GET EVEN

GET EVEN

I have always had something of a love-hate relationship with horror games. For example, I’m always excited to start up a new horror game, but then once I actually get down to playing it, I start getting way too tense and stuff; there have been times I just totally stopped playing a game just because I couldn’t handle the atmosphere; Amnesia : The Dark Descent and Outlast did that to me, among many others. I don’t even know how I managed to get to the end of F.E.A.R as well. So, with some trepidation, I booted up Get Even. Did I manage to complete it? Well, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this review, now, would I?

We play as the protagonist, Black, with almost no memories at all concerning recent events; the only thing he remembers is trying to save a teenage girl with a bomb strapped to her chest, and failing to rescue her. With a machine called the Pandora fixed to his head, Black tries to get back his memories, and in the process unravel the mystery of the girl. Throughout this journey Black is accompanied by a mysterious entity who calls himself “Red”. Who is this Red guy, and his Pandora tech? What is this abandoned asylum we’re stuck in? Especially considering it isn’t as abandoned as one would like to believe, with creepy, disturbing inmates for company? Lots of questions to start with, and no answers whatsoever. And thus we begin to go down the rabbit hole.

                                                  Goddamn spooky places…

Get Even is a first-person shooter game, so the first thing to deal with would be, how does the gameplay stand up? Well, I’m glad to say it holds up quite well, actually. It starts off as a traditional shooter fare, but with the difficulty ramped up a few notches more than usual. Enemies go down with 1-3 well-placed shots, but so do we. Stealthy gameplay is encouraged, and it is ideal to kill nobody along the way so as not to distort the memories we’re reliving. When we do have to go loud, the shooting mechanics hold up nicely. In addition, Black has a weapon called the CornerGun, one with the ability to, you guessed it, shoot around corners with the aid of a joint at the center of the weapon. With its help, one can chill in cover and still kill the enemies without poking our heads out, as often.

However, Black is more of a detective than a killing machine. For this purpose, he has a smartphone which is way smarter than the normal ones. It is equipped with myriad features such as an IR scanner and a UV device among others. The camera in the phone is also the chief way you get about gathering the required evidence, apart from reading newspaper cutouts and flyers lying around the place. Not just that, though; the camera also locates some irregularities in the memories, and can remove obstacles, put up new ones as cover, or open up shortcuts on the map. It also serves as Black’s gun scope when shooting up people. And at the end of the missions, we get to visit the Evidence Room where we get to view all the evidence we have collected, and this adds an element of replayability for the completionists among us, if they happened to miss some of the evidence during the first playthrough of the mission.

                                       Don’t underestimate this phone, bruh…

The game’s atmosphere is superb. As in, superbly bleak and moody, with dilapidated warehouses, the spooky asylum with the crazy inmates and whatnot. The environment sets up the mood brilliantly, and the soundtrack of the game is just godly. It varies all the way from western classical music to a k-pop type number which kicks in during a mission where stuff begins to go sideways. This soundtrack is quite possibly the best I’ve encountered among the newer games. Added to this, is the choice system in the game. Do you choose to go in guns blazing, or a silent, stealthy approach? Should you let that asylum inmate out of his cell or just leave him in there? These choices make more impact than one would expect.

Not to say that Get Even is completely devoid of flaws, though. First of all, the protagonist Black cannot jump; there are some small obstacles which you think you would easily be able to bypass, but Black can’t vault even the minutest of walls. Also the stealth part of the game could have been executed better; at the very least it could have been improved from being an avoid-the-vision-cones gameplay it ended up being, which seems too barebones in approach to me although it does get the job done.

But when viewed in an overall sense, it is evident that the positives far outweigh the negatives. Pick up Get Even if for nothing, then just to experience the story, which develops in a psychological-thriller style, which totally works for me as I am a hardcore fan of the genre.

RATING : 8.5/10

PROS :
– Great plot and progression
– Nifty plot devices
– Atmosphere and environment
– Godly soundtrack
– Choices dictate outcomes

CONS :
– stealth gameplay is meh
– guy can’t even jump

 

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Train to Busan

Train to Busan

I’ve seen the film Train to Busan make waves in my country recently. But this was well after I’d already seen this film with my friends in the native[Korean] language with subs. So I don’t have any clue of how the dubbed version is, but I can tell you about the original.

