Microtransactions: The Good (Sorta), the Bad, and the Ugly.

If you are a gamer, like me, then you are tearing your hair out about the whole microtransaction problem in the community and industry. For those readers who are not gamers, I will explain everything soon, just hold on tight.  This issue has escalated and has gotten out of control this year. Seeing AAA titles that are single player shove microtransactions down our throats, or multiplayer games making it impossible to do anything competitive until you spend even more money. We will dive into all of this on every possible side of the conversation. As the title suggests, yes there is some good. Before you rip my head off, look again and see the word sorta. I am against microtransactions, but there is a light to it to some degree. There is a lot to talk about, so let’s dive right into the basics first.

Nongamers, this is for you right here. You may have no idea what I am talking about, and that is okay. Microtransactions are a small transaction online, and in our case for gaming, it adds cosmetic, boosts, in-game currency, and more for the gamer to pay to get instead of playing a few hours to earn. The use of microtransactions has a variety as you see. Everything depends on the game and how the developers, and publishers want to implement any microtransactions into the game. Video games are becoming more expensive by the day, so these companies need new ways to earn money. This business method was more common for free-to-play games.

Why is this conversation starting now? This is a mix of two major titles that have come out this year that have finally made gamers explode. Star Wars Battlefront II which is published by EA and developed by DICE. The other game is Middle-earth: Shadow of War which is published by Warner Bros. and developed by Monolith Productions. People are furious over Star Wars because the progression system is broken. Taking dozens of hours to unlock one character, but you can skip everything by paying for it. I will say before moving forward that they are working to rework everything in the players’ favor and that microtransactions have been temporarily disabled. Still, some gamers did the math and realized that if you spend about $100 extra, then you still will not have everything in the game. That will be $160 total for a game that is not even fully unlocked. These methods are unethical and getting debated throughout the industry. As for Middle-earth, this is a single player game that you can buy loot boxes to earn new gear and specials to help boost you through the game. One, the gaming community is mad because they should not have to spend anything extra on single player experience. Secondly, towards the end, it becomes a grind. Reportedly from a lot of people, it takes hours to get what is needed to beat the game. When you are right at the end, but then gated off to spend another dozen hours mindlessly building an army of orcs to then complete a 50 or so hour game, you will become annoyed. This technique is just a pay-to-win method which is arguably the worse out there. Games with a pay-to-win method are usually online, but equally insulting to gamers when it is shown in singleplayer games like Shadow of War. The practice of microtransactions are known for free-to-play or online games, but a single player game that is one of the biggest releases of the year having them is outrageous. These two games were able to push gamers to their limits.

This method can be useful for individual companies. When developing a free-to-play game, you need to find a way to fund your game, additional content, pay employees, equipment for the office, etc. Even bigger developers may need it because games are so expensive now. Games like Overwatch and Grand Theft Auto 5 have managed to do this well. Overwatch will let players pay an amount for loot boxes. Opening these loot boxes may have another skin for a character or another fun treat for the player. Most people who are fans of that game have not been outraged by this system because their actual game is not affected. Grand Theft Auto 5 rewards players. Gamers can spend their money to gain in-game currency which saves a lot of time to get a new car, a gun, or clothing. The reward is the amount of money has given Rockstar the opportunity to update the game with free content. According to an article published on Forbes called “GTA Online’s $500M in Microtransactions Could Mean a Very Different GTA 6” written by Paul Tassi. He goes over more than just microtransactions as you can tell by the title, but the amount of money is what we are looking at for this topic. Some gamers are not happy since the game has had no real additions for the single player, but for those who love online, are generally satisfied with the free content. These are just a few ways that AAA titles get away from any outrage from their fans. The main thing is for these companies to be careful about how the game is impacted and how the business aspect is shown to gamers. If gamers get a sense of greed and manipulation, then you get significant problems.

A mistake many games tend to make is how they show the gamer that there are microtransactions. Most players will not be purchasing any microtransactions. They will buy the game and play it. An article found on The Wired called “Half of all mobile games money comes from 0.19% of users” written by Matt Kamen discusses this. The title summarizes it all that there is such a small amount of mobile gamers that will be buying microtransactions. This number is found from 48% of all mobile games are funded by this 0.19% of players. Some platforms and types of games are not included, but you only need that small amount to drive a game financially. The mistake comes in when they shove the microtransactions down the throats of their players. The data is there, most of these players will not be spending extra money. When you try to grab them to do so, then you ruin the experience entirely. Currently, I am playing Assassins Creed: Origins, despite being fun, then shove the store down my throat. I feel some pressure to buy something extra. Same for Middle-earth: Shadow of War which is even worse about showing off their store. You can unlock a similar loot box style that other games have, and gain some new gear. Unlocking this can be natural, but to unlock them to see what you got, you must go to the store for the game to see. Showing off all of the other loot boxes you can just purchase to be quicker. This technique feels greedy and unethical.

Imagine you decide to purchase a microtransaction that is a loot box. You will not know exactly what you get, but you may get something cool for your character. You spend whatever amount you decide on the select options. You open this box and get basic gear that you already have. You just wasted money on a virtual shirt, and it was the same shirt, so you have nothing to show for spending that money. This has caused many issues. China is one of several countries deciding whether this is gambling. If it is, then it can be illegalized, fined, or regulated, depending on the country. Overwatch is the main game that has had this discussion about, but many other games are in the same boat. I like the system from games like Grand Theft Auto because I know what I am getting. Generally, people give Overwatch a pass, but it is still a great game to use for this discussion Deciding to purchase a microtransaction should be worth it, but not every game gives you that. You can spend $1.99 for two boxes in Overwatch, and you may not get anything that satisfying. The other option is paying $39.99 for 50. You may get a lot out of that. 45 of those can be good, 30 might be good, 5 might be okay. This risk factor is a slippery road on many levels. For gamers, they are wasting their money and gaining nothing. As mentioned before, legally this is slippery. Countries can see this as gambling and crack down on the developer for this practice. As technology advances and the world changes, legally the nations around the world are adapting, slowly. Seeing this practice as a politician can give different impressions, just as it can with the gamers. It will be interesting to see moving forward on how this method of microtransactions changes over time.

