Entering Columbia

Reveling in Bio Shock Infinite

SOILERS AFTER THE PHOTOS.

Entertainments franchises often suffer as sequels are produced. Video games are notorious of this as they try to develop new and innovative game play. Designers feel a need to give players an even better experience than previous installments. The companies complicate the game mechanics and deviate character back history with detrimental effect to the game.  But some developers know when great is good enough. The makers of BioShock knew what they had and that fans wanted that.  BioShock Infinite melds familiar game mechanics with a new and intriguing story.

Infinite takes players out of the water and flies them into the sky. Gamers play as Booker DeWitt, a man with a mysterious past but with a concrete mission. In order to erase a debt, Booker must travel to Columbia to rescue a girl named Elizabeth. He knows nothing about her or this floating city in the sky but he quickly learns that he is not favored by the Prophet Comstock. Comstock rules over the idealistic floating utopia and holds Elizabeth hostage. Booker must battle the townsfolk as well as a resistance group to save the girl. Things become complicated when Booker learns Elizabeth has unique powers that make her a danger to this world but a help to Booker.
Infinite is the spiritual sister of the first two installments. The core elements are here: take an Average Joe throw him in a world free from government regulation, science has run amok giving people the power to throw fire or possess others and a girl is at the heart of the matter. A girl who is innocent and played upon by the villain to do his own dastardly agenda.

These facets continue to work weaving the past elements in new worlds allowing fans to relieve the excitement and intrigue while personalizing Booker’s tale for this new adventure. Elizabeth’s talents are different from any Little Sister’s and adds a new dimension to the game play (pun intended). Because Elizabeth can open “tears”, portals to other demensions, allowing Booker to by pas obstacles, call in reinforcements, and relive certain events.

The first person game play is still the same. Magically elemental damage in one hand, gun fire on the other. This helps veteran players not become confused with new game play mechanics which can be a problem with sequels. Instead, gamers fall into that familiar pattern of melee, shoot, and destroy.  The developers added several unique elements to allow Booker’s journey to be his own. The new Skyline is thrilling though somewhat confusing for battle.  It allows the player to move quickly around areas and even lets them shoot from the line. I personally found the aiming difficult, but loved the skyline attack when you dismounted. Booker can also pick up gear that gives him special abilities as he tours Columbia including the ability to add elemental attributes to his melee attacks.

A welcome addition is Elizabeth herself. As an AI, she is quite intelligent. She is neither a target nor a fighter and gamers don’t have to worry about Eluizabeth’s safety. She stays out of the way, peroidaclly providing health and ammo when the fight seems over. She finds cash for  Booker cash which you no longer have a cap on.

The game would rate as high as the first BioShock except for the ending. Like a conspiracy episode of The X-Files, the game leaves you with more questions than answers. The conclusion is unsatisfying and promises of DLC make me wonder if the ideas will be explored more in additional content. But why should players have to pay for more content for a concrete resolution. (For a detailed Discussion of the ending, read below the pictures).

BioShcok Infinite is beautiful and bug free. It is intriguing and beguiling whipping gamers into the world of Columbia. It remains true to the original game play (unlike a certain zombie franchise I shall not name) and philsphies leaving players with an Andrew Ryan taste in their mouths. Too bad the conclusion didn’t deliver the punch of the first one.

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Taking Apart Infinite’s Confusing Ending

SPOILERS

The first BioShock installment contained one of the best twists in video game history. The twist made the conclusion almost another game entirely as you realize you have been fighting the wrong villain. Infinite attempts to do the same concluding with an ending that made you rethink the game.

Infinite leaves the twist until the final scenes and leaves little time to truly explain the confusing and metaphysical ending that had been created. Saying that Booker was Comstock was a twist that made little sense to the plot. It seems that both version of Booker to kill the other. But why? The player’s character was trying to save Elizabeth from the evil version of himself. But was Comstock holding Elizabeth and why would he create a tear to capture here? The game does not explain at all why the alternative Comstock/Booker is bringing the girl across. What tool was she being used for? There was some talk of a syphon, but there was not a successful resolution.

Infinite goes for the shock of your character dying. But that is no longer a shock. It was when Fallout 3 was released and a fitting end for the Mass Effect Trilogy. But instead of Booker’s demise wrapping up the story, it just cause more questions. How was there a version of Elizabeth left? Why did he regenerate in his office after the credits? What the hell is going on?

The final issue is that Infinite pulls out a useless, superficial dalliance with the world of Rapture. Elizabeth pulls them from the sky to land momentarily in rapture. You catch a glimpse of a Big Daddy and Little Sister, and then they are gone. It was a cheap connection to help fans identify this game with the previous. I was so excited because I though, we were going to end up with a great twist that would connect the stories. But it seems it was just a coincidence that Elizabeth’s name started with an “E” and was referred to as the Lamb.

Fans have been promised DLC and my hope is that it expands these ideas. But is this fair? To pay for the game as well as extra content just to get the full story? I am not saying this is the case, but if it is, it’s a new low. The only other thing more dastardly is the buggy release of Fallout New Vegas.

