02/05/2016

Civil War – Marvel style. Captain America 3 Spoiler version



Captain America: Civil War is the latest offering form the house of the mouse´s super hero division. And as usual when it comes to the Cap movies it is not so much a super hero movie as a movie with super heroes in it. In this case a political thriller mixed with a psychological drama… Is said genres where raised on Rice Krispies.  But seeing how it is an ensemble film following in the messy footsteps of Avengers 2 I had my doubts that it would not turn in to a horrid convoluted mess.

It is my great pleasure to inform you all that it in fact was not a horrid convoluted mess.

But I get ahead of myself. The story goes thusly.
In the aftermath of Age of Ultron the world in general and Sokovia in particular are not all that hyped about the Avengers any more. Sure they did save the world.. or at least New York from giant armored space whales, but since they have not had much in the way of wins… Between Iron Man getting his house blown up and thrash a commercial dock, SHEILD trying to take over the world by the way of Hydra (or the other way around depending on point of view). Captain America dropping three very expensive experimental aircrafts on a fairly populated area and no to mention the rogue AI trying to annihilate an entire country… An AI created in part by Tony Stark. And as the movie opens they manage to explode a building when trying to capture a terrorist. To say it has been a couple of rough years is a mild understatement.

So the plan is to turn the Avengers in to a UN/Nato attack dog. This is done by the way of equal amounts of guilt and threats and for ol Steve Rogers this does not really mesh with the idea of them being a global force for good. So there you have the schism. But most people agree it could perhaps be a good idea to at least appear to fall in line. As this debate is going on Steve is informed that his almost dame and favorite British spy Peggy Carter has passed away and while visiting her funeral gets some words of “wisdom” from Peggy’s niece Sharon aka agent 13 aka Steve’s old neighbor. So while Cap and Falcon goes on a buddy road trip the rest of the Avengers gear up to attend the signing of the so called Sokovia Accord.

Here we meet T'Chaka, the current king of Wakanda and his son T´Challa. He seems like a nice guy and as such T'Chaka very quickly get an explosion in the back making T´Challa the effective king. Fortunately for him he does not only get the throne of one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world but he also get a super suit and the alias of Black Panther. This is good as he seek to avenge his father. Go him.

Our buddy cop team of Cap and Falcon get involved in this when it looks like the Winter Solider was the one pulling the “trigger” and Cap want to save his old buddy seeing how pretty much everyone else he knew is dead. We do have to remember that Cap might be closer to 100 years chronologically but he is still a 25-ish year old nerd. This will also be important to remember once we get to Caps romantic sub-plot… if you like to call it that.
So with the issue and the motivation set up for this “civil war” the avengers set out to beat the ever living crap out of each other. As the story unravel we see that much of this fuzz was for a former Hydra agent by the name of Zemo to get access to the Winter Solider so he could find information on a very special mission that the Winter Soldier did back in the days. Turns out that Bucky was not the only Russian super soldier and that he did in fact kill Howard Stark. The plan here seems to be to drive a permanent wedge between Tony and Steve and in turn split the Avengers.

So Cap and Tony kick the snot out of each other and then Cap and Bucky makes off to Wakanda where they put Bucky on ice until they can figure out a way to break his brainwashing.

So… The movie is good in fact I would say it beats A2 by a mile and does so with about the same size of cast. Maybe it is because the story is much more personal and the conflict more anchored in… Well… Reality if that is the word to use. Sure we have to play with a lot of plot convenience and among other things I feel that Cap´s motivations are forced. But at the same time as I said we have to keep in mind that Steve is a young man who has one person left in the world that can relate to him and see him as the person he was before he became Cap. I would go pretty far for a person like that. Same goes for his rather hasty romantic sub-plot with Sharon Carter, forced but not entirely out of character. Sure it is a bit weird but she is the closest he will ever get to the love of his life. Not a healthy basis for a relationship but again he is a young (and in some way emotionally underdeveloped) man on the rebound from a lot of shit. To seek solace in familiarity is not unheard of.

Now I of course have to link back to the comics arch that provided name and over all story to this film… As expected they share very little beyond the name but the movie still do a very good job at hitting key points from the comics. The Stamford incident (one of the most emotional gut punches in modern comics history in my mind) where a villain out of hand blows up a good chunk of a town called Stamford including a school full of children. The super-person superMAX iirc called sector 42 or some such, Spiderman (did not do much in the movie but is kind of important in the comics) and the whole bit with Cap realizing that he is in fact going out of control. These moments all translated in to the film in one way or the other.

So it was a worthy end to the Captain America saga and a way to redeem Avengers age of Ultron for being a messy messy thing. It is with confidence I now turn my eyes towards the future of the Marvel cinematic universe.


