Resident Evil 6 (PS3)

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With the past installments, the Resident Evil franchise has abandoned its survival horror claustrophobia for action gameplay akin to Gears of War and Dead Space. Those still pining for the days of tank controls and very limited inventory space will have to find solace in the PSOne games of the series. While I was not even remotely impressed with Resident Evil 5, I gave #6 a chance for the hell of it. Turns out, its not actually that bad.

Resident Evil 6 covers four characters as they have their own adventure. Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, Ada Wong return while being joined by Jake Muller, a new character to the series. Much like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, these four stories often cross each other, which gives the game extra replay value. These four leads are linked to stopping the spread of bio-hazardous agents in the aftermath of Umbrella being shut down.

Another element to the stories is that they feel different from one another. Ada plays as a moderate action thriller. Jake’s plays more with stealth and hand-to-hand combat. Chris’ game is heavy on the action with a lot of cover and shooting. Leon’s game feels the most traditional, complete with zombies and eerie atmosphere.

Throughout the game, you’ll collect skill points that can be used to upgrade your character. These have the appearance of chess pieces and exotic artifacts. These points can be used to upgrade your character. Increased damage with guns and melee attacks are available. You can add points to picking up more ammo or making it easier to shake off enemies. The Mercenaries mini-game is back and can help players gain skill points quicker.

One interesting option is the Agent Hunt mode. Here, you can go into another player’s game as an enemy and try to take them down. This is a nice little throwback to the Outbreak series where you could become a zombie and attack your former teammates.

Survival horror as we knew it with the original Resident Evil series, as well as Silent Hill, is dead, for a lack of a better term. Following suit with the atrocious movies, there is an emphasis on action. I found the game to be enjoyable in steady hour long sessions. I can see why many are against the current format of the series. Yet, its not going to change back anytime soon.

The graphics are really sharp, although it can be ridiculously dark at times. The character models look good and current instead of dated. The camera wasn’t an issue during combat or exploration. Between Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, this one looks the best.

The controls are easy to pick up. Its simple switching between melee and guns in the inventory. Turning and running is responsive with little issue regarding responding to player controls. The only issue I had was aiming with the sniper rifle. If you thought aiming in Metal Gear Solid was bad, Resident Evil 6 is far worse. Using the Call of Duty method of holding your breath to steady your aim was a hassle in the heat of battle.

The sound design is a treat with the right surround sound system. Sound effects for guns and creatures punctuate the action. The music of Akihito Narita pays homage to past composer Masumi Ueda. Vocal talents feature the likes of Matthew Mercer, Roger Craig Smith, Troy Baker, Courtenay Taylor, and Eden Riegel. Recycling the sound effect from Devil May Cry for collecting skill points was a nice touch.

Resident Evil 6 won’t convert opponents of the recent survival action turn of previous games. I still found myself playing the game even though its nowhere near as scary or as fun as Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. The sixth game wasn’t made for that generation of fans. If you’re curious to the current state of the franchise, its worth a rental. If you’ve already made up your mind to not like current Resident Evil, you’d only be wasting your time.

Red State (2011)

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Kevin Smith has made a career as a filmmaker of slacker comedies. He made an amazing debut with the cult hit, Clerks, and followed it up with Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jersey Girl. With the media rise of the Westboro Baptist Church, Kevin Smith had plans to make a film satirizing the group. Who knew Kevin Smith could make such a dark film that skewered such a group?

Three youths respond to an online adult profile. But, its a trap and they’re abducted by the Five Points Trinity Church. The group is on a crusade to wipe out sinners within the country so as to appease their god. One youth manages to get loose and engages in a firefight. This draws attention from the police, one who is killed and the sheriff is blackmailed by the leader Abin Cooper into silence. This leads to the Sheriff calling in the FBI.

