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Whether you do or don't, 22 January 2015
7/10

Whether you do or don't You are Johnny Klebitz, the VP of the bikers The Lost, having improved their business, and being pragmatic, having helped bring about a truce with the rivals, the Angels of Death. The president, Billy Grey, returns from rehab, and is unhappy with the state of affairs. He wants to bring them back to being all about the old values, brotherhood, independence, macho culture. If this plot sounds too weak and clichéd to be the focus, that's because it is. Along with overly straightforward, with few twists. It goes where you think it will. Not a classic tragedy. Don't expect double-crosses or switching sides. This does run parallel to its parent, so we do meet some of those characters again, and hey, the new ones are badasses, and along with offensive stereotypes, we have the suck-up, the family man, etc. Surprising again yet we should expect it by now, you really get into the identity. Convoys, road captains and the like, in spite of how awkward it can be, becomes fun.

The value again lies in the MP. And that is very limited here, since it's essentially dead. The new modes replace(read: copy) the old ones, and today, few are still along for that ride. Witness Protection has one team must try to eliminate a bus carrying witnesses while the other is NOOSE who try to protect it as it delivers them. Checkpoint racing(SP, too) now lets you be on bikes, carrying bats and smashing each other, similar to Road Rash. You can knock other off their wheels! There's a free for all style one where one is the Lone Wolf and all others try to stop and become him. Whoever was it for the longest time, wins. You can try to gain control one section by another, clearly colored by who owns them, based on San Andreas' gang wars, and not only serving to remind us of that. AI defend each of the handful of ones, in addition to anyone who might be along with them, or capturing. There's a version of this offline, as well, stop a van or eliminate a group, and it's as generic as it sounds.

While not MMO, it's chaotic, open and crazy, with the reaction-heavy NPCs, traffic, respray shops, even police. Those can go after one or multiple, and respond proportionally… escape by leaving their sight and/or not attracting attention – that can be too easy. It just has some of the deeper mechanics removed, taking place in the same city, the imitation of New York with three main islands, authentic and realistic as the rest of this. There, you don't move like you're morbidly obese. You will see some lag. We get a server list! With filters! Four people can be in the same car(if that many seats), and all of them can fire, if and when they want to! Hold down Enter Key instead of just pressing to not take over car. The 360 free camera, in this case not requiring constant manual adjustment, allows you to keep the same thing in your sights regardless of how you're moving. You can customize the model, a male, and a female, by body part: head, torso, legs, glasses, hats. You do start out with few options, 4 at the most, and, not the developer's fault, however, since today, well, I rarely found even a handful of others on, so you don't rank up and never get the extra options. Unlike Max Payne 3, there are no groups to skin separately, and less personality to them than that. Ugh… I get chills any time I say something positive about that title. 12 different locations, and they're diverse: docks, prison, etc., and sizable chunks. You may respawn very close to where you died, which means there can be lengthy shootouts.

I completed this in 7 hours. Add 8 and a half for side stuff, and it brought me to 71,25%. Even for a DLC, that's very little. This adds, fixes or changes fairly little. Like IV, a lot of what it improves are the physics, graphics, things that don't alter the gameplay much. We have less features than before, and a number of the ones we have just aren't that compelling. A lot of the content isn't even interactive, it's TV you can watch, Internet you can explore, and radio you can listen to. While we do have proper third person gunplay, it's not as smooth as its unnumbered predecessor. It does have crouch, strafe, a target health indicator(the appearance of which doesn't mean that you won't just hit what you're standing close to…), and, of course, the cover system(so bad that you end up making sure not to use it). You hold down the trigger to fire, which is awkward and screws up timing when others are ducking out to attack, you press at the right time, but there's half a second or so of delay. "You" are too heavy and slow to respond for it. Why doesn't it let you stick your head out when you hold down Focus Aim… same for shooting from a vehicle, and worse, they actually do it right when you're not the driver, so they were able to do it.

