Diablo III (2013)


Our Long War Ends Today, Imperius!

Diablo III (2013)I wanted to play today’s game for a very long time.  It was originally released in May of 2012 for the computer, but my computer was having far too many problems for me to even consider running a game more powerful than Angry Birds.  A year later, I was finally able to build a computer capable of running it, but by that point I didn’t feel interested anymore.  Thankfully, they were putting the game out on console a few months later.  My interest was revived!  And now I can finally bring you my review of Diablo III, developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, and including the voices of Athena Karkanis, Dorian Harewood, Anna Graves, Robin Atkin Downes, Rajia Baroudi, Jamieson Price, Erica Luttrell, Carl Lumbly, Grey DeLisle, Crispin Freeman, Alyson Reed, Michael Gough, Jonathan Adams, Jennifer Hale, Dominic Keating, Troy Baker, Sumalee Montano, Simon Templeman, and James Hong.

You play as one of five character types in one of two genders.  You arrive in the town of Tristram following a mysterious star crashing to the ground and raising the dead in its wake.  We meet with Leah (Jennifer Hale) who was in the Cathedral investigating the ominous prophecy that may lead to the resurrection of Diablo with her uncle Deckard Cain (Michael Gough).  Upon investigation, we find that the star that crashed to the ground is actually an angel named Tyrael (Jonathan Adams), who tells us that the demon lords Belial and Azmodan are wreaking havoc through the world and that we have to stop them because … well, what else would we do?

I enjoyed this game just fine, but the story really had nothing to do with it.  Mainly because there barely was one.  It’s really not much more than, “Diablo is coming back and we have to stop him.”  They have a couple smaller things they try to fit in (Deckard and Leah’s relationship, Leah and Aria’s relationship, the little boy emperor and his besieged kingdom, the demons war on the humans, the bickering angels), but it really boils down to a really long mission to beat one boss.  They don’t really try to surprise you too much beyond that.  There is a bit of a surprise involving Leah, and also a bit of a surprise involving our main character.  I won’t spoil Leah’s, but I will spoil ours: we’re a Nephilim.  I feel comfortable spoiling that because I’ve played through a great portion of the game five times and I have no recollection of the game actually informing of this.  At a certain point, characters are just talking about that fact as if it were assumed knowledge by now.  I feel like there was another thing that the intended to be a surprise, but if that’s the case they should feel embarrassed.  We have to work with the ghost of a guy named Zoltun Kulle at one point until he betrays us.  I could not wrap my mind around the idea that this could be a spoiler.  The guy’s voice was brought to us by I Am Evil enterprises and every time he disappeared, he did so with the dictionary definition of a sinister laugh.  The only way they could’ve surprised me with that guy was if he eventually left after helping us reach our goal to go and find his home world of rainbows and puppies.  They did have lots of little journals you could pick up to get additional information, but most of them were either just unimportant things or just a characters feelings about the things going on in the unimpressive story.  I did appreciate that those journals would not be hindered by leaving the area and would continue through the load screens.  I would’ve hated having to stand inside Deckard’s room waiting for his journal to stop talking just so I could be underwhelmed by the information he was giving.

The game looks pretty good.  It’s kind of hard to say as the camera is never that close to allow us to see the details, but that’s something they pretty much need to stick to because that’s the setup of a Diablo game.  The improvements that can be seen are in the activity of the levels.  The levels in the game are always alive with little movements, from creatures scurrying around on the floor to parts of the level crumbling off when you get too close.  My favorite one was in a spider lair when a guy was dragged into a hole when I got too close.  The attention to detail – even if we never really got close enough to see that much of it – was fantastic.  Also, the cut scenes were great.  The disparity in the graphical quality between the gameplay and the cut scenes reminded me of those trailers for The Old Republic that made the game look so much more awesome than the game seemed to deliver.  I don’t mean that as a critique of Diablo, but as a compliment to the quality of the cut scenes.

I made it a specific point to dedicate a decent amount of time to each of the five character types before embarking on my review.  What I decided early on is that I always seem to pick the character that is the least prepared for my antisocial style of gameplay.  I generally don’t team up with people because people will hurt you.  I’M TALKING TO YOU, CYNTHIA!!  That being the case, you’d assume I’d be more prone to picking a tank character such as the Barbarian for my first go.  But that’s never the case.  In City of Heroes, I picked a Blaster.  In World of Warcraft, I picked a rogue.  And in Diablo III, I picked the Demon Hunter, or what is more commonly known as an archer.  So running solo was a pretty bad idea for quite some time.  The rapid fire ability helps, but I came to realize that your friends could be both assistance and hindrance.  The fact that I got into this game a while after they did helped me out because they could just jump into my game and throw away the trash they would never use, which just so happened to be excellent equipment to my lower level character.  The other side of that coin is the friends who attempt to rush you through your campaign so that you can join them in their higher difficulty campaigns.  First off, when you get bored and abandon me right before the boss, it leaves me underpowered to face it.  Second, I have a review to write!  I feel like I missed most of the story!  That’s why I had to go on my second playthrough, and I chose the wizard because I had not yet screwed myself over enough with my first character that shouldn’t play solo through missions.  The saving grace for these two characters comes when you get one of the three followers you can use when playing solo: the Templar, the Scoundrel, and the Enchantress.  The problem with these characters is I have no idea why you would ever use anyone but the Templar.  He can heal directly, heal by increasing your regeneration, and he’s also a capable tank.  Taking the other two is basically babysitting.

