Tomorrow is in Your Hands – Thoughts on Death Stranding’s Release Date Trailer

Image result for death stranding

So Death Stranding got a nearly nine minute trailer yesterday, with a good look at the world, character interactions and a release date: November 8th. I’ve already pre-ordered the ridiculously expensive replica baby version (of course that’s a thing), and although it won’t be a full breakdown I would like to give some impressions on the game at this point.

I’ve always been into Death Stranding but I’ve had it on the back burner: I  left the dissection and speculation to others, content in the knowledge that it looked good and that I’d find out all I needed to by playing the game, whenever it came out. This trailer is what’s finally made me engage with it more actively, mainly because it’s given me the best grasp of the game so far. Norman Reedus’ Sam Bridges is a courier schlepping large boxes across a hostile, barren landscape by placing ladders over gaps and hiking over rocky hills, this much we know. Turns out he’s on a first name basis with the terminally ill U.S President, a woman named Bridget, so maybe Bridges is actually a government agency? She wants him to unite the remaining people of the U.S so they can stand together against “BTs”, the shadow ghosts from previous trailers, who are revealed through the use of the tank babies seen before, here revealed to be called “Bridge Babies”, which come from “The other side”. Presumably that’s what the “Death Stranding” is; a link between the living and dead. Sam thinks this is a lost cause, and rebuilding the country is both unnecessary and won’t do anything about the BTs, but it’s currently unclear how and why they’re here. Troy Baker’s character Higgs is the leader of a terrorist group who roam from settlement to settlement killing people, Lea Seydoux’s character is named Fragile, which leads me to believe that both she and Sam are named after their respective companies, as are all employees, and Mads Mikkelsen’s character Cliff gets a proper look in. He’s a scientist it seems like, reassuring and softly singing to a Bridge Baby in a lab, but also has those skeletal soldiers seen in previous trailers. They aren’t present when he’s in the lab, but there are shots of him in a warzone that looks like something from the first world war, covered in tar and seemingly naked, as well as rising from oil “Apocalypse Now”-style, lighting a cigarette that then sets said oil on fire, which doesn’t effect him or his soldiers. It’s interesting that he can be in two completely different states, and the title cards “Those bound to Hades” and “Those who struggle to stay connected” suggest said soldiers are some kind of malevolent power from the other side, barely kept in check by Cliff. Sam appears in the WW1 mud and blood-covered trenches in his uniform, alongisde ghost soldiers and one with a physical form he shoots, so clearly that warzone plays a part in current events and he’s capable of taking part in a conflict. Speaking of conflict, we get a look at combat out in the world as a group of goons chase after Sam: he knocks two out, dodges one and they reluctantly call off the hunt when it begins raining: a sign of the BTs’ arrival. At one point the cheery baby inside Sam’s body turns into a doll, which makes him drop to his knees and hold a gun to his head: that same doll is seen earlier strung up near Cliff, and given his clear links to BBs it’s not a stretch to think he has the ability to replace one, he may even be the one who brought them over in the first place.

Okay, so, the broad strokes I’ve gleaned from this trailer are that basically the U.S and perhaps the world is in ruin and full of shadowy ghost monsters from the land of the dead, babies from said land help the remnants of humanity see them, a terrorist group lead by Troy Baker is threatening said remnants and a courier disagrees with the President that the U.S is worth rebuilding. Also there’s a war and Mads Mikkelsen is involved. Also there’s a character in it called Die-Hardman. Now I’ve got something concrete I’m finding it easier to engage with Death Stranding, and I look forward to more information and footage coming out, hopefully a series of escalating trailers like MGSV had, all of which were ace. I’ll be reviewing it, obviously, and in the meantime I’ll probably write about any key new info or trailers, I’ll judge them on a case-by-case basis.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

The Power of Fluffy Boys Shines Within You – Thoughts on Deltarune Chapter 1

Image result for Deltarune chapter 1

Deltarune is the new game from Undertale creator Toby Fox, chapter one of which had a sort of stealth release on PC a while ago and came to PS4 recently for free. Apparently the rest of the game will be released as a whole package in the future, so I’ll be reviewing that too, but for now let’s take a look at what’s currently on offer. This’ll just be a quick one, because I want to keep my in-depth opinions for the full review.

I’m a big fan of Undertale, and based on Chapter 1 Deltarune has the potential to be just as good. The new characters are great for the most part, particularly best boy Ralsei and Susie, the reuse of Undertale characters in different circumstances is intriguing and I loved Sans’ reappearance. The new additions to the combat system are neat, in particular having to warn enemies about Susie’s unyielding attempts to smash them. For me the villainous King isn’t anything special; his fight teaches the protagonists a valuable lesson but lacks the sustained “but thou must” heartbreak of fighting Asgore. I’m a tad trepidatious about the ending cliffhanger, but at the same time intrigued. I like the whole “No one can choose who they are in this world” angle, and I’m interested to see how that affects things going forward. I know this was very brief and light on detail but initial attempts read too much like a review, and I don’t want to do that twice. So for now just know that I really liked Chapter 1 and I eagerly await the full release of Deltarune, whenever that is.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

