Ghost Recon: Wildlands Beta Review

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Ghost Recon: Wildlands is currently live for a limited beta play-through before the full game goes live on March 7th and while the onset saw major server issues and lengthy maintenance delays, it seems, for most players, the beta is now in full swing.

Wildlands has you playing as a special forces soldier whose main aim is to wipe out a major Mexican drug cartel in no-too-distant-future Bolivia.  An open world game, Wildlands puts you at the drivers seat in a “choose your own adventure” kind of way as you decide how you and your team will go about taking out the cartel.

Before getting into any game play, your first task is to create your character.  As a lover of games that use this feature, the customization options gave me mixed feelings, offering a wide range of options on some items and no where near enough options on others.

As someone who – when given the chance to – plays as a female character, I do have to give props to Ubisoft for the range of female faces offered to choose from.  While none are worthy of being recruited as a Victoria’s Secret model, the number of “nice looking” faces outnumber the swamp donkey ones, though the option to choose race and skin color is locked to each of the eleven face styles.  There’s a small amount of face paints and scars to choose from and the tattoo’s add a gritty edge to your character.

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Outfits and accessories are fitting for the games genre with tank tops, Tee’s, shirts and similar items and most feature a wide selection of color and/or pattern changes to suit the look you’re going for.  Where Ubisoft dropped the ball in customization is hair options. While I haven’t checked out those open for male characters (who also have facial hair options), the females have seven options, all of which are sadly, very basic and very masculine.  From a stock standard bun to short cornrows to fully shaved to a tiny ponytail, all are rather disappointing and don’t seem to look that decent unless covered with a headset (see top image) or with a hat.  While i’m not asking for long Rapunzel hair, the argument of avoiding clipping with longer styles is moot considering the hair assortment (long and short) sported by the NPC’s running around town that certainly do not have clipping issues.

Wildlands game play feels very smooth and while the controls took some time to get used to, everything from shooting to running and climbing were seamless, however driving felt very different to what has been found in similar games.  While controlling your vehicle is pretty much standard, I found not only did it take quite a lot of damage to completely total your vehicle but also, whatever you’re driving has the ability to literally climb mountains.

As if unaffected by the rocky and bushy landscape, the car I had stolen and literally drove over a cliffs edge was able to easily climb right back up to where it had fallen from.  Handy if you loose control or need to make a quick shortcut to get across to the other side of the map, but the feel of this goes against what we know and what we’d expect.

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Even flying a helicopter – something I always try and avoid – was easy enough to control though trying to maintain a steady climb and decent push forward in a straight line felt fiddly and quite slow.

Environment interaction was more miss than hit.  As stated, the ability to drive up the side of a rocky mountain is odd and my helicopter wasn’t affected by the trees I steered it through.  The NPC’s wandering around manage to, for the most part, be quick enough to jump out of the way of my speeding and slightly out of control car but killing an NPC with a weapon can prove costly and have repercussions on a mission.

The missions open during the beta were pretty stock standard too but the ability to decide how you go about it was a nice addition.  While the main mission is always there, upon finding some intel at a rebel location, you can choose either scouting for more supplies, upgrades or another rebel base as you are never forced to play the main arc which sees a massive cartel flow chart showing how prominent gang members are connected and who must be killed to get information on the next target.

4 player co-op is also up and running for Wildlands and I had no issues jumping into a live game with three randoms but relinquishing control to someone else was frustrating especially when you find yourself a passenger in a vehicle being driven from one side of the map to the other for a quick shoot and run mission or when trying to make a stealthy entrance into an enemy camp only to have someone go running in guns blazing.

Thankfully, playing off-line, your AI controlled helpers are much more accommodating to your play style.

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For the most part, my time spent on the Ghost Recon: Wildlands beta was more positive than negative but only slightly.  The mission repetition can become mundane and to put it bluntly, was nothing really not seen before in games before (I am playing Metal Gear Solid V and the similarities are insane).  The open world environment is lush and vast and smooth game play will keep you going for a short while but with little to unlock or aim for (weapons and additions to your character), the steam behind Wildlands could run out quickly for players who have pretty much seen this all before.

