Ready Player One and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Oh! Do I finally get a chance to see this darn movie!? I swear; it feels like EVERY OTHER CRITIC IN THE WORLD got an invite to an early premiere of this while I’m sitting over here waiting for its ACTUAL release date like a total chump! Now I haven’t read the book so I won’t be going into this with much in terms of expectations, but the premise is on that could really get out of hand quickly if it’s not in the hands of the right director. Just imagine how bad Scott Pilgrim would have been if it wasn’t in the hands of Edgar Wright, or if say Adam Sandler somehow managed to make a movie about classic video games attacking us in the real world. GOOD THING THAT NEVER HAPPENED, AM I RIGHT!? Was Steven Spielberg the right one to adapt this material, or will this be a larger misstep for the venerable director than The Lost World: Jurassic Park? Let’s find out!!
The movie takes place in the year 2045 where society hasn’t really COLLAPSED, so much as it’s gotten really apathetic and there’s a whole bunch of trash everywhere. For most people, they’re way of dealing with it is to go into the most EXPANSIVE AND BAD ASS online video game ever made (right after Second Life) called THE OASIS! One such denizen of this virtual world is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) who lives in one of the slums of Columbus Ohio (they literally just started stacking trailer homes on top of each other) but he has big dreams for the future that will get him out of his boring miserable life! Okay, it mostly involves playing games in THE OASIS as his in-game character Parzival, but that’s proving to be more and more of a viable career path; provided he doesn’t start shouting racial slurs. Like in real life though, he’s kind of stuck at the lower tier of THE OASIS hierarchy and spends most of his time either hanging out with his friend Aech (Lena Waithe) or re-reading the history of the inventor of THE OASIS James Halliday (Mark Rylance) who died about a decade ago. Said creator by the way has stuck three hidden keys within the game that if found will get TOTAL control of his Chocolate Factory… I mean software company, but no one has been able to find even one of them so far; not even the EVIL corporation called Innovative Online Industries (IOI) which is head up by the EVIL Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) that plan to do EVIL things if they get control of the company! So Wade/Parzival is just going along his day to day routine… that is until he meets Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) who is one of the top players in the game, and their chance encounter ALSO leads to him figuring out the first clue that James Halliday left behind which leads him directly to the first key! Now the guy is on EVERYONE’S radar! Art3mis is trying to find the keys for herself and wants Parzival’s help doing it, Aech is stoked that they get all the cool gear that comes with finding that first key, and of course the EVIL IOI is after him to either convince him to join them or DESTROY HIM UTTERLY! Will Wade be able to resist the allures of corporate culture and embark on this noble quest to honor the memory of the greatest game developer of all time? What reasons could Art3mis have for needing to find the keys, and does it have anything to do with IOI’s EVIL schemes? Will Wade get the validation in the virtual world that he so desperate craves in his own life!? THAT’S HOW THIS WORKS, RIGHT!?
“You are the one!” “YEAH!!“ “Now just pay $4.99 to see the TRUE ending.” “WHAT!?”
Tomb Raider and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Roar Uthaug
ANOTHER video game movie!? Haven’t we tried that like forty times already!? Well that’s a bit unfair. I’ve always maintained that a good chunk of them are actually pretty good for their respective genres such as the first Mortal Kombat, and we’ve rebooted the video game franchise since the LAST time we were making films off of this series, so an updated interpretation with brand new Lara Croft could really be something if they get the right people behind it! Does this manage to be the first video game movie to be one that EVERYONE thinks is good instead of just me? Let’s find out!!
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the daughter of a world renowned… business man I guess (Dominic West) considering her family is renting that building from Iron Fist, but she doesn’t hang around much anymore since her father disappeared several years ago. Instead, she spends most of her time MMA training and working in the Gig Industry; riding her bike for fun AND profit! However, an associate of her father (Kristin Scott Thomas) has to bail her out of trouble due to a situation that REALLY wasn’t her fault (how do you get arrested for getting hit by a car!?) and she insists that Lara give up this lifestyle to finally claim her birthright and the millions of dollars that go with it. All she has to do is sign the documents confirming once and for all that her father is dead (is that a thing? Does a family member have to sign those in order for a missing person to be declared dead?) which she’s been reluctant to do as she still thinks he’s out there somewhere. She might just be right about that when she finds her father’s secret laboratory where he left a final message for Lara; telling her to burn all his research to the ground and to not look for him. Naturally she doesn’t do that because who WOULD just give up after getting some pretty solid evidence that could lead to where he is, and so she enlists the help of a fisherman (Daniel Wu) whose father was connected to Lara’s and the two set off to some MYSTERIOUS ISLAND! The good news is that it’s not Skull Island and teeming with giant monsters. The bad news? Well there are a bunch of dudes with guns looking for something on the island, and the head dude named Vogel (Walton Goggins) thinks that Lara might hold the key to finding it. Will Lara be able to find what these men are looking for as well as finding her father in the process? What are the sinister plans that Vogel has in store once he locates this mysterious artifact? You know, we keep going on about her dad, but are we SURE that her mother is dead too? All I’m saying is that if Angelina Jolie doesn’t show up in the sequel, I’m going to be VERY disappointed!
