For those of you just tuning in, my Assassin’s Creed 3 review had me notice several similarities in that game to FarCry 3 – similarities which I attributed to the two games being developed by the same studio, and released within a month pf each other. I haven’t been the first to see this, and I also won’t be the first to say that the latter game, and today’s subject, fares much better for its stint in the Ubisoft mixing bowl than ACIII did.
I haven’t played the previous installments in the FarCry franchise – in fact, my only previous experience with it has been a riff session with some friends of the Uwe Boll movie – so I went into it dry, not knowing what to expect outside of the accounts from reviewers, which praised the game for the joy that it brought to exploration, but didn’t like the near-complete lack of any story or structure to the game’s world.
This problem has been mitigated, but it still remains. There’s a whole lot of things to do in the game, and they‘re all satisfying and make for a coherent flow of gameplay, but quite a few of them don’t have any real incentive. The reason FarCry 3 is such a great game, though, is because of how effortlessly it manages to combine this varied gameplay with a tight, deconstructive and well-scripted story.
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Posted by Year Late Reviews on December 4, 2013
Daniel Craig’s term as James Bond can, I think, be considered the gold standard of continuity reboots. From the very first scene of 2006’s Casino Royale, where Bond battles a man in a public toilet before dispatching a nameless Russian guy with a quip and a smile, we’re introduced to the film’s mission statement: To blend classic Bond film elements with darker, more realistic modern spy movie tropes.
This formula worked wonders in Casino Royale, but was disappointingly toned down in Quantum of Solace, the sequel, which tried to minimize the Bond stuff to make way for the modern stuff, and made for an underwhelming experience. Luckily, since Skyfall was intended as a celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary, Bond stuff was not only expected but mandated, and the contrast between the two gives the movie some really memorable scenes and images. But what catapults it to the best of Bond is more than that: Skyfall has an excellently realized story – a thematic character study and political spy-thriller both – assisted by a tight script and excellent performances.
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Posted by Year Late Reviews on November 9, 2013
*Native american gibberish*
The Assassin’s Creed series follows the ancient conspiracy between the Knights Templar (bad guys) and the Assassins (good guys), as their intricate, shadowy, and Greek mythology-based plots converge around the protagonist, Percy Jackson – I mean, Desmond – who uses ill-defined technology to relive the memories of his ancestors through the medium of open-world, stealth-heavy RPGs.
The series is probably the perfect cross-section of how the notoriously fickle triple-A gaming industry has changed over the past console generation. The first game, a 2007 trip to the 12th century Middle East, was praised for its unique concept and excellent design, which was enough to overshadow its lackluster gameplay and confusing story. The sequel came out in late 2009, and iterated on the original concept by moving the time period to the more recognizable Renaissance-era Italy, while also shoring up the gameplay issues and having a more coherent and basic plot.
And then the critical and financial success of the series started to cause problems. I’ll say up front that I’m perfectly fine with supplemental material for sprawling franchises like this – providing more information or gameplay for fans who want it while not being necessary for the casual player’s enjoyment of the central games.
From what I can tell, Ubisoft have the first aspect down pat, but are still struggling a bit with the second. Between numbers 2 and 3 we’ve had no less than six tie-in games, with a seventh released alongside the latter (most of which contain pivotal story elements, and none of which I’ve played), in addition to a slew of novels, comic books, short films, and other mounds of Styrofoam packing peanuts, surrounding a package – the real, serious, numbered games – that I actually quite enjoy. Read the full post »
Posted by Year Late Reviews on October 30, 2013
Argo. The true story of a 1980 CIA operation to mitigate the Iranian hostage crisis, and a narrative that, if you substituted Gellerese for Arabic, would be indistinguishable from a Mission: Impossible episode.
And, according to the AMPAS, the capital-letter Best Motion Picture of 2012. This is gonna be a hard one, folks. My reaction to the movie is one of mild approval – I like it, but not nearly enough to really care about it. And so, not only is this going to be really hard to review, but it’s going to be even harder to write jokes about.
Argo is well made, well acted, and well written, but it lacks any sort of signature or specific style to set it apart from the crowd. It’s a good movie, but it definitely won’t be remembered as the best that 2012 had to offer, because it just didn’t capture the same magic that we got from offerings like The Avengers or Skyfall.
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Posted by Year Late Reviews on October 12, 2013
Yeah, a city famous for never going dark is the perfect place for beings who require dark places to live.
