Tag Archives: Sci-Fi

Review: Horizon: Zero Dawn

horizon cover
via Amazon

Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017)

PS4 / Rated T

RPG / Action / Adventure

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Developer: Guerrilla Games


In the months leading up to Horizon: Zero Dawn’s release I thought it was just a unique third-person action game starring a very capable female machine hunter named Aloy roaming around a seemingly post-apocalyptic open world full of tribal inhabitants and bad-ass looking robotic dinosaurs…or whatever you want to call them.  It just looked like a cool third-person action game and I did not think twice about it.  It was an anticipated title of mine but I did not think it was going to blow me away like it did.  Like damn…this Guerrilla’s first foray into this genre of games really impressed me on almost every front.

horizon 1
via US Gamer

Aloy’s tale begins during her days as an outsider, living off the land with her father Rost.  The two having been together for the better part of her formative years, until the day Aloy decides to put her skills to the test by participating in the trials, with the goal of joining the tribe that shunned her and her father years ago.  After a successful day at the trials (among other things that I will not spoil) she becomes a member of the tribe and soon begins to learn secrets about who she really is, and the deeper mystery that blankets the world of Horizon.  It is the looming mystery of this semi-familiar post-apocalyptic world that acted as the driving force that kept me playing through the game.  The game’s scope starts off small but as you begin to meet new characters and venture farther into the world, things start to open up and things get crazier as you begin to learn about the machines, why they exist, along with a host of other mysteries.  There are a lot of crazy ideas and concepts boiling under the game’s surface…more than you would initially imagine.

The best part of it all?  These crazy plot points that you encounter later in the game are extremely satisfying.  Any writer can throw together some hogwash that connects the dots and explains why things exist the way they do, but Horizon’s writers give some satisfying answers that are actually plausible…all things considering.  It is a fantastic bit of science fiction that comes to an end in a pleasing way.  I would be fine with the story ending the way it did, but I would be open to another iteration in the series, in whatever form that would take.  The game has done very well for Sony at this point, so I would not be surprised to see a sequel in the future.

horizon 2
via Forbes

Now let’s talk about powerful and capable protagonists.  Aloy serves as the backbone for the entire story.  If there was no Aloy…the game’s story would only amount to a withering skeleton.  I was infatuated with her character, as she was tough but also smart.  Over the course of the game she unravels a whole bunch of eye-opening revelations that would make the average person nauseous.  The way in which Aloy interprets what she sees is what makes her character so fascinating.  She is a very well-written character that deserves utmost praise.  The rest of the game’s cast were also strong.  I was most intrigued by the game’s various social structures that they present to the player.  Maybe it was just me, but the ratio of women to men leaders far favored the women.  In fact, this is probably one of the most diverse games I have ever played in terms of its various characters.  That is not necessarily a selling point for me, but it is certainly a breath of fresh air from some of the other games out there.

Perhaps the game’s biggest draws at a surface level is its combat, specifically versus the hordes of deadly machines that you will come across in the world.  You fight a fair share of human enemies while overtaking bandit camps and other locations, but the lion share of combat involves those dope machines that you have seen from the trailers.  What makes these machines unique are the various components and weak points on their bodies.  It is a fool’s errand to rush into a fight, spraying and praying with your bow-and-arrow.  Each machine has a strategy that works best for taking them down.  Using Aloy’s focus ability, which is a scanner attached to her ear, you can analyze the machines and plan the most viable fight strategy.  Perhaps tripping a machine with a tripwire and then sending a barrage of arrows in its direction towards its weak point is the way to go.  Shooting a machine’s cannon of its back might be a better approach.  Nothing is more satisfying than giving a machine a dose of its own medicine.  There are many different strategies you can take, which is a sign of engaging gameplay.  I love these types of games where tactics are just as important as the weapons you bring into battle.  You can have the best weapons in the game, but could have your ass royally handed to you on a platter by one of the Behemoths if you do not know what you are doing.  Another aspect I adored about the game’s combat is its sense of scale.  The machines you fight in the beginning are small and manageable, but as you discover new monsters they begin to get bigger and more terrifying.  It makes taking them out on your own that much more rewarding.

