Avengers 4 has a Name and No It’s not a Surprise

Avengers 4 has a Name and No It’s not a SurpriseAvengers Endgame

News | Opinion

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

Marvel has released a trailer for the fourth “Avengers” film finally revealing the much-anticipated title.  Though after so much hullabaloo, fake outs and ad nauseam teases concerning the official nomenclature the reveal does feel a little anti-climatic.

“Avengers: Endgame” will offer the conclusion to “Avengers: Infinity War” and bring Phase 3 of the MCU to a definitive end.  First of some details about our brief look at “Endgame” and then some thoughts about the film moving forward.  However, before you continue I will offer a SPOILER WARNING because in discussing the trailer I will be referencing details about other Marvel films as well.

This trailer understandably is short on details.  It mostly consists of our defeated heroes licking their wounds in the wake of their disastrous loss at the hands of Thanos.  Tony Stark and presumably Nebula are adrift in space in the Guardian’s ship.  I suspect they hope to return to earth but the ship is without power, food and running out of oxygen.  In this bleak situation Tony records a farewell message to Pepper Potts.  Else where Black Widow and Steve Rogers reflect on the reality that half of all life in the galaxy was snuffed out.  However, the end of the trailer depicts Black Widow reassuring Rogers the something “will work” implying they come up with some kind of plan.  And that’s about it… there are a few developments here that are worthy of note.

Tony’s message to Pepper has some rather significant implications first and foremost is his total lack of hope.  Though cynical Tony Stark has also been a character isn’t known to give up.  He doesn’t believe there’s a situation he can’t think his way out of.  The clip of his message to Pepper indicates Tony has lost all hope of surviving his situation and has resigned himself to death.  This may be a temporary laps which he will be roused out of but for the purposes of this trailer it does serve other purposes.  Tony says to Pepper not to “feel bad” about what’s happened and that “Part of the journey is the end”.  This is obviously a message to fans concerning the ending of this era of the MCU, but it also means to communicate the dismal situation our heroes face in this film.  We also see Black Widow, Banner and Steve Rogers in various states of grief and a well of photos of people resumed to be dead or missing.  Speaking of missing heroes, we catch a glimpse of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye but looking very different from we’re used to.  In fact from the all too brief snippet there’s enough to suppose Clint will actually take on a different alter ego by the name of Ronin. (Something he did do in the comics)  We can infer this from Clint’s brandishing of a sword rather than his iconic bow and arrow.  The other point of note about this clip is Steve Roger’s VO that plays over it.  Rogers is talking about what they have lost and one of the things he mentions is that they’ve lost all lost “family”.  Right after he says this is when we see Clint.  Knowing Marvel and their affinity for sheltering little pieces of information in their trailers I think this suggests that Clint’s wife and kids were lost in Thanos’s snap.  Unmoored from his family and with no formal Avengers team to return to Clint dawns his new persona Ronin.  That can’t be the whole story of course as it doesn’t explain why he’s in Japan but I’m sure more details will follow.

What’s worth noting in this trailer is what it doesn’t show.  There’s no sign of Captain Marvel who supposedly has a large role in the new film.  We also didn’t see a whole host of side characters such as Okoye or Rocket. There’s only the very briefest glimpse of Nebula and even less of Thanos.  Obviously there’s quite a bit Marvel is keeping close to the vest but there’s enough here to keep us speculating and guessing for a while.

For Instance, the trailer ends with Scott Lang’s arriving at the Avengers compound.  It’s a rather striking note to end on considering where Lang was left in the after credit sequence of “Ant-Man and the Wasp”.  But there’s something a little bit off about this moment.  From Rogers asking if the video of Lang at the gate is from a past recording to Lang acting as if no one would remember him.  Again there’s more to this reveal which Marvel will tease us with for months to come.  Aside from this moment there isn’t a lot of surprises here.  Most of the trailer seems to concern our heroes licking their wounds after the events of “Infinity War” so it’s possible “End Game” will take some time to let us sit with our characters in their lowest point.  I do wonder how effective this tactic will be.  There’s been a growing malcontent among critics and fans concerning how seriously Marvel wants us to take the ending of “Infinity War”.  After all we know another “Guardian’s” film is in production, “Spider-man: Far From Home” is in production and has a trailer which was just screened at a Comic Con in Brazil.  There’s almost certainly another Black Panther film in the works etc… etc… 

This is on top of  knowledge of the source material where the Infinity Gauntlet is used to restore the galaxy.  Thus it’s easy to fall into a smug confidence to think we know how “Endgame” is going to play out.  irregardless Marvel is trying hard to make us all think twice about our preconceptions almost begging us to take the events of these two films seriously. It’s not impossible to build some amount of emotional investment when the end is already known, though it’s no simple task.  Perhaps Marvel believes audiences care about these characters enough that they will be willing to go through the journey with them anyway.  It’s also possible they may yet have a few twists up their sleeve which fans won’t see coming.

What are your thoughts on the new trailer?  Does the title reveal feel a bit anticlimactic to you?  Have any theories you’d like to share?  Drop them in the comments below and come back from more on “Avengers: Endgame” as it become available. 

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Is the Captain Marvel Film Already in Trouble?

Is the Captain Marvel Film Already in Trouble?Captain Marvel Poster.png

News | Opinion

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

Disney and Marvel Studios has released a second trailer for “Captain Marvel” the next addition to the MCU due out on March 8th 2019.

This “new” trailer reuses several shots from the first teaser trailer while giving us a few new ones and a little more information.  While there are few cool looking shots and some cute moments in the new trailer has also generated a fresh way of skepticism and new reservations about Marvel’s new film.  More specifically I think both “Captain Marvel” trailers have a serious problem one which may extend to the film itself. 