//T

25/04/2016

Game of thrones is back, but is it worth it?


Just a quick reflection on the first episode of season six. This will be spoiler free and not very in depth for reasons we will get to.

Now the unofficial tag-line for this season is "off the books" as in they no longer have fully formed books to use as a basis for the plot line, This will offer more freedom i guess and give the producers a chance to tell their own story. Time will tell if they are up to the task because like it or not, Martin is a good writer, not outstanding perhaps but good.

Now of course some plot threads will carry over from the books while others, as set up in the previous season have taken a hard left in to fan fic territory. what this means is that for once the book readers do not have a uncut advantage and we can not lean on our snark to end discussions about the ins and outs of the HBO juggernaut. I guess we instead will see rant and ravings on what version is superior.

Now the first episode it self is more or less a update on where all the people are and a quick reminder of in what state we left them last season. Or well.. Most at least. It seems that episode two will do the same with the characters not in this episode. We get some plot development and some minor twists. For a first episode of a season it did feel a bit plodding and the pace is not all that exciting. And that kind of goes for the entire thing, some of the glow has faded and unless episode two and three pick up significantly i fear this will be  a season that will be on fast forward.

Maybe it is a general fatigue that is setting in. But i have high hopes and low expectations for this season. I will check back once we reach the half-way mark.

Stay safe.


21/03/2016

Daredevil season 2 – The good the bad and the ugly.


So Daredevil season 2 just dropped and like any Netflix series I watched the entire thing in one single sitting. This is in itself not a good idea as the series weigh in at a decent 13 episodes. But it also tend to make one a tad bit more critical as the series goes on.

Now the story so far goes thusly. (Spoilers… And more spoilers)

Matt Murdoc is a bland lawyer that run a kind of pro-bono practice with his law school buddy Foggy Nelson. Unbeknownst to Foggy Matt has super senses that he gained as a child after being splashed with chemicals… because that is a thing… when he saved an elderly man. Now as an adult he put these special skills to use to meet out vigilante justice on the people who the legal system cannot. During the first season we get to know Matt, Foggy and their first customer turned secretary Karen Page as they protect New York´s Hell´s Kitchen both in court and on the streets. The conflict focuses as the criminal and political power player Wilson Fisk makes his presence known putting him and Matt on a collision course. This whole affair resolves with Matt exposing his second life to Foggy and Fisk ending up behind bars. Setting the stage for season two.

In season two we find Matt and the gang pretty much where we left them last time… Just about a year later. With Matt doing his dance of being a sort of lawyer at day and fearless vigilante at night a new player enters the vigilante scene by turning several gang in the city in to Swiss cheese. And while Foggy and Karen go to war against the district attorney over first a survivor of the gang massacre and then later the Punisher aka Frank Castle as his repeated murders brought him in to conflict with Daredevil. Then the story goes completely off the rail... In short order we find out that Castle was a victim of a failed drug bust that caused his family to be gunned down, the DA office covered it up for political reasons, his former CO being a drug lord and that his entire war was based on a misunderstanding. All in all he had a very bad time. Add to this mess that Matt is cutting out on his duties as lawyer to run around with his ex-girlfriend who just happen to be an assassin as she try to take down a bunch of honest to god ninjas. In the end nothing get resolved and anyone familiar with Electra and her story from the comics should know how that storyline ends.

This season of Daredevil seems rushed, like they had a handful of episodes planned but then had to fill in the rest of the story… Maybe not as they went but it felt rushed. The Frank Castle storyline feels solid and apart from the weird twist on the end was well paced. The Electra story otoh felt slapped on and had some serious pacing issues. Now with that said the overall impression is that Daredevil season 2 still make for some really good TV but that it does not really live up to the previous season or Jessica Jones. We will have to see how the Netflix marvel series holds up as we move forward in to Luke Cage and beyond.


So my final recommendation is to watch it but make sure to spread it out over some time to counteract the dip in the middle of the season. 

14/03/2016

They killed it. Hitman chapter 1.


First off… the royal we have given up on regular updates. Too much going on right now with trying to find a new job and some other side projects. Mondays will remain the day for updates. We will keep you updated…. Now on to the topic of the week.

As someone who tend to lean on the side of click bait…. This was perhaps the most click baited title I have done so far.

But I feel it is ok, especially as I more or less predicted doom and gloom for the Hitman series with them going episodic. Seems like I will have to eat crow. The first episode is really solid and a nice nod back to the classic hitman formula of sandbox playground. An open level and you are left to your own devices as to how you like to solve the mission. A fantastic tangle of AI interactions and triggers that if left to their own might seem predictable but once you start poking around your actions causes a ripple effect that in turn change the playing field.

