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Friday, 31 July 2015

Kamen Rider Drive E39: When Will the Tornado Kidnapper Strike?


Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 39
When Will the Tornado Kidnapper Strike?



Have you ever had a review where, as you write it, it feels very much like you've already written it before? Kind of a review deja vu. Possibly because this episode has so many elements of previous episode - it brings back the toku canyon-field thing that showed up only last week, it has Gen and Rinna pretending to be a couple to lure in a Roimyude that attacks couples (which you'll remember from that whole Gou-going-evil arc), and it even brings back Gou's 'all Roimyudes must die' preoccupation, which we hadn't seen for a fair while.

In this week's episode, the Special Crimes Unit begins investigating a string of mysterious kidnappings by a Roimyude with power over wind. They quickly find that it's one of the single-digits from overseas, Tornado, whose host is an eccentric fashion designer. Meanwhile, Banno reveals himself to Krim and the rest of the unit, and Chase sets out to get his driver's licence.

The foreshadowing work regarding Banno this episode was actually quite good. Obviously, it's been clear pretty much from the get-go that Banno would turn out to be evil, but little things like the gang discovering him searching the internet for Tornado, but the computer screens showing schematics for the Drive Driver; Krim pointing out that Banno must have stolen his work in order to have uploaded his consciousness; and even all the film tie-in stuff with Evil Future Krim all tie into Banno's ultimate plan, which we can see from the preview involves getting himself a body and his own version of the Drive Driver.

(The preview also shows us a very injured looking scientist who appears to be Heart, so we may have our answer as to who Heart's host is. Maybe. It was a very brief shot, so I might be wrong about who it was.)

I could not for the life of me figure out if Shinnosuke's overreaction to Tornado's
jibe about being a dateless loser was meant to be comedy or not.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the villain spectrum, we have Tornado, who feels more like a monster-of-the-fortnight than he does a major villain. I'll be honest, I'll be surprised if he manages to achieve his ultimate evolution, and nearly as surprised if he survives beyond the next episode - he's just not very interesting, and there's not really anything to distinguish him from any other Roimyude. Plus, he's clearly the weak link here: Heart, Brain and Medic (who will almost certainly be achieving her golden form soon) are all villains who have been part of the show for a while; Banno has loomed large over the show for just as long and has personal connections to Krim, Gou, and Kiriko; and even Mobster-y Dude has set himself up as a more genuine threat than Tornado, having fought Gou several times now, usually while untransformed. 

Tornado, in contrast, feels very bland, more there to fill out numbers than anything else, so I don't think he's likely to end up being one of the four - at the moment, that looks liable to be Heart, Brain, Medic, and Banno - or possibly 004, although he may actually be Banno, not just one of his allies. Tornado's whole dealio of trying to find his 'perfect partner' in order to achieve his ultimate evolution also seems a bit forced and contrived - but, you know, he's clearly not the main villain of this arc. Just like how in the last arc, the main villains were Heart and Medic, with Cook really only serving as something to beat up, the main villain of this arc is Banno, and Tornado's just there to make up the numbers.

I really enjoyed the driving licence plot, too. It's nice to see that the whole Gou vs Chase plot is well and truly behind us now, and the comic relief from their interactions with each other was pretty well-pitched, I'd say. I actually thought I'd hate this subplot when I saw the previews, but it was a very small part of the episode, so even if I had I'm not sure it would have been a tremendous deal. I do hope they keep this dynamic between them, because Gou acting like Chase's bratty younger brother is a lot more fun to watch and, to be frank, a lot more interesting than 'Grrr, I'm going to kill you, Chase.'

Ah, double villain henshin, the best henshin.

One thing I don't like is the clumsy film tie-ins, because we all know that's not going anywhere. I prefer when the film and the series are kept relatively separate, or at least separate enough that you don't feel like there's a gaping gap in the series. Double, OOOs, Fourze and Wizard were all fairly good about this - while the first three of those all had some element of film tie-in in their series, they were always elements that fit into the series and didn't need the film to work. Gaim had its fun but also kind of terrible film tie-in episodes that were just kind of very clumsily shoved in, and Drive appears to be being only slight less hack-handed with its tie-ins.

(The worst offender for this, however, will always be Den-O.)

Gold Heart doesn't disappoint, though.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next episode, where we will apparently see Banno get himself a body, get a conclusion to this Tornado storyline, and find out more about Krim and Banno's backstory, so that should be fun. 


Thursday, 30 July 2015

Super Size Me: How Not To Science.


So, today was going to be Drive, and tomorrow was going to be this editorial, but the episode was only subbed today (which is still incredibly quick, make no mistake) and I've only had four hours sleep, so schedule reshuffling took place.

Anyway, many thanks to Reecey from Nine Over Five for this editorial, which I think is our first documentary-related post ever. Documentaries have always been part of the remit, it's just that I don't watch them, so it's never come up.


Editorial: Super Size Me: 
How Not To Science.

(Guest editorial by Reecey).

Super Size Me is a 2004 documentary film by Morgan Spurlock about the health consequences of fast food, specifically McDonalds.

Well, ‘documentary’.

See, I have multiple problems with this film, largely that Morgan Spurlock went out of his way to make the results of his diet as awful as possible.

The premise was that he would eat McDonalds for every meal for thirty days, however, while he was doing this, he also purposefully limited his exercise from the four to five miles of walking a day typical for a New Yorker to less than one.

Why did he limit his exercise? Well, the in universe explanation was that he wanted to do the amount of exercise that the average office working American would do in a day.

However, I do have to raise the counterpoint that he wasn’t eating like an average American office worker, so why on earth would he feel the need to exercise like one?

This is a problem for two reasons:

One, if he’d kept his usual diet but changed to the new exercise used in the documentary, he would have suffered negative health effects. Of course, nowhere near as bad as what he did get, but over a month, we would have seen some weight gain.

Two, he kept referring to this as an ‘experiment’.

When I was but a wee lass doing secondary school science, we were taught that experiments have independent and dependent variables. The dependent variable is what you’re measuring and the independent variable is what you’re changing.

One such experiment we did was changing the temperature of milk (independent variable) with chymosin in to test what difference this would make to the coagulation of the milk by the enzyme (dependent variable). We didn’t also chuck battery acid in while measuring the effect of temperature.

If Super Size Me had any scientific merit at any point, it went straight out of the window when he added in a second independent variable that would obscure the true effects of the McDonalds only diet on his health. In science, the change in his exercise would be referred to as a confounding variable, which says it all, really.

