‘The Predator’ Review: “What the Hell Are You?”

Written by Joe Ahart // Edited by Andrew Busch // 


When people recall the 80’s, it is hard not to think about the countless popular franchises that spawned out of the era. TerminatorNightmare on Elm Street, Back to the Future, and so many other movies from this era still hold cultural value to this day. Some are even still being revisited to this day with modern adaptations, remakes or reboots. One cultural icon that is no exception to this phenomenon is the Predator, revealing itself for the first time in John McTiernan’s original Predator (1987).

As someone who grew up with this franchise and has loved almost every film it has had to offer, I was pretty excited to hear that a new installment was being released this year. The Predator, which released in theaters on September 14th of 2018, was directed by Shane Black, who played the part of Rick Hawkins in the original Predator movie and even helped write the first film and others like Lethal Weapon (1987) and Monster Squad (1987). Seems promising, right? The trailers left me a little skeptical, but hey, I shouldn’t take the movie too seriously. The Predator franchise has always had its fair share of corny one-liners and campy moments. So I did the right thing and set my expectations low enough to sit back, relax, and just be happy to see one of my favorite movie monsters on the big screen again.

Somehow The Predator sinks even lower than I could have imagined.

This movie took what could have been an interesting idea and turned it into an almost hilarious disaster. Let’s start off with the objectively terrible aspects that anyone who has taken a single film class could recognize. The editing is downright atrocious; it’s clear from the choppiness alone that the film had gone through development hell, probably experiencing multiple re-shoots, rewrites, and creative decisions which all came at the cost having a cohesive narrative.

The first half of the film starts off somewhat decipherable; a marine sniper named McKenna is in the middle of a mission when he encounters the Predator after it crash lands on Earth. McKenna’s squad is taken out, but he is able to escape from the wounded creature while managing to take some of its gear for evidence. The Predator is then captured and sent to a lab for study, while McKenna makes his way to a rural Mexican village and, before being captured by the government, FedEx’s the top secret alien gear back to his home, where his hyper-intelligent son discovers it and begins to decipher its mysteries. Seriously, he just mails it home from some random village in Mexico. After brief questioning, McKenna is then assigned to ‘Group 2’ (a.k.a the ‘Loony Bin’), a group of soldiers suffering from PTSD and other traumatic backgrounds, and is sent…somewhere. It’s never really revealed where they were being taken, but hey, I guess it doesn’t matter because the Predator escapes and they manage to break loose! From this point on, the plot is constructed from a compilation of loosely related scenes. Moments that seem to be building up to something are cut before they get interesting, big plot points happen so quickly they can’t be registered, and people seem to transport from one area to another without any explanation as to how, why or when they even got there.

The Predator gasps in horror as he watches his franchise bomb, circa 2018 [image courtesy of IMDb]

I had also expected much more from Shane Black in terms of writing. The plot, dialogue and characters in this film felt like a Predator parody rather than a serious installment. With majority of the dialogue being either exposition or crappy jokes, there was no room left to give the characters any depth or sensible motivations. Were they original? Maybe, but any personality and charm came entirely from having funny quirks, not by being relatable or complex. These are supposed to be soldiers with PTSD, but instead of delving into this subject seriously we get ‘funny’ jokes about Tourette’s syndrome and one brief scene of Keegan Michael Key having a panic attack. The main character himself reminded me of someone out of a Transformers movie. Completely flat, terrible dialogue, and no real developmental change other than going from ‘total bad-ass’ to ‘even more of a total bad-ass’ by the end.

At the same time, many characters who were introduced never actually have a proper send off, instead just disappearing after their usefulness to the plot is spent. What is such a shame is that there were some decent actors in this movie who never had a chance to shine due to poor character development and messy dialogue. Olivia Munn plays the supporting role of Dr. Bracket, who goes from a driven Johns Hopkins professor determined to understand the Predators’ motivations to yet another unrealistic bad-ass who jumps off of buildings and handles assault rifles without any hesitation or sense of unfamiliarity. McKenna’s son Rory, played by Jacob Tremblay from the movie ‘Room’ is on the spectrum and while Tremblay’s performance is convincing in depicting someone with autism, his character became a complete joke, but I’ll get to that atrocious plot point later on.

I think in order to understand why this movie was so terrible, we have to look at what made the first Predator film so great. For the record, this is not a nostalgia rant about how great the 80’s were, and that change is always a bad thing. I actually liked the direction that Shane Black was taking Predator lore. After three other movies keeping the creature shrouded in mystery, Black was brave enough to explore deeper motives of the extraterrestrial hunter. While some may disagree with the direction he chose, I was happy to finally get more background, and even some dialogue, from the Predators themselves. But this movie completely failed to capture what Predator is about, how it is portrayed, and the suspense that naturally comes with an invisible killer hunting you and your buddies down one by one. John McTiernan blended the line between horror and action with the original movie, giving a few fast paced moments for that 80’s adrenaline rush, but also purposefully creating many drawn out moments and lingering shots in order to create that sense of dread of being hunted. Predator (1987) is the only action movie I can think of where the final act has little to no dialogue in it. It simply doesn’t need it; the motives are clear, the rules are set, and the stakes are high.

Again, being the fourth (technically sixth) installment in the franchise, it’s understandable why that mysterious aura around the Predator doesn’t work anymore. But this movie ignored any chance at creating a suspenseful atmosphere and traded it for B-movie quality action sequences and off-putting comedic moments. In terms of sci-fi movies, I would compare it to the likes of Men in Black more than I would a Predator movie. On paper, Black had an interesting idea that could have gone deeper into the ‘Predator universe’ while understanding, at its core, what the films are trying to accomplish. It seemed that at a certain point he simply didn’t believe in himself or the idea he had, and instead turned the movie into a parody of itself.

The newest installment doesn’t seem to quite fit with the rest… [image courtesy of Slash Film]

Looking at the previous installment, Predators (2010), I think there was a lot Black could have learned from the way Robert Rodriguez approached the franchise. Predators was by no means a ground-breaking movie, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it. It took itself just seriously enough to have compelling characters and cool new additions to the ‘Predator universe’, all while still keeping plenty open ended and capturing that familiar, suspenseful tone and structure from the original movie. That being said, these familiar things were also Predators’ weakness, and I was happy to see Shane Black deviate from the typical status quo and attempt to create a fresh new take. It was time to move on from the slasher-in-the-jungle film and turn it into something bigger and better. Instead he sought to create something so wildly different and subverting that it became almost meta in some aspects, as if he were making fun of action movies and the franchise itself. We know it’s ridiculous, Shane. We didn’t need you to remind us every minute of how silly the concept of an alien hunter is. There was simply nothing there to suspend the viewers disbelief from it.

The last thing that confused me about this movie was how Black portrayed things like autism, PTSD, and other mental conditions. This wasn’t the first film in which he tackled this subject; Iron Man 3 delves into Tony Stark’s PTSD caused by the events of the first Avengers movie. This is a recurring subject in his films, so clearly the subject matter must mean something to him. I am not trying to presume anything, of course, but all I’m saying is if you are going to continue to portray things like autism and anxiety in your films, shouldn’t you do a little research first? Putting these elements into a Predator film, you’d think he would take a darker approach to these concepts and use them to create an unusual and interesting dynamic for an action film. Instead, unsurprisingly, they all fall into an almost comedic tone and become more like joke sources rather than interesting character traits. Honestly, I thought having soldiers with PTSD and a child on the spectrum face off against the deadliest hunter in the galaxy sounded like an awesome idea, and could have resulted in some. Instead the soldiers are like characters out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the child feels like Young Sheldon. Without spoiling too much, they literally describe autism as the ‘next step in human evolution’ and many of the child’s abilities make it seem more like a superpower than a developmental condition. I think Black’s heart was in the right direction in giving more exposure to mental conditions like these, but his comedic take on them in this movie turned these portrayals into borderline offensive representations.  


