9 Best Video Games of 2019

The end of the year is upon us, so it is time to celebrate the best in gaming. While this year was no 2018, I still had plenty of great experiences. The AAA titles disappointed for the most part with some gems in the mix, but the indie games held it all together. Big or small, I had a ton of variety in my playtime this year and plenty of developers to thank for some phenomenal creations.

#9: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

The reason Sekiro is lower on the list is that I never beat it. I played enough to fall in love, but damn, it is hard. I am terrible at FromSoftware games. I hop on every time because my friends convince me, and this company knocks it out of the park with each masterpiece, just look at Bloodborne or Dark Souls 3.

The main issue with their games is an unaccessible story and clunky movement. Sekiro is arguably the best release yet from the Japanese developer due to these improvements. If it had co-op, then I would be able to complete it and have more fun with friends.

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#8: The Outer Worlds

Obsidian scratched my Fallout itch with The Outer Worlds. Enough is done to stand out from the company’s work on New Vegas and the rest of Bethesda’s RPG franchise to not feel like a copy.

This is an RPG that is both accessible and easy to digest. Rather than spending hundreds of hours in this universe, completionists can smoothly accomplish every side quest while casual players and stroll on by at their own pace. This sci-fi adventure would make for an excellent introduction into the genre without having to go through a massive, intimidating world. A must-play for newbies and die-hard fans.

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#7: Resident Evil 2 

The remake of Resident Evil 2 balances being a ground-up rework and paying homage to the original title while making it work in the modern landscape of action-horror titles similar to more recent RE entries. I missed out on the initial release as I was too young, but this was the perfect way to go in to experience something new and vintage.

Additional content to keep players engaged along with the multiple playthroughs that are required in the 1998 release and the 2019 edition make this have some of the most replayability of the year. That does not even count all of the secrets to find in the main game.

This is how remakes need to be done.

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#6: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Easily one of the best stories ever told within the Star Wars universe, regardless of its medium. Fallen Order delivers a remarkable, swashbuckling adventure that fits well in the canon.

The gameplay may seem too familiar as it is essentially Uncharted, Sekiro, and Dark Souls in a Star Wars costume, but it is also great to make me care. It feels too satisfying to use the lightsaber and the force. I never truly had a game make me feel like a Padawan growing into a Jedi, which is something I think any fan would want out of a game like this.

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#5: Mortal Kombat 11

I may be one of the worst fighting game players around, but I love Mortal Komat. Its brutality, cheesy story, and loads of content is irresistible. The metalhead in me cannot get into the genre, but MK is the one exception as it is metal as fuck.

The cherry on top comes from the cameo fighters that appear. The talented men and women at NetherRealm are already kings and queens of these arena-based action games, and they make it better with characters like Terminator and Spawn.

#4: Borderlands 3

The Borderlands games are some of my favorite shooters around. I adore this universe and its wacky characters and even goofier weapons. The long-awaited third title gave me everything and more I could possibly want. It may not have as memorable of a villain like Handsome Jack, but every other element is golden.

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#3: Valfaris

This retro-styled platformer is insanely challenging and addicting. Its mesmerizing visual aesthetic comes straight out of the 90s in all of its indie glory. It oozes color, blood, and guts in all of the right places.

To top it off, this is right up there with some of the best music ever in a video game. What’s not to love than old school graphics, solid gameplay, and a heavy metal soundtrack? Nothing is the answer.

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#2: My Friend Pedro

It may lack much replayability, but this short 2D platforming shooter is beyond fun. Adding to this deliciousness within Valfaris is some of the best music in recent memory. That combination of electric beats that go with a night out to the club mixed with the fluid movements makes for an action-packed experience that took me by surprise.

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#1: Control

For a AAA title, this has the experimentation to expect from an indie release. Remedy went above and beyond with this creative endeavor that gets an A+ in every category from its graphics, acting, story, and gameplay. I can only hope other juggernauts in the industry can look to Control and get ballsy with imagination to deliver something truly unique.

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Images via Remedy Entertainment, FromSoftware/Activision, Steel Mantis/Big Sugar, Obsidian Entertainment, Respawn Entertainment/EA, Deadtoast Entertainment/Devolver Digital, Gearbox Software/2K, Capcom

Interview: Zach Patch of Crypitus

#1:      Has music always been a big part of your life, or did it come later? When was that moment for you?