Flying is more involved than driving a car in this, unlike Just Case 1 and 2, and I would almost rather play JC1 than this. Yes, steering a helicopter is complicated. But with how streamlined driving a car is in these(no dealing with clutch, gears), air travel should be more simplified, as well. You can't use planes(there are always ones taking off from the airport. You can't blow them up or stop them by blocking them), there are only helis, but some come with gatling guns, with explosive bullets!

There is a lot of bloody violence and a little full frontal male nudity in this(avert your eyes!). I recommend this only to completists, this you can and should skip. 7/10

Taken 3 (2014)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Not what anyone wanted, 9 January 2015
5/10

We knew one of his female loved ones would die sooner or later, they're always in danger from scary foreigners. Bryan(Neeson, looking his age, yet still adding charm to a bare-bones role and film) is framed for the murder of his ex, and leisurely stays one step ahead of the cops(for non-spy men are weak and in the way! At least this one isn't misogynistic), solving the case in this "procedural that doesn't live up to an episode of a TV show of that genre". Not delivering on a good third of what the trailer promises, this never comes close to the level of one of the recent movies with the same core plot – Sin City, Shooter, The Bourne Supremacy – there's little reason to watch this at all, let alone in the theater.

With too many characters, you'd expect at least some of them to be interesting or memorable. There's only one example of such, and he's hardly in it. We've got slightly dopey cop buddies, the other retired spies are given more to do in what feels like fanfic, Stuart is back and, like perfect, bland boyfriend Jamie(who isn't purely milk toast here), immensely obviously recast, and not even to any effect. At no point does this really involve us. The concept leads to a minimal amount of the fast-paced neck-breaking, shooting and tracking-down-of-family-member-in-peril that we expect from this series, instead giving us set-pieces that don't belong in it, especially having a lot of extended chasing with no payoff.

There's a little strong language, mild violence(reduced to PG-13 to a laughable degree… I'm still not sure whether or not this one guy died, and if so, of what) and implied sexuality in this. I recommend this to only those addicted to Liam in this type of flick. 5/10

Dishonored (2012) (VG)
Reclaims a notable amount, 31 December 2014
7/10

Framed for the murder of the Empress of the Isles(Stewart, wise) and presumed responsible for the disappearance of her daughter(Grace Moretz, spoilt. At age 10, that's understandable. The aim to put her on the throne is made questionable by that fact), you, Corvo Attano(seldom speaking and never heard by the player, so little personality that we don't care… the blandness of other characters ensures that's endemic), the bodyguard of both, is thrown in prison. Sprung by The Loyalists, a resistance group, you are tasked to remove the tyrant and the strongest in his government, including the leader of the Overseers(an extreme religious group, because those make easy villains… we never get a sense of threat from the witchcraft they fight, but they sure are fun to use. System Shock 2 and other works by Looking Glass Studios give us far more even core conflicts), his physician, etc.

This has a number of similarities to the Thief series, albeit it gets key aspects very wrong. Guards do not always make noise, much less enough. You're not moving carefully between shadows, you're breaking the line of sight, something that is better done in Commandos 1-3. Why? Because bird's eye view and cone of vision. Too often, you're trying to avoid the enemies increasing the angles at which they can see you, until you luck out and/or give up on that one, even if it looked promising. Still, this offers emergent gameplay: you choose what to do and when, how to get past the, sadly here linear in order, obstacles. Distract by picking up and throwing only glass bottles, cups, fine china… each is thus: one-use, loud, and easy to recognize from afar. In general, you know where to go, especially the direct path, which, of course, may be costly.

