The Nail in the Coffin: Part 3 – Rest in Peace

  Needless to say, I was upset that I had failed for a fifth time in getting that elusive achievement. Who could blame me for wanting to take a break from the game? A lot had happened in those six years between my fifth and my sixth Transmissionary achievement run in Capcom’s 2006 best selling XBox 360 game, Dead Rising. I became a faux-guitar god in Red Octane’s Guitar Hero II, I had slaughtered the Locust Horde’s general in Epic Games’ first Gears of War, I had returned to Liberty City in Rockstar’s GTA IV, and I had fallen in love with a lighthouse which led me to Rapture in Irrational Game’s worldwide best seller, Bioshock. I had bought, played, and completed multiple XBOX Live Arcade games, ordered combo meals just to play those awful Burger King sponsored games such as Sneak King, PocketBike Racer, and Big Bumpin’  and had pwned all the those noobs, & even those MLG’s from Halo 3 to Team Fortress 2 on online multiplayer. But, in May of 2008 I suddenly just stopped playing video games. I felt that I needed break from games so I deleted all of my game saves and called it quits. As Arrested Development would put it, this was the “Great Dark Period.” …And then in September of 2010 I picked up Bioshock 2. My first achievement called, “Daddy’s Home” catapulted me back into video gaming. It was a slow process getting back into gaming, but it steadily picked up speed and before I knew it I was taking down Big Sisters, solving murders on the gloomy streets in Los Angeles circa 1945, reestablishing that the planet Sera would not be taken over, and so on. With all those games came all those achievements. But, when those first few achievement unlocked from my two year hiatus my mind & body was flushed with that familiar feeling of dopamine. I became excited, arguably joyous over playing games again. There was no doubt that I hadn’t experienced that profound of a dopamine rush since my two year hiatus from gaming. I started blasting through all the games I could get my hands on. And one of those games was Dead Rising 2. It was bittersweet playing through Dead Rising 2. As I was progressing through the main story line, which mimicked the same main scoop & side mission style of the first game, I was once again immersed into the small city of Fortune City, Nevada with Chuck Greene, our protagonist earning cash in a brutal sport of zombie slaughter called, Terror is Reality by antagonist, Tyrone King to buy Zombrex, a zombie supressive drug for Chuck’s infected daughter, Katey. The sequel really upped it’s playability & replayability with more unlockables, even more interesting psychopaths, smarter AI, and a new duct tape system where you could combine weapons into one powerful weapon. Even a multiplayer element was introduced where you actually played the Terror is Reality games. In took me over six runs to complete the game. But, unfortunately as I steadily earned every achievement in the game, the only one I really wanted to pop up never would. Just the thought of my gross oversight in waiting for the maintenance tunnel until Case 7.2 in the first Dead Rising still made me upset. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. So, I put it out of my mind until I felt the time was right again. I feel it’s important to point out that this achievement, which was a mental and emotional burden, hadn’t only been a struggle for me as a gamer, but for the gaming community as a whole who’ve played Dead Rising too. TrueAcievements.com, a website that has “decided that an achievement’s difficulty can be accurately approximated by using a formula based on how many people have that achievement compared to how many people own the game,” has approximated that out of the 115,000 tracked gamers on the site who have played the Dead Rising less than 6,000 of them have rightfully earned the Transmissionary achievement, upping the game’s original achievement score of 20 points up to TrueAchievement’s score of 90 points. My friends list informs me that only two people have this achievement and I used to play with some hardcore gamers, some of those gamers are contributors and moderators on this site. But, they don’t even have it. Earning this achievement is not only difficult due to the ridiculous meticulous step-by-step guideline in attaining said achievement, which at this point you are all aware of, but also due to the notorious XBOX 360 achievement bug(s) that creep into the gamers saved data files. If you were to look up this achievement into a well-known search engine you would find multiple guides in earning this achievement, all of them exclaiming a full-proof/best way of earning it, blogs, rants, and comments all about how much gamers hated earning this or attempting this achievement. Most of them, as well as me, were just confused by the guidelines of earning the achievement. Why? Where? Who? What? When? Were the most common questions when first learning about the perimeters of earning that achievement. But, that was not going to be me this time. And that time to earn that forsaken achievement was now. Flash forward to April 2013. Three years after I first played Dead Rising 2, now five years after my hiatus, and now seven years after my fifth failed attempt in earning that elusive achievement in the first Dead Rising. So, I picked up my favorite XBOX 360 controller out of my collection, printed out the same damn guide as I did before, and set out to finally earn the Transmissionary achievement on this my sixth run in Dead Rising. But, let me spare you a longer story than it already is. I failed. Again. I failed, for a sixth time. And do you want to know why? Because I forgot yet again that Otis does not call about the maintenance tunnel info after Case 7.2 has started! It had been seven years since I did that the first time! It had been seven years until I finally was over the sting of disappointment from failing the fifth time! At this current point I was more frustrated with myself and my impressive ability to literally forget why I had messed it up all those other times. How could I not leave a note for my future self? “Oh and by the way, go to the maintenance tunnel, like, right away so you don’t eff it up again.” So, after earning the Frank the Pimp & Tour Guide achievements in Dead Rising, which was only my second attempt and which I thought were fun to play because… women, I just had one last achievement to earn in the main story line, but I put the game back on the shelf so I could cool down until I was finally ready two years later. But, not before my XBOX 360 hard drive (HDD) decided to bug out during a transfer from a standard 20 GB HDD to a 120 GB HDD. I had lost so much work. So many game saves and so many partially completed achievements that ranged from impossible to complex from time consuming to unbelievably time consuming. Cue the Arrested Development gag again. Yet, I pressed on still. So, here it was: June 2015. Nine years later. Nine damn years. The time equivalent of two Olympic ceremonies, two presidential terms, and three serious relationships. My own business had been up & running for four years during this time. