Killer Croc: a few things you might want to know
Just this past week the biggest announcement to date was released regarding the casting of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (LOST) as the one and only Killer Croc. Okay…so maybe not the biggest news concerning the upcoming live-action adaptation of Suicide Squad. Perhaps you might consider Jared Leto as The Joker to be the biggest news. Or maybe Will Smith as Deadshot. Well…as terrifying and dastardly as The Joker and Deadshot may be, Killer Croc remains my favorite among the Batman universe villains. Killer Croc is easily twice as frightening as any other baddie. And not just because of his appearance, no. But because of who and what he is — how he came to be, and what he remains, human at our most basic level. Here’s a little skinny on Killer Croc. Just a few things you might want to know:
Killer Croc was born…different. A genetic disorder that gave him his reptilian appearance. As he grew older his strength increased and he found he had the ability to regenerate. However, regeneration came with a cost. Each time, according to comic book lore, Killer Croc uses his gift he becomes more animalistic or reptilianistic, if you will. Not just in behavior but in appearance as well. My first introduction to Killer Croc was in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), however, in that series he was not very impressive. Just some grey looking dude with a bad attitude. My second introduction to Killer Croc was my favorite because he was at his lowest most primal state, in Batman: Arkham Asylum. I can still remember the feeling of both awe and dread, thinking: ‘I have to face off with this dude later? Jeezzus!’ But underneath it all, Killer Croc is still human, despite his appearance or behavior, no matter how much he wants people to think otherwise.
Killer Croc wasn’t always Killer Croc. He was Waylon Jones, for a time. A classic trademark of Batman villains, Mr. Jones was not born a monster, but became one through years of abuse and torment. In his case, because of his monstrous outward appearance. In fact, according to comic book lore, “Killer Croc” was a nickname bullies gave him when he was just a boy. Eventually, Waylon disappeared and only Killer Croc remained. He’d spend the majority of his young adult life in reform schools or behind bars. After prison, he joined a traveling circus and performed by wrestling giant alligators to the death under his destined name, Killer Croc. This is the background I hope writers use in casting Killer Croc in Suicide Squad, the circus performer gone rogue. But its doubtful they’ll make use of his history. There is a point in some of the comic storytelling where Killer Croc tries to take over the mob in Gotham. When that plan fails, not just because of Batman’s heroics, but because Bane breaks his arms, he pulls a stint in Arkham Asylum. After escaping, he flees into the sewers, becoming even more bestial, and consuming human flesh.
To the best of my knowledge, Killer Croc was never in any of the old Suicide Squad comics and his role in the film has been undefined, for the time being. However, there has been a directorial tease regarding where the new upcoming movie will take us, Arkham Asylum. As mentioned above, in the hit 2009 video game with the similar title, Asylum could very well be the place Suicide Squad bumps into Killer Croc. As much as I would love for the big baddie to have a larger role in the film, I have a gut feeling he’ll just be making an appearance or playing a part through a small portion of the film. Say, prison escape or something like that. Discovering Killer Croc in Arkham will be the best way to introduce this largely unfamiliar character to larger audiences. As Arkham is both dark and creepy, it would make the perfect setting to showcase the monstrous Killer Croc. The movie is set to release next year, but hopefully we’ll get more details as they become available.
Who is YOUR favorite Batman baddie? Let us know in the comment section below!
Resident Evil Director’s Cut: 18 years later…
If you’re like me and you’ve had your nose stuck in a new/old Stephen King book (i’m currently reading The Shining BTW) and/or working on the next big writing project — editing and formatting till blood starts to drip out your ears and you’re wondering how much more hair you can pull out before you start resembling Jean-Luc Picard, than you’re probably just now finding out about the new upcoming remastered edition of Resident Evil. That’s right folks, you heard it here (but most certainly not first) our beloved and most cherished PS1 1997 introduction to survivor horror is being polished up for the next gen consoles, including: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC. The release date is slotted for tomorrow Jan 20th 2015. And the price is set at $20.00 according to BloodyDisgusting(dot)com.
It is somewhat frightening to think that its been 18 years since the original released on PS1. The same year Resident Evil released, I got my first job working at Subway back when they used to cut the bread in a V instead of how normal people cut bread, through the middle. It was a crappy job to be sure, and I went home reeking of baked bread every day. But it was all worth it! With my very first paycheck, I went out and bought a PS1. And guess what game I got to go with it? Yup. Resident Evil Director’s Cut!!! It was an amazing game — still is, which is why I’m assuming the powers that be have decided to remaster it. Resident Evil was my introductory course in survival horror. Till this day, I cannot exactly say what got me into horror, it was either the Night of the Living Dead remake or Resident Evil. Regardless, my heart was set on the dark and macabre. One of the best moments (and there are plenty) from the game was in the long narrow hallway at the beginning. One moment your just walking around, minding your own business, and the next mutated dobermans are coming through the windows! Great jump scares to be sure. And during the late 90’s, I gobbled up everything and anything zombie — though admittedly, I was a Romero purist at the time (still somewhat am) and did not care for the dark comedy rants of Return of the Living Dead. In my growing age, I’ve come to adore the significance of Return of the Living Dead…at least for the first one. The others are still garbage, if you ask me.
According to BloodyDisgusting, the game will retain all it original glory. The biggest difference will be a more fluid control scheme (whilst maintaining the original controls as a second option for purists) and the graphics. They’ve also ditched the awesome live action scenes and replaced them with animation. The graphics are obviously redone. And the soundtrack has been refurbished as well, impressively so, according to the reviewer over at BloodyDisgusting. The story hasn’t changed, which is good because the story was amazing to begin with. And if the price is as Bloody reported ($20) by the weekend I’ll be taking a nostalgic journey back into the coagulated world of Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield and the S.T.A.R.S. unit as they investigate not only the missing Alpha team, but the reported missing persons surrounding Spencer Mansion.
