Bloodborne: Love, Hate, Death

Post by Patrick

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What I love about Bloodborne is that it feels like an adventure. The atmosphere in the game is so meticulously crafted. You don’t have a map so you’re never sure what to expect forcing you to rely on the senses to explore. As I was exploring and fighting through the streets of Yharnam I couldn’t help but feel stressed the majority of time, it was unnerving. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was. Yes, the game can be creepy, but it wasn’t Silent Hill. I think part of it was the fact that you don’t have a shield in the game, you have nothing to hide behind so you’re forced to push forward, to be aggressive, and not to be defensive. It pushed me out of my element and It encouraged me to play in a style I’m not used too.

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Bloodborne has a reputation for being a difficult game, which I think is unfair because that overshadows the other aspects that makes the experience a lot of fun. It’s true that the game is hard, but it doesn’t feel impossible, it’s challenging. Having patience comes a long way in Bloodborne. Every enemy has a “tell” for every one of their attacks, their moves are very choreographed. The boss fights are tough, but every boss has a specific gimmick. You’re brain will want you to deal as much damage as quickly as possible, but that will only get you killed. The game rewards players who don’t rush through areas, useful treasures aren’t the only things you’ll find, but equally as important are the shortcuts you’ll unlock that will help you get around much quicker.

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On the technical side of things, Bloodborne looks and sounds fantastic. The creatures you come across are incredibly creepy, gross and messed up. There’s nothing as hair raising as hearing the faint scrapping sound of a weapon being dragged by an enemy across the floor you yet can’t see getting louder, closer. The only real problem I have with the game are the loading times. In a game where death is prevalent, a 40 second loading time can be a nuisance especially when you just want to get back into the game after dying.

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Now the problem isn’t that Bloodborne is too hard, the problem is that the major studios in the gaming industry are trying to cater to so many kinds of people that the majority of games are simply too easy, too simple. When a game is too easy you lose that sense of adventure. As much as I loved Dragon Age Inquisition it suffered from that problem. There were a lot of instances in Dragon Age were I would be shifting between feeling immersed and not. Making games easier and simplifying game mechanics isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s what helps bring in new gamers and it’s one of the reasons gaming has become such a popular hobby. The problem is that there isn’t any balance. A lot of developers rely on difficulty settings to try and please players looking for more of a challenge, but setting a game on hard is different than playing a game that was specifically designed to be challenging. The only thing higher difficulty settings do are usually increase the enemies health and maybe place more enemies. Most of the time it just makes the game feel cheap.

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I enjoyed playing the Dark Souls series, but I felt that they were slightly overrated. The games garnered a lot of praise and critics seemed to gloss over the negatives like the annoying and frustrating level designs and the vagueness of the basic core game play elements so you were either left to guess what things did or you were forced to go online to do some research. With Bloodborne it’s as though creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and From Software learnt their lessons past games because the quality of Bloodborne really blows the previous Souls games away. It’s the first killer exclusive the Playstation 4 has gotten and probably the best exclusive when compared to what the Xbox One has to offer. Bloodborne is more accessible than Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, so if you’re looking for something different or something more challenging than the average game I would definitely recommend Bloodborne.

Score:


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Playstation Plus – March

Post by Patrick

Oddword Abe’s Oddysee – New ‘n’ Tasty!

Abe

This is a remake of a game I remember playing on my Playstation 1 back in 1997 (or 1998?). I wasn’t really a huge fan of the game at that time because I was spending most of my time playing RPG’s and even though I enjoyed aspects of Abe’s Oddysee I never devoted enough time to it to fully appreciate it for what it offered.

Abe’s Oddysee is a 2D puzzle platform where you play as Abe to try and rescue as many Mudokon slaves as you can while you attempt to escape Molluck the Glukkon and RuptureFarms. The game looks great and can be pretty challenging at times, this is definitely going to be a game I play for a long time.

Counterspy

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Counterspy is a 2D metroidvania inspired game that features stealth elements. The game is easy to play making it a perfect pick up and play type game. Visually Counterspy has a fantastic art style. The game is played mostly from a 2D perspective until you take cover behind a wall or obstacle, which changes the games perspective, moving the camera right behind you which looks cool. As you progress through the levels you find safe’s that include blueprints for new weapons you can use to unlock new guns. There’s a story but really, it’s not that important and the strength of this game lies in the gameplay.

