The Flood Returns: Awakening The Nightmare Review

At last. The long awaited Halo Wars 2 Campaign DLC we all wanted after the main game’s insulting cliff hanger. Finally some conclusion- Oh wait… Nothing is concluded here. Guess we’ll wait until we can pay another £15 for more DLC… Or maybe until we can pay £60 for Halo 6, if they truly are too lazy to conclude this game’s story before the next one comes out…

I have my complaints with this DLC, as I mentioned above; There is no conclusion to the main game’s story, which was left very open ended, and this is very disappointing considering they’ve had the main game’s campaign, the Operation Spear Breaker DLC and this DLC to wrap things up for the story, but nope- Atriox is still hiking across the Ark and Cutter is doing god knows what on the Spirit Of Fire. Some conclusion wouldn’t hurt, seeing as this game has really been stretching itself out in terms of story.

The only reason I can think of for this game not having a satisfying conclusion, despite the fact the beginning and middle of each of its stories are all really well told and structured, is because 343 want to make Master Chief meet The Spirit Of Fire and then have Spartan Locke running around shooting the Banished in an epic Halo 6 story. But why can’t that happen while also giving this game a good ending? 343 seem to have an obsession with cliff-hangers and it’s unhealthy. It’s time to stop.

Come on guys, step up your game. Get on my level; Get on the communities level.

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Right, now that I’ve vented, I can finally get onto the good stuff about this DLC. And, just like the main game, everything about this is good, excluding the crappy ending. This DLC is absolutely most impressive in comparison to the middle child, Spear Breaker; Awakening The Nightmare has a tangible story, characters who are actually given development and that we care about and has some really good damn levels.

The levels, or missions, in this DLC are awesome. I felt like in the main game and in Spear Breaker the levels were good but, after a while, all began to blend together and were essentially you doing the same thing over and over again, but that isn’t the case here. Each of the levels feel different and have their own identity; There’s the opening level where you, The Banished, are not to be trifled with as you wreck everything that tries to kill you. This is followed by the level where we first get to fight The Flood and they steam roll your troops. This level is so fun because it really captures how aggressive and unstoppable The Flood are in Halo lore, in that no matter what you do, you will get your butt kicked in this level to some degree- It’s all about defending positions and falling back to the next line, kind of like a top down version of Battlefield One’s Rush mode in an RTS form. After that we get a level where we have to mine for power with these big ass drills before the flood overthrows the whole landscape, which it basically already has by this point. Following this is my favourite level in which you are underground with a set amount of units and cannot build any bases, which means that when the game gives you the option to recruit units in this mission you must chose carefully what units you want. I love it, it’s really neat. Finally, in the last mission, we have an epic fight against a Proto-Gravemind, and it’s actually done really well.

The diversity of level-design here is very prominent and I must commend the developers for freshening the game up more, which must be hard considering they’ve already made one campaign and a DLC for it already.

Anyone who is a long-term Halo fan, I think, will be satisfied with this DLC story. The fact we have more epic cutscenes and good writing, as well as two new Brute characters, who are surprisingly well written considering the short number of missions, is more than enough to sell this DLC.

Halo Wars 2 Awakening The Nightmare

Awakening The Nightmare really captures everything The Flood were set up to be in the original games; We see The Flood absorbing the landscape and infecting our own units to turn them against us and, let me tell you, they finally made Flood Spores an enemy to be reckoned with. I always though the Flood Spores were so cheap and easy to kill on previous Halo games, unless you played on Legendary or had multiple skulls on, but here they throw so many Flood Spores at you all at once that becomes quite overwhelming very quickly. The excitement of trying to manage troops fighting on multiple fronts is really amazing and this DLC does test your ability split your troops up, rather than have them wander around in a massive army, and I appreciate that fact. It’s so easy to just horde together a mass of units and just steam-roll anything that might be coming your way, but this DLC tries to change that and it works, for the most part.

I was nerding out so hard all throughout this DLC and I think you will too, if you have been long-term fan of Halo. I think even newer fans will be able to appreciate this story, so I highly recommend it.

With the addition of two new leaders for multiplayer, who I have yet to use, and the addition of Terminus Firefight, I do think this game is worth the money they’re charging. Believe me when I say that, because I did feel a bit ripped-off with the Spear Breaker one, which was quite crappy in my opinion. Awakening The Nightmare though goes up and beyond, it’s truly worth the money, even if you’re into just multiplayer it provides a whole new game mode and leaders, so throw some money at it.

The only thing that would make this better is if 343 would get off their high-horse, let go of their god damn egos and give this game the satisfying ending it deserves. 343… You’re not the hot new kid on the block; You’re the nerdy fan fiction writer who still needs to prove themselves to the community. Yeah, you took a step in the right direction here, but Atriox walking away angry doesn’t count as ‘satisfying’. We need a winner or a loser on the Ark, or something in the middle with Humans and Banished uniting against The Flood, maybe, just do something with it. Stop leaving us hanging. Don’t tease us before you satisfy us, this isn’t a porno. Satisfy us and then play around teasing us.

What I would say to everyone now who is watching the DLC that 343 is putting out is to be careful. If they keep making top-notch content like Awakening The Nightmare, then I’d advise you to buy what they sell you, provided you have the money and are interested. But look out for those Operation Spear Breakers, which are, let’s say, a little less than satisfying. 343 are doing right with Halo Wars 2, but some Halo fans still aren’t convinced of them, so it is worth being sceptical about. But hey, as long as the content is good then I think we should all be happy, so go out and please buy Awakening The Nightmare.

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IT Review – Making Horror Fun Again

I hate horror films. They’re boring, predictable and linear. I can list on one hand the horror films I enjoy because they actually scared me when I first saw them; Halloween, Halloween 2 (Both now very dated and un-scary), Saw (The original, though it was more of a thriller) and the Babadook (If only for the jump-scares). As far as the IT book goes, I’ve never read it. And the IT miniseries? It was an unintentional laugh-out-loud comedy and, when it tried to be scary, it was boring.

But what do I think of this film; IT 2017?

IT is a really fun, solid and entertaining movie! I really, really mean it!

Now, I wouldn’t call this film scary and for this I blame the editing and pacing. There was no real time to appreciate any of the scares in the film or to sit back in awe of how powerful or scary Pennywise is because, although the scenes are all acted, shot and written well, the scenes, when put together, don’t connect in a satisfying way. One second you’ll be in the most intense scenes you’ve seen in cinema, and the next you’re just chilling out in a park with zero danger, zero acknowledgement of that danger and then you’re just sitting there realising that previous scene, although good, left no impact on you. Towards the end of the film this gets better, that is the later half of act 2 and going into act 3, the final act. The first half of the movie, bar the intro scene, suffers heavily though from what I’ve just described, however, and it can be distracting.

But, apart from that, there are very few negatives I can think of, so let’s get into the positives.

