Movie Review: Jigsaw

The Saw franchise has taken a long break. Seven years since the last movie and many rumors later, we have been delivered Jigsaw. Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig and written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg. None of them have a ton of experience with some of the most notable movie being from Pete and Josh such as Piranha 3D. That lack of experience is concerning, but it is always great to see that people are getting the opportunity to work on a bigger franchise like Saw. For me, I am a huge fan of the Saw franchise, which will make anyone reading this cringe or cheer. I love the first four movies despite their flaws. The last few became monotonous and got trapped in a cycle that generates money but decreases quality. When Jigsaw got an official trailer, it got me excited. My expectations were kept low, but when I got into the theater, my excitement level maintained. Did this long break save this sinking franchise? Not at all.

The story starts ten years after John Kramer’s death, introducing us to a group of people in one of Jigsaw’s traps. As usual, they must complete the game to survive. The four people—Anna (Laura Vandervoot), Ryan (Paul Braunstein), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), and Carly (Brittany Allen). None of them were perfect as actors or had good characters to play. The worst was Ryan, the most generic and annoying of the group who I was hoping would have a creative death. The other side of the story shows two detectives, Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Keith Hunt (Cle Bennet). Both are generic detectives, especially Halloran who is painful to see this cheesy, crooked, and utterly bizarre detective. They are working together with Logan Nelson and Eleanor Bonneville who are two medical examiners. These two are the closest to interesting characters but are still relatively bland. On this search for the people in Jigsaw’s trap, there is the question whether John Kramer aka Jigsaw is alive or not. Of course, just like every movie, Tobin Bell reprises his role as John, despite being dead in several films now. The usual twist ending gives somewhat of a satisfying end. The main problem is that this has been done so many times before in the Saw series. Nothing new is done to the story or characters.

The traps and brutal deaths help keep this franchise afloat. Despite the last couple of movies declining in quality, at least they had some good death scenes. There may have been only one or two deaths in the entire movie that was rememberable. Most of which felt less creative, which is expected after making so many movies. You would have thought that such a long break could have given the writers some time to come up with a more creative story and traps, but just like many horror movie franchises, they burn themselves out. If only we were given creative enough deaths and traps then that could have potentially helped lift this movie up even in the slightest.

There is not a whole lot to say about this movie. It blends in with the past couple of Saw movies and goes to show that the franchise is dead, sadly. I wish this could have been a revival of the series. I was rooting for this movie to be good.  Sadly with bland characters, poor creativity, and a generic story made this into another Saw movie meant to get money and keep a sinking franchise afloat. There were different things done early on to make the audience interested and captured by the tone of the film. Keeping a low budget and smaller stories to tell worked best. If the studio wants this series to be alive and make them money, they need to go back to their roots. If you love Saw, you may not like this. If you can be easily entertained by a violent horror movie, then you might have some level of fun. On the bright side of everything about this movie, we still have that great soundtrack that will live forever and give a redeeming quality to any Saw movie.

Score: 3/10

Image via Lionsgate

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TV Show Review: Stranger Things season 2

Netflix has created some fantastic original content over the last few years, but nothing beats Stranger Things. Mixing so many sci-fi and horror elements from the 80s with a mix of originality to create one of the best shows out there. I can already say that I love it and it is a must watch. This show is so easy to binge to catch up with the first season being 8 episodes and the second season being 9 episodes. Let’s dive into all this goodness. No worries, I will keep any details limited on this season with a few minor things on my feelings towards specific directions, but there will be some spoilers from the first season.

Taking place one year after the events of the first season, we find our main group of friends all reunited and enjoying their time together. Weirdly enough, everything goes terribly again after one year of the events from the first season. Just seemed weird and did not fit right with me. Bad things only happen in Hawkins around Halloween I suppose. Anyway, Will is out of the upside down and with his friends and family. With some lingering visions that grow stronger, Will is still not fully himself. Everyone else has managed for the most part to move forward. As it turns out that the upside down still has some powerful forces that nobody knows about until things start to happen. As the last scene from the finale of the first season shows, Will coughs up a slug-like-creature that in this season plays a significant role. The CIA is still continuing their work which crosses over yet again with our protagonists. Everyone must come together once more to defeat more evil that has crawled out from the upside down.

