Titanfall 2 – Mercs, Mechs and a Hero’s Journey

Titanfall 2 - Cover Poster | Sold at Abposters.com

      “Titanfall 2” is one of the best RPGs I have ever played. I have not played the other games in the “Titanfall Franchise” but after this I think I will. I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and mechs. This is a game with rich lore, awesome gameplay and a truly memorable story and multi-player. This is a very beautiful game and the game itself is on par with the cinematics that take place before and after action in the campaign. I’ll get into more details below but this is a game that I highly recommend.

The game was developed by Respawn Entertainment and distributed by Electronic Arts while being directed and written by Steve Fukuda who co-wrote it with Jesse Stern and Manny Hagopian.

The story follows Jack Cooper (Matthew Mercer) as he trains to become a pilot of a Titan when his first mission goes awry leading to him being forced to become a Pilot of a Titan and fulfill the original mission.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Graphics and Cinematics – This is an immersive and beautiful game. Whether it is in-game or the videos between missions and before they start. It pulls you into the world and the life of a Titan pilot.

Frontier Defense – Frontier Defense is one of the multi-player options and it is my favorite multi-player co-op I’ve played in a long time. Frontier Defense has you choose Titans who play different roles as you protect the Harvester from attacks from IMC forces as they attack you in 5 waves. My favorite Titans are Scorch who is a defensive heavy and Ion who is an offensive unit with a fantastic lazer attack as their ultimate. I’ve tried out all the Titans and learning how to play them all and leveling up their skills gives Frontier Defense so much replay value. I’ve been playing it with two of my friends and look forward to doing so once more.

The Campaign – The campaign is solid and is a wonderful hero’s journey. No character is complicated but the simple tropes they represent are given nuance and no character is perfect. The stakes also remain high through the entire narrative as you have to stop the IMC from using a Fold weapon powered by the Ark that they hope to use the destroy the militia homeworld of Harmony. After your mentor is killed he hands over control of his Titan By-7274 to you in order for you to fulfill the mission and stop the IMC and the Apex Predator mercenaries they have sent after you.

A Hero’s Journey and BT-7274 – Jack Cooper’s story is a fairly basic hero’s journey. Jack goes from being a rifleman who is thrust into the role of a Titan Pilot after his mentor is killed. It is at this point that we see him and BT-7274 develop trust and affection for one another. BT is very literal while Jack likes to joke around. I really enjoyed their dynamic and how their relationship is developed as BT learns to understand different expressions of speech and in the end sacrifices his life to save Jack as losing his former pilot forever changed and he would do anything to never lose another pilot. BT is the best character in the game and I felt when he sacrificed himself in the end to save the day.

The Apex Predators – The Apex Predators are the mercenaries sent by IMC to stop the Frontier Militia this game. There are the unhinged members like Kane and Richter. Professionals like  Ash, Viper and Slone and the leader Blisk who respects you so much after defeating his crew that he gives you one of their cards and lets you live. Fighting them once so much fun as each involved different tactics. Viper attacked you from the air and had heavy adds attacking you. Ash was fast and fought melee style in her Titan and Slone attacked with a bunch of different adds, could warp around the area and had a powerful lazer attack. Defeating each of these bosses was part of what made the campaign so much fun and I loved their unique personalities and Titans.

The Cons:

The IMC – The Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) are the overarching big bad is just an evil corporation trying to wipe out the rebellion (Frontier Militia). The Apex Predators all have unique personalities and drives but the only agenda of the IMC is to wipe out the Frontier Militia. What is the world they imagine and want? We get flashbacks of them in control of the planet but never what their overarching ideology and goals are. This was a shame as they felt wasted as an antagonist.

If you are looking for a game with a fantastic campaign, fun multi-player and intriguing world you should check this game out. I intend to check out the rest of the “Titanfall Franchise.” If the rest of the series is this fun then I can’t wait to explore the wonderful lore and universe of this fantastic sci. fi. series. To anyone looking for a great FPS with an amazing immersive world than this is the game for you.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Alien (1979): A Brilliant Horror Classic and Introduction to an Amazing World

Alien 1979 poster

      I think I like “Aliens” more than “Alien,” but “Alien” is a really good at establishing Ridley Scott’s world and has some of the best tension building in any horror movie, even if the alien itself really isn’t that scary. It’s now what it looks like, but what it does that makes it such a great threat that leaves our heroes always on the run. It is certainly one of Ridley Scott’s classics for a reason.

