Far Cry 3 Review: By Mike Brooks

What can I say intelligently about the Far Cry series? Well, not much. Truth is that Far Cry 3 is the first game in the series that I played from start to finish. I know what you’re saying. How could this imposter of a Far Cry fan ever hope to capture the essence of the series in his review of one game!? The answer is simple. I don’t.
As much as I want to say I have, I really have never played Far Cry 1 or 2. The most I know of its roots stem from watching the miserable attempt at filmmaking that as the Far Cry movie, directed by Uwe Boll.
I’ve long since learned that I should never judge a game series based on it’s film or personal ignorance as to what the game is all about. Had I held on to my prejudice, I may have missed out on one of my greatest gaming experiences of all time!
Far Cry 3 puts you in the shoes of protagonist, Jason Brody. The idea from the start is to rescue your friends and escape the island. Over the course of the story you find the situation changes along with your hero
Normally in FPS games, the last thing I’d mention is the story. Probably a good chunk of the reason I don’t play many FPS games. Far Cry 3 weaves a very intricate and involving story throughout your journey. While it all seems too fantastical for reality, it fits perfectly in the confines of the game. It’s dark. Very dark. But it has enough humor to keep even the most jaded interested. I loved the story and that’s all I’ll say for fear of dropping spoilers.
The thing that stood out the most to me was it’s Assassin’s Creed style properties. Activating a communications tower isn’t any different from activating a viewpoint in Assassin’s Creed. It opens up a chunk of the map and gives you locations ypu didn’t know about before. Same goes for liberating outposts. That involves taking out every enemy however you see fit. Either stealth or brute force. Either way you always feel like you earned it. Plus once you liberate outposts, that region of the map becomes easier to travel as it replaces enemies with friendly personnel
It wouldn’t be Assassin’s Creed 3, if not for the skinning and hunting of animals. In most games this would be a side objective, but in Far Cry 3 it’s essential to survive. You may need a number of certain skins or plants to increase your ammo pouch, how many meds you can carry, or even how many weapons you can equip. Hunting, skinning, and gathering were so important that almost a third of my playing time was devoted to it. It was well worth the time!
One thing that makes games stand the test of time with cinema lovers such as myself is characters. Are the cast of the game worth caring about through my journey or should I just plow through and pick up whatever PSN trophies I can? One of the biggest surprises for me was how much I loved the characters. Especially the bad guys and how much the game made you wanna kill them! Vaas, in particular!
I’d like to point out that the game is riddled with side quests, collectibles, and other activities that will keep you occupied for hours upon hours even after the main story has ended. Whether it be finding lost relics or World War II letters to playing a few hands of poker or knife throwing contests… this game has enough to keep just about anyone occupied

Final Verdict

Far Cry 3 is a masterpiece of both visual storytelling and gameplay. In a year where Assassin’s Creed 3 was so amazing, Far Cry 3 outdid Assassin’s Creed’s own very mechanics. Despite a few very minor annoyances, Far Cry 3 is 2013’s Game Of The Year and it’ll be tough to dethrone!

Score

Graphics - 10
Audio - 10
Entertainment - 9.5
Control - 8.5
Replay Value - 9
Overall - 9.5

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

By Mike Brooks

We all said our fond fairwells to Frodo and company as The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King drew to a close. After we had grown with these characters for over half a decade, it was finally time to bid adieu.

After nearly a decade long hiatus since 2003’s Return Of The King, Peter Jackson is back at the helm with the first of 3 movies in the planned “Hobbit trilogy”. Now keep in mind that I never read the book. My review is strictly based on the execution of the movie. That being said, I will score this purely as a movie-goer and not as a fan of the source material.

Let’s start with the characters. I should point out that compared to LOTR this movie has an overwhelming amount of lead characters. Most of which are dwarves whom the main plot revolves around and sadly, story-wise, most of them are useless outside of comedy relief. It becomes a headache trying to remember their names, let alone what their role is.

Sir Ian McKellan returns wonderfully as Gandalf The Grey and hasn’t missed a beat since his LOTR performances! But the real show stopper is Martin Freeman’s performance as the young Bilbo Baggins. This is what kept me invested from start to finish. It was an amazing performance and Oscar worthy, dare I say.

What really disappointed me the most was the use of old Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins once again played by Ian Holm and Elijah Wood. These scenes seemed completely unnecessary to me and did nothing for the overall narrative of the movie except to needlessly connect this to LOTR. I never read the book and I was already aware of the connection without being once again reminded of Bilbo’s party and how much he fucking hates the Sackville Baggins’.

It was nice seeing some of the old gang. Like Hugo Weaving as Lord Elrond, Cate Blanchet as Galaladriel, and even Christopher Lee as Saruman. It almost seemed like a bit of overkill fan service but I was assured it was in the book.