A Human Light in the Darkness – Further Thoughts on Devil May Cry 5

Image result for devil may cry 5 v

So in my review of Devil May Cry 5 I did my best to avoid spoilers, which meant I couldn’t go into nearly as much detail about the story and characters as I would have liked. It’s a direct story with a tight focus, and that’s basically all I could say, other than the characters made real strides, especially Nero. I’ll be going into things in greater detail here with no restraint on spoilers, so bear that in mind going forward. If you haven’t played the game yet and want to know what I thought and then be able to go into the game blind, go read my review, otherwise, this is the last warning for spoilers if you stay. Spoilers follow.

 

V and Vergil’s humanity

So then, Vergil huh? He was confirmed in the final trailer and shown (with his face covered) as far back as the reveal, but I didn’t expect him to have quite as much of a presence as he does. After splitting himself into his human side; V, and his demon side; Urizen, the whole game is about the former, alongside Dante, Nero, Lady, Trish and Nico trying to take down the latter. They try, they fail, they wait a month and have another go, V rejoins with Urizen to reform Vergil and after a family reunion (more on that later), Dante and Vergil go to Hell to close the portal Urizen opened. It’s straight forward and, like I said, focused. It’s the character interactions that stand-out, with an overarching theme of humanity. For each of the main cast of demon-human hybrids their humanity is what sees them through. V is literally Vergil’s humanity ripped from him and given life of its own; everything he threw away in his quest for power. In order for Vergil to come back from the brink and be a potential ally to Dante and friends he’s going to need to go through a pretty drastic change, and that’s what happens. His human side, aided by physical manifestations of Vergil’s haunting nightmares from his time as Nelo Angelo back in DMC1 are unconditionally on the side of good. V is eccentric but warm, with a sense of humour and a love of reading and quoting Blake poems that meshes surprisingly well with the ruthless way he deals with demons. It’s implied that V is what Vergil would have become if things had been different vis a vis the death of Eva and Sparda, and Vergil’s own feelings of abandonment. He’s also physically weak and slowly dying; Urizen has the vast majority of Vergil’s power, V has a small amount he’s using to stop himself falling apart. Each of the three playable characters has a different connection to Vergil, a different angle to view him from, and in that regard V plays a dual role. He is both part of Vergil and an observer of Vergil’s all-consuming pursuit of power, it’s like feeling regret at your own personal failings while being able to see them happen in front of your eyes, unable to stop them without serious backup. V is my favourite character in the game, possibly in the whole series. His playstyle, design, backstory and interactions with everyone and everything in the game are just so endearing and interesting. It’s for that reason that I’m sad that in order to get Vergil back we had to lose V. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vergil and I’m glad he’s back. I think he, Dante and especially Nero all make great strides in a short space of time, in a way that makes sense because it’s informed by history and unspoken emotions. The way I see it is, V is the flame that burns twice as bright but half as long; all the sweeter for his brevity. Also if he’s got to be sacrificed for anyone I’m glad it’s Vergil and his existence makes Vergil more interesting. But I do still miss him.

Nero and the Power of Love

I certainly wasn’t expecting Nero to be the heart of this whole story. Just as Dante and Vergil are about to land potentially lethal blows, Nero disintegrates his Devil Breaker, grows a human arm in its place and taps into his very own Devil Trigger, regaining the Devil Bringer he lost. His DT is born from a desire to stop his Uncle and Father killing each other, to end their sibling rivalry, connect with his family and turn their collective attention to destroying the Qliphoth.  Dante and Vergil finally stop trying to kill each other because Nero gets in the middle of them, taps into the power of love and literally beats them both into submission. Nero’s brash and cocky but it makes sense that he’d take this turn after everything that happened with Kyrie and Credo back in DMC4, with him even referencing the latter’s death as something that haunts him to this day. His kicking the shit out of Vergil probably doesn’t hurt his image in his Father’s eyes either, considering his fixation with power and strength. Speaking of which, giving Nero a new Devil Bringer that carries over into new game plus is great, especially given that you can combine it with Devil Breakers, adding a whole extra layer to Nero’s combat style. The final boss fight between Nero and Vergil isn’t as hard as Dante’s prior bout (at least on normal difficulty), instead offering an immensely satisfying cooldown, particularly when you first activate Nero’s DT and he yells “FUCK YOU!”, raises a spectral middle finger and an awesome remix of Devil Trigger starts playing. It’s a powerful moment for the series as a whole and in particular Nero; he’s really come into his own as a character in DMC5. I also like that he’s still in a relationship with Kyrie and lives with her in and that she’s still involved as a character, although I wish she had more of a presence than just a disembodied voice. I look forward to seeing where Capcom take him in potential sequels, particularly if Dante and Vergil really are trapped in Hell. Speaking of which…

