Monthly Archives: December 2014

“Batman: Arkham Asylum” Game Review

You know how I do reviews on movies? Well, I also do reviews for games. This superhero action-adventure video game was released on August 25th, 2009, and quickly sold over 2.5 million copies in the first two months. Developed by then-unknown developer Rocksteady, the game started out like it would be a generic Batman game, with a cool intro showing the titular hero dropping the Joker off at Arkham Asylum. Then he breaks out and takes over the prison. It’s up to you as Batman to stop him with all the sweet gadgets at your disposal. What follows is a series of well-executed levels. Including a few sections where you were in Scarecrow’s nightmare world, which broke the fourth wall through a fake game over screen, a segment where the game looked like it was broken and the hallucinatory middle stick on an N-64 controller. This masterfully created nightmare allows some of the fourth-wall breaks since Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. The voice actors, from Caped Crusader Kevin Conroy to crazy sidekick Arleen Sorkin, is fantastic. But Mark Hamill steals the show in an unforgettable turn as the Joker, which is perhaps the best portrayal of the character since Heath Ledger. The visuals and characters scream that of the comics while the epic music is worthy of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. Some fans may have initially been skeptical as to whether or not Batman could pull off his own game, given the history of awful licensed games. But it completely blew our expectations away. It’s one of the few games where you actually feel like the Caped Crusader. I have been playing this game over and over since its release.

Halo vs. Call of Duty

They are the two biggest FPS franchises to date, and have defined online gaming as we know it. Today’s match-up will pit Microsoft’s Halo series against Activision’s Call of Duty. I f you think that There will be bias in the rounds, you should know how much I love both of these series. While their quality may have dipped in recent memory(Ghosts), their earlier installments are beloved. Now let’s get started.
Round 1: Single-Player Campaigns
Both franchises deliver strong campaigns. Set in the far future, Halo focuses on a soldier named Master Chief who must fight a religious Covenant of aliens who worship a series of space rings that can destroy sentient life. Near the end of the first game, you find out that their is a far worse threat hidden within the rings. There is also a subplot following the Arbiter, a shamed Elite who ends up fighting with the humans.
Call of Duty takes a more modern approach. Modern Warfare followed several different soldiers in their fight to stop Russian Ultra-nationalists from winning a civil war. The sequels follow some of the same soldiers fighting World War III. In Black Ops, we followed Agent Alex Mason, who’s been brainwashed by the Russians during the Cold War. The second game followed his son in a era where China and the U.S. are fighting a Second Cold War with unmanned armies while also dealing with a narco-terrorist named Raul Menendez.
While they’re both amazing, Halo just nudges ahead thanks its relatable characters.
Winner: Halo 1; Call of Duty 0
Round 2: Gameplay Innovation
What makes a game truly great is its gameplay. Call of Duty is more focused on infantry combat and a sense of fast-paced, nail-biting intensity found in the run-and-gun stages. One of the latest installments relied on nonlinear gameplay choices and even multiple endings.
Halo is centered on infantry as well, but it also has the inclusion of vehicles. While this element is compelling to some, to others it can be a bit clunky at some points. Especially during levels where your A.I. buddies on the ones driving.
So despite having no vehicles, Call of Duty ends up being more fun for its military-based weapons and occasional multiple choices.
Winner: Halo 1; Call of Duty 1
Round 3: Graphics
Graphics are an important part to let you feel like you’re in the game. Call of Duty has had some visually stunning games, but their ageing graphics engine restricts the possibilities. Advanced Warfare did use a custom in-house engine, the exact name of it still remains unknown. As such, the visual overhaul is impressive, but not exactly revolutionary.
Halo, on the other hand, has always provided us with beautiful graphics(for the time at least), and given us a grander scale of the experience. From the colony on Reach to the final Halo Ring, We’re all blown away by the graphics.
Halo takes over this one.
Winner: Halo 2; Call of Duty 1
Round 4: Impact
Both franchises have had a major impact on not just the FPS genre, but the industry as a whole. Halo debuted in 2001, and essentially put the Xbox on the map. The sequels quickly brought in online play with the Xbox Live, which inadvertently kicked off the age of vulgar teenage boys who play online just to troll others. Anyway, the story was also groundbreaking for its co-op or single-player experience. Although, co-op play is becoming more popular every year and the second player in Halo is usually a clone of Master Chief, save for Halo 3 when you got to play as Arbiter. When you do play on single player, you’re facing your enemies by yourself. I say this because the A.I. of the Marines is pretty bad.
Call of Duty came in 2003 in the trenches of World War II. The first three games were single player experiences, but they also rely on squad-based combat with spectacular scripting. The fourth game moved the series to modern day, and managed to dramatically shift the focus of the entire industry. It brought in a strong campaign worthy of a military action movie, and amazing online multiplayer with customizable kill-streaks, meaning there was plenty to come back to. Each successor onward brought in more advanced A.I. for the campaigns and more multiplayer options. Also worth noting is the zombie survival mode in multiplayer, which has widened the appeal of the franchise. And let’s not forget about the Nuke and No Russian.
In this round, Call of Duty wins for essentially carving out a neat sub-genre in recent years.
Winner: Halo 2; Call of Duty 2
Round 5: Multiplayer
Where would either series be without the multiplayer? As mentioned before Call of Duty brought in a ton of maps, customizable kill-streaks, and a multitude of modes, meaning there was plenty of replay value. And the aforementioned zombie mode could be taken co-op either online or split-screen, offering one heck of a good time with your buddies. Though the maps are sometimes small and encouraging camping, the immense of amount of fun and the overall satisfaction of killing those bickering teenagers makes up for that.
It may not have post-apocalyptic gameplay, but Halo has only gotten better with its multiplayer. In the third game and onward, the Forge has allowed you to create your own maps from scratch. The variety of vehicles and weapons allows for players to drive and blast their way through enemy territories. Whether you stick to the ground with the Warthog or take to the skies in the Phantom, you can always rely on tons of kills. Those into close range carry the Assault Rifle, Energy Sword or the Needler. Any one who prefers long range has the Sniper Rifle or the Spartan Laser.
Once again, Halo pushes ahead of the game, though only just.
Winner: Halo 3; Call of Duty 2
Verdict: Halo is the winner. While Call of Duty has given many great memories, Halo dominates for it’s multiplayer experiences and unforgettable story. Do you agree? Be sure to calmly and politely leave a comment and follow my blog. Leave some suggestions on what my next post should be. Goodbye.