“The Colonel’s secret recipe is right behind this door. Once I unlock it, those eleven herbs and spices will be MINE!!”
Are you ready to close the book on 2017 once and for all? I certainly am, and with this last look back at the games I played for the first time that year, I can not only close that book but toss into a fire and then kick it a few times for good measure! But hey, I guess not EVERYTHING was bad that year; even if half the games I’m referencing in this list are from different years altogether! Heck, even the bad ones managed to distract me from the nonsense going on in the world every freaking agonizing day, so why not take one last look at them to see what we can learn from them? Let’s get started!!
Developed by Sonic Team
Here’s the thing about this game which I played for the very first time in 2017. As much as it has the reputation of being THE WORST GAME EVER, it honestly isn’t THAT bad of a time. It’s not GOOD by any stretch, but I never found it to be flawed enough to be more than just boring which is STILL better than offensive garbage like Hatred or Call of Juarez: The Cartel. Heck, on a fundamental functional level, I actually found it to be sounder than something like The Evil Within which ALWAYS felt extremely uncomfortable to play; like it was some sort of facsimile of a video game made by people who had only ever heard of such a thing. Sonic 06 is absolutely terrible, but in the pantheon of bad games I find it to be more amusing than painful which I GUESS is an achievement of sorts; just ask Tommy Wiseau! Sonic is always a fascinating character to think about as there’s something… engrossing about him and the myriad of stuff that has built up around him, and maybe it’s this weirdly unique identity that has allowed it to preserver despite numerous setbacks like this game, Sonic Boom, and even the rather poorly received Sonic Forces. The fact that ANY character survived the monstrosity that this game ended up being (even if I don’t think it’s THE WORST thing ever) is a testament to the longevity of Sonic’s success and the way he managed to connect with fans. It’d be impressive if it weren’t for the fact that it basically let Sega get away with releasing such terrible games with impunity.
I tend to play a lot of video games whenever I’m procrastinating on whatever movie review I desperately need to get finished, or whenever I need to settle the existential panic of the world collapsing around us in some horrifying slow motion train wreck that many of us have been cheering on for terrible reasons and everyone else is trying desperately to prevent. Needless to say that this was a VERY good year for constant escapism, but that’s not all that video games are good for considering how many great can be just as life changing and inspiring as any movie, television show, book, or other creative work! Some games I enjoyed this year, others I hated, and most of them didn’t actually come out in 2017, but I’m gonna talk about all of them anyway because it’s the start of a new year and we ALWAYS have to take just a few looks back before we can head into the future! Let’s get started!!
Developed by StudioMDHR Entertainment
I don’t get it. I don’t get how THIS game, which truthfully is pretty good, managed to be yet another hill for the ETHICS IN BULLSHIT crowd to rally around for whatever perceived grievances that supposed haters had with the game. I’ll tell you right now that, while I love the art direction and think the game play is solid (if not OVERLY inspired), the difficulty is a legitimate detriment to the game. Never in my life have I heard people defend so vociferously the idea that a game being overly frustrating isn’t an actual flaw in the experience; especially since that’s basically been the consensus for over a decade now when it comes to critiquing retro games. Just look at any given AVGN video and chances are you’ll find that one of the major breaking points for the guy is an unforgiving difficulty! Maybe this is a conversation that NEEDED to happen regarding accessibility (especially for those with disabilities) and how much a potential lack of inclusivity should impact how we evaluate and rate games which will hopefully be one positive outcome of this whole fiasco. To me, the problem could have been sidestepped entirely if they bothered to have an ACTUAL easy mode instead of the fake one in the game right now where you CANNOT PROGRESS IF YOU USE THAT MODE! I would have been annoyed if the game just had the one level of difficulty (which is extremely hard), but the fact that they put in a mode that the developers clearly have no respect for (why else would they gate keep progression?) is what got my blood to boil and made the whole experience that much more miserable. This is a really solid run and gun game with amazing bosses and a very cool art style (which in and of itself is a conversation worth having that the gamer babies were up in arms about), but I can say with absolute confidence and certainty that the game is worse for not having difficulty levels so that players of all skill can enjoy it.