Pennywise drain

What I absolutely love and adore about this film are the special effects- They are all super creative and appropriate. None of the CGI is overused and everything always feels real. One notable moment in the film, which utilises special effects creatively, is when Pennywise is folded up and upside down in a fridge or cupboard and, when he rolls out, his body parts are all backwards and out of place; His arms are facing the wrong way, his head is facing backwards, but his torso is sideways and one foot is facing the opposite direction to the other. As well as looking really good, the way Pennywise then reassembles his body to be facing the right way, like a humanoid Rubik’s Cube, is amazing! Not only is it creepy, as he approaches one of the children, but also quite comical. I don’t mean ‘comical’ in a bad way though- What I mean is that the film is embracing the fact Pennywise is a clown, and so when he does these supernatural things, they always present it very theatrically and it works super well with his character and clown persona. So, if you’re tired of blue lasers going into the sky and explosions flying around, and debris falling 24/7, this film will be a breath of fresh air in terms of special effects. Again, I cannot praise the creativity enough. Hell, I’d recommend you see this film just for the effects.

What I also love is the tone of this movie, but I think from a more critical stand-point you could criticise the tone. That is because, at some points, this film appears really light hearted like an anti-bullying, coming of age story, and then in some points it’s suddenly super creepy and atmospheric; Which is probably down to the pacing and editing again, which I criticised earlier.

But I really liked the mixed tones. I think it better shows how the kids go from just people trying to make the most out of summer before it ends, to characters who are terrified and sick to death of Pennywise haunting them and the town. It was this that made me smile, genuinely, when the characters were simply talking or hanging out, even when there was no horror involved in the scenes; The dialogue is, 90% of the time, really well written, and I couldn’t help but think that’s how I would talk to my friends when I was that age. I mean the dialogue isn’t perfect of course, because on the flipside of the well-written banter, the delivery of exposition feels out of place and ruins the emersion a little. But that’s not often, so I won’t go too hard on it.

Pennywise sewers

Now this next point isn’t really a criticism, it’s just a matter of personal preference about what I would have liked to see more in the film, and that is that I would have wanted to see more scenes of Pennywise just talking to the kids. He looks so scary and his voice is really creepy, but his dialogue is so innocent in the opening scene with the boat that I could sort-of understand why the kid continued talking to him instead of running away (If Pennywise wasn’t in a drain that is). Like I said the dialogue is really well written and Pennywise shines a lot when he is given a lot of time to talk, but that is, unfortunately, not often. Sometimes he just has one line or talks through other people and objects before leaping into a scare, which is okay, but I thought Pennywise was at his scariest when he was talking to the kids himself. The things he said were both horrifying and silly because, again, this movie really embraces the clown persona of Pennywise.

In a world where every god damn horror film has to follow the formula of, ‘teens go on trip, teens have sex, teens get killed by someone or something, last girl must fight alone, girl escapes predictably or dies in a twist’, this film, IT 2017, is a breath of fresh air for the genre. The good use of creative special effects and good writing really help it break free from the shackles that are the modern horror genre. I’m not saying this film is completely unique; Many of the scares are predictable and uninspired, and the pacing and editing does break you emersion sometimes, but there are enough positives in this film that is stands out.

So although this film doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it’s strengths lie where the weaknesses do in lesser horror films and it makes for a fun, entertaining, solid movie experience. I highly recommend this film, you’ll smile and laugh, and feel for the well developed characters. Don’t miss out on this amazing horror.

The Selective Perception The Media Has Of YouTube

At the time of me writing this, when I google “Pewdiepie”, a lot of Wikipedia pages pop-up and two articles about Pewdiepie using a racial slur in his livestream. What you are reading now, however, is not going to be about Pewdiepie, but it will involve him.

As the face of YouTube it is some-what understandable that the media would jump on Pewdiepie for making such a large mistake on stream in saying the slur, but it never ceases to amaze me how blind the media is to much worse occurrences on the site, or perhaps, how the media chooses to ignore these other occurrences (If that is what they do).

Today I want to draw attention to the YouTube channel ‘TrendingPranks’, a channel seemingly acting as a follow up to the late ‘PrankInvasion’ Channel, which has been dead for about 7 months at the time of me writing this. This YouTube channel is not only atrociously awful but, in my opinion, puts out content that should be considered ten times more controversial than Pewdiepie’s slip of the tongue.

Why? Let me explain.

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TrendingPranks is a YouTube channel full of what I like to call ‘pornography for kids’. The channel has nearly seven-hundred videos and a solid ninety percent of them are ‘kissing pranks’. But, of course, these ‘pranks’ aren’t actually ‘prank’s, they are ‘fake pranks’, if you can even call them ‘pranks’. Each ‘prank’ essentially consists of some guy going up to provocative women, often in revealing clothing, and offering to play a game with them. Now, the type of game sometimes varies but it often comes down to something like, “Pick a number between one and ten, and if I guess it then you have to kiss me.” Of course the man wins the game, every single time, and there is a long drawn out period of the two kissing.

It is no normal amount of kissing, however…

It is always the most drawn-out kiss with disgusting slobbering, saliva sound-affects put over it. I have never ever seen or heard something so gross and perverted on a site such as YouTube. If this were posted on a pornography site then this would be quite tame (After all, it is only kissing), but no… It’s made public on YouTube. YouTube; A site which anyone of any age may enter, no matter how impressionable or naïve they are. For mature viewers, these videos are obscene and disgusting in delivery; Not only is the concept that any random woman on the street will kiss you if you win a child’s game against them ridiculous, but the fact these women are heavily objectified as just pieces of meat with pretty faces and bodies further goes to highlight how utterly awful this YouTube channel really is.

I would love to defend the women in these videos, but I simply can’t. Despite the fact they are objectified in the videos and thumbnails, I can’t bring myself to defend them… Why? Because these videos are obviously faked (For those of you who are confused; No, a random woman, who you have never met, would never, ever snog your face off for beating her at a pre-school game), meaning these women are actors who were paid to be in these videos. So, in all honesty, I have no sympathy for these women who knowingly and willingly objectify themselves in front thousands of people on the internet. God forbid if any of them do this for free, but seriously I highly doubt that. But okay, so perhaps these women might be struggling financially or can’t find work (If we give them the benefit of the doubt), but even if that is true there’s got to be better alternatives to this. No sympathy for these women.

But let us not forget this is a channel run by men. This is a channel that makes me ashamed to be a man when I see this stuff strangely on my recommended bar, despite me never having any interest in these videos. When the men or, more accurately, boys on this channel grow old and sit in their old people’s homes, I really hope they feel nothing but regret for spending their youth doing this.

Despite how atrociously perverted these videos sound, however, especially as they are featured on YouTube instead of some-kind of adult site, these videos do get thousands of views, many gaining hundreds of thousands… TrendingPranks’ most popular video has 9.5 million views! That is a lot of horny single old guys and impressionable little kids.

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Now let’s face it, just because these videos get age restricted within hours of going up and you have to be thirteen or over to have a YouTube account (last I checked, at least) doesn’t mean kids aren’t viewing this toxic content. The same way we all lie about our age to get a Facebook account when we’re younger, we also lie to get a YouTube account, because what’s the point of being on YouTube if you can’t comment or like the videos? So let’s not pretend like YouTube’s age demographic for tracking what type of people watch your videos is accurate, should the people behind this channel try and defend their content.

