MonsterStomp

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MonsterStomp reviews - For Honor

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If Ubisoft are good at one thing, its innovation. Assassin's Creed was a stellar hit in 2007 for advancing the action-adventure genre in a way that is exclusive to the franchise. It introduced us to a unique traversal system, and a more realistic combat mechanic. Likewise, the mark & execute and cover system mechanics from Splinter Cell Conviction have been used in other Tom Clancy hits, and will be reused in the upcoming Ghost Recon Wildlands video game.

Yet, Ubisoft still manage to bring another innovative idea to life with For Honor. A game where players are put in the driving seat of some of the most well renowned warriors of the Middle Ages -- and it is fantastic. . . eh, in terms of gameplay, at least.

While it does tread on familiar ground (Assassin's Creed II), it still feels like a breath of fresh air. The basic fundamentals such as using the Left Trigger to lock-on to your opponent, (Y) to taunt your opponent, and (A) to quickstep or dodge your opponent are all the same. I'm obviously citing Xbox One controls here. You can even break your opponent's defensive stance to gain the advantage in clutch moments of a battle. However, the complexity has been dialled to 11. It takes a lot more precise and reactive capabilities than your average swordplay game. Put it this way, there are 12 different class of heroes to choose from, each with their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, so the game almost forces you to study your opponent's fighting pattern and devise your own strategy to become victorious. The system is extremely well balanced to the point where it doesn't matter which class of faction is used, its dependant on skill and skill alone. It makes it extremely satisfying when you overwhelm your opponent, and your victory feels like a reward on its own.

Aside from its addictive gameplay, the customization is another thing that keeps me active. As you build your warrior's reputation, you unlock better armour and weapons that boosts your stats, and give your warrior a more distinguished look with cosmetic add-ons such as unique paintings, symbols and engravings. There's nothing more satisfying than charging into the battlefield with a shoulder plate engraving or symbol that makes the statement: I am a formidable champion!

Unfortunately, that's where the game peaks. There are a number of discerning issues that have come to my attention since I bought the game 2 weeks ago. For starters, the servers are still unforgivably broken. Peer to peer connectivity is one of the most unreliable connections to hit multiplayer. I can't even count the number of times servers have dropped out either before a match starts or during a match. The multiplayer as a whole feels broken, and has been one of the prominent reasons for my raging with this game.

Secondly, the campaign is complete garbage. To put it bluntly, its a tutorial. You'd only play through the campaign if you'd want to familiarize yourself with the different class of heroes. If you're looking for any shred of an emotional piece, you'd be void of all hope. Which is largely disappointing since Ubisoft have made some of my favourite games in the past decade with some of the best stories to hit the video game community.

Lastly the game modes in multiplayer, at this point in time--2017--are just unoriginal. Dominion is another zone capturing mode. Brawl is a 2v2 deathmatch. Duel is a 1v1 deathmatch. Skirmish is a 4v4 deathmatch. Elimination is a 1v1 or 4v4 deathmatch depending on how dishonourable your team or the opponents team is. Can you get anymore generic? I'm pretty sure I played those modes on Battlefield 1 already.

In conclusion, I'm glad I traded in two games to drag this price from $99.95 to $40. With this many technical issues, a disappointing campaign, and an unoriginal set of game modes, I feel comfortable giving this game a 5 out of 10. The only thing that attracts me is the unique combat system, and the customization. Make a note that it is possible that Ubisoft will release new content, and fix up its server problems further along down the line, but as a person expected to pay almost $100 for an unfinished game, I have to draw the line. I would not recommend this game to anyone.

Peace out!

2 Comments

MonsterStomp's Impressions - For Honor

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First Impressions Matter!

By now, I've probably clocked in over 15 hours with For Honor, so I thought blogging my first impressions were in order.

Let me just start right off the bat by saying that this is a solid game. Never have I felt this much rush in a 1 v 1 battle before, and the themes related to this type of gameplay just highten the brutality within these battles. The swordplay mechanics are inspired and handles extremely well. You can taunt your enemy before commencing your fight. Guarding, dodging and counter-attacking is quite the intense reactive puzzle itself, let alone trying to get past your opponent's defense. But the executions are where the fight pays off, as it feels like a sadistic reward for finally overwhelming your enemy.

The amount of times I've overcame overwhelming situations myself is just a satisfying thought.

What happens after you win a battle? Well, you can level up, which unlocks new perks or "feats" for your hero. You can recieve loot, which are usually armour and weapon pieces, which are upgradable and can boost certain stats. You earn coins which can buy certain cosmetic items, mostly for appearance.

Overall, I really like the new combat system, and right now its the most fun I had with a Ubisoft game since Assassin's Creed Syndicate. However, that's where it kind of drops off.