horizon 3
via Imgur

Horizon’s world is chock full of collectibles and side quests for Aloy to partake in.  However, this leads me to one of my minor gripes with the game, and that is its side quests.  I was never bored during my time with the game’s side quests, but a good bit of them fell short in the writing department.  Some quests are just your basic “go kill x number of x machines,” while some are a little more substantive and provide some interesting stories.  Unfortunately, a lot of these quests just fall a teeny bit short of greatness.  There was one quest in, for example, involving a father and his estranged daughter.  It starts off as a simple “find my daughter” quest, but then it evolves into something a little more distressing.  The game’s writers had something great on their hands, but did not do anything with it.  They set up a remarkable story, but then proceeded to swing and miss on its execution.  There were several ways the quest could have gone down, some more impactful and darker than the others, but the game’s writers took the easy way out wrapped the quest up prematurely.  This is just one single (and vague for fear of spoilers) example of some side quests that did not quite hit the mark.  This small shortcoming is what sets this game apart from games like the Witcher 3 and the Fallout series, where the side quest writing is stronger.

To no surprise, the game looks very beautiful.  I mean, they did not put a photo mode into the game for decoration.  There are a lot of different environments that you will explore, ranging from dense forests to arid desert plains.  Each of them look stunning at various times of the day.  I often found myself marveling at the incredible vistas that were a commonplace.  The character models looked just as beautiful, but I found that there seemed to be some technical issues during scenes of dialog.  There were some prominent lip-synching issues that were hard to not notice and the character animations during some of these scenes looked too robotic.  There were times were their upper-body movement did not seem natural and at times it felt like I was watching two animatronics at a Disney Theme Park.  Fortunately, aside from these issues, Horizon looks remarkable.

horizon 4
via iDigital Times

All my expectations for Horizon: Zero Dawn were met and sometimes even exceeded.  It is one of those games where I will instantly recommend it to you if you own a PS4.  If you own a PS4 and have not played Horizon yet…I do not know what you are even doing with your life.  I do not think the game unseats Uncharted 4 as my favorite PS4 exclusive, but it sure does give Naughty Dog’s masterpiece a run for its money.  Bravo to Guerilla Games for delivering an absolute barnburner of a game.

horizon score

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Review: Power Rangers

power rangers poster
via IGN

Power Rangers (2017)

PG-13 / 124 mins.

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler

Director: Dean Israelite


I like to have fun at the movies.  There is a place for more complex and deeper stories, but a big fun, dumb action movie acts as tasty junk food from time to time.  The reboot of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, simply titled Power Rangers, is that type of movie for me.  It is a ton of fun and the cheesy b-tier action sequences will keep a grin on your face from beginning to end.

power rangers 1
Photo by Kimberley French

Am I the biggest Power Rangers fan?  Definitely not.  In fact, I do not have the same affinity that some have for the beloved Saturday morning TV show.  I have watched the show a couple of times in my youth, but it was not something that I truly cared for.  I understand the show on a basic level, but never went out of my way to dig deeper.  Because of this, my expectations for the movie were at an absolute minimum.  I also had a couple of beers before the feature, so this might have attributed to my liking of this movie.  Let’s face it…beer can help make a lot of things better.

One of my favorite things from the movie, as well as one of my biggest issues, are the characters.  The five unlikely rangers include Jason (Dacre Montgomery) as the Red Ranger, Kimberly (Naomi Scott) as the Pink Ranger, Billy (RJ Cyler) as the Blue Ranger, Zack (Ludi Lin) as the Black Ranger, and Trini (Becky G.) as the Yellow Ranger.  The cast gels well together and they are all really likable.  They are quippy and humorous, especially Billy, who often steals the spotlight.  What makes his character even better is the fact that he is on the spectrum.  Most movies are hit or miss with their depictions of characters on the spectrum, but Power Rangers actually nails it and produces a fantastic character.  Despite how likable this crew is, almost all over their backstories and character moments are botched.  The first half of the movie, the weaker half, mostly serves to introduce the characters and their backstories.  It plays like a glorified YA novel.  There were a lot of character moments, besides Billy’s, that just felt flat on their face and could not get back up. Becky G’s character missed the mark. Zack’s story? Ehh…. Kimberley’s backstory? Kind of unimportant…and the same goes for Jason’s. I just could not get behind their stories. They were either poorly written or just plain uninteresting.

power rangers 2
Photo by Kimberley French

But what about the other characters?  Bryan Cranston voices Zordon, the Ranger’s mentor in their endeavors.  There is also Alpha 5, Zordon’s trusty robotic assistant, who is voiced by Bill Hader.  The two do a great job with their respective performances, especially Hader who serves up some of the movie’s more humorous moments.  The final notable character in this band of 90’s cartoon characters is Rita Repulsa, played by Elizabeth Banks.  She acts as the main villain in the movie, and god bless her for it.  Elizabeth’s character ranges from serious to tacky, hamming it up for the majority of the movie.  I really liked her performance and thought it brought along its fair share of laughs, but I might have preferred her character to take a more serous tone, especially during the movie’s final act.  I thought some scenes lost their intended tone because of her.

