E3 2018 (1): When The World is Running Down, You Make The Best of What’s Still Around

Soooo, so THAT’S What Death Stranding is about (that’s an in-joke, by the way).

Oh, now this is (not so) amusing. I wrote up about 2000 or so words on a few upcoming games shown at E3, but WordPress failed me in not saving my draft (I’m staring at the “! Saving of draft failed” note in the upper left of the screen as we speak, grrrr) so here we go again, but in shorter form because I’m a bit ticked off about needing to redo what was a pretty decent post and I’ve got a few other writing tasks to accomplish. Anyway, it’s really hard to enjoy gaming as much thanks to the real world madness creeping into the hobby side of things, but there are way too many interesting games on the way to avoid.

 

 
Yeah, death, DOOM, and gloom are all the RAGE 2, but it’s going to be a beautiful ballet of bullets and bombs bouncing all over. Bethesda’s presser was pretty amusing because Todd Howard knew how to balance self deprecating humor with the business side of things as the company poked fun at itself and some gamers who tend to either not have a clue about game development (it’s not an easy thing) or maybe think some franchises are a bit overworked. On the other hand, this is one of those always fascinating developer/publishers where sequels are eagerly anticipated each time one is revealed.

I have no clue what Fallout 76 will be about, but I’m going to guess it will feel like the Fallout Shelter (which just dropped onto the PS4 and Switch) but set in a world four times the size of Fallout 4 (which is pretty massive). As my laptop died, I eagerly downloaded it from PSN (it’s free) and ended up playing longer than I thought. Or: I ended up saving my game so I could take a nap. I woke up a bit later and accidentally clicked on the YouTube button on my Wii U and ended up catching the beginning of the PlayStation press event. I was very surprised that I liked pretty much all that was shown I’ll get to those in separate posts after the show), but Media Molecule’s Dreams stood out as a game I really need to try out. Well, that is if SCEA ever invites me back to a press event in NYC. They seem to have cleared out their press list and I don’t hear jack from them these days. Boo.

I didn’t watch Microsoft’s presser because I don’t own an Xbox One (too many awful experience with Xbox 360’s dying on me). But I did check out the plethora of game trailers and found they do look nice overall. I’m not much into the Halo games (although I own them up to ODST and have played bits of Halo 4 at a friends place), but that teaser for Halo 5 showed off a pretty impressive engine. As for the AAA developers (EA, Activision/Blizzard, Ubisoft, etc.) I’ll be looking at those trailers over the next week and maybe posting thoughts. A lot of AAA titles seems set in a certain reliable sector where you get what you expect (which is both good and bad based on your desire to pay for extra content, season passes and the like), but I tend to gravitate to single player games or those where playing with others is an option.

What else? Um… Namco Bandai, Sega, Xseed/Marvelous, Devolver Digital and a ton of indie devs have WAY TOO MANY GOOD GAMES COMING. To the point that it’s just daunting seeing what they’re doing and where everything is going. I need clones, stat. Capcom will make a bazillion dollars with that Resident Evil 2 remake (which means we’ll be getting RE 3: Nemesis at some point hopefully before the planet explodes. As for Nintendo? Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to them in a day or so. I know they tend to do things differently, so they’re going to get er, special treatment. The Switch is selling like hotcakes, third party and indie devs are filling the roster with excellent games and yes, the first party stuff is the mostly evergreen stuff they’re well known for. Back in a bit – I have a few demos to try out.

-GW

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Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms Is Eating My Free Time’s Lunch

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Okay, Idea Factory International, cut it out with putting out games that are too damn good. I’m still playing Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms on my Vita thanks to a few things like packed backlog and this follow up to Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds being such a solid visual novel that I’m trying to follow as many story paths as possible and failing miserably because they’re all so well localized. So, what should you do while you’re waiting for my verdict? Um, maybe read my review of the first game and get your wallets ready for more?

Well, that’s what I’d do, but I’m kind of predictable. Give me maybe two days, ladies and gents.

-GW

Switchy Business, Or: Blizzard, Just Do It.

So, yeah. A few days ago this happened on Twitter:

Naturally, a LOT of people jumped on this (including yours truly) and thought right off the bat that this cryptic tweet was not at all cryptic and meant we’d be seeing a Switch version of Diablo III at some point. Well, Blizzard says nope, it was all just a misinterpreted tweet. Boo. That said, I think they’re at the very least planning something and that tweet was a means of teasing and testing the waters as far as responses to a Nintendo version. While I despise speculation, I’m about to speculate on what’s up while adding a few thoughts on this matter.