OlliOlli 2: Welcome to OlliWood

Olli

The first OlliOlli game received a lot of positives reviews, I was never a big fan of it. My three favorite aspects of the game was the controls, the combo system and the music. But I disliked how the game looked. I love 2D games, but OlliOlli looked cheap, like the dev’s didn’t put in any effort in the art style or what the world should look like. The levels also didn’t do it for me, they were uninspiring and bland. There wasn’t anything exciting about them. So when OlliOlli 2 was announced I wasn’t looking forward to it. When it was announced it would be a free download for members with a Playstation Plus account I decided to try it out and I’m glad I did.

It’s a big step forward in the series. Visually the game looks better, the world is brighter and not as bland as it was in the first game. The art style is better and more consistent. The music is even better than it was in the first game. The dev’s added new features in the game like the ability to pull off manuals and grind-switches among other things. The manual is probably the best addition since it lets you bust out a combo that lasts the entire length of a level.

Check out this video of me going through one of the early levels in OlliOlli 2 to get a better idea of how the game works (and listen to that sweet, sweet music).

All in all, this has been my favorite month of being a Playstation Plus member since the release of the PS4. Check out these games and have some fun!


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DriveClub Review

Post by Patrick

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I’m not a massive fan of racing games, but I love playing them every once in a while. You need to devote time to play them right and I’m usually playing role-playing games or some adventure game. With that in mind Driveclub is the perfect racing game for me. It’s a bare-bones racer that removes a lot of unnecessary fluff. You won’t be spending time checking out cars and trying to figure out which to buy, you won’t be spending time modifying your car and you won’t be spending a lot of time in menu’s.

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One of the things I like about DriveClub is that you can navigate through the menu’s quickly and everything presented to you is self-explanatory. You can be in a race within a minute of starting the game. I wouldn’t describe DriveClub as a sim, but I wouldn’t call it an arcade racer either. It’s somewhere in-between. You’ll be racing across five different countries ranging from Europe, Asia, North and South America. And each country includes eleven courses, each presenting a different kind of challenge. Racing against the computer A.I. is intense and fast paced, they are aggressive and will do their best not to let you pass. Which is a nice departure from racing against the mechanical, predictable A.I. present in the majority of other racing games.

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One of the main features of the game is that you’re connected with the rest of the DriveClub community at all times. So you’ll be racing through a course and come across a variety of challenges placed there by others for you to compete in. If you’re successful in these challenges you gain Fame. Unlike other racing games where you compete for money you’ll be racing to gain Fame which is comparable to experience points you gain in role-playing games. You gain Fame by doing well in races, events, and challenges, and the more Fame you have the more cars you’ll unlock. You’ll also be able to unlock new paint jobs and designs for your cars.

Another feature of the game are Clubs. You can create your own Club or join someone else’s. When you gain Fame racing on your own, you also gain Fame for your club. It’s an interesting concept that makes you feel connected to your friends even when they’re not online playing. The better your club does, the higher ranked it is in the worldwide leaderboards.

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Visually, the game is stunning. The environments are detailed and the dynamic weather is just incredible. The environments are meticulously detailed. The stars in the night sky are accurately portrayed, so the star constellations you see while you’re driving are accurate for whatever country the course is in and skies are randomly generated every time you play, so you’ll never come across the same sky twice. It’s great that the developers incorporated a photo-mode that includes different settings you can play around to get the picture you want. You access the photo-mode by pressing the touchpad on the PS4 controller, it’s straight forward and hassle free.

I think anyone who enjoys car games will enjoy DriveClub. It might not have the depth of games like Gran Turismo but it makes up for it in its no nonsense approach. There are some things that I wish the game did better, the drifting mechanic needs some getting used too and I wish there were more ways to customize the way your car looks. The single-player campaign mode is lengthy and it includes two free DLC’s that are available for anyone. There’s also a solid multiplayer mode so you can go up against others. I haven’t played the new Forza, but with DriveClub on the PS4, I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

Score:

2


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Framed

Post by Patrick

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I don’t write much about mobile games, mainly because a lot of them are terrible. But every once in a while you’ll see a game come along that’s fun and unique, taking advantage of the touchscreen efficiently. In the past year we’ve been seeing better games come out on phones, Threes! (which won iOS game of the year), Monument Valley, Hitman Go, Oquonie and Terra Battle were some of my highlights. I was browsing Polygon’s website when I came across one of their new features where they recommend free or cheap games called Play This Now. The game they recommended was the highly stylized Framed.