Who is to blame for these greedy and manipulative strategies that the gaming community are so angry about? This has a few different sides. Gamers keep speaking about this issue, as they should. It is great that we are getting somewhere on this problem, but the money being made is what makes companies ignore our outcries about these methods. The saying goes, put your money where your mouth is held valid. The other side of this is the publishers. Developers often get all of the blame for these practices since they make the game. Publishers and the administrative side of the business are the ones who are usually causing the main issue. If a developer is not owned and publishing themselves, then it will be on them. Many big publishers such as EA are taking the heat. Several companies have explicitly and implicitly talked about EA. Some have been nicer than others. The Witcher developer CD Projekt Red made a brutal tweet a few weeks ago after a false claim that their next game, Cyberpunk 2077, will have a service style to it. Their tweet is below, and it is pretty obviously about EA. Seeing a company say these things shows a light for all the gamers out there. Not all companies are for these types of practices. Giving a game complete for people to dive into without any extra spending.CD PROJEKT RED

Microtransactions are not going anywhere, but changes might start happening. Even if companies like Activision, Ubisoft, and EA continue this path, it is not a problem. There are plenty of companies to support who are against microtransactions. Some companies can benefit, but should not be necessary, especially in AAA games. The fight will continue, but hopefully, things turn around for the better soon. If you are against microtransactions, then participate in any way you can. People come together and are making changes. That is why DICE and EA are making changes to Star Wars Battlefront II to make it up to all the gamers who feel betrayed and used. Companies need to be careful because not all of them can afford the consequences that EA is facing. They have enough money to survive a three billion dollar hit, but most can not. What do you think after all of this? Are any changes to the industry really going to happen with the aftermath of Star Wars Battlefront II?

Image via CD Projekt Red twitter and Electronic Arts

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My Choice: Video Game Awards 2017

The video game awards are almost here yet again. These award shows have not gone well. Many iterations have been made, and now video game journalist and head of these award show Geoff Keighly say this is the best, and biggest show yet. This looks like it can be what he has been striving for all this time. So, you may be asking, what is the point of all this? I will be giving my choices for this award show. These are not predictions exactly, but more of my preferences. Note that not all categories will be discussed since some I have no real knowledge of or have not played at all.

Category: Game of the Year- The best game across the board on a technical level and giving gamers the best experience out of any game this year.

Nominees:

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
  2. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo)
  3. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp/Bluehole)
  4. Persona 5 (Atlus)
  5. Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Winner: Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

This choice is based on many factors. Guerilla Games are known for Killzone, a first-person shooter series that has been a PlayStation exclusive for a long time. Now they bring out a massive open world game. Horizon Zero Dawn delivers beautiful landscapes, a unique and interesting world and excellent gameplay. For the first entry to a new series, they blew everyone in the industry and your typical gamers away. This is arguably one of the most surprising successes of the year for AAA games.horizon

Category: Best Game Direction- An award based on the game with the most innovative and creative decisions along with the most excellent design

Nominees:

  1. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames/Bethesda)
  2. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
  4. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo)
  5. Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Winner: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)

Capcom was bringing one of their biggest franchises down to the ground. The last entry was a disaster, and the series was heading these even before that. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard revived one of the most beloved horror games out there. Nobody expected this game to take the direction that it did. This is one of the hardest categories for me because each game has a fantastic direction. Every game in this category made some innovative steps, but I was blown away by every aspect of this game. The more serious and horrific tone brought it back to its roots. A first-person perspective is a brand new to a main entry to the series, and it worked in a beautiful, but a horrific way. Not only is this game have a fantastic direction, the innovative new design from the rest of the games, but manages to be one of the greatest horror games I have played in years. This game is what nightmares are made of.RE7

Category: Best Narrative- This goes to the game with the best storytelling, writing, and overall world that helps gamers immerse themselves for a countless amount of hours.

Nominees:

  1. What Remain of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive)
  2. NieR: Automata (Platinum Games/Square Enix)
  3. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
  4. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames/Bethesda)
  5. Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Winner: Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The world and the way it was told in Horizon Zero Dawn is incredible. The world that was built is so unique. This post-apocalyptic world where these animal-like machines have conquered the world. Humanity is back to the stone-age in every sense of their lives. Aloy has been an outcast her whole life due to traditions and social norms about her past, but now that she has been accepted back in, tragedy happens by a group of people. She hunts them down and uncovers the truth of this mystery. There are so many details to search through every corner to find more information on the history of this world. So much of the world is fleshed out that it feels real, which is the most important thing to do with any piece of fiction.horizon

Category: Best Art Direction- Best creative and technical achievement in the design and animation of a game.

Nominees:

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
  2. Destiny 2 (Bungie/Activision)
  3. Cuphead (Studio MDHR)
  4. Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  5. Persona 5 (Atlus)

Winner: Cuphead (Studio MDHR)

Each of these games is stunning in their own unique way, but Cuphead takes the cake. This game was not on my radar at all. I may have heard of it here and there, but I did not notice until the game was released. A style that was hand drawn and made to look like a 1930s cartoon in color. The style, animations, and color all go together so perfectly. Anytime there is footage online of this game I am still blown away. A different decision that worked out in a beautiful way that will always be remembered.cuphead

Category: Best Score/Music- The best overall soundtrack, score, or licensed music.