Power Rangers takes some time to morph into high gear (sorry…bad pun) but the final act is where it begins to take off.  There are some nostalgic callbacks that will make any Power Rangers super fan giddy with glee and the action that ensues fits perfectly with the show’s attitude.  The final fight includes some great shots and it is especially hard to not get hyped when Kanye West’s “Power” makes its way onto the soundtrack.  It was a full thirty minutes of B-movie action that just made me smile.  Sure it was corny. Sure it was laughable at times.  Sure, I had some beers in me so maybe it was the alcohol talking, but I really enjoyed the final act. There was even a galactic bitch slap that left me dying of laughter in the theater.

power rangers 3
via IMDB

Power Rangers never takes itself too seriously with its lighthearted fare, which might be a negative to non-fans. However, the original series was just as corny, so for the reboot to mimic that style is all the movie really needed. If you’re not a fan of the Power Rangers, then maybe this is not the movie for you. I went into this movie not expecting to be a fan…but I walked out pleasantly surprised. This movie is not winning any Oscars…but it was big, dumb fun…which I need every once in a while.

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Review: No Man’s Sky

no-mans-sky-cover
via Moby Games

No Man’s Sky (2016)

PS4 / Rated T

Action / Adventure

Publisher: Hello Games

Developer: Hello Games


What do you get when you mix together a fresh new idea, an unconventional publisher-developer relationship, a massive development cycle, and hype levels the size of space itself?  You get No Man’s Sky, a game that I really wanted to like.  Sean Murray and the team at Hello Games promised to make an expansive game rooted in boundless exploration and science-fiction nostalgia.  They teamed up with Sony to bring a console exclusive that would be revolutionary to gaming.  Unfortunately, the game was treated like a AAA game with the size of an indie studio.  When you pair that with a plethora of broken promises and an unclear scope, you get a game that lets a ton of people (like myself) down.

no-mans-sky-1
via Gear Nuke

Again, I really wanted to like No Man’s Sky.  The game brought and touched upon a ton of different concepts and ideas that would have made for a fantastic game if handled with a little more care.  The prospect of getting in a space cruiser and flying through the endless expanse of space, exploring different planets and their wildlife on the way, is an idea that should get any sci-fi nerd bouncing with excitement.  On top of that, a fluctuating space economy and the ability to interact with different alien species paint should have made No Man’s Sky the space exploration game we all were waiting for.  So where did it all go wrong?  Why did the game fall short of its expectations?

One reason is reality of the game’s planets versus what we were promised over the course of the game’s prolonged development and PR cycle.  If you watched any of the game’s demos, you probably saw a lush and vibrant ecosystem, filled to the brim with a wide range of mystical creatures roaming about.  It’s a setting that looked ripped from a painting.  It was beautiful, and it got a lot of gamers excited to explore the game’s randomly generated planets for themselves.  We all bought a ticket for the hype train.  We all bought in to the Sean Murray’s tremendous vision, one that might have been a little too far-fetched.

no-mans-sky-2
via Segment Next

At the end of the day, No Man’s Sky is just a game.  A game with limitations, just like any other game.  What Hello Games was promising fans was a game that would exceed technological innovation.  Instead, what we got were computer-generated planets that looked barren and empty, usually with some sort of radiation or extreme temperatures that make exploration a major pain in the ass.  Instead of these mythical creatures we saw in pre-release footage, we got a fair amount of atrocities that looked like the by-product of an animal creation algorithm gone wrong.  Remember EA’s character creation game Spore?  The creatures that you encounter in No Man’s Sky look like Spore rejects.  The ecosystem in the actual game just doesn’t match up with what we saw leading up to the game’s release.  This made planet exploration a bummer, especially when I started to see a lot of the same animals and planets over and over again over the course of my travels.  Random generation is great, but the limitations of such a system started to become apparent after my visit to my fifth planet.

