Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gaming Review -- Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea: Episode 2

Today I'm doing something a little different and reviewing a new videogame release. I don't know if this will become a regular feature here, but anyway--here's my review of Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea: Episode 2.

This DLC logically picks up after Burial at Sea: Episode 1. Elizabeth is enjoying Paris, but then she suddenly finds herself back in Rapture. The rebel leader Atlas (who fans will remember is actually the villainous Frank Fontaine) has taken Elizabeth and Sally (the Little Sister she had come to Rapture to rescue) prisoner. Booker, despite having been gutted at the end of Episode 1, appears to Elizabeth and tells her to make a deal with Atlas to get him back to the civilized part of Rapture in exchange for their safe release. The plan involves securing a Luteche particle (which keeps the floating city of Columbia in the air) and using it to lift Atlas' buildings off the ocean floor. Atlas agrees, but can he be trusted? Probably not.

Episode 2 is far superior to Episode 1 which was ruined by a ridiculously short play time and illogical decisions made by Elizabeth. I'm happy to report that Episode 2 has none of those problems. Unlike the 90 minutes of Episode 1, this one took me hours to get through, and those hours were well spent. You fight your way through not only Rapture, but Columbia as well, thus making for a rich variety of locales.

This time you play as Elizabeth after she loses her godlike powers which we enjoyed in Episode 1 and the main game. Her vulnerable status requires a different approach to combat since ammo and plasmids are scarce. You have to pick your spots and use stealth to take out enemies. It isn't quite as fun as in the Batman Arkham games, but it's still refreshing to not just mindlessly blow away splicers. You also run into Big Daddies, but it's best to avoid them altogether.

The plot is far more engaging than in Episode 1 and features some surprising moments. At least one character from the main game will be seen in a new light after you go through this. And the satisfying ending ties it all together.

Finally, I must commend Courtnee Draper for her outstanding voice work as Elizabeth. She really brings the character to life with an emotional punch.

If you're a fan of the Bioshock games, you absolutely have to get Burial at Sea: Episode 2.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Movie Review -- Transcendence

Today we have the new film Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman.

Depp stars as Dr. Will Caster, a scientist who wants to create a sentient computer with more brainpower than all of mankind combined. He works together with his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) towards this end. Unfortunately, he and his colleagues incur the wrath of anti-technology terror group RIFT. The radicals murder most of Caster's contemporaries using a combination of poison and explosives. Only Caster's friend Joseph Tagger (Freeman) survives because he didn't eat the poisoned cake they sent. Sadly, Caster himself is shot with a bullet laced with a deadly radioactive isotope, and he is only given a month to live. Faced with his death, Evelyn, along with Caster's other friend Max (Paul Bettany) decide to upload his consciousness to a computer. The procedure works and they think they have him back. However, the digital Caster begins behaving strangely, and Max thinks they've made a terrible mistake.

It isn't long before RIFT attacks the Caster home in an attempt to shut him down. Evelyn manages to get her cyber-husband onto the internet where he proceeds to evolve. He then directs her to move to a desert town called Brightwood in order to hide from RIFT while he grows in power. Meanwhile, Max, who has been kidnapped by RIFT, begins to see things from their perspective. He fears what his former friend will become if he's not stopped, and contemplates trying to take him offline. But that will be easier said than done, because Caster is converting others to his cause and has powerful tricks up his sleeve. 

This movie really didn't do it for me. I do appreciate Depp's versatility, and I like that he can be over-the-top in one film and subtle in another. His talent is not in question here. Sadly, Transcendence just doesn't bring any new ideas to the table. It's the same future paranoia regarding AIs we've seen in countless other stories. Nor did I grow attached to any of the characters; none of them really stood out, and Freeman plays the same soft-spoken gentleman he always does.

Also, I feel Caster's potential as a god-like entity remains unrealized. I never got the sense he was a threat to mankind, nor did I get what everyone was so afraid of. I think they could have done more with this premise.

Ultimately, I think people can skip this one and not miss out on anything.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Short Story -- Hell is Everyone but You

A while back I wrote an Asperger's-themed short story called "Hell is Everyone but you." Even though it has nothing to do with science fiction or fantasy, it is a story I'm quite proud of and I thought I'd share it with you.

We came here looking for death. What we found was each other. Can two people who have been rejected by the world find acceptance with one another?

Check it out here:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Movie Review -- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Today we have the latest Marvel Comics movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson.

The story begins with Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America (Evans), Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Johansson) and a SHIELD team boarding a hijacked ship to take it back from French pirates. Cap saves the hostages but discovers Romanov has secret orders to retrieve encrypted files from the ship. He confronts Nick Fury (Jackson) about this, and Fury decides to let him in on SHIELD's most ambitious endeavor to date: Project Insight. Underneath the Triskelion (SHIELD HQ) they're building three more helicarriers just like the one in The Avengers with the express purpose of creating world peace through military might. Cap objects to this, saying people should not have to live their lives in fear of being annihilated by the helicarriers.

Later, Fury starts to have doubts about Project Insight. He approaches SHIELD head honcho Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and asks him to put it on hold. Pierce agrees, but later Fury is attacked by heavily armed men masquerading as cops. Even worse, a mysterious new enemy known only as the Winter Soldier steps in to end Fury for good. Fury goes to Cap for help, but a stunning betrayal puts all their lives in danger. Cap and Romanov team up with new friend Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to take down those responsible, but can they win against such overwhelming odds?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a great addition to the Marvel movie library and a worthy sequel to the first Captain America movie, as well as the Avengers. It's got great action, amazing visuals, compelling characters and a quality soundtrack. Plus, the Winter Soldier himself is just so cool and different from the rather generic villains I've been seeing in recent months. I also like the chemistry between Cap and Black Widow.

However, I do have to mention something. A few scenes stretch the movie's believability. I wasn't really sure how the characters pulled off what they did during these instances.

Still, that really doesn't bring down the experience. Go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier today.