Although I love the new mechanics, one thing I often rage at is the servers and matchmaking systems. Seriously. It takes its time searching for new players, despite apparently over 130,000 people being online. Really? The maximum amount of players in a game mode is 8, and we're still getting matches with game bots to even out teams? If that doesn't somewhat rustle your jimmies, expect to experience connection problems, where a server will just boot everyone randomly, leaving you to join another waiting room for another game. These problems aren't occassional, they're as frequent as I turn start my car up every day, which grinds my gears.

The campaign is nothing special either. They seem like the type of chapters that were on Rainbow Six Seige, but just tuned into a mediocre story. Mainly just to introduce players to the different factions and different classes of heros. I've only completed the Knight's chapter which had no heart, no emotional grip, and the cutscenes did not look like something expected in a 2017 game.

TL;DR: Damn, 2017... This game has a LOT of issues Ubisoft needs to patch up. The main attraction, as it stands, is showing off the new combat mechanics. If Ubisoft don't fix these issues soon, this game is going in my trade-in pile.

I'd rate the game 6.5/10

I'm outie

8 Comments

MonsterStomp reviews - The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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After recently being exposed to a thread which slams both Spiderman 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I found an incentive to review the latter and express my opinion on why I deemed it worthy enough to put on my top 5 favourite comic book movies list. I don't know, maybe they deserve to be slammed, but to the calibre that they do is boardering ridiculous. So without trying to force a proper introduction down your throats, lets get to it...

The Bad

Even though The Amazing Spider-Man is one of my top favourited comic book movies of all time, I'm not blinded to its faults. The script is messy. Don't get me wrong, there were great ideas, but it is a difficult task for many directors to nail a film harbouring multiple narratives. I think Marc Webb tried to set up too much at once. I mean, The Amazing Spider-Man had a simple formular that worked: Teen problems, new powers, villain - and you have your film. With the sequel, we have Webb turning the focus on too many things, its hard to pin point what the main narrative was. Between explaining why his parents left, setting up the antagonists, setting up future installments, and throwing in a little love complication in there, it felt way too cluttered by comparison.

The film started off intriguingly with Richard Parker destroying his research and running away to protect Peter. The thing is, we don't get a follow-up until half way through the film. AFTER it has already been established that Gwen is moving to England and AFTER Peter and Harry had already been reunited. Webb should have left that arc out if it was going to take him this long to explain it again. I'd much prefer the story revolve around Harry and how Oscorp is covering up their experiments. That would have been perfect, in my opinion.

Speaking of Harry, I just didn't like how he was handled. I really really liked the direction his narrative was heading, but there was so little of it that he was overshadowed. Which is why I think they should have focused more on Harry and the whole Oscorp situation. That would have, in my opinion, set up the antagonist more prominantly.

But that brings my negative perspective on the film to an end.

The Good

Is the bad enough to bring the film crashing down? For me, hell no! What is done right is done phenomenally. The action scenes in particular, were beautifully shot and choreographed. Every action scene had me staring with an overwhelming eagerness to cheer my hero on. Every action scene was uplifted by the heroic music. Every action scene had perfectly timed slow motion sequences that allow the viewer to absorb the scene and take a breather. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 harbours some of my favourite action sequences I'll ever see in a comic book film.

Spider-Man was portrayed beautifully. There was actually a key contrast between Peter and Spider-Man, which I appreciated. We see Peter is haunted by the promise he made to Gwen's father. We know that Peter is eager to learn why his parents left him. We see how Peter plans to help Harry cope with the loss of his father. Even though Peter is dealing with these problems, Spider-Man is still cracking wise jokes and saving 10 year olds from bullies. And to me, I love that defining contrast between the two characters. Peter has to stay focused on Spider-Man while he's in the suit, because he is the peoples hero. The only times Peter felt like Peter in the suit was when he was rejecting Harry's request for blood, and when he was desperately trying to save Gwen.

The antagonist was very well written, in my opinion. Not so much Goblin, but with Electro... yeah, I was kind of rooting for him at one point or another. From when he first appeared on screen and told Spider-Man that he was a "nobody", I knew right away that this is a guy with good intentions, but is constantly being taken advantage of. He is socially awkward, and you can see people throughout the film have crippled his self-esteem to the point where everything seems like a personal attack to him. I felt deep sympathy for this character. He even creates a fictional friendship with the web-crawler to cope with this negativity, which is why he felt betrayed when Spider-Man stole the spotlight at Times Square, despite Spider-Man wanting to help.

The relationship between Peter and Gwen was handled fantastically. To the point where I felt a giddy nostalgia from when I first fell in love. Their relationship was heartfelt, and Gwen's death actually had me slightly depressed for the next few days, especially after the whole "I'm following you" speech Peter gave to her. I'd go as far as to say, this is one of my favourite romances in cinema.

