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Bioshock: Infinite DLC first impressions, and Burial at Sea trailer impressions

So I just downloaded the DLC for Bioshock: Infinite that was released today. While I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn't a story based DLC, I'm happy to say that this add-on offers a ton of content, and it's a great way for gamers to experience the fast and exciting combat of Bioshock: Infinite in a purely combat based environment. The premise of this DLC is very simple: there are four rooms, and in each room, the players have to defeat a certain number of waves of enemies. The players have the ability to apply their own playing style and kill the enemies however they see fit, unless they choose to complete the Blue Ribbon Challenges. These challenges basically force the gamers to defeat the waves in a certain way. For example, the Blue Ribbon Challenge for Room 1 - Wave 1 was to kill the five enemies in the wave only by skyline strikes. After defeating each wave, the gamers are sent to an armory where they can buy vigors, get upgrades for their weapons/vigors, choose their guns for the upcoming wave, choose their gear or infusion, and last but not least, spend money in order to activate a checkpoint. It is important to note that this checkpoint only works once during the wave, and the amount of money needed in order to activate it increases after each wave. 

According to the description, gamers can also unlock concept art and voxophones by completing waves and Blue Ribbon Challenges, but I haven't checked the unlockables yet to see if they are anything worthwhile. I'm hoping the voxophones will at least offer some interesting back story about the city of Columbia or another important story element in the game. 

Overall, this DLC, which is called Clash in the Clouds, is a lot of fun, especially for people who enjoyed the shooting mechanics of Bioshock: Infinite. However, it has two issues that hold it back from being exceptional: firstly, the Blue Ribbon Challenges restrict the gamers from actually trying out different types of combos, which can be frustrating. Secondly, it is not a story based DLC, which could be disappointing for some people. Thirdly, it's nothing to write home about, especially when one compares it to the memorable campaign of the game itself. It is definitely a solid and challenging add-on with a lot of content, but it wasn't really needed or necessary.  

Rating (based on first impressions): 6.75/10 

 

Aside from Clash in the Clouds being released today, a future DLC was teased by the developers of the game. They released a trailer explaining what the next story based DLC is going to be about. You guys can go a check it out yourselves by clicking on the link below. All I have to say is that I think it looks really cool, and I love the premise of going back to the roots of the first Bioshock. The only unfortunate thing is that the release date hasn't been announced yet. However, based on the trailer, I think it will be released sometime around New Year's Eve. 

Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1                                                  

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpgvZay10jE

 

Rating for the trailer: 5/5

(Really pumped me up for the release of the DLC) 

 

An endless cycle

Warning: English is my second language, so I apologize if there are any grammar mistakes. 

I recently received the SNES controller that I ordered about a month ago in my mailbox, so I have been playing a lot of retro games from the SNES era. Experiencing these games for the first time as a gamer from this generation is exciting for me for two reasons: firstly, retro games have a charm to them that modern games dont have. In other words, when you play a retro game, you know that you are playing a videogame. Back then, there were no attempts made to make videogames more realistic. This is definitely refreshing for me after playing modern games with almost photo realistic graphics and depressing stories.

The second reason that I now quench my thirst for gaming by playing retro games is that unlike most of the modern games being released nowadays, retro games actually leave an impression on me. Final Fantasy 6 has memorable music, Super Mario World has fun, yet challenging levels, Super Metroid has some of the most satisfying gameplay mechanics that I have experienced in a videogame, and the list goes on and on. This got me to thinking just how uninspired and forgettable most of the AAA titles are becoming. Even games that have the potential to be something unique and different tend to squander that potential by either not implicating fresh and innovative mechanics, or by presenting the gamers with a cliché and generic storyline. Assassin's Creed III is the prime example of a game where there was so much potential for it to be a masterpiece, but repetitive gameplay, uninteresting characters, and a really pointless ending make the game shallow and forgettable. There are a lot of other AAA games that are epic and big in scope, but for some reason fail to stay in my mind for a long period of time, such as Mass Effect 3, Dishonored, Skyrim, GTA IV, and many other titles. Most of these games are fun to play, but ultimately, due to a lack of new ideas or moments that actually stick with the gamer, they become forgettable.