Apart from the terrible science, there’s also the big problem that no one eats like this?

Yeah, he managed to track down a guy who ate two to three big macs a day, but one, he doesn’t eat the fries, and two, even he doesn’t eat only McDonalds.

During the first day, Spurlock forced himself to eat a meal well past the point of fullness and made himself throw up. Who eats like that?! Who eats past the point of physical discomfort?! This food is so inexpensive that barely anyone is going to make themselves eat to the point of sickness. Hell, it would be a waste of money if they did.

The meal in question was one of the Super Size meals that the film was named for.

I’d like to point out two things.

One, he spoke to an expert who talked about the increased sizes of fast food portions, but not the increase of portion sizes across the board over the last thousand years. This isn’t a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination, and it isn’t confined to only fast food restaurants like the film implies.

Two, according to the rules he laid out early on in the film, he only ordered a Super Size meals when prompted.

So, how many did he order?

Nine. Out of ninety.

If he was eating one meal at McDonalds a day, which would very much be in line with what an actual person might do, then he’d only have a Super Size meal less than once a week.

If he’d stayed put in New York, then it would have been even less often than that.

Five of the times he was asked if he’d like a Super Size meal were in Texas. Which says worse things about Texas than it does about McDonalds. Probably largely that it’s incredibly poor, 18.5% of Texans live below the poverty line according to the 2011 census, and not fantastically educated at 39th in the US. That’s 39th in a country that ranks 36th out of sixty five.

Texas has some serious issues regarding poverty and education, which the film didn’t bring up at all.

At no point did this film mention that poverty is strongly linked to poor nutrition, it just concentrated on the apparently ‘addictive’ nature of the food and the fact that businesses have the gall to advertise their products and rely on having a repeat customer base.

Hell, the internal language used by McDonalds categorising people who eat there once a week as ‘heavy users’ implies that even they don’t think that people should eat there all the time.

One of the effects he stated that this had on his health was that he was suffering from sexual dysfunction and that his sex life went down to zero.

As much as I want nothing to do with this guy’s sexlife, he a) brought it up and b) saw fit to have his girlfriend talk about it on camera.

She mentioned that he wasn’t as energetic as he was before, but that he was still perfectly capable of having sex. This was earlier on in the month, but this is the last we heard of this until the end of the film where he said he had no sex life as a result of the diet.

Interestingly enough, he spent some time in Texas and presumably getting there. I’m also pretty sure that he went to California, but the wikipedia page said nothing about that, so maybe I imagined it.

So we have a single mention of his sexlife, and we know that he spent an unspecified amount of time away from his girlfriend. The point I’m getting at here is, if you’re monogamous and your girlfriend is nowhere near you, of course you’re not going to have sex, you dolt.

One of the other problems I have with this film is that, despite keeping a food log, and probably filming most of his meals, Spurlock apparently hasn’t seen fit to release the food log.

Considering the extreme negative effect on his health that his thirty day binge had, even to the point of surprising and baffling his doctors, is it too much to expect him to release the food log?

(He also didn’t release, or seem to keep, a sex log. Which I don’t want him to have done, but if he is going to bring it up, he should bloody well be scientific about it. If Santorio Santorio could weigh himself and his food for thirty years, this guy could keep a sex log for thirty days.)

This is another way in which the ‘experiment’ fails to be good science.

Real scientists release the methodology of their experiments so that other scientists can repeat the experiment and attempt to reproduce their results.

So he’s thrown in a confounding variable and obscured his methodology so that his ‘experiment’ can’t be accurately repeated and his results verified.

I have no idea why anyone who wasn’t biased as hell would obscure their methodology and throw in a confounding variable like this.

Actually, there’s a second confounding variable that I haven’t yet mentioned.

This is a yoyo diet.

Yeah, you usually hear about this when it’s people (usually young women) going on an extreme diet in order to lose a lot of weight quickly, but then go back to a diet that is less healthy or more calorific.

This is really bad for your health. It’s basically better for you to stay at a consistent fat weight than it is for you to bounce up and down. The toll it takes on your body can be incredibly bad. (One of the people they spoke to, a teenage girl, was likely talking in reference to this in a baffling section about body image that I genuinely don’t understand the purpose of. McDonalds isn’t going to judge you if you’re fat.)

The thing is, this is essentially someone doing the exact thing, but the other way around.

It’s entirely possible that if he’d slowly acclimatised to the McDonalds diet, he would have had negative health effects because the change wasn’t so extreme.

Not only do we not have a food log for what he was eating during his so called ‘experiment’, we have no idea what the man was eating prior to it. For all we know, he could have been eating nothing but salad for six months prior to make the yoyo effect even worse.

This science is so bad that it just gives people who disagree with him fuel to dismiss his entire point, and casts doubt on the entire ‘documentary’.

He may very well have just been, well, lying. There’s no way to know because he hasn’t been upfront about any of this.

So let this be a lesson, if you want to do an experiment to prove a point you need to have a single independent variable (to the best of your ability) and you need to publish your methodology as well as your results.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Teen Wolf S5E6: Required Reading.


Teen Wolf
Series 5 Episode 6:
Required Reading.



Yesterday, while perusing the internet, I encountered someone who said that this series was the best ever series of Teen Wolf. I was confused and faintly repulsed - had I missed something? Was my memory, both of this series and the four previous, somehow fogged, muddled, confused? Did I not understand what true quality was?

No, it's other people who are wrong. While this series has certainly been entertaining so far - for all that I criticise it, I have found every episode except the series opener enjoyable to watch and pretty engaging - it has seen the pacing problems endemic to Teen Wolf writ large, as six episodes in and more or less nothing has happened. Give me plot, guys. Give me something to sink my teeth into.

In this episode, those problems are rather noticeably exacerbated. In the aftermath of meeting Valack, the gang decides to read his book, each encountering their own strange occurrences afterwards, as Scott's pre-wolfing asthma starts to re-occur, Stiles and Lydia begin to hallucinate, and Kira finds that she cannot read the book at all. Meanwhile, seven more graves are discovered, leading the gang to the conclusion that the Doctors have created seven more chimeras.

I'm weirded out by the Parrish/Lydia thing. Presuming he joined the army straight out
of school and served for five years, he'd have to be at least twenty-three, probably closer to twenty-five
or twenty-six. Lydia's eighteen, tops.