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Blu-Ray/DVD Review: The Cat O’ Nine Tails

TheCatONineTailsIn a new interview included on this superb Arrow Video release, director Dario Argento notes he initially didn’t much like his second film, The Cat O’Nine Tails partially because it felt “Too American” Interesting, but in a way, I’d say he’s correct to a degree. That said, as a followup to The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, the film pushes some of the right buttons it needs to while providing a pretty impressive murder by onrushing train scene early on that’s still pretty awesome even when you find out how the trick was done.

That “Too American” comment is very likely about the two Americans playing key roles in this film, James Franciscus and Karl Malden. Both give solid performances in film that’s a bit slower in pacing than Bird was, but has a few tense moments that liven things up. Malden plays Franco Arnò, a blind former journalist who lives with his young niece, Lori (Cinzia De Carolis). The pair are out for a nighttime stroll when Franco overhears a bit of a conversation from a parked car they’ve passed. It later turns out a nearby genetics lab has been broken into and onto the scene the next day arrives Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus), a reporter who ends up bonding with Franco. The two men set out to solve the case, but yep, there’s a murderer on the loose connected to the theft and he’s got his sights set on not only the two men, but little Lori as well.

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Random Films of the Week: A Little New Year’s Cleaning

Yeah, Happy New Year and all that stuff. I figure I’ll post more than I did last year even though I got sick and was out of action for a month or so which led to a bigger backlog that I’m still wading through. My plans to write up and pre-load posts went south thanks to that, but I think with my health getting better (albeit temporarily) I’ll try and tackle stuff slightly differently on occasion. Or: Eh, I’ve been watching a ton of movies in no particular order, so you get to pore over a few quickie capsule recommends.

Stormy Monday_AV093Stormy Monday – Mike Figgis’ first film was this stylized bit of 1988 brilliance that featured Sean Bean, Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting, plus a pretty darn neat jazz score by the director. The neon-soaked Newcastle setting features some of Roger Deakins’ lovely cinematography that makes this a total treat to watch. It’s more or less a noir gangster flick with some solid performances and an overall sense that something bad is going to happen what with all the tense glowering and some romantic notions that make for a bit of conflict as things progress.

I actually hadn’t heard of this film other than seeing a trailer way back before it was initially released in theaters. I didn’t think it was for me back then, but thanks to Arrow Video, I’ve been proven quite incorrect. Expect a fine director’s commentary from Figgis along with a few cool bonus features on this BD/DVD combo that make this a nice surprise to discover if you’ve never seen or heard of it until now. Amusingly enough, this pairs well with Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire thanks to both films mixing reality and fantasy elements (although Figgis gets the edge and the edgier performances overall).

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Review: Hammerwatch (PS4)

Hammerwatch PS4For the record, Hammerwatch isn’t a RPG at all. If anything, calling it one is akin to calling Gauntlet (the arcade classic it pays homage to) a sports game. Granted, you do indeed get the fantasy trappings of classic RPGs in the form of assorted deadly dungeons to navigate, ticked off hordes of enemies trying to do your character in and other familiar touches. But there’s not a shred of story here, no gear to buy, your little character is mute, and the only expository dialog you’ll read comes from a few NPCs in set locations who offer very brief tips or warnings that you’ll want to pay attention to. Oh, and your party kind of kicks you to the curb at the beginning after a bridge breaks and you’re stuck having to go the long way around to catch up to them. What, someone forgot to bring a good length of rope?

This is a actually a good, no, a great thing, as the game excels at letting you have at what it tosses your way you want as you try to survive. Enemy generators, traps galore, invisible walls, area warps and many hidden secrets await the brave ones with ten bucks to spare. Trust me, folks – this is probably going to be the best ten bucks you’ll spend on any game this (or next, if you’re reading this in 2018) year. The main campaign is lengthy, there’s an extra chapter expansion and while online play is coming in a patch (hopefully along with mods that the PC version has had for a while), you can still grab up to three friends and play a good old-fashioned couch co-op session for the time being.

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TCM Remembers 2017: Sunset Blvd. Or: Land of the Lost

 

At some point, I actually stopped keeping track of all the entertainment industry deaths this year because it was getting too depressing. I just watched this clip earlier this afternoon and my brain is still spinning inside my skull. Yes, there are some people not included in this list (including a few who recently passed away within the last week). But it’s been one of those long years where the tendency to get overwhelmed by both expected and sudden demises is only a tiny percentage of the stress one has to deal with. Everyone here will be missed, but not forgotten as long as their work remains and there are people who preserve and share it for future audiences to appreciate.

