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    • Top 30 Films (Part 3).

      5 months ago


      Oh my GOODNESS MEEEE, EVERY BODDDYYYY. We've reached the END. The end of this 3 week EPIC* (*Disclaimer: Not actually epic) countdown of my favourite films of ALlllLL TiIiIiIMMe...currently...at the specific time where I correlated the rankings...this is a very changeable kinda thing, but all the same IT'S TIME FOR THE TOP 10 FILMS, specifically MY TOP 10 FILMS. WOW.

      As should be obvious, this is part 3 to a trilogy of blogs, so if you haven't read them yet, go check out Parts 1 and 2 on my page. For that reason also, I will not be repeating the rules of specifics of this list again, as you can check those all out in Part 1. All that's left to do now is get on with the blog, so heeere we goooooo.

      10. The Matrix (1999).

      Oh me, oh my, it's Keanu Reeves, and he can fly! Ending the previous millennium with a cinematic bang, The Matrix slow motion wall flipped onto the scene and changed the game for science fiction and action movies in the years that followed. Sure, the two films that followed up this one left a lot to be desired, and indeed, The Wachowski's have never quite managed to top, or even equal their breakout directorial hit since, but that doesn't take away from just how gamechanging The Matrix was, and just how damn good the film remains to this date, where it's now celebrating its 20th anniversary (I know, I know, it's depressing). The premise is simple...just kidding, it's exceedingly complicated and weird. Keanu Reeves is an office worker by day, computer hacker by night, who goes by the nickname of Neo. He starts to question the nature of his life after encountering strange individuals and mysterious murmurs online...and as often is the case, he soon finds himself tumbling down a rabbit hole where he discovers mankind has been reduced to cattle, reality as we know it being a virtual construct used by machines in the future to keep us alive and active, in order to harvest our energy to power themselves. Natch. Neo joins a (At the time seemingly) ragtag bunch of humans who've escaped from 'The Matrix' and now attempt to free humanity from their machine overlords, acting both inside the program, and outside in the real world. Their leader, Morpheus believes Neo to be 'THE ONE', a being who can potentially control the system and eventually take it down. So yeah, shit's gonna go down. We got Jesus allegories, we got backflips, sister, we GOT IT ALL. It's...it's THE FUCKKINNG MATTRIIXX.

      The Matrix works so well as a film due to multiple things. It's interesting in premise, it's stylish as fuck, it's full of fun sequences and characters, the action is insane, and the premise is initially confusing but also completely understandable. It's a unique and impossible film to imitate (Even in its sequels I may add), many have tried, but none have succeeded. Importantly, it doesn't take itself too seriously, playing out as pulpy sci-fi fun, rather than the melodramatic and overburdened antics of the two films that followed. The special effects continue to be mind blowing to this day, for the most part at least, the use of multi-camera and slow motion photography, practical effects and bombastic framing make for some shots that you really have to wonder how they achieved back in 1999. The film makes full use of its sci-fi premise, where people who are aware they are living in a simulation can use that to their advantage, gaining extensive firearms/vehicular knowledge in moments, and bending the world around them to their needs, making doors where none had been before, stocking up with dozens of weapons at a time, harnessing superhuman abilities and..oh yes, wearing the sickest leather trenchcoats and latex pants this side of a Marilyn Manson concert. Using these advantages to fight Agents, programs within the simulation who can be anyone, anywhere, and are seemingly impossible to kill. It's a grungy, green-tinted action epic the likes of which you've never seen...providing you haven't already seen it, which I'd imagine you have. So break out your trendy late 90s flip-phones, put on your needlessly reflective glasses, and get WATCHIN'.

      9. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit (2005).

      Here they are, here's Aardman again. We previously talked Chicken Run, but now we're going back to the pair that launched the British studio to international fame, and simultaneously going forward...to their follow-up feature to Chicken Run, the horror spoofing CURSE OF THE WERERABBIT. Wallace & Gromit is one of animations best film series', and whilst Curse of the Wererabbit isn't their finest outing (The Wrong Trousers, as previously ranked on my W&G blog a year ago would hold that honour for me), it's their only feature length adventure, and it's also a damn good one at that. Of course it helps, for me, that this specific installment of the franchise is a homage to horror, more specifically of the British, Hammer variety. Naturally, the film is anything but scary, this is an Aardman production after all, instead the film lampoons the genre in camp, crude fashion, with the studios trademark comedic signage and little details doing the heavy lifting where it comes to actual horror parodies. All that said, it also manages to capture the unique atmosphere and lighting of the genre in a way you'd think was impossible for a stop motion production, the legendary Nick Park at the height of his directorial powers in this entry. 

      As it stands, and like with Chicken Run, I've already written about this film recently thanks to my Aardman double-bill last year, so I'll keep the summary as brief as I can. Long story short, Wallace & Gromit are humane pest controllers dealing with a rabbit infestation, in a village of prize vegetable growers. It's a lucrative business where the simpleton villagers will pay any price to protect their produce, but with the bunny population starting to overwhelm, Wallace decides to try brainwashing them into disliking vegetables with his new invention. Of course. Naturally, there's a BRAIN MELDING CALAMITY and suddenly there's a giant rabbit monster terrorising the town gardens in the dead of night. Throw in a love triangle, a dastardly villain and an angry village mob counting down to the town vegetable competition, and you've got yourself one crazy ass romp. It's beautifully animated, wonderfully scored and endlessly charming in a way only Aardman, and Wallace & Gromit specifically can manage to be...all the while making as many vegetable innuendos as possible along the way. A deserving Oscar Animated Feature winner, Curse of the Wererabbit is an endlessly rewatchable film for me, and my all time favourite full length animation...although Chicken Run does give it a run for its money, I'll admit. Thus is the power of Aardman in their prime.

      8. Inception (2010).

      It was only a matter of time until Christopher Nolan turned up, right? One of modern cinemas most relevant directors, and IMDBs fantasy boyfriend, Nolan has made some of the most iconic features of recent times, and Inception is possibly his biggest contribution to original cinema to date, the ship that launched a thousand BWAAAAAAA's. Yes, the concept of dream exploration has been done before, and yes, I'm aware of Paprika...and that...Ducktales comic(?), but Inception is still a wholly original film, and an epic one that. Leonardo di Caprio plays Domnick Cobb, a 'extractor' for hire who, along with various other individuals, is hired by corporations to enter the subconsciousness' of their competitors and extract valuable information without leaving a trace, thanks to experimental tech that lets them enter and control dreamscapes. Cobb is also on the run from the law, accused of murdering his wife and as such is unable to enter the United States, or see his children. One businessman approaches him with the desire to not extract, but implant something in the mind of a man who's recently inherited his deceased fathers business empire. If he succeeds in this task, he'll have his criminal charges dropped, and be able to see his family again. As such, the stakes are high, and after banding together a group of the best incepterrrrs in the field, Cobb and his team embark on a literally mind-bending voyage of the mind, facing some all too real inner demons along the way. It's a fantastic premise, delivered in a grand style that only Nolan can seem to provide, with an ending that swells with emotion, and then delivers cinema's biggest audience-wide groan of mild frustration, and then amusement.

      Inception has a great premise, and a great cast, but what really makes it a modern classic is its sheer scale and spectacle. As with most Christopher Nolan movies, it's easy to find and pick holes in the larger than life premise, but none of those potential pitfalls get in the way of the entertainment on offer, I feel at least. As the team descend into the deeper and deeper levels of the dream world, the different scenarios and situations begin to effect each other, whilst the team sleep peacefully on a long-haul flight, the next level down there's a frantic car chase being undertaken, the level under that is then affected by the bumpy ride above, leading to an innocent looking hotel corridor becoming a spiraling whirlwind of chaos, which itself causes an avalanche in the snowy fortress that dwells one dream level below. The film becomes multiple sequences occurring simultaneously, albeit within different frames of time, the further down you get, the slower each second of the real world is perceived, meaning any calamities that occur on the level above will have longer implications for the one below. It's multiple thriller sequences fighting each other across simultaneous planes of existence, and the team also need to synchonise their return journeys (A 'kick' lurching them out of each respective level of dream) if they want to succeed in their mission, and make it out 'alive' in the process. It's genius, and makes for fast-paced, thrilling viewing. It's also beautifully filmed, and features one of the most incredible film scores of all time, Hans Zimmer creating a wholly unique and influential soundscape that can both overwhelm with sheer noise, and then also bring a tear to your eye with its swelling beauty. It's an incredible work of cinema, and although its success has led to some somewhat cynical over-examination by film folks, that does not prevent it from being a masterpiece of a sci-fi thriller. A multi-layered mind heist. How often can you say that about a film.

      7. Drive (2011).

      I love a good crime caper, me. I also love car chases, violence (in movies at least), aesthetically strong cinema, and memorable soundtracks. As such, it's pretty easy to immediately understand why I adore Drive, the arthouse romantic crime drama that pissed off a few, but pleased a great many more upon is release in 2011. It's also the film that made a name out of Nicolas Winding Refn, a talented director who's since gone on to make absolute shit in the years that followed, using this film as the clout he needs to make the films he wants to make...which are apparently, all awful. That doesn't take away from Drive, though, a film that's rightfully gone on to become a cult classic and helped make its star, Ryan Gosling a household name. In the film, Gosling plays the 'Driver', a nameless, practically silent protagonist who does movie stuntwork by day, and does getaway driving by night. His life of crime is operated on a very specific series of rules, he doesn't get involved with the crime, he doesn't carry a gun, and if you aren't back in the car at the 5 minute mark, you're on your own. He's the best at what he does, but all that falls to the wayside when he meets Irene, the lady next door who's husband is currently in prison. The two develop a semi-romantic relationship, being the surrogate father to her child in the process. It all sounds too perfect for him, and it is, and soon enough his love, work and criminal lives collide in a violent fashion that risks him losing it all, and possibly even his life in the process.

      Drive could well have been your standard, fast paced crime thriller, and many argued that it was even marketed that way (I'd disagree but there you go), but to MAKE A CAR RELATED METAPHOR, it keeps things in a much lower gear for most of its running time, playing out as a slow motion car crash, full of sweeping and melodic sequences where all the many narrative pieces are calmly put into place, only for the 3rd act to violently tear them to pieces in spectacular, heartbreaking fashion. That said, there's a constant undercurrent of dread that creeps up throughout the film, a reminder that even if things seem to all be going swell, there's still menace lurking just around the corner of the road, with Gosling's quiet and gentle natured Driver himself hiding a dark and dangerous streak that threatens to explode out at any minute. All that said, Drive manages to be a film that's beautiful even in its most violent moments, often pairing beauty with the beast, so to speak, in order to make that violence all the more potent. One of the films most iconic scenes involves a final lovers kiss that seems to warp the world around the kissers in an almost fairy-tale fashion, only for this to immediately be followed by one of cinemas most crunchy boots to the face, bringing things down to earth (Literally, since it takes place in a lift, HO HO) again in a terrifyingly gory way. As it stands, Drive is an understandably acquired taste, I get why some people don't like it...or at least don't love it on the same level, when you apply arthouse sensibilities to a film it automatically becomes harder to swallow, depending on the balance, but for me Drive is an almost perfect crime film...engaging, twisty, violent and visually poetic, relying less on dialogue and more on expression to tell its story, with a score that shines both in its original uneasy tunes and its licensed jukebox collection, put to specifically excellent use in the films opening sequence and credits. Also Ryan Gosling is a handsome boy, y'know? It's got that going for it too.

      6. Psycho (1960).

      The first of several obvious inclusions to this end of the list...of course Psycho was going to turn up, right? I mean, its memorable final scene became my avatar for this very site (Well, ScrewAttack originally), now with a more...reptilian flare to it. It's also an iconic, gamechanging classic of cinema, and specifically horror, which as you'll have worked out across this list, is a favourite of mine. All that said, I'm not actually the biggest fan of Alfred Hitchcock's library. Don't get me wrong, he's made some real corkers, but there's also a few of his most treasured works that I really don't think all that highly of (Vertigo and The Birds to name but two), and there's even more of them I haven't even seen...hell, the guy made a lot of films across his some 40 years of working, I'LL GET AROUND TO IT, LEAVE ME ALONE. Anyway, my point is, Psycho wasn't guaranteed a spot just because of its generally perceived pedigree, I don't always find myself agreeing when it comes to Hitch...but yeah, I think Psycho's pretty bloody great. Bit of a longwinded way of saying it, admittedly. The original slasher comfortably remains one of the best.

      To talk about the story of Psycho is to let unfurl one of Hollywood's greatest twists...but frankly if you don't know it by this point, that's kinda your fault, bub, the film's almost 60 years old, YA FOOL. We start out following the misadventures of Marion Crane, a secretary who's entrusted with a large sum of money by her boss, and decides to steal it and run off to be with her boyfriend, encountering suspicion from the police along the way before winding up stopping at the remote Bates Motel for one, rainy, fateful night. It's here she meets Norman Bates, the gentle but off-putting motel manager who through a somewhat awkward conversation, convinces Marion to turn back and try to escape from the personal trap she'd placed herself in. Of course, the rest is history, and after the most iconic showering in all of history, the film changes gears, no longer about Marion, but instead about Norman Bates, and his attempts to cover up Marion's murder, protecting his mysterious mother in the process. Once again, not everything is as it seems, and what ensues is a slowburn game of cat and mouse, with a truly killer ending. It's a masterwork of suspense, beautifully filmed in black and white, steeped in menacing shadows that offer an advanced warning of the terrible fate that awaits Marion in the first half, before becoming a constant companion to the dark mystery that follows in the second. The real star of the show is Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, of course, giving a disarmingly charming, but frequently unnerving performance that's one of the most memorable in cinema. Psycho would've been a good film without him, but it's a masterpiece as a result of his grand work. And who can forget the score? Oh man, the score. Shrieking shower sequence aside, it's a orchestra of menace and panic that works perfectly with the visual atmosphere to create a film that remains haunting and engrossing long after its big twists are revealed. You won't believe this, but Psycho is a good film. It's...CRAZY...aho...get it? Cuz...Psycho. Okay. Moving on.

      5. Alien (1979).

      OH SHIT, one of the most obvious inclusions in this ranking, and the hardest to talk about since I've kinda gone on about Ridley Scott's horror masterpiece in great detail a great many times, one very recently. And I mean...what's there left to say about Alien? It's impact on cinema, the horror genre, and pop culture is well known, and beyond its influential nature, it's just a damn good movie. It made a star of Sigourney Weaver, it put Ridley Scott on the directorial map and made the late, great and weird HR Giger the cult icon he deserved to be...the weirdo, thanks to his unforgettable design work on the alien ship, and ...oh yes, that big, phallic Xenomorph, which remains one of cinemas most famous monsters. It's scary, exciting, dark, visually creative and surprisingly funny. It's just GREAT, and I've already stated that many times before, so let's moooooove on.

      4. Children of Men (2006).

      Alfonso Cuaron has already featured on this list for the excellent Gravity, and in that entry I mentioned how knowing he was the director made it an instant must-see for me. The reason for that is Children of Men. Holy shit, Children of Men. One of the most criminally underrated films of modern times, this epic, British-set dystopian thriller is as gritty and dark as they come, and it's all the better for it. Released in 2006, but set in the 'not too distant' future of 2027, Children of Men sees humanity on the brink of collapse, 18 years after, for unknown reasons, our species became infertile. Naturally, an increasingly aging world without the prospect of further children is quite the shitty one, the global economy is in the toilet, most of the world's governments have collapsed, and Britain, one of the few surviving political powers is a state of immigrant segregation, police oppression and readily available suicide pills. We follow divorced, grieving bureaucrat Theo Faron as he's recruited by his activist ex-wife to help a young refugee flee the country, it becoming rapidly clear that she could be humanity's last, best hope for the future. What follows is a lifechanging journey across the depression ravaged country, meeting a host of unusual individuals along the way, some who can be trusted, but many who cannot. It's a journey into darkness, but with glimmers of hope and beauty, exploring the lengths we'll go in order to survive, both individually and as a species, which makes Children of Men a far less bleak experience than it could've easily been.

      That's not to say Children of Men isn't bleak, it's not a fun ride for sure. From the explosive opening sequence it's clear that the film is treating its high concept sci-fi premise with a huge degree of realism, the near-apocalyptic premise taking a narrative backseat to an all too familiar looking war-torn, fascist ruled landscape, this time brought right to our western societal doorstep. This is a world of broken people living on the very edge of potential annihilation, and that's why so many are willing to put everything on the line to get Kee, the previously mentioned refugee out of the country, and into the hands of people who can potentially save the future of the human race. As I said, there is beauty and awe to be found throughout, helped by Cuaron's magic directorial touch, those trademark long shot takes being put to their greatest use in this film, with a lengthy 3rd act sequence proving to be one of modern cinemas most powerful and breathtaking moments. The performances all around are top notch, everything from Clive Owen's stoic, broken lead, to Michael Caine's weird stoner (and also broken) character providing memorable and often heartbreaking moments. The soundtrack is exceptional too...honestly, there's not a lot about Children of Men that isn't outstanding, whisking you along on a unforgettable journey through a brilliantly realised dystopian future, giving you enough information to keep you engaged, but never so much that you feel above the protagonists you're desperately scrambling along the cracked, decaying streets of Britain with. It's a modern masterpiece, and one you desperately need to check out if you haven't already...just be prepared for an emotional ride.

      3. Heat (1995).

      Oh maaaan...Oh MICHAEL MANN (Gettit), this whole Top 5 is getting me pumped as hell. Although I am pretty comfortable with my #1 entry, the four that precede it could easily be placed in any order, I just did the best I could do to choose a preference. As I said previously with Collateral, I'm a fan of Mann...ahheuh....and there's no greater contribution to cinema from him than his 1995 crime masterpiece, HEAT. Marketed at the time as a clash of the cinematic titans, in its bringing of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together in the same film, face to face, for the first time. That might not mean much now, when Al Pacino is doing fake Dunkin Donut adverts for Adam Sandler, and De Niro is....somewhere, I'm not sure where actually...but in the 90s? This was an event not to be missed by any cinephile...not that I would've known at the time, I was two years old. I obviously watched it quite a bit later, where the novelty of those two colliding was mostly lost on me...and the thing about Heat is that, 90s cheese aside, it works because of, and as well as those core performances, perhaps the last real tour de force role for the both of them. Heat is an epic and complex crime drama that is fantastic broadly because of the cast involved, but at the same time, when those two sit across from each other in that iconic diner scene, it's not exciting because of who they are, it's exciting because of the story, and the characters they are playing. In 2019, Heat isn't a must-watch because of the two lead men, it's a must-watch because it's just fuckin' good cinema.

      The film is a tale of two individuals who reside on opposite sides of the law. De Niro a highly skilled criminal with a code of isolation, the idea that you shouldn't commit yourself to anything in life that you aren't able to leave behind forever at a moments notice, should the circumstances call for it, one he finds himself breaking as he falls in love with a random woman he meets in a diner. Pacino is a world-weary 'Major Crimes Unit' Lieutenant trying to track down and apprehend De Niro and his heist crew, all whilst dealing with a collapsing marriage and a stepdaughter that's suffering in the middle of him and his wife's turmoil. The two have both let their personal lives fall apart in constant pursuit of the next 'job', and upon finally encountering each other, find themselves feeling a great deal of mutual respect, one that comes with the grim caveat that, should the moment call for it, both would not hesitate to kill the other if it means surviving themselves. It's a gleefully complex protagonist/antagonist relationship, and the film spends ample time with both party to flesh out both their character, and the ample roster of supporting characters on both sides. At its core, this is a film about a cop trying to catch a robber, but as a film, it is so much more than that. There's some great action sequences, the city shootout and its realistic soundscape in particular being a highlight, but really it's the performances, writing and atmosphere that make this film a real classic. So much of it is spent in the LA landscape late into the night, scored to grungy, tortured guitars and moody licensed music, spending time with the different characters and exploring their personal problems more than it does the heists and gunplay. At nearly 3 hours in length, it's an crime epic in the very literal sense, and parts of it maybe haven't aged as well as others...but really...Heat is just some exceptional cinema, there's really nothing like it out there. A fantastic neo noir thriller, and a character study of mutually appreciative, flawed individuals, both of whom have the other in their gun's sights, whilst knowing their own time may be numbered. Also, Pacino says GREAT AAAAAAAAASSSSSS at one point, and that's really something.

      2. The Dark Knight (2008).

      Given the current comic book movie landscape, it's hard to imagine that just over 10 years ago, the concept of a film making a billion dollars at the box office, and a comic book movie being one of the most acclaimed, talked about films of the year was a surprise. Nowadays if a tentpole superhero release doesn't make upwards of a billion financially, it's often considered a disappointment, and comic book movies are regularly among the highest reviewed, most notable releases of their respective years. Of course, it's also hard to imagine that the acclaimed, award winning $1 Billion movie was be a DC property as well. But here we are, with The Dark Knight, the film that ruined DC and a lot of blockbuster cinema for years to come, but stands itself as possibly the finest of its genre, at least in my opinion. Often the middle film of a trilogy is the weakest, stuck as a halfway house between the exciting origins and explosive finale, but that's very much not the case with Christopher Nolan's gritty, semi-grounded trilogy take on the caped crusader, which is great all across the board (In my opinion, I know Rises is pretty divisive), but truly shines in its second round. With the origin story out of the way, The Dark Knight plays as a mostly self-contained experience, referencing aspects of Batman Begins without also being chained to it. It stands by itself as a masterpiece of the action/crime/thriller/comic book genres, and yes...this list is really showing how much I like most of those boxes being ticked.

      The Dark Knight sees Bruce Wayne and Batman at the height of their respective powers in Gotham, and basically chronicles the downfall of them both across the course of the film...uh...spoilers, I guess? Of course, there is no Batman villain better suited to bringing the hero, and his city to their knees than the Joker, played, obviously, by Heath Ledger, who gives an astonishing, award winning performance, one that would sadly be his last, the circumstances of his death relating to the dark role he plays in this film remaining a dark patch on an otherwise exceptional cinema experience. As with the previous entry on this list, it's the dynamic between Batman and Joker that really sets the thing alight, a man who lives by a strict, honorable code pitted against a psychopath without boundaries, hellbent on proving to his adversary that deep down, he's no better. The Dark Knight is a film that's just wall to wall brilliant moments, opening with a gloriously choreographed heist sequence which perfectly introduces this new, very different take on the Joker, and not really coming off the cinematic gas after that point. Trucks flip, hospitals explode, faces are two'd, pencils are made to...disappear and morality is tested by both tragic deaths and high stakes hostage situations, all exquisitely filmed by Nolan and his cinematographer Wally Pfister, and exceptionally scored by the masterful Hans Zimmer. It's a beautifully made film with jaw-dropping action sequences, memorable performances (particularly by Ledger of course) and a blisteringly thrilling ending that really packs a punch as the film smashcuts to black, and the credits start rolling. I know some people have had their impressions of this film soured over time, but for me it remains just as magnificent as the day I first watched it in awe back in Summer 2008. It left a huge impression on me, and helped truly blossom my love of complex and mature cinema, which obviously, I retain even moreso to this day. It's just a fucking great time, a film I could watch again and again quite happily, gravelly Batman voice and all.

      1. Aliens (1986).

      Yep, it's Aliens. Big shock, huh? The biggest hurdle I faced when planning this list was grappling with the fact that....the number 1 choice was blindingly obvious to anyone who's ever known me. I've not exactly been subtle about the fact that I view this film as my favourite of all time, I even said so in my Alien/Predator ranking blog last year...which also has left me in the position where I have to end my epic(?), 3 part movie countdown on a film that...really I don't have a lot more to say about. I feel like I've been praising this movie since I started regularly blogging 7-8 years ago...like...it's Aliens? I love it to bits? It's got everything I love in a film that isn't a complex crime drama where the morality and ambiguity of different sides of the law are explored in a neo noir, grungy setting ...cuz that's not really this film's style. Aliens has everything else ticked though, it's an action horror movie, expertly directed, wonderfully scored (Courtesy of the late, great James Horner) with a great lead performance and a roster of memorable characters, sequences and iconic lines. I love the Xenomorphs, I love Ripley, Burk can kiss my ass, that Ripley vs Queen fight is one for the ages.

      I could gush and gush and gush. But I'll restrain myself, as I did with the similarly excellent Alien earlier. I just love Aliens, I know it's not the most intelligent or 'film buff' kinda choice to make, but y'know...fuck that, I guess? I don't love cinema the way I do, and enjoy the films I do to come across as an expert on the medium, or to make some fellow film enthusiast nod in quiet satisfaction as I pick a new wave French art-house flick as my all time favourite (Not that there's anything wrong with liking those either), what makes me such a fan of cinema is because there's so many places it can take you. I can adore 90 minutes of mindless carnage just as much as I can be riveted by a thoughtful 3 hour indie drama. All genres and corners of cinema have the capacity to be exceptional, and inspire audiences in so many different ways, there is no elevated genre or touchstone of high art. But none of that really matters, because Aliens is rad as fuck, so...yeah. The end? Cue Dark Knight'esque smashcut and an audience of disappointed readers slowly getting to their feet and making their way down the aisles, and out the exit. You missed the end-credits scene where I ask you to Zing the blog, assholes! 

      Well, that's it folks! Top 30 films ranked and written about. Hooowee, that was a big project to undertake, so I hope you enjoyed it, and better yet, it introduced you to something you haven't seen, and will maybe check out. That'd be awesome. Thanks to anyone who's read and shared these 3 blog entries around over the last few weeks, I really appreciate the support. As with the other two...if you enjoyed this final part, give it a ZING, post a comment with your thoughts on the entries, and your own favourites...and share it around the social medias if you'd like. I don't know when my next blog will be, but hopefully it won't be too long away...until then, LATER GATOOOORS.

    • Top 30 Films (Part 2).

      5 months ago


      Greetings y'all and welcome BACK to this, the futile ranking of my Top 30 Films. If you missed Part 1, which covered films 30-21, you can check that out RIGHT HERE, because this right here is Part 2. The halfway point in the ranking, and given the quality of the previous 10 entries? It's fair to say everything from here is going to pretty damn decent, at least in my opinion.

      Since I already went over the rules last time, I shan't bother doing it again here, let's just get right into it. MOVIES. MORE OF THEM. GO.

      20. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).

      When it comes to discussing classic British comedy, you can't get very far without mentioning the Monty Python troupe. Some of their output may not fly so much these days, but there's simply no denying the impact and quality of most of their work. In my mind I had a hard time picking between this, and Life of Brian for my favourite Monty Python film, and therefore the one in contention for this list...and whilst Life of Brian has some great moments, I think Holy Grail on a whole is the more consistently funny and quotable of the two. Why wasn't Meaning of Life involved, you ask? Well...just watch it and find out for yourself! Spoilers...it ain't so hot. Holy Grail however, is very hot...in a comedic way, not a sexy way....this analogy is escaping from me, let's continue. If you aren't familiar with Monty Python, here's a summary. They're a very silly group of people, who made TV sketches and feature films that are simply impossible to predict the course of. Sure, on paper Monty Python and The Holy Grail may sound straight forward...a comedy caper about a band of Arthurian knights going on a quest to find the legendary Cup of Christ, much as Indiana Jones did with is daddy that one time...but with Monty Python, it's never that simple, and things are going to get very weird, very quickly...like...opening credits quickly. And they aren't going to get less weird as the film merrily strides along.

      Holy Grail plays on a lot of medieval/fantasy movie tropes for comedic effect, but also sees about demolishing the entire cinematic experience in the process, to gleeful effect. Historical accuracy? Fuck it. Fourth wall? What fourth wall? Pointy toothed rabbits massacring the knights of the round table? Sure. This is a film where the epic monster chase (Presented in stunningly realistic paper cut out animation, naturally) is resolved because the sequences animator has a heart attack partway through. The sanctity of what is and isn't possible in a narrative, and within the framework of a movie is thrown well and truly out the window, and even when it isn't, the story is so over the top and silly with its characters, music and narration that you'll be hard pressed to not be cracking a smile from start to finish. It's a classic quotable comedy, to boot. Holy Hand Grenades, Knights who say N*, Sir Not Appearing in This Film...to name just a tiny few. That's one thing Holy Grail has over Life of Brian as well, the quotes. So many quotes. Like I said in the previous part of this list, I'm not an easily pleased guy when it comes to comedy films, but Holy Grail really does it for me. Just never expect John Cleese to be as funny in real life as he is in this film...that man...hoo...he's a real bore. Sorry, John.

      19. The Raid 2 (2014).

      Oooh, we got a bit of world cinema on this list. Very classy. Well...a world cinema...martial arts action crime epic. Let's not break out the fancy china just yet. The Raid, upon its release in 2011, became an immediate cult success story. Two hours of crazy, over the top, violent, exquisitely choreographed and beautifully filmed physical carnage. People loved it, and it's still considered one of the best of its genre to this day. The Raid 2? It got a lot of love, but nobody seems to talk about it in the same high regard these days. This is a real shame because The Raid 2 is leagues better than the original, upping the ante in every department, whilst adding an actual narrative in the process. It looks better, the scale is larger, the fights are bigger, more creative and, somehow, even more violent. It's everything you liked about The Raid, but set against the backdrop of an epic crime drama across the streets of Indonesia with actual characters and an actual story. It's fucking amazing, that's if you can stomach two and a half hours of adrenaline fueled bare knuckled ultraviolence...and subtitles. That's often the real kicker, let's face it. If you can get passed that language barrier, and are prepared to see some REAL SHIT, you're in for a right treat.

      The Raid 2 starts quite literally two hours after the first films conclusion, our protagonist Rama has survived the hell of the previously 'raided' tower block, only to soon wind up on an even more dangerous job, undercover in the world of crime lords and corrupt policing, forced to go through the crucible of a grimy and dangerous prison in order to prove his mettle and get an in with the bad guys. What ensues is your standard crime family dramatics, excelled by the previous films trademark flair for high octane fight scenes. In The Raid 2, basically everything is a weapon, broomsticks, baseballs, concrete, kitchens, hammers, cars, hell...even mud is a tool for brutal execution if hit in just the right way...which, given the nature of this film, you'll be shocked to hear is accomplished I'm sure. It's one of the most violent films I've ever seen, just in sheer levels of physical brutality. It's a staggering work of expert choreography, with some of the best martial arts actors in the business at the height of their somewhat intimidating powers. Beyond, but also including that carnage, the film is quite beautifully shot, and expertly framed to revel in every whince-inducing detail, forgoing the hyperactive shaky cam fights that had become common place by 2014. It's all capped off with an immensely satisfying conclusion that leaves the door wide open for The Raid 3, which I'm really excited to final-Oh...they aren't doing The Raid 3? Oh...okay...nn...moving on then.

      18. The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

      When you're the only horror film to win Best Picture at the Oscars, you've got to be pretty decent, right? And yes, it's a horror movie. Don't give me that "Um, it's actually a psychological thriller I'll have you know" bullshit, IT'S A PISSING HORROR MOVIE. Whenever a film in this genre gets close to some sort of actual recognition, people who don't want it to will immediately jump on the whole 'It's a thriller' bandwagon, it's ...BULLLLSHIT. If you think Hannibal Lecter and his body eating, skin wearing, awkwardly standing in his cell antics are anything less than horrific, I don't know what film you been watching matey. Regardless, Silence of the Lambs is brilliant, and a rightful classic of the genre. Hell, Red Dragon and Hannibal are both pretty decent films too, and the TV series? Hooowee, if you ignore the half a final season where it got lost up its own ass? Great stuff too. Clearly, Thomas Harris' writing is a gold mine of intriguing cinema, and I think we can all agree that Silence of the Lambs is the pinnacle of that potential being fulfilled...unless you're one of those crazy people who likes Manhunter....like me...albeit in a fun cheesy 80s kinda way.

      In case you're unaware, Silence of the Lambs sees FBI trainee Clarice Starling tasked with the somewhat daunting mission of interviewing Hannibal Lecter, an incarcerated cannibal serial killer who's disarming wit is only matched by his thirst for human flesh, and generally eerie demeanor. The purpose of the interviews? To gain insight on the still at large 'Buffalo Bill', another serial killer who skins his female victims and wears their flesh in a twisted attempt at self-transformation. Clarice and Hannibal develop a strange mutual respect for each other over the course of their limited time together (Despite his legendary performance, Anthony Hopkins doesn't actually have a lot of screen time in this film), but obviously not everything is at it seems, and as the stakes of the ongoing Buffalo Bill case rise, secrets are revealed, and things get a bit...out of hand with the whole Hannibal thing. As with Collateral in the previous list, part of what makes this film so engaging is the unusual relationship between the protagonist and antagonist...or at least, one of them. From the perspective of seeing this film blind, the viewer has never seen what things Hannibal has actually done, and whilst he's a creepy fella for sure, he comes across as charming and calm, a stark contrast to the brutal acts he commits prior to his off-screen incarnation, and later on. Clarice herself is both brilliant and determined, but also naive and just a little foolhardy in her solitary pursuit of Buffalo Bill, and it's often hard to tell if she really is the right one for the job, or if Hannibal is just leading her towards a terrible fate for his own twisted entertainment. Beyond that, the film feels unique and eerie in its presentation, slow, unnerving first person perspective camera work is used quite often to great effect, and the music never fails to put you in a state of unease. It's just a terrific film, both as a crime drama and...yes...YES, a horror film. An OSCAR WINNING HORROR FILM. SUCK MY DICK, PEOPLE...who don't...think that....YEAH.

      17. The Thing (1982).

      From slowburn psychological horror to literally burning body horror...with a healthy dose of the psychological to it in addition. Upon its release in 1982, The Thing was generally quite poorly received by critics, and audiences too. It was considered too dark, nihilistic and nasty for its own good. The droning score, the sense of distrust between your fellow man, the unsettling, gory mutations and the famously bleak conclusion left a bad taste in peoples mouths...but thankfully, these days we can appreciate THE THING for what it is, a landmark of horror cinema....and I mean THE THING, not THE THING...the one that came out more recently but was actually a prequel (And a darn good one I must controversially say) to this one, also called...THE THING...oy. I have a complicated relationship with John Carpenter's films, I must say. There's no denying the impact his work had on cinema, and there's also no denying that some of them are also pretty damn good...but I also find myself not rating them all that highly either...I didn't really like THEY LIVE at all, and whilst the original Halloween was a gamechanger at the time, it's a little dated and clunky these days, ain't it? The Thing though, I really like. It's definitely my favourite Carpenter film, and by quite a long way...hence it's inclusion this far up the ol' list. With its mix of entertaining practical effects, fun characters and an eerie atmosphere wholly unique to this film alone, it's a real doozy of a horror.

      In THE THING, Kurt Russell plays an all American, gun-ho helicopter pilot called MacReady who, along with the rest of the crew of an remote Antarctic research station, find themselves under attack by an alien organism that assimilates and replaces its victims with near-identical doppelgangers, waiting to get someone alone in order to continue its deadly spread and eventually assimilate the entire station, and then potentially the world. Fortunately for the crew, it doesn't take long to catch the thing (Oh I see what they did there now) in the act, and soon it becomes a chaotic scramble to both survive and eradicate the parasite before it can leave the base, all the while no longer being able to trust anyone around them. It's a genius premise, really, one that would've worked even without the ridiculously entertaining special effects work, grisly, gory, yet cartoonish in the ways only 80s horror cinema can truly provide. There's as much fun to be gleamed from the increasing paranoia and friction between former colleagues as there is in when, oh let's say, someones head falls off and becomes a spider, y'know, just off the top of my head...which I assure you isn't a spider. The entertaining gore acts as a good counterbalance to the otherwise bleak and (literally) cold tone of the film, the ending to which remains a point of discussion to this day, one of the few ambiguous conclusions that really, really worked, rather than just really, really annoyed. There's a reason (However stupid) that people immediately and violently consigned the perfectly good 2011 prequel to the bits of obscure, box office bombing hell the second it was even announced, and that's because the original 80s THING is a true, seemingly untouchable classic, one that wasn't appreciated in the moment, but has gone on to have a deserving cult legacy.

      16. Shaun of the Dead (2004).

      We've already talked up some Hot Fuzz in Part 1, but I suggested it might not be the last you saw of Edgar Wright's works on this ranking...so...yeah, here's Shaun of the Dead, very much THE zombie comedy to beat these days. So many films have tried to recapture the magic, many more have just straight up stolen the logo's font for their own quirky zombie comedies (Often British ones to boot), but unless you're more of a Zombieland kinda guy, there's simply no beating Shaun for the zomedy crown, it's not only one of the best zombie comedies...it's straight up one of the best comedies, and zombie films in general. It's quite simply put, genius...but 'simply put' don't put words on blog pages, so let's make it more needlessly complicated, SHALL WE? As is obvious from the naming convention, Shaun of the Dead takes a huge heap of inspiration from perhaps the most well known and culturally important zombie film franchise, George A. Romero's '_____ Of the Dead'. The usage of zombies as a means of satirising modern society is an obvious connection, as are (perhaps moreso) the numerous visual and audible homages, the latter both in repurposing of famous quotes, and also in sampling the scores...mostly from the centerpiece installment, Dawn of the Dead...but really, what makes Shaun of the Dead so great is not what it pays homage to, but how it stands out as its own unique, funny and often poignant, gory saga.