Defenses you have to bypass include stilt-walking, armored men known as Tallboys, Arc, (think Tesla Coil!) and Wall, of Light. Each of these run on tanks of processed whale oil, which, if hit with a projectile or just tossed, explodes. Remove it, and they no longer work. Rewire, and it turns against them! When you come upon the first of these, you can also bypass it by going further(at risk of being stopped), or even sneak through a small tunnel, less obvious to see, by possessing an animal, such as a fish. Doing so lets you, yourself, move to a new area and not merely recon it. There are 6 magic powers total(well, active ones. There are 4 passive ones. In the same menu. Ugh), including teleportation, thermal vision(which it seems to expect you to employ liberally), and a Wind Push(not telekinesis, no sir!). Gathering Runes, you can unlock both ranks to them in the field, and get halfway through them all before completion(the low replayability isn't helped by that), so as expensive as they can be, you still don't have to choose much more than the order and they don't have the weight they should, even though you, thankfully, can't undo these choices.

The Chaos system has the plague spread the more violent you play. This is an especially clever and well-integrated use of the classic device: the carrier rats literally feed on the dead. You can summon some, or use ones already present, to hide your victims, heck, the former is an attack! They'll come for you, as well, and being hounded by a pack of rats is tremendously creepy! So is facing the Weepers, humans with their minds gone from the sickness, they come at you Rage-zombie style, grabbing you and vomiting infected blood and saliva onto your face! Did I mention this really likes to disgust you? It gets to be white noise learning about the horrors of life here in the city of Dunwall, with its mix of steampunk and Victorian era, leading to many cool designs and visuals. You can listen to and read notes and excerpts from scientific papers, textbooks, diaries and, among other fiction, romance novels. The volume of lore and backstory, of sheer detail, is impressive.

This does seem to lure you to the worse side… there are too few stealthy options, and especially non-lethal ones. An explosive trap, a grenade, taking down someone by "landing" on them, none of these let you stun. For that, you have to use tranquilizer arrows for the not-entirely-silent, long-range(zoom with your mask, and snipe!) crossbow(which also comes with incendiary and regular ammo), or, much worse, be directly behind someone, and entirely unnoticed. With Splinter Cell: Blacklist coming out, we're reminded, by way of what the franchise masters, of how many options we can get: sleeping gas, shock mines, etc. This draws the eyes towards one of the weaker sides, which is being able to play this as an FPS. There are far less tools there than BioShock, and it just isn't as interesting. That is overall fine, as we have plenty of gold in that genre. And it does warrant mentioning that, if caught, you *can* fight and/or run to safety, and the combat has blocking and different tactics for not only you, also your foes.

The weapons can be upgraded over the course of this, giving something to work towards, albeit ultimately, you can get all(I think) of these in just one go. These include speed, accuracy and the like. The pistol can be made to take several bullets at once, and the carry capacity limit of 10 per ammo type can be expanded. You are almost never made to kill, especially not people, including targets. It would be nice if it let you figure these out on your own, instead of dumping them in your lap. And objectives regarding them to boil down to "eliminate and/or move this person". The settings are fairly varied, exploring the whole city. The cutscenes are purely in-engine, and from the one POV.

There is a lot of brutal, disturbing, gory content in this. I recommend this to fans of this sort of thing. 7/10

12 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
It all ends here. For better or worse, 11 December 2014
9/10

With Erebor back in the hands of the king, Smaug(Cumberbatch, snake-like) taking out his fury on Laketown which leaves the inhabitants as refugees, the gold and area are claimed, to varying extent, by various groups who may not agree, and a legion of Orcs on the way, the titular five armies will have to either fight each other, or band together against a common threat.

This resolves everything in the trilogy, and is smoother in doing so than Return, albeit that is in part because there is less to deal with. Ultimately, while some of us prefer the darker tone of this to the more child-friendly novel(which this follows quite nicely), this should not have tried to connect itself so tightly to The Lord of the Rings. Never reaching Star Wars prequel levels, this does go out of its way to simultaneously set up, and not dig too deeply into, where this leaves off and that picks it back up.

A lot is done with what was built up in these three. Strong male bonding, in particular the dynamic relationship between Bilbo(Freeman, awkward and homesick, yet still proving himself a hero, and utilizes his skills and wit to help solve the conflict) and Thorin(Armitage, obsessed with his newly found wealth, yet beneath, maybe still honorable). Will old enemies be able to settle their differences? Have some steps been taken that cannot be undone? Will everyone have a place to call home, and a future?