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Framed is a noir-inspired puzzle game. The goal of each level is to to re-arrange comic book panels in a way that allows your character to forward without dying or getting caught. The control scheme is simple but given its context it’s also fresh and unique, best of all it works incredibly well. My biggest issue with mobile games is that their control schemes tend to suck. Games on smartphones shouldn’t use traditional control schemes made to work with controllers, I don’t want to see buttons, it’s not intuitive. My favorite type of games are ones that use the touch-screen in a way where you’re not forced to continuously keep your fingers on your screen. Framed controls incredibly well and the only actions you’ll be making are dragging frames across the screen or rotating them. Simple and straight to the point, keeping your focus on the solving the puzzle, not worried about how to control your character.

Visually, Framed is outstanding. The animations are silky smooth, the art direction is spot on and the level designs are fantastic. The visual cues are placed in levels in a meaningful and non-obtrusive manner. The color theme for the game is mostly made up of a variety of blues, blacks and some greens, visual cues tend to be an orange, red or white. The music isn’t an after thought either, it’s jazzy, fitting the mood perfectly. At the start of a level, as you rearrange the comic book panels the music is quiet and subtle but when the action starts, the music picks up pace and crescendos. It’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into every facet of Framed, which is a rare for a game that’s made for smartphones.

Framed is available in the Appstore for $4.99, pick it up.

Score:


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Dragon Age Inquisition: Game of the Year?

Post by Patrick

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I’ve been a fan of BioWare for quite some time. I was introduced to them through their brilliant Knights of the Old Republic series for the Xbox. Knights of the Old Republic was praised for a lot of things, I personally enjoyed the story and being able to create your own Lightsaber was pretty cool. They then went on to create one of my favorite franchises ever, Mass Effect. I was never able to really get into Dragon Age though. I played Dragon Age Origins but never beat it, even though the story and characters were interesting, the game was clunky and it simply hadn’t aged well on consoles. But I was excited going into Dragon Age Inquisition and I wasn’t disappointed.

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For those who don’t know Bioware specializes in creating massive, epic, role-playing games that feature a wide range of memorable characters and stories where the decisions you make matter. Bioware have reached their pinnacle with Dragon Age Inquisition. So the start of the game is a typical RPG affair. You choose your race (Human, Elf, Dwarf or Qunari), class (Warrior, Rogue, Mage), and how your character looks like. Now the visuals in the game are beautiful. The art featured on tarot cards you find throughout the game in menu’s, the codex and loading screens are simply stunning. Character models and faces look fantastic, weapons and armors look great and the environments you explore are detailed. The music is also top-notch. You’ll find bards in taverns that will play songs that you discover while exploring the world, and some of those songs are beautiful.

Another nice little touch in the game is that it allows you to customize your weapons and armor in little ways based on the kind of materials you use to craft them.

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The game isn’t an open-world per se, but some environments are huge. The environments are larger than previous Dragon Age titles and encourage players to explore by hiding treasure, caves, lore and rare stones throughout the landscapes. You can easily spend 10 hours in the first area the game puts you in due to its sheer size and all the content stuffed within it. What’s also impressive is the variation of environments you find throughout the game. No two areas look alike. The game designers made sure that each area was unique in some way.

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The narrative allows you to make a lot of decisions that affect the story in one way or another. Some decisions are easy and straight forward, while others are a bit more complicated. At one point in the game, in the middle of an important mission I had a choice to make. My men were in danger and to save them I would have to sacrifice my ally’s ship. Do I lose an ally, or people I care for? When you’re not out adventuring you’ll be spending quite some time using the War Table. The War Table allows you to send one of your advisors on missions that can unlock new areas or a reward. The length of each missions varies and mission timers run in real-time.

Because of all the content Bioware tried to stuff into Dragon Age Inquisition, the game might feel a bit overwhelming. The journal you have access too in the game organizes your missions based on various factors (main quests, companions and locations). The game also features a multiplayer mode that I’ve yet to touch, but what I do know is that it’s a four player co-op mode that features 12-pre made characters (4 warriors, 4 mages, 4 rogues) and three campaigns you can choose from. There’s quite a bit of info on the multiplayer that can be found on the official Dragon Age Inquisition website.

