This Blog is a 1/10

49338-362789-criticism001jpg-noscale

With the recent outrage to the Angry Video Game Nerd’s decision to refuse to review Ghostbusters, I felt now was the right time to pose this question. Does current media criticism work? For that matter, does criticism still have an impact?

To quickly explain my stance with the AVGN, I will say that his argument is one I agree with. You vote with your wallet; it’s as simple as that. While that theory makes a lot of logical sense, it doesn’t really translate into a real world outcome.

There are so many games and films I have not purchased that still end up getting sequels and breaking box-office records. I’m not a fan of superhero films, but we’re in the middle of a surge of comic book popularity. I’ve disliked Call of Duty since 2010, but those games are still trucking along.

It seems that regardless of what I say or do, things I don’t like (or that most critics deem to be “bad”) will continue to get made because of their profitability. Hell, most people were complaining about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice before its release, but that managed to break March box-office records. How in the hell?

49338-362789-criticism002jpg-noscale

Ben is pleasantly surprised.

What I truly miss from reviews is a critical viewpoint. I really miss the discussions of artistic merit, theming, motifs and imagery. Not every film has a deeper motive or subconscious message and not every game is trying to reshape the industry as we know it; I understand that. There are some films and games that set out to do that, though.

Where are the discussions of deeper meanings? Where are the essays and analyses of what they mean to us? I want to see more of a critical look at what the narrative or design represents more so than reading some random bloggers opinion on the experience.

I can’t claim to know the history of criticism, but MovieBob explained in one of his videos that old fashioned critics wrote for their own society. It was an accepted part of life that anybody who could see a stage play would be doing so. If you missed out on an event, you were either poor or an imbecile.

I feel we’ve entered a part of our history where seeing a film or playing a game is almost a universal given. Things drop in price rapidly and films are available for fairly cheap with streaming services, so what is to stop even the poorest of people from experiencing whatever they desire?

What really seems to be a problem is that a lot of big budget, CGI effects driven films have been making boatloads of money in spite of community backlash. How many articles have you read about Hollywood being dead, even if the “culprits” keep making money?

49338-362789-criticism003png-noscale

Why is this a goddamned thing?!

Activision keeps getting thrown in the fire for their annual release schedule, but no one ever thought to not buy their games. Ubisoft pumps out sequels with reckless abandon, but people eat them up without even asking why. Marvel has plans in the works for another eight films in the next two and almost every film outdoes the last.

We need to stop complaining about franchise fatigue and start looking at what each entity does. Instead of blindly praising the movies for their flashy spectacles or giving a pass to games because of cyclical release patterns, we should take a broader look at what each title represents.

We also need to realize that not every film or game is worth spending money on. It doesn’t matter that a team of 300 made a game; if you truly want to see change, you need to stop throwing passive support to the companies responsible for the industry’s current state.

Film might be a lost cause due to overseas markets dominating the box-office. We have a bit more power with the games industry, seeing as how it’s not as gigantic of a global phenomenon. The cost to play a game is considerably larger than a movie ticket or DVD; that will remain a given.

We really just need to cease getting upset over someone not liking something. If you enjoy game, don’t lash out because someone else doesn’t. Talk more about the aspects you enjoyed and what it meant to you. Delve into what the game represents to you. Chat about how the design subtly guides the player or tricks them into a false sense of security.

There is more to a game and film than whether it is “good” or “bad”. Reading over current reviews, you wouldn’t know it. Criticism needs to be shaken up; it hasn’t meant anything in a long time.

49338-362789-criticism004jpg-noscale

Advertisements

Indifference Be Thy Name!

Something seems off with me lately. Whether it’s because of age or general apathy towards the vacant release schedule near the end of the year, I’ve been pretty indifferent to a lot of new things happening.

Fallout 4 launched last week and I don’t care. Spectre just came out in theaters and I thought it was pretty mediocre. Guitar Hero Live has been getting good press, but I found the game is simply the same old thing. Indifference Be Thy Name!

At least with James Bond, you can tell it’s a bit of brand fatigue for Daniel Craig. Some recent interviews have shown that he has grown tired of the character, but I’m still unsure why he would put out another movie with that attitude (I’m guessing the extra 0’s at the end of his paycheck helped).

It can’t just be my cynical attitude towards Hollywood, because I also saw The Peanutsand thought it was pretty good. I believe MGM is constantly battling with whether to reinvent Bond or stick to the same old formula. Sadly, Spectre just feels like a continuation of Roger Moore’s films.

