Marvel Filmverse - Who Deserves to be Next?

So I've been pretty busy lately and I'm not sure when I'll have the time to do another redbox review.  To not become completely dormant, I decided I'd post something that's been on my mind for a while.  Marvel's universe and the direction it should go.

So it's far from a secret that I just love the Marvel movies.  I think Avengers was a glorious moment for all of us who grew up idolizing men in tights, Captain America is just what this country could do with a bit more of, and Iron Man was what made me come back to comics after I'd just about completely abandoned them for being so damned serious all the time.  Now, with all the success and piles of money that the project is rolling in, we can expect to see a lot more than just the old standby heroes popping up.  We've already been promised an Ant-Man movie in 2015, which certainly has me excited, but there are heroes that I'd like to see and so far no luck.  So here we go, my list of the Marvel heroes that I think should be popping up in theaters before the steam runs out on this crazy train.  And yes, as I said above I am aware that Ant-Man is already coming to us, but as he hasn't been officially cast yet, I'm tossing out the best name for the job, so hopefully Joss is reading and will tell Marvel to do what I say, eh?

1. Ant-Man as portrayed by Alan Tudyk

Alan Tudyk is one of the greatest actors of our time and he is consistently relegated to the background.  From his well-known presence in Joss' own Firefly/Serenity, to his hilarious performance in Death at a Funeral, to his award-worthy work in Tucker and Dale VS Evil, this actor has proven that he has the chops to be as funny or as serious as the situation demands and that he can perform equally well in drama or action.  To make things even easier, he looks exactly like Hank Pym should and has the right natural manner to make us believe.  We know Ant-Man is coming and we know that Alan is on great terms with Joss, so here's hoping we see a tiny Tudyk in 2015.

2. Black Panther as portrayed by Lennie James

Black Panther is an obvious choice for Marvel's next collection of films.  In fact, it's so obvious the only reason I can think of why they aren't already making it is that they can't think of who to play the king of Wakanda.  Admittedly, it's a hell of a choice.  There aren't a lot of actors these days that could do justice to a character of such historical and contextual import.  I went through several possibilities including Denzel Washington, Idris Elba, and LeVar Burton, before I finally settled on Lennie James.  James is one of those actors that has a very different feel from his contemporaries.  After seeing his work in Jericho I came to the conclusion that he was the only actor today that could bring the right stuff to T'Challa on the big screen.  He isn't the king of badasses like a certain other big-name to sport an eyepatch in the franchise and he isn't so soft spoken as to simply disappear.  Instead he brings a quiet confidence that works well with the royal nature of the character.

3. Doctor Strange as portrayed by Liam Neeson

Perhaps an odd choice given the proclivity of at least partially scientific rules that the current Marvel movies are tending to stick to, I feel that Strange could be an excellent addition to the franchise, particularly opposite RDJ's exceptional Iron Man.  This is a character that needs to match wits with Stark and have more otherworldly presence than Thor.  I can think of no other actor that could do justice to the part except the debonair Liam Neeson.  His iconic voice, easy action presence, and masterful leadership ability make him the only real contender for the role of Marvel's sorcerer supreme.

4. Wasp as portrayed by Stana Katic

With the above mentioned Ant-Man film already on its way I cannot help but wonder if Marvel will provide us with an on-screen version of one of my favorite Avengers, Janet van Dyne, the Wasp.  She's obviously attached to Hank Pym and would be an energetic addition to the male-heavy Avengers lineup.  Her exuberance and her obvious love for being a hero means the role needs a female lead that can offer similar skills as those needed for Ant-Man.  To that end, I've nominated Stana Katic of Castle fame.  She is very skilled at portraying a strong female lead without feeling like we're looking at another Emma Frost.  I don't have a lot to defend this one, that's really it.  Looking at all the other actresses available today the only other one I think might be able to handle this would be Kate Beckinsale and as much as I am a fan, I just don't think she can do it.  Janet can't be an ice-queen badass.  She needs to be a woman, and Katic has what it takes.

