Avengers: Age Of Ultron - A Review By TheAcidSkull

"Keep your friends rich, and your enemies rich, and then find out which is which" -Ultron

When the first Avengers movie came out, it was one of the greatest moments in a comic book fans life. Seeing all these iconic heroes come together, in a shared universe, on screen was one of the greatest cinematic spectacles ever. Sure, it was a heart-warming superhero film with some one-liners, but it understood what it was and what story it wanted to tell, and because of that, us fans got two and a half hours of pure fun and joy. However, what the first Avengers movie managed to accomplish was so great that it set a serious standard for not only superhero movies, but Blockbuster actions flicks in general. Now, I had no doubt that I'd love the second Avengers movie, but I was seriously skeptical if it could measure up to the first one, considering that it seemed jam-packed with a lot of different concepts, characters, plot-points and so on and on. Plus, some questionable decisions before the trailers were even unveiled which sort of discouraged me. Having said all that, I'm happy to say that AoU is not only better than the first Avengers in my personal opinion, but it's my favorite superhero movie to date (I consider the Nolan trilogy to be a bit beyond superhero movies at this point, so they don't count).

First and foremost, my biggest fear was that the Avengers movie would go down with the same formula, and while it does obviously maintain some familiar elements, it manages to evolve and learn from it's previous shortcomings, even if they were minor one's. For example, while in the previous films some characters like Clint were neglected for the most part, due to the larger focus placed on other characters, this time around almost every integral character receives some sort of development, despite the insane amount of content crammed into this movie. It never feels like one thing is being sacrificed for another. What I mean is that the movie is subtle in it's developments. The problem with a shared universe is that sometimes, writers know you don't understand certain stories you plan on telling, so they use other movies within this universe to explore certain elements and promote the stories they are about to tell. Whedon doesn't do this, instead, he carefully lays out the themes for the future that WORK contextually within the story currently being told. We know that there's soon to be a Civil War movie involving Iron Man and Captain America, but what sparks this, yet small, conflict between Tony and Steve is the reasons behind Ultrons creating, meaning that it not only hints future events, but it also develops the main story in Age Of Ultron.

And speaking of character evolution, as I said, almost every integral character gets a decent amount of screen time. Whedon found a very decent way to utilize every character in one way or the other. There's a certain moment in the movie where everything takes a turn for the better (for the viewers, that is). Lets just say there's something that happens, which basically jump starts individual character segments that both explore separate elements of the each protagonist, but also tie and coverage within the AoU plot perfectly. Thor, for one, is much more down to earth and "human. Instead of some foreign, alien being, he feels like a friend to the Avengers, not to mention that he is a lot wiser and helps move the plot forward instead of just standing there looking tough and "mighty", which, while cool on it's own, isn't enough anymore. I had my gripes with the direction they were taking with Natasha and Bruce, but after giving it some thought, it made a lot of sense, within the cinematic universe, of course. Since the movie has been out for a while, I don't see why it's too much to talk about why the relationship works. I see it this way, both characters have gone through some serious life-changing experiences that sort of inadvertently "unleashes" a very dangerous force. For Widow, it was her life as an assassin and emotionless killer, whereas for Bruce, it's his life as the Hulk. It seems like a "beauty and the beast" kind of ordeal, but it's more like two unwilling monsters meeting and understanding each other. Also, as a huge Hulk fan, I was immensely pleased with his portrayal. Bruce has adapted a more confident and determined personality, which I much enjoyed. Sure, most of the time he seems like a nervous dork who tries to keep to himself, but there are certain moments were you get a peak at an angry Bruce Banner, which seems quite intimidating. That's quite the compliment, given that this is the same man who can transform in to a 2 ton engine of destruction. I plan on discussing how Hulk was portrayed, but it feels more appropriate if we talk about him when discussing the action sequences. Also, I'd like to give a special shutout for Hawkeye and the Twins. While, as I said, Hawkeye was second fiddle in the first Avengers, he's kind of the conscious glue that holds everyone together. In many ways, he's the heart of the show, which I found to be both surprising and amazing. What makes his character development greater is that he sort of serves as gateway to explore the personality of the twins, since he is the one to have the most interaction with them.

As for now, lets get into the more "synthetic" aspect of the movie. Given that there have been many MCU films so far, we've had are fare share of colorful villains. However, not a lot of them really stood out for me. That's not to say that the actors portraying them are bad, nor does it mean that there were't any good villains, but sadly, most of the phase two bad guys like Ronin and Malekith weren't all that memorable, mostly because the lacked any layers. Loki may not have been powerful, but he was well developed and interesting. He was a developing characters just as much as Tony Stark, or Thor, per say, which made him stand out. He had charm, is what I'm trying to see. Same goes for Obediah Stane from Iron Man and Wilson Fisk from the Daredevil TV show. These guys were layered and complex, and were just as important as the main heroes. So I'm happy to say James Spader absolutely killed it as Ultron.

I'm not sure why people have a problem with how Ultron was portrayed.Was giving him a personality a bad idea? As far as I know, he's always been more human than machine, and given that he was essentially created by Stark, it's not all that shocking he'd mirror Tony's personality. Ultron was a character, and not some ominous monster who appeared here and there, did something "evil" and then took off. We got to see his side of the story. Ultron was the kind of villain you just enjoy watching, only unlike Loki, he can carry some serious presence. He was creepy, calculating, smart and sadistic, all of which was enforced by James Spaders terrific acting and fantastic voice. What I found particularly interesting was that Ultron was never a Stark villain, despite his origins and development. In fact, my fears that he would remain in Iron Man's shadow never came to fruition. Instead, he was kind of the nemesis of his own creation, Vision, who by the way is one of the coolest additions to the roster. Sure, he's new and doesn't get the same level of screen time, but when he does appear, he literally steals the show. He's so different and similar to Ultron that you can't help but like the guy. Ultron is the personification of human produced death and destruction, where as Vision represents life and prosperity. This dichotomy and opposition between two integral characters leads to some seriously memorable and beautiful moments.

My only true problem with Ultron, and this seems to be Whedons crutch, is that he wasn't all that powerful. He was though, sure, but having an iconic villain like that in a movie does kind of give a fan hope that there will be a huge brawl between all of the Avengers and the main bad guy. It was clear that Ultron wouldn't really last in that kind of fight. They gave him a different KIND of menacing power, which worked in it's own way, but still, I think the first option would have been better.

That's not to say that the action in this movie wasn't amazing, quite the contrary, it was fantastic. The Hulk vs Hulkbuster fight scene was, without a doubt, my favorite comic book movie fight scene, hands down, and there are quite a few reasons for that. First of all, the tone of the fight was balanced, and this extends to the whole movie to be quite honest. You knew the stakes and the seriousness of the threat. The writers never denied us the chance to laugh and have fun, but we knew when things got serious, and I liked that. It never felt that the movie was sacrificing story for the sake of delivering the punchline, and the Hulk vs Iron man fight was a testament to that. I loved the last battle in the first movie, but apparently, a lot of people died in that fight, and it never occurred to us because the tone was light-hearted and fun, which is fine, if it's consistent with the movie, but this time around you feel that there's some serious damage being done. Hulk lost control, and he was manipulated into hurting a lot of people. This is a good way to develop Hulks individual character, and the end of the fight showed us how the Jade giant truly thought of his actions. You can see the regret and sadness in his face, and as a huge Hulk fan, you can understand why I was personally touched by this scene. Hulk couldn't have gotten a lot of screen, but when he did show up, he had key moments of development and character evolution. Secondly, the choreography is absolutely brilliant. You can literally feel the weight and power of these two characters as the bash it out on each other. I wish Hulk would use more of his signature moves, but given his condition, it was a smart move to make him fight like a mindless monster, as having Hulk utilize other branches of his power would demean Iron Mans only true advantage, which was his intellect. And with that said, you can definitely feel who was stronger in the fight. No matter what Iron Man threw at the Hulk, the big guy kept coming back and nothing seemed to slow him down, which made me insanely happy. Tony did get more hits in, but he was still shown to be the underdog throughout the whole brawl.