This poster was the best thing this movie had to offer [image courtesy of IMDb]

As you can probably tell by now, I am deeply disappointed with this movie and sad that it did not live up to its potential to be something truly unique. Even though it had many interesting ideas and could have taken a bold step in the franchise, The Predator fails on pretty much all fronts to deliver a good or even entertaining film. If you are going to see it, my suggestion is to not only lower your expectations tremendously, but to try and convince yourself that you’re watching a comedy. It might help make sense of the ridiculous plot, terrible writing, and over-the-top concepts.

I give it 3/10 stars and a hard pass.

Indie Spotlight: ‘The Swine’ Creator Vincent Lade

By: Nick Farinola

After facing the terrors of the pig people and the occult in the deep south, I wanted to take the opportunity to learn more about their leader Vincent Lade – a small indie game developer with an even greater vision for the future. 

The Swine is a fantastic, 45-or-so-minute descent into Hell, but Vincent plans on challenging himself more so in his upcoming titles by introducing new mechanics into an entirely new nightmarish setting. Here’s your first look into the mind of Vincent Lade. 

  1. What systems did you grow up playing?

Lade: My first console was the NES, an early 90’s favourite. Then the PS1 when it came out a few years later, which got me into some iconic titles from my childhood like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Twisted Metal.

  1. Where did you grow up and what did you study in school? 

Lade: I grew up in Minden, Ontario, a small town in Canada. Not a whole lot was going on there so I’d explore the town or the woods during the day and be playing games at home in the evening. I went to school for Graphic Design in Vancouver, British Columbia, where I moved to a year before attending.

  1. You mentioned that you’re currently living in Hong Kong. Are you a full time indie dev?

Lade: There’s a trend of me moving quite a bit hah, I’ve been living in Hong Kong for about a year and a half now. I moved here to start a new job and had been wanting to live abroad again, I used to live in Auckland, New Zealand as well that I really enjoyed. I still work as a Graphic Designer, Indie Development is my passion I’ve been working on for a couple years in my free-time.

  1. Why horror? 

Lade: It’s more engaging than other genres for me personally, there’s a certain thrill that comes from horror that I think is unique to it. Along with that feeling there’s options to explore certain characters, locations, and concepts that could only work with a level of surrealness that horror offers, it’s hard to imagine a character like Leatherface working in any other genre hah.

It’s also cool to see people’s reactions to it as well, people send me clips of them playing my games on Twitter and how they react to certain parts are always fun to watch.

Silent Hill’s Midwich Elementary – What do you have planned for us, Mr. Lade?!

  1. What kind of horror specifically? Any Film inspirations? 

Lade: My favourites have always been Psychological Horror and the Occult. 

Specifically Psychological Horror, it’s great for creating unnerving atmospheres that ‘get in your head’ and there’s a lot more that can be done in regards to art direction. I always think about how Twin Peaks and Silent Hill have a way of making everyday environments, sounds, and interactions seem unnatural and uneasy with just minor changes, and how they can make completely unnatural settings seem “normal” in that moment. Like in Silent Hill for instance, It’s normal to hear distant machinery and have steel grate flooring in a factory or warehouse but when it’s in a hospital, not so much. I guess the idea of things seeming “off” gives an Uncanny Valley feeling that I think Psychological Horror does really well, then you throw in something like Pyramid Head and everything’s amped up hah. 

As for the Occult, I think it comes from an interest in the darker side of spiritualism, ceremony, and things of strange or unknown origin. I think a lot of its impact comes from knowing less, rather than more about the antagonist or dark force influencing the characters or location. Not having all the details of what exactly is causing the melodrama in a particular story always had me coming up with theories that would be more frightening to me personally. 

For film inspirations, some of mine would be Rosemary’s Baby, The VVitch, and Hereditary.

  1. What’s your favorite horror title and why? 

Lade: My favourite title has always been Silent Hill, primarily 1 to 3 in the series. It does a lot of things great: intriguing characters, blending different ‘types’ of horror together, ambience, and scary without relying on shock or jumpscares…I’m not a big fan of jumpscares hah. The overall art direction of the series is great too, people call certain games or films “Silent Hill-like” because of how well Team Silent at Konami defined its style. 

  1. What can you tell us about your next title? You’ve been showing some Silent Hill school type of environments to your followers on twitter – will this be the main explorable environment? 

Lade: My next game is going to take what I’ve learned from The Swine and Deathbloom and combine them into a story-driven game with more exploration, puzzle mechanics, and combat, sort of like a “The Swine 2.0”. It will take place in and around a High School called “Harthorn” that will be the large environment for the majority of the game. 

Our first look at the main antagonist of “Harthorn” via @VincentLade on Twitter

8. What scares you as both a person and an independent game developer? 

Lade: That’s a hard one to answer hah, as a person: basically anything existential-dread inducing. As for Game Development: launching a title with a game-breaking bug. 

  1. The Swine has seen quite a bit of praise on Steam (and rightfully so). How has this reaction made you feel, and can fans expect a future sequel?

Lade: It definitely got more popular than I expected hah, I still find it surreal that a game I made in my living room has been sold in 70 countries. Though I think the biggest shock for me was seeing people I’ve watched for years play my game, getting YouTube notifications for John Wolfe, MrKravin, and CJUGames was the biggest highlight for me. 

As for a sequel, the player taking on the role as the new-bodied Aleister and causing mayhem as leader of “The Swine” is an idea. Though I have one or two short games I’d like to develop first before going back to The Swine storyline. 

  1. Unity or Unreal Engine? 

Lade: I use Unity.

  1. With the release of next-gen consoles coming upon us, what titles are you most excited for and why?

Lade: Two titles come to mind…the first would be The Outlast Trials, as Outlast has been a monolith in modern horror and I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with the series. The second would be The Medium, it looks very promising from what I’ve seen and having Akira Yamaoka do the score is a big selling point as I’ve always been a huge fan of his music.

  1. What’s the first thing you do when creating a new game? 

Lade: I generally ask myself if I’m able to build something of that scope solo, or do I need to scale things back to make it more realistically possible to finish.

  1. How do you generally work – write a script or develop a plot as it goes?

Lade: I usually start with an environment and character in mind and then start writing the story around it. Adding notes along the way about dialog, puzzles, events, items, and then drawing the layouts of the levels to match. I try to have as much planned as possible so when I start developing the game I can just follow the notes like a blueprint. Though things naturally change as development goes on, workarounds or new ideas are implemented all the time. 

Lade takes inspiration from English Occultist Aleister Crowley. [@Vincent Lade via Twitter] 
  1. Do you work alone, or outsource for certain aspects of your game?

Lade: I work on the games alone with the exception of voice acting and particular assets I need from artists.

A huge THANK YOU goes out to Vincent Lade for taking the time to answer all of my questions.  Keep your eye out for his future work on Steam, and show him some love via Twitter @VincentLade! For more on the occult and off kilter elementary schools, keep it here at GameFes.net.

Something’s Fishy About ‘Atomic Heart’

Written by: Nick Farinola // Published by: Joe Ahart // Photo Credit: Mundfish, ResetEra


Video games are a business. Developers have both sales estimations, goals and requirements. A final, triple-A product could very well release to overwhelming critical praise, only to fall victim to poor sales across the board. Titanfall 2 is an excellent example. Respawn’s highly regarded 2016 sequel was a critical success, but fell well below sales expectations. There are many factors that play into this unfortunate result, however it was the release date that inevitably paved the way to poor sales. Publisher Electronic Arts decided that it would be a great idea to release Titanfall 2 in late October, dead center between EA’s other FPS titan (no relation) Battlefield 1 and Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, a series notorious for dominating sales and topping the charts months after its release. At its core, Titanfall 2 redefines first-person multiplayer shooters by injecting an innovative, fast-paced parkour movement system mixed with futuristic mech warfare. Gameplay and design-wise, Titanfall 2 was made with love, and Respawn nearly addressed all issues from the first game for their sequel. They even added in an expertly designed six to eight-hour single-player campaign anchored by an emotional narrative that IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey claims to be one of the best single-player campaigns in a first-person shooter (IGN Podcast Unlocked ep. 429). Unlike Respawn, other developers utilize ‘sketchier’ tactics. 