Music has always been a huge part of my life. When I was growing up, my father was a metalhead. I used to bash my head off of the front of my car seat along to Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head.” I also had my first drum set before I was out of diapers. It was made of phone books and kitchenware.

#2:  What are some of your favorite albums of all time?

My all-time favorite is Between the Buried and Me’s Colors. Some of my other all-time favorites are everything by Between the Buried and Me, The Shape of Color by Intervals, The End of Everything by Plini, Apostrophe by Frank Zappa, and my newest favorite is by a band called Valence, and it’s titled, Cognitive Dissidents.

#3: What are the hardest and easiest parts of making music for you?

The hardest part is the physical challenge of being able to play what I want to play on the drums. As for an easy part, I can’t really think of one. I really try to make everything I play a real challenge for myself. It’s just more fun that way.

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#4: When making music, what does the creative process look like for you and the band?

We just kind of do it on the fly. Doug, Pete, and Joe come up with their parts, and then I put drums to it. We don’t really plan it ahead of time. When we jam something tasty, we keep it and build on it.

#5: What is the biggest dream you have for the band?

I would love for us to get to be enough of a success that we could make living playing our music. Until then, I think we are aiming at world domination.

#6: When did you first play music in front of an audience? What was that experience like?

The first time I played for an audience, I was 17. I played guitar in a band with a few of my friends in school. It was great. We didn’t sound good, but there were a bunch of cute girls there, and they screamed a lot, I assumed, because they liked us. It was such a rush. From that moment on, I was hooked.

#7: Out of every show you have played, what are some experiences that stick out the most to you?

Oh man. I could spend half a day answering this one. One that comes to mind is the first time we played in Lewiston, Maine. The place was packed unlike anything we’d ever seen at that point, and they went nuts for us. That led to all of our favorite event of the year- Herd Flock. It’s a smaller festival in Maine, and it’s always the best time ever. The other show that sticks out as incredible was this summers RPM Fest in Miller’s Falls, Massachusetts. We had a killer crowd, and it was a rush to see how they reacted to our music.

#8: What is the dream tour or festival that you would love to be a part of?

I would love to go on your with Between the Buried and Me. I’d really like to play the Summer Slaughter tour too. That looks like it would be intensely incredible.

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#9: For the rest of the year, what plans does the band have?

We just released our first album Ill World (That’s What You Get) a little over a month ago. We have a few more shows in New England to promote it, including a gig in Waterford, NY, with the almighty Exmortus. We’re really excited to play with those guys. After that, we will hibernate for a couple months until the snow goes away.

Follow Crypitus here to keep up with them.

Thank you to Zach for taking the time to answer questions and thank you to Rogue PR for setting up this interview.

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Images via Crypitus/Rogue PR

My Picks For The Game Awards 2019

Dec. is arriving shortly, which means The Game Awards are upon us. Geoff Keighley’s award show will celebrate many of the biggest hits in gaming this year, along with revealing new titles in the style of E3. Some people will take home a fancy trophy that night, but here, they will get a mention on a mediocre blogger from a 23-year-old they don’t know or care about.

Before getting started, I will say that I will not be doing every category. I know nothing about things like esports, so expect a few to go missing. I will hit up the major awards that the majority of people will most likely be keeping an eye on.

GAME OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:

Control (Remedy/505 Games)
Death Stranding (Kojima Productions/SIE)
Resident Evil 2 (Capcom)
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (FromSoftware/Activision)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Sora/Bandai Namco/Nintendo)
The Outer Worlds (Obsidian/Private Division)

WINNER: Control (Remedy/505 Games)

Control has that artsy weirdness from an indie title while having the scale of a AAA title that you would expect. Remedy delivered a mind-boggling shooter that will test your brainpower and shooting skills. It has everything I could want from a story-driven title that goes outside the box.

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Image via Remedy Entertainment/505 Games

ACTION GAME NOMINEES:

Apex Legends (Respawn Entertainment/EA)
Astral Chain (Platinum Games/Nintendo)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward/Activision)
Devil May Cry 5 (Capcom)
Gears 5 (The Coalition/Xbox Game Studios)
Metro: Exodus (4A Games/Deep Silver)

WINNER: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward/Activision)

I cannot believe I am letting a Call of Duty game reign supreme in any category. Infinity Ward took this game into the roots of the good old days with its simplicity while boosting up the game’s support without paid DLC. This is the experience I remember from middle school, and it somehow goes above and beyond those nostalgic memories.

