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The Great, The Good and The Bad of Call of Duty’s WWII MP Beta

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Call of Duty®: WWII Private Beta

After a spate of jet boosted, wall running, chain movement and space themed outings, Call of Duty is headed back into long gone territory, world war II style with the brand new boots on the ground Call of Duty: WWII.  A move that many CoD fans have been begging for since the series began to sway into more modern themes.

This past weekend saw PS4 users get exclusive early access to the Call of Duty: World War II Multiplayer beta allowing players to get a (restricted) hands on feel of the new game before it releases in early November.  Upon first impressions, the ground based warfare is a major welcome return to form for the first person shooter series that has been dangling a little too long in outer space though there are a few restrictions that may see those used to more freedom in customization struggle with the new game.

As of writing this, I am a little shy of hitting the 7 hour game play mark where 3 maps, a handful of game modes and heavily limited customization options are open within the beta.

Now it’s time to look at the great, the good and the bad of this Call of Duty WWII beta.

The Great:

War Mode.  It’s one of only a handful of games available to play in the beta and brings with it a familiar feel to those who played the recent Star Wars Battlefront which sees your team of 12 attack or defend multiple points in a chain, working together to either claim or hold back the enemy from progressing further.

As described by Activision:  Fight for control of a war-torn French village west of St. Lo, an important operation in the Allied push onward and out of the beachhead at Normandy. Allied and Axis forces clash for control of a strategic manor to secure a forward operating position. Bridge construction, ammo depot demolition and tank escorts are key strategic tasks in this do or die mission to dominate the enemy. Choose your equipment wisely – every decision can mean the difference between victory and defeat in this narrative-driven, objective-based multiplayer experience – a first for Call of Duty.”  

This beta only has one map open but it’s a great game mode and new addition to the series.

Play of the Game Highlight.  As featured in Overwatch, Call of Duty is doing away with ‘final kill cam’ which saw a sometimes boring or standard final kill be highlighted after the match has finished, and in its place, a play-of-the-game sort of sequence which showcases a worthy highlight from the match.  While it’s not as personal as Overwatch with it’s character highlight intro, the change finally gives players who pull off incredible plays their dues.

Game Play.  We were promised boots on the ground and deliver it Activision/Sledgehammer games have.  Cod WWII offers a very nice balance between the uber-boots on ground style seen in Modern Warfare Remastered and the ease of movement seen in something like Black Ops 3.  The knee slide had been replaced with a lunge, the sprint is limited but not in a incapacitating type of way while mounting ladders and climbing through windows and over things is very smooth, quick and not lumber-some.

Audio:  It feels as if a lot of work has been put into the sound aspect of the game with everything sounding hard and present and realistic.  From the gun shots to planes firing overhead to the sounds of the soldiers taking fire (or being set alight) it’s all pretty spiffy – the best bit though, the sounds of the hand grenades going off, pending how close you are to them can be terrifying!

The Good:

Maps.  Three maps are open for play in the beta and they are Pointe Du Hoc, Ardennes, and Gibraltar.  Pointe Du Hoc is a medium sized map that sees most game play occur within a maze of trenches surrounded by destroyed outposts and offers up a great mix of space for snipers and fast close combat for run-and-gunners.  Gibraltar is a multi level, medium sized map with three lanes of play that may allow those apt with quick sniping to take advantage of the height variance in the map depending on your spawn point while Ardennes is a snow covered map, once again medium in sized with interconnecting lanes that can favor both long shooters and those taking advantage of the connecting lanes in close combat.

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Pre-Game Lobby.  Call of Duty®: WWII Private Beta

The Pre-Game Lobby.  Looking like an old war photo, the entire play list of both teams are now featured in the pre-game lobby.  Here you get the opportunity to quickly go through each player, check their load out and get a close up view of their playable character.  It’s a nice new touch that Sledgehammer have brought in for players to showcase their customized character.

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Top Players Highlight in Call of Duty®: WWII Private Beta

Top Players Highlight.  Becoming a regular feature, the top players in the winning team are given their dues post match where, like past outings, actions can be performed such as ‘salute’, clap in ‘good job’ and wave in ‘Hey!’.  I’m assuming there’ll be more to unlock in the full game.