The climax is an awful lot of fun, and you can tell Jackson has been missing doing vast battle scenes between several sides each with hundreds of organized forces, and that, apparently, this will be his last chance to do so. It does end up too long, extending, well, padding, the shortest of these since it was decided there would be more than two in this series. There's room for fan-service, new creatures and settings, and for not only endangering the people we came to see and also their loved ones but then letting some of them disappear into the background. At its best, there is drama, it's poignant, and satisfying. This is not always the case here.

There is moderate(pushing PG-13, as has been done lately) violence and disturbing content in this. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys the J.R.R. Tolkien Middle Earth epics. 9/10

Mirror's Edge (2008) (VG)
Take a good, long look, 2 December 2014
5/10

You have to clear your police officer sister from a murder she didn't commit. That sets the tone for how stock the characters and story are… and it doesn't even have resolution, it doesn't end, just… stop. After 6 hours(or less, for others) that feel too long.

This has you maneuvering corporate buildings, streets, alleys, and sometimes(so it remains fresh) rooftops, by jumping, wall-running, zip-lining and the like. Heck, you move down more than one active train tunnel! At its best, it's immersive and exhilarating. More often, it's annoying, worse, boring, at times even frustrating. Many have given up on this, and it's no wonder why. There are a number of glitches where you won't grab a ledge or the like even though you did it right. This grinds to a halt far too often, where you have to shimmy, crawl through a vent, or, worst of all, wait for an elevator. Sometimes both before it arrives and as it takes you to another floor. Why not have it as something that you have to run into, as it slides closed and/or travels whether you're on it or not? Opening regular doors in this is done on the move, heck, almost everything is. So why stop?

If you find this appealing, I would redirect you to UbiSoft's TMNT. That doesn't slow down your rush or break the tension, it actually has replayability, and it has more complex gameplay, in part because of more options in mêlée. Here, that feels "off", you have to wait a little too long and be overly close, and you're engaging in flying kicks and such from afar, and if you don't hit just right, as with everything else in this, it's awkward. You may have to run circles around the SWAT that hunt you for roughly a third of this, luring them apart and such, even if you make the mistake of engaging in the poor gun-play. You have to disarm an enemy, and even then have no extra clips, and whatever you wield, it will slow you down by a factor corresponding to how heavy the firearm is. The supposed tension of them trying to shoot you becomes white noise as you try to find out where you're even going.

This requires you to build and maintain momentum – if you don't have enough for a leap, you'll fall short. Why isn't there a version of this for the Wii? This keeps you moving and has you not slow down as you parkour around. There are 3 difficulty settings, and it's challenging even on Easy, and right from the start. This does feature some satisfying, hard won victories. Then again, too often, you accidentally go a little too far or short and fall off, in part because you cannot see your hands or feet, and thus don't know if you are at the edge, if you can grab on, etc. There's a reason this sort of thing is usually from a third, and not first, person perspective. It's made worse by the very Assassin's Creed traits of a key sometimes doing something you didn't expect it to, response times being an issue, and you failing without understanding why. There not being a HUD, outside of the reticle, is well-done, and health loss is shown by the few colors of the visually striking city losing saturation… so why not have subtle hints like that for when you're in position to do something unusual?

The animated cutscenes clash with the regular look. Why not stick purely with what your avatar can see? Half-Life and F.E.A.R. make that work well, and when this goes for that, it's great – if there wasn't the quick white fade to let you know, you might sit and wait for it to let you helm the controls again. This has a real Tokyo, Japan look and architecture – it is sometimes reminiscent of Aeon Flux the film, or UltraViolet, and comes off as a game of the original Matrix. This is full of trial and error, you try out the different paths until you find the right one. It gets tedious to try over and over, and doesn't save often enough. You only learn by dying, failing. It has been placed by some in the racing genre, which makes sense, but this is not capitalized on with obvious co-op or multiplayer. Instead, the only replayability lies in the one type of collectible(the lack of customization does mean you focus on getting further, not looking for something or assigning points), and the Time Attack Mode. 23 small levels, earned either by completing the chapter it's from or doing well on one of them. You can grind these with the online leaderboards.