One thing this movie has going for it is location. Even if the movie failed horribly, it’s still the best tourism video for New Zealand EVER! The landscapes are fantastic and huge. Much in the same way they were in LOTR. Credit the always brilliant scouting of Peter Jackson and his crew. Even the closed sets and cgi sets look fantastic and larger than life! Bilbo’s house was absolutely amazing but also contributes to one of the movies biggest shortcomings.

Pacing. This is the biggest area where the movie stumbled. While I understand that the scene in Bilbo’s house is necessary, it didn’t need to be dragged along for as long as it did. So many times I nearly groaned aloud while this was going on just wishing the story would move forward!

This flaw continues well after Bilbo’s house as well. You see them on their journey for all of 5 minutes before you get a flashback scene or a scene invoving the quirky new wizard Radaghast. It’s entertaining to be sure, but it completely sucks you out of the narrative. Maintaining a great narrative balance was one of the many things LOTR did so well.

The best part of this movie was by far the scene between Bilbo and Gollum (once again portrayed by Andy Serkis). Gollum is still as psychotic as ever and Bilbo, not a killer at heart, chooses to outsmart Gollum. It’s a surprisingly clever game of cat an mouse between the two and makes for one of the best moments in the movie. It only makes me sad that Gollum won’t make another film appearance. :(

One aspect I found myself torn on was Thorin’s attitude towards Bilbo. On one hand it was great. Seeing Thorin completely doubt and even despise the Hobbit for being useless then Bilbo’s journey of redemption to prove himself to Thorin. That was great!

What pissed me off was all these other Dwarves who had little to nothing to offer to the quest that were never questioned once.

Before you chastise me and run amuck about why that is, keep in mind that I’m not reviewing the book. I’m reviewing the movie from a spectators standpoint who hasn’t read the book.

The last thing I’ll touch on is the CGI. While it was done very well, the problem I have lies with the fact that all of the orcs in LOTR were actors in make-up. In The Hobbit, almost all Orcs, Wargs, etc are clearly CGI and it easily disconnects you from the experience. It mafe me miss the orcs from “The Two Towers”. Still it’s a minor gripe as the CGI work was very well done.

In closing I’ll say that I liked the movie. While a lot of it bored me I still left the theater satisfied. At the end of the day it’s a fun family movie that will surely polarize LOTR movie fans but ultimately start what might be the next great trilogy!

Story - 5
Visuals - 9
Audio - 9
Entertainment - 8
Overall - 8.5

Square Enix & Final Fantasy, You Have Failed Us

     THE DEATH OF AN ERA OF BRILLIANCE

     As long as I can remember I have been a huge Square Enix fan! Even when they were separate companies. Squaresoft and Enix. Squaresoft was the bigger company with the bigger library of games. Most notable of those games was the Final Fantasy series. After Final Fantasy VII broke onto the scene on the original PlayStation it snowballed into a household name.

FFVII
     

     Followed by the success of FFVII, Squaresoft made a much more visually enhanced Final Fantasy VIII. It was not as well received by general fanbases. After that Final Fantasy IX was released which offered a very different and very old school look at the series. Despite their flaws many gamers see FFVIII and FFIX as amazing achievements in storytelling and character development.
     Though all three paled in comparison to the technical marvel that was Final Fantasy X. It didn’t have the same darkness to the story that FFVII had but it had likeable characters, an excellent battle system, and a deep and involving story that kept you engaged all the way to the end. In my opinion the only thing that held it back from being truly better than FFVII is it’s ridiculous dork of a main character. Tidus. As loved as FFX is, Tidus is still the butt of many a joke.
     With the overwhelming success of the entire franchise, Square gambled and made a push into World Of Warcraft’s territory. Even being as bold as naming it one of the numbered entries in the series. Final Fantasy XI. Despite initial critical dislike for FFXI’s new more extreme difficulty and insane reliance on group combat, FFXI flourished and gave World Of Warcraft a run for it’s money for a long time! Defying the odds, it still exists to this day. Though my initial character has long been deleted, I met some of the finest people I know and lifelong friends throughout my time with the game!

Hatefrost. Final Fantasy XI
     

     Final Fantasy XII came along shortly after offering a new form of combat that was similar to MMO combat except for the Gambit system. Gambits allowed you to assign predetermined actions to your characters based on certain situations, meaning you could dictate how support characters act as opposed to controlling then yourself. You could even gambit your main character into an unstoppable force if you were smart enough. There were even very tough boss fights that could by won easily by using the right gambits. A skilled player could win without ever touching the controller during the fight.

