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Spitz’s Spookbox: Halloween 2019 Special

Hey folks! Summer is dead, dead, dead and the spooky season brought on by October is ready to follow it, but before we move on to the dreadful grind of Wintertime, there’s time yet to revisit a great horror game from the past.

And this year, it’s Dead Space! Can you believe it has been over a decade since Dead Space arrived as a fresh new horror franchise? The later games and supplementary fiction are hit or miss depending on who you talk to, but I think most who played it would consider the original Dead Space to be a standout in the 360/PS3 generation, and it’s a game that still holds up supremely well. Join me as we creep through the early-goings of this modern horror game classic!

Have a great Halloween, everyone!

Some Words About: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

It’s around that time of the year in which things are getting busy to to point in which I find it difficult to find time to do the things I need to do, little less the things I want to do.  Call of Duty is a yearly tradition at this point though, and over the past handful of years I’ve found it fun to collect my thoughts into a written review.
Don’t misunderstand, I don’t expect anyone’s playing decisions to be informed by a series of rambles written by some Joe Shmo on the internet, but there is a process to collecting thoughts and video clips to put into a structured review that I find entertaining, as laborious and time-consuming as it can sometimes be.

So here’s the thing, and I’ll get to the point: I don’t think this year’s game is worth the effort.
(There’s going to be some comparison made to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, so to avoid some confusion, the shorthand for that game will be CoD4, where this year’s game will be referred to as Modern Warfare.)

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a landmark release. Looking at the game on its face, especially given where shooters have been (especially the Call of Duty series, given that there’s a new one each year which, to the laymen, could be identified as any other entry in the series).
What made CoD4 such a highly regarded game, not only at the time, but from a academic standpoint, was, for one, its superb summer blockbuster-esque single player campaign, but more importantly, its redefining of multiplayer shooters through persistent progression.

My general mind on Modern Warfare as a brand is that it isn’t enough to just reboot it. It isn’t enough to bring back names like Captain Price and to have a multiplayer with persistent progression. If you’re bringing back the Modern Warfare name, you have to bring your A Game. It’s tough to reinvent the wheel, but it’s required, given the impact CoD4 had to the gaming industry as a whole.

This is not a reinvention of first person shooter games in the way Call of Duty 4 was.

Price is here, but he’s voiced by a different actor, and largely plays a supporting role in the campaign. Other names such as Nikolai and Zakhaev are back as well, but like Price, they feel as though they were brought back for little more than the sake of it.
The narrative of the campaign is very boiler-plate at this point, with grit for the sake of grit and sequences which feel tailored to “make you feel something because gosh isn’t this stuff disturbing”.
You get your one-off sequences involving sniping and piloting vehicles, but the shooting is still the shooting, and while it does look absolutely jaw-dropping, specifically when it comes to nighttime sequences, the shooting is still the shooting.

The Cooperative mode, speaking bluntly, feels like slap-dash. Spec-Ops in Modern Warfare 2 offered a series of intense missions which could be enjoyed by two players. Modern Warfare 3 gave us a wave-based survival mode in which the player leveled up over time, gaining access to new weapons and equipment to purchase as time went on.
In 2019, we have a battle royale-sized map, with hastily plastered objectives strewn about and seemingly infinitely respawning AI pouring toward the team (of up to 4) from all directions.
It’s chaotic, yes, but it doesn’t feel tightly designed to any degree. Players can select a class before the game starts, which comes with a Super such as the ability to revive teammates from a distance, or to whip out a grenade launcher, but these classes don’t intermingle in fun or interesting ways, and the steep, almost undertuned difficulty of this mode means that unless you’re able to find a exploity strategy with your given group to avoid some of the more lethal enemies (tanks or juggernauts mostly), failure is all but guaranteed.
It’s stupid to assume, but were I to, I’d guess that whichever team was assigned to handle the “third mode” this year couldn’t iron out the kinks involved in getting Battle Royale to work with the new, updated engine, and rushed to get this working instead.
And for those on ps4 uninterested in this mode, there is a Modern Warfare 3 style, wave-based mode here as well, but it is only playable on a small subset of the game’s available multiplayer maps.
Everyone else gets a similar mode, but which takes place on a segment of terrain repurposed from the campaign.
It just. Feels. Unfinished.

Then we get to the competitive multiplayer, and if you have any real interest in hearing my extended thoughts on that, nothing has changed since the beta video I did.
The available maps are divided between different player counts (64, 20, 12, and 4), which means that there are a whopping 6 (six) for the core multiplayer. These maps are all much too small and much too busy for the number of players running around on them, and seeing the Sledgehammer logo on the game’s startup screens has me thinking that they’re the ones to blame; these maps feel like large, busy rooms, much like WWII maps did, and more designed to look like real locations than to play like multiplayer maps. These do not seem thoughtfully designed to any degree.

The class customization and general progression is supremely dumbed down compared to previous installments, and the moment to moment gameplay lacks any amount of satisfaction. I don’t know who this competitive multiplayer is for, and to a degree, I’m not sure the team involved does either.

Modern Warfare feels like a game built by committee. Numerous voices with numerous ideas with no guidance or vision behind them. Rent this game to see how good the campaign looks, and to get a few chuckles out of how ham-fisted its scenarios get at times and then go elsewhere for your competitive shooting and cooperative experiences – that is my suggestion.

Chill & Chat: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare beta

It’s around that time of the year again. Having been the rare Infinite Warfare advocate, I have been highly anticipating the opportunity to see how Infinity Ward’s newest CoD entry looks in a more traditional form. The promotional betas have arrived, and after two separate weekends and some significant time spent with Modern Warfare’s… more modern… outing, there’s a lot to say. Enjoy!

