Deus Ex: Mankind Divided—The First Hour

Get your William Gibson On

The next chapter in Adam Jensen’s life has finally arrived and I’m thrilled to vicariously experience the hardships of a man-machine who always finds himself in the middle of Illuminati conspiracies, private security firms and state-of-the-art technology.

Our cyberpunk hero is an experienced computer hacker, arm-sword duellist and all-round cool dude. The guy has sunglasses hardwired to his face for Gibson’s sake!

Mankind Divided is the sequel to Human Revolution; Deus Ex’s modern series of prequels—confused yet? It’s ok. Eidos Montréal thought ahead and provided a recap video to clarify the status quo and your place in it.

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Post Human Revolution

After the lengthy introduction it is blatantly obvious that the people hate augmented technology with a passion. Their reasons are totally justifiable, too. You know, someone flipped a killswitch that triggered cyborgs worldwide to become murder hobos. Well, this new world order is the product of augmentation paranoia and our boy, Jensen, is among the persecuted.

So yeah, there’s a lot of ‘we don’t serve your augmented kind here’ sort of dialogue, which makes sense. Jensen has gone from being a feared private security enforcer to being some lackey for an international police counter-terrorism unit.

Illuminati Confirmed

Oh yeah, among the early cutscenes we see a young Bob Page at a board meeting with executive-types talking about how they’re butt-hurt about the direction of humanity blah blah blah. Bob’s a familiar face from the original Deus Ex. I like that we’re seeing the build-up to Ion Storm’s magnum opus rather than a remake of the classic. Eidos Montréal is doing an excellent job at enriching the source material.

Learn the Basics

My Adam Jensen prefers the non-lethal approach and was issued a stun gun, which is a subtle nod to the original game where JC Denton was given a similar choice prior to taking on terrorists at the Statue of Liberty.

Instead of raiding a monument, however, your first assignment is to jump out of a plane, nail the landing with your mad skills and then sneak into a dilapidated facility to find some dude—that is if you choose to be stealthy. This is your typical tutorial fare.

Stealth seems to be more forgiving in Mankind Divided. A sentry might get suspicious if they see or hear you but the jig’s not necessarily up when the baddies spot you. In our last adventure, Human Revolution, when Jensen’s cover was blown he’d generally be forced into lethal gunplay to survive the rest of the encounter. Fortunately, there is more nuance with AI NPC behaviours, sort of.

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At first, my boy Jensen was taking advantage of high ground, scaling up walls, crawling through vents, traipsing walkways and sniping the terrorists with his special pistol that fires stun bullets (far superior to the stun prods and tasers of old).

The mission was going so well, too. So there Jensen was, creeping around crates, knocking thugs out at close range and then he took a wrong step trying to manoeuvre around some cover, jumped up and might as well have yelled: come at me, bro.

50 kazillion armed mercenaries chased Jensen to where the secondary objective was. Sure, that was convenient; he needed to shut down some kit to help the team complete their task.  Unfortunately, Jensen’s fans crowded the door threshold, scrambling for an autograph or something.

And then those submachine guns started chattering and our bullet-magnet dived for what little protection a beige crate offered. The non-lethal route was no longer viable. Jensen had been plucking ammo and SMGs from fallen dudes; the only way out was to join the conversation.

Gunplay and Parkour

Jensen blazed his way out of with precise, short SMG bursts. Burning through ammo, he filched his other pistol, that one that hurts, and he let rip while running for the next objective.

The gameplay is fun, intense and aesthetically pleasing from the metallic sheen of Jensen’s robotic limbs to the level of detail in the environment and objects. You can pick up and throw boxes and fire extinguishers. It’s quite an immersive experience.

The cover system lets you vault over ledges while the more vertical level design encourages you to drop from great heights and find tactical positions for sniping.

Welcome to City 17, uh,  I mean Praha

The scripted sequence after your interpol mission is heavy-handed and might’ve been more effective as just another cutscene. Your controls are disabled and you, frustratingly, follow an on-rails path that serves as a flawed demonstration of the game engine. In my experience, Jensen clipped a few character models along the way while other NPCs stood around with vacant facial expressions.

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You meet a fellow clank, Alex, and you are frequently accosted by Combine soldiers, I mean Monolith officers. That Half-Life 2 European oppression stuff establishes place quite well.

Ready for More

My first hour was satisfying and intriguing. So far, all I care about is learning more about the greater conspiracies and how Jensen changes the status quo. Early reports from other critics claim that the narrative is not as ambitious as before, which is a shame. I enjoy solid storytelling. Does that mean that we’re in for a more cohesive journey? We’ll have to play and see.