Nominees:

  1. Destiny 2 (Bungie/Activision)
  2. Cuphead (Studio MDHR)
  3. NieR: Automata (Platinum Games/Square Enix)
  4. Persona 5 (Atlus)
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
  6. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo)

Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)

With over 60 songs, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild delivers a wide variety of interesting music that will provide the player with so many enjoyable songs for different situations. Music plays such an important role as certain songs get played for particular moments. Some of these songs are so beautifully made or some that go much faster to match the mood for an intense battle.Legend-of-Zelda-Breath-of-the-Wild

Category: Best Audio Design- The game with the best in-game audio and sound design

Nominees:

  1. Destiny 2 (Bungie/Activision)
  2. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
  3. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
  4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
  5. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo)

Winner: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)

This game is stunningly beautiful, but not just from a visual aspect. The sound is so on point that you will be looking around to see if someone is around the corner to kill you. Sound design in any horror game is one of the most important aspects to get right. If every little detail in the sound is not correct, then the experience will suffer. With any horror game, you must use headphones to get every little sound that you could potentially miss. That will make the experience so much more immersive and terrifying. RE7

Category: Best Performance- This goes to the actor or actress who had an outstanding performance for their voice acting, motion and/or performance capture

Nominees:

  1. Melina Juergens, Hellblade. Played as Senua
  2. Laura Bailey, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Played as Nadine Ross
  3. Claudia Black, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Played as Chloe Frazer
  4. Brian Bloom, Wolfenstein II. Played as BJ Blazkowicz
  5. Ashly Burch, Horizon Zero Dawn. Played as Aloy

Winner: Laura Bailey

This standalone add-on to Uncharted 4 gives fans one last story in this world, at least that is what Naughty Dog says as they close the franchise for now. Laura Bailey’s character returns in this adventure. As players got to experience a lot of her previously, now we are given a closer look at her role. Her performance is excellent and brings Nadine to life.the-lost-legacy-feat

Best Ongoing Game- Recognition of the game that has had the more advanced quality of improvement after months or even years of its release.

Nominees:

  1. Warframe (Digital Extremes)
  2. Rainbow Six: Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)
  3. Overwatch (Blizzard)
  4. Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar Games)
  5. Destiny 2 (Bungie/Activision)
  6. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp/Bluehole)

Winner: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp/Bluehole)

Nobody is surprised that this is the winner for me, but I feel confident that this will actually win the real award. PUBG came out of nowhere and dominated. This game is not complete, it is still in beta, but has sold over 20 million copies. That number keeps growing as more PC gamers buy and as the game comes to console. A game is full of 100 players all set on killing each other in the style of Battle Royale. No game makes me shake with adrenaline and anxiety like this. If you want a strategic shooter that can go from the pacing of a snail, then high-intensity action then you must buy this game. The hype is so real, and this uncomplete juggernaut will continue to grow with new content that is always being added at a consistent pace.PUBG

Category: Best VR/AR Game- The best gaming experience on an AR or VR platform.

Nominees:

  1. Superhot VR (SUPERHOT Team)
  2. Star Trek: Bridge Crew (Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft)
  3. Lone Echo (Ready at Dawn/Oculus Studio)
  4. Far Point (Impulse Gear/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  5. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)

Winner: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)

Having a horror game in virtual reality is just evil. That is why Capcom decided that their new horrific game Resident Evil 7: Biohazard should be on VR. That distance you get from your tv that makes you feel slightly safer is gone. You are entirely immersed in this slaughterhouse and being tormented by this deranged family. VR will thrive on a few things as the debates go around on how it can survive, and one of those will be horror games like this one here. Bring yourself an extra pair of underwear.RE7

Category: Best Action Game- The best game in the action genre.

Nominees:

  1. Prey (Arkane/Bethesda)
  2. Nioh (Team Ninja/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  3. Destiny 2 (Bungie/Activision)
  4. Cuphead (Studio MDHR)
  5. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames/Bethesda)

Winner: Prey (Arkane/Bethesda)

Prey is a reboot to an older game from 2006. After so much trouble with a sequel that they decided to reboot the game entirely. So many games were coming that this new vision of Prey was not on my radar. I can’t remember how it got my attention, but I was blown away. With good storytelling with a fascinating world. Solid gameplay that feels right in every way. The player is given so many options on how to tackle missions. Sadly, the game performed poorly regarding sales. This is the most underrated AAA game of the year by far.prey

Category: Best Action/Adventure Game- The game that delivers the best mix of action, exploration, and critical thinking through problems such as puzzles.

Nominees:

  1. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment
  2. Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
  4. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo)
  5. Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)

This might be shocking news, but I am not a fan of this series. I have never been interested or liked any Legend of Zelda title until this one. I was blown away by everything about it. Innovative in so many aspects that I hope changes most future open world games by any company. The excellent gameplay provides the best mix of action, traversal, and puzzle solving. This game is the definition of what it means to be an adventure open world game.Legend-of-Zelda-Breath-of-the-Wild

Category: Best Role Playing Game- The game with the best design for character progression and customization.

Nominees:

  1. South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Ubisoft San Fransisco/Ubisoft)
  2. Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix)
  3. Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Larian Studios)
  4. NieR: Automata (Platinum Games/Square Enix)
  5. Persona 5 (Atlus)

Winner: South Park: The Fractured But Whole Ubisoft)

Readers, this one probably has you pretty mad. I did have some issues with this game, as you may know from my review, but I love the simplicity of it. Not some massive RPG that the other games are. I liked the smaller scope and abilities that each character had. This short and sweet RPG is fun, plus will make any South Park fan happy.South Park

Category: Best Fighting Game- The game with the best head-to-head combat style.

