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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William Landay – Defending Jacob

William Landay – Defending Jacob

For quite some time, I really wanted to read a good court-room thriller. After seeing Defending Jacob on my Goodreads recommendations, I decided to give it a try. And am I glad I did…

Andy Barber is a respected and well-admired assistant district attorney, and one of the best prosecutors in his county. He leads a peaceful life with his wife, Laurie, and his teenage son Jacob. However, this existence is shattered by the murder of a young boy in the neighborhood. And the prime suspect of this murder is Jacob. Andy, being a father, of course believes completely in Jacob’s innocence, despite the emergence of some damning new evidence, which rocks the family boat and strains the relationship between Andy and Laurie to near-breaking point.. As if this was not enough, Andy has been withholding a secret for more than twenty years, something he hasn’t disclosed to even his wife. How far will Andy go to protect his son?

The plot is pretty solid, with minimal loopholes and plotholes and whatever other holes there may be in a novel; if there were any, I didn’t notice them at the very least. At the outset, the concept is simple, but the plot-progression adds layers of complexity that jsut cannot be ignored. The character development by William Landay was so good it approaches near-perfection. It’s painfully heartbreaking how Laurie changes over the course of the book from an optimist to a wreck; the case takes a toll on Andy too in more ways than one can imagine. Defending Jacob reminds me of A Simple Plan by Scott Smith, in the best way possible.

Just pick up this book, and I’ll guarantee you will not be able to put it down until you get to the end. It’s hard to believe Defending Jacob is only William Landay’s third novel. Okay, let’s stop the posturing; just buy this book already! Doubly so if you are a fan of court-room thrillers like me.

RATING : 9.6/10

John Wick : Chapter 2

John Wick : Chapter 2

The first iteration in the John Wick franchise was brutal and gory, yet the story was solidly made. John Wick, a retired contract killer, is reluctantly pulled back to his ways of old when the son of a Russian mafia don steals his car[a present from his deceased wife] and kill his dog. And we got to follow Johnny boy’s quest for revenge and oh boy, what a movie it was. So of course, I went in to the theater with high expectations.

The film begins with John Wick cleaning up the last remnants of the Russian boss’ family, and the boss’ cousin makes a truce with John for his life. John returns back home with his car, but then meets a ghost from the past. When John was trying to retire from being an assassin, he made a deal with Santino D’Antonio, one of the big names in the underworld, sort of. Now D’Antonio has returned for the favor he is owed. D’Antonio’s target : his own sister, who was set to inherit the seat among the big fifteen. John respectfully declines, stating he has left the world of killing for good, but D’Antonio doesn’t like that. He blows up John’s home, with him inside it; John barely manages to escape from the ensuing inferno.

But he couldn’t very well skip out on the contract he’s been offered, as he owed D’Antonio the favor, and the Continental guidelines also support the aggressor. Leaving John Wick in a contract which he just couldn’t back out of.  But as complicated as this may be, there are even more complexities in store; D’Antonio has set on John a tail in the form of Ares, a lady with a stare that could punch through you like daggers. Pretty soon the film turns into the good old killfest like in the first film, but this is not mindless, not by a long shot. As John races around from Rome back to his home town, there is only one thing he can be sure of; everyone is after him. As they say, it isn’t paranoia if everyone is out to get you.

                                                      John Wick and the pills guy…

As it was in the first film, John Wick 2‘s strength lies in its action scenes. The hand-to-hand combat scenes and the gunfights are shot with style, and there is an undeniable sense of efficiency in the way John Wick disposes of his would-be killers. This is action at its finest. But it is not just the action; the story is pretty good too, unlike many other action films where the plot takes a back seat, if even that. Also, the main character of John Wick is more fleshed out now in this second iteration. I just love how everyone stands up and takes notice of John whenever he’s around. Acting is decent too; Keanu Reeves does great as John Wick, the reluctant assassin. Ruby Rose as the mute-but-menacing Ares is cool as hell. Also has a Laurence Fishburne doing a cameo, which got half the theatre screaming “Morpheus!”. Importantly, it is not every action movie that has an atmosphere as charged-up as this.

