Video Game Review: Red Dead Online

As I said in my review for Red Dead Redemption 2, I will review Red Dead Online separately and put on a grand total score for the game in its entirety.

The online worried me. While I love the singleplayer of Rockstar’s games, sometimes their multiplayer falls flat in areas, especially with GTA V. While issues remain present that GTA has along with new problems, Red Dead Online sweeps most of its flaws under the rug by how much fun the experience in this open-world Western.

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Work in progress to create my character

Right off the bat, you get to create your character. The system is what you find in most games, modify features based on set models to make the person you want to look like. However, every character looks like a hideous monster, especially the females, sadly. If you play as a man, have a big beard then you should be fine. While it is better than Rockstar’s last giant online adventure with GTA, a lot of tweaks remain needed.

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Screenshot of my character

Similar to a Fallout game, you get to assign attributes to aspects of your character. While not as in-depth as the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. mechanic, points distributed to health, stamina, and dead eye make a difference early on. Such a small part of customization, but a nice addition before getting started.

A story does take place before the events with Arthur Morgan and his dysfunctional family. The silent protagonist gets broken out of prison and gets hired by a mysterious woman. She needs a few people to avenge the death of her husband. Just like a Rockstar narrative tends to unfold, the adventure loads itself with wildly eccentric characters and plenty of violence. Unfortunately, due to the game being in beta, a conclusion remains absent until further updates.

Red Dead has a focus on moral choices for both online and offline. Main missions involve a dishonorable or honorable offer. Stranger missions have the same result. Just like with Arthur’s difficult decisions, choosing a lighter or darker path will change how people perceive you, alter bartering, and give new missions that will unlock only for players following a particular moral compass. While more needs to be done, the honorable system works wonderfully in the new multiplayer mode.

Survival mechanics transfer over; therefore you must eat and drink to recover health, wear appropriate clothing, and deal with the constant threat of other people or wildlife. Many of these aspects feel toned down, but if you mastered how to live in the Wild West as Arthur Morgan, then you should do well in this new environment.

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One of the many glitches

Camps feel less attractive as of now. Currently, you can move anywhere to fit your needs with ease, but for practicality, having a base feels pointless. Ordering items from the pamphlet, which you can buy supplies from anywhere and have no need for a store, go to a post office or your tent. While that is efficient to gather items or cook, nothing else has a purpose. Upgrading is only for looks and will burn all of your cash.

Horses dying has less impact, thankfully. To make sure players are not driven to insanity by your trusty steed getting killed, the horse eventually comes back. Much of the mechanics from singleplayer transform into a less tedious system that allows for a more fun experience, while keeping the weight of survival.

Leveling up has light RPG elements. With enough experience, the right level, and enough money will grant a perk. Perks can be used for damage, dead eye, and much more. Ranking up has a new meaning which makes for a more meaningful experience.

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The meat of any online game will always be playing with friends. Form a posse to see each other and easily play various activities together. While a few kinks need fixing, playing in a gang makes up for many issues along the way.

Events randomly come up in the free roam. Earn money and experience points from winning the activity. A range for all player can be found from taking a horse to one location or getting the most kills with a revolver. For competitive players, this is a load of fun to pump up your adrenaline.

Big and small matches are available to play in the competitive modes of online. Capturing bases, killing with certain weapons for points, classic deathmatches, and races provide a wide variety of competition. While each mode will find its way for any type of gamer, the matchmaking makes zero sense. Each game type has a playlist that generates random games to play. If you love playing “wanted,” then you will have to pray that it pops up and wait through being forced to play through something that might not be your cup of tea.

No private servers are available. Which makes it difficult to play with friends without the interruption of other players. While many aspects are user-friendly, many are not.

Money has two forms. Earning regular cash through missions and activities then gold. Microtransactions like GTA Online have taken the form of gold in Red Dead. Gold can buy certain items if you do not have enough of your funds. Days ago an update occurred to lower prices and give greater payouts. Hopefully, Rockstar stays on top of a fair economy and does not turn have another GTA. 

Red Dead shines above Rockstar’s last grand title with its improved economy and satisfying activities from hunting to competition. Playing with friends has never been more entertaining. However, glitches occur often. Problems with animations, invisible players, and getting booted off servers constantly interrupt an otherwise great multiplayer. With polish and future content, greatness will arrive.