Nominees:

  1. Tekken 7 (Bandai Namco Studios/Bandai Namco Entertainment)
  2. Nidhogg 2 (Messhof Games)
  3. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite (Capcom)
  4. Arms (Nintendo)
  5. Injustice 2 (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)

Winner: Injustice 2 (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)

Injustice 2 is just as excellent as the first game. Made by the minds behind the Mortal Kombat games gives basically a less violent version with DC characters, and it is incredible! Any fighting game fan will love the combos and the variety of characters. The gameplay is tight and solid. The game runs and looks beautiful. NetherRealm are the kings of fighting games.DC

Category: Best Family Game- The best overall experience that a family has in a game.

Nominees:

  1. Splatoon 2 (Nintendo)
  2. Sonic Mania (PagodaWest Games + Headcannon/Sega)
  3. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Nintendo)
  4. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo)
  5. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo)

Winner: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Nintendo)

Like many games this year, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a big surprise. My mind changed when I first saw the gameplay. A simple version of a turn-based tactical shooter that can get kids into these style of games in an easy way. The wacky cast of characters, solid gameplay and simplicity make it perfect for the whole family.mrkb-header-desktop-ncsa

Category: Best Strategy Game- The best experience in a real-time or turn-based strategy based game.

Nominees:

  1. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Nintendo)
  2. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen (Firaxis Games/2K)
  3. Tooth and Tail (Pocketwatch Games)
  4. Total War: Warhammer II (Creative Assembly/Sega)
  5. Halo Wars 2 (Creative Assembly + 343/Microsoft Studios)

Winner: XCOM 2: War of the Chosen (Firaxis Games/2K)

This expansion pack for XCOM 2 delivers more content for fans of the series in an excellent way. The XCOM series are some of the best turn-based tactical shooters out there. You get so invested in the characters you have that can easily die forever. The stakes are high in these games. This enhances the strategic elements to make sure every man and women on your squad survive. The skills of even the most harden strategy gamer’s will be tested.xcom2_war_of_the_chosen_logo

Category: Best Multiplayer- For the most outstanding gameplay for a multiplayer game or game mode whether the focus is cooperative or competitive.

Nominees:

  1. Fortnite (Epic Games)
  2. Call of Duty: World War II
  3. Splatoon 2 (Nintendo)
  4. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo)
  5. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp/Bluehole)
  6. Destiny 2 (Bungie/Activision)

Winner: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp/Bluehole)

I have never experienced a game like PUBG in my life. The only games to get my blood pumping and for me to be shaking are horror games, not shooter based games. This multiplayer action game is incredible with its gameplay and premise. A battle to the death whether it is on a squad of four people, a duo team, or solo. A future zombie mode will be added for even more variety which is the main issue to PUBG currently. Within a year it will be completely different, but just as amazing. PUBG

Category: Most Anticipated Game- Awarding a game that is upcoming in the years to come that shows the most amount of ambition and promise.

Nominees:

  1. The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  2. Red Dead Redemption II (Rockstar Games)
  3. Monster Hunter: World (Capcom)
  4. Marvel’s Spider-Man (Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  5. God of War (Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Winner: The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

This came down to The Last of Us Part II and Spider-Man. It hurt me to pick, but how can I not choose the sequel to my favorite game? The Last of Us delivered a compelling story that arguably has never done before. As Neil Druckmann, creative director of the games, has said, “If the first game was really about the love between these two characters, this story is the counter of that,” Druckmann explained early on. “This is a story is about hate, through Ellie this time.” As a game is about love was super depressing and violent, this will be blowing past that by miles if hate is being involved. I am beyond excited for this incredible journey and to be with Joel and Ellie once again. This is another category that I feel strongly will win the actual award.The last of us 2

Category: Best Independent Game- An excellent creative game that is the traditional publisher system.

Nominees:

  1. Pyre (Supergiant Games)
  2. Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall)
  3. Cuphead (Studio MDHR)
  4. What Remain of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive)
  5. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)

Winner: Cuphead (Studio MDHR)

Studio MDHR formed in 2013 by two brothers; Chad and Jared Moldenhauer. Their first game is Cuphead which has sold over a million copies. This success story with an excellent game on top of it all is worthy of this award. The development took forever because everything is hand drawn. When you put in the effort, you get a product like Cuphead.cuphead

Like I said, this is not every category. Some blend a little too much to me such as best debut indie game, which would be Cuphead. Also, this is the first time I have done something like this as I expand the blog. This year has been excellent for games and will continue to get better as we have seen with some of the games on the category for the most anticipated game. We will see how my list compares to the actual award show. What are your choices? You can view the award show on every major gaming and social media site for free on December 7th.

Get some of the best games of the year from Amazon:

Images via Sony Interactive Entertainment, Nintendo, Microsoft, Capcom, Studio MDHR, Guerilla Games, Naughty Dog, Bluehole Studio Inc., Firaxis, 2K Games, Ubisoft, NetherRealm, Arkane Studios, Pixabay/AlohaWorld.

TV Show Review: The Punisher

When Netflix started their side of the MCU, everyone was on board. Readers, if you have read my review of Thor Ragnarok then you know my mixed feelings about Marvel movies in general. For these Netflix shows, I am like everyone else and I love the first few shows they put out. Daredevil is compelling, dramatic, and way more brutal than anyone would have thought, with an overly chaotic second season, I still loved the show. Jessica Jones took an even less known character to make a compelling drama and an intense superhero show that was different enough from Daredevil to make itself unique. Luke Cage who was introduced in Jessica, was a great addition to having his stand-alone show. The audience already knew him from a previous show and was easy to introduce him in his own show to anyone who had seen JessicaLuke Cage had style, brutality (of course), and the perfect mix of drama. These shows did an excellent job of making a drama with a superhero mix for an adult to love. Sadly, Iron Fist fell flat in many areas and The Defenders was better but fell flat too. I like those last two, but they did not manage like the first three shows. Now we are delivered The Punisher. This character was introduced a while back in season 2 of Daredevil, who was the best new addition to that show. When Netflix announced his own show, I was excited, to say the least.