Some of the imagery on display is unnerving [Credit: Mundfish]


Developed by a small Russian studio of less than twenty employees by the name of Mundfish, Atomic Heart is an upcoming Bioshock-esque action, adventure RPG releasing on Playstation 4 and PC in early 2020…maybe. Atomic Heart’s most recent gameplay teaser that was released in early February 2020 continued the trend of leaving questions unanswered. The supposed early 2020 release date no longer seems viable with the lack of any kind of update or release window from neither the teaser nor the official website. This is a huge red flag that strongly indicates a troubled development cycle. So, I did some research, and what I found is rather worrisome. There’s plenty of room for doubt, but Mundfish has openly denied the claims I am about to reveal. According to a detailed report from a game development related telegram in Russian that’s been translated on gaming forum ResetEra, Atomic Heart could be a huge scam.  


Quotations pulled from an article by Rishi Alwani from Gadgets360.com: 


  • “Last gameplay is real but it’s heavily directed and very linear. First trailer is mostly fake with gameplay bits rendered on engine.
  • Seems like the game may have an episodic release (one episode is approximately five hours) but it isn’t mentioned anywhere else.
  • CEO doesn’t have any knowledge about the game’s development.
  • Everything that people like about the game (art, design, concept) is made by one person – Artyom Galeev, who has been nurturing the concept of the game for many years.
  • No actual game design. Devs don’t know what they want to make. Someone liked finishers from Doom and they implemented something similar. Ideas shift from Doom and Prey to even Dark Souls.
  • Major layoffs and there are not many experienced developers with C++ and UE4 in Russia, a lot of the work is outsourced.
  • Development was rebooted five months ago and now it looks even worse than it did before, huge gameplay downgrade.
  • The whole deal with Soviet Luna Park VR sounds like a cash grab with people who bought it left behind.
  • Pre-orders are already open and it seems like it’s the only thing about this game that really does work.”


A game is only as good as the people creating it. Other sources from Reddit claim that financial director Evgeina Sedova has a modeling background and also owns a modeling agency without any prior knowledge or experience within the gaming industry. Mundfish markets Atomic Heart in a way to emphasize its graphical prowess without focusing much attention on gameplay mechanics or narrative. It’s the last point that really hits home. On the official website for Atomic Heart, pre orders are active without any sort of promising release window. There are currently three pre order editions: Digital Download Edition priced at $40 (with a “30% less than retail discount”), the Founder’s Edition from $50, and the Atomic Founder Edition from $90 that includes in-game cosmetics and “your photo and name placed on the wall at the safe zone. All players will see that you support Atomic Heart from the start.” Interesting. It all sounds very tempting, especially to a sucker like me, but it all seems so…fishy. 


Take all of this with a grain of salt as Mundfish actively denies all claims. Then again, if I was in their position and these claims threatened my product, I’d most likely deny everything and doubt their veracity. I want to be optimistic for this project, but there just isn’t enough information and communication from the developers for me to ignore the development hell rumors. What are your thoughts?

Atomic Heart is developed by Mundfish and will release NEVER. 

The Horror! The Horror! – Metro, Bioshock and Their Incredible Impact

Written by: Nick Farinola // Published by: Joe Ahart


Previously on Loochie’s Backtrack, we explored just what made Gears of War: Judgement such an awesome entry in the franchise. The short answer was that developer People Can Fly successfully crafted a fast-paced, wholly entertaining Gears prequel story that checked all the right boxes of a great Gears of War game. 


         For anyone that isn’t living under a rock, the looming threat of the Wuhan Coronavirus continues to make headlines with the worldwide death toll exponentially increasing. This virus is playing out similarly to that Matt Damon epidemic movie Contagion (2011), ya know, the one where the bats carried this deadly virus. In recent reports, with everything but scientific confirmation, it seems the virus has sprung from bats. Coincidence? I think not! 


         With the overwhelming threat of the zombie apocalypse, I wanted to look back at two of my favorite horror-centric first-person shooters that both received a fresh coat of paint with current-gen remaster packages. Those franchises are Bioshock and Metro. Oddly enough, Playstation had just announced their line-up for PS-Plus free games of the month, which just so happens to include Bioshock: The Collection. For those of you unaware of this 2016 remastered collection, it includes all three Bioshock games (Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Bioshock Infinite). 

Rapture is both beautiful and eerily haunting [Credit: 2K Games]



         Without going any further, I would be committing an injustice if I did not commend the System Shock series. These two games, more specifically System Shock 2, heavily inspired the two games I will be discussing further. If you haven’t had the chance to play System Shock, I implore you to do so. For those of you that find them to be a bit dated, you’re in luck! Developer Night Dive Studios has fully Kickstarted a remaster of the first game, available for pre-order here


         Without further ado, I’m Loochie and THIS is “Loochie’s Backtrack!” 


         Okay, how the hell do I even introduce Bioshock? It’s one of the most shocking, violent, and extraordinary games to have ever been released. Its lore is, at base level, simplistic. But if you’re a gamer who likes to explore every nook and cranny, searching for that last diary entry, then you will be fully rewarded with one of gaming’s most profound and haunting universes ever created. The final twist delivers one of the most mind-blowing “Oh, shit!” moments without it seeming forced or confusing in respect to the established lore. 


         The most compelling aspect of Bioshock, aside from its narrative, is the atmosphere. Your adventure takes place in Rapture – well, it actually starts on a doomed flight over the mid-Atlantic. You are Jack, the sole survivor of this crash. The year is 1960, and you seemingly stumble upon the underwater, dystopian city of Rapture…one year or so after riots tore the place limb from limb. Want to know more about this fictional city? Check out the wiki page, or even read the book “Bioshock: Rapture” by John Shirley to understand how it came to be and how it came to fall. Bioshock is a great example of the almost perfect culmination of narrative, gameplay, atmosphere and sound. Rapture was a nightmare to explore, but I never wanted to leave – and that’s the best compliment I could give to the game. 

Bioshock Infinite’s Columbia, similar to Rapture, is both beautiful and deceptive [Credit: Irrational Games] 



         I’m the type of gamer who completely appreciates fantastic art direction. I could easily condone mediocre gameplay if the world I’m placed into forces me to believe in its existence. Rapture feels alive, yet ironically, also feels dreadfully void. The player could imagine the beauty that once was, but what they’re seeing is destruction and death. Something terrible happened here, but what makes it worse is the fact that we’re hundreds of miles deep in the ocean. It’s claustrophobic and uncomfortably tense. You could experience Jack’s story all while uncovering the mystery of Rapture through hidden video logs spread throughout the city. Think of them as pieces of personal narratives that reveal a greater puzzle. Believe me, take the time to listen to each and every one. 


         What separates the Bioshock series from other first-person shooters are the plasmids (Bioshock and Bioshock 2) and vigors (Bioshock Infinite). These ingestible, supernatural powers give you the ability to electrocute and set aflame (to name a few) your enemies. This adds a strategic element to the gameplay loop. See a group of slicers looting a dead corpse in a puddle? Why not electrocute the water, killing everyone immediately? If you light one of them on fire, the AI is programmed to actually run to the nearest source of water. Bioshock Infinite further expands on the series’ unique gameplay by implicating a hook-and-ride system that could be utilized both offensively and defensively, as well as a time loop mechanic through Elizabeth. It quickens the pace of combat to exhilarating heights. Interestingly enough, a YouTube video details an alpha version of Bioshock Infinite, revealing a game that was far different from the already innovative one that was released. I can’t begin to fathom the difficulty that comes with creating a video game, but what was shown off in that video versus the final product is pretty staggering. 