Vergil and Dante

Hoo boy. So Dante and Vergil finally tone their rivalry down from “duels to the death” to “brotherly sparring” but it takes the hardest boss fight in the entire game for them to do so. Their relationship in 5 goes from trying to kill each other to working together, sparring and trading friendly banter, ending the game with this wonderful exchange:
“Don’t you dare say it!”
“Jackpot!”
I think everything V did was instrumental in this change in Vergil, as well as meeting his Son for the first time. Having lost the nightmares from his time as Nelo Angelo, regained his humanity and managed to avoid dying, which was the whole reason he split in the first place, it makes sense Vergil might be looking for something else to do with himself. Nero’s proved he can best his old man in a fight, and that he has the physical strength and pure heart required to protect the human world, so why not go off with Dante to seal the portal and bum around Hell for a bit? Presumably the two brothers will escape from the underworld eventually, I feel like having finally brought Vergil back to life proper Capcom wouldn’t do away with him so quickly, and as a send-off this isn’t nearly over the top, cool and goofy enough for Dante. Dante’s going to die in the ultimate blaze of glory or Dante’s never going to die. Regardless of where it goes from here, the ending of the game is excellent. It really feels like a satisfying culmination of everything that leads up to it; that focus on the mental and physical strain of waging a seemingly insurmountable war against Vergil; brother against brother, son against father, humanity against demonic power. It takes a toll but it all pays off, and I’m excited to see where a potential sequel would go.

Finally, just some extra stuff I like:
Dante’s styles, specifically this being the first game that made me want to use something other than Swordmaster. Got some good mileage out of Trickster and Gunslinger. This is the most fun I’ve ever had with Dante, his weapons this time around are all fantastic, combined with the styles and how fluidly he moves and attacks, it’s brilliant.
V’s backwards dodge being Griffon carrying him away
The neat little alternate main menus showing Dante and Vergil hanging out in Nico’s motorhome. Particularly the one where Vergil looks over at Nero like he’s about to say something then shyly decides against it
Speaking of Nico: everything Nico does but especially her getting the Devil May Crymobile into all manner of hard to reach places
I just came up with Devil May Crymobile and I like it, I’m going to use it more often
Lady’s new design. It’s like her terrible DMC4 look never happened
Dante’s new design; I like the more simple look in line with 3 after his chaps and Chris Redfield gloves from DMC4. Excellent boot game.
V’s EX colours making his coat have the colour and pattern of Vergil’s DMC3 outfit
Nero’s hood up taunt and V’s violin and orchestra taunts
One the subject of V, one final mention of the fact that I love everything about him. V is best boy.

So that’s Devil May Cry 5, the most fun game in the series, and potentially the best overall. A game that’s immensely enjoyable from start to finish and that balances deeply satisfying action gameplay with a poignant, emotional story that makes real strides for the Sons of Sparda and Nero, introduces V and Nico and continues Capcom’s meteoric resurgence into the top tier of game developers. I love it, and I’ll be surprised if it isn’t either my game of the year or at the very least a close, close second. So far its only rival for first place is the Resi 2 remake. God, Capcom really are killing it right now.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Call me Kakarot – Further Thoughts on Dragon Ball Super: Broly

I recently watched and reviewed the subbed version of Dragon Ball Super: Broly, a film I really enjoyed and did my best to avoid spoiling in my review. Now having watched the dubbed version I really want to talk about it in more depth, with no such restraint on spoilers, so bear that in mind. SPOILERS abound from here on out, and the film is absolutely worth seeing blind if you haven’t already. I mean, it’s worth seeing it regardless of how much you know about it going in but still. GO! BROLY! GO! LET’S GET INTO IT.

First of all, the dub is fantastic. Christopher Ayres had a double lung transplant and does the best Frieza I’ve ever heard, Sean Schemmel and Chris Sabat are, naturally, fantastic as Goku and Vegeta and even though he’s only in it briefly Ian Sinclair’s Whis is an absolute treat, as it always is. With the exception of Masako Nozawa’s performance as Goku Black (in base form anyway, I prefer English Rosé) and Bardock, to the point where I actually missed her during the latter’s scenes in this, I prefer dubbed Dragon Ball, and it’s nice to see that the performances match the gorgeous animation for the movie. Also I won’t dwell on it under the circumstances but Vic Mignogna does a really good job as Broly, whether it be his uncertain, reserved speech or just screaming bloody murder.

There are two main parts of the movie, like I said in the review, and I’ll elaborate on both. Firstly, the character stuff. Everyone manages to get their characters across quickly; Lemo is a weathered old man who’s seen a lot but kept his head down, Cheelai is a criminally talented but kind-hearted woman more than willing to stand up for what she believes in, as evidenced by her simultaneously pick-pocketing the shock collar remote and calling out Paragus for raising his son to be a weapon. Again, their voice work is superb: Bruce Carey gets across a personality and untold backstory entirely through his voice, and Erica Lindbeck compliments Cheelai’s mix of iron will and compassion.
Speaking of Paragus, there’s this split between good and understandably cruel: he throws away his entire life for the sake of his Son and follows him to a remote, inhospitable planet to save his life, but shocks Broly with what appears to be an excruciatingly painful voltage and did, at the end of the day, craft him into a tool of revenge. Yes Broly loses control and needs to be reigned in, but Paragus has let that side of him go unchecked in any sort of long term way for the sake of whatever petty vengeance he can still get on the long-dead King of a destroyed planet.