In the past Marvel trailers have either emphasized giving plot details or offering insight into how the film will look and feel.  For instance trailers for several of the phase one films like “Iron Man” gave us a decent idea of what the film would be about.  More recently the trailers have been more about the feeling and tone.  The trailer for “Thor: Ragnnarock” was all about the heavy metal fantasy vibe conveyed by Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and the neon chrome logo.  Likewise those who were following the MCU knew the basics of what “Avengers: Infinity War” was going to be about thus the trailers were more about conveying the darker tone of Marvel’s capstone film.  Either way Marvel’s made a craft of using trailers to impart information needed to get audiences on board each new project.

I bring this up because it highlights a fundamental problem with both trailers for “Captain Marvel”.  Thus far neither trailer has met the afore-mentioned formula.  After two previews we don’t have much idea of the film’s plot and there’s little sense of the general feel or tone the film will carry.  All we’ve really been given is some snippets about Carol Danvers herself.  We know she’s a human who somehow winds up badly injured on a Kree planet and as a result of a blood transfusion has been given some special abilities. In the comics Danvers is part human part Kree and it isn’t clear yet if that holds true here.  If her alien lineage is what enables her to receive a Kree blood transfusion or if she is originally fully human and it’s the introduction of the alien blood that changes her somehow.  Beyond this we know she winds up back on earth and teams up with a young Nick Fury in the 1990’s to stop some plot by the evil alien Skrulls.

Unfortunately the trailers are flat with a tone that’s a little all over the place.  None of the beats land very effectively the drama, action and comedy all feel forced.  The action consists of Captain Marvel floating and shooting light bolts from her hands, something we’ve never seen a Kree do before (Or anyone else for that matter).   We don’t have enough investment for the dramatic beats to connect and the humor seems oddly executed.  Having Nick Fury stop to play with a cat is cute but out of character. Thus the humor is lost in the cognitive dissonance of seeing a character behave in a way so contrary to what we’re used to.  It also points to a potentially erroneous and problematic detail of how Nick Fury will be portrayed in “Captain Marvel”.  In prequels or stories that take place before established lore it’s common to portray characters we already know in a different light.  So it’s entirely possible “Captain Marvel” will attempt to show a different side a Fury before he became the hardened director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  This could work as long as they don’t try to get cute with a lot of ironic subversive moments meant to juxtapose the counter intuitive behavior of young Fury with the character we know.  The cat scene suggests there will be some of this in the name of humor but these moments are incredibly hard to pull off effectively .

All this to say both the trailers are a bit of a mess.  There isn’t a lot in either offering that is particularly engaging.  Though Marvel is obviously trying really hard to tap into the same vein DC managed to mine with “Wonder Woman”.  Having a successful female led superhero film is the only department in which DC is leading Marvel at the moment and “Wonder Woman’s” popularity is obviously something Marvel is interested in co-opting.  However, with these trailers they feel as if they are being a bit try hard in the attempt.

One last thought on this.  From ancillary reports and material we know Adam Warlock a key figure in defeating Thanos in the comics will not appear in “Avengers 4”.  Apparently the post credit scene in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was meant as a teaser for “Guardians 3” which sadly is in production limbo following the firing of James Gunn.  That leaves a narrative space to be filled and if some reports are to be believed Carol Danver’s Captain Marvel will be the linchpin in the Avengers’ plans in the next film.

That means there is a lot of pressure on the “Captain Marvel” film to introduce and establish this character before “Avengers 4” releases a couple of months later.  It’s kind of the reverse of what happened with “Black Panther” and “Avengers Infinity War”.  No one knew how big and successful “Black Panther” would be or how important Chadwick Boseman’s Prince T’Challa would become going into “Infinity War”.  When T’Challa turned to ash at the end it hit much harder than even Marvel could have ever anticipated.  In this case if Danvers is as important as we assume she is then Marvel must work to build her up, to make us care before the pivotal events of “Avengers 4” takes place.

That’s a lot of pressure for a single film to take.  Marvel isn’t just introducing a new character in her own film that can stand or fall on its own merits.  It’s not self-contained able to stand or free to fall like the films that made up phase 1.  As evidence of what I’m talking about consider how Marvel recast the role of Bruce Banner substituting Mark Ruffalo in place of Edward Norton who played the character in “The Incredible Hulk” stand alone film.  In other words Marvel had room to change things up and make adjustments to the MCU when needed.  Because some of these phase 3 films were in production at the same time and because they are so interdependent on each other it places extra weight on Marvel, and everyone involved, to get it right the first time.  If something about “Captain Marvel” is off or if audiences don’t immediately resonate with Brie Larson as the titular character then it could impede critical aspects of “Avengers 4” and there’s no room for corrective measures this time.

However, Marvel has beaten the odds before. I didn’t think I would like “Iron Man” when it first released way back in 2008, but I did.  I had serious doubts about Marvel’s “Avengers” and it blew all my reservations away.  I wasn’t sure “Guardians of the Galaxy” could work as it was a bit goofy and completely different from what we’d come to expect from the MCU.  So Marvel has been able to subvert expectations and succeed over and over again where by all rights they should have failed.  Thus I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and look forward to “Captain Marvel” with a fair amount of optimism, cautious as it may be.  

What did you think of the new “Captain Marvel” trailer?  Are you looking forward to the new film?  If you have any thoughts or comments please leave them below and come back to some thoughts on the “Avengers 4” trailer after it premieres on Friday Dec. 7th.

Everything Old is New Again | Fear Effect

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Everything Old is New Again | Fear Effect

News | Opinion

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

It’s a nostalgic time in video games.  A number of notable remakes have hit the market in 2018 such as Bluepoint’s “Shadow of the Colossus” and the “Mega Man X Legacy Collection” from Capcom.  Moreover the last couple of years have seen the release of the NES and SNES classic editions preloaded with antique Nintendo games.  Playstation has followed suit with a Playstation Classic featuring many vintage PS One titles such as “Final Fantasy VII” and “Metal Gear Solid”.  That’s aside from many other examples too numerous to count.  Thus it seems everything old is new again with a renewed interest in the games of yore.   While some may lament gamers obsession with the past it does offer opportunities to revisit games that have been forgotten or that have lapsed into irrelevance. 