Now this is just the first episode. The one that one can assume have been in development for the longest time but it also set a good bar for the following maps to hit. Should they reach said bar the game will most likely land on many GoTY lists as an example of how to do episodic content the right way outside of a TellTale game. Should they not… At least the starter pack will be worth the 15 bucks it cost and you can keep on replaying that trying to find the most creative ways of breaking the game.

So the game… It is for all intents and purposes a Hitman game, you are bald, people need to be stuffed in to boxes, carrying a gun in the open is bad and so on. New or at least new-ish is the soft version of your super-assassin sense. The game has a mode you can use that track information you see and hear and paint you guideline to follow. This can ofc be turned off if you like to go in old school. This way the game remains open to veterans and newcomers alike.


But that is all there is right now. I will return and make a more in-depth review of the game once all the parts are out and we can see how it meshed together. But for now I can absolutely recommend the starter edition as it stands on its own very well. 

22/02/2016

Deadpool the good, the bad and man is he ugly.



Let us first get something out of the way. This is not a movie for everyone. The humor is not for everyone and in fact some people will find it way to over the top. It might also be one of the most intelligent movies you watch this year.

But to me the movie is perhaps the most genuine depiction of a hero on the big screen so far. This most likely comes from the fact that Deadpool is a movie that the fans birthed. Nobody at studio level was interested in a R-rated superhero movie, or so the story goes. But Reynolds and the fans pushed and pushed until the project was greenlit.

Exactly how much of this is true we will most likely never know. But it makes for a perfect backdrop for a little movie that could.

So Deadpool the character is the creation of Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. An intentional or unintentional (depending on who you ask) riff on the DC character Deathstroke, who should be familiar to fans of the Arrow show. Deadpool quickly developed in to a sort of “adult” version of Sinderman in regards to his banter and antics. Somewhere along the way he also picked up the habit of speaking directly to the reader of the comic. He is a hyper-violent mercenary who just so happen to do some good every now and then… Usually with a lot of collateral damage.

Now the movie for most part is a note by note recreation of Deadpool. Sure a few small things have been omitted such as exactly how he got his powers and they made him a tad bit more likeable. Beyond that he is every bit as foul and crazy as one should expect.

The story goes thusly. Wade Wilson is a gun for hire that falls in low with a stripper and finds out he has terminal cancer… everywhere. He get a offer to be the receiver of some superpower that will save him. In order to save his life and relationship he says yes. He comes out with a awesome healing factor and the looks of… and I quote…  “Freddy Kreuger if he facefucked a topographical map of Utah” But he has one shot. The guy in charge of the facility Ajax told Wade that he could restore his face if he wanted. So Deadpool breaks out and goes on a hunt for Ajax. After a lot of violence and some tender tender moments Deadpool track his nemesis down and… Well... More violence happens.  


Deadpool is not a movie you watch for its deep and engaging story, even if this one under all its sarcasm and forth wall breaking nonsense is surprisingly well crafted. It is easy to just see the dirty jokes and over the top action scenes. But beneath this does some really smart things. Like how it takes you in to a stripclub but elegantly refuse to spend any more time on the environment then it does any other. Or how it use the X-Men character Colossus as a counterpoint to Deadpools R-rated antics. Colossus is a genuine nice guy in the comics and this make him a perfect counterpart to Deadpool. There is also a really good chemistry between the actors in the movie and especially between Dreadpool and Weasel. Now we know there will be a sequel since the movie broke all projections and I think some records. My only fear is that the next movie will have more studio involvement in order to try and reproduce the breakout hit… And that never turns out well. 

08/02/2016

Splitting reality.



So in the recent history of video-gaming there has been some serious talks about nipping and tucking content. It started with Day1 DLC and similar. Something that most people feel miffed about (but most often to me seemed to be a bored art and asset team putting in a few extra hours.) and while we did not really see the nightmare scenarios materialize. But it is not open to debate that we today have a culture of micro expansions and other forms of DLC in pretty much every game. Enter Telltale Games. The by today crowned masters of episodic content re-wrote much of how games would be released. They proved that a good idea did not need a complete game. Rather they took a cue from TV and told their story in small bite sized chunks.

With this came a new dawn. One we are just seeing the effect of. More and more companies try their hand at carving their games up and selling them ala carte. The biggest names right now being the FF7 reboot and the upcoming Hitman game. Now I have no real problem with this approach as long as the design from the start is to produce the game episodically. Since you really need to have the pacing down to a pat. Each episode having its own narrative structure. To see if Sqeenix can do that with the FF7 game will be interesting, because that game will need all the help it can get. If nothing else it will be a horrid train wreck and we all go back to playing the original.

