Video Game Review: Fallout 4 (PlayStation 4)

Having loved Bethesda’s work on FalloutFallout: New Vegas and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I have been chomping at the bit to play Fallout 4 for awhile. Although, when it comes to video games that consume mass amounts of time to play, it can sometimes take me a few years before I can devote that much time to them. Life is a busy bitch when you get older.

So by the time I was ready to jump into this game, I was able to get the expanded “Game of the Year” edition and for rather cheap. That’s one big benefit I have by buying video games a few years too late.

Anyway, the enthusiasm I had for this series sort of went away as I started playing this. Let me clarify that I mostly like the game but after giving this a go for the first few days, I just felt like I was playing a game I’ve already played.

Sure, Fallout 4 takes place in a new location but it feels incredibly similar to Fallout 3. It’s in a northwestern American town that is surrounded by lots of patriotic shit. This one takes place in Boston, Fallout 3 took place in Washington, D.C. But this one does feature Fenway Park as a major location in the game, which was pretty cool being that I’m a big baseball fan, especially in regards to the history and culture of the sport.

But the map just wasn’t very exciting and didn’t feel like a new experience, really. Sure, there are some cool places and things that are fairly unique for this game but exploring the world map just didn’t seem as fun as it did in Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. The only part of the world map that was exciting was the nuclear zone, as it was friggin’ ominous as hell, dark, dreary, desolate, full of tough as balls monsters and cool secrets. Plus, you need a hazmat suit before you even try to venture off into this part of the map.

My biggest complaint about the game, however, is its difficulty from the get go. Hell, one of your first few missions makes you have to fight a damn deathclaw when you’ve really got no experience or perks to speak of. It’s not an unbeatable situation but I had to expose a flaw in the games design in order to sort of cheat my way through the feat. Plus, in that same mission, you acquire power armor. It just makes everything seem very topsy turvy when compared to how the other two games played out.

Also, there are raiders and super mutants literally everywhere. Exploring the map is really damn difficult, early on. I found this to be a major annoyance, as I tend to like exploring my surroundings in these types of games. I think that it’s done to make exploring more pocketed to what your actual experience level is at. However, that seems odd as you also have to travel to Diamond City pretty early on in the game and it’s a hell of a real trek for just starting out and having to fight or evade groups of raiders and super mutants.

Needless to say, I had some frustrations with the game and it wasn’t very fun, as a low experienced player. So then I noticed that Bethesda allows you to use mods on the console versions of this game. So I tried a few out, not that I wanted to cheat but I just wanted to enjoy the game and have my battles with swarms of raiders and ghouls to feel a bit more balanced.

The mods made the game fun enough for me to not want to outright quit it after about ten hours. Although, the game should work and be balanced enough on its own. Everything felt lopsided early on and that wasn’t a problem I experienced with other Bethesda games before this.

Additionally, all the “dungeons” in the game feel very repetitive and not as imaginative as the dungeons from Skyrim or New Vegas. Those games had some great interior locations whereas Fallout 4 just seems like a lot of the same. Some places are interesting but a lot of the maps suck and are more like traveling through a knotted up snake than something more natural feeling. Also, a lot of these interior mazes make you have to backtrack through them, unlike Skyrim, which would typically reward you with a secret exit once you worked your way through these places.

In regards to the settlement building addition to the game, I’m not really a fan of it. I think that’s because it wasn’t a component in other Bethesda games and it just feels like something to waste my time and distract me from actual ass kicking gameplay.

The story in this game is also lacking. I was engaged by the main narrative in the other three Bethesda games but I just didn’t care about the story here. A lot of the missions were fun but I got more enjoyment from side quests than main quests. In fact, getting back on track with the main quest felt like a real chore.

Another issue, is that the graphics are improved but this doesn’t necessarily feel like a next gen game. I guess I’d have to fire up Fallout 3 again to really notice the difference but Fallout 4 doesn’t feel like a big enough leap forward in that regard. I haven’t played the older Fallout games since 2012 or so but the mechanics in this one felt clunkier than they needed to be. The controls felt more complex and it took a period of adjustment for me to get used to them but they never feel natural to me.