But as much as I personally enjoyed this fight, the final battle was just as breathtaking. I can't say much without spoiling it, but know this. You can feel how serious the situation is, and it's a true wonder to see these avengers work so well with one another. You can tell that they have legitimately come a very long way after the events of the first film, and seeing them work so well in synch with one another not only brought forth some fantastic sequences, but also brought a genuine smile to my gloomy, angry face.

It feels like I should say a few words about the story, but I feel like I've spoiled a lot as it is, so without going into to much detail, the plot is very complicated but it works out very well. The plot is very character driven, and while it feels as if it's trying to tell individual stories, Whedon manages to balance it out by making it relevant to the main narrative, as well as subplots, which, by the way, is a pretty amazing feat given that there are so many things happening at the same time. Unfortunately, There is one huge glaring plot hole, or better Dues Ex Machina moment, which for some odd reason NO one has mentioned yet. I understand why they did it, but seriously, they could have gone with a completely different route that would have made much more sense both story and context wise. I mean, a SHIELD "spaceship" just pops up after SHIELD was successfully destroyed and no one notices this? Fury gives like a one word explanation for this and then it's literally never touched upon. They could have had the starkbots help or something along thous lines. It would have made more sense, since we've SEEN that Stark had been developing crowd control measures.

In conclusion, Age of Ultron had a lot to live up to, and if this were a test, I'd say it passed with flying colors. The second installment is well acted, written, directed, choreographed and balanced. Even if you don't like it more than the first one, it has enough action and fun that I'm sure at least the majority will enjoy it very much. I've seen the movie twice already, and I'm sure I'll probably see it a couple of more times as well. Yes, it was that good.

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Mortal Kombat - A Review By "TheAcidSkull"

Mortal Kombat X

You know what's convenient? When you get sick just as one of your most anticipated games comes out, which is exactly what happened to me. I've literally been locked up in my room, for days, unable to detach myself from this gory parade of death, which should make it pretty clear just how great the experience has been. Unfortunately, while MKX is literally the best fighting game I've ever played, it still falls short in a couple of important areas, which prevent it from being the perfect game it could have been.

First things first, lets talk about the campaign. Now while I usually try to avoid spoilers, and will probably continue to do so, the game has been out for quite some time now, so don't get mad if some inconsequential things are mentioned here. I've said this before, and god knows I'll probably say it again for a thousand times, know what you're getting into! Mortal Kombat, in general, has had a very specific way of storytelling, so certain things that may be considered storytelling flaws will be looked over here. Anyways, the campaign was awesome, for the most part at least. The game is very cinematic, and I personally think that the blockbuster take works well within the universe. The fight scenes are done excellently, and it feels as if you're watching a movie, an notion which I welcome with open arms. There was never a time when I wished that the cutscenes would stop just because I really wanted to fight the next character, nor was I ever in a position where I wanted to cinematics would keep going for me to avoid a fight. That right there, is a well struck balance. Plus, you have all these great QTE moments that involve and captivate the players on a much deeper level. I would have preferred if the QTEs held more of a consequence when done wrong, but seeing as how I didn't really mind during my play-through, it's not something worth touching upon. It's just there to make the game more fun and cinematic. What is more, the voice acting and the interactions between characters was fantastic. Sure, the dialogue and the one-liners are campy as hell, but MK is known for that kind of thing, and there were many moments where I laughed because Jonny Cage said something dumb or funny, and there were many moments where my jaw dropped when someone said something badass. Mortal Kombat has always been a cheesy gorfest, and I'm happy to say that the game stuck to its roots. That said, there were some things I was disappointed with. Don't get me wrong, the campaign was very good, but there were moments where I felt that the game disrespected a lot of it's original characters, as well as missed a huge opportunity to tell one of the greatest fighting game stories ever. In order to explain the former point, we'll need to talk about the concept of introducing new characters. Upon their unveil, I was fairly skeptical, as I'm sure many fans were. The next generation characters seemed cool, but somewhat unoriginal at the beginning, however, I'm happy to say that they were indeed fantastic and very well developed. That said, there's a certain problem that comes with bringing in new faces, which is overshadowing former well-loved and popular characters. This is exactly what happened. Sure, the usual guys like Scorpion and Sub-Zero get tons of attention, but the rest of the guys, like Sektor or Liu Kang get overshadowed pretty easily. Now considering the fact that there game jumps back and forth between 25 year years, some of the great events that took place during this time, like Sub-Zero taking on the cyberized Lin Kuei led by Sektor, Kenshi helping Scorpion find his humanity, or Sonya and Jonny splitting up are just referenced, which is honestly a damn shame because it just had so much potential. Again, I'm not saying that the story is bad, quite the contrary, but when you have a 4 hour game(MK9 had a 7 hour story game) , there's just not enough time to develop both old and the new protagonists, which means that one of the generations will get the short end of the stick. In the end though, I was left pretty satisfied with the story. I'm not sure why people complain about the fluctuating power levels. People, this will never change. You have to remember than some of the fighters the player takes control of during the game are individually favorites, so there can only be a minimal form of hierarchy between the kombatants in order to please everyone.

Moreover, the gameplay has never been so layered and complex before. Like all gamers, I was very skeptical of the variations they were bringing for each fighter. Initially, I just saw it as a difference between special moves, however, each style is varied enough for them to bring something interesting and diverse to the table. Here's an example, in every MK game, my main, first and foremost, is scorpion. When I started playing I started with the Nin Jutsu variation, and I was doing relatively well, but I realized that the style just wasn't for me, so I switched over to the inferno version, but still wasn't able to think up the combos or the style of fighting I wanted. In the end, after going back and forth, I settled on the hellfire version, which in my personal opinion is the best one, and many may or may not disagree. with me on this, which, by the way, is what makes these additions so great! This, not only adds more possibilities for mastering and experimenting with different characters, but it also brings variation(no pun intended) to fighting your enemies, both online players and the computer AI. And speaking of the AI, the game has never been more balanced. The lack of cheap shots and cheap special moves is absolutely baffling, especially given how out of balance MK9 was. Even Shinnok, who's the final villain, is completely beatable, it's just that his AI gets increasingly smart when you reach his ladder stage. That is of course, until he evolves into his second form, in which case he is far more powerful, but he's not nearly as overpowered as Goro, Kintaro and Shao Khan were from the previous iteration. He can get some serious cheap shots, but at the end of the day, he's still beatable if you understand the game mechanics well, which honestly, is a requirement for anyone who decided to pick this up.

Furthermore, Mortal Kombat X is brimming with some serious content. There is just so much to do around here. I've been playing for a long time and it still feels like I've done nothing of significance. Sure, certain features like the stage fatalities, or the 250 challenge ladder have been removed, but the game puts so much in it's place that it's hard to even notice that something went missing at all. Instead of Stage fatalities, you now have 5 Faction kills, which you can unlock by contributing to your faction of choice(Lin Kuei, Special forces, Brotherhood of shadow, White lotus, and the Black Dragon), 6 brutalities, which are pretty hard to execute but are very satisfying, interactive stage moves, which were borrowed from Injustice and further enhance the gameplay, and a plethora of different challenge ladders, some of which (living ladders, as called in the game) are often updated, etc. You also have a huge krypt with different costumed, concept art, brutalities, and many other interesting items for the player to unlock. Plus, the whole krypt is set up like a puzzle so the experience is far from boring. Unfortunately, this wonderful ideas is brought down by pathetic micro transactions, which is perhaps the games biggest fault.

