What I’ve Been Up To (Again)

Howdy folks, long time no blog…again. Apologies for apologizing and not remedying that the last go round but I will make a more profound attempt in order to do so this time around. What exactly have I been doing lately? Well, working on several projects for starters. Work on the long-time indie little design project I’ve been writing for has been stagnant of late but continues. I’ve been writing for the first real time in a while, so working on two little short stories to boost morale and competency I guess. Still writing reviews and cataloging them for later when I can actually fine-tune and release them. So I may be back to original and old form before too much longer, although beware- from mid-June to mid-July or early August I will be out of country and more than likely not posting much of anything. And of course I’ve also been watching movies, television, and playing plenty of games.

Lately, more than anything I’ve immersed myself once more in the world of The Witcher 3, I’ve revisited Halo 5, and I’ve even dabbled in some sports games here and there. On the shows and movies front I’ve been wrapping up my superhero goodies like Gotham, The Flash, and Arrow. And of course as for films I’ve seen my fair share of the expected ones- Captain America 3 and so forth. Hopefully I’ve not proven to be too boring or mundane, but I shall continue to try to provide content as always, for better or worse.

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The Big Ol’ Update of What I’ve been up To

So, long time no blogging. Sorry for the delay between some of the things I’ve been working on. I’ve been pretty busy wrapping up some other working and personal projects, as well as catching up on my fair share of shows for future retro reviews. I’m trying to make this whole deal a more well-rounded media offering although I will always focus heavily on the games aspect of course that it initially began as, alongside writing and whatnot.

So, what’s coming in the next month or so? Well, I’ve been compiling reviews for several seasons of television shows- from American Horror Story to How To Get Away With Murder. I’ve also been busy testing and playing some new releases in terms of games so expect potentially a few reviews or thoughts blogs. And really, just expect continual coverage of all other things I generally work on. So, that’s it for the whole update business. Hope to get back again soon.

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Winter is Coming | GoT S6 E1 Recap

nights-king_-_h_2015

We haven’t survived the worst of this winter yet. And no, I am not referring to any seasonal winter the likes of which this world has seen. I am of course referring to the onslaught we are sure to be due for in Westeros and the lands beyond. Tonight saw the return of HBO’s ever popular Game of Thrones with the premiere episode of Season 6 of the show. Entitled “The Red Woman,” we saw plenty of said titular character and then some. But that wasn’t the only interesting development throughout the show and it was an unsurprisingly decent and solid start for the season. Not much has been answered and endless possibilities have been raised, however it’s safe to say this season should be as entertaining as any yet. Let’s look at what happened and where the show could go this season or beyond…

Jon Snow is…Dead

In case you were hoping for anything other than that, prepare to be somewhat disappointed. Most signs still point to the dashing hero being resurrected at some point in the future, but it will not be anytime so soon. For the time being, he is gone. And Ser Davos, Ghost and co are not too thrilled. Meaning some serious stuff is bound to go down.

Ramsay Bolton stars in “Still an Asshat”

Yep. Just when you thought the honorary Bolton might not have only mean bones in his body, he goes and does it again. Thankfully his scenes did not involve flaying anybody alive or torturing his subjects physically and mentally. Just harsh pragmatism and feeding his beloved Myranda’s body to the dogs.

Reckoning

As Roose Bolton notes, there will be a reckoning coming to the Northmen now that they have decided to disobey their former Lannister compatriots. Whether or not the Lannister’s will crumble like the Axis forces attempting to fight their two-sided war in WWII or not remains to be seen. But they’ve got some trouble in Dorne on the horizon as well as in the North. Then again, the North remembers, and the North has some more trouble of its own to contemplate. Let’s not even get started on whether Dany and co will make it across the Narrow Sea or not.

Theon..Back at it Again

Or as close as we’re ever likely to see the newly reformed Reek-Theon-Reek. After apparently surviving their drop (obviously), the Sansa and Reek duo made their way across the windy and icy wastes all the while pursued by the Bolton hounds, fresh from their feeding I assume. We almost got to watch Reek get torn apart by said hounds, however Sansa and Theon were finally rescued by Brienne and Pod who did a good job dragging their rescue out and making things tense for us all as usual. Needless to say, Sansa finally appreciated the help.

Blood Boiling in the Red Keep

Well, we know there is only so much time before violence erupts in the southern capital of Westeros, although exactly when that will happen remains unclear. Matters surely weren’t helped by Jaime’s return with a dead daughter. Cersei is understandably distraught and for once pitiable again. Which can only mean heads will roll, sparrows will suffer, and the Mountain and Jaime will have their day.

Meanwhile in the Darkest of Dungeons..

Queen Margaery contemplates and denies confession yet again, as Cersei also did for a time. Just how and when she will enact her own brand of justice and vengeance is yet to play out and be seen. But it is undoubtedly coming as well. Will the Tyrells and Lannisters join forces to free their loved ones and punish their captors? Stranger things have happened. I’d hate to see prettyboy Ser Loras bite the dust when his character has plenty more usefulness than being a face for zealots and their homophobia however.

Family means “Everything”

Just when we thought we’d seen it all with a genuinely heartfelt moment between the Lannister siblings, here comes a heartwarming moment in Dorne and…oh wait. Ellaria and her Sand Snake daughters slaughtered Prince Doran, his faithful axe wielding guard, and Trystane for added measure. But why did you have “to be a greedy bitch” and stab him in the face? Wasn’t it bad enough Oberyn had his jelly squeezed out already? Dorne looms on the precipice of war with Westeros and now that “weak mean” will never again rule, there are three powerful queens in the ring. (Or four, you know.)

The Tyrion and Varys Show

In a perfect world, Tyrion and Varys have their own comedy show and routinely cater for high level events with their stand-up schtick. However, this is Game of Thrones and a far from perfect world, so alas the two are stuck trying to rule the burning ship that is Meereen. And you know, looking at a harbor full of burning ships, more than likely thanks to the Sons of the Harpy or some other asshats running about mucking things up for Dany and co. Here goes finding the bastard who runs that organization and trying to run a city.

Jorah the Explorer

Meanwhile good old Jorah and Daario are hunting about the countryside from their Queen and love interest when they find both remnants of Drogon’s dragonly meal and their ruler’s ring in the muck kicked up by the Dothraki horde. Not all is lost, although you wouldn’t know that from the sullen remarks Jorah gives whilst staring at the greyscale rapidly spreading across his forearm. The man knows he’s not destined to find love with the Mother of Dragons, but by goodness he’ll kill the men who took her away.

Dany…boy the Hills are Calling

Dany has seen her fair share of pain and suffering and now that she’s been taken by the Dothraki horde it looks like we’re in for some more rapey and painful scenes. Wait! After being taken before the Khal, she can endure the abuse no longer and informs him of her rank and status to which he eventually replies with surprising reference considering her former marriage to Khal Drogo. And then orders her shipped off to a widow-filled temple. Fun times abound.

