Tag Archives: Review

Doom 3: A Masterpiece in Horror FPS

11 Aug

This has been a long time coming, because after Doom Eternal, and how it broke two perfectly new controllers, I had very little reason to return to the Doom franchise. Doom Eternal is probably easier to play on a mouse and keyboard, but it’s my disappointment in not being able to play the game repeatedly is what made me give up on playing Doom Eternal. After playing through the Bioshock trilogy, and finding the subtlety and perfection in the stories, I decided to give Doom 3 a try. There are so many things that people got wrong about Doom 3. It’s not just that it’s a reboot, but you can put the timeline of the Doom Marine in Doom 3, as another Blazkowitz living his best life. People will say “it’s too slow” and others argued, “Why can’t I hold the gun and the flashlight?” In the Nintendo Switch version (9.99 on the Nintendo E Shop, at the time, some sales might apply at certain times of the year) I played, this is added, as it was on Doom 3: BFG edition. I decided to give it a go, and see what I thought. 

            Doom 3 is genuinely creepy game that follows a melodic beat, and if you are into atmospheric shooters, this is probably the only game in the series that is trying to take itself seriously with survival horror roots, with very entertaining gun play. The Doom Marine is searching for Dr. Bretruger on the planet Mars as his lab is being shut down on the UAC base for nefarious practices. The lab assistants are on edge and they request for transfers. It’s the genuine creepiness that makes Doom 3 “the Resident Evil of first person shooters” and it makes sense. The dread and possible death around every corner, as it’s incredibly dark, as most of the time you have to choose, in the original release, to use a flashlight or a weapon, which would be an inconvenience on both the player and making the world more believable as a survival horror franchise. 

            The player and the Doom Marine are not afforded a choice to leave the mission, and you are there to stop the forces of hell from awakening and invading the world. The graphic may seem dated, but it adds to the sensation of choosing to fight or plight, which is not Doom’s forte as a game playing experience. 

            It’s a nice game to play after burning so many hours into Doom Eternal that it feels plotted but less grandiose and over the top than Doom Eternal (2020), and while it has divided many, it provides a soft brilliance of dark textures to each dimly lit room where the gameplay is as immersive and foundational to where plotted video games in 2004, used to be. Not surprising that it divided fans, I was genuinely creeped out by the game, and now, rather embracing abyss, chose to give the game another chance. 

            The beauty of taking a chance on DOOM 3 is that the movie seems to follow in its footsteps, and the direction it gives seems more inventive now than it was. The only drawback of DOOM 3 is the jumping mechanism, which is odd and often frustrating. 

            Not since Doom Eternal had Id decided to add cutscenes, but now since Doom Eternal has embraced the cutscene aspect of story telling in Doom 3, and it’s worthy to be apart of the Doom franchise. What makes Doom 3 intense and frightening is the conviction of the atmosphere that stands the test of time, and while it may seem outdated, the charm and the real scares are fun to play.

            The negatives are simple. The jumping is atrocious. This was before more advanced climbing mechanisms were put into games, but it’s a sore spot in the game. The automatic save checkpoints are ill timed and they ruin the pacing of the gameplay, which is to make the player keep going, but the disappointment is learning after you die, to nearly go back and cover half of the map again. This is maybe deliberate, but maybe Id was trying to find its footing in the pacing of the story’s progression.

            Opinion: The Doom movies are better than you might realize after you play Doom 3, and it follows a logic that they couldn’t replace. If a movie version can be done, it would have to be like Hardcore Henry. It would be maddening, but we are a long way from getting a great Doom movie. 

            Pros: graphics still hold up, atmosphere, charm, satisfying gun play, and creepy story.

            Cons: The jumping mechanic is awful. The loading screen at some points are downright insulting to the player, but it’s probably done for a reason.

            Final Opinion: 10/10

Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise

30 Jul

After the highs of Last of Us Part 2 and the mediocre middle of Horizon: Zero Dawn it’s no telling what game I would want to play next. 2020 has been an awful year. As all of American’s are locked down from the COVID-19, and Virginia starts to think about reopening, the thought of going out to Barnes and Noble, even to clear my head, is depressing enough. Sitting there with my mask on, it was hard to drink from my water bottle, and it didn’t result in me staying long or thinking about buying anything yet. But maybe to cheer me up, I bought Fist of the Northstar (2018) and it seemed like a fun bet. Any manga adaptation that has English voice actors over the anime characters is a win for me, and I just need something fun and escapist that comes with an anime with big men who walk across a post apocalyptic wasteland, and it can be fucking ridiculous at the same time. 

