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Bioshock Infinite Review

Posted : 6 years, 5 months ago on 27 March 2013 11:42 (A review of BioShock Infinite)

So here we are, Bioshock Infinite. My most anticipated game of 2013. A lot has been expected from Infinite since it was being developed by Irrational, the original developers of Bioshock, probably one of the best first person shooters ever. So after completing the game, did it meet the expectations? Not only does it meet the standards and expectations set by the original Bioshock, it is an exceptional first person shooter game, a contender for game of the year and the absolute true sequel to Bioshock. Not Bioshock 2, this game.

So lets get the technical bits out of the way first before we delve into the story and gameplay. The game is absolutely gorgeous to look at and its mixture of cartoon like visual designs and realistic atmosphere gives it a timeless look. Columbia gives the same feeling of environmental immersion that Rapture did with Bioshock. It seems that Irrational really knows how to design a set world very well. I heard that the PC version has the best graphical and technical performance out of the three platforms because it has a more consistent frame rate. I don't know if the PC version has this problem but in the PS3 version, possibly the Xbox 360 version as well, in some instances when your in a combat situation, the game stops and loads for a few seconds then starts again, which ruins the gameplay flow quite considerably but fortunately, it only happened about twice or three times, predominantly on the busier combat levels later in the game.

Just to note, I will be comparing this game constantly with Bioshock by gameplay standards for justification. First we'll look at the multiplayer. Wait, what's that? A first person shooter that doesn't have any obligatory multiplayer and its overall quality is determined by its single player campaign? You have no idea how incredibly refreshing this is. In a gaming industry where most first person shooters must have a multiplayer, this is just a giant breeze of fresh air. Tell me, when was the last time you ever saw a first person shooter that didn't have any multiplayer on it, Co-op or competitive? Deux Ex Human Revolution maybe? Nah, that is more of a first person RPG and looking at its overall gameplay, won't even work as a multiplayer game. Infinite has the potential to be a multiplayer game, hell, even the developers thought of it but because of time constraints, it got axed and instead focused on the single player experience.

To thoroughly explain the gameplay, I need to talk about the story first. The game is set in 1912 in Columbia, a city in the sky controlled by a religious dictatorship and you are Booker DeWitt, a disgraced Pinkerton agent who is tasked to retrieve a girl to pay off his gambling debts. The girl, Elizabeth, has the power to open tears to different universes. That's all I'm going to say about the story because it's a story that deserves to be experienced by yourself and only yourself. Elizabeth will be the artificial intelligence that follows you around for the majority of the game. Her universe tear powers are not only integral to the story but the gameplay as well, particularly in combat. Elizabeth is a very interesting AI as she can hand you ammo, weapons, salts (an item that replenishes your powers) and money (non-combat only) when necessary and it flows with the combat very well. She never obstructs your path since she can appear and disappear in an appropriate area so that you don't get obstructed though it can be a bit strange since it looks ridiculously and hilariously implausible when she's now 10 feet behind you after she moves out of your way in less than a second. She also doesn't need protecting while in combat, which saves the game from being a giant escort mission and I know that no gamer likes that.

Bioshock Infinite's gameplay is at the same time similar and different to Bioshock. It has the same controls, the difference being that you can finally sprint and has the guns and power (called Vigors in this game) combination when in combat, mixing both for strategically taking down enemies. In combat, Infinite is a lot more action orientated, most combat areas having skylines that takes you around the battle ground and universe tears, which Elizabeth can use to accesse turrets, hooks, supply crates and covers from another universe and adds a unique dimension to the usual aim and shoot gameplay in an FPS. For powers, they are mostly used to turn the tide in battle, with powers that can lift enemies up in the air for easy shots or possessing them to turn against their allies. Infinite also has a unique clothing system called gears where different outfits can give different abilities like for example, your melee attacks has a chance of setting the enemy on fire. The overall combat of the game is very exciting and I was sceptical at first with the controls since I have been used to the standard FPS controls of today, the biggest change is that the iron sight button is not R3 anymore but it's an easy learning curve and it's rarely necessary to aim down the sights as it is a lot more exciting coming close and personal to an enemy, using both weapons and powers to defeat them. Skylines and hooks are great mechanics as it gives you flanking opportunities against tougher enemies and also gives a cinematic style of approaching combat situations. It is always awesome when you take down multiple enemies after flanking them by dropping from a skyline.

I do have some gripes with the gameplay itself, usually stemming from what the original Bioshock introduced. The combat can be a bit too easy when catering to the action. Elizabeth is pretty much your health, ammo and salt supply and while she only gives it when necessary, it is pretty much an infinite amount of supply, which does dumb down the tension slightly though it is rectified when pinned down in a gun fight with low health and low ammo and you are desperately hoping that Elizabeth will give you supplies. Some gear items are way too overpowered and convenient, which adds to the easiness of the combat and there is a lot of gears, I mean a lot. That is another problem since you'll only use the most important gears, which are the health enhancing gears and will rarely change gears unless strategy asks for it. While you have many powers at your disposal for strategies of taking enemies down, you only tend to stick to one power and one strategy. My usual strategy is to lift enemies in the air with the Bucking Bronco vigor then pick them off one by one with a shotgun. This is probably because even though there are many different types of enemies, there are two distinctive: those you can lift and those that you can't. The simplified use of powers also simplifies environmental strategies considerably like for example, there are some puddles and other water elements here and there to use the electricity power and shock multiple enemies but unfortunately, the power can be upgraded to shock multiple enemies in one single hit and renders the puddles completely obsolete, Bioshock's version can only hit one enemy at one time, giving puddles a purpose. Granted, Bioshock is set in an underwater city. I played this on normal difficulty so if you want a more visceral experience, I recommend a higher difficulty setting or 1999 mode. It would've been also been better if the powers can be used outside of combat like getting access to different areas, which in Infinite, is only used in one instance. Along with the powers, the weapon system is also quite simplified. Unlike in Bioshock and Bioshock 2 where you can carry many weapons, you can only carry two weapons and each can be swapped with scattered weapons in the environment. They are still customisable but it doesn't feel personal like in Bioshock where you can actually see what the weapon looks like after customising it. I do wished that Infinite kept the different ammo types as that could've added more strategy in taking down different enemies like for example, to kill a Handyman, which is the most difficult enemy in the game, only armour piercing rounds can kill it, making the combat more intense and frantic than usual.

