Developed by Techland
Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Rated M for Mature
I have to applaud Techland’s dedication. In the time most major companies would have pushed out another game, the team has been hard at work improving an already stellar product. Packaged in with the new and improved Enhanced Edition, The Following might just be some of the best DLC out there. In a market full of map packs and microtransactions, The Following reminds me of a time when expansion packs came in their own boxes.
As it was, Dying Light was already one of the few compelling arguments for next gen consoles. I loved most of the 30+ hours I put into it, but haven’t had the chance to pick it up again since I submitted my review. Jumping back in after a year, I had forgotten just how playable this game is. Running, jumping, climbing, and slashing only took a few minutes to relearn, and I was pleased to find my old save file transferred over with no progress lost. This is technically supposed to be a review of just The Following, but I don’t really know what was added in what specific previous DLC pack. For purposes of this review, I’m just going to assume that everything new is part of the expansion.
And shit, there’s a lot new. WIth a map twice the size of the previous two combined, there is an overwhelming amount of content here. Jumping into it is easy, with it’s own selection on the main menu. Progress and inventory carries over from the main game, a fact that I was incredibly relieved to learn. I did not want to have to go back to pre-grappling hook life.
One of my few complaints is that it does kind of plop you in rather unceremoniously. There’s a brief cutscene framing the plot, and then you’re instantly in a sewer leading to the new zone. It opens up quickly, and you soon find yourself driving through the countryside with zombies bouncing off of your windshield. Glorious.
Plot wise, it does a lot to both distinguish itself from and build off of the main game. Dying Light didn’t really wrap things up, with a cure still eluding Kyle and his buddies. Sure, you stopped the nukes and killed the bad guy, but everyone was still turning into zombies eventually. So of course, the promise of a permanent cure is what it takes to get Kyle back into the game. What’s that, you say? Wasn’t Harran quarantined and supposedly impossible to get out of? Yeahhhhh well, just go with it. It’s well worth the leaps in logic.
Kyle soon finds that things aren’t as simple as knocking on the neighbors door and asking for the cure to zombification. The locals are under the protection of The Mother and her Faceless, a religious order who at first seems to divinely ward off the undead. There are still zombies everywhere, so they aren’t doing the most stellar job, but everyone there seems to think they are just swell. And don’t worry, this isn’t one of those evil religious orders that asks you to give them all your gold and firstborn. They seem to genuinely be good guys. Mostly.
So off you go in typical open world RPG fashion to fetch everyone’s milk and save every kitten in the land. Since the map is so huge, you’ll use your new buggy to get most places. The entire map is designed around using this for traversal, but not in the Arkham Knight kind of way that destroys the feeling of the game. The buggy isn’t just a vestigial element, but almost its own character. You’ll level up a specific driving skill tree, upgrade it with new parts, and slowly transform it into a hulking death machine. There are races, speed challenges, and my personal favorite, smashing shit challenges. It also doesn’t control like ass! That’s a first. For a completely new addition, it feels so natural that you would assume it was part of the base game.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of climbing and parkour. Towering power lines rival any skyscraper, with there generally being some kind of reward at the top. The core gameplay is still much the same, as you’ll slash and parkour your way through hordes of zombies, bandits, and the occasional boss fight. New weapons, guns, and consumables can be found or crafted to help you take down the massive new challenge enemies, which have ludicrous amounts of health. The new dungeon-like volatile hives make you weigh risks, as they are filled with volatiles during the day and mostly empty during the more dangerous nights. In a nutshell, it’s everything that you loved about Dying Light, but at least 40% better.
The ranged combat has also seen some much needed improvement. This is one of those things that might have been in a different DLC pack, but when I played Dying Light there were only like 5 different guns. Double barrelled shotgun, pistol variant, and rifle variant was it. Now, there are new types of every gun, an SMG, a bow, and a crossbow. The crossbow is improved as your reputation grows with the Faceless, and can be loaded with a number of different craftable bolts. The ranged combat was never the strength of Dying Light, but just like with the car, the new additions feel like natural parts of the game.
Whatever they did to the graphics, the game looks incredible. It would be really easy to cheat a lot on the effects when turning zombies into a fine red mist with your car, but that just wouldn’t be as satisfying as watching them splatter off of your hood. The way that they ragdoll crumble over your hood at high speeds is a kind of pleasure I didn’t know I could experience. I found myself driving through fields back and forth just for the satisfaction of plowing through another horde. They managed to make an already amazing time waster even better with vehicular manslaughter.
This is normally the time when I go over the bad parts, but I have very little bad to say about The Following. The voice acting is spotty at parts, but I honestly wouldn’t have even remembered that if I didn’t write it down in my notes. The new quests are all challenging and different, the new storyline unique and compelling, and all of the new gameplay additions polished and fresh. You can beat the main story kind of quickly, but that would be missing the point. Rushing through the main content in a few hours and calling it a day is like beating the main quest of Skyrim and complaining the world wasn’t big enough.
If you were to ask me what I think the future of gaming should look like, I’d point to The Following and say “pretty much that.” Jumping back into an old game shouldn’t impress me this much. My expectations have been so lowered by forgettable “bonus” content and needless re-releases that I didn’t believe something of this quality could exist. If you liked Dying Light, you will love The Following. The people at Techland aren’t stopping here, with more DLC promised this year. It’s an insane amount of value for the asking price. Any horror fan should own this game. If you haven’t yet bought into Dying Light, now is the time.
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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