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The game is not without its flaws. The tutorial quest is kind of dull and pretty forgettable, the game doesn’t do a great job at explaining some of the gameplay elements. You’ll encounter a few bugs throughout your adventure, thankfully none that break the game. The War Table has a terrible user-interface and sometimes it’s difficult to see what missions are available because of the dark colors which makes it annoying to flip through each one. It would have been convenient if there was a way to quickly flip through all the quests you have available to you. This last complaint isn’t a major one, but I felt that they could have included more hairstyles and beards for you to customize your character with.

Every year I wait for that game that will keep me up at night, glued to my TV, forcing me to do just one more quest. Dragon Age Inquisition is definitely that. You can ignore all the side-quests in this game and breeze through the main-story and beat it in 40 hours or so, but honestly, what’s the fun in that? There aren’t many games that can immerse you the same way Bioware games do, don’t take it for granted. Take your time, take in the scenery and enjoy your stay in Thedas. This is definitely a contender for my favorite game of the year.

Score:


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Destiny: Three Months Later

Post by Patrick

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Every once in a while a big budget game comes along promising big things. Destiny was supposed to be that. Bungie wanted to create a game that would take a life of its own. They wanted players to be constantly connected with each other even when they weren’t playing the game through social media and a smartphone app. It seemed too ambitious and it was.

I’m a fan of Bungie. I grew up playing the Halo games, my friends and I connected over the games and the Halo universe. When I went to university I made new friends thanks to Halo and split-screen LAN parties. So I was excited when Bungie announced a brand new game, I was interested to see what new world and characters they could create. When Destiny was finally released I was disappointed to see that Bungie failed at creating memorable characters and lore. Simply put, the narrative was messy and confusing. The Halo storyline isn’t a masterpiece but it was coherent and featured a cast of of characters you would remember. Master Chief and the Spartans, Cortana, the Arbiter, the Covenant were replaced by a forgettable cast of faceless characters. And to discover more about Destiny’s universe Bungie created the Grimoire cards that you collect in the game through various means, these cards reveal more about the different races, places, enemies and so on in the game. The problem is you can’t actually view this information in the game, you have to go to Bungie’s website to view them. Which is probably one of the dumbest things Bungie has ever done. Why make it more difficult for gamers to learn more about the universe you created? Why add all these extra steps? It’s like they don’t want people to know more about the universe they worked so hard to put together. So sadly, the story and lore in Destiny was obviously a second-thought for Bungie. Which is disappointing to say the least.

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I love games that deal with a dystopian or post-apocalyptic future, it’s interesting to see how every designer deals with barren landscapes and environments. I was excited to see which direction Bungie would take it. The environments in Destiny look pretty but are dull and uninteresting. You’re exploring these massive facilities that don’t tell a story, locations you’ll be re-visiting over and over again for different quests. You don’t feel encouraged to explore these locations because you know you won’t find anything worthwhile. The fact that Grimoire cards exist guarantee that you won’t discover notes or interesting information that reveal more of the back-story to the places you’re in.

Lore and story aside, lets talk about the rest of Destiny. The game features three races, Humans, the Awoken, and the Exo. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what race you choose because it makes no difference to the story or to your abilities, it’s strictly a superficial thing. The game also features three classes, Titan, Hunter and Warlock. Each class has unique abilities that you will need to incorporate into your play style. The Titan is equivalent to tank classes in other RPG’s, the Hunter is a rogue and the Warlock a mage. Choosing one class doesn’t lock you out from specific weapons like other RPG’s though, every class can equip the same kind of guns.

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The core of the game, shooting, feels great. There are a variety of weapons that keep things interesting while playing with friends can be a really great experience. If you don’t have friends to play the game with, hooking up with random Guardians can be a frustrating experience because there’s no way to communicate with players. So similarly to the Grimoire cards Bungie has added another unnecessary annoyance, forcing the player to use the Internet to try and find others to play with using message boards. The quests can be one dimensional. Because the narrative is lackluster it reflects in the quests, you’ll never really have anything interesting to do. The quests tend to revolve around going to point A, defending point A as waves and waves of enemies attack and once you’re done doing that it’s mission complete.

If you wanted to play Destiny for the competitive online modes and not the storyline you’re out of luck because the way Bungie designed the multiplayer, it’s pretty unbalanced. You can be a level 7 character and end up fighting a level 20 player who has much better equipment resulting in you doing poorly until you can get the better weapons and armor by going through the main quests. The multiplayer mode isn’t even unlocked at the start of the game, you’re forced to play through the campaign to get to it.