I was never big on Fallout 3. I loved the introductory sequence and was blown away by the scale of things, but none of the missions really added up. The ending felt rushed and even your choices were stuck in a binary process. You couldn’t do a moral grey, just black and white.

My favorite memory from the game was running with your dad and getting hit by a god damned fatboy. That was intense. Otherwise, I just remember the game looking average and being a stripped down shooter and RPG. It was a cool combo, but the game was basically Oblivion with guns.

I also used to be a gigantic rhythm gaming nut. I played all the Guitar Hero games up to 5 (as well as Aerosmith and Metallica) and played each Rock Band game (including the preposterously stupid Lego one). I even still own DJ Hero. I just feel nothing with GHLive.

Yeah, I want to play this instead of some classic rock…

The addition of the lower fret is kind of neat, but I can’t wrap my head around the icons for Black and White buttons. For some reason, I keep reading White as if it’s on top. I know that is more of my problem then the game, but what isn’t my issue is the lackluster presentation.

The FMV sequences are pretty stupid. It’s funny to watch someone else play, but they are completely pointless in the midst of you grabbing the controller. Not only that, but those transitions are not seamless; the damn screen flashes blue between “Awesome” and “Poor” performances. It’s really distracting.

Rating a setlist is always going to be subjective, but I’m just tired of these games front loading all the horrible songs to make you work for your favorite tunes. I like the idea of GHTV, but the menu system loves explaining every detail with excruciating clarity. I just want to play the damn game.

In all fairness, it isn’t a bad game. In the intervening years, I’ve managed to pick up an actual instrument and learn to play. I’m a decent bassist and going back to Guitar Hero, I just want to play my bass. The controller is so light weight and flimsy that I don’t feel like a musician; I just feel like some tool with a toy.

Even with this blog, I haven’t had much to really say. I’ve been playing some neat games (and fucking WWE 2k15 for asinine reasons) and everything is cool. I have a Mega Yarn Yoshi and La-Mulana is kicking my ass. There really isn’t much I can write about.

Yeah?! Well, fuck you!

As fun as a game like La-Mulana is, there really isn’t any deeper meaning to it. I like the design and the philosophy behind it’s difficulty, but it’s just a really well made retro throwback with some punishing moments. It’s great for people like me, but not the general public.

I’m mainly worried that my lack of motivation is a sign of something deeper. I’ve been out of the loop with major game releases for awhile now. Metal Gear Solid V was a fluke for me, in that regard. It was a series I had fallen in love with, where Fallout and Call of Duty are just games that are in my past.

Even Xenoblade Chronicles X doesn’t appeal to me. That is insane, as the firstXenoblade Chronicles is one of my favorite RPGs and Wii games. I should be excited, but I just don’t care. If I get it, it won’t be for some time and I think I’ll manage without.

Oh well; I suppose one cannot always have some topic to bring up. I didn’t feel like leaving this blog empty in November, so this is what I came up with. I promise my next blog will have more of a focus to it.

In the meantime, have a picture of Yoshi with Hogan.

Forever Alone?

After playing the Rainbow Six: Siege beta for a few hours, I’m not quite convinced that Ubisoft’s decision to axe a single-player campaign was the best choice. This has nothing to do with my own preference for campaigns, mind you, just that the netcode is pure garbage.

My memories of the Rainbow Six series are almost entirely dedicated to the online portions. I loved Rainbow Six: Raven Shield for it’s open-ended structure. It fit perfectly into co-op play and gave great competition to Counter-Strike for competitive play.

I played the hell out of terrorist hunt in Rainbow Six 3 on Xbox with my friend, Corey. He and I eagerly anticipated the expansion, Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow, and continued to bounce between the two games in co-op campaign and terrorist hunt for a few years. We just loved experiencing that game style together.

As for the plotlines, I don’t really even recall what any of them were about. A tactical shooter is more about replicating a tense, life and death situation then it is about presenting any thought provoking questions to the player. Just take a look at how muddled the plot is in Rainbow Six: Vegas.

The sequel to that game was almost entirely a prequel. Apparently the first game didn’t make enough sense to enough people, so Ubisoft had to detail where the villain came from (I guess being Russian/Chinese wasn’t enough for Tom Clancy fans).