Other than the gameplay gripes that I have with the game which the original Bioshock has a good advantage on, Infinite shines in its well paced, imaginative, morally challenging, mind twisting story and unforgettable characters. Booker DeWitt is one of the few first person characters to having a personality outside of the player's action and Elizabeth is probably one of the best female characters I've ever encountered in a video game, her voice actress is great and her characterisation and importance to the plot is just incredible. The story's themes of religion, politics, fate is endlessly fascinating and its cryptic plot points mixed with the multiverse aspect gives you a motivation to replay the game just to make sense of what is happening. The game doesn't pull any strings when it comes to evoking the racism, nationalism, rebellion and the importance and hypocrisies of religion found under a perfect utopian society. The ending, which I won't even dare spoil here (for spoilers, see side note at the end of the review), is one of the best endings I have ever seen in a game and you have to pay attention to the story to get the best feeling when it comes to the end. My problem, if I had to pick one from this amazing story, is that there are certain points where it gives you chosen decisions. The problem is that they are more cosmetic changes throughout the story and doesn't affect the plot one bit. Maybe its used as symbolism and if that's the case then it's not really a problem at all.

Don't let my complaints of the game discourage you from giving this game a chance, I only did it out of love for this game and the original Bioshock. When looking at the original Bioshock's level of standards and expectations, I expected Bioshock Infinite to be a story driven game with beautiful environments, challenging themes and overall good gameplay and that's what I fully got. From all the comparisons that I've made to the original Bioshock, overall I think Infinite is on the same level of quality in terms of what it was meant to deliver. Bioshock was more of a survival horror with claustrophobic environments and sneaky enemies, back tracking to different areas to gather scarce but useful resources such as ammo types and health, the story being a bit more subtle and open through its use of its environment. Infinite is an action game, meant for you to feel like a one man army going against aggressively open enemies, hitting them as hard as you can, the story being more linear and focused. It ascends from being a typical first person shooter by adding many interesting mechanics that both cater to the story and the gameplay from the skylines, universe tears, vigors and of course, Elizabeth's technically brilliant AI. The overall combat trumps most first person shooters out today and its incredible single player story is another proof that video games can be as engaging narrative mediums as films and books are. I implore you to buy this game at once and experience one of the best games to come out this year.

Challenging, compelling and just down right incredible story.
Elizabeth's characterisation and extremely competent AI.
Exciting, action orientated combat.
Gorgeous graphics and art design.
Imaginatively realised environments.
The ending.

Could've used some elements from the original Bioshock to make the overall gameplay a bit more deeper.

Side Note:
Spoiler Alert! Read at your own risk
For those who have completed the game, check out this interesting article from Forbes which tries to dissect and understand the ambiguous ending of the game: [Link removed - login to see]

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Tomb Raider Review

Posted : 6 years, 6 months ago on 11 March 2013 11:00 (A review of Tomb Raider)

*some minor spoilers ahead

Reboots are one of the riskiest moves you could do to an ageing video game franchise. As well as catering for old, loyal fans, the reboot has to be relevant in the time it was released, getting brand new fans along the way. It has to have the same feel as its predecessors but fresh enough that it isn't much of the same tired old game. There are many fine examples of video game reboots such as Ubisoft's Prince of Persia Sand series and Rayman Origins and Team Ninja's Ninja Gaiden. Alas, it's finally Lara Croft's turn to be rehashed all over again to tell a brand new story and offer a new take on this long running franchise of action-adventure games.

I was never really a fan of the Tomb Raider series because I thought the camera and controls felt clunky to me but I did like the puzzles and storylines though it was not enough to win me over. Just to note that I will unavoidably compare this game to the Uncharted series to a small degree, ironically being influenced by Tomb Raider series, thus becoming an influence loop.

Tomb Raider is of course, a reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise as it explores Lara Croft's origin story and her transformation from a vulnerable, naive young woman to a strong, hardened and fearless explorer depicted in preceding games. First of all, this game really deserves its 18 (UK) and Mature (US) rating since it can be a dauntingly brutal game by visual standard, which makes you try not to get Lara killed, especially in the scripted gameplay parts of the game, I mean it is hard to see a young woman being impaled through her neck by a spike of wood because you couldn't dodge fast enough.

Graphically speaking, the game does look very nice. The background and foreground designs are very beautiful and exotic and the character designs are very photo realistic, especially Lara's design. The character animation is also extremely well done as Lara interacts with her environment like how an actual person does. It does have some occasional texture pop ins and it did glitch out on me on intense combat scenes where Lara's whole body stretches out of the screen, hindering my view of the combat.