Quick Review: Dragon Age Inquisition
Any long time reader of the blog here will know that I am a huge fan of Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise. Yes, despite the faults with both Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3, I am still a fan. Why? Bioware can weave a story like no other. Though, they ought to be careful, lots of indie companies and writers are coming out of left field with amazing stories and even more engrossing games. Consider the recent positive release of “The Evil Within” as just one example of amazing storytelling from the fantasy given folks over at Bethesda. Bethesda, personally, is not a game producer in which horror springs to me. Fantasy, yes. Terror induced nightmares, no. But they did it, and its all for the better because hopefully it’ll keep other game developers on their toes producing even better stories and games. However, we’re here to talk about Dragon Age Inquisition. So lets chat.
I was really excited about the release of Inquisition. Again, I love the series. I love creating my own custom hero and going forth on quests and dungeon raiding, and all that nerdy mess. As a writer, my medium is horror. I live and breath horror. So, fantasy games like Dragon Age allow me to step back and breath from fresh air before lunching back into the pit. So hopefully my now, you can imagine my excite with the release of a new installment. And there I was, Friday night, all to myself. Wife was out with friends. Kid was spending the night with grandma and grandpa. I was all alone!!! I insert the disk. Feet dancing away in delightful anticipation. And what do I get? I big oh 10-15 min. loading time. Apparently, without warning (thanks Bioware) the game will take up 7G’s of storage space. This wasn’t a problem for me, though not everyone has that much memory. So this is my first taste, after all the waiting, I have to wait some more. No big deal. Be patient, right? Okay…moving on.
To help clarify, I do not own an Xbox One. I’ve got the older sister, the Xbox 360. The Xbox One will be in the foreseeable future, but not yet. Not until I’m pretty much forced into forking over the hefty funds to purchase one. But with games, like Inquisition being offered on the 360, I feel like the change is not yet necessary. Or is it?
Dragon Age Inquisition is offered on a wide range of platforms, including my own 360 version. But maybe it shouldn’t have been. Let me explain. Once the loading time finally finished and I got to the game itself it became very apparent this was not the game I was sold. For the last Dragon Age that will be offered on the 360, no doubt, I expected something — more. The graphics will elementary. Plastic even. The custom options for your custom hero are languished, at best. When I heard you could add scars for your character, I got all nibbly bibbly! But when I went to look for it during my character creation slot, the scars were no where to be found… even worse, the beard option and hair options are equally despicable. You almost have to make your character as bland as toasted oats in order not to look unbearably manikin.
Look. I don’t want to sound like a sour apple. I have no idea if this game looks better on the next gen console than it does on the 360. But there are a lot of faults with this game. Mostly with the way it looks. The game play graphics, the sound effects, everything…its all weird, and, well, lazy looking. I feel, with the product that is in front of me, like Bioware rushed it out the door to meet the Holiday season, forgetting to do some coding with the 360 version. Hopefully, some of these issues can be resolved with some simple updates. I just pray they take the time to do them.
Okay. With everything I don’t like with this game, there’s a lot of it that I do like. The story, though choppy at first, is solid. I felt thrown into the mix without a narration. Okay Bioware, this is basic storytelling. You need a narration. Once I got my feet on the ground, the story started making more sense. And I am currently enjoying the game a lot more. The combat system is fun, much like the second game. The areas are massive. And the side quests are plentiful. Almost to the point where you’ll spend hours in just one area. The new details are also fun. Like with the War Room. I feel like I am actually playing the part of Inquisitor. Plenty of looting, despite the super small text font. There are plenty of new twists to the game to keep your interest. I am just into the very beginning of the game still, as I spent most of my weekend hanging out in Hinterlands. I eventually had to walk away in order to experience more of what the game has to offer. I did get to watch a giant and a dragon duke it out on the coast and then was able to take down the giant. Just watch out for the flying boulders. The impact will kill your character. The options for strategy look impressive, though the party characters all ready come equipped with general combat common sense, which is good. Plus there is an added feature, the “run away!” approach. I had to use this Monty Python strategy a few times against annoying fade creatures.
I’d give this new installment 3 out of 5 stars. I was/am disappointed on how rushed the game looks. Again, my review here is for the 360. i pray the One version is cleaner. But the more I play Inquisition the more I like it. And no doubt my rating will go up to 4 out of 5 stars if only Bioware actually puts out a patch and update all the messy glitches. If you have not yet purchased the game, you may want to wait and see if Bioware actually does put out a patch. Or, if are a hardcore Dragon Age fan and do not want to wait and can put up with mediocre graphics, then by all means. As I said, the game is growing on me, though it shouldn’t have to and if this was any other game from any other production company, I may have returned to sender! In summary, the graphics need major improvements, as well as the glitches; while, the story and combat systems are impressive.
The Fate of Mass Effect
If you tuned into the last Bioware induced post a few months back, during the late summer months, Machine Mean discussed, to some extent, rumors and overall fate of the continuation of the Mass Effect universe. We discussed the terrible three choice ending of M3, as well as possible future directions. The web is still abuzz with fan fiction rumor, but the continuation as been, more or less, confirmed. Bioware producer Michael Gamble, in answering a fan question regarding any new DLC for M3, responded with “nope. Citadel was the last DLC, we have a full, brand new game to make!” With that being said, i’m sure every subject of the nerd kingdom had already assumed as much, but then again…with as much hate over the ending to M3, many of us nerds were left with nagging uncertainty. At this moment, I think its rather safe to exhale. There will be a new Mass Effect…perhaps as soon as 2015 (best guess).