      Shaun is your average low income, steady but boring job kinda adult, rent-sharing a house with his two friends, each of which reflect his current life status in both directions. Pete has become the buttoned up shirt, hardworking business man, whilst Ed? Ed's doing fuck all except play Timesplitters 2, drink beer and eat Cornettos. It's clear Shaun would rather be the latter, but knows he needs to become more like the former, endearing himself to Ed despite his generally being a selfish waste of space, whilst demonising Pete for discarding the fun side of life they all once had. He's also got love problems, his relationship with his girlfriend at an all time low because he's got them both trapped in a boozy rut. What's a guy to do? It's going to take a lot of internal reflection and soul sear-Oh wait, never mind, the zombie apocalypse has occurred. What ensues is a chaotic series of errors as Shaun attempts to 'rescue' both the love of his life, and their relationship, mend ties with his mum and step-dad, try and pull Ed out of his lazy squalor...all whilst trying to survive what's essentially the end of civilisation at the bloody hands of the ever-growing zombie horde. Shaun of the Dead is hilarious, clever and visually inventive, showing off Edgar Wright's now trademark style of rapid pace editing, loving homages, jukebox scores, clever shots and parallel scenes (The same sequence played out multiple times across the film albeit in drastically different circumstances). It's also quite touching at times, adding some emotional reality to the often cartoonish comedy antics, but never overdoing it to the point of taking away from the fun. It's easily one of the best British films of recent memory, and one of the best made zombie films out there, one that's now ingrained in modern pop culture almost as much as the films it pays such loving tribute to. Well worth a watch if you somehow haven't seen it yet, with rewatches highly recommended because, as with all this guy's work..there's so many fun little details to pick up on with each revisit.

      15. Nightcrawler (2014).

      Let's face it, the Oscars suck. Okay, it's a fun couple months for FILM TWITTER and nerds such as myself, debating who's going to be nominated, who the front-runners are, me talking about animated shorts into an empty void of nothingness. But when it comes to actually awarding the best films of their given years? Basically never happens...alright, sometimes a film will win and it'll deserve it (Moonlight and Shape of Water are two such films) but even then, there's always a film you found even better that doesn't even get a look-in for sound editing, let alone Best Picture. Enter 'Nightcrawler', a truly fantastic movie that got zero love at the Oscars...okay, it got one nomination for Screenplay, but it didn't win, and that was literally it, in a year where American Sniper was up for the top gong, good choice guys, REAL GOOD. It's a shame, but like I said...the Oscars suck, does anybody actually, truly care about them? Not if those ratings are to be believed, HEYYOOOOO. Anyway, Nightcrawler deserved more love, but didn't get it, so now it'll have to settle for this #15 entry on my Top 30 films, which, I mean is surely better than any Oscar, right? ...RIGHT!?

      So what is Nightcrawler, exactly? It's a dark thriller, with a twisted, jet-black comedic center, which follows Jake Gyllenhaal at the height of his acting powers, playing Lou Bloom, a scrappy little shitbag looking for his place in society, he wants to make money, he wants to be known and respected...he wants power, and he'll increasingly do anything to get it. So naturally he ends up filming grisly crime scenes and their tragic aftermaths for cable news. OF COURSE. In the seedy late-night world of ratings driven news coverage, his ruthless, sociopathic tendencies fit right in, and what ensues is essentially a rags to riches story where the indisputable antagonist is the one getting those riches. It's...frankly, genius. Of course it wouldn't hold together without a fantastic cast, Jakey boy is the indisputable star, providing one of modern cinemas greatest performances in the process, but the side-cast are no slouches either, Riz Ahmed playing the unlucky foil to Bloom's dark rise to the top, whilst Rene Russo shines as a ruthless cable news boss who enables said rise in the pursuit of her own success story. Things get darker and darker throughout, but the film never loses that witty, satirical spark, making what could've been a thoroughly detestable experience a twisted and fun thriller. Of course the beautiful film-noir'esque directing helps a lot as well, and the whole film wraps up perfectly on a fittingly jaw-dropping and sinister conclusion. Nightcrawler follows the template of those feel good movies where someone goes from having nothing to getting it all, overcoming obstacles and adversaries along the way, except in this case the person getting it all is an unstoppable psychopath, and the adversaries are all unlucky victims who fell into his orbit. It's well worth a watch, and well worth a few Oscar nominations as well...OH WAIT, NEVER MIND. MOVING ON.

      14. Blade Runner 2049 (2017).

      You ever find yourself deeply in love with a film from day one...and have to watch in dismay as the tides turn completely against it? Going into Blade Runner 2049's highly anticipated, but slightly nerve-wrecking release, it was coming in hot with some truly stellar reviews, putting to bed the worry that you simply couldn't make a sequel to the cult classic Blade Runner work. It came out, it was a breathtaking work of cinema...nobody watched it, the conversation became less about how good it was and what went wrong with it to cause its failure...cue director Denis Villeneuve and Ridley Scott himself seemingly disowning it, all within what felt like a few long, long weeks. Under two years later and nobody really talks about Blade Runner 2049 any more...which is a damn shame, because it's a fucking epic, beautiful experience, and one of the best science-fiction releases of recent memory, I believe at least. So what did go wrong, then? Well...it's a long ass movie, clocking in at nearly 3 hours, something that requires a general audience investment very few films can manage (These days basically only tentpole franchise sequels), and well...it's a sequel to a weird arty film that crashed and burned itself in the time of its original release? It may be a landmark of cinema, but OG Blade Runner ain't exactly a crowd pleaser, it was pretty foolish from a business perspective to sink nearly $200 Million into what's in large parts a work of arthouse cinema itself...but, the mistake payed off in a way that the people who did turn up got an cinematic experience they'll likely never forget. Hooo wee.

      Set 30 years after the original Blade Runner (Yes that took place in 2019, and no, the real world didn't quite make it there tech-wise), 2049 plays out in broad strokes as its own narrative beast, with it taking until the 3rd act to paint in the finer details that tie the two films together (AKA Harrison Ford). That said, it's immediately recognisable as a follow-up due to its continued, dark and poetic exploration of what it means to actually be alive, in a society where replicants are nothing more than slaves to humanity, despite having their own wants, lusts and desires. The ones that rebel against their bondage? They're hunted down by the titular runners of blades. Ryan Gosling plays 'K', a replicant entasked with hunting down his own kind. He's treated as garbage by his colleagues, and lives a lonely life, his only companion being an AI hologram who may or may not be capable of truly loving him as much as he loves her. When a specific case starts to reveal dark secrets and surprising truths, K finds himself on the run, in search of the answer to a question that could change the world and its human/replicant relationship. It's a long but gripping story with great performances all around (Even Jared Leto...kinda), but the whole thing is elevated to the stratosphere by the visuals and the music. God DAMN is this film beautiful, the directing and cinematography are some of the most stunning ever confined to a film reel, and the soundtrack is a perfect mix of that classic, melodic Blade Runner style, paired up with an altogether new, droning, industrial score, both going oh so far in helping you sink completely into this beautifully bleak cyberpunk world. It's just...an amazing film, and it's really quite tragic to see it crash and burn the way it has. As someone who loved the style of Blade Runner but was otherwise left cold by the characters and story, 2049 packs it all in, improving on the original in every department, in my probably controversial opinion. If you have a spare 3 hours and want to go on a true sci-fi odyssey, you can do a lot worse than this film.

      13. Dredd (2012).

      Yet another one for the 'really good sci-fi film that nobody watched' file, this time one that has gone on to become a cult favourite, but it was all too little too late in terms of this becoming the film series it deserved to be. Dredd, a grittier, less goofy take on 2000AD's already reasonably gritty Judge Dredd comic series, was a hard sell, let's face it. A second attempt at turning the hugely influential British series into a movie after the somewhat disastrous Stallone attempt in the 90s, Dredd could've gone either way, and suffered from poor marketing, a hard R rating (Limiting potential audiences) and the unfortunate distinction of being a 3D billed movie in a time where that being touted as a selling point was starting to wear off. Naturally it failed to make a profit at the cinema for these reasons, despite solid reviews, with the good word of mouth not coming fast enough to keep the film in cinemas longer, and with an unrelated Judge Dredd TV series now in development, any slim, sliiiim hope of a follow-up being greenlit is now dead. Thankfully Dredd has gone on to become a firm favourite amongst genre fans, and I count myself among those, obviously, since it's on this list. Duh.

      One thing that's refreshing about what's essentially yet another comic book reboot, is that Dredd doesn't waste a whole lot of time expositing on the world and its characters, after a brief opening narration, you're thrown straight into the gritty world of Mega City One and you follow what's essentially just a day in the life of Joe Dredd on his constant, often excessive crusade against any and all crime. The film doesn't feel the need to spend time establishing lengthy backstories, nor does the narrative require a primer in the frankly, extremely complicated lore of Dredd's universe, which has been running uninterrupted for over 40 years now. It's a simple and enjoyable story that does the characters right, whilst remaining easily accessible to people less than familiar with the franchise going in. It also sheds a lot of the harder to adapt aspects of the comics, such as corny substitute language (Drokk instead of God and such) and the weirder corners and citizens of Mega City One, such as 'fatties' and 'muties'. As such the film is a clean and efficient slice of sci-fi action..and I mean clean literally from a narrative sense, because this film is gory and grimy as fuuuuck. The body count of Dredd is high, and the dispatch methods are suitably gruesome for a film where the main character has a gun with multiple high capacity ammo settings. With a drug that causes perceived time to slow down being the main maguffin of the film, you can bet your ass that there's a lot of beautiful and graphic high speed carnage to boot. On a whole, Dredd is not exactly high art, but it's an endlessly rewatchable, visually striking, action-packed and often quite funny hyperviolent romp, with a fantastic portrayal of the titular crimefighter holding it all together nicely thanks to Karl Urban, who will be terribly missed should he not sign up for the upcoming TV series. Check it out, creeps.

      12. Chicken Run (2000).

      Oh yes, it took a little while but here's some Aardman. An inevitable inclusion given my love of the studio, and unfortunately also an awkward one to write about, given I've already spoken at great length about Chicken Run in a blog that released just over a year ago. Aardman's first feature film remains one of their best works to date, and one of only a few to really achieve international (or moreso, stateside) success, to such extent that a sequel is currently in early development, 19 years on and counting from the firsts release. It's a simple but genius premise, near perfectly executed with a degree of stop motion craftsmanship and directorial flair that can only come from a studio like Aardman, and a (co)director like Nick Park, the same guy who only went and brought us Wallace & Gromit. UHH, YEAH. YEAH I KNOW. The one sentence pitch given to Dreamworks executives to get the film greenlit was "The Great Escape....with chickens", and that's basically what this film is...except with a slightly happier ending, y'know? Head hen Ginger leads a farm of mostly bumbling chickens in their attempts to escape from what they perceive as a prison, where they're forced to plop out eggs until they can plop no more, and are then promptly killed and eaten for dinner by the evil Mrs Tweedy. Yeah, this film gets pretty dark at times, despite being an otherwise fun and family friendly romp, the stakes are pretty damn high, and things don't exactly go smoothly along the way, either. All that said, despite an unfortunately prominent inclusion of Mel Gibson, Chicken Run remains untouched by time, as great now as it was all those years back, and whilst I'll keep things brief due to my previous writing on this subject, this is a terrific film and an easy sell for any fan of good quality animation. Needless to say this might not be the last we see of Aardman in this BIG MOVIE RANKING...THING.

      11. Mad Max Fury Road (2015).

      Awww yeah, it's time for some dystopian carnage BAYY BEEEE. I'll be honest, Mad Max doesn't really do it for me. None of the original trilogy of films do, for that matter. Whilst I love that basic concept everyone thinks of when they think of the franchise...being insanely OTT vehicular carnage with a cast of characters that look less like apocalypse survivors and more like sand-swept leather daddies, the fact of the matter is there isn't a whole lot of that in the original Mad Max films, and too much time is spent on weird characters and goofy dialogue. It's a whole lot of low budget sandy underwear, frankly. So for the 4th installment in a franchise I don't like to almost make it into my Top 10 Films of all time? Must be pretty damn great. Enter 6 time Academy Award winner Mad Max Fury Road, a two hour franchise car chase movie that was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. I still can't quite believe the praise got that far, but I'm more than happy about it, because god damn is this movie fantastic. First and foremost it finally delivers the goods when it comes to that basic Mad Max premise, something I'd longed to see for so long. From the start to the end, the film never takes its foot off the literal gas (or 'guzzolene', yeah we still got those goofy words), taking you on an action packed ride through a visually incredible post-apocalyptic landscape, full of strange vehicles, and even stranger people. This movie got a god damn bungee roped dude with a flamethrower/guitar hybrid strapped to a truck that's more subwoofer than vehicle...and that's just a bloody background character. We got pole swinging dudes, explosive sticks, flipping cars, guys on stilts...it's like a FUCKIN' CIRQUE DE SOLEI SHOW STRAIGHT FROM THE PITS OF HELL. It's aweeesome. 

      But having wacky cars and top notch stunts can only take you so far, what Fury Road backs all this up with? That's what makes it one of the best action movies of all time. Much like Dredd, not a lot of time is spent on exposition or a complicated story (Something the previous films suffered from in parts), the premise is simple, yet oh so effective. The world's gone to shit, an awful dude's hoarding all the water, and holding women against their will as a harem...they escape, and what follows is a desperate race to avoid the clutches of Immortan Joe's crazy convoy, and find a place of their own...and it just so happens that ol Max'y boy ends up thrown into the chaos with them. The whole film is this chase, it never wastes time with other matters, it's a straight forward but captivating premise and the film focuses entirely on it, to great effect. It's also a visually stunning spectacle, bringing beauty and colour to what could've been a dull and desolate wasteland. Each frame feels like a work of art, and the immediately influential, bombastic score elevates the on-screen action to edge of your seat levels of tension. There's also a good deal of heart to the story, the determination to survive and escape against all odds is a pretty potent one, and with Charlize Theron's fantastic, tortured lead performance of Furiosa at the centre of the film, even moreso than Max himself, you really do end up feeling for her and the ragtag gang of scrappy women (and warboy) she collects along the way.  It's an action extravaganza with style and heart to spare, and you can't ask for much more than that in a film. Also there's explosions n' shit. Noice.

      Wowza, that's Part 2 all wrapped up in a Monty Python/Mad Max sandwich...didn't think I'd ever be saying that, I gotta say. Part 3 is coming up next week, so I hope you come back to see what makes it into my TOP 10 FILMS....some movies, I'd imagine. Like what you read? Why not give it a ZING and a share around perhaps? Got any thoughts on Part 2? Shove 'em all down in the comments below, and until next week, LATER GATORS.

    • Top 30 Films (Part 1).

      5 months ago


      Ohhh FUUCCKK. Hello everyone, I've made a terrible decision. You see, I've been writing mediocre blogs for a smaller and smaller audience for what feels like my entire life now (Been about 10 years now as it turns out), and when you write stuff about movies and games...you naturally end up doing a lot of LISTS. Lists are a lot of fun to do, and yeah, the concept is pretty damn overdone, especially if you're a certain Youtube channel that starts with Watch and ends with Mojo...but when done right they can be an entertaining and revealing look at someones likes and dislikes...whilst simultaneously opening up the floor for discussion...and yes, arguments. That said, you tend to narrow down the lists...Top 10 Violent Horror Movies...Top 10 Xbox Games...whatever. To do a TOP 10 MOVIES list is a huge undertaking because...I mean...you probably have a favourite movie, but could you list off your 10 faves when prompted? It's not easy, films come out, win you over, age over time...either like a fine wine or like stale crumpets left out in the sun. New contenders take their places, old classics remain but become harder to rank against modern offerings...horror clashes with comedy...how do you really rank things that vary so much? There's a lot of reasons why it's hard...and why a TOP FILMS list is never truly a TOP FILMS list because, frankly...you might remember another film you watched one time...or...decide this one just isn't quite as good as the other. Basically, it's impossible. Buuuut we're doing one anyway.....urrp.

      How is this going to work? Well over the last month or so, I've been using the rating system over on IMDB to create a list of as many films I've seen as possible...from all years and all genres. Again, it's pretty much impossible to rank every film I've ever seen using this system, and I've also eliminated any films I've seen but can't remember much of because...I mean....they aren't going to be ranking, are they? When the time finally came to start putting together the Top 30 rankings, I had 666 films listed (I know, scary), many I loved to pieces, and a big pile of ones I did not. What mattered though, were the ones at the top of that beloved pile. Anything that got a 10 or 9 rating was in the running, and then I had the extremely difficult task of picking and ranking the ones available to create this list...which I will be posting in three parts, 30-21, 20-11, and then finally the all important 10-1. Oy vey.

      Important to note that this is me listing my 30 favourite films, this is not a list suggesting that these are objectively the 30 greatest films of all time. Being a favourite film can have a lot of meanings as you all know, it doesn't necessarily mean they changed the world, nor does it mean they are the best made or most acclaimed of their respective genres. These are just the films I love the most, and that can mean anything from being something I can watch over and over again, to films that changed the way I view cinema, and maybe even helped form the person I am today. And like I've already said, this is only an approximation based on how I ranked things at this point in time, it's impossible to objectively and definitively rank my favourite films. There's so many great ones not on this list that could well have been had I seen them a few more times, or saw them more recently...that sorta thing. 

      Yadda yadda, this was a long intro...so let's just get on with it...with PART 1. ...obviously.

      30. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018).

      The most recent film on this list by a long way, and perhaps the hardest to justify for that reason. When a film is so new, surely you need time and multiple viewings to really decide on how good it is. Truth be told, Into the Spider-Verses' inclusion on this list is down to an all important second cinema viewing...had I only seen it the one time when writing this blog? It may not have been included at all. You see, first time seeing Spider-Verse, I missed the start due to the screening starting early...I watched it in bog standard 3D and found my experience hindered as a result, I was in a bad mood from missing the start, stressed about something happening the next day...I loved the film then, but maybe not to this degree. Second time around I caught it in IMAX, saw the whole thing, was in a great mood from having had the chance...and it all just clicked together so beautifully. As I realised from compiling this ranking, a lot of my favourite movies are very style heavy, but still manage to pack in plenty of all important substance. I love visually unique movies, but they need to be more than just pretty to rank among my favourites...you find that perfect storm of vibrant style and engaging substance? It really sticks with you. 

      Spider-Verse is just that, a breath of fresh air in a sea of increasingly similar looking and feeling CGI movies, injected with visceral shots of colour and a tactile, 'rough around the edges' style brimming with little details and tons of charm. It feels like a mixture of state of the art CGI, 2D animation, and a huge amount of classic comic book aesthetic that, for once, doesn't come across as cheesy in motion picture form. But it's more than that, Into the Spider-Verse has great characters, Miles Morales got his long awaited big screen debut in the best possible way, and the various inter-dimensional Spider-Folks that come along for the ride are funny and immediately endearing in similar, yet contrasting ways (Except maybe Peni, but she's fine I guess). The story is classic comic book origins fare, but gets a fresh feeling thanks to its existing within a world well established in previous Spider-Man characters and stories...in addition to an already brilliant comic character in Miles being given even more style and personality. The film's funny as hell, the action scenes and editing are outstanding, and it can really put a lump in your throat from time to time, without ever coming across as overly sentimental, like a lot of modern animated films do. You laugh, you love, you care. The sequence in which Miles finally becomes his own breed of Spider-Man still gives me chills just thinking about it...not a lot of scenes can fill you with the same energy every time you see them (And believe me I've rewatched that scene a lot), but this one manages. It's a truly great film, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees...it ticks practically all the right boxes and does so in grand style, and for that reason...I think it's earned a spot on this list...who knows, like Miles himself, it may even climb to greater heights in the years to come.

      29. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).

      Taking a hard left turn (And not the last one in this trilogy of blogs) from vibrant animated superheroes to grounded, gritty super soldiers...man, I really love the Bourne films. The original trilogy at least. Don't get me wrong, Legacy had a lot going for it as a new chapter in the franchise, and 'Jason Bourne' certainly was...something that came out and I watched also...but the original trilogy? It really went from strength to strength, finding its genre defining voice through Paul Greengrass in its second and third installments. For a while, every action/thriller wanted to be the new Bourne, even James Bond himself (For better or worse) took notes, and whilst thankfully the days of rapidly edited, shaky cam copycats seems to be behind us...there's simply no denying that when done right in these films, the style was magic..and in my opinion, The Bourne Ultimatum was the best example of that. I understand the people who'd disagree, you look back at the last 11 or so years of the genre and so much of it is marred by intentionally poor camerawork and jerky editing, something a lot of people accuse Bourne of too...but I disagree on the latter. With Bourne, it worked because the guy directing knew what he was doing with his frantic camerawork, he was creating a film that felt grounded and energetic in its style, almost documentarian in the way the camera itself reacts instantaneously to the rapidly escalating events that occur throughout, rather than being expertly framed with the knowledge of what's to come in front of the lens. 

      Put all that aside and The Bourne Ultimatum also works because it's just a damn good film? A rare, wholly satisfying conclusion to a series that gives you the answers you wanted from the start, but doesn't jump the shark in the process. We may have had an unnecessary extension to Jason Bourne's quietly tragic saga in the recent 5th film, but this still remains as the true end to his story, bringing all the trilogies pieces together and capping things off with a subtle sense of symmetry. Pretentious narrative exploration aside, it's also a damn good thriller...the fights are brutal and inventive, the closing car chase through New York is less beautiful vehicular choreography and more a desperate demolition derby where two expertly trained killers attempt to be the last one standing. It has punch and bombasity to spare, but presents it all in a way that suits the gritty, semi-realistic espionage genre it still belongs to, whilst containing enough melancholy and meaning to hold it all together. The Bourne Trilogy is a favourite of mine, one of them was going to end up on my list, and I think Ultimatum, whilst maybe not everyone's favourite, is certainly mine. Let's not make any more of these though, alright? I think Jason needs some rest.

      28. Jurassic Park (1993).

      OoHhH my FUCKINNG GOD, It's a DINoOoSAUURR. Yes, although I said this wasn't a list of all time great movies, so much as favourites...that doesn't mean the two can't cross paths from time to time. Whether you love it or not, there's no denying Jurassic Park is a stone cold classic. It's a film that still delights new audiences to this day, and created a franchise that...certainly continues to....make profits... *Ahem* Regardless of the somewhat mixed bag of sequels that followed, the first and best futuristic theme park gone wrong (No not you, Westworld...gawd) is a hard film not to love. It's a Steven Spielberg movie, and whilst that may not mean much these days...what with the Ready Player One's and such, it certainly meant a hell of a lot back then. Jurassic Park is brimming with wonder, heart, humour, action and cutting edge visual effects that...amazingly still look pretty damn good to this very day. In a time where CGI was 'one to watch' when it came to movie production, two years before Toy Story came onto the scene and changed animation, Jurassic Park blended it with puppetry, costumes and animatronics to create an almost seamless and believable world where dinosaurs once again roamed the earth and fucking hell did they look cool. Beyond the visual effects though, and as I already said, there's so much in this film to love. Whilst a little cheesy, the ragtag cast of characters are all massively charming and memorable, be they the gobsmacked pair of once coupled paleontologists introduced to the creatures they've spent their lives studying, or the hairy, heaving chested naysayer of Jeff Goldblum...who's just...playing himself in this film, I think? Frankly, I don't need to sell this film to you, it's Jurassic fucking Park...you've seen it, you probably love it too. As a child I was transfixed by the idea of a dinosaur theme park, I wanted to own all the fake theme park merchandise...like any child who saw this film I wanted those DAMN NIGHT VISION GOGGLES. I wanted to goooooo to Jurassic Park, I didn't care that everything turned into a slasher movie at the end and most of the people died, it looked awesome. As an adult...I'm...yeah, exactly the same. This film brings out the awe-inspired child in us all, and is...well...it's Jurassic Park. Yep.

      27. Hot Fuzz (2007).

      I must admit, I'm a hard guy to please when it comes to comedy. Comedy in other films? That can work really well for me. Comedy films themselves? Very few of them do it for me. Don't get me wrong, when they do, they really do...and this isn't the last comedy on this ranking, but for someone who can't go 5 seconds without trying to do or say something funny (And failing, generally), I am not a comedy movie man. Not for lack of trying, I'm just specific on what tickles me funny bones, and the majority of comedies do not tickle said bones of humour. Hot Fuzz? Now that tickles me real good. Edgar Wright is a fantastic director, and his Cornetto trilogy of films are some of the best films to come out of the UK in the last couple decades...we may or may not have more from this guy later in the list...but for now...yeah, Hot Fuzz is a damn funny film, and one that's really well made on top of that. The irresistible pairing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost return in this film, having previously made a name for themselves in Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, both again, with Wright at the helm...their focus this time? Action movies, specifically crime ones (Although you'd be hard pressed to find an action film that doesn't involve crime in some way). A top cop from the mean streets of London is sent away to the quiet town of Sandford, Gloucestershire after the rest of the force decide he's making them all look bad by comparison, and although initially it seems like nothing exciting happens in the close-knit rural community, it's not long before a grand and violent conspiracy starts to unravel before PC Nicolas Angel (Or Angle if the press is to be believed) and his bumbling side-kick Frank Butterman's eyes. There's murder, there's mystery, there's explosions and, yes, there's a bloody great big church steeple exploding someones head...one of the more alarming, yet eerily amusing moments of the film. As someone who lives in pretty much the same area, and even the same sorta town as Hot Fuzz is set in, it's particularly amusing for me, but regardless of the specific connections it's still a really funny film, and one that's expertly crafted, at times emotionally engaging also, due to the charming, blossoming friendship between the two main characters. Most of all, it's just really fun to see an over the top, ultraviolet action movie take place in such a silly location, the battle of Somerfield and the model village standoff being particular highlights. The all star British comedy cast doesn't hurt either, with Timothy Dalton making a surprise turn as the ruthless and hillarious local supermarket manager. As someone who's stubborn with comedy films, you can't really ask for much better than a regionally relatable, exceptionally well made and written action comedy caper with Simon Pegg, one of my favourite comedy actors at the forefront, and the talented, frenetically editing (Although he doesn't edit it personally of course) hands of Edgar Wright at work. It's good shit, y'all.

      26. Captain America: Civil War (2016).

      With me being a nerd, and a comic book fan, and given just how many good films Marvel have put out in their 11 year run on the MCU, it seemed inevitable that at least one of them would end up in this list. It's fitting then, that the winner of my MCU Ranking blog last year ends up taking that spot. Don't get me wrong, Infinity War delivered similar and seemingly impossible levels of coherence, fun and emotional weight for an even larger scaled film (One that released after my MCU ranking, which was done in anticipation of it), but Civil War has both age and genre on the latest Avengers film...as we've already demonstrated on this list, I'm into my semi-grounded spy action-thrillers, and Captain America's epic trilogy closer brings that over from the similarly great Winter Solider, and injects a big dose of comic book wackiness into the mix for MAXIMUM BLOCKBUSTER SATISFACTION. I won't spend too much time going into why I like this film since, like I said, I already explained why in detail in my double bill of MCU blogs...but yeah...it basically delivers everything you'd want from what was meant to be the closing chapter of Captain America's sub-franchise, a significant event in the over-arcing Avengers storyline, and an introduction to two of the most important Marvel characters in the form of Black Panther and the ruddy bloody Spiiiiiider-Man. It's as full of heart and determination as its title character, and provides both the bloody knuckled physical fights of the prior Cap film, and the outlandish and dizzying comic book fights you'd expect from a film that sees some of Marvels best and weirdest throw down against each other. The soundtrack is kick-ass, the acting is top notch, it's beautifully shot...it's a fantastic comic book movie, and one that should've been impossible to put together successfully (Hell, Spider-Man films crumble into ruin when they have more than one villain at a time), but yet exists not only as a success, but also one of the best comic book movies of all time. Not bad, Cap.

      25. Collateral (2004).

      I do loves me some Michael Mann...well...sometimes at least. When he's great, he's one of the best filmmakers in town, but, these days especially, he tends to be anything but great...AKA a bit pants, as anyone who's seen the atmospheric but otherwise stupid Blackhat can no doubt tell you. He doesn't make films that often, and as far as I'm aware post-Blackhat he has no future films in the works....so...yippeeee? Collateral then, was perhaps his last great movie, and whilst it may be similar in parts to his most well regarded film (We may get back to that one later), it also differs enough in concept and tone to be its own, intriguing beast. One thing that's immediately notable about Collateral is its unique and villainous role for Tom Cruise. In basically all of Cruises films he plays the excitable, eternally youthful protagonist of the film...in a good heft chunk of Cruises films, he also plays the bombastic action hero with the same personality traits, jumping off exploding buildings and piloting helicopters into the sun or whatever. Collateral sees Cruise play a charismatic but generally quite subdued and menacing villain, silver haired and clearly, but quietly burdened with a lot of experience in his deadly field. Yes, he's still a badass and does a wacky run every now and then, but a villainous turn for Cruise is rare enough, the fact that he plays against his usual energetic, friendly character is another thing entirely...and frankly? It's one of his greatest performances, a man dripping with menace and yet eerily charming all the same. 

      When his path crosses with Jamie Foxx's L.A. taxi driver, head perpetually lost in his dream of trading the grueling city cab run for a self-run luxury limo business? What starts as a quiet but hopeful day for Foxx, becomes a long, violent and forever life-changing evening for the pair of them. Whilst Collateral has plenty of action and gunplay, what really makes the film shine is the quieter moments, where Vincent (Cruise) and Max (Foxx) not only chew out the increasingly chaotic situation at hand, but also Max's dreams and problems. Vincent, despite his threats and dark motives, seems fixated on helping Max improve himself, on their long night's journey covering everything from his dreams, relationship with his mother, and love life...among others. These long and engrossing conversations between a criminal and his hostage give the audience its own case of Stockholm Syndrome, starting to feel a connection and empathy with Vincent for his genuine interest and strangely helpful nature (Of course helped by Cruises' generally likeable and charming on-screen persona) before then frequently and painfully being reminded that this is not a person you want to be rooting for. The further into the film the more complicated their relationship, and Vincent's job becomes, and everything comes to a head in what feels in its final moments less like your standard crime film and more like a slasher. It's a solid, engrossing and well made crime thriller excelled to great heights by its complex protagonist/antagonist relationship, helped by two fantastic lead performances and Mann's trademark neo-noir atmosphere. From charming opening to melancholy conclusion, Collateral I feel is an underrated modern crime classic, well worth a look if you're into the genre, or if you've always wanted to see Tom Cruise play a character that isn't ...just a Tom Cruise character.

      24. Ex Machina (2014).

      It's weird for me to think back on it now, but once upon a time, I was the kinda person who'd submerge myself in practically every clip and trailer a movie released before I saw it. It's as if I was so impatient to see the thing in question that I saw as much as I could of it prior to the real thing. In retrospect, that's a dumb move, because the more you can preserve of the first-watch movie experience, the better, surely? It seems like a no brainer to me now, but this is one of two films on my list which I finally decided to go out of my way to avoid finding out anything about, and was all the better for it when it came to actually watching it. Ex Machina wasn't exactly a hard sell for me. Alex Garland is one of my favourite sci-fi film writers, having worked on everything from 28 Days Later to Dredd, and this was his feature directorial debut. Not only that, but it was a sci-fi movie that had already received a huge amount of acclaim long before its UK release rolled along. I was already more than sold...so why bother finding out anything else? When I sat down to watch Ex Machina the only thing I knew about it was that it had a robot in it. What ensued was a well crafted mindgame of an intellectual thriller that dealt with high concept themes in lowkey but frequently dark ways. It blew me away, and whilst you could chalk that down to that rare element of total surprise I granted it, I've since gone on to rewatch the film several times and found it just as gripping each and every time. Yes, it was great to go in blind, but Ex Machina is such a solid and enthralling work I could've seen half the film in its clips and trailers and still be blown away upon viewing. It's terrific. 

      The premise is deceptively simple, computer programmer Caleb wins a company lottery to visit the CEO in his remote, private and luxurious home, upon turning up, he discovers he's been selected to be the first individual to test the mettle of the genius CEO's greatest invention, a robot that seemingly thinks entirely for itself. Nathan Bateman claims to have cracked the code on creating sentient lifeforms, and now Caleb is here to test it out. What ensues is more than just your bogstandard Turing Test, obviously, and over the course of the film's running time you're led down a twisting, turning rabbit hole where it becomes harder and harder to know just who to trust, and what's even real. Domnhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikanda all give star-making turns in this film, the latter of which playing the mysterious, potentially sentient robot that increasingly creates friction between the two others. The small cast, and remote location, paired with the twisty turny narrative create a entertaining sense of growing paranoia between all three parties, and whilst it all starts out quiet and contemplative, predictably for an Alex Garland work it doesn't take too long for things to start getting a bit darker, and a just a little bit violent. To spoil the twists and ultimate conclusion to Ex Machina would be a disservice to its brilliance, but its safe to say not everything is what it seems, and the narrative is like a great big puzzle that comes together, piece by enthralling piece over the course of its running time, concluding in shocking, but altogether satisfying nature. If you're the kinda person who complains there's not enough originality at the cinema these days, you should check this shit out, bruh.

      23. Whiplash (2014).

      Every now and then, a new director will come out of nowhere and dazzle cinemagoers with a sudden string of modern masterpieces. We had Christopher Nolan, then we had Denis Villeneuve, but most recently, we've had Damien Chazelle (Don't get me wrong, these guys are all still going strong, but the latter two are now cinema mainstays). Whiplash wasn't Chazelle's first film production, but it certainly put him on the map big time, a map that he's then gone on to stomp all over with follow-up critical hits La La Land and First Man, both also great films in their own respective ways. Whiplash though, remains his best work so far...at least in my opinion, stripped of the flashy visuals of La La Land and the grand premise of First Man, Whiplash shines because of it's great characters and simple, yet oddly thrilling premise. Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman, an aspiring drummer looking for a shot at getting into his university's prestigious studio band, which he sees as his chance at becoming the next great drummer. He captures the eye (Or moreso the ear, huhhh?) of the band's instructor Terrance Fletcher, played fantastically by J.K. Simmons, who gives him that shot, and seems to be a really great guy...right up until he lobs a chair at Neiman's head for not playing at his "tempo". What ensues is a battle of egos between the two characters, Neiman full of dangerous determination to win Fletcher over and prove his greatness, whilst the latter proves a hard and similarly dangerous man to win over. Basically it's a violent two person death match...in drumming form, which sounds weird, but I assure you, it's fucking amazing.

      What makes Whiplash work so well is the talent involved, both acting, directing and writing. The script is punchy, the directing is top notch, and the performances are world class, Simmons well and truly earning his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that year. Whilst Neiman starts out a sympathetic plucky go-getter looking for his chance at the big time, which of course is a staple of Hollywood cinema, the further down the Studio Band rabbit hole he goes, the more ruthless and abrasive he becomes, starting to cruelly shed away the people and things in life that matter to him beyond drumming to the point where he becomes almost as bad as Fletcher, very much the villain of the picture. You won't believe how grueling and violent a drumming rehearsal can be until you've seen this film, and its closing drum solo is one of modern cinemas greatest action sequences...and yes, I know how weird that sounds. But for every bombastic, chaotic and bloody fingered sequence this film has, there's plenty of quieter moments with the characters that make those (literally) blistering sequences mean something. It's a thriller about just how far someone will go, and just how far someone should go, to achieve their dreams, and whilst in parts it has the feel of that classic 'rags to riches' cinema success story we all know and love(?), ultimately things are never quite as straight forward as that, and after the films dizzying final sequence fades to black, you'll likely feel less heartwarmed by the 'hero' winning (or not winning) the day, and more in question as to whether it was worth the open wounds they gained, and the broken hearts they left along the way.

      22. Gravity (2013).

      Earlier I mentioned that two films made me realise less is often more when it comes to pre-viewing movie exposure, Ex Machina was the latter, Gravity is the former. Like with Ex Machina, all I needed to be won over by Gravity was to read the small print. Alfonso Curaon directing a space-set high octane thriller, which had received endless amounts of praise? I'm in. I don't need anything else. Let's go. Several cinema trips of covering my eyes during the trailer later and ...yep...Gravity was well worth going in blind for...and once again, regardless of having done so or not, offered a visually stunning, heartbreaking and thrilling sci-fi experience that needs to be seen on the biggest, loudest screen possible (Basically, IMAX), but works on basically any format, and I should know, I've watched it in both IMAX, and on my phone in the years that followed its initial release. The aim of the game in Gravity is simple. Survival. Sandra Bullock plays a reluctant mission specialist turned astronaut on her first trip into space, who quickly finds herself the sole survivor of a major orbital disaster, going to extreme and at times seemingly futile lengths to both survive in the unforgiving, endless void of space, and make it back to Earth in one piece...all the while pondering the existential reasons to continue surviving in a world that's already left her cold and alone due to a major loss. It's thrilling, it's visually stunning, but it's also deeply effecting from an emotional standpoint, thanks to that universally understandable strive to stay alive under increasingly hopeless odds, buoyed by an award winning and heartbreaking performance from Bullock.

