Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Borderlands 2 Game Review

Holy hot damn, this game is good! Borderlands 2 is truly a unique gem in the increasingly popular first person RPG genre.  The game’s style and feel reminds me of a mix of Trigun, Unreal Tournament, and a little bit of Bioshock and Fallout 3. Also it’s funny as hell. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a game like this that has such personality to go with the overall fun factor of the game play. Now this is unusual for me because I usually don’t really care for these massive, open world, first person RPGs like Skyrim or Fallout 3. That is part of the reason I avoided this game for awhile. It took some convincing to finally get around to playing this game and boy was I wrong. The game play is very addictive, the story is simple but good and well-done, the characters are some of the best video game characters I have seen in years, and it puts lots of new spins on the usual FPS conventions. It’s definitely not the deepest RPG experience out there but it doesn’t need to be. Now I have not played the first game but you don’t really have to play the first to understand this game, though it was made me very interesting in playing the original Borderlands now. Review time, go now!

STORY: Set on the planet Pandora (not the one with the blue cats) which holds legends of all kinds of vaults that hold mythical amounts of treasure. Treasure hunters known as Vault Hunters come from all over the galaxy come to this planet seeking a legendary vault hidden within the planet. The planet is controlled by the Hyperion Organization which is under control of Handsome Jack (isn’t that the best name ever?) who has been luring hunters to the planet to kill them off to keep them from getting to the vault so he can keep it for himself and so the company can freely mine Eridium from the planet. Today, four Vault Hunters, Salvador, Maya, Axton, and Zer0 have made it to the planet and discover Handsome Jack’s trap and end up left for dead near the planet’s pole. Pandora itself is a land of danger filled with arctic glaciers, deserts, wastelands, steep valleys, mountains, and volcanoes. In those lands they are filled with native creatures, bandits, psycho paths, killer freaks, robots, and other horrors you must face, plus Handsome Jack as a deadly plan for those on the planet who are trying to resist him.  

You also encounter some strong allies in these borderlands. This game has some of the coolest characters I’ve seen in a video game in awhile. There are characters like Scooter who is your typical redneck mechanic that has some questionable love interests, Dr. Zed your go to person for health with a questionable medical license, Marcus the gun seller who is always trying to make a buck, Miss Moxxi the sexy bar owner, Tiny Tina a mentally unstable 13-year old that is an expert with explosives, and Claptrap. Oh, Claptrap. He’s one of the silliest robots ever in a video game. Handsome Jack makes for one of the best villains I’ve seen in a video game who is just constantly harassing you throughout the game. He’s such a condescending asshole but at the same time he’s hilarious. The cast from the first game also become major characters as the story progresses. I am also happy to see that the characters that you play as are not just silent protagonists like you see in most games like this. While they do not talk directly with NPCs, they do talk and make wise ass remarks during combat. I prefer to have a character with personality than one that just stays silent throughout a game even though they are the hero.  

The game’s story length is surprisingly long. It’s taken me about three weeks to complete but I’ve also been working at the side quests which there very many of. While the main missions are generally interesting and keep the story moving along, the side missions are a lot of fun as well. They range from massive treasure hunts, taking on a town filled with bandits, to something as simple as shooting a guy in the face who literally asked for it. While the game is long and has some epic boss fights, including the last boss, it does have a disappointingly short ending like many games these days and kinds sets it up for another game. BUT it’s not like that’s it, there are still plenty of side missions to do and a few open up to you after you complete the main missions so there is plenty to do after the credits roll.

GAMEPLAY:  If you like shooting and looting then you will love this game because you’re going to be doing it A LOT. This game has soooo many guns. I really have no idea how many guns are in it because I seem to be always discovering new ones. Not only do you have the usual classes of guns such as assault rifles, pistols, sniper rifles, SMGs, and rocket launchers, you also have elemental based guns. They have one of five elemental effects such as electricity, acid, fire, slag (a chemical that causes enemies to take more damage), and explosive. They also take the usual shooter cliché of red explosive barrels and adds in barrels that hold these elements to use strategically during gun fights. I have no idea how they have barrels of electricity but they are fun to shoot. In addition to your guns and grenades, you also have various shields which take another convention of modern shooters and makes it deeper. You can find, buy, or make better shields throughout the game and they all recharge at certain rates. Your shields recharge but your health does not. You’ll need to find health items for that which I rather like because I’m tired of the easy-peasy take cover and you’ll heal right up health system most games these days use. You will find money, ammo, guns, shields, and other goodies all over the place in this game and you will constantly be looting containers. It becomes very addictive. Also when you find new guns, shields, ect, a screen appears that shows the item’s stats and makes it easy to compare with the items you currently have. You can carry a lot on you but over time you’ll find yourself have to decide on dropping or keeping various items throughout the game.

In addition to all of your weapons, each class has their own individual special ability. There are four classes: Gunzerker who can duel-wield weapons of any find, Siren (which is the character I am using) that has a psylock power that lets her hold enemies in the air with psychokinetic abilities, the commando who can deploy turrets, and the assassin who can make decoys of himself. As you level up you can develop these characters as you want and they have their own unique abilities to gain. In addition to that, there is the Badass ranking system (yes, that’s what it is called). There are hundreds of challenges to complete throughout this game and each time one is completed you get a badass token which you can use to improve various aspects of your character such as improving weapon accuracy or melee damage. This game constantly rewards you for your actions and improvement.

The characters are customizable in appearance but not nearly as deep as some first person RPGs. You do unlock different color skins and hair styles throughout the game but that’s it so if you’re looking to make a character that looks like you, you’re going to be disappointed. However, I really don’t mind much since these characters do actually have personality to them unlike in other similar type RPGs. However, another department that really could have used the customization is the weapons. While there are many, being able to add on optics or other attachments would have been nice. If you want an assault rifle with an optic, you pretty much just have to be lucky and find one. Also there are vehicles in the game, well, two to be exact. More vehicles would have been cool to see. Also, enemies have a flying vehicle but you never get to use one. I find that disappointing especially in one mission were it looks like you finally fly one but end up having to blow it up instead, though it leads to some funny dialogue afterwards. However, the biggest complaint I would have about this game is respawning enemies. After awhile, enemies will return to an area after you kill them. I understand it’s to help gain exp for leveling up BUT why do the bosses come back? Especially, if it’s a boss directly tied in with the main story. You do get the same about exp but I’ve never seen a game bring bosses back like that. It makes you think what was the point of fighting them? Anyway, it’s not game breaking and if you want to relive a boss fight you can easily do so.