Braavo…s

Things just don’t seem to ever let up for any of the Starks, but surely Arya has endured some of the worst treatment in recent memory besides Sansa’s brutal loss of virginity last season. Not only is she blind and begging/overhearing helpful information in the streets of Braavos, but the good old reliable Waif comes around to knock our girl down and beat the literal snot out of her as well. And apparently it’s going to become a daily routine of kicking her ass and teaching her to not rely on her senses so much at one time.

Return to Castle Black

If you thought Thorne talking about doing the right thing and wanting to kill the wildlings in addition to Jon Snow and basically any and everyone that doesn’t fit the bill in his ruthless pragmatism was appalling, try listening to him “bargaining” with Ser Davos and co. As if they’d believe a band of murderous traitors would honor promises anyhow. Not only does the fate of Jon Snow and his few allies lie in the hands of Dolorous Edd, but also in the wiles of the Red Woman (or Old Crone) as it would be.

Now, let’s talk about some plot developments that could potentially occur this season or merely at undetermined points in the future, not only based on what occurred last season and in this premiere episode, but what has yet to pass or could.

  1. Bran is back at it again and we should be seeing him sometime soon, more than likely in the next episode when some characters we couldn’t cram into this premiere one undoubtedly make their season six debuts. I’m sure he’ll be warging it up with his better handle on the craft and working out just what to do about the undead horde surrounding him, as well as maybe even throwing a bit of fan service and well-deserved justice our way. You know, controlling Ghost and killing Ser Allister Thorne wouldn’t be too much of a stretch now would it haha?
  2. Let’s hope we also see some more of Ser Bronn of the Blackwater and mayhaps he can finally get his well-deserved titles and riches and promises and settle down. It’s not as if Jaime and Cersei will lack for firepower with the newly reborn Mountain by their side when they inevitably go about their way massacring the Sparrow and his zealots and really anyone even remotely in their way. I’ll be sorry to see Bronn’s poisonous vixen go however.
  3. I’m sure we’ll be getting to the root of this whole Harpy issue sometime soon, I just hope our good old pals Tyrion and Varys are safe and sound throughout. I’d hate to see either of them take a dagger to the back or eye. But I wouldn’t mind Varys pulling a Eugene from AMC’s Walking Dead and biting someone else’s important member off. Only if he had to drop the classy demeanor and fight for his life of course.

Anyway, now that I talked about a few broad things that haven’t been thoroughly discussed as much this season as of yet, let’s talk about possible plotlines I could see in their entirety happening, or at least potentially in part.

  1. We get a glimpse of or some more news of Rickon Stark and how he fared after he and Bran parted ways not too long ago.
  2. Littlefinger either finally gets in too deep and gets slaughtered by any one of the millions of people who distrust or even hate him, or he wins it all and sits on top of the world despite backstabbing his way to get there and be in control of more of Westeros than the people actually ruling Westeros.
  3. The Hound is not dead.
  4. Bran is awesome at being a warg with all of his training from the good old Raven.
  5. Tommen avoids death for so long and then sadly dies at the end, prompting even more despair and rage from Cersei and maybe even semi-uniting the Tyrells and Lannisters if only with the single purpose of wanting to kill basically everyone who’s wronged them. Bonus: Jaime may or may not die. But not this season.
  6. The Mountain kills a bunch of people.
  7. The Sons of the Harpy continue to rear their ugly heads until their leader is found and killed. Could it be a trusted someone or a fresh face?
  8. Jorah dies at a most dramatic time but gets to see his love before that. Or he survives for the time being and dramatically informs everyone he has greyscale.
  9. Drogon or one of the other dragons dies.
  10. Ramsay and potentially Roose Bolton get flayed alive. If GoT chooses to be that “kind” to fans.
  11. Jon Snow is somehow resurrected and now that he’s served his life as a Nights Watchman, he is free technically to go take back Winterfell or do whatever it is he deems worthy. Or just kill a bunch of punks.
  12. Arya gets over her blindness after learning her lesson as a Faceless Man. Probably may or may not kill some more peeps we hate. Is basically a ninja.
  13. The White Walkers and their zombie horde make an appearance again and slaughter everyone at Castle Black. So basically all the traitorous assholes still left there.
  14. Ser Davos gets fleshed out more and lives up to his name as the Onion Knight, peeling back more and more layers and either going out like a boss or staying alive.
  15. Sansa finally gets to make Winterfell great again and also enact some good old fashion revenge.
  16. We get to see the Iron Islands and how that is going.
  17. The Wildlings and Jon Snow have their reunion tour.
  18. Margaery and the Tyrells poison some more people perhaps.
  19. The good old vipers of Dorne continue their campaign of political intrigue and assassination or try to and get wiped out.

There are plenty more storylines that could be brought up- both completely original or building off of things previously in the television series or books. However, I’ll leave you with these ones for now.

NBA Teams that Stand to Gain in the 16-17 Season

Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland Cavaliers

The 2015-16 NBA season wasn’t quite some tumultuous as its NCAA counterpart, however that’s not to say there weren’t a fair share of ups and downs for some teams along the way. Of the sixteen teams that made the bracket this year, five did not return from last year’s playoff scramble and missed the bracket entirely. Not pictured this year: Brooklyn, Washington, Chicago, Milwaukee, and New Orleans. Teams that made it this year that couldn’t even hack it last year are few and far between, but somehow Miami, Charlotte, Indiana, Detroit, and Oklahoma City all rebounded nicely.

It’s been an interesting dynamic all year long, and although records don’t mean anything if you can’t win when it matters, the West seems to be outplaying the East at the higher level teams, but falling towards the middle. The top four teams in the West all have records better or within a game or two of the best two in the East. Teams three through six in the East have the same record, which is better than five through eight in the West. Seven and eight in the East have better records than five through eight in the West. Choosing which half of the league is dominant or more competitive is hard to judge and this year is no different. Should we deem the West more challenging because several of its teams rose to record setting records? Or the East because overall it features the better recorded teams?

The Golden State Warriors are in their prime and still hitting their stride. They’ve had some missteps along the way and hiccups that cost them games they shouldn’t have lost, however they achieved a record-breaking 73 win season with less than ten losses to their name. That’s definitely something, especially coming off a championship win over Cleveland last year. Whether or not they can establish an argument for best team in recent years and possibly all-time remains to be seen. What is clear is they can only go up from here. Let’s look at their 9 losses really quick in perspective, keeping in mind a few came due to the loss of Steph Curry at key times.