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Image via Infinity Ward/Activision

ACTION/ADVENTURE GAME NOMINEES:

Borderlands 3 (Gearbox/2K)
Control (Remedy/505 Games)
Death Stranding (Kojima Productions/SIE)
Resident Evil 2 (Capcom)
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Grezzo/Nintendo)
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (FromSoftware/Activision)

WINNER: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (FromSoftware/Activision)

This category is all about the balance of combat, traversal, and puzzle-solving. Control and Resident Evil 2 nail all of that, but FromSoftware surprised me with how well Sekiro has all of those elements.

Usually, the Japanese developer gets the combat and brain obstacles right with their cryptic storytelling and world design, but now we got a game that feels great to move around. Sekiro’s running, jumping, and grappling satisfies every minute when playing.

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Image via FromSoftware/Activision

ART DIRECTION NOMINEES:

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Grezzo/Nintendo)
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (FromSoftware/Activision)
Control (Remedy/505 Games)
Death Stranding (Kojima Productions/SIE)
Gris (Nomada Studios/Devolver Digital)
Sayonara Wild Hearts (Simogo/Annapurna)

WINNER: Gris (Nomada Studios/Devolver Digital)

Gris is a stunning indie title that has beautiful watercolors and mesmerizing designs. It is raising the bar for what it means for a video game to be an art form.

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Image via Nomada Studios/Devolver Digital

AUDIO DESIGN NOMINEES:

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (FromSoftware/Activision)
Control (Remedy/505 Games)
Death Stranding (Kojima Productions/SIE)
Resident Evil 2 (Capcom)
Gears 5 (The Coalition/Xbox Game Studios)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward/Activision)

WINNER: Resident Evil 2 (Capcom)

Horror games need great audio design, or a lot of the atmosphere, and emotions tied to it will fall apart. Capcom went above and beyond, making this remake more than simply upgrading the graphics. It stands on its own two feet away from the original.

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Image via Capcom

COMMUNITY SUPPORT:

Apex Legends (Respawn Entertainment/EA)
Destiny 2 (Bungie)
Final Fantasy XIV (Square Enix)
Fortnite (Epic Games)
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

WINNER: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

To maintain a game since 2015, you need a good relationship with your player base. Siege does not do everything perfectly, but the last few seasons have shown that Ubisoft is dedicated to making this the best game possible for its community. I have had so many wonders and hopes that have been delivered because the fans are being listened to.

This is a game I have put over 500 hours, close to 600, and I cannot get tired of it, especially with consistent new content that comes out every few months. I cannot wait for the next season.

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Image via Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft

FAMILY GAME NOMINEES: 

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Next Level Games/Nintendo)
Ring Fit Adventure (Nintendo EPD/Nintendo)
Super Mario Maker 2 (Nintendo EPD/Nintendo)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Sora/Bandai Namco/Nintendo)
Yoshi’s Crafted World (Good-Feel/Nintendo)

WINNER: Super Mario Maker 2 (Nintendo EPD/Nintendo)

It is hard to beat Mario here. Being able to create a level in the style of new age or old school of the iconic franchise is the perfect thing for a family. Whether it is the hardcore player looking for a crushing difficulty or fun run through for a kid to beat, Super Mario Maker 2 really is for everyone.

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Image via Nintendo EPD/Nintendo)

FIGHTING GAME NOMINEES:

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Sora/Bandai Namco/Nintendo)
Dead or Alive 6 (Team Ninja/Koei Tecmo)
Jump Force (Spike Chunsoft/Bandai Namco)
Mortal Kombat 11 (NetherRealm Studios/WBIE)
Samurai Shodown (SNK/Athlon)

WINNER: Mortal Kombat 11 (NetherRealm Studios)

It is hard for NetherRealm to disappoint when it comes to fighting games. The past few Mortal Kombat games have been stellar, and the latest entry is no different. This is easily the best fighting game of the year and easily will make it into my top 10 of the year too.