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in those five years. I had six different jobs between eight different apartments during those nine years. I had played fifty one games after initially playing Dead Rising and one thousand seven hundred and ninety six achievements later I set out to make the next achievement earned the Transmissionary. But, I had no idea that at the end of all this it would be the last achievement I would ever earn. Or possibly even the last game I may ever play. Needless to say, it was finally time. I pulled the game of the shelf, opened the case, and placed Dead Rising on the disc tray and launched the game. I was greeted with the familiar eerie sound of the title screen, but it had no affect on me. My hunger for the achievement was greater than the entire zombified town of Willamette had for Frank West. I’m not going to lie though. In those first few moments when I controlled Frank, I couldn’t control him the way I wanted to. It seemed I forgot how to play despite I had played it two years earlier. From the beginning, the game felt different, almost a bit more challenging because my avatar didn’t move, fight, aim, or act like I knew he could. Then I remembered that my saves from previous runs of Dead Rising were wiped including the Real Mega Buster and my level 50 upgrades, skills, and boosts. So, I made a decision to take the extra time & extra runs to upgrade Frank West back up to level 50 and to earn back the Real Mega Buster which would make difficult situations easier to get out of. This took runs seven and eight to reacquire these levels, upgrades and items. Once I had returned Frank West to his highest level in the game and had earned the powerful Real Mega Buster I set out to earn the Transmissionary achievement on my ninth, and final (yes, I mean it this time) run. I skipped the opening cinematic where you photograph the town being attacked by crazed citizens because I didn’t want to waste anymore time. I retrieved Jeff & Natalie, ran around the Entrance Plaza, Colby’s Movieland, the Park, the maintenance tunnel, the food court, Wonderland Plaza, and Al Fresca Plaza info transmissions right away. I stayed vigilant with keeping up on the main, as well as the side mission scoops. I saved Burt, Aaron, Leah, and Greg while I slaughtered Yuu, Shinji, and David all on September 19th, the first day. I did this so I wouldn’t have to worry about the number of survivors restricting Otis’s calls because there are more than eight survivors out in the Willamette Mall. As I started the Dead Rising’s September 20th morning , it became even more tricky around 8 AM in the game, nevertheless with slaughtering seven people and saving thirteen survivors, including Isabella. I was hauling through the game, accepting no prisoners, and visiting the restroom regularly, which is how one saves the game. As September 21st started, I ran to Colby Movieland where you face the True Eye’s cult leader, Sean Keanan where I then slaughtered four out of the five survivors. I saved the psychopath, now reformed introvert, Paul and his two victims, Mindy and Debbie. I was close, so close to ending all of this. The anticipation was steadily getting worse like a fever it was consuming me. This had to be finished once and for all and today was going to be the day. Refusing to put down the controller for anything other than work or food, I set up to end this charade. In the next two hours of playing I had only need to save Paul, the reformed psychopath, Floyd, and Simone, who you can only save if you complete all the main story cases up to this point. And then, the final call came in. Realizing that I had answered every single one of Otis’s survivor request transmissions, every single one of Otis’s scoop & cases reference transmissions, and every single one of Otis’s the location transmission left me leaving Frank West idle, wearing only his Capcom wrestling shorts & boots with Adam, the psychopathic clown miniature chainsaw (my second weapon of choice), gripped in his right hand as I gripped the controller in my own right hand. Seconds felt like hours. Was this achievement going to pop? Was this all again for nothing? Was this achievement going to pop on September 22nd at noon when the helicopter was supposed to pick me up in the game? And then, it popped. And I felt… nothing. I felt nothing. There was no surge of excitement. No sigh of anticipated relief. No rush of lovely dopamine. The void that I had created over those nine years remained empty. The “badoink!” of the achievement popping and the text that scrolled across the screen it left me feeling unfulfilled. But, then it hit me all at once: I no longer cared. Years ago I was very much into video games, in fact, besides school, games were pretty much the only constant I had in my life. Having been through multiple relationships, careers, and hardships in those nine years, my priorities, without a doubt had shifted, as well as my goals and my dreams. Honestly, even what I previously thought was fun, no longer seemed that fun to me anymore and playing games, achievement hunting, and completing an entire game used to be just that. Such glorious and fun and violent and puzzling and destructive, and hilarious, and exciting, and thrilling, and creative, and memorable and beautiful games. I loved my time playing all of them, yet my eyes were still fixed disc in and disc out on finishing up Capcom’s Dead Rising and answering every single one of Otis Washington’s transmissions. Why? Maybe because I felt that it was a story left untold. Maybe I needed to end that chapter to finish the book. Maybe I just had to move onto something better. And that’s what I did, and that is still what I am doing. I’ll always loved my time playing video games, but that’s not who I am anymore. It’s a hard pill to swallow for me. My childhood was enveloped by games, in front of & away from the television. Whenever we were on car trips, I always had my Gameboy or if I was with my friend on his car trips we would play on his SEGA GameGear. I’d come home from school to play Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Punch-Out!, and so on & so forth. Day after day after day, video games was alI I played. My friends would go home over work at Wendy’s and attempt to finish Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in a speed run before the last day of senior year began. In college my friend hosted Halo: Combat Evolved LAN parties in his house. But, that was then and this is now. And this now, doesn’t involve games. That part of who I was is gone and you know what? I’m fine with that. ...