The story and characters expand in so many directions. There is a lot more character growth for almost everyone. Since Will was gone most of the first season, we get to see more out of his actor Noah Schnapp who goes above and beyond with his talent. Questions and answers are given about characters and the universe as a whole. The balance between more questions and answers is not overwhelming. It is great to receive exciting information but to still have the mystery. They had to keep some answers hidden until the next season. One of the biggest issues to this season was early on. A few times some of the characters were too naive despite their previous experiences from the first season. Some of their actions are quite questionable for who they are as a character. This goes away as soon as each character gets situated with what is going on. As characters develop, you get a better appreciation for the actors and actresses on the show. Everyone is so talented, especially these kids. A few new characters are introduced. Maxine is a new girl who the main kids become interested in early on in the season. She is excellent, and as an audience, you will learn a lot about her. Another new character is her step-brother who falls flat in some ways. One of my other favorite additions to the cast is Bob, Joyce’s new boyfriend. He brings some great levity to the show but can be engaging in the more dramatic scenes. Overall, the new additions to the cast are excellent. It is hard for any show to have a cast of characters that are all excellent.

The pacing of the show is similar to the first season with only an extra episode. The show builds up mystery and suspension just as well as the first season. My only issue was one of the episodes towards the end fell flat. Some interesting things could have been done for a character, but it did not go anywhere. It is obvious that somethings were done just to build up to the next season. I understand where they may be coming from, but somethings should have been kept out of this season only to have it more fully developed in a later season to give it the proper attention instead of just throwing it in.

Visually the show is better than ever. More effects added during Will’s visions and scenes in the upside down. You can see this just even in the stylized posters that have been released. A blend of blue and reds with the mix of black to create impressive effects for the audience to digest. The use of the cinematography is excellent. Some fantastic shots of Hawkins to give you a better feel for the town. There are some shots recreated from the first season which was shown heavily in the trailers to provide the audience with some ideas on how things may turn out. One of the best shots to me was a foggy night in the junkyard that looked haunting and set the mood perfectly for the scene. The creators of the show know exactly how to properly set the right tone for any scene.

As you can tell, I am in love with this show. The universe, the characters, acting, cinematography, and just about every other quality. It pains me to wait another year for the next season. This season was just as good as the first, despite a few issues I had. A lot of build up for the next season regarding some directions with characters and the story that did not feel right to be putting in this early without proper development. Early on characters would do certain things that did not make much sense. People were naive about certain things happening when they should not have been. Also, it is too weird to have everything go to hell after one year from the original events. That is a bit hard to believe, but it is not too big of a deal. Even with all these problems, the positives outweigh it all. This show is phenomenal in every way. If you loved the first season, then you will love the second. Netflix has one fantastic show for sci-fi and horror fans.

Score: 9/10

Image via Netflix

Video Game Review: South Park: The Fractured But Whole

One of the biggest comedic giants out there is “South Park”. If you have a vulgar sense of humor then you are probably a big fan of the show. In terms of gaming, it has had its fair share of games in the past. In 2014, Ubisoft teamed up with Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create “South Park: The Stick of Truth”. The game was a huge success that made every fan of the show so happy. It felt like the player was inside of an episode of the show. Full of the same satirical humor and the art style, it fit so perfectly. After many delays, we finally got the sequel, “South Park: The Fractured But Whole”. Does this game meet the hype and reach the high bar as did its predecessor? Well, it gets a bit complicated with the games pros and cons.

