Did Control Come Out Too Early On Consoles?

I am a big fan of Remedy Entertainment. They continue to make groundbreaking games that push narrative and graphics technology to their limits. Remedy’s newest game, Control, is being hailed by some as a modern masterpiece, but not on original Xbox One or PS4 hardware. The game has massive stutters and framerate drops to the low teens, and as low as 10FPS on the PS4. You can watch the whole graphical run down on Digital Foundry:

If you watch the video above, you can see that the game runs ‘okay’ to acceptable on the mid-generation consoles with just small short framerate dips. With the Xbox One X fairing the best, but man it is hard to watch what happens once the analysis gets to the base consoles. I would argue that at that low of a framerate the game is unplayable, and it never should have passed QC.

Based on the order of the framerate going: Xbox One X > PS4 Pro > Xbox One (S) > PS4, I would guess this is a CPU issue. Since the PS4 does have the slowest CPU clock speed out of the bunch. Its faster GPU usually pushes it past the Xbox One, but in this case, there is something else going on that needs some serious CPU horsepower, and while I am ragging on the PS4, Control has a pretty poor showing across the board.

This all leads me to believe that Control is generation too early. People with beefy PCs are quite happy with Control, but people with mid-tier and lower PCs are feeling the pain as well, but that happens in the PC space from time to time, and it is more acceptable there because PC players have an upgrade path if they want to get the most out of Control. Not so much with console players.

If Remedy had waited a year, Control would have come out on machines with modern CPUs and stronger GPUs with a little ray tracing thrown in, and I am sure Control would have looked great in that environment, but as it stands now, it looks like you should skip Control if you didn’t get a mid-generation console, or you have a low spec PC. Otherwise I hear it is quite the game.

Handmaid’s Tale Season Three Starts And Ends Well

The first few episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale season three are some of the series’ best. Adding new interesting characters, and seeming to start the Handmaid rebellion that was promised at the end of season two, but then it seems the writers struggled to find anything interesting to talk about for next four episodes, as the show adds a new subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere. Even at the end of the season it all seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

However, things do get back on track and June (Elisabeth Moss) the rest of her merry band get up to no good in the best possible way. If only the show had stuck with this instead of stretching for time. I guess they had to fill those thirteen episodes somehow. I also liked how The Handmaid’s Tale really started to focus on how all this was changing June, and not necessarily for the better. She is much different at the end of season three than rest of the series. Giving her probably the most of an arch she has had to date.

Over all I would say The Handmaid’s Tale season three was an improvement over season two, but it was still far from perfect. Next season I hope they can stay focused and not stop the action cold for a whole third of its episodes. Until then, “Under his eye”.

Who Is The Favourite?

The Favourite a 2018 film by Yorgos Lanthimos is listed as a “black comedy”, but that doesn’t seem quite right. The film never goes out of its way to make the audience laugh. Nor does it seem concerned about ramping up the drama. It is just an odd movie about odd people during an odd time for the English Empire. The acting is wonderful and it is sumptuously shot, and that is enough for me, but others may be left cold.

The movie takes place in 1708 and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman)’s health is declining, so she is leaving the governing up to her top aid Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), Duchess of Marlborough. Things are going great for Sarah until her cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) shows up looking for a job because her father had lost the family fortune, and now Sarah will have some competition for who is the Queen’s Favourite.

The early eighteenth century is not really an important time for the Kingdom of Great Britain. It is mostly known for a pointless war and the rise of the two party system. In this case the Tories and The Wigs, but the scandal behind the throne of two women bucking for control of arguably the most powerful person in the world at the time is still a fun moment in British history, and The Favourite does its best to bring it to life. A lesser filmmaker would have made this unnecessarily dramatic and shown the fate of British Empire hanging in the balance, but ultimately it was about three women being very petty towards one another, and the odd and humorous clashes these women have. Lathinmos just lets it be odd and petty and unimportant.

Of course if a movie is mostly about three women, those women need to be able to carry a film, and Colman, Weisz, and Stone are more than up to the task. Colman so much so, that she won the Oscar for Best Actress, and she deserved it. The Favourite is mostly worth watching just for these three performances.

The other reason to watch The Favourite is that it is gorgeous. Every frame of this movie looks great. From the overly decorated palace walls to the British countryside. Not to mention all the panning and tracking shots that really do a great job capturing everything. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan was really working hard on this film, and that hard work paid off.