    The film was directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett and produced by Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill.

     The story involves the crew of the Nostromo taking on an unknown life form and dealing with the consequences of it as reveals about the Corporation they are working for come to the forefront and the alien threat is revealed to be far greater than expected.

The Pros: Tone – The tone is wonderful and has some of the best tension building in any film! We get to see an unknown world and confining ship where no one fully trusts one another as they are a crew of mercenaries serving a corporation. Over the course of the film they have to depend on one another but are so outgunned by the Xenomorph that they never stood a chance, and terror begins.

The World – The world is really cool! I wanted to know more about the Corporation as we learned so much about how Xenomorphs grow and develop and how dangerous they are we see a large dead alien around where all the eggs are. There is a sense of terror and mystery from the very beginning and the human ships are designed to be advanced but still look very raw.

The Xenomorph – The Xenomorph is awesome! It grows quickly, has acid blood and is a full fledged predator, hunting from the shadows and using other humans as bate. It clearly is the perfect hunter and that is what makes it’s hunt of our crew so fun to watch.

Dallas – Dallas is the character who would be the hero in a standard sci. fi. action film as he is the bearded hero and the captain of the ship. In this he isn’t though, though we see that he is smart though he is a moment of idiocy when lets an infected crewmember on the ship which makes everything go sideways and to his eventual death by the Xenomorph. Tom Skerritt does a great job.

Ash – Ash is the android who at the end of the day serves the Corporation. His mission is to bring back the Xenomorph so the corporation can turn it into a weapon they can use and therefore the crew is expendable. Ian Holm does great job as the character who isn’t fully human but human enough that we see him have a relationship with the crew even if in the end they are just means to an end for him.

Ripley – This is one of Sigourney Weaver’s best roles. Ripley is a character who is rough and has been doing her mercenary work for a long time but still has a connection to home via the cat and her daughter. These things humanize her and give her motivation and a reason to survive and get home when things start going south as the Xenomorph kills the crew and hunts her.

The Cons: The Other Characters – Lambert just screams and cries the entire time and the other crewmembers including John Hurt are forgettable. They all feel disposable because we don’t get to know them or their motivations.

The Corporation – The Corporation is just evil and I wish we got to know it more. The motivations don’t feel fleshed out and getting a Xenomorph is on par with Umbrella in “Resident Evil,” and all their bio-weapons where all the scientists end up dead.

   This was an amazing horror and sci. fi. film and one of my favorites. This is a classic of cinema for a lot of reasons not the least of which are the wonderful, haunting designs of H.R. Giger and the beautiful directing by Ridley Scott. The film has wonderful build up and payoff and the only things that really bring it down are a lot of the minor characters are forgettable and the Corporation doesn’t make much sense in it’s motivation.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009): A Fun Tale of Finding Freedom Through Struggles

Fantastic Mr. Fox

     “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is in no way the best of Wes Anderson’s work…but like all of his works it is a lot of fun and has some pretty amazing characters. There aren’t many characters in it, but the characters who do have arcs get the time and attention they deserve that shows just how complex they are as well as giving some great threats to face as they are all forced to grow.

      The film was directed by Wes Anderson who was also one of the producers and screenplay writers. The other writer was Noah Baumbach and the other producers were Allison Abbate, Scott Rudin and Jeremy Dawson. The story came from the same Roald Dahl book of the same name, which I hope to read.

     The premise follows the story of Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) getting caught in a fox trap where Mr. Fox learns she is pregnant. She makes him promise if they escape to give up stealing food which he agrees to. They settle down in the Tree that is close to three dangerous farmers and are raising their son Ash as Mr. Fox begins to get back into the stealing business with their neighbor Kylie Opossum which gets more complicated when Ash’s cousin Kristofferson arrives making Ash feel like even more of an outcast as he is rejected by his father who pulls Kristofferson into his stealing plots. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: Production – Everything is miniatures and is done with stop motion animation making the film really unique and cool as the animals move like animals and it gives an organic reality to it you would be more hard pressed to find it was done with animation or cgi.