      Over the years Curaron has become well known for his long takes and sweeping, one-shot camera movements...and Gravity feels like the blockbuster culmination of his unique take on the craft. The opening 15 minutes of the film play out in one uninterrupted sequence, business as usual in space devolving to utter chaos and terror before our very eyes, the film never once cutting away to another perspective or interrupting the flow of time in this sequence, the camera swimming gracefully through each sequential event in a way that still seems technically impossible to this day. Gravity is filled with these incredible long-take sequences, and at no point across the film's running time do we leave the side of Bullock's character, making us feel just as isolated and well and truly 'in the shit' as she is. When you spend so much time with the same character, when you're right in the thick of every calamity she goes through, and bear witness to her very soul as she quietly, then tearfully unravels her demons to the cold void of space? You start to care about her fate. A lot. The entire 90 minutes of this film are a white knuckle ride of action and emotion, both of which are elevated by the films score, which alternates between terrifying and haunting when the moment calls for it. The film is a technical marvel of CGI and seamless editing, but the true effectiveness of the film comes from its character, and the themes it explores along the way. It's a thrilling ride, but one that oozes with purpose at the same time, and that's what takes this from 'merely' being a great thriller to being a downright fantastic movie in general. Sweaty palms and teary eyes...of course both would freeze in space...not that you'd have time to notice, since you'd like, explode or whatever. Science.

      21. JAWS (1975).

      Another stone-cold cinematic classic, once again from Senior Spielbergo...JAWS is one of the most influential films in cinema history. An iconic thriller in its own right, it also single-handedly created the tentpole summer blockbuster, something that didn't really exist back in the 70s (For better or worse AMIRITE FOLKS? Wahheyyyy), and made a name of Steven Spielberg, who's obviously gone on to become one of the mediums most well known and loved directors. It's almost a little hard to write about JAWS in 2019, even if you haven't seen the film, you know all about it. That simple, yet endlessly iconic and menacing theme, the malfunctioning animatronic shark that led to the now constantly referenced 'less is more' approach to showing big screen monsters, the bigger boats, the vertigo pull shot, the nails on the chalkboard...god damn, JAWS at times feels like a constant series of historic cinema moments, which is great for the bloody film, but it's not so great for me...who now needs to like...write something interesting for this, the final entry of this lists first chapter.

      In case you don't know, which I find very hard to believe at this point, JAWS sees the sleepy seaside town of Amity Island fall victim to a big, unrelenting and bloodthirsty great white shark that begins to lurk within its otherwise glistening blue waters...unfortunately just as the entire area fills with families and tourists looking to soak up some sun on the beach for the July 4th weekend. Police Chief Brody finds himself at odds with the mayor and town council as he attempts to close the beach and protect the public, whilst they wish to put caution to the wind and keep the shores open on this, their most financially profitable time of year. Naturally things don't go well, people die, and Brody and a ragtag duo of a marine biologist and a world-weary fisherman head off into sea to try and find, and deal with the big, chomping menace. Like a lot of Spielberg classics, JAWS is a cheesy b-movie premise that's elevated massively thanks to its charming cast of characters, fun writing and quality filmmaking. Although the film has a couple darker moments, it never wallows in its potentially upsetting premise (I mean, kids get eaten and junk), instead whisking the viewer along on an entertaining romp with memorable moments and likeable characters. Sure, the shark sequences are a lot of fun, but equally fun are the moments when we just spend time with Brody, Quinn and Hooper as they drunkenly bond with each other during their voyage, for instance. As with the best of Spielberg's films, it blends a fun, cheesy premise, just enough heart, a soaring score and great directing to create a classic that's truly quite hard not to fall in love with. And I mean...what else is there to say? JAWS, man. It's pretty goooood.

      Well, that wraps up PART 1 of my Top 30 films...yep, there's two more to come, and given the caliber of what we've already discussed, it's going to be interesting to see what comes after...I say...hoping you'll feel that way...yeah? YEAH? HMMMM? What do you think so far? What's your stance on the films included? What do you think is coming up next? What are yoooour favourite films? Let me know in the comments below, give this blog a ZING if you enjoyed it, and share it around on the social medias if you wish, that'd be swell. Tune in next week for Part 2, see you then! LATER GATORS.

    • The Stickman Reviews: Resident Evil 2 Remake.

      7 months ago



      HEY, it's ME. HEEYYYY. ScrewAttack may be dead forever, but unlike poorly managed web content companies, video game opinion blogs can never truly be killed, so the 'reviews only two people read, if even that' wagon rolls ON, BABY. Me and Resident Evil have quite a long-running blog relationship, my Resident Evil 5 review was actually the first blog I ever wrote on ScrewAttack allllll the way back in 2009, yes..that's 10 years ago. I know, I know...we're all slowly dying and our best days of health are behind us...but all the same, I've since reviewed a host of games in the franchise, including all the numbered titles that followed (And a few spin-offs). I'm a big fan of the franchise, and it's always fun to write about them...so upon getting my hands on the brand spanking, shiny new remake of the most iconic installment of the series, RE2? A review was inevitable. And here we are, reviewing it. Yes.

      Just a heads up, whilst I will avoid going super big into spoilers...this is for all intents and purposes the same narrative and basic content that was featured in the original 1998 game, so...I'll be writing under the assumption that by this point you already know the gist of what's featured within. Alright? Cool, HERE WE GOOOOOO.

      The Good.

      Fantastic presentation, atmosphere.


      As I'm pretty sure I said when reviewing Resident Evil 7, if there's one thing you expect from the main installments of this franchise, it's for them to consistently push the bar when it comes to visuals and presentation. The 7th installment was the first to use the in-house RE Engine, and it's fair to say things looked pretty spectacular, verging on the photo-realistic at times, all whilst maintaining a silky smooth frame rate and excellent sound design. RE2make uses the same engine, so naturally things are going to look good. That said? At this point in time, it's hard to imagine a better looking and sounding Resident Evil game than this. Right from the very first shot, where some random bozo takes a bite out of the most startlingly well rendered and gooey truckstop burger you will ever see? It's a visual tour de force, and it's especially fun to see the world of Raccoon City and all the original RE2's iconic landmarks and locations brought to life with the same stunning amount of polish. The R.P.D. station is brought to life in sterling fashion, feeling both immediately familiar and entirely new to warily walk around. Every corridor and room is bursting with details both big and small, all combining with excellent lighting to create the unnerving atmosphere required for a survival horror title. 

      It's the little details of the game especially that add a lot, everything from the way the rain blows through the broken windows in parts of the station, to how Leon and Claire leave bloody footprints on the ground after undertaking some more gruesome encounters. And speaking of blood, MAAAAN the gore effects in this game? Sooooo good. There's some truly grisly sights to be seen all throughout the campaign, and the way in which zombies dynamically fall apart in chunks depending on where you shoot and how many times? Daaaamn. Leon and Claire too aren't strangers to picking up visual damage, if a zombie takes a bite out of you, it'll linger on the neck or ankle for quite some time. If they tumble their way through a dirty, muddy or...sewer'y situation? You better believe their clothes will have lingering dirt marks and stains. Beyond the gory details, the character animations are top notch, everyone from Leon himself, to the burger munching trucker we started on are lovingly rendered. It's just...a fantastic looking game. And a fantastic sounding one too, RE2make featuring the same caliber of fantastic and nerve-inducing sound design that RE7 previously offered, albeit one with a lot more stomp to it (We'll get to that stompy boy later). Like I say, it's hard to imagine a better looking Resident Evil installment than this, at this point in time. I'm sure it'll come some day, but damn if this doesn't look and sound oh so perfect to me.

      Best take on the 'over the shoulder' RE game.


      When Capcom remade the original 1996 Resident Evil for the Gamecube, there was a big focus on maintaining the feel of that classic original. Sure, there were quality of life improvements, vastly improved visuals/atmosphere and a few welcome new gameplay additions, but it maintained the same design...fixed camera, tank controls and highly detailed pre-rendered backgrounds. It was great stuff, and a fun reminder of a style of game that's since been left behind (Generally for good reason). Whenever people requested a remake of the second RE game, they generally wanted the same process. When it was announced? Everyone just assumed it would be. And then it wasn't. Upon its long overdue and roof raising E3 2018 reveal, we found out RE2make was being made as a completely different style of game, adopting the 'over the shoulder' gameplay that was popularised in Resident Evil 4, and then expanded upon in later installments (Revelations and RE6 specifically). Whilst some people are probably still pining for the unique feel of the fixed camera experience, I for one am glad they went in this direction...and frankly? It's probably the best take on this particular style of Resident Evil gameplay. 

      Striking a balance between the limited but effective style of RE4 and the more mobile but maybe too acrobatic ways of RE6, Resident Evil 2make keeps movement simple, no crazy backwards dives or sprinting, but it also allows for moving whilst aiming and shooting. What's great about the design of the shooting in RE2make is that, whilst you can happily fire away whilst moving around, it also weakens the accuracy of your shot. The classic RE style of not moving whilst shooting is rewarded with more precise shots, but obviously it comes with the drawback of letting enemies advance on you. Rather than feeling a little stiff, as RE4/RE5 does these days, or being too generous and fast-paced, like RE6 was? Here we have the perfect blend of both worlds, and it feels oh so so good. The whole game plays exceptionally well, barring a few frustrating aspects (We'll cover those later on), everything feels as good as it should, from firing guns to opening doors, and yes, oh yes, the inventory too. It's not a good Resident Evil game if the inventory isn't snappy and oddly fun to navigate through. Much as RE2make feels like the perfect Resident Evil game in terms of atmosphere and presentation, it also feels like the best controlling installment of the bunch, too. Taking the years and years of differing styles and variations of styles and combining them together to make something that plays as good as it looks.

      Great balance of modern and old-school Resident Evil.


      This may, at face value, come across as a similar talking point to the previous bit, but I guess there's more to it than simply the way it controls. As the Resident Evil franchise has moved along in the years, it's gone through a lot of phases. The original batch of games (1, 2, 3 and Code Veronica) all revolved around singular locations that started out as a gradually opening series of doors and areas, before then stretching out from that initial region in to entirely new ones, all the time connected together as one seamless journey. From Resident Evil 4 to 6? That was gradually stripped back to more linear, closed level based adventures, ones that could, over the course of the campaign, take you all over large expanses of a specific region of the world, or even the globe itself in the 6th game's case. Whilst these were fun, they were significantly different in style, and a lot of people missed the old ways. Resident Evil 7 brought things back to old-school Resi, a central location of locked doors and initially unsolvable puzzles that eventually unraveled itself, before taking you off down the road into new and more sinisterly corporate hidden areas. It also brought back the focus on horror, that had gradually been sapped away in favour of big scale action, starting at 4 and ending at 6, what with its motorbike chases and such. RE2make is a new take on what was, at the time, a (relatively) more action-orientated sequel compared to the 1996 original, and as such, is in the unique position where it can finally and successfully merge both old and new styles of Resident Evil...and it mostly does, thankfully! 

      First and foremost, the basic game plays out exactly the same as the original. You enter the police station, and spend most of your time exploring and slowly unlocking its many secret and dangerous corners. The weird keys, magic inventory box, obtuse puzzles, random items you only find out the significance of later, if at all (It's easy to miss some of the optional secrets), the sprawling and sometimes overwhelming map? The remake has all of these, brought over more or less intact. In that respect it feels decidedly oldschool, in the best possible way. At the same time, it features the over the shoulder gameplay of more recent titles, and along with that an occasional desire to burst out in bombastic set piece sequences that break up the rest of the experience quite nicely. RE2make also brings over some of the aspects that were new to RE7, the sparing use of auto-saves before significant moments, enough to stop you getting mad at a scripted event fatally erasing large chunks of unsaved progress, but not enough for you to rely on instead of the typewriters, which remain as always, a sight for sore (And often blood soaked) eyes. The chemicals/gunpowder you could find and combine to make additional ammo supplies return as well, in an expanded capacity, giving you the option to combine specific combinations of size and type to make most any ammo of your choosing, providing you can find the right ones. RE2make, then, feels like the accumulation of two and a bit decades of differing franchise entries merged together, cherry-picking all the more desirable aspects of each respective style, and stripping away the more dated or unwanted features. It's not a perfect balance, it'd be practically impossible to manage that, but it feels like a great merging of ideas all the same. There's something here to please every Resident Evil fan...unless their favourite game was Umbrella Corps. Sorry lads.

      Maintains the feel and content of Resident Evil 2, yet also feels new.


      Again, this might come across as the same bulletpoint from the last couple, but it isn't, I promise. As we said before, this game has a different gameplay style to that of the original Resident Evil 2, it's quite a dramatic departure in fact. Capcom have stated themselves that they view this as less of a remake and more of an entirely new game, just with the same premise (Wait I thought that was RE3, HO HO HO HO). So does that mean it feels completely removed from the original PS1 classic? Well...no, actually it's pretty damn similar once you get passed the change in perspective. Whilst certain enemies and moments have been trimmed out and/or heavily modified, you will pretty much experience the same sequence of events and the same locations as you did in the original. You make a runner for the station after being separated from whichever character you chose not to play as, explore the station a whole bunch, take a stroll through the sewers, enter the Umbrella lab and then, naturally, you need to get the fuck outta there too. As with the original, Leon and Claire have slight variations to their respective campaigns, mainly in who they meet between the station and the sewers. Leon meets Ada, Claire meets Sherry, their additions to the story, and differing available weapons are the sole variation between the two offered character choices. Upon beating the campaign as one character, you'll once again get to play a slightly altered '2nd Run' (previously known as the B scenario) mode where you'll occasionally see the campaign from a different perspective, and encounter some occasionally steeper challenges. Outside of the main game, the Fourth/Tofu Survivor modes return, the former now being easier to unlock than in the original, and the game itself offers replay value in achieving the best overall completion time for all of these, and a final performance grade for each main campaign. It's Resident Evil 2, exactly as you remember it in that regard...as are the inclusion of most enemies, and all the previously mentioned old-school gameplay mechanics.

      Yet, at the same time RE2make manages to feel quite new. It's mainly down to the improved visuals/atmosphere, and the obvious differing control schemes, but there's more too it as well. Tonally the game feels very different, characters, both main and side, whilst far from 'The Last of Us' in terms of complexity, have a lot more depth and emotion to their various journeys. Side characters you may have only seen in passing, with one or two wacky soundbites in the original PS1 version, now garner more robust and expressive screentime, be it still just in one sequence, or even across several hours of play. Leon and Claire both have arcs of sorts now, and their respective campaign partners get a little more to do than just turn up in a few cutscenes, Ada and Sherry actually being briefly playable this time around (Expect more on that later on). Beyond characters, the tone, for better or worse, is more serious, albeit one that allows for the occasional moment of the cheesy Resident Evil humour you crave. The enhanced visuals, gore and lighting make for a grittier and gloomier Raccoon City in addition, and as we'll soon discuss, the horror is a lot more up close and personal...and genuine this time around. I'd also argue the remake is quite a bit harder than the original. Whilst RE2 on the PS1 was easy to coast through, ammo and enemy wise (provided you knew what you were doing), until you got to the lab section? The remake feels almost the opposite, hardest in its first act before easing off just a little in the final one...2nd run especially offers a sharp initial challenge (More on that later) and the fourth/tofu survivor modes are almost guaranteed to get your hands shaking in their high octane brutality. So yeah...this remake maintains most of what you loved about Resident Evil 2, but it also does enough to feel new and well worth experiencing for RE2 veterans at the same time.

      At times genuinely tense, scary.


      When it comes to survival horror, it's all well and good looking nice and playing well...but if you ain't scary, what's the point? Although it may have been so at the time of release, it's fair to say the original RE2 is anything but scary these days around, minus a few jump scares here and there. The cheesy voice acting and charming but dated music/sound effects make it hard to take seriously as a HORROR title, even if it's still a lot of fun. The remake, for better or worse is a far more serious beast in terms of tone and style, and as such ramps up the tension and scares to levels far more possible all these years of technological advancement on. And whilst RE2 is far from the scariest game I've ever played, and fails to match the creepy factor of RE7 in its prime moments, it still manages to offer a frequently tense and atmospheric horror experience that occasionally escalates into moments of genuine scares. The main source of tension and fear is, of course, a certain hat wearing stompy customer, but we'll give him his own moment to shine in just a moment, because there's still plenty else to discuss. First and foremost, the zombies in RE2make are some of the most brutal I've ever seen from Resident Evil as a franchise, and that's the case in several departments. They sound truly awful, the cartoonish zombie moans and groans from the PS1 days are long gone, replaced by some truly hair-raising shrieks and howls that mix a sense of pain and rage in a way that feels more fitting for 28 Days Later then it does this once campy horror series. They also look truly ghastly, their faces, as with the living characters of the game, truly expressive and fluid in a way I'm certainly not accustomed to in my shotgun fodder. They don't fuck around either, sure, they still shamble and meander like a zombie should, but when they've got their sights on you? They do so with violent purpose, often lunging forwards, arms stretched out, jaws agape, shrieks filling the dark and narrow corridors as you attempt to stagger back and fire a precious round of ammo into their hideous faces.

      And that's just the zombies, this is Resident Evil we're talking about, there's a few more mutated freaks to deal with along your travels. Most notably (Barring Mr X) of which are the Lickers...man...fuck these guys. Lickers have always been brutal, that's kinda their thing, but they've never been as brutal and scary as they are in RE2make. For starters they're rendered with the same startling amount of detail as everything else...if you had the chance to take a look at one (And prey that you don't find yourself in that position) you can see every twisted muscle and protruding bone on their mutated figure, and we can't forget that big squishy brain and deadly tongue, either. This time around, Lickers are enemies you'd rather avoid then battle, a single hit from one of these guys will take a huge chunk of health away, and their agile, ceiling crawling nature makes them hard to hit anyway. To help you avoid a fight, they now specifically respond to sound rather than just go for you, so it pays to be slow around these guys...and I mean VERY slow, and don't even think about switching out weapons, they will respond to that sound too. There's few more spontaneous moments of tension in this game then when you make your way down a corridor and hear the pitter-pattering of their big meaty feets on the walls ahead...do you keep still and hope you get a window to creep past? Or do you attempt to make a run for it in the small chance you can get passed unscathed? SPOOOOKY STUFF. Other enemies do appear, and offer varying levels of fear, but the general intensity of each and every encounter, paired with the scarce ammo supplies and creepy and detailed atmosphere of the world you're exploring? It may not be horror at its peak scary, but...it's still pretty damn effective, and one of the more genuinely scary Resident Evil titles...and of course...we can't forget about that other certain someone...

      Expanded Mr X is a great addition.


      If there's one aspect of RE2make that's really captured the hearts of both players and spectators alike, it's Mr X. This stompy (literal) Tyrant had a role in the original RE2, but it was far smaller and relegated to just one of the two possible playthroughs. That's not the case this time around, he's in it, and he's in it for keeps. Following on from the successfully unsettling stalker mechanics of Resident Evil 7, which had set moments across the campaign where one of two Baker family members would pursue you through their respective locations with intent to kill. They were crazy, they were violent...but they were stoppable at the same time, sink a somewhat dangerous amount of ammo into them and they'd stop chasing you for that sequence, leaving you free to explore again. They also only did so in only a few moments of the game, all towards the start. Mr X, then is a fully featured expansion of that idea, more akin to Nemesis from RE3, albeit far more unrelenting and frequent. Although he's not around for the entirety of the game, he certainly crops up a lot, his starring role being in that iconic R.P.D. Station. Partway through both runs of the campaign, Mr X will make his presence known to the player, and decides to hang around for quite some time. Once he's in play at the station? He's going to be constantly roaming the halls and rooms searching for you, his telltale boot stomps the only early warning signal you get, when his music starts playing? He's spotted you, and won't stop chasing until he either gets you, or you manage to give him the runaround, which is harder than you would think. 

      Yes, it's as constantly unnerving as it sounds, and adds an entirely new dimension to exploring the station, which in the original game had become a rather more leisurely puzzle and exploration experience by this stage (At least in your first run). You can't kill him, unloading way too many precious bullets into him will only momentarily stagger him, allowing you a brief headstart before the hunt begins anew, so frankly, it's not worth the ammo doing so. You just need to keep on your toes, know where you're going...know how to get there if you suddenly need to find another route...and when he's coming? You gotta get the fuck out of there, or you're toast. His attacks, whilst sometimes easy to dodge, will do a lot of damage, and if he gets that close, it's even harder to shake the fella off. Throw in the zombies littered around and constantly clambering into the station, and the frequent inclusion of Lickers? That makes for some fucking terrifying gameplay. As we just discussed, slow and steady wins the race with Lickers, but you can't be slow and steady with Mr X stomping up behind you...so in those situations you either get lucky (or not, generally) running passed them, or find another way around, buster brown. Getting caught in the clutches of an enemy is all the more punishing when it means you lose precious space between you and the big fella, and even once you've escaped the station and his constant presense, it's not even the last you've seen of him. Mr X ramps everything in RE2make up to 11 when he's around, it changes the way the game plays in a way that's extremely upsetting, but in the best possible way. This is horror after all, if you're getting to relax, it's not doing it's just right.

      The Bad.

      Enemies are far too bullet spongey.


      When it comes to survival horror games, specifically ones featuring zombies as the main enemy? Headshots are key. Pop a couple well aimed rounds into their face? They're normally down for the count, with the challenge being landing those precious headshots when under the duress of an often ferocious attack. Not only will this take enemies down faster, but crucially it saves precious ammo. In the original RE2, you couldn't aim...as such? You point Leon in the right direction and he fires away at the zombie in question, whether or not he gets a headshot is based on in-game percentage chance and not your own ability. RE2make, with its over the shoulder perspective lets you aim your own shots...rewarding you for well aimed...oh wait, no it doesn't, it takes fucking ages and all your bullets to take down any zombie in the game, generally, no matter how good your aim is with the headshotting. I get it, it makes encounters more intense, and it better creates the feeling that maybe some battles are best left not fought at all...but....BUT....seriously?! It shouldn't take 7-8 direct shots to the head of a zombie to take them down...it absolutely should not. It's not an exact number for every zombie, but it can take upwards of 9 perfectly aimed bullets to kill a zombie for good, and that's when you aim perfectly and they don't randomly sway their head around at the last minute, as often they do. Sure, you might knock them down with 2 or 3, but they aren't dead...make that assumption and they'll just grab your leg and bite away at your health as punishment. 

      This is survival horror, ammo is scarce, and enemies are plentiful. Whilst it doesn't take 7-8 or even 9 shots to take down every zombie, it's more often than not the case that you'll need to unload at least 5 in to take one down, with a very very small chance of a critical hit that blows their head wide open and saves you the bother of checking for a pulse when they fall down. Every other enemy in the game, more or less takes a set amount of hits, dogs, plant folks, bosses, even Lickers (Spoilers: It's a lot)...but the zombies live by their own frustrating, spongey playbook. It's not even more realistic, one bullet directly to the head will easily kill basically anyone, a decaying corpse is at best no different and at worst even easier to take down. And yes, we're generally talking pistol ammo here, but it's very much a recurring problem with most weapons. A shotgun can often give you a much, MUCH higher chance of a critical hit, but those can take three rounds sometimes. THREE ROUNDS. FROM A BLOODY SHOTGUN. This is more or less manageable, bar occasional frustrations in the main campaign, but it really becomes a problem in the chaotic first act of 2nd Run mode. Just halving the amount of potential bullets required would still make for the same fight or flight strategy play, but as it stands...7-9 headshots is fucking ridiculous.

      Bosses unbalance the ammo/health scarcity.


      This in some ways plays in with the previous one, combining to create something of a problem at times. In the original RE2, it was generally easy to rely on just your handgun for basically all non-boss encounters. Until you reach the lab, handgun ammo is easy to come by if you check every nook and cranny, and barring the occasional shotgun round into a Licker, leaves the more juicy, scarce ammo and weaponry to be saved for the more intimidating boss encounters. RE2make, as we've discussed, for better or worse, does not play by the same rulebook. General enemy encounters are a lot more intense and, yes, spongey. You use more ammo, sometimes even needing to rely on your literal big guns just to get out of a sticky situation in one piece. There's also, in general less ammo to be found around the station, the abundance of handgun bullets in the original replaced by the gunpowder mechanic, which only really gets generous in its portions later into the campaign. 

      With a generally more intimidating regular rogues gallery, and a bigger emphasis on saving your ammo, and yes, various herbs and first aid sprays (Of which there are like, two of in the entire game) for your frequent rainy days...you'd be forgiven for thinking this specific RE title wouldn't have boss battles....but it does, and they require you to piss all those hard earned clips and health items away, leaving you scrambling for replacements in an already well picked police station as the enemy stakes start to raise even higher. Sure, the health situation is something you can deal with better if you avoid too many direct hits to the face in the boss battles, which...sure...is manageable....but it still requires a lot of wasted ammo, and when you're playing the game for the first time, it's pretty hard to be MLG Pro efficient in these sequences. Without the boss battles, managing and saving your ammo and health items would be a steep enough task, it's supposed to be, after all. But the boss battles, the moments where things slide into action combat town? They really unbalance that fight or flight mentality you need to acquire when encountering random enemies in order to save ammo/herbs, because you have to fight the bosses, and they require the most ammo of all the enemies to take down. Honestly, this isn't really an issue by the end of the game, but your first two boss fights will leave you with empty pockets and don't offer much in the way of reimbursement afterwards. This has always been a thing in Resident Evil, but it's especially unbalanced in RE2make.

      Lacks the trademark Resident Evil cheese.


      Okay, this is personal preference, but what is a review, if not a fancy and overly long way of stating an opinion. I didn't play the original Resident Evils when I was a kid, that wasn't the childhood I had, but I embraced the franchise with open arms in my early teens and haven't let go since...with the exception of some of the weirder PS1/PS2 spin-offs, I've played more or less all the Resident Evil games to some capacity and if there's one constant across them all, regardless of era, gameplay style or scale...it's the cheese. Intentional or not, the RE franchise has been gloriously campy since the first game, and it's iconically terrible voice acting. We've had Jill Sandwiches, incidents....involving...zombies, boulder punching, COMPLETE, GLOBAL, SATURATION and a whole lot more over the years. Even RE7, with its visual and stylistic overhaul was loaded with cheese, crazy Daddy Baker doing wheelies in his car was just the start of the fun to be had in that one. RE2make? It takes itself waaaay too seriously. Like...waaaaaay too seriously. Don't get me wrong, the realistic visuals and detailed gore are more than welcome, as is the slightly (slightly) more complex character arcs on display...but man, this is a game with zombies, plant people, a big grey dude in a trenchcoat and hat and an evil pharmaceutical company with an underground, seemingly infinite in scale secret lab. Crack a bloody smile once or twice, say something wacky, make the player do something stupid. Jeeeeez...okay, sometimes the game cracks a joke, and it's unintentionally very funny to have Leon randomly shout GOD DAMNIT or WHAT THE HELL when fighting the 50,000th zombie of the game, but I missed the cheese. I get it's 2019 and we can't do wacky music and silly voice acting any more, but RE7 had the same quality of presentation but still had chainsaw fights and Ethan spitting out painfully lame one-liners every five bloody minutes. The game doesn't even go RESSIIDENT EEEEEVil at the start any more (Unless you pay for the retro soundtrack DLC, thanks for that caveat, Capcom), IT'S A GOD DAMN TRAVESTY. Okay...it's not that bad, but I like my Resident Evil with extra cheese, thanks. Hold the QTEs.

      2nd Run mode is initially frustrating, then samey.


      Regardless of what difficulty you play RE2make on, it's not an easy game. Even on the lowest setting there's still the same amount of enemies, and the same scarcity of items to be had. You're gonna die at some point, but that's just how Resident Evil games work. The challenge in the main campaign, however, is reasonably manageable, like pretty much all games in the series, things start at one level, before escalating the various dangers present as you improve your inventory size, weapons (In both upgrades and entirely new ones) and have a better supply of ammo for all of them. It's never a breeze, but by the time you reach the lab at the end, you'll be sitting pretty unless you really done fucked things up. 2nd Run, is a mode unlocked after beating the main campaign, that offers a slightly different experience, occasionally showing things from the other side of a Leon/Claire conversation seen in your first run. It's not advertised as a harder mode, but by god, it really does start off that fucking way. Gone is any of the pacing the first campaign has, the chance to build up a little stockpile before requiring to actually combat any zombies, the more dangerous enemies turning up around the time you pick up the shotgun (For Leon at least). 2nd Run mode? The police station is fucking chaos from the second you step in, the main hall is filled with zombies (And no save point), Lickers are present from the start...Mr X has the potential to turn up practically instantly, and you have basically no ammo, a rubbish gun (In Claire's case anyhow), and zero health supplies or secondary items to fend off zombie attacks with. 

      It's a complete mess that does away with any sense of difficulty scaling. In the main campaign, by the time Mr X is in play, you'll have cleared most of the R.P.D. halls of the initial threats, and boarded up some windows (A useful feature) to prevent more coming in. 2nd Run? I found myself trying to run up the stairs with Mr X hot on my heels, zombies all over the bloody place, some falling from the railings above and landing in front of me...a Licker chasing me down the hallway beforehand...it's...unbalanced as fuck. Some people will enjoy this extra challenge I'm sure, for me it didn't work. To make matters a little worse, the actual objectives remain the same, which makes no sense given this is supposed to be a 'what was happening at the same time' mode, bar the alternate side-story, you'll have to do the same puzzles, fight most (but not all) of the same bosses and even have encounters with characters that make no sense since they also have the same encounter in the other campaign. Once you get passed the initial chaos of R.P.D. in 2nd Run mode? Things really become the same, except a little easier in all honesty. It really breaks your balls in the first couple hours, only to then just coast along for the rest of the experience, keeping all of the most tedious puzzles (Chess Piece switchboards, anyone) and removing some of the more entertaining sequences instead. As it stands, 2nd Run mode just comes across as lazy, and even the 'true ending' you unlock for getting through it feels like the ending you should've got to begin with (The main campaign's ending is super abrupt because it's not actually designed to be the ending), with a extremely easy final boss thrown in, as a whole providing just enough differing content to not be a total waste of time, but making no sense from a difficulty or continuity perspective. It's kinda disappointing.  

      Close quarters situations can be frustrating.


      For the most part, this is a bit of a nitpick, but it does become a real problem during the 2nd Run mode, and in the unlockable bonus content. Resident Evil has always been a very close-quarters game, it comes with the territory of building the foundations of your franchise on a trilogy of PS1 games that almost exclusively dabbled in narrow, twisty corridors filled with all manner of monsters. In the original games, the enemies were reasonably easy to avoid, providing you played your cards right, the fixed camera perspective meant you could plan your course well ahead of any dangers, only on occasion winding up with a zombie munching at your neck. RE4 and its over the shoulder gameplay, introduced QTE's as a means of fending off enemies, you'd take some damage for being grabbed, which often felt unavoidable, but it wouldn't be much health at all, providing you wiggled that damn analogue stick hard enough, matching its campy action nature, you could also roundhouse kick enemies out the way if you winded them with a bullet or two. This technique was kept for both RE5 and 6, with a few variations (Chris falcon PAWNCHED instead of kicked, for instance), before changing to a not all that great but still useful arm shielding mechanic in RE7, where a well timed block with your hands would limit the amount of damage some enemies could land on you (But not all, the bigger the attack, the less likely it'd do anything). Basically, what I'm saying is Resident Evil has always found a way to make close quarters combat reasonably avoidable, or at least enjoyable. RE2make is all like FUCK THAT though, and offers only one method of avoiding taking damage from the extremely grabby, hard to avoid enemies...and that's to waste your inventory. Grenades, both flash and normal, and knives (Of which have limited use thanks to a weird durability system) are your own line of defense against these attacks, if you don't have any? You're just gonna take a whole bunch of damage, sorry son. If you don't take out, or at least temporarily floor an enemy after stabbing it with one of your knives, then you don't get it back...it's gone, whilst grenades are obviously also used up, they can at least deal some damage in the process, knives are completely useless for damage and merely save you the lost health.

      As I've said, the zombies in this game are a lot more brutal than anything RE has seen before, if you get up in their personal space, something which is often impossible to avoid, they will grab you practically instantly, when there's multiple zombies in your nearby area, they'll often even double-team on you, for double damage, and something that can't be fended off at all, no matter how many knives you have. Whereas in the original RE2 you could generally run past most zombies, it's extremely difficult to do so in this game when you take into account the amount of narrow corridors you will be running through. Once again this only proves a mild frustration in the main campaign, which doesn't tend to overwhelm you too often, but it's extremely annoying in the previously mentioned 2nd Run mode, and apocalyptically frustrating in The Fourth/Tofu Survivor modes, which rely on a degree of zombie/enemy dodging that often amounts more to luck than skill when it comes to avoiding a chomp to the neck. If you don't save at least one grenade for the final sequence in HUNK's mode, you're going to find it hard to actually beat the game, and yet you also need to conserve health, and given how hard it is not to be grabbed by the dozens of zombies on screen at some points in time? Yeah....that sure is a problem. Tofu (At least the first incarnation) relies exclusively on knives to get through the mode, as he did in the PS1 version, but I'm sorry but that's fucking insane for the remake, how do you manage that without a mathematical degree of precision in beating the level? It also becomes especially apparent in these bonus modes, how unfair the hitboxes are on a lot of these enemies. Mr X's punches seem easy to avoid, but in one instance in 4th Survivor, it's clear the blast radius of his swing is bigger than any fist, even that of a Tyrants, wasting valuable time and potentially health on something that you clearly, visibly avoided. Zombies too have a habit of snapping onto you rather than naturally reaching you, often you can see their hands reaching out from behind, only to instantly be grabbed...and if they grab you from behind you don't get any defense, you just take an oh so valuable hit to your health. Again, in the main campaign? This really doesn't end up as a problem that often, but when the game puts your back up against the wall, it really proves to be an exercise in frustration and unfair programming.

      Post-R.P.D. sequences still feel lacking, Ada/Sherry sequences disappoint.


      One of the many traditions the Resident Evil franchise has kept over all these years is a sense of games starting out big and iconic, and then gradually fizzling out in some generic lab settings. RE1 and 2 both feature two of gamings most well known settings (The Mansion and the Police Station) for the bulk of their game, only to then end up in similarly generic evil Umbrella facilities. RE4 starts off in that memorable rural Spanish village only to then end up in weird castles, and yep, you guessed it, some evil lab. RE5 is basically the same except there's a volcano at the end, whereas RE6 breaks conventions by never having a memorable location at any point in the experience. RE7 went back to the oldschool styles of opening with the best sequences and the best location, only to then get less and less interesting before OH LOOK SOME SORTA LAB THING. AMAZING. Simply put, Resident Evil games always blow their wad in the 1st act, and never top themselves after. RE2make is obviously a remake, so you wouldn't expect it to dramatically change the locations you explore throughout the campaign, but it did offer them the valuable opportunity to maybe make the sewers and lab locations as memorable as that opening station setting. Spoilers, they don't manage it. Oops. They aren't bad, to be honest none of these games (with the exception of RE7 and yes, RE6) ever really get particularly poor in their 3rd acts..they just aren't ever as good as they start? The R.P.D. is a sprawling hive of secrets, puzzles and unlockable rooms...by the time you leave it, much as with the original RE1 and 2, you'll have its corridors and safe spots burned into your mind. The same can't be said for the locations that follow, which go for a more linear, brief and straight forward approach to things. Once again it feels like the R.P.D. is the game, and everything else is just the bits that follow. They're fine and fun enough, really, but they are very lacking in both scope and fear compared to what came before. 

      What's new to RE2make specifically is the ability to play as the respective side characters in Leon and Claire's campaigns. With Leon you get to play as iconic antihero Ada Wong, whereas with Claire you get to play as the defenseless child Sherry Birkin (Both of which incidentally have their own campaigns in RE6, for better or worse). This sounds like a great idea on paper, it breaks up the campaign with a self contained side-excursion that fleshes out both of the side-characters whilst offering a different playstyle at the same time...but the problem is they just aren't that great, and are incredibly brief. Ada's is the better of the two, relying on a very limited resource of health and ammo to navigate a surprising amount of danger, with the addition of her electric scanning ...gadget...thing providing a unique puzzle mechanic that makes for some tense situations when paired with a certain stompy boy. Sherry's on the other hand is...frustrating, both narratively and more crucially, in terms of gameplay. After briefly being introduced beforehand in Claire's campaign, Sherry has to deal with a somewhat crazed and unique villain character, but...they basically have no depth and are done with within the span of this short sequence, never to be brought up again. Her unique gameplay feature amounts to...crouching. Yes, something you have to use to hide from the bad guy, in a stealth mechanic that is very...very poorly implemented, the checkpointing system in this bit especially proving to be very annoying. Both brief excursions last for less than an hour and don't really offer any impact on the campaigns as a whole, and then that's it...back to the main game. It was a cool idea, but it didn't really work out in the end. That, paired with the before mentioned gradually diminishing series of locations and events make RE2make yet another Resi title that peaks too soon and only proceeds to mildly disappoint in its second half. Oh well, maybe next time.