Ghost Recon; Wildlands beta ends Monday Feb 27th will the full game launching Tuesday March 7th.

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Jakks Pacific Joins the DC SuperHero Girl Line

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Warner Bros. Consumer Products, in partnership with DC Entertainment are expanding their DC Superhero Girl line to bring Wonder Woman and co to every household worldwide with a global expansion of the brand’s licensing and merchandising program.  The program has seen the line grow to more than 30 categories including toys, costumes, apparel, accessories, publishing and stationery with licenses granted to Funko, Crayola and Pez Candy among others.

Budget toy maker Jakks Pacific has been tapped by Warner Bros. Consumer Products to create a retail line for the DC Super Hero Girls universe and now Jakks seem to have come up with the goods with the first batch of good to be released under the multi-year global licencing deal, revealed for the upcoming 2017 NY Toy Fair.

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  • DC Toddler Dolls: Adorable toddler dolls each dressed in an iconic DC Super Hero outfit including, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Supergirl – each doll has rooted hair and comes with accessories such as belts, cuffs, masks, headpieces and shoes.

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  • DC Super Hero Girls – Everyday Dress-Up: Girls can now master their super powers with the Everyday Dress-Up assortment. These two-piece outfits include key accessories like masks, headbands, headpieces or arm cuffs.

A line of capes with Wonder Woman, Kitana and Bumblebee, along with designer superhero face applique and temporary tattoo packs are also due for release.

But it’s the announcement of a new line of DC Superhero Girls dolls that have people talking!

The new line-up by Jakks Pacific will include four characters, each measuring a whopping 18″ with 14 points of articulation and will be exclusive to Toys ‘r’ Us with a price point of $34.99 each.  While Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Bumblebee will be fit out in designs very similar to their Mattel counterpart, Batgirl looks set to be given an overhaul, sporting a look very similar to her classically iconic Batgirl ’66 look.

Jakks Pacific will officially unveil all during NY Toy Fair and has stated these products are slated to hit US stores this fall.

Archie Goes Dark and Broody in Riverdale

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Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and his father Fred  Andrews (Luke Perry)

There’s a sort of “you-know-what-you’re-getting” vibe when it comes to the world of Archie via the wildly popular classic comic strip with Archie and best friend Jughead continuously getting into mischief while Betty and Veronica bicker over the affections of the larrikin red head.  When it comes to the world of Archie Andrews in the new drama series Riverdale, what we get is the complete opposite of what we would expect.

The quiet and quaint town of Riverdale goes into a complete meltdown after the mysterious disappearance of local high school student Jason Blossom which forces the dark hidden hands of the townsfolk to slowly emerge.

The best way to think of Riverdale is Archie meets Dawson’s Creek meets Pretty Little Liars and it is this mix of shows that gives viewers a lot to take in within Riverdale’s opening episode.

Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) is struggling to find even ground for his promising football career and his wishful music career while trying to keep his woeful father Fred Andrews (Luke Perry) happy and his feelings for his music teacher Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel), with whom he had a summer fling with, hidden.  His best friend Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) has romance in her eyes for her read headed best friend but her uppity mother Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) is trying to stop Betty from venturing out at any cost.  Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) is a moody, brooding writer, taking notes about the mysterious disappearance that happened over the past summer while new girl in town Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) makes an impact right from her first meeting with the Riverdale gang before she locks lips with both Betty and Archie.

Splattered into this modern world of Archie, additional characters from the comic series including the flashy and gay Kevin Keller (Casey Cott), bitchy and privileged Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch)  and lead singer of high school band Josie and the Pussycats Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) all appear to shake things up in the once peaceful town.

This fresh take on Archie, made for the modern era teen, is a rather swell surprise that will fit easily into the viewing habits of those watching PLL or fans of Gossip Girl and even the failed Melrose Place remake.  Secrets, lies, murder, scandals….it’s all going down in Riverdale.

Riverdale is currently streaming on Netflix Australia.

The Melrose Place Podcast You Should Be Listening To and the Fashion of Melrose.

