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Some films have an agreed upon "definitive" Director´s Cut, so always take that option. Others may be part of a bigger franchise, so don´t watch those entries in isolation.
I wonder how fans of the 60s shows will feel...
Ultraman shows that GitS SAC S03 is in good hands and Kamiyama is clearly back to his usual form after a one-out with Cyborg 009. IG technically adapted 7,5 volumes in 13 eps. but the story underwent occasionally major changes and streamlining, the revamped female lead is now an real character for example, so pacing isn´t a major issue. This is actually an improvement on the solid source manga and most of the CG work is fairly impressive for a TV budget. Extensive mo-cap was used and is clearly noticeable in the very fluid DMC style action scenes. Sign me up for S02 of this Christopher Nolan/Zack Snyder style gritty reboot of a 60s children show (!?!). This ain´t a complete joke btw. as the next manga arc has a 9/11-ish alien attack on NY.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Better than (nearly) all US manga adaptions but still underwhelming
This is almost the best US life action adaptation of manga/anime to date but i was never bored with deliberately trashy Death Note, so it still somehow takes that "crown". Cameron ultimately sunk too much money into this project over 2 decades to do an actual adaption at this point. This film could first of all loose about 30 minutes and don´t get me started on the changes they made to Alita´s adoptive father Ido to make him more relatable. Basically everyone got reduced to a cliche. Gone is the R-rated content, the moral ambiguity, the slow roll out of the lore and so on. Everything is spoon fed and over explained to guarantee that every single market and demographic imaginable can follow along. The endless expositions is rather clunk too. The same goes to the occasionally bewildering sequel/prequel hooks. The strong visuals and some of the performances ultimately save the film, as a lot of passion went into this production. The often complex choreography and the mo-capped facial expression stand out too. The films further managed to nail the manga´s ultra detailed and out there look.
Alita: Battle Angel is obviously twice the film Ghost in the Shell 2017 (the horror) or Fist of the North Star 1995 (shudder) are, so the standards for US adaptation are clearly moving forward but don´t expect anything more than a sub-PG-13 B-movie with a 200 mil budget. The classic manga frankly deserves better and i say that as a fan of the adult targeted Rodriguez films. I will continue to wait for at least a 26 episode anime that adapts the original 9 volumes run. This film is a solid stop gat to that day but i don´t think that anyone will cry out for the full trilogy the producer keeps bringing up. I would watch a less cookie cutter and edgier sequel though. Especially if the bloated budget get´s slashed in half to reduce the bloated scope.
Street Fighter V (2016)
DLC the Videogame
I waited half a year to get the game (from my library), to have actual content on my hands, but the original assessment from the community still stands. This isn't a full price game and this is coming for a 2 decade Street Fighter fan. That you need to unlock the now released returning (!) fighters and stages with actually money, as the amount of in-game currency you get for playing the game soon turns into a joke, is further unacceptable. The now released story mode isn' t good either. I wouldn't usually care, but I need to play something besides survival in the single-player portion. Seriously, it's either that or 2 equally uninteresting story modes! Even the new character designs proved problematic. Cammy's story costume, that consists of a military jacket as the top and panties as the bottom, takes the cake. Get it together C(r)apcom, this isn't DOA.... and DOA 5 is better too. The actual fighting engine is great, but nothing is wrong with one in (Ultra) Street Fighter IV either. Everyone who isn't a hardcore fan should stick with that game and the rest of us will get V once the price becomes low enough for the amount of content to be worth it. Online players will still be the only ones who will stick around for long. Evolve Stage 2 recently showed how this game should look like, so there are no more excuses. The actual gameplay is great but supporting greedy nonsense as this can only harm the franchise in the long run.