The ATF is set-up outside of the Five Points compound with the Sheriff. Another of the abducted youths gets loose and steals a gun to protect himself. He is shot by the sheriff after being mistaken for a hostile, which leads to a prolonged exchange between the ATF and the Five Points Church. Due to the sheriff’s mishap, the order comes into to kill everyone in the compound to avoid media embarrassment. Can the one remaining youth make it out alive? Will the ATF be able to keep this failure quiet?

Compared to Smith’s previous films, this is as dark a movie as he’s ever made. He’s also dealing with some very serious content. He does a sufficient job maintaining a dark tone with very little humor to break the tension, as other directors may have done. Some may argue that this isn’t satire given its grim nature, yet not all satire needs to be humorous to make a statement.

The cast does a great job of keeping the events of the film emotionally grounded in reality. Michael Parks (Kill Bill, Twin Peaks) as Abin Cooper gives the standout performance of the entire movie. Its easy to see why Quentin Tarantino likes this guy so much, I was utterly mesmerized and terrified by his monologue within the Five Points Chapel. This is an actor who is engulfed by his determination to bring a character to life. He stands as the one of the best villains in film within the past ten years, right alongside Anton Chigurh and Dieter Vogel.

John Goodman turns in a great performance as well as ATF agent Joseph Keenan, who is assigned to overtake the compound. Goodman has to go through a long range of emotions for his character to work. One scene he’s determined to complete his orders, then the next he needs to be shocked at the aftermath of those orders. I’m glad to see he’s gotten in better shape over the past few years. He’s an actor that I don’t want film to lose too soon.

The supporting roles are filled with modest casting choices. Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, and Nicolas Braun play the philandering youths that are captured. Melissa Leo, Ralph Garman, James Parks, and Kerry Bishe portray member’s of Abin’s flock. Kevin Pollak has a small part as an adviser to Keenan. Stephen Root turns in a tortured, brilliant performance as the sheriff still in the closet.

This film represents a maturity in Kevin Smith. This shows he can tackle serious material with depth and ambiguity. While other directors can’t competently handle such material, Smith shows he is more than capable and more than willing with the right motivation. If you’re looking for an alternative to Smith’s typical films, Red State is worth watching.

Guitar Hero (PS2)

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Not too long ago, a small company aimed to give American video gamers a taste of the music rhythm genre. Up to that point, music rhythm games were huge in Japan. In 2005, the first Guitar Hero game was released, and a blessing (or curse, depending on your view) was bestowed upon PS2 gamers.

The first Guitar Hero game gave players a chance as simulated rock godliness. With a guitar-shaped controller, people could strum in time with notes on a fret highway. The notes on the screen would determine which note buttons would be pushed in while strumming. It was simple, accessible to anyone and everyone.

The career mode was very basic. You went from venue to venue, playing songs from a set list. You start with performing in someone’s basement, eventually playing at a major arena venue. The better you played, the crazier the props and crowd got.

Publisher Red Octane worked on the guitar controllers. Despite the cramp-inducing closeness of the note buttons to one another, they would take a lot of punishment and were responsive despite being wired to the system. Harmonix worked on the software and organized the notes set-up with the music tracks. Music studio Wavegroup worked on the song covers.

The set list remains one of the most star-studded, guitar-oriented play lists of any music game. The big names in guitar rock are present: Cream, Motorhead, Megadeth, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Joan Jett. Some songs like “Take Me Out” and “Godzilla” are two songs I wouldn’t think would be fun to play, but they ended up being a blast to play. Credit to Wavegroup for matching the instrumentation of the tracks to a tee. The vocals weren’t the best, but other than that they did a good job of covering the songs.

This was an experiment that worked out really well. Yet, it is not without its freshman flaws. There is a multiplayer option, but its competitive and works in a Crossroads (the 1986 film, not that Britney Spears snoozefest) manner. Unlike, future iterations, skill is necessary to win and not cheap power-ups.

Some may view the covers as a negative. This reflects a rather ignorant perspective. This was a game under the radar where success was questionable. Covers were a means to an end. After the success of this game, the frequency of master tracks steadily increased.