Their first was a thirteen point dropped game to the Bucks, their second a twenty-three point reaming from Dallas, and third a two point loss to the Nuggets. The fourth was an eighteen point loss to the Pistons, to which they rebounded mightily with a nearly thirty point win in a championship rematch against Cleveland in the next game. Their fifth loss came as a surprise blowout of thirty-two points from Portland behind Damian Lillard’s 51 points. The sixth loss was a seventeen pointer to Kobe in his farewell to the Warriors, the seventh an eight point contest between Western rival San Antonio, and the eighth was a three point game dropped to Boston. Now, the ninth and final loss came thanks to the Timberwolves who extended their lead to seven points in overtime for the victory. The Warriors have proven that they are great, even if they aren’t infallible or perfect. So theoretically taking out the games they lost by less than ten points, we could’ve been looking at a 77-5 Warriors team.

But enough of that. Let’s look to the future of teams other than the Warriors, Cavaliers,  Spurs, and Thunder. Let’s look at the mid-level teams who missed the cut this year but could do great things based on how they played, not fared. And let’s look at the teams who made the cut and could potentially keep doing so for a long while. The Raptors were a strong force to be reckoned with, only one game separating them from Lebron and the number one seed in the East, however I think the true danger in this conference lies in the teams that went 48-34. Excluding the Heat, who seem to dwindle when they can least afford it, I see the Hawks, Celtics, and Hornets doing great things. Particularly those first two teams.

The Hornets never seem to have much luck in the playoffs with their matchups, but give them a few more wins and say a season ending at 50 or more and they could secure a rare third or fourth berth and be on their way to advancing for the first time in a while. Let’s not forget how surprisingly deadly the Celtics have turned out to be these past few years, even if they have been discounted by many lately. I see them improving upon their five seed in the next season. The Hawks have the ability to grow if they choose to do so, but only time will tell which of these two teams is the more dangerous. The Pacers should be a constant if they keep up the work they have put in, but I don’t see them destined for greatness any time soon just yet.

As for those who missed the cut, I think the Bulls and Wizards could definitely do more next year and potentially even reclaim slots in the 2017 playoffs as well. The Bucks have proven to be giantslayers at times, but whether or not this translates into actual success and a winning record remains to be seen as well. I do see them winning 40+ games next year however if they can do this, and maybe getting lucky enough to secure themselves a playoff berth as well. Heading over to the West side, the Clippers look like one of the most dangerous teams I’ve ever seen and recounting their performance this time last year it’s easy to imagine them doing it all over again next year as well. I think they can definitely improve themselves and topple the giants standing above them.

The Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Rockets all got lucky with the cutoff, however the closer they get to batting 500, the closer the get to slipping off the radar of relevance as well. I foresee the Rockets being just clutch enough to nail a seven or eight slot next year, but the other two coming back with less than stellar results, having been replaced along the way. The Jazz came fairly close to relishing their victory and celebrating with a playoff berth, but that one or two games eluded them. I think they could improve to be a 45 win ball club and distance themselves from the pack. I’m also choosing to be optimistic here in saying so, but I foresee the Pelicans and Lakers both rebounding to marginally more successful seasons. Whether this entails playoff runs or not remains entirely to be seen, however the Lakers should win more than 30 games first if they want to even talk, Kobe or no.

So let’s put this all together now. Let’s look at just how dangerous these teams I’ve talked about could be and how they might stack up based on this year’s performance and where they might be able to go in the future.

Danger Rangers Unite

  1. Clippers: I’ve got to put these guys first. They may have only had the sixth best record in the NBA at a staggering 53 wins, but it’s hard to deny the threat they can pose to dominant teams.
  2. Raptors: They had the second best record in the East, only one game behind the Cavaliers. And compared to the West they would’ve been a third overall seed in that conference, sitting at fourth in the league in terms of records.
  3. Celtics: These guys have a real shot at leapfrogging some people to make their way higher up the ladder, tightening the noose on other teams along the way. There’s definitely talent here.
  4. Thunder: After taking a step back and reevaluating things as they were, the Thunder only improved themselves this year and continued to post their magic numbers and usual rate of success. They’ve got some challenges coming to them but should fare well enough.
  5. Hawks: These guys are also a really talented bunch and sit within that competitive cluster of teams situated dead center in the East. Whether they can ascend to greatness remains to be seen.
  6. Hornets/Heat: It’s crazy to put these two teams on the same level after they also both ended up with the same records for the year, especially after the different approaches they took along the way. The Heat started off hot and cooled down while the Hornets forced themselves to heat up. Let’s see who does better next year.
  7. Wizards: I was pretty shocked that they didn’t take themselves more seriously and do a better job of asserting themselves given their success last year. They batted exactly 500 and it was just a few games shorter than what they needed. I definitely think that’ll be the well-needed kick in the rear to get them going again.
  8. Bulls: These guys missed the cutoff in the East by one game, somehow slowing down to a crawl in the final few months and letting their mistakes and injuries and troubles pile up on them. Avoiding that, they got a real chance to make things right in the coming year.
  9. Jazz: They were in the same boat the Bulls were in come time for playoff decisions to be made. They missed that cutoff by one game and I know they’re just tallying all the losses that should’ve been victories because of that. Revenge is best served cold after all.
  10. Pacers: They’re not as dangerous as they could be and they’re certainly not a team to bust or fold, but they’re still a constant underlying threat if you don’t take them as seriously as you should. There’s a good chance they could be in the playoffs again this time next year as well.
  11. Bucks: They feasted at times this year when the big boys were foolish enough to not take them seriously. That mistake probably won’t be made so readily the next time around, but then they’ve been battle-tested as well.
  12. Grizzlies: Despite losing twice to the talented team that is the Warriors and all but ensuring that the Warriors got the place in history they deserve, the Grizzlies are a talented defensive power and that should never be underestimated on the court.
  13. Mavericks: These guys are like the Pacers of the West. They’re there, and technically although they have the same record they’re a higher seed than the Grizzlies. But they just don’t follow through a lot of times, even though they’ve been a constant in the playoffs before.
  14. Lakers: Seventeen wins. If this were football I’d imagine that would be quite a good thing, but it’s not. As it was, the Lakers lost more games than twenty-seven teams in the league did. If they’d won 65 games they would’ve had the third highest record in the league. Even with Kobe’s 60 point departure, I see these guys surviving and injecting themselves with some fresh blood. They’re not the worst, even after a year like this.
  15. Rockets: These guys just barely made the playoffs and I do mean just barely. And now they’re looking at another near blowout by the Warriors for the second consecutive year in the playoffs. Just like Harden and his turnovers, the Rockets are due for a crash landing soon.

Now, that’s half the league I’ve covered here. So just where exactly do the other fifteen teams fall into the mix? Well I’m glad you asked (or wondered, or didn’t- whatever you’re getting told anyways). Here’s about where I see people next year.