5. Luke Cage as portrayed by Tyler Perry

This will undoubtedly be the one for which I get the most crap.  Luke Cage is an obvious movie choice for Marvel and will, if we're very lucky, come pre-packaged with Iron Fist.  They're fan favorites and with how much Marvel's on a roll right now, I think they'd have to really try to mess this up.  That said, there are a ton of options for casting Cage and the decision isn't nearly as difficult as it was for Black Panther.  Why then do I risk the farm on a character actor who already showed he can't handle action in the fantastic flame out that was Alex Cross?  Because I think he could do it and make it different from what all of Hollywood would expect it to be.  I'm not a Tyler Perry fan for the most part, though he has done a couple films that I've enjoyed, but I can promise you he wasn't wearing a dress in any of them.  No, what makes Perry my choice is the fact that he is a huge, imposing man with a presence that can only be described as cuddly.  He reminds me in some ways of Michael Clark Duncan, another truly great actor of our time and the man who I would've cast for this role if fate hadn't intervened.  Still, I think that Perry could bring a quality take on a role that would otherwise go to the actor formerly known as The Rock, which just shouldn't happen.  Please, Marvel, don't give Power Man to The Rock.  Please.  Pretty please.

And that's it.  No, I'm not about to suggest Carol Danvers.  Let her be well-written in the comics and maybe, but right now she would only damage the films and that's something we don't need.  Agree?  Disagree?  Have a hero you want to suggest?  Hate me forever?  Why not tell me in the comments?

Until we meet again, game well.


Edit: Images were removed due to copyright claim.  Ah well.  I guess people do notice this little silly blog that I only post on once every few months.


Redbox Review - Bioshock Infinite PS3

Hello all. Strormer here and this is the Redbox Review for Bioshock Infinite. So I'll admit right off the bat that I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to do this review. Bioshock Infinite is a game that has been reviewed an analyzed just about to death, but the redbox near my apartment basically left me with this or Medal of Honor: Warfighter. So Bioshock Infinite it was. I'm going to go ahead and shorten the title to just Infinite both for conservation of characters and to avoid confusion when the inevitable references to Bioshock come up.

So this review will be a little different. There are plenty of places to go and hear about the extensive meta-narrative, gorgeous visuals, and enjoyable gameplay that makes Infinite a superb game, and I wouldn't want anything I'm about to say make you think that this is anything less than a superb game. In fact, this is the first game I've picked up that I've seriously been tempted to keep it for two days, breaking what amounts to the one rule I set up for these reviews only three in. This is one of those games where everything is so seamless that you can easily lose a few hours without realizing it, and that's wonderful if you've got the time and no one to berate you for spending as much time on a video game as they spend watching Duck Dynasty. No, what this review is going to tell you is how Infinite doesn't live up to its name.

I know what you're saying. “If it's so good, then why am I about to tell you how it fails to do what it sets out to do?” Well, because that's just it. To quote a famous internet personality, “like a variant of the uncanny valley effect, the closer to Portal perfection a game gets the more glaring the flaws become.” And now that I've reached my quotation mark limit I'll tell you why. Infinite does not set out to be Bioshock. Yes, it sets out to be a massive, deep, philosophical romp through an alternate conceptual reality wherein we examine our own social structures, but it doesn't want to be a tense game of exploration and horror. Infinite is a daring adventure in the skies and aims to give a sense of swashbuckling action.

So where does that leave us? Well, as far as a sweeping concept, Infinite doesn't do too poorly, although there are a number of places where it could've gone further. This is also where it really suffers from comparisons to Bioshock. Andrew Ryan was such a wonderful villain and the world held together so nicely in context that it was difficult for anything to measure up, In fact, after Bioshock 2 came out I figured they'd just stopped trying. Well, they tried, and they perhaps got as close as they were going to, but you still can't shake the feeling that you're not fighting a sinister plot as much as you're in a shooting gallery where all the targets are racists. Yes, the race issue is the central tenet for much of the plot, and yes it is handled with all the grace and subtlety of a level 2 barbarian at a formal dinner.