The Bad:

Customization.  Note, this section is severely restricted in the Beta and the customization options of your character are very limited.  From what’s on offer, we’re given a glimpse of a basic collection of pre-designed heads (in the beta, two are literally a re-color of each other) which are available for choosing (5 in the beta including three male and two female) and that is pretty much it.  I did stumble across a uniform section but it seems to have been locked for beta and now going back, cannot be found anymore.

Funnily enough, Sledgehammer have been quite open about their knowledge of how players react and engage to their own customized character but from what has been seen, i’m a little worried about the final product.  Here’s hoping, when the game drops, there’s more to be found in this section such as removable helmets, alternate uniforms and additional character building cosmetics.

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Character/Skin Selection in Call of Duty®: WWII Private Beta

Weapons and load outs.  My biggest gripe with Modern Warfare Remastered was the lack of load out options and weapon customization and it appears, Sledgehammer have taken no notice of the foul cries and have semi-replicated the load out system.  Perks are limited to a “Basic Training” feature that allows you one bonus load out option but they are muted and vary from “take a second primary weapon” or “collect ammo from fallen soldiers” effect.

Weapon attachments are of course in the game but the ability to run around with a powered automatic adorned with a scope, silencer, extra ammo and laser sight is a no no.  Pending on the division you choose to enlist in and the weapon picked, most weapons only offer two to three attachment options.

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Load outs in Call of Duty®: WWII Private Beta

Limited suppressors.  Just putting it out there but I have a very specific style of game play when it comes to the Call of Duty series and it seems Cod WWII may just force me to get out of old habits.  My CoD load outs have always consist of silent movement, no radar ping and a silencer attached on a weapon – it’s what works for me as a player but it seems within WWII, only one division is offering up the ability to add a suppressor AND from the looks of it, will only be attachable to an SMG……………eeek.

Overall, there are some welcome return to forms for this up-coming Call of Duty outing along with some concerns about where Sledgehammer are going to take the series.  To note, the beta currently has locked until launch

  • Headquarters – We’re testing the match-making of this all-new social experience, but access to this space will not be active during the Multiplayer Beta.
  • Supply Drops, and Loot – These customization features that add depth and personality to your soldier will not be included in the Multiplayer Beta.
  • Esports – Ranked Play, Game Battles, and our suite of competitive features will be accessible when we release in November.
  • Additional content not in the Private Multiplayer Beta includes: full progression, remaining maps and modes, additional War Mode maps, and the full armory of weapons, scorestreaks, Basic Training, and equipment.

Also, there have been some players having issues with timing out and forcing an app close during this beta, but I can say I have had no issues to date.  There has been no delay in finding a match or being kicked out of one.  There may be an issue with bullet recognition but that may be a lag/beta issue.

The beta re-opens agains on September 1 to Monday, September 4 for both PS4 and XBox users with Call of Duty: WWII launching on Nov. 3, 2017.

 

 

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Channel 7’s Yummy Mummies Will Leave you Utterly Sour

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Picture Credit: Channel 7

In an aimless attempt to tap into the “Real Housewives of…” market, Channel 7 has incredulously decided to drag viewing audiences to their network with their own unscripted version titled “Yummy Mummies” premiering Sunday night at 9pm.

Yummy Mummies assaults viewers with their bland and tedious lives of four soon-to-be-mums who live their days through their “MelbourneYumMums” Instagram page, drinking mocktails at lunch and doing a lot of shopping for designer maternity wear while contemplating how “everyday pregnant women let themselves go during pregnancy”.

At first glimpse, there’s not much substance to the three Melbourne based nearly mums. While they seem like a lot of fun, there’s no talk of maternity leave or any sign these women have some form of a career outside of going to lunch and when it comes to finances, there’s no shame shown when talking about how the hubby will happily pay for a $99,000 “push present” aka a rare diamond ring.