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Sibling Rivalry. Sydney Andrews (Laura Leighton) and Jane Mancini (Josie Bissett)

This coming July marks the 25th anniversary of the premiere of one of the biggest shows that aired in the 90’s – night time Spelling mega soap Melrose Place.  Iconic characters, scenes and quotes have stood the test of time and now, with all episodes streaming on Hulu, Melrose is in the middle of a current day resurgence with younger audiences hopping on the Melrose train, taking in the fashion and life that was L.A in the 90’s.

Early in January 2016, I with my big eyes, set out to write an e-book episode guide for Melrose Place.  Recaps, episode information, character relationships, location information and wardrobe evolution were all planned for every episode but sadly, I did not realize the size of the task in front of me.  With seven seasons, each containing 30 plus episodes (yes 30!  None of this 13 episodes bull with a mid season break!) I realized by five episodes into season one, this was just too much to get done.

But unlike me, two fans have happily taken it upon themselves to take on a very similar and equally daunting task.  L.A based couple Jenny and Dan Hill have begun, from season one, to re-watch each and every episode of Melrose Place and podcast their hilarious and witty episode recaps, currently on a week to week basis per episode for their website.

Dan, a co-host on The Dan & Kody Podcast, spoke to me via email about the project.

“I really fell in love with the re-watch podcast format where one or two people will watch a movie or TV show and analyze/ re-cap every aspect of the movie or show. I really wanted to find a show that my wife and I had a connection to, but haven’t seen much of. Melrose Place was the perfect fit.

I was 10 years old when Melrose Place first aired, but I remember sneaking to watch it without my parent’s permission with my sister. Growing up it was our guilty pleasure and I suspect there are many other like me who share this. Being 10, I was way too young to wrap my head around what was truly going on once the show got into the thick of things, but I held onto bits and pieces of a few story lines that I to this day find fascinating!” 

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Sydney (Laura Leighton) knows how it goes on Melrose Place

So just what story lines are Dan and Jenny looking forward to re-watching and recapping? For Dan, it’s Michael’s (Thomas Calabro) downward spiral into TV villain along with Kimberly’s (Marcia Cross) ‘psychotic shenanigans’ while for wife Jenny, it’s the complex run of ever evolving relationships between the characters.

When asked about podcast release time Dan says “With a 6 month old, we’re hoping to record and release one episode per week covering one episode of the show. This could be a 5 year run, but we’re up for the challenge! Maybe as our little one gets older it will become easier to record more frequently. We also want to sprinkle in episodes that spotlight one character where we break them down and cover their story arc.

Currently on season one (episode four is the latest update as of writing this post), the podcasts feature funny, entertaining and tongue-in-cheek recaps of the Melrose episode along with “moral of the episode” and “favorite 90’s moment” spots at the end of each cast which are must-listen to moments!

It’s great to see someone pick-up where I could not, with recapping Melrose Place!

Now, remember that episode guide book I was planning to write?  Well, the early stages of planning saw me making contact with Denise Wingate, the costume designer for 112 episodes of Melrose Place starting at Drawing The Line (S01E14) and finishing up at the very wonderful Dead Sisters Walking (S04E32).

Boasting a very impressive resume including Cruel Intentions, The Sweetest Thing and Wedding Crashers, Denise spoke to me about dressing some of our most beloved Melrose Place tenants.  With the book dead in the water and this being the 25th anniversary of the Melrose Place pilot episode, it’s only befitting I share with you our chat about all things 90’s power suits and wedding dresses bound for a watery cat fight!

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After being involved with over 100 episodes of Melrose Place that aired twenty years ago and then moving from production to production in the years after, it’s no surprise Denise’s memory is a little bit foggy when asked about some of the iconic outfits worn during the shows run. “I have to admit that half of the costumes I don’t even remember! It’s amazing how digital cameras and computers have changed how I document my work now!” she says before getting into how sourcing costumes back in the 1990’s was a lot more hard work than it is these days.

I used to take our Christmas hiatus and travel to Europe or Asia and tried to find some interesting fashions and fabrics and bring them back to use on the show. You  have to remember this was before the internet, so everything I sourced would have to be with my own eyes. Our stages were about 30 miles outside of Los Angeles and there wasn’t really any shops around so sometimes new jewelry or fashion designers would just ship me boxes of jewelry or clothing and I would buy what I liked and send back the rest.

