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All reviews - Movies (20) - Games (7)

Potent, but far from perfect

Posted : 4 years, 3 months ago on 4 May 2013 06:15 (A review of BioShock Infinite)

Bioshock Infinite is a fine game, but perhaps not as fine as the reviews would lead you to believe. It crafts an engaging tale and the shoot-em-up gameplay with bio powers is what we've come to expect from the series, but it has its fair share of flaws.

For me, the gameplay felt like a step back from the first two games in many ways. The limitation on two equipped weapons seemed needless and was frustrating at times. The Sky-lines, while visually incredible and providing some of the more exciting moments of the game, were not well integrated with the combat engine. Attempting skyline strikes was more trouble than it was worth and shooting while zipping around the skylines was often a waste of ammo.

As a game world, Columbia is undeniably creative and unique, but not nearly as engrossing as the twisted halls of Rapture. With its dark atmosphere and frightening half-human, half-monster enemies, the first Bioshock was a shooter/horror hybrid that could keep me on pins and needles. Infinite rarely came close to that feeling, and most of its enemies were cartoonish in nature (the one exception being the frightening "Siren" that could resurrect seemingly endless dead foes.)

The plot is the strongest aspect of Infinite, but it has problems as well. (Minor spoilers in the next two paragraphs.) Like all plots that involve time travel and alternate dimensions, Bioshock Infinite creates its own logic to operate on. This, however, leads to many "why?" and "why not?" questions that can only be answered with "plot convenience." The twist in the original Bioshock was a more simple, elegant device and as a result it felt a lot more authentic than the one in Bioshock Infinite that relies on a tangled web of pretend physics. This, however, I was happy to overlook in exchange for the emotionally powerful ending that the game offers; an ending which is undoubtedly one of the best of this generation and maybe one of the best ever in videogames.

What I was not willing to overlook is the giant false equivalency that the game creates halfway through its storyline. The game goes to great lengths to show how the powerful figures of Comstock and Fink have created a brutally oppressive, dystopian world of racism and worker abuse with a slowly building resistance movement in the background. Then, suddenly, when the resistance springs into action, they're immediately painted as blood thirsty terrorists who are somehow as bad as the oppressors they're revolting against. This is done for no good reason but to give your main character more targets to shoot at. That was a major disappointment and sacrificed a good deal of integrity that the story might have had. While the major theme of Bioshock has always been extremist ideologies, the writers incorrectly defined resistance to oppression as an ideology. It is not.

While I'm offering a fair amount of criticism for this game, I still greatly enjoyed Bioshock Infinite. This is yet another game where the story was likely stronger than the gameplay that brought it to life. Critics of narrative games love to endlessly point that out and say "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!" What those "gameplay is all that matters" fanatics fail to realize is that while the medium of videogames will always have greater artistic potential to create interesting new methods of gameplay, videogames will ALSO still have the potential to tell stories more immersive than film and literature can hope to, because they make you an active participant in the story rather than just an observer. Even if the way you can interact is limited, or the "choices" aren't really choices, there is still great value in the ability to shift someones perspective from passive to active, and Bioshock Infinite takes great advantage of that.


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Any Way The Wind Blows

Posted : 4 years, 4 months ago on 20 April 2013 04:49 (A review of Life Of Pi)

I enjoyed Life Of Pi thoroughly from the beginning until just before the end. The movie is undoubtedly beautiful and the story is quite engaging. It's always a good sign when you look at your watch and two hours has flown by like nothing.

The graphics are dazzling, the scope is grand, and the film really captures the myriad emotions that one must experience when lost at sea.

Where this film gets into trouble is its muddled message, which isn't surprising since the message is "spiritual." Ultimately it's asking you to believe that fiction and truth are a legitimate choice, and if you choose fiction because it helps you get through life, then that's ok.

The problem here is a lack of intellectual honesty. Pi says these things, but he also says that it was his father's (the atheist) reason and clear eyed view of the world that actually kept him alive. He admits that the fiction (religion) is nothing but a coping mechanism for his trauma. I also didn't buy the idea that after hearing his sordid tale (which he tacitly admits is not true) the writer interviewing him would suddenly believe in "god" or take on some spiritual awakening.

I loved the twist at the end, but not what it represented. Great job by Ang Lee directing this film. I would rate it higher if the message of the story was more consistent and meaningful.


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Ehhh...

Posted : 4 years, 4 months ago on 20 April 2013 04:29 (A review of Lincoln)

I found myself very underwhelmed by "Lincoln." Perhaps I simply heard too much hype before watching it, or maybe it just had too much quaint Americana for my tastes. All I know is that the movie didn't teach me anything I didn't already know, and half the subject matter (his struggles with his wife and son) seemed to be there only to kill time. Also, a lot of the courtroom drama fell flat, in my opinion.

The part I liked the most was when one of Lincoln's cabinet said "You're going to tell another story, aren't you? I don't think I can listen to another one of your stories right now!"

Me : "Right there with ya, dude."

Steven Spielberg hasn't "wowed" me since the 90s when he made Jurassic Park, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. Between this and Indiana Jones 4, it might be time for him to hang it up.