The fact that you can buy the krypt for 20 dollars kind of demeans the value of it. The whole point is the mystery and effort behind unlocking these items, but if a heavy wallet can solve every problem, then the experience is sort of botched in my personal opinion. Also, I can understand why characters like Jason, Tremor, Tanya, and Predator may be used for DLC purchases. I mean, they aren't even finished so it makes sense. However, stuff like easy fatalities just pissed me off. This is a game, and the whole point of it is to play it WELL in order to accomplish something. If you fail to perform a move correctly, YOU SHOULD fail. That is the nature of fighting games, so enough of these useless pandering. And why the hell would they cell Goro for 5 dollars? It makes so much more sense for me if they allowed us to unlock him through in-game means. Goro is as old as the franchise, so it makes no sense for him to be a DLC character like Jason and the rest of his merry crew.

Now because I don't wish to end on a negative note, the visuals will be the last focus of this review. Mortal Kombat is well known for being a very gory and violent game, and so, I take no shame in saying that not only is this the most violent MK game in history, it is literally one of the goriest and most disgusting games I've every played. Due to the fantastic and brilliant visuals, everything looks so real that even the simple act of ripping out someones throat (I'm not insane, this is normal by MK standards) or shooting someone in the chest is something that will most likely make you look away. The whole world is brought to life by the vibrant and colorful character and stage designs, fluid and smooth character movements, and wonderfully made sound effects that document every cut,slice, dice, crack, punch, and shot.

In conclusion, MKX definitely has some short comings, but what matters is that it is without a doubt one of the most well crafted fighting games to this date. Honestly, it exceeded my expectation in so many ways I didn't think possible. I just wished that Netherrealm studious hand't succumbed to the horrible business tactics that plague gaming these days.

Score: 9/10

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The Evil Within DLC - "The Assignment" - A Review By TheAcidSkull

Part One

You know, 2014 has really done some serious damage to me, in a sense that I'm a lot more skeptical about upcoming games and how they will turn out, which, given what happened with Unity, Destiny, MCC, etc, isn't at all a bad way to approach things, in fact, I think it worked out in my favor. Anyways, I expected The Assignment, in which we take control of Juli Kidman, a mysterious character in the original campaign. If I'm being completely honest here, I, for the most part, expected more of the same deal with this DLC, which, isn't bad, considering that The Evil Within was my favorite game of 2014. That said, I can't express how surprised and how happy I am that the DLC managed to provide a unique and slightly more tense experience.

The Evil Within wasn't exactly a scary game, but it was a very intense and taxing one, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much. Trudging through darkness on low health and ammo as I was hoping to god that I wouldn't encounter more of thous godforsaken doppelgängers was truly mind-wrenching. However, there is a very huge difference between the main game and the DLC. One, regardless of what people say, is a mix of survival horror and action, because you actually have a way of fighting back and directly killing your enemies, whereas the other, is completely stealth and strategy oriented. And yes, it's true that the Evil Within did have stealth mechanics, which I occasionally found useful, but the difference was that the game itself wasn't built on it. Outside of certain occasions, which only becomes apparent when played on harder difficulties, Sebastian could get through most of his enemies through force, even if he had to stay in the shadows here and there, whereas Kidman has to completely rely on stealth and sneaking around. Moreover, what I found interesting and quite refreshing was the fact that the switch from offensive to a defensive gameplay , which is a pretty radical change on it's own, didn't really compromise the core of the original campaign, since familiar elements such as using your environment to your advantage and luring enemies was maintained. Speaking of which, I think it's worthwhile to mention that most of the mechanics associated with covertness have been molded, or "upgraded" if you prefer, in order for it to fit in with the more stealth-like tone of the DLC, which means that everything Kidman has at her disposal is to help her avoid confrontation, since she isn't as tough as sebastian physically. As such, Kidman's main weapon, unlike Sebastian, is only a flashlight that she uses to keep a look out for her enemies, solve puzzles, etc. Also, the environment and level design in general, despite the absence of deadly traps and such contraptions(there was only a few If I remember correctly), serves to help the player to better manipulate his/her enemies. I wonder if such mechanics will later be incorporated into the main game if any sequels and such were to be released.

And much like everything else, boss battles had a distinct approach as well. I wouldn't call them real boss battles, but as far as immersing the player goes, the game did a find job of getting you invested in what was going on. This is because most of confrontations were basically tests to force the player to utilize everything they had learned beforehand, which included sneaking around, luring your enemies, moving quietly about the environment, and quickly vanishing when spotted. And, on that point, what I find pretty interesting is that this stealthy approach managed to intensify the game even further. I mean, the main campaign was taxing before, but in the Assignment, your options of survival are severely limited and completely depended upon your patience and planning, which, in my personal opinion, makes the experience all the more unnerving.

Now on to the best thing about this expansion. The Evil Within, no matter how much I liked it for it's creative designs, was pretty much ambiguous in terms of storytelling. It's true that I attributed this as a strength, but now that I've played the assignment, I'm a bit pissed off that hey'd hold this off as a DLC. Look I'm not gonna change my stance on the fact that I enjoyed the mystery in the Evil Within, and it's potential for sequels, but seriously, if they had distributed Kidman's parts( we'll still have to see how the second part of the DLC fairs) throughout the original campaign, the story would have been absolutely fantastic, considering that the Assignment already filled in some much needed gaps about what had happened in The Evil Within. Furthermore, I enjoyed Jennifer Carpenters performance( voice of Juli), more so than that of Anson Mount( Voice of Sebastian). Don't get me wrong, I liked how ridiculously cheesy Sebastian was, but Juli actually felt more interesting to me, which is probably a result of the fact that the game gives her a greater exposition and actually tries to develop her as a character. I think Sebastian's diary should have been audio recordings since it would have given Anson Mount a better chance to present his character, but since we had to read all of them, we really couldn't get behind his character. To us, he was just a typical badass detective who didn't really say much. Juli's characterization, while not stellar, is pretty good IMO, since most of her background is presented throughout her own audio interviews. Plus, the game itself takes us to a few places familiar to Juli, which would have, or could have helped improve Sebastian as a protagonist, but oh well.

And last but not least, I'm happy with some of the creative designs. Some familiar faces make a comeback, but I'm glad that Juli is given her own antagonist and set of few new characters. I was worried for a while that the same monsters would have been recycled, which wouldn't have been bad, since, as I mentioned above, the approach to how you deal with your foes is different from the previous iteration. Regardless, I'm glad that we get some more creative and interesting designs.

All in all, I'd say the Assignment is definitely worth it's price. It's a great game that not only expands and sheds more the Evil Within universe, but also manages to craft a unique experience without alienating some of the people who enjoyed the previous style by maintaining familiar gameplay elements and atmosphere.

Score : 9.5/10

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Halo: Fall Of Reach - A Review By TheAcidSkull

Halo: Fall of Reach

I need a weapon!

