Video Game Review: Rage 2

The unlikely sequel to Rage got my interest due to its surprising announcement and the collaboration between id Software and developers of Just Cause, Avalanche Studios. Having Avalanche’s experience in open world chaos and the minds over at id software which created the first person shooter genre, it sounded like the perfect combination of developers. Instead, Rage 2 delivers on the gunplay and not much else.

Set 30 years later, the world has slightly rebuilt itself, but still struggles against various bandit factions and the powerful Authority who want their power back. Walker, the last ranger, joins the remaining resistance to defeat the Authority and their leader General Cross. A typical story of fighting back an evil powerhouse with some interesting characters, and not much substance.

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While the narrative leaves plenty to be desired, the amount of context was given to help people like myself who never played the original title is impressively well done.

The first thing you do when starting up the game is to select a male or female Walker, which is utterly pointless in a game with no dialog choices, no customization, and no third person option.

The characters have some interesting characteristics, but due to dull writing and passable voice acting, I could not find anything in my heart to care for these people. When there should be humor or dramatic beats, I felt nothing seeing this adventure play out between the heroes and villains.

While the open world offers a variety of environments with a generous amount of space, not much substance can be found. Bandit camps, races, bounties, and other activities are available everywhere, but everything feels so bland and lifeless. Yes, this a post-apocalyptic universe, some liveliness to the side missions to allow for more motivation to complete them. The one benefit to exploring the wasteland is to find gear, materials, and money to upgrade Walker.

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Gunplay remains excellent, which is no surprise. After my run through, I only unlocked a handful of guns because most weapons can be opened by exploring to find ARKS that will give new abilities or weapons. The alternate fires and different feels to each new piece to my arsenal felt perfect as I gunned down every enemy in my path.

Abilities have a wide variety that makes a significant impact on the gameplay. Powers like overdrive which enhance your damage and healing capabilities or shatter which kinetically blasts foes not only assist greatly in combat but makes the game that much more fun.

Upgrading weapons, vehicles, and abilities can be done with feltrite, a crystal that can heal and be used as a form of currency to unlock ways to make Walker more powerful. Other attributes must be unlocked by completing objectives for key allies, who each have their own skill trees. Every time I unlocked anything, it felt meaningful by how much it can alter gameplay to enhance my enjoyment and survival out in the wasteland.

Getting around can be done by fast traveling to major cities or driving. The driving is horrendously clunky and can be worse depending on the vehicle. Too many of the cars feel either too light or heavy. On top of the transportation that gets stale quickly, the camera often times freaks out and makes everything that much more awkward while trying to traverse this massive landscape.

Moving on foot feels much more fluid and comfortable. Think of DOOM in its speed and mobility. If the map were not so big, then I would have a lot more fun running to each point.

Using a GPS to track a location or objective is the most basic mechanic in vast open worlds, yet most of the time the purple line did not follow until I had to turn it off and on to start moving towards my destination.

The gameplay is quite accessible with tutorials that come up briefly to show the ropes on how to use specific guns or abilities. While this is useful and does not get in the way of the overall flow, other tips that pop up to deliver information on new found activities feel excessive at times while disrupting the game.

Enemies have little variety, but the few types do require altering strategies slightly, making them more attractive than generic bandits. When a lot of opponents come up in larger battles, then the combat gets much more engaging. The best comes during the boss fights, which feel inconsistent in their difficulty, but I had plenty of enjoyment with these challenging foes. Setting the game to hard hits perfectly between challenging and fair.

The AI is also inconsistent with their behavior. Sometimes I saw smart strategies play out, other times they would charge until someone died, while the last percentage of the population would stand there, allowing me to shoot them in the head.

Interacting with NPCs to trade or for missions can get tedious. Traders and Walker have the same exchange every time the two come in contact. Other times I have found trying to talk to a supporting character to advance the story, and they will not respond for a short, yet annoying amount of time.

The color palette is vibrant with neon colors but gets pulled down by the dreary world of copy and pasted buildings and the mediocre graphics. At times the game looks gorgeous, while other times objects look muddy and not appropriately textured.

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While the visuals are a letdown, the animations are far worse. Lip syncing and facial animations are painful to look at, especially since so many interactions are so close to people’s faces.

Technical problems weigh the experience down even further. Persistent stuttering comes in and out throughout my entire time playing. Objects popping in too late happened a handful of times. The biggest occurrence was a constant glitch of characters speaking, but no dialog could be heard. If you decide to pick this title up, turn on subtitles. Other times the audio would just come in late when I was lucky.

