So I saw Justice League Last Night…

…and I don’t know. It’s a pretty inconsequential piece of cinema, which is fine. I mean Marvel have been getting away with it for years. They can probably get away with it partly because they’ve never given us a Nolan trilogy moment. Also I feel like the interconnecting universe thing stifles the creators’ abilities to do something really interesting (even though DC never officially declared that they were running a DCEU). Add that to that the fact that they went straight in with the space stuff which has meant a shift back to fighting regular old crime on the street would be a very strange transition.

The style applied to Batman in his opening threw me right back to Burton’s version. That could of course be owed to the Elfman soundtrack in which he managed to sneak in that good old arpeggiated Batman theme. Add to that a bumbling criminal and some choice Burtonesque lighting and it sure was a throwback to 1989. Later on in the film you are treated to those dreamy Man of Steel shots of corn fields and a hazy sky.  This of course is forgotten about later on in favour of that too familiar final CGI battle. Out of all other heroes, Aquaman was the only other to have a strong visual context, but only above ground. Altlantis got zero look in. Cyborg had the lab and the computer-filled small family apartment while with the Flash we were given the prison and another computer-filled living space. Wonder Woman was just hanging out in London. It all made for something quite disjointed.

We need to talk about Henry Cavill’s face. If you had no idea until now that they had to digitally remove his moustache for the film (you are welcome) please let me know if his face made you as uneasy as it made me knowing that it had been. That first scene of him being filmed by the kids on the phone was straight up weird. He didn’t look real. I was really distracted sitting there watching Superman’s puffy CGI upper lip any time he was on screen. I kept trying to imagine him actually standing there with a moustache. Adding to that was what I found to be a really wooden performance but maybe I’ve forgotten how Cavill’s Superman normally is. It was all very surreal.

This Justice League film also reminded me how lucky we were to get a solid standalone for Wonder Woman. Diana was thrown under the bus a little bit. Every so often we were reminded that she was indeed not one of the boys. You had Alfred quip about Bruce Wayne wanting to call her because he was a attracted to her, you had Barry Allen (The Flash) swooning all over her but not like he swooned over Batman and you also had Arthur Curry (Aquaman) mention how gorgeous she was but it was funny guys because Diana had the lasso of truth around him. Also that gag of Barry falling on top of her fell so flat that the whole cinema audience were silent. I do wonder where that fell in the shoots and re-shoots. Does anyone else remember seeing her knickers so much either? However, Wonder Woman fought hard and gave as good as she got, she certainly outshone Batman who floundered around a bit only to call on his tech and have it co-opted by Cyborg.

The Flash seems to be a big talking point as some people found him a little irritable. I was personally okay with him. I did find that some of his best moments happened when he wasn’t talking because the “oh my god I don’t know how to talk to people like a normal person” thing can wear thin sometimes. I do think the effort Ezra Miller put into Barry Allen got derailed a little because the last memory you will have of him is running through the streets really oddly. It is a sight to behold. In terms of the other new additions, I thought Cyborg translated really well but as I said above he really made Batman look useless. I honestly could have done with or without Aquaman. It makes sense why he is there based on the plot but he is not fleshed out as much as the others. There is a brief encounter with Mera under the sea but I could not understand half of what was being said. Something about a dead mother.

Speaking of mothers, these DC films have a real problem. The worst instance will always been the Martha revelation from BvS but my gosh does Justice League still run with it. For once, Bruce Wayne makes no mention of his dead parents but that means nothing when we’re given a crash course of dead mother back stories from all three new heroes. It’s a wonder anyone gets out of bed to do anything without having the reasoning that their mother is dead. Fair enough the comic origins of Aquaman and the Flash set that in stone but I did a little digging and guess what? Cyborg has both parents. Both scientists. Then DC are going to further insult me with their dead mother obsession and run with their Mother Box lore. They should have just called them Martha Boxes. But Emer, Superman has a dead daddy and a Martha you say. Well I say, do you recall the BvS Martha thing I mentioned above? Bruce and Clark weren’t reminiscing about how both their dads smoked cigars or something.

I can’t tell you much about the final big battle because I was falling asleep. Nothing to do with the film, I am just at the mercy of having to commute to work during the week which leaves me drained. I was overtly cynical about it all anyway because I couldn’t understand why it took all of Atlantis, Themyscira, the Green Lanterns and a load of humans to defeat Steppenwolf before and then the Justice League rock up and do it easily. Did he have the full power of the Mother Box thing back in the day? That bit of information must have been lost on me. He did not have it when he gatecrashed Themyscira though…okay I am really just not that bothered even thinking about it because at the end of the day does anyone care?