Due to some unknown reason, animals have started mutating into the undead fast, and through the death of a human, this very same contamination has entered the human population as well. Meanwhile, Seok Woo is being tormented by his kid daughter Soo-an of about 10 years of age, to meet her mother, who has been estranged from Seok for some time. He finally decides to take Soo-an to her mother, and also have a heart-to-heart discussion with her about their future. They get on the express train to Busan, only to hear on the news being telecast in the train compartments about the undead apocalypse that has unleashed itself over the country. What’s worse is that one of the undead sneaks into a compartment and kills a person, who soon turns into an undead as well. And with some good ol’ geometric progression, it’s only a matter of minutes before the train is swelling with hordes of the undead, and with Seok and his daughter caught in a battle for survival along with the remaining passengers: a middle-aged man with his pregnant wife, some students on a sports trip, a political bigshot and such. Watch as the lot of them try to do everything in their power to survive the undead apocalypse.

Image result for train to busan

The story is pretty generic and adds nothing new to the zombie-horror genre. The progression is pretty predictable as well, sort of. But the setting is really well done, I haven’t yet seen any zombie film shot in a train, and this novelty works for me. Far as character building goes, Yoo Gong playing the estranged husband and father of a 10-year old girl, is marvelous. His transformation from an apathetic person to a better one, is great to behold. Too bad I really couldn’t sympathize with any other characters[except for the political bigwig who showed the best survival instincts in all horror films I’ve seen]. The husband and pregnant wife were good in their roles, but I was truly pained by the whiny kiddo. And the students felt halfway like extras to me.

Train to Busan works better as a thriller film than a horror flick. There aren’t many scary instances in the film, but there are many scenes where your heart races for the survivors, especially the one where they are in the same compartment as the undead, and are trying to sneak out when the train passes through a tunnel. It’s moments like these which make this film a good one.

If only Train to Busan had a better plot, it would have probably been a revolutionary film in the zombie setting. Watch it if you like zombie-flicks in general, or thrillers for that instance.

RATING : 7/10

PROS :
– setting
– genuinely thrilling instances
– the lead and one other character are great

CONS :
– uninspiring and somewhat predictable storyline
– supporting roles aren’t good by any stretch of imagination

AJIN

AJIN

Ajin is the anime I came up with when I wanted to watch something serious and atmospheric. So, how does this anime fare?

Mysterious human beings imbued with immortality are discovered for the first time in Africa. These meta-humans, called Ajin, resurrect themselves whenever they get killed so that they are back, as good as new. Fearing their potential for destruction, the governments of the world decide to capture them to prevent any possible harm to the society, and start experimenting on their capabilities in order to better understand them.

Nagai Kei is a high-schooler who spares no thought to anything other than becoming a great doctor, and studies hard to make his wish come true. One evening, deep in thought, Nagai fails to note a speeding vehicle, and gets crushed underneath it. But unknown to even himself, Nagai was also an Ajin; his body resurrects itself and he is able to start moving again. But now there are a bunch of witnesses who have seen this other-worldly phenomenon, and are they ready to inform the government about him. Fearing for himself, Nagai uses a high-pitched shriek which immobilizes everyone in the area, and makes his escape from the scene. Thus begins the three-way game of cat-and-mouse between Nagai Kei, the government and a mysterious person called the Hat Man, who is a suspect in the recent disappearance of an Ajin from a governmental facility, and whose plans for Nagai are unknown.

The concept of resurrection may seem like old news at the outset, but Ajin treads new ground with it. The plot is pretty solid, and its progression is nicely paced, with no unnecessary developments and byways. The whole anime world is set up neatly, with realistic depictions of school-going kids to employees and beyond. The animation is really well done; the scenes of Ajin resurrecting themselves, and the mysterious IBM[Invisible Black Matter] creatures created by the Ajin are excellently rendered. The coolest parts are the action parts though, with fights almost taking on a cinematic flair. The opening and ending themes are absolutely fabulous, and this is one of the few shows where I never, I repeat never, skipped the themes. But special mention has to be made to the background score; it’s just flat-out godly, and really gives viewers the chills whenever a particular music comes on.

This kind of stuff happens throughout the show…

The main issue I had with Ajin, though, is also related to the visuals. Or more specifically, the frame rate used throughout the show. The show runs at a frame rate of below 30fps easy, with the viewers actually being able to make out the changing of frames in the non-action scenes. This is pretty annoying, and although you may kind of get used to this 3-4 episodes into the anime, this isn’t something you can wholly unsee. And i think the animators tried to emulate human motion with the anime characters, but it doesn’t always work out for the best.

Anyways, I would recommend Ajin to anyone who wishes to see an anime with supernatural elements, or an anime which refuses to pull its punches in general.

RATING : 8.3/10

PROS :
– plot progression is fluid
– great action scenes
– well-developed universe
– awesome opening & ending themes
– godly background score

CONS :
– frame-rate issues
– movement-related 3DCG is somewhat hit-or-miss

Lights Out

Lights Out

I admit, I was pretty excited about this film ever since I heard Lights Out was under production, and have been waiting for its release ever since. I was one of those who watched the Lights Out short film when it came out more than two years ago, and was genuinely creeped out and scared by the three-minute short. And now, due to its success, it has now been adapted for a full-length feature film. So how does it fare?

