Thursday, June 30, 2016

E3 Hype List Part 3: The Open World (Watch_Dogs 2, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda)




I'm probably more hyped about Watch_Dogs 2 than any other non-Spider-Man game on this list.  As much flak as the first Watch_Dogs received, I always found it to be a solid title.   No, it was never without it's flaws: Aiden Pearce was a giant dickhole, the typical open-world fringe like clothing options and music was next to nil, and it almost always felt like you were driving on ice.  But it also had a ton of really great bits to it: the myriad of ways you could deal with encounters, the crapton of mini-games, and downgrade or no downgrade it was a pretty game.  After finishing the first game, I looked forward to a potential sequel because I knew a game where they acknowledged and worked to remedy those flaws could be something special.

And so far, Watch_Dogs 2 looks well on its way to be just that.  Replacing talking baseball cap Aiden Peace with Marcus Holloway is half of the job, and judging by videos like the one above, it looks like they're more than aware of the others and have been actively working on them as well.  San Francisco looks like a more robust, entertaining area to explore than Chicago was (and I had a blast in WD1's Chi-Town), the supporting cast looks to be at least on par with the last game's (Clara, T-Bone, and Geordi from WD1 were all actually quite good), and the fact that they've expanded on both the different kinds of areas and the different tools the player means I'll doubtlessly be losing dozens of hours playing this game when it drops this November. 

I just hope they've added significantly more music to the soundtrack this time.  Yeah having Run the Jewels and Eric B. and Rakim play is neat, but last game had Nas' One Mic and 2 Chainz's Feds Watching--but that was ALL they had and one can only play those so many times before even Confidential Liar starts to sound semi-appealing, which was the true great tragedy of Watch_Dogs 1.


Horizon: Zero Dawn still looks as glorious as it did at E3 2015, and while I called its delay the second I saw the "targeting 2016" thing last year, that doesn't make me any less excited.  This time the demo gives us a closer look at humanity's society post-collapse, and it should make anyone who liked last year's trailer even more excited to play it now.   I can't help wondering: what are the different tribes like?   What sets them apart from one another?     Are there any tribes that are warring amongst one another, or are they all too busy trying to survive in this world where the machines are now the dominant life form?

And how'd the world get this way to begin with?  There's so much for this game to potentially explore, to say nothing of all the amazing types of robotic animals we'll apparently be able to throw down with.   It's great that Sony is allowing all of their development studios the opportunity to try different things, and I hope this is the runaway success it can and should be. 



Mass Effect: Andromeda is probably the most iffy game on the entire list.   I wasn't the biggest fan of BioWare's output last gen, but Dragon Age: Inquisition is probably my favorite game in all of 2014, and so the company's earned more than enough good will for their other major franchise to catch my eye until they do something to lose me entirely.  And you'd think, with the game less than a year away, enough promo material would exist to make a firm decision on whether I'm interested or not...but since BioWare's apart of EA and they haven't been capable of cutting more than one or two decent trailers a year for the past three years or so now, I'm still somewhat lost.

Take this trailer for instance--you see the developers about as much as you see the characters and world.  Worse, most of the information we know about this game still comes from leaks rather than any official release from BioWare or EA.  Still, it shouldn't be too hard to get this right: I'm a sucker for science fiction, so as long as they can construct a believable galaxy of interesting worlds and alien races, I'm in. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

E3 Hype List: The J-RPGs (Final Fantasy XV, Tales of Berseria, Ni-Oh)

Apologies for taking a day off, but I'm back with the second part of what is most likely a four-part series.  This time we'll be setting a focus on games that come from Eastern developers, the J-RPGs.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

E3 Hype List: The Superheroes (Agents of Mayhem, Injustice 2, and Spider-Man PS4)

While I normally devote the time following E3 to rating conferences, this year I've decided to switch things up.  For one thing, each conference was absolutely drowning in games so a proper rating would be some massive 5000 word piece that no one would actually read.   And for another, for once there's actually no shortage of titles I'm interested in.  So this time I'll be highlighting games I care about rather than running down lists of games only to say why I don't care.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June 15th 2016, Bottom of the Pile: The Hulk is Going to Kill You All...