Guitar Hero was a success because it did a lot with a simple approach by Harmonix. It brought people together. It allowed people to appreciate music on an interactive level. The music, itself, reflects the best in the rock genre. It was safe to say a sequel was inevitable.

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (PS2)

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After the huge success of X-Men Legends, a sequel was eagerly awaited by fans. How could Raven Software follow up? With an expanded cast and one of the top X-Men storylines, Age of Apocalypse, as inspiration, X-Men Legends II was bigger and better.

 

After the events of X-Men Legends, Apocalypse made his move to take over the world. This was after the camps of Xavier’s X-Men and Magento’s Brotherhood of Mutants were recovering from their battle. With members of both teams abducted by Apocalypse’s second-in-command, Mr. Sinister, Charles Xavier and Magneto form an uneasy alliance.

 

The selection of characters include a number of the previous game’s characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, Jean Grey, and Colossus. New additions to the X-Men team feature Sunfire and Bishop. With the uneasy alliance of the Brotherhood of Mutants, villains from the previous game are now playable. Toad, Juggernaut, Magneto, and Scarlet Witch are among the other playable characters. As an added bonus, Deadpool can be unlocked after beating the game and Iron Man is available after you find his armor throughout the levels.

 

The enemies you encounter are among Marvel’s top villains. Sauron, Sugarman, Bastion, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, and Living Monolith will provide enough challenge to keep your characters busy. Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister provide some of the grandest boss battles in any Marvel video game.

The game pretty much looks and plays as the previous entry. The levels are different, featuring the island of Genosha, the Savage Lands, a ravaged New York City, and Cairo. The controls haven’t changed, which is fine since they didn’t need any changes. You still collect items to equip as well as heal your team. One small improvement was that the frame rate remains consistent.

 

The most notable change is that four player co-op is available from the very beginning. There is no period where four people can’t play the game. At no point can only one or two people play. This is a much bigger deal than it may seem. Other than this, its the same great game as the first, but with a bigger, better plot.

 

The voice-acting is just as good , if not better, as X-Men Legends. Patrick Stewart, Steve Blum, and John DiMaggio return as Professor X, Wolverine, and Juggernaut, respectively. Richard Greene takes over for Tony Jay as Magneto. John Kassir, known for the voice of the Cryptkeeper, steals the show as Deadpool. I would go so far as to say that this game is partially responsible for the popularity Deadpool has been enjoying the past 5-6 years.

 

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse does what video game sequels should do. Elements from the previous game that worked like gameplay, graphics, character selection, and voice-acting remain intact while improvements in multiplayer and frame rate were implemented. The plot was grand in its scale. This game remains one of the better titles on the PS2, as well as one of the better sequels to come out for a series.

 

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

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Within the past decade, video game adaptations have been cultivated into a significant niche of cinema. Most studios see the money major titles bring in and think those same sales would apply to movies. How wrong were they? Let’s take a look at where this “bring video games to movies” idea first came to fruition.

Mario and Luigi (Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, respectively) are down on their luck plumbers. They can never catch a break with a bigger competitor stealing their jobs. No good fortune seems to be coming their way.

Daisy (Samantha Mathis) is a student archeologist working a site in Brooklyn. She happens to meet Luigi, and he falls head over heels in love with her. Mario, always the reliable wingman, gets Luigi to invite her out on a dinner date.

After a series of circumstances, Mario and Luigi find themselves in an alternate universe, under the rule of Koopa (Dennis Hopper). Apparently, Daisy is the key for Koopa to invade the human world and he is prepared to go to any lengths to get her. Mario & Luigi must rescue her to stop the plan from happening.

As a video game-based film, it fails miserably. Very little of the game is transfused into the film. Granted, there are the bob-ombs and goombas. Toad and Yoshi are in supporting roles, but not as one would think from the video game. The Super Scope Six is used as a devolutionary weapon.