Destiny has potential, the same way the first Assassins Creed game had potential. It’s still a fun game and I enjoy playing it, but I expected more from Bungie, maybe my expectations were set too high. Destiny is great for when I want to switch off my brain and mindlessly shoot things, I think the art direction is cool, Bungie know how to make a good looking game with pretty skyboxes. So if you’re interested in Destiny just know what you’re getting into, lower your expectations and you’ll have some fun.

Score:

Destiny was provided by Xcite.


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FIFA15: Rinse, Repeat

Post by Patrick

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The FIFA franchise is a system seller, a game that has a continuous presence on best-seller lists. EA has a monopoly on sports games and that’s a double-edged sword. Because they’ve been developing sports games for so long the experience EA has garnered shows in the execution of their games. But the problem with EA sports games is that they don’t evolve all that much and tend take small baby-steps forward. This is the case with FIFA15, there are supposed to be minor advancements made to the gameplay that are supposed to improve the game, but at the end of the day they’re just not enough.

Lets start with the menu’s. I find that there’s too much going on and that EA could really simplify FIFA when it comes to what we see in-between games. Navigating through the menus is a sluggish affair. It becomes annoying in Career mode because you’ll be navigating through so many different sections of the menu taking care of your team.

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The game itself can be fun at times. While your match loads you have the opportunity to test your skills in various tests and mini-games. When the match finally starts, the crowd sounds impressive and listening to them sing your clubs songs is great. As you play the game you will notice small annoyances that just make the game a frustrating experience. The AI of your teammates for instance is average. You’ll see players that will go on some weird runs, sometimes even bumping into each other. If there are two players running ahead of you, they’ll continue running next to each other when it makes more sense for them to split up. Try passing the ball to one of them and watch the AI struggle to decide who should get it. If you attempt a through-ball chances are you’ll lose possession because the computer AI will just give up and not even attempt to get to the ball. When the ball goes out for a throw-in, your player will sometimes chase after it while other times the ball boy will throw it back in. Normally I wouldn’t want to watch all this and would want to skip ahead to get back into the game. But if you press the button to skip ahead your player will at times attempt a quick throw-in. It’s difficult to tell when I can skip ahead and when I can’t. The ball can also be a bit too bouncy which results in some frustrating (and at times) amusing moments while you’re trying to defend. The goalkeeper AI was supposedly reworked for FIFA15 but it seems easier to score goals than it did in previous FIFA games, I’ve yet to have difficulty scoring in one on one situations. What I did like is that the AI for your opponents team seems to be pretty smart and adaptable. Weaker teams will try to keep things tight, defending with every player possible and try to score on the counter. If you’re winning a game 1-0 the opposition will continually build up momentum and pressure to try and score the equalizing goal. Career mode is one of my favorite things in FIFA and it didn’t disappoint. Not much has changed so if you enjoyed the mode in previous FIFA games chances are you’ll enjoy it in FIFA15.

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The graphics and animations are a disappointment. From a distance the game looks nice and some football pitches look good. But the animations are inconsistent, at times they’re good and at times they look wonky, awkward and robotic. The faces of players are lifeless and some players just look comical. Somethings just look unnatural. I believe that EA should be striving for more when it comes to this and that fans of the franchise shouldn’t settle for something average especially when you’re paying $60 for every new iteration of FIFA.

Ultimately FIFA15 is mediocre at best. If you’re a fan of FIFA, you’ll probably still enjoy it even with all its flaws. If you’re looking to try something else, Pro Evolution 2015 seems to be a better experience this year. If you already own FIFA14, this isn’t a worthy upgrade and I would wait for the game to go on sale before purchasing it.

Score:

FIFA15 was provided by Xcite.


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Advanced Warfare: A Week Later

Post by Patrick

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Advanced Warfare was released last week to some pretty glowing reviews. I’ve never been a huge fan of the series, I’ve played a few of them here and there but never extensively. My two main complaints of the Call of Duty franchise have been that the single-player campaign tends to be predictable and uninteresting. The multiplayer tends to feature squad-based modes even though the majority of the time no one is willing to work together and things become hectic. So when I started reading positive things about Advanced Warfare I was cautiously optimistic. I wasn’t disappointed.