So how's the gameplay? Getting it out of the way first, multiplayer is boring and overall completely and utterly pointless. One of the things I like about this reboot is that they have completely improved the controls as it feels a lot easier to move Lara about from running, climbing and jumping, even without the acrobatics and flexibilities that she is known for. Unlike previous games, Lara doesn't control like a tank any more and the camera follows her very consistently and stylishly but without any hindrance whatsoever. The combat is more of a third person shooter than the stylish, run and gun style of the previous games and most of its combat sequences are quite reminiscent of Uncharted or the Gears of War series with already set up battleground filled with strategic covers. An improvement to this is that instead of a sticky cover mechanic where your character sticks to a cover at a press of a button, Lara will automatically duck and hide whenever she's near cover, allowing you to move freely and strategically plan your position of attack and it never hinders your ability to change from cover to cover. This auto cover feature is also very useful in stealth though it does make it too easy to stealth through a combat sequence. Platforming is also very well executed and the tools that you gradually acquire opens up many dimensions to the platforming, giving you a good reason to explore the whole island though the exploration is a whole other problem.

The very beginning of the game is a very well scripted and very compelling sets of action set pieces but is unfortunately marred by annoying and unpredictable quick time events. It does portray Lara's struggle and fear quite well but it becomes more of an annoyance than a tool of tension. Fortunately, it does lessen as you progress through the game with more platforming, action and puzzle solving that the series is known for. The game contains a good amount of cinematic like gameplay from escaping a collapsing building or outrunning a collapsing bridge, some being quite similar to the Uncharted series. The world gradually opens up for you to explore but your ability to openly explore it is hindered by the story's scripted scenes like for example, you want to go back to the previous area to get the collectibles but you can't really since the bridge that connects it was destroyed according to the story progression, the only way back being fast travel by camp and camps are scattered inconveniently throughout the island, which makes exploration a bit of a chore. A motivation to explore the island are of course the collectibles and most importantly the tomb challenges, which are one of the best features of the game. The puzzles involving the tombs are incredibly clever and creative and it gives you a lot of salvage and experience points. It is a shame that there are only 6 (7 if you buy the pointless £2 extra Game Exclusive edition) and they are unfortunately short. Setting the tomb raiding, which is the main reason why the series is called Tomb Raider, as a side extra can be forgiven as the story is more of a character study and development rather than another adventure for Lara Croft. It would be very interesting (and inevitable) to see a sequel that involves more tomb challanges as part of its single player campaign as well as extra side tombs. Speaking of collectibles, most of them are completely arbitrary since they're only for trophies/achievements sake like collecting gps devices or lighting up up monk torches. Yes, they do give some XP but there are better ways to do it.

While it does claim that it is a game with survival like gameplay, the survival aspect of it is not really part of the whole gameplay but rather than a tool to imply the situation of the story. At the very beginning of the game, you are tasked to hunt animals since Lara is becoming hungry, one of the few survival aspects of the game but in the long run, you don't go hungry again and you don't even need to hunt animals any more for survival, being only for experience points rather than a commodity of survival. This did bother me quite a bit since I felt tricked that I need to make Lara hunt for animals so that she wouldn't starve to game over and to be honest, that would've made a plausible feature in this supposedly survival themed game, even if there are only 3-4 types of animals in the whole island to hunt.

The story in this game is pretty good, with a few problems concerning its complementaries with its gameplay as it does have some disconnections on Lara's characterisation and the actions that you make her do in game. She is shocked to having killed a man for the first time but in seconds, she is shooting arrows in the heads to unfortunate enemies. I really do like Lara Croft in this game. Her voice acting is great and in terms of personality, I prefer this one over the other incarnations. Her transformation from being a naive, optimistic and vulnerable woman to a strong survivor is the story's key highlight. The supporting character are a bit on the lackluster side as we don't really have enough time to get to know them and what their relationship with Lara is. Overall, the single player campaign will last you an average of 8 hours, depending if you want to collect everything in the game.

Overall, consider me intrigued by this game. It is a very good game and It feels like this is a very appropriate and improved reboot. It has problems but they are never enough to hinder the experience. It has a quite compelling single player campaign, probably one of the few triple A titles today that has more focus and care on its single player campaign than the obligatory multiplayer feature. The combat is a lot of fun and the platforming encourages incentive to explore, even if it doesn't get the exploration bit quite right yet. Do yourself a favour and try this game out.

Good story and the best incarnation of Lara Croft I've seen.
Graphics are nice and character animations look great.
Improved and better control scheme in comparison to previous Tomb Raider games.
Impressive gameplay mechanics, especially the auto cover.
The tomb side quests.

Boring, needless multiplayer.
Uninteresting supporting characters.
Tombs sidequests are too short.
Quick time events, especially at the beginning, are unintuitive.
Disparities between the player's action and Lara's characterisation.
Could've used survival aspects for necessities rather than experience points.

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Ni No Kuni Review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 4 February 2013 11:51 (A review of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch)

First of all, let me justify my feelings of JRPG's today. Yeah, they're still successful, especially in its native Japan. Looking at their gaming charts, the majority of the games are RPGs. Going back to 1997, Final Fantasy VII broke ground and popularised JRPGs around the world. Unfortunately, it also popularised the trend of JRPGs being about angst, cynicism and drama including depressed and remorseful characters with flashy outfits, complex gameplay and outlandish storylines, which was at first quite alright but now it has ran its course. For more than a decade, most JRPG's have been like that and I was not enjoying it at all, with few exceptions such as the Dragon Quest series or the Persona series though Persona is coming close to the edge of the trend as of lately but it still succeeds in story and gameplay.