As a sci-fi film, its a cinematic curiosity. It has an interesting concept. The idea that a meteorite split the planet in two different dimensions, with dinosaurs evolving into humans much like apes into us. The plot that they want to take their place back as rulers of the planet is intriguing.

The film has some heart as well. Despite hating working on this film, Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo elevate the material and make the most out of it. The dinner scene where Luigi tells how much Mario has been family to him is quite touching. Leguizamo and Samantha Mathis as Daisy, the film’s love interest for Luigi, also have some awkward, but realistic, chemistry together.

Dennis Hopper hams it up as Koopa, but is entertaining as hell to watch. He commands the role and has a strong screen presence. There is a legit air of authority in his performancr. His scenes with Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson as his Koopa nephews show he’s essentially the sinister Moe to Stevens and Edson’s Larry and Curly.

The production history is worth taking a look at. It was originally going to be a fantasy adventure film, much like the video games. Tom Hanks was slated to play Mario. Then things changed and Hopkins, fresh off of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, was cast as Mario. The post-apocalyptic set design can be attributed to David Snyder, who also worked on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Filming was a challenge as well. Re-writes were presented to the cast on a daily basis. The husband-wife director team of Rocky Morton & Annabel Jankel faltered as the project continued. Hopkins and Leguizamo took to drinking on set. After his retirement, Hopkins cited Super Mario Bros. as the worst movie he worked on.

Fans of the video game look down upon this movie, and rightly so. This is a terrible video game-based movie and was the first of many that would follow. Yet, I still find myself watching it. For me, it works as a piece of science fiction, with little or no connection to the game.

Dead Island: Riptide (PS3)

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When the first Dead Island was released in 2011, it earned a sleeper status. While it wasn’t a smash hit, it sold well enough and was given enough praise to warrant a Game of the Year edition. Two years later, developers Techland and publisher Deep Silver have unleashed a follow-up. While not much has changed, there is still a lot of fun to be had killing zombies.

Picking up immediately after the events of the first Dead Island, the survivors have landed on an aircraft carrier only to be handcuffed and imprisoned on the ship. Logan, Sam B, Purna, and Xian are separated from the other survivors, Kevin and Yerema. In the cabin, they meet John Morgan, a soldier who is immune to the zombie infection, just as they are. Soon, the carrier is overrun with zombies and on a collision course.

After crashing onto a nearby island, the player meets up with another group hiding out. The main group you work with focus on fortifying their location. You also complete objectives like finding materials to either improve their combat skills or they can sell you better items. Other survivors on the island give you side quests to provide experience and collect items for your main group.

The zombies in this game feature both old and new enemies. Back again are the walkers, floaters, rams, infected, suiciders, thugs, and butchers. Joining them are menacing breeds of the living dead. Wrestlers are thugs with giant club arms. Screamers alert nearby zombies as well as disorientate you. Drowners are often found while navigating the waterways. One type proven annoying are the frenzied infected, which are a cross between thugs and infected. While greater diversity is nice, I still would have preferred an option to face only walker zombies or infected zombies, as seen in the various zombie movies like the original Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later. The other zombie types are too Left 4 Dead for my taste.

The weapons in this game are no different than in Dead Island. Firearms are found sparingly. Melee remains the focus of the combat. However, the inclusion of mines and bomb types is new. You can lay down mines to blast any zombies that try to sneak up on you or for the fort defense sequences. Besides explosive grenades, there are shock grenades and poison bombs that work like their melee equivalents. Sonic grenades are a sheer joy to use.

Improving your character hasn’t changed. Leveling up gives you points to distribute among your skill trees. A new element is the weapon kill leveling. Much like in Skyrim, the more you use a weapon type the better the perks with that weapon type. There are blunt, blade, hand-to-hand, and firearms categories. Improvements include magazines holding more ammo, using less stamina, and increased durability.

The four main characters from the first Dead Island return. Xian, Sam B, Logan, and Purna have the same skill trees with little to no changes. If you still have your data for the previous game, you can import your character and all the skills they earned. Unfortunately, your inventory and weapon blueprints don’t carry over.