The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners
With a video game media landscape full of ANGRY YOUNG MENTM screaming about women trying to take their toys and Ethics in Bullshit, Joe Vargas, (AKA Angry Joe) is one of the few voices out there I genuinely respect that positions themselves in the TRUE GAMER archetype; one that is filled to the brim with toxicity to which he’s somewhat of an anathema to. Sure, I can’t say that I’ve agreed with EVERYTHING he’s said and done (and being THE LEAST AWFUL in that field is a pretty low bar to clear), but for all his faults he’s never come off as a bad guy or a hateful reactionary like so many of his peers; not even when he gets into ANGRY RANT MODETM. What I’m here to talk about though, whether you like the guy or not, is bigger than this specific case and it’s an important conversation we need to have regarding the drastic shift in the last few years of how we consume content and interact with their creators. Okay, I PROBABLY won’t be breaking a lot of new ground here, but considering how bad Joe has gotten it in the last few months, it’s clearly a lesson that many of us could use a refresher course on. Before we can get into that though…
WHERE’S MY REVIEW!? – The hiatus that broke the internet
So Angry Joe has been making videos on YouTube pretty much non-stop for a decade now, but in the last two years his channel has blown up significantly as has the content he’s producing; uploading Let’s Plays, first impressions, and (GASP!) movie reviews, to go alongside the Angry Reviews he’s known for. Now while the production of Angry Reviews hasn’t slowed down in any significant way (2014 had thirteen reviews, 2015 had fourteen, 2016 had thirteen, and 2017 has had ten so far with the only real outlier being the twenty three reviews done in 2012), he was getting quite a bit of backlash from his subscribers about the rate at which he was releasing them and eventually he had to take a break for his own mental well-being so he can recharge his batteries and come back stronger than ever. Now I don’t know the dude personally and really only have his own videos to go by, but considering how many reviews he’s made and the way he describes his work hours, the dude has been living on a Crunch Time schedule for the last decade and we’ve been reaping the benefits of that endless grind, so the idea that people will get upset that he’d go on vacation for a bit (even though he’s STILL producing content during it) seems ludicrous… but here we are. He’s published four videos since December of 2016 about the growing frustration coming from this segment of his fanbase1, but none of them have done much to mollify the situation; one in particular seemingly making it worse.
Los Disneys is the work of artist Jay Kristopher Huddy
The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners
People who say to get politics out of video games are idiots. Even if we take this talking point at face value (spoiler alert: it’s not “politics” they actually want out of video games), it’s a stance only taken by cowards and the ill-informed. For video games to be seen as a legitimate art form it needs to be free to have thoughts and opinions because art is ALWAYS political to a certain extent, and some of our greatest pieces of creative expression exist to convey a message; not just to look or sound nice. Now there are still arguments to be had about what constitutes hate speech, how much power platform holders should have in controlling the market, and making sure the wrong games don’t get into the wrong hands (i.e. effective rating systems), but we can’t even get THAT far into the discussion if everyone wants to deploy the ban hammer on the mere IDEA of having something to say. Are we clear on that? Good. Let’s talk about the game where you blow up Disney World.
Los Disneys of Former Florida! Free, Independent, and Ever Expanding!
I honestly couldn’t tell you how I came across this game all those years ago (I think I might have been on a Controversial Games kick in high school) but it’s managed to stick with me even now. This mod of Bungie’s Marathon casts you as a spy infiltrating Disney World (now the capital of the state of Los Disneys) in order to destroy it before they have a chance to take over the world, and while the graphics and gameplay were somewhat archaic even when I first discovered it, the novelty of the well realized location is what drew me in and kept me playing. On the surface, it’s not all that different from other shock art we’ve seen aimed at Disney (*cough* Air Pirates *cough*), but the narrative is actually quite compelling and the art direction is strong enough that you want to keep pressing forward just to see what you’ll find around the next corner. Needless to say that Disney wasn’t too happy about all this which garnered a few headlines and only increased the game’s exposure at the time.
Now I always saw it as a merciless take down of Disney’s monolithic place in American (and to a certain extent, worldwide) culture, but then why would you take MY word for it when we can get the answers straight form the horse’s mouth!? No, not Horace Horsecollar!! I got in touch with the game’s creator, Jay Kristopher Huddy, and he was nice enough to answer a few questions about his career, the game, and its legacy!
Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days is owned by Big Star Games, Reservoir Dogs The Game is owned by Edios Interactive and Volatile Games, and Reservoir Dogs is owned by Lionsgate
The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners
In 2005, Rockstar Games released a video game adaptation of Walter Hill’s seminal classic The Warriors to overwhelmingly positive reviews for its solid gameplay and interesting take on the characters and world of that movie. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s probably the best thing that Rockstar released on that console (sorry, but those GTA games don’t hold up nearly as well) and is easily in the upper echelon of movie based video games. One year later Edios Interactive tried to do something similar when they released a video game adaptation of Reservoir Dogs. I won’t go so far as to say that the Reservoir Dogs game was inspired by the success of The Warriors (it’s pretty unlikely they would have been able to have knocked this out in less than a year), but it’s certainly in the same vein as that and at the very least I’m guessing Edios were crossing their fingers that some of the good will built up by that movie based game will help this one get some recognition. Sadly though, the game turned out be… well pretty damn awful. I can speak from personal experience having bought the game for like three bucks at a dying Blockbuster that the game was an uninspired and boring mess with the only notable feature being the game breaking mechanic of holding someone hostage; resulting in all other enemies dropping their guns and just letting you pass right through.
Also, playing Paintball in the abandoned warehouse. Okay…