Games like “Fear Effect” a Playstation One exclusive released in 2000 by Eidos interactive and developed by Kronos Digital.   “Fear Effect” is a survival horror game with cell shaded anime style graphics.  Focusing on a small band of mercenaries the game drew heavily on Chinese myths and legends to weave and unsettling narrative full of demons, body horror and literal trips to Hell.  In fact “Fear Effect” was one of the first games I played that earned its M rating not just from an abundance of gory violence but from some deeply troubling mature narrative themes. It did this at a time when not as many games pushed the envelope.  Before “Grand Theft Auto 5’s” Trevor there was Deke.  Before “Tomb Raider’s” violent and disturbing death sequences there were “Fear Effect’s” fail states.  Before “Agony” there was Madam Chen’s brothel which housed prostitute demon imps and an entrance to hell itself.  But underneath all the spectacle there was the basic semblance of plot.

For those who may not be familiar with the game I’ll avoid going too deep into spoiler territory and just give a general overview of “Fear Effect’s” story.  The game starts with mercenaries Hana and Glass in a futuristic version of Hong Kong.  They planned to meet with a powerful Triad boss, Mr. Lam, about his missing daughter, Wee Ming.  The meeting doesn’t go well forcing Hana and Glass to fight their way out but leaving them undeterred in finding the girl, who they plan to ransom back to her father.  After catching up with a third teammate, Deke, the three find themselves on Wee Ming’s trail but chasing her takes a horrific turn.  Zombies and demons surround the mystery girl leading to a number of harrowing encounters and ultimately a confrontation with Yim Lau Wong the King of Hell. fear effect the crew

If this all sounds a bit odd that’s because it is.  So much of “Fear Effect” was strange and out of the ordinary, but somehow the game managed to own this aberrant space with its embrace of the bizarre.  It’s hard to underestimate the impact this game had on me when I played it back in the early 2000’s.  It created a unique experience only matched by its sequel “Fear Effect: Retro Helix”.  Unfortunately the third game in the series was cancelled by Eidos which led to the closure of Kronos Digital. Some blamed Eidos marketing for the series downfall especially in relation to their over sexed campaign for “Retro Helix”.  However, I suspect it had more to do with “Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness.”  The sixth “Tomb Raider” game bombed when it was released in 2003 failing with critics and audiences alike.  The game’s lack luster sales hit Eidos hard resulting in cutbacks and cancelled projects, one of which as “Fear Effect: Inferno”.  After that, aside from a short run of comics, “Fear Effect” was left to fade into oblivion.  It is a franchise some of us still remember fondly, but many have never heard of.

That changed recently.  After Square Enix bought out Eidos Interacted they went through their catalog of old games and put the rights to some of them in their “Collective” initiative.  Small French developer Sushee picked on the rights and developed a new “Fear Effect” game titled “Fear Effect Sedna”.  Acting as an official sequel to the original game “Sedna” was released back in March of 2018.  Utilizing an isometric style Sushee sought to bring “Fear Effect” back from the ether.  With “Sedna” Sushee managed to capture the essence of what “Fear Effect” was nailing the tonal and character aspects while also attempting to update the game mechanics.  Unfortunately the controls aren’t “Sedna’s” strong suit but honestly they never were.  The original “Fear Effect” still utilized the “Resident Evil” style tank controls forcing you to rotate your character in the correct direction before moving.  

With “Sedna” out we now know Sushee is also hard at work on a remaster of the original game.  Titled “Fear Effect Reimagined” the team at Sushee is meticulously rebuilding the game from the ground up with new graphics and voice acting from the principal cast who worked on “Sedna”.  Thus far Sushee has only given a nebulous window of sometime in 2018 for release but with only a month and a half left in the year and no official date it’s possible we wont see the game until 2019.  However, Sushee was at Paris Games Week with a playable demo so that’s a hopeful indicator of how far along they are.

I admit I’m very excited for a chance to play an updated version of “Fear Effect” given my long time admiration for the franchise.  However, I am a bit concerned it may not have broad appeal.  While Sushee is updating the graphics and controls “Fear Effect” always had a niche audience and I’m not sure that has changed.  At the same time the gaming market has grown in leaps and bounds since 2000 with a much larger community.  It’s entirely possible “Fear Effect’s” quirky atmosphere and anime influenced horror aesthetic will find a new appreciation that wasn’t possible when it initially released.  Especially if Sushee does enough to make it feel fresh and not just a quaint throwback.  

Check back here as more information becomes available and for full coverage of “Fear Effect Reinvented” when it releases.  Also, should Sushee continue to work on “Fear Effect” would you’d like to see them remake “Retro Helix” or would you rather see them pursue a follow-up to “Sedna”?  Let me know in the comments below.

Altered Carbon Season 2 and New Anime

Altered Carbon Season 2 and New Anime Coming to NetflixAltered Carbon title

News | Opinion

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

I have been a big fan of Netflix’s show “Altered Carbon”.  I’ve got reviews for every episode of season one and over all thought it was a terrific blend of cyberpunk aesthetics with dark neo-noir action crime thriller storytelling.  It’s themes about humanity, immortality and how technology can change the nature of who we are were significant enough to carry it through some excesses of violence and nudity.

The show took place in the far-flung future where humanity has colonized worlds beyond earth and every person is implanted with a micro computer disc called a Stack.  Imbedded in the base of the skull the Stack keeps a rolling record of a person’s consciousness.  The Stack can then be implanted in other bodies which become known as Sleeves.  The story focused on Tekeshi Kovacs a former freedom fighter turned mercenary who hadn’t been placed in a body for 250 years.  Being woken in a world that is alien to him Kovacs gets drafted into investigating the murder of an affluent business man.  