After those two characters, I finally got the message and went out as a Barbarian.  It was kind of boring, but I didn’t die so that was a plus.  I died a lot with the monk character, but only because he was talked up so much that I assumed I could easily waltz through one of the hardest difficulties with him.  I could not.  I haven’t yet gotten to the point with the Witch Doctor that he becomes truly badass.  The higher you level, the more creatures you can spawn to do your fighting for you.  It seems like that might get a little boring, but it would certainly be less frustrating.  All I was able to spawn by the time I stopped playing was two zombie dogs.  I named them Pongo and Perdita.

I’m sure a lot of people were worried that the controls of the game would suffer when porting from the computer to the console.  I never played the computer version, but I found the controls very effective on the console.  There are plenty enough buttons that you can map your powers to, and it got even better when my friend Hookah told me that there was a setting to change that would allow you to map any powers to any buttons and not just the five or so powers it had allocated to each button.  After that the controls were pretty smooth sailing and the gameplay style would just depend on your character.  One universal that I enjoyed was the traps that were spread throughout the levels, like hitting a chain to drop a chandelier on a group of enemies or shooting some boards that were holding up a wall to let it crumble onto the enemies.  The problem with this was that I rarely saw the traps before I had already cleared the room because of how close the camera was.  But that’s a minor gripe.

I haven’t yet gotten all of the achievements in the game, but the ones I saw didn’t seem insurmountable.  Just time consuming.  I’m sure by the time you had reached level 60 you’d probably have stumbled upon most of them.  And probably would’ve had to have beaten the game on the harder settings to get to that level anyway.  So if you’ve got the time, you’ve probably got 1,000 Gamerscore.

I wound up very satisfied with my time with Diablo III, and I’ll probably be returning to when I have the time.  It had nothing to do with the story which is so completely forgettable that it’s not even worth mentioning.  Thankfully, the things they concerned themselves with instead make the game worth playing.  It’s lots of fun and has plenty of randomly occurring events to keep you grinding in the game well into being worth its price.  Diablo III gets “Let your true self be revealed, Diablo!” out of “Even in the heart of Heaven, angels can still feel fear.”

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The Last of Us (2013)


People Always Talk About the Apocalypse Like It’s the End of the World.

The Last of Us (2013)I had a vague interest in today’s game for a while.  It looked interesting enough, but did not strike me as the greatest thing since sliced bread.  In its defense, I fucking love sliced bread.  Just think of how useful that stuff is!  Anyway, when the game came out, I was mildly interested, but more because I lacked anything much better to play at the time.  But then the world got involved.  The game received such massive praise around the time of its release that I knew what the world really needed: my opinion of it.  I finished this game a while ago, but was busy with my sister’s wedding and unable to finally let you all know how you should be feeling about this game.  Well the time has come for me to review The Last of Us, written by Neil Druckmann, developed by Naughty Dog, published by Sony Computer Entertainment, and starring the voices of Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, Merle Dandridge, Annie Wersching, Robin Atkin Downes, Hana Hayes, W. Earl Brown, Brandon Scott, Nadji Jeter, Jeffrey Pierce, Ashley Scott, and Nolan North.

We play primarily as Joel (Troy Baker), a single father living in Texas with his 12-year-old daughter Sarah (Hana Hayes).  Things are fairly normal for them until an outbreak of a mutated cordyceps infection breaks out around the United States, turning people all over the country into violent creatures bent on spreading their infection through bites and spores.  Let’s just call them “zombies” for short.  In the rush to escape the infection, Sarah is shot by a soldier trying to contain the infection and she dies in Joel’s arms.  20 years later, small pockets of humanity survive in contained quarantine zones.  Joel makes a living as a smuggler with his friend Tess (Annie Wersching).  A cache of weapons is stolen from them by an arms dealer named Robert (Robin Atkin Downes) and, in the process of hunting him down, they meet a leader of the Fireflies rebels named Marlene (Merle Dandridge), who promises them double their weapons for smuggling a teenage girl named Ellie (Ashley Johnson) outside the quarantine zone.    Joel reluctantly agrees at the behest of Tess.  They later find out that what makes Ellie so important is that she was once bitten by the cordyceps, but was found to be immune to the infection, making her the last hope that humanity has for destroying the infection once and for all.