Whatever direction the new game will take is still highly conjecture. No one knows for sure. I’ll be praying that its not a prequel as I want the very memory of M3 behind me. It happened. It was horrible. Lets move on. From some of the stuff leaked during PAX, in a closed meeting with a few hardcore fans, Bioware reps asked a few interesting questions that could lead to some insights in the direction M4 (or whatever its eventually called, but for now, for clarity, lets just call it M4). Here are a few of the questions:
1. What does N7 mean to you? (Most interesting question. Sounds something similar to what was discussed on Machine Mean back in August)
2. When asked if the group preferred a prequel, sequel, or something new entirely, the group responded overwhelmingly that they preferred a sequel. (Which sounds good to me because, though some prequels are necessary, it would feel like a waste of time and effort with Mass Effect.)
3. Two new species was revealed; however, the group was asked if they had to choose two from the already existing pool to leave out of the game, which ones would they choose. (The revelation of two brand new species sounds amazing; the two the group by % choose to leave out of the new game were the Krogan and Quarian species’. I can get behind leaving the Quarian’s out, to be perhaps included later on in a DLC, but how could they vote off the Krogan’s? They are the most badass species in the entire Mass Effect universe!!!)
The rest of the presentation basically was to talk about having a more detailed armor customization and crafting better looking species for in-game play. There was also some talk about bringing back the feel of M1, which is also something we talked about here back in August. Don’t get me wrong, M2 was an amazing game and highly replayable, but the feel and mood and tone of M1 was what really set the series apart from other RPG’s. If you want to check out my source for all this new info, watch the video by RocketChainsawAU below:
For now, it looks like we’re going to get something similar to what we here at Machine Mean speculated back in August; except for having a story crafted around the Specters, we’ll get an N7 based story. The only nagging issue with an N7 story is that it limits the chances of having an multispecies character option to nill. Best to my knowledge, N7 is a human special ops team. Will the N7 story still be awesome? Maybe, but less than if they allowed character creation to branch off a little more, giving the player to choose a foundation other than human. Just like the Specters though, N7 is an area that hasn’t been fully explored before. So even though we know what it is and have heard about in our past adventures with Shepard, it will be entirely new.
Until then, we’ll have to keep our ears to the ground and hope more credible information will be leaked.
The Sound of Sci Fi
Good science fiction stories will reach its audience at every level possible. What began as short story collections, beginning in the 1950’s, how sci fi entertains has spawned into something greater. From video games to 3D IMAX theaters, the evolution of our modern technological marvels has given these science fiction stories the ability to reach audiences in ways never though possible. With humble beginnings, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), Invaders from Mars (1953), Forbidden Planet (1956) and many more terrified and captured the imagination of adolescent baby boomers and addressed some of the cultural attitudes and fears of the day. And since then, sci fi has only grown more elaborate and celebrated.
As stated above, good science fiction reaches audiences in many ways. Some people dig the cool special effects. What began as puppetry has evolved into CGI created wonders, some good, some amazing, and to be honest, some down right horrifying! And there’s also the story itself, the characters and the things that drive the plot to final conclusion. Some come at you, some of slow cookers, and other can be as mind boggling as the special effects. And then there’s the music. However, what began just from simple beginnings with orchestras has evolved into full fledged techno symposiums. Some on the best science fiction has come with even more remarkable scores. Consider the following list of amazing sci fi soundtracks:
1. Mass Effect
You may have read this already, but Mass Effect, despite its more recent story setback with # 3, has one of the best soundtracks for a sci fi video game I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening. This simple techno score transports my minds eye to somewhere in the distant future, which is of course, the entire point of science fiction in the first place!
2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Besides already packing an impressive conspiratorial cyberpunk story line, Deus Ex also gives us an amazing score to boot.
3. Half Life 2
Half Life’s “Hazardous Environments” score is synopsis with the entire Valve production company. Regardless, its still an awesome score, especially in its above entirety.
Did you think I wasn’t going to mention Halo in a list composed of mostly video games? Yes, as we all know or should know, Halo has one of the more memorable soundtracks, combining a mix of techno with Gregorian chant and is one of the more guaranteed songs to be featured @ a Video Games Live concert.
Okay, to be honest, I never stepped into the massive sandbox world of EvE; however, for a game i’ve never played, it has one of the most hypnotic scores to grace my nerd ears. Almost on par with Mass Effect and that is most definitely saying something!
6. Almost Human
It might be strange to list one none video game score amongst a sea of video game soundtracks, but Almost Human has, at the moment, the best sci fi score out there. It may be unfair, as the composition comes from the collaborative genius of The Crystal Method. But be-that-as-it-may, the final credits score captures the very essence of modern science fiction so well and so perfectly, how could I not mention it? If I was to have a sci fi wet dream, this is the music i’d want to hear 24/7. Its not crazy get up and dance like retards techno, its moody techno, and it fits me perfectly!
What are some of your favorite science fiction scores? Leave your thoughts in the comments box below!