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The Impossible Dream

Posted : 4 years, 4 months ago on 17 April 2013 05:23 (A review of Silent Hill: Revelation)

My reaction to Silent Hill - Revelation was pretty much the same as my reaction to the first Silent Hill adaptation. Visually, the film does a really good job of creating the look and feel of Silent Hill. Story wise, it's a mess. It's a mish-mash of elements from several of the Silent Hill games. If you haven't played Silent Hill 3 in particular, you'll have no idea what's going on.

They front-load 30-40 minutes of the movie with exposition because that's the only way they can even attempt to craft a coherent narrative for people who haven't played the games. They did a somewhat better job of this then was done for the first movie, but that's not saying much.

The middle of the film was actually quite enjoyable. Once you scrap the idea that this movie is going to deliver any interesting dialogue or a plot that matters, you can enjoy the brief journey through Silent Hill and the few decent scares that it offers.

The end of the movie was completely lame. Heather defeats the dark host of Silent Hill in a laughable way, and then we watch Pyramid Head engage in a clumsy duel with a new boss monster that was pulled out of someone's ass. A very underwhelming ending, but pretty much what I expected from a 90 minute adaptation.

The plot and ideas that encompass the Silent Hill videogame series are rich, deep and result in an incredibly fulfilling horror experience. Frankly, no horror movie will ever compete with them. A 90-120 minute movie cannot replicate the suspense of a 15-20 hour survival horror game. I question whether a TV series could do it, even under the most competent direction. (The Walking Dead doesn't count. No mystery element, no philosophy or psychology, mostly just short bursts of action in between long periods of melo-drama.)

This is a realm in which games have transcended both film and television, and until a great writer and director work together to create a true survival horror film, it will remain that way.


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The greatest film you'll never recommend

Posted : 4 years, 5 months ago on 27 February 2013 07:21 (A review of Antichrist)

Having seen "A Serbian Film" and "Antichrist" within a week of each other, I can safely say I've seen two of the most disturbing films ever made, back to back. The difference is "A Serbian Film" was pure schlock and "Antichrist" actually has some meat to it.

The film is shocking, provocative and difficult to analyze, but the themes are definitely there. It essentially takes everything about religion and creation myth and turns it on its head in a brutal way. It's a nihilistic steak with a side order of gender issues. If I had to categorize it, I would call it a Horror / Suspense Thriller / Paranormal / Mind Fuck very much in the vein of famous Russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky (who the movie is dedicated to.)

This is a film only for the strong of stomach and mind. The sense of despair and paranoia it creates is overwhelming and it left me saying "W...T...F" more than a few times. That said, I'm dying to watch it again and plumb its depths even farther, and that's a sign of a great film.


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A western RPG worth playing

Posted : 4 years, 7 months ago on 14 January 2013 07:11 (A review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution)

I've heard and read quite a bit about the original Deus Ex, but I never actually played it, so I went into Deus Ex - Human Revolution with no real expectations, just a hope that it could live up to it's extremely cool announcement trailer. Thankfully, it did that and more.

Human Revolution does what a lot of RPGs set out to do, but few actually accomplish, and that's have a legitimately meaningful story. It's not just a dramatic tale of government corruption, warring international corporations and the resulting social strife and insurrection. It IS all those things, but more importantly it tackles the issue of Transhumanism in a very serious way.

All of the plot points and dialogue in the game center around the benefits and dangers of human augmentation and how that technology would change the world in very sudden and drastic ways. This game is less a character study (which is what a lot of RPGs are) and more a showcase for potent themes, intriguing ideas and difficult questions (which is what great art does.)

The gameplay has a bit of a learning curve, but ultimately it's a mix of sneaking around, shooting action, hacking (twitch puzzles) and exploration. I was very pleased to see that there was almost always more than one way to accomplish the game's objectives. The game will punish you for trying to strong-arm your way through everything and reward you for patience, careful observation and being a "ghost" (accomplishing goals through stealth.) Should your patience run out, or you simply prefer conflict, fighting is always an option and you can develop your abilities in that direction instead.

The graphics are nice, if a little dated for 2011. The soundtrack is a techno/synth mix reminiscent of Blade Runner; a perfect accompaniment to the game's setting. Together they produce the tense atmosphere of a world on the brink of total chaos. It's apparent from the start that human civilization is at a cyberpunk crossroads.

This is the first western RPG to truly impress me in a long time. There have been a slew of good rpg-lite shooters (Bioshock, Fallout 3, etc) but none of them have the narrative weight of Deus Ex - Human Revolution.


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The small action RPG with a big heart

Posted : 4 years, 7 months ago on 13 January 2013 07:44 (A review of NIER)

Nier... the small action RPG with a big heart. It tried my patience at times, but I'm glad I stuck it out.

The gameplay is not overly challenging (on normal difficulty) but the magic abilities you gather over the course of the game offer you a fair amount of variety and keep it interesting and fun.

The emotionally powerful story is where this game truly shines. The game world provides a sorrow drenched atmosphere that makes you feel like things could end badly at any minute. The sense of hopelessness makes you want to protect and save your ailing daughter even more. This is the driving force behind the main character and the story in general, since her fate is tied to the fate of the world.

I put 35 hours into the game initially and then replayed certain portions so I could see its three optional endings. Overall, I quite enjoyed Nier.


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