How much time did we spend on Hayden and Liam in this episode? I'll be honest, while Hayden is very overtly and obviously a pointless character, I feel like Liam is, as well - he's objectively less interesting than his best friend, and his only role in the plot seems to be to act as occasional comic relief and partake of subplots, like this particularly torturous one with Hayden, whose nose he apparently accidentally broke when they were eleven and who he's now engaged in some sort of weird, forced, clunky romance with. The revelation that Hayden is a chimera does absolutely nothing to save this plot either, because I don't care. I don't care about Hayden, and I don't care about Liam, so I'm not going to be remotely concerned about Hayden being a monster and Liam's deep and wrenching manpain over that.

Apart from that, though, the biggest problem with this episode is that we were being led up to the gang remembering encounters with the Doctors, and what we got instead was them remembering - well, very little. I'd say 'character development stuff', but the only ones whose character arc is really built upon by it all are Stiles, whose downward spiral is compounded by a vision of his mother accusing him of trying to murder her, and Kira, whose discovery that she can't read the book very easily ties into her subplot about the fox part of her overtaking her human part, as in mythology, kitsune can't figure out tricks of language (sort of - the example the characters use is 'moshi moshi', which literally translates as 'say say', and one origin story for that term is that foxes have trouble saying it. Another relates to phone operators and static on the line). 

For Scott and Lydia, though, you could remove the parts of the episode that focus on them entirely and not be any worse off for it, and that's a problem. It's a problem when you build us up to reveals about the Doctors, and what we get instead is just fluff.

Why not remove Liam and Hayden, and replace them with Mason and This Dude.
Also, bring Braeden back. More Braeden.

I did like Malia's chunk of the plot, though, which sees her not buying any of what Theo's selling. It's quite satisfying to see Theo attempt to seduce her through unsubtle 'working out while shirtless because he heard her coming' ploys, and for Malia to just completely not go for any of it, and instead to treat Theo with the suspicion he deserves. I'm surprised that any of them are trusting him, actually: Scott already expressed distrust of him when he asked Deaton if letting a beta into his pack would potentially allow them to steal his powers, although Scott always does an excellent line on 'pretending to trust people while actually scheming' (the boy is more cunning than people give him credit for); and Lydia isn't a very trusting person, so her not just brushing Theo off with a scathing remark is odd for her too, especially as she values Stiles' opinion.

I do think we're actually going to get some good pay-off for that, though, probably sooner rather than later. The Doctors are apparently meant to be villains for all twenty episodes of this series, so if that's the case, Theo (and Donovan? His death is very much unconfirmed) will probably end up being the villains that cap off these ten episodes. 

Fanservice.

I also liked our brief appearance by Melissa, who is always wonderful, and I think the idea of seven chimeras at large at once is a very interesting idea with a lot of potential, even if we are now down to six (not counting Donovan. Or Theo, for that matter, since he's likely a chimera rather than a true werewolf). 

So, while I enjoyed this episode, I feel nevertheless somewhat let down by it. Give me plot or give me death and all that. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Life is Strange E4: Dark Room.


Life is Strange
Episode 4: Dark Room.



Has anyone else noticed that Brooke's voice actor isn't great? She kind of - she kind of drones. Like she's reading out a script for a terrible, transgressive infomercial. That's just one thing that stuck out about today's Life is Strange episode.

When I was writing the review for episode three, I expressed some concerns about where the game was going to go from there - having just introduced an entire alternate reality, it seemed like the devs had a choice between either making that plot point utterly irrelevant or wiping out all of the choices you'd made up to that point. Well, good - okay, not good, more better than the alternative - news, they went with the first choice, having that plot point get reversed in the first ten minutes. 

So, that's nice. Not sure why we even wasted ten minutes on that malarkey. It doesn't become relevant at all later in this episode, either, although there is some vague foreshadowing that it might end up being important in the final episode.

In this installment of Life is Strange, after changing the past again and reverting things back to the original timeline, Max and Chloe renew their search for the truth behind what's been going on in Arcadia Bay. Tracking down evidence from several different sources, their search leads them to a strange bunker beneath an old barn, and to the truth of what happened to Chloe's friend, Rachel.

It feels like this episode was trying very hard to be dramatic and shocking, and kind of falling short on every front, not least because I was expecting every single plot twist they threw at me. The Prescotts are involved in some kind of shady business? Well, naturally, it was always very clear that they were. Rachel is dead? Sure, I figured that one out by the end of the very first episode. Mr. Jefferson is evil? I figured that one out in the first episode as well. 

You could say they're having a ... whale of a time? Eh? Eh?

It's not that I'm an amazing sleuth, either, I think most people figured those twists out in the first episode, or at least had very strong suspicions, because they were always the most obvious routes to go down. Of course the amicable, admired photography teacher is the killer, because he always is. Of course the disappeared girl is dead, because she always is. Of course the wealthy, powerful family are involved in shady dealings - that's not just true of fiction, it's true of life.

A good twist should be well-foreshadowed but unexpected, and these twists weren't remotely unexpected - and without the impetus of those twists, the episode just comes across as very, very slow. It's about half an hour longer than every other episode in the series, but seems to have comparatively less content, partly because you can discount the first ten minutes entirely, and partly because you spend most of that time moving from one puzzle-y set piece to another, some of which (like the Vortex Club party) just feel torturously long and empty - it's noteworthy that in the aforementioned Vortex Club party scene, nothing actually happens. Instead, you expend a decent chunk of time asking around to see if anybody has seen Nathan Prescott, which nobody has, before leaving.

Because they're whales, right? The beached animals, they're ... they're whales ...

I do want to say nice things about this episode, so I will say that we got a lot of great interactions between Max and Chloe, and Max and Warren - I didn't like Warren much before, but this episode (which includes him headbutting Nathan) made me warm to him somewhat, so there is that. We also get some nice cameos from more minor characters like Kate and Alyssa, as well, and that's all pretty fun to play through.

Also, the episode is, as all the Life is Strange episodes have been, superb on a technical level. Smooth gameplay, gorgeous graphics, great soundtrack, and by and large good voice acting, at least from the main cast - once you branch out into the supporting cast things get a little more dicey, but you can't have everything, one supposes.

For the most part, though, this episode just bored me. I struggled to keep my attention on it, and to be fair, the episode's writers seemed to not have much better luck than me, as they flit wildly between plot points, occasionally throwing in an apocalyptic omen to spice things up (which everyone just kind of shrugs at). 

No, you're right. Conservation is no joke.