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Image via NetherRealm Studios

FRESH INDIE GAME NOMINEES:

Disco Elysium (ZA/UM)
Gris (Nomada Studio)
My Friend Pedro (Deadtoast Entertainment)
Outer Wilds (Mobius Digital)
Slay the Spire (Mega Grit)
Untitled Goose Game (House House)

WINNER: My Friend Pedro (Deadtoast Entertainment)

My Friend Pedro is a standout hit that caught me by surprise. After seeing it at E3, I just had to get my hands on this stylish, side-scrolling shooter. Its bumpin’ music and superb feel to both of its combat and traversal make this irresistibly fun. This award is meant for a studio’s first release, and Deadtoast Entertainment set the bar so high for themselves, I cannot wait for what comes next.

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Image via Deadtoast Entertainment/Devolver Digital)

GAME DIRECTION NOMINEES:

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (FromSoftware/Activision)
Control (Remedy/505 Games)
Death Stranding (Kojima Productions/SIE)
Resident Evil 2 (Capcom)
Outer Wilds (Mobius Digital/Annapurna)

WINNER: Outer Wilds (Mobius Digital/Annapurna)

22 minutes before having to reset sounds tedious, but Outer Wilds caught the gaming community and industry by surprise with its execution. This innovation and creativity will hopefully catch on. Be on the lookout for Mobius Digital’s future titles now.

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Image via Mobius Digital/Annapurna

INDEPENDENT GAME NOMINEES:

Untitled Goose Game (House House)
Disco Elysium (ZA/UM)
Outer Wilds (Mobius Digital/Annapurna)
Baba is You (Hempuli)
Katana Zero (Askiisoft/Devolver Digital)

WINNER: Untitled Goose Game (House House)

The seemingly innocent Untitled Goose Game is as indie as you can get in its scale, art direction, and premise. This game exploded on social media, and it deserves every ounce of love. I never knew I needed to be a goose that terrorizes everyone in my path, yet I have this urge to be an evil bird.

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Image via House House

MULTIPLAYER GAME NOMINEES:

Borderlands 3 (Gearbox/2K)
Apex Legends (Respawn Entertainment/EA)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward/Activision)
Tetris 99 (Arika/Nintendo)
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (Massive Entertainment/Ubisoft)

WINNER: Borderlands 3 (Gearbox/2K)

Nothing beats playing with friends, especially through a chaotically hilarious world like Borderlands. The third title in the series enhances things that were missing from the previous titles while ramping up all of the iconic elements that make these looter shooters stand out from the rest.

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Image via Gearbox/2K

NARRATIVE NOMINEES:

A Plague Tale: Innocence (Asobo/Focus Home)
Control (Remedy Entertainment/505 Games)
Death Stranding (Kojima Productions/SIE)
Disco Elysium (ZA/UM)
The Outer Worlds (Obsidian/Private Division)

WINNER: Control (Remedy Entertainment/505 Games)

Control delivers a unique story that is told in an unusual, fully realized universe. It feels confusing, but it manages to explain without feeling like a poor expedition of what is happening. Combined with excellent characters, this is the narrative that needs to be consumed by as many gamers as possible.

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Image via Remedy Entertainment/505 Games

ONGOING GAME NOMINEES:

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)
Apex Legends (Respawn Entertainment/EA)
Destiny 2 (Bungie)
Fortnite (Epic Games)
Final Fantasy XIV (Square Enix)

Winner: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

Ubisoft has been killing it when supporting Rainbow Six Siege. The last few seasons have delivered excellent, unique new operators, brand new maps and redesigns of classic levels, and find new seasonal game modes to give the players a refreshing experience during events. Nobody has to wait long for any of this new content, it is that consistent.

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Image via Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

PERFORMANCE NOMINEES:

Ashly Burch as Parvati Holcomb (The Outer Worlds)
Courtney Hope as Jesse Faden (Control)
Matthew Porretta as Dr. Casper Darling (Control)
Laura Bailey as Kait Diaz (Gears 5)
Mads Mikkelsen as Cliff (Death Stranding)
Norman Reedus as Sam Porter Bridges (Death Stranding)

WINNER: Courtney Hope as Jesse Faden (Control)

Hope gave an impressive performance in Control. The stellar writing crafted the mold for a powerful, gripping heroine, and she made Jesse come to life. Now she is one of my favorite actresses in gaming and her leading role as one of the best characters in recent years.