            For those who aren’t aware of Fist of the Northstar, it was a manga in the 80’s that cropped up around the time Berserk and Guin Saga were making there way into the manga fans hands in the nipponese brothers who would eat it up for four decades. Written by Buronson, the history surrounding it is often times never misconstrued the story, and it’s like eating raw meat, slamming away, button mashing, but it’s not the danger you feel for the main character, Kenshiro, who is a solemn warrior in the heights of an 80’s lifestyle in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Being the strongest means that death is failure, and puts you in the headspace of the character, Ken.

            Kenshiro is seeking his lover, Yuria, which was captured by Shin, after he stuck his fingers into his body, scarring him, and as he journeys through the wasteland, meeting people that he has to fight in order to find Yuria. The fighting is fabulous, and if you wanted your fun factor raised, it achieves that, but when it tries to exemplify the world it has, the voice actors aren’t there to help sell the world in every cut scene. It’s a shame to not have this, because Ken and the post apocalyptic world deserved more than being undersold. Kenshiro has to fight his way out of prison, as he has to find Yuria, as he is pitted against enemies who are lied to, at the same time, making it feel like an anime put into the force of a video game. 

The writing is ridiculous and fun, and over the top (if it weren’t in a game such as Fist of the Northstar, it would be out of place), and put you in the shoes of Kenshiro. Unlike the Berserk video game that doesn’t seem to know when it should just be about battles or story and world of Berserk, Fist of the North Star has the ability to get it right and achieve it’s results. The story is laid out over 10 chapters, and each are meant to force the player into situations that have fights that the player can control. You can’t leave the fights, and each fight is a test of all the abilities learned in the game, making you progress along as Kenshiro is. You also get to bar tend which is a cool feature, but again, the lack of voice actors in a video game is a crippling function in a video game. A book is meant to be read and you can hear the voices you want, but a video game, even in the in game cut scenes, that aren’t fed through texts, makes it frustrating to play. 

As an anime and manga reader, this is already hitting the buttons I need to play this game, but the lack of voices in certain scenes, is the problem when resulting in the Fist of the North Star: Paradise Lost. Some won’t mind this idea, but this is a game that prides itself on a story and most are just as complicit in not providing voice to all parts of the game. Helping ordinary people also helps unlock all the stars of Destiny, which can help you be as powerful. Good choices are rewarded in the world of North Star, as even you’re met with pacifists that want you to not use violence, but that’s all Kenshiro knows when met with another opposing force. 

            You have to learn new moves to battle your way through the game, as the player has to become the character, and not taking control of the game. It’s a scripted game, but the world is interesting and never seems dull. Maybe I’m a bit of a manga anime person, but it does give that anime manga person the grandeur and mystery and downright fun it needs to be. Even smacking enemies with metal planks as a form of sport is fun as well. 

            The world and the writing is there, and it’s a shame the actors weren’t paid to voice the in game cut scenes, as they only had enough to voice the main cut scenes with the major plot points. Having grunts represent a character’s opinion with scrolling text is big with these types of games, but it’s frustrating and brings me out of the world. This is when the game runs into problems.

            But what makes this game an embarrassment is simple: the production company, Ryu Ga Gotoku studios, has embarrassed a franchise that should have been so entertaining and provocative and pleasurable, into a game that turned a thousand hand slap into a game I couldn’t even finish. While the combat and the story is enticing, I can’t honestly give this game a score because the game doesn’t deserve a score. If I were the writer of the manga’s I would wipe this away from my legacy and call it a day. This is what gaming shouldn’t be. While the fighting is fun for about five chapters, the lack of good in game cutscene and the lack of innovation is what I call an incomplete game for a great series. The story is great, but what the series deserved was something better.

            Final Score: 2/10 and a total waste of your time. Go read the manga if you can find them. Go do something better than play this game. 

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

25 Jul

When Horizon: Zero Dawn came out, it was a game I originally wrote off after I played a few hours of it. Again, this was because of personal issues with the game, but as I came to realize, I was not playing the game on Story or Easy mode. Normal was a lot harder than I gave it credit for. The robot dinosaurs were far worse than I thought. It’s hard to process what a game is when you are playing the game on a high difficulty. I encourage anyone to play a game on its story or light mode first, to get the trophies and finish it for the story. This was my mistake and I’m not the best person to recommend most games. 