The final thing I’d like to point out is that this is NOT an easy game. If you are not experiences with FPS games then you might want to take it slow with this. The guns fights you get in this game very chaotic, fast paced, and intense. I’ve played many FPS games before I still find parts where I die over and over again. You respawn at check points, though it does cost money and you’re treated to a wise ass remark from the automated voice from the respawn machine. This game is completely co-op though so if you’re having too much trouble, grab a friend in person or online and you can play the game together!

GRAPHICS: One of the things that make Borderlands’ style is the cell shaded graphics. Nearly the entire game is cell shaded and gives it this comic book/graphic novel look to it. It’s really cool and colorful despite the arid landscapes of Pandora. However, this does come with a price. There is a lot of texture pop-in.  It’s at its worst when loading up a game or loading up a new area and you will be seeing a lot of smaller pop-in throughout the game. I did also notice some frame rate slow down here and there but it was rather rare and not game breaking. I have a feeling this is not as much of an issue on the PC versions of the game. The character models look awesome. Some of the most unique character designs I’ve seen in a game in awhile and excellent personalities to go with them.

SOUND: The sounds of gunfire and explosions will fill your speakers and you play through this game but what really steals the show is the voice acting and dialogue. This is one of those games where you’ll want to go around and talk to everyone just to hear the crazy crap they are going to say. This is bolstered by excellent voice acting which oddly enough has a lot of anime voice actors in it. From the main characters to the crazy psycho babble of the bandits, the voice acting in this game is lots of fun. The music is sadly less memorable. While it is definitely fitting with the sci-fi western setting, it’s just nothing I really care to listen to without the game. It reminds me a lot of the background music for Trigun. Fitting but nothing without its source.  

Overall, I recommend Borderlands 2 as one of the must play games of 2012. This game is so much fun and entertaining to play through. Considering that there are four different classes, it adds even more replay value to the game in addition to the already plentiful amount of side missions. There are already plenty of DLC missions for it as well. I know I’m going to get a lot of hate for this but I think this is the way an FPS/RPG should be done and I strongly prefer it over games like Fallout 3. I recommend this game for anyone who loves FPS games but is tired of Call of Duty or Halo. I also recommend it to fans of Fallout and Elder Scrolls games and action junkies. Even if you aren’t crazy about the game play, you should still be able to find some laughs out of this unique and fun game.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Liberation Maiden Game Review

(Originally written November 17, 2012)
Liberation Maiden is a game I discovered just last night on the 3DS Nintendo market place. It currently holds one of the highest ratings on the market place and was only a little over $7 so I thought I’d check it out. It features flashy anime cut scenes and a girl piloting a giant robot to blow up stuff. Interestingly, it was made by Goichi Suda, the creator of games like Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes. It was developed by Level-5 studios with an all-star production crew or as all-star as you can get for a downloadable title on the 3DS. Liberation Maiden is the first title of 5 downloadable games to come for this mini-series of games.

STORY: Set in a futuristic Japan that has been invaded and taken over by a mysterious enemy. The remains of the Japanese Government elect Shoko Ozora as the 2nd president of New Japan, the first president being her dead father. But being president in New Japan doesn’t mean she sits behind a desk all day! No, she pilots a giant robot and must single handedly liberate Japan from this mysterious enemy. So basically, its cliché anime plot number 26: Young pilot must save the world/country from some unknown enemy invader. While there is more to it than that, that’s the gist of it that we are giving in the story mode. You can unlock more information about the story, characters, and setting in the gallery but that’s only if you want to read text crawls. While the story is nothing special, the lead character Shoko has a charm to her. She’s the typical anime girl in a mecha anime but at least she isn’t whiny or constantly questioning her motives for piloting a giant robot. She does her job proudly and with honor. The only other real character in the game is this guy named Kira who talks to her over the radio. He’s the secretary of defense, I guess? He mainly just tells her what to do, how to do it, and sings her praises once her job is done. At least it’s not someone annoying like a high pitched girl or anything. I have no idea what the invaders are exactly other than they have killed much of the environment in Japan and that by destroying power conduit towers loosens their grip on the country and brings wild life back to the liberated areas. Oh god, there is an environmental message. I think. Anyway, the story is there to just give reason for the game play mostly.

GAMEPLAY: This where Liberation Maiden gets interesting. You only use the joy pad and the L button. Everything else is controlled on the touch screen. I was expecting something like Starfox 64 but it definitely isn’t, however, that isn’t a bad thing. On the touch pad is your map, targeting computer, weapon selection, and a picture of Shoko that reacts to various things but you rarely have time to watch those. The game encourages you to use the stylist but I found it much easier to just use my thumb. If you have small hands, this might be tricky to play. You have two main weapons, energy missiles and a laser. I used the energy missiles most of the time as they lock onto everything and can be charged up. You lock onto targets by moving your thumb over the touch pad and tap it to fire. It seems complicated at first but after a few minutes you get the hang of it. You also have kill-everything –on-screen weapon in the form of an energy spear that blows up everything on the ground but you can only use it every so often.  While the weapons respond surprisingly well, you will probably have trouble locking onto some enemies because of the way you are holding the 3DS and will have to really reach with your thumb for the left side of the touch screen. You can link up chain combos by targeting multiple enemies at once and then blow them all away. It is very satisfying and once you get the hang of it, very fun. However, the stages get rather repetitive. While you do get more objective as the game goes on, your main goal in each stage is to find and destroy these power conduits that rise out of the Earth. Once you destroy the lesser ones, you must destroy the main power conduit for the area which basically acts as a boss battle. The big ones have four different cores to destroy and the last one requires you to go kamikaze into the core, spin around in it using the touch screen and do it fast enough before Shoko’s shields collapse. The last stage does have a real boss battle though.  Now I should probably bring up that this game is very short. You can easily knock it out within an hour or less. There are three difficulty settings and it might take someone a little longer on the higher difficulties but it is still very short. Outside the story mode, there isn’t much besides a stage attack which is just playing through the levels to get a high score or fastest time. This game could have used some kind of multiplayer mode where you battle your robots with friends. Oh well, maybe in the next game.