Is this the fault of game developers? I personally don't think so. While it is the job of the game developers to come up with new ideas for their games, one needs to keep in mind the fact that in modern entertainment, originality is very hard to find. Look at Hollywood for example; pretty much every single movie being released follows the exact same formula, thus making movies very predictable. This is not necessarily a negative aspect if the execution of the formula is done well, but unfortunately, even the execution of the same old formula in movies can be uninspired, and heavily focused on explosions, pointless action, or having attractive actresses with no acting ability. Is there anything wrong with having mindless fun when you're watching movies or playing videogames? Not at all, but the problem is that most of the AAA developers and big-budget movie directors  fail to find the right balance between mindless fun and actual depth in their products. Twenty years from now, I am not going to look back and think of Skyrim as one of the greatest games ever created, because while the experience itself was fun, there was not one element that made it stick out for me; Skyrim was just like any other western RPG made by Bethesda. Same argument goes for many of the other modern releases, especially shooters such as Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Battlefield, and even the Uncharted series. 

What AAA developers need to do is to find a way to seamlessly blend gameplay and narrative in order to create a memorable experience. This is where The Last of Us and Bioshock: Infinite come into play. These two games attempted to make a change in a rather tired industry, and I truly believe that they succeeded in doing so. Even if The Last of Us is a little bit lack luster in the gameplay department and uses certain story elements that have been used before in gaming/movies, and even if Bioshock: Infinite's gameplay consists mainly of shooting the racist citizens of Columbia, the developers of these games at least had the guts to tackle issues that most game developers shy away from, and both of these titles took the storytelling aspect in videogames to a whole new level. Other AAA game developers need to take the elements that made Infinite and TLOU so great and perfect them. If that happens, then the endless cycle of forgettable AAA titles might be broken. And maybe we will be able to play games that combine deep gameplay with fascinating stories, games that are actually able to leave an impression. 

Only God Forgives, my favorite movie of 2013 so far

It seems like I'm the only one who didn't absolutely hate this movie. In fact, I thought it was the best movie released this year so far. Now, before you flip out, give me a chance to explain why I think Only God Forgives is not just a pretentious mess. 

Only God Forgives is a revenge story. Ryan Gosling plays Julian, a drug-sumggler who owns a boxing club in Bangkok. In the beginning of the movie, Julian's brother gets killed. Then, Julian's mother comes to Bangkok in order to reclaim the corpse of her dead son, and also to get revenge on the man who killed her first born child.

What I just described is the "plot" of this movie, and I use the term plot loosely because the story isn't really the focus. It exists so that the director, Nicolas Winding Refn, can have an excuse to put the "characters" on the screen, and I use the term characters loosely because the people in this movie are not characters in the conventional sense. They are on the screen so that the director can use them as tools in order to get his messages across.

If, for whatever reason, after reading the previous paragraph, you're still expecting a movie with a coherent storyline and in depth characters, then I'm afraid to tell you that you will be disappointed. Only God Forgives focuses on getting a few important messages across through beautiful imagery, mindblowing cinematography, and the cardboard cutout characters that would ruin any other movie, but work in the context of this film as metaphors. 

The minimal dialogue and the simplistic plot allows the director to shift the focus on the body language of the characters. For example, when Ryan Gosling gives a long stare to the camera, you can see the pain and anguish behind his eyes, or (slight spoiler) when he's tied down to a chair, staring at his girlfriend, knowing that he's unable to physically touch her, you can tell that he is restricted and imprisoned, metaphorically speaking, by someone or something.These scenes not only give a good explanation of Ryan Gosling's character, at least the most you need to know in order to understand the movie, but also they intertwine with other scenes later on in the film that are trying to progress and/or give closure to the same theme or message.

I could go on and on and analyze every single scene of this movie, but I want to keep this blog short and simple. All in all, Only God Forgives is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece. Pretentious? Maybe so, but I absolutely loved it. I've seen it twice already, and I was able to interpret the same scenes differently, and pick up on things that I was unable to pick up on the first time I watched the film. However, I completely understand why many people hate this movie. It can come off us pretentious, pointless, and shallow, but if you really dig deep, you will find some form of meaning behind all the flashy violence. 

