Posts Tagged ‘Threat Quality’



Deadpool GameI managed to bang through Deadpool in a week. Not even a week of furious game-playing. Just an hour or two a night. Yes, it was on Easy, but then I wasn’t looking for a challenge, just some fun. It’s what I like about Activision’s Marvel games – they’re pretty straight-forward. You play a game with Wolverine in it, then Wolverine is going to run around stabbing dudes and yelling. Hell, it’s unlikely he’s even going to die all that much, assuming you put a lot of XP into his health bar.

Same with Deadpool – and that dude not only can heal and slice people, he can shoot them and teleport out of danger, too. So, that’s what you do. For, I guess, about 12 hours total. There is a more unconventional spot in the middle where Deadpool has to venture into a strange underworld to retrieve souls for Death, though surprisingly that still involves a lot of shooting dudes.

Ultimately, it’s on me for enjoying Batman: Arkham City, the Assassin’s Creed series and even last year’s open-world Amazing Spider-Man tie-in so much. I don’t need EVERY game to have expansive sets I can wander about and explore in (and buy new outfits in), but without that feature, it sure does feel like an unambitious game.

Lotta cursing in there, too. That was a surprise.

Best part of the game: Sinister’s imperfect exploding Gambit clones, who come at you in droves chanting “MON AMI! MON AMI! MON AMI!” before you blow them up.

Tomb Raider

Tomb RaiderMy first question when my friend lent me the rebooted Tomb Raider, as I looked at young, inexperienced Lara Croft on the cover and remembered those weird comments about keeping her safe from danger, was, “So do I have to worry about the threat of rape in this thing?”

“No…well, I mean one guy does get a little handsy, but that’s it.”

Relieved, I went home and started playing, until I realized I also should have asked, “Do I have to worry about getting mauled by wolves or crushed under a rock or stabbed in the neck?” Because the answer to that is, yes. Yes I did.

It’s not so disconcerting that they chose some pretty graphic, messed-up possible deaths, it’s that WOLVES ARE MAULING AN INEXPERIENCED, TERRIFIED GIRL. It’s startling, and you as a player feel guilty that you let it happen. In starting Lara Croft off at ground zero with virtually no resources, few skills and – this is the important thing here – living in a constant state of fear and exhaustion – it actually makes the player feel complicit every time you fail to get her out of danger (and again, I am not great at video games, so…this girl is going to be dying quite a lot, I’m afraid).

Which is a very strange motivator to get through the game – to reach a point where you/Lara are skilled enough to not, y’know, get stabbed in the neck with a booby trap. It’s like the GOB Bluth method of gaming: “Now once you can climb over that wall without getting punched in the stomach, you’ll have a lot more fun!”

Assassin’s Creed III

This game is so assured that you will like it that it makes you sit through 10 minutes of “The Story So Far…” explanations about a character nobody gives a shit about, and a conspiracy involving assassins, Templars, Roman Gods and the Apocalypse that is nearly impossible to make sense out of.

Pictured: A guy you do not play as for 2 hours.

Pictured: A guy you do not play as for 2 hours.

And then it sticks you on a boat for another 20 minutes.

And then once you finally get to Boston, just when you think you’re going to get some sustained combat going, it makes you reload a musket in real time.

And that’s when it dawns on you that you haven’t even been playing as the ostensible star of the game, the guy on the box in the white hood … you’re playing as his dad. For two straight hours.

What I am saying is that Assassin’s Creed is a series that is comfortable with everyone taking their time.


Here’s the thing about Wolverine: It’s actually pretty hard to do an outright BAD story with him, because as a W - Millercharacter, he is remarkably easy to get a handle on.

A lot of writers get these weird anxiety attacks over how “hard” it is to write Superman, which is basically how things like Man of Steel happen. They cite the issue that a man who has as many abilities as he does, and is as steadfastly moral as Superman is, can beat any challenge (this is, by the way, a dumb notion, so if there’s a writer out there who’s in the midst of this dilemma, may I offer this starting point: Come up with a threat that can’t be ended by Superman putting his fist through it or hurling it into the sun, and work from there).

But while Wolverine has a few things in common with Superman – nigh-invulnerable, capable of outfighting just about anyone, and already the subject of thousands of stories, raising the question of what new can be said about the character – they’re never seen as story-hurdles because the core engine of Wolverine offers so much fertile ground. It’s been articulated a lot, and I’m pretty sure Braak wrote a piece to this effect a few years ago, but basically:

Wolverine is a living weapon that wants to be something better.

And if you can’t come up with a story that addresses that core idea…well, you’re probably also someone who thinks “Having too many powers” makes Superman an impossible nut to crack.

All of this is to say, there are a LOT of really good places to start if you’ve never read a Wolverine comic before.  (more…)


A few recent articles have pointed out that this year has been marked by a surprising number of big-budget commercial disappointments (After Earth, Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., and Pacific Rim – which, BTW, the wife and I quite enjoyed), and how the smaller counter-programming films – even, god help us, Grown Ups Goddamn 2 – have been the quiet successes of the summer.