Update: 2 years passed and the game was now relaunched as the Arcade Edition. The in-game economy is even worse and most modes don´t give you rewards as basic xp anymore. The story mode from last year sucked completely and the new arcade mode is just alright BUT i can now recommend buying the "Arcade Edition", as it feature enough content to pass as a retail game. SF V is still a lesser release in the series but an additional score point is warranted. 7,5/10
Justice League (2017)
They said the age of DC heroes would never come
The DCEU went through a strenuous journey in the last 4 years but it undeniably found a fanbase and all the set-up from the 3 previous films (Suicide Squad isn't touched upon in JLA) finally comes home to roost here. The question on everyone's mind is if this is still a Snyder film and it clearly is. Just look at the expectedly harsh critical reception
People who (mostly) didn't care for what came before should stay home and a producer statement that 80% of the film can be directly credited to Snyder is how I mostly feel too. The camera work especially kept his trademark touch. Chris Terrio's script though undeniably got a "touch-up" by Joss Wheedeon. I don't mean this as a negative, as Wheedeon's trademark banter is mostly on point and appropriate in this particular entry in the franchise. These are the Super Friends after all and anyone who thinks that BvS would have led to another deconstruction didn't get that film's message. The film's humor is naturally derived from the characters, so let's move on to them. Batman and Wonder Woman were always liked by even the harshest of critics and they again deliver here. Gal Gadot brings the expected heart and people who only liked her solo film should consider seeing this one due to her being the deuteragonist. The one and only Batfleck continues his struggle to redeem the sins of the past and to fit into an increasingly fantastical world he clearly has little place in. The film further bothers to point out how underpowered the aging Batman is against both the alien forces and his teammates. Even his suicidal dive to succeed is addressed. It must be noted that some of his re-shot scenes are noticeably inferior, especially his introduction. Jason Momoa is the badass 90s comics Aquaman that made me a fan of his stories as a kid and the film's too short trip to Atlantis just reconfirmed to me that his upcoming solo film will blow minds. Yet he is also the character who was hurt the most by the re-cuts to get the film under 2 hours. The exposition heavy interaction with his fiancé should feel especially bewildering to viewers who have no idea about his cannon. Ray Fisher's take on Cyborg may surprise anyone who only knows him from the Titans cartoons but what you see here is also what he is about in the comics. I honestly didn't expect the film to go this broody with Victor and his CG body is astonishing. Fisher has quite a voice too! Ezra Miller's overeager Flash is my favorite team member and has the easiest to define character arc in the film. The film even borders on an origin film for him but it must be noted that this is the Wally West version of the character with Barry's new origin and career aspirations mixed in. So more or less what the Justice League (Unlimited) cartoon did. Superman also shows up and I overall liked him but the filmmakers overshot a bit with trying to please audiences who only know the character casually and were left frustrated with past films.
The film's villain Steppenwolf and his army are an equally complicated case to judge, as they were well chosen but the film's break neck pace squanders their potential. About 3 more scenes with them and a less one sided ending battle would have worked wonders. Especially if the film bothered to point out what the "unity" is the villain desperately seeks, what a New God is and that his hive mind cyborg army is what humanity would have turned into if Steppenwolf succeeded. And there we are. The film's lost potential due to the studio desperation to please more viewers than before. This desperation lead to sometimes very clear re-shoots and obviously missing scenes. Elfman's lazy and nostalgia driven score is even harder to swallow but at least sounds professional and the film's sound design is thankfully genre leading. A novel could be written about the behind the scenes drama, yet the final product still works despite these sharp edges. This adaptation is also a slight improvement over the source comic Justice League Origin and certainly better than it's messy toon adaptation Justice League War. I hope that a superior/longer version of this film will see the light of day but what we got is better than most could have put on screen and that has to be enough. Especially as I waited 2 weeks to form a final opinion after re-watching the film, seeing it fail at the box-office and seeing the cut scenes leak online. Yet none of that swayed me and my positive opinion still stands. I wish Zack and co. better luck and a less hateful reception for their future endeavors. They gave us comics fans so much over the years and I will remain forever grateful. May we join them in the sun!
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
2 hours of LSD colors and aggressively pointless nonsense
Thor: Ragnarok is the 2nd worst MCU film after Iron-man 2. Taika Waititi sadly messed up real bad and 2017's other cape comedy Lego Batman -8,5/10- is objectively a more serious film! Which is fine but this self parody has exactly 1 good joke (Loki's reaction to Hulk), among about 300. The CG riven action scenes are utter crap and lack stakes. The licensed songs don't work, especially the twice used Zeppelin one. The drama is nonsensical and continuity with previous films is gleefully disregarded. And don't get me started on how much the film shows the comics the finger. Poor Hela, Skurge and planet Sakaar... The film is thus only held together by high production values and the A-list cast who all clearly had fun chewing the scenery. Long story short, watch it once and forget this 2 hour long music video within minutes.
