Friday, July 1, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Halo 2"

Halo 2.

It really needs no introduction, does it?

It was a mega hit coming off the coat tails of another mega hit that we touched upon before on this very blog. Basically, there was no way that this game could possibly fail...and yet, it did.

I will be entirely honest with all of you - I have fond nostalgia for this game.  This and the first Halo were two of the first FPSes I ever played. But at the same time, I temper my nostalgia with the knowledge that this represents the pinnacle of everything that Halo was.

Oh, yes.  It is, quite literally, all downhill from here.  Before anyone makes the comment, no, it's not just because of the lackluster cliffhanger of an ending, that itself is a symptom of a bigger problem. A problem that both you and I know by, ironically, a single word.  It is a word that stifles the creativity and imagination put into games. A word that almost always obliterates any hope of a good single player campaign. A word that kills dead the hardwork of the developers who work for hours upon hours to make a good story...only to have it slashed and resources taken in order to put work into it for their publisher to make a quick buck.

Multiplayer.

Specifically, the online multiplayer through Xbox Live.  The original Halo only had split-screen multiplayer (unless you had the PC version, anyway), but online multiplayer became a force to be reckoned with when this game came out.  And while, save for the ending, this doesn't ruin this game...Halo 2 basically started the trend of subscribed online multiplayer coming into mainstream popularity.

But as for the game itself...how does it hold up? Not too bad, given that I'm going by the original version and not the re-release (which, I'm told, has something to do with Halo 5's story that I could care less about).  The Master Chief has returned triumphantly to Earth along with Sergeant Johnson and a handful of the Pillar of Autumn's crew (despite Cortana saying there was "dust and echoes" left at the end of the first one). But now, along with the Chief's crazy antics as he tries to save Earth from an invading Covenant fleet and then follows said fleet, we have a new protagonist in the middle of things.

Enter the Arbiter, voiced by Keith David (FREAKING GOLIATH, EVERYBODY!).  Despite my enthusiasm at the choice of voice actor...I really don't care for the guy, or for trying to make it seem like the Covenant are good guys. While I enjoy the plotlines started in this and that carry over (to an extent) to Halo 3, it really wasn't all that necessary to forcibly switch our perspective to another character when we'd been following around and acting as the Master Chief for an entire game by this point.

All said, he has about the same number of missions as the Master Chief, and while I understand why they did this...it just wasn't necessary and ultimately only serves to pad out the game...which is embarrassingly short to begin with.  Even at the ripe young age of thirteen I managed to play out the entire single player campaign on Normal in a short marathon, compared to the longer time it took me to finish the first one.

Of course, I got it even worse with 3, but that's a tale for another time.

Also, because it is the elephant in the room, yes - the cliffhanger is awful and serves no purpose besides to create hype for Halo 3...which sucked, though it wasn't exactly because of the game itself, but I'll get to that when I actually do review Halo 3.  Needless to say, again, something that Bungie could have easily avoided if they chose to. And they chose to not.

As for the combat, its pretty enjoyable.  The gun variety isn't bad and dual wielding comes into play, which is never not fun.  Sadly, you can't fulfill my dream of dual-wielding shotguns, but I remain hopeful that I will one day see it realized considering we've seen ridiculous weapons in my reviews like Scrooge McDuck's pogo-stick cane or a Super Soaker filled with Holy Water.  That being said, dual wielding Needlers makes for being seriously OP and I think you should enjoy that, since it pretty much varies from here out on just how powerful Needlers are in the series.

Other than that, not too much to say. Like I said, I have a bit of nostalgia fondness for this game even if it began the bottomless quagmire that is Online Multiplayer, so I'm inclined to treat it with some kindness.  Kindness, alas, that I will not deliver unto the game that follows...

Halo 2 is now available from Bungie and Microsoft Gaming Studios for Xbox and Windows.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, June 17, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Doom" (2016)

...okay, Bethesda. Id. I'll bite. Why could you not come up with a title for this one? I mean "Doom"? Just going back to bare basics, I guess, seeing that it's a reboot (or, depending on who you ask, isn't). If it's a reboot, then I guess that's fine, but if it's not, you're recycling the title and everyone will once again have to specify that they're talking about the Doom from 2016 rather than the original one (which I've also reviewed, by the way). Still, that's a minor complaint and something that can be overlooked in the grand scheme of things.

