Monthly Archives: March 2018

Article: Why Modern Warfare 2 needs a full remaster!

There’s been a lot of rumours recently about a possible Modern Warfare 2 remaster coming out this year or next year. After the remaster of the original Modern Warfare, this doesn’t seem that unlikely, given that COD’s current run of games are becoming more and more derided by the fanbase, and the Modern Warfare series was a high point for many.

The Call of Duty franchise is arguably lacking direction at the moment. Infinite Warfare was widely condemned as the wrong approach for the series (it’s not Halo and it never should be) and while Ghosts, Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III all had some plus points, none came close to matching the best COD games (virtually every gamer I know who plays the series would pick an entry between World at War and Modern Warfare 2 as the series highlight). WW2 was sighted as a return to form, but let’s face it, that game only happened because of how well Battlefield 1 was received, and COD jumped on the bandwagon and decided to return to conflicts set in the past. I doubt anyone’s particularly excited about Black Ops 4 either, given that neither of the last two Black Ops games have come close to matching the original. The studios seem to have lost the sense of what the fanbase wants from new titles. The Modern Warfare remaster, on the other hand, was very well received (at least, it was once fans could buy it separately and not in a bundle with Infinite Warfare), so it feels natural that the COD studios will want to cash in on a nostalgic desire for its most successful games. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Black Ops or World at War remaster happens at some point either. But, arguably, Modern Warfare 2 is the obvious candidate for a remaster, as, for me at least, its the apex of the COD series.

I say this because its one of the only games in the series where all three parts of the game were great. The campaign may not be as iconic as the first Modern Warfare’s, but I found it equally fun and very intense in places. Who can forget the chase through militia infested favelas, storming a Russian gulag or fighting your way through a burning White House? The controversial ‘No Russian’ level aside, there’s barely a duff moment to be found in the campaign, and the shock betrayal from the Loose Ends mission is surely one of the most memorable twists in any COD game. Hans Zimmer’s rousing soundtrack stands out from the blander, by-the-numbers scores of both previous and future entries and doubles down on the intensity of both the action sequences and cutscenes. Spec Ops mode is great too, and genuinely challenging in places (normally whenever Juggernauts are present) and features a great variety of wave defence, snowmobile races, and assault missions.

Now we come to the elephant in the room. The most recent rumours about a possible remaster suggest that the remastered version will only include single-player, not multiplayer. THIS IS FUCKING POINTLESS!!! As good as the campaign is, why would you buy a £20 remaster just for that? I don’t know about you guys, but as long as your ps3 or Xbox 360 or PC still works, why spend money just to get extra graphics for something you can already replay at leisure? Even if Spec Ops is included, you could still replay missions whenever you want on your old console or save files. Most people only buy remasters for 3 reasons: 1. They never had the original game in the first place; 2. They didn’t have DLC that comes with the remaster; 3. The remastered version fixes bugs or other issues or simply performs better than the original.

Modern Warfare 2’s singleplayer was never buggy or had any issues with save files. There’s no singleplayer DLC for either the campaign or spec ops. The only reason you’d want a remaster of this game is because the one thing that no longer works on the original is the multiplayer, because the servers are largely empty and any game you can find is normally overrun by hackers who’ve turned off the gravity or made numerous other annoying glitches. If the remaster is single-player only, no one needs to buy it. No one except people who never tried the original, but they’ll probably prefer a new game that has multiplayer included anyway.

This is a real pity, because Modern Warfare’s 2 multiplayer is arguably one of the best in the series. The maps are near-universally good (There’s one or two exceptions: Underpass isn’t great and the DLC map packs aren’t worthwhile). Between Skidrow, Derail, Wasteland, Quarry, Favela, Terminal and all the others, there was something for everyone. The game modes all had their moments; Demolition, Search and Destroy and even Sabotage offered different challenges that were worth trying out whenever you got bored of the Deathmatches or Domination, while the Hardcore game modes really ramped up the intensity if you were feeling brave. Okay, yes, there were a few pointless perks and the Noobtubers were irritating as hell on some maps, but the killstreaks seemed balanced (I always loved shooting down helicopters the instant someone called them in) and almost all playstyles were viable, whether you used Sniper rifles, SMG’s, shotguns or Assault Rifles. While I know Black Ops’ multiplayer has its fans, for me, none of the CODs after MW2 managed to match its multiplayer for sheer fun (I rarely play multiplayer – this is one of only 3 games where I’ve really gotten into it, which speaks volumes about how addictive it was).

So to sum up: I hope that the rumoured remaster really is on the way. But only if it has multiplayer. If it doesn’t, this is the stupidest decision in gaming since Battlefront 2’s progression system/loot boxes. It would be that much of a let-down. And one I (and many, many others) would never forgive the Call of Duty series for.

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Stranger Things: Season 2 Review

Starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Sean Astin and Paul Reiser.

TV shows tend to hit their stride a bit more in their second season than they did in their first run. This is true for everything from Doctor Who to Arrow to The Grand Tour. This tends to be because showrunners have the chance to look at the first series and iron out any obvious issues that annoyed fans or critics the first time round. The only reason shows can tend to be worse in their second season is if there have been substantial cast changes or there wasn’t a good enough story arc/idea to merit a sequel in the first place. Stranger Things’ cast remained consistent from Series 1, so its continued success was always going to be down to whether the showrunners had a good, clear idea of what the show should do going forward. Good news – they absolutely did.