I've got a different thing planned to finish talking about the rest of E3, but first...comics!

Monday, June 13, 2016

E3 Day Two Thoughts: Microsoft


 So how'd my predictions stack up to the actual conference?

E3 Day One Thoughts: EA and Bethesda

It's technically not "Day One" yet, but when EA and Bethesda both have their E3 conferences, you should probably take count it as such.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: This lie is afraid of me. It should be.


I'm a little late with this week's column and I apologize for that.   So as not to waste any time let's just jump right into it with a look first at this week's Marvel stuff.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: The Rebirth

Welcome back to the longest-running weekly column on JiH, Bottom of the Pile--where I talk about the most exciting comics for the week--and the ones I found "best".  This week we're looking at the first wave of DC's Rebirth one-shots as well as Civil War II and some of the comics surrounding it.

 Civil War II
Before I tear this comic a new one, some exposition is probably needed. Given Civil War's phenomenal success as both a film and a comic book, Marvel creating a sequel was really a matter of time.  This is the same company that's made no fewer than three "Secret" Wars after all. In the case of Civil War II, once again it's a "Captain" versus Tony Stark--this time Carol Danvers (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) rather than Steve.   The gist of it all is that a new mutant Inhuman is found to have the ability to see the future, and while Carol thinks he should be used to save lives in the future, Tony thinks there's every chance that the future could be made worse by their interference.

Even though there's a bit of self-awareness to the comic ("I'm not going to have a morality debate with you, Steve.  Those never end well for us."), ultimately I'm worried this comic is going to piss me off in the same way the original Civil War did.  For one thing--at this point who's still willing to follow Tony Stark?  The same guy who was wrong in the original Civil War, and created the Illuminati under the noses of the entire superhero community, leaving them out of decisions that would affect all of creation.   Much as I love him when he's written correctly, in the past decade, he's almost always wrong.

But. I can't see this story going in any direction save Tony being right. Ulysses himself is fishy to begin with.  We never see him come out of a Terrigen Mist cocoon, and his mind can't be read--we're being forced to take his word for everything, when he's given only one reason to be trustworthy at all--an initial event where a Celestial shows up to wreck everything.  (Which actually sounds pretty out of character for a group that basically sit around looking at shit all day.)  There's every chance he's lying his ass off.  And even if he weren't, there's every chance they're being fooled.  Because what's the end game here?  We get a guy who can look into the future forever?   That not only takes the narrative tension out of most stories, but creates problems for the writers as well.    Heroes get captured all the time, but with this guy around you've got a ton of "fans" just waiting to go "How come Ulysses didn't see this coming?"

Lastly, in the real long-term...how many times is Marvel going to go in circles with their storytelling?  This book already has one, possibly two major deaths (more on this later) that are a result of Carol's actions.  That's going to cause a major rift between heroes, only...didn't we do this already?  Sure, Civil War was ten years ago.  But the prelude to Secret Wars, Time Runs Out, also had a war between heroes on a major scale.   How many times can the heroes be torn apart before it becomes unrealistic to have them working together at all?


Invincible Iron Man

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT for Civil War II #1.


You should be aware of this already since these events were covered in the Free Comic Book Day Marvel issue, Civil War II #0, but Carol attempting to fight Thanos from Ulysses' advice causes the death of James Rhodes.  And here, in a comic book written by the same guy, we introduce a young woman--Riri Williams--who's flying a suit of armor with a very peculiar tint.

And so while I'm a bit slow to the finish, it's now that I realize Bendis has been setting up a replacement for War Machine almost since issue one, when he first mentioned a student reverse-engineering his armor.

