Science-Fiction Weekly – Horizon Zero Dawn, Power Rangers, BioShock, The Predator
Horizon Zero Dawn isn't out for another week, but reviews are already hitting, and they are mostly glowing. Roughly 50 writers weighed in on Horizon, leading to an average score of 88 on Open Critic. Game Informer's Jeff Marchiafava nearly hit that cumulative score on the head with an 8.75 out of 10 rating.
In his review he complained about open-world tedium and ritualistic looting, but raved about almost everything else developer Guerilla Games threw at him. To quote:
Just when you've mastered the basics, Horizon's massive world opens up. Aloy's first journey out west provides a remarkable sense of discovery; the new desert landscape is teeming with different, deadlier machines, along with new settlements to explore and beautiful vistas to behold. Horizon's mysteries really sink their teeth in here; while it may lack the power and meaningful choices of narrative-driven series like The Witcher and Mass Effect, Guerrilla has crafted compelling lore for its post-apocalyptic world. Unlike most open-world games, I looked forward to finding new audio logs and emails that detail the old world's collapse, and the modern-day conflicts between the isolationist Nora tribe, sun-worshipping Carja, and combative Oseram give Aloy's quest more meaning and complexity. Most importantly, Horizon isn't afraid to delve deep into heady sci-fi topics, and the myriad mysteries it sets up are all answered in a marathon of revelations and explanations toward the end of the game. Despite its flaws and foibles, Horizon's story unexpectedly became one of the major driving forces of the game for me.
I've put roughly 10 hours of my own into Horizon, and I'm having a blast with it. I'm most impressed with the combat mechanics. Aloy is a bona fide destroyer of machines, gifting the player with an empowering sense of barbarianism. Meleeing a robo-raptor to death is always exciting and a true test of skill, as is sniping an equally menacing foe from afar. The hunting evolves nicely as the adventure unfolds, forcing Aloy to incorporate traps and bait into her techniques. Leading a lumbering beast along a path to a trap location is immensely satisfying, as is the showering of loot once it falls.
I'm also enjoying Horizon's narrative, which bounces chaotically (in a good way) between primitive society politics to advanced science fiction. Aloy is the key piece of a mystery that is unfolding in the world, and Guerilla does a nice job of rewarding the player with little tidbits as new areas are explored. There's a lot to love about this PlayStation 4 exclusive. I'm more bullish on it than Jeff, but I do share similar thoughts on the need to constantly harvest items. The process of it isn't bad, mind you, but it is a constant distraction in an otherwise outstanding experience. Even if you don't love open-world games, you should give Horizon a look for its combat and story.
If you are in the market for a new board game, you may want to take a quick gander at the recently launched Terminator Kickstarter campaign by Space Goat Productions. With 24 days remaining, the funding goal has already been smashed. The Terminator board game is played simultaneously on two boards, one set in 1984, and the other in 2029. One player takes control of Skynet, and the remainder of players are the resistance. Both boards play differently. The future is about resources, whereas the past focuses on characters and missions. Successes in the past eliminate things in the future. That's a great hook for a board game, and Terminator should make it to production unless something terrible happens during development.
That's it for the games. Again, we're not seeing much movement in the science-fiction space, but at least we get Horizon next week.
In a Reddit AMA, director Gore Verbinski talked about his plans for the cancelled BioShock film. This universe is a great choice for the silver screen, but I don't think the story would work as well in a condensed, non-interactive form. The journey develops in meaningful ways over time, and having a direct hand in dictating those events is what the big plot twist is all about. Yes, it would still resonate in a way, but I don't think it would be as powerful. Verbinski came close to getting Bioshock off of the ground. Closer than I thought. Here's what he had to say:
“It’s an R-rated movie. I wanted to keep it R rated, I felt like that would be appropriate, and it’s an expensive movie. It’s a massive world we’re creating and it’s not a world we can simply go to locations to shoot… We’d be building an entire underworld universe. So I think the combination of the price tag and the rating, Universal just didn’t feel comfortable ultimately. At that time also there were some R rated, expensive R rated movies that were not working. I think things have changed and maybe there will be another chance, but it’s very difficult when you’re eight weeks away from shooting a movie you really can see in your head and you’ve almost filmed the entire thing, so emotionally you’re right at that transition from architect to becoming a contractor and that will be a difficult place to get back to.”
One film that looked like it might run into development hell, but has recently started production is Shane Black's The Predator. Filming began in earnest yesterday, and Black celebrated the event with an image of part of the cast. For a gritty film like The Predator, launching with smiles and vibrant lighting is a little weird. It almost looks like a cosplay shoot at a convention. Crossing my fingers for this one, but I'm already seeing that kid as narrative trouble.
Finally, if you were one of the people who said negative things about the first trailer for the Power Rangers reboot (I saw your tweets), you'll love what you see from the second trailer. The camp is back in a big way, and it looks like the film delivers awesome, large-scale CGI battles. I also like what I'm seeing of Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston's characters. This is a day-one film for me. Where do you stand on it now?