The plot in Advanced Warfare is straight-forward, it’s 2054 and there’s a terrorist organization you have to destroy. If you’ve played previous Call of Duty games you know what to expect from the campaign. It’s very linear, scripted and predictable. This hasn’t changed in Advanced Warfare. You’ll see one of the major twists coming early in the game. This can be a good or bad thing depending on what you prioritize. Narrative or crazy over-the-top action sequences? I knew what to expect coming into Advanced Warfare so I enjoyed the ride. When it comes to the visuals, this game is a hit or miss. The character models and faces look great, but the environments can be disappointing. Some areas look good while other areas fall flat. I really like the fact that the HUD elements are kept to a minimal, all the information you need is usually found on the weapon you’re using. The cinematic’s in-between missions look amazing and you’ll probably recognize one of the faces in the game as Kevin Spacey who lends his likeness to one of the main characters. Another face you’ll see often in the game is that of Troy Baker. You might not recognize his face but Troy Baker is known for his voice acting and gained recognition after his stellar performance as Joel from the Last of Us.

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Some of the set-pieces in Advanced Warfare are intense and memorable. I won’t spoil any of them but I had a lot of fun playing through some of the scripted moments. The biggest difference between this Call of Duty and previous games is the introduction of the exo-suit. It’s the main gimmick of Advanced Warfare. You’ll now be dashing, dodging and jet packing around levels. This adds a whole different aspect to the game, especially in multiplayer. Secondly, you wont find any M16’s or AK47’s in the game, you’ll find guns “inspired” by them. You also have futuristic weapons that can shoot lasers while some other guns use energy to take out enemies. The campaign mode has a few flaws that annoy me. My main issue with it is that you have no control over what exo-suit abilities you can use in missions, they’re predetermined. It would have made the game feel a little less linear if you had a choice in abilities. I also dislike the fact that you have squad members who will continuously repeat what you have to be doing while you’re exploring the location you’re in. It gets pretty annoying having a guy telling me to breach the door repeatedly. Which leads me to my next point. What’s the point of collecting intel? It can spoil the pacing of the game and it doesn’t really serve a purpose.

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Multiplayer is enjoyable when it works. The game features a lot of different modes but the problem is that the majority of players seem to only play Team Deathmatch. You’ll still be able to get into other game modes, but it takes longer to find players to join the game. I’m not a fan of Team Deathmatch, I prefer having goals besides trying to kill as many players as I can. One of my favorite modes is Domination which is very similar to Conquest in the Battlefield franchise. In Domination, maps have three controls points that you have to capture and the longer you hold onto these areas the more points you win for your team. For the most part maps are designed well. Some were confusing at first and didn’t seem to have a “flow”, but the more I played these levels the more they made sense. Then there are two maps I just refuse to play because they’re just not fun. Using your exo-suit in multiplayer is beneficial, you can choose not to use your abilities but chances are you wont so well. The players who do well online know how to use their exo-suit efficiently, knowing when to dodge or dash can help immensely. The multiplayer mode also features a loot system. You’ll get random loot depending on the length of time you play, the challenges you complete and loot based on your performance in the multiplayer modes. The items you get can just be cosmetic items like different kinds of helmets or they can be unique versions of weapons that feature special attributes.

The downside of Advanced Warfare’s online mode is the crippling amount of lag you will come across. It seems like there’s no escaping this no matter how fast your internet connection is. This is due to the kind of servers the developers are using for the game. It gets to the point where I just can’t play online anymore. On the second day I owned the game I couldn’t even connect to the servers because of some network issue on their side. Apparently the developers are working on a patch that is supposed to help with this issue.

Even with all its issues I’m glad I picked up this game, it was fun to play through. The length of the single-player campaign was just right and the online multiplayer (when it works) is fast paced and pretty enjoyable. If you haven’t picked up a Call of Duty game in quite some time this is the one that I would recommend.

Score:

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was provided by Xcite.


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Movie Review: Under the Skin

Post by tarekjammal

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I don’t know where to begin with this review.

I don’t really want to delve into the narrative of the film, cause that will just take away all the fun of trying to decipher the story as you watch it.

Let’s be clear up front, this is not a film for everyone. In fact I feel the number of people who will agree with me that this film is excellent is very small indeed, not for any reason other than just how frustrating it can be trying to make sense of it. Although it has a short running time, its pace and mood will find ways to stretch that time beyond its limits. This will feel like a 3 hour movie (when in reality it’s just 100 minutes).