Control Screenshot 2019.08.27 - 15.19.10.03
Image via Remedy Entertainment/505 Games)

ROLE-PLAYING GAME NOMINEES:

Disco Elysium (ZA/UM)
Final Fantasy XIV (Square Enix)
The Outer Worlds (Obsidian/Private Division)
Kingdom Hearts III (Square Enix)
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne (Capcom)

WINNER: The Outer Worlds (Obsidian/Private Division)

Experience in the genre really helps, especially when you have a developer who worked on Fallout: New Vegas. Obsidian leans into those elements while making something that stands away from Bethesda’s wildly popular franchise. I love the choices in The Outer Worlds, I really get to be the character I want, as in a fearful force that is a menace to everyone in sight.

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Image via Obsidian/Private Division

I know I skipped some categories, but a lot of which I don’t have an opinion on or should not comment on. What about your thoughts? Let me know which titles you want to win in this year’s VGAs.

The Game Awards premier Dec. 13. You can check out all of the information here.

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Image via The Game Awards

7 Video Games That Every Metalhead Needs to Play

Two things that mix really well are video games and heavy metal. Nothing beats blasting zombie’s brains on the wall, shredding guitar like the rockstar you dream of becoming or being a menace to society. If you want the right games to jam out too, then this will set you up for a great, headbanging Christmas.

#7: DOOM (2016)

The reboot of DOOM is metal as fuck beyond belief. It is up to the standards of modern first-person shooters while having music that will make you slam your head through a concrete wall. Doom Guy needs a way to kill those demons, and he is not going to listen to Taylor Swift or Kanye West. Give the man some death metal.

The sequel that is coming next year, DOOM Eternal, will feature a death metal choir, so if that does not get you sold to jump on the train in preparation for 2020’s bloodfest, then nothing will sell you on id Software’s masterpiece revision of this classic FPS.

#6: Valfaris

This 2D action-platformer was sold at E3 as a title that would bring out nostalgic emotions from its players while combining a skull shattering soundtrack. Everything from its combat to music is meant to be as brutal as possible, and it nails this. Play this title as it is not getting enough chatter around it, go support indie devs.

#5: Killing Floor 2

This scratches my itch for a Left 4 Dead-style shooter while injecting me with some solid metal. Demon Hunter, Fit for a King, and Impending Doom are just some of the bands who have songs featured in this zombie-infested game. Detailed dismemberment, along with a great cooperative experience, makes this irresistible for anyone looking to join up with buddies to blast away hordes of the undead.

#4: Brutal Legend

Jack Black and heavy metal is a great combination. The actor and musician teamed up to voice the main character of this action-adventure game that embeds itself into a world that revolves around all things brutal and metal. This is a love letter to older groups like Metallica and Slayer that must be played by fans of thrash.

#3: Rock Band/Guitar Hero

Playout your dreams of being a rockstar was an easy seller for these games. Both Rock Band and Guitar Hero dominated the mid-2000s for all the right reasons. Rock out to classic bands from the 60s or melt faces with some modern death metal. There is something for everyone here.

#2: Broforce

A 2D sidescrolling platformer where you go around blowing up and gunning down enemies. Broforce feels like an arcade game where you get to play as iconic action heroes like Rambo and Terminator. This is one of the best indie games in recent years, and it would be perfect for jamming out to some heavy music while killing your way through each level.

#1: Any Gears of War

Microsoft’s exclusive third-person shooter is as metal as it gets. Extreme violence has always been apart of the most devilish music on the planet. Whether it is singleplayer or online, turn on your go-to bands that will pump you up as you chainsaw through enemies, blow heads apart, and play as muscular characters who absolutely use steroids.

What are some of your favorite games that go perfect with heavy metal? Let me know in the comments.

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Movie Review: 21 Bridges

Sometimes the trailer is better than the movie, that is the case here. 21 Bridges is a solid experience as a stay at home movie with a few friends to enjoy something entertaining and fairly exciting. No real substance, failures left and right, but an easy ride that goes quickly.

Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Michael (Stephen James) rob a place hoping to get 30 kilos of cocaine; instead, they find 300 kilos (dun dun duuunnn) and must kill everyone on sight, mostly police officers. So, it is Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman), a cop who is known for killing cop killers, to find these men and uncover the mystery of the additional loads of drugs, which he does by locking down Manhattan’s 21 bridges. This is as typical as you get with the twists, turns, and shootouts with some bland characters.

