but whatever the reason, I couldn't help but have a pretty big smile as I watched those two scenes. (Then the music continued to be Zimmer's score, and the smile lessened slightly).

OK, I guess I may as well say a little something directly about the score. I'll save more in-depth observations for a dedicated article. For now I'll just say that I for a Superman score, I personally want something else. Something more traditionally orchestral (but not necessarily exclusively so). Something with a bit more melodic and rhythmic complexity. Something with a touch of classic heroicism and patriotism, maybe even with at least one trumpet or woodwind instrument somewhere in the score.

In a publicity interview, Zimmer said that Nolan's Batman is inward and brooding, and the Dark Knight films were serioius psychological explorations. But Superman represents hope, and even traditional Midwest Americana. As I read that, it made me think that perhaps his Man of Steel score would be different from his Dark Knight scores. Perhaps his themes would do a more adequate job of embodying the specific characters, and not just conveying the basic psychological journey of the character.

But I have to agree with others on this, I don't think that's what happened. On the contrary, the music to this film feels very similar to his Batman scores. To me the music Zimmer wrote for Man of Steel doesn't reflect Superman's inspiring hope in others. It doesn't embody his heroicism. (That's what John Williams' themes did.) Rather, when it isn't being just ostinato triplet pattern driven action, it seems to be more of a reflection of Superman's inner psychological journey. When I hear Zimmer's 'main theme' it conjures in my mind the image of a person who had been kneeling because of something oppressive finally standing up. But the nature of that person, and that oppressive force, isn't specified. It could be any number of people, dealing with any number of oppressive circumstances. It doesn't convey the particular image of a man in a cape with super powers flying through the skies saving the world. It doesn't contribute to the film as a whole being the kind of rousing, awe-inspiring experience I, and others, wanted it to be. And that's the kind of score I personally wanted. Even if it had only displayed those qualities right at the end, that would have been welcomed.

Well, Internet, there's the broad strokes on my feelings about Man of Steel. In some ways I enjoyed it. In some ways I didn't. In the end, I wish it had been a bit less dark and brooding.

I have some other thoughts about specific plot points, stylistic choices, etc., that hopefully, along with a more detailed discussion of the score, I'll share with you soon. But until then, I remain,

 - Nic

Posted on June 18, 2013 .

Star Trek: Into Darkness - Nic's Impressions

Nic here. So of course I have to share my feelings about the new Star Trek film ("Into Darkness") with all of you on the Internet. I'm writing this article assuming that anyone reading it has seen the film as well. So, just to be clear...

Warning: Serious Spoilers Ahead!!! Don't read on if you don't want me giving away major aspects of the film.

OK, so, here's the deal Internet, my feelings about Into Darkness are conflicted. I saw it opening Friday night in IMAX 3D with Liz (my wife), Josh, and Todd, and in our mandatory still-in-the-theater first conversation about the film when they asked me what I thought, that's what came out. "I'm conflicted." In some ways and on some levels I really liked it. And in others I am very disappointed. I'm essentially a life long Star Trek fan, which no doubt accounts for the many subtle and conflicting layers of emotion the movie brought out in me. When Liz, Josh, and Todd first asked me my opinion, those emotions were all intertwined with one another, along with the reasons for them. I kept saying seemingly contradictory things, like, "it doesn't rely enough on previous Trek," and yet also, "it relies too much on previous Trek," or, "this relationship had too much emphasis," and, "the film doesn't deal with characters and relationships enough." So I've been spending the last couple of days trying to sort through them and figure out 1) why I feel them, and 2) how to articulate them.

So let's start with this.

If I evaluate it just as as a summer action movie:
No doubt it's a well done action movie. There are plenty of actions-packed scenes, a good amount of heroics and villainy, some smile-inducing lightheartedness, and lots of stuff that goes boom. The shaky-cam and "close-ups shot from three inches off the nose" approach to cinematography may not be my favorite, but such things are pretty common in Hollywood these days and I've learned to live with them. However, even as a big-budget action movie, I must admit I find it on the low end of my personal "substance" spectrum.

If I evaluate it as science-fiction:
I don't know, I tend to want a bit more science (even of the fictional variety) in my science fiction. Warp drive that can get you from Earth to Qo'Nos (not Kronos...wait Nic, not yet) in a few minutes, handheld communicators that can allow instantaneous communication between said planets, humans genetically engineered such that they can raise tribbles and brash captains from the dead, etc. are things that, for me, seem more at home in science-fantasy. And, I'll say it, I tend to like a bit more technobabble in my science-fiction. There, I said it. But then again, why should I be ashamed of that? Isn't technobabble a natural outgrowth of a story having in-universe fictional scientific technologies, laws of physics, etc.? And isn't such fictional science a fairly central aspect of science fiction? Star Wars (I'm talking film/tv canon here) doesn't go into much explanation about how hyperdrives, lightsabers, and repulsorlifts work because Star Wars is closer to science-fantasy, whereas Trek has a long history of going into such details, because it's science fiction. Or, at least, historically that's what it's been.

If I evaluate it as science-fantasy:
I personally tend to want a bit more classic fantasy trappings (certain story themes, types of characters, etc.) in my science-fantasy. If you're not going to tell me how your starship works, or bother to name its computer's operating system, give me something else in its place, like knights or monsters or magic.

If I evaluate it as Star Trek:
Here's where it gets all intertwined and in need of unraveling. As I said earlier, I'm a life-long Star Trek fan (in the spirit of full disclosure, I have more of an affinity for what one might call the "Berman-Era" of Star Trek that TOS, though I was a TOS fan first). And as such, I bring certain baggage that is both Trek-specific and Nic-specific with me to any Trek viewing experience. I'm planning on writing more about that in it's own article, but here's the short version, as it will let you know where I'm coming from. In a nutshell, I still have problems with the facts that: 1) Bad Robot has been given essentially exclusive control of Trek (Abrams didn't even like Trek, he was more of a Star Wars fan and has expressly stated that his intention was to make the former more like the latter), 2) they chose to 'not-technically-but-basically reboot' Star Trek with this new timeline and focus on alternate versions of Kirk, Spock, et. al. (instead of staying in the main timeline and focusing on original characters maybe in a different era, something that would be, at the same time, both new and also able to acknowledge/honor previous Trek in more than just a 'wink-wink, did you catch that reference' kind of way), and 3) that's the only Trek they seem to have any desire to see exist these days (so we currently have no chance of a Titan show, a Worf show, or for that matter any glimpse back at the original timeline, i.e., all previous Trek barring Enterprise).

So when I come to these new movies, that's what I feel right off the bat. A disappointment for the basic story direction they've chosen. But I'm trying to filter that part, the Nic-specific part, out and just look at this in terms of Star Trek.

Elements that felt 'right' to me:
There were many things.

For example, characters who appeared in Trek before, and the actors who played them...

Kirk - With the caveat that this Kirk grew up without his father and consequently is a bit more rebellious than original Kirk, I have to say that Christopher Pine is going a great job as James Tiberius Perfect Hair. He doesn't do a Shatner impression, and he doesn't really look like him either, but nevertheless he really does carry over the essence of Starfleet's most storied captain.

Spock - While he does a better job here than he did in Star Trek 2009 (he's not butt-hole Spock), I still can't help but feel like there is probably someone on the planet who could do a better job with Spock than Zachary Quinto. Just like I can't put into words what Pine gets right, I can't put into words what Quinto gets wrong. (I'll keep working on it though.) But I will say that Quinto is definitely getting better.

McCoy - I don't think there is anyone on the planet who could do a better job with McCoy than Karl Urban. He just nails the character. The DeForest Kelly inflections, the 'always at the edge of being shocked by the behavior of every single being in the universe,' the whole thing. Urban is, for my money, the perfect McCoy. I really wish he had more time to shine in this one.

Scotty - There's a certain 'old-school' quality to James Doohan's performance (a combination of warmth, gravity, and life-experience) that I don't think he quite has yet. But beyond that, Simon Pegg is great as Scotty.

Uhura - No offense to Nichelle Nichols who did just fine, but original Uhura wasn't overly well defined as a character. Thus, Zoe Saldana has more room to do her own thing. She does well enough. But, I must say, for whatever reason, new Uhura is the one classic character that, to me, seems the most removed from the original counterpart.

Sulu - John Cho doesn't have the voice ("oh my"), but I like him as Sulu. Seeing him get a little time in the captain's chair was a nice nod to the now-abandoned history of the character.

Chekov - Anton Yelchin is still great as Chekov. Although....I don't know...for some reason I was expecting the character to seem a bit less spastic and a touch more seasoned (horrible thing to call a man) by the time of this film.

Pike - A character from the original that was even less defined than Uhura, the for my money always excellent Bruce Greenwood was by in large able to do his thing in creating the character. He did great in Star Trek 2009, and his performance (now with gray mutton chops) is just as enjoyable here.

Carol Marcus - Alice Eve's take on perhaps Kirk's future baby-momma isn't that close to original actresses. But, maybe it's just me, for my money that's not a big deal. It's not like Dr. Marcus was that well defined to begin with.

Kahn - Here's where some inner conflict really kicks up for me. On the one hand, Benedict Cumberbatch's performance (save at least one notable exception) was excellent. He brought a violent raging quality and a disconnected calmness that worked really well together in a creepy kind of fashion. He was even able to play the character in such a way that the viewer really could wonder if this guy isn't so bad after all (spoiler: he is). All in all it made for a great action movie villain (although from a writing standpoint his history could have been fleshed out a bit more). But on the other hand, he didn't feel like Kahn to me. Yes, the difference in look and accent is probably a large part of it. But I don't think it's just that. I don't know, it's one of those things I'm still trying to sort out.

Aside from characters, I thought another area where they got many things right was in visual design. The design of the Enterprise itself, carried over from the first film, I still rather enjoy. But, let me be clear, I'm talking about how the starship looks on the outside. I'm still not a fan of the interiors (too much a combination of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 2001, and an Apple store). But at least main engineering wasn't clearly a brewery. And kudos on changing the design of going to warp from the obviously Star Wars inspired look of the first film to a (novel idea here) Star Trek inspired look, what with the trails and all. Other notable designs worth mentioning included Klingons (the glitter notwithstanding), Klingon ships (ish), and the Vengeance (large machine guns notwithstanding).

I also should say that the sound design (including nice use of original series sound effects) and mixing was excellent. But, with Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood, and Dave Acord on your sound team, that's to be expected.

Elements that didn't feel 'right' for me:
Before I move on to talk about where most of my disappointments in the film can be found, that is, the plot, and while I'm talking about sound, I have to mention the score. I don't really remember much of it distinctly. But what I do remember is that the film starts out with the main theme from 2009's Star Trek. I wasn't overly impressed with it back 4 years ago. It wasn't horrible. But even as the "theme of the particular movie" I thought it didn't quite cut the mustard. Given that Into Darkness reprises it, I'm guessing the Bad Robot people want this to be the new main theme for Star Trek. I just don't think it's good enough for that. It isn't iconic enough, and it isn't emotionally representative of the franchise enough (even the new franchise taken by itself). I'm not digging it.

