Tomb Raider

Game, Review

In just a few days, I finished the this game. It is the reincarnation of the classic Tomb Raider series from Crystal Dynamics. I was not a PlayStation gamer at the time, but this one I liked. Not mind blowing, but I had my good moments.

This Lara Croft is a more mature and complete character. It was designed to be modern. She will have many more adventures for sure.

The universe of Tomb Raider always have the extraordinary and magical. The story suffer mainly because we cannot anticipate what is possible and what is not. The boundaries are not clear to the player. So when we are about to understand wadda hell is going on, the game shows a whole new layer of problems that probably involves magical items or supernatural stuff. It’s like going in a Orlando’s theme parks: one step you goes from Happy Potter to Spiderman.

The mechanics are a bit of combat, a bit of stealth and a lot of cinematic timed actions. It is decent in all these aspects but not great in neither. The collectibles are easy enough to be a valid pursue. That is why I probably finished it entirely.

At a certain point, I was a bit lost and careless about the main plot and played to reach the end. Nice but not great. Next game!

My Grade: 7

Metacritic: 86

Mad Max

Game, Review

Last year I watched the Mad Max franchise revival in the theaters. And loved it. And it seems that world loved it too. The game was launched later so it was surrounded by expectations. But the developers promptly affirmed that the game is not based on the movie, but in the universe in a broad sense. The protagonist is also Max, but like in the movies, it is a bit different Max from the original movies.

First, the visuals. The movie got a lot of notoriety mostly because its breathtaking visuals. The game… well, I will praise it’s graphics, however they are not as impacting as, just as a disclaimer. The game uses a lot of post processing effects to give a perfect look of a post apocalyptic world. The high speed camera and distortions are also very well employed. In general, the game have a good aesthetic.

It makes a reasonable good use of the franchise. The game have the same desolated atmosphere where the automobiles are essential part of living. However, it also brings a sense that that whole world is in fact empty. It’s good to traverse the map in a turbo’ed engine, but doing it often becomes repetitive and boring. It seems that they created the map but did not have enough ideas to fill it with.

The main plot, like most recent open world games, are paper thin. Max is famous for being a quite guy, the same for most of the people that lives there. The ones that talk are in fact annoyingly talkative, like your sidekick master of the technicians. Nothing against him being playing ugly, but he is annoying and pretensions. He says all the time how good he is. He says all the time a lot of things.

In contrast, what could potentially be the major companion disappears after minutes of the gameplay. I’m talking about the dog. Just like the thematic cousin Fallout, there is a dog that we presume that will follow the protagonist all along. But it is not true here. He is put away and rarely shows up. Sad.

If the main story is ok, the same cannot be said about the side missions. The mission givers are super shallow and their tasks are generally repetitive. No much fun. The collectible items and objectives are divided between the fun and achievable and the boring that you should let it go.

Reducing the threat level is really a nice concept. It reminds me of Shadow of Mordor. Not the same, but similar.

Overall, I had a good time playing it. It was a bit unremarkable, but fun.

My Grade: 7

Metacritic: 73

Batman: Arkham Knight

Game, Review

I loved Batman Arkham Asylum. I liked Batman Arkham City. I did not like this one, Arkham Knight. (I own but I still didn’t play Arkham Origins)

Upon release, Batman: Arkham Knight, was plagued with bugs in its PC appearance. So much that the developer had to pull it off from the shelves to polish it for a bit more time. I was, thankfully, not affected by this incident because I only acquired it much later. That said, I had a lot of issues regarding performance, bugs and crashes. I have faced major crashes during the course of the game. Lame.

 

Visually, the game is more colorful than ever. Definitively it makes use of more modern technology (I believe it uses the latest Unreal Engine). While it seems more realistic, I felt less pleasing. Gotham is too flashy, too busy. There are visual pollution all over the city. Back in the Asylum, the visual was more cartoony but it was consistent. The visual effects and explosions, however, are more impressive than before. I liked it.

Another strange thing that I noticed it that almost all character 3D models changed dramatically. Bruce Wayne, Batman, Harley Quinn, Penguin.. everybody had a substantial visual transformation, like when studios reboot a movie franchise. I felt a little annoyed that my character from previous games simply changed.

Gameplay wise, the Batman Arkham series was migrating from a stealth game towards a very action driven. I remember in the first installment the tutorials were always very serious about being stealth is the way to play. The super vision goggles was implement and was unlimited just to reinforce the behavior into players. Gas bombs, grappling from above or bellow, use of remote gadgets were all crucial for this play style. More than a play style, it was proposed gameplay.