The Tom Clancy universe of games aren’t really tailored around being solo excursions. Splinter Cell was the first time that going alone made sense. Sam Fisher was a better ghost then the Ghost Squad and his mission was to leave as little a trail as possible. Bringing another player, while fun, wasn’t a requirement.

Even that series got expanded into a multiplayer affair. In the latest game of the series, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the game is markedly improved when in co-op (since the AI is brain dead). It feels excellent to coordinate your attack with a friend.

Even with pointless BS like this.

Enough with Ubisoft games, though. How about the fact that the last gen versions of the upcoming Black Ops III don’t feature a campaign? Well, if not for the price tag, I wouldn’t see this as an issue. From my times working at GameStop, most people didn’t even know Call of Duty had a campaign.

People used to tell me that they would tinker a little with it or plow through the thing on Easy and then forget it existed. Why Activision keeps trying to bolster the campaign is beyond me. Instead of wasting money on putting Kevin Spacey in the game, I think Activision should be boosting the MP up with a larger map count and more modes.

I’m also thinking of one of my favorite shooter franchises, Unreal Tournament. It’s new pre-alpha just released and it’s extremely fun. What doesn’t it have? Any kind of extensive single-player mode. There are bot matches, sure, but nothing in the way of story or character development; the game is focused on delivering the most fast paced and finely tuned multiplayer experience possible.

Having a game forgo a single-player campaign isn’t that big of an issue. To use Hollywood as an example, two of the biggest film releases this year were Max Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2. Both movies didn’t try to appeal to anyone outside of their target demographic.

Men wanted a more action focused film and got just that with Fury Road. Women were dying to have an all female cast be represented in a way that wasn’t sexist or objectified and got that with Pitch Perfect 2. Funny how disregarding a huge portion of the general population worked in those films favors.

There is nothing men can relate to, so let’s just cancel the whole thing. – Stupid Movie Executive, 2015

With Rainbow Six: Siege excluding a single-player campaign, I think Ubisoft is realizing that the main attraction and lasting appeal of the series is online. Now, I’d agree with them under normal circumstances, but this is Ubisoft we’re talking about. They tend to abandon support for their games a few years after release, leaving online a wasteland.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, the netcode is currently horseshit in the beta. I’d join matches and the entire game would be littered with pings of 380. I have a 50 MBPS download, so my ping shouldn’t be higher then 40.

I’ve seen this happen time and again with a lot of newer releases; developers rush the game out to meet some arbitrary release date and the lasting appeal suffers. All conversations focuses on the horrible launch and how disappointing the online experience ends up being.

With a single-player mode attached to Rainbow Six: Siege, I think gamers would be more forgiving of any online deficiencies. The game truly marks an arrival of next-generation style gameplay. Destructible environments and particle effects not only make the game looks expensive, but have a tangible impact on the gameplay.

With a strong internet infrastructure, I feel that Rainbow Six: Siege could be a game changer. Without that (which is more then likely going to be the case), I don’t think gamers will stick around. That lack of single-player is going to feel like a wasted opportunity.

For the most part, I feel that a lot of developers should focus more on the strengths of their game’s concepts then on ticking off some checklist for marketability. Just like Unreal Tournament doesn’t need a campaign mode, Rainbow Six: Siege shouldn’t require one.

Remeber how this game had a campaign? Yeah, I don’t either.

Games don’t exist to cater to everyone at all times. If you don’t fit into the mold of what Rainbow Six: Siege aims to do, then just skip the game. Don’t complain that Ubisoft made a bad decision to eliminate single-player. Don’t nag EA to provide an offline option to Star Wars Battlefront when the entire concept was designed with multiple players.

It’s pointless to want every game to be the same. Not all shooters need a campaign mode, just as how not every fucking game needs tacked on multiplayer. We need to stop having developers split their teams into single and multi-player offsets and combine their powers to make the best possible experience they can. If that happens to be multi-player only, so be it.

Bankable Nostalgia (Short Blog)

With the recent release of Puzzle and Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros Edition, I’ve come to a few realizations; Nintendo really isn’t afraid to take risks and nostalgia seems to be their entire M.O. As a matter of fact, the media world, in general, seems obsessed with nostalgia.

Mad Max: Fury Road recently came out. While the film is quite good, I can’t help but feel that releasing 25 years later was the plan all along. I know that can’t be 100% true, but it just seems way too convenient for this film to just now get made, especially after being in development hell for a decent chunk of time.