So yes, even though this film is filled with reasons for people to dislike it, it is also filled with reasons as to why I absolutely love it, and these are the reasons why it is in my top 5.

Time stamp that shit. I'm outie!

5 Comments

MonsterStomp's top 8 films of 2016

Before we get started, I'd like to let it be known that these are my personal favourite films of 2016. They aren't all going to be box office successes, nor are they all critically acclaimed masterpieces. They are simply the films that stood out to me this year as enjoyable. And also, I obviously haven't seen EVERY film that was produced in 2016. There are still a few films such as Fences, Silence and Manchester By The Sea that haven't even been released in my country yet.

Anyway, without further ado, lets kick it off with number...

8. The Magnificent Seven

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This is the ensemble we never got in 2016. I'm not going to throw around big words like "fantastic" or "beautiful", but I did find it very entertaining. There is a decent amount of depth to the seven characters, that by the time we reach the final set-piece, I was somewhat emotionally moved by the path that was taken. The only drawback I would note is that introducing the characters (travelling from point A to point B, just to meet the next guy who shows off his combative talent to prove why he'd be a valuable asset to the team) felt minimally like a grind. Although, with some well placed comedic scenes, a great eye for action and one of the most suspenseful standoffs I've seen in a while, that grind becomes less and less taxing on the film as a whole.

For me, The Magnificent Seven is a fun time, with tremendous playback value.

7. The Conjuring 2

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Out of the other four horror-flicks that I managed to watch last year, none managed to send a chill up my spine like The Conjuring 2. It was suspenseful from beginning to end, for me, and it never allowed for a moment of pause - a moment to catch my breath. I simply didn't want to lose the momentum I had while watching this film. Like the first, The Conjuring 2 follows paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine, in their mission to evict a demon from a struggling family in London. The film stays within familiar territory most of the time, but doesn't stray from introducing new subplots that I found invigorating. One thing the first film lacked, was the reality of non-believers jumping into the equation and trying to debunk the work that Ed and Lorraine procured. In addition, director James Wan introduces a new antagonist that puts Ed and Lorraine to the ultimate test.

The execution was fantastic. Even for a guy who typically doesn't appreciate horror films, The Conjuring 2 gave me something to respect about the genre.

6. Deepwater Horizon

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This film had no hesitation when it came to hooking me in. There's just something about Mark Wahlberg that's so charismatic. This story reveals the events that happened on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010. This film had me on the edge of my seat through and through. We see the dilemma the rig workers are faced with when receiving sketchy test readings with equipment that were overdue for a service. I became so engrossed amongst the decision-making that I was yelling at the screen. Then everything goes south, and it is brutal. A lot of emotions were rippling through me, which were only enhanced when we're put in Kat Hudson's characters' shoes. It was an honourable experience to see how the heroes worked to save as many lives as they could.

5. Eddie The Eagle

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I'm 98% sure I'm the only one on the Vine to see this movie. Only three names stood out when I did my research on this film: Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service), and when I heard Matthew Vaughn will be part of the production team, I knew I had little to worry about... and my hopes were confirmed. This is one of the most heartfelt sports drama films I have ever seen. I mean, for a director to take a sport as unorthodox as Ski Jumping is one thing, but to shape it into a very well executed panorama is deeply satisfying. Eddie The Eagle tells a story of one man's dream to compete in the Olympics, followed by the extreme mortification and disapproval he receives along his journey. Taron's character was well portrayed, and I definitely sympathised with him. It was a realization for me.

If you haven't already seen it, I'd highly recommend it.

4. Nocturnal Animals

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I went into the cinema with an open mind. I thought the trailers were confusing asf, and I only forked out money because Jake Gyllenhaal is one of my favourite actors. And I gotta say, this is the most unique form of storytelling that I've ever seen. The film as a whole is all about writer's expression. Gyllenhaal's "real life" character (so to speak), Edward, writes a novel to his ex-wife, Susan, who is played by Amy Adams, and we get to see this novel played out like another movie. Quite literally - a film inside another film. And inside this other film, we get Nocturnal Animals which is a brutal thriller of one man's quest for revenge. See, at first, I thought "why not just make this the movie? Its 100% better". But coming out of the cinema, its much more than the story told by the novel. There's a subliminal message in there for Susan. A message that becomes a little more clear when Susan starts recalling their past relationship.

As one of the most thought-provoking, unique thrillers of last year, I'd also highly recommend this. Do it to see Gyllenhaal at the least!

3. Captain America: Civil War

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I'm pretty certain this film will be on nearly everyone's top 10 of 2016. I tried avoiding putting a comic book film on my list, but Civil War is one that was necessary. I don't think I can say much that hasn't already been said, so lets keep this one short and move along, yeah?