         The Bioshock series greatly impacted the industry and further blurred the line between cinema and video games. With the recent formation of Cloud Chamber (a division of 2K Games), a new Bioshock could, and most likely is on the way!

[Credit: Blind Squirrel Games/2K Games]



The Metro series is one that hasn’t seen as much publicity as Bioshock but has recently received much-deserved praise with the release of its third installment Exodus. Keep in mind that atmosphere is the most important aspect of a successful video game. The year is 2033, twenty years after nuclear war had wiped out most of Earth’s population, reducing the few remaining to survive among the mutated rats in the metro system. Similar to current politics, these people are divided, some known as the Reds, others as the Hansas, and the rest as a reborn Neo-Nazi division coined “The Fourth Reich.” The surface is a dangerous, inhospitable wasteland with enough radiation to boil water. Humanity is hanging by a thread…and then came the Dark Ones. These extraterrestrial beings threaten the already dwindled human population, and it is up to Artyom to put an end to them. Without crossing the much-maligned spoiler territory, let’s just say the Dark Ones had something else in mind.


Similar to Bioshock, narrative and atmosphere are priority. If you’re looking for a run-and-gun first-person shooter, this is not your destination, my friend. The Metro series, depending on your choice of difficulty, forces you to think before attacking. Resources are limited – bullets are the main form of currency for crying out loud. Most of the time, you are dropped in a rather large environment riddled with enemy AI with only one exit point. You are encouraged to take the stealth route, but by all means, play as you want. It’s incredibly rewarding to stealth your way through an area, clearing the guards of their resources and killing the ones that stand in your way with a perfectly timed knife to the throat. Other times, the game throws you in scenarios where brute force is a necessity for survival. Mutants are usually handled with a shotgun blast to the face. The library in Metro 2033…I’ll leave it at that.

 [Credit: 4A Games]


Creature design is masterful. Mutants are varied and equally disgusting. One of my favorite creatures in all of video games and movies is the spider-scorpion hybrid. Near the beginning of the sequel Metro: Last Light, Artyom and his new acquaintance Pavel traverse a hive in an attempt to escape the Fourth Reich. This gives way to one of the most tense and frightening interactive experiences ever. Spider webs and Ridley Scott Alien-esque egg pods litter the floors and walls. Artyom must reach a generator to unlock a door leading to the surface. Sounds of arachnid footsteps break the silence, and your only defense is a flashlight and a perfectly timed knife strike to the stomach. These six-legged insectoids sneak up on you, but quickly burn and screech when placed in light. With no hole to escape into, these creatures flip over as the light scorches their protective shell, revealing a soft and vulnerable abdomen. This is the exact moment to strike. 


Weapons are the standard light and heavy arsenal seen in other first-person shooters, but it has its own post-apocalyptic flare. If you have enough bullets to spend, you could buy muzzle breakers, silencers and scope attachments. Be warned though, you’re going to need to regularly charge your manual flashlight and some of your weapons with an attachable battery. Oh, and when you’re on the surface, make sure you have a mask and a few oxygen filters. Try not to get hit either…your mask could get cracked. Exodus actually introduced this neat mechanic that allows you to tape the cracked area of the mask.


It’s moments like these where the player feels extremely uncomfortable that make Metro such a phenomenal and unforgettable piece of horror entertainment. You even have the choice to play the game completely in Russian with English subtitles, further immersing the player in the world. It’s an unpredictable and violent landscape; it’s up to you to decide how to handle it. Best piece of advice – conserve and observe. 

 Metro Redux [Credit: 4A Games/THQ Deep Silver]



If you were to get anything out of these Backtracks, I implore you to play these games if you have the spine for it. They fluently mix action and horror elements into several refined and impressive experiences. Not to mention you could pick up the remastered/redux versions for less than modern retail prices. 


Bioshock: The Collection is available for PS-Plus subscribers this February!


Play Metro Redux (Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light) AND Metro Exodus on Xbox Game Pass now!

Gears of War: Judgement – Loochie’s Backtrack

Written by: Nick Farinola // Published by: Joe Ahart



2020 marks the start of a new decade, and with that comes the inevitable new years resolutioners. Ah yes, the new years resolutioners. The beginning of the new year means packed gyms, unfulfilled promises and the continuing threat of war! Instead of looking ahead, I thought I’d be a bit of a rebel and look the other way. Every year, tons of great games release alongside some pretty awful and mediocre ones, making it harder for any gamer to keep up. 

The first Gears received an Ultimate Edition Remaster prior to the release of the fourth installment [Credit: The Coalition]

I wanted to start this new year and decade off with a brand-new segment for GameFes.net; a completely unoriginal segment (seen on pretty much every other games media site) brilliantly named “Loochie’s Backtrack.” Catchy? No. Fun? Debatable! Without further ado, I’m Loochie and let’s backtrack!


In honor of Gears 5 releasing a couple of months ago, I made the fantastic decision to jump ahead to the prequel: Gears of War: Judgment. Let me start off by saying that Judgment didn’t bring anything new to the table other than trivial polishes to the already refined and bombastic Gears mechanics and a confusing change to the well-established control scheme of previous titles. It’s a Gears of War game to the end, and by God there is nothing wrong with that in the slightest! It’s a hyper-violent, briskly paced story centered around Lieutenant Baird’s demotion to private. Baird is as snarky and smart-ass-y as ever alongside his squad of new characters and a disappointingly hushed Cole Train. 

[Credit: People Can Fly/Epic Games]



Unfortunately, by playing through Judgment in 2020 without a remastered version existing for current generation consoles, the multiplayer – aside from co-op campaign and horde mode -is non-existent.


The “catch” of Judgement, if you will, is this integrated challenge system (titled ‘Declassifieds’) represented at the start of each mission by a interactable Gears logo. A challenge could range from Locusts wielding lancers to finish this specific mission in a set amount of time before a weapons depot explodes, meaning game over. Developers People Can Fly and Epic Games cleverly integrated this challenge system by writing it into the characters’ dialogue. 


Gears is among other classic games like Halo where it has to be played on harder difficulties. Mix tough difficulty with unique challenge scenarios with a buddy or three and you have yourself a bloody good time! I hate myself. Similar to Halo’s seven Vidmaster challenges, snagging all those tough achievements in Judgment adds several more hours to the overall play time.

A Declassify mission (top left) represented by the Gears logo. [Credit: People Can Fly/Epic Games]

Judgment was the awkward little brother of this franchise that could have totally served as Gears of War 3DLC, but nevertheless, I don’t regret a second of time spent playing through it. The Gears lore is both expansive and incredibly entertaining, so any chance to dive back into the world is a treat. 

Death Stranding Impressions: Kojima’s Genre-Defining Return

Written by: Nick Farinola // Published by: Joe Ahart

After playing the first hour or so of Kojima Productions’ ambitious Death Stranding, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at how quickly time comes and goes. To this day, I remember the YouTube comments after the reveal trailer of the game back at E3 2016 following a similar trend of, “Hopefully we’ll see this game in the next decade.” Three years later and here we are; Death Stranding is here, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever played before. 

When it comes to video games, or anything else in the media realm, I rarely get defensive about a topic that I love or that I hate. I’ll save the “everyone is different” talk for another time. There are sick, masochistic people out there that love the Dark Souls series – I know, hard to believe – and there are even some that defend the much-maligned Deadly Premonition. To put it concisely, nothing is perfect. Case in point, Death Stranding. Allow me to get into the nitty-gritty. 