But even in a motion picture all of those elements are merely trappings. The core of the film is the story as expressed through the script. And it's here where, as a Trek fan, things really get wonky for me and I get all conflicted.

(Incidentally, here's an article that goes into more detail in critiquing the plot. I think he makes some valid points. But I also think he's a little too hard on the movie at times.)

Again, there is good to be found. Some examples: The jokes and humor are very Trekish. The references to past Trek are enjoyable (but also bittersweet, in that that's all they may ever be again, references). And the explanation as to why someone else came upon Kahn's ship and not the Enterprise (something I've thought would need to be addressed since rumors this film would involve Kahn started swirling years ago) was welcome and worked for those of us who care about canon consistency.

But three things in particular about the story and script felt off to me.

First, there's the extent to which this was a straight-up and non-stop action movie. As Michael Pillar said Gene Roddenberry taught him, Star Trek stories are always about something. Yes, there are characters and they do things, which causes other things to happen, etc. But, beyond that, they are always about something. They deal with themes. They explore concepts. And they do so with a strong emphasis on characters.

Now, I'm not saying Into Darkness isn't about anything. But, not trying to be rude, but it doesn't seem to be about much. Being too aggressive or militaristic is bad. So is revenge. And people in power can't always be trusted. That's about it. Those are important ideas to be sure. But they are also a bit generic, and, more importantly, although they are present in Into Darkness they're certainly not at the forefront.

I think another consequence it being so close to a straight up action film is that it contributed to its feeling less of like science-fiction in general and Star Trek in particular. Even the most action packed of the first 10 movies (Wrath of Kahn and First Contact) had heaping doses of science-fiction in them. Indeed, I think in many ways 2009's Star Trek felt more like Trek than this one. This speaks to Josh's concern with Into Darkness: The Abrams' films are headed in the wrong direction.

Second, there's the handling of the Kirk and Spock relationship. After the movie Josh said that he was disappointed that the movie made an issue of their friendship. He wasn't complaining that they were friends, but rather that the movie, like the one before it, made it a major plot thread. It's like the movie pulled out a spotlight and said, "Look! Hey, these guys are friends and that's important because of who they are and who heir alternate versions are. But they're so different from each other, huh? Wow, yeah, it's not an easy friendship. Look at that." He wondered if they were going to do this (along with Kirk getting in trouble for being a maverick and then getting the Enterprise back) in every movie. And I think he has a point. I personally have no problem with the movie showing their friendship. But why make a big dramatic deal about it? (Of course, part of the answer may be so that the Wrath of Kahn ending can have weight to it. But I'll get to that in a minute.)

But they did make a deal about it, and in doing so I think that, although it works at times, at others it suffers from two opposing problems which make the whole thing feel a bit forced. It's almost paradoxical, but it seems to me that, compared to what it really would be, the film presents their relationship as both too new and too old.

I looked it up, and this film takes place the year after the previous film. Not a ton of time, certainly. But enough for Kirk to have learned that Spock is a by the book kind of guy and Spock to have learned that Kirk isn't. So the hubbub over their actions on Nibiru and the reports they filed about it seems out of place. This isn't their first day together. I'd have expected them to be a bit beyond this.

(It should be pointed out that in the original timeline Kirk and Spock, though having different ideas about when to follow the rules, didn't have a bickering phase in their relationship. At least not one that we saw. By the time of the first episode of the original series this was not an apparent source of tension in their relationship. It was more an issue for Spock and McCoy. But on the other hand, as Liz pointed out, this Kirk grew up without a dad and is thus more rebellious, and this Spock lost his home world which might make him crave order more than he otherwise would have.)

But then the Kirk death scene feels out of place for the exact opposite reason. These guys have only known each other for four years tops, and have only been working together for around one. I get Spock being sad, but not at the level he does. The mirroring scene in Wrath of Kahn meant so much because these characters had been friends and colleagues for over a decade. It's as though this film was relying on material from outside itself, from its own disavowed and disconnected (since it happened in a different timeline) back story, for its emotional weight.

This, I think, is a symptom of my third and largest issue with Into Darkness. And it's so important I'm giving it its own heading.

Bringing Back Kahn
I understand that Wrath of Kahn is probably the best liked of the first 10 Star Trek films. It's at the top of all sorts of lists, both professional and non-professional. Historically, it was extremely important to Trek as a franchise. So on some level I understand J.J. Abrams' motivation for having this film bring Kahn into the mix. the end I don't think it was the best call to make.

1. Why go to the trouble creatively to alter the timeline and essentially reboot Star Trek, just to then "riff" on what has already been done? This isn't Batman or Superman or Spiderman or Iron Man or [insert comic book property here] or even Transformers where the source material already includes multiple continuities and incarnations of characters, and putting it on film almost necessitates taking the best of those existing ideas and doing your own take on them. Before you came around there was one Trek continuity. You decided to quasi-reboot it, to create a new continuity. Did you really do so just to give Trek the comic book treatment? You have a chance to do something new. To come up with original ideas, or at least original characters. Why not take it? (This goes back to my feelings on their decision to do the reboot in the first place. Same thing. Why not do something new?)

2. Similar to the Kirk and Spock relationship, the weight of Kahn as the villain here, aside from the fact that he killed Pike and a few dozen others (which I'm not trying to minimize), isn't developed independently within the film itself. Rather it seems to rely to a large extent on "Space Seed" (the original series episode involving Kahn) and Wrath of Kahn. When he reveals who he is he yells it in a raspy voice in a very dramatic moment, the point of which is that this is a big stinking deal. This is Kahn! But, within the film and new timeline itself, this doesn't mean much. And the remainder of the film does little, aside from the referencing Wrath of Kahn (and thus a different Kahn, Kirk, Spock, etc.) to change that. Ok, your name is Kahn. And? Oh, you were some sort of genetically engineered superman who was incarcerated for being bad at some undefined point in the past. I get that Trek audiences know the significance. But for this Kahn and Enterprise crew it isn't significant. They have no history together. And, it seems to me, what they develop here doesn't appear likely to prove to be as iconic.

3. To me, most of the direct echoes to Wrath of Kahn seemed forced. Poor Zachary Quinto, through presumably no fault of his own, ends up being the bearer of a couple of notable ones. First there's the quoting of the classic "The needs of the many..." line (which here doesn't have the idea of "don't cry for my Jim" but of "you're an idiot Captain so let me explain this to you"). Then, after Kirk's death (which, perhaps surprisingly, I didn't at the time feel as forced, but rather an interesting look at events echoing in different ways through changed timelines and all that science-fictiony stuff), we have Spock looking up to the sky and yelling "KAHN!!!" Oy! Again, not really Quinto's fault. He delivers it pretty well. It's just the fact that it exists here that's the problem.

In the end, the bringing Kahn in makes the whole affair seem a little like people trying to ride the coattails of greatness in order to be popular, as opposed to doing their own thing.

So there it is. Some of my thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness. A film that I both liked and didn't like. If I had to sum it up I'd say that my disappointments with it aren't primarily with the execution. Rather, they are the direct result of two creative decisions made years ago: Create an alternate timeline, and do a riff on Wrath of Kahn. The result is a film that both doesn't rely on the Star Trek that's come before it, and does. But many of the ways it doesn't I wish it did. And many of the ways it does I think it would be a stronger film if it didn't.

Until next time, I remain

 - Nic

p.s. - I enjoyed the references to DS9 (Section 31), Enterprise (the model of the NX-01 in Adm. Marcus' room), and First Contact (the model of the Phoenix in Adm. Marcus' room). But what was up with that science officer with the robot voice (officially known as Science Officer 0718). Anyone else have a "what the crap" spit out your coffee moment when he first spoke?

Posted on May 20, 2013 .

Star Trek: Into Darkness - Josh's Impressions (!!SPOILERS!!)

!!WARNING!! !Large SPOILERS for Star Trek: Into Darkness ahead!!

In the years leading up to the 2009 Star Trek film, Nic and I had our concerns about the proposed reboot. “What would this change for the franchise?” we thought. We went into the film expecting to absolutely hate it, but to our surprise, it wasn’t all that bad. Sure, there were way too many lens flares, some minor canon issues, and a much missed sense of heart that the series is known for, but overall, it was a decent film.

In the years leading up to the newly released, Into Darkness, our concerns were even greater. Our main concern was the rumor that the new film would have Khan Noonien Singh as its main villain. This was something that made both mine and Nic’s eyes nearly roll completely out of our heads.

Khan is considered one of the all-time best villains in the history of Trek. I can see where folks are coming from, and I could probably agree with them. He was cold, calculated, and willing to accomplish his goals at any cost. Good fictional villains tend to have those kinds of qualities.

As I’ve mentioned in my recent articles, I believe that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a highly overrated film. It’s a great movie; don’t get me wrong. I just believe that there are better movies in the franchise. But in all fairness, that’s subjective and overwhelming majorities disagree with me. That being said, why repeat something like that?

When it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing an unnamed villain in the new movie, I was actually kind of relieved. I thought, “Well, at least it’s not Khan. I mean, the dude looks absolutely nothing like Ricardo Montalban, so it couldn’t possibly be Khan… Right?”

Oh how wrong I was.

When the first trailers were released for Into Darkness, I was unimpressed. I was still under the impression that this would be a “Khan-less” movie, but the overall look of the film was too… well… Star Wars-ish. From everything shown in the trailers, it looked like the majority of the flick took place on Coruscant, the Republic capitol in the prequel trilogy (and later home of the Empire). Mostly though, it was the trailers’ over-emphasis on action, whereas I was kind of hoping for a little lighter, more thought provoking Star Trek film. I thought that since there was a ton of action in the first one, maybe it might be a good idea to get back to the heart of the franchise by taking it down a few notches. Apparently, the folks over at Paramount disagreed.

That brings us to the week of the new film’s release. I said to myself, “Well, the movie looks kind of bland and I don’t mind seeing spoilers for a movie I’m skeptical of, so I’ll check out the Wikipedia article real quick for a synopsis.” When the page loaded, the first word I saw under the plot heading was… “Khan.”

I’ve gotta admit… I had quite a bit of nerd rage at that moment. I didn’t even read the entire synopsis. Once I saw that Khan was the main villain, I couldn’t bring myself to read the rest. Did the revelation that he was the main baddie curb my opinion of the film once I watched it? Not really. In fact, it’s my personal opinion that Khan was actually the best thing about Into Darkness (along with Karl Urban’s continuously spot-on portrayal of Bones). He doesn’t really look like Khan… he doesn’t really act like Khan… but hey, Cumberbatch plays a really good bad guy. And honestly, once he shows up in the movie, it kind of… VERY slightly starts feeling like Star Trek. But I think that’s mainly because a good portion of it at that point starts taking place on the Enterprise itself.