Thankfully for patches and the excellent singleplayer, Red Dead Online does not hinder the product as a whole.

Score for Red Dead Online: 6/10

Grand total score for Red Dead Redemption 2: 8/10

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Trailer Impressions: Avengers: Endgame

I knew the Avengers trailer was coming, but somehow I did not see the title being Endgame. Everything pieces itself together especially seeing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes rise to take down The Mad Titan. Marvel delivers an emotional tease that gives only a little bit to satisfy their hungry fans.

Right, when the trailer begins, my heartstrings get ripped out by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who has been able to get himself off of Titan, but with no food, water, or any other resource, he will drift in space until he dies. Footage of him recording a message for his wife Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) to let her know what happened to him. The emotional scene represents how defeated both Tony and the rest of the surviving Avengers.

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Marvel Studios

Two images quickly show after the Marvel Studios logo turns to dust, yes they really did that. Thanos’ armor appears like a memorial. His mission is done, he can now relax. Then the titan himself, Thanos (Josh Brolin) arrives. He is sauntering in a beautiful setting full of plant life. The only way to see him is by his gauntlet and a part of his side. Interesting choice on Marvel’s part to hide their main villain in this way. I can only wonder about their reasoning.

A few more glimpses of the remaining heroes. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) admits Thanos’ win to Captain America (Chris Evans). Captain has tears in his eyes, rightfully so. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) facepalms in despair, maybe trying to figure out a plan by the look of the computer screens in front of him that show Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and fallen heroes from Infinity War.

After a look at the empty Avengers home base, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) sits, looking full of both sorrow and anger. I can’t tell where he is by the room. Maybe he is at their home, but possibly somewhere else.

Nebula (Karen Gillian) gets a nod in a quick shot, like everyone else, she is not doing well at all.

Black Widows sees everyone’s long lost friend Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) sporting a new outfit, a sword, and standing over a dead body. Rumors were made guessing his reentry would show a transformation of his character, the darker side of him being Ronin. Hopefully, he becomes a better character moving forward unless Thanos kills him at the end.

Black Widow and the Captain finish their conversation about their mysterious plan. They have something up their sleeve that could work to take down the purple titan who killed their friends.

A bit of comic relief happens after the title reveal. Just watch the trailer for a nice comedic end that will get you thinking and starting another theory after already boiling up ideas in your head from everything shown so far.

I knew Marvel would have to do only a little to hook me, but I am beyond caught in their grip. All aboard the hype train because of Avengers: Endgame. The studio has plenty of plans for the future, and this is the beginning of something special.

Avengers End Game comes out April 26

Image via Marvel Studios

7 Best Video Games of 2018

2018 had its ups and downs with video games. Disappointing releases sprinkled throughout with some gold shining through the dirt. The year felt lackluster regarding the quantity of excellent games, but enough to make for a solid year for the industry.

#7: Shadow of the Colossus 

Yes, a remaster finds its way on the list of the best games of the year. Bluepoint Games rebuilt this iconic masterpiece for old-school fans and newcomers like myself who were too young and lacked the skill to play. The heart of the best remains the same, but a facelift and new controls fit for the modern landscape of this medium.

Buy now: Shadow of the Colossus

#6: A Way Out 

While I had issues with the feeling of the gameplay, A Way Out stands tall with a compelling narrative that tore my heart out and a unique cooperative mechanic that works wonderfully. The innovative experience and brilliant storytelling make up for the obvious flaws.

Buy now: A Way Out – Xbox One

Buy now: A Way Out – PlayStation 4

#5: Detroit: Become Human

Quantic Dream cannot shake its flaws in storytelling and clunky gameplay, but they grow with each title.

Detroit takes themes that have been beaten to death with a nice twist full of gripping choices and three-dimensional characters. Like their previous game, Heavy Rain, the dynamic of playing three separate androids whose stories weave together brought up some of the hardest choices I have ever had to make. The immense amount of times I had to pause to gather my thoughts for the right choice felt overwhelming but satisfying in the end.

Buy now: Detroit Become Human

#4: Hitman 2

Another bloodbath adventure with the iconic assassin, Agent 47 never disappoints. While feeling more like DLC with its lack of innovation than a fully fleshed out title, the sequel to the 2016 hit still lands on its feet.

No matter how much the series cannot get its storytelling and voice acting to a decent quality, the gameplay continues to be the most crucial aspect. A vastly open area with each level having plenty of diversity, Hitman 2 still provides the perfect playground for murder.