A budget and a bias exist in my purview. There are a lot of games and books I pick up later that allows me to give the book a “classic status” or even recommendation. The problem is that I gave up on Horizon: Zero Dawn too early because even on Normal, the game is extremely tough. The first play through of a game, for me, now, is on a fun easy playthrough, but always in a moderate level, unless it’s really demanding. Playing a game and reviewing it is new for me, but I am always improving on reviews or essays about games and my experiences with them.

With Horizon Zero Dawn, the problem is very clear. The voice acting is awful, and the delivery on what should be very impactful writing is undersold, and some delivery is well done, but it’s very off when it comes to being angry. The graphics are amazing and truly set a bar I didn’t expect to appreciate. The story is a mixture of all the games that have come before. Assassin’s Creed (open world and parkour), Last of Us (female protagonist), and a bit of spooky woo of a villain, Hades, that could have had a better more creative name and it would have worked perfectly on its own. Also Disney’s Brave. Aloy’s father dies too, but an argument could be made that he died more heroically, but then again, it has been quite a few years with games that have studied the father and daughter schema.  

The story is about Aloy, who is given the task of stopping the villainous machines, Hades, as she finds out that she is a clone of a character, Elizabeth Sobek, who stopped the machines 350,000 years ago. After she stumbles on a small Focus, an ear piece like device, that teaches her about the world. The mainline story is interesting as the quest to avenge her fallen Nora at a proving were attacked, a tribal ritual for the young Nora to be apart of the small tribe, is forced by her father to join, even though she is an outcast by the village for not having a mother. This seems like it was borrowed from other material to make a story that was already told before, but the rest of the quest seems like it falls in line with other campaigns from other games. 

The open world and graphics are the reason to play the game, but the dialogue deliver can be easily changed (and Aloy gets bristly in the DLC pack, the Winter ). It’s a game that follows in the skills of many other better games, but the lack of a charisma in Aloy, even in her most angry moments, reminds me of the days when Master Chief had more personality than her. Granted you can make the character as complex as you like, and that is rather stunning for an open world RPG. The choice to make Aloy a total shit person or a good person, has a nice flair to it, but the voice delivery is the weakness that cripples the game play. You can skip past it or hear it, but if Sylen’s is more calm than my character, I immediately thought he was the villain. Villains can help out hero’s too, but why did it feel so predictable by the end of the game. Sylen’s is the best character out of everyone, including Aloy. 

Maybe Guerilla has a thing for red heads or was wildly fucked by one and this is their interpretation of Disney’s Brave in a sci-fi world? Again, this would be a great game if it didn’t have a rather bland voice delivery in Horizon: Zero Dawn. The good news is, there is a sequel and it needs to find a better villain or the series won’t survive. Is it a masterpiece? No, but the world can help the future of the series survive. 

If you buy the complete edition, you get the Frozen Wilds DLC. As it turns out, there are varied other machines that Aloy finds as she moves through the wintry wilderness, the quests in it already feel the same like the rest of the story, and it seems like they didn’t even try to make it different. It’s hard to like this game when it doesn’t seem to want to try anything new. This is what I came to realize now once I replayed it and finished the game. I don’t like to give out opinions on games that I don’t finish. People work on artistic endeavors and it’s hard to just say, “Maybe I just didn’t get this.” It’s happened to me when people reviewed my work, and they over analyze it.  

The final verdict: Graphics and open world do not save this game when the voice delivery in game play is far more as important as writing. The writing is very well done, but the voice acting is atrocious. Even when Aloy is angry.

Final Verdict: 5/10 

Mandy: A Rambo for our Time

7 Jul

This review is a little different. It’s very rare that a movie speaks to a generation of millennials anymore. A film for the past eleven years, during the decade of Marvel films, all of them were bland, generic, after Joss Whedon’s “Age of Ultron” but a film that is not a part of a franchise like Marvel is hard to sell to an American audience. “The Big Picture: The Fight for Future Movies” by Ben Fritz illustrates the state of modern films, and to those who grew up with the 70’s films, the Marvel films are a depressing realization of pop art taken to its logical conclusion, which is based on a family friendly material, unless it was the Captain America films, which could be more than a generic popcorn extravaganza. Everyone loves a big budget film, but during the timing of Trump America, and the media meltdown on the news every night, it’s hard to look at films and games without seeing bias. Where Art needs to present itself is not usually in a big budget film. Enter Mandy. 