It seems that we’ve come into an era of “bankable nostalgia”:. Hollywood action films are milking our comic heritage for everything its worth; musicians that should have retired 20 years ago are bringing out new material; game developers (be it indie or triple A) are focusing their talents on re-creating the past.

I’m not sure how long this type of cycle can sustain itself. This clearly isn’t a new idea, but will nostalgia ever run out? For people in my age bracket (21-34), nostalgia is basically what keeps us ticking with tired ideas. Aren’t we a bit young to be feeling such longing for our wonder years?

When does that well run dry? Will we get to a point where a brand new, totally original Mario game will garner a collective shrug because Mario is old hat? How about when Captain America 4 comes out and we’ve just given up on the whole idea?

I guess everything is fine if the creations are all quality. It can never hurt to have an abundance of things you enjoy. I just worry that our favorite hobbies will become insufferable after a litany of similar releases come out.

Mario can only put up with Bowser’s nonsense so many times before calling it quits. This is similar to how all the Resident Evil protagonists can be frightened of zombies for a few games before going guns-blazing at everyone.

Eventually, you need to grow as a character. To mirror humanity, stagnation breeds complacency and complacency breeds contempt. Without creative flair, we may be doomed to walking away from this medium and never looking back.

Then again, I know a few people who have never played a video game or watched a film and still manage to find joy in life. To them, there are other avenues of passion that capture their imaginations. There is even a man in Japan whose sole purpose in life is to make sushi.

I may just be noticing this due to the recent surge of past ideas resurfacing, but I just don’t want to see this wonderful medium turn to dust. I’d also really hate for music to become completely absent from my world. I want new things to happen and original voices to be heard.

Hopefully this “bankable nostalgia” is simply a craze that will fade away. 3D Gaming seemed to die down, so I guess we just need to be patient.

Why Video Games Beat Hollywood Action

Sylvester Stallone will never learn when to give up. At the roaring age of 64, Stallone has created countless sequels to classic movies that have tarnished the original idea. He’s also written and directed his fair share of disasters and starred in a porno.

But Stallone is still kicking. His most recent train wreck, “The Expendables,” proved one thing to me; video games beat recent Hollywood action films. Throughout the entire movie, aside from trying to figure out who was punching whom, I had flashes of the brilliance I’ve played in games over the years.

The fights made me think Street Fighter is awesome. The plane scene made me remember Battlefield 1942. Hell, the explosions made me think of the intensity and visceral joy of Uncharted 2. All of these games last for much longer than the 2 hours of Expendables and they’re a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

I’m not sure if this is just because of Stallone’s inability to direct and write, or whether video games are just more enjoyable because you’re interacting with them. Something just seems more pleasing when virtual fists are trading hits and you’re behind it all.

It could possibly be the rotten characters. Recent action cinema has taken a turn for “old-school.” What I mean by that is everything is trying to be as cheesy as possible. Plots consist of, “You took my woman,” or, “I’m no hero.” The action is completely over the top and, in most cases, poorly edited to look like jump cuts.

While Uncharted doesn’t have a deep plot, at least it has something that isn’t a dead give-away. Hell, even Gears of War has a plot that is more involved (well, 2 does). Whatever happened to chivalry, or fighting for something you believe in? A human element really drives home insane destruction.

To even look at a more ludicrous game, Red Faction: Guerrilla is hilarious fun. Action movies don’t go as far as this game does, but everything is in your hands and for your enjoyment. You see a building that looked at you the wrong way and it’s gone. How about that bridge? DONE!

Stallone’s film might have also benefited if there was any decent acting. Obviously Stallone knows how to act (the last scene of First Blood is just awe inspiring), but where does his talent disappear to? Statham just plays Statham, a rather over rated and irritating guy. Jet Li plays a particularly good sport to the fact that he could rip everyone in half.

It’s all very cold and no connections are made to the actor’s fates. Statham has some love interest, but he’s shown winning her over by beating the piss out of 5 guys. That will certainly work. Hell, Terry Crews and Randy Couture don’t even appear in more than half of the film. I don’t even know who they are.

And yet video games have been increasing their talent over the recent years. Mark Hamill has given some surprisingly good voice work to recent Batman games and Darksiders. Johnny Young Bosche plays a very good Nero in Devil May Cry 4. Nolan North has become the defacto hero man after his great role as Drake in Uncharted.

