Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

xmen apoc posterX-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

PG-13 / 144 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence

Director: Bryan Singer


The X-Men movies have always been low on the totem pole for me.  When you look at the different franchises that Marvel has put out, the X-Men universe usually ranks pretty low because I don’t have the affinity for the characters as much as I do with some of the other franchises.  It also gets confusing when they throw in a bunch of different characters and plot points, especially with the Days of Future Past and First Class.  In the series’ latest addition, X-Men: Apocalypse, the stakes are raised but the movie manages to provide more of the same.  I went in with pretty low expectations and came out pleasantly surprised, despite some of the movie’s misfires.

xmen apoc 1
via Fan Pop

Maybe the name of the movie hasn’t jumped out at you yet, but it should be easy to hypothesize that this movie has heavy circumstances at stake, including the end of the world and it’s up for the X-Men, once again, to save the earth from the clutches of evil.  Sound like a superhero movie yet?  After being buried thousands and thousands of years ago, the first mutant, who goes by the name Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), remerges from the dark depths with the intent of taking a steamroller to society, starting fresh again under his rule.  Think of it like Noah’s Ark, except with much worse intentions.  Although his powers are seemingly incredible, he can’t carry out his mission by himself, which is why he assembles a team of powerful mutants, including the likes of Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Pyslocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

After Apocalypse literally sends a ripple through the earth, the mutants at Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) academy realize that they are going to need to unify in order to take down the looming threat.  Retuning folks like Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Havok (Lucas Till), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and even Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) make an appearance while newcomers Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) share the screen as well.  Whew, got all of the names out of the way.  There’s a bunch of characters vying for screen time but the film’s handling of these characters is one thing that Apocalypse gets right.  There’s character moments galore, especially with the fan-favorite Quicksilver who steals the show numerous times, to no surprise.  Although most of these moments don’t really amount to much, they still put a smile on your face. In terms of the newcomers, both Sophie Turner and Kodi Smit-McPhee did a great job with their characters, while Tye Sheridan’s depiction of Cyclops was hit or miss.  They were collectively alright, but some shined more than others.  It’s also worth mentioning that Jennifer Lawrence was pretty great as well.  It’s looking pretty murky for the future of her involvement in the series, which could be a big blow for subsequent movies going forward.

xmen apoc 2
via Zap2it

As I’ve mentioned before, the scope and brevity of this movie is hard to deny.  With a movie that teases the end of the world, it only makes sense that the bars are raised.  The story, plot holes and all, might not mean that much in the end, but it provides for a dumb fun roller coaster of a ride.  The set pieces are gigantic and the fight scenes are well choreographed and engaging.  There were a couple of times where I was like, wow, this movie looks pretty great.  Days of Future Past featured Magneto’s upheaval of RFK stadium, but Apocalypse has a moment or two that definitely rivals its predecessor’s crowing moment.

Where Apocalypse trips up is with its titular villain, and his surrounding four henchmen.  Oscar Isaac’s early moments as the god-like villain were fun to watch, but as the second and third act started to unfold, his powers started to become inconsistent as he constantly bended the rules.  The concept of a dangerous doomsday villain like Apocalypse is cool, but they mishandled his character, giving him powers that made me wonder why he even needed any help in the first place.  In fact, he probably could have single handedly taken out the X-Men himself if he really wanted to.  Speaking of his hour helpers, what was the point of even having them in this movie?  With the exception of Storm, the other three mutants on Apocalypse’s team were pretty unnecessary as far as story goes.  They’re also never painted as being dangerous.  I’m not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say the team gets broken up in the form of a little whimper that will easily be forgettable the second you step outside the theater.  It’s a shame because they could have been so much more.  Instead, they were relegated to throwaway character material.