Joining our heroes is a new character, John Morgan. His specialty is hand-to-hand. Brass knuckles and metal claws are best used with him. Other than being a new character, he brings little to the game. He doesn’t get his own intro so we don’t get any other back-story except for at the character select screen and in-game recordings. Also, hand-to-hand weapons require the player to get too close for comfort with zombies to use them. You’re better off with one of the other characters or just not using hand-to-hand weapons.

Vehicles make a return. They handle the same. However, hitting a zombie with a vehicle is an instant kill. Whether its a walker or a thug, using a truck will kill with one hit. And yes, its safe to use a truck on a suicider. In addition to trucks, there are boats. Now, you can navigate the roads and rivers. The speed boost on the boat makes for easy zombie kills. Just use the speed boost in moderation or you’re vulnerable to drowner ambushes.

The graphics have slightly improved. They’re sharper and catch the eye. The environments nicely juxtapose with the zombie apocalypse. The character models still look great. Entering new areas still have the hiccup of textures popping in. The spawning points for infected do get annoying, but never to the frustrating degree as Walking Dead: Survival Instincts. A really nice touch is how fire weapons produce light in dark areas, saving you from using flares or your flashlight.

The sound design adds much to the atmosphere. The ambiance of the jungle, the moans of zombies, and the minimalist music (a la John Carpenter) makes for a constant feeling of unease. The voice-acting cast of Phil LaMarr, Peta Johnson, Adam Croasdell, David Kaye, and Kim Mai Guest have fun with their characters. The elemental effects on zombies make for a good laugh. Hearing a zombie electrocuted or vomiting is gross but in a really funny way.

The controls are the exact same, for better or for worse. Its a little difficult to be a safe distance while using melee, but eventually you adjust and can better judge distances for using weapons. Aiming with iron sights of guns is still burden. You’re better off turning on the targeting reticule and shooting without iron sights.

The multiplayer remains unchanged. Much like Borderlands, people can drop-in and drop-out with a push of a button. Just like with the previous Dead Island, killing zombies with friends is a lot of fun. While I’m mostly a single player gamer, Dead Island is one of the few games I’ll play online with others.

With any horror game, a question that needs answering is if its a scary video game. There is that preliminary moment when you’re fighting the frenzied infected. It can be intimidating when faced with a crowd of seven or eight zombies. It wasn’t until I was in the Japanese WWII tunnels. Having to deal with zombies in narrow corridors in total dark makes for some suspenseful, jump-scare encounters. Despite being armed and having a lot of health kits, I was still creeped out. Here was when Dead Island: Riptide became a downright scary video game.

One issue with the game is the lack of diversity in the types of missions to complete. In the previous, there were escorts, fetch quests, raids, and rescue. One of the most intense missions was activating loud speakers in the quarantine zone of Moresby. In Dead Island: Riptide, most of the missions are fetch quests and it gets old very quickly. Killing zombies is fun, but without interesting missions its not as fun as the previous game.

Dead Island: Riptide may not be the most graphically sophisticated video games, but it has a lot to offer when it comes to fun ways to kill zombies. Slaughtering the living dead in droves is a satisfying experience and this game is perfect to satiate that urge. If you’re a fan of the previous game or you’re looking to cleanse your palette of the bitter taste of Walking Dead: Survival Instincts, then this game is right for you.

Spaceballs (1987)

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Mel Brooks is one of those directors whose career boomed at the start, but started to fade in the 1990’s, only to bounce back with his work being adapted for Broadway. He has a number of undeniable classics like The Producers, Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles. Dracula: Dead and Loving It and Robin Hood: Men In Tights have their loyalists, but failed to grasp a wider audience. This article’s film managed to be average at its time of release, yet has aged into comedy gold.

The evil intergalactic organization known as Spaceballs have a scheme to kidnap Princess Vespa. The ransom is the fresh air of Druidia, under the rule of King Roland. When nearly captured, she is saved by the rebellious duo of Lone Star and Barf.

