Video Game Review: Red Dead Redemption II (PlayStation 4)

Perfection is a hard thing to achieve but Rockstar Games did it in 2010 with Red Dead Redemption. But then they did it a second time with this long awaited sequel.

And maybe I see this as better than it is due to my undying love for the last entry in this series but this is a more refined version of the game we got and it’s damn fun!

There wasn’t a lot to complain about with the first Red Dead Redemption. I thought the story was terrific, the game play was exciting and the mechanics, which can make or break a game, were very good. Red Dead Redemption II takes what worked and fine tunes it, making it better and much more fluid.

Additionally, this game adds a lot of new stuff to the mix. There are a ton of side quests and random encounters but you get to sell stolen valuables to fences, hunt down a large amount of legendary animals, catch legendary fish and chase down a lot of bounties. While some of these things existed in the predecessor, there seems to be more here and they’re less cookie cutter.

It’s also cool that this game’s map is massive. You do get to return to two of the previous areas from the first game but not until you get through the main story. Once you do, you see that the size of the map of the first game is very small in comparison to the world you’ve been traveling in in this game. Also, there is a secret area that has its own map when you’re in Chapter 5 of the story. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll leave it at that.

In this game, you also need to take care of yourself and your horse. Make sure you’re both well fed. I liked this aspect of the game, even if I screwed up and didn’t eat too often because I was looking for action and popping open a can of beans, every so often, just got in the way of my robbery sprees.

If I had to point out some negatives I’d say that I miss the inclusion of the area based off of Mexico. That was my favorite place in the previous game and it is sorely missed. However, the new secret area sort of makes up for it but the sad thing is that you can’t return to the secret map once you leave it in the story.

Also, the game is long. Really, long. I was completely immersed in the story but you get to points where you just want to get towards the next big narrative step or the resolution. I’m not saying that there are bad or even boring missions but a few parts seemed to drag just for the sake of trying to beef up the story’s length and not necessarily it’s depth.

Regardless of that, however, the ending is pretty damn satisfying once you play through the final mission of the second epilogue. And this game ends in a great spot for you to go back and pick up the previous one again.

I don’t buy new games as often as I used to but this was pre-ordered a while ago and I anticipated the moment where I could finally slide this game into my PS4.

In the end, this did not disappoint and I’m still playing it, even though I’m done with the main story. I’m a completeist with games I love and all the extra bits I’m still working on are just as fun as the main game itself.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the first Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Revolver, the original game.

Talking Pulp: Stan Lee is Gone but His Legacy is Immortal – How He Impacted Me

It’s been a few days since Stan Lee passed away. The Internet is full of tributes to the man but I really needed some time to process it and to reflect on his life before writing about what Stan meant to me.

Stan Lee had an immense impact on me and to be honest, that’s an understatement. Alongside George Lucas, Lee was responsible for creating a vast mythos that was instrumental in shaping my life. I would say that Lee had an even larger impact than Lucas’ Star Wars, which was the biggest thing in the world to a kid of the ’80s.

Lee eclipsed Lucas because by the time I discovered his creations, Marvel had already expanded into a universe much larger than what Star Wars was or would ever be.

Stan the Man created more characters and things that I grew to care about than any other great creator throughout the history of time. Maybe that’s because of the time I grew up in or because I was just drawn to comics, being that I’ve been an artist and a writer since I could hold a pencil.

My very first Marvel experience came in the form of television, as I became a huge fan of the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon, which ran from 1981 to 1983. I was four years-old in ’83 and I probably discovered the show right at it’s end but it would go on to be replayed beyond its cancellation.

I remember vividly, the day that I saw the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode that featured the X-Men. I immediately fell in love with those characters and it wasn’t long before I had issues of The Uncanny X-Men in my hands. Then there was The Amazing Spider-Man and my first mega event, Secret Wars. Everything branched out from that but it was the foundation of Stan’s creations that brought me to a fantasy world where I could escape and spend my time.

Marvel was the first comic book company I discovered and even though I loved DC Comics’ Batman more than any other comic book character, I spent 90 percent of my time reading Marvel over DC. I was fascinated by the X-Men, I loved Spider-Man and his large rogues gallery. I really got into Captain America, dug the hell out of Iron Man and followed all versions of the Avengers teams from the mid-’80s and onward.

I was very aware of who Stan Lee was, as he was always a prominent figure in comics and his name was in the credits of nearly every Marvel book, if not all of them back then. When I would see Stan do interviews or pop up in other places, it was always a treat. He had charisma and an infectious personality. He was wise, creative and fatherly but in a way that was way cooler than any dad on Planet Earth.