2. The Jungle Book

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I did a bit of a shitpiece review on it which does it no justice, but my feelings on the film are still the same. I pretty much love everything about this retelling. Idris Elba, in particular, is still one of the greatest antagonists of 2016 as Shere Kahn. Every line he spoke sent a cold chill down my spine. Likewise, I never expected this film to be one of the highest grossing films of 2016. Check it out.

1. Hacksaw Ridge

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"I don't know how I'm going to live with myself if I don't stay true to what I believe."

As a person aspiring to join the military, it should come as no surprise that Hacksaw Ridge is my number one favourite film of 2016. The film is filled with dialogue and themes that simply resonates with me to the highest frequencies. Stellar performances, great music and sound, cinematography that captures war brutality, all precisely implemented in an awe-inspiring film. I felt like a man given a purpose again. This is a story based on real events, so I appreciated it when they gave the actual hero, Desmond Doss, a post-credit respect.

Alright, that's it.. Peace out!

17 Comments

MonsterStomp Reviews - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

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Its been a very long time since I've seen this film. I'm talking at least two years, and I remember absolutely loving it in theatres back in '09. So I decided to rummage through stacks of DVD cases that I've acquired over the years, and indulge in a little popcorn cinema.

As it stands, I still consider the film to be the best in the franchise, but it seems as though I'm in the minority there. Scoring a whopping 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, would have had the film as the most poorly rated excluding the fourth instalment. Something I don't think it deserves. In fact, I think the film deserves an above average C+. I've read and seen a few critical reviews on the film and most of the time its just a harbour of big words and metaphors that do little but vilify the film. For example, Jeremy Jahn's review is mostly him talking smack about a film which could ultimately be summed in one word: Bad. He doesn't talk about plot, characters, cinematography, effects, visuals or anything, and as far as a review goes, that's pretty embarrassing.

Regardless, I think the film deserves a C+. If it weren't for the underwhelming first act, maybe the film would have received a more impressive reception.

The pacing was appalling. I'd put the pacing on par with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (theatrical cut). Bay spent a lot of confusing time trying to set up the following acts, that he resorts to cutting from Sam's college endeavours to the Decepticon's advancement. Bay makes these cuts almost randomly. For instance, Sam and Ron (Sam's father) are trying to contain Judith (Sam's mother) who is high from eating pot-brownies. The sequence cuts straight to an orbiting Decepticon satellite and the plot proceeds for them. Only to be cut straight to a scene of Sam and his roommates going to a college party. Its ugly. There's too much going on.

Mudflat and Skids looking at their name on the
Mudflat and Skids looking at their name on the "nonessential characters" list

There is also an overdoses on humour. I mean, the fight scene in the forest was cut to make it shorter, but for some reason there's this unnecessary sequence of Sam's mother getting stoned and being weird. Bay prefers to sacrifice a high stakes fight sequence, than an unnecessary comedic sequence. We already have Leo (Sam's roommate) who was a great comedic relief, but apparently that's not enough for Bay. Mudflap and Skids a.k.a The Autobot Twins aren't even remotely a necessity to the plot. However, as much as I resent their appearances, I have to draw the line when people call it racist. Especially when we have Jazz in the first film, three Decepticons with dreadlocks in Dark of the Moon, and a Samurai in Age of Extinction. I don't have an issue with Bay implementing different races within the Cybertronian species. I don't hear complaints where Prime sounds like a normal white man. Its a huge nit-pick, if anything, but I'll move on.

This was a live detonation with little CGI
This was a live detonation with little CGI
This is 100% green screen
This is 100% green screen

The highlight of the film is its action. Michael Bay constantly gets begrudged for his excessive use of explosions. I'm going to lay down my thoughts: I prefer Bay's more practical use of explosions to Snyder's over-the-top CGI. Don't get me wrong, I tip my hat off to Snyder for giving us power-accurate superhuman beings, but the CGI isn't as intricate as say, an autobot morphing into a vehicle. The action is well choreographed and more times than not the stakes are high. The only time the action seems nonessential is when Sam accidentally turns his kitchen appliances into Decepticons, which could have easily been left out.

So, to reiterate, I'd score the film a solid C+ for its fantastic action and mediocre plot. If the film wasn't dragged down so much by its subpar pacing, overdose on humour, and cut out the nonessential sequences that were abundant in its first act, I think the storytelling could have been more adequately executed.