I'll be honest here, when I'm reading, after I get past a few chapters, I seriously need to mentally recharge. It's not that I can't keep going, but I really like to savor the content I consider good, which is something I can't do when I get tired. That said, there are moments when I'm so drawn into something that I stop really noticing what is going around me, which, is pretty rare since I usually keep track of everything due to a busy schedule. Reading Halo: Fall of Reach was one of the few cases where I got past 7-8 chapters without realizing that I had been reading for quite some time. I think the rough estimate of time was about 2 AM by the time I was done (I started reading late.)

It's also worth noting that in my personal opinion, spin-offs that take a step outside of the selected medium, like when video games are based on movies, or when books/comics are based on video games, the final product, most often than not, turns out to be mediocre or turns out to be a bit out of place. That's not an accurate assumption, obviously, but I'm sure many know what I'm talking about. Luckily, this is not the case, in fact, it's in a certain way, quite the opposite.

When one looks at the vast universe Halo encompasses, it's hard to fathom how we reached this point. Well, I'm quite certain that the instigator for the creation for such a vast world was Eric Nylund, and since we're on the topic of lore, I think it's a good way to start exploring why is Halo: Fall of Reach awesome.

Back in Halo Combat Evolved, you had all the necessary details you needed to know to play the game, and as many of you are familiar, CE blew everyones minds. But with the created universe, there were some details we still required, which weren't exactly provided in the single player campaign. Fall of Reach provides the much needed background on who the Spartan IIss are, and for what purpose were the originally created. What will probably strike most fans right away is the vivid and world building descriptions Nylund provides. From the super power MAC guns to the covenant destroyer ships, everything is described in such vivid detail that I could almost make an argument that if anyone hadn't played the game, they'd still have a pretty good idea on what the world looks like. Sadly, I've not only played Halo games, but I've spend hundreds of hours exploring the maps in the multiplayer, as well as played through the campaign more than once, so I was quite aware of what the areas looked like.

So having my experience with Halo in mind, I'm about to say something even I didn't anticipate. The covenant are seriously menacing. I know that sounds were, and any Halo fan would think to themselves "Well OF COURSE they are menacing, they are an intergalactic group of alien species who nearly brought the human race to extinction."

However, be honest, which brings about more tension, experiencing something first hand in first person perspective, or listening to someone describe the whole scene through words. While this is subjective, in the end, most people would probably chose the former, since video games make it so much more personal. Having said that, I was baffled at how well Nylund captured the presence of these alien creatures. The introduction of the hunters is particularly vivid in my mind. Hell,I can still remember biting my lip from the tension and excitement I felt as I was putting certain clues together, and this is coming from someone who frequently watches horror movies.

Moreover, what solidified the books experience, or better yet, what made the book truly stand out in my personal opinion was the brilliant characterization. I think most casual games are familiar with John-117, better known as Master Chief. What they don't know, that when it comes to the games, Chief has a very basic character. Though that's not to say it's a bad thing, since the developers, Bungie, found a good way to maintain the main protagonists personally while allowing the player to integrate themselves into the game by cutting back on Johns characterization, but when it comes to video games, it's best to showcases a fully developed protagonist, even if in the end, Master Chiefs badass attitude worked out for the best. Anyways, Eric Nylund paints a very interesting picture of the main hero without eliminating his cool reputation, but most importantly, Nylund creates layers by which we can define 117. John is determined, brave, tough, absolutely adores to win, and cares deeply for him fellow men; however, due to the indoctrination had had gone through due to the SPARTAN II program, he does not have a good grasp on reality, and is restricted within the codex all soldiers are ordered to follow. I won't spoil how all of these qualities are developed, but I will say how I wish I had read this book earlier, since it would make me appreciate the major developments 343 tried to execute In Halo 4's campaign.

Furthermore, when I said that the character portrayal was "good", I wasn't only referring to John 117, in fact, throughout the course of the book we get to see the progression of the plot through multiple perspectives, minor and major characters included, who all play into the big picture at one point or another. Speaking of which, the general story, or better yet synopsis is pretty easy to follow, but the journey itself is intricate, interesting and very well developed. There are multiple twists and turns, as well as some breathtaking moments.

And on that note, what would a Halo book be without great and detailed action sequences? It's pretty fun to blow through and mow down alien hordes in video games, but books require a more subtle angle, which, I'm happy to say, is provided with flying colors. In it's very diverse too, I might add. Space Battles, close quarter combat, mowing down cannon fodder, you name it, it's all here. Personally, my favorite fights still consisted of the ones that took place on solid ground, but that's all due to preference and it in no way undermines the rest of the great spectacles.

In conclusion, Fall of Reach is a bestseller for reason, and that reason is that it's a sci-fi epic brought to life. It has descriptive and detailed locations which draw you into the Halo universe, great characterization which explores and creates multiple layers for established Halo characters, epic battles, and tons of lore. Literally anyone who is even remotely interested can pick this book up. If you have never played a Halo game before, you will not get lost for a second, in fact, this is where it all started, so you have nothing to worry about.

Recommendation: Yes!

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Birdman - A Review By TheAcidSkull

"Unexpected virtue of ignorance"? Cool name, but Birdman sounds cooler.

2014 hasn't been particularly great for comics and video games, unfortunately. In fact, in some cases one could argue that this year was, for the most part, hugely disappointing. However, in terms of movies, this has been a pretty interesting and strong year, with great movies like Interstellar, Battle of the five armies, Nightcrawler, Fury, Foxcatcher(still need to watch that), Guardians of the galaxy, The Winter Soldier, and so on. Suffice to say, standing out amongst these films would be, and definitely is a very difficult task. Nevertheless, Birdman, in my persona opinion managed to outshine every single one of these movies.

First of all, even at first glance, you can see that Birdman wreaks of talent. I'm sure that, going into this movie, everyone knew that the acting would probably be top notch, and if you are among the people who thought so, let me tell you that you were absolutely right. The actors did a fantastic job of showing us what happens behind the scenes when people are trying to organize a play( could apply to a movie as well), and despite the over-the-top personalities of some of these characters, they still feel very real and interesting. I have a hard time formulating the idea I have going through my mind, mostly because I don't know whether what I'm about to say makes sense or not. There are a handful of spectacular characters here, all who are portrayed and played brilliantly, but I can't really pick a specific person that stood out amongst the others. Emma Stone was absolutely great in portraying a damaged teenager, Edward Norton was awesome in how he showcased an arrogant and crazy actor looking for fame, and Keaton's portrayal of a man who has a crippling fear of losing relevance in the current day world was amazing. All of these protagonists have their own distinct backgrounds and characteristics, yet I have a hard time saying who really stole the show for me, which, to be honest, is a testament to how well these actors played their parts. Does it make sense to say that they all stole the show? No? To bad, because that's how I feel after watching this movie.

Second of all, the cinematography is so unique it's ridiculous. Have other movies done something like this before? I don't really know, but probably yes. That said, it doesn't change the fact that the way this movie was filmed enhanced the experience tenfold. The whole movie is like one extended shot, I kid you not. Is it actually a single shot? Obviously, not. In fact, you can probably pick the transitions out if you tried, but like I said, the movie, for the most part, feels like one extended shot, which helps the film immerses the viewer into it's universe. I realize that I'm not vividly conveying the feeling and the importance of such a feat, but I'd say that it's simply one of thous things that one must see for oneself.