My feelings about this game were pretty conflicted, and for pretty much the same reason that I have disliked quality games in the past.  My expectations were set too high.  I feel like, had I gone into this game completely ignorant to it, I would have loved it much more than I did.  As it was, I thought the game was really good, but it did not quite manage to live up to the hype.  The story was definitely the game’s primary selling point.  It was definitely solid.  Though I still have not gotten around to watching it, it felt to me like what I expect watching an episode of The Walking Dead would be like, especially around the times when Henry and Sam were around.  There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of dealing with surviving the threat at hand, and a lot of surviving the different sections of fallen humanity, such as soldiers, rebels, cannibals, bandits, etc.  The emotional part of the story starts off right away.  I was not expecting Sarah to die.  I thought this was the girl I had seen in the commercials or gameplay footage.  I was confused because I thought I heard her called Ellie, but they could’ve rewritten the name for all I know.  I didn’t get very attached to the daughter at first because, though they seemed to have a sweet relationship, she did throw “even though you’re never around” into a birthday letter to my character.  That’s not cool.  He probably feels horrible about it but doesn’t have a choice because he was a single dad that has to provide for his daughter.  I never threw that shit in my mom’s face because she was at work a lot.  Hell, I relished it because it meant more time to sit at home playing video games instead of doing my homework.  That woman cramped my style.  I don’t really consider it a spoiler to say that stuff about Sarah because it happens in the first few minutes of the game, but plenty of other people die in emotional ways.  I felt myself predicting a lot of them because these characters that the game acts like might be here forever were never seen in any of the trailers, but it was still done well and pulled a lot of emotion from the audience.  There were a lot of emotional moments between Joel and Ellie too, especially since Ellie seemed so desperate to be able to connect with Joel but he was intentionally closing that door because he didn’t want to get too attached.  The conversation between the two of them where Joel said, “You’re right: you are NOT my daughter,” was brutal.  It hurt MY feelings even though he wasn’t talking to me because I REALLY wanted these two to get into that father/daughter relationship that Joel so desperately wanted to squash.  Maybe my biological clock is ticking…  Also, at the very end of the game, how did Joel not clock the dude that hit him with the rifle butt because he was trying to save Ellie’s life?  I understand they turned out to be “friendlies,” but clock me AFTER I’ve saved the girl’s life, douchebag!

The visuals of the game are well realized, but not always pleasant to look at.  I guess you should expect that from dystopian settings.  But it did have a good amount of beautiful visuals as well.  Most of the rural areas are pretty grey and ugly (as they were intended to be), but the stuff in the wilderness was generally very pretty.  And since they went all the way across the United States and travelled through an entire year, the developers got to stretch their legs and show what they could do with all the changing seasons and environments.  Rural, sewers, streets, wilderness, forests, icy landscapes, they span a plethora of environments that are all well realized.  I guess the only problem I had with the look was the “secret tunnel” that we enter at one point.  You could see the edges of it behind the entertainment system shelf that was supposed to be concealing it.  I guess the education system suffers in the apocalypse.

I had very few problems with the controls, but they didn’t really take any chances here.  It was like Uncharted with less climbing and more stealth.  It’s safe, but it’s functional.  Stealth in this game (as stealth in most games as far as I’m concerned) can get a little frustrating for the less patient audiences (such as myself) but it’s not too painful, and it’s pretty necessary since the game decided that a few of the enemies you face can instantly kill you if they get too close.  That’s a little irritating as well, especially since it can sometimes be hard to tell which ones are the instant killing ones and which are the regular ones.  The thing I felt was most irritating was that this game was still trying to push Sixaxis on us.  It’s dead, Sony!  Let it go!  It does not immerse me more in the game to have to shake my controller as if it was my flashlight and we all know that gets your batteries working right.  Another problem I had was with ammo availability.  I’ve felt this about other games in the past, but if I kill someone that was just shooting at me, I want their ammo.  I know they have it; they were just throwing it at me.  Give it to me!

This does not seem like it’s a great game for trophies.  I’ve not come anywhere near getting them all yet, but just reading through them makes them seem daunting.  I’ve beaten the game, and I was trying to collect stuff and finish trophies, but I’m still at a meager 5%.  A lot of them are for collecting and beating the game 8 different ways (the difficulties do stack though) and crafting different items, but that is an awful amount to have beaten the game with.  I doubt I’ll ever get anywhere near finishing them.  I did like collecting the comic books because it made Ellie happy, but I didn’t find a single comic book while exploring the dorms in the Colorado college level.  Are you shitting me?  No one in a Colorado college reads comics?  Those kids don’t know how to party!

My enjoyment of The Last of Us was hindered by the overhyping it received, but not so much that I couldn’t still say it was a really good game.  The story was well written and actually able to illicit emotional responses from me, and the graphics were pretty outstanding when they got out of the bland cities.  I could have perhaps asked for a little more innovation out of the controls since they seemed to mainly stick with what was safe, and the trophies are way too much work for me, but I would say that this is a quality game.  I don’t know if I’d be prepared to say it was worth the full $60 for it, but if it drops even $10 on sale, I’d say that would be enough reason for you to pick it up for yourself.  The Last of Us gets “No matter what you have to find something to fight for” out of “It doesn’t matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.”

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Tomb Raider (2013)


I’d Finally Set Out to Make my Mark, to Find Adventure

Tomb Raider (2013)From the moment I first saw the video for this game, I was on board.  A super realistic reboot of an already solid franchise is alright by me, but I knew there was a chance that it could be disappointing because several of the games in the franchise had been already.  But I’ve always had a certain spot in my heart for Lara Croft and her bodacious breasts.  I didn’t buy the game when it first came out, but seeing about it and reading about it made my passion boil to the point where it had to be purchased.  Then, for some stupid reason, I started playing Darksiders while Lara sat next to my TV, staring at me confused as I played something far inferior while I owned this game.  Well, it’s time had come.  Let’s review Tomb Raider, developed by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, published by Square Enix, and including the voices of Camilla Luddington, Robin Atkin Downes, Chieko Hidaka, Arden Cho, Robert Craighead, Cooper Thornton, Tanya Alexander, Earl Baylon, Andy Hoff, and James Walsh.

