Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Dying Light (XONE) Review

Promises Delievered
        No matter what games you play as a gamer, most games will inspire feelings that another game before it brought on. Playing Skyrim reminds one of Oblivion and Fallout 3, Far Cry 3 has feelings of Skyrim and shooting out of Call of Duty’s playbook, and so, it could be said that Dying Light brings back feelings originally found in games such as Assassin’s Creed and Dead Island, however, if this is all that is said, the beauty of the game is completely missed.

            As of writing this, it should be noted that I haven’t completed the story, however, that is due the surprising number of equally fun side quests. Quests in Dying light are typically mundane, with a dull, dummy-like AI sending the player from point A to B, collect random artifact or flip switch (es) and then head back to collect the reward. Even though these piece have been seen in other games as strong elements (the plot-twists offered in some of Oblivion’s missions were always a joy) Dying Light’s side quests remain strong due to the game’s well-thought combat and exceptional parkour.

            When looking at the game closely, the only complaints that could be landed are against the characters (who are boring as well as a pain to talk to) and the repetitive missions. After those two problems are noted, the rest of the game is open for all of the fun that’s to be had. Leveling up is a blast by allowing the player to do what they enjoy and using that to progress (revolutionary, hmm?) this is broken down into movement, survival and the combat-based skill trees. Movement and Combat are easily leveled up side by side, as the movement/combat changes in a moment depending on what kind of loot is to be found in a particular area. Countless times I would stop to clean out a bus only to then enjoy clearing the zombies that had assembled outside the doors, waiting for my French Wrench to be implanted in their cranium. If, however, you lacked a weapon capable of helping you protect your own tasty brains, there are always rooftops and walls to use as your best defense. Running is quick, typically easy to perform and a blast once you get the hang of it. The button layout is odd, but after my hours in Herran it can undoubtedly be said that thought was put into why each button is where it is.

            As you progress through the story you encounter more and more of the typically boring, not thought out characters. A whiny boy? Check. An unprepared leader? Check. People relying on substances for survival and people trying to do “the right thing”? Check and double check. It is a highlight when the main villain is introduced, however, I can’t help but feel as though Techland saw Vaas’ success in Far Cry 3 and tried to copy/paste a bit too much. Insanity is a far better thing to play with in a villain rather than him being evil because he’s evil as we see in Dying Light’s baddie. This, however, doesn’t stop the story from chugging along at a “its there if you want to do it” pace.

            Dying Light, as promised, also shines brightly in the night time. When night falls you become more powered and gain double XP, but along with you the monsters you face become far more aggressive and able to destroy you. Sleeping through the night is always an option, but the thrill of running on the roofs at night is one lacking in games as of late. The fear of dying is real at night, as the player tries to recover an airdrop, jumping, sneaking and moving in shadow quickly. If (or almost when) the aggressive zombies of the night see you, the fight is on. It becomes a rapid race for survival as you race to find a place to hide. There is the option to fight these exceptionally-hard foes, which, after trying it a few times, I cannot recommend.

            Multiplayer is at its height at night as well, allowing players to play in CO-OP as well as the insanely edge-of-your-seat “Be the Zombie” mode, giving players more than enough tools to hunt survivors or, if you’re like me, try to play the game while being hunted by other players, proving that I’m defiantly extremely valuable in a zombie-breakout (it’s a question I ask myself sometimes) The matchmaking went exceptionally well for me, with more than enough players queued up to hunt me down and abundantly powerful batteries in my UV flashlight.

In closing, Dying Light finally feels like Techland delivered the game they promised; fun, easy to use combat, paired with parkour that is fun to figure out and use. Co-Op and competitive game modes that are accessible and make sense, this game is, so far, one of my favorite things about this current generation of gaming.

Score: 8.5/10
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Frank (Movie)

The Right, Wrong Answer
In the movie Frank, we find a blend of insights, presented very quickly and in rapid succession until the viewer finally reaches the finally and, if they were involved, finds something to take away, thankfully in Frank, we find many options.            
     From the get-go a pale, colorless pallet is washed over the screen, showing how boring our lead, Jon, lives his life. Its meaningless jobs, fruitless attempts at song-writing and his never-ending tweeting that give the audience something to connect with, in short, he is no one. After mental-illness is presented in a subtle yet later recognizable way, Jon is swept into an up-and-coming band that sends him to his “furthest corners”. Shortly after the purposefully-boring start we meet the title character, Frank. He’s odd, he’s sometimes hard to understand, he’s driven by music and emotion but always manages to *ahem* keep his head, even as the rest of the group develops their own conditions.

            Intentionally, I will try not to spoil the story or the interactions, that being said, the dynamics that come to light after the band moves into its new home are intriguing, and, in the best possible way, very heartbreaking. The band has true musical inspiration, it is motivated and obviously capable of gaining a following, however, due to the mental condition of the band mates, the sabotage and self-sabotage runs through the bands veins just as deeply as the music itself.

            As we near the close of the film, tensions rise and actions become less a game of mental warfare and more a physical struggle, the star of these moments being Frank, played by Michael Fassbender, Frank’s struggle with what he wants, what he has and what he thinks he should and could have is a beautiful picture of a struggling artist, desperate to grow but, deep down, content with the relationships they’ve made and become comfortable with. It’s in the end of the film that Frank’s musical theory is peeled away, scene by scene, leaving only his mental finesse to present itself, the way that happens is far better to view firsthand. After we watch Frank reach his new mental state is when it is easiest to see the height of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance. Her instability that we see early on edges on obnoxiously over-performed, however, as the movie changes gears, so does she, creating a reflection of Frank’s emotions through the darkness of her Clara, showing a bond that may have not been clear before. When the emotional bondage is clearest, whether it’s to the music or other people, is when this movie is at its best.

            It must be noted, the tones of humor in this film find light at the perfect times. Before the final act of the movie, a desert scene takes place, and, although it starts dark, the comedy that is thrust into that moment is imperative and excellently placed. Jon, the main character finds himself stretched at the end, Frank finds where he belongs and, oddly enough, it wasn’t where I wanted him. As a viewer, I rooted for Jon deep down, hoping for Frank’s change and for musical success, but Frank’s journey wasn’t one that could start and end in a movie, it’s a journey many musicians, artists and people unsure of where they are or where they’re going, can relate to.
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