The film starts off with the horrific and violent death of a man, in the hands of a ghost which makes use of darkness in order to pursue and hunt down its prey. A kid, Martin starts to notice this ghost named Diana around his house, and tries to seek the help of his elder sister Rebecca who has already moved out of their house to live on her own. Their mother being not the most mentally stable person does not really help their situation either. Who is this Diana? What does she want? And how do they get rid of this haunting presence who terrorizes them every time the lights are out?

This horror movie isn’t all that scary overall, but some jump-scares are really well executed. Diana the ghost is really well-made, and is one of the smarter ghosts I’ve seen, with those techniques she uses being pretty stealthy and sneaky in nature. The atmosphere is set from the word go, and aside from the occasional banter involving Rebecca’s boyfriend Bert, is serious and on-point overall.

Acting was alright, but nothing great in my opinion. Teresa Palmer as Rebecca was okay and so was Gabriel Bateman as the kid Martin. Alexander DiPersia as Bert, Rebecca’s boyfriend, provides a few laughs and is good as the bumbling helper. Maria Bello as Sophie, the mentally unsound mother of two, was really great at her role.

Lights Out, in my opinion, is worth a watch, and some of you may not find it all that terrifying, but you will probably be entertained to a large extent. For the real horror, watch the short film instead; that will likely make you scream in terror and wet yourself.

RATING : 7.3/10

PROS :
– atmosphere
– smart antagonist
– screenplay is on-point, doesn’t mess around

CONS :
– acting is so-so
– isn’t as scary as the short

STRANGER THINGS

STRANGER THINGS

This show wasn’t even on my radar. Until I started seeing just about everyone talk about how great it was. But I started getting curious about the show once I saw Stephen King recommending it on Twitter. So what did I do? Start watching Stranger Things, of course.

Stranger Things is set in the year of 1983 in a sub-urban Indiana town in US. We have four geeky friends Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair, Dustin Henderson and Will Byers. They of course get regularly bullied at school for studying what’s being taught by their teachers. After a 10-hour session of Dungeons&Dragons at Mike’s house during a weekend, Will disappears under mysterious circumstances on his way home. Now starts a town-wide search led by the alcoholic Chief Jim Hopper, the head of the town’s police force. Will’s mother Joyce Byers, starts having some really freaky experiences at their home, while the three remaining friends decide to search for their friend Will on their own. Meanwhile Nancy, Mike’s elder sister, starts making out with Steve Harrington, a popular guy in her school. During their searching expedition in a freezing rain, Mike&Co. find a girl with a shaved head, and Mike decides to take her home to give her a place to recuperate. Little do they know that she’s got mad skills[read : psychokinesis]. What does this girl have to do with Mike’s disappearance? Watch on to find out.

    The rescue party…

With government conspiracies, alternate-dimensions, telekinesis and some good old jump-scares, this show really packs a lot of ammo for the viewers. The story is pretty great; what’s even better is the way it has been presented. The screenplay is top-notch for this show, with three separate arcs being handled more than competently. It’s all too easy to have multiple arcs where some of them really kill off the pace and mood of the story, but Stranger Things is made of sterner stuff. And I also like how they did not over-use the horror sequences; quite often we see shows which overdo the jump-scares and come off worse for wear. But this show doesn’t fall into that trap.

Acting is brilliant in Stranger Things. The four kids playing the friends all do a great job at being the science-loving geeky types. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, is pretty funny too. Natalia Dyer who plays Nancy is somewhat annoying as a character, but that’s exactly how the role was supposed to be, so no complaints on that. Winona Ryder is stellar in her performance of a concerned mother who doesn’t give up hope for Will even though she has to deal with all sorts of stuff, and with David Harbour[Chief Jim Hopper], they together make a fantastic lead. But the one who really carries the show is Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, the girl of few words and mad skills. She is sensationally good in her role. I may have missed out on a few other actors, but it’s only because there are so many of them in the show who have been well fleshed-out.

Only thing that really seems a bit unbelievable to me, is the Wheeler parents’ lack of any knowledge whatsoever about their kids’ lives. But hell, we’ve seen stranger things than that, right?

With brilliant use of jump scares alongside the persistently bleak ambience, Stranger Things is one of the best shows of this season, and becomes yet another reason for Netflix sign-ups to go through the roof. Recommended for everyone who wants to watch something awesome*.

RATING : 9.3/10

PROS :
– bleakly atmospheric
– Stephen King-like plot
– awesome cast

CONS :
– Wheeler parents felt a bit too off to me

* Those with photosensitive epilepsy should keep away from watching Stranger Things. The show makes heavy use of strobing light effects during some of the scenes.