So to these lonely old men and these naïve young children, TrendingPranks has set up this false reality within their videos in which all women are sex-hungry whores who will let you squeeze their boobs and asses as you snog their lips and tongues into the seventh circle of hell, just because you beat them at a game of rock-paper-scissors or some crap.

But what is my point?

 

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BBC News Article Regarding Pewdiepie Controversy

 

My point is that when Pewdiepie slips up and accidently says a racial slur on a livestream everyone on YouTube jumps on it, even outside sources like BBC News wrote articles on this, and it was only a few days ago. Yet, on the same platform as Pewdiepie did this, disturbing channels like TrendingPranks are being completely and utterly sexist in their treatment of women on a daily basis, and are presenting it as if it is reality, but go completely unnoticed by all media.

Now make no mistake, I am by no means defending Pewdiepie for making this racial slur. He is the largest person on the YouTube platform and is in a very important position; He should know better and, despite my love for the guy, he deserves whatever backlash comes of it. But at the same time he didn’t mean the slur in a racist way- It was an ‘in the heat of the moment’ kind of thing, and he screwed up.

But what baffles me is that whenever Pewdiepie slips up everyone is on his case, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not, but no matter how many times TrendingPranks puts soft-core porn of the website to erect the penis’s of little boys and old lonely men, they always go unnoticed.

Perhaps it is their size that keeps them invisible. Compared to Pewdiepie’s 57 million subscribers, TrendingPranks only boasts around 204 thousand. But, lets be real, that is still a lot of people. Especially considering the channel it maybe descended from, PrankInvasion, still has nearly 3 million subscribers, despite it being inactive for seven months.

What this tells me, personally, is that the media must have some kind of grudge against Pewdiepie, given that, despite his past controversies, he uploads appropriate videos to the website, whereas these awful content creators over at TrendingPranks get away with posting this disgusting content everyday.

I’m not suggesting every news outlet has a journalist sniper waiting to fill Pewdiepie full of led, and only him. In the past the media has helped situations that have unfolded on YouTube; Just look at how that exterior help form the media helped put a stop to those horrible videos posted by the ‘DaddyOFive’ channel.

All I’m saying is that if the media want to report on Youtuber’s screwing up, they could do a lot better than Pewdiepie, who has worked hard to get to where he is, even if he still makes mistakes. There people on the site who are much more deserving of exterior criticism, if the media so badly wants to get involved. The folks at TrendingPranks, in my opinion, are some of them.

 

 

 

Tyranny Review: A Return To RPG’s

After a short escape away from top-down RPG’s following the dark days that Fallout 1 and 2 absorbed from my life, I retreated to the realm of first person shooters. But after a while I found myself drawn to a game on Steam named Tyranny; A game where it is emphasised that your character works for the forces of evil and is required to carry out the laws of those forces. I couldn’t resist.

When I first played Tyranny I had no idea what I was doing. I played about twenty minutes past Conquest mode and wasn’t satisfied, so deleted the save and started fresh. Why? Well this is Tyranny’s weakness; It pours a LOT of information and lore onto you all at once, and while certain words of text are highlighted to allow you to read about what characters are referring to, the information is just so vast that you’ll get too caught up reading the context of the conversations you’re having rather than the conversation itself.

But, once I created my fresh save with some more knowledge and context from my first twenty minute failure, I found myself more than able to better appreciate the game.

Here’s what I love about Tyranny; Everything in the game is put together by developers who you can tell legitimately care about the game. Everything from the character creation, to the skills, to the environments, story and gameplay are all ripe with some sort of passion that just isn’t present in many other games now days. The care that went into naming characters, writing the dialogue and how the levelling system works shines throughout the game and it’s something I must praise the developers, Obsidian Entertainment, for. The world is so rich with information and things to learn that it is truly fascinating.

What I particularly love this game is that each realm you visit has a unique affect on your character, your party and your enemies due to magical curses called Edicts that plague the lands where rebellions attempt to fight against you and the evil empire trying to conquer it. Some are beneficial to your character, while others are not. For example the first Edict in the game is one that curses everyone trapped in a valley to die if the military campaign there doesn’t follow through, so your character and party members all get a bonus to the Resolve skill, which effectively means they fight longer and harder in combat because they’re determined to get the job done as to not be killed by the Edict. Another example is the Edict of Storms, which takes up a lot of the southern part of the map. The constant storms in this area cause a lack of visibility that reduce the Accuracy skill of all your attacks, particularly ranged attacks, which was especially troublesome for me as I was playing as an archer and had dedicated heavily to the ranged weapons skill-tree.

For gameplay purposes these Edicts are good, because I found myself changing my playstyle and picking up swords so I could learn to duel-wield in this section of the story. This led to me spreading out skill points into other trees, such as leadership; Which boasts abilities that improve your party’s performance as a whole. By doing so, the new found skills my party gained from this investment I made had made up for how much my character sucked in this area of the map. The game was therefore still interesting and I wasn’t raging at the difficulty, as I had made it more balanced.

Though, in all fairness, this game isn’t all that difficult if you play it normally. However, I imagine playing ‘Iron Man Mode’, which only gives you one save slot, would definetly cause you some problems.

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Aside from the core-gameplay, there is a short ‘Conquest’ sequence at the end of the character creation sequence, just before the core game starts. This is a choice based section that shapes how the world treats you in the main game. If you favour certain factions in this sequence, it will show in game when the factions you ignored tend to be heavily hostile to you and others more welcoming. It also affects your reputation. On my first save, which I deleted, I was referred to as ‘The Governor’ because I elected to govern a town to produce Iron for the army during the Conquest section. On my second and primary play through I was known as ‘The Queen Slayer’, for murdering the Queen of one of the realms during peace negotiations. This section is about forty-five minutes to an hour long, that follows your character’s campaign in the name of the evil empire you serve and how you choose to serve it is up to you. My character was a proud general, who did very little governing as he went around besieging cities instead. This process so thorough and has had so much dedication put into it that I could honestly enjoy it as a full game.

A lot of games now-days tell us “Your choices impact the story”, but few ever do in a meaningful way. But the choices you make during Conquest mode in this game actually do because they affect your reputation with the games primary factions and figures of authority within the world.

Many of the choices have a lot of moral grey areas as well. One instance is when I was besieging a giant library that horded all known knowledge and wizards were tearing my army apart as it retreated. We were all going to die unless I chose to sacrifice members of one faction or another. It’s safe to say the faction I chose to sacrifice soldiers from, to cover our escape, was not happy with me when I entered the main game.

To briefly sum it up, Tyranny is an absolutely amazing game that a lot of passion evidently went into. There is so much lore to this game and experiences to be had within it that it’s hard to keep track of it all unless you play it for yourself and become immersed in it.