      Worth Buying?


      Despite a clear love of horror being evident among the gaming community, it often seems hard for a AAA survival horror title to make the requisite amount of bank required to please its publisher. We saw this with Alien Isolation, and in fact we also saw it initially with Resident Evil 7, something that changed later down the line due to continued high sales. Either studios spend too much money on these games, or customers are uneasy about forking out full retail price for something they either assume won't offer a lot of replay value, or might not end up being finished due to their intense nature. That's just speculation on MY BEHALF, but with RE2make, Capcom made the surprising decision to offer this game at a lower price than the average major gaming release. Whilst the standard brand new game these days has a RRP of £50, RE2make started out with one around £40, and is already available for the £35-37 mark. Not too shabby, especially when you consider this game is no slouch when it comes to longevity or content. Playing through just the main campaign alone first time will average you 6-8 hours, and you can throw in another 4-6 hours for the 2nd run. The scoring system for the game also encourages replays in order to get the fastest possible completion time, with the chance of unlocking special weapons as an additional reward for accomplishing an S or S+ rank. Throw in the time based bonus missions, The Fourth Survivor plus several variations of the Tofu Survivor, each averaging at about 10 minutes a go, with the incentive to beat your best time as the real aim of that side-content? And the entirely new free DLC coming to the game in a matter of days from the time of this review being posted? This is a chunky amount of content for such a high quality survival horror game, and one that offers plenty to see and do, but also doesn't outstay its welcome at the same time. If you're a Resident Evil fan, or just into horror, this seems like a pretty no-brainer purchase.



      Once again Capcom have really outdone themselves when it comes to remaking a classic Resident Evil title. The second installment in the series is easily the most iconic, and is still regarded by many as the high point for the franchise, and the previous remake of RE1 is one of the few contenders to that crown, so this remake had some big, big, Tyrant sized shoes to fill. Thankfully it's managed to fill them in spectacular fashion, providing one of, if not the most polished, tense and mechanically satisfying installment of the franchise to date. No, it ain't perfect, the random difficulty spikes can prove frustrating, close quarters combat often ends up a real pain, and it never quite manages to excel in the latter half of the game, to the same degree as it does in its magical opening hours. It being a reasonably faithful remake in terms of settings and sequences also means it lacks a lot of uniquely memorable moments of its own, although Mr X will certainly go down as one of gaming's most unnerving stalkers, so it has that going for it. Beyond these mostly small issues, RE2make is an exceptional survival horror title, one that's fun to play and experience as both a overhauled, modern, yet immediately familiar remake of a classic, and as a polished, brutal and unnerving experience of its very own. It may not be the scariest game ever made, or the most forgiving, but it's certainly up there as one of the best Resident Evil titles ever released, and given this franchise in its prime? That's no small feat. Roll on RE3make, see you in like...15 years or something. It's gonna be great.

      WooOOwwiie, that sure was a review, huh? What did you think of the Resident Evil 2 remake? Am I just a big ol' bitch that needs to "git gud", or did you also find the 2nd Run to be quite the exercise in brutality? Where do you rank it compared to other titles in the series? Why not let me know in the comments below...I know you won't, nobody comments on these things, but I'm going to try and initiate discussion all the same, SON. If you liked this blog, give it a ZING and share it around with your friendos and what have you...and...well, I dunno when I'll do a blog next, but I will do one...AT SOME POINT. Until then, LATER GATOOORSS.

    • The 2018 Alternative Gimpy Awards.

      8 months ago



      So, this time last year I did the ol' Gimpy Awards, best and worst of the year in TV/Film/Games, and that was it. I felt that my personal awards blogs had outstayed their welcome...it felt a bit self-entitled, particularly when nobody was reading it to begin with and it took SooOOO much effort. That said, I couldn't let the year go by without doing soooomething....and so here we are, the ALL NEW, NOT IMPROVED GIMPY AWARDS...I GUESS? 

      Instead of spending 3 blogs talking about the best and worst of many things from the year...I'm just gonna give out some completely random awards with no coherence or actual meaning! It's...all bullshit is what I'm saying. But entertaining bullshit? MAAYBE?!


      NOTE: If you haven't seen/played the winner of each nominee in question, assume there will be spoilers for that category...if that's something you wish to avoid, don't read that category, aight? ALSO...NSFW warning...why? You'll...you'll see.

      Hardest Slamming of a Final Nail in the Coffin of a Franchise.

      The Predator.

      WHAM. Just like that. Right in the coffin. GOOODBYYYEE Predator franchise! Let's face it, beyond the original and classic 80s action hit, the Predator series, love it or hate it, has been a series of critically and financially diminishing returns. Not a single entry since has been universally well received by fans or critics, and despite the titular alien race being supremely iconic, it's hardly at the peak of cultural interest financially or, well in general. Eight years after the last, reasonably successful entry, 20th Century Fox were looking to rejuvenate the series into its rightful blockbuster potential with a roster of eye-opening acting, writing and directing talent, and a hefty budget to boot. It was clear this Shane Black directed action comedy was meant to be a new direction for the series, and the potential start to at least a new trilogy of connected films. ALAS...they fucked it up, and fucked it up spectacularly. Marred by a massive collection of delays, expensive and extensive reshoots that completely altered the third act of the film, along with numerous other awkward removals/additions, mediocre trailers, a primarily negative reception and...oh yeah, a huge mess of controversy involving the hiring of a registered sex offender, and the subsequent public shunning of the actress who spilled the beans on that mistake? ....yeah...this wasn't going to end well. With a potential (and insane) total budget of $200 Million, which it didn't recoup from a somewhat stagnant box office run, and subsequent further controversy over narrative themes of weaponised autism (yes, I know) and a shoddy ending sequence that turned out to be one of several disastrous possibilities (Ripley and/or Newt traveling back from the past in a spacepod as the fabled 'Predator Killer' , for instance)...this was a real train crash, and at this point, with Disney moments away from owning the IP? It's hard to see the franchise going anywhere at all in the near future, if at all. It's never been the most prevalent of franchises, even in the extended universe where it tends to be paired with its more successful sister franchise (Alien) in both comics, books and games...but if there was ever any small shred of hope Predator could be brought back to life? It's dead now. WHAM. Nailed.

      Most Immediately Forgettable Experience.


      Let's face it, the zombie genre is a hard crowd to stand out in. Horror films in general have a hard time breaking the mold, and no sub-genre of horror has been quite as done to (ahem) death as that of the zombies. In fact, there was a period of time, before the modern zombie renaissance that began with Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead's remake and the original Resident Evil movie, where zombie movies were as untouchable as westerns are now. Been there, done that, nobody cares. In 2018, it's a different story, with several different takes on the concept of zombies and infections now huge pop culture landmarks. The Walking Dead is one of TVs biggest shows, and one of the few non-Marvel/DC comic book sales juggernauts out there. The Last of Us put a new spin on 'infected' and did so with an engaging and complex character-driven narrative, which, really has been the blueprint for most of the modern zombie success stories. With all that said and done, we arrive at Cargo, which sure...was a film I saw in 2018? Martin Freeman is a father trying to survive the zombie apocalypse in the already unforgiving Australian outback..and things...uh...happen? There's nothing all that wrong with Cargo, beyond a slight cheapness to the production values. It's reasonably well acted, has a reasonably unique setting and has some striking moments....not that I can remember them. Cargo is based on a short film that existed purely for its striking final sequence where a zombified father carries his infant child to safety thanks to actions taking in his final living moments. It's a unique and shocking image, but it's the only thing interesting from the short, and as such...is also the only interesting aspect of the 105 minute feature film. It's all very much a series of generic and bland events bringing us to that ultimate final moment...and yeah...I don't really remember much else. Adequate. Painfully so. What were we talking about again?

      Most Baffling, Continuing Hollywood Trend.

      Western Anime Remakes.

      Okay, so 2018 wasn't really a year that actually saw a lot of western anime remakes released in it....2017 was a far bigger deal for those (Death Note and Ghost in the Shell, any one?), but it was certainly the year we heard about a lot of upcoming anime projects. Attack on Titan, Gundam, My Hero Academia, Your Name, Cowboy Beebop, a sequel to the previous Death Note movie are all in the pipeline, with the troubled looking, bug-eyed Alita: Battle Angel on its way out in cinemas very soon. My question is merely...why? Don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who has an issue with the concept of doing these remakes. I don't even have an issue with the change of locations and culture that often come with them...it is a western remake after all, why pretend to be anything else, especially when Japan make their own, more faithful live action movies themselves. The issue is more from a business perspective....these films just aren't worth the fuss? Critically they always completely tank, often justifiably so. Financially they never make bank, often outright bombing irregardless of the talent that can sometimes be involved. Even ignoring those two rather crucial chestnuts, from a PR standpoint it's always a total disaster, the people they need to drum up excitement for these projects, the fans of the original works? They hate these films before a script is even written. The mere mention of a western anime remake causes the internet to burn down to the ground, mainly over claims of cultural appropriation and whitewashing. Best case scenario they simply don't believe a 90 minute movie can do justice to something that's generally adapted from a lengthy manga or long-running TV series. Simply put...nobody benefits from these projects being made, and yet...they keep being made!? It's truly baffling...heeeennce the name of the award, aaahh

      The 'Wait...you took up HOW MUCH FUCKING HARD DRIVE SPACE!?' Award (Sponsored by Activision).

      Spyro Reignited Trilogy.

      The 8th console generation really has been the era of constantly filling hard drives. The previous run of systems you could happily run pretty much everything on a mere 60GB hard drive, even less if you only bought physical discs. When the new generation arrived, all that changed, and now you're lucky if a 500GB hard drive will last you more than a couple months if you have a lot of games to catch up on. Want the latest edition of Call of Duty? Better have at least 100GB of space ready to go. Throw in constant and often sizeable patches? Oof. That said, not everything needs a chonking great big slice of your storage, and with those nice big Blu Ray discs...surely a remastered collection of PS1 games would only take up 15-20 GBs at the most, right? Wait...Sypro Reignited takes up over 60GBs? More than God of War and Spider-Man? Oh...oh dear. Now, don't get me wrong, the Spyro remakes are chock full of visual charm, with content to spare...but it doesn't look that good, and they are rejigged PS1 platformers at the end of the day. Nobody takes up hard drive space quite like Activision, though, who seem to have absolutely no interest in being efficient with their required storage. The real culprit of Spyro's hefty install? They simply didn't bother to put the games on the disc, as it turns out. Your Spyro Reignited Blu Ray contains exactly one of the three games advertised on the box, with the other two (Barring one or two core levels) being day 1 installs. Even with this in mind...60GBs? Are you 'avin a fuckin' giraffe? Should two Spyro remakes and some patches really take up that much? Beyond that, it means in the (maybe) far off future, when the PS4's servers are closed for good, the complete Reignited package (Which we payed for by the way) will be lost to customers forever, like tears in rain. To summarise, FAK OFFFfFffFfffFFFFF ACTIVISIONNNN.

      The 'Oh...that's it, huh?' Award.

      Shadow of the Tomb Raider's Ending.

      Another Tomb Raider game, another ambitious action adventure title lost in a sea of other, bigger releases. Rise of the Tomb Raider released on the same day as Fallout bloody 4 and payed the price. Shadow of the Tomb Raider? Came out exactly one week after Spider-Man PS4, a game that captured the collective interest and love of gamers for a lot longer than that. As you'd expect, nobody except the most diehard, non-PS4 owning Lara fans really picked this one up at launch, and its subsequent, rapid price-drop (On sale at half price after less than a month) drew more ire from those who'd supported it than celebration from people who hadn't, who were probably playing Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty by that point. OOPS. Still, this isn't an award about stupid release date plans, it's about the definitive....oh...that's it, huh? moment of 2018. Not a bad moment, nor a good one. Just a moment where the credits roll on something and you just feel...completely underwhelmed. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the final chapter in this rebooted trilogy of Tomb Raider titles, ones that set out to explore the origins of Lara Croft, albeit a Lara with slightly more narrative complexity to her. Not only that, but its set against the backdrop of the apocalypse, with an artifact featuring the ability to rewrite reality at risk of being in the hands of a shadowy organisation who wishes to subjugate mankind to its authoritative will (Assassin's Creed anyone). The opening sequence of the game shows Lara at her lowest point, having caused the death of hundreds of innocent people due to her reckless nature. What follows is the darkest and most violent chapter in the franchise, exploring Lara as a less likeable survivor and more sadistic, violent individual who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. All sounds pretty fascinating right? Well...how does it end? Bad guy glowy, Lara shooty, then everything's fine. The end. Oh. Okay. Don't get me wrong, the final sequence leading to the ending is fucking epic, but the story of this game, and really, the entire trilogy ends with a timid and safe whimper, rather than something meaningful to round of this franchises equivalent of The Dark Knight or Rise/Dawn/War of the Apes trilogy. It wasn't a bad ending...it was just....a let down. Oh. That's all you got for me? Okay...

      Best Use of Willem Dafoe riding a massive hammerhead shark shouting THE SURFACE DWELLERS ARE HERE.

      At Eternity's Gate.

      I'm as surprised as you are with this, reader. I had fully expected DC's latest heavily processed, sludge-like, edible but ultimately unsatisfying meat of a blockbuster, Aquaman to take this prestigious award. The scene in Aquaman where Willem Dafoe, sat atop a giant CGI hammerhead shark, wavy CGI hair in tow, screams "THE SURFACE DWELLERS ARE HERE"  shook me to my very core with its potency, and when it came to the annual  'Best Use of Willem Dafoe riding a massive hammerhead shark shouting THE SURFACE DWELLERS ARE HERE.' award, it seemed like a shoe-in. And yet, here we are, with Willem Dafoe's stark and low budget Vincent Van Gogh (A well known aritst) biopic 'At Eternity's Gate' taking the title. Nobody was as surprised as I, when watching this lukewarmly received, low-risk Oscar-bait biopic about world renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh, to see a sequence in which Willem Dafoe, in the role of well known artist Vincent Van Gogh sits atop a massive, CGI hammerhead shark and screams, with all the acting prowess of an Academy Award nominated leading man...THE SURFACE DWELLERS ARE HERE. I'm not even sure how Vincent Van Gogh, a well known artist, managed to find a giant shark to sit on in his lifetime, particularly his dying days, but he clearly found a way. It's never really explained in the film though, things just carry on as normal afterwards, as if it was less a scene within At Eternity's Gate, a cheaply made and barely noticed biopic about world renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh with the all-start cast typically associated with failed Oscar grabbing motion pictures that nobody will actually watch, and more a scene from Aquaman that randomly appeared within it. Perhaps even just being a figment of my imagination, my mind increasingly losing grasp of all sense of actual reality, in favour of Willem Dafoe (Who stars as world renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate) sitting atop a giant CGI hammerhead shark, potentially with unconvincing watery CGI hair, screaming THE SURFACE DWELLERS ARE HEEERE. Hm, food for thought.

      Most Unintentionally Fun Moment.

      Any scene from Widows with the dog in it...except that one.

      Widows, for all intents and purposes, is not a happy or fun film. It's a high octane and intimate drama about abused wives to recently deceased criminals turning to a life of crime themselves in order to pay back someone who plans to kill them for their husband's transgressions...from the director of 12 Years a Slave and Shame. It's...y'know, not a barrel of laughs, I'll be honest. That said, it does have a bloody good doggo in it...in like...most of the scenes, really. And what a god damn dog it is. A loyal and eternally optimistic looking pupper, owned by the constantly intense and pouty Viola Davis, this dog is caught in the midst of a storm not of her own doing, unable to assist or escape from the increasingly dangerous situations that arise throughout, and yet does so with a wag and a smile...y'know? To be honest the dog is a bit distracting, taking my gaze away from the powerhouse performances and upsetting themes, my focus instead on the curly haired fluffy waddler in the corner of the frame. On the bed, tootling around on the floor, panting away on Viola Davis' lap. Unintentionally, this hard-hitting drama injected a big barrel of loveable fun in the form of its canine star, to the point where maybe not every scene with Viola Davis in should've had the dog in it, because I meaaaaan...what else am I gonna pay attention to. The only scene where this doesn't work is when someone threatens the dog...like...threatens violence against the dog. That's no good, man. I don't know what they were going for with this film, sorry Steve McQueen, I guess it's just another dud release for you. Bye.

      The 'Oh No, They're Hot' Award.

      Lost in Space Robot.

      Let's face it, 2018 had a lot of nominees for this category. From the Oscar Best Picture winner, to one of the most divisive comic book releases of the year, the cultural zeitgeist was full of abstract thirst. Although you could argue a buff fish man who has a straight up sex scene and a big goopy muscle boy with Tom Hardy wriggling around gruffly inside were always asking to be sex icons....begging for it, really. We all saw that coming, don't you lie about it. One source of horny that nobody saw coming was the fucking god damn robot from motherpissing Lost in Space. Yes, that one which goes DANGER WILL ROBINSON and used to be a giant light-up kitchen utensil on wheels in the 60s is now a source of thirst so strong that even Netflix, the media juggernaut responsible for the recent remake, fully acknowledged the globally experienced phenomena with a saucy viral video. Unfortunately I couldn't find that on Youtube so you get this weird, almost predatory in nature one with like, 20 views I found instead. So...what exactly made the Lost in Space robot the years number one DTF partner? Well...boy's thicc, for starters. He's got hips for days and an ass right into next week. He's also pretty damn buff, and ain't afraid to show it, whether he's lifting heavy objects or attempting to smash bullet proof glass in an attempt to murder an innocent family (wait what). Beyond the physical, he's also the perfect man, one that doesn't talk back, y'know? He does as he's told and does so with puppy-like enthusiasm. Sure, he's also a killing machine at heart, but...on the surface he's a loooove machine, amirite folks? Right? H...hello? Hm. Anyway this was weird. Moving on.

      The FUCK YOU Award for Biggest Bullshit.

      The White Palace (Hollow Knight).

      Okaaaay, so technically Hollow Knight released on PC in 2017.....BUT it came out on consoles in its complete form in 2018, and my rage at this particular segment of an otherwise atmospheric and mostly enjoyable game transcends all time and space. Like I say, Hollow Knight, despite having a lot of frustrating sequences, was a great game...it looks beautiful, has a great atmosphere, tons of charm...loads of content, solid gameplay...it's a top-tier Metroidvania for the most part...HOWEVER...The White Palace? White Palace can SUCK MY GOD DAMN DICK, JEEEEEEEEEZUZ. At its core, Hollow Knight is a standard Metroivania game in design, except far far larger than the average one, and infused with...and I'm sorry to say it, but infused with a touch of Dark Souls (Expansive side-areas with tough boss battles, lack of direct explanations for the plot, hidden items or actual direction to head in, upgrade currency dropped when killed, able to be retrieved afterwards etc). When you reach the end of the game without accessing and beating the White Palace, you get the 'bad ending' and only phase 1 of the final boss. To gain access to the White Palace requires a lot of hard work, but it's doable for sure. The place itself? It comprises entirely of infuriating precision platforming sequences featuring spikes, tricky jumps and oh yes, oh YES....saw blades. It's basically Super Meat Boy, except instead of being a collection of small levels it's expansive as all hell...far as I'm aware it never fucking ends, since I gave up after hours of fruitless rage. As with most Metroivanias, Hollow Knight checkpoints with save stations, if you die before reaching a new one, back to the last one you used, asshole. There are very...very few save points in the White Palace, and to reach them you must soldier through agonising torment...you get through what feels like an eternity of total bullshit and your reward? Even more bullshit, often with no save space between...and, inevitably you die...meaning you not only have to get through the PREVIOUS bullshit you slaved over, but now know you have another wall of nonsense to get through as well without dying...AND...AAANND there's no fucking guarantee it'll even have a save point after THAT. I got through a fucking god damn lot of the White Palace but it kept on going and going and going until I threw in the towel for the sake of my own pissing sanity. It's total garbage, and the antithesis of the rest of Hollow Knight's gameplay...the fact that they locked ALL the endings of actual substance behind it? FUCK. YOU. PISS. OFF. GAAAARBAGE. AaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaAAGGHH!!!

      The 'Well, I never expected to see that' Award.

      Batman's Penis.


      Hhhhhhwell then. As we all know, DC just loooove to be edgy. There's nothing wrong with that, when it works...but with DC it's quite often, and famously over the top in its attempt to be dark and gritty. In 2018, the comic book label decided to release a series of edgier takes on their leading properties, more adult-focused and free to swear and shit on the floor or whatever, and of course, Batman was at the forefront of this new imprint. Batman Damned #1 launched...and I'll be honest, I don't actually know anything about the contents of the comic except one...little thing...or...really, more of a medium sized thing. We're talking Bruce Wayne's Batarang, of course. Yep, it only took nearly 80 years, but we finally got to see Batman's penis in all its mostly dark and concealed glory, because nothing says adult and edgy than male nudity..something that is still a huge taboo to this day, despite so many other things (Including female nudity) being common place in entertainment, I woooooonder what that says about the majooooority genderrrrr of people in charge of media empires in 2018. Regardless, this came as a shock inclusion to a lot of people, including DC themselves, who I guess don't read the comics they make before they print them in their hundreds of thousands of copies all over the pissing world, because they quickly went into damage control, censoring this particular Batman themed Dick from the get-go in the digital versions, and vowing to do the same for all future reprints of the issue. Honestly, it seems like a lot of hoo-hah over nothing, we all knew Batman had a penis, riiiiight? ...RIGHT?! All the same, it wasn't something anyone anticipated seeing in the comic, if at all in their lifetimes, and given DCs panicked reaction to their mass-produced, unsolicited dick pic...I guess this will be the only time we see it. It's not bad though, y'know? Very manageable. I'd of been more concerned if he had a swinging horse dick, to be honest. Still...welp...there it is. Batman's penis. Enjoy?

      Wowee, what a ride it's been, huh? A real roller-coaster, a real ghost train, a real log flume, a real dark ride, a real...uh...other type of ride. But the ride's almost over, and we're about to enter the gift shop, what with the cheap key-rings, travel mugs and overpriced photos of you going WEEEEEE whilst reading this blog. There's just time for one last award, and it's the big one, of course...the one...the only....

      Chocolate Bar of the Year 2018.

      Salted Caramel Fudge Kit Kat Chunky.


      WoOoAAHAHh MY GAWWWD, WHO SAW THIS COMING!? It's been a competitive year in the chocolate bar genre, with Kit Kat Chunky itself rivaling this winner with its previously released Cookies and Cream variant. Cadbury's Dairy Milk Mint Crisp offered steep competition with its chunky chunks and tasty mint insides...but at the end of the day it just had to go to the Salted Caramel Fudge Kit Kat Chunky. You read that flavour and what's the first thing you think? "Oh god no"? "I'm going to fucking barf"? Me too, but through some miracle of confectionery science, it's actually fucking delicious. The Chunky proportions of this Kitty Katty allow for maximum flavour in addition to maximum crOnCh. You can really taste all the flavours...the Kit Kat, the fudge, the salted caramel, and they all compliment each other wonderfully.  Yes, it's sweet....but is it sickly? Not in my opinion. Rarely does a chocolate bar feature so many identifiable flavours whilst also actually being edible, so kudos to Nestle for this stellar entry in the chocolate bar canon. A great TASTE SENSATION, and my favourite chocolate bar of 2018. I look forward to seeing where weird flavours of Kit Kat Chunky go from here. Also no I didn't play a lot of 2018 games last year, thanks for asking.

      Well, that was a pointless waste of time, huh? What are your thoughts on the lucky winners? What was your favourite chocolate bar of 2018? More questions to ask for responses to in the comments that I don't ever get in a desperate attempt at making a connection with what few readers I actually receive? Let me know in the comments below! I'll see you soon for a review of Resident Evil 2, probably. Maybe....uh...BYE. LATER GATORS.

    • Alien/Predator/AvP/Prometheus RANKED.

      10 months ago


      What's up my spoOOOky peEOoPple? It's HALLOWEEEEEEEEENN, AaaaaaaaaaAAAAGGGHHH. *Ahem* Yes. Halloween is here again, and once again I'm here to deliver a vaguely horror related seasonal blog. Just over a month ago (Although it feels like an eternity for some reason), The Predator was released in cinemas worldwide...you probably didn't notice. At the time, I polled the folks over on Twitter about whether a definitive ranking of that, alongside the whole collected Predator, Alien, AvP and Prometheus franchises would be a fun thing to do for the spooky season...and the response was pretty enthusiastic so YES...HERE WE ARE. 

      Rules wise, this one's pretty straight forward. If there was a motion picture released in any of these franchises, the earliest of which was 1979, and the latest was this year of 2018. We're just talking feature films here, no books, no comics, no games and no fan-films, duh. Spoiler-wise, I'll be keeping it vague on the most recent two releases, but otherwise it's fair game, so if you haven't caught up yet? POTENTIAL spoiler warnings for the pre-2017 films ahoooooy. Aaand as per usual, this is just my opinion, I'm not presenting it as facts, and if you disagree...or agree...or have any thoughts? Let me know in DEM COMMENTS, BRO...and other FOLKS.


      12. Alien vs Predator: Requiem (2007).

      Ooyyy with this one. Now, the majority of films on this list? For better or worse, they're watchable. They're fun, or they're interesting, they've got memorable moments. And then there's this seething shitfire. Regardless of if you liked the original AvP or not (And we'll get to that one later), you can't deny it at least delivered the bare minimum of what was expected, and more importantly for Fox, it made a lot of bank. So naturally, 3 years, a reduced budget and somehow, an even worse choice of director(s) later? We get this loosely connected sequel, taking the promising ending teaser of the first (A Predator chest-birthing a Predator/Xeno hybrid) and completely wasting it, descending to the natural land's end of any once promising horror franchise...a horny teen heavy exploitation slasher set in suburban America. Oh dear. 

      Still, even a creatively barren and lazy movie can still be fun when it has both Aliens, Predators AND an Alienpredator...right? You'd think so, but no. Chiefly of issue is the directing/editing, it's depressingly amateur hour all around here, crappy framing, choppy editing, and that's even if you can see what's going on because the film is dark as all fuck. A good 90% of this film is set in total darkness, presumably either to hide the cheap production value....or Fox were saving on lightbulb usage that year. It's practically unwatchable, and any potential for fun fights, gore or creature effects are rendered null by the fact you can't see any of it. And that's even if you want to see anything, because this is one nasty-ass film to boot. One of the main complaints from the previous AvP was the lack of gore. To take two notoriously R Rated franchises and turn them into a PG-13 blockbuster? It didn't go down very well with the fans, as you might expect. Thankfully(?), Fox took this to heart, and decided to make this film as gory and unpleasant a film as you can...when you can barely see anything. Opening with a father and son being impregnated by facehuggers and, naturally dying horribly soon after? That about sets the tone, with one sequence which involves a maternity ward full of pregnant women falling victim to the Predalien, having eggs forced down their throat, and their own child either converted to or consumed by the parasites. It's nasty, and unnecessary in addition. Basically, AvP R hits all the shitty buttons....bad writing, bad acting, bad directing...cheap production, lazy premise, nasty content, generic ending...it's garbage, and easily the lowest point of all these franchises combined.

      11. Alien Resurrection (1997).

      We're moving on from totally garbage to just...mostly garbage now, with this unnecessary and immensely weird sequel that managed to kill the core Alien franchise for 20 whole years. For all the issues Alien 3 had (And it had many), you can't fault it for being a definitive conclusion to the story of Ellen Ripley....SPOILERS, she dies. That's pretty definitive, and it was a memorable, meaningful death at that. Fast forward 5 years between films and...uh...200 years after the events of Alien 3 and we get ALIEN RESURRECTION...yaaaaay? That resurrection is quite literal unfortunately, as the military makes a human/xeno hybrid clone of Ripley using DNA they....had? 200 years after she was incinerated? Okaaaaay.  Gone is the likeable, heroic and determined Ripley of the previous films...now we get...Sigourney Weaver in a weird suit, being weird and mean, throwing basketballs, writhing around on the floor in a bag, and making out with human xenomorph hybrid....things? Yes, this film DID have a French director most known for his arty productions at the helm. Hm? WHY YES, YES THAT IS AN ODD CHOICE OF DIRECTOR TO LET GO WILD ON YOUR TOP SCI-FI FRANCHISE, HUH?

      With that kinda 'visionary' director choice, you'd expect the film to least look nice, huh? Wellll....noooo? It doesn't look awful, but it's very brown...like...REALLY brown. Like, 'I think someone spilled gravy over the lens' brown....it really is that kinda gross greeny, oily brown which doesn't make for visually vibrant cinema. The opening shot, which is an awful CGI xenobug getting smooshed and then...eaten or something by some random guy that never turns up again? Great start, terrific stuff. And it doesn't stop being weird from there....strange camera angles (generally uncomfortably close-up and tilted below faces), pantomime performances, a huge heap helping of surreal, sexualised sequences involving grotesque, drooling monsters...the degree of which would make HG Giger himself blush, we got it all, SON. ShittyRipley is bolstered by a cast of mostly well known actors (At the time) including...that guy from CSI who's gone to jail a bunch and nobody likes any more, Ron Perlman being Ron Perlman...as per usual, and Winona Ryder in an oddly extremely irritating role as some childish android/human hybrid...thing? Basically, if you like everything hybrids, and people making out with penis shaped monsters, one of which was literally just born? This is the film for you. Main thing this film has going for it is the creature costumes, which are great...the CGI? Not so much, the cast of this film were made to spend days submerged in water for an action sequence that wasn't even that good at the time, but is now pretty embarrassing due to dem shitty CGIxenos. Don't forget the ending, which thought it was going to set up an ENTIRE NEW ERA OF ALIEN FILMS...oops. This film is watchable, that's all I can say for it positive-wise....if you want to spend two hours feeling generally uncomfortable due to weird camera angles and underlying sexual thematics? You can do worse.

      10. Alien vs Predator (2004).

      Heeyyy, now we're in the 'mediocre but entertaining' phase of our ranking! Huzzah! Long before Prometheus was getting Alien fans' panties in a bunch, we had this, the original Alien vs Predator stirring the bubbling cauldron of fan-loathing. Inspired by the vastly superior Dark Horse Comics crossover franchise and the ensuing, similarly preferable games franchise, 20th Century Fox decided to follow in the footsteps of that classic work of cinema, 2003's Freddy vs Jason, and bring together their two biggest genre titans in an epic cinematic showdown...not set in space...nor featuring space marines...or really featuring that many Predators either. Oh. Oops. Following in the footsteps of visionary directors such as Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher...and that French guy, we have...PAUL W.S ANDERSON. No, not Paul Thomas Anderson, Paul W.S Anderson, y'know...the guy who did the Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil movies? Ooh...oh dear. With that name, you know exactly what you're going to get, and yes...yes it is. Competently filmed, less competently acted, some decent action sequences, and a boatload of 3D grid maps. As previously mentioned, this particular entry is the only one of either franchise to not be R Rated, Fox instead opting for a more marketable PG-13 rating for their dumb action crossover, which means anyone hoping for the red, neon and acid blood soaked carnage you'd assume would come from Aliens, Predators and unsuspecting humans intersecting will be left pretty disappointed. There's a little bit of gore, but predominately of the fantastical, monstery side of things.

      No gore is one thing, but how's the story, right? Uhhhhhh....well how about this, bucko. What if Bishop Weyland...the original one that is...found a underground pyramid in the middle of Antarctica and mounted a poorly planned expedition to it with a ragtag group of multi-national, affordable actors and actressesssss? Yaaaaay. The aim is to find evidence of alien life, and make his life meaningful in its final days, cuz he got the cancer and whatnot. Well, he finds that evidence,  in the form of a secret intergalactic proving ground where teenage Predators fight Xenomorphs birthed through sacrificial humans. And then they release the facehuggers, create a Xeno outbreak..the Predators arrive...yadda yadda yadda, everyone dies. The story is pretty nothing, but the Predator/Alien fights are a good time, as are some of the character kills, with the final act Alien Queen fight being visually quite impressive and enjoyable to boot. It's stupid, predictable, lacking in gore and cheesy, but...it has Aliens fighting Predators and I can actually see what's happening, so that's a big plus. I enjoy this film as mindless entertainment, as a fan of both franchises, it's fun to see the two duke it out, and everything else is competent enough to back that up. It's...DECENT.

      9. The Predator (2018).

      What a terrible, terrible waste of potential. The Alien and Predator franchise are no stranger to troubled productions, but with the exception of a certain other entry which we'll be talking about pretty soon, The Predator has them all beat in that department. From start to finish this was a real trainwreck of a project, in total taking 4 years, extensive reshoots and several release date changes to come to fruition. Unfortunately it's too early at this point to know who was really to blame for the constant fiddling and reshooting that led to this entertaining but total mess of a film, the director, Shane Black for making a bad film that was then in need of salvaging...or 20th Century Fox for not having the confidence in his original vision. All I know is that, for all this films plus points, of which there are a decent amount, it's hard to ignore the glaring problems. Plus wise? It's a lot of fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and has a diverse and talented cast who seem to be having a good time being there. There's a lot of funny moments and it's loaded with the cartoonish over the top gore you expect from this franchise. It's also nice to see the Predator franchise attempt to do something different, and expand its mythology...a little bit, even if it is poorly managed. It's hard not to have fun watching this film, even if you're often trying to work out what the hell just happened. 

      And on that, things start to go downhill. Sometimes, films get extensive reshoots and you'd never know from the finished product (Rogue One, for instance)...then there's The Predator. From start to finish, every cut...every shoddy CGI tweak, every inexplicable continuity lapse...this film REEKS of a messy production, a film cobbled together from different cuts...different takes of different narratives and a visible, constant struggle between being a comedy, a horror, action...something between them all...or none. Characters die in moments so quickly cut away from, never to be revisited, that you spend a few minutes dumbfounded by what you might...or might not have actually just seen. It's at times practically subliminal in its editing, and there are moments in the narrative where you just really can't believe something has actually been said...established....as canon to the lore of the Predator universe. It's baffling, and the final scene of the movie, one clearly designed to be a post-credits sequence...one which was instead taped onto the end of the main film because they clearly knew people wouldn't sit there and wait through those credits? One of cinemas worst endings in recent memory. And let's not even get into the casting controversy that marred the week of its release and sent an already doomed box office ship straight off the edge of the Earth. Like I say...this film is fun, it's got good merits, you can feel the potential deep within these ruins...but they are ruins. Which is a shame, because given the reception and poor box office, this is likely the final Predator movie for a long time...if indeed ever. Still, could've been worse I suppose.

      8. Alien 3 (1992).

      Remember that troubled production to trump The Predator? Here it is. After the runaway success of Alien and Aliens, 20th Century Fox were keen to get a sequel in the works ASAP. The first teaser trailer for the film was screened before a script had even been written...teasing an earthbound premise that only actually came to fruition in AvP Requiem...over a decade later. $7 Million had been spent on the film before production started, and it did so without a finished script, and poor rookie director David Fincher was put at the helm of a film that had no consistent premise, constantly at war with the executives and trying to keep pace with the time needed to actually write the script. It was a disaster, and it really shows in the finished product. That said, many years later, and many tweaks, re-cuts and HD polishes? Alien 3 isn't actually that bad of a film, I feel anyway. Far from perfect, but far from irredeemable, at least in its modern form. It certainly makes itself hard to enjoy, mind, taking the upbeat cheesy action romp that was Aliens and relocating things to a desolate, practically uninhabitable planet that doubles as both an abandoned foundry AND a penal colony of all-male rapist and murderer convicts. Not only that, but that loveable surviving cast of characters that endeared and charmed in Aliens? THEY'RE ALL FUCKING DEAD, SON. Hicks and Newt both die in a surprisingly grisly fashion, with the latter's autopsy proving to be the franchises bleakest moment by a long way. On a whole this is a dark, cold, nihilistic film about death and the grim acceptance of it, and whilst that doesn't really prove to be much in the way of sci-fi fun? It's still pretty interesting, and concludes the original trilogy of Alien films with yet another unique and tonally distinct entry.

      And it is a conclusion. As previously stated, this is, for all intents and purposes, Ripley's final outing. Yeah, we get the weird Xenohybrid in Resurrection, but this is the end of the road for the Ellen Ripley we know and love, and the film deals with that in a suitably stirring and poignant way, with her heroic death losing its swelling momentum only due to the dated special effects. Obviously it's not all perfect, no film this troubled ever can be. As previously stated, the special effects are somewhat lacking compared to the almost timeless practical effects of Aliens. Early attempts at green-screen inserting leads to Alien shots that not so much aged badly as were never good to begin with. The weird mix of puppetry, stop motion and practical suit-work creates an Alien that has no on-screen cohesion, and that's not even beginning to go into the confusion as to whether this unique, four legged Xeno is the spawn of a cow, or a dog...it differing between the theatrical and the much later alternative (It's not a directors cut) DVD release of the film. Even in the much improved Blu Ray restoration, there's some audio issues, and a lot of the side cast get lost in the chaos, with some dodgy performances standing out against the stellar work by Sigourney Weaver. It started out as a hot mess, but much like Blade Runner (Albeit not to the same quality), the film has been improved upon over the years with more cohesive cuts released, and recent restoration work on the visuals and audio, the former of which seemingly having a lot more of the Fincher colour palette which is now his trademark. A lot of people hate this film, but I think it's honestly pretty decent. A depressing, but engaging trilogy ender to the classic Alien series.