Batman Arkham Origins & the Symphony of Emotion
October is crawling. The anticipation of both Halloween and the release of Batman: Arkham Origins is almost too much! While Halloween is easily sedated by simply screening the many wonders of horror and spooktacular films, like: The Thing, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Frankenstein, and so on; but, what can be done to quench our unsteady nerves as we wait and wait and wait, as it seems, for Origins’ release? Besides playing one of the two predecessors, Asylum or City, the only thing left is to tediously scourge and watch as many YouTube videos as we can muster. Such as the below video from RobotGamer1HD:
Which isn’t half bad. Here, we at least get a look at some of the game play. What did you think? Awesome, right?!? Seriously, thinking back when Arkham Asylum was first released, who would have thought the game (before you played) was going to be so amazing? The greatest part was being able to put ourselves into the story and from the very get-go, was so pleasantly surprised how much the game did not suck. How being competed wasn’t a complete waste of time (cough-cough Mass Effect 3). One of the most clever parts with this new generation of Batman games…and yes, clever, are the stories, the little tugs on our emotional heart strings, pulling us deeper into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and making us a part of his world: from the Asylum, being dosed with Scarecrows toxin and subjected to nightmarish flash backs of when mommy and daddy got shot, and with Arkham City, when Wayne’s very life was on the line through the entire game, the poison within slowly eating away on our insides. Plus, plenty of action to make the game masculine enough to call ourselves men (or ladies, whatever the case may be)! Here is one of the newest clips for the upcoming Batman release:
While there isn’t any actual game play; the story is very much alive in this just shy of a minute TV spot. Here we see the catalyst for Batman’s existence. Besides the original CGI Origin video released several months ago, this particle clip is my next favorite. Why? Sure, its rather simple and also rather short. Where you don’t see much; you feel plenty: the raw energy of vengeance being transformed into something greater, something criminals would fear and victims hope. The reason why so many of us nerds love the series and are, again, excited to don the mantle of masked vigilante and take part in one the greatest story arcs yet created.
Batman: Arkham Origins releases in just over a week! Oct 25, 2013…
Resident Evil: 11 year review
Resident Evil, for all its flawed and confusing movie adaptations, cannot seem to lose its 1990’s nostalgic luster. Who can honestly say, despite all the years of watching Millia Jovoich in a constant one woman carnival, that they still do not have some fondness for the franchise, or the original game at the very least? Being scared witless as decaying dobermans crashed through the windows of a hall previously thought cleared, will forever be how I understand and love Resident Evil (Directors Cut): as survival horror at its best. And it might seem silly now, especially with how gruesome video games have become, but back in 1996, this was good stuff; still is in my opinion. Who can forget this particular scene below?
Turning the corner, this was our first encounter with Resident Evil’s zombie, and our lives have since been forever changed! The Romero styled walking corpse was the big appeal with Resident Evil as a video game, for me at least. The other monsters were cool, but the zombies were the foundation. And the zombie, one could say, was the contributing factor for the original movies success with fans. Albeit, when Resident Evil became a film, it was already fighting an uphill battle, especially when considering how in 2002, video game movie crossovers were all stinking awful (Yes, even Mortal Combat was not as good as it could have been. Nerd blaspheme? Perhaps, but its honest). Paul W.S. Anderson definitely had a monumental task ahead of him. However, before moving on with this review regarding Anderson’s take on Resident Evil, we need to mention the original writer/director tasked with bringing this beloved game to the big screen, George A. Romero. That’s right folks, the undead king himself was hired after directing a popular Japanese commercial for the Resident Evil 2 video game, back in 1998. Romero’s script remained close to the original story with the game, keeping Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine as the main protagonists and the plot evolving around the mansion located in the Arklay Mountains surrounding Raccoon City Forrest. There were minor changes to some of the characters and to the story itself, but these were minimal and did not overt the overall story in any negative way. Thankfully Romero’s script still survives, you can check it out here.
As for Mr. Anderson’s take, its hard to hate it completely, especially considering how well it fared as an early crossover when all the other crossovers at the time sucked ass and other obstacles he faced, including die-hard Romero purists who had heard about their icons rejected script and boycotted the film. But Anderson did an honest revision on the story, stepping away from the video game hierarchy, though not completely, and creating an original piece that could navigate, as best it could, around angry nerd criticisms. This is also the film where the crooked ankle zombie walk became popular, so kudos to the actor who made that possible! However, with the positives, there will also be negatives, so lets divide this review between the two.
James Purefoy is one of the best modern horror villains (see The Following). He’s not monster, per-say, he just has a different perspective on life; he’s a character, not a caricature , and a part of that is why he’s so enjoyable to watch on screen. Another positive and enjoyable aspect from the film was the Umbrella Special Ops Team, sent into the mansion to breach the underground laboratory. Watching these guys (and girls) was like watching a squad of Colonial Marines, complete with their own tuff as nails Private Vasquez, or as I like to call her, 1980’s Michelle Rodriguez. Obviously, Mr. Anderson had a solid and well scripted cast, which helped develop an enjoyable atmosphere of suspense. The zombies were good; though, there were some unnecessary attributes we’ll discuss with the next section. The dogs were awesome and traditional, to an extent. Though I wasn’t really thrilled with the whole “red queen” A.I. scenario, it definitely added to the mess of humanity verses our own creations; the age old warning against unrestrained scientific development. Another positive was when Matt Addison shouted “Get over here,” a totally awesome nod to Anderson’s video game movie crossover, Mortal Kombat. And, the general overwhelming feeling of eeriness felt throughout the entire picture, even after the cheesy action sequences.