The only real positive is that this seems less buggy overall than previous Fallout games. Both of them felt littered with bugs that caused me to have to save often. Stuff like getting stuck in terrain and lots of freezing. This Fallout is better in that regard. I never got stuck in a rock and the game only froze up on me once.

I expected this to be at least a 9 out of 10 based off of my experience with other Bethesda games. It really disappointed, even though it was fun to play after getting some mods. But ultimately, I still quit after a few weeks because the mods eventually caused bugs and I didn’t want to go back to a really old save and play through some of the mundane missions again.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.

Video Game Review: Star Wars: Bounty Hunter (PlayStation 2)

I used to play the shit out of this game over 15 years ago when it came out on the Nintendo Gamecube around the same time as Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. This time around, I played the PS2 version, as it was available for download on my PS4.

I’ve wanted to revisit this for quite some time, as it was one of my favorite Star Wars games of all-time and is far superior to the film it was tied to in both story and execution.

Surprisingly, despite the wonky controls, this has held up pretty damn well. Plus, once you play it for a bit, the control issues are less apparent and you adjust to it. Still, the camera is a pain in the ass, as is manually aiming. Thank the maker for the auto aim feature though, which makes running and gunning in this game a pretty f’n fun experience even by modern standards.

Now I have some issues with a few early levels in this but by the time you get to the prison asteroid in chapter three, the maps for this game become a lot of fun. Plus, these environments are pretty damn challenging.

I think that the only weak thing in the game is the boss fights. They aren’t very creative and most just consist of running and gunning and just not getting hit by lasers and missiles.

The real highlight of this game though is the sixth and final chapter where Jango Fett faces off with the Bando Gora cult and their leader, former Jedi Komari Vosa. This part of the game was really creative and I wish that we could see more of this cult and Vosa in other Star Wars stories. Sadly, none of it has really been revisited and it probably won’t be now that Disney is just making up their own canon and ignoring stuff like this game.

Star Wars: Bounty Hunter is severely underappreciated out of all the Star Wars video games throughout history. When I hear people talk fondly about Shadows of the EmpireDark Forces or the SNES games, I have to throw my two cents in about this solid game.

This isn’t perfect but it is still engaging, challenging and a blast to play 17 years later.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Star Wars games that were tied to the Prequel Trilogy but I’d say that this was the best of them.

Video Game Review: Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 4)

I know, I know… I’m really late to the dance on this one but if it’s any consolation, I intended to play this game for a dozen years before picking it up.

I’m kind of glad that I did wait though, as I was able to play the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was rebuilt for that console from the ground up. Having seen comparisons of the original PS2, remastered PS3 and the rebuilt PS4 versions, I’m glad that I had the best possible incarnation of this game to play through.

That being said, as absolutely fabulous as this is, and I’ll get to the why in a second, it did have one thing working against it, that being PlayStation 2 era clunky controls. Now it wasn’t enough to hinder the experience and I’m sure it is completely accurate to the controls of the first version of this game but having just come off of Red Dead Redemption II, riding a horse in this was like a giant step back.

Also, some of the jumping and grabbing mechanics were wonky and shooting arrows is damn difficult when compared to more modern games. The boss fight with the sand worm was tough because of the controls and really nothing else. I feel like they could have vastly improved this but I also get why they didn’t. Just as I get why they didn’t change the subtitle font from Papyrus to something less cringe for a 2018 game. In 2005, Papyrus wasn’t quite the design faux pas that it is now but it does take something away from the absolutely gorgeous design of this game.

But putting the negatives behind, I can’t speak enough on how great this game is. It is stupendous, excellent and an incredible experience. I wish it was a longer game but you also get so much out of it that you don’t feel cheated in that regard.

Shadow of the Colossus takes place in a giant, vast kingdom where nothing other than a few birds, lizards and fish live. The empty world is haunting but it is also effective, as when you do get to your destinations, you are almost always blown away by the scale of things.