It's disappointing, because this game got off to such a great start with its first two episodes, but episode three and four have seen it start to collapse under its own weight. The choices have started to feel meaningless, the plot has lost its luster, everything is starting to kind of unravel and plot threads are being forgotten about (what happened to the ghost deer?). It's kind of sad, because lord knows that more competition, more diversity, more variety within the episodic games sector is always a good thing, and I had high hopes for this game.

That all having been said, I am looking forward to the fifth episode. If we're lucky, the finale will be a return to form. If we're not - well, it's been a fun enough journey, and I'm sure it'll get a sequel.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Psycho-Pass: The Movie.


Psycho-Pass: The Movie.



You know, I can sympathise with Gen Urobuchi. In the past year or so, he has had to deal with people going 'MAN, THAT WAS A GREAT ENDING YOU WROTE THERE' at the end of Aldnoah.Zero's first cour - an ending he didn't write and wasn't even a part of his original scenario - and with people going 'MAN, I DON'T LIKE PSYCHO-PASS 2, YOU SCREWED UP THERE' even though he did not, in fact, write that either. 

The man seems understandably annoyed by how people keep attributing things he wasn't involved in to him, going so far as to make several vexed tweets on the subject - tweets which had almost no effect, as shortly afterwards I saw people claiming that his insistence at not being significantly involved in this projects was just a smokescreen to conceal that he was puppetmastering events from behind the scenes.

How refreshing, then, that we actually have something which he did write here, so that people have the opportunity to do that whole pantomime of fan-ery without having to fall back on ridiculous conspiracy theories. 

In this film, set some time after the end of the second series, Akane takes a mission to travel to the country of SEAUn, a country that has imported the Sibyl System into the floating coastal city of Shambala Float as an experiment, and where her old friend and former enforcer with the CID, Kougami, has been sighted aiding guerrilla groups. Quickly becoming embroiled in the area's civil war, Akane becomes targeted by Nicholas Wong, the head of SEAUn's military police. 

Woo, Akane.

Early reviews said that the film was basically a Psycho-Pass episode with more explosions, and I think that's not quite apt - it's essentially a Psycho-Pass series condensed and with more explosions added, having more or less the same major story beats that both of the series had, right down to ending on a note of 'Akane forces Sybil to do something it doesn't want to, but it still pretty much manages to win'. The core of the criticism - that it's more of the same, just with more bombast - rings very true, however: The film is not a significant departure from what the franchise usually does.

Nor is it the definitive end that I think some people were hoping for, instead very much leaving things open for a third series. While I know that was a disappointment for some people, I'm fine with that, having never really expected a definitive end in this film. Besides, I'd quite like to see a third series, and maybe another film, to cap off the franchise.

If anything, the biggest disappointment for me was that most of the main cast weren't actually involved in the film. Akane - who remains an excellent protagonist, don't get me wrong - travels on her own to SEAUn, and about five sixths of the film is the Akane and Kougami show, focusing on them both in equal measure but not really involving anyone else at all.

Pictured: Sirs and Madams Barely-Appearing-In-This-Film.

Which is understandable - the central theme of this film is clearly meant to be Akane and Kougami's paths diverging more and more from each other's, cementing Akane as protagonist while also giving Kougami some kind of send-off (albeit one that leaves him very much in a position to return, either on Akane's side or as an antagonist). We'll talk about that in a moment, but I feel that that kind of laser-focus on just two characters would have been a lot less grating if this wasn't coming after Psycho-Pass 2, a series which also had barely any focus on most of its main cast. Taken on its own, I would have shrugged and given this film a pass for not involving the majority of its cast, but taken with the rest of the franchise, I find myself starting to wonder why they even bothered having a supporting cast in the first place.

(Fan favourite Ginoza does get a small subplot about rejecting Kougami, but that's more or less it as far as supporting cast involvement goes.)

All that having been said, it's a fun film. Not tremendously deep and meaningful, possibly not even a necessary addition to the franchise, but fun, and a very enjoyable watch. It's about eighty percent big silly blowout action film (I have rhapsodised extensively on how much I enjoy those), with explosions and absurd over-the-top action scenes and a very loose plot about a civil war, and about twenty percent bittersweet and surprisingly subtle scenes about how Kougami and his old friends have diverged from each other so much that they can't really relate to each other any more. Which I liked, somewhat: It wasn't tragic, it wasn't Kougami heroically sacrificing himself, and nor was it that they were enemies and Akane had to bring him in (it was established pretty thoroughly that Sibyl didn't care about Kougami) - it was a much quieter realisation that Kougami now occupies a different world to Akane and Ginoza, and that all three of them had changed as people, and that they can never again be friends like they once were.

Which is part of why I said that this film was something of a send-off for Kougami: They could leave his storyline there, and I think that'd be absolutely fine. In many ways, I think that would be better than if they tried to bring him back later in the franchise.

Kougami spends a considerable amount of the film getting beaten up.

On a technical level, the film is pretty astounding: It's beautifully animated, fluid and colourful both in busy action scenes and quieter scenes. Whoever did the art direction was clearly very keen to make good use of the setting (SEAUn is pretty clearly meant to be Thailand, with one of the major locations in the film either being visually based on or actually meant to be Ayutthaya), with lingering shots of ruined temples, busy cityscapes, and tropical islands. The soundtrack, consisting mostly of slightly reworked songs from the series, was nice to listen to. The voice work was - Um.

Okay, the voice work is good when they're speaking Japanese. About forty percent of the dialogue, however, is in technically perfect (if sometimes very flowery and stilted) but horrendous sounding English. I don't want to dwell too much on that, because it's precisely none of the voice cast's first language and the film is not aimed at English speakers, but it was pretty difficult to decipher at times.

This film and how successful it is will probably end up being the deciding factor in whether they make a Psycho-Pass 3, so I'll be interested to see how that pans out. Either way, though, if this is the last entry in the franchise, it's a serviceable one - a fun and very well-made action flick with a tinge of bittersweetness to it.


Saturday, 25 July 2015

Editorial: Four More Great Video Game Ideas.


Editorial: Four More Great Video Game Ideas.

I like doing these. Like limescale, video game ideas build up on me, demanding that they occasionally be purged onto this blog - usually when I don't have anything scheduled (thanks, Dontnod Entertainment, for scheduling Life is Strange E4 for next week instead of this one), so here are four more video game ideas. All of them are spin-offs, incidentally.


Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Action RPG.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica has actually had a few video games, some of which even allow you to change the outcomes of events so that people who otherwise would have died manage to survive, which is lovely. What I'm proposing is something different: An action RPG where you create a magical girl, equip her with powers, and then have her battle witches in a long, RPG-oid story.

The character creation could be either a very straightforward 'pick abilities and appearance' thing, or a more subtle, nuanced approach where you pick from a dozen or so backgrounds, a dozen personalities, a half dozen elements, and then a dozen potential wishes, all of which would be used to then generate a magical girl, mirroring how the wishes in the series dictate some of the wisher's powers.

Then the gameplay could essentially have every mission divided into three parts: Mostly combat-free open world sections where you have to locate the witch you're hunting in whichever city you're in; witch's labyrinth sections where you traverse their strange, eldritch lairs, fighting their familiars; and then boss battles with the witches themselves.

It'd be fun. All of your party members could die.


Kamen Rider Villains: Also The Action RPG.

Okay, I admit that when this idea occurred (late at night, as I was trying to sleep) I was mostly thinking of Dopants and Zodiarts, as they have the common element of being people falling under the corruptive influence of a device.

Which could be really fun, I think. It'd start off as Grand Theft Auto with monsters, and as time goes on you could be given more choices to either descend further into villainy or to try and ascend to something approaching heroism. Doing the former rewards you first with faster ability progression, then with exclusive new abilities, and so on, as slipping further into evil causes you to become more in tune with your powers. Doing the latter causes slower progression, and before long visual disturbances and hallucinations as your fight against the pull of your new monster-y powers causes harm to you.

How many players would go for evil and how many would go for good? Well, if that one Fable II prison section taught us anything, it's that even when dealing with an entirely fictional character who you have very little attachment to, most gamers will pick the moral route over gameplay-related self-interest.


Kekkai Sensen: Pretty Much Just Another Action RPG.

Kekkai Sensen is an anime about fighting crime in a supernatural version of New York, which lends itself perfectly to a video game about fighting crime in a supernatural version of New York.

You could create your character, pick an origin and powerset for them (with options like a blood mage like Klaus and Zapp, or various types of supernatural creature), and then set them loose in an open world to locate and fight crime. Everything would be over-the-top and ridiculous, and the entire affair would end up as something like a cross between the Spiderman II video game, Infamous, No More Heroes, and Dragon Age.

Ooh, we could even simulate the watching-the-anime experience by having the entire last twelfth of the game be missing until several months after release! Yes, I'm bitter.


Hogwarts: The RPG (With Action RPG elements.)

The Harry Potter series is pretty much built for customisable RPG shenanigans, and it's surprising that nobody's tried to do something of that ilk yet. Imagine: You could design your character as a child, pick the house that they go into, and then follow them through seven years of Hogwarts schooling, with a plotline that builds up over seven years.

It'd come with a more or less built in method of leveling up your skills, as participating in classes would earn you new abilities related to that class, give you points in certain skills, and give you a set number of free points that could be assigned anywhere when you next leveled up. This would mean that later on your character would become even more specialised, as they would have to pick classes to take.

You could have them be in the same year as Harry and follow this character's path through the storyline of the books, or have them come after Harry's already gone and have an entirely new storyline. The sky's the limit.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Editorial: The Top 5 Anime Endings.


Editorial: The Top 5 Anime Endings.

Anime endings are usually reserved for the songs that aren't great - compared to the bombast of the openings, endings are usually quieter affairs, spaces to advertise songs that without those one and a half minutes of regular promotion would probably fade out of people's memories pretty quickly. That's how it's always been, and how it's always liable to be.

There are some songs which stand out over the others, though, that can sometimes even exceed the (relatively louder, relatively more pizazz-ful) opening songs they are placed in such close proximity to, and it's only right that we use today, the day I would've been reviewing the Psycho-Pass film if it had been subbed yet, to honour those.

Well. To honour some of those, at least. Let's face it, there are ones that might have made it onto this list had I not so cruelly forgotten about them in the intervening years since I last heard them. But without further ado, let's start with:


5. Namae no nai Kaibutsu, by EGOIST - Psycho-Pass.



Namae no nai Kaibutsu, a slightly offbeat techno-punk-y song that acts as the ending theme of Psycho-Pass, is definitely the better song out of the opening and ending of that show, as the opening did unfortunately sound like an angry cat eating a harpsichord, and that's terrible.

This song builds quite slowly, which is the main reason it's so low on this list, because while the crooning at the beginning is delightful, I'm really listening to it for the moment it kicks into high gear and starts having dramatic still shots of the main cast. I love that kind of stuff. 

4. Uso, by Sid - Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.



Uso, the first ending of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, an anime I actually never watched beyond the first couple of episodes of, is very much your typical ending song fare - a relaxed, winding down affair that doesn't really hit you with much force at all.

What earns it a spot on this list is that, in keeping with FMA's themes of regret and the loss of innocence, it's a song that's heavy with nostalgia - a more cheerful nostalgia than the series, to be sure, but you can tell even without understanding the lyrics (which include lines like 'Do you remember the scarlet evening sky? We made a promise while the wind embraced us,' and 'We'll hold onto this promise, and we'll walk our own ways,' - the song is essentially about growing older and further apart) that this is a somewhat bittersweet song.

The images that accompany it, of the main characters rendered like children's drawings, only really serve to exacerbate that feeling of sadness and nostalgia.


3. aLIEz, by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:mizuki - Aldnoah.Zero.



aLIEz makes absolutely no sense if you try to listen to the lyrics. In fact, they become progressively more ridiculous and bizarre the more you listen to, being made variously of Japanese, English, extremely grammatically incorrect German, at least two different Chinese languages, and sometimes just plain gibberish. 

This might not immediately occur when you first listen to it, because the first time you will listen to it is as the dramatic backing music to the devastation of New Orleans, with the chorus (pop star Mizuki wailing 'I SEE FIRE / I HATE WAR / EYES SAY VORE' nobody is entirely clear on what, precisely, she's singing) cutting in just as an explosion of cataclysmic proportions vaporises a crowd of people.



But it's a joy to listen to, a big climactic blow-out of a song that captures the chaos and grand scale of the war in Aldnoah.Zero through music alone. It's the song that made me sit up and pay attention during an otherwise very lackluster first episode, and it comes in about a dozen different versions, so you have plenty of variety to keep you interested.