The story takes place right after the first game. The first game had the main kids including your character playing a fantasy style game. Cartman is sick of it and wants to play superheroes. So, the game stops making fun of “Lord of the Rings” and then turns to making fun of the big superhero cinematic universes that we have currently. He convinces his friends to join him to save the town from the increased crime rate in which a cat is missing. The reward for this missing cat is $100, so in any child’s mind, that is enough to start their own billion-dollar superhero movie franchise. You later discover a giant conspiracy that is set up to create a crime increase and to replace the mayor. Only you, your friends, and your farts can save the town of South Park. I love the story. There are so many things that happen that will surprise you. Personally, I enjoyed the story of the first game more, but that does not take away the writing of this game. I felt that the jokes were better in the first title. Some jokes did not work as well and even felt like it was too much. Even then, those jokes that did not work so well were only a few times. The amount of time spent to complete the story and side missions only took about 20-22 hours roughly. The story felt slower and I was waiting for things to pick up a bit more. A bit short for a $60 game, but I felt satisfied enough that I got my money’s worth.

The biggest difference in this game is the gameplay. Exploring South Park is the same as the first with even more to do. There are side quests to complete and items to collect. Side missions were weak. After finishing the game it felt good, but I wish there were more variety in side missions. Most of them just introduced the collectibles around the map to get a reward. I wish this aspect were fleshed out a lot more. The most significant change is the combat and loot system. Combat takes place with a playing field divided up by squares, while still being a turn-based style. You get to move your character to where you would like to strategically place them then choose which of three moves you would want to use. Pressing the indicated button when being hit will build up a meter for a special move. Each character has a unique move that is unique to them. Some are more useful than others, but it is fun seeing the different kinds of abilities. Each fight you get three companions so you can switch them out each battle to decide who you like the most. Most of your choices are great with only a few characters I did not enjoy playing as. If you play right, you can be tactical to stack effects to make enemies bleed or be grossed out to cause extra damage. Summoning has made a return to having a character come in to heal your whole team or deal damage to all enemies. These supportive characters that come in to be summoned are far less exciting and helpful than the first game’s summons. For some reason, there are way fewer characters to summon. “Stick of Truth” had 11, while this has only 4. I wish there were way more characters to summon to add more variety than the same couple of people. This combat is fun, but something about the simplicity of the first game made it more enjoyable. I will get into what played into making the combat less fun in a moment, but it felt like a chore sometimes. Depending on the difficulty will change your view towards the combat. I recommend playing on the medium difficulty, but you may find that to be too easy. Maybe try the hardest difficulty to give yourself a good challenge. The final act does get much harder which I enjoyed a lot. The easy portions can get a little boring. For the player, you can choose between three classes at the beginning which determines a play style and particular move set for that class. Later on, you will get more to choose from that allows you to swap out different powers. This aspect is great. Taking the class idea from the first game and expanding it.

The loot system is different. There is a linear, but useful crafting system to make items for gear, healing, and other supplements for battle. Getting the supplies to craft will take looking through openable containers, destroying objects, and buying them. I like this system, it is easy but works well. Getting gear is my biggest issue. There are artifacts that are unique that will make you and your team more powerful. This felt so unrewarding, which goes into battles becoming a chore and less fun. You can go into a big battle and get an artifact to help you. The problem is that it is not as satisfying. The first game you could have a new piece of armor or a weapon that is unique looking and to build you up. This variety of gear made it much more interesting to see what you were getting and would make you feel like you got a greater reward. I felt more powerful with getting this better gear. The artifact system did not make me excited or even feel like I was getting that much stronger.

The town has expanded overall, but still quite small. Exploring throughout South Park to find characters to interact with, take selfies with to make them a follower on social media, to find collectibles, find artifacts, and to find more costumes for your character. Like said before, all gear is useless except for certain supplements and artifacts. So, changing your costume is purely cosmetic to make yourself look cooler or funnier. While exploring the world and doing missions you will find these little puzzles in which you can have a companion to push over an object or help you over an object to get to a new room or uncover a hidden item. This is used heavily in both exploration and story missions. I got bored of this after a while. It got so annoying seeing the same animations and hearing the same little phrases after doing these puzzles so many times. The added fast traveling makes it easy to get around the map instead of walking around everywhere which can get so tedious.