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Anthony Mackie in Captain America: The Winter Soldier 

It was back in July that we learned that Netflix had renewed “Altered Carbon” for a season 2.  Deadline reported Season 2 will run 8 episodes and that Marvel alum Anthony Mackie (Falcon) has been cast to take up the Kovacs’s role.  The new actor isn’t at all a surprise since season one ended with Kovacs surrendering his sleeve back its original owner. Netflix hasn’t said whether any of the season 1 cast will be returning.  Though if the show continues to follow the pattern of the books season 2 may include a time jump and take place in a completely different city or even a different planet.

There’s no word yet on when season 2 will premier but on November 7 Deadline reported that Netflix has announced a companion anime that will take place in the same universe as the live action series.  The visual style and philosophical musings of Altered Carbon could fit beautifully in an anime, but even so it would be easy to grow skeptical of Netflix’s proliferation of their IP’s…. I would be more critical but Deadline notes one detail that actually has me rather excited.  The “Altered Carbon” anime is being written by Dai Sato and Tsukasa Kondo.  Sato has written for notable and highly acclaimed anime such as “Cowboy Bebop”, “Wolf’s Rain”, and “Samurai Champloo.”  If Sato’s involvement is any indication then there’s reason to hope we may see something special in this new “Altered Carbon” anime.

The Deadline article mentions the anime will explore the show’s world and mythology.  I will admit I’d love to see them delve more deeply into the leader of the Envoys, Quellcrist Falconer.  The live action series was only able to briefly touch on her through a series of flashbacks but there’s a lot more to the character and her connection to the technology in the world of “Altered Carbon”.  However, given the width and breadth of the novels there’s a lot of possibilities.   Netflix has been a bit hit and miss with its original anime ranging from adequate to pretentiously bad.  However, they do have a few exceptions like “Seven Deadly Sins” and the criticality acclaimed “Castlevania” series.   

 

For now I’ll remain cautiously optimistic about this news and hope the quality of Netflix’s original content starts matching the exorbitant amount of money they have invested in it.  They’ve been building some positive momentum this year so there is reason to hope for the future. I’ll keep following news about “Altered Carbon” season 2 and the new anime as it becomes available. 

Find a spoiler free review for “Altered Carbon” episode one “Out of the Past” HERE.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review

Assassin's Creed Odyssey Poster

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review

Action | RPG

Rated: M for blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes and strong violence.

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

Let’s get this out-of-the-way.  Yes I’ve played “Assassin’s Creed” games before now.  No, I’ve never finished one and I’ve never considered myself a fan of the franchise.  That is until now. “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey”  is the first game in the series that I’ve become deeply invested in, logging over 70 hours in it so far.

In my first reaction I chided the game for its lack of depth and I have to pull that back a bit.  In some ways it still falls short of games like Final Fantasy” or “Mass Effect” but there is one notable reason for that.  Both Final Fantasy and Mass Effect are squad based RPGs.  A big part of those games is building a team of unique characters and cultivating relationships with them.  You don’t undertake those journeys alone which gives them a lot of their depth.  “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” is a far more singular experience.  Though there are times you may pick up allies temporarily in the pursuit of a common goal for the most part you are questing through ancient Greece alone.  This greatly reduces the game’s ability to build something significant.  That said what Ubisoft managed to achieve within its limitations is stunning.  From the little girl Phoebe who  hangs around your

Assassin's Creed® Odyssey review Still004
Phoebe in AC Odyssey

character like a little sister to Barnabas the man who runs your ship, there are a lot of little moments that carry a lot of weight.  Additionally there are extended side quests with that build on each other.  One in particular on the Island of Mykonos has you working with a band of rebels fighting against a brutal Athenian Tyrant.  The length of this side story and the relationship you can form with the rebel’s leader contains a lot of little moments that make it a wonderful microcosm in the midst of “Odyssey’s” massive world. 

While the story has some surprising moments just as impressive are some of the unscripted interactions that can happen at any given time.  At one point I was hiding outside a bandit fort and attempted to lure out a couple guards.   They came out just as a Spartan soldier happened to be passing by on horseback.  The aggro’ed guards didn’t see me so they proceeded to attack the Soldier instead.  The Spartan made quick work of the bandits, got back on his horse and continued on his way.  Moments like this are a big part of open word games and “Odyssey” is very good at delivering them.

Speaking of Odyssey’s open world, the games map is massive and is broken up into different islands with level ranges that are recommended before tackling.   Thankfully there are more than a few ways to earn XP but you don’t level up very quickly.  This means if you’re desperate to raise your level to continue with some main plot quest you may find yourself grinding a bit to get there.  However it is all worth it when your hard work pays off, I feel like I’ve earned every level I’ve gained making it a rewarding experience.  

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Kassandra in AC Odyssey

For those who want to climb the ladder quickly thinking it will give you an advantage I’ve got some bad news.  “Odyssey” is rather aggressive in its difficulty scaling, many quests and enemies level with you.  Occasionally you’ll find yourself in an old area with lower level foes but for the majority of main quest items you won’t be able to gain an outsized advantage by power leveling early.  

The combat is somewhat unique in its ebb and flow.  You can’t stand your ground and hack your way through waves of baddies.  The opponents in “Odyssey” are harsh and brutal.  Most of the time you’ll find yourself jumping in to deliver a few blows only to pull back and defend while you look for another opening to strike.  But, if you hang back too far your opponent may sheath their sword and pull out a bow, javelin or even a poison filled “bomb” and attack you at range.  NPCs aren’t shy about mobbing you in groups either, swarming around and attacking two or three at a time.  That’s not to say you’re at a disadvantage.  There are a plethora of special skills to unlock that can help you.  Skills like allowing you to fire three arrows at once,  adding poison or fire to your weapons and devastating stealth attacks that let you strike from the shadows without alerting other enemies. 