GRAPHICS: The in-game graphics are generally good even though most would say they are last generation console graphics but this is on a handheld system and a download so I’d say they look pretty damn good. The environments are bright and colorful, the mech looks really good and the explosions and enemy forces look great. But the real eye catcher for this game is the cut scenes. They look beautiful and were animated by studio Bones, best known for the Cowboy Bebop movie, Full Metal Alchemist, Wolf’s Rain, and RahXephon.  Sadly, we only get two of these cut scenes, one at the beginning and end of the game. We also have stills of Shoko and Kira during radio conversations and, thankfully, it’s all spoken dialogue with the text boxes. It’s a bit disappointing to not see any other animated cut scenes like between missions or whatever. Also, despite only having two cut scenes, they do manage to sneak in some fan service of Shoko.

Stay classy, Japan.

SOUND: Sound effects wise, it’s all good. The explosions and weapon sounds are very crisp and loud. The voice acting is not as bad I was expecting. It’s average anime voice acting for something like this and gets the job done. The voice actor for Shoko sounds really familiar but I can’t find who did her voice. Kira’s voice sounds very familiar as well. Also, the only other speaking role in the game is the narrator who talks in-between missions and sums up what is happening with the story so far. If you like J-pop type music, you should be pleased with the soundtrack. The music during the stages are fitting scores and we get some epic J-pop songs during the boss battles. It makes you feel like you’re in a giant robot anime.

Overall, it’s a neat little game though I’m not 100% comfortable with the price for what it is. I’d say it’s better off at $5 but it is pretty new to the market so I’m sure the price will go down in a month or two. If you like mecha anime, I suggest checking it out. As I said before, this is the first of a series of downloadable games and I’d like to see them building on this more and more and hopefully, not the same thing with each title.


Note: I use the 5 point scale for DL games, 10 point scale for full games.    

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Game Review

(Originally written November 16, 2012)
Another year, another Call of Duty. This franchise has come to define the mega-blockbuster in the video game market over the past decade ever since 2007’s Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare and its 2009 sequel Modern Warfare 2. There have been two primary studios working on these games since 2002: Infinity Ward and Treyarch. Ironically, the quality in the Infinity Ward titles, the original creator of the franchise, has definitely dropped in quality and originality. On the other hand, Treyarch, who had previously been making crappy entries for the series, has surpassed IW and proved they can make quality Call of Duty games with World at War and Black Ops. These two studios working back to back, has made it possible for Call of Duty to be an annual series. Yes, there has been a major Call of Duty game every single year since 2005. I think this is part of the reason that a lot of people have grown tired of the series. CoD has gotten a lot of bad rap over the past couple years in the gaming world because, well, it’s still here! And the reason it is still here is because of the multiplayer. CoD 4’s multiplayer and MW 2’s multiplayer is what has made Call of Duty the mega-blockbuster franchise it is today. Not the stories or anything like that. As a result, the market has become flooded with FPS games that rip off CoD because other game studios want their own mega-blockbuster franchise that makes billions of dollars. Much like Hollywood, instead of coming up with something original, they just copy whatever the most successful thing is.

This is one reason I have come to dislike the Call of Duty series. Now everyone has their own reasons why they like it or not. Mine is what I just talked about and the lack luster stories for the campaign. The Modern Warfare stories were mostly cut and paste, tried too hard to shock you plot points, and almost no character development. Plus everyone kept dying. I know its war and people die but it becomes less and less shocking every time your character dies during a scripted event. Much more care was been given to the multiplayer aspects over the single player until Blacks Ops in 2010.  The story was the best thing about that game and actually had some good plot twists and character development. Not the greatest, but it was something nice to see in a Call of Duty game. Last year Modern Warfare 3 came out and it sucked. A lot. Knowing what I know about Treyarch and having played Black Ops, I had more faith in this title than with MW3 but wasn’t expecting much. What we got though was a lot better than I expected. Black Ops 2 is the way to do a Call of Duty sequel. It does so many things this franchise should have been doing 3 years ago and finally makes it happen and I’ve been ranting long enough, it’s time to get to the review.

STORY: The story takes place half in the year 2025 and half in flash backs during the 1980’s. You primarily play as Alex Mason (during the 80’s) with the CIA and as his son David Mason (in 2025) as a Navy SEAL under JSOC. The story mostly deals with the rise of the game’s villain Raul Menedez, a Nicaraguan terrorist and the leader of a mysterious group with worldwide influence called ‘Cordis Die.’ The missions set in the 80’s are told in flashback by Frank Woods (from the previous game) and primarily deals with how Menedez became the mad man he is in the future and his connection to the main characters. There are even parts of the game where you actually play as Menedez for a little bit to try and feel more of a connection to him. The missions set in the future, you are trying to figure out what, how, and when Menedez is going to do to unleash a massive global attack on the world using drones which characterizes the military of the future. The plot kind of reminds me of the plot to Metal Gear Solid 4 but less complicated.  The future setting for Call of Duty was inevitable and thankfully they don’t go too far into the future. Most of the weapons and technology used in the game is actually based on current prototypes and ideas and it’s really cool to get to use some of this stuff. Now it sounds pretty straight forward like any Call of Duty game but there is one big thing that changes all of that: branching storylines and outcomes. Yes, this CoD has multiple endings and choices that actually matter. There are 5 different endings based on choices you make throughout the campaign. For a game series like this, this is a huge deal and adds a lot of replay value to the campaign. Your decisions affect the character’s fates and development as well and there is quite a bit of character development in the main characters and the villain. There are also some really good twists thrown in throughout the campaign. The story is a lot better than I thought it would be and puts Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare series to shame. Thankfully, the Russians are not the main enemy you encounter like in every post-WWII CoD game. You do fight them in a couple missions but given the context of those individual missions, it makes sense.  Instead, most of the time you are fighting against PMC and Central American forces but that changes based on the set piece and this game takes place all over the world. From flooded streets of Pakistan, a night club on some super ship in the Cayman Islands, Afghanistan, Panama, and it’s most shown set piece, Los Angeles, the game makes good use of the set pieces to make some memorable levels and of course they are all over the top like a Michael Bay movie with things exploding all over the place and are very fast paced.

The game’s story and levels are paced a lot better than in previous games. Not everyone will agree but most of the Call of Duty games would climax too soon and the rest of the game would just be like hitting a wall for me and just become uninteresting. Like in MW2, the missions after the battle in Washington D.C. were just boring and rather pointless to me and it just feels like a drop off point. The drop off point for me in MW3 was after the Paris missions and that was in the middle of the game. Yeah, I really didn’t like Modern Warfare 3. Black Ops 2 increasingly builds to its climax at the right times and since there are technically two stories going on here, it does this more than once.  It keeps you interested till the end and the branching story paths help that out a lot. Like the first Black Ops, they also have the likenesses of real people in it such as Jonas Savimbi, an Angolan warlord, Panamanian former leader Manuel Noriega, and David Petraeus. I laughed when I saw he was in this. Black Ops 2 has bad timing. The game is still pretty short however, taking about 6 to 7 hours which is sadly average for these kinds of game. There are 4 optional missions called Strike Missions that function very differently from the story missions but do have an overall effect on the story so you probably shouldn’t skip them. I’ll explain them more in the game play.  