Character customization is well developed and can change the game slightly. A variety of costumes with colors to change to give yourself a unique look. A character sheet that will have your religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. Sadly, there is not a huge difference in how you identify. This can cause some battles to occur with rednecks who hate you for identifying one way or another. I wish there was more variety on this, but I still love it. Hearing them go on about wanting to hurt me for a long list of reasons. You can be a gender neutral, black, Canadian, Jew that they feel does not belong in the USA. Even if you are a white, heterosexual, American, Christian, those characters will react the same way pretty much. That is what we expect out of South Park, being as offensive as possible and I love it.

I do love this game, but it falls so short of the previous title. Lack of rewards makes it feel meaningless when you explore and win a battle. Jokes that fall flat and even dragged on made the writing feel worse than the first game. Combat can feel annoying with little enemy variety. The variety you get is not even worth it most of the time. The story is so much slower and does not have enough pay off in the end. I managed to feel satisfied, but in some aspects, I wanted more out of the game. Poor side quests that could have made the game longer and more interesting, but felt more like a chore than anything. More interesting loot that was more meaningful would be motivating to go and explore. Almost every quality is weaker than “The Stick of Truth”. “South Park: The Fractured But Whole” is fun, but was a big disappointment despite my positive feelings.

Score: 7/10

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Image via Ubisoft

Video Game Review: The Evil Within 2

Better late than never to finally put out my review for “The Evil Within 2”. In 2014 the horror action shooter released the first title. The first game was fairly successful in which earned a sequel. I personally liked the first game despite its flaws in cheesy characters and clunky gameplay. What has given these games the amount of attention they have received is because of Shinji Mikami, who has directed many “Resident Evil” titles which launched one of the most popular gaming franchises around. Now let’s give a quick summary of “The Evil Within” to recap before going into the sequel. There will be spoilers, and for this game, you will need to play the first title to fully grasp the story.

Three detectives from Krimson City, Sebastian Castellanos, Joseph Oda, and Juli Kidman receive a call of a crime at Beacon Memorial Hospital. After discovering on a monitor that a ghostly man killing people, the three detectives are taken into another world. It looks like the hospital, but not quite. Sebastian, the protagonist, goes through to find out what is happening and to find his partners. Turns out he has put into STEM, an experiment run by the corporation Mobius with the mastermind behind being Ruvik, who is the main villain of the first game. STEM is meant to unify the minds of everyone in the machine. This process takes everyone connected to another world that can be manipulated by the main mind controlling everything, this is called the Core. A powerful and psychotic mind can delve everyone inside into horrors unlike anything imaginable. Ruvik takes control of the core and must be defeated for Sebastian, Joseph, and Kidman can escape. Now let’s look into the story of the sequel.

Overall, the storyline is much more simple. The first game has an ambiguous ending and the details on STEM is confusing. The story here focuses on the past of Sebastian. The first game gives some details on his past in which his daughter Lily is killed after a fire occurs in their home. Determined that there is foul play, Myra, Sebastian’s wife and a police detective too, goes missing after discovering details about their daughter’s death. The game starts with you being fired from the police department due to everyone you have gone crazy after trying to tell your coworkers the events that occurred during the first game. Kidman meets with you to reveal she has always worked for Mobius. They need Sebastian’s help to save Lily. Lily was never killed, but it turns out she was taken by Mobius to be taken into STEM. Her purity would be the perfect core in order to unify all human life into her world which would be the perfect utopia. This utopia is called Union, a small town that looks like your typical small town in the United States. Since the first game goes horribly wrong and this is a horror game, it does not turn out all that well. Somehow Lily is lost, so Sebastian goes into STEM again in order to save his child. He discovers that some force is destroying Union and creating monsters. This is Beacon all over again with this time having more weight to it since it is not only Sebastian’s life on the line. The story has a great pacing overall. The first hour starts a little slow but works so well that it does not get boring. Characters are not the strength of these games. The voice actors have changed for all recurring characters which bothered me greatly for my first few hours. After a while, I grew to appreciate the new actors. The original game had horribly cheesy acting and dialog. That does not go away in this sequel but is still a lot better. To be fair, it is expected out of the mastermind behind “Resident Evil” which is the kind of cheesy horror in the gaming industry. The villains were a lot less interesting. Some recurring monsters did not have really any background to their origins or have anything interesting to provide except for tense battles or scares. Stefano is the first major villain, a photographer who can manipulate the world around him. Easily the cheesiest character who feels like a placeholder for tension and drama. When you get to fight him later on, just like all other boss battles, it is painfully simple. I won’t dive into specific enemies later on for spoiler sakes, but there are not really any great villains. Ruvik was not an amazing villain but served a good purpose in the first game. The story has a satisfying amount of time with clocking around 15 hours. It could be more, but with how this game turns out with the story, it ends up feeling like a great amount of time to spend. Much of the story gets deeper as you find collectibles. Just like the first game they give you rich details about the Mobius, STEM, and characters. It makes you want to look around every corner to find more information. Overall, the story is the strongest point of this series. The characters and dialog can be pretty weak but does its job. Let’s transition to the most important part of any game, which is the gameplay.