Most of the game’s RPG elements are pretty standard but “Odyssey” does do a couple things of notice.  For instance like other games there’s a ton of different weapons and armor to find and earn so you may find yourself trading out gear on a fairly regular basis.  However, if there’s something you become attached to like the style of a piece of armor or the function of a weapon they can be upgraded at any of the Blacksmiths found in most towns and cities.  Provided you have the resources which can be bought or scavenged around the world.  This allows you to improve your equipment and hold on to it longer.  That means  you can sell gear to make more money or break it down into valuable resources all of which you will need plenty of.

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Your equipment and abilities aren’t the only things that can be upgraded either.  There are several facets of your ship that need attention too.  From upgrading your crew’s weapons to shoring up the hull some of these improvements unlock new benefits like the ability to appoint special lieutenants who can be recruited on your travels. Each of these lieutenants add important attributes and they will also board disabled vessels with you helping you to capture ships for resources.

Odyssey” isn’t without some flaws.  Early on there were more than a few times I fell through the map while trying to climb a wall.  I haven’t had as many problems with this recently so they may have addressed it in an update.  But, it was a very present issue at launch.  Some of the dialog is cliché and some of the quests formulaic.  Hunt and fetch quests abound and a good portion of the main quests are dogged by tit-for-tat tasks you have to complete before getting the help you seek.  There’s nothing wrong with this generally speaking but it happens so frequently in “Odyssey” that it can become tedious.  

The story suffers a bit too as it makes some illogical and abrupt left turns.  These moment largely have to do with the developers attempts to fit the game into the rest of the Assassin’s Creed lore, some of which feels shoehorned in and detached from the main storyline.  My last complaint is with the game’s many load screens which pop up everywhere.  None of them are overly lengthy but they do hamper an otherwise smooth experience.

 

None of this breaks the game but it does mare and otherwise breathtaking adventure.   On the whole “Odyssey” is an amazing game.  Whether riding through rolling countryside, scaling the Parthenon in Athens, or sailing the open sea the world of “Odyssey” is vast and engrossing.  There’s so much to see and discover you can spend countless hours just exploring.  But if, like me, you also enjoy story and compelling characters than “Odyssey” has that too.  It’s overarching narrative and how it fits into the rest of the Assassin’s Creed lore are much deeper then it first appeared, though some of it does feel forced and unnecessary.  However, it’s themes of honor, duty and family raise “Odyssey” above the rank and file and make it something very special.

 

New 4 1:2 stars
Final Score: 4 1/2 Stars

 

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Daredevil Episode Four “Blindsided” Review

Daredevil season 3 poster

Daredevil “Blindsided” review

Action | Comic Book | Streaming

Rated: TV MA for Violence and Language

Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini

This review contains spoilers for “Blindsided” episode four of Daredevil Season 3.

Fisk’s true colors shine through and we get a prison riot with hallway fight 3.0 and Karen shows off her scary side in the fourth episode of Daredevil season 3.  This episode is directed by Alex Garcia Lopez who has directed episodes of ABC’s “Cloak and Dagger” as well as Netflix’s “The Punisher” and their upcoming series based on “The Witcher”.  It’s written by Lewaa Nasserdeen, a co-producer on “Daredevil” and writer for ABC’s “The Real O’Neals” and “The Goldbergs”.

So it turns out I wasn’t wrong about Fisk arranging his own shanking as part of a plot to get out of prison.  Between this revelation and the attack on Matt the visage of a reformed Fisk fell away as he proved he’s not above using his old tricks to get what he wants.  Unlike the first season his sight is set on a smaller more personal level but that distinction doesn’t make him any less dangerous.  While the first season got us to fear Fisk for his sheer brutality season three has thus far done a terrific job imbuing Fisk with a sense of menace from his quiet yet imposing presence.  Fisk seems to be a master of his environment with perfect clarity of how to manipulate the people around him.  No where was this more evident than Fisk’s growing dynamic with Dex.  I speculated in my last review that Dex would some how come into Fisk’s service but I didn’t have any idea as to how that would play out.  “Blindsided” gave us the answer to this question.  Fisk lying for Dex to cover for his execution of the Albanians gives Fisk the leverage he needs to radically redefine their relationship.

Watching Matt use his gifts to imitate a person with sight was something different than we’ve seen before.  It’s fitting for where he’s at and a practical extension of his stated goal to leave his former identity behind.  Speaking of identity Matt stealing Foggy’s to get in the prison made a lot of sense and gave purpose for his lifting Foggy’s wallet earlier.  His quest to find something on Fisk was bound to put him in trouble but I don’t think any of us suspected it would happen so quickly or in a place that should have been safe.  Knowing Fisk still owns prison guards and possibly others makes him all the more

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Photo by Ferenc Tu00f3th on Pexels.com

dangerous taking away a sense of security for our characters.  However,  it’s Matt’s blatant disregard for the impact his actions have on those around him that is reaching disturbing levels.   Asking his former client for a favor that endangered his life was another out of character move.  Though we’ve seen Matt revert to ends justify the means tactics before but there was always a sense of empathy for the lines he was transgressing.  Such  piety was totally absent here or at the very least was buried under Matt’s new found indifference.  

I do appreciate the development we got with Foggy and Karen’s side plots.  What was beginning to feel like filler has found purpose with Karen’s investigation into Fisk’s money and Foggy’s plans to run for District Attorney.  While, as this episode so graphically communicated, Fisk is set on destroying anyone who comes between him and Vanessa.  That means both Karen and Foggy could be putting them selves in the cross hairs all over again.  I suspect they know this and the potential danger isn’t going to dissuade them.  After all they already believe themselves to be in danger and fighting back is the only solace either of them has.  The irony of course is that they may have been safer in hiding.