The game is really just sixteen boss fights. Plus, each one is a puzzle to solve. Each Colossus needs to be defeated but the way in which you must take them down is very diverse and incredibly creative. And just about every battle is a good challenge, requiring skill, patience, timing and a good amount of trial and error in trying to figure out how to damage them. I’ll admit that a few of them were a real bitch to figure out but none of them were so hard that I didn’t enjoy the process.

Above everything else, the one thing that this game does exceptionally well is how it creates a very unique atmosphere. The game features action and danger but it is almost peaceful and calming to play. It’s really hard to describe and can really only be experienced through actual play. But this does get a full recommend from me.

But being completely honest, I wasn’t sure what to think about it for the first hour or so. I really had to get the feel for the game and absorb what it was offering. It was so different than anything else I’ve played and I’ve been playing video games for almost 40 years. But the more you play this, the more it draws you in. By the time I was midway through the game, I was in love with it.

This is a masterpiece in regards to its design and its ambiance. It’s clever, creative and stunning to look at, especially in it’s PS4 form.

If it wasn’t for the control issues I had at key parts within the boss fights, I’d have to give this a perfect score. However, I can’t ignore those issues, as there were two boss fights that frustrated me only because the mechanics added an extra level of difficulty that didn’t need to be there.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: man, it’s really hard to think of anything. This is such a unique game but I guess anything good within the fantasy action RPG category.

Film Review: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Also known as: Mortal Kombat 2 (Uruguay), Mortal Kombat: Destruction Finale (France)
Release Date: November 21st, 1997
Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Written by: Brent V. Friedman, Bryce Zabel, Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler, John Tobias
Based on: Mortal Kombat by Midway Games
Music by: George S. Clinton, various
Cast: Robin Shou, Talisa Soto, Brian Thompson, Sandra Hess, Lynn Red Williams, Irina Pantaeva, James Remar, Ray Park, Tony Jaa (stunts)

Threshhold Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Mother! You’re alive!” – Kitana, “Too bad you… will die!” – Sindel

I think that the original Mortal Kombat movie is pretty terrible, despite having a lot of friends that have some sort of nostalgic love for it. I was a hardcore Mortal Kombat fan, as far as the games were concerned, but the movie just didn’t resonate with me. Sure, maybe it was better than the film adaptations of Double Dragon or Super Mario Bros. but that in no way makes it good, as both of those films were beyond awful.

Well, the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation makes its extremely flawed predecessor look like The Empire Strikes Back by comparison.

I avoided this movie for most of my adult life but once it was available to stream on Hulu, recently, I thought that I’d finally give it a watch because at least I’d get a review out of it.

If I’m being honest, this was damn hard to sit through. It’s a baffling movie, littered with special effects that are absolute junk, a script so bad that canaries would commit sepukku rather than shit on it and acting so atrocious that it’s kind of depressing seeing Brian Thompson and James Remar stumbling through their scenes.

It took me four sittings to get through this movie and usually I power through even the worst motion pictures in one. This just sucked away at my soul like a starved psychic vampire and I needed to take breaks from it and recharge.

This is certainly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It isn’t the worst but that’s only because I sometimes spend a lot of time searching the bottom of the dumpster in that little rusted out back corner where even garbage doesn’t dare go.

But this may be the worst film I’ve seen that actually had some sort of budget. Somehow, this cost $30 million dollars. I’m not sure where that money went as I’ve seen better special effects in an elementary school play. If New Line Cinema was so quick to throw their money down the drain in 1997, I should have asked for a check. I could’ve at least made a better looking movie for a lot less and then pocketed the rest.

Never watch this film unless you hate yourself. I heard that Gitmo used this to torture terror suspects before it was considered too inhumane. That’s when they switched to waterboarding.

Rating: 0.5/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre but mostly crappy movies based off of fighting games: Mortal KombatStreet FighterStreet Fighter: The Legend of Chun-LiTekken and Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge.