PS: Dear Disney, please reboot Thor next decade with the classic Walt Simonson run as the inspiration and keep the fantasy roots.
Death Note (2017)
An admirable effort in a sea of bad live action manga adaptations
This is the best life action version of Death Note yet but that wasn't too hard. This American take is so different that new names should have been used but even that would have been problematic. Someone would then have decided to make this a soft-sequel to the event from the manga and all viewers would then ask themselves why they aren't watching the "original story" instead. Having our protagonist Light develop from a milk toast to a psycho over the course of 93 minutes and not just a 2 chapters is actually an improvement on the source material and Nat Wolff showed a lot of range in the role. His now romantic girlfriend is arguably a step down and the decision to make Misa a classmate instead of an obsessed fangirl is way too contrived. His nemesis L is very good in the role but he behaves like his manga apprentice Mello. Willem Dafoe also got to play the role of a lifetime, even if Ryuk is just a sporting role. The cast worked pretty well overall, even if nitpicks can be had, and the film is very well directed.
All the problems are with the script, as it crams way too much into 1 single film and this should have been a (still short) miniseries instead. This and the very intriguing cliffhanger ending are the film's major flaws. You don't feel like having seen a complete product in the end and want to start the next film/episode but there isn't one as of now. I would be more critical of the film if we were swamped with great life action adaptation of manga/anime but we instead continue to get unwatchable trash as the Death Note J-Drama or the US Ghost in the Shell so i need to applaud productions that bothered to understand the core of what they were adapting! Adam Wingard's crew certainly tried under challenging circumstances and gave me an entertaining remix of a modern classic, so i look forward to more. It was lastly interring to see all this inventive gore in a story that was originally intended to be read by schoolboys. It fits pretty well. 7,5/10
PS: The first life action DN film is OK but no one can say to me that it lives in another quality league than this one. Comparing both is actually pretty interesting, as it has the better script while the US version managed to trump all other aspects.
The Defenders (2017)
Structurally uneven but ultimately satisfying
The show takes 3 eps. to get going and about half the scenes from act 1 feel superfluous but the show get's really good then. To then have another villain fake out for the last 2 eps... It's way better than the mess in Luke Cage S01 but Sigourney Weaver was completely wasted on this show. What did she even do? Especially with how cool the underused Madame Gao is. I don't want to be too negative, the highlights are high and the whole middle is great but a sluggish 1st act and a slightly flat 3rd act aren't ideal for such an "event show". It's pretty cool though to see how well the established Iron Fist and Daredevil canon meshed, while the other 2 members are slightly exchangeable. Jess especially could have been swapped with let's say the Punisher. Colleen frankly felt better connected to it all than her. Charlie Cox is lastly the best cast Marvel hero since Maguire's Spider-man and the way the show allows the last 20 minutes to "wrap-up" this Phase 1 of Defenders canon quite satisfying. 7,5/10 PS: Iron Fist needs a costume. Just the scarf thingy would be enough but no, again.
Wonder Woman (2017)
A long overdue film
The DCEU is now 4 films deep and finally landed the first universally acclaimed entry. I liked all, the director's cut for BvS is even one of my favorite films (look up my review), yet WW comes "last" despite doing many thing rights. Let's start with the positives: Gal presented great potential for being a unique action actress in Fast 5 and Snyder showed pure genius in casting her. A more fitting actress for Wonder Woman might not exist! Chris Pine equally delivered the strongest performance of his career, despite being given a role that frequently leads to nothing in the comics. A lot of his charm comes due to his chemistry with Diana and I would make a case for him being the "real" hero of the story, due to his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty and keeping a cool head throughout. His actions in the 3rd act especially put a key moment in BvS in a new perspective... The whole cast is very good, with Apache Chief and Etta Candy (literally the first time I like the character!) standing out but I will admit that Steve's band of agents could have used 1 member less. Let's go with the highly clichéd sniper, not that I truly disliked him. Dr. Poison and the actual god form of Ares were great too but more about the way the film reaches him later.
