Let's talk about E3 2014: Sony's Press Conference by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Sony's press conference this year was always going to be a disappointment. It was impossible to really follow up last year's brilliant showing, because last year was a perfect storm of their new hardware announcement mixed with the incompetence of their competitors. With Microsoft's reasonably acceptable conference this time around, there was simply no way for Sony to crush them again. And they didn't, but that's not to say Sony didn't have a good showing, because they did... it just wasn't that good. Sony's biggest problem was length. Microsoft's conference was around 90 minutes and Nintendo's (which I'll get to tomorrow) was half that. Sony's ran nearly 2 hours, which was... too much. They showed a lot of things, but the momentum was totally lost in the middle when they began to focus on the PlayStation TV and whatnot. That was when games, games, and more games became talk, talk, and boredom. In general, the presentation could have used some serious tightening, because that could have brought it from pretty good to downright awesome. Because they were showing some pretty cool stuff.

Read More

Let's talk about E3 2014: Microsoft's Press Conference by Alec Kubas-Meyer

For most intents and purposes, E3 is over. Today is the last day, but there's not going to be much (if any) news coming out of the event, and the remaining previews could be interesting, but likely won't make any major impact on anybody's impression of the show. So let's talk about it. And let's go in order of appearance (at least for the big three). First up: Microsoft. Microsoft had a lot to prove. The Xbox One reveal was overshadowed by the always-online controversy and the way more interesting Sony conference. They stumbled out of the gate where Sony soared, and with the recent reveal of a Kinect-less system, the Xbox One seems to be less and less like the futuristic piece of hardware that the company envisioned (and that I had tepid praise for when I reviewed it back in November).

Read More

Continues, checkpoints, punches, puzzles, and what Super Mario 3D World could learn from Rayman Legends by Alec Kubas-Meyer

The single worst decision made in the development of Super Mario 3D World was whatever it was that led to pooling together everybody’s lives in the multiplayer mode. In the various co-op New Super Mario Bros. games, each player had their own number of lives, and that was that. Nobody's failings hurt any other players. I liked that, because I am significantly better at Mario games than all of my friends (the majority of whom don’t play video games and none of whom play platformers). So I would build up my store of lives to use for the later levels where having a store of lives matters and playing with others wouldn’t do affect that (unless they jumped on my head over a pit, but while that’s rage-inducing, it’s also kind of funny). That’s not the case in Super Mario 3D World, and it’s awful. For anyone interested in actually finishing that game, playing with a bunch of non-game players will actively impede your progress. It’ll be fun for the most part, because players with others is an inherently joyful thing, but when the difficult levels come up, their cute inability to land even basic jumps becomes maddening, because every time they die, you watch your own ability to progress drop down.

Read More

My upsetting disappointment with The Last of Us's visuals, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Ryse: Son of Rome, and the imperfections of current generation graphics by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I’m upset at myself. When I finally booted up The Last of Us, I did so under unfair circumstances. Since getting a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in November, I have been spending a lot of my gaming time on the current gen systems. Although the Wii U has comparable power to the Xbox 360 and PS3, I would argue that nothing on either system compares to Super Mario 3D World from an artistic standpoint, and that has been my go-to game lately (well, that and Rayman Legends, another game that is just mind-blowingly gorgeous). I also recently built a computer that is capable of running games like Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite on very high/ultra settings.

I’ve been spoiled by the high end.

Read More

Changing reels, excessive lengths, the underappreciated death of 35mm prints, and the experience of seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on film by Alec Kubas-Meyer

In the past week, I have seen three movies that push past the 150-minute mark: American HustleThe Wolf of Wall Street, and The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. Of them, American Hustle is the only one that doesn’t drag, but The Hobbit is the only one that feels as long as it is.

Last year, it struck me as a trend that films were getting longer and longer. Many of the biggest films stretched well past the two-hour mark, and while I don’t have a problem with long films, I do find myself less attracted to them. There’s something alluring about a film that’s less than 100 minutes, even more so if it’s less than 90. I see those runtimes and I think, “I can do that right now. What else am I doing? Nothing important, probably.” Television is the same way. I can marathon three hour-long episodes of an HBO show more easily than I can sit down to watch a movie more than 100 minutes. It’s just a quirk I’ve got.

(Admittedly, as films grow bigger, so do their credits, and most big films nowadays seem to be about ten minutes shorter than their runtime would indicate. So 100-minute movies may actually more like 95 minute ones.)

Read More

Violence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and the need for a better MPAA by Alec Kubas-Meyer

The only people who like the Motion Picture Association of American are the people whose livelihoods depend on the success of the Motion Picture Association of America, and I expect that a fair number of them aren’t entirely fond of it either. I understand the reason for the MPAA, and I have no problem whatsoever with rating systems in general, but it’s not controversial to say that the MPAA’s rating system is broken. But while the basic point about how ridiculous it is that sexuality is considered more grotesque than horrible violence has been made countless times, I don’t think enough attention has been paid to just how horrible that violence has become. In November, a study was released that showed that the amount of gun violence in PG-13 films has now exceeded the amount in R-rated films.


Seriously, though. What?

Read More