It was all lost with City and mostly Knight. There are so many enemies spread across the map that it is simply not practical anymore to solve problems using stealth. It would take ages to complete the game. Instead, most of the time you will to a frontal assault, eventually using hit-and-run tactical. For me, the open world feature, while amazing at the first glance, was detrimental to the series. It was better when it was confined in compartments. It was about solving puzzles, not brute force your way.

The main attraction of the game is the use of the Batmobile. Unlike the Arkham City, the game encourages the player to traverse the city using the car. I was positively impressed who responsive and fun was to use it. It’s dual mode, car and tank, makes the gameplay very fluid. However the developers force the use of it by inserting several plots into the story that requires it. After a while, it gets repetitive.

The side missions and collectibles are forgettable. The trademark Riddle riddles are more repetitive than ever. After a while I knew that I would not be interested in completing it entirely. I would only go for the main storyline.

Story wide is once again very convoluted. The whole plot is thin and even the twists are not that interesting. So twists are so intense that makes you fell that everything that you did until that moment was kind irrelevant. The same for the villains actions (if he knew that form the start, why he did all this?). Batman is too much powerful to be believable. Even on the brink of the death, the player never fell that he is actually in danger. Joker plots against Batman and Batman plots against the player. The main villains are boring with weird motivations.

Overall, I had a negative experience. I cannot recommend this game, unless you already have played the previous games and really want to give a Batmobile a ride.

My Grade: 4.5

Metacritic: 70

Limbo

Game, Review

One of the modern day indie classic, Limbo was in my shortlist for quite some time. Some days ago I got it and played from begging to end in a single seat. Here are my impressions. (Spoiler, I like it very much)

The first impression here is how minimalist is is. From the black and white presentation, controls, story and UI. It tries to be simple, but not simplistic. And it succeeds. It is a remarkable achievement. It conveys a lot of emotions with very few images and sounds. The general visual also transmit a sense of creepiness. All characters are have a bit disturbing visual. The enemies even worse.

The game is a simple 2d plataformer. They gameplay focus on puzzle solving a a bit timing action. There is no fights. And dying is a constant. The puzzles are clever but not brain burner. You will fell smart by solving, but not to the point that you can claim better IQ than your friends. It gives a sense of satisfaction and self esteem without felling that you cheated. The action is clever, and due the presentation, represents real threats. Every time the famous spider appears, your heart stops.

The story is minimal, but I felt that it had a begging-middle-end. It is a little open and vague. People say that the “sequel” (not exactly a sequel, but it follows the same vibe, and it is from the same company) is even more vague and confusing. So it seems to be a personal mark.

It took me just a few hours to go thru it entirely. I enjoyed it all the time and I recommend you to play.

My grade: 8

Metacritic: 88

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Game, Review

This 2013 little indie game is pure charm. It tackles a unusual theme for games: father-son and brother-brother relationships. Generally games uses tragically and over dramatic man-woman love and revenge themes, but it is not what is shown here. It is a tale of two brothers trying to save the like of their father, that is just laying sick in bed. No super natural force. No magic. Everything is very mundane.

 

Not only the story is charming. The visuals are also really cute. Even on the depths of the Earth, it still maintains the light color palette and the cute aesthetic. In fact, you can literally sit in a bench and admire the view. It delivers the introspective aspect of the story. Death, family bonds, life… a lot for the kids think about.

The world is not, however, mundane. There are some mystical creatures, monsters and a bit of magic. But the story motion force comes from the inner emotions. The narrative comes from very little dialogues. It is mainly a puzzle adventure game, focusing on the experience of guiding two young kids thru obstacles. It is not very action-driven because most of the puzzles can be solved calmly, without hurries.

The main feature of the game is the ability of controlling both kids at the same time. It uses a very weird control scheme, but it works. It requires some brain rewiring and time to time it fails to be very responsive, but works both thematically and for the sake uniqueness.

The game is very short. I was able to finish it in a single long session. But it left a very fond mark on me.

It is inexpensive very cool adventure. Recommend to play.

My Grade: 7.5

Metacritic: 90

Mad Max: Fury Road

Cinema, Review

Breath taking.

I just watched and it is really good. Both the visuals and the high intense action are breath taking.

I felt that, if a blink, I lose something important. I miss the experience. I plan to, someday, watch again.

Everything Miller did was right. The cast is excellent. The new Max (which I would bet that he is not the same Mel Gibson’s. Maybe the son?) is likable. The secondary characters are likable. Even the super weird archenemy is likable.