xmen apoc 3
via Collider

Apocalypse leaves things in a pretty good place as it comes to a close, which should give any fan of the series some hope for the franchise’s future.  Let’s be honest, the X-Men series has had its fair share of ups and downs.  It’s why I set my expectations for this movie pretty low.  Although the movie carries some flaws, it was actually a lot better than I thought it was initially going to be.  Maybe this is a product of my low expectations.  Who knows, this could be a pretty bad movie.  However, I’m pretty confident that if you’re a fan of the X-Men, then this might be a movie worth seeing.  As for everyone else, it’s another superhero movie…so do with that what you will?

xmen apoc score

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Fallout 4: Far Harbor Impressions

Because of the nature of the article, spoilers might be littered throughout.  If you haven’t gone through the DLC already, proceed with caution.

Here it is, the Fallout 4 add-on we have all been waiting for is finally here.  The two previous pieces of extra content, Automatron and Wasteland Workshop largely centered around the main game’s workshop component.  While this necessarily isn’t a bad thing, their certainly a far cry from Bethesda’s normal post-launch content rollouts.  The two pieces of DLC had some cool stuff, but they pale in size to Bethesda’s normal expansion content.  The latest piece of DLC, Far Harbor, is the first piece of major story DLC that adds a substantial questline, Bethesda’s largest landmass for a DLC, new characters, and new enemies.  Like I said before, this is the DLC that most fans have been anticipating since it was first announced, alongside Automatron and Wasteland Workshop.  Now that it’s out, I have spent some quality time with the new content and I have some thoughts…some positive and some negative.

far harbor 1.png
via Find My Soft

Your adventure begins when a new case gets sent into the Valentine Detective Agency.  It involves a young woman who has run away from home, leaving her parents in distress.  It’s up to you and Nick Valentine (a companion I highly recommend bringing along with you for the adventure) to get to the bottom of her disappearance and the reasoning behind her wanting to leave home.  Upon arriving at her coastal home, clues lead to her whereabouts in Far Harbor, a deadly island in Maine that’s enveloped with the Fog, a radioactive nightmare.  This thus kicks off your boat ride to Far Harbor, where you discover a deeper conflict, much bigger than the case of Kasumi Nakano, the girl you are tasked with finding.

There’s three main factions that call Far Harbor their home, the harbor men and woman of Far Harbor, the synth colony of Acadia, and the Children of Atom.  Upon setting foot on the island, it doesn’t take long to grasp the amount of tension brewing between the three groups.  There all at a standoff, and it’s up to you to bring peace or to cause chaos.  There’s a variety of different endings that result from your actions.  If you play your cards right, you can leave far harbor with all three factions living in a sort of harmony.  You can also leave with all three factions destroyed.  Let’s just say that it’s insanely easy to mess things up if you’re not careful…which is where I found myself upon Far Harbor’s ending.

far harbor 2
via Attack of the Fanboy

When you give a visit to Acadia, you meet the synth named DiMA, the weird-looking synth that you probably saw from the trailer.  He seems like a nice, peaceful synth who doesn’t want to cause trouble, but you soon learn that there’s a darker secret he’s keeping from you.  Upon unearthing some of his dirty deeds, I demanded that he travel to Far Harbor and fess up to his deeds.  During my play-through of Fallout 4, I was a big advocate for the truth.  I didn’t like to lie if I didn’t have to.  I thought having DiMA be honest with the citizens of Far Harbor would be the right thing to do.  Unfortunately, this is where I was sadly mistaken.  The harbor men carried out the justice that needed to be done for DiMA’s doings, but despite my pleadings, they also found Acadia, and all the innocent Synths (including Kasumi) within, guilty as well.  Before I knew it, DiMA and Acadia were brutally murdered and wiped from existence…all because I thought the truth was the way to go.  One of the island’s main factions was destroyed, and I was only two hours into the DLC.  What have I done?