2. Magia, by Kalafina - Puella Magi Madoka Magica.



While Madoka Magica's opening song, Connect, is a bright and cheerful ditty about - well, actually about fairly sinister things, but it's in a language I don't speak, so I never picked up on that - Magia is brooding and ominous, a song meant to inform viewers that sinister things are afoot. 

Fittingly, in series it is most often associated with giant, mysterious super-witch Walpurgisnacht, who spends most of the show as an unseen, but ominous and implacable threat.

The song is by Kalafina - the vocal group put together by composer Yuki Kajiura, who has produced some of the best soundtracks in the industry and had prior to this had more than a fair chance to exercise her 'deeply sinister music' muscles with shows like .hack//SIGN - so it was always going to be excellent to listen to, because I'm not sure Kajiura has ever produced a bad song in her life.

(This is also the third song from a Gen Urobuchi show on this list, which given that the man is not massively involved in his show's soundtracks, is entirely a coincidence.)


1. Sugar Song and Bitter Step, by Unison Square Garden - Kekkai Sensen.



Imagine my irritation when I couldn't actually find the TV version of this song, and must instead give you the commercial preview for it. But I couldn't not put this on the list, and in the top spot as well, because it's such an earworm - an upbeat pop-jazz song with a perky, relaxed rhythm that seems to more or less be made for dancing to.

Which is exactly what the cast of the show are doing during the ending.


It's probably one of the less dramatic songs on this list - Magia and aLIEz take that particular crown - but it's striking nevertheless for how fun and relaxing it is. It's an unwinding and cheering yourself up after a long day song, and I recommend that everyone finds it, bookmarks it, and then keeps it around for precisely that purpose.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Kamen Rider Drive E38: Why is the Devil Seeking Evolution?


Hey, everyone. I've not had a chance to update the list above yet, but there are new LPs in the form of Dishonored [P7] Squeaky-voiced Loyalists and Valkyria Chronicles [P26] The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. 


Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 38
Why is the Devil Seeking Evolution?

Apparently the French chef Roimyude is called 'Cook', not 'Chef'. Not the name I would have gone with personally, but then, I'm not writing the show: If I was, the entire 001 arc would never have happened, Medic would have shone bright as an Act 3 villain and then died by now, Kiriko would be a Rider, that whole Gou arc would have never happened, and one of the Special Crimes Unit would have turned out to be a Roimyude. 

I won't say it would be a better series, but it would be one with approximately 100% more Kiriko, so there is that.

In this week's offering, Heart spares an injured Shinnosuke, assuring him that he he has no desire to destroy humanity. Going after Cook and the perfected Honfleur Sunset, the team clash with Medic, who is desperate to help Heart achieve his ultimate evolution. Meanwhile, unknown to both of them, a future version of Krim Steinbelt (ostensibly, at least) has arrived in their time.

Full disclosure, I actually really liked this episode. I've been enjoying the past few weeks' worth of episodes, but I've also been hyper-aware that they haven't been good, as such - they've been enjoyable, and a massive improvement over Drive's usual fare, but they have at best been about on par with a middling Wizard episode, and that is not a sterling recommendation on their quality.

Anyway, here's Heart, still being a fashion disaster.

This episode I thought was actually good. It was well-paced, tense, and it had a clear theme that it kept running throughout the episode, along with a clear character arc, so that when Shinnosuke made an otherwise bizarre decision to protect a de-transformed Medic from Gou, it made at least some sense. The action scenes were pretty well-pitched and didn't outstay their welcome, and had some genuinely awesome to watch moments, like Chase and Gou teaming up against some Reaper Units, and a triple transformation (of sorts - Gou is just going into his berserk mode and Chase is just picking up his axe) scene.

I liked this episode, which rather nicely leaves me in a position where I can speculate on plot developments instead of railing at all the things the episode did wrong.

For starters, we learned that the 'Promised Number' talked about since the beginning of the series is four ultimate evolved Roimyudes - that's a bit anticlimactic, if I'm being honest, but it does have the upside that we're very close to seeing what happens when that number is gathered, since we have Brain and Heart both super-evolved now, and Medic is liable to follow suite soon, leaving the fourth spot to be filled by either Angry Cowboy Man or Slightly Vexed Mobster Man. I can appreciate that, because it means we're going to get an uptick in pacing, since I can't imagine that Medic's going to wait around long before evolving.

(Of course, there's always the possibility that either Heart or Brain will die before that number can be reached - Heart seems like the most likely candidate there, as his actor is apparently already done filming - but I hope not. That would feel like a bit of a step backwards.)

Medic would never work with Brain without Heart around anyway.

The other big development this episode is that Banno has to stick his proverbial neck out for the team, protecting them from an explosion. While this is a pretty benevolent action, it still makes me even more certain that Banno is a villain, and possibly the show's final villain - he clearly has enormous power (he was able to counter Heart, after all, despite just being a tablet), and he's become something very much like a Roimyude, in that he's an energy/data being who isn't necessarily bound to a physical form. I wonder what would happen if he was given a Viral Core - and I suspect the answer would be that he'd construct a body for himself, just as the Roimyudes do.

Apparently the next episode will see him revealing himself to the rest of the Special Crimes Unit, so that will be interesting. If the writers take the 'immensely disappointing to Murphy' route, that will all go over without a hitch and Krim will welcome him back with open arms. What I'm expecting will actually happen is that either we'll find out that Banno is truly a terrible person, or we'll have a two episode arc where Krim learns to forgive Banno - only for it to be revealed later in the series that he's pure dark nasty evil.

(Which would kind of parallel the Nira plotline, and I'm fine with that, I thought Nira's plotline was the only salvageable thing from the third act.)

Chase, please mention something to Shinnosuke or Kiriko. I beg you.

I'm a little surprised we didn't see either of the new single-digit Roimyudes in this episode, actually, but I can understand why.

In conclusion, a pretty fun and enjoyable episode, and I hope to see more of its like in the future. I'm not holding my breath, but I'll be very happy if they keep up this level of quality until the end of the show. 


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Telltale Games' Game of Thrones E5: A Nest of Vipers.


Telltale Games' Game of Thrones
Episode 5: 
A Nest of Vipers



We are very nearly at the end of what I still hold to be the least of Telltale Games' episodic offerings, having reached the fifth episode of six. While the series has, so far, been a valiant effort that did manage to win me over somewhat with its later offerings, it'll still always be remembered, for me, as 'the Telltale Games' series that came out more regularly but wasn't as good as Tales From The Borderlands'. I mean, seriously, we can at least say that for it - that it came out on a nice every-two-months schedule rather than having staggering delays.