And did working on one of the most watched shows at the time come with dressing regulations from cast and crew? “I don’t remember any rules or guidelines I had to adhere to from the producers. At the time I was on the show, the ratings were huge and the fashion was getting a lot of press, so they just figured if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. They pretty much let me do whatever I wanted. I had a great time!!!” Though the same can’t be said about Heather Locklear and a certain pink dress Denise had created for her “It was the most memorable outfit that I remember and it was a really tight form fitting lycra dress that I bought in Paris for Heather Locklear. At the last minute I decided to dye it this bright pink color, but unfortunately the dye wasn’t set and it turned her whole body bright pink. Oops! I don’t think she was too happy about that.

Oops indeed, though for the most part, Denise happily admits her time on Melrose Place dressing the cast was filled with fun times. “In real life Daphne Zuniga who played Jo and I were friends, so it was always fun shopping or doing fittings with her and I still run into Laura Leighton from time to time and it is always such a joy to see her!”

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Workplace rivals Alison and Amanda were specifically dressed in opposites.

So how about the characters themselves? When asked about Amanda’s entrance on the show in season one, Denise says she relished the chance to shake things up when it came to her D&D Advertising power wardrobe. “The dynamics of the show really changed when Heather Locklear joined the cast as Amanda. She was such a wonderful evil diva and we really pushed the envelope with her D&D wardrobe as at the time, most suits were a little slouchy and conservative as seen on Alison Campbell (Courtney Thorne-Smith). We kept making Amanda’s suits tighter and shorter and as Heather had such a great figure, she could really rock that short skirt look.” Denise also notes how Alison’s wardrobe became a little more dynamic when she took over the role as D&D President from Amanda “When Alison takes over, she too, started wearing “power suits” but she was a little more professional [about her look]. It wouldn’t have been her character to wear skirts as short as Amanda would wear them!”

Jane Mancini, fashion designer extraordinaire, was a fun challenge for Denise as Jane’s career (and Josie’s modelling background) allowed for the use of new designer fashion. “The character of Jane was fun, because we were able to really experiment with using up-and-coming, interesting designers on her. As Josie Bissett started her career as a model, she really knew how to wear clothes, and everything always looked fantastic on her. She was more classy than the other residents but stylized and it suited her character. I had a lot of fun creating her outfits every week and she just made my job so easy.”

That ‘easy’ that Denise talks about also comes up when talking about Laura Leighton’s Sydney Andrews who made the transition from bratty little sister to trashy hooker to sassy stripper to 60’s go-go girl to polished business woman throughout her time on the show. “When Sydney arrived on the scene, things really heated up and I just loved Laura Leighton as she was game for anything we put on her. She loved wearing the period, kooky outfits and managed to carry off even the craziest of outfits with a sense of humor and style not many people could get away with. I loved dressing Sydney just for the sheer absurdity of some of the costumes we chose!” And THAT wedding dress that Sydney wore that ended up in the Melrose Place pool? “I can’t remember the name of the shop the wedding dress came from (it’s no longer in business) I just remember that we needed multiples, I think a total of 5 for multiple takes. It ended up looking perfect though!”

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The iconic cat fight and the wedding dress.

And it wasn’t all about the ladies either as Denise is quick to point out. “The guys were pretty easy to dress and they already had their own specific styles and also very large closets, so we could just pull from those every week. I mean seriously, how many pairs of jeans and t-shirts did I need to buy Jake every week?!. That being said, all of the guys on the show were really nice and super fun and easy to work with.”

For more information about Dan and Jenny Hill’s Melrose Place podcast endeavor, or to download the podcast, hit their social media links below!

iTunes – https://goo.gl/1PZPcD
GooglePlay – https://goo.gl/cxtxjT
Stitcher – https://goo.gl/54w8PA
Website –https://themelroseplacepodcast.simplecast.fm                                                        Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MelrosePod/                                                                Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/melrosepod/                                                                      Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/melrosepod/