What really can't be looked over...is the cover. It's generic. It's lazy. Just a static shot of the Doom Guy in his updated armor for this game. It's gone to the point of being an internet meme with people replacing the title with half a dozen other franchises ranging from the most obvious to the bizarre, just showing how hilariously simple it is to mock. And before someone says it isn't an issue, look back at that review that I shamelessly linked into this one for page clicks and look at the cover art of the original Doom.  Doesn't it look so much cooler? Doom Guy surrounded by demons and filling as many of them as he can with lead while they all reach up to try and drag them to Hell.

It immediately gets the attention and draws prospective players in, making them want to buy it.  But this? This is just lazy. It speaks to just completely having stopped caring at all and springing for the generic gold metal.

Pity then that it's not reflective of the rest of the game at all, because the game is actually pretty good.

The plot is very similar to the original Doom in that there's a portal to Hell that's been opened on Mars and some serious shit is going down as a result that you have to stop.  And how do you do this? Well, as I said in my review of the original - "Guns." And guns you get, having the usual tasty variety from the original.  After apparently having pulled a Rip van Wrinkle in Hell for a while (thus providing my confusion as to whether you're the original Doom Guy or a newbie - I've been told both by multiple sources), Doom Guy is up and at it again in a Martian facility that has been completely overrun by the Army of Darkness.

...yeah, I wish it was that one.

Combat is actually very involving, and enemies can swarm you very quickly even on the Normal difficulty, which I am happy to admit I did play on. In such situations, it can get both fusterclucky and very, very fast-paced, I found my heart racing at certain points in on the lower difficulty setting. I can hardly imagine how much of a heart attack Nightmare would have given me. The Glory Kills as well - pre-rendered sequences in which Doom Guy seeks to rip and tear the guys of his foes - are astoundingly visceral and gory as all get out, which lends itself to the reputation the series has garnered for its uber-violence.

I admit and I have admitted several times in my reviews that I am not really a First Person Shooter person. I have played several games in the genre, most notably the Halo series up to the point where the third one threw off my understanding of the plot and thus my interest, but I'd hardly call myself skilled at it. So, coming from my perspective, is this game good? Yes. It's definitely different from my usual benchmark for shooters (as I've been told, not a great benchmark, but it's subjective), with a difficulty curve straight out of Hell itself.

I really can't sit and play it (yes, even on Normal) for more than perhaps an hour before I get too wound up to play. Any time that enemies are attacking, I find myself panicked and firing with reckless abandon (which I can do with the pistol thanks to unlimited ammo and no reload time) and I am unable to enjoy the environments that Id has so carefully designed.

...which, by the way, I had to actually turn up my gamma to see. Seriously, after the first cutscene I found myself fighting in near-complete darkness with only the occasional realization that I'd actually been hit by something. Mind you, this wasn't a problem once I'd actually left that room, but it's important to note enough. There's a difference in creating horror between "something I can't see" and "I can't see a freaking thing!", this falling into the latter category and thus not creating a horrifying atmosphere in the least.

So, for what it is meant to do, it does good. For once, I'd say don't judge a book by it's cover and give it a shot. Some gamers who cut their teeth on more recent shooters may be a little off-put by the pace that will definitely not see you ducking behind cover to manage the hordes of Hell, but otherwise it's what Doom is known for.  The original FPS is back to school everybody once more.

...oh, and then John was a zombie.

Doom (2016) is now available from id Software and Bethesda Softworks for Windows, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

This review is based on the Playstation 4 version.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Trial of Steve Rogers, Captain America #1 (Crossover with Ramblin' Shak!)

Unscripted, off the cuff, and on video! That's right, MadCap leaves the printed word behind to give further thoughts on the recent Captain America #1 alongside fellow review Ramblin' Shak of Trendbeast in From the Mouth of the Munchkin's first ever crossover!