I thought The Favourite was great, but I hear others have had issues getting in to it. It is too odd and matter-of-fact for them, and I can see that. It definitely will not be for everyone, but if you like beautifully shot movies filled with talented actors doing petty things to one another, The Favourite is worth your time. A note for some, it does earn its ‘R’ rating for langue and nudity, so you have been warned. Emma this is not.

Don’t Get Outfoxed!

My daughter got the game Outfoxed published by Gamewright for a present, and she loves it. What surprised me is that I like it as well. Don’t get me wrong, this is a game for kids, and it doesn’t really offer up a meaningful challenge. However, there is a good variety of play, and it teaches kids some important board gaming skills. I won’t be playing it with my crew, but it is what I will be asking my daughter to get out of the closet if she wants to play a game.

The rules are simple. You roll dice and try to get clues and suspect cards to find who has stolen a chicken pot pie before the thief escapes. There are three dice. Each with a 50/50 chance of having a paw/paws or an eye. You need all three dice to have either the paw/paws icon to move your token to get clues, or all three to have the eye icon to flip over a suspect card. You get to re-roll dice that do not match two extra times, so three rolls total. If you don’t match all three dice, the fox moves three spaces. If the fox gets to the end before you figure out who did it, the players lose. To check the clues, at the beginning of the game a thief card was randomly selected and then put in a plastic case. The clues fit in an insert and then you can see if the fox in question is wearing or has the item in the clue. Find all three clues, or narrow down the suspects to one, and the players win.

So essentially it is a modern take on Clue Jr., but the push your luck element with the dice, and the deduction of whether a suspect is the thief help this game feel more “gamey” and less an exercise of seeing who can roll or spin or flip the highest numbers. Which are what most kids games amount to. Plus, the plastic case for the clues and the thief cards just feel good. It is fun to put in a clue and then slide open the little panel. It is a thrill when you get one that matches, but it is still fun when it doesn’t, so you can eliminate a bunch of suspects. Like I said, there is not a lot of thinking going on here, but for a kids game this level of gameplay feels like a breath of fresh air, and that is not even the best part! Check out this insert:

Oh man! That is a good insert. Everything fits in its place and doesn’t move around, and it is so well laid out my five year old can set it up and put it away by herself! Look, this game is under $20 US on Amazon right now, and it has an insert that puts games that cost three times as much to shame. I still don’t get why this can’t be the standard for board game manufactures. I know they say it is expensive, but a lot of games can’t even be bothered to include enough plastic bags let alone inserts. Let’s just say it is a pet peeve of mine that games force me to do arts and crafts to put them away.

All that being said, Outfoxed is a great game for kids. It is much better than the standard roll and move games or dexterity games they usually get. It is reasonably priced, and it may have won insert of the year (for whatever year it came out). If you have kids that like to play board games, and you don’t think you can handle another game of Life, give Outfoxed a try. You will be glad you did.

Dead To Me Is Not Lifeless!

It was impossible not to watch Dead to Me on Netflix. Once I saw that it starred Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, and it allowed them to use their sharp wit in full force. It was a must watch. Though what the show was billed as, a dark sitcom, and what it is, noir thriller drama sitcom(?), are two different things. The leads carry this show, and the strength of their performances cover over any flaws Dead to Me may have.

Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) meet at a local church grief counseling group. Jen lost her husband in a hit and run accident, and is full of rage, and Judy is doing her best to stay chipper and positive despite losing her fiancé to a heart attack. If this was a normal show it would be about these two learning to lean on one another to overcome their sadness. This is not a normal show.

I don’t think Dead to Me’s writing is always consistent. It can feel choppy at times, but as a vehicle for Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, it is wonderful, and it was smart of the producers to stick to the thirty-minute sitcom format even though a show like this would generally feel more at home as a one-hour drama. That way it doesn’t outlast its welcome. It is a tight five hours of programming.

With the about eight billion dollars’ worth of original programming hitting Netflix at any given moment it is hard for a show to stand out, but having Applegate give a tongue-lashing to a woman dropping off a Mexican lasagna was a great way to do it. Add in a James Marsden, Ed Asner and of course Linda Cardellini, and it is hard for a show not to gain attention. It is worth your five hours, and I am sure the next five hours will be as well (it just got renewed). There is a lot of life left in Dead to Me.