FFXII
     Of course this brought up many people’s issue with FFXII. Many believed it could be made too easy while others argued that the gambits added unprecedented strategy. For me it was all about the hunts! A series of elite level creatures that roam the game world. Sometimes defeating them is enough. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting them to appear at all. Either way it’s a true challenge for true gamers and just as it should be is completely optional after the initial tutorial on it.
      Several long years later Final Fantasy XIII was released and most gamers were disappointed by the kind of departure the series made since it’s exploring days. Everything felt like a funnel pulling you toward something. You never got that side-quest/ exploration feel of the old games. While it had it’s share of content, FFXIII was a disappointment to almost everyone.
     During the time FFXIII was being announced, Final Fantasy XIV was being developed. It was the hopeful successor to FFXI but when it finally released it was bogged down with absurdly hard to navigate menus, boring graphics, boring fights, and a convoluted and almost non-existant personal story beyond what you could read in the opening title.
     FFXIII-2 came out this year but it’s not technically a numbered entry so I’ll just skip it.
     This brings me to the meat and potatoes of the issue. This year, Prada’s Spring 2012 menswear collection will be modeled by characters from Square Enix’s recently released Final Fantasy XIII-2, in a series of specially produced images for the magazine. Even the game’s female lead Lightning is included in the shoot, albeit dressed in male clothing.

Lightning Prada

     Now I’ve given Square Enix a LOT of rope and all they seem to do lately is hang themselves with it. “Prada fashion models!?” What the fuck!? How am I supposed to respond to that? I’m a guy who grew up with this series and now it’s nothing more than a media joke. It’s sad to say but the Square Enix I loved is dead. The Final Fantasy I loved is dead!

Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance Review

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of comic book properties and one in particular I’ve always loved since childhood. Often considered a B-list superhero by most of the mainstream media, Ghost Rider has always been one of the more intriguing superheroes for me. Much like “The Punisher”, the hero isn’t so much a hero in the traditional “Spider-Man” sense but more of an anti-hero. Like The Punisher, the Ghost Rider spirit protects the innocent but violently punishes the guilty.

The problem with that for the Ghost Rider is that almost everyone is guilty of something and is thus judged. It’s a great idea and the comics did a great job of capturing the duality between Johnny Blaze and his demon form. His film incarnations however, well, they just fail, for lack of a better word. I won’t talk about the first film. Sufficed to say, I didn’t like it. When I heard there was going to be a sequel I groaned aloud because of my distaste for the first film. Then I started seeing trailers and teaser clips. I thought to myself. This actually looks pretty awesome! Maybe I’ll give this a chance. Well, I did. Read on….

Let me be clear right off the bat by saying that this is NOT a good movie by any definition of the term. It’s a movie most people will feel that they’ve wasted their hard earned $10 to see. $13 if you chose to see it in 3D. It’s a wreck. Story-wise, it’s a slap in the face to anyone who’s ever seen The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, or Iron Man. That being said, I actually found this movie somewhat entertaining. Probably not for the traditional reasons though.

This movie moves along at ADD pace. At some moments there is so much action that your eyes feel like they will explode! At other times there is so little going on that you just want an extended bathroom break. That kind of balance isn’t good for anything. Where this movie shines is it’s action scenes. There are 2 major ones throughout the film and it becomes clear that the bulk of this movie’s budget went into them. I loved those 2 scenes and that is essentially the only reason I’m not chalking this up as a waste of time.

There was also some lighthearted humor that actually had me laughing out loud. Particularly the kid’s imagination of Ghost Rider pissing flames and nodding his head as if to say “Yeah, I’m pissing motherfuckin’ flames, bitch!” There are also scenes where Johnny Blaze (again portrayed by Nicholas Cage) is on the verge of his face bursting into flame where you see the traditional “Hey, I’m Nicholas Cage! I’m a fucking lunatic!” style of acting. It’s funny but you also just have to roll your eyes.

The acting of everyone involved is another one of this movie’s biggest failings. Whether intentional or not, everything seemed almost improvised and each character made you want to give them a swift kick to their respective nether-regions every single time they opened their mouths.

This movie was directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the minds behind “Crank” and “Crank 2: High Voltage”. It becomes very very clear of that not long into the movie. The story of this movie is so thin and nearly non-existent that it appears to merely be there to bridge one over-the-top absurd moment to the next. It’s as if a group of drunk friends with a shit goddamn load of money made this movie.

I honestly hate to say it, but by comparison, the first Ghost Rider film was a work of art. It at the very least had all the conventions of film making and storytelling. This movie abandons everything that makes for a positive cinematic experience and replaces it with a lot of shit that looks cool but with nothing to hold it together. As a fan of the comic I’m sad that for many people this movie and it’s predecessor will be their first introduction to this historic character. Save yourself the time and the heartache. Pass this one up.

Presentation - 3

Visuals - 6

Story - 1

Acting - 1

Overall - 2


I want to take a moment to apologize for the formatting, punctuation, and spelling errors of the preceding reviews. All of them were done on my free time using the “Notes” function on Facebook. When I decided to make the jump to Tumblr where I can write for the Magazine and post my reviews, I simply copied and pasted those “notes” from Facebook.