Documentary Review: The Lost Arcade (2015)

Also known as: Arcade (working title)
Release Date: November 14th, 2015 (DOC NYC)
Directed by: Kurt Vincent
Written by: Irene Chin
Music by: Gil Talmi

26 Aries, Wheelhouse Creative, 79 Minutes

Review:

I had a high school friend that used to talk about all the great video game arcades in New York City. By the mid-’90s, he was living in Southwest Florida but his stories of these really cool and iconic places always made me want to go check them out. I never got to though, as they started shutting down, one after the other. But at least the Chinatown Fair was going strong. But then a few years ago, it had to shut its doors and I never got that authentic NYC arcade experience.

This documentary covers the ’80s and ’90s NYC arcade scene but mostly focuses on the Chinatown Fair and the love that the local gamers had for the last real bastion of coin-op gaming culture.

Several people are interviewed for this documentary and it does a great job of telling their stories and showing their love for the Chinatown Fair.

I didn’t go into this documentary expecting much, I just wanted to feel a little bit of nostalgia for old school arcade gaming and I was hoping that people’s love for this iconic spot would at least tell an interesting story.

It really hits you in the feels though, as everyone’s passion comes through the screen. I think that anyone that used to have a special place that used to make them feel great can relate to the film. Most of us have lost something from our youth that truly made us happy. This film is more about coping with that loss and trying to move past it than it is just about the great Chinatown Fair.

This is an engaging documentary. It pulls you in and makes you see things through the eyes and experiences of its subjects. That’s really what any good documentary should do and this succeeds at just that.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other video game documentaries from recent years: The King of Kong, Chasing Ghosts, The Art of the Game, Indie Game: The Movie, Free to Play, Ecstasy of Order, Special When Lit, etc.

Video Game Review: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PlayStation 4)

After recently revisiting all of the Peter Jackson film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, I was reminded how much I liked the old Return of the King game for Gamecube. So I saw that this was at least somewhat similar, in that it was pretty much a hack and slash game where you take on dozens of orcs at once. I figured that for $19 I’d give it a shot and well, it won “Game of the Year”, even though everything seems to get that accolade nowadays.

I don’t think I would have been as happy with this if I had paid full price when it came out but for less than twenty bucks, it’s definitely worth the value.

If you are a fan of the Batman: Arkham or Assassin’s Creed video game series, than this should probably be a lot of fun fore you. Now it isn’t as rich and dynamic as those other games but it has similarities in how the action works. The fighting style is very much like it is in the Batman games and you can interact with the environment parkour style like Assassin’s Creed.

I like the graphics and the fluid gameplay. Plus, running around Middle-Earth like a sword wielding maniac is a really good time. I like the Nemesis System within the game and that there is a lot of fun one can have with that cool feature.

However, things do get repetitive pretty quickly in a similar fashion to the first Assassin’s Creed. But as the game progresses and you get stronger, the challenge does become better and some of the more powerful orcs can be a real pain in the ass. So I do like how the game evolves as you play it longer and longer.

I don’t like that the game only has two main maps that you can explore though. They also aren’t very big and each time I got to a new map, I unlocked all of the areas pretty damn quickly. Like ten-to-fifteen minutes quickly.

This feels like a game that really needed to be expanded on and if I just stuck to the story and didn’t get distracted running around killing thousands or orcs, I could have blown through it in an afternoon or two.

But my complaints are why I would’ve been disappointed if I had paid full price. Again, for $19 (or less), it’s worth the money.

I’ll pick up the sequel soon, as it is also rather cheap now. I hope that one at least expands on things in new ways and isn’t just a simple rehash with new maps.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel Shadow of War, as well as the Batman: Arkham game series and the Assassin’s Creed games.

Retro Relapse: The Soon-To-Be Forgotten History of Star Wars

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015. And looking at this now, I think I was right.

Tonight is the night where Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters. With the release of this film, everything we know changes for this franchise going forward. There is a lot of hype, a lot of hope and a lot of apprehension from those of us that never recovered from the awfulness of the Prequel Trilogy.

Fact is, there isn’t a single Star Wars fan that doesn’t want this to be as amazing as the original films. But we all thought The Phantom Menace, without question, was going to be an amazing film before we saw it. There really is no way to know if The Force Awakens will be as great as the Original Trilogy until we experience it.