The trial of Steve Rogers, Captain America #1 begins here!!!

Shak has informed me that he'll have the other parts up soon enough, check my Twitter for updates on when they do!

Also, the current run on Nova is being headed up by writer Sean Ryan. A good Marvel series you could be reading.

Captain America #1 is brought to us by Marvel.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Be sure to also check out Trendbeast on Twitter at @TrendbeastSAV and on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Rxi1W-WiB2pYUVWgKD1bw?spfreload=5

Monday, June 13, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Avengers Grimm" (2015)


No. Just no.

...


...what exactly were you expecting from the people who made Sharknado? Don't see this movie. Burn every copy. Giggle as you dance around in the ashes.


Avengers Grimm is distributed by the Asylum. Don't watch it.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, June 3, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Marvel Puzzle Quest"

Okay, let me be honest here. I hate match three games. I just do.  I have bad memories of playing Bejeweled as a child and never getting it quite right. seeing all those multicolored shapes sitting there, judging me, juking back into place with mocking laughter whenever I didn't actually managed to match three, telling me I was never good enough and that my old man left me when I was a child because I was a completely useless pile of human waste who would never amount to anythi-

...okay, I may have issues that don't actually relate to match three games themselves. In all honesty, I have no real appreciation for the genre.  Puzzle games have never really been my forte in the past. However, one of my dear friends (Cassie, for those of you who follow my Tales from Tabletop posts) told me that I would enjoy this game simply for the Marvel aesthetic, knowing full well what side my bread was buttered on in terms of comic book preferences.

And, give her credit, she was right.  I was suckered in by the Marvel aesthetic.

Marvel Entertainment, D3 Publisher, and Demiurge Studios have come together to make something that is visually very beautiful.  There are new renderings of various Marvel heroes, villains, and others done with careful artistic precision that appear on various screens. The various shapes that fill the grid from which three are matched are very colorful and vibrant and it is quite satisfying to match three (or more) and watch them explode off the screen to damage the enemy team.

Each character has three abilities, each one corresponding to a specific color. They can be used when a certain amount of that color is gained to have various effects on the playing field, such as setting up a timer for a specific event, inflicting damage on an opponent, or stunning an opponent or opponents.  And your rewards for completing the various stages? Any number of things from the all important ISO-8 that levels up your heroes and villains, hero points that allow you to buy new slots, other items to support your team like boosts to increase damage or your stockpiles of a certain color in battle, and new comic book covers to both unlock new abilities for characters you have as well as brand new ones.

Also, on rare occasions, you can also pick up Team Ups that can be used just like regular hero/villain/other abilities, though only for one time and only from points gathered from their own special tile that resembles ol' Shell-Head's Arc Reactor.

Then, of course, comes the joys of strategies and planning out.  Anyone who has read my reviews for a long while knows that I'm a man's man, a courageous man who isn't afraid to pick up a broadsword and go charging headlong at my enemies screaming "FREEDOM!" which admittedly does not leave much room for the strategic mind.  While some fights can be very easily taken care of with minimal effort, some do actually require workarounds such as the use of boosts and other power ups.

So, all this considered...it's also a mobile game.  And mobile games are, by their nature, addictive.  As I mentioned before, you have to buy new slots for heroes using either Hero Points or from cold hard cash. It is definitely possible to play through the game and never spend a dime...but you'd have a very long, hard slog of it, particular due to the fact that awarded covers will be destroyed if they are not recruited or used within several days (usually 13 from the date of award).

Which, again, is to facilitate the microtransactions. Which I'm not a fan of.

However, I will say this game is good and I admit that I really do like it. Despite the problems with some leveling in the competitive circuit (yes, there's multiplayer and no, I don't care for it) and the events (yes, they have events, there is actually a storyline in the game that's basically a run off of Dark Reign from the comics, not much to tell here since you can pretty much ignore it), I find it very enjoyable. It isn't something one can sit and play for extended periods, but it isn't supposed to be. It's a nice little jaunt to fill some time between cradle to grave.

