Tag Archives: Franchise

Opinion – Is Daniel Craig A Little Too Shaken And Stirred To Play Bond Anymore?

So, following well over a year of speculation about whether he will return to the role of 007, it has been confirmed that Daniel Craig will play James Bond for a further two films.

After all the injury problems experienced during the production of Spectre, the actor’s most recent outing as the spy, Craig’s future was very much in question. During the promotional work for Spectre, everyone kept asking the big question – will he do another film? At the time, it looked as though we had seen the last of him. Craig seemed to have had enough; looked as though he had completely fallen out of love with the character. However, over a year and a half on after the release of the last film, the news has surfaced that he is signed not for one, but for TWO more films.

Now, inevitably, everyone has their take on the announcement. It has received a somewhat mixed response and has definitely polarised cinema-goers and Bond fanatics. Some have been overjoyed to hear that Craig will be in the role for the foreseeable future, and others have been… less so.

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Review – Gears of War 4

What’s this?

I don’t want to alarm you, but despite quite clearly having the numeral “4” on the end of the title, Gears of War 4 is actually the fifth game in the respectable Gears of War franchise. And when I say “respectable” I’m not even being my usual, sarcastic, devilishly-handsome self. The first game was critically beloved, a commercial success by every possible metric, exceedingly well-designed, and became a rubric for cover-based third-person shooting to such an extent that the industry’s continued – and continuing – milking of the series’ saggy teats has led most people to retroactively taint the Gears games themselves. A shame, really, because they’re all pretty great. Except this one, as it happens. This one is merely fine, just in quite a tired, predictable, faintly desperate way.

Oh, no. We’re not doing the Halo thing, are we?

Not quite, although the business parallels are undeniably similar. Epic Games didn’t want to make Gears of War games anymore, much like how Bungie didn’t want to make Halo games anymore, and so in both instances Microsoft invented a developer with the specific mandate of making more games in those respective franchises. In Halo’s case, the property was handed over to 343 Industries, a phenomenally inept pack of corporate stooges who bastardized Halo’s core gameplay, plot and characters, and slapped them back together in a Call of Duty clone wearing Master Chief’s helmet.

Gears of War 4 has, admittedly, fared slightly better. Its developers, The Coalition, at least had the good sense to leave the fundamentals of a Gears experience largely unchanged. The problem is that they left them so unchanged that the whole thing feels like a knockoff, second-hand Gears experience without any of the creative verve that gave the original trilogy its unique appeal.

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Review – Spider-Man: Homecoming

What’s this?

It’s the sixth Spider-Man movie since the dawn of the new millennium, the second live-action reboot of the character, and the sixteenth entry into the money-printing multimedia monopoly otherwise known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it’s mostly a teen-romance story, and a pleasantly cosmopolitan coming-of-age drama, just with some superhero shenanigans grafted on, like the sentient robotic arms of a mad scientist. (A reference that should clue you in to the fact that, since watching Spider-Man: Homecoming, I’ve been thinking a lot about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, and how much more like it I wish this movie was.)

Oh, here we go.

I’ll stop you there, if you don’t mind. My love for Raimi’s second ­Spidey instalment notwithstanding, I don’t worship at the altar of those movies in the same way that a lot of my contemporaries do. The first, from 2002, is a functional origin story but little more than that, and the third, from 2007, is a violent crime against good taste and decency. Homecoming is superior to both of them, and, of course, to the two horrific Amazing Spider-Man travesties, although at this point that should go without saying. But if you expect me to not compare a new Spider-Man movie with the definitive Spider-Man movie, then, well… perhaps reviews aren’t for you.

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Review – Despicable Me 3

What’s this?

The third one. Well, the fourth one, technically, but it has the number three on the end of the title, so whatever.

Oh, I can see how this is going to go.