All the Danger Rangers United

  1. Spurs | 60+ Wins | Guess: 65 | This Year: 67 | -2
  2. Warriors | 60+ Wins | Guess: 64 | This Year: 73 | -9
  3. Cavaliers | 55 Wins | Guess: 55 | This Year: 57 | -2
  4. Clippers | 55 Wins | Guess: 55 | This Year: 53 | +2
  5. Raptors | 50 Wins | Guess: 50 | This Year: 56 | -6
  6. Celtics | 50 Wins | Guess: 50 | This Year: 48 | +2
  7. Thunder | 45+ Wins | Guess: 48 | This Year: 55 | -7
  8. Hawks | 45+ Wins | Guess: 48 | This Year: 48 | +/-
  9. Trail Blazers | 45+ Wins | Guess: 46 | This Year: 44 | +2
  10. Hornets | 45+ Wins | Guess: 46 | This Year: 48 | -2
  11. Heat | 40+ Wins | Guess: 43 | This Year: 48 | -5
  12. Wizards | 40+ Wins | Guess: 43 | This Year: 41 | +2
  13. Bulls | 40+ Wins | Guess: 43 | This Year: 42 | +1
  14. Jazz | 40+ Wins | Guess: 42 | This Year: 40 | +2
  15. Pacers | 40+ Wins | Guess: 42 | This Year: 45 | -3
  16. Pistons | 40+ Wins | Guess: 41 | This Year: 44 | -3
  17. Bucks | 40+ Wins | Guess: 41 | This Year: 33 | +8
  18. Grizzlies | 40+ Wins | Guess: 41 | This Year: 42 | -1
  19. Mavericks | 40 Wins | Guess: 40 | This Year: 42 | -2
  20. Magic | 40 Wins | Guess: 40 | This Year: 35 | +5
  21. Nets | 35+ Wins | Guess: 37 | This Year: 21 | +16
  22. Lakers | 30+ Wins | Guess: 34 | This Year: 17 | +17
  23. Rockets | 30+ Wins | Guess: 32 | This Year: 41 | -9
  24. Pelicans | 30 Wins | Guess: 30 | This Year: 30 | +/-
  25. Knicks | 30 Wins | Guess: 30 | This Year: 32 | -2
  26. Kings | 30 Wins | Guess: 30 | This Year: 33 | -3
  27. Nuggets | 25+ Wins | Guess: 28 | This Year: 33 | -5
  28. Timberwolves | 25+ Wins | Guess: 27 | This Year: 29 | -2
  29. Suns | 20 Wins | Guess: 20 | This Year: 23 | -3
  30. 76ers | 15+ Wins | Guess: 17 | This Year: 10 | +7

NBA Playoffs 2016!

Hey folks, it’s me again back at it with some sports coverage because I’m not sure what else I’d do besides study and suffer and study (with all of this valuable time). So now I’ve shifted my focus from March Madness to the Warriors and the rest of the Championship hopefuls in the NBA. Let’s see what comes of this shall we? In this initial post, I am going to not only keep track of the actual statistics (in terms of who wins and loses), but also list some of my thoughts on potential game and series winners. It’s all back to square one now and it’s technically anyone’s game. Let’s begin.

Some Initial Thoughts

In the East we have the beasts that are the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks. Not to mention the savvy Celtics, Hornets, Pacers and Pistons. The Bulls and Wizards just missed the mark.

In the West however we have the rampaging Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder. Alongside these sky-high teams are the likes of the Clippers, Trail Blazers, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Rockets. The Jazz just didn’t play the right tune this time around.

Standings in the East

1Cavaliers – 57/25

2Raptors – 56/26

3Heat – 48/34

4Hawks – 48/34

5Celtics – 48/34

6Hornets – 48/34

7Pacers – 45/37

8Pistons – 44/38

Standings in the West

1Warriors – 73/9

2Spurs – 67/15

3Thunder – 55/27

4Clippers – 53/29

5Trail Blazers – 44/38

6Mavericks – 42/40

7Grizzlies – 42/40

8Rockets – 41/41

Current Game Standings

1Cavaliers v 8Pistons 1-0 Cleveland G1 106-101

2Raptors v 7Pacers 1-1 Tied G2 98-87 Toronto

3Heat v 6Hornets 1-0 Miami G1 123-91

4Hawks v 5Celtics 2-0 Atlanta G2 89-72

1Warriors v 8Rockets 2-0 Golden State G2 115-106

2Spurs v 7Grizzlies 2-0 San Antonio G2 94-68

3Thunder v 6Mavericks 1-1 Tied G2 85-84 Dallas

4Clippers v 5Trail Blazers 1-0 Los Angeles G1 115-95

Some Game Notes

  1. The 7Pacers had a strong ten point victory over the 2Raptors in their first game, largely outscoring the other team in the second half. The 1Warriors trounced the 8Rockets in their first matchup by well over twenty points. The 4Hawks edged out the 5Celtics by a measly one point in theirs. Then the 3Thunder dominated the 6Mavericks in game one.
  2. Come Sunday, the 1Cavaliers beat the 8Pistons by a small margin of five points. The 3Heat turned it up a notch against the 6Hornets, beating them by nearly thirty points. The 2Spurs routed the 7Grizzlies. The 4Clippers dunked on the 5Trail Blazers easily by twenty points.
  3. The 2Raptors turned things around for a game two victory over the 7Pacers. The 6Mavericks edged out the 3Thunder by one. The 1Warriors let the 8Rockets get a bit closer but still took the cake.
  4. The 4Hawks lengthened their lead on the 5Celtics for another win. The 2Spurs showed absolutely no mercy against the 7Grizzlies for the second time.

My Potential Winners v Actual Winners

Round One (7 Games Each Potentially)

1Cavaliers v 8Pistons | Game 1: Cavs W Game 2: Cavs W Game 3: Pistons W Game 4: Cavs W Game 5: Cavs W | Cavs W 4-1

2Raptors v 7Pacers | Game 1: Pacers W Game 2: Pacers L Game 3: Raptors W Game 4: Raptors W Game 5: Raptors W Game 6: Pacers W Game 7: Raptors W | Raptors W 4-3

3Heat v 6Hornets | Game 1: Heat W Game 2: Heat W Game 3: Hornets W Game 4: Heat W Game 5: Heat W | Heat W 4-1

4Hawks v 5Celtics | Game 1: Celtics L Game 2: Hawks W Game 3: Celtics W Game 4: Celtics W Game 5: Hawks W Game 6: Hawks W | Hawks W 4-2

1Warriors v 8Rockets | Game 1: Warriors W Game 2: Warriors W Game 3: Warriors W Game 4: Rockets W Game 5: Warriors W | Warriors W 4-1

