Gears of War - Lancer Continuity

One of the key aspects of Gears of War is how horrific the Locust Horde is. The Locust are monstrous, in every sense of the word. They're bigger and stronger than the average human, and can take as much punishment as a human in full body armor. They've got claws and scales and two hearts and they live underground, it's all deliciously horrific.

There's a reason they're referred to as a "horde" of "Locusts" - they're numerous and horrificly monsterous. 

There's a reason they're referred to as a "horde" of "Locusts" - they're numerous and horrificly monsterous. 

Humanity's fight against the Locust is one of desperation, where humanity is constantly selling parts of its soul just to survive. The enemy is that tough, and brutal, that humanity has to match them just to make it through the day. And that's one of the darkest aspects of the Locust - it's not what they do to humanity, it's what they make humanity do to themselves. 

The humans in Gears of War have breeding camps, just so they can have enough soldiers to continue to fight the war. If a woman can have healthy children, she's lured into the breeding camps with the promise of extra rations. If it turns out she can't have kids, she's booted out and made to join the military. This process, while arguably necessary for survival, left a mark on humanity to the point where they had to generate a lie about the Locust reproducing via rape. Never mind that no human had ever seen where the Locust lived by this point, oh no, we may have breeding farms but the Locust rape so at least we're not *that* bad.  

There's also the fact that the Locust are clearly genetically linked to humans... but that's a story for another day. 

There's also the fact that the Locust are clearly genetically linked to humans... but that's a story for another day. 

Humanity sold a part of it's soul to survive, and generated a lie about the enemy to live with the guilt. It changed who they were as well, because even in Gears of War 4, 25 years after the Locust War has ended, they're still at it. They telling women to have babies and using gene therapy to help design those babies to better aid in repopulating the planet. Humanity sold its soul in a time of desperation and they've been paying the price ever since. 

Along with this, the planet of Gears of War, Sera, was actually destroyed by humans themselves. Just like in the Matrix, humanity was faced with an enemy so powerful that they destroyed their own world in an attempt to halt their advance. It failed, obviously, but the planet was still ruined. This time, it was done with orbital lasers. To deprive the Locust of any motivation for coming to the surface, humanity used orbital lasers to destroy their own land and resources. To ensure the plan went off without a hitch, the humans only announced the attack three days before it was launched. 

The Locust didn't do this... humans did.

The Locust didn't do this... humans did.

All of humanity had just three days to reach the safety of the one city that would be spared, obviously in a time of war it's hard to get anywhere in three days so billions of humans were killed in this attack that didn't even stop the Locust. Humanity literally killed billions of their own species, and destroyed their planet, in a failed attempt to stop the Locust from invading. There's selling your soul in a Faustian bargain and then there's tossing your soul at the shop clerk like it's little more than loose change. But this is all to show just how desperate humans were, the lengths that they were willing to go to in order to survive.

hahahaha I can't believe someone had already made this meme... 

hahahaha I can't believe someone had already made this meme... 

This brings me to the Lancer, the iconic "chainsaw gun" of the Gears of War Franchise. Before the Locust showed up, the Mark 1 Lancer was a beefy weapon that had a simple, but large, bayonet at it's end. It was used to fight other humans and it did it's job with stabby abandon.  

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But when the Locust showed up, their thick hides often caused the bayonets to either be deflected or snap on contact. This was a problem for the soldiers trying to fight the Locust, on account of them not wanting to die. In one such Locust attack, Tai Kaliso managed to kill one of the Locust Drones with a circular saw. He commented on the fact that it would make for a reliable method of killing the Locust... and the higher ups actually listened to him!

This is the Mk-1 "Retro" Lancer...

This is the Mk-1 "Retro" Lancer...

That's how desperate things were. Not only did the high-ups listen to someone down on the ground, which is absurd enough already, they also thought it was a good idea to attach a chainsaw to a gun. They got their scientists to work on the idea and they actually made it happen - thus was born the Mark 2 Lancer. 

...and this is the MK-2 Lancer!

...and this is the MK-2 Lancer!

It's an absurd idea, a chainsaw on a gun is just ridiculous. But when taken with all the other elements of the Gears of War story, it speaks to just how dire the situation is and how desperate those who remain are. "Desperate times call for desperate measures," and all that. It was a great addition to the series because it actually helped build it up instead of feeling as though it was simply tacked on to look cool.

But then we come to Gears of War Judgment, and the actual reason behind this whole post. Judgment was a prequel game, made between Gears 3 and 4, and it was set before the canon invention of the Mark 2 Lancer. But for some reason, all the characters in Judgment have the Mark 2 Lancer... despite it not being invented yet!

Why?!

Why?!

The writers said that it was present because Judgment focused on Special Forces and they access to better tech than the other soldiers. But this totally undercuts the importance of the weapon's point of inception, an act of savage desperation. I get the real reason why it's there though, the writers figured that they couldn't have a Gears of War game without the damn chainsaw gun... 

A long time ago, the Mark 2 Lancer was compared to the Lightsaber - it's an iconic weapon now. But the Lightsaber obviously had a point of creation within the Star Wars canon, a point where it was initially thought of and the first one was created as a prototype. Can you imagine the outrage that would ensue if someone wrote an official Star Wars novel, movie or game that was set before this point but it still somehow had Lightsabers in it? The nerdrage would destroy our planet!