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Yummy Mummy number one is Lorinska, an AFL WAG, married to former Carlton player Andrew Merrington and is a behemoth of a woman who towers above the other two nearly mums.  At 33 weeks pregnant, Lorinska has a very valid fear of breastfeeding her soon to be off-spring after a humiliating and traumatic cow-teet-to-the-face moment in her childhood.  Lorinska is also the only “yummy mummy” not afraid to look a little more casual during some of her cut screen commentaries.

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Yummy Mummy number two is Rachel, a…..well not much is offered on Rachel except she’s a) heavily pregnant, b) gives great Carrie Bradshaw face, c) is the only “yummy mummy” who doesn’t look like a chupa chup who swallowed it’s chupa chup and d) likes to scare breast feeding phobic nearly mums with tales of alien-esque post birth scenarios.

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Yummy Mummy number three is Jane, a model who’s married to South Yarra hairdresser Joey Scandizzo and is the only “yummy mummy” to actually be on her second pregnancy.  It’s hard to hate on Jane because she’s very pretty, rocks a posh yet bogan twang and reminds me way to much of Karen Smith from Mean Girls.

While we are being introduced to the Melbourne gang, we are also invited to meet “Yummy Mummy” Maria from Adelaide along with her mum Patsy Stone Margherita (this show’s true and not-so-secret secret star) and her younger sister Bianca who seems like Kendall Jenner before Kendall Jenner became Kendall Jenner.

YMum_2 Maria is many months pregnant (I can’t for the life of me remember how far along she is or if it’s even mentioned – actually I don’t really care) and has already mapped out her unborn daughters life up-to the age where she’ll be resented for the rest of her life. From Burberry to Versace, as long as it’s branded and cost more than my annual wage, then Maria has bought it for her unborn child.

Maria is all about style over substance, she’s branded her partner with her name in ink and believes breast feeding in public is or should be illegal and is not a fan of counter-fake (yes, her words) handbags.

Maria is also the reason why the Melbourne based “Yummy Mummies” end up in Radeliade – to attend her uber tacky and garishly over the top Burberry-come-Versace themed baby shower as Maria, it seems has no friends and needs to invite three total strangers to this event in an attempt to show off and feel good about her vapid life.

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Maria, it seems, does not have it all….

Bridezilla’s are a thing of the past with Mumzilla Maria throwing tantrum after tantrum in regards to planning her most glamorous ever baby shower.  From the size of the event room to ordering a big enough balloon arch, the theme of the baby shower to present table size, nothing is off limits in tantrum town.

There is one saving grace in this abhorrent show however – event planner Jess –

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Patience of a saint – Channel 7

Jess is literally the ‘everyday person’s hero’ as she keeps composure through the stream of outrageous demands Maria vomits up in a single meeting.  There’s not a single raised eyebrow and no glaringly forced smile as Jess has a reasonable solution for every demand.

Yummy Mummies really is truly terrible television.  There’s no beating around the bush – it’s shit – but, it’s shit television that makes for twitter and social commentary gold and the fact that we still don’t make it to an actual baby shower by the end of this first episode will keep many shocked eyes on the following episode.

Yummy Mummies begins, Sunday night on Channel 7 at 9pm right after the House Rules finale…..

 

I played OverWatch for the First Time and it was Hard to Kick old CoD Habits.

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Overwatch is currently enjoying a major gaming boom as it celebrates its one year anniversary since release while surpassing the 30 million registered players mark.  To celebrate the one year milestone, Blizzard Entertainment opened up the game for everyone to play a “try before they buy” session, offering a weekend of free play to those not yet submerged in the world of Overwatch.

While I didn’t partake in the free offer, I did go out and purchase a physical copy of the game (50% off thanks to the one year celebrations) and it turns out, this game is not like any game out there on the market.

Overwatch is a first person shooter that offers only a online multiplayer mode and falls somewhere between the grittiness of Call of Duty, the team based game-play of Destiny and wackiness of Grand Theft Auto V Online.

Coming off a heavy dose of Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered, I was not ready for how different and difficult to adjust to, Overwatch was going to be.  Don’t go off alone, don’t expect solo based kill streaks, don’t assume you get all your characters information just off what’s in-front of you on screen.  I learned the hard way that there is a right way and a wrong way to play this game.