“Boyhood” Movie Review

There is so much to say about this movie. Let’s start off with the facts. This coming-of-age drama, written and directed by Richard Linklater, was released on July 11th, 2014. It has since grossed 43 million dollars at the box office against a 4 million dollar budget. Interestingly, the film was shot in 32 days across 12 whole years. So it may be safe to say that Linklater’s patience paid off. The plot is uncomplicated and unrushed. It focuses on the life of a boy named Mason from age 6 to age 18. Just hearing that description would make the average movie-goer not think much of it. But it’s much, much more underneath. Lead by a moving performance from Ellar Coltrane, we see a unique side of family life never seen before. The rest of the ensemble cast is outstanding, from Richard’s daughter Lorelei Linklater to long-time collaborator Ethan Hawke. Much of the story takes places in Texas, most notably Houston, Dallas, and my hometown of Austin. This allows for us to become more familiar with the environment that Mason lives in, rather than just changing our thoughts every twenty minutes. The entirely original screenplay by Richard Linklater unwinds over 12 whole years as we learn more about these interesting and nuanced characters. The film doesn’t use a memorable score, opting instead for Rock and Pop songs from the days of yore. Also, this is the type of movie that will leave you breathless in one shot and breaking into fits of laughter the next. This movie is an absolute masterpiece, and perhaps the best movie of the year. It is a required watch for all teenage boys and men in general about finding yourself in your childhood. It only works with age. I may not mind watching this movie again.

“Interstellar” Movie Review

Did Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi drama live up to all the hype? Yes. Released on Nov. 7th, 2014 the film has grossed over $450 million at the worldwide box office. Warner Bros. actually sold the rights some of their household franchises, such as Friday the 13th, just so Interstellar could be released worldwide. Can’t say I blame them. The plot takes place in an unconfirmed future where the Earth is being overwhelmed by dust storms, and school teachers believe that the Apollo Moon Landing was a fraud. The main protagonist is Cooper, a farmer and pilot who struggles to take care of his two children. Cooper is played by Mathew Mccounaghey, in perhaps the most versatile role of his recent career. Cooper is assigned to pilot a team of astronauts into a portal that could lead to humanity’s survival. Other actors join the movie including Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and one surprise actor who shan’t be named, in some truly believable performances. The plot takes multiple twists and turns that should be better viewed on the biggest screen you can find. The worlds the explores are quite immersive thanks to their interesting environments and sound designs. Hans Zimmer provides a score that mainly consists of organs during breathtaking scenes. I implore you to see this movie on the largest screen possible; in 3-D if possible. I can’t say I would watch it again though.