Not Meaty Enough: A Magic Mike XXL Review

As an avid movie goer, I understand that beyond my own personal taste of film lies a vast palette of films left to be visually devoured. Films I wouldn’t regularly see or have an interest in. This is one of those cases. This time Hollywood has returned to a type of film that rarely is seen in the cinemas these days. That’s not saying that just because the film’s genre is unique it’s also good. ...

Jurassic World Review and the Idiots that Run It

The original Jurassic Park, which premiered in theaters in 1993, set a new precedent as the defining film in practical camera effects. Not only that, director Steven Spielberg also raised the bar for special and digital effects in his adaptation of the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton. In its opening weekend the film pulled $47 million, and if we were to calculate inflation for today’s market it still would have only racked up $66 million in ticket sales. ...

Where’s the Heart? Avengers: Age of Ultron Review (Spoilers)

*SPOILERS* The Avengers: Age of Ultron is the newest film in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”  (MCU) which will officially bring to a close their Phase Two (with the exception of the last minute, Ant-Man due out later this Summer). It is one of the most watched leaked trailers on YouTube and one of the most anticipated films of the year, and arguably, one of the most anticipated sequels ever. This film delivers all the big-budget Hollywood names, impressive & stunning visual effects, and action-driven scenes we have all come to expect from Marvel Studios, but this time Joss Whedon suffers severe amnesia and forgets what the most defining quality of the previous Avengers movie was: heart. I have never really watched Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, even after I accidentally came across one of the more popular episodes, “Hush,” decades ago, nor have I seen a singular episode of Firefly, which among avid television enthusiasts, nerds, and critics, you’d find them raving about Whedon’s cinematic work. Having never seen Joss Whedon’s previous works, television nor film, I must say I was beyond impressed when he took the helm of the first Avengers film, where he aptly wrote & directed it. His attention to character development and especially the balancing of each of the characters individualization & subplots was a titanic feat in itself, blending the slower & sincere moments of the film with it’s Marvelistic “crash, boom, bang” scenes that didn’t feel uncomfortably juxtaposed to one another. Overall, the first Avengers did a dazzling job of delivering a summer blockbuster in 2012 that left me exclaiming, “Excelsior!” at the end of it. So, I was more than eager to see Whedon’s Age of Ultron, but unfortunately, it didn’t do it for me this time. Age of Ultron immediately catapults us into the film, where we see the Avengers attempting to overtake the last HYDRA stronghold in the small, fictional European country of Sokovia to retrieve Loki’s missing scepter from the first Avengers film. We see all of our returning favorite characters such as Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) laser blasting HYDRA soldiers, Steve Rodgers/Captain America (Chris Evans) bludgeoning other soldiers with his vibranium shield while on his motorcycle, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) flying in while hammering foes in the face, and of course, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) causing general, yet massive Marvel-style destruction. After we’re reintroduced to our favorite heroes we waste no time with character relations. Once we get past relatively weak tension between Captain America & Iron Man that is supposed to fuel the upcoming Captain America: Civil War and the new romantic boundaries built between Hulk & Black Widow, we find the Maximoff twins, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) & Quicksilver (Aaron Johnson), who seem like hollowed out tropes of Marvel characters with a nauseating European accent, to be droll and surprisingly unimportant in regards to the plot (except for that one part), yet a decent match for the Avengers. But, besides Quicksilver’s quickness, Scarlet Witch’s powers are really never defined in the film unless you count Agent Maria Hill’s (Cobie Smulders), “basically (…) she’s weird,” in which the film begins to take it’s first downward turn. When Tony Stark finds Loki’s scepter, Scarlet Witch tricks Tony into seeing a premonition of what’s to come for Earth’s mightiest heroes & it looks frightening as all hell. This beautifully chilling dark moment we realize that Tony