Initial thoughts: Spider-Man Homecoming

As of this moment, Spider-Man Homecoming is my second favorite Spider-Man movie. The first one is The Amazing Spider-Man 1. Tom Holland is both a great Spider-Man and Peter Parker, it has one of the best Marvel villains in the whole MCU, and the rest of the supporting cast do a pretty good job as well. I do have gripes such as the casting of Aunt May and Peter’s best friend getting a tad annoying for me, but overall it’s a fun time. Not the best superhero movie this year but worth your time nonetheless.

Metro 2033 review

Developed by: 4A Games

Published by: THQ, Deep Silver (Metro 2033 Redux)

Game played on: PC

Released on: March 16, 2010, August 26, 2014 (Metro 2033 Redux)metro 2033

My companion Khan tells me to stop. I obey, after all, he knows this tunnel better than I do. We see a floating ball of electricity go by. Khan says as long as we remain still, it can’t detect us. This is just one of many strange natural phenomenon you will encounter in the world of Metro 2033.

Originally released on March 16, 2010 in North America, Metro 2033 is a post-apocalyptic first person shooter adapted from a Russian post-apocalyptic novel written by author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It takes place in Moscow in the aftermath of a global nuclear war, where the survivors have taken refuge in the underground metro tunnels, with the surface world being in a state of nuclear winter, inhabited by monsters created by the radiation, and the air is impossible to breathe without gas masks. Your playable character is Artyom, just a normal resident of his metro station. The society of the metro comes under siege by a completely new species known as “The Dark Ones”, creatures with psychic powers that leave their victims insane, then dead. Artyom must go on a quest to the station of Polis, where a group of elite soldiers who protect the metro’s citizens known as the Rangers reside to enlist their aid. On his journey, Artyom must face the dangers created by the post nuclear world he lives in, whether it be Nazis or abnormal beings that can only be described as supernatural. I own, but have not read the book in full, so I can’t speak on how faithful the game is to the original source material. Also, I did not play the original Metro 2033, but the remake titled Metro 2033 Redux released for current gen consoles in the Metro Redux pack. It gives the visuals a tremendous update, fixes issues with the stealth and AI, gives you two different modes to play: Spartan and Survival (favoring an action experience and the game’s original survival elements and horror tone respectively), and adds collectible journal entries by Artyom scattered throughout levels. I would consider it the definitive version of the game.

Metro 2033 is the kind of game that is unique, takes risks, that there should be more like, yet is also flawed in key areas that can dampen an otherwise amazing experience. An experience that it owes almost entirely to the game’s utterly superb atmosphere.
Metro 2033 is an atmospheric experience that sucks you in from the beginning, and doesn’t let you go until the very end. The usage of lighting, shadow, and ambient noises made me feel like I was in the tunnels of the metro themselves. The atmosphere isn’t just confined to the underground, as the snow covered, toxic surface of ruined Moscow is just as engrossing. Wind howls and snow blows across the city while flying mutants known as “demons” soar across the sky, picking up any unfortunate scavenger that crosses their path to devour. The setting of ruined Moscow is extremely refreshing, as the Russian architecture gives a foreboding feel I haven’t otherwise felt in a post-apocalyptic story in any medium. The game’s story is one that weaves the other worldly threat of the Dark Ones with a subtle moral ambiguity. Without giving any spoilers, Metro asks you not to make any assumptions about anything, and to come to your own conclusions about your antagonists. Good and evil are no longer cut and dry in the new world. Usually, it is simply people trying to survive long enough that day to make it to the next. This ties into the game’s binary, yet compelling morality system. There are “good” and “bad” choices, but determining which is which is can be a challenge, and both of the game’s endings have an air of doubt and uncertainty lingering in them, never letting you settle on whether the right decision was made. That being said, it is held back at times because some of the “good” choices involve simply stopping and listening to conversations in the game’s hub stations where you can by ammo and other supplies. Given some of the confusing layout of these stations, finding conversations can be tricky, and you’ll likely miss a few. Getting the good ending will probably require a second playthrough, as you’re more likely to get the bad one the first time around.

2033’s human population has created a completely new society underground, with admirable detail given to the activities and lives of its people. Little touches such as a couple arguing and a child pestering his father make all the difference in giving the NPCs of 2033 humanity. This can be seen in your human enemies as well, even the Nazis. While sneaking in the shadows, you will often hear conversations between NPC soldiers, talking about home, family, what they’re going to do for fun, and other topics that will make you think twice about pulling the trigger. An important feature of the new society that pops up both in story and gameplay is the currency system of military grade ammunition. Military ammo is now the commodity used in place of money for the trading of goods, and this will has the potential to put players in interesting situations in their playtime. Do you save your military ammo for later to trade for weapons, air filters, etc., or do you use some of the ammo to inflict extra damage on enemies in place of the less effective metro bullets at the cost of literally throwing your money away?