A film that should have been rejected upon its release in 2018. Even a lover of films and video games, I respond better to films that stand as “Art for Art’s sake” and revolt against the current bid of “Marvel family friendly films.” Mandy is a action horror film that should feel tired and uninventive. The problem is Mandy works on so many levels. It’s a film that embraces reality but also a mythological tale of vengeance and horror wrapped into a subtle Nic Cage performance that when turned to 11, it doesn’t feel slow or dragged. The story follows Red, who is a victim of abuse from religious fanatics, and demons they call upon in the guise of motorcycle gangs, but the obvious deception is that it all blends together. 

The horror of Red on his journey to hell is that he is vindicated in the journey, and the villains aren’t given any other “subtlety” as it has elements of “Hellraiser” with the gang as representation of what society views as horror. The villains aren’t seen, covered in mask, given distorted voices, as they have no backstory. The more a villain has a backstory the audience is not on Red’s side. Red is the character that Stallone in Rambo wished he could have played, without the muscles and the bravado, but Nic Cage has the everyman appeal of an Aragorn, and scenes are reminiscent of a fantasy horror epic, like Berserk, by Kentaro Miura. Written and directed by Panos Campastano’s, it’s a world that should have worked in another time, but still, the timelessness of the story, and the simple outline of a “revenge story” is what allows us to be on Red’s side. 

After watching his wife being burned inside a bag, and the sounds the picture gives is what gives Mandy the edge that most other films don’t have. It’s willing to go dark when society can’t take it. While this review is late, the importance of the review still stands. I was not born when Blade Runner or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but I can realize the importance of the text of Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott’s interpretation. What Mandy does is realize what it’s strengths and weaknesses are, and the grain used in Mandy is almost used to nostalgic effects, since it does take place in the 80’s. 

If having a crisp and clear presentation works, the Marvel films should have won Best Picture Oscars by now. It’s clear that what’s popular is not always good, but films like Mandy prove that vision will help a picture succeed in multiple viewings. You can see something different every single time. What makes Mandy special is that it’s not being followed up by a sequel, because even after the film is over, the audience is exhausted by the end, and we all want Red to live a normal life after, but the film might promise a sequel, but if it was, it would become a brand and not a work of art. 

The first Rambo film is the equivalent of commerce and art working together, as the plot of the film is thin, grindhouse with a heart. Mandy doesn’t want to overcomplicate it’s message and it’s more meaningful as we see the film turn into a darker gem that should stay one film. What also made the first Rambo a success is that “the simplicity is what makes a revenge film far easier to swallow,” and at least Mandy follows through with the act of revenge, where Last of Us II fails. The film’s scenery of the Pacific Northwest was filmed in Belgium, to LOTR like beauty. The anti-religious material works for the time of the movie, and if put in today’s context, the film would not have worked well.

            Campastanos was talking about a sequel where Red was “hunting neo nazi’s in a punked out city” “I don’t know if that would ever happen, but it’s a fun thought” (https://www.indiewire.com/2018/10/mandy-sequel-panos-cosmatos-nicolas-cage-1202015102/) was the directors words, and I think it would be a bad fit for 2020, and for Red, since he’s not a mad dog who would blindly kill, unless he had a motivation that wasn’t contrived or told before. What is outstanding is that Nic Cage, who I think should “ham up the movie” is the amazing part of the film, alongside the direction and writing, who turns in one of his best performances in his career (as I would place this with a tie in Richard Stanley’s adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s Color out of Space). What can be said is that the film would be unnecessary with a sequel and after the ordeal Red goes through, I only wish him to have the victory gained, but a character like Red, shouldn’t be exploited, such as Rambo was. The problem is that Mandy should have been known, and even I overlooked it at the time. This film will be up there with cult films of Dario Argento and Salo: 120 days of Sodom. 

            Rating: 10/10 

Resident Evil 3 Review

6 Jun

It’s no secret that once you play 2020’s version of Resident Evil 3, it immediately dwarfs the old version in a few key ways. Visually, it does for today what the original release did, and the story is changed to meet some new context. Jill Valentine is the hero of Resident Evil 3, which in the chronology, takes place before the second Resident Evil, detailing events before the second game with characters Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy come to find the town of Raccoon City destroyed. 

