Monthly Archives: November 2015

Game review: Fallout 4 for PS4 (with some PC comments thrown in)

Bethesda…Bethesda never changes. I truly believe they are the only company who could get away with the things they do and still receive so much love from the community. The games can crash or glitch and still have people clamoring “game of the year!” with so many more qualified candidates out there. This year’s most qualified, Witcher 3, comes from a smaller team that went out of their way to make a world feel truly alive. By comparison, Fallout 4 feels like a lot of lazy half assing in so many ways. The vast majority of the sound effects in this game have been used in every single other Bethesda game in recent memory. Even the music playlist for the radio station has been heard before in previous Fallout games. The recycled engine is given some new next gen spit and polish, but aside from the prettier outdoor environments and new more colorful locations, the character models are often but ugly and badly animated.

The problem here for me is that I’ve seen other companies raise the bar higher and higher for what to expect in terms of character design and animation with each release, but Bethesda…Bethesda never changes.

However, this is actually the first Bethesda game I’ve played all the way to the end, (Unless you count Fallout Shelter, which I don’t.) liking and loathing it in equal measure. There is nothing I can praise in the game that does not instantly lead to a big BUT, and for every time I was enjoying my game, there’s at least twice as many times where I was left groaning, “This is utter bullshit.” Or yelling it, or even growling it. And I want to note that it was rarely the challenge level of the game that was the reason for my anger. Sometimes it might be a glitch or a crash, but more often, it was just lazy writing or coding.

But let me start off at the beginning. Bethesda never changes. That’s why yet again, Fallout 4 starts with the same introductory sentence. However, this time the world is fleshed out in more detail before the character creation process begins, and I think it hurts the premise even more than the previous entries. In this version, the war did not take place in an alternate fifties era. Instead, the world went on with the same culture and technology until 2077. Try to think about that. If a person from 1950 were frozen and taken to our time, they would not recognize quite a lot of the progress we take for granted. But not only did technology freeze, but so did all culture and art. So for this period of supposed nuclear peacetime, no one ever did anything in any field. Ever. The game actually contradicts this idea many, many times, and yet…Bethesda never changes. Continue reading

Book review: Never Let Me Sleep by Jennifer Brozek

Never Let Me Sleep was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with quite a few things I enjoyed, but also quite a few others that rubbed me the wrong way. The blurb certainly sounded like a good YA horror, something I don’t have much experience with and wanted to get into. The main character Melissa is interesting because she’s both bipolar and schizophrenic, meaning that even as she’s fighting skittering horrors, she’s got to question whether any of this is really happening or not. It’s a good perspective for a horror story, and a nice change of pace from the almost constant stream of thirty-something alpha dude protagonists I typically read about in horror.

The premise itself is plenty scary. A girl on house arrest wakes up one morning to find everyone in her town is dead, and the company monitoring her advises her to check the news and discover that a much larger area has fallen victim to something insidious and lethal. Anyone attempting to enter the area quickly falls victim to the same malady, and so, being the only survivor in the quarantine zone, Melissa is tasked with finding the source of this attack and stopping it. Very quickly, she discovers she is being hunted by the monsters behind this plot, and she must fight for her life every few minutes. Sounds pretty intense, right? And it is, for the most part.

But, there is something that didn’t sit right with me early on, a throwaway comment about Mel liking transitional seasons. I have some mental issues myself which are aggravated during transitional seasons, and I’ve known both schizophrenics and bipolar folks who have the same issues. The rapid up and down shift in temperatures means that one can have problems even if medication is being used and is supposedly all balanced properly so these are often the most unpopular seasons for us. I’m willing to concede that this might not be a problem for others with similar issues, but both personal and anecdotal experience made this line rub me the wrong way.

I wish that was the only problem, but there is the matter of Melissa’s age versus her experience. The story says that she’s been a shut in for most of her life because of her mental condition, and yet, she’s also familiar with the layout of the local airport, a power substation, and the radio room of the local high school, a school I’m not sure she could have attended for more than a couple months based on her backstory. And I don’t mean she just knows what they look like. She knows enough to operate the substation, and she knows enough about the airport and radio station to recognize equipment that doesn’t belong. In an older character who was more outgoing and social, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at how she knows all this. But her expertise in a vast array of topics when she supposedly spends most of her time watching TV and is forbidden from using computers…it’s just not very believable to me.

I still enjoyed the book, and I’m sure I’ll be reading the next in the series, Never Let Me Leave. I give Never Let Me Sleep 3 stars, and recommend it to horror fans looking for something fast, tense, and only slightly gory.

Book review: After by Anna Todd

Yet again, I find a new read based off of hate for a series. If this keeps producing positive results, I might just start asking people “tell me about a book you really hated” to get more recommendations. In the case of After, I didn’t post updates on Goodreads because guessing from the reviews I thought something would set me off and send me away without finishing. Not only did that not happen, but I ended up buying book two around 80% in because I was that certain I would want to keep reading.

Before I get into the plot and characters, I feel like I need to address the criticisms on this book, which can be summed up in two sentiments, “this isn’t a healthy relationship,” and “these people are making bad choices.” I’m not in disagreement with either of these sentiments, but I feel like asking why we need all our stories to be based on good relationships where everyone is making the right choices. In real life, most of us have made a lot of bad relationship choices, and we needed years or even decades to learn who we are well enough to understand who we need as a life partner. But in fiction, it seems like people demand that everyone be smarter and more “healthy,” as if merely reading about a couple who fights might somehow damage us.

Add to this the always infuriating comment, “Reading this might teach women to want the same kind of terrible relationship.” Oh please. Boys can play violent video games like Grand Theft Auto and most people recognize that this isn’t going to lead them into lives of crime. Guys can read the goriest horror and most rational people know it won’t lead to serial killing or Satanism. But time and again, this line about women being too stupid to understand the line between fantasy and reality gets trotted out whenever a book contains even a whiff of bad behavior. “We’re just worried for the stupid little women who will chase after bad boyfriends if they read this. You know how dumb and impressionable they are.” Uh-huh, and the fact that so many people using this talking point are women is doubly offensive to me. How about we give the little ladies some credit and stop trying to demand that they only read “healthy” fiction? Continue reading

Book review: Revival by Stephen King

My other Halloween horror reads fell through, (I lost interest partway through in both cases) so I bought Revival as soon as I’d found it in pocket paperback, and I was pretty excited to read this because the blurb on the front said, “This is vintage King.” Considering how long it’s been since I’ve read and enjoyed a King novel, “vintage King” sounded pretty damn good to me.

But that blurb is a bold-faced lie. It’s possibly the mother of all whoppers. I want to stress, this is not a bad story and it kept me up for several nights using the old faithful “one more chapter” mantra. But this is not vintage King. Vintage King scared me so bad that I would spend weeks after each of his books afraid of the dark. Vintage King could give me nightmares based on the description of a single body. Vintage King is what made me hide my little brother’s paper mache clown in the bottom drawer of my dresser and never take it out again. Vintage King is what made me want to write my first book.

This is NOT vintage King. It’s not even fucking close. It is old fart King reminiscing about the good old days, and this is not the least bit scary. As a horror novel it’s an abject failure. As an Anne Rice history novel, it’s a huge success. It certainly has the same qualities as my favorite Anne Rice novels, which is to say 350 pages of history lesson with almost nothing in the present day story actually happening. But I like that kind of book, which is how I made it through 12 Anne Rice books without complaints. Had King gone on to some sci-fi mad scientist ending after his history class, I might have even given this book 4 stars. Continue reading