Of course reading back through I found many errors but I decided to keep them all in tact. It’s how I started and this blog may as well be a journal of how I progress. Even if just for myself. Anyway, I hope you enjoy my reviews and insights. If not I would love to hear your feedback! Email me at mikebrooksreviews@gmail.com. Cheers!!

Batman: Arkham City Review

Who Is The Batman?

 It’s a question that has always been asked throughout the history of this franchise and it’s always been answered in different ways. Most of the common folk will know him best in his movie appearances. Movies that start with Batman (Michael Keaton) facing a very good and very unique Joker, played by Jack Nicholson. Then taking down Oswald Cobblepot, AKA The Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) (who had her own score to settle) at the same time!

  Then we get a new breed of Batman courtesy of the same dude who brought us the first two. Tim Burton. Now we have a Batman and a Gotham City that is more comic in nature! Bringing us to failed Wayne-Tech scientist Edward Nigma and former district attourney gone gangster, Harvey Dent (AKA Two-Face). Plus for the first time in this Burton timeline we see the Dick Grayson Robin, so beautifully butchered by Chris O’Donnell.

Skipping “Batman & Robin”… Not worth mentioning. I know I just did but you can go fuck yourself!

  Then here comes Christopher Nolan with his unique (yet very similar to “Batman: Year One”) take on the Batman franchise! Batman Begins was the breath of fresh air the series needed! It grounded our hero and made him mortal and relatable again. That leads to “The Dark Knight” which I don’t even have to say is one of the biggest movies of all time!

  Out of nowhere comes this small studio who is known for nothing, with this licensed game called Batman: Arkham Asylum. Suddenly Batman fans are in an uproar of applause because the comic-verse of Batman has never before been given this kind of loving treatment! It’s a game like no other that tells a rich story but also gives fans of the World’s Greatest Detective a chance to step behind the cowl and take on some of Batman’s most ruthless villains!

The Hero Gotham Needs

  With the amazing success of Arkham Asylum, fans (like me), as the ravenous maniacs we are, clamored for a sequel… and a hell of a sequel is what we got! The day it came out I went above and beyond to annoy the hell out of my Facebook friends due to my excitement. I was at the same time worried that my excitement might be for a sub-standard sequel. It didn’t stop me from pre-ordering it and I’m happy to report, all the hype was understated!

  Once the game starts it’s a love letter to fans from both Rocksteady and DC. It’s clear from the outset they wanted to make the greatest Batman experience of all time! The opening holds you more than any movie ever could because of it’s interactive properties. Once you’re set loose, you’re engaged and in it to win it!

This Ain’t No Place For A Hero

 Arkham City is a brutal and unforgiving place, where the worst of the worst reside as Dr. Hugo Strange’s alternative to Arkham Asylum’s treatments. This is a great place to drop a hero like Batman and see him do his thing where he’s meant to. From the city’s rooftops!

  As quickly as you get the cape and cowl, you find that Catwoman is being held and tried by Two-Face. Now I don’t consider that a spoiler on my part because Rocksteady made that very clear in many trailers. Atr any rate it’s an awesome and suspenseful way to start out the game and it only gets crazier from here!

Riddle Me This!

 In this game the Riddler is back! But unlike Arkham Asylum where the Riddler was little more than a distraction, in Arkham City he has raised the stakes and they are deadly! He has taken several people hostage and if you can’t find enough of his challenges, those hostages will die. I think this approach is brilliant! It gives the side quest “riddler challenges” a lot more substance this time around by making the stakes higher. This time The Riddler truly feels like a villain worthy of the Dark Knight’s time. Unlike the first one. Which was still pretty good.

Voices We Love & Voices We’ll Miss

One of the truly shining moments of this game was the characters! More specifically the voice acting for the characters. There are too many that were brilliant to bring them all up so let’s just talk about the most imortant ones. I’m talkin Mark Hammill and Kevin Conroy!

Mark Hammill is an actor that most people on the planet will associate with Luke freakin Skywalker!! But there are those of us who know him just as fondly in Batman: The Animated Series as The Joker! A brilliant performance that he carried over to Arkham Asylum, and ultimately to Arkham City, which we found would be the final resting place for Hammill’s Joker. Sad, but few actors leave a role with such fan admiration.

Kevin Conroy was cast as Batman in TAS and became the Batman voice of a generation! He was so loved in TAS that he was cast as Bruce Wayne in the cult hit series Batman Beyond! Rocksteady saw this and as a love letter to fans cast him as Batman in Arkham Asylum and then in Arkham City!