Now as for hitman you would think the design of the game would make it perfect for episodic content. Make each contract an episode. Fill it out with the overarching story and let the player do them at their own pace. If well designed Hitman contracts have several solutions and paths to said solutions. But here is the thing… The game in question have changed model about twice a day. So to now carve up a game that was not designed for episodic content to begin with can lead to some very awkward storytelling and really poor pacing. It also tells of a really poor confidence in the product. Now going forward this could turn in to a really annoying trend, because companies love to lower the barrier of entry and being able to do so without the stigma of F2P must sound really tempting. But it is also a very different way of making games and I doubt that many companies have the agility and flexibility to pull it off.


But what I look forward the most is when the asset flipping early access trash that populate the dark side of Steam figure out this… Not only will they sell you shit games, but they will sell you shit game chopped up like a game tartar. 

That will be glorious. 

02/02/2016

Dividing the Division



So I had the opportunity to take a look at Ubisofts now shooter franchise called the Division as they did a stress test this weekend. The game is a third person shooter, which is to say that the camera in the game is placed slightly above and behind the player character. So you will always see the world as a little drone flying behind your in-game avatar. Beyond that you pretty much just use a variety of guns and shoot at a variety of humans that for some reason seem to have a disagreement with you. You find new stuff and level up in classic role-playing fashion as you follow a set story. That is the short of it.

Now if one where to flesh things out a bit more one would start with talking about the story, what little we know about it. Basically some form of bio weapon goes off in New York on black Friday in a not too far future. As panic and pandemonium rise “the Division” springs in to action. A covert agency with sleeper agents formed in to small cells their mission is to secure the city and restore order by any means possible. You are one such agent. This is about all we know right now but as we get closer to the release I guess more info will be made available.

So you start out as a newly activated agent, given some basic equipment and told to secure a foothold on Manhattan. The stress test was limited to a small section around Chelsea Pier and up to Madison Square Garden. But the full game will include a slightly scaled down version of the island of Manhattan. Once you get the HQ up and running it will be your hub for missions, upgrades and all the cozy home improvement an agent could need. The game more or less have two modes. The first you encounter is a single player instance that let you and some of your friends work through the story. This thing is instanced and no random players will show up. The other part are what is called the Dark Zones. These areas have much higher levels of contamination and act as player against player areas as well as regular computer controlled opposition. Going in here ill-prepared will lead to a quick and merciless death. But this is also the place to get the best gear and other rewards.

Now as I mentioned the game takes place in Manhattan for now (no word on when or if other parts of New York will be added.) and this is not some random jumble of buildings with a few landmarks thrown in to sell the illusion. No this is sometimes an eerily close recreation of the areas in the beta. Sure we still see most work go I to the landmark areas and they are a picture perfect recreation. But the rest of the map seem to be close enough that you could use visual confirmation and google street view to navigate. The rest of the visuals are as impressive. The weather look good from the sunny days to the full on snowstorms that set your vision to about a few meters. Now my computer does not have the power needed to render this in it´s full glory but i´l provide a small clip here to show you what it might look like.


The game also has some really impressive AI that act much like a player would, trying to avoid your attacks and flank you. They also tend to look for better cover when you move on them and should you overpower them sometimes they turn tail and run. Another really impressive thing I how your bullet interacts with the many cars that are spread over the maps. I did at one point manage ti line up a shot through three cars and in to the tire of a truck, not only did the tire pop but I could trace the patch of the bullet through the windows of the cars. These small details does a lot to immerse you in the environment


Now it is hard to tell if the game will become repetitive and how well the story pans out but so far I have seen a good variety of side missions ranging from repairing antennas to tracking down a missing person. As far as gar goes the game so far have done a good job at making the guns and equipment not only feel useful hut also unique. There is a distinct difference between the m-4 and the ak-47 beyond the visuals. Same goes for the skills and gadgets you pick up along the way, they all have their use and promote one type of gameplay or another. This way your character plays different and customization goes more than skin deep.
Now that bring me to the skin you inhabit in the game. I did not play around very much with the physical editor to much as I was short on time but once in-game there is a slew of modern clothing to make your avatar stand out from all the other backpack tooting gun nuts trying to retake the city. These are cosmetic and have no impact on your stats so you never have to give up that awesome beanie you just found because that headband had +2 killing on it.


So to sum it up, the Division seems to be a solid game and while some cuts had to be done since the first reveal such as tablet controlled drone strikes and the slight downscaling of Manhattan it is massive step forward for games published by Ubisoft. So I simply tip my hat to Ubisoft Massive and wish them the best.