I hope I'm not coming off as pretentious here. Hell, I love Man of Steel, The Avengers, The Dark Knight, and many other mainstream movies that other people love. I just think in this case, I'm in the minority of people who actually loved Only God Forgives and were able to appreciate it for what it was :) 


My rating: A+ 

The future of gaming

After playing games such as The Last of Us, Bioshock: Infinite, Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead by Telltale Studios, and few other AAA titles, I have come to the conclusion that game developers are focusing more and more on storyline, character development, and production values instead of revolutionary gameplay. This could be a double-edged sword because there are many gamers out there who play videogames for gameplay, and those are the people who will be disappointed with the direction that game developers are taking. On the other hand, you have the majority of gamers who really don't mind barebones gameplay as long as the story, characters, atmosphere, and the overall experience are impactful. 

I'm somewhere in between. I think that both gameplay and the storyline play an important role in games, but I can't deny that sometimes, I get tempted to give games such as The Last of Us a 9.5 instead of an 8 just because I loved the characters and the story. This goes to show how important the story can be in videogames; if the story was so good and emotional that it made me forget about the flaws of the gameplay, then that means the developers paid so much attention to that portion of the game. 

There are reasons behind this approach. First of all, gameplay has been the core of videogames since Pong came out. Therefore, there's pretty much no room left for originality. It's practically impossible for developers to be able to "wow" the gamers with revolutionary gameplay. However, the other aspects of videogames, mainly the storyline, have not been explored as much as the gameplay. Consequently, game developers find it easier to focus on the unexplored aspects of videogames, where there's still room for originality, to impress the gamers. To me, that is a legitimate reason. I'm tired of playing games with the same basic gameplay concepts over and over again. Therefore, when the storyline and the characters are exceptional, I am able to overlook the flaws of the gameplay and enjoy the overall experience. 

NOTE: Games such as Journey are also great examples. While the game isn't AAA, it was critically acclaimed due to its unique presentation and story, despite the lack of deep gameplay. 

The second reason that the focus of game developers has been shifting from gameplay to story is that it attracts more audiences who otherwise would not have been interested in playing videogames. In other words, games are being taken more "seriously" nowadays by the same people who used to say "videogames are just for kids".

Some poeple might make the argument that the shift in focus from gameplay to storyline has been made many years ago with the release of games such as Metal Gear Solid. While that argument has some validity, what people don't realize is that games such as Metal Gear Solid still introduced fantastic gameplay elements, and the balance between the gameplay and the story was prefect. That is not the case with newer AAA titles such as The Last of Us, where it's clear that the main focus was the story, production values, and characters. 

Like it or not, this is the future of gaming. Game developers are focusing more and more on making "interactive movies" rather than games with in depth or mind blowing gameplay. There's much more room for creativity in those departments, while pretty much every single "original" idea and/or concept for gameplay has been used. 

What is a review?

I recently beat The Last of Us, and I was amazed by the fantastic production values, emotional storyline, excellent voice acting, and revolutionary visuals. However, the gameplay didn't really blow me away. The mechanics that were introduced in the game were great, the gunplay was a lot of fun, and the exploration was rewarding. But all the cool mechanics such as the crafting system were extremely bare bones and limited (you can only craft six items), and there was just not that much depth to the stealth gameplay. Plus, the puzzles are extremely repetitive. They all consist of you boosting up Ellie so that she can kick down a ladder for you, or getting a pallet to move Ellie across water. These puzzles repeat many times in the game. It just becomes frustrating. 

You might be asking yourself why I'm talking about all these issues with the gameplay. The reason is that I beat the game for the second time last night on new game plus, and all the gameplay issues I mentioned seem to become nothing but nitpicks. Don't get me wrong, the issues still exist, but the experience itself and the journey that Joel and Ellie go through is so amazing that you just can't help but to fall in love with this game, even with its gameplay flaws. 