So what about the rest of the film? I can honestly say that I did not like it. Again, my opinion is not based solely on the fact that Khan was in it. I didn’t like the movie because 90% of it didn’t feel like Star Trek. I felt as though if the characters weren’t wearing Starfleet uniforms and the main ship didn’t look like the Enterprise, it literally could have been ANY sci-fi action film. Before the movie started, there was a trailer for the upcoming, Ender’s Game. That movie, Into Darkness, After Earth, and Oblivion look like they could all be sequels to each other and all part of the same franchise. Apparently, Damon Lindeloff, one of the movie’s 3 writers suggested the title of the film should have been Star Trek: Transformers 4. I know that he was only joking, but I think that statement pretty much sums up what Into Darkness is: An overblown action movie that completely apes the most well-liked Star Trek movie of all time.

And boy does it ape it.

I understand that the writers were trying to be clever with their twist on The Wrath of Khan, but to take a bunch of iconic scenes from that film and jamming them all together in order to replicate the same emotional effect? Get outta here. If you’ve seen both movies, you know that I’m referring to the end of TWOK where Spock sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise and her crew. Spock is dying, leaning against the glass in the engine room, and he and Kirk share a touching moment which sums up their friendship. Into Darkness tries to do the exact same thing (recreating the scene almost verbatim), only this time, it’s Kirk who sacrifices himself.

As dumb as trying to ape an iconic scene is, I don’t think the writers understood why the scene works better in TWOK and IS so iconic. I mean, for all intents and purposes, fans thought that Spock was dead after that movie. That’s why his death resonates so well. They had taken a beloved Star Trek character and killed him off (very heroically), and then shot him out of the Enterprise in a photon torpedo. He was gone. Fans didn’t know there was going to be a Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In Into Darkness, we’ve only gotten to know the new, younger Kirk and Spock over the course of ONE movie. General audiences aren’t going to care about that. Plus, since it’s pretty standard that movies are done in 3’s nowadays, everybody knows that Kirk was in no real danger. Also, as Nic pointed out, fans of the original series got 3 seasons of a television show to build the friendship between Kirk and Spock. You KNEW they were friends, thus it was easy to understand Kirk’s sadness that Spock had died. Since fans of the 2009 movie only had the (again) ONE movie to go on (a movie where Spock is pretty much a ding-dong head to Kirk 99% of the time), why would Spock be so outraged over Kirk’s death?

So was Into Darkness a terrible film? No. Well… not if you don’t really care for Star Trek. If you’re a long-time Trek fan like us here at The Inner Dorkdom, then yeah, you’re probably going to have your share of problems with it. If you’re a person who just likes to see the latest summer popcorn movie, you’ll probably like it. I like popcorn movies too, just not when the words “Star” and “Trek” are in the title. I expect a certain “something” when I go to see Star Trek, Star Wars, or any other established franchise film. I expect a certain mood, atmosphere, and characterization, but I just didn’t feel that with Into Darkness. And I didn’t feel it because I honestly believe it wasn’t there at all.
I came out of the movie theater pretty depressed. My only thought was, “This is the future of Star Trek.” There was a hope that as the movies continued, the writers would get us closer to what the franchise is all about, but instead we’ve been pushed further away. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the day that someone who was previously involved in Star Trek before the reboot takes over the franchise.

I’m probably going to have my fingers crossed for a LONG time.


Injustice: Gods Among Us - Review

Note -This review is mostly an edit of my earlier IGAU: Demo Impressions article. Since this is a fighting game, the review format will be slightly different than other reviews. Sorry this thing is so late. I've been forgetting to post it. :P

Nearly a year and a half ago, Netherealm Studios revealed that their next game wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat 10. Instead, they chose to pursue a project which would completely abandon their beloved franchise. Most fans (including myself) were disappointed with NRS’ decision… until we saw actual gameplay of Injustice: Gods Among Us, a brand new fighter that featured famous DC superheroes as selectable characters. The footage looked pretty similar to Mortal Kombat, but the fighting game community all wondered if it actually played as such.

Being a fighting game fan and having put a considerable amount of time into fully learning MK9, Injustice has some similarities, so I’ll be comparing it mostly to that game. However, it’s a completely new game with mostly new mechanics, so there are a lot of things which work differently.
Console Differences: I purchased the PS3 Battle Edition and later got the Xbox 360 standard version, so that’s all I really have to go on. The Xbox version is superior, which doesn’t really surprise me, as MK9 was the same way - both Injustice and MK9 being developed for the 360. The graphics on the 360 are slightly better and the PS3 version has a sometimes quite noticeable lag on some stages. This usually happens on stages which have a lot going on in the background. The Xbox version also has significantly better load times. The PS3’s, however, are atrocious. Unfortunately I can’t comment on the Wii U version, though I assume it’s probably closer to the PS3 since it’s also a port.

With all that out of the way, let’s break everything down:

In MK9, you controlled the character with 2 buttons mapped to punches and 2 buttons mapped to kicks (similar to Tekken). There was a dedicated block button (which was also used to enhance special moves), a throw button, and supers/X-Rays were done by pressing block and the 2 kick buttons (or just both triggers on a gamepad). Injustice uses a very different setup which is more akin to Street Fighter’s, but slightly simpler. There are 3 attack buttons: Light, Medium, and Hard. A fourth attack button, called “Trait,” (or “character power”) is used as a character-specific move which can do things such as change fighting styles, or in a specific case such as Batman, summon floating mechanical bats which can extend combos.
Blocking is now done by holding back (or down, while crouching) and is one of the hardest things to get used to when coming from MK9. The button that used to block still enhances special moves, but is now pressed during the special’s animation, as opposed to simultaneously. Another button (R1 on PS3, RB on 360) is dedicated to interactable objects in the various stages which can be used to inflict damage on the opponent. One example is a garbage dumpster that can be picked up and thrown. These interactables deal high amounts of damage, can be used during combos, and are unblockable, so the only way to get around them is to move out of their path. Each character interacts with these objects differently, so character-specific strategies on different stages will probably come into play heavily in a tournament setting.

This is perhaps the most initially noticeable difference when compared to MK9. Injustice feels a little bit stiffer. Personally, I don’t really have a problem with it, but it will affect spacing and zoning options over the life of the game. Previously, to get through an opponent’s zoning attempt (i.e. spamming projectiles to force you to move forward), the player could dash-block in order to close space, but now, since dashing forward is highly unsafe, severely punishable, un-cancelable, and you have to hold back to block, new methods will have to be figured out. One method is simply to walk. Walking in MK9 was viable for some characters, but dash-blocking was the quickest way to close distance between you and the opponent. Jumping is also a way to get in, but is also very risky. In this game, if the opponent anti-airs you, you could be looking at a severe amount of damage. Some characters can do anti-air combos in the 40% range. Once people get used to the new mechanics, however, this will become much easier to deal with.

Combos work pretty much the same as in MK9: Each character has a set of chain combos (usually 3 button presses that lead into popups) which are “buffered” before the attacks actually land and can be chained together to extend damage. Something new to Injustice is the concept of “wall bouncing.” By holding back and ‘X,’ (PS3) or ‘A,’ (360), the character will charge the attack and when released, hit the opponent, bounce them off the corner of the screen, and leave them airborne for more combo potential. These moves can be extremely hard to time during combos (the timing is different on nearly every character), but highly effective once you get the hang of it and very necessary to get a higher damage percentage. These wall bounces, when in a corner, can also send the opponent through the wall, which transitions into a different part of the stage, all the while causing damage.

New features:
Along with stage transitioning and interactable stage objects, come a couple of new features. One particularly interesting change from traditional fighting games is the lack of “rounds.” Much like the classic Killer Instinct, there are now 2 life-bars present which, after the first one is depleted, pauses the match briefly and puts the characters back to neutral ground. One thing that makes this a little odd is the fact that there is an extremely low “comeback factor.” If your opponent still has 1.5 life-bars and you only have .5, your chances of winning have gone down to about 15%. Especially if the player in the lead has more meter. This is manageable, sure, but it’s going to take a huge amount of skill to do so. The clash system, which takes the place of MK9’s combo breaker system, allows the player to spend 2 bars of their super meter to stop the opponent’s combo. This can only be done when you are down to your 2 nd life bar. Once executed, the match goes into a fancy animation, the characters say something witty to one another, and the players’ respective super meters are displayed. From here, the players “bet” their meter in an attempt to win the clash. This can range from gaining back health to dealing damage, depending on how much meter the players bet. For 1 bar of meter, you can push away an opponent if you’re blocking their attacks. This can kind of relieve some block pressure and stop your opponent from constantly being all over you. Needless to say, meter is highly important in this game and, just like MK9, should be used wisely.

Several modes and content exist for both the serious and casual player. For the tournament-goer, there is a robust practice mode which puts MK9’s to shame. Here, you can record your flashy combos, set and record the computer A.I. to different actions in order to practice setups and punishes, and check out frame-data (which you can also do in the pause menu during a match), etc. And for the casual player, there exists tons of unlockables such as concept art, challenge battles, and several other nifty elements to entertain. For anyone looking for a challenge, you can try out the S.T.A.R. Labs which offers mini-games that play out under a series of unfortunate conditions (such as, “fight Cyborg while dodging falling meteors). These become more challenging as you go along.

The online, while a bit better than MK9, still leaves a lot to be desired. The netcode is still not as good as games like SoulCalibur V and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, therefore there’s some noticeable input lag. It’s a shame, since there are some really interesting features such as an online practice mode that can’t really be realized because of lag. Hopefully, there will be some way that NRS can patch this to make it better.

For the fighting game enthusiast, this game was developed with the entire fighting game community in mind, as opposed to just MK players. The more you play, the more this becomes apparent, but there is definitely enough familiarity that MK players shouldn’t have a whole lot of problems getting used to it. It’s going to be interesting to see how the top players in the MK tournament scene measure up to the ones who will be crossing over from the various Capcom fighters such as Street Fighter IV and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. For the casual player, Injustice offers a ridiculous amount of fun. With the stage interactions, single player features, a decent story mode, and tons of unlockable content, players will find themselves busy for quite some time.

Final Score: 9/10

Screenshots will be added at a later time.

Bioshock: Infinite - Review (PC)

Ah, Bioshock. I got into the series a little late, having gotten hold of the first game about 2 years after it was originally released. I had no idea what I’d been missing.