In the end, I’d say this is one of the best action movies to come out in recent times. I like the fact that John Wick 2 doesn’t rely on cheesy CGI and unnecessary explosions to keep the action rolling. And it does the job a sequel should do; improve upon the original in every way. If you happen to like action, then wait till you get a load of this!

RATING : 9.7/10

PROS :
– brilliant action scenes
– solid story
– electrifying atmosphere

CONS :
– extras do a kind of crappy job, sometimes

 

Nocturnal Animals [2016]

Nocturnal Animals [2016]

I finished watching Nocturnal Animals about an hour ago. And I must confess, it was a mind-screw type of film in some aspects. Best thing about it, is I’ve always liked such films. Also, I’m a sucker for Jake Gyllenhaal’s films; they always have the element of the psychological in them. Does this film by Tom Ford match up to those other films I like?

Susan Morrow is an insomniac; can’t sleep at night even if she put her heart and soul into it unless sleeping pills are also popped in concert with that glass of water she’s just had. But Susan’s problems are not just confined to insomnia, her personal and professional life[she’s an art gallery owner] both have started feeling really dull and unsatisfactory to her. But things start changing when she receives a manuscript of a novel her ex-husband had been working on for some time. The name of the novel? Nocturnal Animals. As she starts reading the novel, she is drawn deeper and deeper into the story, to the point where she is so immersed that something happening in the outside world would startle her back to life.

This is how the movie starts off. Once Susan begins reading the novel, a new phase of the film begins; the film now keeps switching between Susan and the happenings in the novel she’s reading. In the novel, Tony Hastings is out with his wife Laura and their daughter India for a camping trip out in Western Texas. But during the night, an altercation between the holidaying family and a group of delinquents turns unsavory, and quickly the situation turns horribly wrong. So basically, on the one hand the viewer sees Susan leading her mundane life with the regular staff meetings and discussions and such; on the other hand a thriller is playing out with Tony trying his best to keep his family safe.

                                                            This guy is freakin’ intense…

The plot is pretty much on point here, and the way the two arcs are handled deserves special praise; nowhere does it feel like either one of them is dragging. Also the reminiscences Susan has about her past life, are also well melded into the storytelling. Also, the eerie atmosphere of the novel when contrasted with Susan’s elaborate living conditions, makes for some sudden but great transitions between the novel and real life. Acting deserves special mention in this film; my man Jake Gyllenhaal does it again, as he has done so so many times. His double act as the novelist ex-husband Edward Sheffield and the terrified  family man Tony Hastings makes for a great watch. So is Isla Fisher’s Laura, Tony’s wife in the novel. But my personal favorite in this film was Amy Adams, who played the insomnia-ridden Susan. She is amazing in every which way throughout the film. By the way, watch out for Aaron Taylor-Johnson too, he’s the X-factor for this movie. He’s the most psychopathic character I’ve seen since Jake’s Nightcrawler, I think.

So, what do I say? If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, then you’ll definitely love this film. Although I must say, Nocturnal Animals seems like a film which will lead to polarizing opinions from the viewers. Let me know how you felt about the film.

RATING : 8.8/10

PROS :
– plot progression is neat
– smooth transitions
– great acting all over
– mind-screw

CONS :
– not for everyone

AJIN [SEASON 2]

AJIN [SEASON 2]

The second season of Ajin finished airing just about ten days ago. Those of you who haven’t yet caught up on the anime after the season one cliffhanger, get ready to jump on the hype train! [Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen S1]

So the first season ended with Nagai Kei and his new companion Nakano Kou making a break and escaping the clutches of Tosaki and Shimomura. And in the meantime, Satou has issued an ultimatum to the Japanese government to include provisions for ajin to be treated as normal human beings, and to stop using them as guinea pigs for experimentation. The alternative being that Satou and his fellow ajin go after 15 officials who are the main culprits regarding this matter. The second season picks up from there, with Satou beginning to make good on his promise. On the other end, Nagai and Nakano want to stop Satou from executing his master plan, but they are severely lacking on manpower. Nagai comes up with the idea of pairing up with one of the main officials in secret so that this issue ceases to remain an issue anymore. And guess who that is… Tosaki himself!