Is it really a Gears of War game if it doesn't have the chainsaw gun? Yes... yes it is. 

Is it really a Gears of War game if it doesn't have the chainsaw gun? Yes... yes it is. 

I love Gears of War, and even Judgment was more good than bad, but this was just one decision that I cannot get behind. Having to fight the Locust in the early days of the war with inferior technology would have ramped up the intensity to an insane degree. That was the point of the game, having it set in a period where the Locust were a new and unknown entity made them all the more terrifying.

The Locust were the reason for the Mark 2 Lancers invention, and the writers fucked it all up by having the effect appear before the cause had a chance to instigate it in the first place! First and foremost, a story has to be true to the world it's set in. Forget what might or might not appeal to the audience; if you absolutely have to include an element then set the story at a point in time where the element exists. The suspension of disbelief required for us to enjoy stories demands that worlds be consistent, and that means doing your homework and not taking shortcuts simply to appeal to the lowest common denominator. 

Van Helsing - Not That Bad

Back in January I made a post that was pretty much just me ripping into Van Helsing. Looking back now, after having watched the first two seasons, I think I may have been just a little too harsh. Just a bit. So this is my recant, the show's not perfect but neither is it as bad as I initially speculated. 

Spoilers. Obviously.

It's actually not that bad, it's certainly not groundbreaking but it's good enough to watch if you've got nothing else. They did away with a lot of the issues I'd raised in my initial post, and it actually got me interested in seeing where things were going. I had an issue with an everyday chick being more of a badass than a trained solider... but eventually we got to see what that trained soldier can do and it was an absolute bloodbath. By season 2 the actress who plays Vanessa Van Helsing had become pregnant and while they didn't incorporate it into the story they managed to hide it well enough and she continued to do actions scenes.

Mohamad is just a normal kid for most of the series, but he's holding his own just as well as the rest.

Mohamad is just a normal kid for most of the series, but he's holding his own just as well as the rest.

I was watching the final season of Zoo at the same time as watching Van Helsing. It had this stupid twist where it was revealed (in goddamn season 3) that the protagonist had had a wife and son who were killed when he was 19. But then the son is randomly revealed to be a character he's been interacting with all season. Dumbest, most ham-fisted, story move I've ever seen. But then it's a show about animals attacking humans, so I don't know why I expected anything else.

Anyway, back to Van Helsing. When Vanessa's long lost sister, as well as her long lost mother, popped up in the show I sort of just groaned and my eyes rolled out of my head. Dead family members should stay dead. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one before, any time this happens in a show you instantly get a bad taste in your mouth. It happened in Gears of War as well, and I love that series, so you know I'm not just picking on Van Helsing and Zoo here. We'd all love for a dead loved ones to just randomly walk through the door with a slight case of amnesia but life just doesn't work that way. 

They came up with some vague magical reason why the sister who lived a normal life before the world ended is still stronger than the sister who was raised as a survivalist ninja.

They came up with some vague magical reason why the sister who lived a normal life before the world ended is still stronger than the sister who was raised as a survivalist ninja.

My only real gripe with the show, beyond all that, is what they ended up using Christopher Heyerdahl for. That guy is a fantastic actor and he has taken on some amazing roles in his career, but here it was nothing new. He started out as Sam the deaf guy, and that was a cool character, not only for Heyerdahl but for a post-apocalyptic story. Having a handicapped character always makes things interesting, and this guy was kicking arse despite his handicap. 

He went from this...

He went from this...

But then it turns out he's a serial killer and he turns into a crazy vampire, which was basically just the same character he played in Hell on Wheels - the Swede. We had a great character that was an original role for the actor but then they pulled the rug out from under us and turned him into something cliche. It was a shame, because I really like Heyerdahl and I really liked Sam. 

...to this.

...to this.

Besides that, the world of Van Helsing is consistent and we've got characters who are all various shades of grey. Vanessa and her sister are basically "Daywalkers" like Marvel's own half-vampire character, Blade, so there's all the usual superhuman fight scenes and moral struggles that go along with that. They killed off Vanessa's daughter pretty quickly after they saved her, which was a good call. It's never nice to see a child killed (unless it's Zach Goodweather from The Strain) but the story would have stalled if the protagonist suddenly had to look after a kid. A side character finds out he's going to be a dad mere moments before his newly pregnant partner is forced to frag herself alongside some vampires. The main group find another group of survivors who are surviving by eating the vampires, which was actually a pretty fun episode. And there's the typical "Elder Vampire" character who appears at the end of season 2, but they manage to spin it around and do something original with it.

This all-female clan of vampires is pretty damn awesome too!

This all-female clan of vampires is pretty damn awesome too!

It's a dumb, fun show that's probably written for high school girls. It's Buffy 2.0., and that's fine. It's not groundbreaking, it's not going to revolutionize the post apocalyptic genre, but it is good enough to keep me entertained between the occasional eye roll. I'll happily watch the recently announced season 3, but I'm not exactly waiting with baited breath for it to arrive.

Wynonna Earp is still a fucking travesty though... 