Boseman does a great job for a character who is thin but has a more in-depth background than anyone else. Ray and Michael get a brief, generic overview of their lives that does not make them sympathetic or even great villains. Other officers like Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) and Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) who are equally thin, but at least have performances that make it worthwhile.

Speaking of Simmons, one of the best actors in history. He is wasted completely. Same with a lot of the cast, but as the most prominent name here, I felt that anyone could have played that character. His little screen time is utilized to the best of his abilities, but I feel he needed more substance.

The entirety of Andre as a character was based on information in the few minutes about his dad’s death and an investigation on how many crooks he has killed in 10 years. While this lead to his motivations, plenty went under the radar to make this fictional person feel real or give me an ounce of empathy towards him.

A movie about seven police officers getting gunned down has some weight it carries on its shoulders. The violence, the grim shots of the crime scene, and the acting of everyone arriving at the massacre got me in the feels. The only issue comes from the faceless people serving the city of New York who got slaughtered as I just witnessed generic people in uniforms get killed without any real development of a single person involved, the killers included.

The story pushes forward for the sake of gunshots and drama. When it is hitting a stride, I felt compelled by what was happening, other times it felt melodramatic. Seriously, police on police or police vs. FBI is overly done in everything, nobody needs to see how it plays out in the same way it does on TV.

At times, things just start happening without much explanation. The police get information at times that do not make sense, while other times, it decides to let the audience know how things are moving along.

An even split comes as I got to see Officer Black Panther hunt down the men who killed his fellow men and women in blue and seeing the criminals attempt to flee out of the city. One cause of tension is to chase down murders while the other is both an escape and to solve who set them up to gather that extra cocaine with the mysterious arrival of the police, something must be going on here. Well, yeah, and it got shoved down my throat in the last few minutes to wrap up the story. It is an hour and 39-minute movie, it could have added some time on the clock to flesh things out more.

The action is entertaining because it is hard to go wrong with plenty of blood and lots of gunfire. No real choreography is done, unlike others in the genre. It is more about running, shooting, and nothing all that memorable except for how dark everything is. Why do so many American action movies keep everything in the dark with people wearing dark clothing? Get it together.

The many complications to filmmaking make this impossible to solve as to how this went so poorly. Instead of an exhilarating thriller, 21 Bridges is an enjoyable flick to turn on and turn your brain off. Director Brian Kirk did well despite mostly experience on the small screen with Game of Thrones and Dexter, meanwhile writers Mather Michael Carnahan from the terrible World War Z and Adam Mervis from The Philly Kid (what?) laid out bland characters and a narrative that should have been done more justice to give me some empathy as I watched things unfold. Maybe a more experienced staff of writers and some magic from some unsung hero on the crew could have saved this movie.

Score: 5/10

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Image via STX Entertainment

Video Game Review: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

EA has had a license to publish Star Wars games for 10 years, and a lot of that decade has been wasted. Now it gave Respawn Entertainment a shot to make a singleplayer game without the microtransactions and other elements that have gotten a bad taste in my mouth from the depressingly disappointing Battlefront reboots. Jedi: Fallen Order defies expectations by delivering the experience that I always wanted from a game in this beautiful franchise.

In classic SW fashion, the developers do take a reasonably safe path in its story. Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Cal Kestis (Cameron Monoghan) finds himself working on a desolate planet to scrap whatever he can find to make a living. After a run-in with Second Sister (Elizabeth Grullon) and her elite Jedi hunting squad in which they are called the Inquisitors, he must go on the run, which leads him to his saviors and new friends, Greez (Daniel Roebuck) and Cere (Debra Wilson). The trio must find an ancient artifact that has a list of force-sensitive children who can get hunted down by Sith forces if gotten into the wrong hands.

The narrative sticks to many of the formulas that have been set by the films; it is still one of the best stories from any format that Star Wars has delved into, mostly because of its cast. Not only are the characters and their bonds strong, but the performances by Monoghan, Grullon, Wilson, and Roebuck can also rival anyone in the films. Although, I wish to see more of Grullon’s villain as she was compelling enough to be one of the best villains in this universe if utilized enough.

I was impressed by how well the writing is with both dialogue, the story, and creating these new characters. I instantly connected to Cal and his friends by how well they interacted and were able to stand as individuals. The best of all is the redhead Jedi’s little buddy, BD-1, my new favorite droid in Lucas’ sci-fi epic galaxy.