Being fair, I've got nothing against Riri.  We don't know her yet, so if I did I'd either be sexist, a self-hating racist, or both.  But you'd think by now they would understand this is not how you replace a character.  Because you don't replace them.  Killing one character to replace them with another only upsets the fans of the person you killed.  This isn't even much of a diversity move.   Marvel could certainly use more black women superheroes (so could DC *cough cough cough*), but you probably shouldn't be ditching black male heroes to make that happen.  It'd be better off to simply do a War Machine comic with James Rhodes playing mentor to this super-genius girl, because as we see in this panel--making the armor is a long way from being able to pilot it.  And being a good pilot is an even longer way off from being a great superhero.  Oh well.  We're stuck with this, so let's see where it goes.

All-New All-Different Avengers
 I'll say this for Mark Waid's Avengers: he's not pulling any punches on the villains he's introducing.  First Kang, now Annihilus.  For the uninitiated, Annihilus was originally a minor Fantastic Four villain--one that got a major upgrade in terms of story importance in the 2007 comic book Annihilation, in which his enormous army of Negative Zone "insects" singlehandedly eradicated the Nova Corps (Marvel's equivalent to the GLs) save Richard Ryder.   And that was just the opening salvo.   His "Annihilation Wave" consumed entire planets, laying waste to parts of the Kree and Skrull's empires, marching from one end of the galaxy to the next in an inexorable march to conquer the universe proper.  That's the guy Waid's decided to toss at the "baby Avengers".  Should be a fun issue! (Singular, since I assume Annihilus kills the entire squad next month.)

I also appreciate the introduction of the new Wasp to the old Wasp, which is a lot less of the classic "who do you think YOU are using MY name" and a lot more "look, I'm busy with Hero Work, we'll talk later".  It's a nice, logical change of pace and I hope we get to see them interact more over the course of Waid's run.

Doctor Fate
Over on the DC side of things, Doctor Fate re-introduces the original alter ego of the mystic hero--Kent Nelson, who's apparently related to the new one, Khalid Nassour.   Dr. Fate's always been a pretty polarizing comic book, and I'm sure this will only embolden the fans who only want Kent to don the helmet.

Even so, I'm pretty stoked to have him back.  Right now it's clear that he's got no intention of reclaiming the helmet, though I do take issue with the fact that Khalid still has no costume.  Hopefully that changes sooner rather than later.

As a sidenote, I'm not sure if this panel is related to DC's recent Rebirth or just the nature of creators and fans who simply can't let one character rest and another take their place.   The answer "both" is kind of a cop-out, but it's actually pretty exciting if Kent's returned in order to stand alongside his buddies in the Justice Society.

In any case, let's take a look at the "Rebirth" side of things.  This week DC released four one-shots surrounding some of their biggest characters: Batman, Green Arrow, Superman, and Green Lanterns.

Batman: Rebirth
People seem to be giving this a fairly strong reception, but I'm not sure if I'm just not getting it or if its because two of DC's "hot" writers are doing it.   If I'm being honest, I wasn't impressed.  I was expecting Batman: Rebirth to set the stage for Batman's universe going forward.   Being that he's one of the cornerstones of the DCU (*annoyed sigh*), I wouldn't have complained if this book were three times as long and let James Tynion IV (the new Detective Comics writer) in on things as well.

Instead we get an 18-pager that focuses around the relationship of Bruce Wayne and Duke Thomas, a young boy who's been popping up in Bruce's life rather consistently since his first appearance in Scott Snyder's Zero Year origin retelling.   He's been the star of We Are Robin, a major part of Batman and Robin Eternal, and going forward will likely be the...something, to Bruce's Batman.

Duke takes quite the issue with the idea of being asked to be Robin, which is...puzzling.  Reading We Are Robin, I get the same sense of dread I did with the first issue of the original Civil War when I watched the "New Warriors" go up against Nitro: sure, these kids are adorable, but with no training and no proper equipment it's only a matter of time before they get themselves killed.   No amount of reasoning is going to justify "grassroots vigilantism", sorry. All that said though...Duke's new costume blows. Who the hell's he supposed to be, Traffic Light Batman? The Robin suit might not be threatening, but at least it looks cool.