The music is again very good but what makes this movie great are, as said before, its visuals and the unstoppable actions scenes.

The scenes, mostly made using practical effects (real live cars, explosions and doubles) are amazing. And Miller transformed it entirely by post processing it fully, like it was shot against the blue/green screen. The desolation from the desert came not form a Earth’s landscape, but from a computer. However it is not a demerit. In fact, due the correct and artistic way it was employed, the virtual scenery an color correction makes the movie a one-of-a-kind.

I totally recommend you to watch.

My Grade: 9.5

Metacritic: 90

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

12 Angry Men

Cinema, Review

I was looking for quite some time for some stories that used a minimal amount of resources, like scenarios or visual effects, and were mainly focused on characters. I was interested on these kind of story mostly because I was planning to write some stories that would allow me to produce them by my own. Therefore an inexpensive production is a requirement. I needed an inspiration. Some real case examples to put into my wall and see that is a possible feat.

Then I stumble, in a short period of time, in 2 articles (a video from WatchMojo and an article from IGN) that listed a series of movies that features the characteristics. Among both articles, a unanimous praise for a very old movie staring Mr Fonda called 12 Angry Men (the Brazilian Portuguese title is 12 Homens e Uma Sentença, something like 12 Men and a Sentence). So I gave it a shot.

And man! Instant classic. Instant love.

The principle here is simple. The 12 jurymen have to decide, unanimously, if the accused boy is guilty or not guilty. But what seemed to be a very easy and straight forward decision reveals to be more intricate. Because the unanimously condition have to be followed, it forces all the characters to level their beliefs and reasons towards one single point. That is what the whole conflict is placed: they all differs in backstory and value different things.

Fonda (which I cannot recall the name. In fact, I think the characters are never presented by name) is the main star of the film, but there is a very distributed character relevance here. I’m not going to say that the twelve characters are equal, but there are at least five that are constantly relevant throughout the whole story. They control the flux of the story. Fonda is the protagonist because the whole conflict and he is the major force towards one line of the thought. And there are a central antagonist, that opposes Fonda all the way. Yet is one of the most distributed stories I can remember.

All happens into a single room. In a rainy night. All the shots take place from different angles from this tiny room. It is definitively a challenge for cinematography, but they done it. It becomes very personal and intimate. There is not much visual demand here because the lighting and the scenario is very mundane.

The performances are convincing and all characters fell that they have their own personality. From the talkative salesman to the awkward accounting.

Classic. Entered in my personal Best movies of All Time list. A must-see.


My Grade: 9

Metacritic: 96

RottenTomatoes: 100%

Her Story

Game, Review

Innovative is probably the most common adjective you will read and hear about this game. The gameplay mechanics are very very simple, but the whole thing is very grounded to the theme.

The game is all about just watching a series of videos. They all are about a woman being interrogated by police officers. Each video is a couple of seconds long of the interrogation sessions. Watching them, one by one, will reveal details about what happened. And that’s it! The player is never asked to actually answer any question. It’s only watching the woman.

Well, to be fair, the game do have an interactive aspect. Each video is cataloged using keywords, but you don’t know which are they. So the player have to search for videos writing in a search box. If there is any videos with that keyword, you can watch it.

Her-Story (2)

Performance of Viva Seifert is amazing. She performs more than one character, but due the excellent performance and clever writing, you will be amazed by the result. On each piece of video, your understanding about the whole case changes. It reminds me of Agatha Christie’s books, because we jump to conclusions several several times.

The game itself is very engaging. However when I was about 50% of the way, I started to get bored. In order to find all videos, I started to guess obscure words. It was not super super clear so it leads to frustrating moments of try and error. At 85% or so, I was clear about the whole case. I had my conclusions. However, I had to use some online help to see all videos. I did not changed my mind about the mystery, but definitively it is not the way to finish a game.

Her-Story (3)

Metacritic: 86

My Grade: 7.5

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Game, Review

Shadow of Mordor is one of that type of game that sucks me in in a way that I cannot stop desiring to play. My last love was The Witcher 3, which I slowed played for more than 125 hours during months. But the scope is so much smaller that TW3 that I was determined to finish the game as soon as possible. It took me about half a week but I did it. SoM is officially over. Credits, like in all modern game or movie, are endless. Satisfaction. Because I am a completionist, I still have it installed to allow me to go back to it and at least finish the 100% mark (I would love to do all the Steam achievements too, but some are too obscure).