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Cal with his beautiful hair and his little buddy

Little details in the writing like stormtroopers trying to pump themselves up to take on Cal or being frightened gave that extra depth to the world around me. From protagonists to generic baddies, everyone felt like a person, or in some cases, an alien.

Of course, the minds behind Titanfall made maneuvering necessary in the core mechanics. Wall running, jumping, swinging are just some things that can be done, and it feels so good, mostly. I enjoyed the hell out of moving around environments and dodging enemy lasers, but sometimes Cal did not do what I commanded. Grabbing onto a vine/wire and some other obstacles can be infuriating as he does not reach for the thing to keep him alive.

Thank you, Respawn, for setting Cal back on the last ledge to make this less annoying, but still, this Jedi needs to get it together to grab a damn rock or rope.

Combat is both intuitive and challenging. It takes skill on any difficulty other than the easiest setting, with each level affecting parry time, damage, and enemy aggression. The lightsaber and force powers feel amazing when mastered, I truly felt like a padawan who would eventually rise up to be a Jedi knight like what I have seen on the big screen my whole life.

I did not find too many bosses, but the right amount that completed the overall experience. Combat has its difficulties, especially with these significant fights. The patterns of big creatures or when fighting Inquisitors strikes a cord in classic boss design that did get me angry when I died, but triumphant when defeating my foe.

Enemy variety is small yet mighty. The right amount of soldiers and animals get thrown into the mix to diversify the experience when fighting while making me think twice about my strategies.

Puzzles complete the trifecta of combat and platforming. This third piece of gameplay can get tricky while not overcomplicating itself. Most of the time, it was quite clever, at least to me, because I am a moron who gets confused when these mind obstacles occur.

Leveling up does make it easier to survive while making fighting more complex. Skills can be earned in a survival, force, and lightsaber categories. It is a straightforward system that does not overwhelm; instead, it streamlines the whole system to become the ultimate Jedi.

The Mantis is your ship and hub to travel to various planets, rest up, and customize on your lightsaber (more on that fun later). It lacks from other safety nets you tend to see with only those essentials waiting to prepare before going into new territory. The ship cannot even be explored with only three rooms for travel, chit chat, and the maintenance that I mentioned.

Customization has plenty of options, but sadly not all of it is exciting. BD-1 and Mantis get fancy paint jobs, especially for my adorable number one buddy. The lightsaber has plenty of parts and colors to swap out, leaving me continually wanting to unlock more options. Things are not so lovely for Cal as he has a few outfits, most of them are boring with lame ponchos that have variety, but I don’t want a goddamn poncho for my hero, who is taking on scary ladies working for the Empire, come on Respawn.

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Level designs balance complexity and simplicity. Each world has its own personality by its environment and wildlife, though that number of creatures is small. The paths do open up with areas that can be unlocked later on or found by looking hard enough. Nothing here is groundbreaking, just satisfactory, and gets the job done to elevate gameplay when needing a break from going straight down Cal’s adventure.

BD-1 can do a lot for Cal like healing, scanning items to uncover additional lore, and unlocking new areas in the map. This little boi gets better with each mechanic that gets introduced.

The one complaint about my robotic friends is when bringing up the map, it was hard to navigate where I needed to go. It needed to be clearer to distinguish parts of the world for an easier time to get from point A to point B.

Exploring does give rewards like upgrades, expanding the universe with interesting details, and finding new cosmetics. I may not be the biggest fan of most of the customization options I discussed, but it is beyond addicting finding crates or old ruins for Cal’s droid to scan. I am not a completionist, but it is easy to do it at the endgame that I feel tempted to grab everything.

Checkpoints allow for a nice reset after death while allowing for a place to rest up to restore health and gain new skills. It clearly mimics other similar titles, and that is perfectly okay with me as it makes things so much easier. I just wish some of these spots were closer to bosses since enemies between Cal and that headache of an opponent will be even more frustrating.

Death has meaning, which surprised me big time. You lose all of your experience, and that is regained when hitting the one that killed you. That extra motivation makes it even better when getting revenge.

The music and visuals tie everything together with an authentic Star Wars experience. The combination of beautiful graphics and the already brilliant style of this franchise is breathtaking. The cherry on top comes from the score crafted by Stephen Barton, Gordy Haab, and Nick Laviers, who all created something that sounds like John Williams and manages to be a unique piece to the puzzle that wraps up this wonderful game.