Just...remember the dangers of mobile gaming.  And remember what happens when you stare to long into the abyss an-oh, look! Captain Marvel cover! Woooooo!!!

Marvel Puzzle Quest is now available from Marvel Entertainment, D3 Publisher, and Demiurge Studios for iOS, Android, Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

This review is based on the Android version.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, May 27, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Fallout 4: Far Harbor"

In the distance...far from the (lack of) relative safety of the Commonwealth...are the rocky shores of Maine and the settlement of Far Harbor. Here, the Harbormen of the titular town fight against the radioactive Fog and the creatures that it has spat out.  But also, a colony of Synths founded by a prototype in the hopes of finding peace for Synths, and a militant wing of the Children of Atom who may see all of go the way of the Pre-War world.  It's eerie...it's remote...it's isolated. It's Maine. And it's Far Harbor, the latest DLC for Fallout 4.

The plot is simple enough, the Sole Survivor gets a radio message from the Valentine Detective Agency - Nick has a new case to go and retrieve a missing girl.  All the clues point to her traveling far to the North from the Commonwealth, to the previously mentioned titular location.  Why? Because she believes she's a synth and has heard of Acadia, a refuge for synths led by the enigmatic DiMA. Traveling there, we definitely have a far different locale than the Commonwealth, full of rocky terrain and insidious, imposing swamps that are filled to the brim with a nasty assortment of creatures including Anglers, Fog Crawlers, and...wolves...

In a bizarre twist, radiation and evolution seem to have only spawned a few different species about.  I wasn't expecting a whole new bestiary, but it is a little strange to see only a few and the rest being filled out with the regular Fallout cast, including Super Mutants of all things.  But, at least, there's enough new stuff in the bestiary to say they have a unique set of wildlife.

Including the infamous RADCHICKEN!!!

And that's about all I can say for the designs and the beasties therein. It's definitely a welcome change from the Commonwealth and Far Harbor definitely is a very scary and foreboding place that will spell doom for the unwary and unwelcome. So, on that front, good job Bethesda.

The story, too, is actually a vast improvement over the vanilla.  There's thankfully less emphasis on the Settlements mechanic (even though there are a few settlements) save for a particularly annoying part of the plot that involves using a VR simulator to uncover a few hidden memories (as opposed to, say, forbidden ones) to help drive the plot along. While not wishing to go on a tirade about it (odd for me, I know) Bethesda...you're not making a puzzle game. Either put some more thought into it or don't do them at all, they end up just being tedious. Now back to concerns...

I highly recommend bringing Nick along as a follower as, fun fact, Far Harbor provides many opportunities to earn affinity with him as well as revealing major details about his backstory like the fact that he's got, that he was once the mayor of Diamond City, and he was once a little girl. One of those was a lie – can you guess which one? I guess you'll have to find out by playing the game.  Needless to say, it's definitely some good character building and has made me love the character of Nick Valentine even more.

And, of course, Far Harbor is plenty happy to further press the questions that the vanilla game did with synths. How close are they to humanity? Can they be considered sentient? If they're not sentient, how does one program things like fear, anger, or happiness? Can a Synth dream? How does a Synth know its a Synth? Ultimately, is there any real difference between Synths and Humans besides how they were made?

All facets of a debate sparked very well by Bethesda's work, bravo.

Of course, if you're not up for the semantics of moral debate, you can always join the Children of Atom and nuke everybody with a submarine.  Because "What Would Atom Do?", am I right?

Oh, and for the record: the harpoon gun sucks, the Marine Armor is pretty cool, and thank god no Ghoul Whale.

Fallout 4's Far Harbor DLC is now available from Bethesda Softworks for PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

MadCap's Mad Rantings - "#SayNoToHYDRACap"

I don't know what to say about this.

Oh, wait, yes I do. And that's why you're here.

I'll make this brief for the TL;DR crowd: this is offensive and wrong and Marvel should be ashamed of themselves.  For those that aren't...read on.