Lara Croft (Camilla Luddington) sets out on a ship called the Endurance to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai with friend Samantha (Arden Cho), mentor Conrad Roth (Robin Atkin Downes), archaeologist Dr. James Whitman (Cooper Thornton), and crew Joslin Reyes (Tanya Alexander), Jonah Maiava (Earl Baylon), Alex Weiss (Andy Hoff) and Angus Grimaldi (James Walsh).  Lara suggests a change in course, to venture into the Dragon’s Triangle, east of Japan, and the crew agrees with her against the contrary opinion of more seasoned archaeologist Whitman.  A freak storm attacks the ship, splitting it in twain, and leaving few survivors stranded on the island.  Lara is separated from the rest of the group and gets knocked unconscious by a strange man, who strings her up in a cave surrounded by corpses.  Lara must make her way out of the cave, battling the crazy stranded people, led by a man called Mathias (Robert Craighead), and get her people off of the island.  But it seems that Samantha’s ancestor, Himiko, is somehow controlling the storms that surround the island posthumously, and no one will be allowed to leave.

This is perhaps a controversial opinion, but one that I feel very secure in making: this is hands down the best Tomb Raider game ever made.  After I played this game, I started to wonder why I ever liked the other Tomb Raider games in the first place.  It’s so superior in every way possible.  The story especially.  I honestly don’t remember much about any of the stories in the other Tomb Raider games, but my recollection is that they were fairly weak.  Perhaps they met the standard of the day a little better as the greater majority of games didn’t have much by way of story, but this new game sets the bar way high.  The story is great here, and it has some real moments of emotion and resonance that I wouldn’t really have expected out of a Tomb Raider game.  People that are important to Lara die within the story, and the characters are given enough time to be important to the player to actually feel something when they die.  Sadly, one of the characters that didn’t die was Reyes.  The emotional response that lady elicited was hatred.  She blames Lara for every death on the team, even though she’s also the only one that ever saves anyone’s life.  I understand that it was Lara’s idea that turned the group towards the island that started this shit, but what was the alternative?  Continue following Whitman and never find what everyone on the crew signed on to find?  I found all the collectables in the game, and I never read any journals talking about how Lara twisted any arms or held anyone at gunpoint to sign on for this expedition.  And everyone that survived at the end of the game did so by the grace of Lara, so shut the fuck up.  And thank God SOME of the people on my team survived, because I was getting to think that I’d make it off the island alone with how quickly the game was killing everyone.  I was also happy that the greater majority of the game was rooted in reality and then it’s unveiled that there’s actually something supernatural going on as well.  That’s kind of a staple of the Tomb Raider games.  Also a staple is Lara’s sense of humor, which they maintained in this game to some extent.  This was Lara’s first outing, so she was a little over her head, but she had time to throw a funny comment in now and then.  I thought it was a fine joke when you’d examine a relic only to find out that it was fake, but they went to that joke a few times as well.  I also liked that there was a fast travel system in the game, but I found it difficult to use because of how the story was paced.  You rarely reached a site where you could fast travel from without having something in the story that seemed time sensitive, and the game had immersed me so much that I didn’t feel like I could go running around looking for hidden tombs and relics when my friends were in peril, but that’s really more a compliment to their story than anything else.  At least one of those frenzied situations could’ve been Lara’s fault, because how is she going to respond to her friend saying she has to hide her Walkie Talkie by yelling into the Walkie Talkie?  Your options are either the other girl turned it off and hid it like a smart person, or the people she’s hiding it from now know she has it because you’re yelling into it.

Another thing I wanted to talk about briefly was this alleged “rape scene” that I had heard so much about before going into this game.  What happens in the game is that Lara gets captured by the crazy people and one of them starts running his hand down her side towards her ass before you get a quick time event to stop him.  I thought this was really overblown.  First, he almost touched her ass.  He didn’t really try to rape her.  And if you fail the quick time event, he strangles you to death.  He doesn’t rape you.  I couldn’t promise that he didn’t then try to rape you AFTER strangling you to death, though.  My point is that it was not nearly as overt as they made it out to be.  I had heard some people refer to it as the “rape scene,” but if I had not, I don’t even know if I would’ve assumed it was going there.  This is something that I imagine would actually happen if a pretty girl was captured by a group of guys that had not seen a girl they weren’t going to kill in decades, and movies get away with this stuff all the time.  Why don’t we just get off the game’s nuts for this?  If we’re going to make a big deal out of something, I’d take more issue with Whitman telling Lara to just do what the guys said.  How are you going to tell an attractive woman to do whatever the crazy dudes that haven’t seen a woman in decades say to do?