I was worried about this aspect. I was hoping for something new and some fixes from the first game. Surprisingly there was a lot delivered. Union is a linear, but a somewhat open world. Some chapters of the game will lead you into very linear paths, but the first act is quite open. For the early few hours, this is awesome. Exploring is very rewarding with upgrades and supplies to help you fight. Some side missions are in the game, but there are so few that it feels almost tacked on. These side missions are nice, but I wish there were a lot more things to do in Union. Shooting has improved slightly. It feels a lot better from the previous game. Movement and the camera still suck. It just does not feel that great moving around and can be frustrating especially during intense battles. The camera is so close that it can be more annoying than adding any more horror to the game. The scares to me are just like the first game. It is intense, but not scary at all. More creepy than anything, but if you are bad at horror games, you should do fine with these games. Also, there is a crafting system in the game. You can craft ammunition and healing supplies. You do use more resources if you are not at a workbench. If you find a workbench, then you can even upgrade your weapons which has a high variety that helps make you feel more powerful. Most of these areas are in safe houses that are scattered across the map. Running across the map for objectives or safe houses do not take any time since the map is so small and linear. The difficulty should be set at casual just to get the hang of everything. These games can get tough quickly especially if you start to run low on resources. The balance of difficulty felt off to me with some parts feeling too hard or too easy, but mostly on an easy side. Now to look at how the game looks and sounds.

The sound in this game is overall great. Hearing doors slam behind you and other noises that happen when you aren’t looking are placed so well to create atmosphere and horror. The game is usually beautiful, but I did see a few textures that looked washed out and not appealing. These bad textures are few and not distracting. Plenty of moments will look stunningly beautiful and at the same time disturbing. Violent games that look great can create beauty while being in a room full of mutilated bodies. A lot more attention to detail was placed to make Union more immersive. The blend of gameplay, sound, and graphics really made me feel like this dystopian town could be a place that I could visit if STEM were real. Let’s move to conclude.

“Evil Within 2” is a beautiful, suspenseful, and dramatic game. The story of Mobius, STEM, and Sebastian’s journey are powerful. I love this world that was created and find it just as interesting as the first game. Improvements on dialog and voice acting were made. Improvements on gameplay along with some additions that made the game feel like a true sequel. Sadly, the characters are still fairly bland or even generic. The pacing felt good, but too much cat and mouse type moments. You are about to get your daughter then something happens to prevent it. This would happen so many times that it wasn’t that original and made the game longer. Some of the dialogs that were written feel weird or not directed at the actors on how to say it properly. Gameplay is still a bit clunky with some annoying moments of running or walking. The open world needs a lot more to make it feel worth it regarding side storylines and activities to make it more fun. Some touch ups on the graphics here and there would benefit the game, but this was only a few moments in which I saw that a texture looked wrong. If you liked the first game, then you will like this one. If psychological horror games that are primarily action oriented like “Resident Evil” are your desire, then you must pick these games up.