As you could see, Death Stranding isn’t for everyone. Credit: [IGN.com]

Kojima Productions and their publisher Konami had a very public, yearlong break up in 2015. This split gave rise to the desecration of the Metal Gear series that is Metal Gear Survive, but also to Kojima’s genre-defining Death Stranding. What exactly is genre-defining about it? Journalists and YouTubers around had used that term since before its November 2019 release, but it still carries some ambiguity. In a twitter post, Kojima refers to Death Stranding as a “social strand” or “strand” video game. It has multiplayer components that serve a purpose much greater than playing with friends. Death Stranding is about isolation and restoration; it’s about working together to rebuild a nation that was destroyed by an apocalyptic event. Gamespot’s Kallie Plagge wrote in her review, “It’s a game that requires patience, compassion, and love, and it’s also one we really need right now.” A game that we really need right now. What in the world does that mean? Hideo Kojima is extremely active on his social media accounts, with over two million Twitter and over 800-thousand Instagram followers. Based off of activity on his accounts, multiple sources have stated that Death Stranding is a response to Trump’s presidency and Brexit, or the heavily drawn-out withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Without going too in-depth within our political climate, it is abundantly clear that those influences are seen within the game, but I’d personally like to separate the two. Previously, I had mentioned that Death Stranding is unlike any other game. A bold statement that is unfortunately redundant.


Credit: [Kojima Productions] 

If you search “Death Stranding” on YouTube, you’ll find gameplay videos, trailers and lore hunters galore, but it’s the comments that I want you to spend some time reading. Death Stranding is most popularly referred to as an “Amazon delivery simulator.” I’m here to tell you that those comments are both hilarious and…not too far off the target. I’m also here to tell you that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To phrase it shortly, Kojima’s narrative and world building are some of the most inventive and engaging in any video game or movie. The first hour, without going within spoiler territory, dropped the player knee-deep in a setting without any exposition. Death Stranding does not hold your hand; you’re expected to be a fast learner. The world as we know it is gone, the United States of America isn’t particularly united. Craters dominate the perilous landscape, animals have evolved to traverse their environment – oh, and there are inter-dimensional entities known as BTs (or “Beached Things”) that appear in rain that also happens to cause rapid-aging at the touch. The recently deceased must be rushed to the incinerator or else they will turn into one of the BTs, sparking an explosion. The world of Death Stranding is, well, weird, but the type of weird that is intentional. 

The main gameplay loop, to put it bluntly, is a massive fetch quest – hence the Amazon delivery comparison. As Sam Porter Bridges (played by Norman Reedus), your tasked with lugging around cargo across dangerous terrain to (hopefully) deliver everything in good condition to settlements around the country. The multiplayer component is much less invasive than one would initially surmise. Let’s compare Death Stranding’s multiplayer to the like/comment system of Facebook. The environment around you is hilly, wet, and eerie. Couriers turned pirates (known as “Mules”) patrol areas in search of people to rob them of their cargo, and serve as a side combatants to the environment. That’s right, you’ll mostly be fighting the rough terrain of the post-apocalyptic United States more so than the Mules. Now that I’ve roughly explained your main objective, I want to go into detail on how the multiplayer intertwines. You will never come “face to face” with another human player, but other players leave their mark on your world and your Same Porter Bridges. You might be carrying hundreds of pounds of cargo then come across a long river. Once your stamina depletes, Sam falls and the cargo he is carrying will be at risk for damage. Damaging cargo will also affect your rating and the amount of likes you receive at any specific delivery. However, a bridge could already be built over the river from another player, making traversal incredibly less challenging. Death Stranding encourages you to pay it forward. The game may be about isolation, but by working together, rebuilding our world becomes all the more plausible. I’ve seen some instances and even experienced others in-game where a rope or ladder could lead to absolutely nowhere, forcing me to fall and damage some of my cargo. Expect trolls, but be the better person – it makes the game that much more enjoyable. 


Believe it or not, everything in the reveal trailer from E3 2016 is in the final game. Credit: [Kojima Productions]

My initial impressions could and probably will alter after finishing the entire game, but everything I’ve seen so far has been nothing short of a triple-A, wholly enjoyable experience. Even the games we now consider to be masterpieces have glaring issues, and Death Stranding does not stray from this fact. The narrative and overall desolate world are fantastic, but the inventory management, repetition, and often slow pace of it all will definitely bog down the experience for some. It’s a love it or hate it kind of a situation, and I think the game’s subreddit is a perfect example of this observation. Some feel Kojima needs to hire someone will the balls to flat out tell him “no,” while others feel the antithesis. Hideo Kojima is one of the most prominent auteurs in the video game world; Someone who isn’t afraid to challenge expectations or to even create an entirely new genre. Take it or leave it, Death Stranding is here and it’s striving to make a difference.   


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare BETA Impressions

Written by: Nick Farinola // Published by: Joe Ahart

Dozens of hours and 26-levels later, the official Call of Duty: Modern Warfare open, cross-play BETA has ended. Damn, this will be quite a year for Call of Duty. As an avid fan of the series, I generally buy – okay, I buy – every entry each year. It wouldn’t be a new Call of Duty without the same b.s. YouTube comments about how the new game looks identical to the previous. It appears that nowadays, it’s cool to ride along on the Call of Duty hate train. Well, toot-toot away, haters. Modern Warfare feels like the perfect balance of nostalgia and innovation that the series needed…and it releases this Friday, October 25th!

Before delving into my impressions, it’s important to note that I played the BETA on a base Playstation 4 with minimal to nonexistent server problems or hiccups. I am aware that some people across all three platforms experienced heavy server crashes and other technical issues, but my experience couldn’t have been any smoother. To kick off my impressions, Modern Warfare is whole-heartedly a Call of Duty game. Each year, a new game might release with a fancy coat of paint and a spin-off title or sequel, but you can’t argue that it always feels like Call of Duty. This is by no means a critical opinion towards the series. Call of Duty is probably the most refined and finely-tuned, fluid first-person shooter on the market. The point I’m going towards is that no matter if your character is named Price or Mason, or has a jet pack or exo-suit, Call of Duty is, well, Call of Duty

Credit: [Infinity Ward/Activision]

Modern Warfare’s BETA gave us quite a bit of content. Within this last open BETA weekend, we got a taste of the night-vision mode (all the maps are at night, forcing the player to use night vision goggles), classic COD game modes such as team deathmatch and domination, some new modes such as the massive Ground War (reminiscent of Electronic Art’s Battlefield), and refined game modes such as Cyber Attack, which is essentially Search and Destroy that grants the ability to revive fallen teammates. The BETA also offered the special award of a silenced, sawed-off shotgun for use when the game drops on October 25th for players who reach a level 10 or higher before the end. This leads me to one of my only concerns for the main game that I want to dish out first. A huge factor in the longevity of a multiplayer game is this sense of constant progression. Players want to work towards achieving something or else, what’s the point? In the BETA, the player has 30 levels to gain and several guns from multiple weapon types and unique killstreaks to unlock, but towards the end, I felt in need of more to work towards. I’m not sure about how the main game will handle this, but players were unable to unlock and sort of camos for their weapons. I am completely aware that Modern Warfare is going for a more grounded, mature and realistic approach to the series, but I’m talking red tiger and other classics to unlock, not the ridiculous plethora of camos Black Ops IV has to offer. Aside from this, my only other real gripe were some of the map layouts. I thought the look and feel of the several offered to us were great, but some felt too similar. Also, some of the maps heavily encourage camping, and it definitely brought out the 13-year-old rage in me that I remember from the original Modern Warfare back in 2007. Other than those minor concerns, Modern Warfare is stacking up to be my favorite the series has offered in years.