The film is divided in 3 VERY different acts. The highly comic accurate first 40 minutes show Diana growing up on the hidden amazon island Themyscira. The way the film intermixes the 1987 Post Crisis comic reboot with the more violent New52 version is borderline perfect and i look forward to see the amazons again in JLA. The decision keep the Greek gods as actual gods is worthy of praise too, especially due to their universal recognition, but Suicide Squad and JLA also feature deities. I hope that a sequel can follow up on the mystical aspect of the film and Diana's heritage and form a connection to the New Gods in JLA. Not to derail into spoilers or complex comic canon. The 2nd act is a humorous fish out of water story, intermixed with social commentary and surface level insight into WW1 that is deep enough to work, without overtaxing an unfamiliar audience why the war was so complex. I suspect that this part of the film connected the most with audience but I like it the least. Much time is spend with Diana dressing up, attending war councils and setting up Steve's band of international men of mystery. Even the German side is shown a few times, to point out how bad the "enemy's" infantry has it. It also becomes easy to see why WW 1 was chosen over WW 2. It lacks true villains, while allowing the filmmakers to touch on the darker sides of war without going into bleak topics as concentration camps and how fascism swept Europe. Something The First Avenger completely sides-stepped by inventing a faceless enemy vaguely affiliated with the Nazis, to not offend international viewers. Sigh. This core portion of the film is undeniably an important step for the DCEU, as even I must admit that a truly lighthearted film needs to come sooner than later. We get glimpses of it here, yet i again found the 2nd act a bit unfocused. Especially if I consider how out of nowhere the 3rd act comes. This part is what seemingly connected least with audiences but it has the best scenes in the whole film, despite being a bit rough overall. I 100% get why the film handled the Ares reveal the way it did. The overall idea is clever but I don't think that the character of (the historic) Ludendorff was needed, not to go into spoilers. Dr. Poison should have been the single German villain, with proper glimpses of the actual God of War's machinations interspersed throughout the film to build him up, as he borderline comes out of nowhere. His proper confrontation with Diana and the fight are pure gold. Especially due to how dark the film is willing to go (WW sure kills a lot of poor grunts while going berserk). Imagine if Zod only showed up in the 3rd act of Man of Steel, with only talk about him before nearly the 2 hour mark. I love where the film ended up but the way there could have used a re-write, with a shorter 2nd act.
It's still quite an achievement that such a serious, and frankly child inappropriate, film near universally managed to connect with audiences. The 3rd act is as dark as BvS or TDK and the film resembles the somewhat divisive MoS more than it does Superman 78. The slightly anti-chronological structure, the muddy color pallet and the relentless action scenes quickly betray Zack Snyder's fingerprint, in the same way Christoper Nolan loomed larger over MoS. Director Patty Jenkins should get more control over the next film and I hope for a much different follow-up but this Snyder X Jenkins "cross-over" undeniably worked. The main reason for WW getting a better reception than MoS is likely due to fewer expectations from the audience, as her (often changing) comic characterization and canon are largely unknown to the public. The film is also easier to "digest" than previous DCEU films but I will note that the last WW feature, an animated movie from 2009, is neither better nor worse than this first cinematic solo outing. One of many more to come, so I look forward to Diana being the deuteragonist of JLA and the star if her solo franchise. I lastly recommend to rediscover her in the Ultimate Cut of BvS. The film may surprisingly grow on you on 2nd viewing.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
A successful reboot that strays from the comics
Iron-man: Homecoming first of all nails the "Friendly Neighborhood" hero from Queens feel. It's also immaculately directed, features the first good version of the Vulture and every single actor was great. Where the film struggles somewhat is being a coherent adaptation of the comics. Peter is half Ultimate Peter, half Miles Morales and half Iron-man's sidekick striking out on his own. That's all a bit much! "MJ", Flash and Aunt May have nothing to do with any comic counterpart either and i 100% fail to comprehend why the film can't have 5 minutes devoted to his origin. This is a reboot targeting a new audience and they are now missing Spidey 101 canon. I don't get it. The film is obviously a success and not another Amazing 2 mess, as the crappy trailers suggested, yet it's not much of a comic adaptation and more of a radical reinterpretation. That is why this film will always come behind the highly comic accurate Sam Raimi original and obviously it's borderline perfect sequel. Still, Sony + Disney did good and successfully rebooted their golden goose and that's all that matters.
One question remains though: Who though that the now 21 year old Tom Holland could pass for a 15 year old? Can we please get Spider-MAN out of high school within the next solo film, as that period only lasted for about 2 years in the comics!