The story has many lairs. For Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal), he has killed everyone involved with his family’s death, so he thinks. It is revealed to him as an unknown man named “Micro” (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). After their encounter Frank realizes that the death of his family is bigger than some organized crime thugs in New York. It goes back to when he was in the Marines. On the other side of the story is a Homeland Security Agent named Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) investigating the death of an informant when she was set in the Middle East for a special mission. Her information leads back to Frank Castle and the secret operations that he was a part of during his time in the Marines.

The story is well layered and is interesting. The show does suffer from some pacing issues. The first episode has a high body count with a lot of action. This gives the viewer a certain tone for the whole season, but that is not true at all. The story itself moves at a decent pace but gets stopped in ways that should not be present. A soldier struggling with PTSD named Lewis (Daniel Webber) who plays an entertaining storyline on the side, but is used as a plot device to tie together certain major characters to move along the main story. It was fun for a lot of it, but I feel they could have been more productive in order to get the same result.

Characters are inconsistent. There are plenty of great protagonists, antagonists, and just supporting characters that play significant roles, but some fall flat. To start off, Frank Castle is shown to have a lot more depth. He is still broken by the death of his family and the horrors of war. A lot more depth is put into his military background and done excellently. Jon Bernthal does an incredible job on so many levels regarding emotion, silence, and being as brutal as he can possibly be. Madani is annoying and gets a little better later on, but I could not like her character. I understand what she stands for and how she is, but was not likable. Sam Stein (Michael Nathanson) was unbearable the entire time he was on screen. A sarcastic character who left me feeling more annoyed than laughing. I felt confused on what tone and progress he would bring to the show in its entirety but left with not a whole lot. You get to know more about “Micro” and people in his life. Avoiding spoilers is why I am vague, but that side felt good for the most part. Some times felt like a waste of time or fell flat in execution to that character’s arc. The show still had some great characters. Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) is an old friend of Frank back when they served together in the Marines. He is charismatic and is able to be lethal in some entertaining action scenes. His storyline is intriguing throughout. Curtis (Jason R. Moore) is another friend of Castle back when they served together. He plays a supporting character who is not seen much but has some impactful moments. His kindness, loyalty, and genuine personality make it hard to not enjoy him in every scene. The main villain is quite excellent, Rawlins (Paul Schulze) who is menacing and plays a wide variety of emotions that brings his character to life. I wish there were more of him overall. Netflix’s Marvel shows have had some good villains, but I still feel they have peaked too early with the villain from Jessica Jones Kilgrave (David Tennant) and from Daredevil Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) who were both unbelievably great. Out of returning characters, the only was is Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) who I always have liked, so sorry to anyone who hated her from Daredevil, but she is in a right amount of the show. Despite the lacking in some great characters, the ones who are enjoyable keep the show alive and well.

Visually the show has some great cinematography with some really interesting shots that were made. I wish they could have placed more of an emphasis on their camera work to really make everything shine, or just looked darker and more brutal. A couple of times the special effects looked off, with a scene early on that involved fire that just looked terrible. Besides this, the rest of the show is pretty much dark throughout but manages to handle its lighting really well. Make up for dead bodies that Frank leaves behind are done in great detail, but I wish to see some more brutality in the show.

Something that must be discussed is the tone and messages. Some critics complain about the lack of humor, to me that is fine. You do not need to laugh at every show you see. Having a gritty, dark show is for a particular audience, which is what Netflix is aiming with their Marvel shows. Thankful Disney allows them to do so much that in normal situations, Disney would shut down. Still, the show has characters that give a weird vibe and it is hard to tell what they were going for in certain supporting character. There is a message throughout the show about gun violence and PTSD. The gun violence and control part is hard to tell if the show was being serious and wanted a message. It felt disjointed and was confusing as to what side they were taking on the issue. Giving sound reasons for gun control, then insulting those ideas. It did not feel the middle of the road to give both arguments, but something else that felt off in this show. However, tackling PTSD was well done in my opinion. Showing the terror people are going through when they close their eyes all because of war or losing their loved ones. Showing the human side of people like Frank Castle is important for the story, the character and for the audience. Talking to people who care can really help people and the show gives that message. They did not handle everything right in tone or in what the show felt it needed to say, but the things that were said well made up for some of the poor choices in tone.

I still love this show, despite its flaws. A lot of the Netflix Marvel shows tend to get lost in dealing with too much in story or characters. Tighten things up and they can all be like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Daredevil. As the quality went down in the last two shows, The Punisher was able to lift everything back up. A story in which you are rooting harder and harder for Frank to get his revenge. Some annoying characters, but they are overshadowed by some excellent villains and supporting characters. Pacing has its issues. Each episode ends in a way that gives you satisfaction to the progress but still takes some missteps on the journey. Special effects could have been better, especially a show with this type of budget. Thankfully those mistakes in special effects are few and far between. The tone and what the show wants to say can be so off. Weird mix messages and tone that can throw the audience off. This is a show that is so close to being excellent, but some silly mistakes and some major ones too let it down. Still a recommended show for anyone who has liked the Netflix Marvel shows and anyone who wants to see Jon Bernthal kill a lot of people in really brutal ways.