The film’s crowning achievement character wise, however, is the man himself: Broly. Look, it’s beating a dead horse at this point, but original Broly’s backstory really was utter dogshit. Pretty much anything else would be a step up, but they really went all out with it. Spending his entire life on a desolate planetoid with only the company of his Father, whom he loves, but who physically abuses him and dedicates his time forming him into a weapon has had a serious impact on him. His only friend was Bah, the name Broly gave to one of the furry dog weasel monsters that inhabit Vampa, with whom he had a close relationship until Paragus blew Bah’s ear off. That’s the green pelt he wears around his waist, and I love that the coolest part of Broly’s outfit actually has relevance to his backstory, and is a key part of it. This is a Broly that’s cute, sympathetic, tragic and badass all rolled into one. A man you can root for because the film spends its exposition section, for lack of a better term, outlining who he is, what’s happened to him and why he’s completely unstable so that the rest of the film can be dedicated to showing the extent of what how that instability manifests. It’s his movie, and they did a wonderful job explaining who this Broly is, why you should care and why he’s different from the other one. As for his physical attributes, I’ve come around to Broly’s Super Saiyan design. It is similar to Kale, but it’s so out of control and so feral that it does feel different, particularly the full power version. Also as Lanipator mentioned in Team Four Star’s discussion of the film, Kale is like universe 6’s version of Broly, which given the existing similarities between the two universes actually solves it for me. At least Kale was cognisant enough to speak, and eventually controlled it, Broly fights for a few minutes then completely loses himself to feral rage and doesn’t snap out of it until just before Gogeta’s final kamehameha hits and he has that horrible, terrified look on his face when he realises he’s going to die. He doesn’t of course, but it’s still pretty grim.

The second part of the film is the fighting, and while I have less to expand on with that, it’s by no means lacking. As I said in the review the animation is amazing, and the fights between Goku, Vegeta and Broly look fantastic, as they all gradually move through their stages of power and adapt to what their opponent is doing. It’s a bit weird seeing Vegeta move through the stages rather than go all out to try and squash Broly, but maybe because it was another Saiyan he wanted to draw it out, he did have a big smile on his face when Broly first punched him. Also it was nice to see him go Super Saiyan God.

Surprisingly despite the pretty real subject matter there’s time for really solid comedy; small moments like Goku and Vegeta leading an enraged Broly to Frieza, Goku yelling out “Have fun, Frieza!” just before he teleports himself and Vegeta away and leaves the dictator to his fate, to the darkly comedic and beautifully acted scene in which Frieza kills Paragus to trigger Broly’s transformation into a Super Saiyan, trying to sell it as an accident like a goddamn pantomime villain. The scene that really tickled me is the coordinated attack on the two goons who retrieve the final Dragon Ball. No sooner have Goku, Vegeta, Whis and Bulma arrived in the Arctic when the two try to escape, only for Vegeta and Goku to react in a way you’d think had to be planned given its speed and clockwork smoothness. Vegeta shoots their ship down, they jump over and Vegeta lifts the ship so Goku can pull an angry face at the occupants and breathe on the windscreen like an enraged bull. It’s just a lovely bit of physical comedy and goes a long way to show, without words for the most part, how well Goku and Vegeta can work together when they choose to, which comes into play later when they fuse. Speaking of which: Gogeta.

GOGETA! GOGETA! GOGETA!
Gogeta, a combined force so strong his fight with Broly shatters the fabric of reality somehow. I still prefer Vegito personally, but I think Gogeta has promise, and I like A) That he’s SO powerful, to the point where I think he’d be a real problem for a God of Destruction. Maybe not Jiren, because his power doesn’t seem to be quantifiable, it’s just a nebulous “Whole lot” of power, to the point where despite how OP Ultra Instinct is, it just lets Goku fight him on equal footing rather than doing what UI is actually supposed to. B) He’s playful and cocky, but in a different way to Vegito. Vegito is chatty and likes taunting his opponent, whereas Gogeta barely says anything, showing off his skills entirely through his actions in dodging Broly’s attacks and letting off punishing energy blasts of his own. He’s ruthless though, despite the little smile when Broly is safely transported back to Vampa by Shenron: if that hadn’t happened Gogeta would have blown Broly apart, and given the context of everything that’s happening that would have been genuinely horrible.