2Spurs v 7Grizzlies | Game 1: Spurs W Game 2: Spurs W Game 3: Grizzlies W Game 4: Spurs W Game 5: Grizzlies W Game 6: Spurs W | Spurs W 4-2

3Thunder v 6Mavericks | Game 1: Thunder W Game 2: Thunder L Game 3: Thunder W Game 4: Mavericks W Game 5: Thunder W Game 6: Thunder W | Thunder W 4-2

4Clippers v 5Trail Blazers | Game 1: Clippers W Game 2: Clippers W Game 3: Trail Blazers W Game 4: Clippers W Game 5: Clippers W | Clippers W 4-1

Round Two (7 Games Each Potentially)

1Cavaliers v 4Hawks | Game 1: Cavaliers W Game 2: Hawks W Game 3: Cavaliers W Game 4: Cavaliers W Game 5: Hawks W Game 6: Cavaliers W | Cavs W 4-2

3Heat v 2Raptors | Game 1: Raptors W Game 2: Raptors W Game 3: Heat W Game 4: Heat W Game 5: Heat W Game 6: Heat W | Heat W 4-2

1Warriors v 4Clippers | Game 1: Warriors W Game 2: Warriors W Game 3: Clippers W Game 4: Warriors W Game 5: Warriors W | Warriors W 4-1

3Thunder v 2Spurs | Game 1: Spurs W Game 2: Spurs W Game 3: Thunder W Game 4: Spurs W Game 5: Thunder W Game 6: Thunder W Game 7: Thunder W | Thunder W 4-3

Round Three (7 Games Each Potentially)

1Cavaliers v 3Heat | Game 1: Heat W Game 2: Cavaliers W Game 3: Heat W Game 4: Heat W Game 5: Cavaliers W Game 6: Cavaliers W Game 7: Heat W | Heat W 4-3

1Warriors v 3Thunder | Game 1: Thunder W Game 2: Warriors W Game 3: Warriors W Game 4: Thunder W Game 5: Warriors W Game 6: Warriors W | Warriors W 4-2

NBA Finals (7 Games Potentially)

3Heat v 1Warriors | Game 1: Warriors Game 2: Warriors Game 3: Heat Game 4: Warriors Game 5: Heat Game 6: Warriors | Warriors W 4-2

Retro Review: The Clone Wars S1E12-22

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Continuing with my reviews of the animated series The Clone Wars, and by extension Star Wars Rebels, here is the second half of season one’s episodes. Whether or not the second half of this season will live up to the precedent set by the first half is for you to decide after reading through this review. Now, let’s get onto the subject material shall we?

Episode Twelve- The Gungan General

Where we left off in Episode Eleven, Count Dooku had been captured by some pirates and the Jedi were off to capture the Count for themselves. Continuing the trend in this second episode of that story arc, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker find themselves taken prisoner and sure enough must ironically work with the Count for a time in order to escape from their captors.

Grade: B

Episode Thirteen- Jedi Crash

Not so invincible as he oftentimes seems or rather seems to think, Skywalker is injured after a massive battle and comatose for a short time. Meanwhile Aayla Secura and Ahsoka Tano team up to not only find supplies and help but to find a way off of the seemingly uninhabited planet they’ve crash landed on. Along the way expect the usual problems to arise as they often do in such situations.

Grade: B-

Episode Fourteen- Defenders of Peace

The Jedi find themselves caught in a potentially deadly civilian crossfire between Separatist forces and the pacifist Lurmen when the latter think that not fighting will guarantee their safety against the Separatist forces. Needless to say, the droid army tries to raze the local population regardless of their will to fight or not and the Jedi and clones must intervene. It is an interesting look into oppression and war from a different perspective.

Grade: B+

Episode Fifteen- Trespass

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker once more team up to visit an icy outpost where clone troops have been recently disappearing and the local forces have taken over control. As it would turn out, a before undiscovered race of Talz on the planet has been attacking the troops for encroaching upon their territories unknowingly. The conflict begins to heat up between the Talz and the allies when a series of misunderstandings leads to one debacle after another. Obviously, peace must be made before more casualties are sustained on either side, as the Separatists are the true enemy to be rallying against.

Grade: A-

Episode Sixteen- The Hidden Enemy

Upon invading and attempting to liberate the planet of Christophsis, Skywalker and Kenobi find evidence of a traitor among their men and seek to discover who it is before it is too late for the invasion. Along the way they run into difficulties with Asaj Ventress while Cody and Rex must hold their own as their base is continually sabotaged by the traitor. In the end, it is a matter of ethics and the questionable freedom of the clones that is philosophically discussed at the end of the day, setting a later stage for their eagerness or not in carrying out Order 66 I would assume.

Grade: A

Episode Seventeen- Blue Shadow Virus

Once again we see an already old trope of Padme and Jar Jar Binks being captured after exploring somewhere they should’ve been more careful. This time, it is a weapons facility on Naboo, hidden deep in the swampy lands far away from any major cities. Instead of developing new weapons of war, it turns out the Separatists have successfully raised a previously eradicated plague from the dead and seek to unleash it upon the unsuspecting galaxy, not just the Republic as a whole.

Grade: A-

Episode Eighteen- Mystery of the Thousand Moons

In the continuation of the Blue Shadow Virus story arc, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi search for a way to cure the infected of the virus before it is too late. They end up searching the nearby moons for a particular root said to combat the disease and discover more than they bargained for. First they happen upon a massive debris cloud surrounding Iego and then they discover the Separatists have booby-trapped the field with an energy shield preventing anyone from leaving the planet upon landing, lending to the local mythology of a mysterious spirit called Drol, who guards the planet. Upon successfully getting the root they need, with the help of a young mechanic they disable the energy field and successfully return to cure the afflicted.

Grade: A

Episode Nineteen- Storm over Ryloth

The majority of this episode is one of the rare episodes set entirely during and around a space battle in the surrounding space of Ryloth, Separatist controlled homeworld of the Twi’leks. This is also an episode largely used to harp on philosophy and respect, especially after Padawan Learner Tano loses the majority of her men in battle after making several costly mistakes. The fog of war is lifting and lessons must be learned as the Jedi face off against a Separatist general who is blockading the planet.

Grade: A-

Episode Twenty- Innocents of Ryloth

The continuation of the invasion of Ryloth story arc, this episode sees the Jedi landing and attempting to push into town in order to evict the Separatist forces and protect the local population. Things aren’t exactly going as planned, especially since the droid army successfully learns the Jedi battle plans and knows their every move. Even worse, the droids are using Twi’leks as living shields to protect their cannons from Republic bombing.