The thankfully short and skippable tutorial is restrictive, unforgiving and doesn't tell you what you did wrong. It's of the type that only trains you to pass the test, rather than teaching you how to play the game. It starts and stops, constantly. Retrying doesn't put you very far back, in case you wanted to. Why not let the player follow the trainer while moving, since the rest of this, you're supposed to keep moving(worse even, they do that early on, anyway, so they did know how to do it!). You do not get what would actually help, which is an area where you can practice and learn at your own pace. This is one of those where Every step of the way, the guy on the radio is *talking*. Meaning, he doesn't just pitch in every so often with "head to x", no, he snarks at you constantly, even when you're making progress! This was so much better in Enter The Matrix, where the character is funny, likable, and isn't yelling at you like a scolding parent.

There is some disturbing and violent content in this. I recommend this to the very patient – otherwise, a Let's Play of it will be more enjoyable. 5/10

"1864" (2014)
7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Hubris can indeed lead to great loss, 30 November 2014
5/10

Having defeated them in 1851, the Danish government believed they could take the Prussians on again in the year that titles this. It was about Slesvig-Holstein, a province which both countries felt belonged to them – well, *we* wanted it, rather(a document from the Middle Ages declared that the two would never be split - following old texts verbatim can go horribly wrong), they didn't care, albeit Bismarck did see it as a way to unite Germany, it having been in disarray ever since the collapse of the Roman Empire – in fact, their late arrival to the table of imperialism was part of their bid to increase their lebensraum, through impassioned speeches, deceitful promises of peace. Nationalism went to everyone's heads, and, spoiler alert, it was our greatest loss, and last time we fought to conquer land, it humbled us greatly to lose as much as we did. 5000 dead, at least as many handicapped. 2/5ths of Denmark, and 1 million citizens(leaving us with 1,7), lost to the victors. It is an important part of our history, that of Scandinavia, and to an extent, that of Europe. I urge you to read about it. Because you sure won't find out very much about it here.

Instead, we have this complex, confusing situation(referred, both ironically and truthfully, as "a mere three people understand. One is dead. Another is insane. The third is me… and I've forgotten.") boiled down to "Heiberg the theatre's temptress manipulated Monrad the Council President into a lost cause that the applauding Copenhagen upper class never saw as anything but a fiction that would prove our superiority". That is one of the two notes this knows how to play. The other is "war is awful", which, at least, is a message that is always worthwhile to spread. These are both played on repeat. Over and over. Well, you have to fill those 8 hours with *something*.

It's baffling that this is all it can come up with, since it's so eager to throw dozens of characters at us, to the point where we forget who, what, where, and most of all, *why* anyone in this is. At least about a third of them are proved to have lived back then, so, hey, they did crack open a book(a lot of the time, proving this seems to be the reason they're put before us… certainly, replacing them with text describing what happened here, or showing the physical reality it caused or affected would have been greatly appreciated). Broadly drawn, these all serve as archetypes(at least we do get some welcome ones, such as the several strong women, a staple around here… off the screen, too) and mouthpieces. Oh, but if only they had something to say…! Why this didn't opt for sticking with the handful of regulars is beyond me.

When they do not, they lose our patience, and evidently in a number of cases, our viewership. And then, they show us the truth of the old adage, 'be careful what you wish for'. When will the love triangle die? Can it be soon? Few stories require them, and in cases like this, they are a detriment. Once we realize that's where our two underdog brothers(the tough one and the smart, sensitive one… who are so one-note that they, early on, literally point this out to each other) and the higher-but-only-so-high-class girl are headed, our interest plummets faster than this leaps 12 years, with a thud and a groan. It only gets more banal from there, folks. Do not get me started on the numerous sudden, cringe-inducing lapses in the otherwise so carefully built and maintained realism. The first person to bring up the fantasy aspect gets smacked.