I dislike “The Angels Take Manhattan” even more than I did last week’s “The Power of Three”, but it’s not a worse episode: On the contrary – the heady heights it climbs to are wonderful, but only serve to underline the depths of inconsistency and stupidity it falls to, especially around the last act of the episode.
Like “The Power of Three”, the episode suffers from having too many ideas to squeeze into 40 minutes – the most glaring of which, of course, are the departure of longtime companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. I loved these characters, and was hoping that “The Angels Take Manhattan” to be a climactic, dramatic swan-song.
Which is where we run into the big problem. This episode isn’t about Amy and Rory leaving, it’s about…well, the Weeping Angels in Manhattan. Both these ideas are rock-solid concepts for classic episodes, but they just don’t work as well when crammed together, and neither the malevolent statues or ebullient Scots can get enough focus. Read the full post »
Posted by Year Late Reviews on September 29, 2013
“Invasion of the very bad mystery story…”
Well then, Doctor Who, the venerable British sci-fi television show. I’ll put my All-Star Superman hat on to introduce it…
Powerful aliens. Blue box. Horrible war. Human friends. Doctor Who! Read the full post »
Posted by Year Late Reviews on September 22, 2013
Grrrr! Grumble growl grrrrr.
In this modern age of movies, of $200 million budgets fast becoming the norm, of Man of Steel and Pacific Rim losing huge amounts of money for their studios despite critical and financial success, of Peanuts The Movie and Finding Dory and Transformers 4, Dredd feels like a breath of fresh air.
It’s not a movie for everyone: An independent movie, adapting a long-running British comic with a good-sized fan base. Written, directed and produced by people in this fan base, for a sum of money that I have to refer to as “low budget” despite being several times more money than I’ll ever see in one place. A cast of accomplished character actors playing out a tightly focused story, with minimal characterization and next to no symbolism or message.
Though it’s by no means flawless, Dredd is one of those movies I support on principle. I thought that movies like it were the whole point of all this geek-culture-becoming-the-norm deal: niche films that get wide theatrical releases and big advertising campaigns like broader and more mainstream movies. But lately those have been few and far between, and so it’s nice to have the movie out there out there. Read the full post »
Posted by Year Late Reviews on September 21, 2013
It’s not Half-Life’s birthday – Blocky Scientist doesn’t get a candle.
It says a lot about video games as both an art form and a medium in general that Black Mesa, fan remake of landmark first-person shooter Half-Life, was even thought of, much less made. In Hollywood, remakes have never really been popular, even in the drought of intellectual property that has afflicted the film industry in the past decade – the logic usually being “How much could you change the original while still repeating it?” from an artistic standpoint, and “Why would people pay to see this when they could just get the original?” from the marketing side.
In video game territory, though, remakes are a near-necessity at this point. The trend of shunning backwards compatibility will continue into the next decade (I’m exclusively a PC gamer, in case you didn’t know), so remaking old video games for newer formats is the only way anyone without an obsolete system can play them – and since games more often than not sell themselves on looks, updating the game’s visuals is practically a necessity. I will try to focus solely on the changes to Black Mesa, rather than rehashing the original.
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Posted by Year Late Reviews on September 14, 2013
I’d be remiss if I didn’t weigh in on the tragic Colorado theater shootings that so marred this film’s release…
So I guess I’ll just sit here and be remiss, then. On with the show, folks.
Not counting my previous “review”, this is the first comic-book movie I’ve talked about on this site. And so, I’m laying my cards on the table right away: I don’t read comic books. Never have, never plan to. My experience with the medium comes through pop-cultural osmosis, internet memes in the vein of “The Flash makes his pants out of GOES FAST” and “Lex Luthor stole forty cakes, and that’s terrible”, and various adaptations, not the least of which is Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman, the Dark Knight Saga.
Said Saga, a trilogy that concluded in last year’s climactic The Dark Knight Rises, is probably the most well-known and influential trilogy since the original Star Wars. When I realized this, I decided to prepare for the review by rewatching both trilogies in succession.
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Posted by Year Late Reviews on July 20, 2013
No idea about scenes from this movie, folks. All you’re getting is this. Enjoy.
This isn’t a review of The Amazing Spider-Man. This is a boycott.
That’s right, I never saw last’s year’s third-string superhero movie, and I don’t plan to. It’s not the generally lackluster reviews it’s gotten, it’s not a response to its indecisive abstention from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s not the casting.
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Posted by Year Late Reviews on July 3, 2013