But if this is an Errol Flynn-esque action adventure then what we're really here for isn't just the plot and setting, but the combat, and in that I can say that Infinite exceeds or at least meets Bioshock's standard. At least it does on occasion when all the pieces fall in place. There are some spectacular fights where you really feel like a dashing hero leaping into the fray to save the day. Unfortunately these are few and far between and the connecting linear corridors of endless generic foes is such a slog that it sometimes decreases the enjoyment I get from using my sky-hook to rend my foes into bits. Almost. The combat is still visceral and the vigors, reskinned plasmids for those who don't already know, are versatile and entertaining enough to keep me playing around with them. Here again though, we find some glaring issues. Firstly, you get to carry two weapons which basically means you carry around your primary weapon that you'll be using for 99% of the game, and your monstrous heavy weapon that you reserve for bosses, and make sure you pick well because if you don't you'll be screwed like nobody's business. Often times I simply stuck with the same pistol I'd had since the beginning of the game and kept a peppermill in my back pocket for particularly large and relatively stationary enemies. The sad truth is that this problem could've been solved by adding a vending machine for various weapons to the game, not just weapon upgrades. The vigors helped keep me engaged, but ultimately even those got reduced to my two standby powers, shock and possession. By the way, 2K, bees are better than crows, but thanks for giving me something. Also, the menu is clear for the most part, but how to change out your vigors should be a little more clear. I went far too long into the game before I realized that I could change which vigors were equipped and how to do so. Still, I thought “duh” when I figured it out, so take that how you will.

This is all benefited greatly, however, by the presence of Elizabeth, who represents my feelings towards this game perfectly. Elizabeth is generally pleasant and convenient, keeping me alive in combat when I need it most, and does a great deal to turn what could've been one monstrous escort mission into exactly what it should've been. Action. Not action like Chuck Norris, but action as in a series of intentional interactions with the world. There is very little downtime and it is used to particularly good effect, deepening your connection to Elizabeth and her plight. Unfortunately, Elizabeth is also where the game falls apart the most. Her power to open holes in reality, theoretically offering endless possibilities for creative play, usually breaks down into one of three choices, item caches, mechanical allies, or hooks and cover. Now, forgive me Infinite, but that seems very finite to me, and not infinite at all. Still, I love her character. There was one moment in the game where she began to cry in huge, obnoxious sobs and I thought, oh no, here we go, so much for a strong female character, and then she turns around and goes to town on her opponent's head with a wrench like Gordon Freeman on a particularly bad day. In fact, the only thing that I feel could've made her character feel more strong and independent is if she had been able to join in combat, but her support role is good enough, I suppose. Also, one last nitpick; why the hell does she not pick up lockpicks. That makes no sense at all, from a player or designer perspective. Can't have her be too effective I suppose. Still... :P.

This all still adds up to a wonderful game that you should go out and buy right now, if you haven't already, or even if you have just so you can give it as a gift to someone who hasn't. Still, there's one last complaint I have to throw at Infinite. The handymen are not big daddies. They evoke not of the emotions that came with the big daddies. I don't feel for them, even when you tried so hard to make them sympathetic with that whole “they're people” micro-plot. I'm not scared when I see one. I'm not excited at the impending conflict. I'm bored and frustrated. In fact, most of the boss-tier foes feel more tedious than terrifying. This is perhaps why I tried to find the most efficient means available to dispatch them. I want to move on. I don't want to deal with these guys. That, more than all the shooting galleries in the world, makes combat slow down. I won't talk about the whole ghost thing, it's not worth mentioning. Suffice to say, enemies should not be a choice between inconsequential until they cluster-fu*k you or time-consuming bores. Remember, with swashbuckling comes fluidity. Don't just let me be that way, let my foes do the same. That makes things interesting.

Please, please, don't let this confuse you. Infinite is a truly great game and deserves all the praise it has garnered since its release. I would recommend buying it as soon as possible. It's pretty, deep, adventurous, and creatively anachronistic. Is it a good rental. I would say yes, provided you're willing to pay for two to three days, not just one. Could you beat it in a day? Yes, easily, but this is a game that should be given time. It deserves exploration. When you're actually playing, the small issues quickly fade into the background, but every so often you'll catch yourself thinking “what the hell?” Still, on balance, the moments where you catch yourself thinking, or shouting, “HELL YEAH” or “WHOA” more than make up for it. A solid game and exactly what you should expect as a successor to Bioshock. Now let's all go and burn our copies of Bioshock 2 and agree that it never happened. Until next time, game well!