Bioshock was a beautiful, fast-paced, action-packed first-person survival-horror game (that’s a lot of hyphens!) with a story that could rival Hollywood’s finest. That being said, I never played the second game in the series, Bioshock 2. During my playthrough of the first Bioshock, Bioshock: Infinite was announced. I had seen screenshots of the second game, but it looked near-identical to the first. Infinite, however, was on a completely different plane of existence (quite literally, as it would turn out). I decided to skip Bioshock 2 since Infinite supposedly had no, or very little, connections to the upcoming Infinite.
The game was announced nearly 3 years before it was actually released, with multiple delays plaguing its development. Finally, in March of 2013, we finally got our hands on it. So how is it? Bioshock: Infinite is a great game, but there are some things that knock it down several notches from what I was expecting.

PC vs. Console:
Before I go into this, and just to let it be known what I’m using to do these PC reviews, these are my system’s basic specs –
Intel – i7 2600 3.4ghz Quad-core
32g RAM
Nvidia Geforce GTX 680 w/4gig of dedicated VRAM.
For the most part, Bioshock: Infinite is the same on all platforms: gorgeous. The only notable differences are better resolution overall and on textures for the PC. All the great lighting effects are present across all systems and everything runs at a smooth and consistent 60fps. There was some slight stuttering whenever the game would load something new, but Nvidia released new drivers shortly after release which eliminates this problem.


Story: 10/10
Just like the original Bioshock, Infinite’s story is what makes the game truly shine. Taking place in an alternate version of 1912, you play the role of Booker Dewitt, a man tasked with finding a girl (Elizabeth) who is being held captive in a city above the clouds called Columbia. It becomes immediately apparent that something is slightly “off” about the city. The patrons appear to be religious fanatics and not to mention, racists. As Booker eventually meets up with Elizabeth, he finds that she has been held captive for most of her life and contains some kind of strange power which the leader of Columbia, a man named Comstock, wants to harness.
The story gets stranger and stranger as you progress and more and more is revealed about what Elizabeth’s true role actually is and how Booker connects to it. Since the story is such a mystery and one that absolutely must be experienced, it’s really hard for me to talk about without spoiling it. Just trust me, the story is why you should own the game.
I will comment on the ending, however. I’ve been seeing a lot of people complaining about it online and how it wasn’t very well thought out, or that it didn’t make any sense. These people are, quite simply, stupid. The ending makes total sense, but you have to pay attention to every detail of the story leading up to it. Personally, I think the ending was brilliant.

"You truly belong with us here among the clouds."
Visuals: 8/10
The graphics are good, don’t get me wrong, but they were only “jaw-dropping” 3 years ago when Infinite was originally announced. Now, the graphics are just standard compared to everything else, which is not a bad thing at all. What sets this game apart from others is its art style. With the setting of the early 20th century, the developers took extreme love and care when it came to replicating the feel of the era. Based on the architecture of the 1893 World’s Fair, the game has a pretty distinct steam punk vibe in its presentation, something that was also present in the original Bioshock. Columbia absolutely bustles with life. All of its citizens go about their business independently and seem as though they’re actually alive. No detail was spared in the visuals while making Columbia look and feel like a living, breathing world.

Sound: 10/10
Excellent. As far as sound effects and immersion go, Infinite excels. All of Columbia’s citizens converse with one another in a natural way, enemies’ location can be determined from the echoes of their voices, and weapons sound authentic.
It’s the music that really lends itself well to the overall game design. Infinite uses its music to tell story and offer clues as to what is actually going on within the screwed up world Booker finds himself in. Several classic songs are redone in a way that makes you think, “How is this song from the 1970s being played in 1912?!” Word of advice: Pay attention to things like that, as they’re vitally important to figuring out the mystery.

...but gameplay-wise, this is all she's really good for.
You actually grow to care for Elizabeth...
Gameplay: 7/10
Here’s where the game loses several points. As you’ll see from the final score at the bottom of this review, I’m probably going to get scoffed at and flamed pretty harshly, but just like any other review, these are just opinions. Everybody’s got one. Everybody else just happened to review it with scores of 9 or 10.
The gameplay of Bioshock: Infinite is pretty bland. There’s really no difference between this one and the original, with the exception of skylines and Elizabeth. Skylines allow Booker to hook onto them and ride a virtual rollercoaster from place to place more quickly. While this idea is neat, and pretty necessary to the game’s plot, it’s really just a form of quick movement. In all fairness though, it’s pretty cool to watch. Elizabeth is your A.I. partner through about 90% of the game. She replenishes you with weapons and money and, fortunately, takes care of herself during combat, leaving you free of worrying about her getting killed.
While from a gameplay perspective, she’s kind of unnecessary (except for lock-picking, which could have easily been adapted into Booker’s abilities), but her being with you makes you truly care about her wellbeing in a way not seen since Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead adventure game last year.
Everything else is just standard, first-person gameplay. You have gunplay, a special power, ammo to pick up or buy… you know, pretty standard nowadays. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just expected more from a game that had been in development for so long. But, as the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and the original Bioshock accomplished these things extremely well.

It's pretty, but it's literature. Not a game.

Bioshock: infinite is a great game, I just hoped for a slightly more innovative experience versus the original Bioshock. But if you’re looking to experience a highly detailed world that immerses you into its story with solid (though standard) gameplay mechanics, then Bioshock: Infinite is definitely worth your $60. Personally, I would suggest waiting until the price comes down to around $40 or so. I highly recommend a playthrough of Infinite, but only if you’re craving an extremely well done story and don’t care so much about the next “fun game.”

Final Score: 7.5/10

Now flame away!
Screenshots courtesy of The Inner Dorkdom



Tomb Raider - Review (PC)

I’ve always enjoyed Eidos’ Tomb Raider series, but it would be a falsity to lead one to believe that the series hasn’t had its fair share of pretty bad titles.

For some reason, the first game was the only one really worth its salt. In my opinion, this is because the other games were just a bit ahead of their time and couldn’t - due to the technology of late 90s-era gaming - properly advance the gameplay mechanics which the developers wanted to implement. That being said, once Crystal Dynamics took over developing duties, the adventures of Lara Croft really began to come into their own.
In 2011, it was announced that after 3 highly successful entries (TR: Legend; TR: Anniversary; TR: Underworld), Crystal Dynamics would be rebooting the franchise. Like I’ve said many times before, I’m not exactly gung-ho when it comes to reboots/remakes, but this one looked like it could be a good thing for the franchise. By telling a sort of origin story for Lara and making her a character that you actually care for, Crystal Dynamics has created what is, in my opinion, the best Tomb Raider game ever made.

Vistas like this and even more impressive are what you can expect.
Differences between the PC and Console versions:
Unfortunately, the PC version was released with some problems due to the graphics tech wars that are going on right now between AMD and NVIDIA. A new realistic hair physics technology called TressFX which the PC version of TR uses was built for AMD video cards. Therefore, NVIDIA cards have trouble anytime the effect is on screen, taking about a 15-20 fps dip. I have an NVIDIA card, so I was a victim of this shot to the PC community. Luckily, NVIDIA is currently working on new drivers that should fix the issue.
*EDIT - The drivers have been released and these problems have been completely remedied.*
From what I’ve seen, the standard PC advantages exist in this port. You have better frame rates, better resolution, etc. However, the console versions do not have the TressFX feature. Apparently, this is PC exclusive. Is it going to hinder your gaming experience one way or another? Absolutely not. Tomb Raider still looks great regardless of the system you choose to play it on, with the obvious, yet slight, PC advantages.


"This old guy won't stop hitting on me..."
Story: 9/10
Since this is a reboot and an origin story, the Lara that we’re presented with in this iteration is very different from the Lara of the previous games. In fact, the only real similarities are the facts that she’s British and has a love for archeology. Lara is less a female Indiana Jones-style treasure hunter, and more just a girl who wants to check out ancient ruins for the simple wonder involved.
Part of a crew which is taking a ship-ride to find the lost island of Yamatai, Lara finds herself shipwrecked and alone once a large storm overtakes the ship. After being captured by some unknown locals and eventually escaping, she meets up with a few of her crewmates which begins to lead Lara into a dark world of not only survival, but cult-inspired mystery.
The thing that is perhaps the most impressive about the plot is its use of naturalism. In a game, this is something that isn’t the norm. At every turn, Lara is halted by something that doesn’t want her and her crew to leave the island. There are a lot of moments where she will be so near to her goal that it - even from the player’s point-of-view - can be tasted, only to be snatched away by yet another huge problem. It’s almost as though for every 3 steps Lara takes, she is always pushed 2 steps back. While this may sound like a frustrating narrative tactic, the game’s writers really pulled it off beautifully.

Check out the detail!

Visuals: 10/10
I couldn’t praise the visuals of this game anymore than they already have been. Other than something like Crysis 2 and 3, Tomb Raider has the best graphics I’ve ever seen. One thing that you don’t see every day in games is a well done, outdoor, open-world, jungle setting. Sure, there were games like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Assassin’s Creed III (though that was more forest, less jungle), but Tomb Raider actually looks and feels like a real jungle. Light shafts flow naturally through trees, animals scurry about, and the game’s water looks like water.
The character models and animations are truly astounding as well. Just like I wrote in my Assassin’s Creed III review, developers continuously get better with model design. I’m just glad that characters in games now look less like creepy dolls and more like actual human beings. Plus, creepy dolls freak me out.

The sounds in caves even bounce off the bones on the ground! Not really, though.
Sound: 9/10
The sound design works very well for the immersion of the game. The ambient sounds of the jungle are present in full force. Bugs, animals, etc. are all there. Another thing that impressed me was the reverb used. Sounds and voices - particularly of enemies  - seemingly echo off of trees, rock walls, and caves just as they actually would in the real world.
There isn’t that much music in Tomb Raider, and what little it does have is mostly forgettable, but it’s not exactly needed either. The ambiance carries the game and gives a constant feeling of isolation, which is what I believe Crystal Dynamics intended.

Sure, Lara... Use your pickaxe instead of the shotgun on your back.
Gameplay : 10/10
Everything about the gameplay is perfect. Tomb Raider, like most games nowadays, utilizes RPG elements to allow the player to level up Lara throughout the course of the game. You have the option, upon earning points, of leveling Lara’s various abilities which help her become a better treasure hunter, and a more skilled combatant.
The combat is some of the most well done I’ve ever seen in a 3rd person action game. It melds the best elements of games like the contemporary Resident Evils and Gears of Wars into something unique. You have to use cover, stealth, and your various weapons to get through the crazy cult members that block every objective. While a lot of games get boring with these mechanics, Tomb Raider never does and combat remains enjoyable all the way to the end.

Archery with Lara Croft. Sounds like a good time to me.
I love this game. I’ve enjoyed nearly every Tomb Raider title (Angel of Darkness… ugh. Horrible.), but this game perfects the series in every possible way. Lara is now a character that players will actually care about and have a boatload of fun while guiding her through this excellent reboot. Is it worth $60? Absolutely! I can’t recommend it enough. If you haven’t picked it up yet, go get it. Now. I guarantee you won’t regret it and you’ll get your dollars’ worth.