I really want to promote others to play this game because, for one reason or another (I didn’t fancy looking into it too much), the game didn’t sell very well despite how good it is as an RPG. Maybe it’s because people don’t like being the bad guy in games? Despite the fact one of Fallout 4’s main criticisms, as an RPG, was you couldn’t be a bad guy? Yet in this game you can act good, even under the banner of a bad empire. I don’t know. I didn’t research it because I’m not into that, but this game deserves a lot more sales and a lot more credit than it gets.

So please, if you’re a fan of these types of RPG’s I definetly advise you to just give this game a go. And with a DLC, The Bastard’s Wound, right around the corner there is no better time to get stuck in. Just be prepared to invest a lot of time into it if you enjoy it, as it took me thirty hours to complete my first play through and there is also a tempting New Game Plus mode if you’re into that kind of thing.

What are you waiting for? Give this game a go!

Success Or Failure: Marvel’s The Defenders

Marvel Studios and Netflix recently released their latest series, The Defenders. Much like the Avengers movie, this series has been highly anticipated as it is the combination of multiple singular stories of heroes coming together to form some kind of satisfying conclusion. I’ll review the show more closely for what it is at the end of this piece, but first I want to analyse how it took inspiration from Marvel Phase One and the Avengers movie, so we can see how Marvel on Netflix got to the point it’s at now with The Defenders.

First off, let’s discuss how The Defenders took inspiration from the Avengers: Four unique stories lead into this series that set up major villains and plot points. Just as Captain America and Thor introduced the Tesseract and Loki to their singular films, The Hand, Elektra and the concept of resurrection were introduced via Daredevil and Iron Fist’s singular shows.

I feel like this works really well, just as it did for the Avengers but isn’t quite as effective. You see, to fully understand the Avengers film to the fullest, you have to watch Captain America to understand the Tesseract, Thor to understand Loki and Iron Man 2 to understand SHIELD. Watching the first Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk may be beneficial and entertaining, but they are not necessary to understand the Avengers movie. Marvel movies are all around or just over two hours long, so you need to invest six hours in three other films before you can enjoy every piece of cinematic content that the Avengers has to offer.

Let’s compare this to the set up for The Defenders. To fully understand the Defenders you have to have seen, at least, Daredevil Seasons one and two and Iron Fist to understand who the Hand are as well as characters such as Madam Gao, Elektra and the influence the Hand has over New York, as well as their ability to resurrect the dead. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, while amazing shows, don’t delve into that so it’s not essential. There are twenty-six episodes of Daredevil in total, all around an hour long, so that’s around or just under twenty six hours of Daredevil to understand Elektra and the basics of the Hand’s influence. There are also thirteen episodes of Iron Fist that are needed to understand why the Hand fear the Iron Fist so much, the true extent of their influence on the city and their resurrection abilities, which is, give or take, an additional thirteen hours of viewing.

Daredevil and Ironfist

At minimum you need to have seen Daredevil and Iron Fist to understand this show. But then you’re going to be watching the show thinking “Who the hell are Luke Cage and Jessica Jones?”. There is enough exposition to fill in the blanks for anyone who hasn’t seen their series on Netflix, but it is lifeless and boring exposition to anyone who hasn’t already seen them, because they won’t understand the banter between the two characters. So, in some ways, the audience who hasn’t seen all the Netflix series will still be lost on two of the protagonists, but at least something will fill in the gaps.

But then again, The Defenders has a metric-ton of side characters, from the very familiar Claire, to Misty Knight, Trish and Malcom, who all appear in shows our assumed audience hasn’t seen. Now you may be thinking, “Why is Claire on the list?”. Because the assumed audience hasn’t seen Luke Cage, in which she becomes invested in the politics of Harlem and hooks up with him in, meaning their relationship follows through into the Defenders, which the assumed audience won’t understand.

So, in actual fact, to fully understand Luke Cage’s and Jessica Jones’ characters in The Defenders, we need to understand the side characters of the show, as they often reveal more about our protagonists than the protagonists themselves do in this show. So that’s thirteen episodes of Jessica Jones and thirteen episodes of Luke Cage, which is again roughly just under twenty six hours.

So far it’s roughly twenty six hours of watching other shows to understand The Defenders (I realise most episodes are around fifty minutes long, but I’m rounding them to an hour for ease). This is a problem. Watching a show requires a lot more effort than watching a movie, as they drag on a lot longer and are more time consuming. What’s more is you run into the problem of not liking certain shows. For example I loved Daredevil, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones, but absolutely hated Luke Cage. The only reason I continued watching was because I’m a Marvel fanboy and figured I had to so I could understand The Defenders. But unlike watching a below average Marvel movie, like Thor, and only wasting two hours of my life to understand Loki’s presence in the Avengers, I found myself indulging in nearly thirteen hours of episodes I didn’t like because I was convinced I would need to understand this show to understand The Defenders. The truth was that Luke Cage was one of the least influential shows on the plot of The Defenders, which really grinds my gears to know I wasted a lot of my own time on something I didn’t really enjoy.

Luke cage and jessica jones

I guess I had it easy though. Imagine the poor people who loved Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, the least influential shows to The Defenders plotline, but actively hated Daredevil and Iron Fist, whose shows are crucial to it. If viewers switch off of Daredevil and Iron Fist they can still enjoy The Defenders for what it is, but without proper context and won’t be able to appreciate the effort that’s been leading up to this point since season one of Daredevil, which aired in 2015. Imagine not have having heard of the Hand before watching The Defenders and suddenly your two least favourite characters, Matt Murdock and Danny Rand are experts on fighting them, while your preferred characters, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, are clueless and are just standing there like, “Why am I surrounded by ninjas?”

All I’m saying is that The Defenders, while inspired by the way the Avengers rose to glory for Marvel, is much more complex to get into because it isn’t as easy to pick up as the Avengers was. The characters are less iconic, as another point. A twelve year old kid can see the Avengers film without watching any Iron Man film and enjoy it to the fullest because he’s just thinking “Wow, Iron Man punched an alien”, because Iron Man is an iconic Marvel character. But that kid won’t go, “Wow, Jessica Jones punched a ninja” when he watches The Defenders, because no kid that young reads comics or watches shows about Jessica Jones being mind controlled into being raped and then having sex with Luke Cage once she becomes a private investigator. You may say that these shows aren’t intended for kids and you’re right; But if a new superhero show comes out, kids will try to watch it at some point. But these points can also be applied to adults as well. Like I said, I’m a Marvel fanboy, but the only Defender I was familiar with before any of the shows came out was Daredevil. I knew Luke Cage, but wasn’t familiar with his origins or him as a character. I’d heard of Iron Fist but had never been interested in picking up his comics. Until her show came out, I had no idea who Jessica Jones was; I had to watch YouTube videos to educate myself on her.

But that just makes it all the better because, somehow, they made this work.

Now, enough of me criticising this show. Let’s get into the good stuff.