There are currently 24 playable characters on the Overwatch roster, each one different from the other yet grouped together in their base class skills.  From healers to tanks, offence and sharp shooters, the character you choose to play will have a vast effect on how the team unites to win the match.

A character like Ana for instance, is equipped with a sniper rifle, stun pistol and a biotic grenade.  While her rifle can inflict damage to opponents, it also, when targeted at team mates, heals them.  The same applies to the biotic grenade and can be useful for a quick burst of health to ailing team mates earning you bonus points.

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The other sniper wielding character – Widowmaker – offers no health support, though she’s more nimble in her ability to reach high sniper nests and has a stronger damage count on her rifle.

Knowing just how your character works will enable better team participation though be prepared to substitute a high kill rate for high team health regeneration or damage blocking rate.

There are certain characters that will always be picked by other players – bow master Hanzo, scrap gun wielding Roadhog, robotic defense unit Bastion and ninja Genji are guaranteed to be in a starting line-up but it’s how you use your character to bounce off those selected ones that can make a difference.

Unlike CoD, going out as a lone wolf with a sniper rifle is not going to ensure a high kill streak or a grand team win.  Overwatch is all about team play – which characters have been selected, how they interact with each other and how you put your best foot forward to ensure your team wins.  The game modes in Overwatch aren’t aimed for high kills, it’s all about zone points and that’s how the characters within the game have been created.

I will admit, after two hours in, I was ready to give up.  Some characters like Genji, McCree and Bastion felt way overpowered against my Tracer or Lucio with their seemingly perfect hit rate and bullet strength.  It wasn’t until I stepped away from the console and researched into just how certain characters played that I began to understand.

I was drawn to Ana from the get go with her brooding hood and long scattered rags but couldn’t get a hang of why her sniper rifle wasn’t as good as widowmakers, and that was because Ana was more about team support versus solo kills and just like her, I learnt Pharah works better from above than on ground level and Tracer requires lightning quick reflexes to get the kills. These things that I couldn’t pick up from game play  were discovered from seeing and reading how other experienced players used these characters.

Once I understood the purpose of Overwatch, I began to enjoy it more and more.  Sure Bastion’s turret is like the most inanely annoying thing on a map but there is a way around it (Ana’s sleep dart!!) and I’m now OK with not aiming for that high kill streak because I know that’s not necessarily going to win us the match and yes, loot boxes are incredibly frustrating especially when you like to use Ana but keep unlocking items for Winston who you never use – but that’s another discussion all together.

Overwatch’s free weekend of play is over, but is available for purchase in digital and physical copy formats for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Modern Warfare Remastered Shows Just How Far the Franchise Has Come

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Female soldier skins are a new addition to MW Remastered

As someone who stood steadfast in avoiding the most recent outing of Call of Duty due to it’s overtly futuristic spacey feel, the lure of an addition of the series fourth installment, Modern Warfare remastered, finally drew me in to nab the game (5 months after it’s release mind you). This updated flashback to one of Call of Duty’s more finer releases showcases just how far the series has come since its early days and just how dated this version really is when compared to where the series has gone.

While major improvements have been made to graphics and even the inclusion of semi-customizable soldiers – with female skins available too, Modern Warfare Remastered brings players back to a cumbersome grounding, taking away the speed and finesse that plays in more modern outings for the series.

Playing my first team death match game on the ‘Bog’ map, simple and instilled tasks of sliding, wall running and reloading while sprinting that we have all become accustomed to, do not exist.  Blasting yourself sky high and popping off a sniper shot or speeding yourself across the map to dodge a hail of bullets does not happen.  Instead, your’e left hurriedly scurrying to a safe spot, trying to scope out the enemy, hoping to make a mercy dash to your next location or out of the way of falling bombs.

Basically, MW Remastered neuters players who are neck deep in the futuristic COD game play style and brings them back to a place of beginner level and a lot of this can be attributed to two reasons – the maps with the game and the restricted load outs.

Unlike recent releases, the maps in MW Remastered were not designed for vertical run and gun play but instead, grounded gritty and strategic warfare.  In maps especially like Bog and Shipment (which are no bigger in size than say Nuketown), cover is very hard to come.  Strategy team death match play goes out the window and a battle for survival and attempts to build kill streaks take its place.  These maps force players to completely change their usual play style to that they would use in other COD games.