Mad Max and the Eternal Return

Mad Max was a fantastic video game that was released in 2015, and it's one of the few games where I took the time and effort to do everything and earn the Platinum Trophy. I loved the setting and the characters because everything had this strange dreamlike quality to it, like the world was comprised of disparate parts that had been pulled together. The gameplay was great too; the fighting was fluid and brutal and the car to car combat was intense. My only negative with Mad Max was the end game experience.

Max starts the game seeking this mystical place called "the Plains of Silence", a place where he can find peace from the world at large. He's got the car and the gas and he's out looking for the Plains of Silence when he's attacked by Scabrous Scrotus - the first son of Immortan Joe. Although Scotus gets away with your car, you steal his dog and implant his chainsaw glaive into his skull. Not exactly a win for Scotus.

He had a nice weapon and a great canine companion... and you took it all from him. 

He had a nice weapon and a great canine companion... and you took it all from him. 

Throughout the rest of the game you're dismantling the empire of Scabrous Scrotus, taking out his lieutenants and ripping down his icons, all in an attempt to get your car back. Scrotus is in no small amount of pain after you shoved a chainsaw through his skull, so he's got an equally turgid hard-on for you too. 

The dude literally has a chainsaw stuck in his brain... he's got some anger regulating issues. 

The dude literally has a chainsaw stuck in his brain... he's got some anger regulating issues. 

You drive around the map in a typical open world fashion, doing lots of fetch quests and helping out the locals make a stand against Scrotus. Everything you do reduces the influence of the psychotic warlord and eventually you're able to confront him directly in one of the most brutal car fight scenes I've ever played through. You actually end up building a better car than your original, but Scrotus does something to push Max over the edge and so you go after him despite this. At a certain point in the game, it stops being about the car and starts being about revenge. You end up ripping the chainsaw out of his head, killing him, and then driving off into the sunset in your original car.

I can't find the video... but it's suitably badass. 

I can't find the video... but it's suitably badass. 

The game itself is great, I'd still give it a 10/10, my only problem is the lost opportunity with the post campaign experience. After you defeat Scrotus you're thrown back into the world with some iconic Mad Max gear, but everything is already done. The amount of enemies in an area depends on the amount of influence that Scrotus has there, but if you've already done everything then the chances for conflict post game are few and far between. 

Now, you could start again from scratch but there's nothing special about that because it's just a new game. But what if the developers had included an NG+ (New Game Plus) experience? You'd start the game again but Max would be fully leveled. You loose your gear and car at the start as part of the story, so that's no issue, and Scabrous Scrotus is back at full power. You could play through the whole game again, whittling down Scrotus' empire from full power without having to level Max all over again.

The thing is, NG+ is already built into the narrative of Mad Max without it actually being present.  All throughout the game you're running into this character called Griffa, this sort of desert-mystic who is trying to nudge Max along a spiritual journey while he traverses his physical one. He pokes holes in Max's world view, and questions his search for the Plains of Silence. And he knows things, about Max, things he shouldn't be able to know.

The sounds of a wasteland fade away and a strange humming takes their place, as though the fabric of reality were tearing apart. Strange artworks line the stones that surround you, and no one seems to be able to see Griffa but you. 

The sounds of a wasteland fade away and a strange humming takes their place, as though the fabric of reality were tearing apart. Strange artworks line the stones that surround you, and no one seems to be able to see Griffa but you. 

All throughout the game Griffa teases out the good-side in Max, the parts of himself that he's buried deep and tried to forget. Love, friendship and trust - all that Care Bear stuff. Because of this, Max starts getting close to a woman and her daughter, Hope and Glory respectively. And right when it looks like he might have a family again - they're taken from him. 

Max flips the fuck out and goes after Scrotus, he's tripping balls and hearing the voices of Hope and Glory screaming for bloody vengeance. You lose your new car in the fight against Scrotus but you get your old one back. You drive off into the sunset, without looking back, in the search of the Plains of Silence. 

The Black-on-Black is all Max ever needs. It's his chariot, but also his prison?

The Black-on-Black is all Max ever needs. It's his chariot, but also his prison?

Exactly how the game started. 

You're fleeing a traumatic past, you've got a car and you're looking for the Plains of Silence. Scotus steals the car. You build a new car to get the old one back, along the way you heal and build a new family. Scrotus kills your family, undoing the healing. You kill Scrotus and lose your new car. With your old car back, you flee your traumatic past in search of the Plains of Silence. 

The whole thing is a cycle, Griffa even says as much to you in the game. Max is stuck in a sort of purgatory, emotionally within himself as well as physically within the wasteland. The world makes no sense, not in terms of game design but in terms of the narrative. People have accents from all over the world, just like there are landmarks from distant lands within eye shot of one another. Max is far too young to remember the world from before, and there's the inclusion of this one particular History Relic.

An advertisement for the Mad Max Buggy Tour... one of the many "History Relics" found throughout the game. Max even has a little comment upon finding this oddity...

An advertisement for the Mad Max Buggy Tour... one of the many "History Relics" found throughout the game. Max even has a little comment upon finding this oddity...

Mad Max is about a physical and spiritual journey, one of healing, that ultimately fails. Max ends up right where he started, with a car and a desire to escape. The game is Max's purgatory, and he's stuck there until he can find a way out. A fantastic way to express this would have been the NG+ option, to show the literal loops he's stuck in. It would have made sense from a narrative perspective and it would have given the game some much needed longevity.    