GAMEPLAY: If you’ve played these games before, there is nothing new to the basic game controls and they are as smooth as ever. Controlling vehicles which is rare but when you have to do it, it’s not so bad except for when you have to fly an F-22 late in the game. At first, its easy enough till you have to actually fly it at high speeds, and then you are fighting the plane to not crash into building or fly out of the combat zone and cause the mission to fail. This part was done like the Hind flying segment in Black Ops 1 but not done as well or as fun. You also get to control various drones throughout the game like the CLAW which is kind of like an Imperial walker that is about the size of a small car and has a mini gun and grenade launchers on it. You can also fly and command quad rotors which look like those little helicopter hobby toys but have machine guns on them. You get to control most of these during the Strike Force missions. Now these missions are very different from the story missions. They feel more like something from Ghost Recon than Call of Duty. You control infantry, drones, turrets, and a command satellite. You get a full view of the level from the satellite and command your forces to protect or destroy objective points. You can also switch between and play as any of the forces on the ground. This can be tricky as it forces you to multitask and is a definite break away from the traditional CoD game play. Like I said before, these missions are optional but do impact the story so you really should do them and they do get tricky. Sadly, these strike missions are a huge missed opportunity because they are single player only. These would have made for an awesome multiplayer co-op game mode. These types of missions would have lots of fun if they could have tweaked it for more than one person. The AI in these missions and the game in general is no improvement at all from previous games. While it doesn’t bother things much in the regular missions, you will definitely feel the aging AI system in the strike force missions, especially on higher difficulties.

Another new addition to the single player missions is that you get to fully customize your weapon load outs before a mission which is very welcomed. Not only that, the weapon selection screen now has stats for each gun and how the attachments will affect them. There are some awesome new attachments in this game like x-ray optics, an optic that marks enemies for you and laser sights in addition to the classic red dot and ACOG that we are all used to from these games. I like that the ACOGs have a red dot sight on top that you easily switch to be clicking the left joystick. This was an actual suggestion for an optic and control mechanic I submitted for Modern Warfare 2 three years ago. I’m glad someone took this idea. Way to drop the ball, Infinity Ward. Also select fire acts as a feature which hasn’t been seen since the very first Call of Duty on PC back in 2002. You also get some new melee weapons like machetes and stun knuckles that make people throw up. Gross.  The futuristic weapons and attachments are generally fun to use and easy to control. The high degree of customizability just pushes it over the top.  

Of course there are the other two game modes: zombies and the multiplayer. The zombie mode is designed to be like its own independent game this time instead of a mini-game. I really think Treyarch should just make a complete zombie game at this point, separate from Call of Duty. That said the single player mode for it has been scaled down a lot. I discovered I can only play one map by myself; I would have to have other people for the other two maps. Also there is a story for it but I have no idea what it is as it is not explained. I’m in a 50’s style bus station as a guy that says annoying things and there is a bus that you ride in that has a robot bus driver who also says annoying things. What? The zombie mode does have difficulty settings now for the more casual zombie killers as the zombie mode in the past CoD games were rather hard. Finally, we have the multiplayer and sadly, I find it to be the weakest part of the game though there are a couple new things that I like. You can play offline now with bots so no pesky humans to ruin your game. Just kidding. It’s just nice to have a more casual multiplayer experience without having to deal with all the bull on xbox live. However, multiplayer is the BIG selling point of this game and the reason this franchise has been so successful. Well, other than new weapons and equipment, there isn’t really anything new here at all. More of the same. The kill streaks are handled a little differently I noticed. You gain them based on points instead of kills this time around and you can stack them up and switch between which one’s you want to use. This does little to change to over all game play though. It’s just more of the same. I’m sure the really hardcore fans could point out small differences for better or worse but the average player probably won’t notice.  The single player, to me, is the strongest and best part of Black Ops 2.

GRAPHICS: This game looks great for the most part. The future levels look the best with all the fancy computer screens and other sites of the not too distance future. The 1980’s settings are a little less impressive to look at. There is more texture pop-in during these missions and everything just looks drab and dull but once again, the settings during these missions are meant to look drab and dull. Hm. The character models of the main characters look great. They use that really neat facial scan animation that I like that really add emotion to the characters. The characters without this however, look pretty bad. Very stiff and stale but you are most likely shooting them so what do you care? This is generally a good looking game and I didn’t really notice any graphic glitches or anything major but this game is nowhere near as good looking as Halo 4.

SOUND: This game is loud and full of guns and explosions just as you would expect. Thankfully, everything is much easier to hear than in MW3 which had some major audio issues. All the sounds of war sound great. The voice acting is a bit of a different story. It’s really hit and miss. It’s pretty over the top at some points with some, at times, unnecessary swearing. You can tell it’s a Treyarch CoD game with all the hard swearing peppered throughout the script. There are some fairly big Hollywood actors in this game too but their performances are kind of all over the place. They really need to tone it down but I think it’s the best they could do with the script they had to work with. The music is generally fitting. You have lots of electric, fast paced music in the future missions with some dub step here and there. The 80’s missions tend to have music fitting for whatever country it is set in. The soundtrack is much better than the one from MW3 but not anything I’d rush out to download. Speaking of music.. This kind of a spoiler but after you beat the game you are treated to a game rendered concert of Avenged Seven Fold. Why? Because they can, I guess.

Overall, there are a lot of improvements that this series has needed for a long time but is it too late? While I did really like this game, I’m not begging for another CoD game. However, I’m pretty sure there will be a Black Ops 3. For pure curiosity, I probably would play it but this franchise is nearly milked bone dry. I really worry about what Infinity Ward is going to do next. If there is a Modern Warfare 4, no way am I going to even bother with it. Black Ops 2 is a good game if you like to play these games for the single player and want to play through the story to see all the different outcomes and play with all the customizable weapons. If you play CoD just for the multiplayer, you’ll probably be disappointed to a degree. I know most fans already have it. If you don’t like CoD or shooters are all, this won’t change your mind. If you’re on the fence about it, I highly recommend renting it and you can judge for yourself. I really liked this game much to my surprise but if the things I talked about don’t interest you at all, then this game probably isn’t for you. Regardless, if you like Call of Duty or not, these changes are a great addition to the series and a step in the right direction. I’m just giving credit where credit is due and this turned out to be a long review. Thank you for reading!