Twin Peaks (2017)
Albert, I have to admit I don't understand this situation at all
Twin Peaks: The Return came back in style! In a giant 4 hour chunk too and i also just found out that Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces exists. It and certainly the new season finally explain what the controversial prequel film was about. The new show is basically a 2nd and more... structured (?) Fire Walk With Me (7,5/10), as it answers how the inbred child of Eraser Head, Lost Highway and Inland Empire would looks like. S03 is that ####ing wild and from nearly minute one too! Undeniably the most niche big budget show of ALL time and certainly the most frightening. Just show anyone the scene of Cooper being eaten by an electricity socket or that strobe light tree with a heart for a "head" talking backwards. They will never talk to you again. The unsettling gore is though the roof too.
Long story short. David Lynch is about to create another masterpiece, especially if i consider that the 4th episode then suddenly takes a time out to recreate the 1990/91 original, before veering back into relentless psychological horror in the last 10 minutes. So go back to the classic + film, if you never saw it. Even if S02 historically crapped the bed after solving the big mystery. It ended strong though. Get the 3 hard canon books too (don't ask me which one is the craziest, but The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is a hard NC-17) and strap yourself in for 18 hours of old man David Lynch without ANY restrain + a final book. Unless someone at Showtime decides to fund these mad men again. One can only hope...
Thimbleweed Park (2017)
Thimbleweed Park 100% succeed in feeling like a better looking late 80s adventure game. Just with great voice acting and more ambition, due to the 5 playable characters you need to control and freely switch. At least 2 too many if you ask me but the game fully achieves a sense of time and place. To such a degree that you need to be a fan of the games this one spiritually succeeds to like it. My biggest gripe is the way too meta and out of nowhere 3rd act twist that feels like a lamer version of the Monkey Island 2 ending. Fans of the genre already finished this game and no one else knows that it even exist. Just as you would expect from a crowd sourced game. 7,5/10
Hitokui no ôwashi toriko (2016)
Broken, yet whole
I have been waiting for this game since the 2007 announcement and honestly never expected a masterpiece after all the development setbacks. At least finally know why it took this long. Team Ico never managed to get the core game mechanics to work, as I have no other way to describe the way the game fails to "work" at times. Most of the game revolves around making your companion Trico do the one thing that will get you to the next puzzle room and accomplishing that boils down to try and error. A 6-8 hour game thus becomes a 10-12 hour game. I would perfectly understand Trico having a mind of her own but that's not what went wrong here. A game with a heavy amount of climbing ultimately NEEDS to work when the right bottom is pressed and this isn't always the case here. You even get constant vocal cues on how to solve the next objective, as the developers seemed to understand that their own shortcomings. It's also noteworthy that the game looks like a PS3 game (outside of the highly scripted last hour), while playing like a PS2 game, but these are secondly concerns. More music would have helped too and the solid story is a bit more straightforward than I expected. The 2 much older predecessors are thus much better experiences in the end. Even the similar Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom for left me less frustrated but I can ultimately recommend the TLG to the right audience. It's highly unique, ambitious and you get to play as a "passive companion", as Trico ends up doing all the heavy lifting. Newcomers should get the Team Ico HD remasters for last gen first though. I ultimately wish that I could love the game but I only somewhat like it in the end. A shame, as Ico is one of my favorite games. 7/10
Not the reboot the sub-genre needed
The genre of extreme winter sports is basically dead, so I had to give the game a try despite the middling review. They were on the money. The game looks nice and there is a good amount of variety but the gameplay flows badly and this feels more like a skeleton than a retail game. The progression is very tedious and you basically have to self-motivate yourself to push though. I also hate the extremely tedious way of traversing the mounting, to unlock new events. I can see a sequel fulfilling on the game's promise, a bit of a curse for Ubisoft, but this one is more of a weekend rental for genre fans. 6/10
Sniper Elite 4 (2017)
This feels like an HD re-release
I was never a fan of the developer Rebellion and also never played a game in this series. This one is supposed to be a quality leap for the franchise and the basic idea is rather interesting too. I can't say that I have a truly negative opinion of the game but it turned out to be the budget PC shooter (I played on Xbox One) I expected. The large levels aren't all that detailed in terms of design and the game itself comes off as an HD re-release of a 1 decade old 360 game. It's rather short too and clearly finished level are now expanding it quickly though paid DLC. The story/presentation is also barely there but who cares. I can see some of the game's unique appeal, the gore is quite impactful too, but way better stealth games crowd the market in the end. I can thus only recommend the game to pre-existing fans and I now sampled all I need from this series. 6/10