I’ve been rather harsh on the cinematography thus far believing it to be lagging behind previous seasons.  However, episode four reverses course so drastically that it seems part of a grand design to pull the rug out from under us.  Matt’s trip to the prison contains this seasons hallway fight which is just part of an 11 minute unbroken shot.  If there are any edits they are meticulously hidden to give the impression of a continuous sequence.  It moves from a fight sequence, to a dialog and then to a moving escape with more fighting.  It is one of the most impressive in the shows history and sets a new benchmark.  Beyond that there is also an expansion of the color palate.  It’s hard to miss this as each space was given its own look and feel.  The way the white congenial feel of Fisk’s penthouse played against the dank sickly feel of the prison is just one example.   Another is the scene where Karen is confronted by a group of catcalling thugs.  The use of back ally red lights underlined Karen’s unstableness.  Though a bit cliché it was still successful at adding to her intimidating presents.

It feels like season three is starting to hit its stride with revelations and necessary plot developments.  It will be interesting to see if Matt hits a bottom in his descent into the devil and further what would have to happen to bring him there.  Regardless this is the strongest episode of the season thus far and a hopeful indicator of where the season is headed.

New 4 stars
Final Score: 4 Stars

For more on the ratings please see our ABOUT page.

Episode Three “No Good Deed” review HERE

Episode Two “Please” review HERE

Spoiler free review of Episode One “Resurrection” HERE

Daredevil Season 3 Episode 3 “No Good Deed” Review

Daredevil Season 3 Episode 3 “No Good Deed” ReviewDaredevil season 3 poster

Action | Comic Book | Streaming

Rated: TV MA for Violence and Language

Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini

This review contains spoilers for “No Good Deed” Episode 3 of Daredevil Season 3.

With Matt’s hearing restored Daredevil continues its measured march building out its base concepts with no sense of urgency in the third episode of season three.

“No Good Deed” is Written by Sony Hoffman a writer and producer on “American Crime” and Directed by Jennifer Getzinger who has directed episodes of “Mad Men” and “Law and Order: SVU”  This episode primarily focuses on the repercussions and fallout of the attack on Fisk’s convoy.  Finding out Nadeem survived the ambush wasn’t a surprise but still a nice conformation as his fate was left unconfirmed at the and of the last episode.  This means he still has a role to play but it’s not clear yet that what that role is.  He continues to be temperamental and driven by an internal calculus which essentially makes him a loose cannon.  I still suspect Nadeem will end up being the cause of, or complicit in, some significant developments in this season.

Once again I commend the writers for taking some time to let the impact of the ambush sit with us.  Seeing the effect on the morale of the cops and FBI agents adds weight to the attack.  Those who were merely unhappy with Fisk’s release now have a personal stake in it.  It’s just another layer of events having consequence an emerging theme of this season.  More over this milieu help to make Wilson Bethel’s character Dex stand out all the more.  His skills taking out the hit squad that attacked the caravan were apparent but Dex’s detachment from his FBI brethren only become apparent here.  Something wasn’t right about Dex’s conversation with the therapist and the later revelation that his supposed girlfriend was really just a woman he’s stalking proved why.  Very quickly they’ve cemented that Dex is a psychopath and set up his future involvement.  Knowing Bullseye is set to appear at some point Dex is the prime candidate to take up that role.  Not sure what will drive him to mask up and take to vigilantism but at the moment I’ve no doubt Dex has something to do with Bullseye.

The rest of this episode concerned Matt and his continued decent into his own darkness.  The antipathy that defined the first two episodes has now been given form in Matt’s delusions of Fisk.  Having Matt’s internal conflict externalized in such a way feels a bit cheap and uncharacteristic for a someone who has been reasonably stable in the past.  However, it seems something has happened to Matt.  We still don’t know how he got out from under the rubble of the collapsed building and to the orphanage.  A safe bet would be Electra but there’s enough mystery that some of Matt’s aberrant behavior may have an explanation rooted in something that’s yet to be revealed. 

Regardless of my ambivalence over the possible character inconsistency having Matt interact with a personification of his worst fears and failures is rather effective.  This is especially true as Matt’s image of Fisk stands in contrast to how Fisk is really acting.  While it’s hard to trust Fisk yet everything he’s done so far is consistent with his desire to help Vanessa.  Fisk has even convinced his lawyers that all he cares about is Vanessa’s well being.  This dichotomy seems to say more about Matt than Fisk as the former is sinking even deeper into his narcissism while the other is acting out of a supposed sense altruism.  No better was this evident than Matt’s meeting with Foggy.  While it was heartbreaking to watch it was a terrific bit of subversion.  They build up expectations of a reunion between Matt and his former friends and then pulled the rug out from under us by having Matt be so self-serving.  As I mentioned before the show seems to be flipping the script depicting Fisk on a path to redemption and Matt on the opposite trajectory becoming one of the monsters he’s fought against.

The fight scene in the garage was well choreographed and had a lot of good moments, but I still feel the cinematography is lagging behind a bit.  It’s not bad by any means, but it isn’t improving either, thus middling in a safe zone in between.  Again Matt is just getting on his feet again and isn’t at the same level of prowess as he’s been in the past.  Matt’s fighting has been underplayed in a brutal simplicity which they may be mirroring in the cinematography.  It may be something that changes with the arrival of Bullseye which will draw a visual distinction between him and Daredevil.

While solid enough to carry the story forward episode three is tripling down on its slow methodical pacing.  While such a calculated approach has some strengths I can’t help but feel the show is at risk of stagnating so I hope things pick up soon so they avoid getting trapped into repeating themselves or exhausting our patience on gratuitous filler.

new 3 stars
Final Score: 3 Stars

 

For more on the ratings please see our ABOUT page.

Find our review for Episode Two HERE

Our spoiler free review of episode One HERE

Daredevil Season 3 Episode 2 “Please” Review

Daredevil season 3 poster
Netflix | Marvel

Daredevil Season 3 Episode 2 “Please” Review

Action | Comic Book | Streaming

Rated: TV MA for Violence and Language

Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini

This review contains spoilers for “Please” episode two of Daredevil Season 3.