This bothered me.  After kissing up to the different factions, I made the decision that I wanted Far Harbor and Acadia to survive to the end, while the Children of Atom could be destroyed.  I understood that there were some innocent souls in the Children of Atom, but they seemed like the bad guys with the bad intentions of wiping everyone off the island.  In my eyes, they had to go.  But here I was, two hours in, and Acadia was killed right before my eyes.  I then had to carry out my mission of destroying the Children of Atom, which left the citizens of Far Harbor the sole survivors on the island.  This isn’t necessarily a “bad ending,” but it felt pretty depressing.  Especially since when all was said and done, I had to travel back to the Commonwealth and break the news to Kasumi’s parents that their daughter was brutally murdered in cold blood because of one synth’s actions.  At least that’s what I told them.  How was I supposed to tell them that it was my actions that killed their daughter?  In my pursuit of honesty and truth for Far Harbor, I ended up telling a lie in the end.  It’s this kind of irony that sucks…  In the words of Nick Valentine, “case closed.”  It wasn’t the way I wanted things to turn out, but the truth was indeed found and Kasumi was brought home…in a body bag, unfortunately.  Just another cruel day in the wasteland.

far harbor 3
via 4Players

As a result of my choices, Far Harbor was sort of a bummer for me.  There’s nothing wrong with the story, in fact, Bethesda did a fantastic job with the story.  There’s a lot of great and interesting ways in which you can resolve the island’s issues…it’s just unfortunate that my way, which in my eyes was the right way, turned bad…pretty quickly.  Sure, I could load up an old save and replay the events to work more in my favor…but that’s just not my style.  I live with the decisions that I make and move on…it’s what makes these games so great.

Despite the story’s strength’s I did have some issues with some of the smaller aspects of the story.  For instance, DiMA’s monologue about synths and their identity didn’t really hit home like it probably should have.  At one point she even poses the question, “are you a synth?”  It made me step back and think…but then I realized the holes in DiMA’s thinking.  The player was clearly alive before the bombs fell, a time in which synths weren’t even in the picture.  You then black out in cryo-sleep in the vault, waking up years later, but c’mon, does the game really expect me to believe that in that time the player was switched out with the body of a synth?  I don’t think so.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s an inherently interesting idea, but it’s also half-baked, especially considering the fact that it was never once mentioned again for the rest of the story.  A thought cast into the wind.  There’s also issue with the game’s ending.  After destroying the Children of Atom by setting off a nuclear bomb in their facility, the DLC was essentially brought to a close.  I “cleansed the land.”  After traveling back to Far Harbor, where I expected to get greeted with fanfare, I was instead met with silence and…well, nothing.  Everybody was carrying out their own business, with not a care in the world to talk to me.

far harbor 4.png
via PS4 Daily

Umm…guys, did no one notice the gigantic nuclear explosion to the west?  No?  What about the whole, “Let’s destroy the Children of Atom!” thing?  Yeah…I did that!  I took them out, just like you wanted.  Does no one care?  Hello?  Oh god…someone talk to me so I don’t go crazy…

Okay, maybe it was a bug or an issue with the game, but it still dampened the experience.  I was expecting the bow to be tied on the story…but instead I was left to my own devices.  There was no closure.  Just a “quest completed” notification.  I didn’t let this get to me too much, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed…even if it was just a bug.  I also understand that I might be in the small minority that was bothered by this.  That doesn’t make it right though.

But enough of this negativity, huh?  Let’s talk about where this add-on really shines and that is with its locales and its enemies.  The island of Far Harbor is by far the biggest landmass Bethesda has ever created for a DLC.  To give you an idea of how big it is, I’d say it is probably around a fourth of the size of the Commonwealth.  The environment hearkens back to another piece of Fallout DLC, which was Point Lookout.  There’s a lot of coastal locations mixed with swampy bogs as you make your way towards the mainland.  Although some areas seem to be recycled from some of the main game’s locations, like the bowling alley, there is still a good bit of variety in the island’s landmarks.  Probably one of the coolest places for players to explore is Vault 118, a full-size vault hidden away under a cliffside resort.  It marks the first time Bethesda has put a full-scale vault inside one of its expansions.  It’s also home to a quest which might be one of the best parts of Far Harbor.