Halo 4 Game Review

(Originally written November 10, 2012)
Halo Man’s back in action! Er... Master Chief’s back in action. I can’t say I’m the biggest Halo fan. I generally like the series but definitely felt it was going in the wrong direction since Halo 3 and ODS or whatever that other one was called. Halo Reach did bring me back to respect the series again with a good story acting as a prequel and a farewell from Bungie. When it was announced that there was going to be a Halo 4 my first thought was ‘…really? I thought Master Chief died.’ I only found out about the true ending to Halo 3 last year…  Yeah, I didn’t really care to play through the game on legendary. So my very first impressions for Halo 4 weren’t too good and it has really stayed off my radar till this week and sometimes it’s best to not have your hopes up for a pleasant surprise. Maybe it’s because AC3 was such a disappointment but I really liked Halo 4. It’s also been awhile since I’ve played a shooter. I stopped playing them for awhile because I had grown tired of them (THANKS CoD…). I have to say this is the best Halo game I’ve played since Halo 2 back in 2004. It has some miss steps in game play and story but seems to be a promising start to a new chapter in the Halo series.

STORY: The game starts aboard the wreckage of the UNSC starship Forward Unto Dawn, four years after the events of Halo 3. The holographic vixen AI that is Cortana wakes up Master Chief from his long cryogenically induced sleep as the remains of the ship they are on is being attacked by Covenant forces. They discover that they have drifted near the mysterious Forerunner planet Requiem. During the battle, the planet activates a gravity well and sucks them into it. On the surface they encounter the Covenant who are searching for something and they also encounter cybernetic beings known as Prometheans. As they explore and battle through this bizarre planet, they discover a being called The Didact that was imprisoned here and inadvertently release him. He, of course, wants to kill all humans and take over the universe. In the midst of all this, Cortana reveals to Master Chief, who has been with him since the beginning of the series, that she is going rampant, a condition that happens to AI’s over 7 years old and ultimately results being shut down aka death. And this plot point is the strongest part of the story. The interesting relationship between Master Chief and Cortana gets really looked at and developed here or more so than in the previous games. You know that the fate of Cortana can’t end well and it weighs in on the heart strings throughout the game. It also shows that Cortana, a computer AI seems to be more human than Master Chief, a human. Not an ordinary human, but human none the less.

The campaign finishes up around 10 hours, which is sadly rather long for an FPS game these days. The story is presented well and has a good pace. It kind of sags in the middle which is not helped by game play that gets a little repetitive by that time but it does pick up again. It is a bit predictable, especially if you’ve played other Halo games. Outside of Master Chief and Cortana, other characters are not really explored. They are just mainly there to move the plot along. There are some new Spartans including a female Spartan who is there, says a couple lines then is gone. I think she is supposed to be from the expanded universe but I’m not sure. Speaking of expanded universe, I think there are a lot of references to the Halo books in this game but, me having not read them, did not pick up on them. Like I said, the best part of the story is the relationship between Chief and Cortana and even that I wish was developed a little more. The story and game doesn’t do much to take any risks outside the usual fair that the series puts on. I will say it does have a bitter sweet ending and I am curious to see what comes of this new chapter in the Halo series.

GAMEPLAY: For those who are familiar to the Halo series, there are no big surprises to the controls and plays like pretty much all the games before it. Heh, though some hardcore Halo fans are mighty pissed at some new additions because it’s too much like Call of Duty. I don’t know what they’re going on about because the only thing I can see that was added was a sprint button which is great. I would have liked to see the ability to aim down the sights with all the weapons besides the ones with optics but then again, some of the weapons in Halo don’t even have sights. I don’t know how anyone is supposed to actually aim with the assault rifle but anyway. There are a lot of weapons we know from previous games that return a long with all new weapons use by the Prometheans. The coolest thing about these guns is how they look and act. They disassemble and reassemble on their own when you pick them up and reload. The first time you see it, you’ll be like WOAH THAT’S AWESOME! Some of the weapons feel a bit under powered but that’s mainly the assault rifle type weapons, the other guns feel just right. A really cool new weapon that was added is called the sticky launcher and is fun to use. It shoots a little sticky explosive that you can remote detonate. It’s great for killing large groups of enemies.

The new HUD is neat looking with the corners of Master Chief’s visor visible in the corners of the screen so it feels more like it’s from his POV, kind of like Samus in the Metriod Prime games. It does, however, make the screen a little cluttered, especially when holding a big weapon. Makes me feel kind of claustrophobic, I don’t know. Now one thing that has always bothered me about Halo is that, Master Chief, this guy with super power armor, doesn’t really feel all that powerful outside of a regenerating shield and being able to jump like he’s on the moon. Now I never gave this all that much thought until I played Crysis 2. Crysis is the way to do an FPS with a character with power armor. In Crysis, your character has invisibility, hard armor mode, increased speed, jumping, and strength that are all regulated by a power meter in your HUD. You don’t need any items to do any of this, it’s up to you to manage these powers with the energy meter and it adds a dynamic that lets you play the game however you want. I was hoping there would be more things like that in Halo 4. My wish was half granted in the form of power ups that you can swap out. Things like hard energy shields, cloaking, thermal vision, portable sentry bots, come in the form of these powers that you can find and swap out. These are kind of like the shield items from Halo 3 but instead of being one time use, they recharge when they are not being used. They’re not bad but sometimes it’s hard to really know which one would be more useful to you as you progress through certain areas and most of the time it doesn’t exactly matter.

The game play tries to stay exciting and varied with some fun vehicle levels and flying type space shooter levels that return from Halo Reach, though I feel the space combat level from Reach was better. There are some levels near the middle of the game where some of the repetitiveness from some of the older games shows through, ie run and gun from way point to way point. It would have been nice to see Halo try and step out of its safe zone more than it has. That’s the problem a lot of these mega franchises have; they are afraid to step out of their comfort zone in fear of upsetting and losing their fans and the majority of their fans pretty much ask for the same thing over and over again, be it they realize it or not. I’m looking at you Call of Duty. Speaking of which, there is this multiplayer part. Totally not the reason I bought the game but I know it is the reason millions of fans did buy the game. Now, I have no way to play it online at this time so I know I’m missing out on the meat of the game that the fans really care about and if you want me to invite me to your house to play online or whatever, I’d be down with that. I do miss the old Halo parties I used to go in the mid-2000s. But we didn’t need the internet; we just needed a bunch of tvs and networking hubs. Anyway, from what I’ve seen, the actual game play in multiplayer looks pretty much like it has been since Halo 2. I know there is a new class system that is supposed to be a lot like how Call of Duty’s multiplayer system which has a lot of fans up in arms since they want Halo to be nothing like CoD even though Halo’s multiplayer success is what paved the way for the success of Call of Duty’s multiplayer and becoming the money making machine it is today. Multiplayer is no big deal to me. I’m an old school gamer in the sense that multiplayer is that extra little thing you do after you beat the game and have some friends over. If there are any real changes in the multiplayer that I should be aware of, please let me know.