Final Score: 10/10
Screenshots courtesy of The Inner Dorkdom



DmC: Devil May Cry - Review (PC)

I never really got into the original Devil May Cry series. I played a majority of the first game and a little bit of the 3rd and 4th ones, but it always seemed as though the series was a fairly good one; I was just involved with other games at the time. Apparently, Capcom felt the need to reboot the franchise, so they contracted UK developer Ninja Theory to handle the reset. Previously an action/puzzle solving hybrid, DmC (No, that doesn’t stand for DeLorean Motor Company) strips away most of the puzzle elements and relies on straight-up, over the top, demon-slaying action.

Differences between the PC and console versions:
I played the PS3 demo and downloaded the PC version on Steam a few hours later. The demo may not be indicative of the finished PS3 game, but what I played was pretty close to the PC version for the most part. The game runs at around 60 fps even on the console, but the PC version benefits from higher resolution, better lighting effects, and other various optimized features. No matter what platform (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) you choose for DmC, it’s going to look fantastic; although the PC version does contain advantages.


Dante speaks with "Kat," the mysterious guy's personal witch.
Story: 10/10
DmC tells the story of Dante, a half angel, half-demon hybrid who must travel back and forth between the real world and what the game calls “limbo.” Dante is enlisted by a mysterious stranger and his assistant/witch to help fight back demons that are trying to force themselves into our world. Dante also wishes to exact revenge upon the demon king Mundus who killed his demon father and angel mother. The story may sound extremely simple, but that’s because it is. DmC, with its highly-steeped Christian mythology, never tries to take a religious standpoint of any kind and keeps things unquestionably fictional and easy to follow.  

The things that can happen in Limbo.
Visuals: 10/10
Every bit of this game is gorgeous. The real world and Limbo have distinct visual styles apart from Limbo just looking “really messed up.” The real world looks a bit grittier, while Limbo has very saturated colors and truly looks otherworldly. One thing in particular that stands out is the character models and their facial motion capturing. Developers are really getting good at this technique and DmC is no exception. Facial expressions are very well captured and the character models look more like actual actors and less like CG dolls whose mouths kind of match their words.
Animations are extremely fluid, lighting is great and the overall look of the game is pure eye-candy.

Beatin' down some demons at the beginning of the game.
Sound: 9/10
All of the slashing, shooting, and bone crunching is all accompanied by some mostly great music. I’m not too fond of dubstep, but its use here fits the game’s situations rather well. I much more prefer the metal-style tracks during combat. Every time Dante engages in combat, the metal starts and you can’t help but feel pumped up as you play. The reason I have to dock it a point here, and this may be more of a writing thing, is because of the excessive cursing used throughout the game. Cursing isn’t something that bothers me, but its use here is, a lot of the time, unnecessary and downright corny. That being said, the voice acting is fantastic and some of the best I’ve ever heard in a game. Coupled with the facial capturing, the characters feel more alive than in most titles.

Bosses are usually on the 'large' side.
Gameplay: 8.9/10
There is no way that you could play this game and not have fun. Whether you want to “button-mash,” or actually learn the combos and various moves, there’s mass fun to be had here. You can’t help but feel awesome as the game informs you that you’ve taken out a crowd of enemies and achieved an “SSS” ranking. These rankings reward you with points which you can spend on upgrades for your arsenal, or more moves and powers. I did, however, feel that some of the moves were a bit unnecessary. Usually, you’ll only need a few key moves in order to progress throughout the game, but these extra abilities do add to the visual appeal and overall awesomeness of combat.
The boss battles are excellent. They’re not terribly difficult, but unlike most bosses in games which are strictly difficult, these are actually a joy to play. Most involve not only hacking at whatever huge demon you’re up against, but using platforming elements to avoid their various attacks.
The only real complaint I have with the gameplay is that it can be a little repetitive during the game’s final levels… and I’m talking like, maybe the last 2 or 3.

Controls: 10/10
Like the overall gameplay, the controls are fluid, yet relatively simple. Combos are easy and you’ll be demon slaying like a pro in no time. As you progress, you gain more and more abilities, but the game eases you into them gradually rather than unloading all at once. By the end of the game, you’ll be taking out swarms of enemies as if it were second nature. 

Dante says, "Don't buy this game for children. I curse alot."
Other than Portal 2, DmC may be one of the best games I’ve played in quite some time. Normally, I’m not that big a fan of “beat-em up” style games, but this one transcends all of the clichés associated with the genre. Is it worth $60? Definitely. No question about it. This is a must-have game for any gamer. Only keep it away from the kids; There’s a reason it’s rated ‘M’ for mature.

Final Score: 9/10


Assassin's Creed III: Liberation - Review (Vita)

Let’s be serious here - The Vita is a struggling handheld. In my opinion, there are only 2 games worth having (3, if you count Gravity Rush, which I hear is good): Mortal Kombat and Assassin’s Creed: Liberation. Personally, I think that the Vita is a great system, but the fact that Sony priced it so high crippled it as soon as it was released. That being said, Liberation is THE reason you should own a Vita.

Let’s get into it.

Story: 9/10
As with ACIII, the story takes center stage in Liberation. It follows the first female protagonist of the series, Aveline de Grandpre, one of the last members of the Louisiana sect of the assassin order, as she liberates African slaves from captivity during the same time period featured in ACIII. Some have complained about the story’s simplicity, but I rather enjoyed the tight, compact story offered in Liberation. It was a good change of pace from the regular, politically-fused, complicated plotlines of the console games. Also, Aveline is more of an interesting character than Connor – so much so that I find myself torn between who should take the leading role in a sequel. Perhaps both could share center stage? There are rumors…

Visuals: 8/10
For a handheld title, Liberation has the best graphics seen yet. Colonial-Era New Orleans is captured beautifully here, but the ambition of bringing a true Assassin’s Creed game to a portable is its own downfall. Because of the size and scope of the playing area, the framerate can get pretty chuggy at times. Contrary to what a lot of other reviews and players say, it is by no means unplayable and is otherwise quite pretty.

Sound: 9/10
While the sound design is nowhere near its console big brother, Liberation’s music is its shining achievement. Winifred Phillips, new to the series, perfectly captures the “bayou” feel of the game, all the while bringing in the epic flourishes AC is known for . In no way does Phillips ever copy or “rip off,” but she seems to draw several influences from classic videogame soundtracks to create something quite unique by mixing traditional game scoring techniques and flairs of the cinematic. Like the console game, the soundtrack is available for download at and is mandatory for folks like myself that love videogame music.

Gameplay: 8/10
Thankfully, all the changes to ACIII’s gameplay (the annoying “mini-games”) have been replaced by a system which allows the main character, Aveline, to switch between 3 different personas: The Lady, The Slave, and The Assassin. Switching between these personas limits her abilities as far as combat and free running, but grants her options for certain situations. By switching to the slave persona, she can infiltrate areas such as plantations without detection. If in the Lady persona, Aveline can charm her way past guards. The Assassin persona is exactly what you think it is: Aveline dons here brotherhood gear and gains the normal assassin abilities seen throughout the series, but also gains a considerable amount of notoriety and has a higher rate of detection. While this system is an excellent concept, it is unfortunately under-utilized except when the story dictates that you change personas.
There are a few things which use the features of the Vita’s touch screen and pad, but nothing which either detracts, or adds to the experience.

Controls: 5/10
Remember in the ACIII review where I talked about my ‘B’ button having problems? I have the same problem with the Vita’s equivalent (circle button), only here it’s 10x worse. I very seldom was able to land a counter and was forced to rapidly tap ‘circle’ in order to deflect enemy attacks. This made the combat in the game extremely frustrating throughout and is why the score is so low. Other than that, the control scheme and overall gameplay is exactly the same as its console counterpart, save for the new persona system.

Is Assassin’s Creed: Liberation worth the full price? Yes. Not only is it worth full price, it’s also worth owning a Vita for, as this is the best game for the system. A top-notch story, great graphics for a portable, and amazing music easily outweigh the gameplay and control issues. Also, it might be a good idea to pick this up if you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan – if nothing else but to see where the series is about to go now that Desmond’s story has come to a close.

Final Score: 8/10
I can't take credit for these screenshots. These were taken from Google Images because of the difficulty in taking screenshots of the Vita.

Posted on January 2, 2013 .

Assassin's Creed III - Review (PC)

This is going to be a “nitty-gritty” style review, in that I will assume anyone who reads this is already somewhat familiar with the Assassin’s Creed series.  The review is based on my playthrough of the PC version.

Differences between the PC and console versions:
Basically, it all comes down to graphics. The Xbox360 and PS3 versions are identical. Both contain some pop-in and the framerate tends to chug when there are too many citizens or enemies on the screen at once. The Wii U version, while otherwise identical to its console brethren, has an odd problem with the depth-of-field effect present through most of the game. It tends to make the background elements look weirdly stretched, rather than just “blurry” when the camera is focused on characters during cut-scenes. That’s not a slight towards the Wii U, it’s just a minor hiccup in that particular port.
The resolution is the largest and most noticeable difference between the console and PC versions. The consoles are locked at 720p (even the Wii U port), while the PC port is capable of displaying in 1080p and runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second, as opposed to the console’s 30 (approx). I don’t mean to sound like a PC elitist, but if you have a PC capable of running the game as the developers intended, the PC is the definitive version of the game. And hey, at this point within the first few months of the game’s release, it’s $10 cheaper (on Steam).

Let’s get into it.

Story: 9/10
The story was definitely the best part of the game, but it came with a price: The main character, Connor, is kind of bland. I remember playing ACII for the first time and thinking the same thing about Ezio, but by the end of the game, the character had gone from a spoiled rich kid to a noble, honorable warrior and an overall likeable guy. Connor has no such story arch. The character stays completely one dimensional throughout the entire game. Connor is always focused on one particular goal (which I won’t detail for fear of spoilers) and absolutely nothing else. He’s also a jerk and comes off as really stupid and ignorant at times. Part of his character is that he IS, indeed, ignorant of his surroundings because of being thrust into an unfamiliar world, but some of his personal decisions made him seem… well… dumb. Harsh criticism towards a videogame character, I know. Hopefully Ubisoft will take the same route as ACII and release more games with Connor as the protagonist. Maybe then we’ll see him grow more as a character.
Aside from the mediocre main character, the story is really good. The Colonial setting provides a lot of intersections with history in which the player crosses paths with real-life figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere. Finding out how they all play in to the huge “end-of-the-world” plot of the present is definitely interesting to see. And again, aside from the main character, ACIII has some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen in a videogame, particularly the villains.
The overarching story set in the present day and featuring Desmond Miles is wrapped up very cryptically, but I believe that it falls in line with the series’ previous entries. What the next game’s plot will be is only briefly hinted at during the epilogue, but it seems as though the series could be going in a pretty interesting new direction.