This game also improves on the series visually.  The thing that was on my mind throughout the game was that my friend Phil was complaining that everyone was lauding the visuals of Bioshock Infinite when this game looked so good.  This game does indeed look fantastic, but I can’t really speak on the comparison yet as I’ve only just started Bioshock.  But this game benefits from an ultra-realism to its visual style.  It was so realistic that I actually started to get vertigo while climbing a radio tower in the game.  Lara also improved drastically in look.  Lara was always considered a sex symbol, but she’s much better now with realistic boobs and looking much more like a normal girl.  Plus, power is sexy.  And I would not mind dating a chick that much more badass than me.  And she is indeed badass, as the visual style helps to remind us by keeping the damage she’s taken visible through the entire game like how Batman’s suit gets beaten up as you progress through Arkham City.  And, like Batman, Lara just keeps pushing forward.  As I would with her in the bedroom.  I’m not sure that that makes sense…

The gameplay was also phenomenal in this game.  It’s pretty reminiscent of Uncharted in a lot of ways, but that’s far from a bad thing.  I love the Uncharted games!  It uses cover a lot and it’s a third person shooter, so the comparison is not a drastic jump to make, but they made it their own by making the guns somewhat secondary to the bow and arrow.  It was just more fun to put an arrow right between someone’s eyes.  And there was a lot of climbing as well.  But, technically, most of this stuff was done in Tomb Raider before, so maybe the comparison isn’t that apt as Uncharted probably got more from Tomb Raider than they did from it.  But there was one part where Lara climbed over the wreckage of a plane that was very similar to Nathan Drake climbing over a wrecked train car.  The puzzles that Lara can solve are often interesting, but none were entirely challenging.  I’m still okay with that.  Also, this game is put out by Square Enix, so of course there’s going to be experience in it, which seems to not fit, but it also works well enough that I don’t take issue with it.

In my opinion, this isn’t the greatest game for achievements for one specific reason: the multiplayer.  The single player achievements weren’t insurmountable, and were generally a pleasure to get as the game was so enjoyable, but I found the multiplayer to be a bit of a trudge and not really worth investing the time into.  And they want you to invest quite a bit of time into that multiplayer to get up to the level necessary to complete the achievements, so it just wasn’t worth it to me.  I’ll feel content with the single player achievements.

It’s probably too early in the year to make this prediction, but I could easily see Tomb Raider making it onto my list of the best games of 2013.  Well-written, visually photo realistic, and a damned joy to play.  Lara Croft is back in a big way if these guys keep it up, and I’ll be in line next time they make an attempt.  You should all be playing this game already.  You probably shouldn’t have been able to read my words without the persuasive power compelling you to make a run to the closest store to buy one, even if that store deals exclusively in linens.  Tomb Raider gets “The extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are” out of “Go buy this now!!”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE!  YouTube  OTHER JOKES HERE!  Twitter  BE A FAN HERE!  Facebook  If you like these reviews so much, spread the word.  Keep me motivated!  Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012 and 2013)


We’re in For a Show, Kid.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012 and 2013)Today’s review is brought to you by Smodcast. Well, Kevin Smith and Smodcast are in no way paying me to write this review, but it probably wouldn’t have come to pass if it weren’t for Kevin Smith. I listen to numerous Kevin Smith podcasts, and I think I’ve heard him rave about today’s movies on a few different podcasts he’s taken part in. The movies are based on some comic books that meant a lot to Smith, but I had never read. I had attempted to read them, but I found them a little verbose and not as visually interesting as the comic books that I tend to go for. Then these movies came out, and Smith loved them. If I remember correctly, he stated that he is brought to tears by the retelling. After hearing him talk these movies up numerous times, I finally decided that they begged a rental. And that brings me to review Part One and Part Two of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, based on the comic books by Frank Miller, screenplay by Bob Goodman, directed by Jay Oliva, and starring the voices of Peter Weller, Michael Emerson, David Selby, Ariel Winter, Mark Valley, Wade Williams, Maria Canals Barrera, Robin Atkin Downes, Paget Brewster, Michael McKean, Gary Anthony Williams, Tress MacNeille, Grey DeLisle, Bruce Timm, Conan O’Brien, and Frank Welker.

Part One. The government has banned superheroes. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller) retires from crime fighting as the Batman. But, without the Batman, Police Commissioner James Gordon (David Selby) is left to fight a losing battle against the gangs of Gotham City. Harvey Dent (Wade Williams), having undergone surgery to repair his face, relapses and returns to crime. Bruce also relapses, succumbing to the gangs, Harvey’s reappearance, and the memory of his parents’ death, and returns to the cowl after saving the life of 13-year-old Carrie Kelley (Ariel Winter), who he starts training as his new Robin. But Batman’s return may have other consequences…

Part Two. Batman’s return brings the return of the Joker (Michael Emerson), who remained in a catatonic state in an asylum in Batman’s absence, his life having no purpose. Joker intends to make his big debut on a talk show interview, and Batman determines to stop him, even though he must get through Commissioner Gordon’s successor, Ellen Yindel (Maria Canals Barrera), to do so. But making such a public showing of the Batman’s return comes with another danger: the government may send Superman (Mark Valley), who works as a government operative now, to deal with the vigilante detective.