While hiding from the Spaceballs forces, led by Lord Dark Helmet, the group meets Yogurt. Yogurt begins to teach Lone Star the ways of “the Schwartz.” Meanwhile, Vespa and Lone Star begin to fall in love, yet such a romance is halted by the restriction that she can only marry a prince. Eventually, Vespa is captured and Lone Star must face Lord Dark Helmet to save her and the the galaxy.

The movie greatly benefits from having a mix of comedic talent and selections that aren’t associated with comedy. Bill Pullman, who plays Lone Star, is best known as the President from Independence Day. Here, he does a modest spoof of Harrison Ford’s iconic Han Solo. The buddy chemistry he has with the late, always great John Candy’s Barf makes for some of the film’s best moments.

Daphne Zuniga would play a temptress on Melrose Place, but showcases her comical chops as the Leia-esque Vespa. She’s more than able to hold her own with the likes of Pullman, Candy, as well as Joan Rivers playing a more assertive alternative to C-3P0. While playing a love interest, she does have her moments to shine.

The rest of the cast has a list of comedic icons. Rick Moranis borders on genius with his role as Lord Dark Helmet. One has to imagine Moranis and Brooks found the on-set footage of David Prowse voicing Darth Vader and ran with it as the characterization of Helmet. Brooks puts in two fun performances as both Yogurt and President of Spaceballs. Keep an eye/ear out for cameos by John Hurt, Dom DeLouise, Rob Paulsen of Animaniacs, Michael York, and Michael Winslow of Police Academy.

Not enough good things can be said about John Candy. He stands as the last of the truly funny big men in both film and television before the archetype became homogenized. Here, we see the warmth in his performance that would either disappear or be disregarded in favor of bad physical comedy by the likes of Chris Farley or Kevin James.

At the time this movie came out in 1987, I can see why there was a critical backlash and that it didn’t break a profit at the box office. It was four years after Return of the Jedi. A lot of people felt it was too little, too late to do a Star Wars parody after all the years of The Muppets, Saturday Night Live, and MAD Magazine poking fun at Star Wars.

Over the past decade, there has been a downward spiral for the genre of comedy. Yet, this devolution of comedy films only helped Spaceballs. In this era of poor comedy like the Scary Movie series, A Haunted House, The Hangover: Part II, Movie 43, The Three Stooges and the atrocious “comedy” films of Friedberg & Seltzer, Spaceballs comes off as virtual comedy treasure. This movie has only gotten better with time.

Much like with Ghostbusters and Monty Python & the Holy Grail, this is one of the most quotable movies. The whole script reads like an advanced comedy writing course for one-liners. Go back to the golf course and work on your putz. So the combination is… one, two, three, four, five? I always have my coffee when I watch radar, you know that. Say goodbye to your two best friends, and I don’t mean your pals in the Winnebago. So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb. My favorite: We ain’t find ****!

If you don’t remember Spaceballs as being good or funny, take another look at it. It does have enough comedic energy and wit to stand alongside the likes of Hot Shots, The Naked Gun, and Airplane! Compared to recent comedy failures to hit the box office, Spaceballs towers highly over them.

Metal Gear Solid II: Sons of Liberty (PS2)

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After Metal Gear Solid has made stealth-based gameplay popular with audiences, fans were eagerly awaiting for the next installment in the series. Four years later, a sequel was finally released. What started out as an advanced take on the previous game’s emphasis on stealth turned into one of the divisive titles in the series. “Why,” you might be asking? It has to do with the introduction of the character of Raiden.

In the years after the events on Shadow Moses Island, Solid Snake is assigned to perform reconnaissance and report sightings of Metal Gears. During his arrival on a freighter, a group of Russian soldiers hijack the vessel. Snake makes his way to the bowels of the ship to find the U.S. Military has its own Metal Gear. Ocelot appears and takes control of the Metal Gear, killing the people on the ship as well as destroying the ship itself.