GRAPHICS: So I’ve been kind of ragging on this game about the game play and such but I can proudly say this about Halo 4: This is one of the BEST looking games I have ever seen on the Xbox 360. This game is just beautiful. The environments are so lush, vibrantly colored, have amazing lighting and are heavily detailed. You have look, I mean, really look to find any slightly blurry textures or anything. The weapon effects and explosions all look awesome. The HUD and sights for the weapons are all nicely detailed and look great. The character models all look fantastic and use facial scanning animation technology which I love and add depth and feeling to the characters. Master Chief looks amazing and his armor is so finely detailed. Cortana looks hotter than ever. Yes, I think Cortana is the hottest hologram AI ever. The rendered cut scenes are so high quality I honestly thought I was watching something that was filmed live action at first. Best of all, there is absolutely no slow down or frame rate drop in the game. 343 Industries really knew how to use the 360’s hardware and produced one of the best looking games for the system ever.

SOUND: Just like the graphics, the sound design is something to marvel at. To the loud explosions and sounds of battle to the little clicks of reloading your weapon, everything sounds so crisp and clean. The musical score is beautiful and I even went and downloaded the soundtrack after playing the game. All the voice acting is well done and believable with the exception of Master Chief. This game is probably the most I’ve heard him talk and while he sounds great in his usual calm and cool voice, it’s the few moments where he actually has to raise his voice and make an emotion that made me laugh. However, it’s Jen Taylor performance, who voices Cortana, which really steals the show. The heavy emotional state that Cortana is going through is brought to life by Taylor and oddly makes her feel like the most human character in the game. Excellent sound for an excellent looking game.

Overall, Halo 4 is a beautiful game that sadly has a few missed opportunities. If it had just found a way to expand the game play more, take some more risks, and enrich the story a little more, I’d say this would be THE game of the year but it misses the mark. This game is meant to start a new chapter in the series so I am curious to see where they go with it and hope they can do more to really expand it in the future. If you’re a Halo fan, what I say probably isn’t going to bother you because I know you’ve probably already beaten it and are spending hours playing online. If you absolutely hate Halo, this game isn’t going to change your mind at all. If you’re on the fence, I’d say it’s definitely worth picking up in a couple months after the price goes down some.

OVERALL: 7.5/10

Reviews coming up in the near future: Call of Duty Black Ops 2 and Borderlands 2. If you have a game you want me to review, let me know and I’ll see if I can’t get a hold of it.  

Assassin's Creed 3 ANGRY Review

 (Originally written November 7th, 2012)
WARNING: This review is being handled differently from my previous reviews in that there will not be an overall score and I won’t be going into many of the overall game play and story. This will mostly just be a list of issues I’ve found with this game. This will probably piss some people off but this is based on my experience with the game. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from playing this game but if you know any of the things that I talk about in this note tend to piss you off, you might want to reconsider this game.

So yeah, Assassin’s Creed 3 is the game I have been looking forward to all year long. The trailers have been amazing; the setting of the American Revolution is rather original for a game like this, an interesting new character to the Assassin’s Creed series, and a time in history most Americans should be familiar with. This game had so much potential. Also it’s been getting near perfect scores from several game review magazines and sites. I have to ask, what game have they been playing? Because the AC3 I’ve been playing is not a perfect scoring or high scoring game. I was so sure this was going to be game of the year material for me and it makes me so sad that I cannot even recommend it for a top 5 slot for games of the year. For me, this game is just not very fun most of the time. It’s been mostly frustrating and stress inducing. That’s not why people play video games and if that’s why you play games then maybe you’re a masochist. Very rarely have I had fun with this game. There is a lot to it, I’ll give it that. It is a very big game and it is impressive in that aspect and it is a very beautiful game. Something like it hasn’t been quite done before. Sadly, that comes with a price.

The graphics in this game, while beautiful, run into a lot of frame rate and slow down issues. There are times I’ve noticed in the cities where things just don’t move so smoothly. You see slow down here and there in these massive areas. Not always but sometimes. Glitches are another issue. Granted, I’ve run into glitches in all the AC games (AC had some of the worst) but AC3 had some game stoppers. One involved me just running along and then I suddenly just fell through the ground and died. Another I hid in a pile of hay and got stuck in it, forcing me to restart the area I was in. More minor glitches include odd clipping, animals getting stuck in trees, and other silly things that you run into in open world games. Only a few of these glitches really hurt the game play but they were on the rare side. I can’t help but feel that this game is just pushing the PS3 to its limits but the minor visual errors are minor compared to other problems in the game.

Probably the biggest issue in the game is the new combat system. Wow! It sucks! It is a huge step back from the combat system from Assassin’s Creed 2. The first thing I noticed when I got into a big fight was the camera: It doesn’t follow your character. It just doesn’t. You have to adjust it manually. When you got so much shit going on around you, you don’t have time to adjust the damn camera. Something always seems to get in the of the camera too, be it a tree, wall, part of a building, ect. The combat itself feels less skill based. Every now and then, Conner will pull off some of the awesome finishing moves we saw in the trailers but I have no idea how I did them. I still have no idea how to use someone as a human shield and it is an almost mandatory move to know if you want to survive firing lines. The majority of the time you are hacking at the enemy’s defenses and countering them whenever prompted. It becomes a button masher. A lot of times I would press triangle to try and counter because I am so used to the combat from Arkham City but that’s my fault. There is also no real lock on method in this game. It seems to want to try lock on automatically in combat but it does a poor job. You end up missing your target or accidentally running up a wall or something. It’s very frustrating and takes awhile to get used to especially if you are familiar with the combat system from the previous games. It took me about 10 hours of playing the game to get a hang of combat. There is no place you can go to practice like in AC2. You pretty much just have to go pick your own fights with British patrols and learn the hard way. Shooting and firearms have been added to the game which makes sense but the shooting mechanic is trick to get a hang of but once you do, it’s pretty handy even though you have to deal with the slow reloads of the time.   