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The sceneries and Cal’s incredible hair made my jaw drop, I had some graphical issues. Light pop-in textures and objects in the world would occur. Also, I had seen a lot of flickering from lights and shadows. None of this took away from the gorgeous work of art that is Fallen Order, but it did distract me.

Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars title is the experience I always wanted to make me feel like a padawan growing into a powerful Jedi. The game does play it too safe in its overly familiar structure for the action-adventure genre with mild RPG elements in its skill trees. Slight frame rate drops, in the beginning, did worry me too, but thankfully that went away so I could embrace this enjoyable experience.

Score: 9/10

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Interview: Plastic Barricades

#1: How did the band come together?

Plastic Barricades were started more than 10 years ago on the other side of Europe, in Tallinn, Estonia out of pure necessity to write songs and sing them to family, friends, enemies and total strangers. The band has been through several line-up changes and one full relocation to London in 2012. To this date, we’ve released 3 EPs, 8 singles and one full-length album.

#2: What are some of your most memorable moments with the band?

Touring [the] UK for the first time back in 2014 was a true dream-come-true kind of moment. Growing up I could only dream of someday living in London – and then I was suddenly packing a tour van to play some shows around the UK. Magic!

#3: When going to one of your concerts, what should people expect?

We like to tell stories, draw people into the context of the songs and maybe plant some deeper thoughts into some heads. Having fun and jumping around is also allowed. But expect brutal honesty from the stage – we will not pretend to be someone we are not. We just go out and sing our hearts out.

#4: Out of every band you have seen live, who are some of your favorites?

Over the last 15 years, we were very lucky to have witnessed a lot of huge stars on [the] stage and even talk to some of them (hi Fieldy!). White Stripes in a small dance club in 2005 were quite epic, Massive Attack made us fall into a trance, Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins were phenomenal… But it is very very very hard to compete with his royal rock ‘n’ rollness Dave Grohl and the Foos! 3 hours of non-stop, balls-out rock music, with huge smiles on everyone’s faces. Our art-director has torn her pants, I’ve didn’t have any voice the next day. What made that gig (open-air) even more special was the warm-up! Simon Neil and Biffy Clyro were tearing it all apart, they are true legends and have such incredible energy. So in conclusion – dear Simon, dear Dave – shall we gig together asap?

#5: What are some of your biggest influences that have shaped your music?

I have to mention Dave Grohl once again. He is just everything that anyone could ever dream of, without any of the crap that usually comes with fame and glory. Oh, Dave. I grew up with Nirvana, Radiohead, Placebo, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Oasis, Coldplay and many other honest bands, that were always embracing who they are and not pretending to be fancy or cool. Over the last several years I’ve fallen deeply in love with Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins! There is some magic happening between Portland and Seattle while we here are trying to exit the EU for good. Ah, dammit…

#6: Have you met any of your favorite musicians and what were those experiences like? If you have not met anyone, then who do you want to meet the most?

This interview is turning into a love letter to Dave Grohl. We’ve never met, but I do have recurring dreams, where we drink beer, jam and have long meaningful conversations. It was incredibly cool to meet Sting, dudes from Metallica (get well soon, dear James!), Fieldy from Korn and Steven Tyler from Aerosmith.

#7: What are some long-term goals you have for the band?

Fancy pretentious answer: play Red Rocks, Wembley and Madison Square Garden.Honest answer: keep writing the sincerest and touching music I possibly can and hopefully help someone out there live through a tough time.

#8: What is the biggest accomplishment you have had so far?

We are currently finishing our second LP, that will hopefully be out sometime next year. It is called “Self-Theories” and it was all written, recorded and mixed in a small 4×2 m garden shed, converted into a studio. It is an album of hope and self-reflection, and both me and Paul feel very proud of it already. [The] first single “One for the Road” is out now – go check out the trippy music video on YouTube.

#9: What plans do you have for the rest of the year?

Finishing the recording of songs number 11 and 12 is our first priority. But we might as well squeeze one more single release into the two remaining months. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears ready!

Thank you, Dan, for the interview and thank you to Rogue PR for setting it up.

Keep up with Plastic Barricade on their website.

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Image provided by Plastic Barricade and Rogue PR.