far harbor 5
via Imgur

Then there’s the creatures that roam the island.  Far Harbor is no walk in the park.  It’s a hostile place with a bunch of new monsters that want to have you for dinner.  Some of the new enemy types are rehashed versions of Mirelurks and Ghouls, while others are completely new, including Anglers and Gulpers.  There’s also some larger enemies that will mess your day up if you’re not careful.  There’s a hermit crab that uses the back of a bus as its shell.  It’s as terrifying as it sounds and it made for a pretty lengthy encounter.  That’s just a sampling of some of the enemies that you will encounter during your travels.  Want to know a pro-tip?  Maybe pack some Radaway before you leave for the island, because you will surely need it.

Far Harbor left me conflicted in the end, but I still can’t deny that I had a lot of fun with Bethesda’s first major expansion pack for Fallout 4.  The story is engaging and the characters that you will meet along the way are just as great.  You will even get a new companion, who’s old but still a bad-ass.  There’s plenty of places to explore and things to do, with around ten to twelve hours of content to tackle.  It’s without a question that this is the best piece of DLC that the game has to offer right now and it makes me excited for what’s to come in the next three add-ons.  Just promise me Bethesda that you leave the workshop expansions at home…please.  We need three more add-ons like Far Harbor.

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via Find My Soft

Review: Bully

bully cover
via Neoseeker

Bully (PS2 – 2006) (PS4 – 2016)

PS4 / Rated T

Action / Adventure

Publisher: Rockstar Games

Developer: Rockstar Vancouver


I never remember high school being this intense.  In Rockstar’s PS2 classic Bully, which is now available on PS4, you take on the role of the new kid.  You start off pretty low on the high school hierarchy, but you eventually work your way up to bigger and better things.  Along the way you accomplish some weird, random, and insane things, stuff I never remember doing in high school…probably for good reason. (Probably) When you think of Rockstar, Bully might not be a game that comes to mind, but it’s a game that’s worth a good amount of praise.

bully 1
via Lakebit

As I mentioned before, Jimmy Hopkins is Bullworth Academy’s newest student.  After being expelled from numerous schools beforehand, which he is very proud of, Bullworth Academy is his final landing place, a place that will supposedly whip him into shape.  The school might be tough, but let’s be honest, there’s nothing stopping Jimmy from his habits.  After meeting some kids and making new friendships, Jimmy becomes determined to make his way up the high school totem pole, not stopping until you literally rule the school.  All of your classic high school cliques, including the nerds, jocks, greasers, and preps, are present and you have to make some alliances along the way if you want to rule them all.

Although your primary goal is clear from the get-go, the journey to achieve this goal is fun and often times ridiculous.  The game’s story and it’s writing is top notch and provided for numerous laughs, way more than I initially thought.  The dialogue is clever and the situations that Jimmy gets himself into are completely insane, especially as you get into the later chapters.  The story starts off pretty grounded, but then starts to go places as the game goes on, especially when the rest of the world, or in this case “the town,” opens up to the player. The characters that Jimmy comes into contact with, including the game’s antagonist Gary Smith, are all pretty enjoyable as well.  Gary Smith is a pretty big dick, so his characterization was pretty well done.

bully 2
via PS4 Pal

The thing I appreciate the most about Bully is the fact that it’s basically Grand Theft Auto, but instead of guns you have slingshots and stink bombs and instead of thugs and the police you have bullies and the school’s authority figures, who are absolutely ruthless by the way.  Technically there are also police in the game, which is kind of ridiculous in its own hilarious way.  Just like any other normal school, you should expect to be disciplined for violence against other students, or any other mischief for that matter, unless you can find a way to get away with it.  Bullworth Academy cracks down pretty hard on just about anything you do, but that shouldn’t worry players since getting away with your dirty deeds is pretty easy to do.  Just prepare to do a lot of running.  Running away from the school’s authority or the police is a majority of what you’ll be doing.  Life’s tough as a bully.

