Wednesday, March 29, 2017

MadCap Unboxes - "Marvel LootCrate Gears + Goods March 2017"

MadCap fights with phonetic spelling and an X-23 "water-bag".

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Friday, March 24, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Horizon Zero Dawn"

So...humanity has a weird fetish for post-apocalyptic fantasies, doesn't it?

I'm not making a joke here, it just amazes me how many games, television, and films use the time after the end of civilization as the entry point to their plots. Such as it is with Horizon Zero Dawn, a game from the loving arms of Guerrilla Games and Sony. And if Guerrilla isn't familiar to you, don't worry, it wasn't to me either. Their most known for the Killzone series of games...which I haven't played.

Now, instead of the "sort of" future, we have the far future. In Horizon Zero Dawn, we are introduced to the infant child Aloy on her naming day by the badass mofo Rost, who is an outcast from a tribe called the Nora. It seems that humanity has regressed to a tribal state while occasionally applying the technology of old to their weaponry in order to hunt...the technology of old.  If the cover wasn't a dead give away, robots are roaming the Earth like the dinosaurs of old.

I can practically hear Ubisoft facepalming at their lack of foresight in terms of DLC.

That being said, this game really does blend the best parts of Far Cry Primal and Blood Dragon, and I do mean that as a good thing. The game feels very much like a Far Cry game with both its mechanics and its level progression...as in, at least in the latter case, it's a carbon copy. But that's not a bad thing, since I really like the level up system in the Far Cry series.

Unlike the Far Cry series, Horizon Zero Dawn finds itself in my good graces right off the bat (besides in its premise) by not locking me into first person mode! I know that seems like a minor complaint, but it is really something you really appreciate only when you can't do it. Shooting from over the shoulder (bow combat is very much the attack of choice besides the few bits of melee) is actually a lot easier for me and Dawn provides. Also, one can appreciate the work the animators put into the character model, which is nice. There is a good bit of detail in every pull of the bowstring...even if the faces are more than a little...off...in some places.

Along with the bows (and there are actually a nice variety of bows), Aloy can also get a hold of a variety of tasty gadgets like a tripcaster, and starts with a lovely spear for light and heavy attacks. And, of course, there's the crown jewel of the set...a shotgun. Of a sort. And for the longtime readers of mine who know the joke well, let me allow Rocket Raccoon to express my feelings on the matter.

The combat is pretty involving and very much in the "hunter" vein of things. Aloy sneaks through the tall grass to stalk her prey and avoid their gazes, making this a post-apocalyptic game as a bizarre mirror universe version of the Pokemon games. Instead of catching them all, Aloy mercilessly takes down the robots opponents to gather scrap metal and wires and other components to either craft items with or to sell off for scraps of Metal.

Yes, metal scraps are the currency in this game. Like the bottlecaps in Fallout, don't think about it too hard.

Aloy's main bit of flair, however, is a Focus. Not the Final Fantasy XIII type, no no...it's basically a Dragon Ball Z scouter. Aloy can tag enemies for attack and use the device to track the movement patterns of enemies to make them easier to take down and/or work around. And while the scouter does not, in fact, let Aloy know her enemies power level (OVER 9000!!!!! or otherwise),

The story is good, if a little coconut and banana sandwich crazy (not Fallout crazy, but we're getting there). The combat is nice and involving and even the resource collecting is more than a little fun. The protagonist is engaging and her journey to discover her origins is compelling and wrought with peril.

 If there's anything I can say I don't really like about this game (y'know, if you put a gun to my head), it's that it has the Bethesda problem of too many side quests popping up to distract from the Main Quest...and since I rather like that in Bethesda games since (nine times out of ten) it really helps to open up the world and give it more depth than just the Main Quest does on its own, as well as giving a reminder to the player that things do actually happen independent of their actions, that would really make me a hypocrite, wouldn't it?

(Go ahead and pull the trigger, Spunky)

It keeps me interested and is engaging, looking at the post-apocalypse in a surprisingly fresh way.  Even if just about everything has been done before, it feels like new and it's a good first effort by Guerrilla in the RPG department. There have been teasings of extra plot to come, most likely as DLC.  Believe me, I am more than ready for it!