Redbox Review - Dishonored PS3

Hello all. Strormer here with the Redbox Review for Dishonored. A little background on myself before I begin. I love stealth games. That is to say, I love having the option to stealth my way through an entire mission, either silently slaying all in my path or moving unnoticed through my foes without harming a one. I used to spend hours perfecting my runs through Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven (one of the most obnoxiously named games I've ever played) back in my old PS2 days. On occasion, I still dust off the old slim and play a couple of my favorite maps. Now, I've always known that the game had an impressive array of flaws, but the only one that always bothered me was that there was inevitably a fight or two in each level that forced you to come out of hiding, announce your presence, and then attempt to fight toe to toe when you had spent the entire rest of the mission leaping from shadow to shadow avoiding that exact situation. Often, the whole stepping out and announcing yourself part happened during a cutscene, leaving me with the strange feeling that the game was somehow attempting to apologize for all that stealth and put a nice Jet Li combat sequence in to let me know that the game was really all about the action. I hated this. I wanted a game where, if I so chose, I could go through the entire mission without ever being seen or confronting a soul. 

Now, other games have allowed me to use stealth in ways that old ninja-it-up could never have offered, and I have found that Bethesda has quite the soft spot for stealth-based characters. In fact, in Skyrim my stealth archer assassin was so stupidly invincible that I had to make a new character that was more vulnerable just to keep having fun. 

Bringing all this back around, I am pleased to say that Dishonored tickled that same old stealth bone that had gone unloved since the PS2. In fact, in many ways it's the exact game I've been waiting for. I always have the choice. If I want to make my way through the levels undetected, even by the “boss” at the end, that's my call. Moreover, the mechanic that allows me to render foes unconscious without killing them makes the overall effect of the stealth gameplay better. Of course, when I would mess up and get spotted, thus ruining my perfectly good score for that level, I found some truly sadistic pleasure in escaping, hiding, returning and knocking out the jackass that spotted me, just so I could carry his body away and toss it into a swarm of hungry rats. Now yes, this does point out one particularity of my experience with this game that will color this entire review. I replayed missions over and over until I managed to go through without killing a single foe or being seen even once. Needless to say, this took a bit of time, especially in the beginning, and I've only got the game for 24 hours during which I also have real-world responsibilities. Just keep that in mind as we move forward.

Now, aesthetically the game isn't what I would call gorgeous, or even moderately attractive. This game is a wallflower; not particularly attractive, but not hideous by any means. What this game does well, and very well at that, is keeping everything tied together nicely. Nothing in the levels felt out of place and everything fit so nicely with the mood that they were trying to set that I found myself enthralled in what amounts to just another in a long line of turn-of-the-century inspired steampunk distopias. This is nothing we haven't seen before, but I'd be hard pressed to say that it doesn't bring its own je ne sais quoi to the mixture. Leaving aside the seeming obsession the game has with whaling, the feel of the game almost makes me think that this world could be the distant, industrialized future of a world like that of The Elder Scrolls games. It's rich and brooding and feels like it's stepped out of a Doyle story with a ever so light sprinkling of Lovecraft. As a side note, it took me a bit to get accustomed to the menu and I can't say I'm a great fan of the control scheme, but all that is forgivable and, with a little practice, easily enough ignored. 