I was really happy with this movie. I knew that the comic books were well-written and entertaining, but I’m too easily bored by reading to make it through. Turning these into a movie was the perfect way to enjoy the story without any of that annoying reading stuff. And the story is definitely one that’s worth getting into your brain, either by reading or by watching. I start into the movie a little closed off because I don’t like seeing Batman retire, but I also understand the world that Miller creates that leads to Batman retiring. And then I like it even more when Batman comes back because of Two-Face. But if Two-Face no longer has two faces, doesn’t he have to change his name to Harvey Face or Scary Face? Plus, don’t they already have a villain that walks around with his face wrapped up like a mummy? Hush or something? I also thought it was cool that the movie shows us what it’s like to be an aging Batman, in the shadows planning his move against a group of criminals, and then you get to see a little bit of what it’s like to be one of the criminals, getting beaten down by the Batman, but not knowing where it’s coming from. But really, I feel like I was more excited to get to part two of the story. Part one does a lot of hinting at bigger things on the horizon. I was waiting to see what would happen with Superman, and I was waiting to see what would happen with the Joker. The relationship between the Joker and Batman has always been a fascinating one. I really liked Kevin’s Smith’s take on it in the comic book series Batman: Cacophony, and that one seems to take some ideas from Dark Knight Returns in things like the fact that the Joker is catatonic in a world without Batman and only comes back when Batman does, and Joker says something to that effect in Smith’s book. But the talk in Smith’s book was only a preamble to what happens further along in the timeline in this story, and it is an epic conclusion to their relationship to be sure. I also knew that part two would include a showdown between Batman and Superman, which I was very excited for. Mainly because I hate Superman. Such a goodie two-shoes son of a bitch. And not even a bright one! Why would he shove a train to a halt to save one blind man on the tracks when he could’ve just … I don’t know … picked him up and carried him off of the tracks instead of demolishing a train by shoving it to a stop? Fuckin’ douche…

I really don’t have a lot to say about the look of the movies. I wouldn’t say that I “liked” it, per se, but I do respect that they captured the look of the comics very well. I just wasn’t that big of a fan of the look of the comics. It works very well either way, but it’s not really my bag. I also like how the fights are realized in the movie. They’re very effective. It’s kind of like watching a UFC fight … in mud … between Batman and a mutant guy with spikey nipples … Also, I was a fan of that Bruno chick, or as I called her “Swastika Titties.” Swa-stick-ons? Swa-tit-kas? I don’t know, you work it out.

I found myself very conflicted by the voices in the movie. I liked them all, but I kept feeling myself missing the people that I had become more familiar with. Batman’s voice for me has pretty much always been Kevin Conroy from Batman: The Animated Series, which may have been one of the first times I heard him speak. Either that or Pete Holmes imitating Christian Bale. Those are my Batman voices. The same could be said for the Joker. No one does Joker like Mark Hamill. Peter Weller and Michael Emerson do good jobs, but my brain is so resistant to change that I will probably always shy away from any deviation.

If you’re anything like me, you should definitely go out and buy Parts One and Two of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. It allows you to experience Frank Miller’s fantastic story of the aging Batman and his return to crime-fighting without all that tedious reading. They capture the comic book entirely, as best I can tell from my limited skimming of the graphic novels many years ago. Definitely worth buying for any comic book fans, Batman fans, and people who lack the attention span to read things. Of course, if that’s you, I doubt you made it to the end of this review. I wouldn’t have read it all, that’s for sure. Part Two is way better in my opinion because it has the fights with the Joker and Superman, but you kind of need Part One to set it all up. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns gets “It took years and cost a fortune. Luckily, I had both” out of “This isn’t a mud hole. It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.”

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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)


Whatever You Do, Don’t Eat the Fuckin’ Candy

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)It had started to occur to me that I had not actually made it to the theaters this year.  There were movies out that I wanted to see, but I either never had the time or it just slipped my mind.  There’s also a chance that I was too busy making love to beautiful women all month to get to the theaters.  That one seems like it’s the most likely.  Having pleased enough beautiful women to meet most men’s lifetime quota, I finally decided to take a little me time and go to the cinemas.  I was shocked to find that the cinema I usually go to had been purchased by another theater company, but thankfully they still do movies for $5, enabling me to make a double feature out of my day.  Unfortunately, the two movies that I was able to catch in the time I had allotted were not Zero Dark Thirty.  That will have to wait.  For now, let’s talk about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, co-written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, co-written by Dante Harper, and starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Cedric Eich, Alea Sophia Boudodimos, Thomas Mann, Robin Atkin Downes, Derek Mears, Peter Stormare, and Rainer Bock.

Two children named Hansel (Cedric Eich) and Gretel (Alea Sophia Boudodimos) are abandoned by their father in the woods.  They make their way to a gingerbread house where they are captured by a witch who intends to eat them.  They manage to throw her into the oven.  But we all knew that part.  What we may not know is what happens later.  Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) grow up to be famous, witch-specializing bounty hunters.  They are hired by a town called Augsburg, and arrive just in time to prevent Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare) from wrongly executing a woman he believes to be a dark witch.  Hansel and Gretel then set about discovering the reason behind the disappearance of six boys and five girls, and sightings of a Grand Witch named Muriel (Famke Janssen).  Also, I’m not positive, but I think a Grand Witch is the female version of a Grand Wizard.