Despite Mr. Anderson being able to pull off something decent, he still fell into the action-horror trap: overusing CGI. We won’t get into the deep end of the debate, but let me mention, again, that CGI has its place and can be used in horror to its benefit; however, directors tend to overuse computer graphics because in the long run its cheaper than developing awesome hand crafted effects. Be that as it may, the issue with CGI is that technology is constantly improving and the programs and designs we come up with now will look totally cheesy later down the road. Horror movies should be built to last. Consider Carpenters masterpiece, The Thing (1982),if you need a reference for a how an amazing timeless piece of horror should look. During the plot development, there was an unnecessary “ticking clock” scenario playing out; when in the end, the other guys end up being able to open the sealed doors. Their mission should have been a plain and simple rescue and intelligence gathering op. Anderson using the Hunter as the “big bad” when he should have used the Tyrant, was also disappointing. With the Tyrant, he could have skipped over the worst CGI created creature ever (though, to his credit, the Hunter probably looked cool 11 years ago; but then again, this adds to my above argument regarding the use of CGI).
The Bottom Line:
Mr. Anderson’s take on Resident Evil wasn’t horrible, though it could have been much (much) better. And i’ll always wonder how George A. Romero’s movie would have looked like, but then again, because he was turned down for this flick, Romero was then able to work on his Land of the Dead script, which he finished at the dawn of 9/11 (thus having to go back again and redesign the story for the new “normal”). Sometimes, even though we don’t really understand it at the time; things end up working out. Ultimately, Resident Evil was enjoyable to watch, and should most certainly be added to you’re zombie playlist for Halloween. You could also throw in the second adaptation, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, which was, in my humble opinion, just as good as the first. What could be said that hasn’t already been said? Sometimes horror moves fail to stand against the test of time, but even 11 years down the road, Resident Evil isn’t half-bad. And secretly, i’m hoping for a future remake based more on the video game. Maybe even perhaps a completely fresh reboot with Romero’s vision in mind! How awesome would that be? And lastly, how could I end this review without giving kudos to Anderson’s nod toward Romero (pictured below). Respect yo!
Saints Row IV: One Hour Review
Within an hour of playing the new outrageous Saints Row installment, doubt of their triumphant return were laid to waste. Considering this is a franchise building since 2006, when most series’ lose their luster within a few short years, Volition didn’t disappoint. In fact, as it seems so far, Saints Row IV does everything and anything it can to pander to the belligerent decadence of pop-culture nerds. From old school movie references to the modern Golden Globe nominees, Saints Row offers itself almost as a parody…almost. Deep down there is an actual story being told boarding on the serious. How so, you ask? Serious is, believe it or not, accurate… to a point. In the previous games, the player confronts and eliminates rival gangs, while in Saints Row IV the player takes on an alien invasion as the President of the United States on a rage embedded quest for revenge. So lets take a look at this beast point for point!
The Opening (there’s going to be some spoilers up ahead. If you wish to avoid reading details regarding a game you have not played but plan to, you should probably avoid reading reviews in general, just saying):
Per a quick run in over at GameStop, as the purple endued disk began to turn inside my soon to be old generation 360, I pondered how Saints Row IV could out stage the opening air drop sequence from predecessor, Saints Row the Third. Lets be honest here, the Third had one of the best game openings ever to grace the video game industry, especially coming from a dick and fart joke studio. Over-the-top laughs backed with emotional tugs (i.e. Johnny Gat…you know…sad panda face) and plenty of 1980’s-esk action (run and gunning you’re way out the back of a cargo plane during mid-flight). How could Volition out-stage their own previous game? I’m sure really that they did, again, the Third was an amazing opening, but # IV was still awesome. The best part was in its honesty. The opening sequence showed you what to expect throughout the rest of the game: smooth action, plenty of explosions, punch-drunk jokes, one-liner dialogue, hilarious movie nods, violence, and actual characters; not charactures. And then there was the reverse Dr. Strangelove, as The Boss (your character if you haven’t guessed) jumps on the side of a nuke as it skyrockets, pulling wires and dodging falling debris, all the while your faith crew are giving you their sad farewells. By the way, if you don’t know who or what Dr. Strangelove is, SHAME ON YOU!!! Watch the clip below:
The Boss (you) survive, duh. After pulling out the last bit of wiring, the character kicks off the nuke just before exploding during ascension. Looking a bit like Issac Clark (see Dead Space) your character plummets back toward earth, giving the viewer a triumphant thumbs up, as if saying (in my humble opinion): “Sure, we’re not jumping and shooting our way off a plane, but we did just parallel surfed a nuke.” The screen cuts and reopens with your dude or dudette or trans-dude drop landing into the Oval Office, signaling: “this is how you became President.” My reaction? Pure utter ecstasy! Saints Row has this strange ability to balance non-sense with seriousness. Nukes, terrorism, and war are all serious things, and Volition takes those serious things and mixes them with the humor of a college undergrad. In what other game can you be full blown patriotic, while equally non-conservative? Saints Row IV, while at the same time teases American patriotism, also exhorts it. Only one hour into the game and I can already see the replayability potential!
One of the better aspects of Saints Row is being able to craft your own hero. With the fourth installment, you can literally create whomever your diabolical heart desires! From She-Hulk to Doctor Manhattan to any other beloved media icon and everything inbetween. My personal favorite (for some twisted reason) is the tranny with the deep British accent: which is by the way, pure hilariousness. The options are near-limitless. The only aspect holding the creation station back from perfection are, once again, the clothing and hair choices. Those areas, thus far (one hour into the game) need more attention. If your a Who fan, clothing and hair for the 10th Doctor is available, but good luck finding anything resembling Smiths take on the Time Lord.
