Developed by Deck 13
Published by Focus Home Interactie
Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Rated M for Mature
As much as I typically hate the DLC seasons for multiplayer shooters, MMOs, RPGs, and other time/money sinks, there’s a big exception for my favorite genre of games, Dark Souls. As I stated in my previous The Surge review, Dark Souls should well be considered its own genre. ARPG just doesn’t cut it, and anyone trying to say that games like The Surge or Salt and Sanctuary aren’t just, “Dark Souls plus something,” are lying. Which I will once again reiterate is totally fine, because Dark Souls games are great.
Maybe I’m just biased, but I feel like DLC works best for Dark Souls games. It gives you a chance to explore something new outside the beaten path, a quirky diversion full of new enemies and bosses to expand the overall experience rather than just lengthen the runtime. Souls games are all about the diversity of set pieces, and exploring a new unique location opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
For The Surge, that means fighting robots with doughnuts for heads. Hallelujah, I can now fight a deranged nuclear cat robot while dressed up like a can of soda. Just like I’ve always wanted.
Cheekily titled A Walk in the Park, the DLC takes place in the dilapidated CREO World amusement park. Now overrun with the deranged robots endemic to The Surge, the collection of junk food mascots, psychotic maintenance workers, and murderous labor droids will make sure that your time there is anything but relaxing. Meaning that this walk in the park is… (sigh) no walk in the park. There, I said it.
It’s always a challenge to place Dark Souls DLC. As these games have always been about creating a massive, completely interconnected world. Figuring out where/when to fit in a new chunk of content is part of the experience. You don’t want to put new endgame content right after the first boss. At the same time, you don’t want to make players trudge through 80% of the game just to get to their new DLC. A Walk in the Park gets around this by splitting the DLC into two chunks, one which is available soon after the first boss and the other at the 70% completion mark. For NG+ players like myself, both are available right off the bat, so kudos for that Deck 13.
Now I must say it was pretty great to walk into the DLC and my first enemy be a anthropomorphic cartoon doughnut complete with Mickey Mouse hands and googly eyes. It was a degree of levity not previously seen in the techno-horror show of The Surge. There’s still a fair amount of dismembered bodies littered about the park, but you also get a firework spewing giant candy cane as a new weapon. It’s just lovely. The first half of the DLC has a fair amount of this fun stuff, and it really helps give A Walk in the Park its own feel.
The second half has some goof to it, but is markedly more dark and serious than the first half. This is where new players will first encounter the nanomachines, and the techno-monster horrors they create. I know that the robo-doughnut isn’t a person, but when its head splits open and a giant arm launches out I can’t help but feel a little bad for it. Best beat it to death and put it out of its misery.
The overall design of A Walk in the Park is tight, if not a bit short. It feels like all of the best parts of The Surge condensed into 4-6 hours. The levels themselves are small, but loop around with enough unlockable connecting paths to give a lot of mileage to every inch. Fighting through to find these new hidden paths and secrets is what these games are all about, and A Walk in the Park has that in spades. By the time all is unlocked, it shouldn’t take you more than a minute to get from anywhere in the park to anywhere else. I’m seriously impressed at how many different staircases, lifts, hidden doors, and unseen pathways they managed to fit into the map.
The actual runtime of A Walk in the Park doesn’t favorably stack up to the base game. The amount of stuff you’re getting certainly does. CREO World is home to 2 new bosses, 16 new weapons, and a number of new implants and gear sets. Previously, The Surge only had 5 bosses and 32 weapons (10 more with the Fire and Ice DLC, and technically 5 more with the special boss drops). For the sheer variety in new stuff to play with, it’s well worth the $15.
The only downside is that I didn’t really find it to be hard. Full disclosure, I played it on NG+ with my level 100 character, so maybe that had something to do with it. I beat the first boss on my first try, and the second boss on my fourth. For a game that I previously described as possibly the hardest of its kind, I was disappointed. Maybe it’s way harder on the first runthrough.
If you liked The Surge, you’d have to be pretty crazy to not give this park a stroll. It doesn’t really do anything for new players, but it doesn’t have to. This is an experience tailored for veterans, fans that want a little more bang for their buck and new toys to play with. It doesn’t really change the game meaningfully, so it’s not a must have like Bloodborne: The Old Hunters. It’s a solid addition for a solid game, and worthy of the same score.
If you liked The Surge, you’d have to be pretty crazy to not give this park a stroll. It doesn’t really do anything for new players, but it doesn’t have to. This is an experience tailored for veterans, fans that want a little more bang for their buck and new toys to play with.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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