Buy now: Hitman 2 – PlayStation 4

Buy now: Hitman 2 – Xbox One

#3: Marvel’s Spider-Man

Ever since the old Spider-Man 2 released, I have wanted a Spidey game to recapture that magic I had as a kid. Insomniac Games getting the chance to put their stamp on the iconic hero is a match made in heaven.

While Spider-Man suffers from its fun, but redundant side activities, the satisfying gameplay and standout story makes for one of the greatest games ever created. I feel sorry for anyone missing out because they do not own a PlayStation 4.

Buy now: Marvel’s Spider-Man

#2: Red Dead Redemption 2 

Rockstar did not just make a sequel to the masterfully crafted Red Dead Redemption. The company developed a technological masterpiece that outshines every open-world title. The developers know how to blend a wide variety of activities along with its exciting Western story. Nobody can consistently tell some of the best narratives while putting together something that will change the industry forever unless their company is called Rockstar Games.

Buy now: Red Dead Redemption 2 – PlayStation 4

Buy now: Red Dead Redemption 2 – Xbox One

#1: God of War

I cannot believe that God of War outdid Red Dead and Spider-Man. Going into the fourth main title of a long-running series sounds insane, but Sony Santa Monica made the perfect balance for newcomers and longtime fans.

Only a handful of games in my life have made me cry, and God of War is one of them. An emotional journey about a man and his son that ties together with Greek and Norse mythology.

Taking the series away from its Greek roots sounds insane, but what happens is the universe has been built upon. A man going into a foreign land full of threats that can kill him, even if he is Kratos.

The satisfying gameplay and the genius writing to make every “gamey” aspect into something meaningful to the world around the characters makes for an immersive experience that only a few have achieved.

Buy now: God of War

Image via Hazelight Studios/EA, Insomniac Games/Marvel Games/SIE, Sony Santa Monica/SIE

Ranking the Netflix Marvel Series From Worst to Best

Daredevil has been the latest Netflix Marvel series to get axed. With only The Punisher and Jessica Jones still floating in limbo, waiting for a new season or a cancelation, Netflix’s side of the MCU will die soon enough. The shows have had an unstable quality from excellence to redundant trash. As a send-off for one of the best superhero adaptions, Daredevil, here are the rankings of the series from worst to best.

#11: Jessica Jones (Season 2)

Painfully, the worst of the bunch comes from one of the best characters. Jessica (Krysten Ritter) contains a mix of powerful female superhero and traumatized victim. However, going from one of the best villains in the comic book adaption genre with Killgrave (David Tennant) to a more personal story about Jessica’s mother sounds compelling on paper, until you sit down to watch this god-awful mess.

The story consistently feels bland with one of the most annoying side stories in Netflix/Marvel history. Seriously, Trish (Rachael Taylor) creates unnecessary drama which is bad enough because all of Jessica’s mother drama feels just as bad.

#10: The Defenders (Season 1)

The MCU built up to AvengersAge of UltronCivil War, and Infinity War. Each being the perfect climax as new and old favorites join up to battle evil, with Civil War being in a weird grey area on the “fighting evil” part. Netflix’s version with The Defenders had a lot of promise but ultimately left me with a disgusting taste in my mouth.

The two main aspects that got me an excellent were these heroes coming together and Sigourney Weaver playing the mysterious villain. I won’t say, but I was disappointed in the direction for the antagonist. Then everything between the heroes felt anti-climatic.

While some good came out of it with some great interactions from heroes and supporting cast members, The Defenders feels more on par with Justice League on a smaller scale.

#9: Iron Fist (Season 1)

Critics and fans decimated Iron Fist. Unpopular opinion: the show does not suck that bad. Okay, the first season is not good, but not the worst thing ever (I am looking at you The Defenders).

Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones) felt incomplete and childish. His motives were repeated like a child not getting his way. For a man who trained for so long, he did not look like he knew how to fight. That is not the fault of Jones, but the choreography needed to feel real, sadly nobody decided to direct the action differently. Instead, we got slow paced martial arts.

While every storyline with The Hand, the mysterious evil organization that threatens Danny and even The Defenders, felt weak compared to other excellent villains seen in the other series.

If it weren’t for an excellent supporting cast of characters from Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup), and Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey), then the show would be an utter disaster.