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MonsterStomp Reviews - Suicide Squad (minor spoilers)

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I was at war with myself when deciding to watch this movie. I found its marketing schemes mediocre. Then the pre-screening reviews start flooding in, and I'm left disheartened. Then comes all this conspiracy surrounding Warner Brothers and their failed strategies to resurrect the DCEU. So when I say I was at war with myself, I mean I was at WAR with myself. The amount of controversy surrounding this film was off-putting, and eventually I decided to give the Suicide Squad a miss this time.. However, with the luck of scoring a free ticket from a friend and the fact I wasn't doing anything else on a Thursday night, I figured I'd spend my time seeing what all the harsh criticism was about. Which brings us here: I thought the film was GREAT. Suicide Squad is entertaining. Its the breath of fresh air that the DCEU needed in terms of being more light and it truly delivers on that front.

Yes, the plot is generic. Subpar? No, but it is familiar. A band of super-villains with extraordinary abilities are blackmailed, and are forced to deploy and undergo missions whatever, whenever and wherever the government sees fit. In this particular case, they're assigned to a locate and extract task, which obviously turns into a "bites off more than they could chew" mission. Its fairly predictable, however it is entertaining. The film is more so character-driven than anything, and its awesome seeing such a contrast and dynamic between these characters and character interactions. I honestly find it hypocritical for people to slam an otherwise decent character-driven plot, when we've seen it before (Marvel's The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy). Sure, it has pacing and editing issues. I mean, sometimes the first act doesn't come until the second act, and the second and third act kind of collided, but that doesn't detract from its otherwise interesting concepts. It doesn't compare in the slightest to Fant4stic (which didn't even have a second or third act depending on how you look at it) - that shit is an overstatement if I've ever heard one. After reading so many negative reviews, I've yet to see explicit examples of its apparent decline. Suicide Squad actually held my attention from start to finish, unlike Batman v. Superman (including its Ultimate Cut).

I fell in love with almost every character. Slipknot is literally there as the expendable candidate, to support Rick Flag's earlier statement "You try to escape, you die". Someone had to die as a message that Waller means business. Perhaps they could've built his character up a little more, just to make his death a little more impactful on the team, but its really a minor issue for me. Katana and Rick Flag have a clear history that was left unexplored, and as with all ninja she is the silent type. Killer Croc didn't get much development, which was another complaint I repeatedly hear. *face palm* You don't really need to know who this guy is. He's like Suicide Squad's answer to Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, he's still likeable, in fact his first line (iirc) made me love him.

I loved Rick Flag, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Joker, June Moone and El Diablo. Each of these characters have great character moments and development. Harley Quinn stole the spotlight, in my opinion. She's juvenile. Dangerous. Sexy. Her subplot with Joker was different. You could really gather an insane chemistry between the duo. My favourite scene was when Harley was sitting on a car in the rain crying, then when she sees her team, she wipes the tears away and puts on a happy mask. It was a pivotal moment of grief. I thought Leto's Joker was more charismatic but also compares to Nicholson's Joker with being more intimidating than Heath's portrayal. I still think his laugh is trash though, but again, everyone was on point in my opinion. I wasn't disappointed with the lack of Joker time, because his appearance is really only a subplot, and I feel like any more would just detract from the entire team.

That's all I really have to say, so to tie my thoughts off: You're either going to hate it with a passion or absolutely enjoy it. In my opinion, I honestly feel like its the best DCEU film by far. Its a lot more upbeat than the trash Snyder has been pushing out - I mean, yes I love Man of Steel but even I can agree that its unnecessarily grim. The action in Suicide Squad is very entertaining and it was interesting to see how these inmates came together and became an actual team. I don't think the poor pacing and editing issues really hinder the feature THAT much. It wasn't as bad at Batman v. Superman and it sure as hell isn't as bad as Fant4stic.

I'm giving Suicide Squad a solid B.

17 Comments

MonsterStomp Reviews - Jason Bourne

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As soon as the first trailer for this movie dropped, right away it jumped to the top of my hit list of must-see films to watch this year. Excluding Bourne Legacy, I think the Bourne trilogy is one of the best action series of films to date, and I'd recommend those films to anyone who enjoys a quality thought-provoking action thriller. Does Jason Bourne hold up to its predecessors? Unfortunately no.

As a standalone action film, its actually pretty solid. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Jason Bourne is the best action film this year (obviously not including comic book films). If you're worried the action declined since 2007's Bourne Ultimatum, don't fret, you're still going to see the face-paced action the series is renowned for. You're still going to see how Bourne manages to outwit the CIA again, and again. The one thing that held my attention from the previous films is due to how cunning the protagonist is, and Paul Greengrass delivers exceptionally on that front. The final action sequence, I'd say was more so riveting seeing as it was a personal endeavour for Bourne, rather than some random asset.