The story follows Jill as she is researching the Umbrella Company and there nefarious deeds, but she is put on probation for defying her superiors. When she is called by Brad, her partner, the titular villain, Nemesis, arrives through the wall, smashing her to the ground, and she has to run away as she is pursued by the biological weapon, Nemesis, who stands about seven feet tall, and pursues Jill relentlessly. Its motives are unknown and that’s what we like in a villain. 

A never ending boss that makes the game worthy of more than a few play throughs. Carlos, a fan favorite of the original is toned down from his macho manliness as he tries to console her as he replies, “personal space. I get it.” It’s an omission from the original that feels out of place with the context of the 90’s. Refitting the game to meet modern standards is playing to each generation of creators, but it’s not true to the original source. Just imagine trying to change Casablanca or Gone with the Wind to meet modern standards, because that won’t work. 

Jill has to open safes through clues in the first level and it helps her gain new weapon mods for her Glock handgun. Adding this detail is a key refinement over the original, since the Glock was the 90’s was the icon of the times. She is given a lock pick to gain access to lockers for more ammo, and in the assisted mode, she is given a AR-15. Puzzles make a return but in very small forms. It’s nice because the puzzle aspect of games is fine, and gives you more reason to explore a game, the puzzles of the older games, do not all make a return. 

Jill is beautiful as she is returned to her Asian American roots from the original novels tie ins. What the game does give you is a reimagining that invites new players but allows to perfect the original’s flaws. The dodge is easier to use and if accomplished in the remake, it can give jill a boost and assist an easy head shot. 

What makes Resident Evil Three is the attention to detail and the tension when Jill is pursued by Nemesis. It’s amazing to think that some only play it for five hours is not necessarily about what is missing, but using so much story in such a short play though. A beefier story would have derailed from the originals short and action packed tension. Jill is beautiful as she runs from Nemesis, and wounding Nemesis can give away upgrades to Jill’s weapons. 

The round up of villains should be categorized with the threat level designed for each weapon. The regular zombies are best treated with a bullet sandwich from the Glock 17, but it’s best for headshots. If every enemy zombie has a face, shoot it. If playing on a higher difficulty, it’s best to avoid them, and save the ammo for when you need it. 

The shotgun is a worthy companion throughout the journey, and it should be left for Nemesis. Anything that’s bigger than a shotgun should be left for the tougher enemies, and Nemesis. A shotgun is best for zombie control, spreading the herd thin. But if playing on a difficulty higher than Normal, the enemies get tougher, and you should avoid contact or wasting your ammo on the lesser zombies. The Grenade Launcher should only be spared on Hunters, large reptilian creatures that appear in the early part of the game in the Redwood area. The Grenade Launcher and the AR-15 are the weapons to use when there is no ammo left, but it’s fun to use the AR-15 and Grenade Launcher, and ammo becomes difficult to find on the higher difficulties. The AR-15 is gone from Standard mode on. 

It’s deviant to say this is better, because the experience of playing the original is missing for this writer, but it does provide a newness that might be missing from a veteran player’s experience. To speak ill of the original is not my intent, and would encourage anyone to play it after to get the full context or analysis. Or watch it on YouTube. 

As the story progresses, the player is invested in Jill and Carlos as they are trying to find a way to get out of Raccoon City, and find a cure so that it could save Raccoon City from being nuked. There are many positives to the game: reimagined graphics for a new age, a beautiful face texture that gives Jill more depth and natural beauty, the cut scenes are tense and they give a sense of curiosity to the game. While Veterans know the changes of Carlos’s behavior and the lack of spiders from the original are missing, my noobish sentiments toward graphics and brevity in story, are of a cultish variety. 

This is definitely a must buy for the times, and will keep you busy before the release of Last of Us Part II. While I never played the original, or was old enough to get the full context of the original, the graphical change is astounding, but if a player likes brevity of a game over an expansive open world, then it’s an immediate buy. Fans need to play it too, but they already have, and they don’t need my permission to do so. The reason for the late review is that my opinion is not to be met by public demand. Being late for me is, as Gandalf said, “arrive precisely when he means to.” The game still stands as a beautiful reworking that can introduce old and new players and heighten what made the original interesting. But is it worth the sixty dollars? Just wait until it is on sale, because some would see the lack of a robust narrative a weakness (is not worth it), while I saw the brevity as a relief today. I’m glad to have played it.