I wanted to love this. So, so badly. I tsk-ed those who cried foul at even the start of this. Now, I shudder to think about that, and realize just how quickly some can tell a stinker when they see one. It didn't have to be this way. I swear, sneak in a skilled editor(one who lives by "you're not doing it right if there isn't blood on the floor", "kill your darlings", "less is more"), bring it down to half the length if that, I mean, if you remove the repetition and tedium alone, you're well on your way… there is quality here! There'd better be, at this price! And there is! This is as beautifully photographed, immaculately staged, authentically detailed in props, sets and costumes, expertly cut and phenomenally acted as the best international standards strive for. And it deserves to be freed from the muck it's buried in.

The political intrigue, the social realism, the credible depiction of life back then, the interpersonal relationships, some of it is already here, some of it could be, had the resources been properly applied. Why Inge's obnoxious, overwrought narration, spelling out what we're looking at? Whose bright idea was the present day framing device? You know, the one that starts by calling every youth in the audience an inattentive, entitled idiot. Yes, the one that adds nothing other than frustration, that makes no sense on an even basic level(if everything we're watching is being read from this one woman's letters… what about the countless events she not only doesn't witness, but would never be accurately, even honestly, recounted to her?). Whoever recuts Dinesen's scenes into the badass action-thriller they're clearly made for should be awarded a medal.

All 8 episodes run one hour each, not counting commercials or credits. There is a lot of brutal, violent, disturbing content, sexuality and nudity in this. I'm not sure who is more to blame for the wails of 'what about the children'… those who chose to air it 8 in the evening or anyone tuning into something depicting the bloody battle with the kids right there beside them. I recommend this to anyone compelled to watch train crashes, and those who enjoy mentally rearranging what they watch. 5/10

Fury (2014)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Almost unbearable, for all the right reasons, 28 November 2014
9/10

April, 1945. The war is ending. Deep in enemy territory, our five protagonists command a tank, including a rookie who has to be quickly broken early on, because it's the only way he can be of any use to them. A Sherman, widely regarded as the weakest type for the time, extremely vulnerable not only to enemy equivalents, but also infantry-held Panzerfaust. This bears similarities to Das Boot – narrow focus on the claustrophobic, heavy death-trap, with us trapped in an oppressive atmosphere, seeing the ugliness and the filth. We don't get a plot, in spite of a series of events presented in chronological order, we're seeing men carrying out their duty, and we, like they, get to know this small group, with the macho culture, black comedy and tight bond they form in this awful situation. And if we didn't have that, this would be unwatchable – it's simply too nasty.

David Ayer directs his first period piece here, bringing his inside understanding of L.A. gangs, especially the interpersonal relationships and fatalism, his unflinching determination to show every miserable aspect, to this, and makes it look effortless. I hope this is the first of many times he plays around with his honed formula – End of Watch gave us a POV take on it, and this shares its intensity and immersiveness. Every second of this, you can smell the filth. There are occasional brief glimpses of something outside of the soul-crushing reality of their daily life. These never truly feel like anything other than escapist fantasy, and soon enough, we, and they, wake up. The action scenes aren't entertaining, they are just the release of the anxious undercurrent. You feel awful for the relief when a German dies, in spite of it being an actual "us or them", of hesitation meaning one's own death. The ending does lose us.