The idea of Rage 2 sounds amazing with id Software and Avalanche’s portfolios being so reputable, yet none of the brilliant ideas were exercised enough to make this the colorful, charismatic shooter that it had claimed. By the first game’s unenthusiastic reception, that should have been a warning sign for everyone that this sequel would not be worthy either.

Score: 5/10

Want to try Rage 2 out? Buy it and support the blog through the links below:

Buy and support the blog: Rage 2 – PlayStation 4

Buy and support the blog: Rage 2 – Xbox One

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Interview: SUE

#1: Competition is rough in the music industry, what is your band doing to grow and continue to reach for success?

We self-released our debut album on the 1st May, I’ve (Elliot here) been trying to promote that as much as I can. We’re hoping the album can get us some more fans, as well as some more opportunities. 

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#2: If someone goes to one of your concerts, what do you think they should know going in?

We’re loud, chaotic and if you stand too close the stage something might fall on you. 

#3: What is your dream tour or festival? 

I’d love to do a tour of the USA, it’s such a diverse land I imagine it would be quite a surreal experience.

#4: If you could collaborate with any musician, who would you choose?

If he was still alive, Johnny Cash. He’s the guy that got me into writing music, I named this band after one of his songs.

#5: Out of every concert you have been to, who are the best live bands?

Iceage are a great live band, I saw them at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham last year. Fucking incredible show.

$6: Who are some of your biggest influences?

Metz, Fugazi, Nirvana, Black Flag, Leathermouth. Their music is all rough and raw; the best kind of stuff in my opinion.

#7: When did you first start playing music and how did that come together to lead you to where you are today?

I started play recorder when I was 5, moved onto violin when I was 7, then my Dad bought me a guitar when I was 9. I did a lot of acoustic stuff when I first started out, then when I was 16, I started a band called Salad Days. We were together for a couple years, but it fell apart when we were trying to get our first EP together. After Salad Days died, I was looking to do something new, so I started SUE. 

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#8: What are your plans for the rest of the year for the band? 

Some shows across the UK would be ideal, along with writing some more material and promoting the album.

Special thanks to SUE and Rogue PR for the interview.

Keep up with SUE on Facebook, Instagram, and website.

Movie Review: Pokémon Detective Pikachu

If I had to give an award for a film this early in the year, it would be Detective Pikachu. That award would be the most surprisingly enjoyable flick of 2019. I went in for Ryan Reynolds, and I came out with a smile on my face because of this delightfully nostalgic trip.

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) heads to Ryme City’s police department about the case of his deceased father. When going to his father’s apartment, he soon meets a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) who happens to be a detective too. After some convincing and realizing they can understand one another, the pair join forces to discover the mystery behind Tim’s father.

The narrative moves in some generic areas as the two unlikely partners search for answers. By the later acts, plenty of turns make for a much intriguing, mysterious crime story while having a heartfelt story about someone who once aspired to become a Pokemon trainer.

Smith and Reynolds have this wonderful chemistry that surprisingly worked despite the two not having real face to face interactions. The relationship works flawlessly as the two form a bond that feels organic.

While the film has plenty of solid supporting characters like Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), the city’s founder, who brings a lot to the story despite his too little amount of screentime. Nighy never disappoints with his excellent performance. The thorn in the side of the movie comes from Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton). While Newton’s performance is excellent, her character has too many moronic moments that cause issues. As I am a journalism major, I felt some pain seeing how the writers created her character, that annoyingly pushy journalist who ends up causing more harm than good.

The Pokemon are given a blend of a realistic aesthetic while having their anime characteristics. While I felt a few of them needed to be reworked to not look out of place, most of the mighty creatures looked spectacular along with other CGI that was done throughout the film.

Ryme City looked breathtaking with its Japanese inspired culture while having some Western elements. A brief introduction gave it more life than expected. With much of the film taking place in the metropolis allowed for enough time to explore and enjoy an exciting location that could have been bland.

The pacing usually flowed well, except for a few hiccups that felt unnecessary and could have been more creatively done for something more original. Adding in more action would help some of those problems, but the final battle makes some of the slower parts more bearable.

Drama and comedy came together to tell a fun, yet compelling story. The balance allowed for some heart pulling moments while still having those laugh out loud moments. While not a lot of the jokes land too hard for a big laugh, a few got me enough that I will think back on those hilarious lines for the next few weeks.

For a movie that seemed to only be fueled by the irresistible charm from Reynolds, I got to go down an adventure that came in without overstaying its welcome. The focus on the first generation Pokemon allowed for the perfect nostalgic trip for adults while still accessible for kids who may have grown up with later editions of these superpowered creatures.