Bearing in mind everything that I just said, this movie isn't just for entertainment, even if the ride brings us immense joy, considering that Birdman tackles a lot of interesting concepts, such as the the clash between superhero blockbusters and more artistic and serious movies. See, participating in a superhero movie does not make you a great actor, nor does it make you a bad one either, but, according to Birdman, it's an easy way to sell out and gain recognition as an alternative to gain fame through artistic portrayals, which is the primary conflict the main protagonist is going through. Can one focus on being an artist or can will he eventually sell out? It's a controversial topic, especially given the fact that superhero movies are extremely popular in Hollywood currently. Nevertheless, it's something definitely worth thinking about.

Moreover,there was a heavy emphasis on the so called "critics" who tear movies apart for no good reason. Criticizing the critics, huh? ha! That's some sweet irony right there. Anyways, these particular theme did have an interesting effect on me. I try hard to simply discuss the things I'm exposed to, simply because I don't really enjoy immense negativity, especially when I know that a lot of work went into something, however, sometimes we, or better yet I, inadvertently delve into the more critical and negative side of my reviews, instead of just focusing on what is good. Yes, these are all opinions, but Birdman makes it clear that sometimes these opinions have horrible and disgusting effects.

Is negative and hateful commentary sometimes needed? Yes, absolutely, but this film will definitely make you think twice before saying something bad, and for that, I salute it.

In conclusion, I really don't know what more to add. Birdman is most probably my favorite movie of 2014. When a movie is overhyped like this you tend to be a bit more....skeptical. Don't get me wrong, I expected it to be good, but I never anticipated it to be so unique and great. Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that Birdman has a great balance of comedy/drama, immerses the audience to the point where one feels as if one is IN the movie itself, and discusses a lot of interesting concepts involving artistic expression and the current state of movie-making. So yeah, make of that what you will.

Recommendation: Definitely check it out!

11 Comments

Dragone Age Inquisition - A Review By TheAcidSkull

For anyone that's about to read this review, you should know that this is my second attempt to give an RPG genuine shot, (Lets just say that my first try didn't go all to well, since in the end I didn't end up enjoying the game that much) So, take what I say with a bit of grain if salt, because It's entirely possible that I may not be able to understand this Genre all too well, at least not yet. With that out of the way, as someone who doesn't play that many RPGs, I have to say that Dragon Age Inquisition was definitely an interesting and cool experience.

Dat Beard!

First of all, lets talk about the customization. You get to pick four different races: Qunari, Elves, humans, and dwarves, all of whom you can mold to your liking. For the most pat everything is pretty great, though the facial hair animations are a bit...weird, to say the least. In fact, it's safe to say that they look pretty fake (Yeah, duh, i know it's a game, but just google it or something, you'll know what I mean. I honestly feels like the characters are wearing fake beards). Nevertheless, you are free to chose and mold these characters in any way you like, which is a nice change from something as bland as destiny. Once that's done, you get to pick 3 traditional classes: Warrior, Mage, Rogue, all of which have their own unique set of abilities, but it's honestly not as straightforward as that, obviously. Each class has different subclasses, and what abilities are chosen are completely up to the player. Point being, my warrior character may be completely different than yours, because I for one, focused on the offensive side of my abilities, whereas someone else chose a more strategic and defensive approach.

Moreover, One of the biggest obstacles for me was to get use to the gameplay. That's not to say that it's bad in any way, but considering the fact that I play a lot of platformer/Hack'n'Slash games, so I'm not all that use to the strategic , more methodical style of gameplay. Dragon Age Inquisition may be considered a bit slow from the beginning, because at first it's a bit difficult to get the hang of how to use all 4 characters in your party, but once it clicks with you, DA:I becomes one hell of an experience. What I noticed is that it's important to chose your party that fits your style of gameplay. You can, for one thing , chose characters who are of the same class for one specific battle, and while that may limit your exploration capabilities, it may completely fit with your style of gameplay. And that brings me to my next point, you come across many different characters with various gimmicks and abilities, so, if you are specifically preparing for a battle, you may be forced to chose characters that are fit for this particular fight.

What the hell is even happening...

And that's kind of what I loved about Dragone age Inquisition. The Universe is so large and diverse that sometimes you may come across something, which you are not fit to fight. This may be a controversial trait, since some many not enjoy restarting their missions, but to me, this type of uncertainty is what makes a specific universe more real and interactive. You know how people have been saying that the time-stopping strategy mode is just an added plus and it may not be used at all? Well, to some degree that is true. I mean, you CAN beat the game without using the feature, but at times like this, when you are pitted against an enemy that is far beyond your abilities, you are forced to plan out your movements carefully in order to win. Not only that, but such uncertainty forces you to conserve your potions and to tread carefully, otherwise you might encounter a giant or a dragon and be smashed to paste.

Speaking of the this amazing world, the graphics are absolutely amazing. Sure, there are some texture pop-ins and such problems, but for a large and colorful universe such as this, it's to be expected. The environments you visit are and feel different from one another. Each area has it' own interesting side quests, landmarks, people, monsters, hidden loot and so on. I've been playing the game for I don't know how long and I still feel as if i've only scratched the surface. Despite completing the story there is much to be done.

Also, I can't really recall the last time I enjoyed grinding for material so much. See, since the multiple areas are abundant with lore( there are seriously extremely long books filled with mysteries, myths, legends, stories, and basically everything that may give you insight of the world in which you reside) side quests, and beasts, it's actually fun to run around and explore the universe to collect different material. The interactive and vast world encourages you to go through every single damn catacomb you come across, because one of them might hold something very useful and rewarding. I can verify that there is nothing more fulfilling than crafting your own powerful weapons. In fact, half of the stuff I have in my inventory are things I crafted on my own. And if you couldn't find the schematics for these weapons, which I sincerely doubt, you can collect runes, artifacts or different material to boost and upgrade weapons and amour you already have.

Well sh*t....

See, your efforts here are rewarded at every turn, considering that the more you work and the more time you invest in this game, the more powerful you become. However, that's never taken to the extreme. What I mean is that you still have to be smart and careful, otherwise there is a good chance that you'll get your ass-handed to you.

On the other hand, Dragone Age's main story was kind of a disappointment. The plot is simple, and while this may not exactly be a bad thing, it doesn't get enough focus. Yes, it's true that you do a lot of things to make the inquisition stronger, but the main objective is pretty damn lame. The main villains is nothing more than a mustache twirling villain. Seriously, the guy only appears a few times throughout the games, boasts about how invincible and "god-like" he is, and then tells you to give up, because you know, you can't beat him.

If the main threat had been more interesting the simplistic story would have been much more enjoyable and interesting.

On the other hand, the journey of getting to your main objective is absolutely fantastic. Sure, story-wise nothing amazing happens, however there are very decisive and fascinating moments where you're forced to use your wit instead of your muscle-memory to actually "win" a battle. It's times like these where I said to myself "wow, this game is fantastic!"

Wanna ride the bull? No? Wise choice. No seriously....

Furthermore, the characters are the crown-jewel of the the entire campaign. Every single ally you come across is different and interesting,which helps the player decide with whom he wants to interact and spend time with. I personally found some characters to be funny and cool, while thinking that others were annoying and arrogant, and that's great! Because someone else me feel the opposite way about the very same cast of people. You can literally forget about the story for a while and spend a good long while building relationships with these characters, and these developments are reflected in the game itself, either during serious cutscenes or just simple quests.

The voice acting is top notch, and while the performance and dialogue may be extremely cheesy, it's still amazing and full of heart.

Although it's worth noting that during my time with the game I did encounter some bugs. Nothing that would hinder the overall experience, but I found a few texture pop-ins and moment where the game skipped a cutscene or two. Also, in the final level the game completely crashed for a moment. it wasn't a big deal since it didn't really hinder my progression(I started the game exactly where it had crashed), but regardless, it's something worth considering if you ever decided to pick this up.