Bully’s mission structure favors short bite-sized missions over long and drawn-out affairs, which actually works to the game’s benefit.  A good portion of the missions involve you doing some pretty stupid things that often work best in shorter experiences.  You’ll partake in a majority of the missions on the academy’s grounds, but the story will also take you outside of the academy’s walls into the town of Bullworth, which is surprisingly big for what I expected.  There’s also a good amount of side missions, although most of them are relegated to fetch quests or beat-em-up missions.  Some of the missions might not be super imaginative, but I never found myself getting bored.  In addition to the missions, you can also partake in go-kart and other BMX-style races, carnival games, newspaper delivery, and combat training…because you know, that’s what high schoolers are into I guess.  There’s also a relationship component to the game that can lead to some hair-pulling fights depending on the girls you kiss.  Let’s just say there’s no shortage of trouble that you can get yourself into.

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Gameplay is where Bully starts to feel a little dated.  Combat handles pretty well and usually only involves punching or slingshot attacks from a distance.  Other weapons in the game, like firecrackers or potato guns, offer some variety in combat as well.  There’s also items like marbles and stink bombs that can give you the upper hand in fights as well.  The first part of the game is pretty tough since everybody hates you and wants to pick a fight, however, once you start to make more alliances and upgrade your arsenal, fights become a lot less frequent and when they do happen, they are much easier to handle.  You’re also able to ride bicycles and go karts, but these can get a little squirrely at times, especially the bicycle which I found myself wiping out on a lot if I wasn’t careful.  Perhaps the most frustrating part of the game were some of the classes, which are basically glorified mini games that you have to attend until you complete them.  (You can skip class, but that basically makes you a refugee in hiding until the class times are over.)  There are five classes in all, and most of them are either boring and unimaginative or frustratingly difficult.  I never remember Art class being that difficult.  Also, if Chemistry was as easy as just pressing buttons, then I’d probably be a scientist at NASA by now.  The classes are essential in that they grant you access to upgrades upon completion, but they are not fun whatsoever…which is maybe the most realistic thing about this game.

Never did I think a teenager’s rise up the high school totem pool would be so fun.  Bully provides a unique experience; unlike most traditional games we are used to.  Some of the game’s mechanics might not date well, but the overall experience still stands as one of Rockstar’s best.  This game makes me crave another dive into Bully’s world via a sequel, although that still remains a pipe dream at this point.  Now, this is the part where I would say I wish my high school experience was akin to this game, but then I realize how terrible that would be.  Bullworth is not a normal or sane school by any means, but boy was it fun.

bully score

Also available on PC and PS3.

Review: Captain America: Civil War

civil war poster
via Black Film

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

PG-13 / 147 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo


Arguments and disagreements are commonplace in families.  Let’s face it, they’re a part of family life whether you like it or not.  The same goes for superhero families, although their arguments are not of the verbal variety.  Things get violent and escalate pretty quickly but agreements finally get worked out in the end, one way or another.  Such is the case in Captain America: Civil War, Marvel’s latest summer superhero romp, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo who are famous for their previous work in the Marvel Universe.  Although the story is toned down in scale, Civil War manages to provide a fun and crowd-pleasing experience while at the same time giving us a grounded and meaningful story that’s more than just a bunch of meatheads punching each other (although there’s plenty of punches to be thrown).

civil war 1
via Ask Men

Putting the Captain America moniker on the film might be a bit of a stretch, and perhaps a little misleading.  Unlike the previous Captain America films, this is more of an Avengers story than it is the Captain’s.  Hot off the heels of the Sokovia disaster from Age of Ultron and a chaotic Africa mission at the beginning of this movie, the Avengers are starting to become a little reckless in their ways.  They are keeping the world safe, but lots of innocent civilians are left in the crumbling wake left behind them.  To combat this dilemma, the Sokovia Accords are drafted to keep the Avengers, and all other meta-humans, accountable for their actions.  These accords would also put them under the jurisdiction of the government as well.  Captain Rogers, played by Chris Evans, believes that it’s their duty to keep the world safe, no matter what the cost while Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., believes they should be put in check.  Faced with the decision to sign, tempers start to rise and heads start to butt.  The “civil war” ensues.