When the Marvel Comics trading cards came out my first year of middle school, all the boys I knew were trying their damnedest to collect the full set. This was my first experience in trading cards with friends and a lot of the sixth grade boys at my school started becoming a bit of a club or community. Collecting these cards educated us on Marvel history and led us down new avenues with new characters and major stories to check out. We started trading and lending out comics. It was a really cool time to be a kid, especially for one that loved superhero comics.

By the way, my favorite Marvel trading card was always the Stan Lee one from the first series.

When you think about all the things that Stan Lee created and then take into account the scale of what those creations have become in pop culture, he may be the most prolific, successful and inspiring writer of his generation. Most of his creations are beloved and many of them have become big business in film, television and video games. Not to mention toys, trinkets and just about anything you can throw the Hulk or Thor’s mug on.

Stan Lee’s work has generated billions of dollars in revenue. It’s damn near impossible to find anyone who doesn’t know at least one of Lee’s creations.

I’ve seen Stan Lee in person but I never got to speak with him. But regardless of that, I always felt close to the man, as did many fans. He seemed accessible and he always seemed to love the people as much as they loved him. He always had his best face on, publicly, and I’ve never met a fan that had a bad experience in meeting him.

Stan Lee’s passing wasn’t unexpected. I think that everyone knew it was coming in the near future based off of the loss of his wife and the terrible things he went through since then but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hit me like a dagger to the gut.

I don’t usually get down or upset about celebrity deaths. Sure, there are people that I know I’ll miss and dwelling on their deaths is a downer but Stan’s death was different. Stan was a major part of my life.

Without Stan, I might not have discovered comics in quite the same way and I probably wouldn’t have such a passionate love for them that didn’t just end in childhood but has carried over into adulthood.

Without Stan, I probably wouldn’t have ever drawn my own comics as a kid. By the time I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had formed my own company with some friends and we were putting out comics regularly, first selling them to other school kids and then kids from other schools we didn’t even know. I loved that time in my life and it was Stan that guided me to that great place. Plus, his book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way was my bible during this period of creative exploration.

Without Stan, I may have walked away from comics. However, he was always a presence in the industry and every time I saw him trucking along, putting out new projects and popping up in movies, it always brought me back to that place where I always felt most comfortable. Stan Lee was like a piece of home for me, a dear relative that lives far away but pops back up into my life every so often.

A world without Stan Lee just doesn’t seem like a world I want to live in. I don’t mean that to sound depressing but he was always a beacon of light and enthusiasm, exuding positivity and imagination. The world is truly missing something great without Stan Lee in it.

But we all have to do what Stan Lee would want us to do. Move forward, live life and try to be the best version of ourself, everyday.

Film Review: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Also known as: Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil: Insurgence, Resident Evil: Rising (working titles)
Release Date: December 13th, 2016 (Tokyo, Seoul premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Paul Haslinger
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, William Levy, Iain Glen

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Screen Gems, 106 Minutes

Review:

“We’ve played a long game, you and me, but now it’s over.” – Dr. Issacs

I think that the things I’m looking for in these movies are different from what others are seeking. The reason I say that is that I’ve heard really bad things about this chapter in the series yet this was the best movie out of them all, as far as I’m concerned.

I think that the extended break mixed with the experience of what worked and what didn’t over the course of the five previous films, allowed Paul W.S. Anderson to weave his best tale yet and frankly, this one surprised me and took things in a direction I wasn’t anticipating.

Also, I watched all of these movies over the course of a week and didn’t have a decade and a half to ponder this series, its direction and the reveals that each chapter brought to the series as a whole.

As an action movie with a lot of horror and sci-fi thrown in, this was satisfying. Also, it did give the audience fan service but it didn’t trip over itself like the previous movie, which was bogged down by too many cameos and a mostly incoherent plot.

By this point, I’ve accepted the flaws that bothered me in the earlier movies. Six deep into this series and some of those flaws have really become tropes. Especially the Hong Kong style wire work during fight scenes, the imperfect CGI and the overabundance of green screen scenes. In regards to the CGI, it does get better with this movie.

I liked how this film was structured and the longer running time gave it a bit more room the breathe. It felt like it had more of a three act structure than the other chapters. First, you have the beginning where Alice wakes up in D.C., gets her mission and then runs into trouble on her way back to Raccoon City. Then you have a second act where she and a group of heroes defends Raccoon City from a literal zombie army. The third and final act sees Alice and some of the survivors storm the Hive to end the Umbrella Corporation once and for all.