Moon KnightPretty much, if it didn’t feature Iron Man or Superman, it kind of thudded. People are slowly but surely getting bored at watching the same damn giant movie again and again and again, unless there’s a superhero involved somehow.

In the wake of the 2014-15 movie-promo fest that is Comic-Con these days, it got me realizing, in a few years, even having a superhero won’t help. My evidence for this? Me.

To gear up for The Wolverine, I popped in the first X-Men movie, which I haven’t watched in years. Aside from noting that there was a time when Hugh Jackman was simply very well-built, but not to the negative-2% body-fat, eating-whole-chickens-to-mainline-protein levels he gets to these days, I was mostly charmed by how…crappy it looks.

I mean, it’s fine, it’s not like the bricks are all made of Styrofoam or anything. But it’s clear the people paying for this movie felt like they were taking a huge risk, and were hedging their bets financially. Remember, other than Blade, which could be thrown into the “horror” genre category fairly easily, the last superhero movie at the time was Batman & Robin. THAT was the image in people’s minds when they thought “superhero movie.”

I also remember my blatant excitement that there was A superhero movie in theaters. ONE SINGLE MOVIE.  Simpler times, those times. (more…)


Hi, Battlestar Galactica robots, it’s me again.


old-cylon-new-cylonOK, look, so, I’ve finished up season 2 now, and I feel a little stupid.


…Dick. Anyway, remember during my write-up of season 1, where I made fun of your sekrit plan being “Get Boomer knocked up”?




Fine. Look, I didn’t realize your plan was actually dictated to you by your god.



So you’re walking out of Man of Steel, and you think to yourself, “Boy, I’d really like to read some actual Superman comics!” HAHAHA I’m kidding that almost never happens, no matter how much the comics Superman 1industry might hope to the contrary.

But if it DOES! I thought I’d take a moment to offer some Superman comics recommendations, but probably just as importantly, mention a few titles to steer clear of – particularly those a lot of other websites (like those fancy-dans over at Entertainment Weekly and what have you) might try to confuse you into thinking are good.


Superman: Birthright – Mark Waid’s “Superman Year One” story is heartfelt, insightful, and – as with most things Waid – action-packed and funny, too. I feel like it’s too easy for Superman comics to slip into The Importance Of Being Superman that it forgets comics about brightly-costumed do-gooders should probably be entertaining, too.  (more…)


BVS4 In the spirit of trepidation surrounding the forthcoming Man of Steel, I thought it’d be best to remind everyone that Superman movies are hard, apparently.

I already talked about J.J. Abrams’ intermittently clever, but mostly dumb as balls treatment. But did you know that at one point, Warner Bros. was considering rebooting the Batman (at that point killed by Schumacher) and Superman (at that point still in post- “Superman Lives!” – turnaround) franchises in one fell swoop, under the pen of one-time David Fincher co-writer Andrew Kevin Walker?

It’s true! And it’s terrible. So why don’t I just walk you through this maze of horrors so you can understand what kind of bullet we all dodged, starting with the fact that the first word to describe Superman is – I am not exaggerating – “dickhead”:   (more…)


Y’know, we always do this – post-game analysis of summer movies that make it seem like we didn’t like them (or, in Braak’s case, make it seem as though Joss Whedon has become his arch-nemesis, which…I mean, it’s a one-sided nemesis-ness? But it’s there).

So let me get this out of the way: Iron Man 3 is a fun movie, not least of which because it is very much a Shane Black movie, down to his very specific Black-isms that, during the stretch in the middle where Tony doesn’t have access to his armor, make it feel a lot like an amusing hybrid of Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Iron Man 3But of course, once you leave the glamor of the cinema, questions arise. This is a normal reaction, once entertainment-brain shuts down and critical faculties reassert themselves. Sometimes, it’s a harsh and irreversible process – what I like to call the “Signs Effect,” after walking out of that particular movie and going from a feeling of terrified excitement to the realization that that was the dumbest, most insulting motherfucking movie I’d seen in quite some time, in less time than it took to reach the car.

Anyway, Iron Man 3 isn’t one of those. It’s pretty good, there are some flaws, but nothing that’ll stop you from enjoying yourself. All the actors are top of their game, there are a couple interesting twists, it’s considerably funnier than Iron Man 2 (which, even if you’re willing to forgive everything else – which I largely am! – does have some serious groaners). Won’t change the world, and (ideally) won’t even be the best superhero movie this year (Man of Steel and The Wolverine kind of NEED to be very good, to make up for their previous attempts). But worth the money (don’t – DON’T! – see it in 3D. For christ’s sake, 3D adds nothing to a film, it’s just there to get $3 more out of you, seriously, plenty of 2D screenings, don’t encourage this nonsense) if you’d like to catch it in theaters.

Now then! Questions and observations but mostly questions because as I go through it in my head there are a few things I’m not clear on (and from here on out, Spoilers Are Go, but if you saw the movie now is the time to assert your knowledge):  (more…)