JRPGs wasn't about adventuring or simply saving the world from evil any more, it's about seeing how much far farfetchedness and complexity we could put in the game. Final Fantasy after IX has become a ridiculously dumb series that relies too much on overdramatic stories that contained countless plot holes and rehashed characters, with XIII summarising all the worst of it. While I still like them, I didn't fully enjoy Sakaguchi's Lost Odyssey or Last Story because the story lines and characters were still in the same trend of being either depressed or outlandish. Is there any JRPGs that doesn't have the over-dramatics, the unneeded complexity, the unnecessary angst or the cynicism that has been plaguing JRPGs for god knows how long? Enter Ni No Kuni.

Ni No Kuni is not only a giant breath fresh air in a gaming industry reliant on multiplayer gameplay and DLC galore, it is the game that the JRPG genre needed for a huge contrast. Gone is the cynicism and the complexity, what we get is a good old traditional JRPG about saving the world and adventuring. It's like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy 4-6, Earthbound or any of the 16bit era RPGs never went away, Ni No Kuni is pretty much a love letter to those games. Not harking back to the past, how does the game fair?

The game's most outstanding feature is its visuals. I always believe that if a game have less realistic and more cartoony graphics, they will age better and Ni No Kuni certainly will because the visuals are just astonishingly beautiful and I can see myself still being in awe years later. The overall gameplay is a mixture of the old school JRPGs and Pokemon since the main gameplay feature of the game is capturing familiars to fight for you, upgrading them and leveling them so that they can fight better and you travel around an explorable world with its own individual settings and you can use a boat or a flying dragon at your disposal to go anywhere. Side quests take form of errands and bounties, the errands being kind of hit and miss as they tend to repeat themselves and the bounty being good XP for leveling. The exploration aspect is very simple and traditional and I actually kind of miss this. The battle system is very strategic in contrast to its travel gameplay but it does have some flaws. There are some unfair difficulty spikes throughout and the companion AIs can be quite incompetent as they will unknowingly waste their mana, especially when you need them for backup such as magic attacks or heals and they cannot heal themselves, making you having to swap to them for control. Overall though, the battle system is a lot of fun and keeps grinding a lot less boring in comparison to other JRPGs.

Finally, how does the story hold up? While it does have some pacing problems and technical inconsistencies like where it sporadically swaps from voices to just silent text expositions, the story is really good and just satisfyingly refreshing. The story is just a simple but overall joyful, whimsical and poignant save the world from evil but it comes with many interesting twists and surprises. The main character is not an annoying, angst ridden idiot but a well mannered, naive and courageous kid and the cast of characters are very interesting and well fleshed out, each having their own interesting back stories and unique, not at all farfetched looking designs, courtesy of Studio Ghibli.

Final verdict? Do yourself a favour and buy this game. This is easily one of the best JRPG I have ever played, one of the best games on the PS3 and an easy Game of the Year contender. It is such a breath of fresh air to play a joyful and whimsical game in a market saturated by violence and angst. The game is about 50 hours long, depending if you do all the side quest or grinding and definitely worth £45. It will have a preference audience, that's for sure since it does have a "game for kids" vibe on it at first sight. If you love JRPGs or any type of adventure games, you'll love this game. If you're tired of the plethora of gun-ho centric multiplayer games or ridiculous and overdramatic JRPGs, Ni No Kuni is a great alternative.

Incredibly beautiful and timeless visuals and art designs, courtesy of Studio Ghibli.
A simple yet poignant save the world story with a believable protagonist and interesting characters.
A surprisingly deep combat system and interesting RPG elements.
Pretty much a 16 bit SNES game.

Technical inconsistencies with voices in cut scenes.
Companion AI's are a bit incompetent.
Side quests are either hit or miss, some tend to repeat themselves.

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Bluray review

Posted : 6 years, 9 months ago on 3 December 2012 08:50 (A review of The Dark Knight Rises)

(some spoilers ahead)

The Dark Knight Trilogy is something special in terms of blockbuster films today. Not only it is entertaining and epic, it was complex, realistic and intelligent and challenged how the general audience thinks whenever watching films. The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting ending to this revered trilogy. While I don't think it's as good as the masterpiece that is The Dark Knight, it is still a really great film. From its complex story and monumental production value, this is a high class film. Now that it's out on Bluray and DVD, is it worth the money to buy?

Rises starts off eight years later after Harvey Dent's death in The Dark Knight. Gotham has been at peace with little to no crime but the cause of it is based off a lie. Bruce Wayne is now a shut but still desires to be Batman, even if the city doesn't need him anymore. After a mercenary called Bane terrorises Gotham, Bruce becomes Batman again to stop him. I've already said that this is a great film so I'm not going to sugar coat it, giving it more praise but instead pointing out its faults. Rises had a lot of weight of hype and anticipation to carry as its predecessor was an enormous success and is considered a blockbuster masterpiece, setting the standards for super hero films and big budget films in general. While it does live up to the hype to an extent, it unfortunately doesn't have much of the complexity and suspense that The Dark Knight did so great. It instead went back to the similar plot Batman Begins had so it does feel like a retread if your expecting something different, like how The Dark Knight was so different from Batman Begins. The film has so many characters adding to the 2+ hour runtime, it gets quite bloated at some points. Thankfully, it does pick up in the second half. There are also some questionable plot points and while they are acceptable, it is still easy to ponder of. Oh and a little warning, be ready for Bane's voice as it is ridiculously loud and if your sound system isn't good enough, it will crackle.