Resource conservation is an extremely important part of 2033’s gameplay, as supplies are scarce. Players need to conserve their ammo, recharge their flashlight batteries, and watch how many air filters they have for their gas masks and change them when they run out of air. This and the game’s claustrophobic atmosphere make Metro feel a lot like a survival horror game, including confronting humanity’s capacity for cruelty, supernatural locations and visions, and other moments of terror that disempower players rather than make them feel like an all powerful hero. It never becomes unfairly difficult however, because as long as I fired in bursts, and used the appropriate weapon at the appropriate range, I more often than not had enough ammo to survive the next encounter. Another way to conserve your ammo is taking the stealthy approach to human enemies. Crouching and staying away from light sources will ensure the player is hidden as long as enemies weren’t prior made aware of their presence, and Artyom has a tiny bulb on his watch that indicates to the player whether he is visible or not. It can be aggravating however, since the game doesn’t always tell the player whether or not they’re completely visible, or just partially and they still have time to hide. And in order to knock out or kill enemies silently, players need to get up close to enemies, and the game did not always give me the option of knocking them out, forcing me to use my silenced pistol to ruin and otherwise non-lethal stealth run. Also frustrating was the lack of a lean function, which forced me to walk right out of cover in order to see exactly where guards were.

So Metro 2033 is certainly a very good atmospheric game, and it is also (all things considered) a good shooter. Every weapon, from submachine guns to air rifles are designed with insane levels of detail down to the reloading animation and bullet casings. There’s also a fairly detailed customization system, where you can choose whether to put a night vision scope, a red dot sight, a silencer, or an extension barrel on your gun to fit your playstyle. Some attachments and guns are more useful than others however, such as the fact you’ll likely never want to use a submachine gun ever again after picking up an AK-47. Enemies also suffer a bad case of bullet sponge syndrome, where even some unarmored enemies can take a high amount of punishment before dying. It can end up causing you to drop your guard when there’s still one more enemy who isn’t quite dead yet.

The final aspect of Metro that deserves nothing less than unqualified praise is its delicious soundtrack. It can go from goose bump inducing in one moment, then minimalistic the next. A lone guitar being used may seem minimal, but it can make all the difference. Just as important is when the game has the wisdom to not use it, instead letting the environment and ambient noises set the atmosphere.

I played Metro 2033 on Normal difficulty in Survival mode, since the game was always meant as an atmospheric FPS game with horror and survival elements. Normal difficulty was certainly not easy, but towards the later stages of the game I wasn’t too hard pressed for air filters and ammo. This could probably be attributed to the fact this is my second time playing Metro 2033 Redux. First time players should play on Normal, while more experienced players should increase the difficulty to more challenging levels. The game’s framerate ran smoothly with no texture pop in on my laptop, but I did have one crash in my entire playtime. Lastly, there is an option to play the game with English and Russian voice acting. While I personally thought the English voice acting to be competent, I can see it becoming annoying to some other people, so the option for a potentially more authentic experience is there. Be warned however, that some of the background conversations are not subtitled, so you will miss potentially interesting conversations.

So Metro 2033 is a game that doesn’t do everything right, but what it does do right, very few other games do better. I am grateful that it managed to get a sequel, and that the original game was remade to iron out any of the more glaring flaws the original may have had. It can be intimidating at first, but please give this game a chance.

Baby Driver review

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Written by: Edgar Wright

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Eliza Gonzalez

Released: June 28, 2017baby-driver-poster-690x1024

Baby Driver is awesome and you should go see it. If you’re reading this and haven’t seen Baby Driver yet, stop reading this and go see Baby Driver.

You might think I’m being a little hyperbolic in that opening paragraph, and I’m sorry about that, but when an original movie comes out and it’s also not just good, but really good, I feel compelled to want people to spend their money watching it rather than wasting their time reading a nobody such as myself praise it. Nonetheless, if you’re still here, this is my review of Baby Driver.