A separate and very sizable entry
Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse is both a parallel story and a sequel to the original, so it's comparable to a standalone add-on. The story has the usual problems the main SMT entries have. The interesting themes are drowned out in an over the top plot that can never stop to breath and acknowledge the world changing implications. The main cast is also sparingly juvenile but the presentation itself is rock solid, if I forget that Japanese VAs are again not an option. The gameplay has been streamlined quite a bit over the years but fans will again feel right at home. My favorite feature is that the demon fusion function automatically suggests you the best combinations and the combat is as tactical and challenging as it ever was. A bit more forgiving too. My biggest gripe, besides the forgettable story, are the last 2 acts /dungeons. Both drag on a sizable game to an unreasonable degree. Especial the final dungeon, which is the usual floating labyrinth hardened JRPG fans have come to fear over the decades. No more
This is unsurprisingly a must buy for SMT fans but newcomers should try out some of the better known spin-offs first. 8/10
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017)
The Horror is back
I have been a fan of the franchise since the PSX days and I liked the last 2 action focused instalments a lot. The slower paced 2 Revelation games were fine too but the overall narrative of the franchise certainly took a dive since the borderline farcical RE 4. Bringing back the series to the pure horror roots wasn't something i necessarily "needed" but getting new writers certainly was. The Fear / Spec Ops guy (the 1st western writer) certainly delivered with 7, even if he stayed fairly close to his roots. Especially with the 3rd act. The game's fairly self-contained story ended up tying way deeper into the canon than I expected too and I like the ominous conclusion. The only problem here is that the DLC and a sequel will have to answer way more questions than anymore expected. The core experience itself is best decided as the Gamecube remake played from a 1st person perspective but the game isn't as scary as advertised. The fights against the main enemies aren't hard, or that frequent, and most regular enemies are borderline pushovers. These "mold people" should have been more varied too, especially due to the higher action focus in the surprise 3rd act. Even the game's somewhat mysterious protagonist (not an avatar btw.) ends up quickly becoming an action hero in the vein of the earlier protagonists, before the days of Matrix-Ballet and QTE rock bashing. The game can be beating in 1 night long sitting too. That's how I did it and the subsequent speed run took me 3 hours. What I am trying to say that this is a RE game though and though but the last 3 shooting focused main entries were all more "fun" to play. I thus don't view this RE 7 a 3rd start for the series. "Pure" horror games as this one and pure action entries should continue side by side instead, to avoid stagnation of both play styles. I lastly appreciated the return of real gore, as the series became way too toothless in that aspect since RE 5, but core gameplay modes shouldn't have been gated behind DLC. 8,5/10
Titanfall 2 (2016)
The game Titanfall 1 should have been
It's a bit ironic that Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2 came out in the same month due to the similar setting + gameplay and connected development teams. The more daring Titanfall 2 ultimately takes the lead as it has one of the most memorable singleplayer campaigns in the shooter scene this decade. The vapid story makes no sense whatsoever and some of the extremely varied mechanics could have been used longer too as the game constantly jumps in style. No other grievances exist though but the campaign is on the shorter side (using the hardest difficulty lead to an 7 hour game). The multiplayer is basically the same as last time, just with more mech variety. I honestly had my fill last time, as there were no other modes previously, and the majority of shooter gamers seem to share my opinion. It's certainly fun for a few rounds though. I hope that the series will get a 3rd chance, as the sales weren't too impressive, but Titanfall now fully proved itself as worth new IP. 8,5/10
What a weird trip