Score: 7/10

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Image via Bethesda Softworks

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

The sequel to the 1982 cult classic “Blade Runner” is finally here. Fans of the original are excited about the release. “Blade Runner 2049” is getting a lot of praise all over the internet. Me, however, I was not so much. I came in hoping to love it like everyone else, but sadly, I felt disappointed and bored.

The world is a future in which synthetic humans called replicants are bioengineered by the Tyrell Corporation who have escaped onto Earth. The Blade Runner is a police officer whose job is to hunt down these replicants. This story takes place in the year 2049, decades after the first movie. Ryan Gosling plays as Officer K, who discovers something that can cause a lot of chaos in an already damaged world. His hunt leads him to try to find Harrison Ford who plays as the protagonist of the first movie, Officer Deckard.

Just like the first movie, there is a painful slow burn with a lot of mystery. The world is fleshed out, but most of it still remains a mystery to the audience. I usually like slow burn movies with a lot of ambiguity, but it did not pan out for me. Just like the original, clocking in at nearly 3 hours drags the audience down a tedious road. Teasing you with potential answers that feel like they may never go anywhere. The balance of questions and answers felt wrong. I felt more frustrated about not knowing enough which left me confused. This is not because I have not seen the first movie. Just about everyone who has seen 2049, says that there is no need to see the original to understand everything. This might be true, but it does not excuse the fact that it does leave the audience confused. As it proved by the annoying lady in front of me, who kept asking questions to her husband.

Well, what about characters? Officer K is not human, so he is just like any other movie with a robotic main character, which means he is lifeless. Going through the entire film with just him is painful. I love Ryan Gosling, but this role felt like it could have been played by anyone. The rest are relatively interesting. Lieutenant Joshi, played by Robin Wright, is Officer K’s boss. She is a human who holds a lot of power over everything. For the most part, it is just her pushing down on Officer K, but her performance is compelling. The best character is hands down Joi, played by Ana De Armas, who is a holographic woman in K’s life. She is there as his only real companion. She brings out so much out of K, as he brings out so much out of her. Their chemistry is probably the best part of the movie. The main antagonist is Luv, played by Sylvia Hoeks. She is sent by Jared Leto’s character, Niander Wallace, who is the CEO of his own corporation that creates replicants. Luv is a replicant trying to seek out the mystery that Officer K is trying to solve. She is tough and relentless. Just like the other female characters, she is one of the best parts of the movie. She steals every scene that she is in. Niander felt like he was going to be a big part, but the character fell so flat. Jared did an excellent job on his performance, but the character itself brought not a whole lot to me. The characters that are good, still are not enough to truly save the movie.

The world around is beautifully crafted. Much of the colors are typically grey throughout the movie, with an orange-brown to the desert that looks pretty. Holograms are throughout the city for advertisements. A Japanese theme is in both the original and sequel. For some reason, America thinks our future will be full of flying cars and a Japanese aesthetic. Despite this being something in a lot of American sci-fi, it still looks great in “Blade Runner 2049”. I felt like they could have utilized looks a lot more. Just like many of the elements of the film, it felt underutilized. People said this was one of the best looking movies in recent years. It is beautiful, but I was hoping for more.

Beautiful and well made are accurate words to use for this artsy sci-fi flick, but it does not do it for me. The horrible pacing, tedious and almost manipulative storytelling, lack of interesting characters, and elements feeling underutilized killed this movie for me. I wanted to like it, but I could not see exactly why people love it so much. Just like the original, “Blade Runner 2049” will be a cult classic that fails at the box office, but will live in the hearts of its fans. If you love the first movie, this is for you. If you have not seen the first, then be prepared mentally to be possibly bored. If you go in with low expectations, that may help you fall in love.

Score: 6/10

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Beta Impressions: Buy or no?

The original Star Wars Battlefront games are some of my all-time favorite games. Mixing various eras of Star Wars to create incredible battles. You can have Darth Vader fight Mace Windu and so many more awesome battles. In 2015, DICE had made a reboot of the series. This made me very excited because I love Star Wars and the Battlefield series. Sadly, DICE delivered a poor game that had very little content. Battlefront 2 is coming and this weekend was the beta. Is it better than the first game? Sorta, but I will dive into all that I got to experience in the beta. I did not play everything available due to time restraints on other things in my life this will not be perfect.