Years later, an agent names Raiden is sent to a hostile situation. A group of terrorists are holding the facility and its personnel hostage. The leader of the group is believed to be Solid Snake. During Raiden’s venture, he finds an ally in the mysterious Iroquois Plissken. Yet, things aren’t what they first appear to be.

The game is difficult to talk about because its such a polarizing entry in the series. A lot of that animosity stems from the bait and switch pulled by Konami. You start as Snake on the freighter, which makes up a third of the playthrough. After the section on the ship, the game fast forwards a few years to a new area with a new protagonist: Raiden. Fans were not happy with this move by Konami and are still vocal about it to this day.

I can understand the anger. You start out as the character fans have associated with the Metal Gear franchise since 1987. Solid Snake has evolved into one of video gaming’s most recognized characters. Then, to have to switch to a character who represents the complete opposite of Snake like Raiden will more than ruffle a few feathers. Its forcing players to stand behind a character who has few to none redeeming qualities.

With being on a new, more powerful console, playing the game then going back to Metal Gear Solid really exposes the limitations of the PSOne. In Metal Gear Solid II, you can aim from a first person perspective. This seemingly minor feature alone was a huge jump for the series. The graphics are sharper. Animation quality is stunning. The audio has much improved. Everything is bigger and better.

The voice-acting is still top notch. David Hayter returns as Solid Snake, as well as Paul Eiding as Col. Campbell. Quinton Flynn does his best as Raiden. Joining them is a capable group of voice actors, featuring Phil LaMarr, Vanessa Marshall, Maura Gale, and Barry Dennen. The music score by Harry Gregson-Williams adds a “if Michael Bay was actually a decent director” epicness to the proceedings.

Even with better controls, graphics, and sound, the game suffers from shortcomings. And yes, one of them is the character of Raiden. His section, which makes up a majority of the game, is rather forgettable. Not only because of Raiden as a character, but also because his enemies don’t standout like FOXHOUND. Other than Vamp, characters like Solidus Snake, Fortune, and Fatman don’t offer the same excitement as characters like Psycho Mantis, Sniper Wolf, or Vulcan Raven.

Another issue is the cut scenes. In Metal Gear Solid, the longest cut scene was maybe ten minutes. Here, they’re double that. I appreciate the ambition by Hideo Kojima to tell a grand story. But, the length of the cut scenes is too long in this game. Pairing this with an uninteresting character like Raiden and people just skip through the cut scenes. This is a shame given how mcuh work Kojima puts into the narrative of his games.

Metal Gear Solid II: Sons of Liberty is often viewed as a middle child. While there were improvements to the look and sound of the game, it really doesn’t matter if players don’t care about who they’re playing as. Since MGSII, Raiden has earned some respect by fans but hasn’t been forgiven because of his first appearance in the series. I would recommend this game if you’re a Metal Gear Solid completist. Honest, you wouldn’t miss much if you skipped over this particular title.

Goldfinger (1964)

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James Bond films have their share of cliches, many of which started with the spy series. The megalomaniac villain, the seductive girls, the gadgets, the cars, the one-liners, the gimmicky henchmen, all of which can be attributed to this British spy. Dr. No and From Russia with Love featured some of these elements. When all these factors were finally brought together, the Bond film that we know and love was created.

Bond (Sean Connery) has been assigned to keep an eye on Auric Goldfinger (Gert Forbe), a man of immense wealth. With help from CIA agent Felix Leiter (Cec Linder), he tails Goldfinger because of a rumor he has a big scheme in the works. Bond gets too close and is captured by Goldfinger’s henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata). It is at Goldfinger’s mercy that Bond finds out the plan, known as Operation Grand Slam.

Operation Grand Slam, as it is called, is Goldfinger’s plan to detonate a nuclear device and contaminate the US gold supply. As a result, the value of gold in Goldfinger’s possession would skyrocket, as well as the gold in possession of China, making them a superpower in the process. Using the piloting skills of Pussy Galore, the defenses of Fort Knox would be pacified and allow Goldfinger to enter with the nuclear device. Can Bond stop him in time?