My personal weapon of choice. Here’s a look at the Gunsmith. Credit: [Infinity Ward/Activison]

Black Ops IV wasn’t my cup of tea. The specializations, health bars and fancy camos just never clicked with me, but I commend Treyarch for changing up the formula with their exclusion of a typical campaign and the inclusion of the excellent Battle Royale mode Blackout. I for one used to buy these games solely for their over-the-top, Michael Bay-esque campaigns, so that exclusion left a sour taste in my mouth. My reason for bringing up Black Ops IV is to compare it to Modern Warfare. Played side-by-side, these are two very different Call of Duty games. Modern Warfare, for me, is the perfect blend of Modern Warfare (2007), Modern Warfare 2 and Ghosts. Based off of player feedback and by listening in to conversations online, I am certain that Modern Warfare will not only bring in a huge new community of players, but returning veterans itching for the good ‘ole days of infinity Ward. I can not explain the amount of times I heard this conversation between people: 

Gamer 1 – “Dude, this is actually really fun.”  Gamer 2 – “Yeah, it feels like Modern Warfare 2.” and who could forget Gamer 3, who added nothing to the conversation – “Yeah.”   

Riveting conversations online, folks. 


Cyber Attack, Modern Warfare’s spin on Search and Destroy. Credit: [infinity Ward/Activision]

What struck me the most in the best way possible was the sheer umph of the weapons. Shooting everything in this game feels weighty and great. The sounds of the bullets punching through your enemy are both rewarding and cringe-inducing, especially when the final kill cam is a perfectly placed headshot. The sound design is on point here. One of the new notable gameplay additions include sprinting faster by double tapping on the sprint button, causing your character to run with his or her gun facing upwards. It doesn’t seem that groundbreaking (mostly because it isn’t), but I found myself using it a lot more than I anticipated. It spared my life in most instances by just making it behind cover in enough time to escape my enemy’s fatal final bullet. The player is also now able to mount their weapons to peak from behind cover, similar to, but not as intuitive as Ubisoft’s popular competitive shooter Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. Again, didn’t think twice about it when starting the BETA, and then wound up utilizing it more than I thought that I would. Aside from the obvious new weapons, killstreaks, modes and tactical equipment, everything seems so refined…so finely-tuned. It’s tough to describe, but it all just feels so right and not half-assed. The new killstreaks are fun and satisfying, doing away with those ridiculous scorestreaks that have plagued the series for too long. Cyber Attack, Modern Warfare’s new spin on Search and Destroy, is incredibly competitive, tense and engaging. The addition of reviving fallen teammates and three-second defuse times also add an entire new layer of strategy.  


The highest pre-order edition offered: The Dark Edition. Credit: [Infinity Ward/Activision]

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare took hold of me and never let go. I want the full game now, and that’s a feeling I haven’t had in recent memory for COD games. The new gameplay and design additions are more than worthy, and after the recent story trailer that dropped, we are all in store for a mature, gritty campaign narrative. Did you guys get a chance to try out the BETA? What are your thoughts? Drop a comment!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare releases on Friday, October 25, 2019 for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC

Dead by Daylight: The Perfect Halloween Treat

Written by: Nick Farinola // Published by: Joe Ahart

In the spirit of Halloween, I downloaded Dead by Daylight through my Xbox GamePass subscription and logged on just under ten hours. For those of you living under a rock your entire life, Dead by Daylight is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where one player-controlled killer roams around an arena hunting four other player-controlled survivors. The ill-fated Friday the 13th game developed by Gun Media, Illfonic and Black Tower Studios is a similar game in the vein of 4 vs. 1 multiplayer, but due to a legal battle over Jason, development on future DLC has halted. Dead by Daylight, developed by Behaviour Interactive, originally released for Microsoft Windows back in June of 2016, then subsequently to consoles the following year. From what I grasped in my ten-or-so-hours is that its community is incredibly toxic and competitive. I’ve received some beautiful messages from fellow players like this:

Get the f**k off the game, newb.

Send me your address, I will literally find you and beat the sh*t out of you.

And my favorite so far:

Kill yourself.

Simply beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong; Dead by Daylight is one helluva game. At its best, it’s an immensely stressful, team-oriented fight to the death. At its worst, it’s a lonely and frustrating game full of complete assholes and trolls. My little brother is a prime example of a normal Dead by Daylight player, and I’ve experienced his personality first hand. As a survivor main (Meg), he has very…strong feelings about some of the killers – especially Ghost Face. According to my 15-year-old brother, Ghost Face is one of the most broken, and easy to play killers in the game. After a poor game overall with zero communication from his team, my brother proceeded to send a hate message to the killer solely because he decided to play as Ghost Face. Poor Fella. Like I said, be prepared for 15-year-old turds sending you “kill yourself” messages.

Credit: [Behaviour Interactive]

If a toxic community doesn’t bother you, then great! There’s a ton offered here, and it’s actually a much more complex and profound game than I had initially anticipated. There’s a vast perk system unlocked through the “bloodweb,” three different currencies, each used for either the purchase of perks and items or killer/survivor cosmetics, several killers and survivors to sink your teeth into (some from iconic horror franchises), daily challenges to complete, and a handful of maps unique with their own strategies. Again, if you’re active in the gaming community, odds are you are aware of Dead by Daylight or even play it. From afar, Dead by Daylight appears to be a rather typical asymmetrical multiplayer game, where the killer, well, attempts to kill everyone, and the survivors activate a handful of generators to eventually unlock the escape route. Depending on whether you’re a survivor or killer main, the objective will always be the same, yet the many different strategies keep the rather repetitive gameplay loop feeling fresh.

A cosmetic pack available through Steam. Credit: [Behaviour Interactive, Valve]

I mentioned before the inclusion of several horror icons available as DLC. You got the (apparently) much-maligned Ghost Face from Scream, the Shape a.k.a. Michael Myers from Halloween, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Amanda Young from the gore-happy Saw franchise, and most recently, the Demogorgon from the Stranger Things universe. Odds of us seeing a playable Jason Vorhees character in the foreseeable future is slim, but one can dream! On top of these not-so-friendly faces, you have a slew of other original killers. On the survivors’ side, we got Steve Harrington and Nancy Wheeler and even Ash from the Evil Dead trilogy! I had briefly mentioned cosmetics, and how they can be earned or purchased by using certain currencies from the game. Both the killers and the survivors can be fully customized with different rarity outfits that can be mix-matched at any point. And for those of you wondering, yes, Steve Harrington’s “Scoops Ahoy!” outfit is available for purchase in the game. Go crazy. This added layer of customization and bloodweb unlocking further strengthens the longevity and replayability of the game. What’s a multiplayer game without any rewards?  


Dead by Daylight may have released just over three years ago, but its growing player base and lore continue to pull me back into the nightmare for just one more match. Happy hunting, folks!
You can snag Dead by Daylight on Steam for $19.99 or for as low as $7.19 on G2A.com, and the console edition anywhere from $18.99 to $24.99 on Amazon. It’s important to note that the game is on sale regularly through Steam for $9.99.

‘Death Stranding’: Kojima’s Ambitious BB

Written by: Nick Farinola // Published by: Joe Ahart


Remember, remember the eighth of November…for that is when Kojima’s much anticipated Death Stranding releases. Tokyo Game Show took place recently, and fans got a rather hefty look at some of the core gameplay loop. Though I can confidently say that I am no longer completely in the clouds on what this game is about, I’ll have to admit, I’m still a bit lost – and that’s even after the hour-long, edited gameplay trailer. IGN recently posted a subtitled version of Kojima’s presentation, to where I commented this:


I think that now I understand what this game is about and how it’s basically a new video game genre, I will be more appreciative when it comes out. It’s different and bit off-putting at first, but I’ll admit, it looks incredible. I feel that if we didn’t get an explanation or this in depth gameplay, people would be frustrated expecting an entirely different experience. Anyone else agree?”