      7. Predators (2010).

      In the middle portion of this list, things are increasingly getting a little trickier to rank. A good chunk of this middle group have a lot of redeeming qualities, but their obvious shortcomings prevent them from being in the top tiers. But when you have several pretty dang good films with their own differing faults and you need to place on one top of the other? It's tricky, man. No more evident is this than with Predators. The 3rd instalment in the Predator franchise, named in tribute to the Alien-Aliens naming convention of its older sibling series, isn't a masterpiece by any means, it's mediocrities are why it's this far down the list...however, that's not to say I don't like it. In fact, I like Predators quite a lot. Released without a huge amount of audience fanfare back in 2010, despite raking in a healthy profit, it's often the forgotten child of the series. Not good enough to earn an eternal place in people's hearts and minds, but not bad enough to gain their disgust either. Given it's already distant in the rear-view mirror of 2018, I'd imagine The Predator will join this in purgatory soon enough, perhaps more justifiably so. Regardless, Predators deserves another look, because whilst its sequel floundered in its attempts to expand the mythology, this one? Actually managed it pretty well. Taking the carnage off our planet and into the reaches of space, we're promptly introduced to a large ensemble of various soldiers, killers...and Topher Grace. Rather than go to Earth in search of a good hunt, the Predators have opted to cherry-pick their prey out of their natural habitats and into one big intergalactic game preserve. AaaAnnd WEe'RRe TheEe GaAmAmE, grumbles Adrien Brody in his best possible Batman impression. And he's right, despite his poor choice of voice, and sure enough it doesn't take long for our large ensemble to start dropping like flies against the various threats and perils they find themselves surrounded by, which include poisonous plantlife, traps, two clashing clans of Predator and their pet dogs, not to mention fellow survivors, both the ones they came with and ones that were already there.

      On a whole, Predators is less impressive as a whole, and more entertaining in its various set-pieces. At its core it's just a buncha mostly unlikeable people trying to survive in a jungle...sound familiaaaarrr? Yes. But when you actually watch the film, it's got some great action, awesome looking Predators, plenty of gore, and some memorable sequences. Ever wanted to see a Predator have a samurai sword fight with a Yakuza agent in the middle of a billowing wheat field? This is your film. The fights are solid, as is the action in general, and frankly, that's what I'm looking for in a Predator movie more than anything....that, and plenty of Predators, of which there are. Cool masks, cool gadgets, yes yes yes. It's a solid, but unremarkable action/horror film, and whilst that obviously isn't going to get it very far on this list, given what we've gone through in the rankings already? It feels like a dream. It's just a shame we never got to see more from this branch of the franchise, a promising, if not somewhat generic cliffhanger has gone without any continuation since. Not only that but, due to its isolated space setting, it remains the most detached from the series, not even getting a single mere reference in this years instalment. Perhaps with that one's failure, we may someday see more of this one? No, no we won't. But it's still a fun time. You can doooooo a lot worse, as we've already displayed.

      6. Alien Covenant (2017). 

      The most recent instalment of the Alien franchise, and the first core entry since 1997, Alien Covenant had a lot of expectations to live up to. People were still sour over Prometheus (We'll get to that laaaaater), but the promise of a Xenomorphic return to form, once again helmed by the franchises creator Ridley Scott, bringing over the most universally loved component of Prometheus, which was Michael Fassbender's sinister android David? Hopes were high for this one, and the trailers certainly helped that all-important hype grow a lot. Nonetheless, Alien Covenant arrived, sharply divided audiences and critics yet again, but this time with diminishing financial returns compared to Prometheus, which this is very much the sequel to. Oops. Although there still seems to be some form of sequel in the works...potentially, with everything going on with Fox in the next couple years? There's the chance for this to be the final installment of the Alien franchise, and even if it isn't? The end of the road for Ridley Scott's android heavy prequel saga. When all's said and done, Alien Covenant is a messy film, chiefly of all because it's trying to be two things at once. A sequel to Prometheus, and the new Alien film everybody wanted from Prometheus. As it stands, it doesn't fully succeed to be either, and especially fails to be a satisfying continuation to Prometheus, which famously left many big questions completely unanswered. As with The Predator this year, this entries various attempts to expand the mythology of its franchise sadly do more harm than good towards it. Throw in some truly whince-inducing character moments and the worlds most homoerotic flute lesson? Alien Covenant is a bit of a bloody mess. But oddly, it's also a lot of fun.

      Ridley Scott may be a maniac on a mission to single-handedly ruin his own creation, but he sure knows how to direct a sci-fi film. Covenant is beautiful from start to finish, and whilst I don't like a lot of what it does, particularly in its second act? I can't deny that I have a really good time every time I watch this film. Weirdly, it's quite literally a film of two halves. The first hour is pretty great in fact, following a group of couples on their journey to find a new home, to colonise and start the spread of the human race across the universe. After a calamitous event, the crew awaken from stasis to discover a habitable planet previously unknown to them, and they promptly decide to investigate. Of course, this being an Alien film, it doesn't take long for things to go really badly wrong, presenting an entirely new but all the same grisly and glorious form of bodybursting to the franchise, this time caused by a scarily unavoidable airborne pathogen. When everything goes to shit, the second hour, and second narrative half begins, and things start to go downhill into a silly, but all the same entertaining merging of the Alien and Prometheus worlds. Yes the film has Xenos, no they aren't used very well, but it's still fun. It's a fun film. It's stupid, as a Ridley Scott directed Alien franchise film? It's massively disappointing, but it's still fun. Despite all its many shortcomings, I still like it a lot. I wanted more, but I didn't get it. What I got? I'll take for what it is, an entertaining sci-fi horror romp which I really hope gets the sequel it needs to...please...PLEASE start filling in the blanks of this convoluted prequel narrative.

      5. Predator (1987).

      The one that started it all, well...for ol' vagina mouth at least. The original, and most would say best Predator film (Although obviously I disagree), and the dawn of 90% of the 80s best cheesy one liners, this is one of the first films raised as an example of what many would decree the golden age of action movies (I would again, disagree). And it is pretty great, there's no denying that. Arnold Schrhawwzanagegeher, the director of The Predator, and a buncha other burly DUDES cram themselves all into a Vietnam allegory and go rootin' tootin' shootin' in the rainforests of South America. It's business as usual, killing 'insurgents' and rescuing hostages, blowing shit up and saying goofy quips...UNTIL...a space alien turns up and fuckin' murders a buncha them. Oops. What starts out as a gun-ho action movie slowly descends into a sort of desperate survival horror as more and more members of the macho crew meet their end in increasingly gory fates, introducing some of the grisly dispatch methods the Predators are now known for. Wrist blades, face-exploding energy canons and of course, the classic, the ol' favourite, ripping the victims skull and spine out through their back, and claiming it as a gruesome hunting trophy.

      For one of the 1980's most beloved action movies, it's a surprisingly slow burn. Once the shit hits the fan, it's a long road to that iconic final showdown between Arnie and the Predator. There's a lot of time spent with the gang grappling with the confusion, anger and disbelief that comes from your elite commando buddies being easily and brutally offed by an extra terrestrial hunting enthusiast, and that's both a good and bad thing. Some scenes really land, others not so much, and the slow 2nd act is partly why I'm not as big a fan of this original Predator film as others. That's not to say I'm not a fan, I am, and there's no disputing its status as a genre classic, both as a launcher of one of sci-fi's most iconic franchises, but also just a memorable movie in its own right. The real highlight is of course, that final sequence, where Arnie alone fights both to survive, and ultimately defeat the Predator at its own hunting game using traps, mud and Super Mario jumps through the trees. It's fun, tense and ends with a nuclear explosion, so you can't really go wrong. The reveal of the Predators true face, and subsequent foul-mouthed retort from Dutch is just one of dozens of iconic lines, in an iconic movie, and there's no disputing it earns that, even if I feel it hasn't aged so well in recent years. Still pretty great though, please don't murder me, internet!

      4. Prometheus (2012).

      Here it is, the high ranking entry that's going to get me the most shit...if anyone reads this thing, that is. I like Prometheus, alright? Is it perfect? Nooooo, not at all. But most of the films on this list aren't, let's be honest, and unlike say, Alien Covenant, this film at least isn't trying to be all things to all people. The only film on this list to not be have an Alien or Predator in the title, Prometheus was never intended to be an outlier, instead the launching of its own distinct franchise set within the same world...but...alas, it's now the only one of its series, the separate brand ditched in favour of an Alien header for Covenant, originally called Prometheus: Paradise Lost, before losing the Prometheus, and consequently the subtitle too. But enough about Alien Covenant, let's talk PROMETHEUS. It's easy to forget now, but back in the months before this films release? People were hyped as all fuck, I know I was. Originally starting life as a straight-up prequel to the original Alien, it quickly evolved into a generally disconnected narrative with some major crossovers, with the potential to eventually merge in later sequels. Frequently, Ridley Scott and the writers of the film stated that this wasn't an Alien movie, and it wouldn't feature xenomorphs, or Ripley or connect directly to that film. Despite this, people went in with the expectation that it would, and when it subsequently didn't? People were pissed. Well, to be fair, the film has other underlying issues, a lot of which were overinflated as an additional to curse this film to the pits of hell, which it doesn't really deserve, I feel. It had good reviews, and a sizeable box office haul, but that hasn't given it a reputation for quality in the years that followed.

      Prometheus follows a group of scientists taking a trip through the depths of space, following what they decide to be an invitation laid out by our creators, given to numerous generations of mankind in the form of a distant constellation of stars. They, along with the Weyland Corporation, are in search of answers. Who created us? Why? And why haven't they ever visited us since? All these questions and more will not be answered in Prometheus, a movie that poses the grand questions of life and only vaguely attempts to offer anything in response. That said? The ride presented is still a fun one, not to mention visually oustanding, Ridley Scott, as he did with Covenant later on, proving himself to be a master of desolate but atmospheric sci-fi worlds. The real star of the show here though is Michael Fassbender as the pesky android David, who oozes with charming, but creepy malevolence as he gradually starts to work behind the scenes against his human superiors in the pursuit of his own attempts at creating life. "Big things have small beginnings" he says, with a twisted grin. He's wrong of course, Prometheus was supposed to be the beginning of something epic, a dangerous journey through space in the pursuit of answers from our creators for Elizabeth Shaw and the android she can't trust. This pursuit would have inevitably led us to the formations of the original Alien, but instead the search, along with its cast and our creators, were abruptly cut short in Alien Covenant, a kneejerk reaction to this films polarising reception, which is a shame. Stupid character decisions and lacking answers aside? This is a good film, like...genuinely good? One day we might look back and appreciate a bit more of Prometheus, I hope. But for now, it's just me, ranking it above the original Predator. SUE ME.

      3. Predator 2 (1990).

      WHAAAT, I PUT PREDATOR 2 ABOVE THE ORIGINAL!? AM I FUCKING INSASAAANNNE!? I mean, no? Well, inventing angry voices disputing my opinions is something an insane person would do, but...uhhhh....heeyyy. Predator 2 is a fun movie, huh? Less a masterpiece of cinema, and more a huge guilty pleasure, I'll fully admit that this film? It's got a lotta problems. However, it's a cheesy, cocaine heavy gorefest full of dated references and action movie clichés....and I kinda love it for that. Stripping the original Predator of its slowburn tension, in favour of an outlandish, bombastic and campy 'Dannny Glover being flustered by everything' vehicle, Predator 2 switches the setting from the heat of the jungle to...the heat of the CONCRETE jungle, OoHHOoOOOOoOOo. See what they did there? The production team at Fox must've patted themselves on the back super hard for coming up with THAT one. Randomly set in near-future (1997, SON) Los Angeles, where gang violence is as out of control as the rising temperatures, and an overworked and understaffed LAPD find themselves having to deal with an entirely new threat, one which...mmgngh...is a Predator. Sorry, I'm not good at build-up. Danny Glover, who, yes, is too old for this shit, takes it upon himself to work out just WHO, or whaaaaat is skinning the various gang members and also hanging them upside down, I guess. And he's going to need the help of a band of wacky, wisecracking sidekicks, including Bill Paxton, at the height of his "OH GOD PLEASE SHUT UP" powers. And thus, the wacky adventure begins.

      Predator 2 was not warmly received upon its release, but has gone on to become something of a cult favourite in later years. It's not hard to understand why it was poorly reviewed, it's a very stupid movie and it's not particularly well filmed or written either. It has its charms though, it stands as an archetypal example of late 80s/early 90s action film-making, soaked in hazy colours and full of references to gang violence and drug culture which I guess was topical at the time, I dunno, I wasn't born yet. Those dated stylings and themes bring with them a lot of pulpy charm, and the Predator itself fits in perfectly with that seedy, violent world. The idea that their choice of the ultimate hunting ground would be the burning streets of Los Angeles makes sense, given the context, and allows for some entertaining action sequences on the streets and along the rooftops of the city. That final sequence, smoke machine heavy as it may be, where Danny duals with his Predator adversary and we meet an entire clan for the first time? Great stuff. Also hard to forget that now legendary Xenomorph skull cameo, which planted the seeds of what became one of the genres most well known crossover pairings, and eventually, most importantly, this ranking blog, right? All in all, I'm very much aware this is personal preference, and a guilty pleasure, but I just can't help but love Predator 2. It's my favourite of the franchise by some margin, and maybe one day we'll get a sequel as crazy again. We won't. But....I'd like that.

      2. Alien (1979).

      Alright, we've gotten to the obvious two leaders, and this aspect of the ranking was probably already quite predictable, even before you clicked on it. Anyone who knows me is pretty aware that the Alien franchise is my jam, and even if you don't know me, it's pretty hard to debate any previous film on this list coming close to the high points of these two...well...except for those people who are still angry that I put the original Predator at number 5. The winner is already obvious, but it's Halloween after all, so we should really get to talking about one of the greatest horror films of all time before we get ahead of ourselves with the #1 choice, mm? ALIEN. Oh boooooy, Alien. The film that quite literally started it all, the earliest, and some would argue the best of any Alien or Predator release. Not only did it start one of Sci-Fi's greatest brands, and introduce us to one of cinemas most iconic monsters, but it also launched the mainstream career of Ridley Scott, the guy who would then go on to make some of Hollywoods most iconic movies...and also Robin Hood. But once you brush past its legacy, its importance in movie history...is it actually any good? Umm, YEAH? For a low budget 70s sci-fi horror to not only stand the test of time, but also continue to be one of the greatest horror films ever made? Not too shabby.

      At a glance, it's a pretty simple sci-fi slasher. Buncha folks go to a strange planet, encounter an alien threat, and soon enough they're being bumped off one by one in gruesome fashion, leaving only the 'final girl' behind to defeat the menace and live to fight another day. BUT...what a buncha folks, what a strange planet, what an alien threat....and what a 'final girl'. At times this film is almost wall-to-wall iconic moments. Boarding the derelict ship, finding the eggs, John Hurt getting a face full of hugger, John Hurt getting a chest full of burster, which is one of the most well known moments in cinema history...with each following death being eerie, gruesome and memorable in their own ways, including an android that...goes somewhat insane. Even when there's just Ripley left, you have that evacuation sequence...and even then there's still the tense, almost silent final showdown before the credits finally roll. The introduction of both leading cinematic heroine Ellen Ripley, and the unique, disturbing Xenomorph created by mad artist HR Giger make this film a must-watch by themselves, but all the moments previous stated? And just...the movie as a whole? I dunno, it's really hard to overstate how great this film is. It's dark, creepy, and violent, but also oddly charming and funny at times thanks to its diverse and quirky ensemble. Unlike other releases on this list, its theatrical release has never been improved upon despite a commonly released 'directors cut', and bar the couple infamous examples (Chestburster running on the table, Xeno falling out the spaceship), its practical effects stand up impressively well, untouched, even to this day. It's just...it's really great, you guys, mmmm? It'd have to take a really special film to top this, huh? If ooooonly there was any tension left about what the number 1 film was, it's literally impossible for it to be anything else buuuuuutt....

      1. Aliens (1986).

      OOOOoOohH SHIT. IT'S FUCKING ALIENS, YOOOOOOOOOO. I mean, obviously...it was the only film left. This was the reason I was a little hesitant to do this ranking in the first place...where's the fun in a countdown when you already know the #1 entry going in? Not only is Aliens my favourite film in the Alien, Predator or Prometheus series' combined? It's also my favourite film of all time, period. So in that respect, yeah...kinda boring way to end the list I'm afraid. That said, it's an excuse to once again gush about how amazing and perfect this film is, sooooo get strapped in, folks! A full 7 years after the release of the original Alien, this sequel would've proved quite controversial in its direction, had this franchise launched in the present day. Gone is the claustrophobic horror, and outgunned, unprepared ensemble, this time? It's waaaaaaaar. Replacing one legendary director with another, gone was Ridley Scott, enter James Cameron, hot off his work on creating the similarly iconic Terminator franchise (And also Piranha II but let's not go there), the new focus? Hardcore sci-fi action...with a smidge of horror too. For a sequel to an acclaimed horror to turn things into a space war epic? That could never work, right? But it does...it reaaaally does.

      57 years after Ripley escaped the Nostromo and entered cryosleep, she's discovered by a salvage crew and awakened into a very different world. Never having expected to be lost in space for so long, she discovers her own daughter has grown old and died in her absence (At least in the far superior directors cut), and the planet she and her crew landed, and promptly encountered the xenomorph that killed her entire crew on, is now inhabited by a modest population of human colonisers. Not a great wakeup call, as they go. She's also suffering from PTSD following her brush with death incarnate, and Weyland Yutani hold her responsible for the destruction of the Nostromo, and have revoked her right to be a flight officer, so things really do suck quite hard for Ellen Ripley at the start of this film. Naturally, a story just about Ellen Ripley having a crappy domestic life would grow a bit tedious after a while, even with Jonesy along for the ride, so it doesn't take long for the colonisers of LV-426 to discover the derelict ship, and unleash the Xenomorphic threat on a much, much larger scale than before. It doesn't take long after that for the weasley company to enlist Ripley, along with a platoon of Colonial Marines and a slightly less insane android to investigate the strange goings on, and it doesn't take much longer still  for our team of gun-ho, cocksure soldiers to truly meet their match, and eventual demise at the elongated, clawed hands of an army of Xenos. What follows is a race against time to both survive the deadly onslaught, and also escape from the facility, which is set to go into catastrophic meltdown. There's also the little matter of Newt, a young girl and sole survivor of the Hadley's Hope attack, who quickly bonds with the recently bereaved Ripley. What follows is an action packed and charming romp once again loaded with memorable characters, and iconic sequences, and things only get better in the final act, where the Alien Queen is brilliantly introduced in a scene that still gives me goosebumps even to this day. And that's not even addressing the battle that happens afterwards. I just...I just I just I just....this filmmmmmmm, y'know? I could write a whole blog jerking off to it, I could've done a ranking just of moments from this film, but I won't. I'll spare you all the pain on this most Hallows of Eve. I love this film to bits, if that's not obvious. There was never any doubt in my mind this would be the winner from the start, how could it not? It's the bestest film everrrr.

      ALRIGHT, that went on for too long. Sorrrrrry. Hope you had fun with this vaguely horror themed Halloweenie blog. What are your thoughts on the rankings? Where would you rank things yourself? Did you enjoy the franchises latest offerings, or do you wish the Xenomorphs and Predators would just jog on off back to space now? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and if you enjoyed the blog, why not give it a ZING and share it around the social medias? That'd be swell.

      Most importantly, have a HAPPY OL' HALLOWEEN, don't eat too many sweets, don't perform too many satanic rituals, and don't get too into those buff werewolves. Sure, it may be fun for one night, but after a few full moons it gets really tedious, y'know? Alright, LATER GATOOORS.

    • The Stickman Reviews: Spider-Man PS4.

      11 months ago



      Wasssuuppppp y'aaall. It's me again, doing some shit. YIPPEEEEE.

      So, you may have noticed, but the start of September delivered one of the most anticipated games of the year, in the form of Spider-Man....or Marvel's Spider-Man....or Spider-Man PS4...god I wish they'd added a subtitle or SOMETHING. It's reveal as a PS4 exclusive at E3 2016, developed by the much loved Insomniac Games was one of the shows biggest talking points, and the anticipation has only built more and more with each trailer and gameplay demo. But now it's out, and barring some nonsensical whining about the size of puddles, has been well received by most critics and fans alike. Not only that, but it's sold gangbusters, proving to be Sony's biggest first party launch in history and the fastest selling game of the year untilreddeadredemption2comesout. But none of that matters, clearly all that matters is what IiiIII think of it. ME, the guy writing this blog. There's no doubt that my review will be the blueprint for all future opinions on Spider-Man, not only in this game, but as a franchise in general, and only I have the power to save, or completely destroy Marvel's future forever. Either that or it's just one guys opinion on a game and you either care about that or you don't.

      Soooo....yeah, time to review the game I guess. As I say, this is just my opinion, there are many others like it but this one is mine. You're entitled to disagree, but let's keep things civil, and discuss it all in the comments below, m'kay? M'kay. OKAY, HERE GOOES.

      The Good.

      Fantastic presentation, high levels of polish.


      For all the last-minute talk of visual downgrades and decreased puddle sizes, you'd think a graphical upset of Watch-Dog proportions was upon us with Spider-Man. After all, the sheer scale and detail of the game was what initially had jaws dropping in that first gameplay demo...to settle for anything less would be an outrage, right? Well...yeah, it would be. And you don't have to, because it still looks fucking amazing. Even playing on a regular PS4, without the graphical boost of the Pro, Spider-Man looks a real treat, and suffers from very little slowdown throughout your web-swinging, building-jumping, bad guy-smashing adventure. The streets of New York are bursting with energy and detail, the skyscrapers glisten with light as you swing by on a sunny day and Spider-Man's ass looks faaantastic. By which of course, I mean the suits, and Spidey himself look great....as do the majority of the core cast (Although Aunt May looks permanently haunted for some reason), with cut-scenes demonstrating a lot of the smaller skin/clothing details, along with some fantastic facial captured performances that help bring Peter, MJ, Miles and other key cast members to life in ways we've never seen before from this particular franchise. 

      But it goes beyond the obvious graphical fidelity, what really sells this games presentation is the charm and polish put into seemingly every aspect. Spider-Man moves and behaves exactly as you'd expect, little flourishes to his movement when traversing buildings or simply walking down the street really add a lot to the feel of the world. Everywhere you go there's easter eggs and tiny little details that go a long way in making this take on New York seem both believable and enjoyable to explore even when you're just doing something like walking around an office. There's so much that didn't need to be added, that really adds a lot, like the buildings you climb, run and swing across having 3D interiors you can look around as you go, or say, the way the citizens of New York react with both joy or disdain when you swing or walk on by. Throw in some great sound design that gives your movements and actions exactly the weight and punch they should have, and a great score that generally chimes in loudest when you're soaring through the skies, dappled in sunlight, your every movement feeling fluid and natural...for a Spideredman at least? This game has fantastic presentation, obviously it looks beautiful from a graphical perspective, but the smaller details and clear level of polish that went into almost every moment of your experience? That's what truly makes it all come together. Good luck finishing the game in the next year if you fall victim to the temptation of the robust Photo Mode. GOD HELP YOU, GOD HELP US ALL.

      Authentic and likeable take on the Spider-Man canon.


      Sure, your game can look amazing, and capture every single fucking tiny detail on Peter Parker's stupid fucking nerd face...but what's the point of any of it if you don't capture the spirit of Spider-Man, both the character, and his world? Spider-Games of the past have often looked the part (At the time) and offered the expected webs and crawling, but lacked an understanding of what makes the character so special, to so many. Sure, he's got jokes, he's a bit of a dweeb, but there's more to it than just making him say a hot zinger every now and then. Thankfully, Spider-Man PS4 gets that, and in general provides one of the most authentic and likeable realisations of the character and his world outside of the comics to date. From the very first minutes of the game, you're introduced to Peter Parker exactly as you'd expect to see him, late on the rent, failing to juggle his career, social life and heroic activities and full of peppy determination the second he puts on that mask and jumps out from his shitty apartment and into New York itself. His quips successfully find that sweet spot of terrible but endearing cheese that aggravates his foes but have pleased his fans for so long, but most importantly the game captures his heart too. 

      When you get right down to it, a lot of people love Spider-Man because he's a good guy, his determination to do the right thing for everyone else often results in his own life suffering, but despite set-backs, he never stops fighting for the little guy, even when it feels like the whole city hates him. This heart shines through both in your time playing as Spider-Man, but also when you spend time as Peter himself. Working hard to help his mentor and friend, doting on his overworked but equally caring Aunt May, trying his best to win over and please Mary Jane despite the many setbacks their relationship has suffered...and even going out of his way to help people he doesn't know, but still need that support. It's genuinely one of the most engaging and authentic portrayal of Spider-Man and Peter Parker I've seen outside of the comics, and it goes a long way towards increasing the emotional weight of certain parts of the game. To talk about the roles of other characters I fear would be to delve into potential spoilers, but I'll say I enjoyed this game's take on Aunt May, MJ and Miles quite a bit, and having this game set several years in Spidey's career means there are pre-established relationships with a host of classic villains, ones that play into the main game, and also don't. As how the Arkham games forwent an origin story (Initially anyhow) in favour of filling the world with explorable history and emotional baggage, so does Spider-Man...just...in a more Spider-Manny, fun way. Also...JJ Jameson as an Alex Jones shouty web-blog type? Perfect contemporising of a classic character often associated with an increasingly irrelevant form of media. For fans of the Spider-Man series, particularly the comic incarnations? This is a real treat to play through from start to finish.

      Fluid and fun combat.


      When it comes to action-adventure games, particularly superhero ones? You have to get the combat right. Superheroes all have their own quirks and playstyles, and their games shouldn't all play the same. Recent Spider-Games have made the mistake of simply copying the Arkham series, the Batman games that have become something of the modern blueprint for combat in these kinda titles, and whilst that works great with the dark knight, and is perfectly serviceable in other games...it just doesn't feel...right for Spider-Man? And I mean sure, whilst it's fair to say Arkham has clearly had something of an influence on this new Spider-Man, Insomniac have gone that extra mile to make it feel less like a clone of Batman, and more its own, Spidery interpretation of the same basic formula. But what makes Spidey different from Batman, exactly? Well there's a lot more webbing...that's for sure, but in addition to that, he's just a more acrobatic, light-footed character, a loving punch to the face compared to Bruce Wayne's bone breaking 'pacifism'. Both have gadgets, but they would have, and use them very differently. On the surface, entering combat scenarios in Spider-Man feels very similar to the Arkham games, but it's how they play out that is a crucial difference. Spidey, like I said, is a nimble fellow, and much of the physical combat is based around that. With the aid of your trusty Spider-Sense, you'll be bouncing around the place, jumping over shields, sliding between legs and even hopping onto, and then off walls...the latter of which is a really nice bit of polish where, if you dodge into a wall, you'll press up against it, allowing you to spring-board off for a stronger kick than your usual fare. It's things like that which really make the basic combat feel fun and fluid...but the gadgets? That's when things start getting really fun. 

      An Insomniac game without fun gadgets just doesn't feel like an Insomniac game these days, and Spider-Man comes with a toolbelt filled with fun devices which, along with his multi-faceted webshooters turn a more acrobatic Arkham into something wholly different and decidedly Spider-Man'ny. You can do the things you'd hope and expect...web up foes, swing them around the place, yank their weapons away, which is all good fun. Webbing enemies down? That's often the key to winning some of the more chaotic fights.  If an enemy is down, that doesn't necessarily mean they won't get back up, requiring quite a few more hits before they're down for good. However, if you web them to the ground whilst they're down? That's them out of the fight, for good. If you've webbed up an enemy that's still standing and swing them into a wall? That's them done too. See an enemy dangerously close to a vertical object of any kind? Web them up and remove them from the equation. It's a really fun and mildly strategic way to have fights play out, aiming your attacks with the ultimate intent to web an enemy down instead of merely beating the shit out of them? Now that's the Spider-Man way. Gadget wise, those come in all shapes and sizes. A web blast will send an enemy flying backwards, covered in said blasted webbing. Aim that right? Instant takedown. But we got it all really, electric webs, spider-drones, web bombs, sonic blasts...over the course of the game you'll unlock loads of different gadgets, and even more combat moves, each one adding to an arsenal that is at its most fun when you're switching between them. Limited ammo for each gadget means you can't just rely on a web blast to solve all your troubles...but why would you want to do that when it feels so damn good to roll through your gadget wheel, prancing around like a deer in expensive, electronically enhanced spandex and using everything at your disposal to take out enemies in all manner of ways and combinations? In the Arkham games, doing anything beyond the usual punches and dodges felt like a chore...Mortal Kombat levels of button combos required to pull off anything impressive, and instead you'd often end up fumbling around like a total Robin...AKA, a loser. The combat in Spider-Man is great in its basic physical attacks, but excels in the fluidity and expansiveness of the gadgets and unlockable moves. It makes every combat situation really fun, regardless of the level of challenge involved...and most importantly, feels exactly like a Spider-Man game should when it comes to taking down the bad guys.

      Gets web-swinging right.


      Ever since the city soaring glory-days of Spider-Man 2 in 2004, there have been two things people always expect and demand from a Spider-Game release...it needs to be open world, and it needs to have proper web-swinging. None of that....swinging from the air bullshit, none of that...tightly designed and focused linear mission BULLSHIT(?)...people wanna swing around all of New York, and they want it to feel gooooood. When the first looks at Spider-Man PS4 failed to showcase the open-world mechanics or a whole lot of web-swinging, people were worried. And by worried, I mean...persistently asking to see it and hear about it and just all those kinda things. But lo and behold, the game is out....it's open world, and yes, the web-swinging is good stuff indeed. Whilst the swinging itself maybe lacks the complexity of that fabled Spider-Man 2 title (For instance you can't shoot multiple webs, nor does it carry the same kinda momentum or weight), it makes up for that in feeling really really good. Initially I found it a little jarring, purely using swinging around to traverse requires prolonged swings arcing upwards and launching to create the needed momentum to propel you anywhere at a healthy speed, but ultimately...that ended up feeling...right? It becomes less about swinging Spidey around like a red and blue rock so much as using your arcs and well timed releases to get that tasty Spider-Swinging-Speed, that and diving from a great height and launching a web at the very last minute....which looks and feels fantastic, like something right out of the Sam Raimi films, as you soar between cars and up into the sky, the setting sun beaming from a skyscraper and into your vision before you do it all over again...it just all feels...right. It's more different from SM2 than you'd expect, but it feels exactly like it should in retrospect. 

      Of course, this game does the webbing properly, you can't just swing from thin-air, if you have nothing to web onto, you will start to fall to the ground. That's when the other traversal mechanics come into play nicely. Most notably the web-zip, something that was actually first featured in the Amazing Spider-Man tie-in game but is fully realised here. Web-zip allows you to aim and pull yourself onto a nearby object...roof, antenna, street-lamp, that kinda thing. It's good for when you reach your objective and need to slam on the Spider-Brakes, but it's also a great mode of speedy traversal in its own right. If you time your dismount from said object perfectly, you'll arc forwards in a healthy jump, a jump that can be made even healthier with an early-stage upgrade. Not only does this often prove a faster means of zipping around than merely swinging, it also provides a very welcome crutch for when you run out of objects above to web onto, keeping that momentum going instead of causing you to fall flat on your face and in need of another, publicly embarrassing running start from street-level. Wall-running also makes a welcome return, allowing for rapid vertical movement, but also applies to the horizontal, if you collide with a building whilst swinging...instead of pancaking or losing your momentum, Spidey will instead run along the side of the building and leap off the corner, allowing you to continue forward progression with both speed, and perhaps more importantly...STYLE. Later upgrades also offer recovery for those times when you do screw up and end up on the floor, letting you bounce right back up as if you totally planned the move all along...totally. I wasn't as impressed by the basic slow wall-crawling, which proved cumbersome and hard to initiate, but honestly it barely plays a role in the game at all, so is hardly worth complaining about. What matters is that web-swinging is back...and it is gloriously fun, made even better by the ability to both recover, and shake up the direction and means of open-world traversal on the fly. Makes me want to jump off a building and do it myself....sorta. 

      Unlockables are worth the bother.


      Once again in part thanks to the Arkham Games, in addition to some recent Spider-Games of the past, if customers aren't demanding to hear about open worlds or specific web-swinging game design for Spider-Mens, they want to know about UNLOCKABLE SUITS. It may not have even been a thing in the beloved Spider-Man 2, but nowadays if your superhero game doesn't have a host of fun, referential costumes to unlock and try on? Well you're just not doing your job very well. Increasingly this has regrettably become the thing of pre-order bonuses and paid DLC, along with any other cosmetic things that don't change your game but are something fans may be coerced into forking out extra for, but not so for Spider-Man on the ol' PS4. Although a handful of specific costumes are unlocked early for those who pre-ordered the game, they are still perfectly accessible for anyone else so long as they make the required campaign progress. The rest? They're all just part of the game, baby...and better still, most actually have unique mechanics to them, being more than just a colour-change. If you're a Spider-Man fan you'll probably love all his varied and weird suits, both of your basic Peter Parker variety, and of his various otherworld variants. Excitingly, the game takes inspiration from all manner of sources, mostly comics, but also a smattering of costumes from the MCU's much loved take on Spider-Man. Although there are a few notable absentees, either for reasons of a potential sequel related nature...or just...well...no I'm not sure why they don't do the other movie suits, to be honest...what we have on offer here is really great, going beyond just a reskin of the basic suit, to being their own unique and highly detailed models, each with their own expected textures, sheens and...even glows. Just having these suits to unlock alone is worth it, whilst I won't spoil the later offerings, early highlights include Spider-Punk, Spider-Man Noir, the Iron Spider from this year's Infinity War movie and a sleek, jet black, minimalist armoured Spidey that glistens oh so nicely in the sun. The detail of each suit has to be seen to be truly appreciated, the film suits in particular looking like they were pulled right off the big screen, but like I said, what really makes these worthwhile gameplay unlocks are the features that come with them.

      With the exception of a few variants or silly unlocks, all the Spider-Suits in the game come with their own unique feature. Some of them are more useful than others, for sure...but each of them allows for potentially different combat experiences via the Special-Power feature. When fighting enemies, or just swinging throughout the city, you'll gradually fill your 'Special Power' bar, once it's full, you can click both the analogue sticks in to gain a sizeable advantage during combat sequences. One of the earliest unlocks, and most useful in addition, is Web Blossom. When you activate this, Spider-Man leaps in the air and flings webbing at everyone in the vicinity. In close-quarters combat with a lot of enemies this proves extremely useful...it'll take foes close to objects down completely, and incapacitate others, allowing for a major upper hand when you need it most. That's just one of dozens of special moves, though, of which everyone will probably have their own favourite. Some will help with stealth, some add more weight to punches, some protect you from gunfire, Spider-Punk uses an electric guitar to wipe out anyone around him....Iron Spider uses his mechanical legs to both keep you on your feet at all times, but also packs a more powerful punch when activated. I could go on, but I won't...and whilst some of these features are kinda useless...having features to these suits at all? That's really cool, especially when they fit the theme of that suit to a tee. The best part? Once unlocked you can use these powers regardless of what suit you're wearing...meaning you can keep your favourite suit on and still use the power of another, another unrequired but most welcome little addition to the game. To briefly touch on things beyond suits...you have the gaming staple of the SKILL TREE which is actually really worth working on because some of the unlockable moves will quickly become something you could never live without. You can also unlock, and upgrade your gadgets. Not all the gadgets are unlocked or required during the campaign, meaning its up to you to collect the required tokens from various side missions (We'll get to those later) and decide if you want to spend them on a new suit, a new gadget, or to beef up a gadget you already own. In a game overflowing with unlockables, and side-missions required to achieve those unlocks? It's great that these unlocks are actually worth pursuing, both because they enhance your game experience...and because, well it's really fucking cool to dress up as a Punk Rock Spider-Man sometimes, ALRIGHT? Geez.

      Some epic moments.


      Once again it's time to draw comparisons to the Arkham series. In a world post-Arkham, superhero games have really had to up the ante in terms of narrative heft, and campaign content. The Batman games provided epic story sequences paired up with some memorable gameplay moments, often featuring surrealist sequences and varying styles of boss fight, and are generally considered the benchmark for this sorta game. Previously Spider-Games have tried to replicate this feeling for the Wallcrawler, to varying...generally mixed results (ASM game actually had a better story than the film, but the gameplay was mediocre), so how does Spider-Man PS4 hold up? Well...although the main campaign is not entirely successful (Which we'll get into very shortly), it's fun throughout, and when it does go for the knockout? It's fucking spectacular. The big missions tend to come along towards the end of the game's acts. Act 1 finishes with a pair of bombastic set piece moments, one of which being that dazzling helicopter chase seen in the first E3 demo, the other being something...entirely different. Act 2 similarly finishes up with a pair of ambitious set piece missions, with Act 3 keeping the tempo pretty high from start to finish, as you'd hope for the final hours of the campaign.