All-in-all, this would be the weakest one-shot of the week if not for...

Superman: Rebirth
It's interesting that there's no such thing as a regeneration matrix in this Fortress of Solitude, considering the N52 universe IS the pre-Flashpoint version only slightly altered.   Too bad that's literally the only thing interesting about this one-shot, which spends way too much time recapping how both versions of Superman died.  

I'm not really sure how this got published.  Pete Tomasi is a much better writer than this, and this doesn't really tell us much of anything, which is insane considering that Superman's universe is easily one of the more interesting going forward into the Rebirth era.  Superman's powers are empowering both Lois Lane and some new kid named Kenan Kong.  Lex Luthor will be pretending to be Superman, while the Superman from the pre-Flashpoint world (or whoever he "really" is) is back protecting Metropolis.   This would've been the best place to set up the new status quo, but this comic couldn't even get Clark back in the blue and reds.   This book is probably not the worst idea for a beginner fan, but for any seasoned fans it's not even worth flipping through in the store.   Neither the writing or the art is "bad" per se, it's just...pointless.

Green Arrow: Rebirth
If you read JiH, you'll know Green Arrow is one of the properties I had the biggest problem with.  It felt like we were still making up for what the N52 took away, rather than just outright bringing it back.  But I still wanted to give the first one-shot a chance, and it's...not terrible.

For one thing, no matter how annoyed I am, Black Canary and Green Arrow are back together, which is mostly what I wanted from the jump.   And before Flashpoint came and wreaked havoc on the canon, I was actually pretty into JT Krul's run with the mystical forest growing around Star City...and here something similar is brought back into play.  It's not the same, but it doesn't have to be, it just needs the potential to tell new stories in.

Still, the book is by no means perfect.  Dinah's pretty callous in referring to Roy, Ollie's "neglected heroin-addicted partner", considering in the original canon she was one of the primary reasons Roy was able to kick the habit, after Oliver had given up on him.  Though one supposes this could be a subtle reference to the "war" between hope and despair that was referenced in Rebirth.  It'd be pretty genius if so, though.

The other problem is the whole "how can you fight the man when you are the man" bit of dialogue.  In the original canon, Oliver one day gave up his fortune because a similar thought occurred to him and he wanted to be "of" the people.  The only problem with that is, it's stupid.   While I'd love to have Ollie make his new base in the Jungle and emphasize the Robin Hood aspect more, that's as far as I want to see it go.  A rich one-percenter that actually cared about the plight of the poor could do more than a thousand of us.  It's the classic "if Bruce really wanted to fight crime, he wouldn't do it in a Bat costume" idea.  Hopefully they find a better way to have Ollie use his fortune than just give it to someone who'd perpetuate the cycle of capitalist cruelty that's existed for the past two centuries.

But overall, it does introduce Black Canary into GA's life, and give them both a new villain to go up against going forward--so it at least sets the stage for the main comic in a way that Batman and Superman's Rebirth specials failed to.

Green Lanterns: Rebirth
And the winner of this week for best Rebirth special?  Definitely Green Lanterns.   It accomplishes everything I'd expect a book like this to: it introduces our new heroes Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz (in a hilariously self-aware way), it explains the mission statement for their comic, how they'll be joining the Justice League, where Hal Jordan's going, and what threat they'll be up against for the first major arc of the Green Lanterns bi-monthly comic.  All backed by the gorgeous art of Ethan Van Sciver and Ed Benes, with the extra air of authority that comes with this being a Geoff Johns GL book.  

Green Lanterns: Rebirth not only succeeds in the job I kinda thought all of these books would, but it excels at it.  Definitely worth the cover charge, and hopefully Sam Humphries can take the baton from Geoff and make this a flagship book.  

Next week: Rucka on Wonder Woman (thank you, God), the first issues of the renumbered Detective and Action, and more of the second Civil War.  See you then.