I have been playing some Ghost Recon: Wildlands on and off with my friends and family, and it is great fun to play that way, but it is boring to play by myself. It is the usual Ubisoft sandbox and icon vomit of a game. It feels completely uninspired, but add in some friends and all of the sudden I am having a good time. Mostly because my friends are causing all kinds of chaos, interrupting my well thought out plans, or just generally chatting while we play.
Here is the thing though, almost all things are better with your friends. Coffee shops are okay by yourself, you can read a book or get some work done, but add in a few friends and it is a much more enjoyable experience. Hanging out and watching Netflix is better with other people, so it should be no surprise that Icon Hunt: The Game is better with someone crashing a helicopter in to an SUV while you are trying to snipe a couple of narcos.
All I am saying is that for a game to be truly good I should want to play it on my own, and I don’t really get that pull from Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Other games have this problem as well, but you will always see the comment, “It is really good with a couple of friends.” You would hope so, since friends make everything better. It was smart of Ubisoft to include the mode to cover over the issues that Wildlands has, and most games should include co-op if they can, but the game should be the selling point, not your friends.
When the Original Xbox needed games, specifically RPGs, Microsoft made the savvy decision to have the then independent BioWare create two original games for their systems. The most famous being Mass Effect, but the first game to come out of this partnership was Jade Empire. While Jade Empire was well regarded when it was released, it came out only a few months before the Xbox 360, so a lot of people skipped it, and then it was quickly overshadowed by BioWare’s most famous title the aforementioned Mass Effect only two years later.
While it is true 2K released a Special Edition of Jade Empire for PC in 2007, it just didn’t get the marketing hype that it deserved, and since it was published by Microsoft and then 2K, BioWare’s new owners, EA, never seemed to care much about the Chinese Folklore based RPG, which is a shame. But now if you have an Xbox One, the original has come to backwards compatibility with either a 2x or 4x bump in resolution depending on which Xbox One you play it on, and there are no more frame rate drops. Something that just wasn’t possible on the Original Xbox, and it never came to the 360’s backwards compatibility program for some reason. It is amazing how good this game looks with just a simple res increase.
The game isn’t perfect. It features narrow paths to move between locations and small open areas for fights, so it feels a little restrictive compared to the wide open spaces of modern titles (it makes fellow Xbox title Morrowind feel massive), and the combat is slow until you level up your skills, but the story is fantastic. Sure there are always clear good and bad options, but the neutral choice is usually equally as effective. A rare things for RPGs with morality systems. Not to mention there are so few games that feature Chinese Folklore as their setting, and almost zero of those games are fully featured RPGs.
While I am sure the PC Special Edition of Jade Empire is technically the best version, the original on the Xbox One is a great way to revisit a lost classic, and to make the lust for a sequel that will probably never happen, just that much greater. I rarely like to replay RPGs, but Jade Empire has roped me in again, and I am enjoying every minute of it. If you can find a cheap Jade Empire disk around somewhere, throw it in your Xbox One, you will be glad you did.
I have been kind of distracted, so it took me a while to finish off Batman: The Enemy Within, but the series really ends well. All those choices you made finally pay off with a Joker of your making. He either ends up trying to be a vigilantly or a villain, and you will have to deal with him either way.
Batman and the Joker have always had a very codependent relationship. Without Batman there would be no Joker, so to see your choices bring a different Joker to life is kind of an amazing experience. Sadly for Bruce, things still cannot end up the way he wants them. He has to make a lot of tough choices in this episode, and almost all of them end poorly. Which is the most Batman thing of all time.
Telltale has hit a bit of a rough patch, so I am not sure about the future of their Batman franchise, but I hope they find a way to keep making this story because it is excellent. If only the Warner Brothers movie studio had this much writing talent, maybe we would finally get a good new Batman movie. Regardless, now that the story is complete, there is no reason not to jump in to Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within, or go back and start at the beginning with Batman: The Telltales Series. You will be glad you did.
It has taken ten years to get here, but Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has finally all come together to take on its biggest bad guy yet, Thanos. The fact they were able to pull something like this off on this kind of scale is incredible, and the fact it still manages to be a fairly focused movie and not some muddled mess is a minor miracle. Of course you will have to wait for Infinity War 2 (or whatever the title of May 2019’s Avengers movie is going to be) to get the closure you were hoping for.
Avengers: Infinity War is the movie where Thanos actually does something, and he does it quite well. For the most part I have never enjoyed overpowered comic book villains. They are generally just massively powerful so that the comic book has a reason to cram in every hero known to man, and honestly Thanos isn’t any different, but Josh Brolin brings him to life perfectly. He actually has a character of his own, and while his reason for wanting to kill half of all life in the universe, to stave off overpopulation, is iffy, you at least believe he believes it. Even though if he hired a population expert, they would have pointed out that Earth, for instance, was at half its current population a little less that fifty years ago, meaning if he succeeds in his dark task it doesn’t buy the universe a lot of time.
The biggest problem for Avengers: Infinity War is that it feels a little like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It has epic battles and cool villains fighting heroes we love, but then it ends before it crosses the finish line, and there are two more Marvel movies we will probably need to watch before we can cross that line a year from now, but if this movie is yet just another setup movie, at least it was a good one. It shows that Marvel has so far been the only studio capable of doing anything like this, and I am guess next year’s movie is going to be something special.
At this point you have either seen the Planet of the Apes prequels, or you are not interested in seeing them, but here is the deal, they are way better than they have any right to be. War for the Planet of the Apes continues this trend, finishing the trilogy off perfectly. Though it makes no sense by itself, so if you haven’t watched Rise and Dawn yet, than you really need to because War is the best of the three. Somehow beating the curse of the third movie.
Since it is hard to review the third movie in a series were they all build on one another, I am instead going to use it to prove a point: For the most part there are no bad ideas. If someone a decade ago would have come up to me and told me that some of the most thoughtful and well constructed blockbusters of the next ten years would be prequels to the old Planet of the Apes movies, I would have laughed at you. What a terrible idea, but instead Rupert Wyatt (Director of Rise) and Matt Reeves (Director of Dawn and War) have created something wonderful. How? By working hard and elevating the material. Finding ways to explore humanity through the eyes of apes just gaining their sentience, continuing to find new and interesting ways to explore a being’s fight for survival, and the universal importance of family.
That can be true for all movies. Movies with terrible premises can teach us and entertain us in all sorts novel ways, while movies with the best setups can be utter bores, or slapdash in their execution. Wyatt and Reeves went the extra mile for movies that most people wouldn’t have given a second thought to, and they were fantastic and should be lauded for that. All this to say, that I am still not sure I would greenlight a Planet of the Apes prequel if I was sent back in time, but at least it is good to know there are people out there who can make an outrageous idea like that work. Plus, I am sure having Andy Serkis around always helps too.