-GW

Review: .hack//G.U. Last Recode (PS4)

dot hack ps4You’ve two choices to deal with as soon as you fire up .hack//G.U. Last Recode on your PS4 or PC. Do you play it as intended and enjoy the story as it spools out across the three remastered games (Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption) along with one new shorter chapter (Reconnection)? Or do you activate the Cheat Mode that maxes your party out from the get-go and makes zipping though most of the game a total cakewalk?

I ended up choosing the first option and while the game took a lot longer to play through, I didn’t feel as if I was taking advantage of Bandai Namco or developer CyberConnect 2‘s overly gracious hospitality. As a huge fan of the original four chapters games and later, the G.U. series’ three entries, I wanted to play these as originally presented, carrying my save data over into each game and getting the same thrills I’d gotten way back when the PS2 was going strong with quality JRPGs dropping on a semi-regular basis.

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This remastered trilogy benefits from a higher resolution, better frame rate, somewhat simpler combat and much better looking cut scenes. That said, it also doesn’t go overboard in trying to be a purely visual showpiece far beyond the original games. Lead character Haseo is still very much an angry jerky guy for a good chunk of the experience, but you’ll get used to him as the game progresses. The end result is a reliable buy that will please fans of the old games while maybe making some fans that expected too much or come into this wanting to see every trick in the PS4 book exploited a tad disappointed. Then again, you’re going to be playing this game more for the story and somewhat deep world building that extends into how you interact in the “real” world presented outside the faux MMO game.

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Random Films of the Week: Some Clock Cleaning Before Things Go Cuckoo

Hey, it’s not Friday, but it may be by the time I complete this post. Anyway, here’s a few more films I finally sat down and watched. It stinks not having a flick watching partner to bounce things off of, but so it goes. I suppose a resolution can be made to rectify that, but you all know that sort of pressure makes for an often crappy time when you go rubbing lamps hoping for the correct results (he noted, cackling madly). Anyway, some of these were screeners, a few were bought for the library and almost all come recommended for assorted reasons.

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Suture – It’s a gimmick film with one huge gimmick, but it’s a good one and writer-directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee do a decent Hitchcock riff on a few fronts with this thriller/mystery mash-up. Shot in glorious black and white with a solid as a rock cast, this is one of those indie films that packs a wallop and isn’t afraid to use your brain as its target. The interesting thing is the film also works without the gimmick as a pure thriller, so you can indeed re-watch this and see it from a different perspective.

I saw this a few times in theaters back in 1993 and later on cable and it still works as a great little film worth tracking down. Arrow Video’s restoration job is great and you get way too many bonus features that make this an automatic buy right out of the gate.

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Random Films of the Week: Disk-y Business

Yeah, yeah. I’m still alive. I’ve been in a bit of a personal and creative funk for a few key reasons, some of which are health related with the rest fall squarely into the Nunya Bizness section of the classifieds. In any event, watching the news has been detrimental to my mental, but it’s a case of not knowing what’s going on is far worse than shoving one’s head into the sand. The problem here is the too smart for their own good “political junkies” posing as journalists tend to treat this all as a big, fun horse race crossed with story time and it’s a failure of  insane proportions because no one seems to want to interrupt that yakky daily narrative and let all the shoes that need to drop do so when the appropriate truths are revealed.

In the meantime, I’ve been dipping into my Blu-Ray and DVD backlog when I’m not gaming or too depressed after watching the latest soliloquy from some news show hosts who’d make perfect babysitters because after 20 minutes of them blathering away on some otherwise well-written preamble, I’m ready for a nap. Anyway, enough perambulating around myself – let’s go to the movies!

Ruby 1Ruby – Not to be confused with Abby (which NEEDS a full on restoration one of these days!), this interesting but flawed Piper Laurie vehicle is an odd bird that combines supernatural revenge horror elements. mild gore and a bit of demonic possession lifted from The Exorcist, albeit not all that well. Curtis Harrington’s 1977 flick does have its moments, but you’ll need to tap yourself on the skull with a small hammer when the film starts going off the rails with the plot contrivances.

VCI’s restoration job is decent but not flawless (kind of like the film) and the Blu-Ray/DVD combo means you can keep one disc in that old player you’ve kept around just in case you need it. What, you don’t own a second disc player? Eh, whatever. Just pretend you do for my sake. Or hell, you can give a friend one and keep the other unless you just buy the plain DVD release if you’re that stingy.  Either way, VCI will be happy.

 

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