This leads me to my main point: is it right for reviewers to overlook the flaws of a game simply because they love the experience, or should they be objective and put all personal biases aside? This is not an easy question. Look at how Tom is getting destroyed on GameSpot by idiotic fanboys just because he gave the game an 8 out of 10, which is a great score. His complaints about the gameplay were legitimate, and it just baffles my mind that fanboys expect reviewers to gloss over the flaws of a AAA title just because they are amazed by the story and production values. 

On the other hand, you have someone like me. I struggle with my ratings all the time. I couldn't bring myself to give this game an 8, but in the end, despite the fact that I loved every minute of it, I gave it an 8 because I recognized its gameplay flaws (and if you want to see what those flaws are, read my review).

As you can see, the questions still remain; what is a review? Does it have to be subjective or objective?

In my humble opinion, reviews have to be both objective and subjective. What I mean is that the person who's reviewing a game should take his/her own personal enjoyment into account when giving the game a score, but at the same time, they can't look over the issues of the game just because they were blown away by the overall experience. You can still love a game but give it an 8 out of 10. Not every game has to get a 9 or a 10. Those are just numbers that merely reflect the level of the reviewer's enjoyment; it's the content of the reivew that matters.

Another thing that reviewers need to remember is that game developers are focusing more and more on the story and characters nowadays rather than the core gameplay of their games. This strategy might piss off a lot of old-school gamers, but I digress. This is a different topic for a different blog. 

What do you guys think? Do you think reviews are objective or subjective? To what extent should reviewers take their own subjective opinion into account when reviewing a game? Comment below and let me know! 

The Last of Us first impressions

So yeah, I bought the Last of Us two nights ago. I wasn't planning on doing it, but considering that I'm a fan of Naughty Dog, I thought I would do it. 

I've been playing it for a day now, and I have to say that I think the game is great. In terms of story and atmosphere, it is definitely one of the best games out there right now. Not as good as Bioshock: Infinite, but still very good. 

Now, the main idea behind the plot doesn't seem original, and it's really not, but it's the execution of this idea that makes the story so engrossing. The writing is fantastic, the characters are very realistic, and the set pieces are so well realized. The visuals are also mindblowing. 

The game also does a great job of showing the gamers what it would be like to get stuck in a post-apocalyptic world: it's a world where normal people, even friends, can't trust each other, and human beings are desensitized to any kind of violence and brutality. A good example that demonstrates this kind of brutality would be the intro, which does a perfect job of setting the tone for the rest of the game. 

The gameplay of The Last of Us can be hit or miss. Most of the game revolves around stealth mechanics, but those mechanics are very limited. You can either sneak by enemies or distract them, grab them from behind, and either kill them or strangle them. There's not even an option for moving and hiding the bodies. Plus, there's nothing really original about the stealth elements. For example, you can hold R2 to "focus Joel's hearing", and basically listen to the footsteps of enemies and spot where they are from behind the walls. That might seem like an innovative idea at first, but it's basically like the "detective vision" from the Batman games (Arkham City/ Arkham Asylum). 

The AI is inconsistent. Sometimes, the enemies can hear you when you make a squeak, but other times your AI partners would be running around the room and the enemies won't even turn their heads. There were even times where one enemy would be looking right at me without noticing my presence and alerting the other gaurds. 

The crafting and upgrading system are welcome additions, but the number of items that can be crafted is very limited, and most of the upgrades are pointless. 

The gameplay also has a repetitive nature. You explore, walk into a room full of enemies, either knock them out or sneak by them, solve an easy puzzle, and then the same cycle repeats itself over and over again. 

Don't get me wrong, the gameplay is satisfying, it's just a little bit unpolished compared to the other aspects of the game. I wish the AI was more consistent, there were more items to craft, and the upgrading system had more depth to it. 

As mentioned before, The Last of Us is a great game when it comes to story, characters, and atmosphere. Unfortunately, the gameplay, while it can be fun and very satisfying, is not very deep or varied. The best aspect of the gameplay is the exploration and crafting, which is hindered by the limited number of items you can make. 

I haven't finished the game yet, but for now, I'm thoroughly enjoying it and I'm invested in the characters and the story. 

 

8.5/10 (the score might change after I beat the game) 

A Short Story (written by me)

Keep in mind that English is my second language, and this is the first "story" I've written. I've been living in Canada for only four years, so I know my English isn't the best :P Nevertheless, I hope you guys enjoy this! 