The newest addition and most oddest is the inclusion of super powers. How does this work? Well, technically, your character is inside a simulation per Matrix-esk. Once unlocked during the story, you can collect Crack Down looking blue “orbs” to expand upon your new found abilities, such as: super sprint (no more need for cars) and super jump. Giving long time fans what they really wanted, players can now dress up like Neo or Trinity and bound from roof top to roof top. The best part…well…one of the best parts in having super powers is being able to sprint attack mundane foes, instantly killing them via various special attack moves. Boss fights still require a little finesse, allowing players to strategize their plan of attack (normally with a freeze-shotgun blast combo).
Missing in Action:
So far, Saints Row IV has been richly entertaining. Plenty of laughs, plenty of choices, and plenty of action. But the one thing i’m missing (one hour in) is having a place in the world to call my own. Looking at the game as being an actual person playing a simulation within a simulation separates me even further from making this game “my world.” So far, there are no cribs. The old world your character once knew and loved is no more, the dreaded Zinyak has wiped away all traces of what once belonged to the Third Street Saints. Even though I never did spend much time inside the walls of my custom designed homes in the previous games, I knew they were still there, a place to hang my virtual hat. As I understand the game thus far, home is outside the simulation, inside the ship you commandeered with Kinzie and Keith David. I’m still only an hour into the game, but this is the one nagging feeling that’s got me missing the old games.
Buy this game! Wait…allow me rephrase. Buy this game…if you have a sense of humor and enjoy games with absurd comedic tropes. Buy this game if you like over-the-top action combined with tons of awesome movie references. Buy this game if you enjoy customizing your own hero. Buy this game if you think debauchery, non-sense, lewd, and obscene dialogue are entertaining. Running out of reasons? Nope! Buy this game if you think fervent patriotism and non-conservatism can coexist in the most hilarious kind of way. The greatest thing to love about Saints Row is how they’ve become their own genre. Back in the day (2006), folks wrongly compared them to Grand Theft Auto, while in actuality, the Saints had branched away from the very beginning. Grand Theft is pure drama, while good, it takes itself way too seriously. The Saints have no issue in not taking themselves seriously; while some of their subject matter can be serious, they have fully embraced the so-wrong-it-feels-good vulgarity of comedy. Saints Row IV is more than worth its weight in purple dildos, so what are you waiting for? Throw your hard earned money at Volition and go buy this game!
Will there be a new Mass Effect?
Its been well over a year now and many of us (nerds) have already been asking for sometime now: “Where oh where has my Mass Effect gone?” The buzz on the web has both confirmed and non-confirmed the fate of the Mass Effect franchise. From what i’ve gathered, it doesn’t seem as if BioWare (at this point and time) has any plans on continuing the series. One rumor floating around is that they are actually planning on crafting an entirely new space odyssey. Why? Because the ending of Mass Effect 3 was so confusing and drastic they had to add a free DLC to help explain what happened. Plus, the two out of the three “choose you’re own adventure” ending didn’t help matters…leaving the future of the organic races in the Mass Effect universe questionable. Obviously, plenty O’ gamer became ticked that the series they had been following from the beginning and all the choices they labored over actually didn’t matter in the end. But does this really mean BioWare couldn’t continue the series? Absolutely not and i’ll tell you why.
For one, just because M3 gave the player the option of three different endings doesn’t mean a new Mass Effect game couldn’t pre-select one ending as the foundation to base a continuation from. Basically, in my proposal for a new Mass Effect game, i’m cutting out the two dumbest endings: synthesis and control. Personally, after everything Shepard and his (or her) team had gone through, and the juxtaposed relationship between the Reapers and everyone else (minus the Geth), the only rational ending would be Destruction. Why? I’m glad you asked! The Reapers were (supposedly) immortal amoral beings whose sole purpose was to protect the galaxy by keeping organic life in a drastic cycle of checks and balances…IE exterminating all organic life once they reached a certain point of evolution. The Reapers wanted to keep organic life from destroying the galaxy, which they saw as an inevitable probability, unless advanced organic life could be kept in check through extermination. This is the nuts and bolts of the story, as i’ve understood it.
So, again, why choose the Destruction ending as the foundation? The problem with amoral beings is that they cannot take change into account. Shepard faced similar arguments with the Reaper known as Sovereign, who explained to Shepard during their conversation that the Reapers “impose order on the chaos of organic evolution. You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.” According to the in-game history, the Reapers had already gone through several cycles of extermination. We don’t know how many. But we do know the Prothean’s were the last dominate organic life before what now exists (humanity, Asari, Turians, Krogans, Salarians, Quarians, and many more). Without getting into a huge long drawn out discussion, let me be frank and just say that the biggest difference between the Prothean’s and the modern races was that the Prothean’s were not a peaceful race. They controlled power through a tyrannical government and were reportedly very oppressive to the other races during their time. So much so, we never even hear about the other guys. What little information exists in the game regarding the old races are simply about the Prothean’s with little mention of anyone else. The modern races, represented in the Council and through Shepard’s efforts, while not perfect, made the effort to work together, even more so in the third installment. The Reapers ignored the diplomatic change in civilization.
Convincing an amoral being that you’re not going to ruin the galaxy for everyone else is nearly impossible. In their eyes, organic life is organic life, and must be kept in check. This is why the Reapers should have been Destroyed. My proposal is built from the following ending captured beautifully in Admiral Hackett’s narrative:
A solid Mass Effect game could definitely spring board based on the above ending. The new game should start in the near future, say ten years or so from the events that took place during M3. Why ten years? I think ten years gives a good enough time to allow the worlds damaged during the Reaper invasion to rebuild. Cities could be rebuilt in that time frame, memorials, museums, and military strength as well. The Mass Relays could also be repaired and a new Citadel Council could be established with added races that helped during the war. I would include a Krogan and Quarian representative on the council for obvious reasons. Would the Quarians be “unmasked” now that they have a home world and could stop being vagabond germaphobes? I’ll leave this bit open for debate. It would be interesting to see how the Quarians assimilated into a more broad society.The Krogans would also make for an interesting addition among the civilized galactic community, and they have most definitely earned their place on the council. The Geth should still be on the fringe. Some things cannot be healed with time and the Geth are unpredictable. I would imagine folks surviving the war with the Reapers would have some hostilities toward sentient beings.