In this episode, Rodrik is visited by Ramsay Snow with intent to teach him the consequences of disobedience - a lesson that could have dire effects on Rodrik's alliance with the Glenmores. Meanwhile, in King's Landing, Mira falls even further out of Margaery's good graces, and is approached by Cersei with an offer that she literally can't refuse. Beyond the Wall, Gared attempts to convince Cotter and his sister to accompany him to the North Grove. In Essos, Asher, left at a loss after Daenerys' reneges on their deal and running out of time, attempts to recruit a gang of pit fighters to his cause.

Let's start by talking about the big thing: After years of making games where your choices are functionally meaningless, this episode offers you a choice that would seem, on the surface, to drastically affect how the final episode will play out - or, at least, how one viewpoint in it will. At the end of the game, you're faced with the option of sacrificing either Rodrik or Asher, with the remaining one escaping the battle they're caught in. That's huge: The game goes out of its way to highlight that one or the other of them being the lord of House Forrester would have massive knock-on effects for their war effort against the Whitehill's, so it's difficult to see how this decision wouldn't massively change the plot of the final episode.

Also, how does Asher get from Meereen to the North so quickly?

If Telltale Games follows through on that, and has this be a truly meaningful choice, then this game will rise a lot in my estimations - there is, after all, a reason these games work more on the illusion of choice than on actual cost, after all, and those reasons are 'time' and 'cost'. Programming, animating, and voicing multiple branches of a storyline is a time-sink, and that becomes even more true when every branch has its own branches. This is, both in terms of the finished product and in terms of the work that must necessarily go into doing it properly, very interesting.

Which is good, because apart from that, this is an aggressively mediocre episode.

You could pretty much cut out Mira and Gared's parts altogether and not notice - they barely show up, having maybe ten minutes of screen time each, and they don't do anything when they do. Gared's sections have a few quicktime events (woo), while Mira's has her chatting with Cersei and Tyrion (with conversations that can really only go one way, meaning that you, the player, may as well not even be there). 

In terms of which is worse, it's definitely Gared's storyline taking the Tin Cup for Lack of Effort this time, because at least Mira's storyline has Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey putting on some absolutely sterling performances. Gared's storyline doesn't even have that - all conversation is with unenthusiastically acted, boring characters who I have no reason to care about, and that's only in the few short minutes where you're not just pressing whatever keys the game tells you to press.

Mira's storyline, meanwhile - which gives us the most hilarious walking animations in all of video games, as Cersei hobbles down corridors on tiptoes with her back hunched - does not even try to pretend that you're actually an active participant in either of the conversations in it. Attempt to mislead Cersei or Tyrion and they'll just roll their eyes and obstinately act like you didn't; attempt to argue with them and they'll just roll their eyes and obstinately act like you didn't; be completely silent and they'll just keep talking. There is a script, and if you deviate from it, the game will pretend that you didn't. So Mira's storyline takes the Bronze Cup, saved only by Gared's being worse.

Sad imp.

Asher easily takes the Silver Cup, with a storyline which is pretty much fine, but not especially striking. Things happen, there's movement on the plot, and apart from that it's very workmanlike. You get some conversation, you get some quicktime events, it's all very much what you would expect. You could probably slot it into any of the other episodes, or any other Telltale game, and it wouldn't stand out too much.

Which leaves Rodrik with the gold, and I say that very reluctantly. It's true that his storyline has most of the major plot beats: We get to see Ramsay, and we find out who the traitor is - and it's pretty unsatisfying when we do. Maybe it was that they'd never really played up the traitor plotline, and it would actually have been pretty easy to just forget that there even was a traitor plotline. Maybe it was that who the traitor is seems to be decided based on your choices throughout the game, and the game makes this painfully obvious by having characters hedge around ever mentioning him by name, and that just saps all the fun out of it. Maybe it's that, regardless of who it turns out to be, it's always the most obvious choice possible, making it less a twist and more a confirmation of what every player suspected. 

That is a painting that you've stuck a boat model in front of.

Whatever it is, finding out the traitor's identity is just boring, and the confrontation scene lacks any sense of dramatic weight.

To be honest, this episode is one of the weaker of the series, being beaten out for the weakest only by episode one, which was a travesty and a sham and just generally awful. Here's hoping that Telltale Games ups their proverbial game for the final episode.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Teen Wolf S5E5: A Novel Approach.


Teen Wolf
Series 5, Episode 5
A Novel Approach.



I had high hopes for this episode, I really did. As anyone who read my review of the last episode would know, I was fairly convinced that this episode would see the plot kick into a (relatively) higher gear. Doctor Whatshisface with the three eyes was coming back, Donovan was finally going to do something and not just scream at people about how he was going to kill them, everybody had clocked that someone was stealing the bodies, it was all looking pretty good.

The problem, really, is that the preview showed almost the entirety of this week's plot development, and the rest was - well, we'll talk about the rest in a moment.

In this week's episode, we see Donovan, now a wendigo chimera who can manifest mouths anywhere on his body, attack Stiles, who narrowly escapes by impaling him - a grisly fate that Donovan nevertheless pretty easily survives. Meanwhile, Malia's discovery of an old novel, 'The Dread Doctors' sends the gang to Eichen House to talk with Doctor Valack, and straight into a trap set by the Doctors.

The episode gets off to a pretty strong start with Donovan chasing Stiles - Donovan is a pretty scary monster (mouths, mouths everywhere), clearly unhinged, and his stated goal of eating Stiles' legs is a lot more grisly and terrifying than if he wanted to kill Stiles. To be honest, I feel like this episode would have gotten more mileage out of being mostly Donovan and Stiles playing cat and mouse, but instead that portion of the episode is over in ten minutes, and we move on to a vastly inferior plot involving a novel that leads the characters to Eichen House.

Ah, wendigos. Underused, but very creepy.

By 'vastly inferior', what I really mean is 'fanfiction-esque'. The plot device of 'something which appears to be commercial fiction was actually a recounting of real events' always reeks of fanfic no matter where it turns up, and Teen Wolf is no different. Add to that that you have such things as Scott and Kira talking about Stiles having feelings for Lydia (bleck, no, they do not make a good couple, stop that), and the episode seems oddly like it was originally penned for fanfiction.net and then clumsily adapted to the screen.