 

 

Life Update

I've been off the radar for a few weeks, but there's a half decent reason for that. I quit one job, moved country and then started a new job. It's been fairly hectic, but then stepping outside your comfort zone always will be. I'm in a whole new world, and it's proven to be a challenging and exciting adventure... for the most part. 

For those who don't know, I used to live in Australia where I worked in a bottle'o (for you Seppos, that's Aussie slang for "Liquor Store"). It was a decent enough gig but I was always going to move onto something else once Days Too Dark had been published. While originally I had planned on joining the Australian Army as an officer, part way through my application I busted my back and ruined any chance of that happening. So, to steal a line from Fallout: Tactics - I squared my shoulders and set myself to the task ahead. 

I arrived at TESOL! An ex-girlfriend had suggested I charge her friends money for conversing with them because they'd be willing to pay stupid amounts of money to improve their language skills. While my relationship with her didn't last (wonder why?) the idea for a career path did grow into something more concrete and lasting. I started a teaching course and after several months, and another girlfriend-turned-ex, I have found myself in Taiwan.

Just your typical cityscape here in Taiwan.

Just your typical cityscape here in Taiwan.

The initial two weeks of training was interesting. 53 people from a bunch of different English-speaking countries all thrown together and forced to be with one another 24/7 proved to be... a little volatile at times. Not to mention the massive age difference between the different applicants. Being someone in their early 30's, I found myself having to rouse on some of the younger and more reckless applicants. They may have resented me for taking on the role of big brother, but if you're going to be in a country where you don't look like 97% of the population it really doesn't pay to get shit faced and run around the streets, humping inanimate objects and screaming the name of the company that just hired you. College is over, grow the fuck up.

Life... finds a way.

Life... finds a way.

I was also forced to room with a guy who should have been quarantined because he had Strep-Throat. Luckily I didn't get it, but I did get some crazy cold that felt like nothing I've ever had before. Foreign land, foreign bugs. 

It's all good though, most of us got through the training and we've all been scattered about the island to our various branches. Most of us made some friends from the original group, but I suspect that for the most part the majority of the group will fade into memory. Some of us are here to explore the island and culture of Taiwan, others are here for teaching experience. Some will stay for just a year, if that, while others will likely stay for longer. 

Taiwan is great, the food is to die for and the people here are pretty damn awesome. For me, the thing that stands out the most is that fact that the whole island has this amazing dystopian/post-apocalyptic aesthetic to it. I know, I know - what're the chances that a guy who has a blog about post-apocalyptic fiction would end up in a place that totally meshes with his tastes? Well, if you've seen some of the pictures I've been sharing you'll see that it's not joke.

Look at this shit! How awesome is this?!

Look at this shit! How awesome is this?!

Because Taiwan is in the tropics/sub-tropics, the buildings are going to get damaged by the environment no matter what the locals do. So, from what I've heard they just decided to abandon all hope of maintaining the exterior of buildings and instead focus on the interior. So you get these building that look really run down and dilapidated on the outside, but you walk inside and they're clean, fully functional and modern. It's a total mindfuck. 

Along with this, in an effort to reduce the effects of the heat and humidity, there are trees and plants all over the place. People have trees on their roofs and little bushes growing where ever they can squeeze them in. The drop in temperature you get when you walk under the shade of a tree here is amazing and as a guy who is both large and covered in hair, I will take advantage of the shade whenever I get the chance.

How awesome is that? Ah, I haven't felt like this since I wandered the earthquake ruins of Christchurch... 

How awesome is that? Ah, I haven't felt like this since I wandered the earthquake ruins of Christchurch... 

Oh yeah, speaking of body hair. On my first day I was walking around this memorial shrine when some random Taiwanese woman walked up to me and called me a monkey several times. Considering both previously mentioned ex's had called me a monkey at one point or another, I didn't think much of it. Kind of funny though.

Anyway, I'm here for the next year (at least) and I'll be teaching English to little kids as a day job. I'm still going to be writing, it's what I was born to do, it's just that the day job that I use to facilitate that writing is in the northern hemisphere. And honestly, teaching English is more in line with writing anyway, at least I'm working with the language as opposed to selling alcohol to people. 

Fuuuuuuck I am so glad to be out of that job, you have no idea.

I've laid out an intense writing schedule for the next year, I hope to get a few projects done. I don't know if I'll make it or not, but I'll give it my best. I've got one book that's about to be announced, more on that later, and then a stand alone followed by a 5 part series. I'm pretty excited to bring all of these projects to life.  

But enough of that, a whole new world awaits! 

Diesel vs Rock

They say your willpower evaporates as the day passes, used up with each little choice that you make. With that in mind, I hope you appreciate the honesty that comes with a 6am blog post. I just tried to drunkenly wipe the piss stains off the left hand wall in my bathroom... besides finally learning that I part to the left, I've little left to give.

The other night I watched three movies that stared the Rock; Rampage, San Andreas and Jumanji 2. Tonight, I've watched two films that start Vin Diesel; The Last Witch Hunter and Babylon A.D.. You might consider the fact that I watched one more movie with the Rock than Vin Diesel in the lead as a sign that I prefer the Rock over Vin, but that would be a miscalculation. I watched one more movie with the Rock in it because I've already seen everything Vin has done and typically I couldn't be fucked watching anything the Rock stars in...