I closed YouTube and left the comment to marinate a little amongst the community. When I came back online, I was pleased to see a couple of non-troll replies. The result? It seems a ton of people are in the same boat, but are equally as intrigued. One reply in particular perfectly explains Death Stranding within a couple of sentences. The anonymous YouTuber replied:


“It’s about playing a single player game making connections with others playing the game. It’s about helping each other out in a different way other than a co op experience: Rebuilding civilization in America, making buildings/highways, delivering packages to a disconnected nation. A story driven game that had a tragedy happen to the world with main character sent on a mission to fix it in an eerie tone themes like BT supernatural monsters & homodemons ppl who kill creating blackouts ( craters ) for there own agendas and mules who are bandits who steal from you packages resources even your OWN shoes all while bonding and taking care of a baby.”

Kojima is creating a new genre, the “strand” genre. 


Ambitious? Yes. Delusional? To some, maybe. This is Kojima we’re talking about, folks. 


Exploring the gameplay videos and trailers further, it’s tough to not commend Kojima for his talent as a writer, director and producer. The short dialogue snippets and cinematic trailers are, to its core, engaging in every sense. I want to know more about this world. I want to know how the supernatural, horror aspects of the game feed into the overarching narrative. I want to know how gameplay will develop as the game progresses. So many questions. Death Stranding is carrying an unrealistic amount of hype on its back, but Kojima’s vision – his passion for telling stories –  is so utterly fascinating that I wholeheartedly believe he can pull it off. I mean, an entirely new genre? Is that even possible? 


Most of the TGS gameplay footage in Kojima’s presentation followed Sam Bridges (Norman Reedus) on the move throughout the United States. Kojima mentions that traversing this world is no easy feat, and that once you reach a new destination, there’s an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The graphics on display are top notch, almost life-like. Death Stranding is the perfect example of how far we’ve come in technological development. Something that does raise concern amongst the community is, well, what the hell we’re going to be doing. Sam is, according to the internet, an Amazon delivery boy. He carries cargo on his back that could be easily damaged on the rough terrain or while crossing a river (it was rather odd reading Kojima explain the dangers of crossing a river in this game because it felt like he was describing real life) Sam is also equipped with this leg exoskeleton-type thing that grants him temporary, battery-powered speed boosts outside of hub worlds, a strand weapon that serves as a type of rope to stealth enemies, and this rope weapon that shocks and ties enemies together. If you’re really fancy, you could combine this weapon with Sam’s own blood to trap BT’s – the supernatural, other-worldly spirits that use their sense of sound to detect you. 


This deploy-able, extendable ladder will definitely come in handy in Death Stranding’s perilous terrain. Credit: [Kojima Productions]


After this gameplay preview, it’s safe to say that Death Stranding is not what I was expecting, and that’s awesome. I’m skeptical on some things, but excited for many others. The meat of the game, or the biggest surprise of it all, is the exploration of what seems to be the United States. 90-percent of the preview showed off the social “strand” system and exploration mechanics. The terrain is dangerous, but Sam comes equipped with specific tools that make traversal a little less daunting. Allow me to explain this “strand” idea to the best of my abilities. Think of Death Stranding as a multiplayer experience without another player affecting your Sam’s world. Kojima’s version of Facebook, if you will. Throughout your world, players from other worlds can place markers throughout the map signifying anything from a motorcycle (a little easter egg for Norman Reedus’ Ride on AMC network) to a charging station for your speed prosthetics. Players could even work together to build bridges and buildings across the map. We saw many examples of the markers in the preview, and the player could drop a like on the marker. The world is lonely, but not quite as lonely as we’d think. This is the “strand.” Players from other worlds can even appear as white Sam ghosts to offer you items that will aid you on your adventure. For example, in the preview, Kojima showed off one of the earliest bosses you could encounter (extra emphasis on could). Since the BTs are vulnerable to only hearing, Sam attempted to traverse the tar-ridden environment by holding his breath. One of the child BTs detected him, signaling all of the BTs in the vicinity to come out of the tar and pull Sam towards a boss. Kojima made it specifically clear that this boss was one of the easier ones the player could encounter. To defeat this boss, the player had to traverse the environment so that he or she could avoid the tar from slowing Sam down, adding a layer of verticality. The only way of attacking this creature was by hurling or shooting vials of Sam’s blood at it. Eventually, he ran out of vials, forcing him to call for help from another strand world. The ghost player appeared and offered that Sam more blood vials. So, to my knowledge, this strand system aids in both exploration and in combat. 


I want it…NOW! Credit: [Sony/Kojima Productions]

Our demo ends with a tour of Sam’s rest area at one of the Port destinations. Honestly, that could fill up loads of pages in and of itself. 

Death Stranding is probably one of my most anticipated games ever, and by the looks of it, I’m not alone. 

Death Stranding released on November 8, 2019 for the Playstation 4 console.  


‘Ghost Recon: Breakpoint’ OR ‘Borderlands 3’?

Written by: Nick Farinola // Published by: Joe Ahart

Let me preface by saying that this article is more of a way to help me decide what I want rather than an in-depth analysis of all the exciting new game releasing in Q4 2019. I’m having a personal dilemma; two vastly different games from two beloved franchises of mine are releasing within a few weeks of each other, but I want to save money for future releases. Talk about first-world problem, am I right?! Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is the next installment/sequel to 2017’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, an open-world, “tactical” third-person shooter with light RPG elements that received consistent updates throughout its lifetime, earning a respected status amongst the Ghost Recon community. It releases October 4th (October 1st for those who decide to pick up the gold or ultimate editions for $100 and $120 respectively). Gearbox’s highly-anticipated looter shooter Borderlands 3 arrives this Friday, September 13th with three different (and also very tempting!) editions for pre order. The life or death situation: Which one do I choose?


I have to admit something about myself. This is hard for me, but I told myself that I would. I call myself a gamer, but I’m actually more of a game hoarder. I know, I know…terrible. For those of you unaware of my terminology, a game hoarder is one who simply purchases video games only to play them a handful of times before going on to the next one. The fall and winter months are a great time for video games (after a brief hiatus or slow-down in the summer months), but a horrible one for my wallet. 2019 is no exception. We got Borderlands 3, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Need for Speed: Heat, Death Stranding, Doom Eternal – I mean, Jesus, it never ends! Kojima’s game alone is reason to panic (especially since I pre ordered the $200 edition that comes with a life-size BT baby that will do nothing but collect dust in my room). Again, I am completely aware of how much I sound like a spoiled douche, but let me have this moment to nerd vent.


Cole D. Walker (played by Jon Bernthal), leader of the Wolves and Breakpoint’s antagonist.

Okay, let’s focus our attention on the two games I’m having trouble deciding between. Borderlands is a series I grew up with, a series I’ve sunk countless middle school hours online with friends, a series that holds many precious gaming memories. Why wouldn’t I pick the third installment? Well, I know for sure that I’ll either pick this one up now or wait a couple of months for a Christmas discount. Then there’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. Say what you want about developer Ubisoft, but they are consistently pumping out products and updates to their new and current games, further expanding their player bases and game longevity. I’ve easily sunk nearly 150-plus hours combined in Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Odyssey. Ubisoft has successfully updated Assassin’s Creed to appeal to a wide variety of gamers. Fans of the original games have the continued storyline and lore to delve into, while action RPG fans can feel right at home with Odyssey’s progression, skill and loot system. Ubisoft has also released a yearly roadmap for Breakpoint, highlighting the upcoming updates for each month. Its genius marketing when you think about it. Real quick, I want to state that there are many problems with the industry now in the form of greedy microtransactions and work-in-progress/live service games like the Division and Destiny, but by assuring your consumers that a game will only get bigger and better with time will more-than-likely yield increased income. 


Going off of the roadmap point, the one reason why I see Breakpoint as a better investment in the long run is because Borderlands 3 seems to have a weaker endgame. Sure, there are three or four promised campaign DLCs (which, based off of previous DLC installments, will likely be worth the money), but Breakpoint will definitely be heavily supported post launch more so than Borderlands 3. Then again, Borderlands 3 has four unique classes (and skill trees) to play in an alleged 30-hour campaign, urging more than one playthrough. On the other hand, I am almost certain that Breakpoint, based off of the launch of the previous entry and pretty much all triple-A Ubisoft games, will contain more bugs than the Amazon jungle, server issues, and maybe even turn out to be light on content. From what I’ve seen and from previous launches, Borderlands 3 will be a consistently smooth experience with zero broken promises. You know what you’re coming for, and Gearbox delivers. 