I for instance haven’t heavily used a sniper rifle since Call of Duty: Ghosts thanks to the introduction of boosts, wall running and the large amount of ‘Swiss cheese’ styled maps that just don’t allow for the comfortable use of those kinds of weapons.  Those fast paced games of modern COD games have crafted me into a run and gun player so falling back into long range paced play was a welcome but clumsy change.

The restricted load outs are also big change from the norm we’ve come to expect with players forced to use weapons with a single attachment, one tactical item and three perks.  A far cry from the 10 point load out system where a single weapon can yield 4 attachments that we’ve come to know.  It becomes frustrating deciding to chose between adding the silencer or ACOG scope to your weapon, both which drastically effect how you play the game.

All in all, releasing a much loved classic on the back of one of the least anticipated Call of Duty releases to date was a smart move by Activision but the stripped back classic game will provide a mixed bag of opinions, divide fans and more than likely push those invested in the more modern and accommodating releases back to what they know and love.  I however have begun to relish the old-school style of game-play, even with its major playing restrictions.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered is available now as part of the Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition release.

Amy Schumer’s Leather Special Keeps with the Schumer we Know All Too Well.

AmySNetflix1When it comes to comedian Amy Schumer and her stand-up comedy shows, we pretty much know what we’re going to get.  Themes of self depreciation, sex, fat jokes and offering her own take on the vagina monologues are constant in Schumers work, so much so, when bursting onto the scene, she was applauded for delving into those ‘no-go’ topics.

Now a best selling author and big screen actress (Trainwreck and the upcoming Snatched with Goldie Hawn), the jokes and topics that found Amy stardom continue to pull her along the dark and vulgar path she’s traveled down many a time before.  In her most recent outing for Netflix titled Amy Schumer: The Leather Special, jokes about her feminine hygiene, copious amounts of alcohol and oral sex are once again present and feel somewhat ‘old-school’ Amy Schumer and by old-school, I mean the Amy we first met back in 2014 when Inside Amy Schumer began to gain traction for being a very on point and wickedly blunt comedic sketch show.

Schumer, as witnessed in The Leather Special, rarely strays away from topics that seem to hit with audiences and while topics such as double standard within Hollywood, female sexuality and empowerment and body insecurities are tackled, there’s an uneasy feeling of ‘heard this once before’ as these topics feel rehashed but with added vagina.

But all is not lost for Amy as among all the smut and vomit jokes, she manages to set aside her vagina for a moment and approach the hot topic of gun control, a subject close to Schumer after a gunman (in 2015) opened fire in a cinema showing her film Trainwreck in which two people were killed and nine other injured.

It’s a sidestep into the real world that will undoubtedly get people talking and divide audiences (the special briefly cuts to a small number of audience members walking out when gun control is mocked) but also one that she should visit a bit more often as sadly, this ‘raunch comedy’ that has become so synonymous with Schumer has me fearing that she may never get out of this sexual gag cycle.

Amy Schumer: The Leather Special is currently streaming on Netflix.

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.

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.

First Look Review: The Exorcist

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Alan Ruck and Geena Davis in THE EXORCIST. (c)2016 Fox Broadcasting/Jean Whiteside

A dark an eerie take on the timeless cult horror flick pits Geena Davis against a demonic force that has set its eyes on her family.

Joining the ranks of the ‘reboot’ fad, The Exorcist has a more tender ground to tread on than others within the field thanks to its cult fandom background.  Considered to be one of the scariest films of all time, the 1973 movie of the same name produced an iconic film filled with memorable quotes and scenes (a 360 degree head turn anyone?) that have been done and redone so many times that this new incarnation has to be very careful of not to try and out-do or recreate what has been done and done well.

Thankfully, in this new outing for The Exorcist, it leaves little opportunity open for fans and viewers to mock or gripe.