Score: 8/10

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Video Game Review: Days Gone

E3 can have its moments where a developer showcases their project, and it happens to be nothing like the product shown. Days Gone happens to be that title. This was my most anticipated game for 2019, and I have been let down by this miserable experience with a cookie cutter open world game that has little to no substance.

The world has become overrun by an infection that turns people into zombies, sorry, BendStudio has coined the term “Freakers.” Deacon and his biker club buddy William “Boozer” plan on heading up North for a fresh start away from other people and the Freaker infestation, along the way they get sidetracked and must prepare for a more extended amount of time than initially planned. This sets them on a path of conflict with rival factions and having to work with allies to survive. On top of that, Deacon has an unbearable journey to find out what happened to his wife that takes far too long to get to the point.

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The narrative stumbles every step of the way with overly dramatic moments with characters that nobody playing will know right away or have objectives that waste time. The game starts off with a long-winded cut scene that does not make any impact because everyone has had zero time to develop, but I guess drama needs to happen at some point, so let us jump head first into the chaos. Instead of a 30 or so hour campaign, this should be cut in half due to the amount of filler and overabundant amount of plot points.

Transitions between cutscenes to gameplay are rough. The editing does not feel seamless, and loading screens appear for no apparent reason. Sometimes in the middle of a scene, a loading screen will appear to disrupt the flow of what is happening. Most of the loading does not take a long time, but on some occasions, a long wait must be endured.

The personalities are abundant and feel like individuals without feeling cluttered with too many people to interact with. Sadly, nobody is that compelling, especially the protagonist. Deacon is an illogical man who is way too inconsistent and contradictory with his actions and words. Sam Witwer who plays Deacon overacts too often, and the rest of the cast have their acting issues but are much more stable in delivering their lines. Some of the acting problems could occur from poor writing and possibly just as poor directing since some people yell or speak softly at the wrong moments. If freakers are nearby and Deacon says everyone needs to stay quiet, then he is the one who ends up screaming always.

The tone feels like a day time soap opera with its overly dramatic beats that never stop. Even the music feels out of place by being too over the top or giving weird vibes in areas that should not have any music.

Much of the gameplay relies on riding a motorcycle to get around the vast environment. The bike is fun to drift with, but riding feels off with the bike’s physics and mobility.

The bike is like another character who is your child that needs taking care of at all times. Finding fuel or parts repair the bike to keep the engine running. Getting upgrades feels worthwhile, but any cosmetics purchased will feel like a waste of resources.

Deacon can get new abilities by three skill trees or finding a shot that injects him with either better health, stamina, or survival vision. The skills varied from melee, ranged, and survival. New attributes significantly turn the tables when situations get difficult. Out of everything done in Days Gone, upgrading the protagonist is one that is not ruined.

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Combat can either be ranged or melee. The guns have a weight that feels nice to shoot, especially some of the heavier weapons like shotguns. Using melee may come in handy, but it is painful to use. Trying to guide Deacon with the left analog stick and smash R2 to hit any Freaker or crazed survivor is unnecessarily clunky with some terrible animations.

Enemies can be taken down using stealth. Just like most other games, hiding behind tall bushes and other methods of staying out of sight might seem generic, but it works well. Going around with a silent weapon or takedowns will bring anyone down immediately. The only issue runs into the inconsistently moronic AI who either cannot spot you even if you are crouched directly in front of them or they spot you instantly, but this won’t be the only issue with the dumb foes you will meet in this world.

To spot materials for crafting or other supplies, you can use your survival vision. Think of every other game post-Assassin’s Creed, and that is what you get. A magical sight that highlights what you need for objectives or survival. The overly used mechanic goes away too quickly unless you take your time to find upgrades, but that will take up many hours to get this ability to become efficient.

In the beginning, the world feels full of interactive items and mechanics that can make for an exciting survival experience. After a few hours, everything starts to show its true colors with how repetitive every task and obstacle is out in this North Pacific landscape.

Activities from doing jobs for camp members, clearing out infestations, and other side tasks have their rewards, but everything is a slow burn to gain much out of these optional objectives. Camps build trust levels to unlock new gear, but that takes a lot of time to build and then you need credits which can be earned by completing missions or turning in items that these bases can use.

Enemies have plenty of different types from various humans with varying levels of armor or weaponry to the kinds of freakers that are waiting to eat your flesh. The diversity does not get utilized well with new freakers getting introduced out of nowhere and feeling forced rather than an organic evolution of tougher threats. Other survivors wanting to kill Deacon take too many bullets to die unless they are shot in the head. I understand if an undead creature takes a lot of bullets, but a regular dude with no shirt should not take that much damage to kill.