Score: 8/10

Image via Netflix and Marvel Studios

Video Game Review: Call of Duty WW2

Another year means another Call of Duty. Every year they sell 20+ million copies and is always successful. I have not been a fan since the release of Black Ops in 2010. The games were always far from perfect, but they became more dull, less creative, and got more ridiculous with the sci-fi evolution that the last few games have made. Now, they are back in their “roots” to be in World War 2. I put roots in quotes for a reason because going back is not entirely true. The theme is, yes, but a lot of aspects are different enough to make the game feel unique, but fails to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this game, but falls short from greatness.

The story focuses towards the end of the war when America sends soldiers over to Europe. The game starts with the invasion of Normandy. You and your squad must push forward deep into Europe to fight off the Germans. You play as Ronald “Red” Daniels, a young Private in the United States Army. Daniels and his squad will team up with a French and United Kingdom resistance forces to achieve victory.

This short campaign has a lot of good qualities but falls short in many ways. Starting with the positives first to get them out of the way. Gameplay is full of different mechanics such as having a health bar for your character. You need to find health packs or get some from a teammate in order to heal. Your squad will have a few other support actions too besides giving health. Characters can spot enemies and give you extra ammunition when needed. The game feels more tactical and team-based with these mechanics. You can lean over cover to take a few shots while still remaining relatively safe. There are some missions that give some variety such as driving sections and stealth missions. The graphics in the game are pretty, but sometimes look a bit inconsistent. Still, it is the prettiest game yet in the series. The cut scenes look incredible and will stun players by the detail. These are all great ideas, but almost all fall short in some capacity.

Needing a health pack can be tricky since there is a cooldown on your teammate. Once the cooldown is complete, then he can give you a few more health packs. I was caught a few times with no health and no way to heal which left me getting killed multiple times. The variety of the missions is not enough and when it gives it to you, the mechanic will feel off in some way. Driving feels silly on how loose the steering is. The game is so linear that it makes it feel pointless to try to steer. You can hold the gas and scrape against the wall, but keep moving forward towards your objective. Stealth missions sometimes work well but feel off on how enemies can spot you. Overall, these sections are not that fun. You usually can just fight off everyone or follow a path in order to walk around all of the enemies. My favorite is a stealth mission in which you play as a spy for the French resistance. I wish there was more to that mission because it had a lot of potentials to go to a really cool direction. The game’s AI is painfully bad. They either miss every shot and are unable to notice you being in front of them or are magically able to kill you right away. Nothing has changed in terms of AI and game difficulty in this franchise at all.

Characters and story development are pretty weak. The story feels sometimes disconnected in its pacing. The overall tone is bizarre and unnatural. The game starts off as a serious take on World War 2 in a Saving Private Ryan style. Showing the brotherhood the men feel for one another and the brutality they must face. To demonstrate the horrors of the war, it is only done a few times, and most of the time it is hard to take it that seriously. There are moments of over the top action sequences that are cool but do not feel right for this story. I am not sure on what type of story the developers really wanted to tell. A heroic, compelling story about World War 2, or an over the top action story with the theme being World War 2.  When promoting the game, the developers prided on how accurate this experience will be, but none of what they said about this campaign is correct. The accuracy is pretty weak at times. More on the inaccurate side of the game when I get to the multiplayer. For the characters, they are all pretty bland. I feel like these characters have been made before in World War movies and games. The most rememberable character is Sergeant Pierson, who plays such a stereotypical character that I remember the same type of guy in Call of Duty 3. The chemistry between these men is inconsistent. There are times with great dialog that makes it feel they have a real connection. These moments are too far and few that make everyone feel unimportant. The story is fun but has a lot of issues. It is the first time since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that I actually enjoyed playing the single player.

Now to the meat of the game, multiplayer. A lot of the cool mechanics that you see in the campaign are not in multiplayer at all. This is common for many games to do, but always disappoints me when I like something from the campaign that is not implemented into the online. It is the standard Call of Duty online as usual with some great new mechanics added. As with the single player, let us talk about the good parts of the online then get into the bad. There are a few divisions to select from that are your classes. You can use any weapon for any division, but the game leans you to use specific guns for particular divisions due to certain perks attached to them. They are all pretty standard, but let’s do a rundown of each one. Infantry is based on rifles, both semi-automatic and automatic. You get a bayonet to instantly kill enemies. This is my personal goto class to play. Airborne is focused on submachine guns in which they get a suppressor that you can attach or detach at any time with the press of a button. Armored is centered around with a heavy machine gun that has a bipod attached to it. Expeditionary uses a shotgun that can use incendiary rounds to light enemies on fire. Finally, the mountain class is the sniper class has an assist to focus on while sniping. This is the first in the franchise that I actually like using the sniper rifles. Some maps are a lot of fun to snipe on. Each class is fun and allows for more tactical gameplay, as tactical as a Call of Duty game will get at least. You can prestige a class to gain rewards. You don’t lose anything out of it. Prestiging a gun will reset all equipment on it, but you earn rewards. Prestiging your level, class or gun does not really give you much incentive, but for the players that like it then they will enjoy. The best aspect of multiplayer is one of the new game modes which is War. Mostly like the rush game mode from Battlefield, players on one team have objectives to complete while the other team tries to stop them. This can range from destroying machines, escort tanks, and reaching specific points. The other team will build walls, slow down tanks, and push back the enemy as much as possible until time runs out. There are no score streaks, which allow the player to accumulate enough points before dying to have a special attack with artillery, plane support, or other methods just like the other Call of Duty games. Sadly, there are only three maps, but this is a lot of fun overall. I wish the maps were bigger. The lack of players and the size of maps makes it feel less like a real war. Despite these issues, it is my favorite part of the entire game.