Rises is definitely a Bluray purchase as the film looks crisp and sharp. My only tiny problem is that it keeps changing format sporadically throughout. One moment its in 16:9 then widescreen in the next and I don't know why it does that but you get used to it quite easily. But the main reason to get the Bluray is its staggeringly impressive bonus features, chock full of behind the scenes and making of. The behind the scenes are the highlights, showing how impressive and painstakingly grand the production is and how they develop the story and its characters. It shows you how they made the set pieces, detail by detail, from the plane stunt at the beginning to how they made "The Bat" fly and they talk about how Rises connects with its predecessors in addition to very interesting commentaries from Nolan, the cast and the crew.

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Track By Track Review: Koi No Yokan

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 16 November 2012 10:34 (A review of Koi No Yokan)

Hey, do you remember those nu metal bands that completely ruled the late 90's/early 2000's? Have we heard from them recently? As you should know, nu metal is pretty much dead now and the majority of the bands that ruled that genre pretty much went into either obscurity or have abandoned the genre itself to keep up with the times, with average results. The reason for this was because they never evolved in terms of sound and maturity. Out of all the heaps of nu metal bands in that era, one has survived and managed to evolve and mature in a spectacular way. They have evolved so much that they've completely shed away their nu metal skin and are not even classified as that one off sub-genre any more. Enter Deftones and they are, in my opinion, the best thing to ever come out of the nu metal scene. Not Linkin Park, not Korn, Deftones. Hell, even the band themselves threatened people not to lump them into that genre and it's an important statement that backs up the band's expansive and varied discography. Their first two albums, Adrenaline and Around the Fur were definitely part of the nu metal area with songs having the typical metal riff , screams and rapping (though Deftones had the least number of songs with rap)but what made them so unique in comparison to other nu metal bands is their willingness to experiment with different dynamics and sound, which is evident in their next albums. White Pony, their third album, was a nail to the coffin on their given identity as an nu metal band and the album established Deftone's experimental route that makes them so awesome to this day. This year, Deftones graced us with Koi No Yokan, their newest album and after the brilliance that is Diamond Eyes, Deftones are still on a roll with their 7th album. Let's go track by track.

1. Swerve City
Just to get things started, Swerve City comes blasting with a riff that sounds like a throwback to their early days. Even the guitar tone reminds me of Adrenaline. The riff is unfortunately quite generic but fortunately, Chino Moreno's vocals and the layered instrumentation, especially in the verses, are brilliant and a sign of wonderful things to come. 4/5

2. Romantic Dreams
You will start to notice the difference between this album and the previous album, Diamond Eyes through this song. Diamond Eyes was a much heavier album that was brimming full of screams, riffs and a distinctively heavy guitar tone. Here, Chino's vocals are more layered, adding a soaring feel to the song, which will be evident for the rest of the album and Stephen Carpenter has a lighter tone to his guitar as well as another guitar layered on his riff. As for the song, it is as layered as Swerve City in terms of instrumentation but has a very consistent structure with three distinctive parts playing off each other in a fluent way. A great song. 4.5/5

3. Leathers
I... I don't know what to say about this song. Actually, I do have something to say about this song. I absolutely love this song. This is one of the finest songs Deftones have ever crafted and one of the three best songs in this album. A perfect verse and chorus, has probably in my opinion Chino's best vocal performance ever and the guitar is just incredible - both in tone and riff. It is just an incredible song. 5/5

4. Poltergeist
Definitely the heaviest and fastest song in the whole album and is reminiscent of Saturday Night Wrist, their fifth album which featured a sample and synth heavy influence, desperate vocals and rushing guitar riffs and all of those things are what this song is. The song is another great one and it flows and complements well with the next song. 4.5/5

5. Entombed
Nearly every Deftones albums has a mellow song to let the listener take a break and Entombed is another one or should I say, another great one. Entombed showcases layered sampling, synths and etheral effects that the band is known for. Nearly every instrument has an effect on it, which adds to an almost hypnotic yet at the same time, a chaotic sound that dominates the majority of the song. The last part is a result of a build up from the sampled first and second part that makes it feel like a conclusion. 4.5/5

6. Graphic Nature
This is one of the weakest tracks in the album as it was a bit forgettable, even though it is a quite good song. While Chino continues to impress with his vocals, the guitars felt a bit repetitive and it wasn't as atmospheric as the other tracks were. 3.5/5

7. Tempest
I have already said that their are three stand out tracks in the album after a lavishly praised Leathers. Tempest is one of the three. This song is the amalgamation of what Deftones have been gathering through what they have been experimenting with. With a varied structure , thoroughly layered composition, clever use of effects and samples and great instrumentation, Tempest is another Deftones classic. 5/5

8. Gauze
Is there such thing as a heavily smooth? Well, I felt that way with Gauze. The song is consistently heavy throughout but it has a smooth flow in its composition and instrumentation. The song is brimming with effects throughout and it is ever flowing throughout the majority of the song as well as many touches of keyboards. 4.5/5

9. Rosemary
Just to make things not suspenseful at all, this is stand out song number three. Rosemary is the longest song in the album, which leads to many opportunities to put as much content in it as possible. This is the most layered song in the album as there is a lot going on with this song. While it bombards with a short but brilliantly heavy chorus, there are different effects and samples everywhere in this song. Vocals are thrown around to make a room like effect and the guitars play off each other to make one whole sound that blankets and complements the vocals. It is also another three structure song like Romantic Dreams was with three mellow parts in the beginning, middle and end while the heavy parts are sandwiched in between. An immaculately brilliant song. 5/5