      Peppered throughout are some simple but engaging boss battles, a lot of that frenetic combat we spoke about earlier and some generally welcome character developments...but really, the highlights of the campaign are when the set piece moments kick in. I don't wish to spoil what happens later in the game, so I'll focus on what's already been seen from that first act sequence. You can expect that degree of action, both in those dazzling QTE sequences, and more hands-on gameplay too, with all the best levels in the campaign. This one, as you'll no doubt recall has you scrambling around a construction project, before stopping a collapsing crane and then chasing a wrecking ball of a helicopter across Manhatten. It's a lot of fun, as are the other moments of this scale, which don't all play out the same at all, but truly feel standout and exciting in scale and stakes compared to the rest of the missions. The further into the game you get, the more frequent these more creative or exciting missions start to crop up, and whilst I do wish more of them offered this degree of   memorable experience, it's impossible to deny that when it really wants to, Spider-Man delivers not only some epic action sequences, but high stakes ones at that, with some surprisingly emotional moments found peppered within too. Throw in the previously mentioned authentic and likeable realisation of Peter Parker and his cast of friends and rogues? It ends up a very special experience for fans....although not...entirely successful.

      The Bad.

      Campaign missions are mostly uninvolving.


      As I just said, whilst there are a host of memorable and action-packed sequences through Spider-Man's reasonably chunky campaign...it's sadly not all up to this calibre. Obviously you can't expect every mission to deliver frenetic and bombastic set piece moments, but the game really pushes what actually counts as a mission in the first place. After your snazzy tutorial mission, the first large chunk of 'actual' missions comprise of introductions to different mechanics, or indeed exist merely as set-ups for optional side-content. Whilst in the Arkham games, most of the side content was discovered through exploration, or unlocked over the course of the game during journeys from mission to mission, Spider-Man decides to use actual campaign missions merely either as a tutorial for, or just an introduction to side-content. Sure, you can argue that they're just additional missions and don't take away from anything that could be...but when you start subtracting the missions that don't really matter? You start to end up with...quite a small collection of missions, actually. 

      So you have these side mission start-ups...that's one, and then you have a lot of missions where all you really do is walk into a building, talk to someone and then walk out...and that's the mission? Worse still, there are missions which are literally just cutscenes and nothing else...these are things that could've been tacked onto other missions, but instead become their own objective and task. Out of the 43 missions in the game, maybe 6-8 of them are actually significantly large scale, throw in another 8 or so for basic combat/stealth missions...the rest? Mainly set-ups for side missions...mainly talking to Aunt May, or another kinda mission which is spoilery, so we'll get to later...but needless to say those feel half-assed and increasingly tedious to get through. Don't get me wrong, the story moments are great, the cutscenes are very enjoyable and I have no issue with pacing out the big-scale sequences....but when your campaign weights more on the side of filler missions, most of which barely involve any gameplay to begin with? That's kinda a problem for a video game, especially one that's happy to demonstrate just what it can do when it actually decides to deliver the goods. What these filler missions create is the illusion of a more robust campaign...sure it lasts longer, but it lasts longer by providing missions that aren't really missions at all for the large majority of Act 1 and a good chunk of Act 2 in addition. Act 3 has a better balance, but still contains some of these...little bits of gameplay or story that could've been added to other missions, providing longer and more significant 'levels' instead of weird, bitty missions that often take longer to get to then they do to finish. Again, most of these are perfectly enjoyable, but missions they ain't, and I came out of the game feeling a little disappointed by how many of these there actually were.

      Side-content is repetitive busywork, lacks engagement.


      This has been the main criticism I've seen of Spider-Man PS4, and whilst all these things are mostly enjoyable side-filler, it does indeed feel like an often lazy after-thought, padding out the running time of the game with the same kinda mindless busywork you get in basically all open-world titles of this nature. You're Spider-Man...you fight crimes, I get that...but there are set amounts of side-crime, unlocked steadily over the course of your campaign experience which generally boil down to the same 3 types of mission, with occasional variants depending on your place in the story...which yes, feels startlingly similar to the random crimes in 2004's Spider-Man 2. You chase and stop cars, you beat up thugs, you stop robberies, yadda yadda yadda. Whilst in SM2 these were constant, random events you swing by on your way around New York, providing currency to spend on upgrades and some often much needed health, Spider-Man PS4 treats them as set side-missions despite them working in exactly the same way. Each borough of New York has 5 sets of each type of crime. Each type of crime has a couple of variants...each variant is reexplored with different mechanics in later side-missions of the game. Doing these missions is integral to unlocking upgrades, but is limited by your ability to follow pre-set combat achievements, and the amount of crimes there actually are...which is 5 per borough as I said. If you screw up and don't get all the CRIME TOKENS in that CRIME you were doing? Tough shit it's gone. You will reach a point where you run out of CRIME, and also out of tokens, and will have to wait for more CRIME to unlock at some point during your campaign. 

      These are almost identical to SM2's crimes, and lack any engagement beyond the basic entertainment of beating up crims. Then you have actual side-missions, which offer a narrative structure and additional caveat to the same sorta objectives as the CRIMES, which make them a little more enjoyable but still kinda barren of interesting ideas. You also have pigeon collecting. Yes. Moving on, we have depressingly simplistic side-content that 'features' some members of Spidey's rogues gallery...there's about 3 of these I believe, one of them is a glorified series of shitty challenge modes with a fun boss battle tacked onto the end, one of them feels like a half-assed campaign mission that got relegated to side-content, which ends super abruptly, and the other is less a mission in its own right as it is challenge free busy-work that is basically there to advertise the upcoming DLC. These are all perfectly playable, and the rewards for doing so, as previously stated, are generally worth it...but...it's all a bit kinda...lacklustre. Base missions are the most fun, providing lengthy combat sequences that require the full use of all your gadgets...but...at the end of the day they're just sorta horde modes...and are basically all exactly the same, with no varying level of challenge. With the exception of the stealth/drone challenges, which suck eggs, they're all largely enjoyable because the basic mechanics of the game are fun to play with...but they really don't offer anything of interest, even the ones that seemingly have a narrative attached to them. Sorry to go to the Arkham series AGAIN but the later games filled the world with all sorts of different side-content, all of which tied to the rogues gallery, at times providing some of the most memorable or disturbing moments of the entire game. No, not all of them worked, but it felt like there was often a purpose to them beyond merely filling time...which Spider-Man's side content does beautifully, but manages little else in the process. Oh yes, we also have radio towers. RADIO TOWERS. STILL.

      Puzzle mini-games get old fast.


      Having gameplay variety in a experience this lengthy is always great. Sure we love the combat, and we love the swinging, but if that's all we did for 20 hours? It'd probably get stale fast. Thankfully, Spider-Man PS4 breaks up the action with different styles of mission, and whilst we've discussed that maybe the balance of significant to filler missions is a bit...skewed, it's still nice to have a game that changes things up regularly. And then we get to the puzzle mini-games. All action-adventure titles seem to have puzzle mini-games, some of them are actually pretty fun. Spider-Man's? Not so much. Now...full disclosure, you can turn the mandatory puzzle sequences off at the start of the game, which is yet another nice addition that wasn't needed, but is most welcome. But turning that off requires the knowledge going in of what the puzzles are, and how frequent they are...and well, this is a review of the content in a game, and I'm not going to ignore something I had issues with just because it could be avoided...that sounded better in my head. 

      Anyway, there's two types of puzzles in this game. Build a circuit...or fill in some holes. That's all they are. They vary in difficulty quite a bit, but at the end of the day they're all pretty easy. Really, they aren't puzzles so much as putting boxes in holes with increasingly obtuse quantities and combinations the further into them you get. They're extremely bland but...hey, it wouldn't be so bad if they were just side-content, right? Oh no...unless you turn them off, the game will make you do them in main campaign missions, right up until the very end...very frequently. Whilst it's great that you can turn these off, it's clearly not because they're challenging, they really aren't...I'm terrible at in-game puzzles and these were always a breeze. You can turn them off because they're tedious...they get old really fast, and they are never fun to begin with. Like some of the side-missions, they are inoffensive and simple enough to just push on through, gaining tokens for the optional puzzles, and progressing the story for the ones that aren't. But I'm not going to give the game an award for making something 'tolerable enough to get through'. They add nothing to the game, they offer no satisfaction, and if they're supposed to show off Peter Parker's intelligence...they do a really poor job because they're easy to the point of tedium. Manageable, sure, but not entertaining....and for something frequently shoved in the players face? Not a good.

      Doesn't offer anything new.


      As fun at this game is, for all its exciting moments, loveable chraacters, and entertaining combat/traversal...it's often hard to fight the inescapable truth that Spider-Man PS4 offers nothing new to the genre. It offers a very polished and generally very entertaining experience, yes. It looks great, the open world is fun to explore, and it's all excelled by its charming characters....but it doesn't really offer much new. What it feels like is a collection of modern open-world/action adventure tropes that have been gradually building up over the last decade thanks to games like Far Cry, Assassin's Creed, Arkham City. Watch_Dogs and to a lesser extent, Grand Theft Auto. Sprinkle in a dash of Spider-Man 2 and that's this game. A nice big, beautiful, side-content heavy open world experience that does the same things you've likely seen before, but very well. 

      Obviously that's not a huge disaster...you can't expect every game that comes along to break the mould and really change the blueprint for its genre in the years ahead...but given how long we've been waiting for this game, the pedigree of the studio involved, the clear amount of love and yes, money that went into making Spider-Man PS4 a reality? It's a tad disappointing by how little new it brings to the table itself. Beyond a fluid and acrobatic combat system and some believable swinging-physics, I can't really think much of anything fresh and exciting that this game offers to players. The big epic sequences are fun, but we've seen QTE based action quite a lot already. Combo based, counter-heavy combat with a roster of gadgets with a scoring system? We've seen that before in other forms. Puzzle mini-games, radio towers, rogues gallery based side-missions, open-world maps that evolve and change over the course of the main campaign, boss battles that challenge you to play in different ways to your norm, challenge missions...there's so much in this game that's good, or great...but just nothing particularly new. What Spider-Man brings to the table is a polished, heartfelt Spider-Man take on the same sorta things you've played before, and it does a great job, I'm not going to deny that...I just wish it'd offered something unique to this game from time to time. Insomniac made this, y'know? I expected a little bit more magic, is all. I'm happy with what I got, but I've seen most of it before in some form at some point in the past 5 or so years, and that's kinda disappointing. Kinda.


      Perspective shift missions feel like an after-thought.


      This is spoilery because of who you play as, and what you play as them....so...if you don't want specific side-character sequence spoilers? I'd skip this bit my boyos. When we were talking about the campaign earlier, I mentioned there was another type of underwhelming mission that I didn't want to get into at that point...and now's the time to pick that up. In the final mission of Act 1, after a terrorist attack in the middle of New York...you play a sequence as Miles Morales. And it's awesome, honestly. You don't have any powers, but the dramatic weight of one of the darkest sequences in the entire game is made tenfold as you stagger away as Miles from an unconscious Peter Parker in search of your father. You can feel how much harder it is to do the simplest things for Spider-Man as him, and his lack of combat skill or strength makes things a whole lot tenser. That sequence? Great stuff. Basically every other sequence with Miles in the game? Waste of fucking space. The same can be said for MJ's levels...whilst it's great to see Mary Jane get a more involving role in the narrative, forgoing the damsel love interest in distress in favour of a proactive member of the events that are unfolding? Did the levels have to be so ...boring and half-assed? 

      Both Miles and Mary missions play out as really poor stealth sequences. If you get seen, you die...but because the game isn't built for stealth in the same way something like Assassin's Creed is, whilst also having these missions being entirely...painfully linear in layout? It feels super unintuitive and hard to tell where to go, or you have very little agency at all. To make matters worse, later missions for these characters introduce gimmicks. Mary Jane can use her surroundings as distractions, and later...for the last god damn mission and nothing else, she gets a taser. Miles can hack things...I guess? Whereas Spider-Man's abilities are expanded and unlocked over the course of the game, and offer an open-ended, fluid and fun means of approach in his combat sequence (You can go stealthy or you can just go in webs blazing)...the abilities for Miles and Mary, along with their levels, feel like lazy afterthoughts, thrown in in an attempt to make the player more engaged with the two characters...which doesn't work. Instead you end up getting fed-up with them towards the end. A couple cool ideas between the pair (MJ pointing out to Spidey who to take out, Miles avoiding the Rhino) later in the game feel again, completely half-assed...these moments, and the perspective shift missions in general feel like they're building up to something larger that never ends up coming. Yes, it's nice to break up the missions with differing play-styles, but they need to be enjoyable and meaningful, which these aren't.

      Worth Buying?


      Your gameplay mileage on Spider-Man PS4 is going to depend largely on what you intend to play within it. The main campaign has a lot of missions, but they vary massively in length and actual hands-on playing, clocking in at maybe 15 hours or so depending on how quick you pick up the combat mechanics. To do this, would of course, be to ignore the large, beautiful world full of varying qualities of side-content to undertake, something the game frequently takes a brief pause between missions to remind you of. Sure, the side-content is largely busy-work, but it's fun busy-work, and unlocks a wide roster of potential goodies which are going to make your playthrough even more enjoyable. Depending on how many of these you intend to do? Your gameplay can be extended from 15 to....24-30 hours of content, because there is a lot of shit to do...and so long as you keep on top of it as it comes, it's nicely paced out across the course of the game, allowing you to take some time out from the campaign in order to enjoy the frequently unlocked side-missions, borough crimes, enemy bases, and challenge modes. Throw in the potential to end up forever lost in Photo Mode's glorious trap? You'll never finish the damn game. Regardless, at a minimum of 15 hours of play, you're getting pretty damn good value for your purchase...are those hours worth playing? For the most part, absolutely. Some of it feels less like something you want to do, and more like something you might as well do...but the mindless filler moments are worth getting through for the bits that matter. The fun traversal, the fantastic combat, and the memorable story moments that make it easy to forget the amount of time you spent in Aunt May's kitchen to get there. Considering the sales, you've probably already decided this is well worth buying...but if you're looking for a robust and high quality action-adventure game with a lot of charm? Great value for money.



      Spider-Man is a weird game for me. From the moment I started playing, I was blown away by the charm and stellar presentation of the whole thing. As a huge Spider-Man fan since I was a child, to get to experience this quality of an adaptation? To play a game that really gets what makes Spider-Man as a series so special? That means a lot to me. The campaign has its dud missions, but the genuine, funny and heartfelt character interactions paper over them nicely...and when the story hits its stride, it's a fucking spectacular experience for anyone into this franchise. Seeing some of Spidey's most famous rogues brought to life and brought together was a real joy in addition, and the story feels like something right out of the comics. Basically, ignoring all the gameplay, this is a really great Spider-Man themed experience. But why ignore the gameplay when it's so good? The combat is endlessly enjoyable, loaded with gadgets and springy, satisfying movements that make every fight potentially it's own unique adventure of web blossoms and wall-kicks. Traversing the beautifully realised and detail-heavy rendition of Spidey's/Marvel's New York is a joy, making a real tourist out of any comic book fan as they find easter eggs and key locations, both obvious and somewhat more subtle. Is the game perfect? Of course not. Do the side-missions often end up feeling like a means to an end rather than a fun experience in their own right? Sadly, yes. Was I a little disappointed by the lack of originality? Sure...BUT...what I got was still fantastic, and hugely enjoyable for the vast majority of my playtime, even when I was ultimately accomplishing nothing of real value. What we have here, is a charming, massively polished and entertaining blockbuster movie. It doesn't do anything particularly creative, when you reflect over it, you wonder how much of it you'd already experienced elsewhere...but...it doesn't really matter, because you had a really fun time. This is a really well made game, that nails the essential ingredients of a Spider-Man experience better than any Spider-Game prior...sure it could've been better, and it could've offered more...but I'm hardly feeling the need to complain about what I got. Hopefully a sequel, which is surely inevitable at this point, can build upon the foundations set here, and provide something truly unique and fresh to go along with everything else the game gets so right. But for now, I'm happy to say this Spider-Man...was pretty Amazinnngg...nnn...seeeee what I did? Yeah. Sorry.

      OOOOH, WELL THAT WAS FUN MAYBE, MMM? Hope you enjoyed the review, what did you think? What are your thoughts on the gosh darn spidered man? Were you satisfied? Did it live up to the hype? What would you like to see in a sequel? LET'S HAVE A FRIENDLY DISCUSSION IN THE COMMENTS BELOW, WOOOOO. You won't have to wait too long for the next blog, as Halloween is rearing its beautifully ugly head in the weeks to come, and I already have plenty of GHASTLY PLANS, oOoOoooOoOOOOo....nnn...alright, LATER GATORS.

    • The Stickman Reviews: Bloodborne.

      1 year ago



      HEYYYYYYYYY, what's up folks. It's me. Here I am. BREATHE IT IN, or don't, that's entirely up to you.

      Video games, huh? They sure do exist, whether we care to admit it or not. In a time where gaming has become increasingly mainstream, fans of gamings past have also increasingly objected to what they deem to be a simplification, or over-accessibility of most titles. Basically, they think games are too easy these days...whether or not you agree, or if, like me, you find it really depends on the genre of game you're playing, how accustomed to it you are to its quirks, and ...well, what difficulty you're playing on....*Ahem* Wherever you stand on difficulty...there's always the Dark Souls of video games, which is Dark Souls. Starting out with the under the radar hit that was Demons Souls, before exploding into genuine mainstream blockbuster popularity with the spiritual successor trilogy of Dark Souls games, the folks at FromSoftware have provided what many believe to be the modern equivalent experience of steep challenge and mysterious world exploration to what they played back in the early days of gaming. Again, whether or not you agree (I'm personally on the fence) is irrelevant, people love these games, and perhaps the most beloved...is Bloodborne. Which is why we're here.

      Now, Stickman...I hear you say, with your keyboard...aren't you the guy who wrote that blog about Dark Souls 50,000 years ago, which wasn't a review because you were too bad at the game to finish it? Why yes, I am. With a lot...A LOT of assistance, I've actually managed to beat the main campaign of Bloodborne and most of its side-content, so I'm fully qualified to give a full review of this game, and that means you can't argue with it either, MWAHAHAHAHAHHA. Well...that's not true, but please don't hit me at the very least.

      So yeah, this is a proper review, no half-measures, I'm giving my thoughts on Bloodborne, of all things. No I didn't ever see this coming either, but here we are. As you might have already guessed, I'm not a seasoned pro to Bloodborne, or any of the Souls styled games for that matter, I would consider myself to be what most of the hardcore fans deem a "scrub", which is the title given to someone who didn't waste as much agonising, controller-snapping time on these things as they did, I guess. As such, this will maybe be a different perspective for a review from what most are...and also, I may not be the most versed in all the specific terminology and SHIT. My main comparison point for the Souls franchise will be the first game, if I make a comparison to an improvement that's already been covered in one of the sequels, my b...just let me know, along with all your nice, civil thoughts in the comments below. OKAY...enough stalling, time to actually review this bitch.

      The Good.

      Great Atmosphere, Art Direction.


      If there was one thing I really didn't find that appealing in Dark Souls, it was the visuals. Although character/weapon/boss designs were all fun and unique to the franchise, the worlds, at least in the first one came across as somewhat dreary and generically medieval style...obviously the lacklustre graphical flair didn't help,  but you can't really hold that against a game that large on a console which feels so relatively powerless compared to the ones today...excepttheSwitch. Dark Souls didn't really do it for me aesthetically...but Bloodborne? Holy shit is Bloodborne a beauty. If by beauty, you mean AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHH, EVERYTHING'S OOZING. Ditching the previously mentioned castles and ruins (For the most part) vibe of Dark Souls, Bloodborne instead opts for a Victorian steampunk aesthetic, a real Gothic horror extravaganza, and one of gamings most atmospheric and detailed worlds to boot. From the moment you start the game to the bitter end, tens of hours later, the visual detail and grim beauty of Yharnam and its surrounding(?) regions never lets up, with an atmosphere that is dripping with a never-ending sense of dread and despair, with rolling fog, distant screams, moans, baby cries and odd laughter the constant soundtrack to the games quieter moments, between the bosses, where...well, we'll get to that in a moment. Despite initially coming across as dark and dreary, the game is beautifully lit, and paths are often positioned in such a way as to give awe-inspiring views of the world you're exploring, framing structures, statues and general grim and violent imagery in the most perfect ways. Not content with simply having a varied and beautifully horrifying assortment of worlds and buildings to explore, the games ambient atmosphere even changes across your journey, the phases of the moon shifting several times to tint the old familiar haunts in new, less welcoming lights. Yharnam is a game-world I both want to delve right into, soaking in every gloriously Gothic detail, but also run away screaming from..so...mission accomplished, really.

      The visual beauty isn't just limited to the world, either. Bloodborne follows suit with Dark Souls in providing some of gamings most grotesque but visually striking creatures...be they the constantly varied and intimidating regular enemies, or the towering, decrepit but beautiful nightmares that are the bosses. Every thing in the world of Bloodborne feels distinct and unique to the game, even enemies you may have encountered many times in other titles, such as werewolves (of sorts), angry villagers with pitchforks, and skellermen. The further into the game, the more increasingly Lovecraftian things feel, with cosmic, indescribable horrors tearing their way into the world via unexpected avenues. Some creatures don't even serve a purpose beyond freaking you the fuck out. Looking up in one late-game spawning region will provide you with a non-attack based encounter that will likely give you a real case of the goosebumps, or like in my case, scream FUCK and almost break your controller. The bosses are the real design tour-de-force...if you're a fan of many limbs, practically mummified body proportions, writhing masses of corpses, and body holes allllLLLll over...you're going to really love the bosses in Bloodborne. Visually striking and artistically unique are the correct, review-savvy terms to use for these guys, but the actual term you will be using is HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT OH GOD IT'S COMING FOR ME, OH GOD I'M DEAAAD. And the music doesn't help that mood either, SPEAKING OF WHICH...

      Amazing Soundtrack.

      HOLY SHIT, Bloodborne's soundtrack is fucking amazing. The Dark Souls franchise has always had a fantastic ear for music, and knows to use it sparingly also. Like I mentioned before, on your day to day journeys around the world...you won't really hear any music, it's all ambient, generally unnerving sounds. When the music starts to kick in, that's when you know you're well and truly fucked, because...HEEEYY, IT'S BOSS TIME, BABY. Despite the frantic, constantly fast-paced nature of this game, I often wished I had the ability to put a finger to the lips of whatever unimaginable monstrosity was looming over me with its 50,000 screaming eye-holes, tell it to sit down, shut up, and let me enjoy the music, because...daaaamn, son, these tunes are epic as fuck. Perfectly matching both the grim, gothic atmosphere of Yharnam and also the desperate, seemingly insurmountable battle that's just landed in front of you, the soundtrack to Bloodborne's boss battles is one that both compliments and excels the experience you're having. Each boss has its own suited theme, some of them are loud and chaotic, some of them are quiet and eerie...a couple (Such as the one above) are even a little tragic in parts, matching the ghastly fate many of the creatures or people you're facing have befallen to end up in this situation, sometimes telling a complex story with just music alone, whilst also making each and every boss battle feel exciting and memorable in different ways. With a soundtrack this good, you sometimes wish the game had more of it, but in reality, it's the absence of a score that makes the orchestral, dramatic music of the boss battles feel like even more of a defining, alarming exclamation point at each stage of your journey that brings you there. I really don't have much else to say, I've never been much good at reviewing music specifically, but Bloodborne's score is one of the best I've ever heard in a game, and I've heard some amazing scores indeed. It made the often frustrating chore of taking on the many, intentionally agonising boss battles that little bit less of a chore...which is quite something, really.

      Improves on the gameplay of Dark Souls.


      In my original Dark Souls themed blog, subtitled 'The Best and Worst of Gaming on one Disc', I laid a heap helping of praise on many of the open-ended, exploration heavy aspects of the original Dark Souls games, but ultimately felt the gameplay itself was frustrating and often extremely unfair. Whilst Bloodborne doesn't fix all of that (We'll go through those issues later on), it does go some way to improve on the foundations of what the Souls games laid out, providing a more refined take on those games, whilst also carving out its own unique fighting style, which I personally found to be more enjoyable. The core gameplay of Dark Souls, AKA the fighting, was very shield heavy. If you didn't use your shield, you were basically fucked from the start. Enemies generally required goading into an attack in order to strike them yourself, and that required well timed use of your shield, in addition to a well aimed parry attack. Although this generally worked fine in a one-to-one scenario with a basic shieldy enemy (Some not requiring this at all), once you threw multiple enemies into the mix, and stronger, less predictable ones at that? Things became very timing/skill heavy, and whilst some people prefer that...I did not. The slow character movement and general inability to dodge or move quickly out of the line of attack was also quite frustrating...for me anyway. Bloodborne has a completely different playstyle that couldn't go more against Dark Souls without still feeling essentially the same. Shields are out, basically, well-timed gunshots, nimble-footed dodge rolling and rapid melee strikes are in, and for me, this feels a lot more enjoyable, even when it's going wrong. It's a faster paced, less wait-heavy experience that rewards your courage to charge into battle as much as punishes it. Perfectly timing your gunblast as an enemy lunges for you, stunning them and opening up a chance for a visceral attack, one that deals massive damage and often insta-kills some enemies? That's hugely satisfying, as is just the general feel of charging into battle instead of cautiously creeping around corners, shield raised like in Souls of old. 

      There's a few enjoyable basic gameplay additions and subtractions to be had in Bloodborne also. One of the most annoying aspects of Dark Souls was how often enemy encounters were based around ambushes, be they hidden behind scenery, or simply stashed around a blind corner in a narrow corridor, often impossible to anticipate until you've already been taken out once, endangering whatever previous souls you'd gained along the way.  Whilst Bloodborne still has ambushes and a couple enemies hidden in hard to see corners, it's fair to say it's no longer the bread and butter of the general experience, and with the exception of one, easy to anticipate encounter, all take place in wider open spaces that allow you to react accordingly first time around, therefore removing some of the more frustrating moment to moment trial and error elements. There's also a lot less narrow cliff-edges to navigate, in fact I'm pretty sure there aren't any...and certainly not ones with insta-kill drops and impossible to avoid enemies on them, at the least. A nice new addition is the ability to regain health from striking back against an enemy that just hit you as quickly as possible, meaning the game once again rewards your speed and courage, instead of punishing it. And yes, the game still has the same, genius, risk and reward currency system, meaning you gain the currency to buy new equipment, improve the ones you have, and level up your numerous character stats through killing enemies, the more you kill and the harder they are to kill, the bigger the reward...but when you die, you drop all those hard-earned Blood Echoes and have to fight your way back to the area you died, or the monster you died to....and if you die on the way? It's all gone, man. Honestly, this has always been my favourite gameplay mechanic of these games, agonising as it sometimes can be, and it largely comes over unchanged beyond an appropriately Bloodborney name alteration. In general, the more fast paced, hack'n'slash antics of Bloodborne compared to the shield-based strategy of Dark Souls is a personal preference, but for me, I'll take Bloodbornes tweaks/changes over the latter any day.

      Huge number of things to find and do.


      Whilst I don't agree with the notion that Dark Souls and its other-named branching releases are the sole bastion of an open-ended, wonderfilled video game experience that simply isn't available elsewhere these days, it's also hard to deny that the worlds of these games and the way in which you explore them is really quite fantastic. Although the days of so-called "hand holding" gaming experiences have died down since the original release of Dark Souls somewhat, which we partly have Dark Souls to thank for that, there's still a lot to be said and enjoyed about the absolute lack of dialogue/cutscene/linear path based barriers in the franchise, and Bloodborne is of course, no different. Even more so than the original Souls game, Bloodborne quite literally just dumps you in its vast, sprawling world and, for better or worse (We'll get to worse later), expects you to just deal with it. Yharnam is a vast, sprawling and (mostly) interconnecting world full of hidden rooms and surprisingly robust, expansive side content to stumble upon outside of the main experience. There's no signpost telling you which way is the 'right' way to go, or which way is the safest route...or the one with the lantern at the end, you have to find out for yourself. You see a crooked set of stairs descending down a dark passage into an entirely new opening? Sure that could be the way to your next main objective (Boss battle generally), but it could also lead you to an entirely new location which isn't even required for the completion of the game, or worse yet, it could lead to an unexpected optional boss battle that's gonna kick your ass three ways to Sunday. There's so much to see and do in Bloodborne, and no straight-forward means of gauging what's mandatory and what's just an extra bit of "fun", it feels like an actual world you're exploring for the first time, and not just a theme park ride experience, seeing the amazing sights on a linear path of set-pieces leading towards completion, and I really love that. 

      What's really fun about the world of Bloodborne is how many kinds of content there are to see and do. You have your main branch, which generally sees you navigate from one boss battle to the next, fighting your way through a vast assortment of visually stunning but deadly locations, full of enemies that are often quite distinct from each other in both style and attack. Then there's the easier to find side-content, the left turn instead of the right, that leads you to an entirely different and optional experience, sometimes it's just a secret room with some special loot, sometimes it's a harder path that ultimately unlocks a shortcut to make the area a little easier to explore, or even an optional boss battle that's defeat rewards you with a special item, a new lantern, and a branching connection from one location to another. Then you've got the secret areas, the ones that vary in their discovery. Slightly more hidden paths off the beaten track of your campaign progress, or even the use of a specific item in a specific area revealing entirely new locations, with entirely new enemies and ambiance, often more challenging than what you've encountered to date, with a deadly final boss rewarding your hard work with a item that'll either prove useful in your later exploits, or potentially unlock different endings. These are self contained areas, not leading to another region, simply offering a lengthy and visually distinct side-experience. The main campaign of Bloodborne alone offers you upwards of 30-50 hours of content depending on your progression speed, but when you throw in the numerous...numerous amount of side-content? All of which is connected together in one varied but connected world that rewards you for stepping into the unknown and exploring the darkest corners of the map? That's a lot of bang for your buck, and bang you earn from exploration and hard work, not just for showing up.

      Robust online mechanics.


      If you're anything like me, who does not have the time or patience to deal with the numerous, unending bullshit that is most of the Souls series of games, you'll have found the inclusion of online co-op features a godsend. Indeed, if it were not for these refined and surprisingly in-depth features in Bloodborne, I would not have gotten even close to finishing the game at all. Much like Dark Souls, Bloodborne has a unique set of online mechanics that provide a constant interaction with other players across the world, whilst still offering a robust single player focused experience. On your long journey across Yharnam, you'll encounter a whole host of different, strange apportions on the generally blood soaked, dingy ground. The most frequent of these are red gashes, and a bunch of little skellermen huddled around a weird glowy rock. Yes, YES, VIDEO GAMES. The red gashes offer you direct insight into the final moments of another player, showing you a grisly flashback of the potential horrors lurking right ahead of, or just behind you, whilst the skellermen provide frequently cryptic messages that potentially offer hints towards what's coming, or what's hidden off to the side...or they could instead be tricking you into a grisly death...or just shitposting, really, that's generally the most common one. These skellbois are actually customisable, which is a fun addition, and the messages themselves can be up or down voted...creating Bloodborne's very own weird, skellerman based social media system, which is something that wasn't needed, but adds a little bit extra, which is always nice. There's also white phantoms that will randomly appear in areas of the world, often making you jump half a foot in the air, thinking an enemy is about to attack you, thanks for that, FromSoftware. These are actually people playing the game at the same time you are, broadcasting their whereabouts just a few moments prior to your arrival. It adds nothing of real value, but like all the other floor-things™, it makes the game feel a bit more expansive, and gives you a unintrusive but entertaining connection to Bloodborne players both past and present. 

      And that brings us to the previously mentioned co-op mechanics. Whilst Bloodborne, like prior Souls games, doesn't have straight up co-op gameplay, where the entire experience can be played through with a friend from start to finish, it does actually improve on the cool concept set up by its predecessor. As with Dark Souls, in certain (most) areas of the game, after a certain point, you're able to invite random players into your game, this time with a summoning bell you acquire early on. Unlike Dark Souls, however, this feature isn't limited to other player's offerings, generally scattered around the entrances to boss battles and nowhere else, and is instead based around your usage of the bell, and if any eligible players in the same ballpark area choose to join you. Although some areas restrict usage of this bell, most areas will allow it, and although it's not as easy to find other random players in the general world, as it is around the entrance to boss battles, as in prior games, it's still entirely possible to accomplish it, especially since, amazingly, Bloodborne still has a reasonably robust online community, ready to come to the help of people like myself, who suck. What's especially nice about the summoning mechanic is how detailed it is in terms of settings. Although rather obtuse to find them, the settings for the summoning bell allow you to narrow the search permieters by region, limit it to just your PSN friends, or even password protect it, allowing you to get specific users into your game without the need to add them as a friend at all. This option of pre-planned bell ringing allows you to actually play Bloodborne as something of a co-op game, despite it being designed differently. Having a friend guide you through some of the harder parts of the game, show you regions and secrets you may not have otherwise discovered, and most importantly, helping your sorry ass out during the many, often impossible-feeling boss battles. As I said already, without these mechanics I'd of never finished Bloodborne, so it's great to see the already fun and useful summoning mechanic become even more open-ended and helpful. Throw in the previously mentioned social community aspects, and Bloodborne, much like Dark Souls prior, is a surprisingly robust and unique online title.

      The Bad.

      Finite Health Potions.


      Whilst a lot of my upcoming qualms with this game are pretty subjective, as basically all opinions in reviews are, I feel like this one is a genuinely baffling alteration that adds nothing to the overall experience of Bloodborne in comparison to Dark Souls, whilst taking away a hell of a lot. Estus Flasks in Dark Souls are basically your generic gaming health potions. Low on health? Take a swig from that flask, dawg. Standard stuff, really...but what made this common gaming mechanic specifically interesting in Dark Souls was how the effectiveness and numeracy of the flasks in question was tied to your characters own progression, and not just what you find on the way. You start out with a certain amount and potency of potion, and have the option to increase both of those using your collected souls. Every time you return from the dead, you're given that same amount back, and whilst you can find unrelated health items in the world, they are pretty rare, Estus Flasks are your lifeline, and having a set amount for each go around, which can be upgraded over time? That makes for an interesting sense of strategy to the usage of these potions. Taking a sip every time you get damaged is going to leave you without any soon enough, and then when it comes to a more dangerous encounter, you're really fucked. That said, if you don't keep on top of your health, you can still find yourself dying instantly at the hands of certain enemies. When you die, it all comes back, and the dance begins again. It's pretty clever.....so yeah, Bloodborne don't got that. And that's a huge problem.

      In Bloodborne, despite having the same gameplay structure as Dark Souls, potions come either from random drops, or purchases from a store. You don't have a set amount, they don't respawn upon death, and when you run out...well...shit, son. That's too bad. Whilst you can improve the amount of health they give back via a attribute gaining mechanic within the game, and can increase the amount of potions you can carry....you have to find them, or buy them yourself. Instead of souls being spent towards improving the flask amounts, you're instead merely paying to have any at all, one use only. When the gameplay is exactly the same as Dark Souls, where even the most smallfry enemies can decimate your health bar, especially when they gang up on you? You're going to be needing a lot of potions. When you take on a boss fight, you no longer have those potions as a lifeline, because you can't rely on having any in the first place. Sure, you can go in stocked to the gills, but if you use them all up and then die? You have none. How do you get them back? Random loot drops from enemies. Yes. At this stage you can't even buy any replacements, since you just dropped all your god damn blood echoes. In order to stand any chance at the boss, or any slim chance of regaining the currency you lost, you need to grind. You need...to grind. Fight random enemies in the offchance they drop health potions...which isn't guaranteed at all, and hope in the process you don't get injured enough to then immediately need to use said potion...or...worse yet, die, and lose everything. Why they changed this mechanic is beyond fuckin' me, it is a huge issue with the game, and wasting hard-earned echoes to replenish health items instead of upgrading stats that'd make your experience better? Fucking sucks.

      The usual '____ Souls' bullshit.


      This is your reminder that the Souls franchise and their specific interest in hyperdifficulty are not my kinda games. In my original Dark Souls blog, I heaped a lot of praise on the open-ended, exploratory nature of the game, but then proceeded to tear into the stupid artificial difficulty and trial and error gameplay. As such, I'm not going to dedicate a lot of time to this one, because, frankly...it'd be a broken record, and you probably already know what I'm talking about anyway. Bloodborne, despite improvements in a lot of areas, is still a Souls game. That means a lot of frustration, a ton of unfair situations and ...as a whole, a lot of bullshit. Firstly, the general enemies are all over the place in terms of annoyance, and they all become annoying in large groups. It's extremely easy to get completely overwhelmed by even the first enemies in the game, and true to franchise form, no matter how kitted out and buffed up you are, you are still the weakling in any fight, especially later into the game when shit starts to really hit the cosmic fan. Often for me, it feels less like a challenge to overcome, and more a case of blind luck that you survive mass encounters. Whilst you're a victim to the mechanically clever but still frustrating stamina bar, your enemies are not, particularly in the start of the game, you are punished severely for whaling on enemies, whilst they of course can smash you to pieces to their hearts content...I get they're supposed to be an opposing force but it's annoying that they don't generally play by the same rules despite often being the same as you, or lesser beings at that. 