As for the story, the meat and potatoes of this gritty drama. Well, it's not awful. That said, it really wants to be awful. As far as I could get with my OCD-esque replaying of levels, nothing really jumped out at me that I haven't seen done before and in many cases better. There's just not much to say here. Without giving away any more than the trailer, a good man sees his liege and obvious love interest murdered before his eyes and her daughter kidnapped, then he is framed for the murder by some very generic and similar looking villains before he is led to escape by a group of rebels who want to overthrow the usurper and restore the kidnapped girl as rightful heir, and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I know this story, it's old hat. Now, for the gameplay and a few genuinely entertaining characters, it's certainly no deal breaker, and I can always hold out hope for a less trite ending, but I honestly don't expect anything more. It's like a J.J. Abrams film. You go in, you get exactly what you're expecting with no real surprises or anything that rises above mediocrity, and then you go home, temporarily satiated, but not truly satisfied. The story is held together only by the detail to which the world has been crafted around it, making the exploration experience all the more satisfying, if still leaving you trying to remember why exactly you cared about the whole MUST HAVE REVENGE plot that attempts to be the driving theme of the game. 

Overall, I would recommend it, but I would say, if this is your kind of game, go ahead and buy it. It's enjoyable for the long-haul, and I see myself keeping this one around the same way I do Tenchu, never fully replaying the game, but occasionally going back and running a favorite mission or two and then putting the memories to rest. It's dark and brooding and it does stealth in a really great way, but if you're here for the deep storyline, you might keep looking. That said, for any who, like me, love their stealth games, buy this now! There is so little in the market today that really feeds that stealth niche and the developers should be rewarded for turning their sights to an audience that isn't interested in assault rifles and chest-high walls. As a quick rental, though, I think you'll find yourself either frustrated that you didn't get as far as you'd like, or be wholly disappointed with the whole experience because you don't have the time to truly invest in the experience. 

In either case, I hope the delay wasn't too terrible and I look forward to reviewing for you again soon. I'm considering Bioshock Infinite, but I feel that ground has been rather thoroughly trod, not that TR and Dishonored weren't, so if anyone has a suggestion that is currently living in a Redbox, I'd be happy to look it up and see if I can't seek it out. As always, please read, respond, and return.

Game well, my friends.


Re: The JC Penny's Effect

Hello all. Sorry for the long wait, but as usual real life has butted into my internet time. Today's post is actually a transcription of an e-mail sent to the folks down at Extra Credits in response to their most recent episode. Just felt like sharing. I'll have a new redbox review up soon for Dishonored. Until then, enjoy. I have always found something more rewarding about crafting gear than about collecting random loot. Still, I think a hybrid of this system might be the best possible option. I would propose keeping the component drop system, but add specific quests/marks that would result in special "legendary" items. In this way, you can continue building your own arsenal, but the idea that if I work hard enough I can acquire something so incredible, it doesn't happen every time I play. I say this because I've ended up playing tons of rpg's where I would collect a disgusting amount of loot that was either not of interest to me, or completely useless for my character. In times like this, I found that I wouldn't even look at most of the loot I gathered and would instead just sell off my lootsac and buy whatever I wanted. This is why I was so pleased when crafting systems started becoming more prevalent. By building my own gear, I felt like I'd put something personal into my creation. The only thing I would emphasize for a system centered around crafting is to make sure that the crafting options allow for a great deal of customization with each build. Take Skyrim as an example, yes not an mmo, but still valid. In Skyrim the crafting options were nice and fit well into the game, but in the end, I was only making the same stuff that I could find out in the world. Now, if I could've crafted (without modding) a suit of daedric armor that was tinted green rather than red, or a suit of mail with a unique surcoat over it, that would've made it feel so much more personal. This is important to players. It's why we spend so much time playing with the character creation screens of our favorite rpg's and get so upset when the dozens of sliders barely alter anything at all on screen, knowing full well that we'll most likely be covering up all of that work with the first helmet that we find. Taking the time to make the crafting system highly customization focused is perhaps the best way I know of to transform a system where the player thinks "all I got was this stupid ore" into one where she thinks "oh yeah, now I'm going to make that golden armor with the giant horns on it just like I pictured!" In either case, I haven't studied this position, but I am a gamer and an anthropologist so this is my somewhat informed opinion. YMMV. Thanks for the chance to add some input to your study, guys, and for always having a great insight for us every week. Game well, -Strormer