More details could be added regarding the other races not included on the Council and some detail needs to be relieved regarding the destiny of past characters. These folks do not need to make a cameo, but the importance of their role in shaping the future cannot be ignored. I think a memorial for Shepard, Anderson, and the Normandy should be a visitable location on Earth in any future Mass Effect game. The one aspect of the previous games they must continue on into any future game is the music, especially from the first game. If your not sure what i’m talking about, check it out below:
My proposal for the hero is to have a full fledged Spectre story! As “Spectres are not trained, but chosen. Individuals forged in the fire of service and battle—those whose actions elevate them above the rank and file,” the Reaper Invasion would have forged many new recruits across several worlds. The best part in doing a spectre story is being able to craft a hero based off a multinational foundation: the spectre’s work for the council and using the back story similar to the one above, you could create a character from the six council represented races. Could you imagine having a playable Krogan character?!? Mind = blown!
This would also be similar to the way BioWare has established some of their other games in the past. This story would be set up similar to Dragon Age: Origins. Each race would have their own origin story which would then funnel into the main spectre story. You could go as detailed as you wanted. Similar to DA, each race would be better suited for different specializations, such as: a Krogan would not be adept, but would be a dangerous solider. Salarians or Quarians would make great engineers, Asari lethal adept or infiltrators, and humans could play toward a more versatile character.
I’m not sure where the story would lead, but considering the vacuum the Reapers left in their wake, there could be plenty of options to choose from. One could be about Cerberus in the aftermath of the Illusive Man’s death. A company that big and shady wouldn’t go quietly into the night. The Batarian’s could also be a good major story, especially considering they no longer have a home world and are struggling to find their place in the galaxy. The Reapers left plenty of scars to base future story’s on and whatever direction BioWare decides to take with it, they will need to be more down to earth than with the original trilogy. The worlds end doesn’t necessarily need to be a factor in every story told and after the events of M3, i’d prefer something a little more mundane. We just saved the entire galaxy; lets work on maintaining the promise of galactic unity.
Whatever happens, we know that Shepard’s story has ended, but the entire Mass Effect lexicon shouldn’t have to end as well. BioWare scribes have spent some considerable amount of time crafting Mass Effect’s rich universe and there are still many things left unexplored. And to be honest, another reason why i’d hate to see this series end is that Mass Effect is as close to a Star Wars console game we’re going to get. The “force lift” and “push” make the adept character the most enjoyable playable class in Mass Effect, hands down!!! For now, the best we (nerds) have to look forward to is the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Inquisition. After that….just maybe we’ll get our next Mass Effect game. Fantasy is great and it has its place in time, but Mass Effect was a truly unique space odyssey.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Say what you will; BioWare makes one hell of a American RPG!! As far back as Knights of the Old Republic, in our sweet land of liberty, RPG’s had already begun leaving behind the classic Japanese styled turned based game for something entirely new. There was a time and place when Japanese RPG’s ruled the roost, we all loved and still cherish Final Fantasy 7, but those days are long gone. What makes American styled RPG’s so special is that the game becomes something completely our own, we craft our own heroes, make our own moral choices, and shape the world as we see fit; some more than others. This was the biggest upset for Mass Effect 3; BioWare took away our control we had in the previous two games and forced a controlled story down our throats. Countless nerds who had been creating something unique since Mass Effect first hit shelves back in 2008, reacted to the so-called three “choice” ending of M3 with obviously outrage.
Understandingly, we’re all feeling jaded and apprehensive with BioWare. Will they make the same mistakes with Inquisition? Considering the pitfalls with Dragon Age 2, its fare to say we are indeed nervous. Now, Dragon Age 2 wasn’t entirely awful, the combat system for one and story, for me at least, were both spot on (though the story wasn’t as deep as Origins, it was still excellent). But because Dragon Age: Origins was so amazing, so awesome, and so deeply detailed, BioWare had some big expectations to satisfy. What I didn’t like about Dragon Age 2 was the limitations in character stories. The choices you made did effect the overall outcome, but even those were limited, especially considering the total of six (seven if you count in the Awakening DLC) origin stories in the first game. In Dragon Age 2, you were either a mage or not a mage, and this simple choice set the foundation for the story you were about to play.
Notwithstanding all the past issues with BioWare, i’m actually excited and looking forward to the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Ever since Origins, there has been this underlying issue between the mages and the Chantry regarding freedom, control, and the use of magic and forbidden magic (aka blood magic). By the end of Dragon Age 2, the issue between the two groups had caught fire and spread into an all out war. According to the official Dragon Age website the new story will be driven by a cataclysmic event that happens during the turmoil. The void, separating the fade from reality, has been ripped open by a group calling themselves the Agents of Chaos, and it will be the heroes mission to hunt them down and restore order…or not restore order. If you are new to the Dragon Age universe, the following videos will show you some of the background that has developed throughout the story thus far. Now, because Dragon Age has a huge universe, i’ll only be showing you the mage version of the story with the most obvious choices nerds have made while playing.