The series peaked with the first game for me (if I forget the 2 Japan only samurai spin-offs) due to immediate gameplay stagnation and an incredible amount of reused content and filler. The rather generic story also completely fell off a cliff once the original writer left after Yakuza 2. I thus had zero interest to return to Sega's yearly grind factory but the positive reception and the fact that this isn't a continuation of the "save the orphanage" plot from Yakuza 3 and onwards gave me pause. I didn't quite enjoy the first few hours. Most of the simplistic sub-quests lack basic presentation as voice acting and are all badly written. The game is further a PS3 port. The brawler gameplay still puts grinding and item abuse over actual skill, while only the medium and heavy fighting style of both characters are truly usable. The story barely makes sense too and the ending undoes all your accomplishments to set up Yakuza 1 instead. The weirdest bit is when Kiryu shoots a highway full of goons to death but the game still insists that he never killed. I can appreciate that half the game is focused on Majima, who is the one major Yakuza character I can be bothered with, so there is that. Yet the game clock kept counting up and I ended up putting 65 hours into the game while completing about 90 of the 100 subquests. I can't explain it but the missions just started to flow into each other and I ended up being a nearly maxed out multimillionaire by the time the story reached the halfway mark. The sizable Host Club and Pocket Racing quests weren't even half bad (outside of the juvenile writing) but the Real Estate quest certainly tested my patience. My main take away that is that I am still incapable of understanding why I ended up linking the sum of the game's questionably parts but it has a certain kitsch charm. Or I may have needed a vacation to Japan's well captured days of excess, who knows? My final impression of the game is this: The game demands you to play a perfect game of bowling (3 turkeys in a row) to progress in 2 sub stories and get a new business manager for Kiryu. That "manager" ends up being an actual turkey, with a salary. His stats aren't even that good but what was I expecting? 7,5/10
PS: I also recently played Yakuza 6 and liked that it is a PS4-only game but the usual "save the orphanage" story was again insufferable. I'll thus stick to the spin-offs.
Watch Dogs 2 (2016)
Gameplay vs story
The 1st game had a slightly slugging first half but I ended up liking it a lot overall. The often ridiculed and deliberately unlikable Aiden Pearce and the near nihilistic story stood out to me. The game had an identity, plain and simple. I only need a bit more gameplay variety for a sequel and I certainly got that
but at what cost! The admittedly more involved hacking is now suddenly Pipe Mania and the overall game fully transformed into Ubi-Collect-a-Thon No.X. It work fine, most Ubi-games do, but what makes this one special? I am willing to praise the variety of ways missions can occasionally be solved and the involved multiplayer component is downright fascinating. What can't get my blessing are the story and characters. This is basically Lizard Squad "The Video-Game" and a Best Memes of 2015/16 collection. A rarely skip cutscenes but I ended up being physically incapable of watch this rubbish. The tone is quite broken too. The game is about these oh so "diverse" 20-something hackers and their PC Culture enforcement adventures but multiple trophies demand to kill, despite most enemies being simple security guards. The protagonist even carries a gun on the cover and his stealth attacks only kills too. Again, nothing makes sense and diversity ain 't a checkbox dear developers. I myself am half black and the well done San Francisco setting is appropriately chosen but I abide no pandering, which this 100% is. I ultimately finished the campaign, these Ubi-games tend to work well after all, but the devs need to go back to the drawing board. They made 2 steps forward and 4 steps back. 7,5/10
Poketto Monsutâ San (2016)
A top 3 entry
This entry isn't the evolutionary jump X/Y gave the series but the much needed modernization of the franchise still continues strongly. The graphical presentation is very involved (this sadly leads to frame rate dips) and only voice acting is "missing". Which leads to a big problem. The story is again pure rubbish, yet the many cutscenes are unskippable. I understand that Nintendo put story last but annoying me is still inexcusable. Children deserve better and less text to read too. The high amount of feature creep is noticeable too but the overall product should be the best series entry, after Gen 2 and 6. I further recommend import Ash-Greninja from the demo. Him, my fire starter and that my Evoli accidentally evolved into a plant form lead to my first truly balanced team in years. The game is fairly long too and much of the postgame content is enjoyable too. I am ultimately a bigger fan of the deeper SMT/Persona games but Pokemen again remains in high form and should satisfy a very broad user base. 8,5/10
Halo Wars 2 (2017)
Fun but somewhat bare bones
Strategy games had a touch life on consoles till the 360 came along and the prequel ended up being one of the better such games of its time. The sequels sure took a while and everything seems great at first. The basic idea for the plot is strong and could work as a standalone Halo film. The technology is very impressive too (the army size in the last level is staggering!) and the controls are very fluid. The campaign though proofs as surprisingly restrictive. You again only play as the humans and nothing happens in the story till the final cutscene. You don't even get to face the game's antagonist at ANY point, meaning that Halo 2 doesn't have the worst ending in the series anymore and Halo 5 doesn't have the worst plot too. Lol. The campaign is still fun enough and the multiplayer modes are solid too, even if I can't judge how balanced the new Blitz mode is. That one also relies on real money to buy new cards, which serve as your units. Halo and RTS fans should obviously get the game but I expect more from a sequel , so get the HD version of Halo Wars 1 first. 7,5/10