Redbox Review - Tomb Raider PS3

Hello, Strormer here and this is the redbox review for the 20th of August, 2013. Today's subject is Tomb Raider for the PS3. The first thing I want to comment on is actually a problem that I'm noticing for just about every game I see these days. The moment I put in the game it needed to be patched to version 1.03. I want to say that I totally understand that if there's a problem that presents itself after release it should be addressed and I'm grateful that we live in an era where such problems can be corrected easily, I'm just a little put off that a relatively brand new release needs to be patched as soon as I pick it up. Moving along, once the game started up I found the menu visually generic. There wasn't much there and what was was the kind of thing you'd expect from any game in this genre. Still, don't judge a book by it's cover, right? I started up the new game and, summarizing, I have to say I quite enjoyed the cinematics starting off the game. It worked to set up a quality tutorial and give me a feeling of impetus that segued quite well into the overall tone of the game. The tutorial went quickly and only introduced skills I would actually need for the beginning portion of the game, taking time to teach other skills later on as they come into play. The game play was quite intuitive, though Lara still handles as well as she ever has. It's like she's got some horrible inner ear problem causing her to stumble around rather wildly. I had little trouble getting used to her, though, and soon found myself navigating the island with ease. There is a strange feeling that you're supposed to be moving around with some degree of stealth, but as you play Lara crashes through walls, causes several massive explosions, and generally destroys the ruins that dot the landscape. She regularly draws the attention of many foes, which come in increasingly large groups as the story moves forward. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to sneak up and stealth kill foes if that's how you like to do things. (Like I tend to.) The story itself is fairly trite, but well done. The character of Lara actually feels like a human, or at least a Hollywood human. The moments where she shows fear and doubt are genuinely moving and, if you've played the previous games in the franchise, you can see quite clearly how she could become such a badass. The supporting cast is mostly worthless and the enemies are such generic and obvious mooks that it's practically laughable to kill them. This compounds the break in suspension of disbelief when Lara, who had only just freaked out at being forced to kill one person, starts mowing down hordes of foes without batting an eyelash. I managed about half completion, according to the game's internal tracker, though I could have easily managed more if I hadn't stopped to explore. The truth is, though, that the exploration is the best aspect of this game. There are dozens upon dozens of collectables and challenges in each area of the island, and they do a great deal to remind you that this is, after all, a Tomb Raider game. The best aspect of this element lies in the hidden tombs that are spread across the map. These puzzle dungeons are a fun break from the expected cover-based shooting that makes up most of the story mission. Lastly, there is a multiplayer mode that is so incredibly generic it could be pulled from any modern shooter from the past decade. Still, it is at least as good as you'd expect and if that's what you're looking for in this game, you get at least a marginal nod, though if this mode is what you're playing for there are plenty of other games that do it the same or better that might work better for you. Overall though, I really enjoyed Tomb Raider and have officially put it on my to-buy list so that I can complete the story and find all the little collectables. I've given a lot of thought to how I'm going to rate these games, and I've decided that I don't want to use any numerical system, so take this for what it is. If I had the money to spend, I'd buy Tomb Raider, but I can expect to be selling it after I've completed the challenges because I see very little here for replay value. Still, that's an endorsement by my estimate. Game well, my friends. -Strormer

Redbox Reviews

Alright, so this post was actually supposed to go up quite a bit earlier, but due to problematic internet connections and various time-consuming issues it's going up now. I am beginning a series of intermittent game reviews called the Redbox Reviews. These reviews are pretty simple to understand. I'll pick a game currently available in my local Redbox, rent it, and play it as much as I am able for the one day I have it. I will return it before 9pm the next night and then I'll review as much of the game as I was able to get through. I have no intention of rushing through any of the game and I will play at my own pace, which will probably be slightly slower than an average gamer as I like to explore and take my time through each area. This may or may not factor into my review, depending on how much game I actually play. My focus will be on the gameplay itself, the narrative, and any additional modes which deserve note (such as a multiplayer deathmatch mode). I have no schedule to these reviews, but I will try to post them regularly, depending on the time I have to put towards a day spent playing and if I have the two bucks to spend that week (which I should, really, I mean, it's only $2). I hope these are enjoyable. -Strormer