Things get even more complicated with the sudden reappearance of the Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), more commonly known as the Winter Solider as well as Captain America’s good friend.  After Bucky is seemingly held responsible for a disastrous bombing at the signing location of the Sokovia Accords, things get pretty bleak and trust starts to get misplaced.  There’s a lot of moving parts in Civil War, but things are pieced together nicely.  We get a grounded story that revolves around Captain America and Iron Man, and their respective teams that butt heads.  The world isn’t faced with mass destruction and there’s no global evil that is looming over the superheroes.  The film is just about the Avengers and their differences, which is a nice and refreshing change of pace.

civil war 2
via Movie Web

Now let’s get to the lineup cards.  Iron Man’s team consists of himself, as well as War Machine (Don Cheadle) and the Vision (Paul Bettany).  He’s also joined by newcomers Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland).  Captain America’s team features him and Bucky, as well as Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who is called out of retirement.  The middle ground is occupied by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who struggles with choosing between the two sides.  Tom Holland’s depiction of Spider-Man is arguably one of the best parts of the entire movie.  He captures Spider-Man’s essence brilliantly and steals every scene he’s a part of.  He’s smart and nerdy, while still retaining his talkative nature during battle.  The only problem I had with his character was that there wasn’t enough of him.  The movie gets me super excited for Homecoming and the future of Spider-Man.  Other standouts include Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, which is essentially a glorified cameo (full of hilarious moments), and Chadwick Boseman’s mysterious Black Panther who I’m interested to see more from.

Even though the story’s operating on a smaller scale, there’s still a good amount of high-thrills action and well-cut fight scenes.  In particular, the airport fight scene might be the best piece of fighting we have seen in a Marvel movie to date.  There’s plenty of surprises and big moments that made me giddy with excitement.  I don’t know if I was clear before, but this movie is a ton of fun.  Character moments also play a big part in the story as well.  The dynamic between characters are explored and relationships are tested.  The implied romance between the Vision and Scarlet Witch was cool to see and the friendship triangle between Iron Man, Captain America, and Bucky Barnes was also very interesting.  These are just a few of the relationships that the movie explored.  One of my biggest fears going into this movie was whether or not they were going to keep all of these friendships and conflicts straight, but the Russo brothers managed to keep the story coherent and well-paced, giving each character the amount of screen-time they deserve.

civil war 3
via The Critical Critics

Civil War, for the most part, fires on all cylinders.  However, when it comes to the film’s “bad guy,” there’s something left to be desired.  Played by Daniel Bruhl, Zemo is essentially a cookie-cutter villain that’s bland and generally uninteresting.  His motives seem serviceable, but there wasn’t much that really kept me invested in his character.  He’s essentially a means to an end, a device that drives a bigger story and a bigger conflict.

There’s humor, action, and emotion all over Civil War.  It’s a movie that feels like the satisfying culmination of all of Marvel’s previous work.  It also progresses the over-arching Avengers story in a way that moves it forward into the future.  There’s a lot to like about Civil War, so much so that I might consider it the best Marvel offering to date.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a phenomenal movie, but so is Civil War.  Unlike DC, Marvel continues to kill it on the big screen, providing (yet again) another must-see movie event.  Now pick your side and join in on the fun.