Besides flora and fauna, you can also explore abandoned outposts, monoliths, and other structures, some populated and some empty.  Inside these buildings you can find new items, upgrades, money, and directions to other locations of interests.  The variety of these buildings, just like the animal and plant variety, starts to quickly wear thin as the buildings you explore start to become super familiar as you go on.  The monoliths, which are essentially ancient alien structures, are the most intriguing structures to explore as they offer the most variety and they also look amazing as well.

no-mans-sky-3
via Investor Place

The universe of No Man’s Sky feels empty as well.  Talks of a space economy and different alien species that you could interact with made me believe that the world we would be exploring would be a living and breathing galaxy.  Instead, members of these different alien species stay in the same spots, whether it’s in a space station or a planet’s outpost.  They talk in foreign tongues which makes it next to impossible to feel like you are actually having a conversation with an alien.  You can find tomes throughout the galaxy that help you understand these species’ languages, but this doesn’t help the fact that these NPCs that you encounter are lifeless quest givers.  The space economy does deliver in that you can find different prices for materials in different space systems, but I don’t think these prices are determined by any meta-statistics.  If I were to sell tons of iron to a space trader, the price of iron across the galaxy would not go down, which is a shame.  A space economy that actually reacted to players’ buying habits would be amazing.

Combat, whether it’s on foot or in the sky, is largely underwhelming.  While exploring planets, you have a multi-tool, which allows you to mine for materials as well as fight enemies.  You can upgrade the tool with better upgrades and abilities as you go.  When exploring planets, your only enemies are aggressive creatures and the flying sentinels that scour the planetscape, waiting for someone to cause trouble.  The creatures are easy to take down with your multi-tools’s blaster but the sentinels become a real nuisance as they traverse through the air.  The gun combat doesn’t feel great and I often found myself recklessly shooting my gun in an attempt to destroy the sentinels.  Combat does get easier with subsequent upgrades, but it never felt fun, which is a big problem.  In the air, your space ship has blasters and lasers that aid you in taking down pesky space pirates you track you down if you have any valuable cargo on board.  These fights were the most frustrating of them all.  The space pirates zoom by you and do nimble acrobatic maneuvers through the air as you try to shoot them with your sluggish aim.  Your best bet is to park yourself in place and turn your ship around in an attempt to take down the enemy ships.  This, again, was not fun at all and was the source of a good amount of deaths.  In fact, most of my deaths in this game came at the hands of space pirates.  Luckily they have no interest in your cargo as you can go retrieve your lost goods in the same place where you went down.  There are no stakes to these fights, which makes them a little easier to swallow.

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Up to this point, I have probably talked about half of what you do in No Man’s Sky.  The other half you may ask?  Well, you are going to spend a lot of time with inventory management, which is another major detriment to the game’s experience.  The thing I like about No Man’s Sky’s user interface is the inspiration it draws from Destiny’s user interface.  Unfortunately, navigating through your inventory becomes a hassle thanks to the limited space that you have right from the get-go.  Your Exosuit (your spacesuit) has an inventory as well as you ship, which usually has a larger inventory.  These inventories are pretty small in the beginning which makes resource mining a pain.  I constantly found myself having to sacrifice some materials in order to make room for rarer materials and items.  It also doesn’t help that suit and ship upgrades take up inventory spots as well, which makes upgrading your gear a tougher decision that it should be.  Your inventory space should never get in the way of upgrading your gear.  In order to expand your inventory, you either have to purchase suit upgrades at outposts or obtain bigger and more expensive ships with more space.  Again, as a player you should never have to upgrade your inventories in order to make them useable.  Moving resources and items around in order to make room for other things is a big portion of the gameplay, which is a major shame.  It starts to become a drag really quickly.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that half of your playtime will be spent in the game’s inventory menus.  You’re going to be managing your inventory a lot…which is not my idea of a good time.

Finally, I feel like I need to talk about the multiplayer aspects of the game, rather the lack of multiplayer features that the game has to offer.  You have the choice to name the systems, planets, animals, and plants that you discover in hopes that another player will stumble upon your discoveries.  Why else would name these things?  However, the reality of such a massive random generation algorithm means that millions of planets are being created.  Sean Murray has made it pretty clear that the chance of stumbling upon someone else’s discovery are pretty slim.  Over the course of my playtime, I found nothing that was discovered by someone else.  Because of this, I found myself skipping the naming process, sticking with the randomly generated names that the game gives to these different aspects of the universe.  I stopped claiming ownership of such discoveries, because in the end, they don’t really matter.  Realistically, no one is going to stumble upon your discovered planets…which is a damn shame.  This is the theme of No Man’s Sky.  It’s a damn shame.