Grade: A

Episode Twenty-One- Liberty on Ryloth

The conclusion of the Ryloth story arc and a major victory for the Republic all occurs within this episode. Mace Windu joins the fight and attempts to convince a local resistance general to aid the Republic in throwing the Separatist forces off the planet, only if the clones and their forces agree to leave soon thereafter as well. Politics behind the scenes threaten this new proposition as well however.

Grade: A

Episode Twenty-Two- Hostage Crisis

This is the final episode of the season and a standalone story in what will become a bigger part within the beginning of season two as well, introducing Bounty Hunter Cad Bane and his crew as Separatist agents. Bane takes over a wing of the Senate building, striking a ballsy blow against the Republic by forcing them to release a criminal Hutt. Anakin Skywaker does his best to foil their plans with mixed results.

Grade: B+

Trivia:

In Episode 21- Liberty on Ryloth, the resistance general by the name of Cham Syndulla is of close relation to later hero and Star Wars Rebels cast member Hera Syndulla.

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Retro Review: The Clone Wars S1 E1-11

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Seeing as the trailer for Rogue One recently released, I’ve decided to mix things up a little bit and break from reviewing games in favor of going back through the seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. While we wait for both Rogue One and for Episode VIII, I see no reason not to enjoy the other developments of the now entirely canon-based Star Wars universe. That having been said, I will be reviewing a couple of episodes at a time, offering pros and cons and an overall grade for each of the episodes.

Episode One- Ambush

Starting off any series, even an animated one, on the right note is crucial in television. Thankfully, Master Yoda is here to ensure that is the case for The Clone Wars. Although the show is known for jumping all about the timeline of the Clone Wars in general, I think this was a welcome stepping off point. Following a tale of Yoda and a few clones pinned down by a droid army ambush, it established the tone of the animated adventures.

Grade: A

Episode Two- Rising Malevolence

The Clone Wars plays to its strengths by visiting other recognizable yet not-so-well known characters of the Star Wars universe. In this instance Master Plo Kloon takes the role Master Yoda took in the first episode. It also features an interesting new Separatist super-weapon, a ship of sorts- not quite on the level of Destiny’s Dreadnought or Star Wars’ Death Star, Starkiller Base, or Galaxy Gun, but something like that. Needless to say, this episode begins an interesting three episode story arc.

Grade: A

Episode Three- Shadow of Malevolence

The second episode of the three episode arc featuring the Separatist warship Malevolence continues with an interesting story integrating yet more classic Star Wars action into the mix. Anakin Skywalker and friends pursue their plans of leading a bombing run on the ship, but suffice it to say things don’t exactly go as planned. The episode also does a great job of fully integrating Skywalker and co into the mix, as well as some modified Y-Wing bombers and General Grievous.

Grade: A-

Episode Four- Destroy Malevolence

In this particular episode we see the first of many times Padme and C-3PO will inevitably be captured and used as hostages to negotiate with the Jedi. Naturally this provides ample opportunity for General Grievous to escape a la Episode III, as will also become commonplace and old at times. The one thing to be said about it however is that it naturally puts the finishing touches on the three episode story arc revolving around the Malevolence.

Grade: B+

Episode Five- Rookies

Enter Officers Cody and Rex. They may not entirely be commanders at this particular time, as they are quite assuredly leading together. However, they are no less formidable or interesting than their Episode II and III big screen counterparts or their Extended Universe compatriots. As the title would suggest, their biggest goal is to train their rookie troops to fight off a droid invasion of their base. It has its dark moments, as far as the animated series is concerned anyway, however as always things end on a relatively upbeat note.

Grade: A

Episode Six- Downfall of a Droid

And thus begins a two episode story arc revolving around R2-D2 being captured and held by the Separatists. As would be the Republic’s luck, R2-D2 is holding onto some sensitive information that could mean bad news if the Separatists got their hands on it after probing through the droid’s memory banks. It’s not quite the plans for the Death Star we’re talking about here, however I’d imagine Jedi military tactics and battle plans in the enemy hands would be a catastrophe indeed.

Grade: A-

Episode Seven- Duel of the Droids

This particular episode finishes up the whole “R2-D2 gets captured” story arc and also manages to somehow make the little astromech droid that much more lovable and enjoyable to watch onscreen, even in animated form. As the title would suggest, the episode has to do with an ironic showdown of sorts between droids at General Grievous’ listening post when Skywalker and Ahsoka go in to rescue their metal friend.

Grade: A

Episode Eight- Bombad Jedi

If you hoped you wouldn’t have to constantly be reminded of The Phantom Menace, keep wishing. Not only does Jar Jar Binks feature prominently in this episode, but Padme and Viceroy Nute Gunray make their appearances as well. It’s essentially a similar theme to The Phantom Menace, centering on saving Padme and subsequently Threepio from the Viceroy, with Binks being the unlikely “hero.” Somehow, it could’ve been worse.

Grade: B-

Episode Nine- Cloak of Darkness

Here we see many familiar faces in Star Wars mythos, all set in an interesting and exciting chapter of season one. Count Dooku, Asaj Ventress, Ahsoka Tano, Master Luminara, and more make appearances. The premise seems simple enough: escort Gunray to trial and successfully place the captured Trade Federation leader under arrest for good. However, whenever Ventress is thrown into the mix, you cannot assume things will go so easily and they of course do not.

Grade: A

Episode Ten- Lair of Grievous

Being that it is an origin story of sorts for the Clone Wars itself, The Clone Wars seeks to feature General Grievous heavily and puts that to good use in this episode. Pursuing Count Dooku, Jedi Master Kit Fisto and his troops chase the Count into the middle of what turns out to be Grievous’ hideout. Needless to say, true to the warlord’s infamous reputation, few survive the ensuing battle. It’s as tense as the show has gotten thus far.

Grade: A

Episode Eleven- Dooku Captured

As we come to the halfway point of season one and the end point for this series of short reviews, I want to remind you that so far everything has been pretty solidly laid at the foundation. Things won’t begin to get too old until you start seeing the same characters getting put in pretty similar situations. As of now, even for an animated series, it is fresh and enjoyable which is always a good thing. The title of this episode should tell you just about all you need to know, however what you may not realize is Count Dooku has in fact been “captured” by pirates, although Skywalker and Kenobi seek to capture the Count themselves as well.

Grade: B+

Trivia:

If you glance a bit into the future, specifically Episode 21- Liberty on Ryloth, you’ll have a chance to see Separatist leader Wat Tambor loading the Ark of the Covenant onto one of his ships at around the thirteen minute mark. Consider this Lucas’ ongoing cosmic joke of sorts. Your welcome.

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Afterwards: March Madness 2016

What an exciting time to be a fan if you’re a fan of basketball am I right? Or collegiate athletics in general. Or a fan of Villanova I would suppose as well. A game winning buzzer beater propelled the Wildcats to victory over the North Carolina Tarheels in the Men’s basketball championship not too long ago. What a thriller the final game truly turned out to be after a sub-par showing in the final four matchups. Let’s recap.