Infinity Ward returned to form
Infinity Ward has fallen in quality since MW 2 (the studio heads were fired), but none of their last 2 entries fell off a cliff either. Thus I expected another solid, yet forgettable, paint by the numbers entry. What we got is no AW or Black Ops but the studio clearly found their footing again. I can't say that I liked the overly scripted 1st hour, and the overall revenge story is very one-dimensional (John Snow is wasted as a villain), but the extremely bleak tone still ended up being memorable. It's still a shame that the robot partner is the only character with depth, as tragedies need a relatable cast to emotionally resonate. Well integrated set pieces, a more open campaign structure, and varied space battles or flying segment all ended up amounting to a much better game than i first expected. Even if the Veteran difficulty was again reduced to what older shooters would qualify as "normal". The regular multiplayer is exactly would you would expect, so I immediately moved on, but the zombie mode ended up being another surprise. This is the 1st time I enjoyed it, since its introduction. The amusement park map very open and the game mechanics got streamlined a lot too. The competing Titanfall 2 is slight better, but shooter fans should get both. 8/10
Batman: The Telltale Series (2016)
One of TT's best efforts
All of TT's games after TWD all followed a now set in stone formula. So does this newest series and you even have to choose who to "save" during ep. 02, in a scene taken right out of TWD S01E01. Something most of them didn't bother address are proper consequences. Batman on the other hand already delivers in this regard, as a few key decisions lead to you playing one of 2 unique scenarios multiple times. I expect the next season to set the record mostly clean again but the gimmick felt real, for once. I was also surprised how well the creators nailed the characters, despite taking many noticeable departures from canon. The game further earns it's M due to unflinching gore and the ability to play Batman like a near unhinged sociopath. Bruce Wayne is also as much a fleshed out character as Batman himself, arguably more so. I like the 1st half a bit more than the 2nd, but i don't have any serous complains. The writers also nailed Catwoman, unlike Rocksteady. The whole season even came out on time and ep.4 features a very effective setup for S02. I can't wait. 8,5/10
Battlefield 1 (2016)
The best one since Battlefield 3
The series was on the right track regarding single player campaigns with Bad Company 1 and the dropped the ball till the barely connected (as it was secretly a stealth game) Hardline. This semi-reboot of the series though got about every single thing right that a shooter can do. The campaign is divided is 5,5 short stores that greatly vary in play stile. Avanti Savoia was my favorite, due to the well done flashback structure, and i liked Nothing Is Written the least, as the sneaking didn't feel right. The game also somewhat demonizes the German forces and don't expect much narrative depth. All of them are still memorable but the player jumping gimmick from the prologue should have been feature more than once. The unfairly overlooked Modern Combat spin-off introduced it btw. The multiplayer is pretty much what one would think it is. Meaning that it is way too fast to fit into the period, the guns are also too precise, but it works well, so who am i to argue. The new and very involved mode Operations is the highlight here. I can only conclude that this is the best overall shooter of the generation, with CoD: BO 3 as the runner up. 9/10
Shadow Warrior 2 (2016)
Excess - The Video Game
The developers technically did everything right in terms of designing a sequel. The budget increased and they put in more of
everything. Way too much actually! Does a simple arena shooter as this really need an involved leveling system, 100+ customizable weapons, crafting, magic abilities, an in-game-economy, side-quests, trials and a build in Wikipedia! I can't fault them for trying though but a sequel will need to crash diet all of this to a more manageable volume. The graphics are certainly top of the line, even if the human character models and animations could have used more work. The voice acting is a bit forced but the actors had nothing to work with. Especially if I consider how forced the humor is in light of the rather dark story. I also don't remember any of this being build up in the prequel. Not that anyone bought this for the story and the game just end almost mid-sentence. The everything and the kitchen sink approach may have been a bit much in the end but the overall experience is very unique and the core blade combat is top of the line. Feel free the skip the now redundant 1st game and start here. 8/10