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Review: The Walking Dead: Michonne

michonne cover
via PC Gaming Wiki

The Walking Dead: Michonne (2016)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games


The Walking Dead games are what put Telltale Games on the map.  Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true but they have definitely given the company the most success.  Both season one and season two of their episodic adventure games based on the comic books were critically acclaimed and set the company on the right direction.  With Telltale’s latest installment in the franchise, The Walking Dead: Michonne, they decided to take a different direction in more ways than one, but some of these directions don’t pay off in the end.

michonne 1
via YouTube

Unlike the previous two adventures, The Walking Dead: Michonne hones in on the story of Michonne, a protagonist from the comics.  She’s a stoic figure who doesn’t really talk much unless she needs to.  She’s also dealing with some psychological demons involving her two dead daughters, which is the aspect of her character that the story focuses the most on.  For those wondering, the story takes place between the comic’s issues 126 and 139.  (I haven’t read the comics myself, or seen the show for that matter, so I wouldn’t know.)

Another thing that Telltale does differently with Michonne is its three-episode format, unlike the normal five-six-episode format that most are used to.  There’s nothing wrong with going down the short-form adventure route, but it makes developing a meaningful and impactful story pretty difficult.  It can be done, but it’s tough to do.  Unfortunately, Michonne falls short of giving us an impactful story, which is due in part to the short time we have with the characters.  I grew attached to Michonne, as she was the main protagonist, but all of the other side characters and antagonists meant nothing to me really.  They had their moments, sure, but I wanted to spend more time with them in the end.  Just like the previous games, there will be deaths and tough decisions to make, but they ultimately didn’t matter to me in the end.  It also doesn’t help that the episodes were short in comparison.  I just didn’t feel that attached to what was going on onscreen.

michonne 3
via Rocket Chainsaw

Speaking of decisions, the game plays just as you’d expect.  Telltale hasn’t reinvented the wheel with Michonne, giving you an all-too-familiar gameplay experience.  You will participate in quick time events.  You will pick dialogue choices.  You will walk around small little environments.  You will make some pivotal decisions.  These decisions don’t really have consequence however.  The decisions also weren’t that hard to make either.  It almost felt like Telltale was just laboring through the motions, pumping out a paint-by-the-numbers experience similar to their other games without really putting any thought into what they were doing.

This is all a shame because The Walking Dead: Michonne has a gripping drama in its hands.  Michonne has a tough and quiet exterior, but on the inside there is a bevy of bottled up guilt and sadness that literally haunt her as she moves along.  During her travels she comes across a friendly crew of sailors as well as a small band of vicious and deadly survivors.  How she deals with these new people, as well as the situations she is thrust into, are by far the most enticing aspect the game has to offer.  Telltale has an interesting story to tell, it’s just too bad its brought down by some of the more technical facets of the game.

michonne 2
via Game Over

If you were a fan of the previous Walking Dead installments by Telltale (which most probably are) then this might warrant a look.  There’s some cool stuff the game brings to the table, but just know what you’re getting into.  Wane your expectations.  If your new to the series, then it’s hard to justify a play through of The Walking Dead: Michonne.  I would recommend the previous two installments, but that’s about it.

The Walking Dead: Michonne_20160405165941

Also available on PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iPhone, iPad, and Android.

Review: Views

views coverViews (2016)

Drake

Rap / Hip-Hop / R&B

OVO Sound / Young Money / Cash Money / Boy Better Know / Republic


The 6 can finally rejoice!  Toronto’s very own is back with his heavily anticipated album Views.  Drake has been drumming up the release of the album for almost a year now, and the talk surrounding it only rose as we got closer to release.  Part of this is because of the long wait between albums.  His last album, Nothing Was the Same, came out three years ago.  The anticipation was also heightened thanks to Drake’s beef with Meek Mill, which was absurdly silly when you look back at it all.  (Drake got a Grammy for his diss track, so it worked out for him in the end I guess) Now that Views is finally on the streets, was the wait worth it?  Well…it’s the same Drake sound, so there’s that…

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via The Fashionisto

Views is not a bad album by any means.  In fact, it is a solid release featuring some of the signature Drake sound that we have come to know and love over the years.  He’s almost his own genre at this point.  A Drake song has a unique sound that is distinguishable from the rest.  The problem with Views is that it runs a little long with tracks that just come off as lazy fillers.  There are some songs that are stereo killers, but then there are the lackadaisical R&B songs that should have just stayed at home.