Of course games have bad actors, but the really great roles and the general interactivity balance the ugly out. Who cares if your hero sounds like generic man A (I’m looking at you Prototype and inFamous)? When you can pick up cars or unload on armies of the undead, you don’t really need that much in the way of charisma.

As it stands, action movies just don’t do it anymore. Unless you’re making a well edited and stylistic film like “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World,” don’t even bother. Video games have you beat and I’m sure they’ll continue to get better and more action packed. I think Hollywood should just leave the action to the professionals, or at least the Chinese. They’ve known it better for the past 40 years, anyway.

Crank: High Voltage – Why Did I Like It?

Hey g1’s, how is life going? It’s been almost 2 months since my last blog and I’ve been failing at ideas for writing anything, so I thought, “Why not just post a review for the last movie I saw?” Well, I happened to catch Crank 2 tonight, so let’s go with that.

Now, I am not a fan of Jason Statham. I find the man intolerable. He may have physicality, but he doesn’t really match the quality of any real kung fu actors (like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung or Yuen Biao). His pairing with Jet Li in a few movies just made me wish that Jet would see how far he has fallen.

So what did I expect going into Crank: High Voltage? Mindless garbage, to sum it up in a few words. I did not see the first one and the last Statham film I saw was “The One,” which actually made me cry a little (I’m sorry for you Jet). You’d be surprised to learn that I actually enjoyed Crank 2.

The plot in this film is as mindless as an action film can get. I think it is a continuation of the first, but I have no real clue. What I do know is that Statham falls out of a plane and practically dies. While being resuscitated at the hospital, his heart is harvested and his other organs are looked at for the same reason. Statham soon busts out of the hospital and proceeds to go on a rampage looking for his heart.

The whole movie revolves around the idea that Statham has had his heart replaced with an artificial one that acts like a battery. The heart has some stupidly complicated name (and a video that describes what it does) or the sake of being idiotic. It also has an external pack that keeps the thing charged, but when that pack is removed the user is given an hour of battery life from an internal battery.

That is your entire film in a nutshell. While Statham is looking for the man who took his heart, he has to keep himself charged. This allows for all kinds of madness to ensue and it certainly does.

Like I said before, Statham busts out of the hospital where he is being kept. The action choreography is a little stale, but everything is shot in a manner that makes you think the editors have ADD. The camera shakes, the scenes cut quickly and the particularly brutal points of combat are given plenty of screen real-estate.

What makes this action better is how the film directly starts. The movie begins with a screen that looks like an 80’s arcade machine. There is a lifebar and everything, which makes this film feel like a video game. The area immediately after Statham departs from the hospital looks like something out of Mirror’s Edge and Rainbow Six, making you feel like you truly are watching a game.

Most of the action consists of gunplay, however, so if you are looking for straight up kung fu or martial arts, skip this without second thought. The shaky cam effect can be tiresome, but the movie runs at about 86 minutes, so everything just goes flows like electricity (oh snap, a pun!).

There is a lot of comedy that occurs throughout the film, mostly from how little the film tries to take itself seriously. There is blatant racism to almost everyone on the screen, a scene where Statham “gets busy” or almost a full 5 minutes and one fight scene later in the movie that makes me think of Godzilla.

As for the acting in this film, what can you really say about most action films? Statham is alright and certainly has charisma. His face is menacing and he seems to be having fun, which definitely works as a plus for this film. Amy Smart, who plays the girlfriend/stripper of Statham is pretty decent as well. She does get to lay a guy out and into a car, so her antics aren’t unnoticed.

The rest of the cast kind of just exists. No one is really given ample screen time except for Bai Ling, who plays an Asian hooker that is played up in a racist tone. Her lines are subtitled just for the hell of it. Efren Ramirez gets a little bit of fun with some syndrome called “Full Body Tourettes.” David Carradine even makes an appearance as some old asian player, which is just offensive on every level.

That is the glory with this movie though; it is just plain fun. If you cannot crack a smile while watching this film, then I do not know what to tell you. This certainly isn’t art-house theater, nor is it even a B movie, but you cannot deny the sheer energy and flair going on.

For my final verdict on the movie, I say give it a shot. The worst that can happen is that you’ll die a little inside from the sheer stupidity of everything, but just go in looking for fun. I certainly hate Statham, so me enjoying something like this is a big plus.

Rating: 6.8/10