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Ah, Oblivion

Oblivion’s biggest issue is that it takes material from every sci-fi/fantasy story ever told and does it poorly. Read on for a list of what happens in the movie and what did it better.*

SPOILERS

1. Redhead gets pissed off and causes destruction-Carrieoblivion_tom_cruise_poster
2. Man is confused about what memories are real and which one aren’t- Total Recall
3. Too long and steals from other source material -Avatar
4. Heroes dies but female gives birth to the hero’s baby-Terminator, Pirates of The Caribbean, Premonition
5. Promises a treat when mission is completed but it’s a lie-Portal
6. Tom Cruise plays a man of the future that has been lied to by the accepted normality and then they try to kill him when he rebels-Minority Report
7. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a good looking asshole-Game of Thrones
8. Computer tried to kill everyone-2001 A Space Odyssey
9. Heroes must battle clone of themselves-Resident Evil
10. A phrase is repeated and can manipulation people’s destruction -BioShock
11. People stored in goopy cells in an alien ship-The X-Files
12. Tatters of the Statue of Liberty in a waste land- Planet of the Apes
13. Morgan Freeman adds a coolness factor to a Tom Cruise Movie –War of the Worlds
14. Circular robots get ill with the human and try to kill them- Portal 2
15. Collects crappy human relics- The Little Mermaid
16. Hero falls in love with the clone of their true love- Aeon Flux
17. Spaceship chase through tight canyons- Star Wars
18. Movie is so slow that you miss nothing when you go to the bathroom- Twilight
19. Hero redeems himself for the human apocalypse by sacrificing his life- Dollhouse
20. Title- Elder Scrolls Oblivion

*This is not a comprehensive list. The movie was so boring I probably missed a bunch.

The Day the Goat Died

I remember that day clearly. I was ten years old and knew all kinds of things about dinosaurs because my seven-year-old brother loved them. We shared dino facts in the movie theater while waiting for the movie that would change our lives; the Stars Wars for my generation. The two of us were positive that the T-rex would be the scariest dino of all. It’s huge and eats meat! But will there be a triceratops or a stegosaurs? I would love to go to a dinosaur island! How cool! Cue the dark theater. The low, somber music. The Velociraptor that can open doors. The T-rex that eats cars. Cue mayhem and madness.
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But those 10 and 7 year olds didn’t run. They loved the movie and how scary it was. They laughed at their mom, a thirty year, who old had dinosaurs nightmare. Jurassic Park became THE movie, and we could not be swayed.  Fast forward twenty years. My brother and I are fully grown and headed to the theater to see the famed movie in 3D for his birthday.
In case you’ve been encased in amber all these years, I’ll spell the plot for you. Man clones dinosaurs. Man invites grandkids and scientists to his park. Fat guy gets greedy and shuts down all the systems in the park. Dinosaurs run loose. Spitter kills Fat Guy. Children are terrorized by

T-Rex. It just gets worse from there.
This twentieth anniversary 3-D version is worth the price of new admission. Steven Spielberg was ahead of the time with the graphics in the early ’90 and that pays off now. Spielberg had almost documentary feel to the film, shooting in and from the action. This allowed the 3D artists to take apart your surrounding and layer them for depth taking the viewers into the park. Two movements come to mind. When the car is stuck in the tree, the limbs are layered in a way that you feel you are in the tree. The second moments are in the Visitor’s Center with Hammond and Sattler. The camera starts on Hammond and pans to show Settler standing where you previously couldn’t see her. The motion of the camera combined with the great depth perception spooked me as I realized that, suddenly, someone was there.lex-jurassic-park

The 3D easily adds to the scare. The immortal sequence of the water shaking as the T-rex stomps through is more vibrant and the theatrer sound literally shakes you. The raptor’s eyes, claws, and tails move so quickly that you physically shy away from them. Looking directly on their creepy eyes sends chills. It’s even scarier than that first time.
So many movies slap on 3D to either beef up crappy films or use the veil to get you to re-see a classic movie. This is the best revamp yet, taking you in the dino carnage and really scaring the pants of you.
The only negative thing is that Michael Chriton didn’t live to see this. He would have loved it. He would have loved it and then written a screenplay about what could go wrong with realistic entertainment. Oh wait, he did—West World.

By The Book: The Host

Andrew Niccol’s adaptation of The Host is very faithful to Stephenie Meyer’s book. But the film fails to capture the philosophical and moral complications detailed in the book.

eng-the-hostThe story follows a Host and a Soul on post-apocalyptic Earth. The Souls, an alien race who take over the natives of war-torn planets, live to make every world peaceful for their hosts. Earth’s humans are very dangerous to themselves and their planets so the Souls have some trouble subduing all the humans. Melanie is a particularly difficult being to conquer as she is part of a rebel human resistance. The Soul Wanderer is placed inside Melanie to mollify her and find out where the human are living.

Wanderer finds it hard to subjugate Melanie. She is still there inside the Host’s body nagging at her with every move she makes. Wanderer begins to sympathize with Melanie, and the two start a quest to find Melanie’s brother and boyfriend. But the Souls are not giving up, and a particularly singular minded Seeker chases after them.

By luck, Melanie and Wanderer are able to make it to the desert hideout of the humans. Wanderer is given shelter even though the humans do not trust her. Melanie’s boyfriend and brother are found, but the story does not simply end there. Wandered, now called Wanda empathizes with her human captors and falls in love while in the caverns.

The changes made to the movie are minimal. Some back stories, such as Kyle and Jodi’s, are left out leaving you to question the motivations of some characters, but the movie leaves little time for much more than Wanda and Melanie’s story.

xthe-host-movie-poster-pagespeed-ic-zyypkhl6cdThe problem with The Host as a film is that somehow all nuisances lost. The movie makes everything black and white. There is some discussion as to how one body can love too men but it mainly glossed over in stark kisses and slaps. The movie losing the internal dialogue between Wanda and Melanie. The movie features Melanie as a disembodied voice but Wanda talks aloud to herself. This is done for ease of understanding but the inner turmoil is too a minimum and Wanda seems to collapse under Melanie’s influence which is absolutely not the case. The book features two souls at war finding peace between themselves, their morals, their loves, and their loyalty.

It is hard to suggest what could have made this better. I want to fall back on an old excuse; it’s not a book you can translate. It’s not Twilight; there is depth and character development that was missing from the vampire saga. This is Meyer’s best work. But this is not Niccols.