Can I paste my review for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter here and call this a day?  Truthfully, this movie was much better than AL:VH, and much less crazy of an idea, but they do seem comparable to each other in title at least.  I guess the premise of the movie isn’t nearly as crazy since it seems to be a possible future for Hansel and Gretel to grow up to hunt witches and no one in their right mind would make the leap from Abraham Lincoln to vampires.  And just as it wasn’t a difficult leap to make to have Hansel and Gretel grow up to be witch hunters, the story of this movie made no difficult jumps.  It was all pretty standard.  The story serves mostly as a way to get from one silly situation to another bloody fight until the filmmakers have blown their load and lit a cigarette in celebration of their mediocre performance.  I can relate to that.  But, even though the experience is relatively unsatisfying either way, at least with me it can be a little bit of fun.   It had a bit of laughs to it, but nothing worth watching it for.  Now I’m not sure whether I’m still talking about my penis or not…

The look and the action were altogether unimpressive.  They had a lot of blood, but nothing interesting making it come out of the bodies.  Fist fights were really average and the gun stuff was simply aim and shoot with no flare.  The troll in the movie looked pretty goofy in daylight, but it also was the only thing in the movie that had a good fight in daylight, so I’ll call the troll a “push.”  There was a broom race through the forest at the end of the movie that reminded me of the scene on Endor from Return of the Jedi.  Also, the music that opened the movie seemed like it was ripped straight out of Sherlock Holmes.

The performances were mostly okay.  No one blew me away, but they didn’t suck.  I did think of questionable things about them though.  First off, Jeremy Renner as Hansel is a diabetic?  Is that really going to be a pointless subplot?  They don’t say he’s a diabetic, but he got it from eating too much candy and he has to inject himself whenever the movie realizes that it forgot about that subplot or else his foot falls off or whatever happens.  Also, you’ll come to find pretty quickly that Jeremy Renner loves to pose with his gun resting on his shoulder.  It’s like his favorite thing.  Gemma Arterton is fine, it’s true, but she perhaps needs some more practice before playing an action character in the future.  She threw some pretty unconvincing punches.  I also thought Famke Janssen was a pretty useless addition to this movie.  She also did a fine enough job, but why make her a witch?  I’m sure there are people that are cheaper to get into your movie than Famke and, when you get her, she spends the greater majority of the movie all uglied up and witchy, completely unrecognizable.

I felt like this movie was either going to be nothing to write home about, extremely lame, or fun and awesome.  Unfortunately they chose the former.  It’s okay.  It has a super basic story, limited amount of laughs, and unimpressive action.  This movie could’ve been more fun with a little more comedy and some better choreographed action.  It’s not a bad movie, and one you wouldn’t be too bad off if you rented, but there’s not really any good reason to go to a theater for it.  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters gets “I say burn them all!” out of “Cutting off her head tends to work.”

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Assassin’s Creed III (2012)


The Future of Our Land Depends on Those Who Are Truly Free.

Assassin's Creed 3 (2012)I was incredibly excited to get to play this game and, truth be told, I beat the game about two months ago but was so back-logged with other reviews that it’s taken me this long to get here.  Some of you may have already seen a quickie review of this game in my end of the year recap because it took me so long to review it.  But I’ve been a big fan of the series since its inception, so the game was certainly deserving of a full review.  Plus, there’s a chance that this game is the final game in the saga, so I feel that I need to send it off properly.  This game is Assassin’s Creed 3, developed by Ubisoft Montreal, published by Ubisoft, and including the voices of Noah Watts, Nolan North, Adrian Hough, Kaniehtiio Horn, Roger Aaron Brown, John de Lancie, Neil Napier, Allen Leech, Robert Lawrenson, Robin Atkin Downes, Danny Wallace, Eliza Jane Schneider, Margaret Easley, and Nadia Verrucci.

Desmond (Nolan North) and crew – William (John de Lancie), Rebecca (Eliza Jane Schneider), and Shaun (Danny Wallace) – are still trying to access a temple with the Apple of Eden, and use it to stop the end of the world.  …I don’t get it either.  To do so, Desmond gets into a machine that sends him back into his ancestor’s memories.  First, he becomes Haytham Kenway (Adrian Hough), who then fathers Ratonhnhaké:ton (Noah Watts) – who thankfully gets called Connor – with Connor’s mother, Kaniehti:io (Kaniehtiio Horn) – who I will call Unpronounceahontas.  Connor must stop the Templars in their plots in the American Colonies while simultaneously helping the Americas gain their independence.

I really liked this game (as you may have guessed from the quickie review in the Games of 2012 review), but it was not without its share of problems, most of which will not be found in this paragraph.  The story of the game was pretty good.  I’ve always kind of taken issue with the Desmond side of the Assassin’s Creed games.  They tend to be a little on the strange side.  The guy gets into a machine to allow him to access memories stored in his DNA while talking to ancient but super-advanced aliens and save the world with an apple.  But that’s a fairly minor section of the game, and that’s how I like it.  I don’t give a shit about Desmond.  But Altaïr, Ezio, and now Connor?  Yeah, that’s the stuff.  And Connor’s part of the story holds up as well as Altaïr’s and Ezio’s, but it does take its sweet time to get started.  I wanted to get into the Connor part of the story quicker because I didn’t see much point in getting attached to Haytham when I realized that he wasn’t my guy.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but I was in this to be Connor.  I even really liked the scenes of Haytham and Unpronounceahontas and their burgeoning relationship, but this guy isn’t going to participate in the Boston Tea Party, witness the Boston Massacre, chauffer Paul Revere on his Midnight Ride, and watch the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Connor was!  And it was pretty cool to take part in all of those things, so I enjoyed it thoroughly when it got going.  There were a couple of minor qualms to be had with the rest of the story.  First off, the names of things.  The Mohawks seem like they had absolutely no interest in making their names easy on me while writing these reviews, and I think that’s very inconsiderate of them.  There was our main character, Ratonhnhaké:ton, his mother, Kaniehti:io, and the place they were from, Kanien’keh(‘a):ka.  Come on!  That can’t be real!  What possible use for colons, semicolons, and parenthesis would the Mohawk have?!  I guess, much like their philosophies in hunting, they felt like they must use all parts of the keyboard as they use all parts of the buffalo.  The endings were a little weak as well.  The defeat of Connor’s mortal enemy was a little anticlimactic, and I wasn’t that pleased with what happened with Desmond either.  I was happy they didn’t go with the typical ending with making the audience make a choice.  I just want to see YOUR story, not make my own.  Or, more accurately, I don’t want to have to look up the other ending on YouTube.