The show hits the ground running pretty quickly compared to season 1. While the first two episodes mainly serve as exercise in introducing new characters (such as Max [Sadie Sink], a love interest for Dustin and Lucas, and Joyce’s new boyfriend, played by Sean Astin aka Samwise Gamgee) and seeing how the land lies after the events of the season 1 finale (Mike still waiting for Eleven, Nancy’s guilt over Barbara’s death, Will suffering from PTSD etc.) things pick up pretty quickly from episode 3 onwards. The cliffhangers feel more meaningful this time, particularly the ones in episodes 6 and 8. Episode 6’s cliffhanger is exacerbated by the fact that you have to wait a whole chapter to see the resolution, since episode 7 purely focuses on Eleven’s journey (yet still remains extremely engaging). There’s less annoying character moments this time as well (apart from Mike being a dick to Max, though given how much Eleven’s disappearance and Will’s trauma put him through this season its understandable). Paul Reiser (aka Burke from Aliens) also joins the cast as a government doctor at Hawkins lab, and it is pleasingly unclear for most of the season what his true morals/motivations are.

The shows’ production remains largely faultless. The music fits perfectly. The direction and effects mesh together nicely. The dialogue is never clunky or cringeworthy. There are more humorous moments than in season one. Their are less genre-based clichés this time (the government agency isn’t wholly evil for once). The storyline is engaging. If it wasn’t for the fact that you can see where most of the character arcs are headed (i.e. Eleven’s decision at the end of chapter 7/which of Dustin or Lucas that Max will end up with) and the sense that most of the characters are too important for the show to kill off (Will is the only one of the young cast you ever feel is in real danger, ditto Steve amongst the young adults) I’d have no issues with this show at all. However, while the predictability is a shame, rather like in Game of Thrones season 7, you’ll be having too much fun to really care.

Overall Stranger Things 2 is an improvement on the first series in almost every regard. The new cast members slot in seamlessly, the music and direction remain a standout, and the season hits its stride much earlier than the first one did. Only its predictability prevents me giving this a perfect rating.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My next review will probably be Jessica Jones season 2, followed by Black Panther when I finally get around to watching it.

Stranger Things Season 1 Review

Starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown.

Minor Spoilers only. Everything mentioned is given away by an episode title or trailers.

So I finally got around to watching it. I don’t tend to binge watch many series (House of Cards and Orange is the New Black aside) but I watched the entirety of Season 1 on Tuesday and didn’t regret a thing. With my interest in Doctor Who and Star Trek flagging (Who’s last series sapped my enthusiasm and I can’t seem to get into any Trek series other than Voyager) I’ve been looking for a new sci-fi fix. Black Mirror is up there, but Stranger Things is even better. It’s mix of teen/coming of age storylines, sci-fi, horror and fantasy makes it appealing to a wide audience and, for anyone who is sick of everything in film and TV being set in New York, London or Los Angeles, its small country town setting is refreshing. Also, its only 8 episodes, which means it avoids the normal Netflix trap of being stretched out several episodes beyond its natural runtime (see Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Defenders and House of Cards’ last 3 seasons).

For those yet to watch it, the series is set in Hawkins, a small sleepy town in Indiana, USA. It revolves around the disappearance of Will Byers, a young boy, and the appearances of both Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a young girl who has escaped a nearby government lab, and an unknown Monster terrorizing the local woods. The focus is split between Will’s family (his older loner brother Jonathan and his increasingly hysterical mother Joyce, played by Winona Ryder), Will’s best friends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin and Lucas, local cop Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and Mike’s sister older Nancy.

Most of the time is spent with Mike, Dustin and Lucas, who take it upon themselves to find Will, while also trying to keep Eleven hidden from both their parents and the government agents looking for her. Hinging a series on young actors always carries some risk, but the quartet are all well-acted and, for the most part, relatable and engaging characters. Winona Ryder is also a great asset to the series, in a role that in the hands of a lesser actress might come across as irritating, as she starts to realise her son’s disappearance is not due to anything natural. Nancy’s story looks predictable at first as she falls for local bad-boy Steve, but after she becomes entangled with Will and his hunt for his brother’s kidnapper, she becomes one of the stronger parts of the show. Local cop Hopper likewise could have come across as a cliché, but David Harbour plays the role with such charm and understated turmoil that you can’t help but root for him.

It isn’t a flawless series. There are genre-based clichés everywhere you look (shifty government labs, terrible father figures, easily resolved cliffhangers etc.) but that’s probably inevitable given the amount of things Stranger Things is a homage to. The show is also largely predictable and plays out pretty much the way you expect. But, to be honest, if you can see past these issues, there’s precious little else that will annoy you. The direction and effects maintain a very high standard throughout, while the soundtrack is extremely effective and the 80’s songs that play intermittently are as well chosen as Guardian of the Galaxy’s were. The dialogue is never cringeworthy or clunky, and all of the actors put in good performances.

Ultimately, that’s the main reason this show works so well: the characterisation. Even supporting characters that seem irritating in the first few episodes (such as Mike’s friend Lucas and Nancy’s love interest Steve) have character arcs that make them more likeable later down the line. The antagonists, whether school bullies or heartless government creeps, aren’t exactly developed much as characters but serve their purpose well enough, and you will feel immensely satisfied when they get their comeuppance in latter episodes. Arguably its the Monster that works best out of the shows villains, as it feels suitably scary and animalistic without straying too close to creatures from other sci-fi or horror series.

Overall, the first season of Stranger Things is engaging throughout, but only really starts to grip you in its second half where the various plotlines start meshing and bringing the characters together more. The production is fautless, even if the plot utilizes too many genre clichés to be considered particularly original. The acting is universally strong and the characterisation is of a higher standard than at least 90% of other TV shows, and that’s the real reason I’d recommend this above most of Netflix’s other shows.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve already binged Season 2 so expect a review of that to be up soon (probably Saturday). Like this one I’ll keep it spoiler free. Good news: its even better than season 1.