When I watched Baby Driver, what immediately stuck out to me was its style. I’ve never seen an Edgar Wright movie before (something that requires a penance on my part), but I know his movies up until now have been comedies, not action. Coulda fooled me, because this is an action movie that oozes stylishness. It’s as cool and daring as its protagonist Baby. Yes, that’s what they call him in the movie. Baby is a young man who works as a getaway driver for robbery crews to pay off his debt to Kevin Spacey’s character, during the film he meets a café waitress named Deborah whom he falls in love with, compelling him to want to leave his life of crime even quicker to start a new life with her. Baby, played very well by Ansel Elgort, is a protagonist who’s childish, calculating, and kind all at once. He’s not just some typical action hero. He’s layered, with a tragic past that gives context to his eccentric behavior in the film, most notably him having his headphones on playing music almost constantly, especially while on the job. The side characters are very well cast and played as well, most notable being Jon Hamm as a robber whose character slowly becomes unraveled as the movie goes on, Kevin Spacey as Baby’s charming but ruthless boss, and Jamie Foxx as the most vicious and bloodthirsty member of the crew. Each member of the main cast does a great job of showcasing the different aspects of their characters, with thanks to a smart script that leads subverts audience expectations and keeps you guessing as to what will happen next.

Baby Driver’s action scenes are fast and chaotic. Every scene cuts to the next at a very quick pace. However, the lack of shaky cam and Edgar Wright’s excellent direction makes this a strength, not a weakness, with the action being able to remain coherent and easy to follow in spite of its chaotic nature. They all build off one another, with the getaway car chase at the end of the final heist being my personal favorite in how everything escalated and put Baby in territory one wouldn’t expect him to see. The movie’s excellent soundtrack comes into play during the action scenes, not just because it’s awesome (and it is) but also because it’s how Baby gets pumped up as well.

The film never forgets about how important it is to settle down for a moment, and it’s all the better for it. The scenes such as where Baby is just conversing with one of the robbers he’s driving for about music, or where he’s speaking in sign language with his deaf foster father are important for the humanity they give to Baby and even some of the more antagonistic characters without coming off as forced or unearned. Everyone feels human.

Baby Driver falls short of greatness due to some weaker elements however. Baby’s love interest isn’t by any means bad and has a personality, but she isn’t particularly memorable and their chemistry doesn’t quite get there for me. There’s been worse but there’s also been better. I was also disappointed by how quickly Jon Bernthal came and left the film. What was the point in him being there if you’re not going to use his strengths to your full advantage? Not having him play a larger part is a missed opportunity, but he does leave quite an impression for as short as his part is in the movie.

Despite not being a great movie, Baby Driver is still a very good movie and one of the best of 2017 so far. This is one not to be missed, even in the blockbuster heavy summer season.

Initial thoughts: Baby Driver

I got back from Baby Driver just a little while ago. I plan on posting a proper review tomorrow or the next day, so for now I’m just going to give my immediate thoughts on it:

I can definitely say this is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. This is the first Edgar Wright movie I’ve seen and now I’m asking myself “Why didn’t I go see his work sooner?!” It’s stylish, smart, and exciting to watch. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen during its great action scenes.

I’ll go into further detail in my official review, but my last word on it for now is that Baby Driver is a genuinely awesome movie that people need to go out and see. I’m glad it’s getting acclaim from critics and audiences alike and made money at the box office.

Wolfenstein: The New Order review

Developed by: MachineGames

Published by: Bethesda Softworks

Game played on: PC

Released on: May 20, 2014

I’ll be right up front and say I have no particular feelings for the Wolfenstein series one way or another. I picked up Wolfenstein: The New Order back in 2014 on a whim, since I had heard surprisingly good things about it and it was one of the few games of that year to seem relatively interesting. So I played it, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, so much so that it became my second favorite game of that year next to Alien Isolation. Now that Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has been announced to come out later this year, I rebought the game on PC to prepare myself, and see if it’s still as good as I remember. Long story short: it is.

What jumped out at me the most about Wolfenstein: TNO was how focused it was on a single player experience. There is no multiplayer or co-op mode of any kind in The New Order. It is also something of a soft reboot for the series, with newer fans being able to follow the story with no prior knowledge of the previous games needed. And the game is all the better for it, since the development team MachineGames had to focus its time and resources on the campaign, which resulted in a very good campaign.

The New Order’s campaign premise is you play as long time Wolfenstein protagonist William Joseph “B.J.” Blazcowicz. After failing to kill Nazi scientist Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, B.J. suffers a head injury that leaves him in a vegetable state for years. At the same time, thanks to Deathshead’s research, the Nazis develop technology that gives them the upper hand in World War II, resulting in their total victory and domination over the world. B.J. eventually recovers from his injury to stab a Nazi purging the hospital B.J. is a patient at in the neck with a dinner knife, snarling “Nazi scum”. From there, B.J., with help from old and new friends fights in a resistance group called “The Kreisau Circle” hiding in Berlin to take down the Nazi regime in Europe, and kill Deathshead.