The controls of the game were what gave me the most trouble.  Not all of the time as it controls very similar to every other Assassin’s Creed, but I had never had so many problems with glitches in the other games.  There were times when the controls wouldn’t respond, I would run into invisible walls, icons wouldn’t show up when they were supposed to.  The worst one was when I was trying to climb a wall and I was inexplicably fired up into the air, only to come crashing down to the Earth and die.  It didn’t happen all the time, but even just a few times in such a big name title is extremely frustrating.  Otherwise, the game is exactly as you’d expect an Assassin’s Creed game to be.  And by that, I mean it’s awesome.  It’s like Dishonored if it didn’t punish you for killing bad people.  And the parkour is great, and improved for this game a little.  It’s mostly what we’ve done in the other games, but this game takes us out into the wilderness a lot more than the other games does.  And that means free-running through the trees.  It works very well most of the time, though it’s occasionally difficult to see your path clearly when trying to figure out which way to jump.  The side missions in the game were fun, but some were extremely tedious and others I just did not play the way they wanted me to.  Like the hunting stuff.  Connor was an effective, but very impatient hunter with me at the helm.  It would’ve been a fairly common sight to see Connor running through the frontier, trying to bum rush a raccoon in the brush.  And the board games were a constant annoyance for me.  I realize that the only reason I was even bothering with them was because I wanted achievements, but I found them really annoying.  One problem with playing a board game against a computer is that the computer knows how to play and what is going to happen way better than we do.  Another problem is that I don’t really want to play these things.  I don’t need the money, so I’m just forced to play the stupid things for the achievements.  And Six Man Morris is a horrible piece of shit of a game.  I want it to die.  I resent this game for making me play it.  I don’t know anyone named Morris, but I will befriend one just so I can hate him.  I had a couple minor issues with the logic of the game as well.  Like why do guards attack me because 3 orphans are pestering me?  I would understand if they were already looking for me, or if I just killed them like I always wanted to, but just because they see a guy being bothered by kids?  They should attack the kids!  Or let me!  As much as I loved the regular gameplay of Assassin’s Creed, this game kind of overshadowed it for me with the new nautical battles.  I really dug these.  It made me wish Ubisoft would take over a really cool Pirates of the Caribbean game.

The look of the game is fantastic, with next to no complaints.  The landscapes are beautiful, and the seafaring levels are brilliant.  The only thing I took issue with was minor, but annoying.  The game gives you the ability to change the color of Connor’s outfit, but does not have the ability to change his costume color in the cinematics.  I’ll be wearing some badass black and red getup just to suddenly, and jarringly, be wearing classic white because I’m chatting with Sam Adams now.  Come on, Ubisoft.  We all know this technology exists.

I never was all that interested in the multiplayer of the Assassin’s Creed games.  That lack of interest, as well as the structure of the multiplayer, has not changed much.  It’s an interesting idea, and it’s nice that it’s different from the typical first person shooter multiplayer, but it also doesn’t really keep my attention very long.  The first problem is that they take so long to explain it in the overlong tutorials for it.  They actually show you how to free run!  Does anyone buy Assassin’s Creed for the multiplayer?  In which case, how would they not already know how to free run, and probably have played the entire story mode before even bothering to give multiplayer a shot.  Then, when you get into the multiplayer, it’s not usually the game of hiding and surprising that the tutorials make it out to be.  It’s mostly just people running around in circles trying to stab each other.

The achievements in this game weren’t insurmountable, but there were still some that I was not going to bother with.  Namely, the multiplayer ones.  But I did get the rest of them.  The only ones that I found very annoying were the ones involving the board games and the damned Encyclopedia of the Common Man stuff.  That was extremely tedious.  You basically have to take a look at everyone in your homestead doing three different versions of their jobs.  They may choose not to do their jobs for about 4 or 5 days because they’d rather be fishing, and you may not be able to kill them in punishment for their inefficiency, but you will have to stand around waiting for them to do it anyway.

Assassin’s Creed 3 was a great game that was hindered by a few minor problems that just should not have been there from a company that makes such polished games usually.  But they were only temporary hindrances in a beautiful game with highly enjoyable gameplay and completely forgettable multiplayer.  I recommend buying this game.  I bought it for $35, which it is totally worth.  I’d still probably get it for $60 though.  Assassin’s Creed 3 gets “My enemy is a notion, not a nation” out of “Better the world burns, than SHE is unleashed upon it!”

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