Image result for ajin satou

                                                                  Way too OP…

The story is pretty fast paced, as it was in the first season. And it doesn’t waste time in pleasantries of any sort. The action keeps moving from Satou’s perspective to that of Nagai and Tosaki, and these switches have been handled well, so that the viewer is not distracted in the least. And as it was in the previous season, the action scenes are amazing; especially the ones where Satou goes berserk in killing people, they are truly badass moments in the show. The characters have been further developed, and some backstory for Tosaki and Shimomura comes in too. Nagai and Co. are great, no doubt about that. But my favorite character would be Satou, as is only to be expected. The guy says so many awesome things in his trademark nonchalant style; the writers did a fantastic job with this particular role. It’s as if he is the anime version of Vaas from FarCry 3. And just in case you don’t know this guy, let’s just say he is still the best villain I’ve seen in a game yet.

The only real issue with Ajin is the same as it was with the first season; the frame rates. I know that the production crew decided to do it the hard way and make it a 3D animated show, and I laud them for it. The actions are remarkably human-like, as a result. But more than occasionally, you’re left trying to see if you can differentiate one frame from another during some of the quieter moments of the show. Other than that, the show is pretty slick.

In conclusion, I would personally recommend Ajin to anyone who watches anime, and have done it on numerous occasions already. If for nothing else, just for the amazingly haunting background score that plays at the beginning and end of each episode…

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– good plot pacing
– action scenes are even cooler
– amazing background score
– Satou-san OP
– improved 3DCG

CONS :
– frame rate is still a bit unsatisfactory

 

 

 

 

 

The Chaser(2008)

The Chaser(2008)

I have said it before, and I will say it again; Korean films are a blast to watch. Not because they are entertaining or fun; no one who has seen movies like Memories of Murder or Oldboy will say anything contrary to my statement. No, they are a blast because they are really intense pieces of art, which will make you question everything and assume not a single thing. Or maybe it’s just my awesome choice at picking out the cream of the Korean offerings, but anyways. Let’s get into The Chaser now, without further ado.

The film begins with the former Task Force detective-turned-pimp sending out one of his girls for business, if you know what I mean. But the guy is also getting paranoid about his state of affairs, as two of his call girls have quite probably just escaped without giving him any information of their whereabouts. He wants to tighten up his protocol to ensure these incidents do not repeat in the future. Unluckily, the girl who the pimp has just sent out, is also on her way to meet him. I don’t think I will be able to tell you readers any more about the plot, as some key details might be spoilt for those of you who wish to see the film. But I can assure you of one thing; it is pretty twisted and messed-up on a different level.

                                                                           The chase is on!

This is a different kind of film from the normal, as we already know the antagonist at the outset itself. Something I haven’t often seen in the suspense thriller genre. The screenplay ought to be tight, which is a requirement for this type of film, and thankfully the film delivers on that front. Also, this is quite possibly the Korean film with the fastest pacing I’ve seen yet. And the acting is spot-on, I must say. All the characters are fully fleshed out, from the pimp to the antagonist to the call girl and her kid daughter, to the police.  It is as if they are living in their roles. That might seem a bit cliche, but that is god’s honest truth. And the story is based on some real-life events, which honestly does throw up some red flags about the existence of hope in this world. This is some really depressing shit.

Overall, I’d say this: if you have watched a few Korean film, chances are you’ve watched this already. If you haven’t, guess what; it’s time for you to do yourself a favor already. And those of you who don’t[or haven’t yet] watched Korean suspense thrillers yet, this is a great way to initiate yourself into it.

RATING : 9.7/10

PROS :
– top-notch acting
– insane pacing
– pretty dark and disturbing

CONS :
– may be too dark for some

 

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