Sentimental Trickster Demo Review

Do you like quirky anime? Have you read any boys love manga before? See what we thought about the Sentimental Trickster demo. It’s an English visual novel full of charm, wit, romance and more.

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Image via sentimentaltrickster.com

If you like this sort of content and want to see more, please contribute to the Patreon.

Solutions are the Bane of a Copywriter’s Existence

Solutions are the bane of a copywriter’s existence. Businesses in the commercial and industrial sectors, in particular, like to boast about how their products and services will solve all your problems. And why wouldn’t they? Consumers need a reason to invest in you. If your shit doesn’t solve a problem then what’s the point, right?

Maybe it’s the repetition of the word ‘solutions’ that really clots my ink pot. Look around you. Surf the web and browse your favourite sheet metal fabrication company’s home page. Chances are, they probably talk about solutions that are more solutiony than their rival solutionators.

So what do you do to escape the popular solution crowd? Sometimes you just can’t avoid it. The answer is moderation. Think about how you use the troublesome noun. Rather than be vague about your solution, spell it out. Tell us precisely what you mean.

When you start using jargon and fancy keyword strings in your copy you will notice that the sentences become longer and harder to read. Where possible, avoid complicating your writing. Corporate and technical content does not have to be inacessible. You want to engage readers, yes?

Looking at blocks of incoherent text on-screen for hours can make it difficult to objectively edit so I recommend the Hemingway App. Simply copy, paste and cry as you look at the colourful highlights that show you where there’s too much passive voice, shitty adverbs and more.

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I should practice what I preach …

So, is this a good solution for your solution woes?

An Official Doctor Who Tabletop Wargame!

Hey, y’all. Warlord Games announced last year that they have ‘… secured the licence to produce a miniatures game based on the BBC’s enormously popular TV series, Doctor Who.’

So far, we haven’t seen any major updates other than teasers for some of the figurines. Looks like Warlord Games are pushing the Peter Capaldi and David Tennant Doctors for pre-order with their coterie of charming companions. Me, I’m more of a Peter Davison kind of guy so hopefully we see some of the earlier incarnations in future releases so that I can wear the cricket outfit and chew on some celery while rolling dice.

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And what kind of enemies will our TARDIS team face off against? Who knows (geddit?). I wanna see an Anthony Ainley Master sculpt and as well as a handful of Earthshock-era cybermen. Did someone say we’re in the Death Zone?

This game is so fresh we don’t even know what the rules are yet! Let’s put our speculation fez on. I reckon we’re in for some sort of objective-based affair where the rules will be simplified to the point where gaming grumps and other elderly armchair generals will whinge and groan about how streamlined everything is.

Who cares? Well, I do. The rules will determine whether we cling to fan-made conversions of popular titles like Bolt Action or if tabletop wargamers continue to adapt other skirmish rulesets like SuperSystem and This Is Not A Test.

Anyway, we’ve got some copywriting to do. Sorry, must dash.

 

 

Preacher Season One Review

I binge-watched ten episodes of Preacher, season one, over the weekend and left the TV satisfied in the knowledge that our unlikeable protagonist has embarked on an interesting mission with an Irish vampire and a tough chick riding shotgun. Part of me wished that the season started with this closing scene because everything leading up to that point was drawn out and bizarre.

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Dominic Cooper is the preacher man. Image via IMDB

Tonally, this graphic novel adaptation from AMC feels a little off. Maybe that’s the point? I think this series missed its mark in terms of balancing black comedy, action and drama with the religious and philosophical subject matter. At times the drama was thick with mystery and intrigue; and other times we see silly townsfolk do and say stupid shit. Is this satire of small town America?

The plot is fairly solid. Man with morally ambiguous past comes home to run the church and save the town; he finds himself in possession of an entity that grants him a special gift, like the voice of God, and he attracts the attention of two strange suits. Along the way we also meet Cassidy, an Irish fella that brings the comic relief, and preacher’s ex-girlfriend, Tulip, an outlaw with attitude.

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Image via IMDB

We also meet the mayor and the pianist for the church and her family. A boy with a puckered anus for a mouth; something straight out of a South Park episode and there’s the sheriff and the company man who is obsessed with meat. And then there are the town hicks and other random folk.

I wanted to love this show but it never really rises from its own mediocrity. I love the ideas that this show plays with but I couldn’t care less for the people in this little world. Perhaps, now that the premise of the show is set up, things will improve with a second season and we might see better characterisation.

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Anatol Yusef and Tom Brooke in their cowboy suits. Image via IMDB.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the two suits go about their business. They were the most interesting, entertaining and likeable of all the characters in this protracted drama. To say more about them would spoil the smidgen of fun that Preacher has to offer.

Have you seen Preacher? What did you think of it?