However, with that said, where the film falls flat, unfortunately is the plot. Don't get me wrong, I'm agreeing with Chris Stuckmann, Jason Bourne is still leaps and bounds better than Bourne Legacy. Although, the focus of the plot seems to juggle between two things: Bourne trying to unravel a mystery from his past.. aaaand the CIA collaborating with a social network developer for privacy reasons. The latter could have easily been left out and the film would have felt like a genuine addition to the Matt Damon trilogy. You could literally zone out whenever something not involving Bourne was talked about and not miss a beat when you come back to your senses. The two plot points never intersect.

Which is why as a fan of the series, I'm left feeling a bit disappointed. There was really good plot material surrounding Bourne and his past (again), and the film certainly had raw potential to match its predecessors. But was somewhat overshadowed by some other nonessential plot point. Suffice to say it was comparatively a misfire, which seems to be a common concensus as far as I'm concerned.

To come to an abrupt close (I suck at conclusions), I'm torn. As a fan, yes, it was disappointing compared to its predecessors (excluding Bourne Legacy, because that's trash I wish I could erase from my memory). However, as an every day movie-goer, it is a really good action flick. So I'm giving it a 7.5/10. I won't make any personal recommendations, but your time isn't going to be a complete an utter waste. If you're still iching to see a genuinely decent action flick this year, Jason Bourne is your go-to.

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MonsterStomp Reviews - Wolfenstein: The New Order

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As far as story driven first-person shooters go, there aren't many. Most FPS genres nowadays rely heavily on its multiplayer modes rather than its single player campaign, and while I understand the supply and demand gimmick, MP game modes have become rather repetitive given the sheer quantity of first-person shooters out there.

If you don't already know by now, I'm primarily a single player type of gamer. I buy games just for that luxury and its been a fair while since I've indulged in a bit of single player FPS that offers a rush of adrenaline amongst the chaos of battle. Wolfenstein: The New Order delivers on that.

In a nutshell, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a story fueled by revenge. The player takes control of Blazkowicz, and American war veteran, sent to kill a relentless Nazi commander/doctor who experiments on war victims. After getting captured and witnessing his conrad get tortured to death, Blazkowicz manages to escape. However in his attempts, gets critically injured and ends up in a hospital for 14 years, with only parts of his memory restored. Intriguing, no?

This is an R rated game, and coupled with an alternate take on the Nazis, expect to see people being tortured, an abundance of dead bodies, and sadistic antagonists. The plot plays with your emotions. It draws from your sympathy, but primarily toys with your anger.

Surprisingly, there is somewhat good news...

Blazkowicz is quite literally a walking tank. I've never played DOOM, but to my knowledge Blazkowicz compares to Doom Guy quite well in that respect. You feel powerful helming such a character. Between destroying giant robots to shrugging off torture, its a satisfying relief to know you can take on such odds. Especially against an enemy as despicable as the Nazis.

The shooting mechanics don't do much to seperate itself from other FPS games. I mean, the game opens up some form of freedom in most level designs. It gives the player an opportunity for stealth tactics (a tactic I opt out for in most games), which is really beneficial during the harder difficulty settings. The game even has a set of challenges that, upon completion, unlock perks that do little to improve your ability to fight. But all in all, the mechanics are simple and straightfoward.

Personally though, the lack of innovation doesn't retract from the sheer satisfaction you feel when blowings Nazis to pieces with an automatic shotgun, vaporizing scum with lasers or painting the walls red in a Dr Manhattan fashion. In fact, the game's soundtrack makes it all the more invigorating. You feel badass.

8/10

If you're looking for a game that has an intriguing plot and simple but fun action, pick this up for your collection. I know I won't be putting this game in my trade-in pile any time soon. I may even pick up the prequel, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.

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MonsterStomp's Thoughts - The Jungle Book (2016)

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I didn't want to call this a review, because I honestly don't have anything to say from a critical standpoint. This isn't a detailed analysis, its just me voicing my opinion. So without further ado, lets kick this off.

For disclosure, though, I never really intended to see this movie. I just found myself at the cinema one day, just looking to have a bit of time to myself and The Jungle Book seemed like the only appealing film to watch at the time. I must say though, I've never seen the original, or at least I remember very little of it. From what I gather, it seemed like a rather mediocre film, so suffice to say I went into this movie with a slightly lower expectation than usual. I will say, however, that it was my time worth investing! The Jungle Book ticked so many boxes. Its an emotional rollercoaster and any film which can cripple my otherwise hard nature with its superb execution of storytelling, deserves a spot as my favourite film in 2016 (so far).

The Jungle Book harbours a fairly straightforward plot, in fact its a retelling of the original picture, so you can expect a lot of ideas being cherry-picked from the 1967 film. However, director Jon Favreau adds just enough of his own "twist", if you will, to reinvigorate the film which, in turn, truly gives it a breath of fresh air.