The plot isn’t complicated but it’s well layered, is more dynamic than some of the other RE films and it has a good MacGuffin with a satisfying ending that leaves the series on a hopeful note, as opposed to the doom and gloom each previous film left you with. To be honest, I’d like a seventh film featuring Alice on her last adventure before the Earth resets. But the ending is still fine on its own.

Seriously, I am baffled by this movie. It shouldn’t have been as good as it was, all things considered. Maybe the fifth one set the bar really low and I didn’t expect much from its follow up. But again, this is my favorite Resident Evil film in the series.

Also, zombie dragons.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Video Game: X-Men (Arcade)

Kids of the ’90s know this game. Well, assuming that they had a video arcade near them and were into the X-Men at the height of their ’90s popularity.

This game was originally presented in a double-wide arcade cabinet with two screens and room for six players at the same time. I used to love playing this and I always hoped for a version of it that I could play at home. But it wasn’t until about ten years ago that this was ported and released for the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Store.

The home version isn’t as exciting, as I don’t have six people to play this with or even six controls but playing through it on my own or with a friend or two is still quite a lot of fun.

This is a standard 2D, side scrolling, beat’em up game. Those were super popular back in the late ’80s and early ’90s with games like Double DragonFinal Fight, the arcade version of Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStreets of Rage, the sister game to this one: Captain American and the Avengers, as well as a slew of others. I loved this genre of video games and could never get enough of them. In 2018, I wish side scrolling beat’em ups still populated the marketplace.

For the time, this had solid graphics, great sound, easy gameplay and it was addicting as hell. You didn’t care how many quarters it took, it was hard to leave the arcade without beating this on a playthrough each visit.

The game came out around the same time as the popular X-Men cartoon series. It wasn’t based on that, however. The game was actually designed after the pilot episode of a failed X-Men animated series from a few years earlier. Now that pilot was popular when it VHS, I rented it a lot, but the game sort of exists as an expansion to what probably would have been a solid cartoon series.

You have six playable X-Men characters in this: Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Dazzler. Professor X and Kitty Pryde also show up. The villains also have an impressive roster with Magneto, Mystique, Juggernaut, Emma Frost, Nimrod, Pyro, the Blob and Wendigo. It would’ve been nice to have Sabretooth though.

I still enjoy the hell out of this game and play through it on my PS3 about once a year. Nowadays, it doesn’t cost quarters and I can run through it in about a half an hour.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Captain America and the Avengers arcade game, Spider-Man for Sega Genesis and Maximum Carnage.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Also known as: Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 5: Retribution (working titles), Re5ident Evil: Retribution (alternate spelling)
Release Date: September 3rd, 2012 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Tomandandy
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin Durand, Sienna Guillory, Shawn Roberts, Aryana Engineer, Oded Fehr, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Screen Gems, 96 Minutes

Review:

“You were the only one to successfully bond with the T-Virus, to fully realize her powers. Well, now I have need of you. The old you. So I’ve given you back your gift. You are the weapon.” – Albert Wesker

Well, it took five films but I got to the chapter that was a big step down in overall quality. That being said, this was still entertaining and fit well within the film series, even if all its predecessors were better.

My biggest gripe about this one is that it is a total clusterfuck from the writing to it wedging in characters from every previous film and in some cases, multiple versions.

This one was hard to follow. I mean, I got the gist of the plot but dead people have been cloned, there are two Michelle Rodriguezes because when one can ruin an entire movie, maybe having two will cancel that out… I don’t know. But this was a narrative mess.

The special effects and fighting scenes are pretty consistent with the other films. It’s all a mixed bag of sometimes shoddy CGI and an overabundance on Hong Kong style wire work. I’ve learned to accept these flaws, at this point, because I’m five films into this and how dare I have expectations.

The highlight for me was Alice fighting two of the axe/hammer wielding behemoths, as opposed to just the one from the previous movie. However, this fight was over way too quickly and it does what this series has always done and that’s to take the big hard challenge from the previous film and turn it into a joke. I’m not sure if this is to show how badass Alice has evolved from movie to movie or if the filmmakers just don’t give a shit. It feels like the latter.