The negatives of the multiplayer for the most part are not too significant. Basic training replaces perks. Instead of taking multiple perks to give you specific advantages, you get one. I like this idea a lot, but most of these new perks are not that useful. I find myself getting nothing out of the ones that I played with. There is a hub world in which players can play minigames, interact with other players, take up challenges to gain rewards and more. This was an interesting idea that is boring. None of the games to play are really that fun. Just tacked on to give the players something to do. It is just a copy of what Destiny has. As someone who is not a fan of Destiny, I do not like this hub world idea at all. You can open loot boxes here to gain cosmetic rewards for your character and guns. There is no reward at all. You feel like you gain nothing interesting at all. The least they could do is give you cool costumes, but it is just like every other game that comes out right now. Another part of customization is swapping your character to make him a female or different ethnicity. That does not work if you are playing as Americans since women did not fight in World War 2. Also, how does it make sense to allow black soldiers on the Nazi side? I understand letting the player choose who they want to be and look like when playing but make some restrictions to allow some historical accuracy. The immersion is taken away on a lot of levels, but these small details pile on in a significant way if you want to make a good World War 2 game. A criticism this franchise always got is how unoriginal it is, and they excel big time with some of these decisions. Just following the herd to have game mechanics that every other AAA game has these days. The worst decision that could have worked is the second new game mode. Gridiron is painfully bad but could have been a great idea. There is a ball that players must score on the enemy goal. Just like the Halo game mode, GrifballWhat made this work for Halo is that there are no guns, only melee weapons. When people can call airstrikes and shoot you down, it becomes a chaotic, messy, and straight up annoyance of a game. Having more creative and less traditional game modes would be healthy for the game, but they fail to make it work.

The final piece of any Call of Duty game is the zombies game type. As usual, there is a story to it if you follow along with puzzles that are difficult, but rewarding. The horror aspects that Sledgehammer talked so much about are nonexistent. Sometimes zombies pop up at you and they look creepier, but that is it.They could have made something totally different but decided to just make another zombies game like all the others. Fighting waves of zombies or deciding to do the story related puzzles are your options. If you love this like me, then you will not have a problem at all. It is a lot of fun, especially with friends. You can now choose a class that will have special perks and abilities to give you an advantage. Selecting a few different starting weapons as you level up more give the player an upper hand during early waves when zombies are weak. Each class has a special ability such as going invisible and special attacks. A lot of promises went into the zombies this year that did not come true, but overall the game is a ton of fun.

Despite how much I want to like this game, there is no denying the plethora of problems. As of writing, I still have issues with crashing, glitches, server issues, and more technical problems. On top of that are poor decisions with multiplayer and yet another lackluster campaign. At least I was able to have fun with the campaign unlike every other game in the franchise, but it still fell flat in many ways. I do think people should buy Call of Duty WW2 if they love these games and can accept its flaws. Just know that there are a lot of problems on all levels, but it is insanely fun. War and zombies save this game. What kills the Call of Duty games is the fact that they can not be that creative at all. I hope they can branch out more and that this is a turning point for the Call of Duty juggernaut.

Score: 6/10

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Image via Activision and Sledgehammer Games

Movie Review: Lazer Team 2

Over the years Rooster Teeth has grown exponentially, especially in just the last two to three years. Shows have gotten more ambitious and bigger in scope. In 2015 the company crowdfunded their first movie, Lazer Team. Despite mixed reviews from fans and negative reviews from critics, the success was good enough for Rooster Teeth to create a sequel. The first was directed by their CEO Matt Hullum and written by  Burnie Burns, Chris Demarais, Josh Flanagan. and Matt Hullum. This latest film is directed by Matt and Daniel Fabelo while being written by them and Burnie. The first had its flaws, but it was enjoyable. Many of these flaws are fixed in the latest movie.

The story takes place a few years after the events of the first movie. The team has disbanded and gone their separate ways. Woody (Gavin Free) becomes a part of a research team for the government in which they discover a way to create a wormhole to another dimension. The team is recruited by Maggie (Nichole Bloom), a scientist who was working with Woody.  Fighting off aliens and the obstacles that are created from Kilborne (Victoria Pratt) who is given the power to dismantle this government-funded project.

Burnie Burns, who plays as Hagan, described the movie as a focus on the comedy because the first movie was able to establish the characters and the world. This rings quite true. The story is strong overall, but the main focus is to make the audience laugh. The comedic element is more of a consistent focus throughout the movie. Plenty of jokes that anyone can get, but plenty of jokes that are meant for Rooster Teeth fans. This blend of focus on story and making jokes is a great blend that works better than the first movie. What might throw fans off, just like the first Lazer Team, the humor is not quite the style that Rooster Teeth is known for. Their adult style of humor is not really present, but it is more so in Lazer Team 2. As a long time fan who appreciates their adult side more, I wish they went all out with an R rating to make something that feels like more of their style. I am sure we will be getting that in future movies such as the next movie, Blood Fest.

Characters are generally quite great. If you liked the characters from the first movie then you get to enjoy them even more here. Besides the return of the main team, two more characters return from the first movie. Officer Vandenbloom (Kirk Johnson) makes a wonderful return. Just as funny as ever, and given a more significant role. Joel Heyman’s small cameo as a reporter returns in multiple scenes. The range of cameos from Rooster Teeth personnel and other related people are throughout the entirety of the movie. Some scenes you may have to pause to catch all of the different people in it. The weakest character who plays a big role in the story is Kilborne. Her motivations on various levels feel off and confusing at times. I feel that movies tend to have a great time with heroes and side characters, but so many times it is common to have a failed villain. Overall, characters are well done with excellent casting choices which have always been a staple in Rooster Teeth content.