10. Goon Squad
This is one interesting song. It immediately starts of a soft introduction which lasts for more than a minute then the songs fully kicks off in typical Deftones fashion. Chino's distinctive sing-scream vocals and Stephen's drop tune guitar riffs are apparent in the verses and has a very strange structure when going through the verses as while Stephen's guitar structure doesn't change, Chino's vocals are always different in every part, which makes the song very fresh in terms of execution. 4.5/5

11. What Happened To You?
On finishing a spectacular album, What Happened To You? in all honesty is probably one of the weaker tracks of the album and it isn't a strong finisher after a barrage of great song after great song but it's still a good song. While not a strong finisher, the band never falters as Chino doesn't lose his consistently brilliant vocal performance throughout the album and the song is still willing to give a sample heavy atmosphere to a very typical Deftone song. 4/5

Deftones have outdone themselves again. There is not one bad song in this album; even the weak ones are good. Chino Moreno is at his best in this album when it comes to vocal performance and the rest of the band sounded comfortable backing his voice up to extremely great effect. It isn't the heaviest Deftones album but its layered, more experimental nature makes it wholesome and ambitious. While this album is excellent, it's not perfect and has its problems. The dynamics are a bit too balanced and at some points, the album gets so layered that it is quite hard to pin point which instrument or sound is which and it doesn't close as strong as it should have. Overall, this is another solid outing from an outstanding band.

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Bluray review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 29 October 2012 12:57 (A review of Prometheus)

(huge spoilers ahead)

Prometheus is a very interesting film. Not just because it's very vague, and mysterious, the audience reaction of this film is as fascinating. Honestly, I really like this film. Beautiful cinematography, stunning visual effects, strong main cast performances and an overall intriguing science fiction film full of ideas and imagination.

Prometheus is set in a not too distant future, years before the events of Alien and follows a group of scientist on a remote planet seeking the mystery behind the origin of life. As they explore a cavern, they discover something more sinister than they have expected it to be. I saw this film in a gigantic screen and I am so glad that I did. The film is a visual marvel, one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen and on a very huge cinema screen, it really shines and it is also one of very few films where 3D enhances the film rather than being a gimmick. It also contains in my opinion, one of the best performances of the 2012 and that is Michael Fassbender's portrayal of Dave the Android and the rest of the main cast is great too. Noomi Rapace does a great homage to Ellen Ripley, Idris Elba is as cool as he has ever been and the oh so gorgeous Charlize Theron gives her usual cold performance which she does so well. While I do like this film, there are some problems and certain things that I didn't like. The plot execution is quite cluttered though it didn't bother me as other people were and there are good amounts of plot holes here and there. While the main cast is great, the majority of the supporting cast are hit and miss; some are likeable, some are quite dumb, some are hugely forgettable. I also found Guy Pearce's casting as the 100+ year old Peter Weyland quite strange as they could get a much older actor to play as him (though later, I'll explain why) like oh, I don't know, Mickey Rooney or Robert Duvall.

The first time I went into this film, my expectations was that it is set in the same universe as Alien but I didn't know it was a slight prequel until the end. The expectations from Alien's reputation is most likely to blame for Prometheus' mixed press. It didn't surprise me the least bit when Prometheus gained a mixed-mostly negative reaction from people. The overall consensus was that it had a very confusing plot, lack of character and contained numerous amount of plot holes. Well, I kind of agree to an extent. Rather than confusing, I found the plot more mysterious and the plot holes, while some are a bit of an annoyance, became more of a puzzle to solve but I generally agree that the plot is the film's weakest aspect. Although, I think the mysterious plot adds to it as it asks more questions than answering them and bolsters the ideas it conveys. Ridley Scott's two other science fiction films, Alien and especially Bladerunner are films that lets the audience speculate what all the themes and ideas meant and personally, that's what makes a great science fiction film.

Watching it again, the second viewing made the film better to a good degree. Anything that I missed the first time in the cinema, I quickly got most of it. The plot made more sense and some plot holes were filled because you knew what was going to happen. Of course, having the bluray copy, it is a necessity to watch the deleted and alternate scenes and some special short clips. These extras made the film more fascinating than it already was and some scenes made some characters more interesting. The alternate beginning and ending scenes will either answer or add more questions to the film's plot but are overall not that necessary and some deleted scenes could have change some aspects of the film, the most striking example is Charlize Theron's character, Meredith Vickers. In the film, she is portrayed as a cold, serious and seemingly heartless character in the film and while I enjoyed Charlize's portrayal, her personality made me dislike her and didn't care much when she gets crushed by a crashing ship but in the deleted scenes, she is a lot more sympathetic. The first deleted scene, after she kills Elizabeth's (Rapace) boyfriend because of his mutation, she breaks down, guilt stricken later in her chambers and the second deleted scene where she interacts with her father, Peter Weyland, she begs him not to go to the cavern and after he gets killed, she breaks down in tears. The film shows none of these seemingly important scenes, overall making her a bit of a bitch and I really hope Ridley Scott adds if he does an extended/director's cut. Commentaries are available in all scenes and it shows from Ridley's and the crew's comments that the film had some constraints in runtime as well as trying to make the film as mysterious as possible. There are also clips that act as a prologue, introducing characters and explaining their origins. There are also clips of Peter Weyland when he was younger and is played by Guy Pearce without the prosthetic wrinkles so it felt more appropriate than strange since this was before but they still could've gotten a much older actor.