Horizon Zero Dawn is now available from Guerrilla Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment for Playstation 4.

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age"

Isn't fanfiction just super fun?

No, really. That's what this is. Believe it or not, The Shadow of Mordor saga isn't the first time that someone's taken the epic saga of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and gone completely and utterly off the rails with it.

That would be Rankin/Bass. NO! END SENTENCE, BEGIN ANEW!

With the release of the trailer for the new Mordor game, I figured it was a good time to look at The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (which totally makes this topical, right? ...sure, let's go with that).

It was an attempt by EA Redwood Shores (now Visceral Games) and EA to create a story set within the universe of Middle-Earth that coincided perfectly with the Lord of the Rings' story without upstaging it. Also, due to the joy that is licensing rights (see also: the cluster that is Marvel Entertainment at the time of this writing), the developers could only use assets that appeared within the films rather than any of the books or other related materials.

...except that two of the characters, Berethor and Morwen, are actually named from characters within the obscure lore of Tolkien's books, but one could be forgiven for not digging through the literal over-sized athenaeum of lore that Tolkien had as background for almost every single imaginable facet of his world. I'm sure there are plenty more they snuck in. Crafty bastards.

The game itself takes place within the Third Age of Middle-Earth (just in case the title had you confused, it's understandable if you thought it was in the year 10,191). A Gondor citadel guard by the name of Berethor is travelling to Rivendell to find Boromir, son of Denethor. On the way, he's aided by a Hippee elf chick against some Ringwraiths before going on an epic adventure to follow the path of the Fellowship of the Rings through Mordor, into Rohan, and eventually to the fires of Mount Doom itself.

No, seriously. Mount Doom. Spoiler alert: The final boss is Sauron.

Yes, that Sauron.

As in you climb up the Black Tower and punch him in the Eye.

I'll leave you to contemplate how nuts that is.

Getting back to the plot, the human and elf are eventually joined by a ranger and his dwarven buddy, and then later Morwen, a Rohan shieldmaiden, and a Rohan royal guard named Eaoden, rounding out their fellowship of...well, six. I suppose asking for a full squad of nine was too on the nose? That being said, you do get a fourth NPC to join you for the big important battles, such as Gandalf against the Balrog.

Yes. You actually help Gandalf fight the Balrog.

HAS THE CRAZY BEGUN TO SINK IN YET?!

Mind you, that's not so much a surprise when it's on the cover, but when you look into the lore of what the Balrog actually is and what others of its kind are in the Tolkien mythos, Sauron starts to look vaguely passable as a boss fight.

...ironically, my memory served me well and I found that Sauron was astoundingly easier...but that's a whole other can of worms.

The game basically plays like one of the earlier Final Fantasy games, particularly Final Fantasy X (which it came out a little while afterwards and was understandably maligned for being too close to). You have certain characters (mostly Berethor and Eaoden, though a few others can easily fill the slot) for tanking and DPS, you have Idrial for magical attacks and buffs as well as healing. In fact, everyone has some sort of buff and debuff that can contribute to the party's efforts.

What really surprised me when I was a kid was that EA actually got Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee to come in to record original audio as Gandalf and Saruman for this game. Most of Saruman's plot involves tormenting Berethor after he's stabbed by a Morgul blade (long story), and setting him to chase after Boromir as a sort of sleeper agent to get his hands on the One Ring. A good plan...if incredibly stupid and really not exactly what one expects of the conniving, scheming wizard who has managed to subvert the path of goodness and brew an entire army of orcs under his doorstep.

That being said, it's a stark contrast to the few appearances by the rest of the cast, who are all just recycled clips from the Lord of the Rings trilogy (including a particularly bad, yet noteworthy scene with Aragorn after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields).

But getting back to Saruman, yes, stupid plan, but impetus enough to get the game going, I guess. Are you going to care about halfway through the forty to sixty hour trek that Berethor is being mind-controlled into some kind of Manchuarian (or is it Gondorian?) Candidate by Saruman and later by the Witch-King of Angmar? Of course not. But still, it's there. Even if it breaks the lore. Then again, we did that about twenty hours earlier when we helped Gandalf fight the Balrog.