1

Images

The boy in the bright blue jeans crawls into a corner of his empty room. With no energy left in his body, he sits down and leans against the wall. Sitting is his only option; hes way too weak to stand on his feet. He would fall in a matter of seconds, like a tree sapling breaking in half with the slightest breeze. He feels a cold wind gently whipping his skin. His fragile body begins to shiver and his rotten teeth begin to chatter. Where is the wind coming from? The boy doesnt know; the boy doesnt care.

Nevertheless, he looks around his room. Has the room always been this empty? the boy thinks to himself. The boy knows, but he still doesnt care. His room has always been empty, and it will never be filled with love or laughter. Love is an unknown concept to him, and there are no clowns in his dark, cubical cell to goof around and make him giggle; there are no stand-up comedians to make him laugh with their crude humour; there are no femme fatales sitting beside him, seducing him, caressing him, and making him happy and warm inside. In his empty cell, theres no space for comedy or romance, but theres plenty of room for darkness.

Suddenly, he gets this funny idea, the type that initiates laughter within him. He decides to think of the room as a person, a person who has no purpose in life, a person who doesnt know where to go, a person whos empty inside, a hollow man wondering around, laughing like a maniac, banging his head against walls, a maniac with no destination. The thought that was supposed to make him laugh begins to scare him. Is he terrified of the laughing maniac? Or of the walls that stretch from the bottom of the floor to the ceiling of his empty cell? The boy doesnt know, but this time he cares. He thinks for a few seconds, and the answer comes to him almost immediately: it is impossible to be terrified of the laughing maniac. The boy feels sorry for him and he sympathizes with him. Theres even a hint of jealousy, for at least the maniac has a REASON to be upset, and has the FREEDOM to wonder around aimlessly and bang his head against walls, unlike the boy who has been locked up in a cage for as far as he can remember.

The boy in the bright blue jeans isnt scared of the laughing maniac.

That leaves him with only one option: the walls. Yes, the walls! He has been surrounded by these walls, these concrete objects that constantly remind him of his misfortune and misery, these walls that resemble his dark past and twisted memories, memories that hes unable to recall. Even when he tries to remember, only vague images come to mind: the image of himself lying in bed beside a fat naked boy; the image of a corpse hanging from the ceiling, dangling from left to right; the image of a middle-aged man with grey hair punching him in the ear; the image of a woman, curled up in a ball, sobbing heavily in a corner; the image of a brunette girl with pale blue eyes, talking to him, telling him all her secrets. The boy in the bright blue jeans wants to forget the unpleasant images. He doesnt know why he remembers them. He doesnt know why theyre on his mind, he simply wants to forget.

Dazed and confused, the boy in the bright blue jeans closes his eyes and falls asleep.

He feels sorry for the laughing maniac, but hes terrified of the walls.


2

A Dream

A naked girl is standing not too far away from him. 
His heart begins to pound in his chest. What color are her eyes? the boy thinks to himself. 
She takes a step towards him. 
The boy can barely contain his excitement! What could the color of her eyes be?! He will find out soon enough. 

The girl takes a few more steps until shes finally standing three inches away from the boy. She puts the palm of her right hand on the boys chest. Suddenly, the boy realizes that hes barechested, but he could care less. He wants to take the girls arm, pull her even closer, and stare into her eyes. The boy is scared to do so at first, but eventually, desire defeats fear in a fast yet fierce battle, and the boy gains the courage to take the girls hand. With a sudden jerk of his right arm (no time for being gentle), he pulls the girl closer. Startled by this sudden motion, she stands still and refuses to look him in the eye. But the boy gently caresses her soft skin, and she feels at ease. Then, she gently kisses the boys neck, and slowly presses her breasts against his chest. Finally, she looks up, smiles, and stares into his eyes. 

The boy is somewhere else; another world, another planet, another universe. Somewhere were human beings cannot reach him or talk to him, somewhere where time stops and incomprehensible things happen, somewhere were planets stop turning and words have no meanings. A world where the melody of silence is the only sound you can hear and you never have to concern yourself with the triviality of words. The boy is happy. He wants to stay in this world forever. He wants to stare into her eyes for eternity, for those pale blue eyes led him to discover this magnificent land that no human being knows of. But the boy knows that good things never last. 