Visuals: 8/10
The graphics are like the rest of the games: gorgeous. The team behind the AC games has an unmatched ability in creating an open-world environment which feels as though it was plucked directly out of the past. From the Crusade-Era “Holy land” of the original game to the recent game’s Colonial American battlefields, the series always has striking visuals.
With that being said, the art direction is a little bland. That’s no fault of the developers to a certain extent, it’s just the time period in which the game is set. For the past 3 games in the series (ACII, Brotherhood and Revelations), the setting has been in and around Italy and Istanbul. While it could be that I’m simply partial to the beautifully elegant Italian/Roman architecture of those games, ACIII falls a bit short. Story-wise, the mid/late 1700s setting works great, but for a game, I feel it perhaps should have had a different setting.
The “frontier” areas which connect all the various cities and towns are all beautiful, albeit a bit void of any purpose save for small side-quests.

Sound: 10/10
Hands down, this is the best sounding game you’ll ever hear. I’ve never really taken notice of the sound design within a videogame, but in ACIII, sound is constantly driving the atmosphere. Whether it’s the bustling streets of New York and Boston, the wilderness of the frontier and homestead areas, or the ocean waves during Naval combat, the sounds of the game immerse you, I guarantee, as no other game has before.
Along with the sound is ACIII’s music. In my opinion, and no disrespect to original series composer, Jesper Kyd, Lorne Balfe has created the best score of the entire series. Like many of Hans Zimmer’s apprentices (Klaus Badelt), Balfe manages to have the same disease: He’s better than Hans Zimmer. I strongly recommend picking this score up on where it’s available as a digital download. You won’t regret it.

Gameplay: 6/10
I found the gameplay to be quite unfocused at times. The game constantly changes up your control scheme and play-style throughout its entirety. One minute you’re doing your normal assassin routine, the next you’re riding on horseback while yelling at 3 groups of soldiers to fire their cannons at redcoats in a “tower defense” mini-game.
And that’s essentially what most of the game felt like to me: A series of mini-games with normal Assassin’s Creed gameplay sprinkled in. You spend more of your time with these diversions in gameplay than you do being sneaky and “assassin-ing.”
Most gamers probably welcome these types of constant gameplay changes since it has been stated that the series tends to be “boring and repetitive.” This is a claim that I can agree with if talking about the first game, but I believe Ubisoft rectified the problem with the sequels from ACII through Revelations. In all fairness, it’s probably a good thing that Ubisoft did, in fact, change things up a bit to keep the series fresh, I just felt like the change ups seemed rather forced at times.

Controls: 6/10
Control is kind of wonky every now and then. Connor will sometimes get locked into position and unable to move. This becomes extremely frustrating when having to jump from rooftop to rooftop, or tree branch to tree branch in order to escape guards, or take out a target within a time limit. Although it could have been because I was playing on PC with an Xbox360 controller, it seemed like my ‘B’ button would occasionally stop working. This usually happened when I was engaged in combat and had to use the button to counter an enemy’s attack. I would hit the button to counter, but absolutely nothing would happen and Connor would just stand there like an idiot, resulting in a musket being driven into his face. Again, this could have just been a PC related issue or a problem with my controller, though I haven’t had this problem with any other games using the same one (including other AC games).

For the most part, I felt that Assassin’s Creed III was a decent entry in the series. It was good, but it certainly didn’t live up to the standards which I believe were set by ACII.
I always like to give an “is it worth $60,” or “full price verdict” and here it is:
Is it worth retail price? Maybe.
If you’re a fan of the series, full price is definitely worth it, but if not, wait till the price comes down around $30. Frustrating (at times) controls/gameplay and a main character that has about as much personality as a rock, might turn potential fans off if they haven’t spent time in the AC universe before. Only spend the full price of admission if you absolutely cannot wait to see how the Desmond Miles portion of the Assassin’s Creed series comes to an end.  
Final Score: 8/10


By the way, I take credit for these screenshots. All were done by me from my PC except the boxart and video/music. I'm slowly inching my way to fancier things! 
Posted on January 2, 2013 .

Call of Duty: Black Ops II Multiplayer Review

I can’t help but, for the most part, feel ripped off every time a new Call of Duty title is released. It seems as though, after World at War, the series took a downturn and each title has gotten progressively worse. Is Black Ops II worse than Modern Warfare 3? Honestly, it seems about the same gameplay-wise, but due to some new mechanics, it definitely has the edge over its predecessor.

Perhaps the largest addition to this iteration of COD is the “Pick 10” system. In the past, your load out of weapons and perks consisted of a primary weapon, secondary weapon, grenade, tactical grenade and one each of 3 different perk types. BO2 takes that old system and completely throws it out the window. With the Pick 10 system, you are allotted 10 slots to put whatever you wish into your load out. For example, here’s my main load out that I use:

Primary Weapon: AN-94 Attachments: Target Finder, Fore-Grip, Silencer Perk 1: Blind Eye Perk 2: Cold-blooded Perk 3: Engineer, Dead-silence Wildcards: Perk 3 greed, Primary Gunner

Notice that in my load out I have a total of 10 items. Since I normally don’t use grenades of any type, I sacrificed those to give myself more options on my perks and primary weapon. I also got rid of my secondary weapon to free up one of my 10 slots. This is by far the best equipment system that COD has ever used. It is also the only good thing I can say about the game.

The 4 companies involved in the production of COD (Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Sledge Hammer, Activision) understand marketing and their fanbase extremely well, so they know that whatever they release, people are going to buy it. I’ve fallen victim to this on multiple occasions (MW2-BO2. That’s 4 games). I always hope that the franchise will either return to the glory days of COD4 and W@W or simply improve, but I continuously get burned. Because people keep buying the crap heaps that Activison shovel to them on a yearly basis, they refuse to innovate. Couple that with the fact that the games have been running on the exact same game engine for the past 5 years and you’ve got nothing but pure mediocrity.

These companies seem to have lost sight of what made them great in the first place (kind of like Square-Enix with Final Fantasy). What I’ll do here is show you COD’s lack of progression since COD4 in 2007. Ready? Here we go.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Infinity Ward Weapons: Well, duh. All “modern weapons.” M16s and the like. Each load out would consist of a primary and secondary weapon. The primary weapon could be equipped with 1 attachment such as a red-dot sight, or a silencer. Secondary weapons consisted of pistols and rocket launchers. Perks: COD4 was the first game to introduce the perk system. The player used 3 different types of perks that increased his/her abilities in some way. Only one per type could be equipped. Kill Streaks: 3 types. 3 kills=UAV, 5 kills=Airstrike, 7 kills=Helicopter Maps: Various sizes, all fairly balanced. Online play: Extremely good. Sure, there was lag, but it was nothing like what the series would eventually encounter.

Call of Duty: World at War - Treyarch Weapons: Same as COD4, only WWII based. Perks: Same as COD4, but with slightly different names assigned to certain perks. Kill Streaks: 3 Kills=UAV (Recon Plane), 5 Kills=Mortar strike, 7 Kills=Attack Dogs Maps: I may be biased to this game in particular since it’s my favorite, but in my opinion, W@W had the best maps of the entire series. And some of the largest. Having large maps meant that sniping could be somewhat useful. Online play: Extremely good depending on what gametype one played. The Hardcore game modes were the most balanced. Core modes were a bit imbalanced and could be extremely frustrating due to hit detection and lag compensation issues.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Here’s where things start to go south) – Infinity Ward Weapons: Unlike the previous 2 games, MW2 allowed the player to put more than one attachment on their weapon by using a certain perk. Perks: More perks were present this time around. Still used the 3 type system. Kill Streaks: Ugh. MW2 allowed the player to create custom kill streak load outs. Rather than use the simple 3, 5 and 7 method, player would have the option for how many kills they would have to get before earning a kill streak. By using a certain perk, the player could even set it to get his streak reward one kill earlier. MW2 also introduced the care package, a kill streak that when earned would send a box from the sky containing a random streak reward. MW2 was very kill streak heavy and this is what started the imbalance trend. Maps: The maps in MW2 were decent, but when having to deal with CONSTANT kill streaks flying around the map, the level of fun and actual skill involved was significantly decreased. Online play: Due to the above mentioned imbalances, online play was far too hectic and resulted in a lot of frustration for players (myself included) used to the 2 previous games.

Call of Duty: Black Ops - Treyarch Weapons: Same as MW2 Perks: Same as MW2 Kill Streaks: Same as MW2 (noticing a trend here?) Maps: Far too small. Few large maps. Most were medium to small sized. Online play: Same as MW2, but with a little less emphasis on kill streaks.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Infinity Ward/Sledge Hammer Weapons: Same as MW2 and BO. Perks: Same as MW2 and BO. Kill Streaks: Same as MW2 and BO. (Yup. There’s a trend, for sure.) Maps: No large maps. All medium to small. Online play: Same as MW2 and BO. Game, as a whole, seems as though it’s just a map pack for MW2.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Treyarch Weapons: New pick 10 system. Great addition. Perks: Mostly new perks. Kill Streaks: Same as MW2, MW3 and BO, only instead of earning streaks by kills, one now earns them from game score. Maps: Same as MW3. Online play: Same as MW2, MW3 and BO on the lag level. The kill streaks are toned down significantly from the last 3 games because of being harder to earn.

What I’m basically trying to get at here, is that Activision basically keeps giving players the same game year after year with small updates. The same can be said for most EA sports games. Is Madden ’11 that much different than Madden ’12? No. There are a few extra modes and options, but the game is basically the same thing people have been playing for years. I’m all for the “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, but the additions COD has received over the years have done nothing but make the game increasingly worse. Will COD ever get better? Not, unless the game buying public stops buying the games year after year.

In closing: Is Call of Duty: Black Ops II worth the $65 price tag? Absolutely not. Don’t believe the hype, people. Places like IGN are paid extremely well to review huge selling titles favorably (I believe it got over a 9.0 on there). My advice is to steer clear of this one. Trust me, unless you feel like paying $65 for some new, mediocre, maps and a new equipment system, you’ve already played this game… 3 times before.

Final score: 3/10


Posted on November 20, 2012 .

The Avengers Impressions

Tomorrow (Sept 25th), The Avengers arrives on Blu-ray to the delight of  millions of people. In light of this...and in light of the fact that we never did one...I thought now would be a great time to offer my informal review/impressions of the wildly successful superhero ensemble movie directed by TV's Joss Whedon.

Warning: Past this point there be spoilers.

Of all the films I saw this summer, all of them were enjoyable, quality entertainment. And given that they were so different from each other in terms of story, tone, and style, it's not really possible to compare them. But, I can say that out of all of them, I enjoyed The Avengers the most. Here's why.