Finally, just a quick list of other things I liked:

Goku’s gentle transition into Super Saiyan God, holding Broly in place and then Broly reversing it, turning Goku’s red Ki green.
The bit where they remind you of what Golden Frieza looks like while panning around him and focusing on his bum and pecs as if to say “Remember how hot Frieza is?” To that end:
That one shot that shows off Paragus’ surprisingly nice buns. Also Broly’s super attractive, and I fully support any potential relationship with Cheelai, who is also super attractive. Long may they be super attractive together. DRAGON BALL SUPER ATTRACTIVE. Ahem. Moving on.
The music shouting people’s names. KAKAROT! BROLY! SUPAH BROLY! GOGETA!
Goku biting Broly while they’re both submerged in lava
The quiet “This doesn’t look good” Frieza utters when Goku’s gone blue and the area of Arctic they’re in is now made entirely of lava and volcanic rock
Combined Galick Gun/Kamehameha, and Broly launching energy out of himself via aggressive chest bump
Whis effortlessly dodging all of Broly’s attacks
The fact that the film has an unconditional happy ending, where Broly is living on Vampa with Lemo and Cheelai, and Goku takes them a house and supplies. The last anime film I watched was End of Evangelion, so it’s nice to have a change
Finally, this article’s namesake: “What’s your name?”
“It’s Goku. But Broly, call me Kakarot.” This line was different in the subbed version I watched for my review. There it was “Goku. Or… Kakarot” and carried far less weight, more like Goku was explaining he had two names rather than placing trust in Broly with a name only Vegeta calls him

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

One in the Chamber: Thoughts on the Resi 2 Remake’s One Shot Demo

Image result for resident evil 2 remake

So this is unusual: a demo for a game that lets you do whatever you want within a time limit, and upon completion becomes unusable. It’s something I’ve not seen since the PS3 let you play as much as you wanted of a full game for one hour before buying it. Anyway, this is the form the demo of the upcoming Resident Evil 2 Remake takes: you get half an hour, and that’s it. I’ve actually had an hour with the game, because I played the demo on both PS4 and Xbone, and I’m going to give some general impressions of it, just what I think of the game going into its full release on the 25th, which I’m very much looking forward to.

Turns out you can play it more than once if you beat it in fewer than thirty minutes, so I’ve done four runthroughs and two starts that were stopped by the in-game clock. You can beat the demo in no time at all if you move quickly, and even when I stopped to smell the roses I beat it with time to spare. It’s very much an appetiser to whet your appetite for the full game. Everything that happens here I’ve seen before in various sites’ gameplay footage, so what’s important is how it felt to actually play through these events.

Atmosphere:

It lacks the choking, tense stillness of REmake, instead going for chaos localised in a small area, which fits the situation really well. In this small section of the game it doesn’t feel like anything’s going to suddenly jump out at you; its a consistent throughline of medium peril and the corresponding level of horror. The RE engine, which as we know is excellent at modelling filth and grime, has the R.P.D covered in gore, dirt, water and smashed architecture. It all feels familiar; with the exception of a few changes it’s the same station, it’s just cloaked in darkness and looks a whole lot better. The only problem is that unfortunately at this point it doesn’t feel scary. Hopefully that’ll change with the full game. But still, the rain, the zombies banging on the windows (they can get in if you ignore them), and how the zombies themselves all look, move and sound really sell this situation. I’m slightly disappointed by the more effect the more action-orientated gameplay has on the atmosphere, but this is only a small section of the game.

Control scheme and U.I:

It’s over the shoulder shooting a la 4, 5 and 6, but feels simultaneously loose and precise. Leon has free movement rather than having to move forward first, then have a direction added to it like he had in 4, and the camera can be moved a full 360 degrees around him. He has a quick turn but I never needed it, there’s a combat knife that acts as both a weapon and a reusable escape from grapple button a la REmake, and the inventory and environmental interaction are the same as they were in Resident Evil 7. Leon’s got a torch now that he turns on automatically and can hold with the Mathilda, which is just as well given how dark the R.P.D is. There are light switches around, but some of them need fuses, and if they’re present in the demo I didn’t find them. Having the same U.I and inventory as Resi 7 feels quite comforting actually. It’s like an acknowledgement that 7 is what saved the series, and the bedrock to build any future games on going forward.

Shooting:

At worst I used a whole magazine to kill one zombie, when I could hit the bloody thing. At best I was popping off headshots like John Wick. Headshots aren’t instant kills though, as is well documented at this point: zombies will soak up bullets and keep coming, so it’s often better to avoid them in the spirit of the early games in the series, which is helped by the new locational damage letting you blow their legs off without much effort. It also lets you do ghastly things to their heads and torsos, to the point where you wonder what they’re even going to bite you with and where your newly consumed flesh is going to go. One time I blew a big fat zombie in half with the shotgun. It was glorious. Anyway I actually really like that the zombies soak up bullets; I like the idea of them as just big, unthinking meat shields driven by hunger that you have to physically cut down, like flesh-eating trees. It makes them more of a problem, and encourages the player to work on swiftly dodging around them. The shooting itself is good, but lacks the snap and heft (depending on the weapon) of Resi 4. It feels like Resi 7’s quite light shooting but with the added oomph of the spectacular gore and dismemberment that 7 didn’t have.