Final Four:

  1. After narrowly edging out the number one seed Kansas for a coveted slot in the Final Four, number two Villanova easily distanced themselves from the supposed threat in both Oklahoma and team leader Buddy Hield, beating the Sooners by no less than 44 points. 95-51. What  a beating. Rocketing off of that momentum, you can see why the team played their hearts out against the giants at Chapel Hill. To say things went poorly for Hield would be a gross exaggeration however, as even though his team found themselves on a loser’s bus ride home, Hield netted the John Wooden Award, Naismith Player of the Year Award, and Big 12 Player of the Year. Not to mention his NBA prospects must be soaring after averaging 29 points per game in the tournament, 25 and a half throughout the season, and lead the nation in 3 point scoring as well as overall scoring. Impressive prospects to say the least, results in the tournament aside.
  2. On the flip side of the bracket, the Tarheels finally managed to halt the ongoing ascension of the Orange throughout the tournament, level by level. Syracuse, the undoubtedly unexpected team in the final four remaining met their match and were sent packing, although less roughly than the defeat handed to Oklahoma. Winning 83-66, the Tarheels prepared for the inevitable clash of titans in the final game of the 2015-16 school year. Syracuse however wound up closer than expected but still not getting their cigar.

Grand Finale:

Everything came down to the final few minutes of game play, then the final minute, and even still the final seconds. And Villanova finally triumphed, knocking off their second number one seed of the tournament and netting both an upset win and a championship victory. 77-74 is a close call but a win nonetheless. Neither team can really be faulted for how they played. There were mistakes here and there but it was a gritty and tough challenge and the best team in the nation took the title home. I’m a fan of tight games, except when they feature my favorite teams, and this game was a thriller.

Now, here are the results of my personal tournament picks for the year:

37-31 | C+ | I’m going to give myself a slightly above average grad for this period, as I had a middling rate of success in guessing winners, however I failed completely in the Elite Eight and beyond.

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Level Review: Treasure Seeker (Papaya)

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August 6, 2014. What exactly does this date mean? Well, unless it also happens to be your birthday (in which case congratulations) it is the exact date that I posted my review of a very similar level to the one I am currently supposed to be reviewing. Treasure Hunter, the first of (so far) two ingenious and gorgeously crafted levels by the idolized Papsmaster itself (Papaya). In case you don’t understand half of what is going on here, that’s alright, feel free to read my other reviews and musings on gaming and games and media in general. This review and critique will get to the appropriate audience by some means.

Although I’ve regained a position on the Atmosphir ‘Editorial Staff’ for yet another stint and although I of course review special levels for that, this review is a little bit more personal and a little bit different. I’ll admit, I’ve been quite busy of late and it’s been far too long coming, but it is my pleasure and honor to cajole such a beautiful work of art into speaking words for itself and causing this review to serve its purpose- speaking volumes of the talented mind behind it and providing some unique and fresh criticism for the next chapter in kind. If you would like to request your own review then you know by now the appropriate channels to go through. You can find the hub post here. Now, without further delay let’s get down to the meat and potatoes.

A little background information goes a long way, and I aim to provide plenty but not so much that you feel like gouging your own eyeballs out. Treasure Seeker, not to be confused with the aforementioned predecessor Treasure Hunter, is a level featuring a finely crafted storyline, plenty of goodies to procure, a nice level of challenge, and its own unique flavor of sorts. Needless to say, I can spout off without boasting, that Treasure Seeker essentially has it all. It is one of the quintessential Atmosphir levels out there. Hands down. Does that mean that it is perfect? Of course not- but it comes pretty darn close to it, and among the dwindling talent pool we have on the servers nowadays, it may as well be. Grab your stone idols and prepare to worship the almighty Papaya.

Whereas Treasure Hunter allowed you a no-lose scenario right out of the gate, allowing players to teleport to the finish room upon death, having collected or not collected treasures or explored every nook and cranny on the table, Treasure Seeker has a different kind of challenge in store. This time around there is no easy way out. Even if you gather ten thousand points of treasure in one life, there’s no guarantee of success upon one accidental mishap or another. You’ve got to find a handy dandy bomb first if you’d like to make your escape, and I reckon finding the special key while you’re at it would be a good idea. I came into Treasure Seeker wondering how Papaya was going to pull off the new setting and look of the whole thing and let me say, I came away a believer- I was not disappointed in the slightest. The purposeful placement of blocks and props was a selling point in the original and remains one in the sequel.

I wouldn’t say there are really any overarching puzzles besides the constant push to unravel a little bit more of the narrative mystery piece by piece, however each little puzzle or unique challenge, though confined mostly to being on a room by room basis was refreshing and enjoyable. The difficulty doesn’t lie so much in the traps or platforming but in knowing when to go after treasure and when to start formulating a plot to get out. Sometimes enough is enough and you’ve got to weigh whether it’s worth potentially losing one more life to get that extra mask or not. Again, the attention to detail and the unconventional approach to using and reusing gameplay elements and space, props, and treasure collection opportunities is truly commendable. I wholeheartedly believe it took Papaya every moment of the near-month spent working on the level to fine tune this particular experience.

Like the well-thought out achievements of the previous entry, the narrative- from the diary entries to the hastily scrawled hidden notes left by terrified facility operators, perfectly captures the exact feeling and tone Paps intends to set the stage with. I couldn’t have written it better myself, nor would I have wanted to. What was and is here is and was fantastic. Eerie and phantasmal even at times. Hysterical and hilarious at others. Add in a few more earmarks and easter eggs hither and thither and you’ve got a perfectly replayable story with some perfectly replayable gameplay. It’s addicting, simple as that. And that’s just what quality work deserves to be recognized for. You’re about to see my struggle in a moment, but before I get to my pros and cons segment I would like to note the terrible time I’m going to have trying to come up with accurate criticisms of the level. I had virtually none for Treasure Hunter and I have virtually none now.

Pros: Setting, Narrative, Use and Reuse of Areas, Replay Value.

Cons: I don’t know what devilish deal you’ve struck, but this is nigh perfection.

Play Browser Score: 5 Stars, Intermediate Challenge.

Official Rating: 9.75/10.0*

*You just barely surpassed Treasure Hunter, and that’s something any sequel should be proud of when compared to its predecessor. I truly hope this is the Empire Strikes Back of a trilogy, mainly because I’d love to see another level. If it didn’t break my review scale, I would give it a 9.99 because it’s as close to a perfect score as I’ll likely ever give until the next Treasure Seeker…

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Hitman: Episode One Review

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It has always been my belief, both in fundamentals and through what I’ve witnessed, that hitmen should be clean and not make a mess. I am of course referencing other Hitman titles, as I have not in fact been up close and personal with real-life hitmen. 2012’s Hitman: Absolution was a well-received game and sequel, even if it did change some of the established formula around. 2016’s Hitman is attempting to do so again, melding some sort of combination of Blood Money and the original title to Absolution’s gameplay, in addition to some other elements. Needless to say, this Hitman did not entirely stick his landing. I’m not so concerned with the quality of the game itself, rather the presentation here.