Since then the sales and fan feedback spoke for itself! Kevin and Mark were/ are the  greatest superhero vs villian combo of all time! Sadly, shortly after the release of Arkham City, Hammill hung up the trick flower and said goodbye to “The Clown Prince Of Crime”. Hammil will never portray the Joker again. The world dies inside.

An Adventure Worthy Of Gotham

So, what can I say about the gameplay and adventure aspect of it? How about… HOLY SHIT! or AMAZING!? Yeah I could use those words but it would understate the experience. Even having played Arkham Asylum, Arkham City is an experience like no other. Gliding around a fully realized portion of Gotham City as Batman is nothing short of amazing! You can dive, glide, or simply fight your way through and the feel never changes. I AM Batman!!

It’s The Bat!!

I know I talked about Mark Hammill and Kevin Conroy’s iconic performances, but I think it’s fair to point out that all of the voice performances in the game are spectacular! Notable ones are Grey DeLisle as Catwoman, Nolan North as Penguin, and Corey Burton as Hugo Strange. Not to mention the returning great Wally Wingert as The Riddler! It’s an amazing cast who all throw themselves into the character. As a fan I couldn’t ask for more!

Bottom Line, Mr Wayne!

I talked a lot about the history of this Batman and this Joker but they are also my history. I didn’t wanna give too many spoilers away because this game deserves to be played, enjoyed, and remembered. In a time when we get cookie cutter shooters like Call Of Duty and Battlefield, broken games like Skyrim, and unsung heroes like Saint’s Row: The Third, it’s nice that such a polished and beautiful game that pays homage to fans like Arkham City exists! Love this game and this game is why I love gaming!!

Graphics - 10

Audio - 10

Gameplay - 10

Replay Value - 9.5

Overall - 10

Take Me Home Tonight Review

The 80s and Coming Of Age Movies

This movie, “Take Me Home Tonight” has been staring me in  the face for months! I never wanted to see it because it looked, sounded, and for all intents and purposes was a clone of comedy movies like Superbad and Hot Tub Time Machine. Lo and behold… I was right! Don’t get me wrong, there is much to like about this movie. Sadly there is much more to dislike.

Casting

Topher Grace plays pretty much the same role as he always plays (Aside from Predators). For a movie like this it’s a good thing. The script seems to have been written around him. More importantly we have the supporting role of Dan Fogler as Barry Nathan. I don’t know about you but I loved him in Fanboys! He’s just as hilarious here! Then there’s Anna Faris. The kind of role she has seems like a waste. She’s usually hilarious in what she does but this movie is a major exception. Rounding out the major actor list is Angie Everhart. She has gotten older but is still smokin hot and her scenes in the film are hilarious!

Story

At a first glance it seems like any other movie from the 80s and 90s that deals with a pathetic kid who was in love with the prom queen. In those movies he ends up dating the nerdy chick and they are happily ever after. This movie makes the prom queen the nerdy chick. What I mean is she’s the heroine, which is very strange for this kind of movie.

He loves her and lies to her about his occupation. She is fascinated by him because he’s not like the banker he claims to be. Do not be upset with yourself if you simply wanna punch this asshole. You’re not alone. 

Comedy?

I found very little to laugh at in this movie (the acting doesn’t count) despite Dan Fogler. The jokes were the same washed up garbage you would expect from a movie like this. I wish they had taken some notes from “The Stoned Age” on how to make jokes timeless!

I will admit that even though it followed the basic “Nerd loves Prom Queen” formula, it was refreshing that the “Prom Queen” was a likable character. Hell, I wanted to fuck her personality! But Topher Grace’s lies screw that all up and he ends up with nothing.

Lasting Value

As much as I’d like to say this was an awesome and hilarious movie… I just cant. I’ve seen this type of movie too many times. It kept my interest long enough because it followed the right formula, but it’s a movie that will live and die with one night of drinking. It was fun but I can guarantee I’ll never watch it sober.

Comedy - 6

Replay - 2

Originality - 5

Overall - 4


Saints Row: The Third Review

Intro mothafucka!!!

     Saints Row. What can you say about the Saints Row series? Many have called it a GTA (Grand Theft Auto) clone, and in a lot of ways they are right. If it wasn’t for GTA this series would likely not exist. Thankfully GTA exists so a game like Saint’s Row: The Third could find it’s own identity and become something much more!

      Not content with simply being a GTA clone, Saints Row: The Third develops itself as a great game, a great experience, and a great WTF moment at all times! It makes for some of the most unique sandbox gaming moments of all time! Read on but beware there are a few spoilers ahead!

Steelport… new city, same Saints

     So the Saints are no longer a punk ass street gang. They are now cultural icons. They have their own clothing line, comics, movies, etc. So Stilwater just isn’t enough. They move on to the city of Steelport to fight a new bevy of upstart gangs that want a bit of the action. After a crazy bank heist that goes terribly wrong they find themselves one Saint short and in a world of media trouble, as the Saints are not as prominent in Steelport as they were in Stilwater.