The story is another issue and the one I have the most mixed feels about. I won’t go into details or spoilers or anything but I will talk about the pacing. The first 5 hours of the game is very slow paced but does have a good pay off with quite the bombshell of a plot twist. Then it bounces around from being fast paced, to slow paced, and just jerks around a bit too much for my liking. Other people don’t seem as bothered by it as much as me. It does have some good moments like some epic battlefield scenes and the naval battle missions that, thankfully, actually live up to the hype! You could make an entire game based around the naval missions and naval combat system. It’s fun. But there are only three mandatory missions where you control a ship on the seas. There are side missions for this in addition the many, many, many diverse side missions you can find though out the game. There is over 70 hours of content in this game, so it’s not short. You do get your money’s worth in terms of content with this game. I usually had more fun just running around doing all these side missions than the actual main missions.

The next major issue I felt that goes along with the problem of the story’s pace is that the first 7 hours feels like a very long and slow tutorial that spans out over this time. If you’re a veteran of the series, some of this stuff isn’t new to you but things like learn out to use the shooting mechanic could have been handled in a better way. You learn how to actually shoot your weapon in combat simple enough but  right after that you have to shoot these powder kegs to blow open a door. Okay, simple enough. At this point you think pressing the triangle button will let you shoot at anything and L1 is what you use to manually aim. There is a wagon with these BIG barrels on it and the game just told you to shoot at the barrels so naturally you aim at try to shoot them but nothing happens. I sat there for like 5 minutes pressing every button on the controller trying to figure out why the shooting button just no longer works. Then I notice that if I drag the little aiming cursor over these small barrels below the big barrels, the small ones light up and I can actually shoot them. It doesn’t tell you to shoot the little barrels that light up. WHY NOT?! I know for a fact I am not the only one who has had this problem! It’s turn into a little meme on the internet, I think. The game has several moments of poor conveyance.  It introduces new mechanics poorly such at the Battle of Lexington and Concord where you have to run back and forth between ranks and order Colonists to fire on the British. This is a really cool mission but when it starts they don’t tell you how to give orders and it took me a few minutes to figure this out and ended up failing the mission a couple times. You have to stand in little circles that appear in order to give the commands. They could have made that much clearer.  A lot of things could have been made clearer on how they work and this goes back to the combat system. You can’t just equip whatever weapons you want when you want. You have to go to a general store (the place you most likely bought your weapons and equipment) and you can only equip things there. These general stores are not common you will only find two or three in the two main cities of the game, New York and Boston. If you know how to equip weapons in a different way, please let me know!

Every mission has sub-objectives to complete each synchronization and I HATE THESE THINGS! They are completely optional but if you’re looking to complete this game 100%, you’re going to have a bad time. Some of these are nearly impossible and half the time I end up failing them before I even know what they are because they only flash on the screen for a brief moment on the corner of the screen. They make missions unnecessarily difficult. If you want that kind of challenge, go for it. There is one where the game expects you to chase someone through a crowd without pushing anyone. Ha! Good luck with that. Speaking of chasing missions, they make for some of the MOST frustrating missions, especially this one near the end of the game. All of this stuff together ultimately leads to this game being very frustrating and just not as fun as it should be. There is nothing wrong with a challenging game but that challenge should be fair and not based on issues with the overall game play.

Now like I said this is all based on my game play experiences. Maybe you have or will have better experiences but for me, ultimately this game is a big letdown. Assassin’s Creed 2 was just so much better in just about every way and was way more fun to play. If you are not familiar with Assassin’s Creed, AC3 is not game to start with. Now I can’t stress this enough, this is all my opinion. Maybe I just suck at the game and there is something I just completely missed and I am playing it wrong. Don’t let this review completely steer you away from the game as it is something that should be experienced to a degree. This game is an impressive technical achievement in many ways and it is a HUGE game. It’s just too frustrating and ultimately unenjoyable to me overall which is very disappointing as I was really looking forward to this game.

I know this isn’t my best review if you can call it that. This note was something I had to get off my chest and just take this with a grain of salt. Please tell me about your experiences with this game and maybe explain something’s I might have been doing wrong. I’d love to know if you guys have been having issues with it as well.  I’ll get back to the regular reviews soon with Halo 4, Boarder Lands 2, and Black Ops 2 coming within the next month. 

Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

(Originally written November 3, 2012)
I saw Wreck-It Ralph yesterday and I’m going to cut to the chase: If you like Disney movies and/or video games, GO SEE THIS MOVIE! It is one of the best CG animated movies I’ve seen in years and is extremely enjoyable for kids, parents, and gaming nerds. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve noticed the large amount of licensed video game characters that make cameos such as Ryu and Zangief from Street Fighter, Kano from Mortal Kombat, Bowser from Mario, Dr. Eggman from Sonic, and many more. In watching the actual movie, there were EVEN more cameos and references than I thought there would be and plenty of game parodies like an FPS game that parodies Halo and Starcraft. This movie is pretty much the Who Framed Rodger Rabbit of video games.

The story (mostly spoiler free) takes place in the hidden world inside arcade machines, where once the arcade closes, and the characters in the gaming consoles go about regular lives and can interact with each other through the network of power connects in the building. This is a lot like Toy Story in this aspect. The story focuses on Wreck-It Ralph, the bad guy in an arcade classic called Fix-It Felix Jr. (a game that kind of parodies the original Donkey Kong game). He is tired of being treated as the bad guy after work hours by the other characters in his game, so he embarks on a quest to sneak into the newest high tech arcade game to win a hero medal to prove that even bad guys can win at video games. Things don’t go as planned and he ends up lost in a racing game that is basically a parody of Mario Kart games and befriends a little girl who is trying to get into the race. Meanwhile, it is work time and Ralph is not in his game when someone puts a quarter in which leads to the arcade owner to declare the game out of order. If the characters in Fix-It Felix can’t get Ralph back, the game will be unplugged and they will all lose their home or die. So Felix heads out into the scary world of other games to find Ralph before it is too late. While the story sags a little bit in the middle, especially, when you realize that the rest of the movie is taking place in this super kiddy racing game. It was a little disappointing to me as I was hoping they would be hopping between various other games throughout the movie but it still remains fun and has a couple good plot twists as it gets near the end.  