      Although there's less of this, ambushes and hidden enemies are still an annoying problem that increasingly boil down to luck, always assuming the worst, and even trial/error. An enemy can come from a corner and deal massive damage, or even insta-kill you without you ever even knowing they were there in the first place, which is hardly fair in the slightest. It certainly doesn't help that your weapon can easily collide with the unpredictably angled scenery, whilst of course...their attacks do not. Later game enemies are just total bullshit, firing insta-killing laser beams, overwhelming you with numeracy to the point where the game lags making it even harder to survive, and grabbing you in their inescapable hold, making you sit there for upwards of 30 seconds or more just watching your character die. Whilst I heaped praise on the open-ended and mysterious nature of the game, there was one instance where I was grabbed by a random, hidden enemy, transported to a completely new location I was not prepared for, without any health potions...and I was essentially trapped there until I got lucky and managed to run past the insanely high levelled enemies in a pitch black region, and finally found an exit to continue the actual game. These issues aren't even just me being shit at the game, I've played it with hardened Bloodborne pros that still fall victim to an unpredictable insta-kill from a random enemy in the later stages of the game. Why people find this masochistic level of unfair, unrewarding difficulty (The reward is more suffering) is beyond me. It baffled me in Dark Souls, and it continues to baffle me all this time later, with Bloodborne.

      Opening hour is a real slog.


      The opening couple hours of a game are oh so crucial to a players decision on whether or not it's worth continuing on with. This rings especially true for games like Bloodborne which stretch into the 50 hours+ mark in running time. To invest in a game like this is a huge devotion of time, you will be playing this game for potentially months, so if those opening hours don't pull you in and make you stay...well...why would you, really? Full disclosure, I got this game through PS+, so I didn't really have any financial stakes in this game providing me bang for my buck, and well...let's just say, if it wasn't the pleas of friends to stick with it? I absolutely wouldn't have got through the total slog of an opening that Bloodborne has. Bringing in a comparison again to Dark Souls, whose opening essentially plays as a seamless, enjoyable tutorial to the world of hurt you're about to be thrown into afterwards? Bloodborne just throws you into the deep end, without any context, without any objective...and just expects you to deal with it. The tutorial of this game is literally a series of notes on the floor of the hubworld you end up in not long after starting. Notes that are very easy to miss when they're smooshed together along a path, hidden amongst other, not useful notes from random players. Some of these notes contain the starting weapons/gear of the fucking game, and are presented to you without any context or explanation of their worth. After that point, off you go, my friend. The opening stretch of Bloodborne is a frustrating, maze-like region where you're completely out of your depth from the moment you have your first encounter. There's no easing you in, no chance to learn the ropes before things really kick off...you're just in the game...fuck you. Throw into this the previously mentioned scarcity of health potions? At its worst point at this stage of the game, where absolutely nothing of yours is upgraded? And the inability to call in any help whatsoever until your first boss encounter at the end of this section? It's a massive chore, devoid of any intrigue or context, one that no doubt expects you to be a seasoned Dark Souls fanatic by this point, despite offering an entirely different combat style and health system. With this shoddy opening far in the rear view mirror by the time you've beaten the game, and those who have no doubt far more focused on the many fun adventures they had after this sequence, I'm not surprised this isn't held against the game...but I couldn't let it go, really. Openings are key, and I'm a hard sell on these kinda games...so I found this first hour to be a massive pile of shit.

      Boss Battles are stupidly hard.


      This feels practically redundant to say in a review of anything by FromSoftware, but....these boss battles are a bit....insane? And we're not exclusively talking about the good kinda crazy. Yes, whilst they look pretty spectacular and the musical scores are even better, the fights themselves vary from feeling epic to...I'm dead immediately without even knowing why. Even more so than in Dark Souls, the bosses in Bloodborne do not relent at any point throughout the numerous encounters to be had. Your new-found Bloodborney speediness means the bosses are even faster and less forgiving than prior, zooming around the various locations like a bat out of hell...except with more limbs, firing laser beams, fire, poison....charging into you...outnumbering you massively...and that's only the first arc of these enemies. Whilst it all feels pretty spectacular when it's going great...it's generally not, let's face it. Once again at times it feels less like skill and more luck...even when you know what's coming, even when you know when to dodge and when to run away...even when you're equipped with the kinda gear that the enemy is specifically weak to? You're still massively underpowered and relying on things playing out in a specific, random way  rather than defeating these guys because they're legitimately conquerable. Even beyond the whole giant enemy, big firey hands and shit...situations that you generally face, there's several other kinds of bosses that vary from annoying to just flat-out impossible on your own, unless you grind relentlessly prior to taking them on. One enemy requires you to chase them around a maze for ages, which is fucking obnoxious as all hell, only to then insta-kill you with a cheapass move when you finally ...FINALLY back them into a corner. Another consists of three superpowered enemies that you need to take on at once, which, frankly seems entirely based around luck of where they go at any specific time, and not skill. I actually died after defeating this boss, and had to then carefully navigate myself all the way back in order to light the lamp, and more importantly, collect my tens of thousands of echoes that I'd just gained and then immediately lost. Another boss requires you to fight whilst surrounded by dozens of smaller versions of them, all of which can kill you instantly if given the right chance. It's just...it's not fun. It's impressive visually, the scores are incredible, and as a mere initial experience, without taking into consideration the need to win? It's fun to undergo, but these battles, which are in a lot of ways the main event of Bloodborne, ultimately prove to be a massive faff, and needlessly "difficult", if you can even call it difficulty at this sheer concentration of insta-killing bullshit.

      Too complicated/obtuse in parts.


      What's that? A Dark Souls game...obtuse and complicated? Nooooo way. I've praised this game, and Dark Souls for being mysterious and exploration based, and that's all good and grand. But at the same time...do some things need to be just...just so obtuse and hard to work out on your own? Finding secret paths to new locations and secret items is great and all, but half the time you'll have no fucking clue what you just picked up, and likely never will find out unless you look it up online. That's what this game is...an experience that's designed to be done blind, to immerse yourself in a large, atmospheric world and discover things for yourself. But then...you get some item...some body part, a weird letter to someone you've never met, or at least don't think you have because...fuck me if any of these character's names are memorable or distinguishable from anything else. To unlock what's broadly speaking the true ending of Bloodborne, you need to find three of four items, most of which are extremely hard to discover, one avenue of which is made impossible to get after reaching a certain part of the game without doing something...something you likely have no idea about...and once you have those three required items...you won't have a fucking clue what they're for unless you've already looked it up, and even if you do know, you're not necessarily going to know what to do with them either. That's the fucking real ending to the game, locked behind veils of impossible to understand mystery, that was worked out likely from trial and error from a community of people who play this game for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One hidden location in the game requires you to have completed a specific, other secret region, have a specific item, and know to go to an exact fucking singular vehicle in one specific point of the giant world...and it's a huge optional segment ...like...unless through blind luck or an insanely meticulous exploration of every object in the entire game, you're never going to find this shit out on your own! There's a whole fucking side quest that can become rendered impossible to access extremely early within the game. How do I know this? Because it happened to me, someone who was exploring every room and every area for any hidden details...and I still missed like, 10% of the fucking game because I didn't meet one character at one stage early on in the game. Items have stupid and vague descriptions...not to mention most of the menus are needlessly obtuse and unintuitive, it becomes a massive faff just to work out how to equip specific fucking items. There's a whole item storage area in the hub world that's oh so easily completely looked over because it's tucked in a random corner without any pomp or circumstance. I know the hardcore fans of these games love all this bullshit, but I think it's fucking stupid to make large chunks of a game the equivalent of solving a Rubiks with a blindfold on, and your hands tied behind your back.


      Story is incomprehensible.


      Alright, I know...you're not playing games like Bloodborne for the story, great. But fact of the matter is, this game is 50 hours+ long and it does have a story...I guess? The ambiguity and incomprehensible nature of the narrative, particularly the ending of this game would make David fuckin' Lynch blush. You wake up on a table after some guy talks about a hunt...you die, wake up in a weird limbo stately garden, where a living doll maid lady and a old man in a wheelchair are there. You walk around a world, encountering a bunch of weird fuckers who generally turn into giant monsters...there's a lot talk about the hunt...hunters...moons...that kinda shit...the moon changes a bunch, then your stately garden catches on fire? You either fight the guy in the wheelchair or don't...and then you either end up in the wheelchair, accomplish nothing or...turn into...a slug? The ennnd? That's literally the entire story. Sure, there's lots of side-characters to talk to, there's vague conceptual story threads to be picked up on, but when it comes down to it...it's all a load of bullshit, right? Even the devoted fans of this game offer 4 or 5 potential explanations of each individual ending, with some grasping at straws to connect it to Dark Souls or whatever. The fact of the matter is there's basically no meaning to be directly gleamed from this pretentious nonsense. There's moon beings and old hunters and cosmic entities and a whole bunch of random shit. It's just an excuse to throw every type of dark gothic fantasy trope into a blender, pour a bunch of blood into it and throw the blender at a brick wall. It all looks really nice, the atmosphere is incredible, and as a general overall experience it's enjoyable...but....yeah, the "story" is just a load of shit, really. Again, I'm sure most will argue the story doesn't matter, but this is a 50 hour experience based around a narrative....so...the fact the narrative is nonsensical and broadly meaningless? That's worth bringing up as an issue, at the least.

      Worth Buying?


      Now here's a complex question to answer, given we're now around four years on from the game's initial launch. It's hard to deny that Bloodborne is a meaty package, with the potential of 80 hours worth of content to delve into, and a nice, chunky DLC package included with the easy to find GOTY editions too. This game is generally going for £20-30 less than it did at launch, which means even more so, it's hard to deny the value of the purchase, at least on paper. The question you have to ask yourself is...how much of this am I going to get through? How much of Bloodborne will I play before I get frustrated or give up? Some people are gonna be fine, this kinda game is made for them, and they'll no doubt chomp through the entire experience without the same kinda intense frustration that someone like me gets from the masochistic nature of Bloodborne's 'difficulty'. But like I say, there's going to be people like me, people who just don't want to hear any of this games abundant nonsense. Had I been playing completely solo, I likely wouldn't have got through 50% of the game, let alone beat it. Fortunately I didn't play it by myself, and the majority of my enjoyment then game from the shared experience, and the ability to appreciate the hugely impressive art design and music in its entirety. If you got a friend to join you on your quest when possible? If you've got the determination to get through, or are simply enough of a sadist to enjoy the constant barrage of hurt this game provides? There's no question this is well worth paying out for. Not into these sorta games? Tried Dark Souls before and didn't like it?  Then it's absolutely not worth investing in, because it won't change your mind at all. As it stands, I had ummed and arr'd about paying for this game around the £15 mark, but was fortunate enough to get it on Playstation Plus, which...made the decision to try it a hell of a lot easier.



      Bloodborne is a frustrating beast for me, even more so than Dark Souls was prior. Both offer a refreshingly pure gaming experience, in terms of open-ended, hand-holding free exploration, with a sprawling map full of secrets and better yet, secret regions to be found. Going beyond Dark Souls, Bloodborne provides an amazingly detailed and atmospheric world of gothic horror, visually stunning from start to finish, with one of gamings most impressive and well used orchestral scores to boot. The enemy design and scale of the bosses are truly awe-inspiring...in a often revolting way, and the gameplay is mostly a massive improvement, offering zippy, fast-paced combat over the often tedious shield strategy of Dark Souls. But like that previous game...Bloodborne suffers from the same love it or hate it bullshit that I most certainly do not love. It's an unfair gameplay experience, where the odds are stacked against you at all times, and boss battles prove to be less learned strategy and skill, and more often luck of the draw when it comes to what avalanche of inescapable insanity hits you, or doesn't. Mechanically it's got a lot of problems too, the menu systems are needlessly obtuse, and a good chunk of the extra content within the game is likely impossible to discover on your own without some internet intervention. In addition to that, the change to the health system from Dark Souls was a huge mistake, in my opinion...creating the need to grind for random item drops in order to stand any chance in a situation that's always ready to trample you into the dirt regardless of how prepared you are. At such a lengthy, often infuriating solo experience, with a narrative that does literally nothing to reward your progress? It feels hard to recommend Bloodborne to people like me. And yet...it's beautiful, and memorable in a lot of ways...and when played with ample use of the summoning mechanic, particularly with friends? It genuinely goes from being a massive chore to being frustrating but fun, quite easily. I don't like a lot of what Bloodborne is selling as a game, but I love what it's offering artistically...and I can't deny the times I spent playing what's essentially co-op were a lot more fun than the times I soldiered through all the needlessly complicated and frustrating bullshit by myself. Whether or not you like Bloodborne is going to depend on who you are as a "gamer", and how you play it as a game. For that reason I come out of this blog once again, with mixed feelings. Bloodborne, much like what I deemed Dark Souls to be so many years ago, is the best, and worst of gaming on one disc.

      WELL, THERE YOU HAVE IT. I hope you enjoyed the numerous callbacks to a years old blog you probably didn't read...but hey, symmetry or whatever. What do you think of Bloodborne? Have you played it? Did you finish it? Do you think I need to "git gud"? Please leave all of your comments, except that last one, in the provided space below, I'd love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts, provided you give them in a mostly level-headed and constructive way, as I hopefully have done. If you like this review, give it the ol ZING and share it around on the social medias, that'd be lovely, thanks. Not sure when my next blog will roll along, so...until the next time, whenever that may be...LATER GATORS.

    • The Stickman's E3 2018 Hopes & Predictions.

      1 year ago



      Heeeyyy, it's E3 next week, a time for corporate jargon, underwhelming announcements, m is t a kes, and most of all, video game SHIT. Although its potency as the hub of all big game announcements has diminished in recent years, thanks, much like summer blockbuster movie season, to an oversaturation of game announcements leaving some to be lost in the crowd. A lot of titles get their own reveals in the build-up to E3, or at random points of the year...and those that don't get announced prior tend to leak anyway....BUT, there's always a few fun reveals to behold, and when it comes to knowing or hoping what's coming around the corner, that's a fun thing to DISCUSS...and WRITE BLOGS ABOOOOUT. WOOOO.

      So, I've done this for years now, and mostly failed miserably. This time I'm doing things a little differently, instead of having 10 overall predictions, I'm going to do a 2-3 predictions for each event, and a couple hopes for them too. Predictions are things I think will happen, whilst hopes are my dream reveals, which are not so much based in any realm of assumption or plausibility as they are just...blind hopes. I'll keep them all reasonably brief, or at least brief by my standards, and if you have any hopes/predictions of your owwwn? Why not POP 'EM in the comments below? And Zing/share the blog around whilst you're at it, maybe. That'd be swell. 

      Alrighty, let us BEGIINNN.

      EA Conference (Saturday June 9th, 7pm BST)


      A Focus on Variety - EA's conference is usually the first, and it's also usually the worst of the main E3 pressers. Even when they were releasing a good selection of high quality titles back at the start of last generation, their conferences always tended to focus too much on EA Sports, and FPS titles. Present day is no different, and that's what I'm really hoping to change. Sports are a huge part of EA's financial profits, so nobody's expecting them not to show up, but have more variety in general, please? Have your sports, have time for shooters, have time for Star Wars ...but have different games too, and show them off in a way that's not just 'Work in Progress' documentary clips. EA's had a really shitty 2017 thanks to their mistakes on Battlefront II, so coming to E3 with a nice spread of games that says WE DON'T SUCK would be great.

      Dead Space returns - File this one under "Blind Hope", because this ain't happening. Dead Space at one point, was one of EA's favourite franchises, it seemed. 3 mainline video games, a couple spin-offs, comic books, two animated movies, novels...all sorts. Then they botched things up with Dead Space 3, and haven't so much as mentioned the franchise in passing since that point. The fact of the matter is, people love Dead Space as a franchise, despite 3's misguided alterations, and there is a market for a more crowd-pleasing sequel. Unfortunately, Visceral Games, like most EA studios, got shut down in the last year, so it'd have to be a new studio...but hey...that's not impossible, right? A new Dead Space release would gain EA some much needed kudos...provided they make the right kind of Dead Space title.


      The usual shtick - Although I hope EA changes things up this year for their presser...I'm predicting that's very much not going to be the case. Although hopefully mistakes have been learned from the release of Battlefront II in terms of game design...I don't think this leopards gonna change its spots in the E3 department. I'm expecting at least one Star Wars game to be shown off, along with likely DLC talk for Battlefront II itself. I'm expecting a lengthy EA Sports section, that deals with Football and Madden for sure, with maybe something along the lines of Baseball/Basketball/UFC or whatever to round it up to a 3 title sport showcase. They'll probably bring along one crowd pleasing non-franchise 'indie style' title like they have done in previous years with Unravel and A Way Out, we'll no doubt get a good chunk of time dedicated to watching boring FPS multiplayer, this time courtesy of Battlefield V...and then we'll either start things off, or cap things off with Anthem, the new, big, expensive and potentially disastrous IP from Bioware, which has a lot to prove, with both EA and also specifically Bioware suffering from big blowbacks in 2017 due to disappointing Star Wars and Mass Effect releases. Oh yeah, and we'll get at least one awkward paid celebrity showcase, no doubt. NO. DOUBT.

      An apology - A firm favourite of the E3 pressers over the year. Having a huge, literal platform with all the eyes of the gaming world upon you is the perfect time to tuck into a nice big slice of humble pie. Sony have done it in the past for the huge hack attack that took PSN out for literally months, and there's been several other subtler nods, and briefer apologies in other pressers  of the past. EA have had a lot of shitty events in recent history, but 2017 was perhaps their worst year yet, with Mass Effect Andromeda coming out basically unfinished and poorly mishandled by its development studio, and Battlefront 2's now legendary microtransaction misfires managing to even damage the financial viablity of a god damn Star Wars game. Last year they took to the stage to proudly flaunt their latest Star Wars title, this year, they'll take to the stage and offer an apology to their 'community' for making such a pigs arse of it. Expect 'No microtransactions, no season pass' to crop up several times as well, but I wouldn't be surprised if the EA presser opens up with less of a big bombastic reveal, and more of a "Hey guys, we're totally really sorry about taking you to the cleaners, I hope we can make it up to you". 

      Xbox Conference (Sunday June 10th, 9pm BST)


      New Alien vs Predator game - This is a reasonably plausible desire, but not one with any credibility to back it up as a genuine prediction. FOX announced earlier this year that a new Aliens shooter was in the works with recently acquired Cold Iron Studios, which makes that an E3 possibility, but also an unlikely one, as it seems too early to be shown off. That said, it's been eight years since the last Alien vs Predator game came out, to middling reviews, but robust sales, and it seems likely we'd get a new instalment at some point in the future, right? With Alien getting a new film last year, and Predator getting a new film this year, there's no better time to bring this crossover franchise to the newest generation of consoles, and Rebellion have always stated they'd love to work with the property again. This could happen at either Xbox or Sony's pressers, but Xbox seems to be the one for multi-platform announcements these days. Not a completely blind hope, this...but I feel we would've had some murmurings prior if it was actually happening.

      Alan Wake 2 - Now here's a more unlikely hope. Remedy Entertainment have already stated they are working on a brand new, multi-platform IP at the moment, and there's a good chance we might get a look at that this E3, but what about Alan Wake? Rather disturbingly, it's exactly the same length of time since the original Alan Wake game as the previous Alien vs Predator release...it's been a long time, and whilst sales of the game weren't particularly noteworthy, it has definitely become a much loved cult classic of previous gen, one that received a semi-sequel downloadable title in the form of American Nightmare in 2012. Remedy have officially stated they'd love to return to the franchise some day, but not for the foreseeable future, even doing a special video a few years ago, where they literally locked the franchise away in a vault Indiana Jones style...but with the Xbone somewhat lacking in headliner franchises, and major exclusives? What better time to bring back Alan Wake, exclusively to Microsoft platforms, as with the original? Although it'd be great if Remedy did return for the sequel, another reputable developer working on it, much like Rockstar did with Remedy's former franchise, Max Payne? That could go pretty great too. Unlikely, but...a man can dream, DAMNIT.


      The return of Halo - It sure is weird what happened to the Halo franchise, huh? Master Chief was, and in some ways still is the face of the Xbox brand, it's the reason the original system became what it was, and it's also partly the reason why the Xbox 360 was the best selling mainline console of last generation. But it's been 3 years since Microsoft and 343 Studios even mentioned a new Halo shooter, let alone announced one. After the disastrous launch of the Master Chief Collection in 2014, meant to tide people over until Halo 5, which got mixed reviews itself? All we've had is Halo Wars 2, which was tepidly received both critically and commercially, and a continued eSports campaign for Halo 5's multiplayer component. Last year's Xbox presser didn't even have a Halo game to show off, which seems like the first time since...well...ever, E3 was lacking some sort of new Halo product. 2018 will change that though, and Halo will likely be back in a big way. 343 Studios have been working away on something for a while now, no doubt...and obviously that's mainly going to be Halo 6, which will finally be revealed in some capacity at this year's presser. Billed as the conclusion to this current trilogy of games, that started with Halo 4 all the way back in 2012, this final instalment will be their biggest Xbox announcement of the show....but, it probably won't release this year. Instead, I'm imagining we'll finally get the Halo 3 remaster people have been hankering for since ...well...Halo 2 got its remaster, really. Basically, Halo 3 Anniversary and Halo 6 will spell the return of the Halo franchise to the gaming forefront, along with the possibility of that long in-development Halo TV Series...which apparently is very much still a thing at Showtime, maybe getting a re-announcement. There's also a possibility that Microsoft will drop the bombshell that the Master Chief Collection, and Halo 5 are coming to PC too, but that's just me spit-balling, really.

      A lot of big multi-platform announcements - It's fair to say that, despite pretty damn decent sales, and a lot of love from the people who own the system, the Xbox One...and it's One S/One X spin-offs haven't done so hot in the exclusives department. That's not to say the system lacks great games, there are plenty. There's even a few hot exclusives here and there, to make everyone all jealous, but the majority are either also available cross-play style on PC, or are multi-platform with benefits. With Sony's pressers being based largely around big, exclusive mic-drop moments, with not as much attention payed to titles available on multiple platforms, unless there's some big exclusive deal to flaunt alongside them? Xbox at E3 will most likely be the place to be for multi-platform announcements that don't live on their own third-party E3 stages. Last year we saw some goodies with the Metro Exodus surprise announcement, and Assassin's Creed Origins getting its world première, prior to Ubisoft's presser, so there's no reason to expect anything less from the platform this time. Recently leaked Assassin's Creed Odyssey is pretty likely, that franchise always seeming to get a presence at whatever platform it has an exclusive items/DLC deal with at that point, but we could also feasibly see things such as the new 2K project...which is either Bioshock, or more likely Borderlands 3, and also the new Rocksteady title, which is reportedly a Superman title in the same style/quality as the Arkham series of Batman games. With Marvel riding the exclusive train for Spider-Man on PS4, it seems even more likely DC will choose Xbox to reveal that title. Of course, all of these games will be flaunted as being 'Better on Xbox One X', as with last year...which is very much the new direction for the platform...sure...the PS4 has more exclusives, but those multiplatform releases? Here's the best place to play those.

      Bethesda Conference (Monday June 11th, 2:30am BST)


      New Wolfenstein game - To be fair, it's a little early for a proper follow-up to Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, the entertaining, hyperviolent nazi-killer shooter from 2017. Getting a Wolfenstein III announcement would be great, just as confirmation it exists, but it'd likely just be that, a confirmation. That said, it'd be fun to see a side-game announcement, much as The Old Blood was a smaller scale follow-up companion and prequel to 2014's The New Order. It seems unlikely this time, given Wolftenstein II had a season pass with additional side-content added to the main game, instead of having a sequel...but it's not like Bethesda have ever been ones not to double dip when it comes to low-budget side-content. Realistically the most likely outcome of this is a VR spin-off, akin to last year's DOOM VFR, but hey ho. I just wanna shoot more nazis.

      Something that isn't first person and/or a shooter? - Bethesda, despite a penchant for rereleases and unpolished games, are a pretty decent publisher/developer. That said, lately they only seem to have two modes. First Person action/stealth, and First/Third person RPGs, the majority of which involve guns in some way. Whilst games like DOOM, Wolfenstein, Quake, Prey, Dishonored, Elder Scrolls and Fallout are all beloved franchises...and there's also Evil Within and RAGE which ...exist I guess, they all are kinda similar in basic experiences? It'd be nice to see Bethesda release something wholly different, something that wasn't an 18 rated gun-toting first person stealth/action experience. Maybe release something a bit different? Some smaller scale indie game, or a platformer utilising existing franchises owned under its umbrella of long-running studios. It's not happening, but that'd be nice.


      DOOM 2 - This is happening, sooner or later, ain't it? The 2016 DOOM reboot was a breakout hit for Bethesda, and developer ID Software. After years of development hell and tons of previous versions chucked out, they finally brought the franchise back, as big, violent, fast paced and loud as everyone had been wanting and waiting for since the originals. 3 years on, it seems likely a sequel will at least be announced at their E3 presser this year, if not shown off in some capacity. It likely won't be out for a little while yet, but a new DOOM game announcement would be a big crowd-pleaser, and even if the title doesn't release this year or the next, just having that publicly in the works would be a big boost for the studio. Plus, it's an excuse to play some heavy metal on stage, and release some sort of mobile companion piece, much as they did with Fallout back when Fallout 4 was announced.

      Gonna spend way too much time on Fallout again - If Halo is Xbox's big seller, and Mario is Nintendo's....Fallout is definitely Bethesda's big hitter. All they have to do is post a vague retro TV 'stand-by' card on any form of social media and the internet is set ablaze with anticipation for what will be announced. Before we've even made it onto the stage, and potentially to circumnavigate the usual Pre-E3 leaks Bethesda always suffer from, they've announced Fallout 76 is to be fully revealed on-stage next week. Rumours are this is going to be an MMO game rather than a mainline title in the series, which means  there's going to be even more shit to show off. The Bethesda E3 presser where Fallout 4 was fully unveiled pretty much played as the Fallout 4 presser, co-starring some other games...one of which was also a Fallout game, so yeah. With a new Fallout MMO on the cards, that's gonna happen all over again, and there's likely going to be some sort of Fallout 3 remaster revealed too, in order to hush the fans grumpy that Fallout 76 isn't the usual style of experience. Basically, Fallout will once again be the focus of Bethesda's E3...and whilst that's great for some...it's gonna make that 2:30am presser a real slog for yours truly.

      Square Enix Conference (Monday June 11th, 6pm BST)


      Tomb Raider 1-3 Remasters - This is a pipedream, but one with a crumb of potential evidence to point to it happening. Squeenix may be more known for their JRPGs, most notably Final Fantasy...they do own some western properties, biggest of which is likely the Tomb Raider franchise. Although they didn't own the Tomb Raider brand or the studio that created it back when the original trilogy was released, I'd very much assume they own the rights to the original games now, yeah? So why not do a Crash/Sypro, and do a fancy remastered trilogy collection of the original 3 games? Despite being some of the biggest games of the entire PS1 era, these titles aren't particularly easy to get ahold of on modern systems. The original Tomb Raider requires MSDos to run on PC, making it basically impossible to play these days, and with PS1 classics ridiculously never making it to PS4, there's never been any sort of rerelease or remaster, with the exception of Tomb Raider Anniversary, which was more of an entirely new game following the same basic story/level beats. This sounds pretty random, but do remember that earlier this year, it was announced the original Tomb Raider games were all being ported to Steam with fully modern PC requirements, higher resolutions and a faster framerate...only for this to be quietly cancelled less than a week after being revealed. What the fuck was going on there? Could it be Squeenix had something bigger in the works and this project is an accidentally announced remenant of a pre-Crash Bandicoot remaster world? I dunno, I'd just like to see this happppeenn. This could happen at either Squeenix's presser, or at Sony's...but I'd like it to happen. That'd be nice.


      It's just gonna be Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts - Square Enix aren't really known for their E3 pressers, in fact this is their first one. Usually in the past, the big Squeenix reveals would happen at either the Xbox or Sony pressers, and given they own some of gamings biggest brands, it seems likely they'll still keep aside some of the bigger titles for those. Shadow of the Tomb Raider will most likely be talked about at the Xbox presser, and similarly if the FF7 remake is indeed getting a shock multiplatform extension to Xbox, it'll be reannounced there instead, surely? What does that leave? Well I guess you have Kingdom Hearts 3, which whilst a big, big release, doesn't have strong ties to either platform, and will likely be the headline event of this, Squeenix's first attempt at an E3 showcase. Add onto that the ever expanding list of Final Fantasy spin-offs that always get announced, and likely some sort of FF Online shenanigans, and yeah...although Tomb Raider could indeed turn up too...I'm thinking this is mainly just a chance for Square Enix to announce a new Kingdom Hearts stage free of the shackles of being one in a million Xbox/Playstation reveals/announcements. Basically...I'll just go eat my dinner during this one, me thinks.

      Ubisoft Conference (Monday June 11th, 9pm BST)


      Prince of Persia 2018 - I made a prediction that this long shuttered beloved Ubisoft franchise would return...what? Like...4 or 5 times? It never has, and for that reason it's been relegated from prediction, to just a hope. I can't say I've had the most exposure to the Prince of Persia franchise, but it's the sort of franchise it'd be great to see return. It's been 8 years since the last entry, which was bolstered by a big budget film release that, along with the forgettable game released alongside (but not directly related to) it sorta...faded into obscurity pretty damn soon, and with the history, sword slashing set Assassin's Creed (Which itself was originally a spin-off of Prince of Persia in its early stages) being Ubisoft's mega-franchise these days, there just doesn't seem to be much room for Prince of Persia for them any more. That said, Ubisoft love to end their E3 shows on a big mic-drop, and what bigger mic-drop in a post BG&E2 re-announcement world could they have, than a new PoP? Ideally one that follows in the vein of Prince of Persia 2008, and its colorful, visually stunning and charming reimagining of the franchise. 10 years on from the cilffhanger ending, it'd be great to return to that world, and maybe deliver a smaller scale (smaller financial risk?) of 3D adventure game than perhaps Ubisoft are known for these days.

      Assassin's Creed Odyssey to release in 2019 - C'mon, Ubisoft! Nobody in the entire world is asking you to make AC an annual franchise again! Although they mostly worked out pretty okay despite the needlessly complex, expensive, constant conveyor belt of development across thousands of people and scores of studios all over the world...it's clear that franchise fatigue and quality issues have become a major factor in this franchises future viability. AC Origins came out two years after Syndicate (Which was pretty good tbf) and provided a major change-up in the style of gameplay, for the better...paired with a good deal more TLC for the AC change-up titles, which are generally always plagued with issues, before a follow-up polishes them all up. Ancient Greece sounds like an awesome setting for the franchise, but I would be very happy if the game got an extra year of development, allowing rest-time between entries, and also ultimately providing a better product. Given pre-orders are already open for the deluxe edition, this is likely a 2018 release, but...it'd be nice if it was 2019, y'know?


      Splinter Cell Returns - With Sam Fisher's (And Michael Ironside's) return in Ghost Recon earlier this year, and that Best Buy 'leak' gaining traction due to its unveiling of the, at the time, unheard of RAGE 2...this seems almost a lock for E3, but...it's not been announced, so it's still just a prediction, yeah? I predicted Splinter Cell would return last year, so I'm going to repredict it under the same specifications as before, since I'm still pretty sure they'll be the case. In 2018, Ubisoft aren't really known for the core single player experiences that this franchise was once well known for. In fact, they haven't released a big hitter, blockbuster title that hasn't been in some form of sandbox environment, generally with 'live service' functionality since...well, roughly 4 or 5 years? Around the same time the last Splinter Cell released, in fact, which was 2013. For that reason, it seems pretty likely that this new Splinter Cell title is going to be quite different from previous entries, which had a more focused, individual level/mission based structure. I'd imagine there will indeed be a big sandbox environment, probably some sort of city...maybe even Washington, given these games tend to cover a political angle of some kind, and Sam Fisher may not be the character you play, so much as your boss, in a game where you create your own Fourth Echelon agent, and play co-operatively with friends to tackle stealth based objectives within the open map, be they the campaign missions, side-objectives, or live service missions, much alike to the most recent Tom Clancy title, Ghost Recon Wildlands, of which Fisher recently cameo'd in. Given it's established Ghost Recon exists within the same world as Splinter Cell, there may well be connections to both that and Rainbow Six ...although probably not The Division, because...that's a little bit different in premmiiissse. Ideally it'd be great to see Splinter Cell return in a mission-based, visually/narratively rich style ala Conviction, but I'd imagine that won't be the case. Still, this one seems pretty damn likely to be revealed.

      Blood Dragon Returns - Yes, we may have only recently received Far Cry 5...and sure, that game has a season pass worth of side-DLC coming that takes that series from Vietnam to space...but there's no Blood Dragon DLC, huh? Far Cry 3's standalone Blood Dragon spin-off, whilst heavily derivative of the game it span off from in a lot of ways, is a much loved title that didn't take itself too seriously, had a killer soundtrack, stupidly awesome set piece moments, and a unique visual style. Despite the love it received back in 2013, there's never been a follow-up. The closest we've gotten was some weird Trials DLC pack that took the Blood Dragon branding and applied it to that franchise instead...so...with that in mind, could it be that Blood Dragon can exist outside of Far Cry? It's a bold prediction, but don't be surprised if Blood Dragon returns, either as its own stand-alone title, or as a riff on an pre-existing Ubisoft franchise at this years E3. Assassin's Creed: Blood Dragon could be a potential, silly spin-off title to tide people over until the main series returns next year (I HOPE...get it? I put it in that category), or how about Watch_Dogs: Blood Dragon? After the lighter hearted, visually vibrant 2016 sequel, and the franchises already baked in focus on technology, hacking and wacky electronic-based outfits/lairs, it doesn't take a huge leap of logic to see a Kung Fury styled Watch_Dogs spin-off (The first spin-off it'd receive) that well and truly turns the concept of Blood Dragon into a 80s skewered take on multiple Ubisoft brands. Or it could just be its own game, returning to being a shooter, but not being one designed after Far Cry itself. Either way, it's not hard to see the Blood Dragon returning in some form.

      PC Gaming Show (Monday June 11th, 11pm BST)


      Half Life 3 - HEY...a man can dream, alright? Where the fuck is this game, Valve?! WHERE THE FUCK IS IT!? IT'S BEEN ELEVEN GOD DAMN YEARS SINCE YOU ENDED ON A CLIFFHANGER, GOD DAMN YOU. DAMMNN YOU AALLLLLL TO HELLLLLLLLLLL!!!! *Ahem*


      Inconsequential circle-jerking - The PC platform may provide (the potential for) faster framerates and higher resolution textures (Providing your computer can run the game, and the game runs properly on your particular brand of PC hardware and graphics card) than on consoles, but I tell you what it doesn't provide that's better than what consoles can offer....press conferences. Yeah. This one's a pretty recent addition to the E3 catalogue, but unlike Bethesda, who bring a lot of fun reveals and demos...the PC Gaming Show is just kinda...a boring circle jerk? You might get a couple PC port announcements, some games might be shown off...but mostly it's about hardware, and smug back-patting. Check out this graphics card, dudes, you can't get real-time nose hair physics on that PS4 shit, son. No no no. It may provide a time-filler between Ubisoft and Playstation's E3 offerings, but it does not also offer a reason to tune in. Buncha dudes sitting on a sofa, talking about how great PC games are. If PC games are so great, WHERE'S HALF LIFE 3? HMMM? GOD DAMNIT.

      PlayStation Conference (Tuesday June 12th, 2am BST)


      ICO Remake - This isn't entirely out of the question, it just seems pretty unlikely. Shadow of the Colossus very recently received a fantastic remake on the ol' PS4, allowing me a chance to play one of the all-time classic games, in a way that was both faithful to the original title, whilst also providing better visuals, a more consistent framerate, and more streamlined controls. It's a game that's been on my checklist for some time, and I'm happy to have finally ticked it off...but I'd also be very curious to try out the spiritual forefather to this game in a similar way, and that forefather would be ICO. I don't really know a huge deal about ICO, but I know people like it quite a bit, and I know a remake announcement would garner a lot of excitement. That said, it doesn't hold with it the same degree of acclaim or, more importantly, sales potential as Shadow of the Colossus, and as such, this is more a wistful hope, a chance to try it out, then it is some actual expectation based in any form of reality.