      Now whether or not you care about the Saint’s endeavers at this point or if you played the previous games is completely irrelevant. Volition has created a game where there are no rules, at least not in the traditional sense. Once you’re set loose, you’re set loose!

Insane Is A Way Of Life

     The violence and insanity in this game hits the ground running and never stops! One moment I’m putting a hostel under seige to rescue an auto-tuning gimp pimp with a dildo bat, and the next I’m escoting a naked giant into battle against a corporate tyrant! It’s this kind of absurdity that makes this series stand out from the GTA crowd! It’s clear Volition is not content with being simply a “GTA clone”.

      Kills and violence are also brought up a few notches. One of the most amusing moments I’ve had with this game is when I punched a guy in the balls and then did the “Macarena” as he writhed in pain. No other game I’ve ever played lets you play so in depth with your dar side of your sense of humor! It’s satisfying and hilarious!

Story!? What!?

      Yeah, one of this game’s greatest strengths is it’s story! I know! I know! Saint’s Row games aren’t known for their story. In fact their story has been nothing short of lame in the past. Volition addressed this with not only a story you care about and want to see to the end, but also with characters that are surprisingly likeable. There are several ways to experience the story as well thanks to a cleverly designed mission reward system. One mission had me choosing between a permanent increse in my respect or a permanent increase in my cash earned. It is refreshing that A “GTA” style game can give you that kind of freedom to shape your experience as you see fit. That was a more general example, there are more impacting choices later and I love it!

      One thing that caught me off guard was how good the voice acting was. I chose the default voice of a male character and it is phenomenal. I cared about my created character. I liked him! I did not expect that at all! Plus the supporting characters are amazing! When you see a mission that involves one of them, you just don’t hesitate because they’re so likable. A definite change for this series since most of the characters in the past games were absurdly forgettable!

Murdertime! Funtime!

      The main story isn’t the only draw. There are a bevy of “side quests” to keep you distracted as well. Some are as simple as clearing out a rival gang, while others include pimping hos, blowing shit up with a tank, or participating in a ridiculous game show called Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax. Yeah, I’m not making that up! It’s awesome! But my favorite distraction has to be the “Insurance fraud” missions. You basically try to do as much harm to yourself as possible. As the in-game tutorials couldn’t describe it well enough, I won’t try. Rest assured, it’s addictive an a lot of fun!

Music Is The Key To The Soul

     In true Saints Row fashion the radio stations trump GTA’s in every way possible. Being a metal fan, I found the “Blood 106.66” station as a loyal companion in my mayhem! With songs from the likes of Opeth, Job For A Cowboy, Strapping Young Lad, and Amon Amarth, I was right at home in the beautifully constucted chaos of Steelport!

      That’s not to say a lot of the other music was irrelevant. One of the funniest experiences in my life was having an intense car chase with Bach’s ”Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 Allegro” playing on the radio. Instant comedy! Plus there’s an Adult Swim radio station that plays Adult Swim music like Dethklok (awesome!) and other stuff like a remixed ATHF theme and the Venture Brother’s theme. You’d be surprised at how entertaining those songs can be in a high speed chase!

Bottom Line, bitch!

     Saints Row: The Third is an unapolegetic antithesis to the Grand Theft Auto series. It strived to stand on it’s own and did so remarkably. Definitely not a game for the easily offended. Volition pushed the bounds of what is acceptable in video games and the gamers that play are better for it. Great game and hats off to the studio for such a daring move!

Graphics - 9

Story - 9

Gameplay - 10

Sound - 10

Replay Value - 9.5

Overall Score - 10

The Old Republic Beta - First Impressions

 There’s a first time for everything in life. Your first kiss. First job. First fight. First win! Whatever you do there’s always a first! That’s the way I “first” approached Star Wars: The Old Republic! It’s an MMORPG in every sense of the word and the amount of other players around never let me forget otherwise. So it’s fair to say that this is the first MMO to not only offer a revolutionary story mode that rivals any other Bioware game, it does so without compromising what was great about the KOTOR games.

A BACKSTORY OF A FAN

 I have loved this series since KOTOR (Knights Of The Old Republic) and then again in KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords. Bioware crafted narratives that rivaled any movie I’ve ever seen or book I’ve ever read! It was amazing! But after KOTOR 2 it seemed the series was dead and Bioware had moved on to other things (like Mass Effect and Dragon Age… love them BTW!). Then on on October 21, 2008 Bioware announced Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was their vision of the next evolution of the KOTOR series.

  Now, I’ve never been a fan of the MMO model for a KOTOR 3. I liked it the way it was and I believed that it was the only coherent way to immerse yourself into the story and the world. As much as I like MMOs, I’m more than ever forced to stand by my opinion. Read on.