The above clip gives you a little preview of the opening mage story and a peek into the main problem regarding mages and the Chantry: control. Through conversations with other characters throughout the story, you’ll discovery some of the history of the game and why the Chantry imposes on the magi. Because of a few bad apples in the past, they fear anyone with the ability to control magic. And as Master Yoda had taught so many years ago, fear can lead to a lot of nasty things. Understandably, the magi ar’nt so keen on being controlled, and a lot have already begun to break ties with the Chantry, becoming, as the games calls them, apostates (illegal users of magic).
This clip shows you the ending for Dragon Age 2, if you decided to side with the mages. The problems between the Chantry and the mages developed deeper in Dragon Age 2 than it did in Origins. There were a lot more choices to be made, both positive and negative. Brother turning against brother, sister against sister, lines drawn in the sand, and finally when the unthinkable happens, when Anders sets the blaze and the Knight Commander looses control, with not just her city but herself as well. The final cut gives us a little preview of the beginning revolution, the mages have risen up! Personally, since day one, I’ve sided with the mages and made their story, my story. Probably because the mages have the most tragic and most human backgrounds. Past histories shaping future events is a very real and common way to give a tale depth and substance.
Dragon Age: Inquisition has plenty of background to make a fine story indeed. Hopefully, the developers have heard the cries of wounded nerds and have taken them into account. Looking at their website, BioWare is making a lot of promises with this new addition, such as: an open multi-regional world, coordinated group dynamics during combat, being able to physically transform certain aspects of our in-game environments (bases and what not), deep and complicated characters, an extensive customizable hero (from boot color to race and everything in-between), and having overall control of our destiny through choice throughout the story. Here is a video showing us what we all have to look forward to:
Release date for Dragon Age: Inquisition has been set for sometime during the fall of 2014 on the PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One and PC. Many of us have already begun throwing our money at the screen. Despite past mistakes, it looks like we’re ready to forgive BioWare in anticipation of Inquisition. And our curiosity with the outcome with Morrigan grows stronger each day. What happened with her love child? How will she effect the games story? Are you friend or foe? Personally, i’m more than a little optimistic for how well Inquisition will turn out, especially considering that it looks like BioWare are taking more cues from Origins than the second game. Only time will tell and so now all we have to do is play the waiting game…….
The Birth of the Worlds Greatest Detective
April 9, 2013, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced the upcoming release of Batman: Arkham Origins, ushering a third installment in an amazing franchise. This begs the question: can Warner Bros. Montreal (the new developer) deliver? Games are always intended to be linear; getting better with time. However, most of us gamers known all too well that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes things just go bad. Back in 2008, there was a lot of doubt surrounding how well Batman: Arkham Asylum would do. Superhero games are some of the hardest to pull off successfully. But oh Nelly!!! Asylum blew all our nerdy expectations out of the water! Still today, five years later, Asylum is very much re-playable and still very much enjoyable.
The same could be said of Arkham City, which released in 2011. The same voice acting carried over and was top notch for both Asylum and Arkham City, with Kevin Conroy as the caped crusader and legendary actor Mark Hamill as both the Joker and Scarface. The graphics were stunning. The combat smooth and nontechnical. And all the gadgets a budding detective would need in taking down Gotham’s villainy. The only thing missing for me in Arkham City was a continuation of the Killer Croc sub-story that had developed within the pits of Asylum’s sewer. I’m sure there have been other complaints, but for the most part its all nit-picky stuff, nothing fundamentally upsetting. The only thing really nagging me, regarding if Arkham Origins will rock, is that, as mentioned above, WB Montreal are taking the helm, instead of Rocksteady, who had developed the two previous games.
According to Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment website, “Batman: Arkham Origins features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline occurring several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. Taking place before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous villains and assassins, the game showcases a young, raw, unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, witness identities being formed and key relationships being forged.” Thus far, all the press releases following the announcement for Arkham Origins, makes everything seem very hopeful that the game will be one of the best, maybe even perhaps better than Asylum (big maybe).
Some of the new features in the game include new enemies, such as: the Enforcer and a more nimble martial arts experts. The Enforce is as it sounds, a tank, who will need to be dazed and then dearmored by a special attack move before they can be hurt. The latter is more agile foe, with blocks, evades and counterattacks, prompting the Dark Knight to switch tactics more vigorously between all the different enemy types. The new gadgets seem to involve a deeper level of detective play, such as: recreating a 3D crime scene. There are also some new interesting ways of taking down goons, such as with the remote claw, allowing players to aim between two different targets. The new story looks even deeper than the previous two games, with the Black Mask set as the main antagonist. Not much else has really been said regarding all the new features, though I’m sure there will be a few more announcements sometime soon. The trailer/short film recently released showcases some of the games visuals, as well as some of the subtext that will carry the mood of the game. If you haven’t yet watched it (where have you been?), check it out below:
Batman: Arkham Origins is set to release October 25th, 2013.
Dead Space Goes Fan Fiction
Few games have ever truly terrified me. Dead Space, however, has proved to be one of those games in the long history of survivor horror in which I was really, honestly, unequivocally freaked out. Sure, the twisted forms in the fog lands of Silent Hill and those cute little dobermans jumping through the looking glass in Resident Evil (Directors Cut) were both frightening, in their own time. But those scares are trivial compared to Dead Space, the only game I dreaded playing with the lights off, but in some strange way, couldn’t help but to play in the dark. The following film was produced by fans of the series. This honestly proves that a live action film could and would work. Can you imagine if Carpenter or Barker or even Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead reboot) got their creepy little hands on this franchise? Mind = Blown!