There is constant violent, bloody, gory and disturbing content and strong language, as well as some hinted at sexuality in this. I recommend this to anyone who genuinely thinks they can tolerate it... it will make you think twice about war. 9/10

19 out of 42 people found the following review useful:
Half incomplete, 22 November 2014
8/10

Adjusting to life in the militaristic District 13(which is reasonably well-established, no Zion going on here), Katniss(Lawrence, strong female role model, compelling as always) is asked to be the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion. She's not even sure if she can be, but when Peeta(Hutcherson, clearly abused, broken) appears on TV, calling for a ceasefire, she realizes if they win, he will likely be executed as a traitor. In exchange for his safety and rescue, she does agree – and has to convince the thousands of civilians in Panem to rise and fight the hundreds of Peacekeepers(with a very relevant image of a now-militarized country) and the evil, selfish and dictatorial Capitol, led by the vicious President Snow(Sutherland, sinister and terrifying).

Where the first two are satire on Reality TV and gladiatorial combat, this completely abandons the Games, instead exploring modern media and how it reflects and affects the culture, with both the State and the guerrilla fighting in part via propaganda, with this 2010 book predicting that aspect of IS. Going into this expecting it to be the same thing as the first two will lead to disappointment. Unfortunately, clever as this is, there are other issues. I'm not only referring to the love triangle, present but only annoying when it rarely flares up into passive-aggressive insults. This should not be merely a part of a story. There is some focus, but mostly, the structure(unlike the others, where the competition accomplished that) here does not work well for a movie. Not a lot really happens, and it certainly isn't as fast as we've gotten used to from these. They felt the need to add a few action scenes, and while they work and increase the scope, they are clearly "put in", and change little, if anything. The characters don't have enough to do, and we can tell there is something missing to their arc.

I recommend this to any fan of Young Adult fiction. There is a lot of mild violence and some disturbing content in this. 8/10

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Very nearly out-of-this-world, 8 November 2014
8/10

With Earth running out of resources, astronauts make a last-ditch attempt at locating other habitable planets within reach. This is possible via a wormhole, of unknown origin. And it *has* to work.

At its core, this is about the love between a father, Coop(McConaughey, an everyday man with vital experience and a good team leader), and his daughter, Murph(Chastain, independent and as stubborn as he is). This is simultaneously its greatest strength and weakness. Everything we are excited about rides, to some extent, on us, and them, caring about both of them, and what they share. Thus, we never stop caring, and it enhances all the thrilling space adventures(almost exclusively grounded in reality, and the best theories), where the mastery of movement(or relative stillness) of the camera and the volume of the soundtrack(and sometimes deafening silence) builds tension to its breaking point, and, crucially, never beyond it. And unfortunately, this emotional grounding does eventually lead to some sappy sentimentalism.

The ending will divide audiences. This owes a great, and openly acknowledged, debt to Kubrick's 2001, but it isn't a mere tribute to that, and to exploration of the stars and what that can bring, the latter of which it seeks to encourage a return to. It goes different places, and the third act will be long debated, as it deserves. The humor is well-integrated, not distracting and it eases us out of what would otherwise be relentless and unbearable heaviness. All of the effects are amazing, and the technology compelling. Watch this in the theater, it is made very much for that, as far as the visual and audible experience. The 2 hour and 45 minute running time, and that's not counting the closing credits, will scare some off, and it is perhaps too long.

There is some disturbing content and a little moderate language in this. I recommend it to everyone who doesn't outright hate Nolan… it is very much one of his films, for better as well as worse, however, even with the hokey aspects, this is one you shouldn't miss. 8/10

System Shock (1994) (VG)
A leap forward in spite of obvious stumbling, 29 October 2014
8/10

The year is 2072. Location: a big city. You're caught hacking into Citadel: the large, multilevel space station, with everything it needs, including Maintenance, Medical and Engineering, all distinct from each other, albeit the confusing layouts take some away from the organic, "lived-in" feel. Know where you're going, or if that's not an option, use process of elimination. You'll be moving between them in both directions, since you can't always complete one the first time you're there. This is done via elevators, complete with the cheesy music, one example of the humor, and it not taking away from the creepy tone. You're offered a deal: no jail time, provided you alter the on-board AI, SHODAN(Brosius, haunting, creepy) to remove ethical constraints. When you wake up from a coma 6 months later, having recovered from the implantation of a neuro-interface which was part of the offer, something has clearly gone wrong. In the half a year, the computer, seeing herself as a deity, used the large corporation TriOptimum's on-board genetics research and weaponry to mold the human and animal life that were crew and test subjects, respectively, into hideous mutants and cyborgs, which you can often hear and thus recognize before you see them, and that may die with a brutal, pained roar. You were not targeted since you were just an anonymous guest, who didn't know the area and didn't put up a fight. However, now you're the only hope… she already shot down one shuttle on approach, and is threatening Earth.