The album gets off to a cold start with the intro track, “Keep the Family Close.”  It features some chilly production from OVO’s Maneesh and dives into Drake’s trust issues that have arisen as of late.  Right from the start, we hear the album play with the “seasons” motif.  We get a cold start that mimics Winter and then the album moves into a more upbeat and tropical sound that represents Summer.  Finally, the album takes us out with a switch back to the blustery cold sound that signifies the return of Winter.  It’s a cool idea that brings the album together, but it’s not an original concept.  If you remember, rapper Lupe Fiasco used the same “seasons” theme with his Tetsuo & Youth release last year.  In fact, I think Lupe’s album drove the “seasons” theme home with greater effect.

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via NME

After the intro we get the album’s only real homage to Toronto, entitled “9,” which signifies how he has turned the “6” (read Toronto) upside down.  It’s a good track that will get anyone from Toronto roused up with pride, but it didn’t have that same effect on me.  After this song we get some filler tracks with “U With Me?” and “Feel No Ways.”  They are both sluggish meanders through Drake’s inner psyche, something that we have seen time and time again from the rapper.  It’s not bad thing when an artist takes a reflective journey, but there was a little too much on Views.  When you have an album running at twenty tracks, it’s extremely hard to have twenty knock-outs.  If Views would have had a fourteen song track list instead, with the fillers out of the equation, my views on Views (yep, bad pun intended) would have been a different story.

It’s during the “Summer” portion of the album where Views shines.  “Controlla,” produced by Boi-1da, features the great Beenie Man, giving the song a distinct reggae sound.  The song is essentially the younger brother to “Work,” Drake’s collaboration with Rihanna.  Speaking of Rihanna, she appears on the track “Too Good,” a tropical song with a fun and rhythmic beat.  Finally, “One Dance,” featuring the lesser known Kyla and Wizkid, was released as a single and happens to be one of my favorite cuts from the album.  The song is an afro beat song with dancehall inflections and features some great work from Kyla and Wizkid.  Some other tracks that deserve attention are “Hype” and “Weston Road Flows,” which samples Mary J. Blige’s “Mary’s Joint,” harnessing some 90’s R&B.  These two tracks don’t really fit into the same equation as the previously mentioned three reggae-inspired tracks, but they are worth mentioning.

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via Hype Beast

“Views” is a five-minute closing track that brings the album to a close.  Sure, “Hotline Bling” is the last track on the album, but it was tacked on as a bonus offering.  “Views” mixes some gospel sounds over a track about loyalty and faith, something that we become familiar with over the course of the album.  It’s basically the roll-credits song to the whole album, an album that takes a deep look into the mind and emotions of the rapper.

Like I said before, this is a signature Drake album.  It features some mesmerizing slow-jam R&B tracks that take us on a walk through his inner-psyche.  It’s full of songs about relationships, his OVO team, and a whole range of other emotions.  Unfortunately, Views has a good bit of less-than-stellar tracks as well.  The reggae-inspired tracks are the best parts about the album.  Hype can be a blessing and a curse and in Drake’s case, the hype machine surrounding his album didn’t work in his favor.  Views is not a bad album by any means, it’s just an album that pales in comparison to his previous works, like Take Care and Nothing Was the Same.  If you’re a Drake aficionado, then you’re probably going to love this album.  If you’re not, well, then you’re going to enjoy the album but you’ll be confused as to why the album was hyped as much as it was.

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