The mechanics presented here is nothing new. The main character, Talion, is a Assassin’s Creed wanderer. He climbs castles, towers and hills just like any AC character always do. The advantage here is that the enemies, the orcs, are very stupid and lose track of you almost instantaneously. Each to run away from messy situations. The combat is also very derivative of this new generation of third person action games, just as Assassin’s Creed, Batman and God of War. It is very generous on targeting your enemies. The conter attack time window is very broad.

Shadow of Mordor, therefore, is an easy game once you get the general flow. However, it is very fun.

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One of the main features of this game is the nemesis system (it is how the developer calls it). In the game, orcs have an hierarchical military structure and they interact withing the chain quite often. The challenge rivals, assume the vacant position, are promoted. Killing the high command leaders triggers a series of promotions. Player can also induce rebellions, plot assassinations and other situations that actively shapes a new order. It is really interesting mechanics. You will get furious to see an orc getting more powerful and promoted because he killed you. In their culture, it is a demonstration of mighty.

Another cool concept is that any of these orc leaders have strengths and weaknesses that you can, and should, explore. They can be imune to ranged or melee attacks, forcing you master all the combat techniques. They can also have a critical fear of bees, caragors (a thematic tiger) or traitors infiltrated in their outpost. Exploiting such flaw will make them act erratic and try to run away. It will open a great opportunity window for finishing them off. Every time you need to kill one of them, it is imperative to study these character aspects to plan the strategy.

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Graphically the game is stunning. I could run it in full HD in High preset and several times I had to stop just to take a mental photo of the moment. Nothing to comment further: great.

The story, however, it just ok. There are some problems that annoyed me:

  • It is too fragmented: there are some secondary characters that come and go in matter of two missions. Some are genuinely cool, but vanish from the story too soon.
  • The bosses are mini games: there are basically 3 bosses in the game. Without spoiling the story any further, they are merely a mini game. Almost no interaction. And they are not present throughout the game, so I were never engaged to kill them.
  • The main story is essentially a tutorial: the game have a core mechanics that is supposed to be an infinite loop. The main story presents new combat or gameplay features until almost the last mission! And like any tutorial-mission in games, they are always easy on the player.

There is one aspect of the game story that I liked and I fell worth to mention: the lore of the game. While the game is not about the main events of Lord of the Rings (it happens long before the LotR), it crosses with some cool characters and events that made me feel is was part of the famous story.

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I enjoyed Shadow of Mordor very much. I totally recommend you to play it. I was curious when all major game reviewers were telling very good things about the game (they also were surprised). Due the brazilian current ratio, I had to wait for a better price; and it was worthy!

My grade: 8

Metacritic: 84

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Cinema, Review

The biggest sensation of 2015, Star Wars – Force Awakens was easily the most anticipated movie of the last few years. A lot of expectation was put into it. It was the revival of a beloved franchise, and the first movie under the Disney umbrella. The direction was under the experienced JJ Abrams, famous for the Lost TV show and the Star Trek film reboot. There are no much people in the world that can claim to have worked in these both famous SciFi universes.

It starts from the ashes of the old Galactic Empire; the First Order rises. Kinda lame, because it is essentially the same enemy, with the same military structure. Just a re branding. In fact, if you start to think more deeply, the film tries so much to be a continuation of the universe, that it borrows several elements from other movies. The deja vù sensation is very present throughout the whole time. It is not bad or good by definition, but it makes me think about the artificial nature of the script: it was done to be a commercial success, at all costs.

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I liked very much the new characters, heroes and villains. Most are well defined. Their motivations are clear, and their actions make sense. They are also mostly funny. It believe that Disney notice that the most beloved characters from the original movies were those that have a sense of humor, like Han Solo and Chewbacca, or R2-D2. Now almost all, even in dire straits, have fun of the danger. One noticeable exception is the main villain, Kylo Ren. The internal is so strong that makes the audience believe that he is not actually any powerful as it tries to imply.

My main overall criticism is that the movie is very focused on the characters and the intrinsic relationships among them, forgetting the major conflict (not going to tell about specifics, for the sake of spoiling the fun). All the problems that are not personal-related is solved in a so easy fashion that removed the credibility. The villains are so incompetent the heroes surpass them all the time, with no relevant drawback. At the end, it seems that everything was a minor headache episode.

Nostalgic and fun. Total recommendation. Sorry to say, but it is already a far better experience than Lucas’ second trilogy. Star Wars is stronger than ever.

My grade: 8,5

Metacritic: 81%