Anyway, if you’ve made it this far into the Resident Evil films series, you might as well just finish it up. This isn’t a total buzzkill, it’s just not a coherent story and felt more like poorly crafted fan service.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Also known as: Resident Evil 4 (working title), Resident Evil: Afterlife: An IMAX 3D Experience (IMAX version)
Release Date: September 2nd, 2010 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Screen Gems, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You weren’t too hard to find. Our satellite system is still operational, and there aren’t too many people flying now days. Besides, I always knew you would be drawn to your friends. Loyalty – Highly overrated.” – Albert Wesker

Well, I’m now four films deep into this franchise that I never watched and as I said in an earlier review, I’ve only ever played the first video game in its entirety. That being said, I know a lot of hardcore Resident Evil fans don’t really like what these movies did with the property but I am not bound by those same biases.

So seeing this, as its own film, without much knowledge on what this movie series is trying to tap into or borrow from, I thought that this was actually another decent chapter in the series. I’m surprised by that, as I figured these wouldn’t be very good and that they’d quickly drop off into pure shit pretty quickly.

While I like parts 2 and 3 more than 1, I thought that this was more on par with the quality of 1 and maybe a hair bit better. Paul W.S. Anderson has got his ducks in a better row here, even if they aren’t still perfectly lined up. But I think he’s learned from the first film, which he directed, and from the work of the directors that did 2 and 3. Plus, his writing seems less clusterfucky.

Milla Jovovich also seems a lot more comfortable in the role of Alice than she’s ever been. We even get to see multiple Alices in this one due to the clone cliffhanger of the previous film. Although, the clone plot thread is quickly wiped off of the slate, as they all get destroyed by a massive bomb after they take down the Tokyo HQ of the Umbrella Corporation.

This picks up the storyline about the caravan making its way to Alaska in the previous movie. Once the real Alice gets there, she discovers that shit isn’t what it seems. She reunites with Claire and the two of them end up in a prison in Los Angeles with some other survivors. Their goal is to escape and reach a ship off the coast.

There is a really cool monster in this one. It’s a giant hulking zombie thing that carries around a massive weapon that is part axe and part hammer. I thought that the battle against this new monster was the highlight of the film. The big finale on the boat was okay but the CGI effects really stuck out like a sore thumb.

Also, the well-known Resident Evil villain Wesker plays a huge part in this. I’m not sure how his personality was in the games but he’s a total cock and overly theatrical here.

I don’t really know what these films are working towards but I am pretty invested in Alice and her vendetta and want to see the two films after this one.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Also known as: Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil 3: Extinction, Resident Evil 3: Afterlife (working titles)
Release Date: September 20th, 2007 (Las Vegas premiere)
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Mike Epps, Iain Glen, Ashanti, Christopher Egan, Spencer Locke, Jason O’Mara

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Capcom Co. Ltd., Screen Gems, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Climb the Eiffel Tower with a high-powered rifle. A few years ago, that would’ve caused a stir. Well… Let the good times roll!” – Chase

This film series keeps surprising me. The reason I say this is because I didn’t have high hopes for it. The first one was decent though, then the second one was a bit better and then this one was even better than the first two. Now I don’t think that this trend will continue but being three deep into a six film series, it’s an impressive feat.

However, I think it might have something to do with the direction of the films.

You see, all of these are written by Paul W.S. Anderson. However, the first, the weakest of the first three, was directed by him. Then two and three were directed by different people before Anderson went behind the camera again for the last three. I’m not trying to knock Anderson but maybe he’s just got that George Lucas thing. He can direct but he’s better being the architect and then handing it off.

From what I hear, the back half trilogy of films isn’t as good as the first three. I’ll have to see if my Anderson theory is correct, once I watch those in the very near future.

I guess I really liked this one the best, so far, because it mixes Resident Evil and Mad Max, as our survivors traverse the desert in an effort to find something better than post-apocalyptic wastelands and deadly threats. We even get to see our heroes go to post-apocalyptic Las Vegas and fight hordes of zombies there.

Eventually, the survivors make it to the Umbrella Corporation’s secret bunker in the desert, an Area 51 like hideaway with labs and all types of crazy shit. The evil scientist from the previous movie returns and becomes a creature similar to Nemesis.

The big discovery of this movie is that Alice has been cloned dozens of times over. I’m not sure what that will mean beyond this film, if anything, because where the characters were at the start of this chapter was very different than where they were at the end of the previous movie. There was a time jump but some key characters are missing without any explanation.

Anyway, most of the action stuff was okay. The CGI still isn’t great and my Fire Stick (or Internet) had a hard time with the bird attack scene. My TV looked like a pixelated shit show. The rest of the film looked okay but I’m still not crazy about Alice’s Hong Kong fighting style, as it pulls me right out of the movie.

But for what this is, it isn’t bad and I’d watch the first three films again.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.