There's also a love triangle between Berethor, Morwen, and Idrial that goes nowhere and serves no purpose. Not that there's much time for chemistry when you're running around grinding out levels in the Mines of Moria or battling packs of Uruk-Hai and Wargs in the plains of Rohan. At the very least Final Fantasy X, while completely flubbing the "love" between Tidus and Yuna, at least attempted  to do something. There's...really no reason for any of the three to be all relationship-ish.

Though I guess...wide mass appeal?

But if that all doesn't interest you, then there's Evil Mode. Yes, for the first time, you too can take over the Forces of Darkness!TM and lay waste to a computer-controlled version of your heroes. It's mostly for flavor, but also can get you some interesting items that can be used in your game. I will say that it at least shows that they were thinking at least a little about what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot, so that's nice. The only difficulty is that you do actually have to play through each section of the game to unlock it in Evil Mode, and unfortunately Evil Mode itself is just a string of battles as whatever baddies are in that region.

Even with that working in its favor, I'm not really sure who this game is for. I'd say fans of Tolkien, but they'll get caught up on the lore hiccups. I'd say fans of the films, but they'll most likely wonder why these six idiots have been running around just out of earshot of the actual main characters. Gamers? They can juts play a similarly-crafted RPG, such as the aforementioned Final Fantasy.

That's not to say that it's bad by any means. It's just...ultimately a cheap cash-in and an attempt to grab the interest of someone...which, technically, I guess it did. I played the crap out of it, and I spoke to all my friends and all three of them enjoyed it as well, so there must be something to be said for that. Not that I'm really sure what it is.

It does break canon into itty-bitty tiny pieces, though. So there's that. That can be said.

The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is available from Electronic Arts and Visceral Games for Nintendo GameCube, Xbox, and Playstation 2.

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

MadCap At the Movies - "Logan"

The character of Wolverine aka James Howlett aka Logan is a character that is definitely a breakout character among the X-Men. His past is long and storied (and overdone multiple times in the comics as well as in film) and many alternate futures see him as either an old, bitter man who has outlived everyone around him or a...actually, no, it's pretty much just that. Hence, we come to Old Man Logan, set in a dystopian future where the Red Skull has become President of the United States, the Abomination, Doctor Doom, and Magneto have likewise taken over portions of America. Naturally, being that FOX only had the rights to 50% of the aforementioned characters, some cutting down had to be done for this film.

I haven't read Old Man Logan, but it seems a natural choice for Hugh Jackman's final (or so we're led to believe at the time of this writing) stab at the character he has played now for seventeen years. The entire film, in fact, feels like a good last hurrah for the character overall, whether he's further played by Jackman or not (and indeed, I do hope Wolverine fades a bit more into the background in years to come).

Like the comic, Logan begins with a severely aged and dying Logan (Hugh Jackman) working as a chauffeur on the US-Mexico border (in a way that totally doesn't bring to light current events at the time of this writing in any way whatsoever)  while he gets the aid of Caliban (Stephen Merchant) in caring for a dying and increasingly more and more unstable Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, also in his final turn as the Professor). However, his job and the dream of having a houseboat out on the seas with the Professor are completely thrown out when a young girl with a most curious connection to Logan, Laura (Dafne Keen) who is pursued by an evil corporation that created her.

And no, before anyone comments, I don't have any feelings about X-23 one way or another. In the comics, at least. In the film, she's actually a very funny character as well as serving as a good foil to Logan.

As does Professor X. Patrick Stewart is clearly having a blast doing this and it shows. Xavier is, at this point, a man who has embraced the fact that his mind is going and gives absolutely no regard for any of Logan's stick in the mud attitude when it comes to dealing with Laura. He serves not only as a far kinder caregiver for Laura, but also as a counterbalance to keep Logan from diverting from what needs to be done to help Laura to her destination.

And what is her destination? A place called Eden in North Dakota, supposedly a refuge for mutants. The nurse who took her from the Transigen Corporation (Elizabeth Rodriguez) apparently learned about this...well, I don't wish to spoil, so if you're looking to avoid spoilers...you may wish to go and watch the movie and come back later.