The girl blinks, and with that, the boy is back to the dull world of humans. He looks around and realizes that theyre standing in a desert. To his left, he sees the remnants of what once used to be a tall building (or maybe multiple tall buildings, he cant recall). To his right, theres a withered tree, and a crow sits silently on one of its branches. Above, the desert sky is grey and clear, yet the sun is nowhere to be seen. The girl still has a smile on her face, and her eyes are still fixed on his. The boy wants to lose himself in the depths of her pale blue eyes again, but the shrill scream of a woman startles him. He loses focus and tries to find the source of that horrid sound. It is coming from every direction now: south, north, east, and west. Suddenly, flames begin to consume the withered tree, yet the crow remains silent and refuses to fly away. The girl manages to keep her smile while the world around burns to the ground. The remnants of the buildings scorch up in flames, and the naked girl keeps on smiling. Tears well up in her eyes and her hands begin to shake, yet her smile does not fade away. There she stands, in the midst of the sweltering flames, smiling, holding his hands, and gazing into his eyes. With a sudden movement, she stands on her toes, lifts herself up and brings her mouth closer to his ears, and whispers, Admit it, you are lost. You do not know your place in this world. You could easily turn around and run away. Behind you, theres a door, and behind that door, heaven awaits you. Theres a beautiful garden, the sky is blue, birds are singing, and life is much more beautiful. Run away and save yourself. I do not want you to burn with me. Then, she returns to her previous position. She is not smiling anymore, but there are still tears in her eyes. The boys ears are filled with strident screams, his mind is occupied with conflicting thoughts, yet his body is stuck in place. Should he leave or should he stay? The boy knows what to do right away: he bends down and kisses the naked girl on the lips. 

Thus the boy stays, and when he looks into her eyes, nothing matters anymore: destinations, goals, purpose of life, emotions, and even life itself become nothing but trivialities. He sees truth in her eyes, feels passion in her smile, and senses honesty in her words. Captivated by her beauty and mesmerized by her pale blue eyes, the boy follows his heart. He leaves his past behind him and pays no attention to the future, for present is treating him so kindly. This is where he truly belongs, in the midst of these flames. He holds the naked girl in his arms, and they keep each other close, until everything is engulfed by fire.


3

Happiness 

The boy in the bright blue jeans opens his eyes. He is back in his cell, but something feels different. He has a strong urge to stand, and he feels the flow of energy in his legs. After a little bit of a struggle, he manages to stand on his feet. He smiles. The image of the brunette girl with pale blue is the only part of his fragmented past that he cherishes. Gradually, she takes over the boys mind; the middle - aged man with grey hair, the fat naked boy, the dangling corpse, and the crying woman all begin to fade away. What remains is the image of the girl with pale blue eyes. The boy remembers holding her in his arms, kissing her lips, whispering words in her ears. He remembers how he used to caress her soft skin and stroke her hair, and he remembers how much he used to care about her. A tear rolls down his cheek. He wishes that he could hold her in his arms one last time, and tell her that if the whole world was on fire, he would stay by her side to protect her from the flames. Even if he could not protect her from the flames, he would burn with her. He sighs and thinks to himself that present isnt so kind to him anymore. It is his past that comes to rescue him in his hour of darkness: the image of the girl with pale blue eyes, a piece of his distorted memories.

The boy in the bright blue jeans is happy. He closes his eyes and falls asleep with a smile on his face.

Games I'm looking forward to the most

This is just a quick list of the games that I'm looking foward to playing in the future. Keep in mind that this list could change after the E3 is over and everything is revealed, but for now, these are the games that I'm excited for: 

- Dark Souls II 

- Watch Dogs 

- Beyond Two Souls

- Bayonetta 2 

- MGS: The Phantom Pain 

- Batman: Arkham Origins 

- GTA 5 

- The Order: 1886 

I will post a more detailed blog about E3 when I have time. 

What are your most anticipated games? Feel free to comment below!