Weather and time of day make a huge difference in anyone’s ability to see or hear Deacon while also radically changing the behavior of the living and infected. Snow and rain storms come in and out naturally while changing the look of the environment in refreshing ways.

Visually, Oregon looked pretty in this post-apocalyptic scenery. Nothing took my breath away with the graphics, but it did ease some of the misery down a notch.

Completing the story has some endgame objectives for other conclusions to people’s individual stories while still having room to complete any side activities that were missed. The post-game gives an extra boost in playability, sadly any urge I have has been beaten out due to this wretched journey.

Technical issues here do not generally ruin the experience, but make it that much more painful to play through. Sometimes the game would slow down, not significant frame drops, but enough to be noticeable especially on a PS4 PRO. The most consistent issue comes from lip and audio syncing. Eventually, every cutscene became people’s mouths moving then the dialog coming in later.

Audio comes in at many different levels. Sometimes characters sound too loud or too quiet when they are talking normally. This along with Deacon’s need to comment on everything happening makes it impossible to hear what anyone is saying without subtitles, a requirement to understand what is happening in this occasionally incoherent narrative.

PlayStation had a ride of successfully compelling singleplayer titles, and this is their biggest dud of the current generation. Full of uninspiring ideas from the bland collectibles, dull story, and inconsistent animations. Days Gone fails its premise that was shown during E3 all those years ago and goes beyond with its painful narrative with the worst protagonist I have had to play in recent memory.

Score: 3/10

If you do want to buy Days Gone to support the blog or are curious enough to try it for yourself then you can do so below:

Buy and support the blog: Days Gone

Trailer Impressions: IT: Chapter 2

Since I walked out of the theater during my first viewing of the 2017 remake of IT, I could not wait for a sequel. After a phenomenal cast announced to play as the grown-up Losers’ Club and months of waiting in anticipation, we got our first look into the next terrifying experience with everyone’s childhood nightmare, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard).

The trailer starts off innocently as Beverly (Jessica Chastain) arrives at her childhood home. The old woman invites her in so she can relive some of the positive memories she had, but things are off with her, and the chills start coming down my spine. The woman’s odd behaviors escalate until Beverly realizes this is a trap and gets attacked. One thing everyone should remember, horror and old people are never a good mix, so stay away from the elderly or clowns.

That drawn-out sequence takes up two minutes of the three-minute teaser, now we get a minute montage of the horrors that await the unlikely heroes. The first clip gives a glimpse at the adults with a pan around that shows them as children. The film will have plenty of flashbacks, so the wonderfully talented kids from the first part will still have some screen time, thankfully.

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The Loser’s Club have reunited (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)

A meeting between the group happens where everyone comes together for beer and what seems like a planning phase to take out their childhood monster. The details of the room are hard to tell, but we do get a better look at how these kids look now that they have grown-up.

Bill (James McAvoy) has a moment where he is looking down a sewer and sees some hands holding out a boat. Everyone will continue to deal with their trauma in a variety of ways and with him being the central character, I expect plenty of references to the loss of his brother.

Another piece shows that possibly Bill and Bev’s relationship from the first film will get some development. He reassures her about getting through this adventure alive. What strikes me is the choice to show this in the teaser. The other hint at their relationship comes from a kiss that happens towards the end of the trailer. With all that is happening, hopefully, this dynamic can weave itself into the story without taking away from anything since romance can feel forced in many narratives.

The sewer that ended the first battle against Pennywise gets a brief look. Bill, Richie (Bill Hader), and Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) walk down the tunnel. I wonder if the three are investigating something or getting ready to combat the shapeshifting creature.

A lot of confrontations with Pennywise are shown. Richie sees the clown flying by a string of many balloons, someone who could be Bev struggles to survive in a massive amount of water, and an unknown little girl meeting the monster up front. Each scene gets flashed quickly, and all I can feel is this will be far more intense than the previous adventure.

A lot happens in these few minutes, but that is enough to sell me on the upcoming sequel of Stephen King’s classic epic that has frightened people for decades. I have high expectations due to the high quality of the first chapter. If all goes well, this could be my favorite horror film of the year, which says a lot because 2019 has been huge for all things spooky.