DAY 1: THE SITH WARRIOR

  I chose to start my journey as a Sith Warrior. Being that I believe myself as a bruiser and not a healer, it made the most logical choice. Soon I would have a stranglehold on the galaxy! But first thing’s first. I need to reover a weapon from an ancient Sith tomb on Korriban. Now this is fucking awesome… until I get out of my cutscene. Suddenly I’m in a valley that is overrun by people. It’s insane! But I decide it makes no difference and I’m about to set out til I notice the General Chat dialogue box. I’m new to this. I decide I’ll introduce myself to my fellow KOTOR fans… shit! Should have kept my mouth shut. 

  Apparently this game needs to learn a few things from World Of Warcraft, or so the people playing it seem to believe. This leads me to my biggest problem with the game. It has absolutely epic story sequences that are completely ruined by other people in the game world. In KOTOR, I WAS Revan and what I did made a difference! In TOR there’s hundreds of me and half of them wont stop talking about WoW. I understand that comes with the territory of an MMO, but it’s also why I was against KOTOR 3 being an MMO.

DAY 2: THE SITH MARAUDER

 Well I had finally reached lv 10 and I was able to choose an advanced job. As a Sith Warrior I had the choice between the Sith Marauder or the Sith Juggernaut. Being that I only had 3 days to learn the game I decided on the damage role and went with marauder. I was satisfied because it allowed me to dual wield lightsabers!

Yeah! Now I’m a badass! The republic will bend to my… what the fuck… -.-;!? Everybody and their mom has lightsabers! 2 sabaers, single sabers, double-bladed sabers. Yeah it’s an MMO and thats the problem. In KOTOR getting your lightsaber was an accomplishment. In TOR, you’re just one of the many random assholes.

I decided to try and block everything else out and just foicus on the game. My game! Honestly… it worked! It began to feel like the KOTOR 3 I always wanted. I ignored the talk of WoW or other MMOs. I ignored peoples failed ideas of humor. I even ignored it when people called themselves and Hatefrost a “Toon” like it was some kind of inferior WoW incarnation. For a while I soloed and enjoyed the story and held the galaxy by the throat as Hatefrost and Hatefrost alone!

Finally I got my own ship and was able to leave the rock I was on! Now I could get involved in space battles (which are awesome) and go to other worlds! Holy fuck Christ! Server maintenance!

DAY 3: A FOND FAREWELL

I worked my way to level 16. A huge feat given how slow the leveling is and the amount of time I missed from it between server downtime and watching my weekly shows (Supernatural FTW!). That said it makes me sad wondering what heights my Sith Marauder could have reached. How his relationships with his companions would have turned out given more time, or if he would have found the true fate of Revan!

I loved my experience with the game but I still maintain that making it an MMORPG was a disservice to the spirit of KOTOR and it’s fans. It’s the first failure of Bioware I’ve seen… well ever! It’s a great game and will make a great MMO, but I just feel like it does a disservice to true fans when I have to listen to some cockbag compare the game to World Of Warcraft.

All in all, my beta experience was great! For MMO players ther’s plenty of group content! For solo cats who just want the KOTOR 3 experience… Bioware has got your back! It’s a blast!

X-Men: First Class Review

  Ok, I know what you are going to say… I’m later than a newly pregnant woman’s “time” on writing this. Crude, true, but accurate. I meant to write a review when I first saw the movie in June but I didn’t for a number of reasons. I wanted to let the euphoria of a first view die down, I had other things on my plate, but the most accurate reason is because I was being lazy. I don’t get paid for this after all. But I just watched it again and I feel the same way as when I first saw it. It’s long overdue but still worth writing, so here’s my review of X-Men: First Class!

Origins of a Friendship

     This movie is all about the origins of our beloved team we know as the X-Men. The movie starts off almost the exact same way that the first X-Men movie did. A young Eric Lensherr and his family being herded by Nazis to a camp. I won’t explain the scene because most people know it anyway but what happens after the scene is where the movie kicks off. We’re introduced to Sebastian Shaw, played expertly by Kevin Bacon. (Now I have no intention of doing any comparisons to the comic, which it is tempting but this review is meant to focus on a movie made for comic fans and standard movie-goers alike). Shaw forces Eric into a situation that ultimately results in the death of his mother, thus creating the man who eventually would become Magneto.

     A few countries away we have Charles Xavier, a young and cocky college student who uses his telepathic abilities to get chicks. An admirable pursuit but lost on his unofficial sister Raven who eventually grows into the beautiful and deadly, Mystique. Charles is all about the mutant genome and with the help of being born filthy rich and having a good heart, he grows up with the idea that mutants and homo sapiens can live together as equal species.

      It’s very refreshing to see how these characters both started out and how their individual life experiences helped them grow and become the characters we know and love. While this movie showcases a host of other mutants, the movie is clearly a focus on Eric and Charles and their mutual respect and friendship… and eventual falling out.