Defenders

This show is satisfying. The characters are all well written, the banter is good, the action is as great as it has always been and the choices the characters make all seem to make sense… Apart from the fact that one of the leaders of the Hand just decides to fight Colleen in New York, for some petty revenge, when the existence of his alternate dimension is being threatened by all of the Defenders. That was dumb, but apart from that all was well. Obviously the side characters aren’t as important in the show, due to the cast already being large, but they all serve a purpose. Karen and Foggy from Daredevil try to keep Matt grounded in reality, Misty Knight and Claire are crucial to aiding Luke in protecting the city, and Trish and Malcom are both people Jessica has to protect and keep out of the situation, despite their efforts to try and help her. None of them really have an arc, they’re more like paper-weights for the characters. One does, however, and this is Colleen. She struggles with the idea of what it is to be a hero in a world where she is an incredibly skilled fighter and good person, but is dwarfed by the incredible abilities displayed by the Defenders themselves. Though I was a little disappointed with the under-usage of many side-characters who I had loved in previous shows, I was also impressed they managed to use them appropriately as there were so many of them.

There are two downsides to this show as it is. I think the main one is the length of the show. Where as all other seasons of all Marvel shows on Netflix have been thirteen episodes long, this show is only eight episodes. The Defenders do not even all meet until the finale of episode three and then do not even get to know each other until episode four, though these are two of the best episodes in my opinion. It feels strange that the show with the largest cast and the show that is supposed to be the conclusion to this section of Marvel’s mini Netflix phase is the shortest. The second downside is that the plot is a bit dumb. Possibly because of the lessened length of the show, the plot is not as good as those of previous shows like season two of Daredevil or as Jessica Jones.

The plot is that The Hand want to capture the Danny Rand so they can use his Iron Fist to open a gateway to another dimension, so they can harvest the bones of dead dinosaur monsters in order to create the ingredients they need to keep resurrecting themselves, so they can remain immortal. While this plot serves to make an interesting relationship between Danny and the rest of the Defenders when they decide they need to keep him hidden, it isn’t as thought provoking as previous titles.

Remember the public and political manoeuvring in Luke Cage? That’s not here. Remember the secretive and psychologically damaging resurrection events in Iron Fist? That’s not here either. Remember how Killgrave tried to convince Jessica that his powers make it impossible for him to do anything moral, even if he wanted to? No such discussions here. Remember how Daredevil and the Wilson Fisk fought for the singular goal of metaphorical position of New York, so they could see it how they envisioned it? Or how the Punisher and Daredevil discussed the morality of vigilante crime fighting? That stuff is gone for now.

This plot isn’t one designed challenge the audience and doesn’t raise and themes or discussions that are particularly thought-provoking. There are a few minor moments, like when Stick suggests the only way to stop the Hand is to kill Danny so they can’t use him to open the portal, but it’s not as thought-out or developed as any similar scenes in previous series’.

To put it simply this plot makes things very black and white: The Defenders are good and the Hand are bad… The good guys have to fight the bad guys.

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But if this plot does something notable it is that it is a good excuse for us to watch heroes we have come to love kick ass together, and for all those references to one and other in their own series’ to actually mean something. It’s not a bad plot. It’s just a much more simple plot than what we’re used to seeing.

I have criticised the hell out of this show and said a lot more bad than good, but I binged this show for eight hours straight and had one hell of a good time doing so. I implore any of you who are fans of Marvel’s Netflix series’ to go watch it now. It deserves a watch. So much effort has gone into this thing and it all pays off well, even if it’s not in the kind of way we’d have expected to. I know I didn’t expect it to end the way it did, given that it was quite silly. But Daredevil was silly when he comically fought Wilson Fisk in that alleyway at the end of season one. And Jessica Jones was silly when she only used her flying powers when the writers didn’t know what to do next. And Luke Cage was silly when he could take on prisoners in a ring without his powers, but got beat up by them outside of it, for some reason, like a pussy. Iron Fist was silly when the Hand gave him comically easy to pass trials when they invited him to a hideout.

But does this mean The Defenders is a failure? Absolutely not. This show is enjoyable, it’s flaw is that is didn’t quite live up to the hype because of the outstanding quality of those before it. The bar was too high and I think the writers on the show aimed a little too low.

But this show isn’t bad.

The Defenders certainly isn’t the best that Marvel and Netflix have to offer, but it’s certainly worthy of everyone’s time and is definetly a good watch. It definetly requires a lot of investment in other shows to be able to fully enjoy, which is perhaps its biggest weakness, but can still be enjoyable by itself if you take those shows out of the equation. So get stuck in.

Three Older Console Games To Play Again

The original Xbox and PS2 were what introduced me to video games and were some of the first consoles I had. In honour of the joy they bought me I recently began playing them again in my spare time, begging the question, which games were the best of those? Now it would be easy for me to say Spider-Man 2, Battlefront 2 and Crash Bandicoot, so I’m going to try and pick three less traditional titles. Here it goes…

Number Three: Godzilla Unleashed
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Though I would later discover the PS2 version I played was a lesser version of what the Wii had to offer, with more monsters and much better combat mechanics, I had one hell of a god time on this monster of a game. Godzilla Unleashed is a monster fighting game that takes place in 3D worlds you can run around and interact with; You can pick up buildings and throw them at your enemies, throw your enemies into skyscrapers and knock them down, tunnel under ground, teleport and all this awesome crazy stuff. The game came with a campaign in which you could play as four factions; Earth’s monsters (Godzilla, Mothra and his other allies), The Global Defence Force (A bunch of giant robots like Jet Jaguar who defend the planet), Aliens (King Ghidorah, Gigan and such) and, finally, the Mutants (Monsters like Destoroyah and Megalon). Which ever faction you pick leads to a different ending and it’s pretty awesome. The objectives are pretty straight forward but it’s fun and doesn’t feel repetitive.  Additionally the game had a traditional fighting mode where you could have up to four monsters trying to kill each other at once, and even team battles. There was also an awesome unlock system in which you could buy more monsters, maps and collectible stuff to keep you enticed and the grind was good. I remember playing for hours to unlock the Alien Mothership map and Space Godzilla as a playable monster. I highly recommend playing this game if you can.

Number Two:
Spiderman 1 game

Now, I know you all knew this list couldn’t be complete without a Spider-Man game. I chose this one; Spider-Man, based off of the first Spider-Man movie by Sam Rami. Though this game didn’t have free-roam, it is still a bomb-ass game with some bomb-ass missions. This game is the perfect example of how to step up difficulty because this game’s missions go from “easy as pie”, to “better step it up”, to “holy-cow, don’t kill me!” perfectly. The boss battles in this game were where this came in. Even at a young age I remember being able to defeat the Scorpion in like five seconds, but then when it came to fighting the Shocker in the subway, I had one hell of a difficult time even getting to the boss fight, let alone beating it. Considering it didn’t have free-roam, as all later Spider-Man titles would, this game was somehow enticing, with smooth combat and a mix of combat heavy and stealth missions. Yes; Stealth missions. As well as kicking the crap out of thugs you got to sneak around Oscorp at night, avoiding the spot lights of patrolling security robots. It was cheesy, but truly amazing. What I loved though is that if you beat the game on the hardest difficulty or entered a cheat-code, you got to play the whole Campaign as the Green Goblin, with a whole, new fully voice acted story where you play as Harry Osborn trying to find out who killed his Dad. The missions are basically exactly the same, but changed slightly to fit this story. There are no cut scenes for this Goblin story, however, probably due to limitations of the time. It’s anti-climactic, but by far the absolute coolest cheat code I have ever input into a game to this very day. If you play this game, please play the original Xbox version, as there are extra missions available for it that cannot be accessed on the PS2 version.