I honestly don't even care...

I honestly don't even care...

A few years back, on set of one of the Fast & Furious films, the Rock made some comment about butting heads with another male lead. It didn't take a fucking rocket scientist to figure out that he was butting heads with Vin Diesel, the series previous male lead. Vin had been doing his thing for years, the Rock had been making waves in Hollywood and the two had finally met in Vin's money maker series - the Fast & the Furious.

The thing with these two actors is that they've got vastly different philosophies when it comes to their careers. While Vin Diesel is not above doing a film to make some money to fund his passion projects, the Rock is all about the money makers. Vin Diesel will go from mainstream blockbusters to arthouse films that barely make a dent, but you can tell that they're something that he's personally invested in. The Rock, on the other hand, never takes a risk and only ever stars in roles that he knows are going to make mega dollars.

You see, while Vin Diesel is an artist, the Rock is an entertainer. 

You can take the actor out of WWE, but you can never take the WWE out of the actor...

You can take the actor out of WWE, but you can never take the WWE out of the actor...

I've got a cousin who married a sports and wrestling fan, the kind of douche-bag that works a dead-end job while he buys every video game console and gambles his kid's lunch money away then complains that my cousin doesn't put out enough. He's a big fan of the Rock.

Me, on the other hand, I've been a fan of Vin Diesel for years now. He misses the mark a whole lot, but he puts his money and name on the line for what he believes in. Vin Diesel is an artist to his core, and he's not above doing a shitty studio acting gig to gather the cash required to produce the films he really wants to be in. Vin Diesel wants to be in movies that make you feel something, that tell a decent story, the Rock wants to be in films that make money.

Easy to make, guaranteed to make bulk cash. Do what you gotta do to make the art happen...

Easy to make, guaranteed to make bulk cash. Do what you gotta do to make the art happen...

While Vin Diesel has done films such as Pitch Black, Knockaroung Guys, Babylon A.D. & The Last Witch Hunter, the Rock has only ever done blockbusters. The most artistic films the Rock has done are Southland Tales in 2006 and Moana in 2016, besides that it's back to back trash that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Don't get me wrong, the Rock works his arse off, it's just that he puts all that effort into making drivel that appeals to the widest audience possible. 

A reboot with the most vanialla cast possible...

A reboot with the most vanialla cast possible...

When's the last time the Rock took a risk? When was the last time he made a small budget film that he made for himself, as opposed for a massive audience? Snitch, or maybe Faster? Even they had a cast of big name actors to lend the film some weight. The dude is a money making machine, no doubt, but he's not exactly making anything of worth...

Vin Diesel misses as often as he scores, but at least he's fucking trying. The Rock makes shit for school boys and beta losers who knock up chicks just to tie them down. Explosions and tits and corny one liners that appeal to the perpetual boner in every male in existence, he's got them all following his cookie-cutter career like he's bloody samoan-jesus. The Rock is 50 Shades of Grey for men, mass produced trash that appeals to their lizard brains but offers nothing of any substantive value. 

Concept art like this had me hooked, for years, just waiting for a film's release

Concept art like this had me hooked, for years, just waiting for a film's release

I get excited when another Vin Diesel movie is announced, I look forward to seeing what he's devoting himself to next. I can't even be bothered yawning when the ninth movie with the Rock in it this year is announced, because I know it's going to be some WWE/Michael Bay-esque tripe. 

Pay attention to what actors spend their time on, some are passionate about crafting stories while others are only passionate about gathering fame and money. Figure out who you want to give your money to, because you get a say in who succeeds. 

 

The End of the Walking Dead

I was chatting with J. Porteous yesterday, the conversation started about Trump, switched to Futurama and then we finished on The Walking Dead. Life moves fast on Twitter. The thing with The Walking Dead, and I hate to beat a dead horse here, is that it's turning into a shambling zombie. While it was once a show that was leading the charge in television ratings, it's had pieces falling off of it for a while now. By the end of season 8 it's been going through the motions but all signs of life are gone. Okay, I'll stop with the zombie metaphors now...

Carl was killed off under suspicious circumstances. The father of Chandler Riggs, the actor who portrayed Carl, suggested that something fishy was going on behind the scenes. And while Rick and Maggie were set to butt heads over Rick's choice to keep Negan alive, both Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan have stated that they're bailing on the show. The show is hemorrhaging at every conceivable angle and the producers have apparently offered Norman Reedus an exorbitant amount of money to take over as lead. That's right, they want a character who wasn't even in the comics, to take over as lead for the show.

Don't get me wrong, I really admire Norman Reedus' work, and I actually grew to like Daryl Dixon. But while I've no doubt that Norman Reedus could lead, I don't think Daryl Dixon could. He's the right-hand man of the lead, the trusted warrior, and there's nothing wrong with that. But that's the way the show looks like it's going, and while I've no doubt that it could continue for a few more seasons I doubt it would do so in any meaningful manner.

They're a team, Daryl is what Shane could never be, it's why their separation was so hard on them both.

They're a team, Daryl is what Shane could never be, it's why their separation was so hard on them both.

I get that television shows are a business and people create them to make money, but there is something to be said for artistic integrity. Why not have the show finish up after season 9? How many television shows even get to season 9 these days? Or 5? Or even 3? The Walking Dead is riding high, and although it's already looking like it's peaked and now on the downward trend, there's still dignity in cashing out while they're ahead.