Graphics:

It looks really good. Especially the zombie whose face has been turned into raw beef mince barely held together by an almost-cleaved off jaw bone in what was originally the Licker hallway.

Anyway that’s the demo out the way, and now a quick word on the upcoming full game:

Hunk and Tofu are in it, as shown in the trailer that concludes the demo. I’ve never unlocked their scenarios so I’m looking forward to that. Much like the demo for Devil May Cry 5 it’s not altered my thoughts on the full game at all because I was already really looking forward to it and still am, it’s just given me a chance to actually play it myself for a little bit. I’m a big fan of Resi 2, I love Resi 7 and I’m glad they’re using its engine for this remake, which I originally hoped would play like REmake, but I think the direction its taken is really promising. It looks good, it plays well, and all the footage of later parts of the game, particularly the sewer and the encounter with Chief Irons look fantastic. It’s out in two weeks and I can’t wait.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

 

The Slayer Has Entered the Facility – Thoughts on Doom Eternal’s QuakeCon showing

Image result for doom eternal

Well this came out of nowhere, at least for me. Maybe it’s because I don’t keep track of QuakeCon, and so had no idea this was coming, but either way: DOOM Eternal gameplay footage is upon us, and I’m going to talk about it. DOOM was great, I was pleased when a sequel was announced at E3, and QuakeCon provided a fair bit to get my teeth into.

The Doom Slayer

Clearly having escaped wherever it was Samuel Hayden warped him to at the end of DOOM (unless of course that location was one of the two shown in the gameplay footage), The Doom Slayer is now kicking around on Earth and Mars’ moon Phobos, as well as a seen but unnamed third location. I reckon it might be his homeworld of Argent D’Nur, either before Hell took it, or maybe it was restored, or they didn’t get all of it. Anyway back to what’s confirmed: the Slayer has a new Praetor suit, with short sleeves, studded gauntlets, and a Predator style retractable arm blade and shoulder cannon that doubles as a flamethrower, used in conjunction with whatever weapon he’s currently using. Alongside a new Combat Shotgun capable of shooting timed mines and utilising a rapid-fire minigun-style barrel, existing weapons have been changed, chief among them being the Super Shotgun’s new grappling hook, to pull yourself towards enemies. A counterpart to the Doom Slayer has been teased in “The Marauder”, a huge demon wearing what appears to be bits of Praetor armour, and packing a Super Shotgun and laser axe, in the style of the Slayer’s own laser sword. Speaking of which, it makes a triumphant return at the very end of the footage, as the Slayer pulls it out to deal with what looks a lot like an Arch-Vile; an enemy from the old games with pyrokinesis and the ability to resurrect defeated enemies. He’s not the only old foe making a comeback: Arachnotron makes a glorious return, and this time its design makes a lot more sense from a mechanical standpoint: it’s a lot more sleek and streamlined, and can jump around and move more freely, rather than just shuffling around awkwardly until you mercifully kill it. They look a lot more nimble and swift rather than a lumbering tank that pumps out highly damaging projectiles, and so seems right at home with the lightning fast pace DOOM introduced.

Hell on Earth

Earth seems to be a sort of staging ground for planned Demon tourism: UAC holograms insist people welcome their new friends, and one kindly reminds anyone listening that “Demon can be an offensive term, please refer to them as mortally challenged”. So the UAC are STILL somehow trying to salvage this bullshit. After literally siphoning energy from Hell and starting a cult based around how great demons are last time around, they’ve now decided that Demon tourism is the way to go, and it’s resulted in an Earth covered in brain-textured meat moss and overrun by murderous creatures. I love it, it’s exactly the kind of boneheaded stunt this UAC would try and pull. What’s shown of Earth appears to be a downtown shopping district type thing, but there aren’t any humans around. Only time will tell if any survived, but it seems unlikely. On the other side of the scale we have Phobos; in a facility positively brimming with human beings who are all correctly in awe of/scared of the Doom Slayer, and his presence was expected to the point that a voice over an intercom informs everyone that “The Slayer has entered the facility” and later that “Slayer threat level at [is] maximum”. I picked the former for the title of this article because I think one of the most interesting things story wise is how the UAC folds all the supernatural stuff into the framework of a normal business, and despite being a legendary hero who’s wreaked untold havoc on the denizens of Hell, the UAC at large knows about the Doom Slayer and he’s apparently no big deal. The action on Phobos is more similar to the previous game but with daylight somehow present, presumably some sort of controlled artificial environment, as opposed to the facility in DOOM being surrounded by the cold, unfeeling vacuum of Space.