Proving Fisk was telling the truth at the end of the premier episode, “Please” starts with a raid the home of a bunch of bad guys delighting the FBI and catapulting Ray Nadeem into the spotlight.  Though it seems Nadeem has a larger roll to play in all this it’s not immediately apparent what.  At the moment he seems desperate to prove himself so he can move up the ranks and earn more money to pay off encroaching debts.  This makes Nadeem vulnerable to be manipulated by Fisk something I strongly suspect is taking place after this episode.

The attack on Fisk in the prison weight room wasn’t surprising even less so was Fisk’s reaction to the attack.  Gaining the leverage to request his transfer seems like just another step in Fisk’s plan.  In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if the inmate that attacked Fisk wasn’t part of the plan as well.  Letting someone shank him to further his ambition is something Fisk would do and would make a great twist later on.

The bulk of the episode though is still squarely on Matt.  If there was any doubt about what Matt was doing donning a mask and jumping into a fight his motivations are laid bare here.  Matt already told us he’d rather die as the Daredevil then live as Matt Murdock and his latest excursion was a suicide mission.  All this providing more evidence that Matt is still without hope even after regaining some of this abilities.  However, it does provide and excellent excuse to show Matt’s continued struggle with his faith.  A struggle he’s had for a long time as evidenced by a couple of flashbacks showing Matt as a boy and the orphanage.  Skylar Gaertner returns this season to play Matt as a kid and does a great job as a younger version of Charlie Cox’s character.  Daredevil’s tortured relationship with his catholic roots was always a powerful force in the comics but something they’ve only given cursory nods to in the series.  Thus it’s nice to spend some time here as it provides added depth to his continuing struggle to get back on his feet.  That said I hope they don’t drag this out too much longer as it will become repetitive if it does.

The C and D stories concerning Karen and Foggy still feel a bit like filler but they are also laying some important ground work for later in the season.  Foggy’s discontent with his job has been quietly set up in “The Defenders” and  “Jessica Jones Season 2” and will likely have implications in how he’ll react to Matt when they are reunited.  Karen’s side plot leading her to believe Matt is still alive may play a role in that coming about.  I for one am still rooting for the three to reform Nelson and Murdock.

Perhaps the biggest development was the attack on the convoy transporting Fisk to his safe house.  At first it was easy to assume it was an orchestrated escape attempt. However, it quickly became evident that wasn’t the case.  The Albanians were looking for retribution over the losses they suffered because of Fisk.  This didn’t feel like part of the plan but an unintended consequence that will reverberate for episodes to come.

I want to give a shout out to the terrific sound design in this episode.  A couple of times they give us a taste of Matt’s perspective.  The audio coming out of only one channel and the perpetual ring of tinnitus.  This awkward aural detail spoke volumes to Matt’s condition.  However, I feel the cinematography and fight choreography slipped a bit.  The muted colors and choppy fights may also be trying to throw us off just as Matt is thrown off.  However, it’s a bit too off-putting to work effectively.  Even more so given the stellar camera works and choreography this series is known for.

Episode Two is working at a furious pace to lay ground as is balances its large cast and multiple plots.  I hope all these elements will come together in a unified way to avoid the disjointed feel of season 2.  For now they are doing a good job advancing the necessary narrative beats to keep things interesting.  Especially with Fisk who’s not being treated as a typical antagonist.  His motivations and over all characterization is given with such attention as to make him a co-lead standing next to Cox’s Matt Murdock.  It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep that dynamic going forward.

New 4 stars
Final Score: 4 Stars

For more on the ratings please see our ABOUT page.

See the spoiler free review of episode 1 HERE

Hope Deferred | Days Gone Delayed

Days Gone DelayedDays Gone logo

News | Opinion

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

If you’re anything like me you’re growing tired of hearing about “Days Gone” and just want a chance to actually play it.  Unfortunately we’re all going to have a bit longer to wait then we thought.  Sony has announced that they are pushing “Days Gone’s” release back by 2 full months.  The game will now come out April 26th 2019.  Reportedly this is to give the team at Bend more time to add some “polish” the game.  Now while I adhere to the philosophy that game delays usually a good thing this news does carry a some implications that are worth discussing.

Objectively the idea of adding polish can be a positive thing.  It’s amazing how much a game can improve after massaging and tweaking fine details.  Thus taking time to improve the overall quality of a product is something I can get behind.  I do have some questions about what exactly Bend is using this time for.  The footage they’ve shown off so far already looks really good though it’s possible we’ve only seen vertical slices and that the team is bringing the rest of the game to the same level.  It’s also possible the “polish” is less cosmetic and more substantive.  We’ve had stories in the recant past of games who’s development cycles were eaten up with getting gameplay mechanics working at the expanse of narrative and character development.  Both “No Man’s Sky” and “Mass Effect: Andromeda” suffered from this.  We know Bend has built a lot of complex mechanics into “Days Gone” including day/night cycles and the unscripted behavior of the Freaker hoards.  With that in mind I’ve noted before the absence of story and especially character in the gameplay Bend has, so far, shown off.  While aspects of the world seem very compelling there’s nothing about protagonist Deacon St. John (aside from his name) that has been worthy of notice.  Thus far he’s come off as a one note derivative anti-hero we’ve seen countless times before.   Bend has given assurances that there’s actually a lot to him but at this point those assurances are all we’ve got to go one.  

Thus it’s not out of the question Bend is taking time to flesh out the narrative and/or character side of the game.  Adding some depth beyond the simple premise we’ve already been introduce too.  If it sounds like I’m harping on this point it is because I am.  There are times when games can succeed in simply dropping the player into a world and letting them loose from there.  Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption 2” seems to be following such a formula as does CD Project Red’s “Cyberpunk 2077”.  However, I do not believe “Days Gone” can survive in this same vein.  There has got to be a reason to stay in that world.  That reason may be narrative driven or character.  A story that drives us to the next part of the world or something about Deacon himself that makes us want to spend time with him.