The thing with a zombie apocalypse is that the zombies are just the backdrop, they're a force of nature, the real drama comes from the other humans. The Walking Dead has always done this well, so much so that the title of the series actually refers to the humans and not the zombies. The television series sort of lost touch with the zombies after a certain point though, a bit too much, and it became more and more about the politics between the different groups of survivors. As much as I'm for well fleshed out characters and communities, it's only been a few years after the outbreak and so realistically the show shouldn't have turned into The West Wing quite so soon.

I know this will never happen, but I've an idea for what I think would be a satisfying end to the series. 

Biggest. Herd. Ever.

Biggest. Herd. Ever.

The war with Negan was hard won, and loud, and unbeknownst to those involved it's been bringing in multiple herds from all across the countryside. Season 9 is the build up of this event as each of the communities comes under siege from different zombie herds, and one by one they all fall. Each community loses some key characters when it falls, but the survivors retreat back to one of the other communities. This just keeps happening over and over across the season, dominoes falling one by one. Oceanside falls, Hilltop Falls, The Kingdom falls, hell even the remnants of the Saviors and Scavengers are overrun and those that survive fall back to Alexandria.

All the petty politics that has been playing out over the last few seasons is dashed upon the rocks as the show reverts to its roots - humans vs zombies. Multiple herds are zeroing in on Alexandria and former enemies are forced to become allies as every character that still lives is given a gun and told to fight. A few die in the siege, dying valiantly or pissing themselves, but eventually the walls of Alexandria are broken under the sheer weight of multiple hordes.

The final episode of season 9, of The Walking Dead, is about the last moments of each of the main characters as they try to survive in an overrun Alexandria. Ezekiel and Michonne are back to back with their swords, like the knights and samurai of old, holding their own until they're crushed and consumed from all sides. Maggie is doing well but sees Negan and goes for some revenge for Glenn's murder, she knows it's stupid and but she can't help it and she dies in the process. Eugene thinks about shooting himself in the head, but in a final act of bravery he sets off a bomb that takes out hundreds of zombies, as well as himself. Carol sits in a chair in a locked room with her back to the door, just waiting for the zombies to burst through.

You all know the drill by know...

You all know the drill by know...

Rick is in the streets, gunning down zombies left and right with headshots, he's seeing survivors falling where ever he looks. With each shot fired we see flashbacks of everyone he's lost over the 9 seasons. Someone calls his name and he turns to see it's Negan, swinging wildly with Lucille. The two men, formerly bitter enemies, meet up and fight back to back, supporting one another against the herds. They share a moment about missing Carl, then reveal that they're both already bitten, before fighting to the bitter end. Swinging and firing as chunks are bitten from them and their guts are torn out. Rick and Negan die the way they both lived - fighting.

Negan's just as bad as Rick... or is that the other way around?

Negan's just as bad as Rick... or is that the other way around?

When it all calms down we see a lone figure staggering along the road, and it's Daryl. This is where the hypothetical story splits, depending on what the show runners want. If they really must have more Walking Dead to milk, Daryl is badly wounded but not infected. He goes on to lead his own spin-off, just like Fear the Walking Dead. It may not have worked for Joey from Friends, but it might work here. If they producers take the artistic approach over money, however, Daryl is a zombie. The hope that he made it out alive is dashed as the camera pans around and we see that he's dead on his feet.

It's a fucking zombie apocalypse, there shouldn't be any happy endings to this story. The survivors held out against the living dead as long as they could, but then they fell to infighting and forgot about the threat posed by the billions of ambulatory corpses that were scattered across the globe. The thing is that everybody dies, even your favorite TV show characters will die one day. If not on the show, then at some undefined time after the show ends. At least with killing them all off in the last episode of the last season their inevitable deaths can serve the narrative.  

The promo for season 8 didn't even have any zombies in it... it had a tiger, but not one zombie. Not even a severed head! 

The promo for season 8 didn't even have any zombies in it... it had a tiger, but not one zombie. Not even a severed head! 

The Walking Dead has been a great ride, it hasn't been perfect but it has broken records and it will be the envy of television series for decades to come. Let it go out with a suitably dramatic bang, rather than let it peter out and get cancelled with a whimper.

Or, for one last zombie metaphor, shoot it in the head instead of letting it shamble on as a zombie. I know it's tough, but if you truly care about someone then it's the right thing to do.

Fallout 76 - Overcrowded No Man's Land

It's been revealed that Fallout 76 will be an always online multiplayer game, which means you're not able to play offline or alone. To reinforce this, there are no human NPC's that will be present because every other human you meet in the game will be another Player Character. Whether those players are role playing as Raiders, Traders or Scavengers, every interaction you have with another human will be an interaction with a real human.

That 3rd character is wearing a Pre-War Power Armor under-suit, they could have at least given it a color scheme change to differentiate it from the Brotherhood of Steel.

That 3rd character is wearing a Pre-War Power Armor under-suit, they could have at least given it a color scheme change to differentiate it from the Brotherhood of Steel.