I predict, and some people are predicting that in years time, this will be regarded as a classic as Prometheus is in the same spotlight of criticisms Alien and Bladerunner were when they came out. The bluray version of Prometheus is a recommended buy, especially if you are fascinated by the film's ideas and sense of mystery. Certain clips add to the character's origins and while some of the alternate scenes are not really needed and some deleted scenes should have been added to the film itself, it gives the film more content and a bit of depth.

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Absolute Piece of Garbage

Posted : 6 years, 11 months ago on 29 September 2012 01:23 (A review of The Last Airbender)

This film is the film 101 on how to not make an adaptation of an existing source material. I'll just get this out in this sentence: I really, really, really, really despise this film yet in a strange sense, I am thankful to it. After watching this film, for the first time in my life I was absolutely irritated and angry at a film. Before this, whenever I saw a bad film I usually just get annoyed and say it was bad then shrug it off. Then this film came along and after I watched it, I wanted to voice my hate of this film and in the long run, I wanted to voice my opinion in general for entertainment media. At first, I was angry because it was a shameful adaptation of one of my favourite cartoons then my hatred turned into thinking why and how an incompetent film like this could ever be made. This film completely change my perception on how I look at and personally critique films today.

This film is directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan and is an adaptation of Avatar:The Last Airbender, one of Nickelodeon's most popular and beloved cartoons and it is a tale about a world where people, who are called benders, can manipulate one of the four main elements of water, air, earth and fire and the Avatar is the only person who can manipulate all of them, making him the Messiah of that world. It would be unfair if I constantly compare this atrocity with the cartoon it was adapted from instead of judging it as a stand alone film and would probably write a list of why you should watch the cartoon instead but I will keep it minimum so that I could keep it to a general level of hate but I make no promises. M. Night Shyamalan has progressively become a joke as the quality of his films have dropped as the years go by. I don't hate him but rather pity him as he does have potential as shown in The Sixth Sense, his most famous and considerably, his best film and Unbreakable, a highly underrated film. He's a good director but the element that has completely let his potential drag is his writing or to simplify: he should not write. Ever since Signs, his writing has gotten laughably worse and worse and I thought it hit the low point with The Happening although that film was probably his most enjoyable one as it was hilarious and entertaining because of how bad it is. That is not the case with The Last Airbender.

The film begins by mirroring the opening intro of the cartoon and sadly, this is the only part of the film where it is the most faithful to the cartoon. After that, we are introduced to our main characters; Katara, Sokka and eventually the titular Last Airbender, Aang or "Uung", going with how the film pronounces it. The introduction of characters is only 15 minutes and from that time and this scene alone, I could already see some of the many flaws of the entire film. First, the pacing is terrible. When the three main characters are introduced, it is done so fast and so awkwardly that it doesn't give us time to breathe and get to know these characters or what is going on in general and this pacing problem is predominant throughout the film. This is the result of Shyamalan trying to cram 20 episodes of story into a two hour film. Second, the dialogue is awkward and embarrassing. This is a Shyamalan trademark where the characters don't speak like normal people and is completely unnatural. You could say it makes them quirky but in reality, it makes them annoying and irritating. Third, the effects are very average at best. The effects are probably the best thing about this film but it says nothing to the quality and it is more of a distraction. Fourth, the acting is horrendously bad and the actors are wholly miscast. Putting aside that casting white actors in the main roles in contrast to the adaptation that was predominantly Eastern Asian and Inuit culture influenced was step one on trying to make this film as inaccurate to the cartoon as possible, the wooden, not-giving-a-shit expressions on the actor's faces, their terrible interpretation dance martial arts choreography and their monotone delivery in conjunction with the already embarrassing dialogue was my final verdict that this film was going to suck.

30 minutes into the film and I already hate it. I hate the characters, I have no idea which plot point I am following and I hate how it interprets the cartoon with each painful scene after the other. After nothing interesting or eventful happens, we come across the film's most infamous scene where the main characters stumbles upon a prison camp full of earthbenders, one of the four bender types who can manipulate any type of earth at will. Where the hell do I start? This entire scene completely cemented my full hatred of this film because it is the point were it completely desecrates its source material and it is the moment where I was intellectually insulted as a general audience and to add insult to injury, this scene has nothing to do with the plot and can be edited out of the film altogether. The prison camp is surround in earth, which means that the earthbenders could just escape any time they want because there are like 5-6 firebender guards and a lot of earthbenders. Aang or "Uung" did ask why they are being dumbasses for not escaping, which they answered "because we have no hope" in which I replied "bullshit". In the cartoon, the earthbenders were imprisoned in an oil rig in the middle of the ocean with little to no earth so it made more sense. Also, the action scene is just atrociously shot and badly choreographed. The action scene is shot in one take, which makes the whole scene draining and unexciting, the actors and the extras either just stand there or do weird looking choreography and most importantly, why does it take 6 earthbenders to move one measly rock!?! Can someone tell me why it took 6 earthbenders to move one tiny fucking rock?!? This is probably the point where I would storm out of the cinema.