And for those looking for a less ramble-focused look, I have a smattering of matches without commentary which I will be uploading to the channel as I find the time.

Revisiting Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s Campaign

Hey folks. Lack of content on the Soapbox lately, huh.
We’re about a month and some change from this year’s Call of Duty game, and I thought it would be cool to freshen up my memory of Infinity Ward’s previous outing, Infinite Warfare; specifically the campaign, but once we get through it, you never know.
The playthrough will be streamed on Twitch, and archived on Youtube before being posted here. I remember the game being 6-8 hours long, so it’ll be done in a few parts over the coming weeks leading up to Modern Warfare.

Here’s the first part!

I also have quite a lot to say about the Modern Warfare promotional beta which hit PS4 recently and will hit all platforms this weekend, but I’m waiting to see if anything changes before we edit together a video for it.
It’s nearly Autumn, can you believe it?

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2v2 Test

Hey folks! After Gamescom this past week, Infinity Ward dropped us a surprise weekend test for Modern Warfare’s Gunfight mode. It’s a limited test, but there’s still plenty of look and feel stuff to talk about!

I was kicking myself moments after uploading this for not mentioning Super Sprint (silly name, yeah). We’ll get into that when the promotional beta proper hits in a few weeks.

Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? July 2019

Hello everyone! I apologize for the sudden disappearance, but it was a good break and I’m looking forward to getting things back to normal.
I wish I didn’t have to come back with bad news, and for most of you, I’m sure it’s old bad news at this point, which is worse, but it is certainly worth bringing it up nonetheless, and it’s about the horrible attack on one of Kyoto Animation’s studios which left 35 dead and many more injured.
It is a very sobering thing to hear. These are individuals who came together to bring countless smiles across the world through their medium – stories and characters which many of us, and many more of us will continue to hold dear, and to think that many of the men and women responsible have been removed from a world they’ve helped brighten, all by a single person, is a revolting thought to have.
Sentai Filmworks’ fundraiser has come and gone, and was very successful, and if you’re still willing to help, both Crunchyroll’s (link) and RightStuf’s (link) efforts are still ongoing among several others local and nationwide. Words and dollars will never bring the victims back, and will only hope to help mend the damage done to all of the families affected by the attack, but it is the least we can do for the people who spent the last months and years of their lives bringing such joy to the world through their creations, and for their families and friends who will feel the effects of this senseless loss of life for years to come.
No one is invincible, and life is precious. It is one of the disgusting truths of today’s world that terrible things such as this continue to happen.
Please be kind to one another.
 

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust-
In the far flung future, society as we know it has waned.
Humanity withers from within their villages as they defend themselves from the evil forces of the night – the chief threat among them being vampires.
However, thanks to the efforts of Hunters, mercenaries who track down and eradicate these creatures for a price, their menace is nearly overcome. Vampires are an endangered species.
When a young woman is taken in the dead of night, her family hire the services of a mysterious man, to track down her Vampire abductor. This man is known only as D, and has a reputation as being half vampire himself – a Dhampir.
As the silent man in black departs to track his new prey, the situation becomes a race against time, as not only does he have competition in the form of a band of Hunters, but a slumbering evil secretly plots against them all.

What I thought-
The first D film, which was covered (somewhat) recently here on the Soapbox was an interesting specimen. Though the action wasn’t great, nor was much of the artwork, nor was the narrative, that film had this sort of engrossing dread which enveloped you as the movie progressed. Whether it was intentional, or simply due to the shortcomings of the production budget, that film creeped along at a snails pace, often lingering longer than necessary on characters or locations. This worked for that film though, because it slowed things down and allowed you to soak in the atmosphere.
Bloodlust is in some ways the polar opposite of that first film by comparison. Here, the animation is fluid. The action, when it happens, is varied and exciting. There are numerous characters with different motivations and views and personalities. It looks and sounds modern, with outstanding character art and gorgeous environments brimming with detail. The voice work is also great, with English voiceover delivered with enthusiasm, even when the lines themselves are often clunky.
But the issue with this film is that while we have all of these wonderful, shiny things afforded by a more modern animation style and a higher budget, the overall narrative and accompanying tone greatly hinders its potential.
This is a tale of tragedy – of survival in a twisted world full of suffering and oppression, but because the cast of characters is as large as it is, and D himself has such little presence in his own film, the viewer is never properly let in upon the idea. Our heroes meander from one environment to the next with no sense of urgency, and the scenes which transpire at each stop do very little to add depth to the narrative. As the story progresses, new antagonists come out of nowhere, and pose a new threat to a love between characters we have barely spent time with. It’s easy to see the ideas at work behind the scenes, but even up to the climax of the film, there is never a driving force behind them, and while that worked for this film’s predecessor because its more limited scope left room for filler which ultimately ended up adding to its tone, Bloodlust feels like a movie which wants to be everything and manages to be very little.
If you can read between the lines, there is a narrative and world worth appreciating hidden beneath Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust’s stylish visuals, but this is a film largely incapable of presenting that narrative or that dark world in a compelling way.


 

WoW Classic is soon! Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (you know, the new one) is right around the corner! Video games are happening! October looms from afar, which means spooky stuff abound. Very exciting!
After the break, I’m also digging into several anime series, and I’ve accrued a nice collection of films to get to as well. I hope everyone has been getting their fill of the sun.
That’s all for now though. じゃ。
(Last year this month.)

Chill & Chat: Mortal Kombat 11

Hey guys and/or gals! It’s been a little slow, so I recorded some stuff with Mortal Kombat 11 talking about what’s good and what’s not so good about it. Enjoy!