No Man's Sky_20160808131201
via Segment Next

I could go on for multiple paragraphs, but this review is starting to run long.  There’s a bevy of great ideas and systems that No Man’s Sky implements, but they all feel half-baked and undercooked.  Black holes, Hyper drives, puzzles, and the mysterious Atlas are aspects of the game that I haven’t talked about.  However, none of these things managed to stick out because they were either mishandled ideas or cheap by-products of another random generation.  I admire Hello Game’s commitment to fixing the game and trying to make it a better experience for players after the game has launch, but a lot of these problems could have been fixed if expectations were tempered and promises weren’t made.  The No Man’s Sky we were expecting versus the No Man’s Sky that was put on shelves are two different products that tell two different stories.  One could have been a defining addition to gaming history while the other was the product of a hype train gone off the rails.  I wanted to like No Man’s Sky so much, but in the end it’s a game that just can’t get into.  Who knows, maybe the game will be different in a year’s time with the developer’s plans to update the game, but I don’t think I will be making the return trip into No Man’s Sky.

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Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

resurgence poster
via Trailer Addict

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

PG-13 / 120 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman

Director: Roland Emmerich


It’s been twenty years since the aliens attacked the earth in Independence Day: Resurgence.  The fabled attack, which put humankind in jeopardy, took place on the United States’ Independence Day, an attack which gave America more than just fireworks.  Fast forward twenty years later and the aliens have come back, conveniently on the Fourth of July, to mount an invasion much bigger than the first rodeo.  With the absence of Will Smith and the presence of many issues, Resurgence doesn’t amount to anything more than a major letdown when stacked up to its predecessor.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
via Entertainment Focus

I don’t think it’s fair to say that Resurgence would have been a better movie with Will Smith, but his absence left the cast feeling a tad bit emptier.  There are some returning actors that reprise their roles, like Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, Bill Pullman as President Whitmore, Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson, Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okun, and more.  Unfortunately, most of the screen time is dedicated to the new cast of characters, who are generally boring and not very interesting.  Liam Hemsworth plays the young hotshot Jake Morrison while Jessie T. Usher plays Dylan Hiller, the son of Will Smith’s character.  There’s some others, but frankly I just didn’t care about them.  Maybe the one exception to boring new ensemble is President Whitmore’s daughter, Patricia Whitmore, who is played by Maika Monroe.  She has some great moments throughout the film that outshine anything that Hemsworth or Usher bring to the table.

A second coming of this deadly alien species is no laughing matter.  They essentially blindside the nations of the world, causing mass destruction and hysteria around the world.  The stakes are high as this is no laughing matter.  This is what made me question the film’s overall tone, which came off as, well…goofy.  There was an unhealthy layer of cheese that was splashed over every single aspect of the movie.  Characters were delivering punchlines and groan-worthy one-liners left and right.  I get that this is a summer blockbuster and that most people show up for the action, but c’mon, we deserved a little more.  The writing is laughable with many a plot-hole to be found amidst the rubble.  It’s one big cheesy mess that stumbles all the way to the finish line.

resurgence 2
via Japan Today

Another aspect that doesn’t do the film any favors is the plethora of characters that all vie for screen time, both old and new.  As I mentioned before, the returning characters seem to get overshadowed by the new.  This is surprising given the amount of odes and references to the original movie.  To be honest, I would have much preferred having a movie devoid of any of the new characters.  I was a little disappointed in the ample usage of guys like Goldblum, Pullman, and Spiner.  These characters had their moments, which make up most of the movies most solid pieces, but I just wanted an experience with more of these characters.  Sure, some of the new characters are integral to the story’s main plot, but if it were me, I would have written them entirely out of the plot, with no offense to any of their acting skills. The writing and the characterizations were the problem.