First you have the fundamental problem of cleanliness- we searched far and wide for details to be found on the title prior to its delayed release and were often in the dark. What a mess of a launch it initially had. Delays only add to already skeptical thoughts regarding episodic projects, particularly one promising a constant stream of content for players so that the experience does not grow stale. How do you take an open world and cram it into an episodic format? Hitman looks to answer that question, and we shall see how it fares each month with the dawn of a new episode, as well as week to week content availability. Scratch what you think you already know about Hitman’s Agent 47, this title is a prequel and not a continuation from Absolution’s hit storyline. In fact, 2016’s Hitman could almost be set in its own narrative entirely as it all but scraps the story in favor of returning to the roots of what Agent 47 does best: dealing death in creative ways.

The real question remaining is, how does this first episode fare? How much content is it able to provide players who have to make do for a month before new content becomes available in April? Honestly, Hitman was not created to be episodic whatsoever, so the narrative is already in the hole here. In fact, besides a few cutscenes you can bypass the story altogether- that is, if you haven’t already been doing that for the past decade in these sort of games. To say the content is enough is a stretch but I do think that the talented folks over at IO Interactive have crafted enough detail and content worthy of one episode, even if just barely so. As it is, in some ways this tutorial episode feels more like an evasion of the need to produce fully realized content, or perhaps a demo of a larger game. If they needed to have one more delay in order to release a larger product with a better story-oriented sandbox experience, I wouldn’t have been terribly disappointed. As it is, some things are too bland right now.

The feeling that this is in fact some elaborate demo or tutorial bundle is ever present in Hitman, most likely for the simple reason that the majority of the gameplay currently available to us is tutorial-based. Assuming we’re lucky and get a year’s worth of content from the developers, that means Hitman will have taken about four times longer than Absolution to develop roughly the same number of chapters (episodes in this case). Granted, the levels here are much larger in scale than many of Absolution’s more intricate and detailed ones, but still. That’s insane. You start off playing through (surprise!) tutorial segments in order to acclimate yourself to the control scheme, which is very tight as should be expected for fans. I’d go so far as to say this and the level of detail in the environment coupled with kill opportunities are the three greatest, stand-out selling points to be found in the game so far.

After a couple of tutorial missions that make sure you grasp the basics, Agent 47 is unleashed upon the rest of the unsuspecting world. It’s a bit disappointing that the tutorials take place in a pretty confined training ground rather than serving as an introductory mission perhaps in a varied locale. Thankfully however, besides the major Paris map available to players, there is also a map on par with the majority of past Hitman titles including Absolution in terms of size. The military base mission is just as interesting as the Paris fashion show one, allowing for a plethora of kill opportunities as well as candid exploration for potential player contracts to craft and dole out as you deem fit. So while in the grand scheme of things the game may be a bit barebones at the moment, I have hope for the future and that IO can come through with their promises to constantly add content and update and tweak things.

Here I was thinking Absolution looked gorgeous, but Hitman actually steps things up a tad thanks to the visual performance of the current generation of consoles. Paris is beautifully rendered and seems a lot more lifelike than some of Absolution’s locales which seemed desolate at worst and faked or forced at best at times. Take Absolution’s Chinatown and magnify that by about seven and you’ve maybe got a sense of how crowded and expansive this particular Parisian venue is. Surprisingly, even the size of the map adds to the challenge of formulating a plan to assassinate high value targets, as it makes simple memorization of patrol patterns and routes all the more difficult as well. Figuring out where special opportunities reside is exhilarating as usual, and utilizing disguises and weapons in order to make your assassination look accidental among a crowded venue is nerve wracking at times too.

With this expanded space comes understandable complications in the already trial and error methodology of assassination prevalent in the Hitman series. Thankfully this is also managed by the inclusion of “opportunities” which highlight specific details in the environment that may benefit players- such as costumes, weapons, and convoluted kills. Maneuvering plays a much bigger role than simply tracking your target’s repetitive movement pattern in this installment, however the gameplay is largely unaffected and basically the same as previous entries, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all. Don’t expect to achieve the best possible outcome in your assassinations without some prior planning and a little extra legwork in accomplishing some secondary tasks throughout the missions. Getting the signature kill is still a feat only the worthy can successfully pull off.

Hitman has always been about replayability, but now with only a select amount of content available to play, you have no choice but to keep playing the same things over and over. The first dozen times this will probably be perfectly acceptable, however even larger maps can only offer so much of a challenge before they become boring and players get burnt out. There is the potential promise of a so-called ‘Escalation’ mode however it basically features the same mission parameters with slight deviations and still expects you to carry out repetitive assassinations in order to progress. Meaning even more replay time, in case you somehow missed something the other forty times you played through. Thankfully user creation and contracts factor into the mix, adding somewhat of a less quality-driven but higher replay value mission generator. I must say however, even the contract options here were a step down from those offered in Absolution, which is a disappointment.

Needless to say, the few highlights of this title so far mostly revolve around playability- considering the fact that the controls are thankfully one of the few things that seem perfectly balanced and can be relied upon. The story is mundane and bound to be forgotten by the time the next episode releases, meaning you’ll just have to play the damn thing another time! The environments look great but the animation and voice work diminish an otherwise spectacular experience with their terribleness and at times unexpected glitched encounters. Basically, I’d say you’re much better off waiting for the actual finished product to ship in one piece than to pick up the game in its current form. If all of the content were in one place and available, maybe I could more readily judge it based on the full package rather than episode by episode in its forgettable and incomplete form. What’s here isn’t bad, it just isn’t much.

Concept: More Hitman, less of a hit.

Graphics: The graphics constantly blew me away. They looked even better than those present in last generation’s impressive Absolution and they didn’t seem particularly bothered much no matter how much action was on screen at any given time. Animation work could’ve been handled much better conversely.

Sound: The voice work was often so terrible as to not even be laughably bad. The music was equally nonexistent at times.

Playability: It’s the controls that save this package in my mind. If they had been anything less than stellar, it would’ve doomed the entire project.

Entertainment: What’s here is a lot of fun to experiment with and dabble in, however it feels more like a demo of the full game than a release of anything meaningful in its own right. I hope IO can come through with their promise of constant content production, but even still a month is a bit too long to wait to play the next step in the journey.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 7.0/10.0

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