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The story follows Mowgli on his journey for self-discovery. He's trying to find out where he stands in the jungle, if not fits it. Mowgli soon meets his adversary, Shere Khan, a beautiful yet intimidating tiger who has his own personal reasons for wanting Mowgli dead. Between Bagheera trying to get Mowgli to safety to Shere Khan hunting him down, it makes for a riveting and gripping adventure.

Most of the film's success is due to its phenomenal delivery of its three-act structure. Everything is well established and flows so seamlessly, and there's no real issue of fast pacing or misdirection. By the time the third act hits, you feel lifted and overjoyed with the outcome.

Characters

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Personally, I felt a sense of pride with Mowgli, which was an uplifting experience I've never felt before. Here's a young orphan who is distinctly different than everyone else due to his "tricks" or inventions, yet the same thing that gets him barred is the same thing that helps him determine his place, and for that I felt a genuine admiration toward him, especially by the end of the film. Bagheera is Mowgli's soul protector, and is responsible for suggesting that he'd be safer in his own niche. Bagheera is a more structured and disciplinary figure within Mowgli's life and typically likes to view situations as glass half empty.

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Baloo, by contrast, sees the glass half full. He shines new perspective on Mowgli's predicament, and is a great comic relief who lightens the film up from its otherwise dark tone. Which brings me swiftly to Shere Khan, who is quite possibly the most attractive yet threatening villain I've ever seen in a Disney picture. Shere Khan is the prime reason the film is filled with nerve-racking moments, while simultaneously making it all the more compelling to see how an underwhelming protagonist can defy the impossible.

Performances

Mowgli was played impressively by Neel Sethi. I say impressively, not only because he has little to no track record, but he is a kid and for his first live-action appearance you could imagine the kind of pressure he was able to overcome. Especially since he pretty much worked off the green screen. Bottom line, Neel was a convincing Mowgli and was satisfying to watch in all of his scenes. Now I could go ahead and give Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Christopher Walken (King Louie), Lupita Nyong'o (Raksha), Bill Murray (Baloo) and the rest of the cast of voice actors a round of applause for their overall solid performances. However the real standing ovation goes to Idris Elba for the voicing of Shere Khan. Elba's voice is so powerfully fitting for a creature so formidable and dangerous. Coupled with a great script, Elba made every spoken word spine-chilling. Certainly one for the highlight reel.

Sound

Unlike the original, this film isn't a musical. There's a throwback scene where Mowgli and Baloo are singing "Bear Necessities" in a fun and natural manner. I actually found myself rhythmically tapping my feet, despite disliking the original. I was smiling in the theatre, probably more nostalgic than anything. Then there's another throwback scene where King Louie is singing "I want to be like you", which felt a little out of place for my liking, but nothing too decisive.

John Debney did a fantastic job of taking the original soundtrack and making it 2016. Its enough to feel nostalgic, but you also know its new. So John gets mad props on the music composition. Although when the dust settles and the fun stops, this movie is significantly darker than the original, which is highlighted through its intense and foreboding music.

Visuals

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Visually, this piece is sublime. The vegetation of the jungle landscape is lush and plentiful, the animals are accurately illustrated with surprising realism, and even though the visuals are mostly artificial, you can't deny the lucid beauty that lurks beneath every cinematic shot. Even the facial expressions convey emotions and is presently done with every character - obviously pivotal in procuring emotional responses from me. I'd be hard pressed to find a fault in an overall consistent CGI. In fact, it doesn't cease to amaze me.

Highly recommended: 9/10

Even if you're not a fan of the original or you're delving into the movie clueless, you can expect an overall impressive storytelling and splendid performances. It has enough throwback material to make you feel nostalgic, even if you did dislike or can't remember the original picture in the slightest. I'm definitely buying this on blu-ray as soon as its release.

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MonsterStomp Reviews - Rise of the Tomb Raider

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It has been a very long and gruelling process for me to get back into my gaming habits, and considering I bought my Xbox One a little over 2 years after its release, you could imagine I've missed a lot in terms of what games I should buy for my collection. To this day I only really have two games I absolutely love from a narrative, visual and gameplay aspect. One of those games, by the way, is Rise of the Tomb Raider. I think Crystal Dynamics are doing fantastically with their rebooted franchise, and I'm excited to see what new heights the series will reach in future developments.