Taking the lead (and bringing in some worthy star power) Geena Davis plays Angela Rance, a religious upper class working mother who is concerned that the noises and strange occurrences happening in her home might be more than just your everyday easy to explain happenings.  Her husband Henry (Alan Ricks) is a former version of himself due to a workplace accident, her eldest daughter Kat (Brianne Howey) is dark and depressed after a tragic accident that killed her best friend while youngest daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is a care-free and easy going young woman with the world at her feet.

Concerned that troubled Kat may be ‘under the influence of a demon’, Angela asks local priest Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) to do a cleansing of her house though Tomas’ spiritual demons find him playing cat and mouse between a concerned mother worried her daughter is possessed and another priest, Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) who has very close ties to the world of exorcisms.

What ensues is a stylish and slick tale about religion in the modern day versus the barriers provided by old-school religion.

At an hour long, the first episode doesn’t feel rushed or have too much crammed into it though there lies a problem in that you begin to question how Angela is so convinced there is a demon in her house when we are not actually privy to any demonic activity (the only real signs is through her telling Father Tomas about cupboards and chairs in the kitchen moving about) and the scene where Father Tomas and Father Marcus meet – via demonic children filled dreams is semi-sketchy to say the least but one could say it’s divine intervention from a higher power to bring the two together.

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We do catch a glimpse of this demonic force, though it’s not until the end of the episode and provides one of the best surprise plot twists presented in a pilot in some time and it’s not the series only card up their sleeve.  The big reveal comes towards the end of episode five that will have those who know the movie literally gagging with excitement about what’s to come.

The Exorcist  begins Sunday December 4, 8.30pm on Showcase.

Pilot score: 4.5/5

How Miranda Sings became the new Ja’mie King.

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Angela Kinsey as Bethany and Colleen Ballinger as Miranda.  (c) Netflix 2016.

Coming off an eight episode binge watch of Netflix’s comedy/drama Haters Back Off, I quickly came to the realization that what works in one format may not actually work in another and it’s a point I have made before about a character very similar to that of Haters lead Miranda Sings.

The premise of the Netflix original series takes insanely popular YouTube star Miranda Sings (Colleen Ballinger) and documents her slow and grinding rise to her current internet stardom with the help of her eerily inappropriate Uncle Jim (Steve Little), her hypochondriac mother Bethany (Angela Kinsey) and her love-sick neighbor Patrick  (Erik Stocklin) which is all  to the detest of her introverted younger sister Emily (Francesca Reale).

As the eight episodes move along, Miranda, in her quest for undeserved fame using Uncle Jim’s five step plan, showcases a natural talent for narcissistic egotism and not much else as she drags down those around her while trying to claw herself to the top.  Even when the tables turn on her and a situation goes awry, Miranda, so wrapped up in the beliefs of her own talent, refuses to see when she’s being kicked to the ground and assumes those against her are jealous of her performing ability.

In the second to last episode, Miranda’s younger sister Emily takes the chance to leave the chaos of home and apply to go to art school.  Their mother Bethany, who is struggling with an actual health issue, at first fights it but then allows Emily to take that interview. Armed with her portfolio, Emily attends said art school interview only to discover her works have been ‘Mirandafied’ with pasta and glitter therefore destroying her chance at acceptance.

It’s the ensuing scene (which kicks off the seasons final episode) between a devastated and angry Emily and a cocky Miranda that brings the series one of its most conflicting moments for the viewers – Miranda is convinced she ‘fixed those paintings’ to help Emily get into art school but is shocked when Emily literally tells her that she ruined her work and that Miranda is dumb for thinking she was actually helping.  It’s a brutal scene between the chalk and cheese sisters, but one where you feel empowered that Emily is finally taking a stand yet saddened for Miranda who is copping that verbal beating from her sister even when she thought she was doing good.

Once it is over, you step back and begin to question why are we even feeling sad for Miranda and should we be feeling empathy for a character that showed not a single shroud of human decency to another person?  Which of course, harks back to my original point on what works in one format may not actually work in another.