There are a couple other things at play here, one of which is the recent focus given to game developers and “crunch time”.  For those unfamiliar “crunch” is typically the final weeks/months before a game is released.  In the homestretch of development game companies have been known to demand obscene work hours including massive amounts of overtime.  Reportedly these excess work hours are not always compensated  and the physical and emotional stress can lead to health problems for employees.  With the renewed attention from games media and surrounding community it’s possible Sony wants to lessen the impact of “Days Gone’s” crunch period by giving them some extra time.  

Additionally the original release date at the end of February 2019 became incredibly crowded.  The end of January will see the Resident Evil 2 remake and the hotly anticipated “Kingdom Hearts 3”.   Bioware’s Anthem was to be released the same day as “Days Gone” as is “Metro Exodus”.  With all that Sony may have wanted to give some breathing room for “Days Gone” by releasing it at a time when fewer big games are coming out. This is a hopeful sign as some of us worried Sony was sending “Days Gone” out to die in an over crowded field.

One last thought on all this and that is how “Days Gone’s” delay will affect Sony’s other highly anticipated exclusive “The Last of Us part 2”.   While it doesn’t have an official release date yet most of us have been estimating a 2019 date.  Given that both “Days Gone” and “The Last of Us” are both post apocalyptic survival games featuring zombie like creatures Sony will likely give a good amount of time between them.  That means “The Last of Us part 2” may not be coming until August or September next year.  It’s also possible it may not be a 2019 title but early 2020.  The first “Last of Us” came out right at the end of Playstation 3’s life cycle and with strong rumors of PS5 on the horizon it’s very possible “Last of Us part 2” will serve as a similar swan song for the PS4 console. 

Regardless I’ll keep updating as more information comes out so come back for breakdowns and analysis right here on The Glitch.

You can find previous thoughts on “Days Gone”  HERE and HERE.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey First Thoughts and Reaction

Assassin’s Creed OdysseyAssassin's Creed Odyssey Poster

Action | RPG | Fantasy

Rated: M for blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes and strong violence.

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” marks a new direction for the Assassin’s Creed franchise.  In the wake of last years “Assassin’s Creed Origins” which served as a soft reboot for the series Ubisoft’s second team was loosed to play in the newly reconstructed space.  Taking place before “Origins” chronologically “Odyssey” visits ancient Greece at the time of the Peloponnesian war between 431 and 404 BCE when Athens and Sparta drew the entire Greek empire into decades of conflict.  It’s a great setting and “Odyssey” uses it as a backdrop as you step into the shoes of either Alexios or Kassandra a child of Sparta who grew up as an orphan on the small Greek island of  Kephallonia.  Now an adult Alexios or Kasandra embark on they’re own own epic odyssey.  I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling anything.

I’ve previously written a piece about why I’ve been excited for “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” and after spending around twelve hours in the game I am pleased to say that so far it has met or exceeded nearly all my expectations.  I said previously that I’ve been looking for a new action RPG in the vain of Bioware’s glory days.  Something that could take all the open world magic Ubisoft is known for and meld it with elements of rich storytelling and gameplay.  Thus far “Odyssey” does an excellent job of filling this prescription.  The team at Ubisoft has brought the world of ancient Greece to life with beautiful landscapes and colorful cities with opulent architecture.  These spaces are full of life from wealthy merchants to peasants dressed in rags.  Persian and Spartan soldiers clash on the roads snaking through the countryside.  Bandits roam the forests while Assassin's Creed® Odyssey_20181018152537pirates prey on the seas. 

There is also a ton of wildlife both benign and deadly.  Bears and wolves share spaces with elk and goats.  You’ll encounter shark infested waters and watch playful dolphins folic alongside your boat.  Beyond all this many of the NPC’s have complex behavioral cycles.  For instance, safely hidden on a perch you can watch Persian guards as they walk patrols, taking breaks to eat, sleep and talk to other guards.  This gives “Odyssey” the feeling of existing inside a living breathing world.

Each area is full of side quests and missions that can be accepted from NPC’s, message boards or just by wondering the world and discovering.  With all the side avenues open to you it’s easy to get sidetracked from the main quest and rest assured there is a main storyline that threads through all this.  It takes some time to get moving, in fact it can take 3 to 4 hours to get out of the tutorial area and glimpse the game’s main title.  But the slow burn of the main story allows you time to become invested in the world, explore a bit and do some level grinding so you’re prepared when the world really opens up later on.

So far my chief complaint is on the character side.  I’ve been playing as Kassandra and while she has some moments of depth she and most of the other characters feel a bit stale and one-dimensional.  This is slowly changing as the game goes on but even so the characters remain the most formulaic part of “Odyssey”.  That said there are some genuinely compelling moments highlighted by the writing and acting.  I have already encountered a couple of choices that gave me more than a moment’s pause.  If this continues than “Odyssey” may cement itself as a legitimate force within the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise.   

Assassin's Creed® Odyssey_20181018152641

Gameplay wise the game works rather well incorporating staples from past “Assassin’s Creed” games such as climbing and scouting while it adds a range of new elements reminiscent of other games in the genre.    Influences from “The Witcher”, “Breath of the Wild” and “ Dragon Age” are apparent as you move through Ubisoft’s meticulously crafted world.    These action RPG elements are rather simplistic and don’t do anything special or new but isn’t necessarily a problem because it allows “Odyssey” to exist in between the “Assassin’s Creed” we know and something new.  The upgrade system breaks down into categories that reflect different play styles letting attack the game’s challenges in your own way.

So far I am quite taken with “Odyssey” the width and breadth of its world is impressive and engaging.  The story has got me intrigued enough to want to know what happens next and deeper themes are just starting to emerge which may play a bigger part in the overall narrative.

I’ll have a full review coming soon where I’ll deliver some final thoughts so make sure to come back for more on “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey”.