Films with this much hype usually fail to live up to it. In my opinion, J.J. Abrams, the director, has a pretty crappy track record. He did destroy Star Trek for those of us who liked it when it was boring and mostly a bunch of talking to avoid conflict. But I get it, we can’t all be smart and Abrams catered to the broader, dumbed down audience. And well, he admitted that he wasn’t a fan of Star Trek and was really just a fan of Star Wars. Good for him.

But this isn’t about J.J. or my “lack of faith” in him. It is about what this film and Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm has done to the vast wonderland that is the universe Star Wars exists in.

I was a huge Star Wars fan and I still am, even though I feel a bit of betrayal. Reason being, everything I have invested in the universe is mostly moot now, at least in regards to what the new owners of the intellectual property say.

Thirty-plus years of reading all the books I could get my hands on, playing all the video games I bought at hefty price tags and collecting all the toys and other random memorabilia and now, none of that fits into Disney’s vision of the franchise.

When they announced that they would be making Star Wars films yearly from now until the end of time, I knew that the Expanded Universe was dead. They didn’t come out and say it immediately, but knowing that an Episode VII just wouldn’t fit in anywhere with what was established in the books and video games of the Expanded Universe, I knew that Disney would take extreme liberties, ignore all that established mythos and just do what they want.

I understand why they have to do it but with as much as I love many of the stories and what the EU has become, there is that part of me that feels a stronger allegiance to it than to Disney, who really doesn’t give a crap about it. And this is the same Disney that keeps making mediocre Marvel films after buying them a few years earlier. They are on a mission to own and reshape my childhood. Once they acquire Hasbro and Nintendo, they will own the souls of every young boy who experienced childhood in the awesome ’80s.

If The Force Awakens is a stellar movie, I will accept it as the new canon. If it sucks, I will completely dismiss it and always consider the Expanded Universe to be my canon. I don’t have to turn my back on the EU just because Disney says so. It isn’t just Star Wars history, although soon-to-be forgotten, it is history for the millions of people who invested their time, heart and money into the Star Wars brand for several decades. And whether it is fair to Disney or not, people with knowledge of the EU will always compare Disney’s work to the tales they’ve held dear for years.

The EU fan base is certainly a small percentage of Earth’s population and Disney has to look at the bigger picture. And I guess all of us hoping for more movies one day, knew that something like this would have to happen, it just kind of sucks.

And it doesn’t suck in that the EU will be ignored and washed away, it won’t be for those of us who love those stories and characters, it sucks because there will be no new stories in the EU. It isn’t dying because Disney has to ignore it, it is dying because it can’t continue to live and grow going forward. What exists within the EU is all that it will ever be now. That world is cemented. That’s the hardest pill to swallow.

I know that a lot of the stuff in the EU was pretty awful. Many books were just bad or too bizarre or didn’t fit within the established mythos. Some of the earlier attempts at expanded fiction tales went in strange directions. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, one of the first Star Wars books ever written, doesn’t make much sense. But it is the great stories and great characters that people cherish and there was a lot more good than bad in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

So even if I dismiss the new movies, as I have dismissed the rebooted universe of Star Trek since J.J. Abrams took over that franchise, I still have nothing new to look forward to in the EU. Even if I were to treat the EU as my personal Star Wars canon till the end of time, it is dead. No more books to read, no more games to play and the fate of many characters will be unresolved.

Despite my reservations, I am going into The Force Awakens with an open mind. I am trying to keep my expectations at bay. I just want to sit there and experience it. And yes, it will certainly drum up some nostalgia, because that’s the point of carrying this franchise on, but I’m going to be as objective as possible.

I want this new movie to be good. I want everything Star Wars to be good going forward. But I remember how I felt waiting for The Phantom Menace to start and how I felt after it and the next two films ended. Again, films with this much hype typically can’t live up to it but we shall see.

And maybe I will be pleasantly surprised to the point where the blow of losing the EU won’t sting as bad. I guess I’ll know in about twelve hours.