Yeah, sorry. It’s just difficult for me to muster any real enthusiasm for such a blatant slab of brainless corporate product. Despite what I or anyone else might say about these movies, they’re guaranteed to make an astronomical amount of box office dollars, thus ensuring that the franchise continues in various forms way beyond the point of artistic tenability. (A point that, if we’re being honest, was located somewhere around the end of the first movie.)

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Review – Need For Speed (2015)

It occurs to me that the vast majority of my time in the “new generation” of video game consoles has been spent replaying games I already owned one, two, sometimes three years ago. The terminology is starting to get confusing. Is this a reboot or a remaster? The Game of the Year Edition or the Definitive Edition? Is there a difference? They’re shinier, usually. Sometimes they have all the bells and whistles already attached; additional content you previously had to pay for now available right out of the box (which is where, some might argue, it should have been to begin with).  That’s useful, occasionally, for games you missed or expansion packs you couldn’t justify buying. More often, though, it just feels exploitative, like a publisher wringing your neck until yet more coins plink out of your orifices.

2015’s Need for Speed is perhaps the most egregious recent example of the industry’s tendency to rehash old ideas and re-skin old games. It’s a reboot, technically, although one could reasonably argue that every game in this franchise has been a reboot of the one preceding it. There aren’t any recurring characters or sprawling narratives. Each game takes the fundamentals of the previous instalment and either builds on them or takes them in a slightly different direction. We’ve had direct sequels, in a sense, such as the two Underground titles, which is where the series began for most people; and the two Shift experiments, when Need for Speed veered away from the street racing microcosm and set off in a more simulation-based direction. But these are only really sequels in that they’re continuations of a specific style and theme; they’re hardly the next chapters of a riveting saga. This is, partially, what aggravated me about how EA marketed this latest edition – on false promises, and in answer to questions nobody was asking.

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Review – Lego Batman

The Lego games would typically be outside of my usual remit, but I’ve somehow managed to dip my toes into both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones incarnations without even realising it. The former was a nice go-to game when I was weirdly, worryingly into Xbox Live Achievements (even though I don’t remember playing it for long), and the latter came with my replacement Xbox when I somehow fucked the first up beyond repair (and I hated it). So, Lego Batman was a weird one for me; something I played out of general curiosity to see how DC’s most beloved hero would receive the shiny plastic treatment.

I honestly don’t have too much to say about the game. The Lego series has always been the quintessential casual game: easy to pick up and play, charming, fun, and ideal for short ten to fifteen minute sessions. Lego Batman is all of that, plus and minus a few quirks.

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Review – Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Whatever your girlfriend might think, bigger isn’t always better. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is big. The biggest the series has ever been, easily. But it’s far from better. Wildlands couldn’t hope to compete with the two Advanced Warfighter games from 2006 and 2007; and it’s even inferior to the stripped-down Ghost Recon: Future Soldier from 2012. It’s just big. Bloated. Unhealthy. If size matters to you, then so might Wildlands. I guess the heart of the series is still in there. But it’s covered in fatty deposits and it only beats once every few hours. Wildlands moves, but it never feels alive.

Again, and again, I’m reminded that not everything needs to be bigger; that not every video game franchise needs to expand outwards. Ubisoft’s death-by-a-thousand-icons design is wearing so thin these days that I can see straight through it. And to think that an open world used to mean something. Used to matter. It stood for things – possibility, freedom, fun. It was the kid’s toybox writ large; “play” personified. Now it’s a rote checklist of mundane distractions. Wildlands has all the usual suspects. You can sweep weapons, upgrades and skill points into your trousers like a cartoon bank robber, pester convoys and patrols, lead the toothless rebel populace around like sheep. Interrogate this guy, kill that one, capture the other. Blow this up. Defend that. Stop for a minute. Paint shark teeth on your gun, try on a new hat. Do these sunglasses go with this outfit? Remember, a tattoo is for life. Pick something artistic. There are outposts to capture. You want to look good while you’re warmongering, don’t you?

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