Being a smaller budget movie the special effects are just as poor as the first movie. Despite the style, it still bothered me to look at spaceships and lasers. The practical effects are quite well made and even better than the first movie. The use of sets instead of locations worked in their favor to create interesting places that the team would have to navigate through. I understand they want to make sci-fi movies as their start in making movies, but should have waited to get the right budget as they develop their movie side of the company.

If you liked the first Lazer Team, then you will like the sequel even more. People who hated the first movie will absolutely not like this one either. Overall it is stronger than the last. As the company makes more movies, the quality will increase. They are used to making excellent shows, but not at this level of length and production size. It has poor special effects, given that it is so low budget that it makes sense. A villain that has odd choices and a motivation that is hard to understand hurts major plot points. These problems are few but major. What holds it up is the comedy that is spread consistently and is able to land well most of the time. Colorful characters that have an excellent chemistry feels genuine. This universe they made is interesting with some great ideas that flesh it all out. If you are not a fan of the company, you may still enjoy this movie. There are plenty of references that will not change how you feel about the movie. If you are a fan then you may enjoy it more than the typical moviegoer with great cameos and jokes that only the most hardened of fans will understand. The company made a great effort and will only continue to grow better as they move forward.

Score: 7/10

Image via Rooster Teeth

 

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

When the next big Marvel movie releases a brand new trailer, everyone seems to go nuts for it. I have not gotten onto the Marvel hype train yet. I love some of the movies such as Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and from the Fox-owned films, Deadpool. Despite there being great movies in the superhero genre, I still have not been able to get into it because of some less favorable movies. I heard a lot of people who were excited about Thor Ragnarok. When I saw the trailer, I groaned and thought it looked terrible. Just cheesy as a cheese quesadilla and looked like other movies to me. I have never seen any of the Thor movies before, and I hear not great things about the first two films. That left me with a feeling that this will be a more comedic Thor movie that will fall flat like the other two.

The movie finally came out, and everyone is raving about it. When my friends, my favorite internet personalities from Rooster Teeth, and all the reviewers are saying how great this movie is, then I had to try it for myself. I went to the theater with the most comfortable seats just in case I was bored. I would rather be comfortable and bored rather than bored and uncomfortable. After the first few minutes, I was already in love. My reaction became the exact same as the first Guardians of the Galaxy. That is a movie I thought would be terrible, but after my best friend dragged me to see Guardians, I fell in love with everything about it.

Thor Ragnarok is about Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) find out about a sister named Hela (Cate Blanchett) who is the goddess of death. In a fight with between the two brothers and their sister, she destroys Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer and they must retreat back to Asgard. After their attempt has failed, they find themselves on the planet Sakaar. He is imprisoned by a man named Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) in which he is forced into a battle arena to earn his freedom. He discovers that the champion he must defeat is his old friend from the Avengers, the Hulk. Thor must team up with the Hulk, Scrapper 142, and his brother to attempt to save Asgard.

The story goes back and forth between Hela’s quest to take over then destroy Asgard and Thor’s mission to escape Sakaar to save his home. Thor’s side of the story is the stronger side of the story. There is a lot more humor that brings the audience along and more interesting character interactions. Hela as a character felt like a lot of the other MCU villains that have been defeated before. Absolutely powerful and evil, but falls flat in many areas. Cate Blanchett did a job well done regarding acting but was not given the best role to be playing.  See her arc did not feel that unique overall.

Of the vast array of characters that hold the movie up, one of my personal favorites is the Grandmaster. Jeff Goldblum does a fantastic job as always as this goofy and theatrical character. The interaction between Thor and other characters such as Hulk, Bruce Banner, and Loki are all enjoyable throughout the entire film. If you saw Doctor Strange and stayed for the ending credit scene, then you would know him, and Thor meet. Their brief interaction was funny and transitioned Thor onto this adventure worked so well. I was hoping to see more of Doctor Strange, partially because Benedict Cumberbatch is great, but I just expected that he would be providing more to the story. Seeing how their chemistry works is an excellent insight to see how things will play out in Avengers: Infinity War which comes out spring of 2018.

For a while, the Marvel Cinematic Universe got complaints about the lack of color. Visually these movies may not have been the best to look at. With films such as Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy, the visuals got better both from practical effects to the special effects. Thor Ragnarok might be the most beautiful movie out of every film that has been released so far in the MCU. It vomits out colors in almost every scene and is beautifully crafted in every detail. Each movie is getting prettier and prettier, and Thor is excellently showing this progression.

Most of the film is centered around the comedy, which is one of the standard complaints. I can do with or without a lot of comedy in a Marvel movie, it depends on how it is done. Out of this side of the Marvel movies, I have loved the most comedic side such as ThorGuardians, and Spider-Man.  The more serious of the MCU movies I have seen, I did not like. I thought Captain America: Civil War was average at best. I have loved the other side of Marvel that is owned by Fox when it comes to Logan, a depressing side of the superhero movie genre. It all depends on how it is done, and to me, Thor nailed it comedy on all levels.

Besides the dull character arc with Hela, I have no real complaints about this film. If there was a great villain and I felt that the stakes were higher, then maybe this would be a perfect movie for me. There are far more positives that lift this film up so high. Beautifully crafted visuals from both costumes to the worlds that we see that satisfy anyone looking for a pretty movie. Clever writing to create funny moments and excellent chemistry between characters. Action scenes that are well choreographed and are well spread out throughout the entire film. It is difficult to say anything negative about this one. As someone who is not a fan of most of the MCU, Thor Ragnarok did an excellent job of selling me on going see more of the future movies coming in the years to come. If you love Guardians of the Galaxy, then you will love this film. Refreshing, but familiar with all the best ways for any fan of the Marvel movies.

Score: 9/10

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Image via Marvel Studios

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