The Villains We Love to Hate

     The villains of this movie are truly spectacular! Most are from the comic’s “Hellfire Club”. In fact the name of a bordello where you’re first introduced to most of these characters is called “The Hellfire Club”. Nice nod to the source material. As mentioned before, the leader’s name is Sebastian Shaw. He has a very future Magneto view on the world. Mutants > Humans. The irony that Eric is so hellbent on killing him isn’t lost or hidden as Eric is still finding his identity.

     Then we have Emma Frost. A nice eye pleasing addition to be sure and given plenty of role in the movie, but I feel like January Jones’ interpretation of her character was lazy and forced. It’s really too bad because I loved her character in the comics. Still, it’s a minor complaint. Her haughty attitude and extraordinary powers were in tact and that’s what’s important.

     Then there’s Azazel. Now this guy’s a bad ass! He looks like the fucking Devil hand has the same powers as Nightcrawler (Teleportation), which makes him absurdly formidable in battle! My only gripe with this character is his lack of backstory. In fact he hardly says a word through the whole thing. It’s cool because it adds to the mystery of this evil looking monster of awesomeness, but what are his motivations? What led him to join up with Shaw? Hell, aside from his name we know nothing about this character. I may have missed him from the comics but I’d like to know more about this killing machine of awesomeness!

     Then we have Janos Quested aka Riptide. I remember him from the comics but this is another silent character where if I didn’t already know him from the comics I’d learn nothing of him from the movie. In the movie he can create tornadoes at will which is a very useful skill for one as ambitious as Sebastian Shaw. My complaints remain minor because he’s not central to the story but in battle he still kicks ass!

Who The Students Affectionately Call, The X-Men

    What would an X-Men review be without the X-Men. One of my favorite things about this movie comes from Charles and Eric recruiting their first mutants into the iconic team. A lot of them are unfamiliar to the average moviegoer and to others seem a departure from their original incarnations. I nitpicked very little as the choices of characters, acting, and casting seemed to be flawless for this movie!

     It seems a natural choice to start with Hank McCoy aka Beast. He’s a character that most people are familiar with, although he looks nothing like the Beast we know and love for most of the movie. This is an origin story after all. Hank, much like Raven who I’ll get to later, is ashamed of his mutation and works feverishly to try to find a cure. Eventually his cure becomes the very thing that turns him into the Beast we’re familiar with. Now, Beast would have been a perfect character for this movie in my eyes if it wasn’t for the horrible make-up effects after his transformation. In the theater I couldn’t help but laugh and I can’t now either! BUT… once again it’s a minor complaint as you genuinely grow to feel his pain and identify with his want, or even NEED to be normal.

     Raven probably should have been mentioned earlier as she has a very big role in the movie. It’s no secret to people who have seen the other X-Men films that she grows up to be Mystique but here she is a loving and loyal friend to Charles Xavier since childhood. Like Hank she is ashamed of her mutation and often acts out as a result of it. She’s jealous of Charles and his non-chalant attitude towards mutation because she feels he has never had to hide it like she has. It’s great that this dynamic has been added to give a future villain more of a soul and purpose. By the end you almost sympathize with her reasoning for joining Magneto’s Brotherhood.

     The other mutants are all fantastic as well! There’s Alex Summers aka Havok, Sean Cassidy aka Banshee, Armando Muñoz aka Darwin, and Angel Salvadore aka Angel. It’s a great dynamic of young, headstrong individuals with unique powers. They work together to come to grips with who they are and their allegiances. The scripting, casting, and acting couldn’t be better here!

A Union Divided

     As I said before, the heart of this movie lies with the origins and friendship of Charles Xavier and Eric Lensherr. It portrays them growing beyond friends and more like brothers. Sadly, brothers with completely different ideals. This leads to one of the most brilliant and hard hitting climaxes I’ve seen in a movie for a long time. You know who the “good guy” is in the whole situation but you can’t help but feel like the “bad guy” (Not Sebastian Shaw) is just in his views.

     The end of the friendship that took the whole movie to build is heartbreaking yet you know as brothers they still care deeply for each other. Every time I see that scene I’m as quiet as a ghost. It’s one of the best endings in cinema because it’s not a happy ending. It’s a terrible and necessary ending, much like The Dark Knight.

Verdict

     I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies this summer… in fact I’ve seen a lot of movies this summer and I have to say, this is one of the best. It has everything you could hope for as a fan of the comics or just a fan of the cinema could hope for. Matthew Vaughn really took the care that this franchise deserved and delivered a masterpiece that is worth watching again and again! There’s even a hilarious cameo that can’t be missed! So if you have any respect for decent films I recommend you check out X-Men: First Class! It’ll blow your fucking mind!