The game knows how absurd its premise is and gives no shits about it. Yet, at the same time it never feels cheeky or like it’s parodying itself. The game is aware of its absurdity yet also takes itself very seriously. This could’ve crashed and burned easily, but thanks to stellar writing, it all manages to work. The characters are exceptionally well realized and developed. Blazkowicz, instead of being an empty vessel for the player to insert themselves into, is actually a character with depth and humanity to him. He’s a badass, but he’s also tired of the killing and violence, and wants a normal life of peace and quiet, but fears he may never have it. The side characters such as his former Nazi turned freedom fighter Klaus and his love interest Anya, are also extremely endearing and likable characters in their own right. Just as well written are the game’s Nazi villains. The revolting coward Bubi, his love interest the sociopathic Frau Engel, and the terrifying Deathshead have some of the most memorable moments in the entire game, with special mentions going to the end of the second level and the train sequence, which I wouldn’t dare to spoil here. Another well done aspect of the story is The New Order’s world building. The premise of a world ruled by the Nazis isn’t just an excuse to kill Nazis, it is explored in detail with all its horrific implications. The concentration camps, cultural genocide, and bigotry of the Nazi ideology enforced on the entire world is explored with the appropriate weight it warrants, including a level in a forced labor camp, which while ending with an explosive finale, is handled with care and maturity.

All this said about the story, an FPS needs good gameplay, and The New Order has that in spades. The level environments are varied and interesting in their settings, with collectibles scattered throughout the levels to find that unlock concept art and character figures to look at, and their design encourages players to choose their own style of play. Loud wielding duel shotguns or sneakily taking out Nazis with a knife, both are equally viable options. Of course, the game will have mandatory shootouts at some point in each level, where stealth simply isn’t an option. Luckily the weapons of The New Order are fun to use, feel great to use, and are varied in function. Weapons will often have multiple modes of fire, such as shotgun shells that bounce off walls to catch enemies in cover. The way enemies become absolutely obliterated by weapons made me almost want to get caught during a stealth section to watch what would happen if I used this weapon or that weapon.

The enemy AI is relatively competent, if at times wonky. In combat, enemies will flank your position if you stay in one position too long, forcing you to be constantly on the move and checking your corners. They’ll also dodge roll out of fire into cover, forcing you to change position to a better vantage point. All that said, when in stealth mode, enemy AI can be a miss at times. As you can’t pick up and hide enemy bodies, patrolling guards will at times completely ignore bodies within eyesight, or at times even you if you quickly get back into cover before they get into an alarmed state. It was never an issue that ruined my playtime however. Enemies also vary from regular soldiers, elite shotgun wielding soldiers, Nazi super mechs, and commanders that can call for reinforcements, which ensures fighting never gets stale.

Visually, The New Order is one of the standout games of this generation so far. It ran at an extremely smooth 60 fps while in gameplay with very detailed environments suffering from very minimal texture pop in. Outside of gameplay, cutscenes have well done animation and lighting that give a very cinematic atmosphere. All this is capped off with a memorable Dieselpunk artstyle that mixes the aesthetics of the 1950s with futuristic technology and an alternate history where the Nazis won WW2, and a soundtrack that features tunes that will make you want to kick ass one moment, and then the next be utterly terrified by the atrocities you witness. Voice acting is across the board standout, with Brian Bloom as B.J. Blazkowicz and Dwight Schultz as Deathshead in particular giving very memorable performances. I suffered three technical issues while playing where enemies got clipped onto the environment, and I ended up falling through the level and dying. I had zero problems otherwise and the game ran overall proficiently.

Wolfenstein: The New Order was a game that easily could’ve become another dime a dozen first person shooter that would’ve been forgotten about a month after its release. But developer MachineGames decided to give the Wolfenstein series a soft reboot that takes daring risks that attracts new fans while still being a game older fans of the series can have fun with. With its sequel The New Colossus coming out on October 27, 2017, now is the perfect time to buy and play it.

Introduction

Introduction

Since this is an just an introduction post I’ll try to be as concise as possible. I’m starting this blog mainly as a hobby. I enjoy video games, movies, anime, and such, so I decided why not start a blog where I review them. While you can definitely expect me to give negative reviews at some point, I’d prefer to talk about the stuff I enjoy. However, if I don’t like something and feel it’s worth talking about, I’ll talk about it.

As for what I’ll be reviewing, I intend to review video games I’ve played, and movies and anime I’ve watched. I also want to review manga and other books I’ve read. I don’t have any sort of schedule so I might one day post a review then another the next day, or go a couple of weeks with no update.