IT: Chapter 2 releases Sept. 6

Watch the trailer below and let me know what you think:

Images via Warner Bros. Pictures

Song Impression: Skillet – Legendary

After three years since Skillet’s Unleashed record, the quartet has announced their new album Victorious which will release on Aug. 2. I had a lot of expectations for the new song that released today due to their last album being my favorite that the band has crafted in their long career. Legendary has some of the most energy ever heard from the band along with the refined sound that came off of Unleashed.

Before the explosive song starts, things start off with some catchy synthesizer action from guitarist/pianist/synth Korey Cooper. Lead guitarist Seth Morrison lays down some riffs and lead singer/bassist John Cooper’s bass blasts with sonic booms for a grand entrance into the first verse. So much is happening within the first 30 seconds, and that creativity does not stop flowing throughout.

The first verse is ready to pounce for an attack as Morrison continues his dangerous sounding riffs and Cooper starts his singing. Soon he is accompanied by drummer/backup vocalist Jen Ledger. The two have an excellent back and forth chemistry with a catchy rhythm that will surely be in my head for weeks.

The slightly subdued pre-chorus leaps into the highly energetic chorus. Steady drumming that continues to pummel along with everything else aggressively laying out the rest of the layers as the two singers lead the way. In many ways, the structure and sound remind me of Feel Invincible from the 2016 record with the exception this does not let go of the beat and vigor.

The bridge leads into a melodic, yet still maintaining that gripping instrumentation that does not stop with its assault. Cooper and Ledger singing steadily together to a chaotic climax then seamlessly transitioning into the final chorus to end on a high note.

Legendary already shows Skillet is coming into this year for blood. The rock group has a lot to prove with the rest of the album, but this first single is a positive sign that they are on the right path. I was already hyped for a new release, and now this is one of my top most anticipated records for 2019.

You can listen to the new song below and pre-order the album to support both the band and my blog:

Pre-order and support the blog and band: Victorious

Image via Pixabay/PascalBeckmann

What We Know: Rage 2

A sequel to Rage is an odd thing for id Software to develop, but from what has been shown on the unexpected sequel looks nothing like the original. The mix of id’s experience with insane first-person shooters and Avalanche Studios’ experience with making over the top open world titles like Just Cause should make for a beautifully chaotic collaboration. The game is coming soon, so this is all that is known so far.

Story

Set 50 years after the previous Rage, the year is now 2185. You play as the last Ranger named Walker. You battle against the remaining rulers from the first title. The world has moved on and developed while still having that Mad Max-like apocalypse that the developers have termed “post-post-apocalyptic.”

Gameplay

Imagine if you took the 2016 DOOMJust Cause, and Avalanche’s Mad Max into one insane FPS. It has the insane weapons from DOOM and Just Cause while having many vehicles that have been a staple in both of the Mad Max games and movies. The fast movement from DOOM is another aspect that will embed itself into the DNA of Rage 2.

Many abilities will be unlockable to upgrade Walker. Overdrive grants extra damage, replenish health, and a greater chance for loot from enemies.  Shatter is a kinetic blast that breaks down armor and knocks down enemies. Those are just two of the many attributes that will give you the extra edge in this hostile, desolate world.

World

The world of Rage has developed further after 50 years so the landscape will be a lot more diverse. Each area differs in environment and factions of enemies that inhabit each region.

The Wild is a jungle that both enemies and allies will use the vegetation to gain an advantage during combat.

Sekreto Wetlands takes Walker into a swamp and the remnants of the Old World. These swamps will be infested with a faction called the River Hogs.

Torn Plains is full of remaining plots of civilization and valleys.

Dune Sea is what people who played the first Rage would expect due to its giant desert that will have plenty of merchants and bandits.

Side Activities

Races, convoys headed by a leader followed by a group of goons, arks to find for additional gear, and possibly more that have not been shown.

Cheats

The Wasteland Wizard grants you cheat to enhance the gameplay. Rage 2 is bringing back a mechanic that was once thought deceased. Cheats in games was a staple for any release, so this is a nice throwback.

Pre-Order Bonuses and Editions

Standard: Exclusive mission “Cult of the Death God,” Settler’s Pistol, Nicolas Raine Armor, and a monster truck.

Digital Deluxe Edition: The Rise of the Ghost expansion, DOOM‘s BFG, cheat codes, progress boosts, and everything listed in the standard edition.

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Collector’s Edition: Everything from the previous edition except for the progress boost. Alongside that, the Collector’s edition includes: Ruckus the Crusher talking head, steel book, and a poster.

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Release Date and Platforms:

Rage 2 releases on May 14 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Pre-order and support the blog:

Pre-order and support the blog: Rage 2 – PlayStation 4

Pre-order and support the blog: Rage 2 – Xbox One