Regarding my subjective perspective of having fun, I will say I did have fun in the beta. I did not have any fun playing the beta or full release of the 2015 reboot. This game added a class system much like a lot of other shooter games. You have a heavy, specialist, assault, and an officer class. I wish there were more to the support classes like the officer. I did not feel like I was able to really give my team that much support in battle. I played a little bit of the specialist who is more of a sniper class, but this map on Naboo wasn’t ideal for sniping. I still liked the abilities and loadout that I was given. My main go-to were either the heavy or the regular assault which is more focused on delivering some brute force. Each class gets 3 upgrades which I was not a fan of. The ones in the beta were not the most useful, but I am sure there will be more variety in the full release. The class system does help a lot in organizing on how to play and playing as a team. There are points rewarded when you get kills or complete objectives. You can spend these points on different characters or vehicles. I  prefer games to have vehicles laying around that I can jump in. I am too used to the original Battlefronts that had dozens of tanks and aircrafts that players can dive right in. The system they have works overall. Each team gets four additional characters. Two will be heavier and powerful such as a wookie or a Clone Jumptrooper. These special characters are fun and be a powerful force on the field. Then, of course, there are the heroes and villains. The beta has Han Solo and Rey as heroes, while the villains are Darth Maul and Boba Fett. Playing as these characters is a lot of fun. You do feel that power on the field, but you can get destroyed quickly if not careful enough. Unlocking these characters with points instead of a random pick up on the field is much better of a mechanic.  Now to move onto the two game modes.

The beta has a space combat game mode called Starfighter Assault and a large scale battle mode that is objective based called Galactic Assault which is, similar to what we see in Battlefield games. Space combat was surprisingly fun with pretty decent controls. It wasn’t entirely different from the first game, but having an actual space game mode makes it easier to move around instead of flying on the planets which were harder. The objectives on defending or destroying certain ships to help your team win were not satisfying to me. Even in the other game mode, the objectives did not make me feel like I was doing much, especially when I was defending. I compare the two modes so closely because they are so similar besides one being more of a grand scale battle and the other being a space oriented game mode. Also in, space battles are that it is not what it used to be in the original Battlefront 2. I miss going inside of the enemy’s main ship to go inside on foot to destroy it from the inside, or to shoot it with my fighter ships to kill the enemy from the outside. Instead, the game just has you shoot specified ships that lead you to win. There are fewer ships for the player to use too. The beta only had three ships, so hopefully, there are more in the full release. I mostly focused on Galactic Assault which was a 20v20 game type. The same problem with Galactic Assault is the same as Starfighter, the objectives are not fun. Most people were just fighting until the game ended. Even when we were all playing the objective to destroy or defend, it did not have a lot to it. The simplicity of the objective and the feeling that it was too easy killed the fun. If the defending team are on top of it, then they can quickly destroy the enemy MTT. Since most people ignore that, then you go into the other two phases in which the attackers, which are droids, will then win. All because the clones team are idiots who want to kill. If played right, it is a ton of fun if you like that Battlefield style gameplay.

The Strike which is 8v8 and Arcade 2vAI game mode I did not touch at all. I got distracted so I will wrap up saying that I did not entirely play the beta, but enough to know my opinions. It is not for me. If you like the 2015 reboot, then you will like this. It is improved in many ways. Just as stunningly beautiful and with incredible sound, which is what is expected out of DICE. I could stare at this game all day because it is that beautiful. The game has a loot box issue which is common to every game now. There is still the possibility of a lack of content, but we will see when the game is fully released. Story mode will be a great addition and it will be canon which will make any Star Wars fan excited. I will say, not to buy it, but do your research before spending your money to see if this is the game for you. We are not far from seeing the full product of this game. Star Wars Battlefront 2 releases November 17 of this year.