Many Bothans Died to Bring Us This Rogue One Trailer (or did they?)

Just when you thought you were one with the Force you realise that the Bothans didn’t actually die for the original Death Star plans.  Mon Mothma’s briefing with the Rebels in episode VI—you know, where she guilt-trips everyone about how all those Bothans died to secure the battle station plans—was actually in reference to the second Death Star. Bantha poodoo!

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Image via starwars.com

The Disney juggernaut, Lucasfilm, have released another official trailer for Rogue One, a Star Wars feature film. And it’s glorious.

When BSG hit TV screens in the late 2000s I craved a gritty episodic reimagining of Star Wars set somewhere in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The Outer Rim had its fair share of scum and villainy. I was always fond of the idea of following a team of amateur bounty hunters and smugglers as they chase contracts and play both sides of the Empire/Rebel dichotomy. Tonally, we would see a shift from the family-friendly space opera and something more serious, something more mature and different.

Well, Rogue One is looking pretty gritty without going full Zack-Snyder-dark-colour-palette-because-everything-has-to-be-washed-black-and-blue-to-be-gritty. Sure, there’s a bit of black and blue and grey in this Rogue One trailer but there is also a flourish of earthy browns, striking whites and other colours that just pop. And that’s the difference in visual styles between the DC cinematic universe, for instance, and Lucasfilm. Visually, Rogue One is sweet, sweet eye candy and very different to its predecessors. Exciting times indeed.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story(Ben Mendelsohn)

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Ben Mendelsohn) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

How will this ensemble cast perform together on the big screen? Will Ben Mendelsohn steal the show as the prim and proper Empire dude? Can Forest Whitaker escape being typecast as that weird detective character? Is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) embarking on a suicide mission to bring glory to the Rebel Alliance? And will Tudyk successfully deliver the comic relief? All will be revealed this December.

Music Videos That Get Me Right in the Feels

Have you ever found yourself obsessed with listening to the same song over and over and over and over? Some of my favourite tracks are associated with memorable cinematic moments. Here a couple that instantly spring to mind.

Baby Blue—Badfinger

Breaking Bad fans that made it to the end will know this 70s classic well. ‘Baby Blue’ in this context is overtly referencing Walter White’s drug manufacturing exploits.

Similarly, Crystal Blue Persuasion pairs perfectly with the show.

Don’t Stop Believin’—Journey

There’s something special about powerful moments in television and great music. The Sopranos ended on an ambiguous note that teased the fans for years. The final scene shows Tony and his family dining in a restaurant. The last shot is Tony looking up as someone enters the diner. We assume it’s his daughter however I like to speculate that an assassination is imminent.

The credits roll Would there be a follow-up move to wrap up all loose ends? Sadly, that won’t be possible now because we have lost the legendary James Gandolfini. I always thought David Chase would amplify the consequences of messing with the Russians (Pine Barrens) but instead

Arianne—KOMM SÜßER TOD

Did you ever see the original 26-episode run of Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)? This mecha anime has everything from conspiracy theories and teen angst to kawai babes and post-apocalyptic shit. If you like religious symbolism, clever directing and wading through a mental sea of cryptic dialogue then Evangelion is your wet dream.

The last two episodes of the TV series left fans disappointed. Our Lord and Saviour, Hideaki Anno, retconned the original ending with his 1997 feature film, The End of Evangelion. And, boy, does it pack poetic punches. I have nothing but praise for this brilliant film. One particular song in the OST is essentially a sad/happy suicide note that encapsulates the tone of this tragedy perfectly. It’s melancholic, cathartic, beautiful.

The Eva franchise continues in the form of a rebuild quadrilogy. Hopefully the new plot doesn’t go tumbling down, tumbling down …

Fifth Doctor Titles (Doctor Who – BBC)

That star field and thobbing synthtastic bass forms one of my fondest and earliest memories of sentience. Yes, Doctor Who nourishes my nostalgic needs every time. Whenver I’m feeling low and need something to pick me up I can be assured that Peter Davison and his TARDIS team are always there to fight for cosmic justice. A man is the sum of of his memories, you know. Thanks Dad.

Space Crusade (Gremlin)

I recall being told off in Primary School for writing the same diary entry for over four consecutive weeks. On the weekend I played Space Crusade. What?

It’s true.

Of all of the Amiga games I liked to play, Gremlin’s adaptation of Games Workshop’s popular board game was brilliant. You command a squad of space marines, raid a spaceship and blast orks, androids, chaos marines and rubble! My favourite trick was to squish dreadnoughts with the doors. Fun times. So much fun, in fact, that the soundtrack is permanently ingrained somewhere deep in my psyche.