Rip and Tear

Gameplay additions abound: there’s a quick dash in any direction, even while in mid-air, which combined with the aforementioned grappling hook gives you more evasion options. There’s also the ability to climb certain porous walls, but that’s only shown to be useful to following the critical path. Presumably once it’s introduced and used a few times it will be mixed into the combat areas, but that’s just an estimate really. At one point the player picks up a massive glowing helmet and is informed that they have acquired an “Extra Life”, which caught me off guard. Presumably the game hasn’t switched to a “Lose all your lives and you’re back to the start” system, at least I hope not. I imagine it’ll be like gold orbs in Devil May Cry 3 HD- they’ll bring you immediately back to life, or you can go back to a checkpoint. Alongside this potentially major change is invasions: a new multiplayer element where other players can take control of demons in your single player campaign in an attempt to mess you up. It’s only touched upon briefly and wasn’t really shown off, but it sounds like a potentially cool idea. Moving on to smaller tweaks:  Enemies now take locational damage, with flesh, bone and the like flying off them in chunks when shot, and the glory kills now include the use of the arm blade, cleaving weaker enemies in half and such. Personally I feel it looks to lack the simple, brutal pleasures of ripping demons in half with your bare hands, but I suppose I can get behind it. That’s not to say they’ve slouched on the hand-to-hand stuff though; at one point the Doom Slayer punches a zombie so hard its head is shoved down into its chest.

Overall I’m looking forward to Doom Eternal, and I appreciate them not resting on their laurels and mixing things up. The new locations look good, the limited interaction between humans and the Slayer is pretty cute, and I enjoyed the lore of the original game enough that I am looking forward to seeing more of it. Hopefully this is all used in the way it should be: as a framing device for THE best first person shooting of the modern age, certainly of this generation. I’m glad to see it’s not just DOOM again, and I’m intrigued to see the story of the Doom Slayer uncovered further. Oh, and punch zombies heads down into their chests. RIP AND TEAR.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Hold on Just a Little While Longer – Further Thoughts on Detroit Become Human

Image result for detroit become human

The following contains SPOILERS

So I reviewed Detroit Become Human (it’ll be the article directly below this one if you want to have a look), and while avoiding spoilers I basically said that it has flaws, but in spite of those I really enjoyed it, and that it’s David Cage and Quantic Dream’s only good game. It’s been on my mind since I finished it, and I’m currently partway through my second playthrough, planning to write a piece going into more detail about what I do and don’t like about it specifically, with no restraint on spoilers. I’m compelled to write it now (or at least start writing it) upon being reminded of a specific moment in the story. It was around two in the morning, I was drunk, Markus’ entirely peaceful, pacifistic revolution had been cornered and had erected barricades outside an Android death camp, because they’re a thing that pop up at the end of the game. Soldiers close in on the four main members of Jericho, whom I had kept alive all this time, and just as things look bleak the game gave me two options: sacrifice self, or sing. I chose sing, and the resulting scene was Markus, then North, then everyone else singing “Hold on just a little while longer” (hence the title of this piece) which, to my relief, isn’t a spiritual. It’s a beautiful, sombre moment, acted wonderfully by Jesse Williams as Markus, in which he simultaneously embodies a last flicker of hope and a weary resignation regarding his own seemingly imminent death. The game is full of moments like this, memorable set pieces that manage to draw out an emotional response. Markus’ entire nightmarish slog through the Android dumping pit; the way the sound is muffled and the primary sound is a rising, harsh tone that peters out when you find a new auditory unit. Kara, Luther and the Jerrys giving Alice a ride on the merry-go-’round. Speaking of which, the Jerrys themselves are easily one of the most interesting parts of the game; a sort of hive-mind controlling a large group of one Android model, all of them dedicated to entertaining children. Connor and Hank’s developing Father and Son relationship, and the noticeable effect it has on Connor if your choices favour bucking his programming and showing compassion. Kara’s scenes are the closest the game gets to Cage bullshit, but manages to pull it back from the brink. Everything with Todd is mercifully brief (and the QTE “Avoid being domestically abused” scene can be completely avoided), and his violent mood swings are explained as the effects of medication rather than being an example of David Cage’s insulting depiction of mental illness. The scene in Zlatko’s house is dumb, almost entirely superfluous to the story at large except for bringing Luther in, and has one of the most on the nose, groan-inducing lines of Cage’s writing career, but Zlatko experimenting on and cobbling together robots is quite effective as a source of horror, plus there’s a robot bear. While I’m on the subject, the game’s biggest issues: Firstly, the two plot twists. Alice turning out to be an Android is clearly a twist that’s included for its own sake, because it doesn’t make sense and the game lies to you about it. Alice doesn’t eat, complains about the cold and rain and doesn’t have an LED or the identifying symbols purely so that the player doesn’t realise she’s an Android, and I’m not sure what the intended pay-off is. Kara’s story is about a mother and child fleeing through a country full of people that hate them, and it’s a good story. Why does the game need to lie to me about it? The other twist occurred right at the end of the game, back in the early hours of the morning when I was drunk: Connor’s A.I handler Amanda planned for him to go Deviant, and plans for him to assassinate Markus now he’s ingratiated himself with the revolution. For one thing, that’s a really stupid time to have him do it; on a stage in front of hundreds if not thousands of Androids Connor himself brought there, especially considering he was going to shoot Markus when he was alone and isolated back at Jericho. It also looks really goofy when you overcome it and Connor awkwardly tucks his gun back into his belt. The weirdest thing for me was how quickly it came and went: Connor pulls his gun, you have to stumble around the Zen Garden then touch that weird stone thing, and doing so magically makes everything alright. The only clue to what’s happening is an audio flashback to Android creator Kamski saying “I always leave a backdoor in my programs”, but that just raises more questions, and there were enough left unanswered as it is. I’d quite like to see a sequel to this actually, I think there’s enough here to go on. The other major problem is the much talked about, and infamous, references to real life Civil Rights Movement/Jim Crow slogans and events. Now I am a member of a minority, but I’m not black, I don’t know anyone who was around for segregation, and I would never claim to speak for those who were. I do think a lot the references made here are poorly handled, and some of them are inappropriate. The big one, “We have a dream”, is like Cage wanted a tie to real life to get people on the Android’s side, and was either too lazy or too stupid to pick something more subtle. I don’t know why he wouldn’t think people are on the side of the Androids though, given how he made humans in this game treat androids like utter shite. They beat them, verbally abuse them and torture them; the whole “The Androids are an abused group who deserve to be treated better” message is being yelled through a megaphone from a rooftop. What’s more the game doesn’t need it. The android compartment at the back of the bus, the segregated escalators and “NO ANDROIDS ALLOWED” signs on businesses just distract from the subject at hand, they elicit a snort and an exasperated “…what?” rather than making the player solemnly nod and think, which I imagine is the intended reaction. I get it, Cage; racism, in this case institutionalised, legalised and accepted racism, is awful. You don’t need to keep telling me that. It’s weird because, like I said in my review, the game does approach one aspect of real life oppression with surprising subtlety, and that’s the glowing blue triangle and armband Androids are legally required to wear. It’s a reference to Holocaust imagery, but no one ever mentions it, if you don’t know what it is then it just works as a sign of oppression in-game, and their design fits in with everything really well, especially Connor’s ones.