Miranda Sings in YouTube format is hilarious and simply put – genius.  The short 5-8 minute clips allow us to pop in and out as Miranda tries international snacks, dances, offers make-up tips, visits other YouTube stars, displays DYI fashion and accessory tips and badly croons her way through hundreds and hundreds of videos that have racked up billions of views. It works because the videos are entertaining, Miranda is an utter odd-ball, we don’t have to become too invested in her at that moment and the time frame of the videos is short enough to avoid us from discovering that Miranda is actually a rather unpleasant character.

Most of that discovery though falls down to the introduction of Miranda’s family, the people she stumbles across in life and how her actions and the way she conducts herself are presented to those people…which had to happen when bringing the character into scripted television.

It’s the same issue I had with a similar character to Miranda Sings, in the form of comedian Chris Lilley’s alter-ego Ja’mie King from Summer Heights High.  When offered in smaller doses and accompanied by other unsettling characters to bounce to and from, selfish and delusional Ja’mie was an utter gem but when given her own platform and fleshed out surroundings in  the series Ja’mie: Private School Girl, she became an unpleasant and highly unlikable brat that had me wanting her to never have a platform to appear on ever again.

Now this is not to say that Haters is a complete miss.  There are some shining moments within the havoc of these eight episodes, most of which come from Miranda’s neighbor and (not so) secret admirer Patrick.

Erik Stocklin’s grossly awkward yet heartwarmingly adorable Patrick manages to step front and center to give Haters a character for us to root for – oddly more so than poor Emily.  Even though Miranda comes out of this incredibly unlikable, we get all mushy when Patrick finally gets that special moment with his long time crush because Patrick, while almost as delusional as Miranda, is genuine and connectable for the viewers and thats a huge kudos to Stocklin.

Haters Back Off is currently streaming on Netflix.

Did Looking: The Movie, Offer a Fitting Farewell?

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Melissa Moseley/HBO 2016

There’s always a trepidation when coming into a ‘farewell movie’ of a series that one has grown to love but was cut short on us.  We find ourselves asking “Will we get the answers we want?  Will it give us a feeling of a proper conclusion?  Will we be happy with how we have to say goodbye?”  Even in Looking’s two season short life span, those questions begged to be asked and required answers.  Thankfully not only did we get our some answers but most fans should be able to say a final goodbye to a pack of characters we quickly grew to love.

Looking back, It’s been well over 12 months since Looking’s untimely demise.  Patrick (Jonathan Groff) ended his tumultuous relationship with Kevin (Russell Tovey) and had all but destroyed any chance of any kind of relationship with his ex Ritchie (Raul Castillo). Dom (Murray Bartlett) rekindled his long standing friendship with Doris (Lauren Weedman)  and was about to start a new professional journey while Augustine (Frankie J Alvarez) and HIV positive Eddie (Daniel Franzese) were on the cusp of starting a brand new relationship together.

The 90 minute farewell movie attempts to answer those looming questions but still leave enough open to assume that while Looking may in fact be over, Patrick, Dom and Augustine are still living their lives and making life changing choices even if it’s not visible to us.

Oddly enough while the series was about three gay men living life in San Francisco, this finale movie sees most of the narrative hinging on Patrick’s love life – or in fact, where he left off and what’s in store when he returns to San Francisco after a 9 month hiatus living and working in Denver.  Granted the Ritchie/Patrick/Kevin triangle played one of the major arcs in Looking’s second season, but the force of pushing this right into the main story for the movie sadly left Dom and Augustine relegated to side characters that only either offered a reason for Patrick to even be back in SF or give him a reason to question his own motives.

It’s a odd move by writers Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh who seemed to assume viewers were only invested in Patrick and his life and not that of Dom and Augustine’s. It’s a shame really as of the three, Augustine was shown to be the one that had grown the most from the pilot episode to the second season closer.

Yes, we’re offered answers and you know what, while not everyone will be satisfied, we should be happy with them even if certain elements are not clear cut in stone.  There’s enough there for us to make up our own minds as to which way the story ends for Patrick. Perhaps that was the intention all along?  Give us the equation, hint at a resolution but allow us to find the answer that sits the best with us.

I for one am happy we got one last outing with Looking even if it was a bit too much focused on Patrick at the expense of the other players.

 Looking: The Movie is currently screening on Showcase via Foxtel.