In conclusion, Dragone Age Inquisition has some definite problems, such as a lame main villain, cliche story and some bugs, but despite all these hindrances, it was a very vast and fascinating experience, filled with beautiful environments, great characters, great gameplay, powerful monsters, and deep lore.

Score: 8/10

32 Comments

Dragone Age Inquisition - A Review By TheAcidSkull

For anyone that's about to read this review, you should know that this is my second attempt to give an RPG genuine shot, (Lets just say that my first try didn't go all to well, since in the end I didn't end up enjoying the game that much) So, take what I say with a bit of grain if salt, because It's entirely possible that I may not be able to understand this Genre all too well, at least not yet. With that out of the way, as someone who doesn't play that many RPGs, I have to say that Dragon Age Inquisition was definitely an interesting and cool experience.

Dat Beard!

First of all, lets talk about the customization. You get to pick four different races: Qunari, Elves, humans, and dwarves, all of whom you can mold to your liking. For the most pat everything is pretty great, though the facial hair animations are a bit...weird, to say the least. In fact, it's safe to say that they look pretty fake (Yeah, duh, i know it's a game, but just google it or something, you'll know what I mean. I honestly feels like the characters are wearing fake beards). Nevertheless, you are free to chose and mold these characters in any way you like, which is a nice change from something as bland as destiny. Once that's done, you get to pick 3 traditional classes: Warrior, Mage, Rogue, all of which have their own unique set of abilities, but it's honestly not as straightforward as that, obviously. Each class has different subclasses, and what abilities are chosen are completely up to the player. Point being, my warrior character may be completely different than yours, because I for one, focused on the offensive side of my abilities, whereas someone else chose a more strategic and defensive approach.

Moreover, One of the biggest obstacles for me was to get use to the gameplay. That's not to say that it's bad in any way, but considering the fact that I play a lot of platformer/Hack'n'Slash games, so I'm not all that use to the strategic , more methodical style of gameplay. Dragon Age Inquisition may be considered a bit slow from the beginning, because at first it's a bit difficult to get the hang of how to use all 4 characters in your party, but once it clicks with you, DA:I becomes one hell of an experience. What I noticed is that it's important to chose your party that fits your style of gameplay. You can, for one thing , chose characters who are of the same class for one specific battle, and while that may limit your exploration capabilities, it may completely fit with your style of gameplay. And that brings me to my next point, you come across many different characters with various gimmicks and abilities, so, if you are specifically preparing for a battle, you may be forced to chose characters that are fit for this particular fight.

What the hell is even happening...

And that's kind of what I loved about Dragone age Inquisition. The Universe is so large and diverse that sometimes you may come across something, which you are not fit to fight. This may be a controversial trait, since some many not enjoy restarting their missions, but to me, this type of uncertainty is what makes a specific universe more real and interactive. You know how people have been saying that the time-stopping strategy mode is just an added plus and it may not be used at all? Well, to some degree that is true. I mean, you CAN beat the game without using the feature, but at times like this, when you are pitted against an enemy that is far beyond your abilities, you are forced to plan out your movements carefully in order to win. Not only that, but such uncertainty forces you to conserve your potions and to tread carefully, otherwise you might encounter a giant or a dragon and be smashed to paste.

Speaking of the this amazing world, the graphics are absolutely amazing. Sure, there are some texture pop-ins and such problems, but for a large and colorful universe such as this, it's to be expected. The environments you visit are and feel different from one another. Each area has it' own interesting side quests, landmarks, people, monsters, hidden loot and so on. I've been playing the game for I don't know how long and I still feel as if i've only scratched the surface. Despite completing the story there is much to be done.

Also, I can't really recall the last time I enjoyed grinding for material so much. See, since the multiple areas are abundant with lore( there are seriously extremely long books filled with mysteries, myths, legends, stories, and basically everything that may give you insight of the world in which you reside) side quests, and beasts, it's actually fun to run around and explore the universe to collect different material. The interactive and vast world encourages you to go through every single damn catacomb you come across, because one of them might hold something very useful and rewarding. I can verify that there is nothing more fulfilling than crafting your own powerful weapons. In fact, half of the stuff I have in my inventory are things I crafted on my own. And if you couldn't find the schematics for these weapons, which I sincerely doubt, you can collect runes, artifacts or different material to boost and upgrade weapons and amour you already have.

Well sh*t....

See, your efforts here are rewarded at every turn, considering that the more you work and the more time you invest in this game, the more powerful you become. However, that's never taken to the extreme. What I mean is that you still have to be smart and careful, otherwise there is a good chance that you'll get your ass-handed to you.

On the other hand, Dragone Age's main story was kind of a disappointment. The plot is simple, and while this may not exactly be a bad thing, it doesn't get enough focus. Yes, it's true that you do a lot of things to make the inquisition stronger, but the main objective is pretty damn lame. The main villains is nothing more than a mustache twirling villain. Seriously, the guy only appears a few times throughout the games, boasts about how invincible and "god-like" he is, and then tells you to give up, because you know, you can't beat him.

If the main threat had been more interesting the simplistic story would have been much more enjoyable and interesting.

On the other hand, the journey of getting to your main objective is absolutely fantastic. Sure, story-wise nothing amazing happens, however there are very decisive and fascinating moments where you're forced to use your wit instead of your muscle-memory to actually "win" a battle. It's times like these where I said to myself "wow, this game is fantastic!"

Wanna ride the bull? No? Wise choice. No seriously....

Furthermore, the characters are the crown-jewel of the the entire campaign. Every single ally you come across is different and interesting,which helps the player decide with whom he wants to interact and spend time with. I personally found some characters to be funny and cool, while thinking that others were annoying and arrogant, and that's great! Because someone else me feel the opposite way about the very same cast of people. You can literally forget about the story for a while and spend a good long while building relationships with these characters, and these developments are reflected in the game itself, either during serious cutscenes or just simple quests.

The voice acting is top notch, and while the performance and dialogue may be extremely cheesy, it's still amazing and full of heart.

Although it's worth noting that during my time with the game I did encounter some bugs. Nothing that would hinder the overall experience, but I found a few texture pop-ins and moment where the game skipped a cutscene or two. Also, in the final level the game completely crashed for a moment. it wasn't a big deal since it didn't really hinder my progression(I started the game exactly where it had crashed), but regardless, it's something worth considering if you ever decided to pick this up.

In conclusion, Dragone Age Inquisition has some definite problems, such as a lame main villain, cliche story and some bugs, but despite all these hindrances, it was a very vast and fascinating experience, filled with beautiful environments, great characters, great gameplay, powerful monsters, and deep lore.

Score: 8/10

1 Comments

Fury - A Review By TheAcidSkull

So, this movie happened...

I'm not sure I can even call this a review, since I plan on focusing on one particular aspect/element of this movie for the majority. It's hard to put into words what this movie invoked in my. Now, bear in mind that I generally try to avoid sayings like "It captures the horror of war so well!" and crap like that, not because it's "bad" or anything, but mostly because I have no business talking down to anyone on what war is like. That being said, there were many admirable themes integrated in Fury, some of which resonated with me on a very emotional level.

Like I said, this isn't going to be a typical movie review, because discussing the acting, the plot, and the effects feel like secondary aspects, at least in this particular case. Still, I still need to make a mention of it, so lets quickly mention what I thought of Fury primarily as a film. If you were decided to watch this flick, know that it doesn't really have an overcomplicated plot, in fact, it's so incredibly simple that it can be boiled down to "Soldiers fighting Nazi's in World War II."