Hey look, I recorded myself playing an inferior DOS emulation. Pity I didn’t synchronise the audio with the action …

M4 (Part II)—Faunts

Mass Effect is space opera at its finest. A sci-fi roleplaying game that has so much lore and intrigue that I’m surprised we don’t have a TV series or a slew of official feature films celebrating our favourite Turian, Garrus Vakarian. You play as Commander Shepard, the first human Spectre. During your playthrough you will meet an ensemble cast of quirky characters and immerse yourself in a busy galaxy.

All good things must come to an end, however. As the credits roll we listen to an apt tune with the chilling lyrics ‘where will you be when this is through?’. Having played the trilogy, upon reflection, M4 (Part II) carries a powerful message that foreshadows catastrophe. That is, the catastrophe that was Mass Effect 3.

So, where will you be when this is through?

PokéStay or PokéGO: Musings of a Veteran Pokémon Trainer

This Monday morning, instead of waiting for the next V/Line at the platform like all of the other suits I meandered through mud, grass and asphalt to score virtual pokéballs, potions and eggs. A zubat bounced in the air, flapping its wings, and I pitched a pokéball at it, capturing the purple flyer like an amateur trainer straight outta Pallet Town.

The leaves rustled and then a doduo and a rattata suddenly appeared. With minutes to spare and no more pokéballs to throw, I ran away like a grown man who shouldn’t be lurking alone in a public place for children.

Are you caught up in this frenetic, innocent game of cockfighting for kids? Pokémon GO is now available on Android and iOS devices.

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And then a wild man-child appeared!

Like No One Ever Was

I remember the good ol’ days of Red and Blue when there were only 150 of those adorable pocket monsters to kidnap, torment and fight with. We didn’t feed our animal army and we never really cared about their wellbeing unless they fainted in combat and needed to be revived only to be called upon again for more beatings.

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Get. In. The. Bag!

And what in Johto were these kids doing on the streets; shouldn’t they be in school, working, or better yet, sleeping? The post-apocalypse is a friendly place where the youth teach creatures how to maim and society adapts to accommodate this popular hobby by providing institutions to train, fight and barter.

There are now over 700 of the little dudes in pokéLore. PokéCool! Ok, I’ll pokéStahp.

Augmented—Nostalgic—Reality

Niantic combines Google maps, a viral, insidious Japanese IP and clever technical design to trick nerds into physical exercise. Rather than skip through virtual tall grass you actually have to stumble about in the real world to encounter the critters you need to fill your menagerie.

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Unlike the classics, to train your poliwags and pidgeys you need to catch a lot of them and then sell them for sweet, sweet candy. Candy and stardust lets you upgrade and potentially evolve your Pokémon. That’s right, folks, now we’re getting our tortured creatures into drugs.

The lazier, or smarter, trainers in the world will probably sit on the toilet with incense to lure the critters. Does it smell as good as it sounds, squirtle?

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Be the envy of your trainer chums with the bonus jet plane DLC*

In your scary travels outside you may find pokéStops, special locations that drop precious pokéballs and other items when you are nearby. Sometimes the app will glitch and you’ll have issues with GPS tracking. Don’t fret, simply reset the app and your device should re-align with the global positioning satellite gods.

Eggs are not for avatar consumption. If you were jonesing for a taste of scrambled slowpoke, too bad. You can, however, incubate these eggs and then walk 2km, or whatever, to hatch them.

In a World We Must Defend

One of the coolest outdoor features of Pokémon GO is the placement of gyms. There are now turf wars with people, for real, where you nominate a pokémon to stand guard after defeating the gym leader. You will now see weirdos like myself hanging out at the most average of places trying to be the very best.

At least I assume that’s what the gist of combat is like? I’m just pulling some ideas out of the back of my abra.

Team Rocket?

Oh yeah, crack level five and you have to choose sides in this cartoonish gang war. Red, blue or yellow. We’re now fighting for a cause that is greater than our own selfish ambitions to evolve that magikarp before anyone else does in our antisocial circle.

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Just waitin’ for a mate

Let the turf wars commence! I wonder how long it will take for these virtual scuffles to turn into violent altercations? Long live Team Mystic!

You Teach Me and I’ll Teach You

What are you waiting for? Gather your friends and go on a safari. I hear that we will eventually be able to trade pokémon, too. Rally a mob and lynch all of the haters.

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If it bleeds; kill it

The Horror

Can’t get enough of the pokéMadness? Watch the original TV series on Netflix. Yes, for metapod knows how long, you can witness Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu as they embark on a journey of adventure, animal abuse and substance discovery. When the servers are down, which is frequent at the moment, at least you can depend on Nurse Joy for your fix.

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And people actually do come back later
*Bonus jet plane DLC only exists in the author’s mind