Our 4 new vaulthunters! [Credit: Gearbox Software]

Aside from weighing the financial aspects, both games couldn’t be any different. Sure, both are considered looter shooters, but gameplay and tone-wise, they’re vastly different. Borderlands 3, being a first-person, tongue-and-cheek action RPG with humor more juvenile than the infamous “dickbutt” drawing in the stalls of your middle school bathroom is on the opposite spectrum of the tone and gameplay of Breakpoint. Tom Clancy games are military/espionage-based, tactical action games, and Breakpoint promises to be more tactical and strategic than its predecessor. One is balls-to-the-wall action, while the other is balls-tucked-in. The problem is, I don’t have a preference as to whether I want my balls on the wall or tucked in. 


It’s pretty clear that I won’t come to a conclusion by this Friday, but I hope this helped those of you unclear about either game that I had mentioned. If you were, what rock were you living under? There are a ton of awesome games releasing at the end of this year, and I’ve listed them below for you. If you made it this far, maybe check out my early impressions of Remnant: From the Ashes. Thanks a million for taking the time to read my unnecessary rant!      




Monster Hunter World: Iceborne – Sept. 6

NBA 2K20 – Sept. 6

Gears 5 – Sept. 10

Borderlands 3  – Sept. 13

NHL 20 – Sept. 13

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Sept. 20

The Surge 2 – Sept. 24

Code Vein – Sept. 27

FIFA 20 – Sept. 27

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep (expansion) – Oct. 1

Ghost Recon: Breakpoint – Oct. 1 (for Gold and Ultimate editions) and Oct. 4 (Standard edition)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Oct. 25

The Outer Worlds – Oct. 25

Luigi’s Mansion 3 – Oct. 31

Death Stranding – Nov. 8

Need for Speed: Heat – Nov. 8

Pokemon Shield and Sword – Nov. 15

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order – Nov. 15

Shenmue III – Nov. 19

Doom Eternal – Nov. 22


The Long Way Home: IT Chapter Two (2019) Review

Written by Andrew Busch // Edited by Drew Beyer // Header Image from Warner Bros.

Andy Muschietti’s IT Chapter Two (2019) begins with a simple premise that hurls us back into Stephen King’s twisted universe. When a gruesome attack occurs outside of the Derry summer carnival, it becomes clear that the horror the Losers’ Club swore to destroy in their youth has returned to plague their hometown. IT Chapter Two returns to Derry twenty-seven years after the events of IT (2017) in an attempt to raise the stakes and heighten the horror of the first chapter. The film packs tons of scares into its two hour and forty nine minute runtime, but not all of the scares are effective and the plot that connects them is thin. As Chapter Two ratchets up the scale of the horror it loses sight of the intimate character moments and subtlety that made the first so memorable. Despite some enjoyable moments, IT Chapter Two feels like a jumble of horror elements instead of a complete experience.

One of the strongest elements of IT is the core cast of characters and their undeniable chemistry. IT Chapter Two retains some of this spark through Eddie (James Ransone) and Richie (Bill Hader), though the youthful energy and crude jokes have been replaced by something more serious. This shift in tone differentiates Chapter Two from the first film, as Chapter Two makes an effort to develop its characters and show how they have changed through the passage of time.The film displays the major life transitions for each of the Losers after the credits rolled on the first film. Ben (Jay Ryan) has changed from the shy, new kid to a successful and confident real estate mogul. Bill (James McAvoy) is a writer whose work is being adapted into Hollywood films, making him a stand-in for King himself. However, Chapter Two abandons this character focus after the first act, prioritizing scary clown jump scares over intimate character beats. This choice is frustrating because the beginning adds depth to the characters by exploring their individual memories of their traumas. It is astounding that a movie this long contains so little character development after the opening thirty minutes. 


Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, James Ransone, Isaiah Mustafa and Jay Ryan. (Warner Bros.)

The story structure also weakens Chapter Two. While the film makes an ambitious attempt to have seven characters share the screen, the solo scenes from the different characters end up feeling repetitive in the second and third acts. In most cases, these scenes all boil down to encounters with Pennywise in another form. These moments effectively build suspense and stunning horror imagery, but they get exhausting when presented back-to-back-to-back. Plus, the scenes start to fall into a clear pattern. The character visits a place from their past, encounters Pennywise, finds their item and happens to escape by the skin of their teeth. This formulaic structure reduces the impact of the film’s attempts at tension and horror.

While the film misses the mark as a blockbuster horror epic, the score elevates its scenes and improves to the original sounds of IT. Benjamin Wallfisch returns from the first film and Bladerunner 2049, providing the film with a hulking 45 track, hour and forty-five minute album of frightening music. Wallfisch’s ability to create variation without sacrificing cohesion strengthens the album. From the quiet, ominous piano ballads on “Losers Reunited” to the grating, nauseating swells of string instruments and horns on “Spider Attack”, the songs on Chapter Two’s soundtrack each sound unique while sharing musical elements that contribute to the overall cohesion of the score and develop a distinct aural aesthetic for the world. For example, the ominous piano melody and somber string progression on “Come Home” is similar to “27 Years Later”. The song draws the listener into its eerie production with its twinges of hope fluttering in the background, only to tear down the facade of safety and devolve into a menacing warble of swelling strings and distorted screaming. Rather than have two similar eerie tracks, Wallfisch goes an extra step to give each their own sonic identity.

The same can be said for the more intense tracks, as a song like “Miss Me Richie?” features booming percussion, grating violins, and chimes while “Home At Last” blends a similar string arrangement with horns and electronic elements to create a buzzing swarm of instruments that pull back for just a moment before hitting like a ten-ton truck. Even though the film’s story structure features repetitive elements, Wallsfisch’s soundtrack remains inventive throughout. The score elevates the film’s scares and is one element where the film achieves its epic ambitions. 

A good score, character development and a solid story structure are all important elements that compose a strong film. But everyone knows that the core of any work of horror is the answer to the question: “Is it scary?” It is hard to pin down an answer for IT Chapter Two, as there are some genuinely creepy moments alongside scares that just don’t land. For example, there is a scene where a little girl encounters Pennywise while following a firefly. Every word Pennywise delivers from the shadows heightens the tension, establishing a slow and quiet sense of dread before exploding into an effective conclusion. In the interest of not spoiling the good scares in the film, suffice to say that there are scenes that will stick with you after the credits roll. However, not all of the scenes work. Sometimes there’s confusion about the tone, as the film cannot decide if some scenes are played straight or for laughs. For instance, there’s a moment where a giant, dilapidated statue of Paul Bunyan chases Richie (Bill Hader) that is hard to take seriously. Regardless of the film’s intentions, the real takeaway is that some of these scenes could have been cut to both decrease the runtime and highlight the genuinely good scares that are peppered throughout.


While some moments are goofy, others will stick with you after the credits (image from Warner Bros.)




IT Chapter Two is an ambitious attempt to translate over a thousand pages of King’s revered novel to the big screen. At its best, the work captures the essence of King’s characters and features some imaginative scares set to an epic score. And at its worst, it struggles with character development, story structure and some ineffective scenes. Muschetti’s desire to stay as true to the text as possible causes him to slightly lose sight of the things that made his first film such a success. Despite these pitfalls, IT Chapter Two still features enough of the wild horror moments and youthful spirit of Muschetti’s first film. While it might not be perfectly constructed, Chapter Two is an enjoyable return to a small town where an evil clown is less terrifying than your memories of growing up.

IT Chapter Two is out now in theaters.


IT Chapter Two (2019) poster