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However

For those willing to watch without judgement and allow themselves to be immersed, experiencing the film rather than analyzing it and tearing it apart, you might be in for quite a treat.

Under the Skin is an exercise in cerebral sci-fi that’s been compared (rightfully so) to the films of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. Most of the film runs without much dialogue at all, and what dialogue there is is ad-libbed by the actors (some scenes are actually shot with a hidden camera as our protagonist talks to random people on the street incorporating their exchanges into the disturbing narrative on hand). Much of the visual imagery is symbolic, much of the sound design is subjective.

Basically, you’re going to have to rely on your senses to understand what’s really going on.

At the center of the film is Scarlett Johannson, in what is easily her best and bravest performance to date. I have never paid attention her before this, and figured she’s capable eye candy (who seems to have found her niche in recent action flicks as a bad-ass heroine). But she floored me here in this subtle and subdued but enriching and methodical performance. It won’t win her any awards (there are no “look at how great an actor I am” moments) and that makes me respect her dedication even more.

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Again, I won’t divulge any plot details, but for those willing to take the plunge, be ready for a dark and disturbing film that blooms into one of beauty.

Each day that passed after my initial screening has only allowed me to appreciate it further.

For myself, I can say now in retrospect, that this is one of the best films of the year. Under the Skin is available on Blu Ray, DVD, and streaming in HD on Netflix.

Score:

Post by Tarek J


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Movie Review: Begin Again

Post by tarekjammal

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I remember compiling a list of the ten best films of 2007, and sure it included no brainers like No Country for Old Men, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Atonement, and of course the monumental There Will Be Blood, which I would confidently place in the top ten films in the history of man category. Amongst such giants, one tiny little film shot on a cheap DV Cam creeped up and charmed the hell out of everyone. This tiny little film had the audacity to be mentioned in the same sentence as the films of Sidney Lumet, Paul Thomas Anderson, and The Coen Brothers. That tiny little film was the beautiful Irish film by newcomer John Carney, “Once”.

And since then, I’ve been waiting to see what else that director could have up his sleeve. Was he a one hit wonder? Could he sell out and make a soulless film in the pursuit of financial gain? Thankfully, he took his time and brought us this wonderful little gem with a sadly generic title, Begin Again.

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Starring Mark Ruffalo (an underrated actor who’s just so fun to watch in anything really) as a failed record exec in search of music with soul in an industry when all has become rehashed electro pop in search of a quick buck. In fact one of the themes of the film is not selling out. One eventful night, he discovers a singer songwriter with substance (played by Keira Knightly) and his life begins to take meaning again. Now I usually find Keira Knightly incredibly annoying and I’m always ticked off that she ends up in good films cause she tends to ruin them for me. However, for the first time, I found myself utterly charmed by her realistic and unpretentious performance here. Also, who woulda thought she had such a great singing voice?

I don’t want to go so much more into the plot as that’s not what’s important here. It’s the experience. It’s the intimate portrayal of the shared joy of creating beautiful music that makes this film so enjoyable to watch. It’s the shameless uplifting mood created by this impressively hopefully filmmaker that makes the film shine.

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There are flaws of course, and sadly the film doesn’t reach the emotional heights of “Once”. One issue with the film is how clean and rounded the storyline is (nothing is left unresolved in the end) which is very different than “Once” which stood out due to its realistic uncertainty that we were left with in the end. Another issue was the dialogue, which I feel could have been a bit richer, or a bit more realistic (as it was with Once). However, the mood that John Carney creates sort of sells it. And the actors themselves do such a good job at delivering emotions with silent glances that the dialogue takes a back seat to the chemistry you can’t help but feel on screen. This isn’t a film of cliches, the struggle isn’t about getting the girl, or making a hit, or falling in love. It’s a film that highlights friendship and art, and that is extremely rare in American films these days. So sure, some moments may be cheesy, but its in those silent glances that credibility exists.

Let’s be straight, Begin Again is NOT a film for cynics. It is uplifting and hopeful in a way that only Cameron Crowe (Director of Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous) could capture.

This isn’t a movie for film critics. This is a film for romantics and believers.

An utter joy to experience.

Score:

Tickets to this movie were provided by Cinescape. Find out what other movies are currently playing and book tickets online on the Cinescape [Website]

Post by Tarek J


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