So now that’s the out the way, a list of things in the game I really like:

The fact that most androids only have a certain number of faces. Kara, Jerry, North, Simon, David and Ralph are not unique models, nor are they unique to functions
That the Androids’ physical superiority to humans comes not from greater physical strength but their minds, and their ability to “preconstruct” events to see outcomes, as well as adapt. Connor in particular decimates any human foe he faces because his literal computer brain tells him exactly what he needs to do to put people on their arses, channelling John Wick while doing so
That it saves each playthrough chapter by chapter via the flowchart, so you can restart from different checkpoints depending on your decisions, and change things accordingly
The android dumping pit- that whole scene
The merry go round and the Jerrys
All of Connor’s scenes with Hank. Bryan Dechart is adorable, and I love his chemistry with Clancy Brown
The game’s art style, particularly Connor’s armband and triangle; futuristic elements standing out among the desolate, grim locales he investigates.
Connor in general really. He’s the best.
Markus’ badass pacifist revolution. Jericho showing that they’re superior to the humans who oppress them not with force, but with compassion and by staying true to their principles. North’s viewpoint, “Humans will never listen to us so we need to fight them” being so thoroughly shown up by Markus’ viewpoint of “Let’s show the humans who hate us just how wrong they are” that by the end North is completely behind a pacifist Markus. I’m planning a violent revolution this time around and part of me wants to call it off now before it’s too late. It just seems wrong somehow, after the way my pacifist run ended. In the time it’s taken me to write the rest of this and read back through it I’m seriously considering being peaceful again.
Kara getting across that road with Alice, dodging traffic.
Kara getting across the boarder into Canada without sacrificing Luther or Jerry, because Jericho is peaceful, public opinion is good and the immigration officer does her a solid
That the game’s down time is enjoyable, and rather than have you bumble around a preposterously huge apartment waiting for the story to continue, every scene moves at a good pace, and the whole thing has a consistent level of player interaction
Each character having their own composer and soundtrack, all of which are great
The impact the choices have: we’ve come a long way since that bit in heavy rain where, if Ethan refuses to cut his finger off then a police officer will shoot at him and somehow blow off that same section of finger (that’s real, YouTube it): choices matter here. Kara can die early on, Markus can die well before the end for his beliefs, and dying as Connor can make things more difficult later on, particularly when you take into account smaller, less drastic choices. Saying the wrong things, missing things in the environment and failing to act on certain things opens up dramatically different paths, as does keeping your eye on the ball, being proactive and saying the right things. Depending on what you do the game can be drastically different, and that’s a new step for Quantic Dream. The story they’ve written is no longer a sacred cow, with the player’s input being largely flavour, maybe killing someone either David Cage didn’t care about, or at a point where he wanted them dead anyway. There is a certain degree of railroading now and then, to keep things moving and set up certain scenes, but it’s surprising how much of an impact the player can have

Like I said, Detroit is a flawed game. But having said that I still really like it, it’s firmly on my potential game of the year list, and I’m sure it’ll stick with me for a long time to come. I’m genuinely surprised they pulled it off, but credit where it’s due, Detroit is great.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18