Stark feels like the weight of the world is on his shoulders, as if he was Atlas himself. Once back in the New York City, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, Hulk’s alter ego, set out to create an artificial intelligence peace-keeping program called, Ultron (voiced by NBC’s Blacklist favorite, James Spader) which is built as “a suit of armor (for) the world.” And it’s from this haunting premonition that the film begins to dissolve, as another excellent, story driven, character motivated, Marvel epic devolves into a another big budgeted, catharsis-absent, arc-less Summer blockbuster. Where was the heart? Being the 11th film in the MCU, which purportedly is supposed to address all the previous, as well as future, films, we find ourselves lost in the middle of this $250 million incessantly CGI’ed schlock desperately grasping for a tangible scrap of mutual emotion. It’s as if, after Ultron became a physical sentient being, Whedon became a careless filmmaker and decided to make a two hour & twenty one minute MCU ad. The character’s motivation becomes shallow and unrealistic, almost questionable from what we’ve come to expect. Thus, the story becomes weaker, and frail, as we the audience cannot relate to the severity of Ultron’s diabolical plot. We are left at a detrimental distance away from the film itself. I felt that as the film progressed I had trouble caring, not for the film itself but, for the story. Maybe it’s the hours of CGI which waned my interest? Maybe it’s how illogical Ultron is even as the know-it-all sentient? Maybe it’s the unnecessary neon blue lines accentuating Black Widow’s curves? Maybe it was Thor going off to do some skinny dipping in a cave somewhere? Maybe it was Tony Stark never apologizing for almost destroying the very world he saved before by creating Ultron? Whatever your answer is to these questions, the film falls short of becoming one of the best Marvel films. Now I am not saying that the film is not entertaining (because it certainly is), but it lacks the humanistic appeal that would make it so. It skirts around how deep these characters have previously been developed in the other films and we seem to get a cardboard cut-out of what they are instead of a flesh & blood representation of who they are. Often, you find the scenes where nothing exciting is happening between the star-studded cast to be some of the most entertaining spots seasoned throughout in the film. Even when we are reintroduced to Marvel’s smaller characters played by Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgard, Don Cheadle, Josh Brolin, and Anthony Mackie it doesn’t tell this entertaining story anymore effectively. Whedon knows how to play the characters off of each other, and arguably this may be what has made him so popular with Buffy, Firefly, and the first Avengers, yet it’s obvious he had no idea who the characters were when they were by themselves. But, can you blame Joss Whedon for trying? No. Hell no! In fact, they’re are countless articles you can find on the internet stating that Whedon & Marvel executives were constantly arguing over his directorial decisions in both Avengers films. You can’t blame the man for trying to tell a better story by sticking to his guns. The bottom line is that the film, Age of Ultron, like the Avengers team itself, is an entertaining hot mess. It energetically bounces from scene-to-scene all while keeping us, the audience, emotionally at arm’s length as it has trouble finding its pacing throughout it’s careless presentation of the human race’s threat of world-wide extinction. The characters seem bored which leave you feeling less empathetic to the Avengers cause and overall threat. The antagonist, Ultron seems too personable, irrational and unfocused for a sentient “murder bot” determined to annihilate the Avengers & Earth. The cinematic landscape & action scenes keep your senses keen, your visual palette wet, and your anticipation teetering on the edge as the introduction of the beloved Marvel characters you all know and love put you over that edge. It’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen, just don’t expect to walk away thinking you’d feel anything other than entertained from a less than stellar installment of the MCU. Final Rating: 6.5/10 Movie Theater or Home Theater: Movie Theater Best Candy to be Paired with this Film: Popcorn & Milkduds Final Thought: If Ultron’s new self was an unstoppable, Vibranium-celled, Mind Stone wielding sentient that is near indestructible: why did Ultron let Hawkeye & the rest of the Avengers take Vision away from him SO easily? ...

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