This is a haunted house in space. You are alone, everything you find that's alive is out to kill you. The echoing sound of a blast door closing behind you, the endless stars visible through the window, and your lack of knowledge about the place build an effective atmosphere. This is similar to its peer Doom… dark sci-fi, enemies are scary or even grotesque, some of them spider-like. That is more accessible and less complex, when really, only the latter had to be true. This is highly influential and groundbreaking, with a lot of things that we take for granted today. Unfortunately, some of these things were not sufficiently streamlined, and we end up with many elements that work well on their own, most of them great here and leading to more than the sum of their parts, but with a few highly frustrating issues. One is the counterintuitive controls which involves too many keys and several of which crucially go against WSAD/directional arrows with Ctrl/Alt. The other is the HUD which is too complicated, and simultaneously does things it thinks you want, and not always things you ask for. It is unreasonable to expect this to be as well-done as its successors, both spiritual ones such as Bioshock and Deus Ex, and the actual sequel. However, these aspects should have been worked out during development. A major thing is that a lot of the aforementioned would be fine if this were turn-based, but do not allow for comfortable, real-time play.

The mouse is used to interact, albeit it needs more clicking and fiddling around than it should, and it doesn't allow the smooth, 360 degree camera that the engine has… that, you have to do with the keyboard, or slowly. And some of the things require contortions of the fingers and hands, including the movements that this has which not all, in some case not many, of its peers does: strafing, jumping, looking up and down, leaning, and going crouch and prone. Not all readouts are required… fatigue can be almost entirely avoided, such as by not running much, for example. The dexterity of the menus puts too much information in front of you… there are those that will give up on this mere minutes in. Simultaneously, they may change or fully remove some of these on a whim. The inventory has too many separate and similar areas. This doesn't allow for selective customizing and upgrading, if you find it you can probably use it. In some ways this is straightforward even if you don't do D&D, in others it's hard even for those who engage in such.

You can use 7 different grenades, some of them timed, you choosing between 1 and 57 seconds, some mines, etc. 7 different Dermal Patches can either heal, make your melee stronger(so you can save on the sparse ammo), etc., but also lead to negative effects, so use them well. There are 16 weapons, and you can only carry 7 at a time, so choose carefully. They and their ammo types have specific uses… EMP takes down machines, and Gas easily neutralizes life-forms. Pistols, assault rifles, SMGs, and Energy Guns. That last one allows you to adjust how "hot" the projectiles are, the higher ones doing more damage, faster overheating the firearm and costing the Energy(which can be restored with Batteries and stationary Rechargers) that also power your Hardware. Those include a Shield, a Lantern, Nightvision, etc. All of these force you to not only explore to find them lest you suddenly find yourself facing foes you can't take out, but think about what to keep, when and how to use it. This is challenging right from the start, even on the lower of the 4 difficulty settings, which allow separately adjusting Combat, Mission(on the highest, it puts a 7 hour time-limit on it! For comparison, this took me 24 hours), Cyber and Puzzle. That last one includes a Minesweeper one, connecting lines and rewiring something by direct and diagonal lines. And yes, you can enter Cyberspace in this, and it's visually represented, straight out of a William Gibson book! It plays like a flight simulator, and in the simple-colored, geometric 3D corridors and rooms, you can unlock real-life doors, find codes for keypads and the like.

There is bloody, gory, violent and disturbing content in this. I recommend it to any fan of FPS, action, adventure, and RPGs, as well as of hybrids of them. 8/10


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