The Fun
I've always been a fan of movies and TV shows that have a sense of fun about them. Perhaps it's because I cut my media watching teeth (that's a weird image, if you think about it) on properties like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Back to the Future. While each of those had their heavy moments, they also had a general air of fun about them. Old Jedi masters hitting droids with sticks, archeologists cracking wise while cracking whip, and time-traveling teenage guys kissing their teenage moms without vomiting. I've noticed that this sense of fun often comes at the expense of some realism. Just think about it. Were these characters really in these situations, their more realistic responses would probably be less fun to watch (indeed, if someone really traveled through time and kissed his mom, would he not at least get sick to his stomach if not full on ralph right there).

This summer we had two major superhero movies (sorry Spiderman, you're too soon of a reboot in my eyes). Both I found to be excellent and enjoyable, but only one I found to have that sense of fun. The other, while a fine film, is not a motion picture I would describe as "fun." ("It was such a fun moment when Bane was beating the mess out of Batman in the sewer. And the part when the military wouldn't let Blake save those kids...awesome!" Yeah, that doesn't sound right.) And note that in describing it people often talk about its sense of realism.

There is a time for everything. I'm glad TDKR is the film that it is. The 'realistic' take on Batman has made for a great trilogy of films. But I'm also very glad that Marvel continues to imbue its films with a sense of fun.

Much of the credit for the fun in The Avengers in particular is due to writer/director Joss Whedon. While he has been known to avoid fun like the plague at times (the 6th season of Buffy, the last two seasons of Angel, etc.), by in large he's a guy who knows how, and is inclined, to include levity into what he produces. Fortunately, he was true to form with this film. From dialogue (his responsibility as a writer), to pacing and delivery (his responsibility as a director), The Avengers is a movie that will make you smile.

Of course, a lot of credit must also go to the actors (and the CG artists for The Hulk). The script gives each one of our leads a chance to shine in the fun department, but it is up to the actors and actresses to realize that potential. And they deliver in spades. From deadpan moments ("He's adopted"), to subtle ones (Steve slipping Fury a ten), to more direct ones ("Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"), to slapstick (The Hulk), it all works wonderfully.

After the film premiered and from its opening weekend made insane amounts of money, The Avengers related images started popping on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. One of my favorites was of the four principle actors (Downey Jr., Evans, Hemsworth, and Ruffalo) pointing intimidatingly at the camera. The fan-added caption was, "Your move, Batman." You know, why am I describing it to you? This is the stinking Internet. Here's the picture.

It made me smile that a fun movie was doing so well, and that there were others out there who felt the same. (I'm assuming people liked that photo for that reason. But I guess it could be that they were fueled by Batman or DC hate.)

The Story
Sometime ago there was a 'meme' going around where you take film and succinctly and without passion describe its plot. I think it was popular because even great films sound incredibly boring and/or stupid when described that way. ("A farm boy joins forces with an old man, a smuggler, and his large dog in order to destroy a large weapon." Or take the sequel: "A farm boy turned war hero unwittingly kisses his sister, who later kisses a smuggler. The boy then has a fight with his dad." Or take the third installment: "Gold bikini." Ok, that last one still sounds fun to a lot of folks).

Let's do that with The Avengers:
A group of people (a strong man, a rich guy with a robot suit, a long-haired alien, an angry man, a bow hunter, and a spy) working for the government must stop arguing and come together to stop the long-haired alien's adopted brother from using a stolen block to destroy a city and maybe conquer Earth with a borrowed army of ugly monster aliens.

Sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? Boy, that was fun.

But I think the 'meme' also points out something very interesting about the films/shows/novels that we enjoy. While the general story certainly matters, the magic is usually found in the details—characters, dialogue, nuances in plot, pacing, visual and audio design (except in novels of course). The Avengers typifies this very well. It's the interactions between characters, the memorable bits of dialogue, the iconic design of our heroes, the stirring music of Alan Silvestri, the individual journeys of the characters, etc. that make all the difference.

A little bit on that last point. Most of the main characters have their own mini-growth arcs. Steve Rogers is assimilating into the 21st century. Tony Stark has to conquer his ego and learn how to work well with others. Bruce Banner has to demonstrate to himself that he really can control the Hulk. Black Widow has to let go of the guilt of her past. Hawkeye has to stop being controlled by Loki (ok, that one is more of a major plot point). Nick Fury has to finally and fully put his faith where his heart knows he should (i.e., The Avengers) regardless of personal consequences. And that man over there has to beat his Galaga addiction. It's those things that take what is otherwise a fairly straightforward story into something more engaging.

The Style
I think in many of my reviews, I'll have a section like this where I give my take on some of the nuts and bolts features of any film.

-  Story: Already talked about it.
-  Dialogue: On the whole, very good I felt. All the characters were given their proper 'voice,' and the words flow naturally most of the time.
-  Acting: Everyone nailed it.
-  Editing and Pacing: Everything was good here, I thought. It wasn't rushed, nor did it drag anywhere for me. The action scenes were kinetic, but not spastic. The 'tender' moments were given the screen time they needed.
-  Music: I'm a huge Alan Silvestri fan. I think he's one of the best composers working today. Though this wasn't my favorite score of his (the BTTF scores still hold that spot), I thought it was good. There weren't any cues that jumped out at me during the initial viewing (the way, say, The Asteroid Field did in ESB), but the main theme is very nice. It's simple, especially in comparison to the great movies themes of the past, but it is effective. You just can't beat a good french horn lead.
-  3D: This was a post-production 3D conversion, rather than being shot in 3D (like TRON: Legacy). Conversions are a mixed bag. One might even call them a box of chocolates. You know....cause you never...know.....what you're gonna get. Ahem, anyway, converting a 2D movie to a 3D movie is a little bit of science and a whole lot of art. It takes talented people to do such work. I've been fortunate, in that I've seen four 2D to 3D converted films (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom Menace, and The Avengers), and they've all been done well. I saw The Avengers in IMAX 3D, so I had a very good look at it. There were a few places where I could tell it was a conversion (at the time I only suspected it, as I did not then know whether it was shot in 3D or converted). But on the whole, it was very well done. My wife is afraid of heights, and the fight on the carrier with Iron Man, Cap, and some goons made her very uncomfortable. So...mission accomplished I guess.

What I Didn't Like
This is The Inner Dorkdom, where we like things. But that doesn't mean we think everything we like is perfect. There were a few things about the film I either didn't like, or thought could have been done in a way that would have been more least for me.

I start with the villains. Loki already had a film wherein he was introduced and explored. As a result, although there are a few gaps, we as an audience already understand his motivations pretty well. (Although I was a bit surprised by the menacing off-kilter demeanor he shows here, as it was a change from the more cool and calculating vibe he gave in Thor.) So I'm not talking so much about him as I am the other villains. The vulturri, or the hibachi, or the cardigans, or whatever they were called. We know little about them, other than they want the Tesseract, and are willing to make a deal with Loki to get it. (Incidentally, here's a bit of 'fridge logic' I had: Ok, so Loki comes through a wormhole to Earth to get the Tesseract. The impression I got was that the wormhole was created by the Tesseract. So, why couldn't the krelshie come through and get it themselves? Why did they need Loki to do it? Maybe I just missed it.) We figure these aliens are bad news, as they support Loki's desire to conquer Earth. But beyond that, they are a total stinkin' mystery. The teaser at the end of the film suggests they'll get their exposition in the next Avengers film. But I wonder if a bit more of that in this film would have made it that much more satisfying.

Second, the "let's bicker in the woods" scene. Don't get me wrong, I found the scene enjoyable, and it setup the idea that these heroes won't just come together and be like all BFFs and stuff. But the logic of it seemed a bit strained to me. Why would Stark go after Thor? According to him he, unlike everyone else, did his homework. You'd think that would include at least some info on Thor. So why would he fight him, especially if that meant leaving Loki unguarded? On my second viewing I noticed Stark's justification: it doesn't matter if Thor is good, if he takes Loki there's no clue where the Tesseract is. No offense to anyone, but this seems a bit weak to me. Why would Stark think Thor would just take Loki and leave the people of Earth in the lurch? In his earlier time on Earth, the Norse god demonstrated a strong concern for Earthlings, so for him to take Loki and leave wouldn't make sense. But on a positive note, I can't help but wonder if this scene was also setting up certain ways these three can work together, ways that aren't paid off in this film but might in future installments (Thor can charge up Tony's suit, Thor's hammer + Cap's shield = impressive shockblast).

Third, the "let's all bicker on the boat" scene. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for the scene. And by in large I thought it was pretty good. Steve would be annoyed by Tony's showboating attitude. Tony would be annoyed by Steve's boy scout attitude. Bruce would be on edge about the whole 'you made a cage for me' thing. Nick would be flustered at these guys attributing to him bad motives and/or the worse judgment in the history of mankind, apparently. But there were a couple of moments where it felt a little forced to me. The standout one for me was when Thor, who'd been pretty level headed up until this point, chimed in with something to the effect of, "You humans are so puny." Whaa? Where'd that come from?

Fourth, the politics of the whole "we were making weapons with the Tesseract" subplot. I thought the buildup, i.e., the hinting that S.H.I.E.L.D. was up to something fishy, could have been executed better. In particular, it felt a bit forced and stumbling. For example, why would Banner have thought Loki's "a warm light" comment was meant for Stark? I'll grant that Banner could have surmised that Loki had learned some things about S.H.I.E.L.D. activity, like them trying to use the Tesseract to make clean energy, from Hawkeye and Selvig. Banner might even have speculated that they told him that Stark, who wasn't working with them, was involved in clean energy research. But why would Banner think that Loki was trying to tell Stark something? That is, unless it was to get him to turn on S.H.I.E.L.D., in which case he'd clearly be baiting him (which appears to be exactly what he was doing) and they'd be wise not to bite. Then, aside from the buildup, there's the unanimity of their opposition to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s research, and the way they express it. Steve lived before the atom bomb, so I don't see it as a foregone conclusion that he'd be on the anti-nuke train that's popular in some circles in 2012. Tony having a problem with it is totally believable and expected, but the way he objected didn't add up. He said sarcastically that the whole 'have weapons of mass destruction as a form of deterrent' thing has worked out so well in the past. Granted it hasn't been absolutely flawless...but, yeah Mr. Stark, it actually has worked well in the past. The Cold War ended without a single nuclear strike. I would think that a guy whose business used to be weapons would know that. Again, I'm not saying he'd be in favor of what S.H.I.E.L.D. had done. It just seems to me he'd have a better objection. And finally, after the ambush on the carrier, when Steve is trying to 'rally the troops,' he comments that Nick Fury has the same blood on his hands that Loki does. Now, I'm no expert on Captain Steve Rogers. But it seems to me that a man from the 1940's wouldn't look at things that way. Nick Fury had not killed those 80 people in two days, Loki had. Certainly Fury's actions were a link in the chain of events they found themselves in, but he didn't kill those people. Back in Steve's day personal individual responsibility was something people emphasized. And they weren't post-modern in their thinking either. So although I can definitely see Steve acknowledging that Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s actions contributed to the choices Loki had made, I can't see him blaming Loki's atrocities on anyone else but Loki.