The saving grace of that plotline is that Steven Brand, playing Valack, puts on the stand-out performance of the episode, equal parts charisma and menace, and I am genuinely fascinated to know more about his character. Clearly, he was a teenager when the Doctors last came to Beacon Hills, and clearly he knows a lot about them. They seem to at least somewhat fear him, as they arrange events so that they can access him in Eichen House and take his third eye. That's a plot line I'd like to see explored more.

(A plot line I don't care for as much is the Malia learning to drive subplot, which seems to be driving (heh) at her not having been responsible for her family's demise after all, it instead having been the work of her mercenary mother, the Desert Wolf.)

But we do have more of Lydia being ominous, so that's a thing.

But we didn't get as much movement on the plot as I would have liked. Exposition a-plenty, mostly about how the Doctors have been in Beacon Hills before and were drawn back by the Nemeton, and that their powers come (very vaguely) from electromagnetism, somehow. Instead, the episode is mostly set-up for the next episode, where the characters will apparently be reading the novel and having suppressed memories of the Doctors resurfacing. Lydia, we know, has memories of them, so if the show wants to take this opportunity to throw a curveball at us, somebody other than Lydia is also going to have to remember them.

It's weird that this is even a thing, since we've had characters encounter the Doctors before - Malia and Scott, just to start - and remember them just fine. Loathe as I am to say it, if they want to do a 'you can't remember them' plotline, the Teen Wolf writers could do worse than look up a few episodes of Moffat's Doctor Who. While I generally think that he's an appallingly bad writer, Moffat is actually surprisingly good at doing plots that play with the perceptions of both the audience and the characters, and the techniques he uses could very easily be adapted for Teen Wolf.

Yay fox.

I am keeping hope alive for later episodes, though. Much as these last five have failed to impress me, I don't currently find myself exhausted with Teen Wolf or wishing that it would just end already. It still has the ability to make me enthusiastic, so I'm more than happy to stick with it and see what happens there.

...

I still don't find the Doctors scary.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Bioshock Infinite.


Bioshock Infinite.



You guys.

I've never reviewed Bioshock Infinite. Do you know how amazing that is to me? You would've thought it would have been one of the first things I reviewed and, apparently, its DLC Bioshock Infinite - Burial At Sea very much was, being the twelfth review I ever did and one of the first things I reviewed as a new release. But the main game itself completely passed me by.

Which is a crying shame, because I absolutely adore Bioshock Infinite. As someone who completely and totally hates first person shooters, Bioshock Infinite stands out to me as one of those few FPS games that I actually like, joining Dishonored amidst the ranks of 'games from genres I usually hate which would nevertheless make it into a list of my favourite games.'

The third and last Bioshock game, Bioshock Infinite sees private detective and former Pinkerton Booker DeWitt travel to the floating city of Columbia, a vast and technologically advanced city that lives by the rather terrifying ideals of religious zealotry, even more zealous American exceptionalism, and even more zealous racism. Tasked with locating and retrieving a young woman, Elizabeth, the two quickly become a dynamic duo in their attempts to escape Columbia and the iron grip of its leader, Father Comstock.

Not that Columbia isn't very beautiful, it's just also kind of crazy.

We'll start with the gameplay, because that was always liable to be my biggest bugbear with this game. It's very typical first person shooter fare - you get given a range of guns, and you have to shoot your way through hordes of enemies. In terms of gameplay, the game doesn't really innovate at all - its biggest innovation, if anything, is having Elizabeth throw you various healing items or ammunition in the middle of battle, and she's far from the first video game companion to do that. The game mixes things up a little by giving you tonics, superpowers that can range from tossing fireballs to dragging enemies closer with a watery tendril, but even that isn't that original. 

There's a lot to be said, however, about how well optimised the gameplay is. While there's more than a few FPS games that are so over-responsive that your aim will careen wildly from side to side, or so under-responsive that you'll find yourself stopping in the middle of a firefight to drag yourself to face a charging enemy, Bioshock Infinite is precisely as responsive as you need it, and very steady to boot, meaning that when you miss it will pretty much always be because of your own error, and not because you're playing a protagonist with arms of jelly. On top of that, Elizabeth's ability to find useful items is unerring, and the game never punishes you too badly for failure, simply throwing you back a short distance on the game's map and restoring some of your foes' health. The combination of well-optimised gameplay and a fairly forgiving punishment for failure means that Bioshock Infinite is, on lower difficulties, a perfect game for newcomers like me to get into first person shooters with.

All of which is something I can appreciate - I'd rather have old ground retread well than have a game try to reinvent the wheel and fail horribly.

Elizabeth, and an unemployment crisis.

It's in terms of storyline that the game really shines, though. It tries to be a lot of things - rollicking action adventure; satirical commentary on right-wing politics in the US; buddy story of two unlikely friends; and thoughtful science fantasy. Unlike most pieces of media that try to fit into a lot of different genres, though, it actually succeeds, and quite well at that. The action is suitably over-the-top, with slightly ridiculous additions such as implacable gun-toting robots with the faces of the Founding Fathers adding flavour, and only becomes more so as Columbia begins to collapse (figuratively and occasionally literally) around the protagonists; the satire is sharp and on point, taking aim both at the involvement of religion in politics and the absurd, toxic philosophy of jingoism that is American exceptionalism (both of which are gigantic issues in US politics); the buddy story is sweet and sometimes painful; and the science fiction is thoughtful and will leave you pondering its twists, turns, and theories for some time afterwards.

Out of those four plot elements, though, Bioshock Infinite's biggest success is in the relationship of Booker and Elizabeth: They're both very human characters who it's very easy to empathise with, and thus audiences will quite quickly find themselves invested in their friendship, and later on in the father-daughter dynamic they acquire. It's the element that binds the storyline of the game together, as without it, it would just be a fun but kind of stupid action game with delusions of being meaningful, because all of the political commentary and science fiction malarkey would feel empty if it wasn't happening to characters whose well-being we're emotionally invested in.

Mechanically, everything is more than up to snuff as well. The soundtrack is great, particularly the various renditions of 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', a hymn from the early 20th Century; the voice-acting is all pretty astoundingly good; the graphics are gorgeous and the game makes full use of them whenever it can. 

Where to even begin?

There's not much bad I can say about this game, if I'm being honest. The boss battle with the banshee ghost thing wasn't great? The game probably could have been a touch longer, although much like Dishonored it's very much a small but perfectly formed game? A few more breathers would have been appreciated? It's one of the great gems of modern gaming, and I strongly urge that anybody who hasn't already played it does.