Image via Electronic Arts

Album Review: The Black Dahlia Murder – “Nightbringers”

If you are a death metal fan, then you know The Black Dahlia Murder. They are one of the most successful and well-known death metal bands who has come into the scene in the last 15 or so years. The group is best known for their distinct sound from vocalist Trevor Strnad, his in-depth lyrical style, and powerful instrumentation to bring everything to life. “Nightbringers” is the newest album that the band just released and this is their eighth full-length album.

To start off, let’s dive into the instrumentation of the album. It is a The Black Dahlia Murder album so you will know what to expect if you are a fan. Everyone in the band is at their hight of their career. The first track, “Widowmaker” starts in an epic tone that any great album needs to grab the listener’s attention right away. Shooting down people left and right brings a brutal start. The drumming from Alan Cassidy is fast, but precise as ever. Laying down a foundation that drives the music with its intensity. Along with Max Lavelle doing some of the best bass work out of any previous albums in the band’s career. Usually, in metal, the bass gets drowned out by the vocals, guitar, and drums, but it is generally clear in many of the songs. The most notable aspect is the guitar work, which always has been one of the best parts of the band. Brian Eschbach is a good rhythm guitar player who provides a lot of support, both in guitar playing, but on back up vocals during live shows. He has been in the band just as long as Trevor who are the only original members of the band. The most exciting change is from Brandon Ellis, who is the newest addition to the band. Brandon is their new lead guitar player who has proven himself to be one of the best lead guitarists the band has ever had. He had big shoes to fill when Ryan Knight left, but he has been able to prove himself well. Trevor spoke about Brandon in an interview, “He is probably the most musical guy we have ever had in the band. The most educated knows the most theory and stuff like that,” (interview at Metal Wani). With that musical knowledge brings more than just knowing how to play guitar. You can tell in his riffs and especially the solos. The Black Dahlia has always had killer solos, and these are just as amazing as any other album. The title track, “Nightbringers” and “Matriarch” are excellent examples of some of the best solos on the record. The instrumentation of the album is not all speed and chaos but can be quite beautiful. After a powerful solo in “The Lonely Deceased” a beautiful acoustic guitar plays which gives a great atmosphere to the song and a different sound to compliment the track. Technical, melodic, aggressive, and beautifully crafted are the perfect words to use to describe their instrumental style with this record and any other album.

The meat to any artist to me is the vocal and lyrics. Trevor has always been one of my top favorite vocalists for extreme music. He does not use as much of a range as some others in this scene utilize, but his distinct sound is what is so remarkable. There is nothing like a high scream from Trevor. The screeching voice that is telling the darkest of stories adds so much horror to the album. His lyrics have always been phenomenal, but this album he outdid himself. Trying to go towards a more detailed and brutal take, he wrote one of the most brutal albums in the band’s history. Song topics range from necrophilia from the song “The Lonely Deceased,” a song all about a morgue worker having sex with the bodies at his disposal, with detailed necrophilia for the listener to imagine. A lyric from the song detailing the disgusting tale, “What happens on the slab dies in the morgue with me. In these walls my grisly playground. Where none rest in peace.” For the title track,”Nightbringers” is about death metal standing as the “villain” in the music world. Focusing on the conflict of religion, more specifically Christianity, being an opposing force against the music. An example of the lyrics being, “To hell you’re sold your souls for seven silver coins. And every child you’ve defiled. Religion hangs, and we are the tiers of the noose.” That is just one of the least offensive lyrics in that song, but you get a good idea of what it looks like when death metal tackles Christianity. Trevor writes some of the best lyrics in modern metal. Tremendous storytelling and does not overly repeat anything unlike many songwriters out there.

Overall, this is not a disappointment at all. If you love this band, then you will love this record. The Black Dahlia Murder create some of the best crafted and most consistent albums compared to any other artist. Every song is crafted with such care that any song can be the title track or be single. The only criticism is most of the album runs fast that it makes it hard to fully enjoy Trevor’s storytelling. More variety of sound would be appreciated, but overall it is the quality anyone would expect out of this band.

Final Score: 9/10

If you like the album and want to help the band out, here is a link to the album:

Image via Metalblade Records and The Black Dahlia Murder