Despite everything I have laid out so far, it’s hard to deny the fact that this movie’s biggest draw is it’s set-piece moments and its grand scope.  With a Roland Emmerich film, you should know what you’re getting at the door.  The movie’s visual destruction is one of its few redeeming qualities.  Destruction of areas like downtown London make for some eye-popping visuals full of bleak wonderment.  A lot of the fight scenes that take place in the air can get messy a times but there’s usually never a dull moment, visually.

resurgence 3
via Actucine

Just because something is bigger and more epic, doesn’t mean it is always better.  Independence Resurgence is a perfect example of this sentiment.  The marketing campaign behind the movie pushes the movie as a grand epic of destructive proportion.  The movie’s scale overpowers the original film, sure, but in terms of quality…this is about as bargain bin as it gets.  The movie is a visual treat and had its sparse moments, but everything else about the movie is as gross as the sloppy goo that spurts out of a dead alien carcass.  You welcome for that visual.

Independence Day Resurgence

Review: Day of the Tentacle Remastered

dott cover
via Entertainment Factor

Day of the Tentacle Remastered (2016)

PS4 / Rated T

Adventure

Publisher: Double Fine Productions

Developer: Double Fine Productions


Tim Schafer is a genius when it comes to adventure games, and I genuinely mean that.  All you have to do is take a look at his past work, which includes games like Grim Fandango, the Monkey Island series, Full Throttle, Maniac Mansion, and most recently Broken Age.  His latest trend, one that I wholeheartedly enjoy, is bringing some of these classics back, like Grim Fandango, as remastered versions.  Double Fine’s latest remaster project, Day of the Tentacle Remastered, brings back the wacky time-travel adventure that stars three odd-ball teenagers and one very evil purple tentacle.  The remaster beautifully modernizes the story while retaining the charm and amusement of the original.

dott 1
via multiplayer.it

You take control of the nerd Bernard Bernoulli, the weirdo Laverne, and the heavy metal roadie that goes by the name Hoagie.  They are a band of misfits that must work together to put a stop to the evil Purple Tentacle’s plans of world domination.  In order to stop Purple Tentacle in his tracks, they have to enlist the help of the mad scientist Dr. Fred and his janky time machine.  Dr. Fred attempts to send them back in time so the kids can shut off the contamination machine that is the source of Purple Tentacle’s powers, but thing’s go horribly wrong as you would expect.  The three kids are split up into three different time periods, the past, the present, and the future.  They must work together, in different eras, to bring a stop to Purple Tentacle and, in turn, save the world.

The game’s story, primarily designed by industry veterans Schafer and Dave Grossman, is consistently great and on point throughout the entire adventure.  Day of the Tentacle features a variety of comedy styles, ranging from benign potty humor to wry, sometimes dark, humor.  Every joke works well and there are a very slim few that don’t connect, even twenty years later in this day and age.  There was one early moment in particular, involving a down-on-his-luck product designer who puts a gun to his head in his hotel room, only to reveal a bright “BOOM” flag upon firing the weapon.  It was a shocking moment that still managed to paint a smile on my face.  The inclusion of time travel also makes for some great story and character moments as well.  Watching as Hoagie instilled his heavy metal slang on the founding fathers in the past makes for some great comedic material.  The story is smart and sharp all the way through till the credits roll.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered_20160327210641
via Polygamia

What made Day of the Tentacle so unique from other adventure games of its time was its time travel mechanics and the ability to switch between the different characters in their respective time periods.  It makes for some inventive puzzles that require some smart solutions.  Speaking of puzzles, unlike most adventure games of its time, the game never had any puzzles that require obtuse or abstract solutions.  Everything that you do makes sense and I never had to bash random items together in hopes of progressing the story.  The game makes you feel smart by letting you solve the problems in logical and clever ways.  With that being said, there were still some tough solutions, especially towards the latter half of the game.  It made me wish there was a built in hint system, which these remasters seemingly never have.  The game wasn’t overtly difficult, but a little dynamic hint system would have gone a long way.

There’s a layer of polish that lathers Day of the Tentacle Remastered that delightfully brings the game to life in this modern era of games.  Every screen was reworked from the ground up, giving the game higher resolution graphics.  The art isn’t the only thing got reworked, as the music was given a remastered treatment as well.  Maybe the best part about it all is that you can switch between the remastered and classic versions of the game on the fly with one press of a button.  I constantly found myself switching between the two just to marvel in the amount of work that was put into the remaster.  There’s also the inclusion of concept art, developer commentaries, and a fully playable version of the original Maniac Mansion, a little Easter egg that could have been found in the original version as well.  This amount of work that the game’s original creators put into this version of the game shows in every nook and cranny.

dott 3
via Fan Pop

As far as remastered games go, especially adventure games, Day of the Tentacle Remastered holds up extremely well, in large part thanks to Tim Schafer and the team at Double Fine.  The game features a hilariously absurd and clever story that’s chock full of witty humor and ingenious references.  It also has a bright and cheery look that translates every single little detail from the original.  If you haven’t played the original, this is about as good as the game is going to get.  Now, the wait begins again for Tim Schafer’s next remaster project, Full Throttle.

dott score

Also available on PC and PSVita.