Picture a time, 75 years ago.  Captain America comes into being from the pens of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. He is a staunch anti-Nazi propaganda machine. Over the years that followed, he became a symbol of truth, justice, and the American way.  He was a paragon, a light to follow that would lead us to better, and we could all sleep a little easier knowing that the Star Spangled Man with a Plan stood ever ready to defend the principals, not necessarily the flag, that he loved. For years, he's been the moral center of the Marvel universe (when written correctly).  Often I have said that when one is in a moral debate with Captain America, one is wrong. And, until today (canonically within the Marvel universe) I have been right.

...and then, they went and made Steven Rogers, the true All-American defender of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...into a goosestepping Nazi.

The paragon of all those virtues I just mentioned for 75 years and he's been reduced to just another HYDRA thug in a single sweep, thanks to Captain America #1. And it's not even that he's been reduced to "just another HYDRA thug", oh no sir...it's about the fact that Marvel is telling us point blank that every single thing that Captain America has ever down in the pursuit of those ideals that he has held so dear for so many years has been an absolute lie. A farce that was perpetuated simply to further the goals of HYDRA. And the worst part is that it's not a clone.

It's not magic or mind-control.

It's not an alternate universe.

No, Marvel is telling us right out that Steve Rogers of Earth-616 is and always has been an agent of HYDRA from World War II on.  It is one thing to have a heroic character turn evil, its happened dozens of times in comic books.  This, however...this is so offensive and wrong that it burns in my gut. I feel physically sick as I sit here even thinking about this. You have taken Captain America and turned him into exactly what he has been fighting for all these years, and I do not approve. And many, many other comic fans  are likewise not amused by this vile perversion.

Why don't you just dig up the bones of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and take a piss on them? Because that's clearly the level of respect you have for the two men who created a character that was supposed tell people that they never need to be afraid of the tyranny of evil men and that freedom and justice would always have its champion. A shining star in the sky that all humans could follow to help make the world better.  This man who has stood against evil time and again, both from the Earth and from realms beyond, and would stand against it all again just to keep the world he knew safe if only for passing moments.

...and you mean to tell me that this man has managed to lie to everyone for decades?

GET BENT, MARVEL!

I really cannot say anything about this just besides the fact that it's offensive and wrong.  I decried (and still decry to this day) the utter stupidity that is "One More Day". It was a complete and utter aversion of Spider-Man's moral of "with great power comes great responsibility". But it has those who will defend it, say it has some merits. I don't agree, but I can at least see some of their points (even if I don't agree).  This, though? This is absolute trash. This is a gigantic middle finger to anyone and everyone who ever cared about the character of Captain America. It is blatant and outrageous disregard for the very core of the character in question. And, worst of all, it is a slap in the fact to the legacy that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby left behind.

I do not advocate violence against another human being, at least never in any serious manner. However, it is clear that the people who came up with this incredibly disrespectful, vile, odius pile of clickbait bullshit is not human. Not of any sane mind or sound judgment, and I truly am amazed that someone at the writers' table did not immediate shoot that person in the face for even thinking of this idea. 

It is wrong, plain and simple.

It should not have been attempted.

This is beyond the rage about Fem!Thor or Falcon being Cap now (apparently at the same time that Steve is Cap, for maximum confusion). This isn't fanboy rage, Marvel. This is outrage that you have so completely failed to grasp the very core of one of your flagship characters, a character you claim to love and respect, and have lost all right to use.

Even a retcon won't save this at this point, because you have made the retcon. You have done the equivalent of sleeping with the Devil. To me, and to many others, Steve Rogers is dead. At long, long last, Captain America is dead for good. Even if they manage to retcon this, it won't save anything. The Clone Saga was eventually largely retconned, and it still sucks. One More Day got retconned by One Moment In Time, and it still sucks.  But, as I said, this is beyond even those atrocities.

I pre-ordered this comic, I admit it, but that was before I found out about this. I will not be reading this comic, I will be burning it. And, for those who did buy it, I encourage you to do the same thing.

If you haven't bought this comic, don't. It's that simple. Do not support this. At all.

Seriously. Don't.