Number One:
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Medal of Honour Rising Sun is a game that holds true to my heart; It will always me held close and dear, as the very first FPS game I played as a child. To this day it still impresses me, with a campaign so grand that the pure ambition of it puts some titles today to shame. What amazes me most is that when the game opens, in Pearl Harbour, you are not on deck watching some epic cinematic thing happen; You are below deck, getting awoken by a massive thud and then have to help the crew of your ships extinguish flames to stop the boat from sinking after a torpedo strike. You have to manoeuvre through this ruined ship and get to deck after saving everyone to fight a battle you can’t win. Once above deck you are given a weapon that is deliberately useless for shooting at planes with and there is this sense of hopelessness as you struggle to fight this dive-bombing Japanese planes. When your boat sinks, inevitably, you get rescued by a patrol boat, and man the anti-air gun as your driver tries to escape the Harbour with you. As well as this sequence being amazingly action packed and, at times, difficult, the game takes moments to slow down as the driver talks about how horrific and awful it is that so many people are dying around you… There is just something so human about this game, and I love it. Aside from Campaign, the game has a solid multiplayer, which you can play with bots and split-screen for a good time, that it heavily arena based. It feels like Quake, or Doom, only without the super fast pace and no weird power-ups or teleporters. The encounters are so funny because it’s always a rush to see who can get the rocket launcher on the map first and memorise its spawn, and re-spawn points. Medal Of Honour Rising Sun is a game cemented in my very soul and childhood. It is one I’ll never forget. It is challenging, but not insanely difficult and it can be frustrating but, at the same time, enjoyable. I loved and still do love every thing this game has to offer.

The Most Overrated MCU Movie Ever (Doctor Strange)

As I said in my previous review of Spider-Man Homecoming, I find the MCU to be a very 50/50 franchise. It has amazing films and god awful films… But it also has one other type of film; The same type of film that Doctor Strange is: “Meh” films. It’s not good, not bad, it’s just “meh”.

But Doctor Strange is a film of trickery. When I saw this film in the cinema I was in absolute awe, I fell in love with this film and was convinced it was another quality film to add to my Marvel collection. When I bought this on DVD though and saw it a second time, I found myself actually struggling to stay interested. It wasn’t that the film was poorly directed, poorly acted or poorly written; This film succeeds on those fronts. What I came to realise is that there’s absolutely nothing special about this film.

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After sometime of thinking why this film disappointed me so much, I came to one final and ultimate conclusion: It is just another generic superhero origin story that we have all seen a thousand times over and should be tired of by now. This film is about a man who gets in an injury and then goes on a search for knowledge and skill to overcome his injury, during which he is introduced to a much bigger world and must take on the responsibility to save the world. Sound like any other film you’ve ever seen? Iron Man? Daredevil? Hell, any action movie ever made?

In fact this films parallels to Iron Man are through the roof. The protagonist is a sassy, witty and skilled rich guy (Tony Stark and Stephen Strange) who has a “sort-of” love interest who we can see he likes, but nothing really ends up happening between them (Pepper Pots and Christine Palmer). They get an injury and find their salvation in some eastern part of the world (Afghanistan and Nepal), where they discover their true potential (To build a weaponised suit and wield magic). After seeing this world, they are introduced to evil that they must take it upon themselves to destroy (The Ten Rings and Kaecilius). During this undertaking they discover these villains were only puppets to a larger, more dangerous villain (Obadiah Stane and Dormammu), who they must then also defeat. Then there is a teaser in the end credits where the character will interact with the Avengers (Tony meets Nick Fury and Strange meets Thor). It’s a copy and paste, essentially. I’ve seen this film before. A thousand times. This formula has been done to death. Even films like Skyfall follow this formula, only they don’t lean on saving the world, but protecting someone or something smaller (M, in the case of Skyfall).

But don’t get me wrong, this film isn’t an awful pile of garbage. I mean, Marvel has made awful piles of garbage and then inserted those into the MCU, but this isn’t one of those films, because this film has some great redeeming qualities.

Doctor Strange Mirror Dimension

First the big one: The visual affects in this film are absolutely incredible. The mirror dimension is an incredible place where the sorcerers can manipulate all of reality, basically, and it makes for some epic moments with floating cities, moving buildings and spells that can destroy everything without it affecting the real world. As well as being a great place for the writers to put mass destruction into, without having to worry about Man Of Steel’s the of backlash, it is also a place of infinite possibilities, to stage unique action scenes, and I am really curious about how they will use the mirror dimension in future films, such as possibly Thor 3 and Infinity War.

I will say however, the visuals in space with Dormammu did look a bit cheesy and way over the top. The sequence where Strange is falling forever, when the Ancient One pushes his soul out of his body goes on for about a minute and a half too long. Way too long, I might add. I felt high. I didn’t want to feel high, but I did. But it’s whatever, the rest of the visuals made up for it.

But this film was still so close to being bland. This film was almost as boring as Thor 2, which is an atrocious abomination of a superhero film (But I’ll review that another time), but one thing saved it. That thing was the Time Stone and Strange’s use of it. I fully expected a cliché magic fight to happen between Strange and Dormammu, where Strange would get the crap kicked out of him but would eventually win, like in every other superhero film. However, the writers must have been struck with sudden inspiration during the climax… The concept of Strange using a time loop to forever trap Dormammu is inspired. I didn’t expect it. When Strange died and then came back I was like, “The hell is going on?”, and then I remember feeling oddly satisfied that for the first time, in a long time, I was seeing a superhero use his intelligence and wit to beat the enemy, rather than his ability to punch things or blow things up.

The problem is, however, this is the only part of the movie that tries to be different. Literally every other moment in the film is unoriginal. When the Ancient One traps Strange on Everest to teach him to use his powers quicker, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve seen tough but good-intentioned mentors before, with secrets; Stick in the Daredevil Netflix series is just like this. So aside from the ending, I’ve essentially seen this film a thousand times before only with different characters. It barely avoids being bland. So bland… So, so bland.

I think the cinema experience is why I enjoyed this film so much the first time around. I had the big screen, epic sound systems and I didn’t know what to expect from the film. That type of scenario probably boosted the film up in my mind. Yet as I casually viewed it at home, knowing what to expect with a normal TV and normal sound system, it just wasn’t as impressive and I saw the film more for what it was: An overrated film.

All I could do to react to this film was say “meh”. A solid “meh” is what I said. There was nothing else to say, and I stand by it now. If I had to give a rating, I’d say this film is an average, unimpressive 6/10, but only barely. If not for the ending or fantastic casting of Benedict Cumberbatch, this would be a solid 5/10. Lucky for those writers, they eventually got original.