However, is that bad? No, it's absolutely not. The focus here isn't about the objective, it's about the journey. Fury paints a picture of War, and it tries to show us that it's not just ugly, it's downright horrible. And since I've already introduced the concept of a painting, I'll ramble in more metaphoric terms, because why not? I'm feeling sappy/emotional. So if film itself is supposed to express something, the actors are the instruments. I'm serious. They make the movie, and without them, 90% of the suspense and emotional conflict would be completely lost.

The impression most people would have of these characters is that they are completely assh*les, and I'm not even exaggerating. Now whether how they act is a coping mechanism or regular trait is left to the viewer, but regardless of what it is exactly, it's very emotionally powerful stuff. I was fuming for a good portion of the movie - cussing, grinding my teeth, clenching my fist, and so on. These characters quite frankly pissed me off. This happens a lot of times, but the difference is that most of the time, this anger is directed at villains, which is normal because the antagonists should invoke a certain degree of disgust, but when this fury(no pun intended) is directed as the "heroes", it becomes a bit hard to really be on board with them.

That being said, at a certain point, I realized that I was starting to really like these guys. I mean, they were still pr*cks, but they all shared something I admire, which is Brotherly love. Say what you will, but this sort of friendship and dedication to one another really gets to me somehow. With this in mind, all the harsh things that are done become more similar to toughening up someone you love in order to ensure their safety rather than an attempt to bully someone weaker than you.

In the 3rd act, when the main protagonists are pitted against impossible odds, you can't help feel that the reason they become absolutely beasts is because of their compassion and dedication towards one another. This, I guess, resonated with me because many Georgian tales, both fictional or arguably real, portray characters who win only by sticking together.

Furthermore, Fury reminded me of all quite on the western front, written Erich Maria Remarque, which, even after 3 years, is still among my favorite books of all time. In fact, there were certain scenes that were reminiscent of some of the moments from the novel. Yes, Fury is way more extreme than that of Erich's portrayal, however, the sense of camaraderie is very strong and powerful in both the book and the movie. In fact, the emotional bane was so strong that it had me completely immersed. (And yes, that's a big deal, since more often than not, I multitask.)

If there is one problem I have to pick out, it would probably be that Norman's(the private who the rest of the team treated like sh*t) transition from soft to tough seemed a bit to quick for me, but considering all the things the movie gets right, it's not really that big of a problem.

In conclusion, Fury wasn't on my "must watch" list, and when I saw the trailer I really had no opinion of it; nevertheless, today, for some odd reason, I decided to give it a shot, and I have to say that I'm glad I did. This movie may not be for everyone, but it certainly was for me.

Recommendation: Yes!

42 Comments

Halo 5: Guardians BETA Impressions

Aww Yis!

As soon as I heard that the BETA release was coming up, I went through the entire Halo saga (Excluding only ODST and Reach) in order to prep myself for this moment. I wanted to accurately recall the old style of Halo gameplay to more accurately review and asses the BETA version. So without further yammering, lets get to it.

Right of the bat, the first thing I've noticed is that 343 has taken into account what the fans have been telling them, but they still try to make the gameplay fresh with some interesting tweaks. If you ask me, 343 is trying to find the perfect balance to the fairness the old halo games provided, while simultaneously appealing to the modern, fast paced shooter fans. However, before I proceed, I'd like to mention a few things. The previous Halo games, if you are unaware, were much more methodical and fair in comparison to Reach and Halo 4 (that's not to say that Halo 4 or Reach were bad games, because I absolutely love both). But around Halo 3, we were already departing to the more fast-paced style of gameplay, but that was all well and good, since you never really felt that someone had some sort of advantage over you. However, what really kind of put the gameplay evolution on a hiatus was the elimination of this "fairness" and balance. Personally, I feel like the addition of loudouts and armor perks is what essentially alienated the fans, because some, as I just said, may have felt that other players gained unfair advantages. Now that's not to say that these perks were bad, but they were huge departures from made Halo...well, Halo. I don't want to make it sound as if these changes broke the game, but they were just sudden and big changes.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand. After playing the BETA for hours, I personally feel that 343 has done a wonderful job. They have found what looks to be the perfect way to appeal to both halo fans and newcomers. Everyone, from start to finish, is on equal grounds, and who wins and loses is dependent on how you play the game, and there is no perk or ability that allows you to one-up other players. The loudouts and armor abilities have been completely removed (well..kind of, but I'll get to that in a bit). From start to finish, all the players have the similar abilities and weaponry. Not to worry though, you can, of course, find and discover new weapons as you explore the map, but essentially, whether you kill someone or not depends on well you can play, and not what weapon you have. I wanted to make extra sure that there weren't many cheap shots, so I watched a few other people play the game (in live, I mean). My friend, who's a huge Halo fan and a great FPS player, came over to day and played several matches. Suffice to say, He basically demolished every other player on the majority of the matches. During my time with the BETA I did pretty okay, and every time I died, it was my own fault. If I made a fluke, I paid for it. Same goes for my cousin, who did slightly better than I did. (Yeah yeah, I know, but I'm out of practice, okay?)

So suffice to say, the gameplay is pretty damn balanced and fair, no arguments there. Now on to the more interesting parts..

343 has added a plethora of new tweaks that changes how you approach the gameplay, but the beauty of is that these abilities are neither unique or overpowered:

NEW ABILITIES:

  • Sprint/Shield Regeneration- Yes, ladies and gentlemen, 343 has decided to keep the sprit as a common ability. However, they found a good way to counter-balance this ability in order to force players into using their wit. In halo 4, despite the fun and good gameplay, what really bothered me was the fact that I had the option to really weasel out of trouble. If I realized in time that I had that someone was owning me in a confrontation, I had the option to run off. You cannot imagine how many times this saved me. This is pretty common in shooters, but it's now something Halo should have IMO, since it gives you the choice to run off,instead of out-skilling your opponent. So this time around, you can't really do that since your amour doesn't regenerate during the time you sprint. So, at best, you can quickly take cover to catch your breath and think of some way to fight back, but try to run of and you'll be exposed and defenseless against pretty much everyone else in the game. I would know, I tried running, and I died...a lot.