Story and Characters

Let me start off by saying that I am primarily a campaign-gamer. The fact that I consider games like Assassin's Creed II, Far Cry 3, Batman: Arkham City and recognise them as some of the best in the way of storytelling is a testament to this. I absolutely love getting lost in a story that can trigger a specific nerve in my brain to invoke certain emotional attachments to characters so that I actually give a damn about what happens to them. Not only do I get my money's worth out of a game, it grants me a positive experience which got me into gaming in the first place. With that said, Rise of the Tomb Raider tells a rather conventional story. It follows main protagonist, Lara Croft, in her quest to discover what her late father dedicated his research to. This investigation takes Lara on a journey to locate the Lost City of Kitezh with hopes of uncovering an ancient relic known as the Divine Source. With the help of a resistance order known as the Remnants, Lara combats the Order of Trinity, a modernized ancient organization which share the same goal as Lara in retrieving the relic. Now reluctantly, I must say that the narrative is fairly predictable, however it doesn't suffer significantly from it and it still has its fair share of memorable moments. Personally, I'd expect nothing more from a Tomb Raider game. In fact, the game isn't in need of a sophisticated plot for it to be enjoyable. The narrative and gameplay go hand in hand making it an invigorating experience for the player altogether, and despite being simple, the thrill is contained within its beautiful yet destructive scenery, which makes it all the more engaging and thus forming a uniquely compelling story. The game opens on a high with breathtaking visuals and jumps right into the action which fabricates the foundation on what's to come during your progression through the campaign... and I will say there are a LOT of thrilling moments to look forward to. There is almost never a dull moment in the main campaign, and for that, I think the game still deserves top marks for its execution.

The plot delves a little more into Croft's past this time around, and does a great job with establishing new her motives as well as enhancing her development from the previous game. Camilla Luddington gave a solid performance as the voice of Lara Croft. In fact, one thing I that I found bothersome in the previous instalment were the exaggerated amounts of moaning whenever Lara was in a predicament. Thankfully, this is absent this time around. Earl Baylong makes a return as the voice of Lara's good friend, Jonah, who has a surprisingly more pivotal part in the story despite the lack of screen time her has. Philip Rodriguez and Jolene Andersen make their debut as father and daughter, Jacob and Sofia, who're leaders of the Remnant Order. Jacob in particular, I now deem as one of my favourite supporting characters for his mysterious yet badass nature. An emotional bond was formed with him nearing the end of the game, which made the final moments of the story one of the most memorable moments I've encountered in current-gen gaming. Charles Halford and Zack Ward both voiced the antagonist, Konstantin, who was imposing in all of his appearances and made for an intense villain. Although voiced by two actors, its to the point where you can't tell the difference. Same thing goes for Ana's character who was voiced by Kay Bess and Laura Waddell. Speaking of Ana, this is a character who felt a little out of place. We don't really know who she is to begin with, which makes her twist predictable to say the least, unfortunately. However, with a largely strong cast and an overall solid performance, this is barely a make or break point.

Graphics and Sound

This is where the game shines. The visuals in Rise of the Tomb Raider are spectacular, and truly push the boundaries of current-gen capabilities. The game also gives players a chance to acknowledge these breathtaking environments by forcefully panning the camera to a cinematic angle whenever Lara discovers a new location, be it a hidden challenge tomb or entire cities. From the snow elegantly blowing off mountain peaks to rain bucketing into the camera, every corner of the game offers a breath of fresh air and a moment to admire the spectacle, which are enhanced only by its memorable soundtrack. Speaking of which, the music composition for this game is an amazing selection.

Gameplay

Lets get the basics out of the way. As a survival game, you'll spend some time collecting resources from the land to craft better weaponry, and you'll find yourself salvaging for scraps and hunting for hide. It isn't something to look forward to, but like most other survival games, you're going to be doing this at some point or another. So whether or not I should critique it for being standard in that sense, is up in the air.

With that said, Crystal Dynamics puts the player in control of a much more experienced Lara. Like its predecessor, the foundation lays upon gaining experience to spend skill points on skills which either enhance Lara's combat, hunting or survival capabilities. In addition, Lara can now improvise in the heat of the battle now, and is able to craft shrapnel and explosives to gain the advantage over her enemies. Stealth, my favourite play style, is more defined as I can now perform death-from-above takedowns and take out up to three enemies at once with the bow and arrows. I also love being able to craft special poison, explosive and fire arrowheads. It opens up more options and turns it into a more innovative thinking game. Of course, this is a Tomb Raider game, and it wouldn't be so without exploration and puzzles. Lara is equipped with more gear to account for the new challenges you'll be facing. These puzzles are smart and make you feel smart when completing them. However, where this game fails is with the lack of innovation with the side quests. They are rewarding, however if you're like me and mow through the campaign first, these rewards feel pointless by the time you get around to them. The certified challenge tombs, lack any real challenge and the rewards don't particularly feel deserving.

Verdict

The game isn't flawless, though, none of the faults really impact the games fulfilling campaign experience, in my opinion. The visuals truly are a masterful canvas, and although the plot is generic, the execution is phenomenal and calls for some of the most prominent moments I've experienced in current-gen gaming.

Rating: 8/10.

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