So here’s the line up of the MCU right now.

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  2. Doctor Strange

So far we’ve had a good title and a “meh” title. I don’t know whether to review another good one, or a straight up bad one… We’ll see.

 

 

Is The MCU Good? (Spider-Man Homecoming)

Okay so, I thought I’d start something that means I can write more often. I’ll be going through every movie in the MCU and reviewing them in varying length and then ranking them on my personal scale of best to worst. Why? Because I love the MCU and it is full of absolutely amazing films… Unfortunately it is also full of bland, boring, uninteresting pieces of garbage. The MCU is a very 50/50 franchise in my eyes and I hope these reviews I do on the films will help highlight how.

And since Spider-Man Homecoming has just been released, I think I’ll start with that.  Let’s get into it.

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So, dude, was it good? It was. It was very good. I put this films quality down to the insanely good portrayal of the character given by Tom Holland. Tom Holland somehow captures the neediness of Peter Parker (Which Toby Maguire had previously displayed so well) and also captures the coolness and wittiness of Spider-Man (Which was Andrew Garfield’s strong-suit.) Whereas Maguire wasn’t as good at capturing the witty, jokey side of Spider-Man in the heat of a fight and Garfield wasn’t good at all at showing how nerdy Peter Parker was, somehow Tom Holland does both. There is this awesome scene where Spider-Man has to interrogate a criminal to get locations of the villains, but the criminal is not responsive because he recognises how unintimidating Spider-Man’s voice is. There is then this witty-banter between the criminal and Spidey, and Peter’s personality shines as we see him trying to overcome that natural awkwardness he has by trying to be enthusiastic about the situation and intentionally optimistic, despite it not really working out. It’s a great scene where we see Spider-Man and Peter Parker as one character. This is important, I think, because we normally see Peter Parker and Spider-Man portrayed as two different lives of one person, in previous Spider-Man films, but here we get a fresh take where we can really see how they blend together.

The casting for Tom Holland is 10/10. My personal opinion is that Toby Maguire was a thousand times better than Garfield and, though I don’t think Holland is better than Garfield, I would definetly say he’s as good as Garfield in his portrayal and acting. You can tell that Tom Holland really cares about this role and wants to do it right, he’s putting in 110%.

But, I hear you ask, what about the villain? What about the Vulture? Is he another generic pile of crap like Malekith, or Ronan? I mean villains are Marvel’s weak point. Well, let me be the first to say that while this guy is no where near as good as Loki, as he is a bit lifeless at times, he is definetly the best villain we’ve seen in a long, long time from Marvel.

The vulture

Why? It’s because he’s a small scale villain. This guy doesn’t want to take over the world or kill the Avengers, or shoot a big blue laser into the sky; He just wants to sell weapons and use the money to provide for his family. His motivations are very clear not like some, *cough* Ultron *cough*, who want to kill people because the internet said humans do bad things. And the Vulture doesn’t lose in this movie because Spider-Man finds his ultimate weakness or because Spider-Man punches him into submission; He loses because he gets to greedy; He gets so greedy that he nearly dies trying to steal some Stark technology and Spider-Man saves him, despite just being beaten to a pulp, and then the Vulture forgives Spider-Man for stopping him because he saved his life, and because he recognises how greedy he was. In the end credits sequence, he is approached by someone, who I can only assume is the Scorpion (because he has a scorpion tattoo, and talks about being stung with venom or something, so I think my guess is justified), and this guy asks “Yo, do you know who Spider-Man is so we can kill him?” And, by the way, the Vulture does know who Spider-Man is but, instead of selling him out, he says, “Nah, dawg, I have no idea who that guy is.” It’s just refreshing to see a villain who has humanity and isn’t just a mass murderer who has a total disregard for human life. Even after finding out Peter is Spider-Man, he says to Peter “I’ll let you live because your dating my daughter and saved her life, just don’t mess with my stuff again. If you do mess with my stuff again though, I’ll kill you.” It’s so nice to not have a merciless, generic villain. This guy can be reasoned with and it just makes him more believable.

Also Michael Keaton sells this roll. I mean, for the most part, he is just another Marvel villain that isn’t too special, bar a couple of scenes that show another side of him as I mentioned above, but that’s more down to the writing of the character. Just like Tom Holland, Michael Keaton really seems like he cares about his roll, and it shows. There is a really awkward, uncomfortable and funny scene where Peter finds out Keaton is the father of the girl he’s dating and it is in this scene that Keaton shines as an actor. And I know this isn’t a perfect film… It’s not getting Oscars to anything, but the fact these people are giving such care to their performances really impresses me and I respect that.

As far as the negatives go the romance was awkward and a bit forced. It was established that Peter likes the girl, Liz, but it was never established she liked him. It was hinted at once, I think, but aside from that the only reason she dates Peter is because he asks her to the Homecoming dance and she’s like, “Well I guess so because no one else has asked me yet.” It’s whatever though, because it leads to that awesome scene between Peter and Vulture I mentioned above. It’s weak… but it works for the plot. I think they should have put more effort into it, but at the same time I’m glad they didn’t make it a primary focus.

Side notes… Every god damn thing I read seems to be hyping up Zendaya’s role in this film. She plays the character Michelle Jane, who is an homage to Mary Jane. People seem to be hyping her role up to be massively impactful. I mean she’s a side character who is just there for a bit of comic relief, just in Peter’s friend group. Ultimately she means nothing to the plot of this film. She has a place, don’t get me wrong, and she’s a good actress; I’m not trying to be negative to her, but the media is blowing her role out of proportion. Her role is ultimately tiny, so don’t go in thinking she means anything big. That being said, I did laugh when she gave Peter the middle finger at the Homecoming dance.

Then there’s Flash and… God. He is absolutely fine in this film. Nothing is wrong with him. But because they made him a smart kid instead of a dumb jock, all the idiotic fan boys are like “Oh my god you ruined his character. He has to be a jock, have a football and-” Oh shut up. His role is to bully Peter, does it really matter if he’s a jock or a nerd as long as he does the bullying? No! It doesn’t. Stop criticising comic book films for changing the most insignificant tiny things. Some people were like “Flash isn’t black though in the comics”. Like, who cares? As long as the actor does a good job portraying the character and playing the role (baring in mind he has an incredibly minor role in this film), who cares if he’s black, white, Asian or a fucking Martian? People are like “It’s 2017 so we have to accept that there are 72 genders”, but then go “Yeah, no black actors can portray minor roles of white comic book characters who ultimately mean nothing to the over all plot”.

Let’s start something new: “Black actors and actresses can play white comic book roles without fear of idiotic fan boys complaining about race.” It’s 2017. There’s 72 genders, 100 different sexualities and at least 500 objects you can sexually identify as, so lets just let actors of all races play roles of all races. The only examples of this I think wouldn’t work is if they made someone like Tony Stark black, or Black Panther white… Those wouldn’t work because their race does matter- Tony being a rich, white American guy is important to his character, just as Black Panther being a black African king is important to his character. In that crappy Fantastic Four reboot though, casting Johnny Storm as black was okay. Why? Because Johnny Storm’s race isn’t important to his character at all. A fucking bacteria cell could play Johnny Storm and, so long as it was under a microscope and could somehow talk, the character’s personality wouldn’t change at all.