Don't worry, I'll wait.

...

...

...

...

...

...seen it? Okay, good.

Apparently, the X-Men...were made into a comic book. Within the fictional universe, the X-Men were apparently made into a comic book sometime between the "present day" films and 2029. I cannot begin to express how many plot holes this creates, its truly very staggering. I could understand how people would know about the X-Men, but how would Marvel, err...sorry...the "X-Men Comics Group" know about specific details about them? Very specific details? It's really surprising, but is pretty interesting overall. I honestly would have expected this to be a joke revelation within the next Deadpool movie, but no, it's here...in this rather dark film.

That being said, it's used both as a plot point and for Logan to speechify on how real life is nothing like the comics so we can further reinforce that he's bitter and jaded and highly upset...but I digress.

Besides that one little point, this movie is pretty much perfect. The action is well-paced, well-shot. It's brutal, visceral, and everything we've wanted out of a proper Wolverine movie in terms of sheer brutality. The acting is excellent as well, though that's not particularly difficult when you have Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in their roles as the people who essentially wrote the book on those very roles.

But the film is heavy action when it needs to be, but also takes the time for quiet character moments as well, developing Logan's character to the film's conclusion. The film touches on themes of death, finality, loss, regret, bitterness, and new beginnings as well. In the end, despite his instincts, the Wolverine is a hero through and through, and will do the right thing...no matter the end.

Doesn't necessarily make him a good guy, of course. After all, he's the best there is at what he does, and what he does ain't very nice.

To sum up, without rambling any further, Logan is an excellent film that is really too good to be in the incredible mess that is the X-Men franchise. Is it the genre-transcending masterpiece that everyone's claiming that it is? No, but it's a film that knows it's characters and knows how to touch on things that work to their strengths as well as touch the audience. We finally have the Wolverine film we've always wanted after two dismal failures...and that's pretty spectacular.

Logan is now in theaters from 20th Century Fox and Marvel.

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Final Fantasy XV"

So, I have danced with the Devil and committed the unbearable sin of playing a Final Fantasy game. Why? Because I was honestly feeling cocky and figured I could handle it. Alas, the game has changed and yet feels so much the same.

I spent a tutorial and then about five minutes learning that apparently anime Satan was a big threat to to Techno-Medieval Fantasy Kingdom #5306 before I spent about ten minutes pushing a car through a desert.

No, I'm serious. Pushing a car through a desert.

At the very least, I had my collection of My Chemical Romance roadies with me, who were filled to the brim with...actually, sitting down here, I'm having a hard time really remembering any of them that much. Needless to say, their blandness did not help me as I made my way down the highway...very, very slowly...pressing forward on the left joy stick for what felt like an eternity as I narrowly avoided other cars that swerved to avoid me, but then just decided to allow them to run me over in the vague hope that this would all be over shortly.  No such luck, alas.

And then, at the end of that road, I came to a gas station and received the gift of ripe, luscious breasts for my efforts. Shame then that I could not really enjoy said sex appeal (not that I would anyway, since animated) what with my incredible cramped hand. Seriously, Square, if you are going to do this to me, don't be an ass about it.

Combat is a little bit coconut and banana sandwich crazy as well. Not the turn-based system of older FF games, we're in full on real-time now, baby! Woohoo...except it just feels really out of place, being that most of the games before have used turn-based. I should be the last one to complain about this, given my own long-standing dislike of turn-based combat with one notable exception, but even I know when you don't mess with something that works.

Here, there's really no involvement in combat. Sure, the player can do blocks and the like, but it ultimately comes down to be better equipped and having reaction times that are a little bit better than that of a can of paint and you ought to be alright. You also don't control your boyband, though you can give them commands via certain options and use your combined strength to hit enemies.

Also, there's magic and summons. They work pretty much the same as they do in previous FF games with some tweaking. La de da.

Not much to say, in all honesty. I haven't completed it at the time of this writing (deadlines are hard, people), but I have basically seen enough to spew my irate opinions on the internet, so that counts for something. Or not. I don't care one way or another.

Now excuse me while I go get some Bengay.

...stop laughing!

Final Fantasy XV is now available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One from Square Enix.

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