      PS1 Classics on PS4 - What feels like a easy no-brainer in a lot of ways has become not even an expectation, but just...a fools dream, a vague hope. It's stupid to think that this pre-existing, HD ready library of PS1 remasters, available on PS3 and PSVita already, have never made it to the PS4. There was some murmurings of it not having the ability to run it, but I find that to be bullshit. Sony in the past have said they don't get why people would want to buy old games...this being the same studio that recently, proudly touted faithful remasters of Crash Bandicoot and SotC on its platform. This wouldn't be a huge mic-drop of an announcement for a presser, but it'd be a welcome surprise and crowd-pleasing reveal for sure. They could even do one of those classic 'It's available right after the show' drops, giving PS4 users both a chance to give Sony money for its impressive emulated PS1 back-catalogue, and those who already own these games, a chance to bring them from their PS3/Vita confines, onto their new system. It'd take Sony very little time/effort/money to just flick a switch and have these available, but they'd stand to profit quite handsomely from offering classic titles that include Spyro/Crash/Tomb Raider/Silent Hill/Resident Evil and many more on the PS4. Like...c'mon dudes, just...dooooo it.


      Ratchet & Clank return - The PS4 and Xbox One don't have a huge selection of kid/family friendly titles, do they? Whilst Nintendo focus quite heavily on titles that can be played, enjoyed and marketed towards a seemingly infinite age demographic, the majority of big exclusives on the other two main platforms tend to dabble exclusively in blood, guts and adult themes. That said, whilst Microsoft, despite owning Rare, are fucked in that department...Sony have a pretty decent stable of exclusive, family-friendly brands that they're just sorta...sitting on? Jak & Daxter have been dead for what feels like an eternity, and Sly Cooper's attempts a long-awaited revival kinda lost the wind in its sails shortly after Thieves in Time came out in 2013. Littlebigplanet was practically the face of family Playstation at one point, but a lacklustre third instalment seems to have killed that series stonedead...BUT...Ratchet & Clank? That's still very much a viable franchise. The movie may have been a big, wet fart critically and commercially, but the PS4 tie-in/remake of the original? That was a huge hit both critically and financially, providing the franchise with acclaim and commercial success that it hasn't seen since what feels like the PS2 era. So where've they been in the last 3 years? Insomniac may be working on their big, fancy, awesome looking Spider-Man game, that'll no doubt be a huge focus at E3 this year, but production on that is surely on the home stretch...and even if they are too busy, it's not like R&C hasn't been developed at other studios before. It seems weird that we haven't heard a peep from this pretty damn successful franchise in all this time, particularly given how well the most recent game did...I suspect that'll change this year.

      Resident Evil 2 Remake ARRIVES - Capcom's restraint regarding Resident Evil in the past year and a bit is pretty damn impressive. There was a time where you couldn't breathe without inhaling some sort of Resident Evil port or spin-off title, and catching some kinda nasty disease, I'd imagine. There hasn't been another Resident Evil title since the release of RE7, which whilst considered by Capcom to be a financial disappointment, brought the franchise back into the collective good books of the gaming community, thanks to a return to the old-school survival horror that people had been craving since the past three, more action orientated main-line offerings. Whilst RE8 is definitely a long ways away, Capcom always take their time on the numbered entries, after all...there's still the matter of the RE2 remake that was announced waaaaaay back in 2015. We've literally seen and heard nothing since it was announced to be in development, and whilst there was suggestions of a troubled development early on, it seems pretty damn likely it's going to get announced this year, and given RE7's big surprise reveal at Sony's presser in 2016...surely there's is the perfect place to unveil RE2make to the masses as well, yeah? It may even release later in the year, although it's more likely it'll skip the chaotic Autumn 2018 in favour of January 2019, much like RE7 did before. No idea what to expect from this, but I'm expecting to see it, at least.

      Nintendo E3 Direct (Tuesday June 12th, 5pm BST)


      Chibi Robo remake for the 3DS - Consider this me just...really wanting to finally get a chance to play the original Chibi Robo. Since its original Gamecube game, that's fucking rare as hell in the UK, and as such, expensive as hell to buy...the only games Chibi Robo has received are on handheld devices. Firstly on the DS, two titles, one of which that only released in Japan, and neither of which came out in Europe, and then the two 3DS titles, one download, the other retail. None of these games have set the world on fire sales-wise, but Nintendo continued to press on with making them, even having making an Amiibo...which is the best Amiibo, by the way.  Although everyone's expecting the Gamecube VC of their dreams to hit the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo seem disinterested in bringing Virtual Console to that platform...and with the original, Gamecube Luigi's Mansion getting a 3DS remake later this year, it'd be swell to see Chibi Robo also getting that treatment, both because I'd get to play it, and it'd piss off the 'STOP SUPPORTING THE 3DS NNGGHHH' dipshits. A technically plausible, but still unlikely hope.

      de Blob 3 - This is less an expectation of Nintendo exclusivity, and more seeing Nintendo as the most fitting platform to reveal a game like de Blob on. THQ may be dead, but their brands live on in THQ Nordic. We've had sequels to Saints Row come out, Metro Exodus in the pipeline, and a sequel in the much loved, undersold Darksiders franchise announced (and presumably turning up at E3 in some form), so...why not de Blob? THQ Nordic have even ported de Blob 1 and 2 to all current platforms, including the Nintendo Switch...so surely they have some plans for this as a franchise? THQ once had high hopes for this dude and his super charming, colourful and inventive franchise...with plans for a SyFy TV kids show in the early stages at one point, before they went under. We haven't heard a peep from de Blob since 2011...so it's time we BROUGHT BLOB HOME....to Nintendo Switch...but also PS4 and Xbone so I can play it. Kthx


      Metroid Prime 4 skips E3 - Maybe I'm just setting myself up to not be disappointed, but given Metroid Prime 4 seemingly only entered development last year, around the time of E3 2017? I'm not really expecting it to turn up at E3 this year, especially not in any playable/in-game form. Considering all they had to show for themselves last time was a logo? A very exciting, boner-inducing logo reveal, sure...but...just a logo all the same, I can't imagine it was very far in development at the time, and given Nintendo loves to take their time and make sure these main-franchise games are polished up and dressed to impress before rolling them out at presser (Unless it's the Wii U and you're desperate to remind people Zelda still exists)...I'm finding it increasingly less likely that Metroid Prime 4 will be shown off at E3 this year...maybe we'll get a first look later in the year, say, at The Game Awards, or just in a Nintendo Direct, maybe we'll have to wait until E3 2019, where they'll unload a release date alongside the first gameplay...but I don't think we'll get to see it next week. If we do? Fucking fantastic, that's gonna make me hard for a week, but I'm not expecting it. Maybe we'll see another 3DS 2.5D title be announced? Maybe not, it seems far too early for that, even if it is going to happen. Maybe we just won't see Metroid at all. Cue eternal screams of anguish.

      Animal Crossing Switch - This is not a case of if...but when. Animal Crossing is, weirdly one of Nintendo's biggest franchises, particularly on handheld devices. Animal Crossing on both the DS and 3DS have been huge sellers, and although it wasn't quite the same hit on the Wii, it still sold pretty damn well. We've had a mixed bag of spin-offs since the fantastic 3DS game's release back in 2013 (Later given an update in 2016), with Happy Home Designer being a fun but comparatively limited experience, whilst amiibo Festival and Pocket Camp both felt less like genuine experiences and more money pit cash-ins that used the relaxing charm of the franchise to sell something altogether less expansive and wholesome. The mainline titles take a long time to develop, and even longer to release worldwide, generally, but it's already been the longest release gap yet between main instalments, given the franchise skipped the Wii U entirely, or at least development on a potential Wii U instalment was shifted to the Switch...so...yeah...it's time, ain't it? Every Nintendo Direct, every E3...it's all about where Animal Crossing is. Now more than ever, with Metroid finally getting some announcements. Animal Crossing deprivation is the new Metroid deprivation, but unlike Metroid...nobody's expecting Animal Crossing to not turn up...it's just waiting for when it does. And I'm expecting one of the biggest E3 reveals for Nintendo this year, will be Animal Crossing Switch. Whether or not it significantly shakes up the traditional formula, or continues to merely expand and polish on what people know and love from prior games? It's gonna be a huge deal when this one gets announced, and with the Switch's status as both a console and a handheld, those sales are gonna be quite something, I bet.

      Theeere you go, folks! You excited for E3? What are you expecting? What are you hoping for? How reasonable are my hopes? How likely are my predictions? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW, SHARE IT ABOUT IF YOU LIKE IT, HIT THAT ZING. BADDA BING. ENJOY E3, AND SEE YOU SOOOON...LATTER GATOORRSS.

    • The Marvel Cinematic Universe: RANKED Part 2.

      1 year ago


      EYYYY, OOHHH. Welcome back, it's me. You're you. We're all here, excellent. In case you have amnesia or didn't bother reading Part 1, last week I started ranking the MCU films, from worst to best, in anticipation for the impending release of Avengers: Infinity War and also to celebrate the 10 year journey those films have been on so far. We started at 18 and worked our way down to 11, now we're in the top 10. That's right, this Ranking blog has just become TOP 10 MCU FILMS. IT'S TWO THINGS AT ONCE, HOLY SHIIIIIT. But let's not waste any more time, let's just get into it, yeah?

      Quick reminder, this my opinion, yours will be different, that's fine, let's talk about these films in the comments below, eh? EH? It'll be fuuuuun...okaaay, here goooes...


      10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017).

      Starting our final ten MCU films off with a mixed bag of a gooden. Following on from perhaps the biggest, weirdest surprise breakout of the MCU to date was never going to be an easy feat, but this sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy, suitably dubbed Vol 2...what with the cassettes and such, is a really fun and at times touching follow-up that does justice to the first film, whilst expanding the universe, fleshing out side-characters and answering some mysteries set out in the previous instalment. But before we get to all of that...I mean, Baby Groot, huh? The executives over at Disney must have had dollar signs in their eyes during the production of this movie, because hell...what's a better merchandise maker than an even cuter, toy'able version of Groot? Nothing. that's what, and whilst they do overdo with the little guy at times, particularly in the marketing, you simply can't deny that the opening credits with him dancing to ELO is one of the best things you've ever seen, you just can't. Beyond Groot, the whole cast, both main and supporting gets its time to shine, which is nice, as some of them took quite the narrative backseat in the previous film. The main Guardians all get ample screentime, Starlord leading on that front, it's his story at the end of the day,  but Gamora gets a good side-story too, Rocket continues to be both the funniest and most tear-inducing of the cast, and even Drax, somewhat the comedy goofball of the group, gets some pathos...at times, to compensate for that they gave him even more stupid but hilarious lines to steal the show with in this sequel. Main side-cast Nebula and Yondu get the biggest expansion to their roles, the former stepping out of the big baddies shadow to go on her own, at points emotional journey, whilst the latter goes from being mostly a gag character in the first, to becoming the emotional core of this film's finale...for better or worse. This film's main shortcoming, ignoring some narrative issues and similarities with the first, is its massively uneven tone. The first GotG had a lot of heart, moreso than most MCU fare, but the second one really ramps up the feels, interspersing the action and comedy with Disney/Pixar levels of tearjerking, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't...particularly when paired up with this sub-franchises now signature edgy, goofy, and often anarchic sense of humour. It never seems to decide if it wants to be the edgy teen who laughs off any attempt at deeper emotions, or the early 20s, anxiety-riddled adult who just can't stop with all the emotions. The scene where the true villain is revealed is the most egregious example of this, midway through a shocking and heartbreaking scene where Starlord finds out his mother was essentially murdered by his father, said father morphs into David Hasselhoff for a random, jarring joke cameo, before shifting right back into his dark speech. The ending features one of the few semi-major deaths in the MCU, and as such, so massively overdoes it on the emotional weight for the final 5-10 minutes that you'd be mistaken for thinking you were watching a different film...ending on a tragic note as Rocket starts to cry, before quite literally seguing straight into the goofiest credits you've ever seen, complete with dancing Jeff Goldblums and random Baby Groot faces popping up in the letters. It's not that GotG Vol 2 fails as a film, it's a really great one, hence its placement in the Top 10...it's just that uneven tone and reliance on cheap sentimentality tricks for audience favours is what sets it under the rest of the crowd, for me though.

      9. Doctor Strange (2016).

      This is a weird one, huh? For all its glowing reviews and reasonable financial success, Doctor Strange, a significant chapter in the MCU as it opens the door to the magic and mystic arts of the Marvel world and introduces one of the most powerful heroes of the comics, just...doesn't seem to be remembered all that much? It's to this date, the only MCU sub-franchise without any plans for a sequel, this is despite having a financial and critical success that surpassed other debut films like Ant-Man, which is getting a sequel in a matter of months, and potentially having a more bankable lead in the shape of Bendedy Crumbledpan. The film certainly leaves the door quite wide open for further adventures, it being more of an origin story and introductory lesson to the world of magic than anything, primed to launch a whole series of mystical films...and yet...as of now? This is it, it seems. Okay, the titular Sorcerer Supreme had a brief cameo in Thor Ragnarok, which whilst fun, felt less like a necessary inclusion and more like a character relationship being established in time for Infinity War, where he'll be getting his first significant role since this very film. The lack of fondness, and the seemingly empty franchise future Doctor Strange has is a real shame, because despite in a lot of ways starting out as a generic comic book origin story, really comes into its own, much like Ant-Man did, with the unique flavour of crazy it introduces to the MCU. By late 2016, the movie going public would probably accept any insane shit the Marvel movies threw at them, and it's just as well because it doesn't take 5 seconds for this film to start folding buildings, having magical warriors fighting sideways up a wall, and a hairless Tilda Swinton opening a portal to an unseeable mirror universe. Cue Steven Strange, a gifted, cocky surgeon who's life is changed forever by a humbling car accident that leaves him critically wounded, leading him to seek out a cure that results in him becoming a hero setting out to do selfless acts of good instea-Oh...that...that's Iron Man, right? Nope...nope it's both, okay. Cookie-cutter as that, admittedly straight from the source material origin story is, it nonetheless leads us to some good shit. And by good shit, I mean like....dang dude, that some good shit, pass the bong yo, ahahhh. By which I mean this film be quite frequently tripping its fucking balls. Strange's first introduction to the cosmic and the mystic sends him on an colourful and truly insane acid-trip of a sequence which involves the entire universe, things melting and exploding...and hands...many many many hands. I mean like, at least 15. From that point, he's determined to become a master of the mystic arts, whilst him and his fellow sorcerers also have to deal with fighting a mostly wasted Mads Mikkelsen, who's the movie's villain, hellbent on releasing his dark lord Dormammu...who's a big cosmic space dude, y'know? Previously mentioned Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor bolster the impressive and likeable cast of...good...ish guys(?), who help sell the cosmic, magic mumbo-jumbo quite nicely. Set piece highlights include the city of New York being folded inwards on itself and becoming an insane mosaic of constantly twisting glass and metal, and the rather unique and clever 'defeating' of Dormammu, which involves a lot of bargaining and repetition...and just on a whole, whilst not massively original in parts, and including a rather unnecessary love interest that adds nothing, really...Doctor Strange is a really fun film with a great cast, that stands out from the crowd, much as Ant-Man did, by going all in with its crazy premise. Hopefully we'll see a sequel in the near future, where they can go even crazier with the worldbending magic...and maybe team up with Spider-Man? Yes please.

      8. Thor Ragnarok (2017).

      One of the most recent releases on this list, and it's one that collectively made the entire world shout out "HOLY SHIT, THEY MADE THOR NOT SUCK" in both shock and delight back in October of last year. The trilogy closer of the Thor trilogy, one that's easily the weakest link of the MCU core franchises, actually managed to deliver better than Iron Man could in his final solo-outing, less a sign of this having better potential for a trilogy, more a sign that by 2017, Marvel Studios were cranking out these films like a well oiled, competent machine. Not only that, but they were finally starting to let their hired creatives be...well...creative? Taika Watiti is by no means a normal dude, and he does not make normal films...so his signing on for a blockbuster franchise movie seemed ...uhh...troubling? Given issues with unique directors in the past (Ant-Man, anyone?), that, paired alongside how iffy the Thor franchise had been prior to this point? People were keeping their expectations reserved, let's face it. And then the above teaser dropped, and everyone got a whole lot more interested. Visually vibrant, full of energy and personality in a way that prior Thor films had only dreamed of having? Throw in a Hulk in gladiator armour, and the Immigrant Song? Things were suddenly looking quite bright indeed. Fast forward to its release, and we got a film that turned out to be a hugely entertaining time, even if its almost entirely comedic tone sometimes played at odds with both the premise of the film, and the MCU as a whole. It's fair to say Thor Ragnarok must have changed quite a bit between its announcement at the Phase 3 event prior to Age of Ultron's release, where it was promised as the most significant, game-changing chapter in this collection of films...the Winter Soldier of Phase 3, I believe was what was said. Age of Ultron teased a worrisome fate for the residents of Asgard, which sent Thor on a quest to find out what was going on...apparently at least. 3 years later, a period of time in which Thor had been completely absent from the films (A brief teaser for this film in Doctor Strange withstanding), and it seems he hadn't gone on any sort of quest, and had been doing...things? For two years? It's never quite explained, really. The events of the opening to this film lead him finally returning to Asgard despite having been headed to Asgard two years ago in Age of Ultron, but oh well. Cue Loki's reveal, the death of Odin, and then Cate Blanchett turns up and fucks everything up. Noticed how I skimmed over Odin's death? That's because the movie does as well. That's the main flaw with Thor Ragnarok, it never takes a moment to consider the takes that should be at hand. Basically the entire Asgardian supporting cast of the Thor series, along with Asgard itself, are destroyed in this movie. And yet it's all either skimmed over, or played for laughs. And yes, the film is really funny, and that's one of the reasons it's a great time, but it's kinda odd for one of the most signifcant cullings and destructions in the MCU to date to be treated so lightly. I assume these aspects were what made this film, at one stage, the 'Winter Soldier of Phase 3', but in the end what we got is the first pure comedy of the Marvel series. And it's a great one, it's funny, visually colourful and full of memorable characters, hence why it's so high up this list...but yeah...tone's a bit odd, eh? Also Natalie Portman is just straight up gone now, she's happy, we're happy. Everyone's happy. 

      7. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).

      We're now taking our final trip back to a pre-Avengers MCU, and for good reason. Captain America was the final film to release before 2012's Avengers changed the game forever, and it's the one to set up Steve Rogers, who'd become the de facto leader of the superhero team, and also the Tesseract, a big glowy square maguffin that remains significant in the Marvel universe to this date...what with it being an Infinity Stone and such. A lot of people aren't as keen on this first outing for Cap, and I understand that, there's a significant amount of cheese and campyness to proceedings, but those, paired with the immense amount of heart, likeable characters and enjoyable action sequences mean it's one I really enjoy quite a lot, personally. It's also, to date, the only MCU film set in the past. Some of them have had brief flashback sequences, but Captain America: The First Avenger is the only one to have the majority of its running time take place in a time not concurrent with the rest of the series (Which will change with Captain Marvel, which takes place in the distant past of...the 90s). World War 2 makes for a very different MCU setting, and honestly, that's a good thing in my book. There's a whole lot less futuristic technology on hand for this entry, and the stakes are immediately a lot higher because, well...it's WW2, the free world is at risk from the get go, and although, obviously, we know everything turns out fine, it makes for a much different climate than the cozy exploits of Tony Stark in the present day. Mainly, the film is just a ton of fun, it makes full use of its setting and time period, and ends up feeling like a combination between a Marvel movie, and Indiana Jones. You have the bombastic action and super-powered antics of Marvel, but then you have the crazy Nazi archaeologist/scientist using ancient, mysterious artefacts to try and take over the WOOORLLLD, just like from Indiana Jones. And then you have Steve Rogers, some people call him bland in this entry and Avengers, but I really like him, and that's mostly to do with the exceptional performance by Chris Evans, who fills the character with military determination and a strong moral compass, but also with a lot of heart and emotion. His journey from wimpy nerd who wants to serve his country, into muscular saviour of the entire world is an entertaining watch from start to finish, and although in parts the film plays out too predictably, and the ending feels like it's less a conclusion to this film, and more a prologue to the big team-up epic that followed, that doesn't stop it from being a blast, and said ending still packs a satisfying emotional punch, one that's followed on through across the Captain America trilogy as the connective tissue. If you like your comic book movies colourful, camp and starring Hugo Waving as a moustache twirling mad scientist nazi? This is the film for you, the strongest MCU film of the pre-Avengers world, easily. 

      6. Black Panther (2018).

      And here we are, at the most recent entry to the MCU...the only one on the list from 2018...and as of writing, the biggest movie of the year, something that'll likely be overtaken by Infinity War in the coming weeks, but regardless...wow, this film was a cultural moment, huh? Black Panther is one of the Marvel comics most loved characters, and his big screen debut has been long-awaited, the wait made even more arduous by the pushing back of the film by a year, in favour of Spider-Man Homecoming's sudden existence, thanks to the Disney/Sony agreement we never quite thought would happen. But at last, finally, it arrived...and it did so with a hell of a bang. Critically acclaimed and financially unstoppable from the get go, Black Panther hit that MCU diversity sweetspot people had been waiting for since...well, forever, and did so in a way that actually delivered a damn good film beyond that. Serving somewhat as a sequel to Civil War, which set up the character of Black Panther, and set his journey to become king in motion, thanks to the assassination of his father during the events of that film, his first solo-outing picks up seemingly right after Civil War, as he returns to his reclusive, highly advanced and politically divisive home of Wakanda, a nation quite literally built on the advantages of rich Vibranium resources, allowing for technology that massively exceeds anything the rest of the world can manage, even Tony Stark. And therein lies the key issue of the narrative...with all these resources, with all these life-changing inventions and breakthroughs in medical care...why do they keep it all shut off from the world? Both arguments are laid out throughout the story, but ultimately things come to a head thanks, to who's perhaps the most compelling and layered MCU movie villain of them all, Killmonger. With a name like that you'd assume a generic bad guy, but the truth is he becomes very much the emotional core of the movie, and Michael B Jordan's performance will go down as one of the most compelling comic book movie villains ever brought to life. That's not to say he's the only highlight, Chadwick Boseman is a great and charismatic lead in the role of King T'Challa himself, and the supporting characters, Nakia, Okoye and most importantly, Shuri, make up some of the best side-acts the MCU has ever seen. The nation of Wakanda, its culture, technology and divided factions become characters of their own, giving the film a visual and stylistic look unlike anything we've seen in mainstream cinema. Getting your head around this crazily advanced world and its rituals takes a little time, but once you've settled in and the film has set everything up, it becomes one hell of a ride. It's biggest shortcomings are in its action set pieces, although the ritual battles for the throne are excellent, the more comic-booky action sequences feel quite lacking given the potential Black Panther has for some incredible fights. Even the final battle feels drowned in CGI and lacking in impact...at least physically. But when the film succeeds so much in its characters, surprisingly unrestrained political narrative, visual flair, and some hugely emotional moments, particularly Killmonger's epic final scene? It's really hard to fault the film for not delivering on the comic book action so much. It's clear from the real world response to this film that for some, this is much more than just another MCU outing, but for me, as an MCU film, it ranks quite highly all the same.

      5. Spider-Man Homecoming (2017).

      Remember that time when I said we were all annoyed when Black Panther got pushed back for Spider-Man Homecoming? Well...here's Spider-Man Homecoming anyhow. It's still a little hard to believe we got this film, frankly. Not 5 years ago, the very thought would've been laughed out the door, it was always that far, distant hope that never seemed to truly be possible. Then, of course, Sony fucked up their own attempts at a Spider-Man franchise, ironically in the process of trying to create their own little Spider-MCU with the 'Amazing' reboot series, and needed a miracle to secure the financial future viability of the brand...and...I guess they got one, because less than a year after Amazing Spider-Man 2 released, Sony and Marvel announced Peter was coming home, and joining the MCU just in time for Civil War, with his own trilogy of releases beginning not too long after. The deal was basically that Marvel made the Spider-Man films, and Sony kept the profits, whilst allowing Peter to appear in crossover films like Civil War, and the upcoming Avengers movies which are all Marvel/Disneys. The MCU gets Spidey, Sony gets money...everyone wins, right? Well, except for the fact Sony are gatekeeping specific villains and characters in order to have them star their own cinematic universe of edgy looking crap (RIP Venom)..but I DIGRESS. Spider-Man Homecoming is the perfect Spider-Movie, it gets the most things right about the world, and the character, all whilst showing just how big an impact the events of the other MCU films and characters have had on the groundfloor of this universe. For the first time, these films were free of what'd become a seemingly mandatory checklist of inclusions. Gone was the heavy dose of corny sentimentality, gone was the soap opera romance and complicated friends/family angles, gone was the weirdly frequent AMERICA, FUCK YEAH moments. What we got instead was a light, breezy and fun film that still managed to have enough serious moments and heart to make you care, without laying it on so thick you can't see anything through all the cheese. The film is a colourful, comedic look at a teenage Spider-Man who's just really getting started, he's not got all the answers, he doesn't know all the tricks, and he's not the one people call to when the shit really starts to hit the fan. He's rescuing cats, doing flips for random bystanders, fucking up...fumbling around, it's refreshing to see a take on the character where the self-importance and god-like symbolism are stripped away for once, he's staring out in a world where superheroes, aliens and gods have been around for years, particularly in New York, so why would it matter if he's swinging around taking bicycles off thieves and stopping ATM robberies? Tom Holland is the perfect Spidey, managing to finally put someone who's good at being both Peter Parker and Spider-Man on the big screen, and he's bolstered by a great, diverse and funny supporting cast of friends and family (Note: just Aunt May I guess RIP), a reasonably menacing Michael Keaton in the role of Vulture and a New York that's brimming with personality, in a shared universe that's mostly just used it for action scene fodder. That's where Homecoming falls short, really, the action. There's not a huge deal of it, and none of it is particularly memorable or even that well filmed, so in that respect maybe the juries still out on if this tops the long-standing favourite, Spider-Man 2. Personally I think it does, because it finally brings the Spider-Man I love to the big screen, and does so in a film that gives the character new life, in a shared universe that allows him to finally hang out with Tony Stark and banter with the Avengers, it's gonna be great.

      4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

      It's hard to imagine now, 4 years on, but there was a time where the MCU was reasonably restrained. The most it'd done beyond our Earthly realm was take us to Asgard and a couple other 'realms', and all of those were done with a sense of modesty and simplicity (With the exception of the glittering gold nightmare of Asgard) that suggested the cosmic Marvel world wasn't really that interesting to begin with, and of course, eventually it always ended up back on Earth when it mattered. That all changed in 2014, when Guardians of the Galaxy, the first truly cosmic MCU release, blew the doors right the fuck open for any and all madness that the comic books had withheld from the movies for so long. Talking raccoons? You betcha. Living trees voiced by Vin Diesel? But of course. A vibrant, colourful and sprawling assortment of planets, galactic outposts and giant floating celestial god heads that have been converted into a seedy empire for a grand collector of cosmic curios? I mean...sure! This film changed the game for MCU releases to come, it went big, it went weird, and the audience came out to see it, and love it, solidifying a future for spaceset Marvel, and the trippier, weirder side of this universe we'd yet to truly see prior to this point. How did they sell such a jarring change of pace for a series that'd been going for 6 years by this point? With a big dose of charm, and an even bigger dose of heart. At the end of the day, the success of Guardians of the Galaxy is down to one thing...well...two things, the music, obviously, that was awesome, but more importantly, the characters. It's fair to say most people hadn't heard of Star-Lord, Drax, Groot, Gamora or Rocket at the start of 2014, but by the end of it, they'd be household names, and a bankable brand to sell all manner of Marvel merchandise for. They accomplished this success in much the same way as they had done with Iron Man right back at the very start, by making the characters funny and likeable, but flawed and emotionally engaging at the same time. And also with terrific casting choices, in 2014, the thought of Chris Pratt being a muscular, blockbuster-fronting lead male was almost as impossible to believe as Guardians of the Galaxy being a success, and yet here we are, in a world where Chris Pratt is exactly that, because of Guardians of the Galaxy. Once you've sold people on the characters, you can sell them on almost anything as long as you do it well. And before long we're on a colourful cosmic voyage with a bunch of total weirdos, listening to 70s rock classics and just....having an amazing time. That's not to say the first watch of GotG wasn't jarring at first, it takes a little time to accept that Rocket Raccoon and Groot are things that now exist in the MCU, and the first watch of the film ended up a mixed bag for me. Cue rewatches, where I've fully embraced those characters, and the universe they're within? And suddenly it's one of my all time favourite MCU films. Where this movie succeeds and the sequel doesn't so much, ironically, is with a modicum of restraint. Vol 2, as with a lot of follow-ups to gamechanging, smash hit oddball films/TV, cranked everything up to 11, and in some respects that worked out a treat, and in other ways not so much. This first iteration is also a bit less full-on with the sentimentality, saving it for key moments at the beginning and end of the film, and not peppered heavily throughout, clashing with the anarchic comedy that people now know and love. This isn't a perfect film, but much like the imperfect characters that star within it, there's just too much to love and cherish here for the flaws to spoil the fun.

      3. The Avengers (2012).

      Here it is, guys and gals. The big one. The film that turned a reasonably successful string of loosely connected comic book movies into a money stacking mega-franchise that became the envy, and ruin of many another film studio (Sony, Warner Bros etc). The Avengers is a textbook example of why taking your time, building a world and letting it collide naturally works a hell of a lot better than rushing to bring all your characters or worlds together without any thought of how that'll work, or any time spent establishing or fleshing out these things prior. Whilst crossover movies have happened before, they were generally flawed popcorn entertainment and guilty pleasures, done without prior preparation and instead made because the name sounded good. Alien vs Predator, Freddy vs Jason, that sorta thing. Those films are fun, but they aren't very good, and whilst hints were peppered here and there to suggest a showdown may have been possible, it wasn't exactly given a lot of narrative thought. Cue 'The Avengers', a film that required 4 years and 5 movies worth of build-up, giving us a chance to spend time with all the characters (With the exception of Hawkeye, who just had a cameo in Thor RIP) and explore all their motivations, supporting rosters and specific themes and worlds. Some of these films were great, some of them weren't so hot, one of them was basically ignored in favour of a soft reboot (Hulk, I'm looking at YOU), but they were all, in some way, leading to this moment. And what a moment it was. Arguably the best, and most perfectly realised 'comic book' comic book movie, at least at the time, The Avengers, or Avengers Assemble as it was known in the UK for some reason, is an almost perfect crossover movie. All that was set up in previous films was basically payed off in this one, the inter-character dynamics were a gleefully entertaining treat for anyone who'd watched all their solo outings prior to this, and the action scenes were just...craaaazy. Not to mention this film is really funny, full of colour, almost perfectly paced (A feat that seems nearly impossible given the scale) and gives everyone their time to shine on the big screen. Sure, not every joke lands, and at the end of the day, the main adversary of the piece is just a cluster of generic alien insects that all immediately die when the big bad gets nuked, and some characters are used more as a joke for Tony Stark to piss on than being their own fleshed out being (Thor, anyone?), but...I mean...god damn this movie is so much fun. There's a reason people consider this the benchmark for what comic book movies can be, and why the following Avengers movies have had such a tough time stepping out of its shadow. It's just damn good cinema...so why is it at number 3?! What a fucking idiot I am, I hear you say. Well.......let's just keep going, before I cry.

      2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).

      I guess you can see how things are shaping up now, huh? Big crossover epics are all well and good, but sometimes you can't beat a more focused solo-outing, that does the unthinkable and differs quite drastically in tone and style from the rest of the franchise. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is technically a follow-up to his previous WW2 outing, but beyond emotional threads and characters from that film, it's moreso a sequel to The Avengers, which was in a lot of ways, a sequel to Captain America 1...hoooo...I've made things too complicated. Cap is now doing missions for S.H.I.E.L.D, alongside Black Widow, but after a routine boat hostage situation/data raid that started with him jumping out of a plane reveals something potentially sinister lurking underneath the organisation, all hell starts to break loose. What's particularly great about this film is how it turns Captain America into the enemy of the institution he swore himself to, and does so prior to the whole...actually literally being the enemy of them. It takes what many perceived to be the clean-cut boyscout of the Avengers and challenges what is more important to him, his duty and patriotism, or the ethics and morals S.H.I.E.L.D seem to be leaving behind them in the pursuit of protection. Unfortunately, that internal dilemma has to be put to the wayside for a bit, when it turns out S.H.I.E.L.D has had a HYDRA sleeper cell embedded into every facet of its infrastructure since the end of WW2, and what follows is Cap, Black Widow and newcomer Falcon on the run from a now known to be corrupt government organisation, whilst also trying to stop said organisation from launching an operation that will allow them to eliminate all potential opposition to HYDRA within the space of a few minutes. Throw in an unstoppable assassin who just turns out to be Cap's best friend...and well...shit is really hitting the fan. What I love so much about Winter Soldier is that it's a huge shift in style for the MCU. Although it has humour, and it has some CGI heavy comic book action, those very much take a back seat for once, in favour of a more complex narrative, dark themes, and more grounded action sequences, which are all expertly choreographed and badass to watch. There's a lot of heart to the film, loyalty, friendship and love (Or maybe both of the latter according to Tumblr) are all key themes, and Chris Evans does a great job again of portraying an often stone faced soldier, who also wears his heart on his sleeve at all times. It also feels particularly thrilling to watch such an important organisation to the MCU crumble, and crumble so dramatically, with the rammifcations of what ensues still relevant to this date in the films. Throw in one of my absolute favourite comic book movie soundtracks, and a slew of memorable scenes...and...damn, this film is really special. It'd take something REALLY AMAZING TO BEAT IT, WHO COULD POSSIBLY SURPASS CAPTAIN AMERICA?!

      1. Captain America: Civil War (2016).

      OH LOOK IT'S CAPTAIN AMERICA. Yeah, I guess this trilogy of films, particularly the second and third, really knocked it out of the park for me. But in a lot of ways, this is just as much the 3rd Avengers movie as it is the 3rd Captain America movie, and much like with Winter Soldier, the thrill of watching a trust, and organisation we've grown accustomed to being part of the MCU crumble so dramatically? That's just one of the many reasons why Captain America: Civil War is my all time favourite MCU movie. This seemed like the impossible film to make in a lot of ways, it had so much on its plate, and given what we've learned on this list, juggling several reasons for a movie to exist is not the MCU's strong point, at least prior to this release. It needed to cap off (Ahuhuh) the Captain America trilogy, serve as an essential instalment of the Avengers narrative prior to Infinity War, and as such had to continue the story of Iron Man, Black Widow, Vision, Hawkeye, Scarlett Witch and more...it had to introduce Ant-Man into the group for the first time...and...oh yeah, it had to introduce both Black Panther and the MOTHERFUCKING, GOD DAMN, PISS-EATIN SHIT DRINKIN SPIDEREDD MAAANN into the franchise for the first time ever, and also had to tell its own self-contained story. Hhwooah. And yet...it succeeds on almost every level, providing ample screen-time and memorable moments to all the main characters, and never feeling like it's taken the focus away from Cap for too long, this is his film after all. I still look over this film and wonder quite how they pulled it all together. At the least, Spider-Man maybe gets the short-end of the stick, screentime wise, but given how last minute that deal was, and how awesome the scenes starring him are? It's hardly requiring of criticism. Civil War is also, easily, the darkest MCU film to date, tearing apart the Avengers in the most brutal, heartwrenching fashion imaginable. To say things get personal is an understatement, and it was certainly a surprising and enjoyable twist to see a villain that's less interested in having superpowers, or ruling the world, and is more focused on cold, calculated and morally complex revenge on an organisation and peoples he deems responsible for the death of his family. He uses cold hard facts and mind-games to fight his enemies for the most part, pitting them against each other, drawing them to the same location, and then finally twisting the knife in once and for all, providing one of the most brutal and heartbreaking fight sequences in comic book history. And yet, Civil War still finds time for fun, and time for the comic book insanity we all crave from these crossover events. The airport sequence, where the Avengers, Ant-Man, Black Panther and Spider-Man all duke it out...is...one of comic book cinemas finest moments, surely? As with the film itself, how they managed to wrangle that chaos into a slickly cheoregraphed and easy to follow scrap for the history books is beyond me. There's just so much to like about this film, it covers all the ground you'd want it to, it can make you laugh, make you squeal with joy, and also make you cry. It's both epic in scale, but also personal in stakes...it's a hugely significant chapter in the MCU, with its biggest flaw being just how invested you need to have been in the franchise prior to seeing this film, to truly get the most out of it. In any other franchise, with any other directors, I'd assume Infinity War could only end up a total disaster, the MCU is full of messy mistakes and ultimately unsatisfying sequels, but the Russo brothers proved with Civil War (And Winter Solider, but in a different way) that they can juggle so many threads, characters, arcs and tones and still make a truly fantastic experience, and it's for that reason that I have any hope in Infinity War at all. Captain America: Civil War is everything I love about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and easily takes the top spot on my ranking of the entire franchise to date. Will Infinity War surpass it? I doubt it? But that'd be nice! We'll see...very soon...VERY SOON. HOOOO BOY.

      And there we have it! My two part ranking of the MCU all wrapped up nicely, just in time for the release of Infinity War, where everyone's gonna be murdered horribly I guess. What's your thoughts on the ranking? What are your favourites? Are you excited to see what the new Avengers film does? Let's have a CIVIL...conversation in the comments below, and if you enjoyed this blog, give it a ZING and maybe a share around the ol' social medias, why dontcha? Not sure when my next blog will be, but until then....LATER GATORS.

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