And lastly, there's the matter of Bruce's inconsistent, in my view, ability to control The Hulk. From the first time we see him, the focus is on not making him angry (we wouldn't like him if he were angry). Folks seem to be preoccupied with walking that fine line with him. And he doesn't shy away from reminding us how dangerous and unpredictable "the other guy" can be. Then the attack on the carrier goes down, and sure enough, Dr. Banner loses it and the Hulk nearly kills Black Widow. Then, as the battle in New York starts up, suddenly all that is different. Bruce tells them that his secret is that he's always angry, and then, at will, transforms into the Hulk and takes orders from Cap just like the rest of them. In the words of the great philosopher Goofy, "som'th'n wrong here." It looks to me like there's a missing step in there. Perhaps the answer would have been found in a scene that ended up on the cutting room floor.

But these things weren't enough to in any way ruin the movie for me. As I say, it was my favorite film of the summer, and I look forward to more movies set in the Marvel universe.

Feel free to comment!

 - Nic


Posted on September 24, 2012 .

An Overview of Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy

Disclaimer: Sorry about the lack of spaces that may be present in this article. For some reason, the blogger program messes up sometimes and removes them when I post from my phone. Also, watch out for MAJOR SPOILERS below!!!

Batman. Who doesn’t love Batman? Well, I’m sure there’s somebody out there that just absolutely hates the Caped Crusader, but that ain’t me. Of all superheroes, Batman has always,by far,been my favorite.

On opening weekend,The Inner Dorkdom saw Christopher Nolan’s final installment of his Batman trilogy,The Dark Knight Rises… and we were,and I speak for all of us, pretty much blown away. Not sure how Todd feels on this,but it is probably mine and Nic’s favorite of the Nolan trilogy.

The first film in the trilogy,Batman Begins, did a lot for Batman as a character. For the first time on the big screen,we were finally treated to a version of Batman that was nearly perfection in comparison to his comic book counterpart. No more nips on the batsuit,no more tilted camera angles that attempted to mimic the old ‘60s Adam West show,no more ‘Ah-nold.’ Just Batman… well… mostly Bruce Wayne. And here lies the most identifiable difference between the comics and the Nolan films: Identity.

In the comics,there is no question that Batman is the true personality and Bruce Wayne is just a costume that Batman wears in public. Batman is a personality that is, even in adulthood,still haunted by the death of his parents,leading him to be a cold,calculating individual with a one-track mind for catching crooks. Sounds weird, huh? Well,in all honesty,Batman’s a weird guy,but I think that’s the magic behind what makes the character so intriguing. The Nolan films use a different take on this in that Bruce (Christian Bale) doesn’t exactly want to be Batman forever (hey,wasn’t that a movie?). Batman is never really played up as the true identity of the man. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing,it’s just different. It’s almost as though Bruce’s desire for vengeance is over by the end of Batman Begins. Other than wanting to maintain peace in Gotham City,that’s pretty much where it ends for him. Having the main personality being Bruce Wayne,and the way Nolan depicts it,is actually quite interesting.

With that being said,Batman Begins is actually MORE interesting when Bruce isn’t in the batsuit. All the stuff where Bruce is training with Ducard/Ras Al-Ghul (Liam Neeson),having flashbacks in which he is determined to take revenge for his parents directly by killing Joe Chill,or his many scenes with Alfred (Michael Caine) and Lucious Fox(Morgan Freeman) all make Bruce an extremely interesting character in contrast to the bat-crazy/insane (hehe) Batman of the comics. Not that I have anything against his comic portrayal,as I find both equally interesting.

The second film,The Dark Knight,is however,BATMAN’S film. Well,it’s also the Joker’s (Heath Ledger) film,but I think a lot of people lose sight of just how much is going on with Batman/Bruce Wayne. Bruce has his sights on Gotham’s new District Attorney,Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) because,quite frankly,he’s in love. No,not with Harvey Dent! In Begins,Bruce is given a love interest in the form of his childhood friend,Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes),who at the end of the film tells Bruce that she can only be with him when he stops wearing the tights. At some point in the year between Begins and The Dark Knight,Rachel has plastic surgery which makes her look like Maggie Gyllenhaal and starts dating Harvey Dent. With an almost sense of single-mindedness,Bruce attempts to recruit Harvey to take his place. Not as Batman, but as Gotham’s law abiding,non-vigilante protector. This will give Bruce the opportunity to hang up the cape and cowl, start a relationship with Rachel and live happily ever after… That is,until the Joker shows up.

Like most people,it is my belief that Heath Ledger gave the absolute best portrayal of the Joker ever seen; not only in the films or television,but within the comics as well. The Joker in this film is not the typical clown/mastermind as seen in previous media; instead,he is a representation of anarchy itself. The Joker allies himself with the mob bosses and crime lords of Gotham City not because he wants to get rich,but simply because he enjoys causing havoc; particularly for Gotham’s protector.

I also love Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two-Face. The transition from potential hero to enraged villain is done exceptionally well. My only complaint is that **SPOILER** Nolan decided to kill him off at the end of the movie. This seems to be a trend in Nolan’s Bat-verse: The primary villain always dies. Well, except for the Joker. Here’s something to think about: What exactly DID happen to the Joker at the end of TDK? Last we see him,he’s strung up, laughing maniacally and waiting for the cops to come get him. Did he get away? Did he get thrown into Arkham Asylum? Did he fall to his death? We’ll never know,I suppose. One thing I’ve always thought is that there might have been more scenes toward the end of the film involving the Joker,but due to Heath Ledger’s death, they were either never filmed,or not completed. Who knows?

Unlike most people,I don’t think that The Dark Knight hung the moon. I think it’s a great film and it borrows elements from one of my favorite Batman graphic novels, The Long Halloween (Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale),but it’s not,in my opinion,the epitome of film greatness. The movie is,and I’m no film editor,cut very strangely. The Dark Knight tells a big story in 240 minutes,so in order to fit such a grand tale into a movie,quick cuts must be made. While this would seemingly quicken up the pace,it feels as though it slows it down. There are several points throughout the film that I felt would’ve been more impactful had the camera lingered just a bit longer than it actually did. Some of the scenes at the beginning of the film are a prime example of this. I remember sitting in the theater watching it for the first time and thinking,“This thing is gonna go on forever!” But after having watched it multiple times since it’s Blu-Ray/DVD release,the pacing seems to work much better. The same thing basically happened to me with Revenge Of The Sith. And now that just happens to be my favorite Star Wars film. (And on that note,a lot of people leave the site because they disagree so strongly with that statement.)


Now that all those people are gone because they think that ROTS is a terrible movie, let’s get into The Dark Knight Rises. Like I mentioned earlier,this is probably my favorite of the trilogy. Until some of the latter trailers,I really wasn’t interested in the plot elements that were being presented. Bane as the main villain? Catwoman? Both of these characters have never really interested me that much in the comics. I dug the whole Knightfall comic storyline back in the day,which introduced Bane,but he was portrayed more as just a really strong bad guy (when he took his drugs) that had enough fighting knowhow to take Batman down. Catwoman,just never appealed to me. I’m also not one to read spoilers on the internet,so I had no idea of the measures that were being taken with the plot of the movie.

Then Todd explained some of it to me.

After he told me that the movie takes place 8 years after TDK and Batman hasn’t been around since then,I was sold. The idea that Harvey Dent’s death,the loss of Rachel Dawes and the havoc of the Joker just ran Bruce down was extraordinary.

The Dark Knight Rises proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Nolan trilogy is about Bruce Wayne,not Batman. It’s about a man who does what he does because he has to rather than because he wants to. When he’s called upon,he answers,unlike the Batman of the comics that goes on nightly patrols,searching for crime to bust.

I think Nolan’s main point with TDKR (and the entire trilogy,for that matter) is the fact that one man can only do so much. In the comics,one of Batman’s major villains either escapes,or is released from Arkham on a month to month basis. While this makes for good reading,it’s not very realistic. Sure,crime is an ongoing problem in society,but Batman doesn’t exist to do the job of the police by handling domestic disturbances,ATM robbers and the like. He’s there to take down threats that are too large for the cops to handle. Threats like the Joker,Two-Face,Ras Al-Ghul/The League of Shadows and Bane/Talia/The League of Shadows. If those threats existed in the real world with that amount of frequency,there probably wouldn’t be a whole lot of people left living in Gotham!

**HERE ARE THE MAIN SPOILERS!! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES YET,STOP READING!!********************* ****************************** ***************

The Dark Knight Rises sees Bruce/Batman face his largest threat yet: Gotham’s total annihilation. Basically,the gist of the movie is Catwoman/Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) shows up,Bane (Tom Hardy) shows up and threatens the city,a GCPD cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) convinces a retired Bruce to become Batman again, Bane breaks Batman’s back and puts him in a hole while he terrorizes the city with the threat of a nuclear bomb,Bruce has to let his back heal,Bane lets loose the criminals of Gotham and cuts off the entrances/exits to the city by blowing up all its bridges (except one),Bruce heals and climbs out of the hole,Bane is revealed to be an exiled member of The League of Shadows and is working for Ras Al-Ghul’s daughter Talia, Batman returns to the city and defeats Bane,takes the nuclear bomb out into the ocean to let it detonate (“Sometimes you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”),seemingly dies,and turns over the mantle of The Batman and the bat-cave to John Blake, who’s birth name turns out to be Robin. Whew!

Oh and Bruce lives,by the way. Don’t get scared.

I left out a lot of the details,but that’s the general idea of the film. All in all,it was a fitting and satisfying end to a great superhero trilogy that was,in my opinion, much more efficiently executed than The Dark Knight. Will there be a sequel featuring John Blake as the new Batman? I doubt it. It’s more likely that Warner Bros. will reboot the franchise using a different director’s take on the material. I think this is an extremely bad idea,but it’s,of course, not my call to make. I’d rather see this new version of Batman and what his character could bring to the table. Plus,I thought Gordon-Levitt’s character was one of the most interesting in the film. Seeing him as Batman could potentially take the series in a really cool,interesting new direction.

That about does it for this overview of Chris Nolan’s Batman films. I’ve seen and heard a lot of people criticizing the films (particularly the newest) for taking certain liberties with the comic source material, but this is not the comics. Comic Batman is not Nolan Batman. This is an entirely different take on the character,just like Frank Miller does his own take with his Batman within the comics he authors. Nolan has done an excellent job of bringing Batman to the big screen and grounding him in reality. Not only did this help the Batman franchise remain relevant, but it also increased the relevancy of movies such as The Avengers and comic book based movies in general.

I realize that I didn’t spend a ton of time on the newest film,but I’m not very good with straight up movie reviews. If you want the official Inner Dorkdom review,Todd has written a great one up that should be available a few posts below this. Also,a cousin and friend of Nic’s did a pretty great review which should be the post directly below this one.
Hope you enjoyed it!