Is there any need to rush to the cinema to see this? Nope. Is it worth throwing on at home some night you want something harmless to put on? Sure. Justice League is no masterpiece and it clearly never set out to be one (well I hope not because that is some delusion). I say this all the time but I need companies to scale the stories down a bit, make them a bit more nuanced and make the audience feel like there is a chance the heroes might actually fail. Give me things like Logan or like Kick-Ass (not the second one that was terrible) because if you’re telling me the villain is going to destroy the whole planet, I know the villain is not going to destroy the whole planet. It has all gotten far too predictable and although that is a comfort for many, it’s feels like a waste of talent to me.

Advertisements

Tekken 7 vs Injustice 2

Despite only being born in 1992, I have very fond memories of playing the first few Tekken releases with my older sister and my cousin. The main draw for us was unlocking the insane ending stories that the Tekken developers always cooked up. I have stayed loyal to Tekken ever since then (there’s some Soul Calibur thrown in there over the years too). Tekken for me peaked at the third installment. However, I do remember being in awe of the graphics in Tekken 4 once it had arrived on PlayStation 2 and I definitely enjoyed Tekken 5 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. It was only with Tekken 6 that I found my interest in the series waning a bit as the traditional modes began to change format. I know that at some point things have to switch up a bit but the new additions just did not sit well with me.

Having some hope left, I was excited for the latest Tekken release and I bought it on day one. The problem came when I had seen so much hype for Injustice 2…which I also bought. I don’t think I touched Tekken for a good month and a half after that. Does that mean that Tekken 7 is bad? Not necessarily. You just have to be in a very particular head-space to enjoy it.

Tekken:

First of all there is no Anna Williams in Tekken 7 which is a crime.  Second of all…Tekken 7 is for you if you are a gamer that loves to grind. Tekken, with the progression of online gaming and the allure of eSports has become serious business. Gone are the days when I would bash buttons next to my sister on a Mortal Kombat arcade machine in a local fast food restaurant. I was actually extremely nervous before I entered the world of Tekken online (who knows why my body decided to do that). I saw multiple players with one hundred wins on their belts. I was like “cool” then got demolished. I did win once when I found someone as hopeless as myself. It was great when I lost after that and my win counter went down to zero. I then realised that what I saw were one hundred win streaks. I honestly wonder if these people have full time jobs because how does that happen? Special shoutout to the player who decided I was so useless they just left their character lying on the ground for a bit. That was rude.

23-09-2017_10-43-49
Me when I won

The closest you get to the older “ending movie” structure in 7 is a single fight as each character which ends with a short clip of them talking to their defeated opponent in the context of that particular fight. Still, I miss the hijinks between Law and Paul. The confined story in Tekken 7 is quite challenging as each fight seems to have something extra you have to keep on top of, e.g. dodging a soldier shooting at you at certain intervals, quick time events or even multiple enemies. It is a very sneaky way of getting you to grips with the mechanics of the game without you having to slog through a tutorial. They also added in something called “Story Assist” which you access by holding down RB on Xbox One to bring up a list of hotkeys for combos that would otherwise take multiple button presses. It is a great help in the story mode but I always find my hand cramping very quickly despite doing apparently less work. I think the biggest help I ever had was playing as Lars who had his own gun, but then I had no need to go hand to hand with anyone.

23-09-2017_10-44-08
Story mode has its entertaining moments

Tekken 7 customisation leaves a lot to be desired. Which is odd considering the focus on online gameplay. You get some items specific to each character and then really random bits like tank tops and deer masks for everyone. Some of these have to be paid for with in game money. However, more things can be unlocked through Treasure Mode and Arcade Mode which again, you will have to grind for. I know many people aren’t that interested in playing dress up so it really is not a deal breaker. Still, it would be nice to have the same level of freedom that Soul Calibur customisation has allowed in some of its installments. Saying that, if you’re looking for a really cute health bar and player card panel, Tekken 7 has you covered. My personal favourite is the neon pumpkin one. Very seasonal.

23-09-2017_10-54-38

Injustice 2:

Injustice 2 definitely has a wider appeal. It has enough to keep both beginners and veterans entertained even before they become their best Injustice selves.

The very few times I chanced my arm and went online were very pleasant experiences. One person who demolished me for ages before I eventually beat them messaged me to say they had fun! Of course I’m nowhere near as good as a lot of online players but the nature of Injustice is that things can turn around at any second. This is due to the two health bars you have, the second never draining until the first is completely gone. So if you use a strong move while your opponent is still on their first bar, you won’t be able to affect their second. In turn your meter you built up for special moves will be depleted and your opponent can use what they have in theirs in a “clash” which you would definitely lose and they would gain health back. Even the best players have to be careful of this!