#8: Luke Cage (Season 1)

Without such a weaker second half with a villain that comes out of nowhere, Luke Cage could have had a spectacular first season. Due to a less enticing few episodes, the series ranks a lot lower than I want.

Each performance shines brightly without anyone being overshadowed. Full of complex bad guys/girls and loveable good guys/girls, the show has some of the best cast of characters out of any of the series on this list.

#7: Iron Fist (Season 2)

A great redemption that I did not see coming. I was quite close to skipping this one, but I am glad I did not. Danny Rand has a personality that leaves behind the whiny little boy, while a charismatic man enters.

The Hand continues to be a titular storyline, but with some new twists to make for a more interesting narrative for an otherwise dull enemy.

What holds the second season so high in quality, yet preventing the show from being in the top five is the ending. On the positive side, Iron Fist has ten episodes, opposed to the normal thirteen that every other series has had. The story feels more concise due to the shorter length; however, the ending comes out of nowhere and tries too hard to set up the next adventure.

#6: Luke Cage (Season 2)

While the second outing with Luke feels more consistent and concise, the pacing kills me at times. Mostly with the musical guests who take put too long of portions of episodes. Some episodes focus several minute long scenes on showing someone playing music with some touches of the narrative moving forward. If the music was placed in the background and keep taking steps forward to get the audience through the season.

#5: Daredevil (Season 2)

Sometimes a mess can be fun, but no matter what, the quality declines to some degree.

The second season of Daredevil splits itself between Frank Castle/The Punisher (John Bernthal) and Elektra (Elodie Yung). The two separate narratives feel out of place and cause the show to spin in too many different directions. Franks’s side of the season explodes with drama and gore that drives ferociously. While Elektra had her compelling side but compared to Frank, she feels in the way and unnecessary.

#4: The Punisher (Season 1)

Why can’t these series get their pacing right? If The Punisher had fewer episodes, the show would reach greatness; instead, we get an inconsistent, but still gripping ride with a man who has nothing to lose. Bernthal captures Frank’s pain and rage so perfectly, it is daunting to watch his suffering.

#3: Jessica Jones (Season 1)

I am a broken record, because if Jessica Jones had two or three fewer episodes then maybe it would grab second place.

Killgrave remains to be one of the most sinister villains from any comic book adaption. Tennant’s portrayal of the mind-controlling antagonist projects fear and brutality throughout the season.

#2: Daredevil (Season 1)

A genius masterpiece of television. The first season of Daredevil shows that these series will not shine with comedy and lightheartedness like the rest of the MCU. Here we see gruesome murders and torture along with a dark narrative.

While Charlies Cox (Daredevil) and his costars have incredible chemistry along with strong characters that stand tall alone, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin crushes every other villain seen in the MCU, sorry Loki and Thanos. The most complex, sympathetic baddie we have seen so far from Marvel, and sadly he does not show up in any movie.

Please, Marvel, do the world and favor and put Kingpin in the film side of the MCU.

#1: Daredevil (Season 3)

How could the first season get topped? With higher stakes and a relentless beating. Daredevil ends on a bang with its best season. I will miss this show greatly because this season was brilliant.

Image via Netflix/Marvel

Interview: Kurt Riley

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

When everyone is behaving as if crabs in a bucket – jump out of the bucket altogether. I differentiate myself by offering a sound, a style, and an ethos that listeners will not find in any other contemporary artist. For those who wonder just what the hell happened to music – I’m your man.

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

They’re in for a high-concept experience and one hell of a good time. Libations are recommended; hip-shaking is irresistible.

#3: What is your dream tour or festival?

Opening for Mr. Bryan Ferry across Europe, Oceania, and the United States.

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

Ionnalee.

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

Billy Idol, Bryan Ferry, and Postmodern Jukebox have all given magnificent performances when I’ve seen them.

#6: Who are some of your biggest influences?

The Rolling Stones, Vangelis, T.Rex, Brian Eno, Jimmy Reed, Queen, Gary Numan, Bo Diddley, Roxy Music, Frank Sinatra, and Buddy Holly.
#7: When did you first start playing music and how did that come together to lead you to where you are today?