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

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: 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.

civil war 4

Review: Pacific Rim

pacific rim poster
via Pintrest

Pacific Rim (2013)

PG-13 / 131 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi

Director: Guillermo del Toro


In some alternate universe, I’d like to imagine that Godzilla and the Transformers exist together.  In that universe they are fighting each other in front of the backdrop of a towering city, leaving fiery destruction in their wake.  Monster versus technology in one epic battle for the ages.  Alright, this is a pipe dream of mine but Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s epic summer blockbuster, is the closest thing I have to my pipe dream.

pacific rim 1
via Anonymous Blog

Everything about Pacific Rim defines it as a summer blockbuster.  The film has epic battle sequences with massive set pieces.  It’s colorful, explosive, and thrilling.  Massive sea creatures, known as the Kaiju, are threatening humankind.  They come from an alternate universe and their main mission is the destruction of mankind.  In an effort to put a stop to this threat, massive weaponized robots called Jaegers are developed as the prime offensive against the Kaiju.  These mechs, piloted by humans, are mankind’s last hope against the apocalypse at the hands of the Kaiju.

As the war rages on, two pilots are called to lead a mission that involves a big showdown between the Jaegers and the Kaiju.  Raleigh Becket, played by Charlie Hunnam, is a trained pilot who has experience in the cockpit of a Jaeger while Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, is a trainee who has had some history with the Kaiju in a different way.  Unlike most big summer action movies, these characters are actually likable.  They’re not just meatheads piloting mechs, but instead they have some memorable moments that set them apart from most characters of their type.  Idris Elba however might have had the best performance as commander Stacker Pentecost.

PACIFIC RIM
via Nerdist

In terms of story, Guillermo del Toro takes a lot of creative liberties.  The science behind the movie’s events is a little silly and sometimes the logic wasn’t always there.  The nature of the movie’s events doesn’t warrant realism but they could have maybe tried a little harder to make it seem more believable.  It also doesn’t help that the two scientists, Dr. Newton Geiszler and Gottlieb, played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman respectively, are silly and don’t really seem qualified for their jobs.  Despite the film’s questionable logic, the film still manages to stand it’s ground.  The science is goofy and laughable, but that didn’t detract from the overall experience.

What makes this movie a standout is the visual experience that it offers.  The CGI that the movie employs is fantastic.  It’s colorful, explosive, and just really well done.  The battles between mech and sea monster were epic in scope and feel.  Buildings crumble in their wake as the gargantuan giants swing punches and throw each other around.  It was delicious candy for the eyes.  As I was watching the movie I couldn’t help but think about the kind of work that went into bringing the movie to life through its CGI.  The visual effects department put in a lot of work into the movie and it really shows.  With a movie like this, I have to give a shout out to the visual effects crew behind the movie, because Pacific Rim wouldn’t be the movie it is without its special effects.

PACIFIC RIM
via Destroy the Brain

Pacific Rim is a movie that deserves a lot more praise.  It was underrated when it was initially released during the summer of 2013, but it could be considered one of 2013’s biggest surprises.  Sometimes movies as big as this fall pretty hard under the weight of their own size but this film manages to stay on its feet.  It’s full of great characters and memorable action set pieces.  My younger self would have probably been obsessed with Pacific Rim and its undeniably monumental action, but it’s safe to say that even though I am older now, I still really like this movie.

pacific rim score

Review: Heavy Rain

heavy rain poster
via Giant Bomb

Heavy Rain (2010 – PS3) (2016 – PS4)

PS4 / Rated M

Action / Adventure

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Developer: Quantic Dream, SCE XDev Studio


Losing someone you love is one of the toughest things we have to go through as humans.  It’s even tougher if they’re young.  You end up asking a lot of questions and you sometimes question yourself, especially if you had a chance at preventing the loss.  In Heavy Rain, a game by David Cage and Quantic Dream, a father loses his child and is on the brink of losing another.  Feelings of guild, depression, love, and contempt all rear their head as he tries to save his son.  How far are you willing to go to save someone you love from the clench of death?  This is the primary theme that drives Heavy Rain, as well as its four main characters.