The voice acting is great.  This is the best thing I’ve ever seen/heard John C. Reilly in. Then again, I only know him from the Tim and Eric Show from adult swim. He really brings the character of Ralph to life. Sarah Silverman does a great job as the tough little racer girl, Vanellope. Jack McBrayer, who I’ve never heard of till this movie, does a great job as Fix-It Felix and kinda reminded me of Ned Flanders without the diddilies and iddilies. And of course, Jane Lynch as the badass Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun from the FPS game Hero’s Duty. She does what is good at and that is being a bitch and it works for the character well. There are a lot of tv and anime/video game voice actors that make cameo’s as well such as Rodger Craig Smith, the current voice of Sonic and Kyle Hebert as Ryu, who is most well known as the narrator from DBZ and from other anime. Also Skrillex appears briefly in one scene. What?

The music is fitting but mostly not what I really care for. Some video game remixes would have been cool to hear. It did surprise me a bit that there was a Japanese song in the movie and on the soundtrack by the J-Pop group AKB48. Also before the film, there is this sweet animated short (hand animated) called Paper Man. It’s a short love story about an office worker in the 1940’s or 50’s trying to get the attention of this women he met on the trolley earlier that day. What really stands out is the animation and smooth it looks. Seriously, some old school animation at its finest.  As for the CG animation of the actual feature, what can I say? It’s Disney. It’s freaking amazing and a treat for the eyes. I especially like the 8-bit animation here and there. I saw this movie in 2-D, because if you know me, I hate 3-D. I could tell there were a few shots here and there to get that 3-D effect but nothing special to make seeing it in 3-D any better. I’d stick to 2-D and save your money.

Overall, this is an excellent movie that you owe it to yourself to see if you love Disney movies and video games. It’s funny, cute, witty, and beautiful to look at. Gamers will nerdgam at all the cameos and game references. GO SEE THIS MOVIE!  

Overall: 9/10

Assembly ( 集結號) Movie Review

(Originally written October 24, 2012)
Assembly was a movie I discovered by accident when surfing the Youtube one day. I found a music video using the battle scenes from this movie and I was wondering what the heck it was from as the footage looked a lot like the Battle of the Bulge scenes from Band of Brothers but with Chinese or Korean actors. After poking around in the comments and Wikipedia for a little bit, I discovered that Assembly is a Chinese movie made in 2007 and is hailed as one of the best mainland China produced films to date. I found it on Amazon and ordered it. After watching it I can see why it was so critically acclaimed. It has some of the best battle scenes I have seen since Band of Brothers and The Pacific. It has some amazing cinematography and while confusing in the middle, a very well done human element that ties the movie together well at the end.

The film starts off in 1948 during the Chinese Civil War with PLA Captain Gu Zidi (played by Zhang Hanyu) as his battered company takes a war torn town in the dead of winter. If you’ve seen Band of Brothers, it will remind you a lot of the Battle of the Bulge episodes. After taking the town with heavy losses, his company, now at only 50% strength, is ordered to hold the Battalion’s flank at an old mine near a river bank.  He is ordered not to retreat until he hears the bugle call for assembly with the rest of the regiment.  After a day of brutal fighting with Chinese Nationalist forces (yes, the good guys in this are the communists), the company has taken heavy losses and cannot hold out but the CO has yet to hear the bugle call so they can not retreat.  The film then skips ahead to the Korean War which Gu is now taking part in. He serves as a forward observer and befriends a young artillery officer when he steps on a landmine and manages to save him from it with a pretty neat but suicidal trick. This scene is actually slightly funny as an American tank crew happens upon them however; they are dressed in South Korean uniforms so the Americans think they are friendly. The tank commander walks over to see what they are doing, sees the guy on the landmine and is like ‘oh shit! Well, that sucks. Good luck with that!’ gets back in his tank and drives off. This scene ends with you thinking that Gu dies with the mine going off. The movie then skips forward to the mid 50’s after the wars are over and Gu is revealed to still be alive but now blind in one eye from the injury he took from the mine. The officer he saved is now a high ranking officer in the PLA and is offering to help him with work and other needs. Gu then reveals that he was the lone survivor of the company that he commanded during the Civil War and has been living with this guilt since that day. He seeks to find the resting place of his men and to get full honors for his company however; the government is suspicious of what exactly happened to him after the battle and will not recognize him and his men’s actions during the war. Driven by outrage and guilt he tries to find where battlefield was, now a fully operation coal mine, and starts digging to find where the bodies of his fallen comrades are.  This is where the film gets really depressing as many people dismiss him as a crazy old war vet but let him keep trying to do what he is going to do. After digging day and night, he learns that his company, and himself are finally given the honors they deserved all this time. A memorial is erected at the site and Gu finally has peace.

The strongest part of this film is the cinematography. Like I said before, the battle scenes are epic, brutal, and realistic. They definitely take cues from movies and series like Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan but it’s not only the battle scenes that are well shot. There are beautiful and creative camera angles throughout the film including a beautiful shot of the memorial at the opening and closing of the film. It does climax early though; all the battle scenes are in the first hour of the film and, like most war movies, are the best scenes. The middle of film is kind of confusing as it jumps around the years for a little bit but it does all come together by the end.  Like a lot of war films, there are some clichés like the soldiers sneaking on the battlefield to steal things from a dead enemy officer only to get shot by a sniper once finding what he was looking for and little things like that but it doesn’t harm anything other than the fact that you can see it coming. The acting is generally very good, especially Zhang Hanyu’s star performance. Obviously, this movie is in Mandarin Chinese as it should be. The bluray I have only had subtitles and I don’t think it has been dubbed and, well, it shouldn’t be.

One very strong point of the film is that even though it is a patriotic film about China it never loses sight of the human element in this movie. The characters are the main focal point here and what the main character goes through. There are some scenes that probably wouldn’t have set too well with the Chinese government had this movie come out a couple decades ago.  That said, you might want to go into this movie after doing a little research on the Chinese Civil War and post WWII China as it doesn’t give very much context to go by if you’re not a Chinese history buff. One thing that caught my eye in the film was the weapons they used. They use a mixture of WWII era British, Russian, and German rifles and machine guns while the Nationalists used mostly American weapons and equipment which is another interesting point to research about the war.

Overall, I’d say this is a must watch if you are a fan of war movies, Chinese movies, and foreign films.  I’m not sure if it’s on Netflix or anything like that. I bought it off Amazon for about $17 imported (and that’s a good price for an import). While the middle is a bit confusing and you might want to do some research going in, the first hour and ending of the movie is amazing and I gotta say, it is one of the best war movies I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend it if you can find it.

Overall: 9/10