While this film marks the third time Connery took on the role, this is where he hit his stride. He had the suave attitude in the previous films, but he brought the earnest confidence into the screen character. Up until this point, Bond was also very cold in killing his enemies. Here, he brings out a sense of humor, adding fun to the spy fomula.

All the elements that make a Bond film are present. Gert Forbe has a genius plan as Goldfinger. Shirley Eaton and Honor Blackman represent the Bond girls. Sakata as Oddjob, with the steel-rimmed bowler hat, was the first of many creative henchmen. This film made the Aston Martin the official car of James Bond. Last, but far from least, Desmond Llewelyn makes his second appearance as Q, but here is when he brings the comedy to the character. This film serves as the blueprint for future Bond films to follow.

While Dr. No and From Russia with Love helped start the James Bond franchise, Guy Hamilton’s Goldfinger made the franchise what it is. The cars, the girls, the gadgets, and bad guys became part of the cinematic tradition for Ian Fleming’s top secret agent. In fact, these aspects often cause people to mistaken Goldfinger as Connery’s first Bond film. If you’re looking for a film that epitomizes the James Bonf franchise, look no further than this espionage classic.

World War Z by Max Brooks

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With zombies being a polarizing pop culture entity, let’s go back to only eight years ago to 2006. In 2006, zombies were enjoying a quasi-renaissance in film. Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic was going strong after premiering three years earlier. Also in 2003, Max Brooks wrote the humorous Zombie Survival Guide to much acclaim and success. Little did we know, what Mr. Brooks had in store for readers with his next novel, World War Z.

Max Brooks dons a persona as the narrator, a UN Inspector, who was assigned to investigate the aftermath of a near-zombie apocalypse. During his investigation, he was emotionally taken by the stories of the people he interviewed. He was in awe of man’s ability to overcome immense odds and fight back from the edge of extinction.

When reporting the results, the UN were not interested in the human aspect. The organization only wanted data and statistics. The narrator was disheartened by this cold response. At the recommendation of his supervisor, the narrator went ahead and developed an oral history, a collection of accounts by the people he interviewed.

The collection of people interviewed by the narrator reflect all walks of life. A Chinese doctor, a blind sensei, military brass, a bodyguard, a fighter pilot, an infantryman, a spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies, and an Israeli Mossad agent are among the dozens of interview subjects. Through these vessels, Brooks was able to engage in Romero-esque social commentary, tackling issues like military overcompensation, celebrity obsession, the Middle East conflict, and Big Pharma.

Max Brooks, son of director Mel, has greatly expanded on the world he hinted at with the Zombie Survival Guide. In Zombie Survival Guide, he follows the rules of dispatching the living dead as well as establishing a set protocol in the event of a zombie invasion. With World War Z, he brings readers the world the guide was written for. While not a “sequel” per say, but its a follow up on the themes introduced in Zombie Survival Guide.

If there is one flaw with the book, it feels that each interview subject doesn’t have a differentiation voice. If it wasn’t for the narrator introducing each subject, one wouldn’t know the difference. Despite the lack of uniqueness between each subject, there are a lot of interesting stories to be told. Fortunately, there is an astoundingly good audiobook for World War Z featuring the voice acting talents of Henry Rollins, Mark Hamill, John Turturro, Carl Reiner, Alan Alda, Paul Sorvino, Nathan Fillion, Denise Crosby, Alfred Molina, Jeri Ryan, Martin Scorsese, and Simon Pegg.

Despite being a piece of zombie literature, there is a lot for both zombie fans and non-fans to appreciate. Fans will appreciate the scenarios and the horror shenanigans. Non-fans should read it for the social commentary and serves as a great model for making something believable out of something implausible. World War Z is easily available from many retailers and outlets.