heavy rain 1

Tension has been rising as a serial killer, calling himself the “Origami Killer,” has been killing innocent children by kidnapping them from their parents and drowning them in rain water.  Their deaths are marked by the presence of an origami figure, placed in the kids’ cold lifeless hands.  The latest victim is Shaun Mars, son of Ethan Mars, one of the four playable characters.  He’s kidnapped during the course of the game and he only has a couple of days to live.  It becomes a race against the clock as Ethan is given a set of trials that test his love for his son and his willingness to go through hell to save him.

Meanwhile, you play as three other characters who are all concurrently after the Origami Killer in one way or another.  Norman Jayden is a criminal profiler who works for the FBI.  He is contracted by the town’s local police department to investigate the recent killings and he uses the help of his gadget ARI (Added Reality Interface) to help with the investigations.  Madison Paige is a freelance journalist and photographer who ends up meeting Ethan at a local motel.  It’s through this chance meeting that she starts to become involved in the Origami Killer’s doings and she begins to start a private investigation of her own.  Finally, there’s Scott Shelby, an ex-cop turned private investigator who has been contracted by the Origami Killer’s victims’ families to investigate their murders.  Each of these characters, including Ethan, have their own stories and motivations that drive their actions.  The game flips between perspectives, giving you control of each of these characters as the game goes on.

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There’s a lot of heavy material that the game covers and there’s a lot of tense moments that will make you sweat, quite literally.  There’s a lot of twist and turns, including one big one towards the end that caught me off guard.  However, after going back and examining the events that led to this twist, everything made sense and came together, which is an indication of a really well-written twist.  There’s also some plot-holes here and there, but they aren’t too offensive and they don’t detract too much from the story.  The performances were also really well done.  The characters you play as and interact with were all motion captured, which really helped convey emotion and feeling.  You could see the emotion in character’s faces, giving them more life and believability.

The game is an adventure game where all of your choices affect the story in ways that are predictable and not so predictable.  Gameplay mainly takes the form of quick-time events and dialogue choices.  If a character dies due to a failed quick-time sequence, then the story goes on.  There’s no game over screens to save you.  The story is constantly adapting to your choices (and your mistakes) and contains a multitude of different endings based upon the story’s happenings.  A lot of games claim that your choices affect the story but there are few that have high-impact decisions.  Every little choice you make in Heavy Rain affects the story in big and small ways.  Even the smallest of details, like the color of a character’s clothes, can play a big part in the way the story plays out.

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One of the things I really liked about the way the game handles its quick-time events is the way they conveyed emotion through these events.  As you play through the different sequences, buttons will appear on the screen indicating a quick-time event.  Sometimes these indicators will be calm and stable while other times they will be shaking uncontrollably.  This can lead to some frustrating moments where mistakes are easy to be made, but this works in the game’s context.  If a character is nervous and at the precipice of danger, then they are more likely to make hasty decisions and mistakes.  You always know what the character is going through based on the presentation of the quick-time events, which is brilliant and works really well in conveying story without explicitly describing how a character feels.

Heavy Rain was initially released in 2010 on the PS3, but I have been playing the PS4 remaster, which gives the already good looking game a complete HD makeover.  The game looks amazing and even the slightest details like the boxes you find in a convenience store are all retouched and redone in a higher resolution.  The game still looks a little dated at moments but the gorgeousness is undeniable.  Unfortunately, the movement mechanics were not redone for the remaster.  Movement is handled by pressing down the right trigger while moving the stick in the direction you want to move.  It’s a dated mechanic that does not hold up well at all.  I often found myself running into walls and scooting past an object in an environment that I wanted to interact with because I was trying to grasp the character’s movement.  It’s not a thing that gets better with time either.  I was still having annoyances with the mechanic late in the game.

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David Cage’s game took the gaming industry by storm when it was first released.  Heavy Rain, despite some of its mechanical woes, still holds up extremely well today, thanks to some of Quantic Dream’s remastering work.  There’s a thrilling story to be told, one that will most likely move you in one way or another.  All of the characters are dynamic, interesting, and even relatable in some ways.  Heavy Rain was on of PS3’s best games and that quality still stays true today.

heavy rain score