After watching one of the worst, most insulting scenes I have ever seen in any movie, the movie unfortunately doesn't get much better than that as it moves on. Terrible pacing, pointless plot points, bad acting, and awkward, wooden dialogue are consistent throughout and it doesn't help that the earthbender prison scene still lingers as my brain gradually shrinks from watching any more of this god forsaken film. As the film finishes on sequel bait, the film painfully ends as you see the M. Night Shyamalan name at the start of the end credits and at that moment, your middle finger instinctively eclipses his name. I have never been so irritated and angry at a film in all my life. It's not just that it completely shits on what made the cartoon so great but it's knowing that a film this bad can get you so emotional at a very negative level. Would I even recommend this film? Maybe there are people who like this film and if that's the case even if you are 100% wrong then that's fine but I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone or anything. This is a master class in terms of full cinematic failure. Watch the cartoon but never watch this film.

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The 2nd Law review

Posted : 6 years, 11 months ago on 29 September 2012 01:08 (A review of The 2nd Law)

Track By Track Review: 2nd Law

Muse has begun to belong to a plethora of bands that does whatever the hell they want, resulting in either pleasing or pissing off their fan base without a care in the world. In my eyes, that's what makes them so awesome. No matter how cynical I get with this band, I can never dismiss them because of their brave and unfaltering stance in their music's evolution. The 2nd Law is their sixth album and out of their whole catalogue, this is by far their most diverse genre and style wise. Let's go track by track.

1. Supremacy
The starter track is the amalgamation of what Muse has explored in the past 13 years. Heavy guitar riffs, brass and string orchestra, swooning to screaming falsetto and overall bombastic. A very good start to the album. 4.5/5

2. Madness
Just in advance, I will mention Queen a few times in this review and this song is one of the heavily inspired ones, particularly reminiscent of "I Want To Break Free" but also one of the highlights of the album. Not because it's the good old Muse, but because it's a very admirable departure from their old work and a brave dive into dub-step, dance territory while at the same time taking the Queen inspiration to subtlety than something blatant. Fortunately, rather than being drowned in the influence, it comes off as an evolution into their experimentation with electronic music from Black Holes and Revelations, their 4th album. With a trance like tempo, dub-step like bass and probably one of Bellamy's best vocal performance, Madness is certain to be a live staple. 5/5

3. Panic Station
This was a shocking surprise of a song for me. Not only is this a giant departure from Muse's previous musical work, it is probably the most upbeat and pop like song Muse has ever done. Going back to Queen again, the beginning reminded me of "Another One Bites The Dust" but thankfully, it doesn't keep to that tone. The whole song sounds like something from the 80's synthpop without the synth and it is also one of the most solid (and surprising) songs on the album. 4.5/5

Ummm... Yeah, it's an intermission with Exogenesis like orchestra. Which leads to....

5. Survival
The song chosen for the 2012 London Olympics and what a great choice of song. This song represent the over the top style and bombastic, crowd pleasing sound the band is very well known for. Barbaric choirs, heavy thumping drums and heavy guitar solos ensure this song as another live staple and another album highlight. 5/5

6. Follow Me
After Madness, this is another one of the dub-step influenced songs in the album. This one if more of a club song in comparison to Madness. The first half is the typical Muse build up then it slowly transitions to dub-step like drums. An okay song but nothing special. 3.5/5

7. Animals
This is the best song in the entire album. It is the most understated song in the album as its soothing electric keyboard, smooth guitar work and surprisingly complex composition contrasts against the usual bombast of the more louder songs. This is the prime example of how Muse should expand their sound. 5/5

8. Explorers
In a Muse album, their is always a mellow song that comes in usually in the middle of the album. This is another one and in my opinion, this is one of their best slow songs. With a slight hint of The Flaming Lips and of course, Queen, it has a great chorus, it uses the orchestra beautifully and Bellamy's vocals are as wondrous as ever. 5/5

9. Big Freeze
Probably the most forgettable and the weakest song in the album. I have listened to this song about 5 times and I still can't remember how the melody goes. I don't know, the whole song just felt lazy to me. It does use the Map of the Problematique effect but it's more subtle. 2/5

10. Save Me
This is the point in the album where it loses consistency and flow. This song is one of the two songs written and sang by Muse's bass guitarist, Chris Wolstenholm. Chris has an impressive vocal style and to be quite honest, he's a bit better than Bellamy in terms of lyrics. Overall, this song is okay but it felt like it was too much of a change of pace that you need to get use to after 8 tracks of Bellamy's voice. 3/5

11. Liquid State
Definitely the heaviest song in the entire album and one of the other Wolstenholm songs. This song sounds more like Foo Fighters than Muse because of Chris' vocal style and overall rhythm. Overall, a pretty good song. 4/5

12. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
The song responsible for polarizing the Muse fan base. I'm a bit hit or miss with this song. While the choir and orchestra is amazing, especially in the middle where Bellamy joins in with a falsetto, the Skrillex style guitar work in between makes this song kind of deformed than beautiful. I wish it would've stayed as an orchestral piece. 2.5/5

13. The 2nd Law: Isolated System
Probably the strangest album closer I have ever heard in a Muse album. Mostly an instrumental piece, it stays on the same tone throughout with a subtle orchestra and some dialogue samples in between. Not a memorable instrumental but to be honest, this should have been the opener instead, with Prelude and Survival becoming the closers. 3.5/5

The first half of the album is definitely the strongest parts which follows good to great songs after songs. It does stumble when the Chris Wolstenholm songs come in, which takes you out of the album's feel of being a Muse album and The 2nd Law song duos doesn't impress much. Overall, I think this album is a lot better than their last album, The Resistance and it shows how varied the band can be in terms of nearly any genre. No two songs sounds the same, even if it has the same influences. The album does suffer from being too much of a departure from their usual heavy sound, this album having the most departure in their entire catalogue which can be polarizing in terms of preference.

Album Rating:

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