The Script – Wes Anderson’s script is quick and witty and he does a good job paying tribute to Roahl Dahl as there is a dark survivalist undercurrent through the script and the characters are all reckless in different ways as the war with the farmers gets more intense.

The Soundtrack – Alexandre Desplat does a fantastic job with this soundtrack and gives the world a very lived in feel while paying tribute to bluegrass and country which fit with the survival themes of the film.

Badger – Badger is voiced by Bill Murray and is Mr. Fox’s lawyer and he is the one who should have been listened to. He was right about how dangerous the house in the tree was by being close to the farmers and because he was listened to (and his client Mr. Fox harassed the farmers) he and the rest of the forest creatures became refugees. He holds Mr. Fox accountable and like Felicity forces Mr. Fox to take action to right the wrongs he did by his selfish actions.

Kylie Opossum – Is voiced by Wallace Wolodarsky and is one of the folks who sees the big picture in a lot of ways. He has a credit card and good credit, he is happy in his life but is pulled into Mr. Fox’s schemes because he above all else is a follower looking for identity and fun. In the end he finds both as he comes up with his catchphrase (like Mr. Fox’s whistle and wink) and dances with all at the end.

Ash – Ash is played by Jason Shwartzman and is a disgruntled teen through most of the film. His arc is accepting that he is different as he glares and spits a lot but he learns from his mom Felicity that weird runs in their family and when he makes peace with that he is able to accept responsibility in regards to how cruel he was out of jealousy to Kristofferson. His arc is the most solid as when he accepts himself he is able to have a relationship with everyone else around him and shows that it is the strange stuff about us that are part of what make us who we are.

Kristofferson – Kristofferson is one of my favorite characters. He is a calm, talented fox who does yoga who Mr. Fox adopts as a son by pulling him into his schemes. Kristofferson clearly feels grateful as he eventually gets caught by the farmers and used as bate to catch Mr. Fox. He makes peace with Ash as the end and teaches him to meditate. He doesn’t really have an arc but is mostly put together (more so than Mr. Fox) so others learn from his cool. He was voiced by Eric Anderson.

Felicity – Mr Fox’s wife Felicity is the character who is just as reckless as him until she is pregnant with Ash. We learn she always had that risk taking in her though and see that she sees beyond herself more easily than Mr. Fox as she cares for the forest refugees and pulls Mr. Fox out of himself to where he sees the consequences of his actions and works harder to care for others because of it. I really liked her character and Meryl Streep is fantastic.

Mr. Fox – George Clooney owns this role as his addiction to the thrill of the hunt and experiencing great food and drink lead him into trouble. He is a good person at his core but extremely selfish as the farmers were minding their own business until he began stealing from them again. He justifies it initially as he is a wild animal but when he’s reminded he’s also a father and husband he gets his act together and works on making the refugees a home. His arc is getting outside of himself and he eventually gets that as others risk for him forcing him in turn to risk for others.

Okay: Agnes – Is the fox love interest of Kristofferson who makes Ash jealous. She exists mostly as a plot device and isn’t much of a character sadly beyond supporting Kristofferson and eventually becoming friends with Ash.

The Other Minor Characters – There are Otters and Rabbits and a few other creatures who are mostly background. They have great design but aren’t memorable as characters, they aren’t bad either for what it is worth.

The Cons: The Farmers – The farmers are a good threat but they aren’t all that complicated. They are just defending their property and going to great extremes to do so. The fact that they aren’t complicated is one of the things I didn’t like as they weren’t super memorable and could be interchanged with any farmer threat in a film that follows the story of forest creatures…and they are as complex as their last names (Bean, Boggis and Bunce).

    This was an extremely fun film and my second time watching it. My favorite parts were the interactions between Ash and Kristofferson and Mr. Fox and everyone as he is a selfish guy who creates most of the conflict in the first place, and realizes it so much of his arc is trying to make amends. There are constant consequences and there aren’t really any happy endings…it’s bittersweet as the animals are living in the sewers now and the three farmers are still seeking their destruction, but it has hope. Part of what I always like about Wes Anderson films is how bittersweet they are as well as fun and this film captures both those things beautifully. If you like Wes Anderson, chances are you will like this film.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.