  • Zoom/Iron-Sights(?) - Hey, wow wow cowboy! Chill! Let me finish first! This isn't what you think, honest. Sure, it may look like Halo has incorporated Iron sights, but it really hasn't. Sure, visually it looks that way, but the mechanic is pretty damn similar to what it use to be. You zoom in, and you lose your sight just as soon as you are shot, much like every other Halo game, so it's basically a re-skin, nothing more. But the way you zoom in has changed, however. Instead of using the lower/ right analog stick(or in older games, the analog stick in general), you can only activate zoom through LT button, which, despite being different, is understandable, since both analog sticks have taken up different functions. Speaking of which...
  • Ground Pound - Remember that Titan ability from Destiny? Where you basically can kill 6 people at the same time once you activate this ability? You do? Well, this is totally not like that. The idea is sort of the same, but unlike Destiny, Halo doesn't overpower this ability. In fact, it's very difficult to use. Basically, you can't just press one button and expect everything to explode. For starters, you have to be a certain distance from the ground once you jump of a platform. When in air, you have to press the lower analog stick and try to mark a SPECIFIC guy to attack, and the just let go. I've played the game some time, and I have only been able to use this ability once. Yeah, if that isn't fair man, I don't know what is. it takes extra damn skill to the this right.
  • Slide - Another use for the analog stick is that it allows you to slide. If you are sprinting, all you have to do is bush the left stick and that's about it. Seems like a simple change but it actually allows you more mobility and opportunities to fight off your opponents. Since running is not longer a valid option, you gotta find new ways to attack right?
  • Spartan Charge - Here's interesting tweak that involves sprinting. Have an unexpected foe appear out of nowhere? Not to worry, just press that melee button and charge away! But seriously though, this is kind of a personal favorite, and it kind of fits in well with the fast paced combat. Though I can't wrap my head around this one. There were times where I managed to quickly kill my enemies with this one, and there were times when they didn't die from one hit. The hit makes a big bang so it's hard to tell sometimes I've you've actually hit your enemy or not. Can't say for sure, but it seems just a matter of precision, but I guess we'll see in the final result. In either case, I wouldn't mind if this was a one hit kill, since actually hitting someone with this charge attack is difficult enough, and if you do hit them and they don't die, then basically say goodbye since they will most likely kill you right there on the spot.
  • Dash - Don't confuse this with the super dash you had in Reach where you could cover 5 km in a second, twice. The dash is actually a very useful and LIMITED ability. You can use it once, and when you do, it takes a few second( something you don't have) to recharge. This, yet again, changes how you approach the battlefield. It's fine to keep track of when and how to use this ability. You can use it reach a far away platform, quickly take over, or get out of the line of fire to to gain a momentary advantage. (Plus, it's nice to have another way around getting impaled by a energy swords.)
  • Climbing platforms -Now this is more a personal reflection rather than an analysis, but I am soooooo glad they added this. If there is ONE thing I disliked about halo, it's the fact that every time I made a SMALL mis-step I fell, even if I was VERY close to the platform, which resulted in many unfortunate deaths. And since that's out of the way, lets talk about how this changes the game. For better or worse, this makes you way more attentive whether you like it or not, because instead of two designated entrances, there are multiple ways some jackass may approach you. I actually like this, since it always keeps you alert and on your toes.

Breakout Mode

I'm actually enjoying this mode more than the slayer to be quite honest, not because it's better, but because it's more unforgivable. Breakout is completely oriented around skill, and I think it actually helps the player improve a lot, since it's far more focused and slow. That's not to say that the Slayer is any less focused on the players ability to play the game, but when you first view the slayer it's easy to misjudge it for being "twitch-shooter" like COD or Destiny, but with slayer it's easier to see how slow things can really get.

For thous who don't know, Breakout is a new mode where 4 players are pitted in arena like maps, where they only get one chance to show how useful they are. Yes, that means that if you die once, you won't be able to respwan until an new match begins. This led to some extremely intense moments. Imagine all of your teammate getting killed off and being left alone against two other players. Did I mention that you don't have a map here? Yeah, that's important too, since you won't be able to see where the attack is coming from.

I personally feel like this will lead to a lot of collaborative matches. I can imagine myself chatting with my friends and giving them tips on where the enemy player is residing or attacking from, since, you'll be able to monitor your team members once you die.

All in all, I'm having a blast with this.

CONCLUSION

What can I say that I haven't said up until this point? Halo 5 seems to be the bridge between Halo fans and thous who enjoy the more fast-paced/modern day shooters, which, if you ask me, is actually a fantastic thing. They kept the elements that made Halo so fair and unique, but didn't forget thous newcomers who have the desire to give Halo a shot. I personally believe that a series should evolve and build new things on the very ground it has established, and after playing the BETA myself, I have to say that it seems as if 343 are making all the right steps.

Can't wait for more Halo 5 news! thanks for reading!

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Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon - A Review by TheAcidSkull

Smart, Charming, Athletic, and deadly! Leslie Vernon is one of the best killers out there!

When I think of films that have managed to surprise me, the slasher horror sub-genre is at the bottom of that list. Not because a slasher movie can't be good, but because, more often than not, it follows a very simple and trite formula. Some dumb teenagers get together, mess around, and then realize that they are being stalked by a ridiculously overpowered killing machine. Now most Slasher films, at least the popular ones, involve a lot of supernatural elements, like the fact that the Killer/Slasher himself never truly dies, so making a mockumentary showing us the killers perspective seems a bit far fetched, but to say that Behind the Mask pulls it off would be an understatement.

When I first came across this movie I really didn't think It would have been anything special. In fact, my first thoughts were to dismiss it entirely, since it wasn't a "friday the 13th" or "Nightmare on elm Street" film, which is a pretty close minded way to approach any new movie, but given the slasher genre's reputation I guess I kind of misjudged it at first glance. Lucky, I sat down and watched it nonetheless, and I cans safely say that it has become one of my favorite horror movies of all time.

The first thing you'll notice that the whole universe in which the film takes place in does include all of the familiar names we know, such as Freddy, Jason, etc, but instead of driving off into the supernatural territory, it stays grounded to reality. For the first time, we get to see the perspective of the killer himself, and the whole scenario of slaughtering a bunch of teenagers gets a lot more depth. Wow that came out wrong...but anyways, you know what I mean. It takes all of the slasher cliches and moments we know and love, turns the angle, and shows us how it's really done.

Usually when we are shown how a Magic Trick is done, it loses it's charm. Lucky, the execution doesn't quite take away the suspense and tension of the film, because we see everything through the eyes of the main protagonist, Taylor Gentry (played by Angela Goethals), a young rookie reporter who wants to learn how serial killers do what they do. Taylor is a down to earth character, and the fact that she's brave yet conflicted kind of mixes well with how you may feel throughout the film. Her acting, combined with the great script allows us to really integrate ourselves into the her situation. But her position on the goal she has set for herself is completely dictated by Leslie Vernon, the subject of the whole "documentary", if you will.

Usually, when you meet a monster or a psychopath, your instincts tell you to run instantly, but with Leslie, that is not the case. He's an intelligent, charming, athletic and driven young man, who knows what he wants to do with his life and pursues his passions no matter what. Having all of these qualities on the table kind of makes you completely forget that you are dealing with a serial killer. This triples the tension, since you know, deep down,no matter how much you like him, that he has the capability and the will to actually kill you.

Nathan Baesel does a tremendous job as Leslie. Honestly, and I'm a horrible person for saying this, he makes being a serial killer look fun. His charm and charisma keeps the movie going and as the viewer, you're not quite sure what to think of him, which pretty much directly connects you with Taylor, considering the fact that she doesn't know what to make of him as well. They have such good chemistry that one could argue that they even some sort of romanic connection. It's absolutely ridiculous, yet somehow realistic. I understand that I may not be making much sense right now, but just watch the movie and you'll understand what I mean.

Moreover, as mentioned before, Behind the Mask doesn't deviate from the slasher Genre, like, at all, which is a pretty great feat, considering the fact that it takes a completely different approach to the situation. Speaking of which, by the third act of the movie, just as you think you've got everything figured out, a revelation hits you, and the only thing you've got left to say is that Leslie is an absolute genius. Did I kind of see it coming? Yeah, but by the time the idea came to me, the movie already made it pretty obvious, which didn't make the reveal any less brilliant to be honest.

In terms of the slasher Genre, this is a rare gem indeed. Usually, the killers outshine the movies they are actually in(looking at you, Jason, Freddie,etc), but with Behind the Mask, the film is just as good as the killer himself. If it weren't for few inconsistencies and underdeveloped characters, which I can't mention without spoiling the flick, I would have given it a perfect score in it's own genre.

In conclusion, Behind the Mask:The Rise of Leslie Vernon is an interesting, fun, charming, well-written, well acted, and tense movie, full of great twists and turns.

Score: 9/10

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