My infatuation with music began at a very young age; I recall dancing along to broadcasts on MTV as a small child, listening to Philadelphia soul on the radio as my mother drove me to school…but the damn thing really hit me over the head as a teenager. That was when I first heard The Rolling Stones. Suddenly, I knew why I’d been born.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a few bands, but the latest is most certainly the greatest. I’m blessed to be joined by Mr. Rick Kline on bass guitar and bass synthesizer, Mr. Charlie Jones on keyboard and synthesizer, and Mr. Sesu Coleman on drums and percussion. They’re my three Musketeers, my inseperables.

As a recording artist, I’ve released three albums and two singles so far, with about twice that amount stored away in my vault. My debut album was produced by Beyoncé collaborator BOOTS, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with Grammy Award-winning engineer Will Russell. My music has been broadcast on radio stations across the United States, in Canada, and internationally via Sirius/XM Radio.

Currently, I’m recording at New Vine Media in Central New York, with the delightful John Carter, who is decidedly not from Mars. The fellas and I are having a ball working with John, and we look forward to collaborating with him extensively throughout the new year.

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

In December 2018, my band & I are releasing the single Be Cool, which is the final release in the first chapter of my career. It is a propulsive, effusive, vivifying anthem – a celebration of being oneself in the face of peer and societal pressures. (And it will be accompanied by a hilarious music video.)

After Be Cool, a brand new chapter will begin in 2019, a period that I’m calling Chrome Empire. The sound will be rock and roll music, remade and remodeled for the 21st Century. (Think Blade Runner with guitars by Keith Richards.) The Chrome Empire singles will address everything from the effects of climate change to artificial intelligence, from virtual erotica to corporate megacities. It will be a vision of the future to come.

 

News: Red Dead Online Beta Details

Red Dead Redemption 2’s online mode arrives tomorrow. The beta will be launched in waves for a small number of players then slowly come out to all players of the open-world western.

Owners of the Ultimate Edition will be the first to play on Nov. 27 at 8:30 a.m. ET. Players who booted the game up on the launch day will be the next to be let in on Nov. 28. On Nov. 29, anyone who played within the first three days will get access. By Friday, Nov. 30, everyone who owns RDR2 will be able to play the beta.

Despite no marketing for the online mode besides a confirmation, this is how Rockstar explains the multiplayer experience in Red Dead Online:

“With the gameplay of Red Dead Redemption 2 as its foundation, Red Dead Online transforms the vast and deeply detailed landscapes, cities, towns, and habitats of Red Dead Redemption 2 into a new, living online world ready to be shared by multiple players. Create and customize your character, tailor your abilities to suit your play style, and head out into a new frontier full of things to experience.

Explore this huge world solo or with friends. Form or join a posse to ride with up to seven players; gather around the fire at your camp; head out hunting or fishing; visit bustling towns; battle enemy gangs and attack their hideouts; hunt for treasure; take on missions and interact with familiar characters from across the five states; or fight against other outlaws in both spontaneous skirmishes and pitched set-piece battles; compete with other players or whole posses in open world challenges and much more.”

Red Dead Redemption 2 launched on Oct. 26 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Image via screenshot captured on PlayStation 4 Pro from my review.

Song Impression: Thy Art is Murder – Death Perception

The Australian deathcore group Thy Art is Murder is back with a brand new track. I have such a love-hate relationship with their music. A part of me wants to like them more, but as their last record, they continue to churn out uninspired work.

Right from the first click, an explosive opening of too familiar sounding riffs and drumming along with singer CJ McMahon’s distinct ferocious screams. Try blindfolding people and having them listen to the guitars then they would probably not be able to tell between Death Perception or any other song in the band’s catalog due to the uninspired riffs and generic breakdowns. Even McMahon’s vocals have no variety except for some brief moments of going lower, but nothing caught my ear as interesting.

One of the few moments the short, rapid-fire track delivers something different is in the solo. A fast and generic delivery that could be mistaken for a million other songs by extreme metal artists.

The best aspect is the lyrics. McMahon is back with the same themes as always, centering around religion, but he seemed more passionate and determined with his message than the dull Dear Desolation. I am brought back to the all-powerful Holy War. He screams, “Bring forth the lamb of the sacrifice / One more heretic to crucify / Stained with the blood, the mark of the three.”

Not much can be said for the new song besides how disappointed I feel. Thy Art is Murder showed real promise despite the flaws in their third record, Holy War. Then I could not stand the emptiness of Dear Desolation. All I can do is hope for the new album to get better.

Check out the song below:

Image via Thy Art is Murder/Nuclear Blast Records