Now, Fallout 4 copped some grief over it's voiced protagonists. A lot of people didn't like the scaled down response ques that had them saying something wildly different from what they expected. But it seems that in order to correct this, Bethesda have gone and taken out all the NPC's that you can interact with. How many dialogue choices can you have with a human player character? Wouldn't they just let you talk to them via a microphone? With all the human NPC's gone, who are we going to be talking to? I guess we could chat with a Robot or a Super Mutant, but neither are going to be giving us any kind of decent conversation. For a series that revolved around fantastically deep dialogue to convey it's characters, story and themes, this is certainly a strange move for Bethesda.

Can I talk to the Giant Mushroom Sloth? Because I'd really like to know what the hell it's doing in the ruins of the United States...

Can I talk to the Giant Mushroom Sloth? Because I'd really like to know what the hell it's doing in the ruins of the United States...

Being forced to interact with other people is another "interesting" move. I know a lot of people play video games for the competition and the team work, but a lot of us play games specifically to get away from people. I am an introvert, I will happily say that I play games to escape and recharge. While I will no doubt try out Fallout 76, I am unsure how I will be interacting with it's always online, forced multiplayer elements.

The developers are saying that there's going to be safeguards in place that stop people from griefing other players. This is good, on one hand, but on the other it raises the question - why even put forced multiplayer in then? I can see myself running around Fallout 76 and either avoiding other players or just outright ignoring them. I don't care if that other player wants to kill me, trade with me or if they want to team up and go questing together - I just want them to fuck off. 

This is my Fallout... walking through the ruins, alone. 

This is my Fallout... walking through the ruins, alone. 

I play games to get away from people, and if Fallout 76 refuses to provide me with a way of doing that then I'm probably not going to be spending much time with it. I get enough grief dealing with people in the real world, I don't need to be getting shot in the head by some 12 year old twitch gamer from Liverpool while I'm trying to relax at home. I don't care if there's a whole crew of player controlled Raiders that're approaching me, if I've got an option to avoid interacting with them then I'm going to take it. Which brings us back to the question of why they even bothered to include multiplayer?

If other people are in my game, then they're an annoyance. At worst they're going to be forcefully initiating some form of interaction, violent or otherwise, while at best they're going to be buzzing around trying to coerce me into interact with them. Even if they have to get through some anti-harassment safeguard to initiate combat, they'll likely be trying to get me to bring down that safeguard so they can get the experience they want - PVP. Again, as much as I want the option to opt out of interacting with other players, having that option there makes the multiplayer aspect of Fallout 76 pointless.

What do The Chosen   One  , The   Lone   Wanderer & The   Sole   Survivor all have in common?

What do The Chosen One, The Lone Wanderer & The Sole Survivor all have in common?

If I don't want to interact with this other player but they're buzzing around because they *do* want to interact with me, nobody is going to be having a good time. Nobody is getting what they want from the game because we're being forced together when we've got woefully different play styles and reasons for being there. I don't understand why they couldn't just let the multiplayers play online while letting the solo players play offline. Well, actually... now that I've written it out I'm betting it's for financial reasons. They'll probably provide solo-servers down the line, for a fee. 

Dying doesn't do anything anymore because you just respawn, so how exactly is it dying? If previous Fallout games, your protagonist never died because if you were killed you reverted back to your last save and tried again. But in Fallout 76, because it's always online you can't do that. Instead of dying and reverting to a point where you hadn't died yet, you die and just keep on going. How is death dealt with in the game? Other series have lore reasons for why characters can respawn, but Fallout is going to have to come up with something original to justify this game mechanic. Which raises the question of continuity, if respawn technology is present in Fallout 76, why isn't it present in all subsequent Fallout games? This all seems like minor points to niggle over, but death is a pretty important component in terms of game play. Apparently you don't even lose your gear when you die, so again - what exactly is the point of multiplayer? That was half the point of killing enemies in previous Fallout games, so you could get their stuff.

Great settlement... but what player will actually want to stand at a guard post like an NPC Settler would? 

Great settlement... but what player will actually want to stand at a guard post like an NPC Settler would? 

Settlement building is back, but it looks like they can be destroyed by random mobs and other players. Part of the appeal of Fallout 4, at least for me, was being able to run around on Survival Mode and set up little supply caches. Survival Mode was hard, and it made sense to set up outposts that you could travel between, they gave you a safe haven to rest and recuperate before setting out once again. But if bases can be destroyed by other players, who can now literally nuke the game world, then what's the point? Why bother wasting time and effort to build something that can be torn down or outright destroyed in a mushroom cloud? 

If the guy in Power Armor in the trailer couldn't survive this, why can the players?

If the guy in Power Armor in the trailer couldn't survive this, why can the players?

I could understand it if Fallout 76 was a hardcore Roguelike game, where you get one life and if you die you lose your character. I would hate it, but at least it would be better than this half/half game they've got going at the moment, where I can opt out of interacting with other players but I'm still forced to see them impotently scamper around my world. Not only are there people in my game that I don't want to interact with, but they've replaced the human NPC's that I actually enjoyed interacting with. It's almost like Bethesda replaced all the human NPC's with other Player Characters so that they didn't have to waste time and effort on creating compelling NPC's for your character to interact with. 

I'm worried that Fallout 76 will turn into this... a dudebro game that's basically all about running around Power Armor, just fucking shit up.

I'm worried that Fallout 76 will turn into this... a dudebro game that's basically all about running around Power Armor, just fucking shit up.