23-09-2017_10-45-13
Just gals being pals

The story of Injustice basically revolves around Superman being a dick and Batman being a good Batdad to everyone except his own son. It’s great. You get no choice as to who you play as throughout however some sections allow you to choose between two fighters. If the completionist in you gets itchy about this, you can return to chapters to complete them as the second character. If you want to view the alternate ending to your initial choice, you will have to complete 75 out of the 76 available fights. If my counting is correct, around 31 of those involve single fighters so there is not awful lot of grinding to do on top of one playthrough. I found this a good way to decide who I liked playing as without any experience other than the tutorial. Turns out I’m a dab hand at Harley Quinn and Black Canary.

23-09-2017_10-43-28
I picked Superman in the end first because even though he’s stupid (spoiler) I can use him better

Customisation is very fun. You can earn what are called “Mother Boxes” which you get in various ways and open them to get gear. You can take part in timed Multiverse events (which I love) and earn items that way too. Each item carries with it a level and stats that affect a fighter’s strength, ability, defense and health. Of course, the character has to be the correct level to equip a piece. If there is a better bit of gear that you find ugly you can use some of the resources you earn to put the stats on something you prefer. The Multiverse events come in a variety of difficulties and may have certain stage elements (random earthquakes etc.) and customisation offers you a chance to change up your tactics through costume if you’re finding a particular event tricky.

23-09-2017_10-42-49

There is a lot more to Injustice than Tekken which has upped the playabilty for me personally. Tekken is what it is and I am just a filthy casual. Until I muster up the courage to delve back into the Tekken mess I will be happy deciding if Catwoman looks better in purple or black and punching Green Lantern in the face (he’s very annoying).

Bonus burn:

 

Review of Batman: The Telltale Series

I was glad to receive Batman: The Telltale series as a Christmas present.  It had peaked my interest on release, but not enough for me to commit waiting from August to December to finish it. This is because originally the full game was broken into five separate episodes that were each released over the five months, as with all of Telltale’s other series. The format of the game is very different to what most of us are used to playing also. Telltale’s Batman is a point and click game, a sort of choose your own adventure, that moulds its story around the choices you make. At the end of each episode you are given a list of the most important decisions and shown the percentage of players who made the same choices as you. Adding to the pressure, sometimes a nice “she/he will remember that” pops up in the top corner of the screen to remind you that you are changing the story.

screenshot-original-3
A summary of the kind of hero I was throughout the game

I am a huge fan of other recent Batman games (Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Knight) in which you spend stalking criminals as Batman most of the time. What made this game interesting was the fact that you had a chance to explore the persona of Bruce Wayne. Often you are given the choice of dealing with certain characters in your cape or in your business suit. I found myself picking the latter. Being able to navigate the political side of Gotham as Bruce Wayne made the Batman story feel fresh. After all, the rest of the game gives you ample time to beat down on some thugs. As the game is set pretty early on in the life of Batman, Telltale gave themselves a fairly blank slate to work with. This has meant that characters such as reporter Vicki Vale and Oswald Cobblepot have been given new coats of paint, making them more central to this particular Batman story.

You have opportunities throughout to team up with or reject the help of each and every character in the game. The most fun duo to play as was definitely Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Unfortunately what starts off as a good representation of the Bruce/Selina dynamic turns extremely cringe-worthy if you pursue a romance with her. I found myself laughing at many serious moments in the game beyond Catwoman also. I do dislike a Batman that takes itself too seriously though, so it did not ruin the game too much.

Screenshot-Original (1).png
A dynamic duo (sometimes)

Gameplay-wise I was not blown away. I played Batman: The Telltale series on Xbox One and as with those who played on PC, I experienced some lagging issues. Especially at the beginning of the final episode. Although not game breaking, it did make fight sequences using quick time events a lot less immersive. I also was excited to use Batman’s arsenal of gadgets to solve crime as the world’s greatest detective. Mainly all you get are CSI type sections where you link correct pieces of evidence together. I found these tedious as by the time Batman talks through everything and tells you the story out loud at the end, you have already figured it out in your own head ten minutes prior.

Screenshot-Original.png
A high tech flip phone

Overall it is not a  bad way to entertain oneself, especially if you are looking for something short and simple. The story kept me interested especially since Bruce Wayne had a more active part in the narrative. As I have played some other Telltale series, I thought I had the decision formula down. Batman definitely has a more nuanced decision making system. Although when you are familiar with Batman lore, it can make some decisions  seem pointless.  I was also very glad I played all episodes in a chunk, unlike Telltale’s Walking Dead there was zero emotional connection to the game, so I probably would have grown bored playing one episode a month.