Anyway, let’s get back on track… Overall this film is at least a 7.5-8/10. As this is the only film I have reviewed so far in the MCU, it right now stands at number one best film. Obviously, as I review more this may change, so here it is:

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Go out and see this film, please, I beg of you. If you are a Marvel fan you will love it. If you’re not and you’re just some parent who is dreading seeing it, but you have to because your kid is obsessed, I can guarantee that even if you don’t like it, you’ll certainly find something in it to laugh at or enjoy. Solid film. One of the better Marvel films. Keep it up, Marvel.

 

 

Halo Wars 2: Are The Leaders Good?

Is Halo Wars 2 a game that is relevant? Right now… It sort of is… I mean the game hasn’t received nearly as much attention as other 343 Halo titles, even Halo 4 and the MCC, but I think that’s more down to this game being an RTS and the core of the Halo fanbase being FPS players. But since 343 and Microsoft had no meaningful news to deliver on Halo 5 or a potential Halo 6 at this E3, Halo Wars 2 took the spotlight for the franchise and will be receiving campaign and firefight DLC. Considering this is a game nobody really wanted or asked for, it’s doing pretty well, and I myself still enjoy playing it.

The game definetly has its ups and downs though and they’re obvious… In my mind this is a “love it or hate it” type of game and I guess I’m in the “love it camp”. But let me explain to you how the game has ended up this way, in my opinion; This isn’t exactly something that can be factually proven, it’s more a point of view kind of thing.

Let’s start with the negatives. One quick note on the Campaign; It ended on a cliff hanger. That sucks and really turns people off. Halo 5 had a cliff-hanger and people weren’t the least bit pleased, Halo 2 had one and, despite that games praise, still left fans wanting a conclusion that didn’t come until the next game. Hopefully the Campaign DLC will fix that and give us some conclusion.

Halo Wars 2 leaders

But now onto the meat of it: Multiplayer. There isn’t much negative I can say about the multiplayer except for the introduction of new leaders. Now don’t read this wrong; I am glad that there are new leaders being introduced as it helps keep the game fresh, but the problem is that most of these new leaders don’t feel very different to me than the base game leaders. I mean the special abilities are different, yes, but the way I play doesn’t feel different. No matter if I’m playing as Johnston, Kinsano or Colony I will still pump out the same units I normally would, despite the fact Johnston has an array of mechs, Kinsano has a bunch of cool flamer units and Colony has big, badass Hunters. Why is it I do this? Because counter unit strategy is key. If I’m playing as Kinsano, for example, against Anders, the only reason I would actually build flame units would be to rush Anders before the sentinel spam begins. Otherwise I have no reason to use any of her unique abilities or unique flame units because, against Anders, I’ll just be pumping out anti-air as usual and then maybe some building killers. What I’m saying is that its hard to use the unique units for some leaders when matched against specific others. This isn’t seriously bad though, so don’t assume I’m trying to make a fuss out of nothing. You can use these unique units in games still to your advantage and to win, but it’s just more effort to do than it is to do a classic marine rush or chopper rush.

But now for the positives: The new leaders; Commander Jerome and The Arbiter are a step in the right direction for how new leaders should be. This is because, I find, they are harder to use due to the fact their abilities heavily impact how you use them. This is because their offensive abilities are both severely limited (meaning you can’t just spam carpet bombs, turrets and aerial assault all at once), and that their abilities are instead heavily lenient towards supporting pre-existing units.

Halo Wars 2 New Leaders

Both of these leaders are heavily based on support tactics. The Arbiter is the most. He only really has one offensive ability, which is called a plasma shot, but it’s only really useable against infantry. It can damage vehicles but not as much unless you put multiple points into it and is essentially useless against air units. The Arbiter instead has stasis fields that either make your units invulnerable, but the catch is they can’t move or attack while in stasis. It’s good for protecting your troops against other leaders offensive abilities, but not much else. However it can also put enemy units into stasis so your units can kill them without them so much as even trying to fire back at you. The Arbiter also has some unique upgrades to the grunt squads, which I sometimes find myself actually using because it makes them actual viable units to use against marines and (sometimes, but not always) flame thrower units. Additionally he has Elite Raiders, which are building killer units. These are infantry units that are available straight off the bat at barracks, making them good rush units if you have the necessary power and supplies.

Then there’s Jerome. He has one major offensive ability which is calling down debris from space to crush enemies (don’t ask me how he does it, he must have a big magnet). He does have access to turrets but they are weaker than the turrets other leaders have from what I’ve experienced. They die a lot faster than, say, Cutter’s turret drop would. However units near the turrets get a morale boost, which basically increases their health and armour while they’re within its radius. This is what all of Jerome’s other abilities essentially revolve around; Increasing morale of nearby units. All these abilities on their own are pretty useless, but if you combine them all together and dump loads of leader points into them they can be really effective.

Both leaders have unique troop transport vehicles which is what really makes them interesting. Arbiter, for instance, has Phantoms. What you can do is buy a bunch of Phantoms and put all your troops inside so when you’re attacking an enemy base or defending your own, the enemy has no idea what your army consists of until you press the deploy button and release them from the vehicle. Jerome has armoured ground transport trucks though, rather than Phantoms, but they serve the same purpose. It also makes it a lot easier to move your units around the map, especially without giving away what you have to the enemy, so it becomes harder for the enemy to build counter-units.

I think the Icons Of War update is a huge improvement on Halo Wars 2. Whereas with other DLC leaders you might have thought, “Oh… this leader is different because you unlock the turret or glassing beam ability two stages earlier than you normally would and also they have a fire and healing power that’s a bit better than the base leader’s healing and fire power”, you are now thinking “Wow, Jerome and Arbiter both have a set up of powers that really encourages me to focus on my army instead of pumping twenty leader points into a cluster bomb to essentially insta-kill the enemy army.” Jerome and Arbiter both encourage a different play style, which makes them harder to use because I feel like, aside from a few minor changes, the other DLC leaders didn’t encourage this to an extent that really mattered, aside from maybe the Colony.

This encouragement of alternate playstyles is good and it sets Jerome and Arbiter apart from the other leaders, so you feel like there is more depth to your game when playing with or against them. I really do encourage 343 and the folks at Creative Assembly to follow this line of thinking when releasing future DLC leaders.

So if you’re hesitant about the new DLC leaders or haven’t played Halo Wars 2 for a while I would encourage you to buy this DLC, because it’s the most unique DLC leader pack so far, and because Halo Wars 2 still feels fresh. The sentinel spam isn’t as viable as it used to be… Cutter’s archer missiles will actually hit the target before the enemy can move and the Eradication Banished ability is as deadly as ever. Do jump in. This game deserves more praise.

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