[Originally posted on When Nerds Attack.]
“You’re about to see something wonderful.” Jack’s freshly charred skin is peeling off his body. But he’s still alive, and strong. He’s clutching your wrist, pulling it to his face. He wraps his mouth around the handgun you just plucked from the desiccated cop now lying dead on the floor. With a resounding pop, a chasm erupts from the top of his skull. His body falls limply to the ground. You survived, but you didn’t win. Jack will be back. He deliberately ate a bullet just to prove a point.
It’s been a long time since Resident Evil has scared me. For the better part of a decade, Capcom remodeled the franchise that coined “Survival Horror” into gun-centric action games meant to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Familiar draws were included to bait fans that remember the fixed perspective, tank controlled days of yesteryear — whether it was tangential ties to the sinister Umbrella Corporation, hulking bio-weapons, or the franchise synonymous living dead. More often than not, though, these nostalgic additions felt like window dressing. While latter day sequels like Resident Evil 6 coated their levels in shadows and foreboding atmosphere, at their core, they were third-person shooters. True horror, the kind that the original trilogy is lauded for to this day, was left behind.
With Resident Evil 7, Capcom has finally returned to the franchise’s roots. It takes inspiration not only from its own past but from other stand-out horror experiences in order to rework and revitalize the genre they helped inform. The result is an expertly paced, incredibly tense hell-ride through a literal madhouse — and it’s actually pretty goddamn scary. Long-time fans have been yearning to hear this for years: Resident Evil 7 is pure survival horror.
(Originally posted on When Nerds Attack.)
Before fiery forums and contemptuous comment sections damned No Man’s Sky as the poster boy for Overhyped Disappointment, that distinction belonged to Watch Dogs. With showstopping E3 demonstrations years before its actual release and a marketing campaign that inflated the game’s reputation into the next-gen second coming, Ubisoft’s open-world title had expectations stacked to the moon.
But Watch Dogs wasn’t the crowbar to GTA’s knee it was gassed up to be. And it certainly wasn’t the next-generation tour de force of 2014 that displayed the sheer computational power of our eighth generation consoles. It was a bog standard open-world crime game, compounded by a weak story centered on one of gaming’s worst leading men. The one concept that separated it from its peers – the ability to hack parts of the environment to your advantage – felt more like a shallow distraction than a tantamount feature. Shit, Watch Dogs isn’t even the best open-world game with “Dogs” in its title. Despite huge out-of-the-gate sales, Watch Dogs became the cornerstone of Gamestop’s $9.99 bins.
That’s why Watch Dogs 2 is such a huge surprise. Ubisoft has made a herculean effort of addressing the original game’s biggest problems. We’ve ditched the dreary reinterpretation of Chicago for a lively, sometimes uncannily accurate recreation of San Francisco. Aiden’s half-baked revenge quest has been traded up for a lighter toned but more resonant tale of rebellion against a voyeuristic big brother. We’re given a cast of characters that matter, headed up by a charming, cocksure protagonist who’s instantly likable. Watch Dogs 2 is a vast improvement over its predecessor. It’s the biggest turnaround in quality an Ubisoft sequel has managed since Assassin’s Creed II.
Concocted using the formula that made Far Cry 3 the mainstream hit that it was, Ubisoft, seemingly out of modern exotic locales to dump us in, has transported us back in time all the way to 10,000 B.C. where survival is the only rule and you’re a mammoth’s foot away from having both that rule and your fucking back broken.
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“If gliding over the city, elbow smashing thugs, and pulling turbo-charged donuts in the Batmobile is the currency of Arkham Knight, I was richer than Bruce Wayne.
Rocksteady’s amalgamation universe of the Batman mythos is still one of the most respectful, top quality adaptations of any comic character to date…”
There is no film, or any piece of media for that matter, more informative to my childhood than Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. In one masterstroke, Spielberg ushered in a new area of special effects and invented the Summer Blockbuster.
Between it and its sequel, the completely underrated Lost World (to hell with all y’all, I love that film to dino-bits), I’ve clocked over a hundred viewings of dino crises. I’ve even amounted to a dozen sitdowns with Jurassic Park III despite it being –as Malcolm would so eloquently put it – one big pile of shit.
I love all things Jurassic Park. I love dinosaurs. I especially love Spielberg’s key storytelling signature in which ordinary people are thrown into an extraordinary situation. That signature may be what makes the Jurassic Park movies so successful, even over Crichton’s source material – though the concept is rooted in a scientific ‘What If,’ Spielberg knew to place a heavier emphasis on the characters rather than the dino-jargon.
So I was Trepidation Rex when it came to another sequel, especially from a relatively untested director. JP3 had me convinced one of the most integral components to a good Jurassic Park film is parking Stevie’s magical beard behind the camera. Jurassic World has softened that opinion.