I guess you could say that I should just change my expectations, appreciate the game for what it is and play it the way it's meant to be played. But, how about no? Fallout has always been a solid single player experience, but Bethesda are attempting to make it a multiplayer experience now as well. In their misguided attempts to get the best of both worlds, it seems like they've created a misbegotten bastard mule of a game that will likely suck at both. But I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

However it turns out, the fact is that I'm skeptical and not at all excited. I was at the midnight launches for Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4 and I'd pre-ordered each and every one of them. I won't be pre-ordering Fallout 76, I won't be buying it as soon as I'm able and I certainly won't be at the midnight launch. That is a terrible state of affairs for someone who has been a fan of the Fallout series for two decades.  

At least the setting looks nice...

At least the setting looks nice...

Gears of War - The Fall of the House of Fenix

Anyone who has heard me talk about Gears of War in the past knows that I love the series to death. I think there's much more going on in this series than the Dude-Bro chainsaw-fest it's purported to be. I think the novels were great, but some of the comics and games are better than others. When you've got a series this big though, it goes without saying, you're going to find some flux in the quality of the storytelling. Overall though, Gears of War is a franchise that I love and I know I'll keep coming back to. 

The trailer for Gears of War 5 was released at E3 this year, and it's immediately obvious that the series has taken a turn. Not necessarily for the worse, I haven't even played the game yet, but it's certainly going along a new track.

In the original trilogy you played as Marcus Fenix, a Gear who was already a war hero turned war criminal before the series had even begun. The games, books and comics all built this character up so that by the time of the closing scenes of the final game, you were invested in not only how much of a badass he was but in how much of a struggle the journey was for him. Marcus Fenix is an action hero icon, right up there with Master Chief, The Terminator and Rambo. That is a tough set of shoes to fill, for a studio trying to continue the story and for a son trying to establish himself.

He's 63 and he's still running around in full battle gear...

He's 63 and he's still running around in full battle gear...

Gears 4 had you take on the role of JD Fenix, the son of Marcus Fenix. While Marcus had fought in not one, but two, great wars before his series had begun, JD hasn't really fought in any kind of real conflict. He's young, he's green and he's run away from the military because of some incident that we still don't know about. Straight away, JD Fenix is not the badass warrior that his father ever was, and this is only compounded by the fact that his father is still hanging around being the biggest badass on scene. JD suffered because of this, and Gears 4 suffered because of this.

Busted arm, and a weak scar on his face that mimics that of his father.

Busted arm, and a weak scar on his face that mimics that of his father.

Gears 5 will have JD stepping into the background so that one of his companions from Gears 4 can be the protagonist. He's got some sort of infection that's being held back by technology, and he's a Captain now. The higher the rank you climb to the further removed from the conflict you become, so JD is firmly in the background. Now, I doubt the creators of Gears of War decided to have a female protagonist because they were buckling to public pressure. Unlike the first trilogy, the second trilogy only really gave us three main characters so it makes sense for each installment of the new trilogy to explore each of these main characters. JD had the first game, Kait will have the second and if this theory that I pulled from my backside holds true, Del will be the main character in Gears 6.

That's great and all, it gives us a broader view of events and we get to learn a little more about each of these characters via their time in the spotlight. The problem with this approach, however, is that this breadth comes at the cost of depth. We're never going to get another Marcus Fenix, who had three games of his own, because each of these new characters is only ever going to get a single game. 

Three characters, each leading one of the three games - it makes sense, but no one will ever be as strong as one that lead all three.

Three characters, each leading one of the three games - it makes sense, but no one will ever be as strong as one that lead all three.

As I stated in a previous post, Marcus needs to die for JD to ever surpass him and become anything close to the same badass that he was. Well, that was on the assumption that JD would get three games of his own to grow, which he's just not going to get now. He'll be there, doing stuff in the background, but he's not the centerpiece. It needs to be his story for him to truly grow, within himself as an individual but also as a character for the audience. While this rotating cast of protagonists is great for representation and all that, it's crippled this new trilogy because it's never going to surpass the old one. Marcus Fenix is still this looming presence that overshadows all of these new characters, and even if he dies no one character has had enough time in the spotlight to replace him.

There's some skeletons buried under her family tree...

There's some skeletons buried under her family tree...

I don't care that the next Gears protagonist is a female, my favorite character in the series is still Bernadette Mataki, a female sniper who was 60 at the end of the first trilogy. I think Kait is an interesting character in her own right, her ties to the Locust/Swarm make that plainly obvious. People are saying this is great because she's more interesting than JD, but to that I say - so what? JD got one game and he spent the whole time being in his dad's shadow, Kait being more interesting than him is not an achievement. I do hope we get a game that focuses on Del though, because out of the new trilogy's trio of characters he's the one that I like the most.

I want to know more about this guy, is he singular or is he just a new mob type?

I want to know more about this guy, is he singular or is he just a new mob type?

The fact remains though, because we're not getting an entire trilogy that focuses on a single protagonist, no single single protagonist is ever going to replace Marcus Fenix. We may get an interesting story, we may finally unravel this mysteries of the Locust, the Swarm and Imulsion, but we'll never get a new action icon. Just like JD had trouble stepping from the shadow of Marcus, this second Gears trilogy will probably never step from the shadows of the original Gears trilogy.