Why a Halo 3: Anniversary Just Couldn’t Happen

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone and, with it, a slew of unfulfilled expectations and disappointments. One of these disappointments (besides Bethesda’s press conference) is the lack of a Halo 3: Anniversary. But hey, at least the Flood are canonical again.

What strikes me as perplexing is that Halo: Combat Evolved (2001) and Halo 2 (2004) both received the anniversary treatment after 10 years, but that Halo 3 (2007), the hottest selling and generally most beloved game in the entire series, is left untouched for its 10th anniversary. It’s awkward to say the least—the first two Halo games received graphical upgrades on the 10 year mark, but Halo 3 conspicuously discontinues this trend.

Pushing aside my frustration with Halo Wars 2, a game that I believe alienates more than half of the Halo community, I’m going to view the lack of a Halo 3: Anniversary in 2017 as a plus and not a minus. We know that Halo games are released every 3 years. However, because 343 Industries did not showcase a teaser trailer for Halo 6 at E3 this year, we can surmise that the next major Halo title will be delayed until 2019. That, combined with 343 Industries investing most of its manpower into Halo 6 because they do not have to worry about developing a Halo 3: Anniversary, and there is an increased chance that the follow-up to Halo 5 will be the game that we all want and need it to be. A longer, more coherent campaign. A streamlined multiplayer. A state-of-the-art Forge mode. Split-screen. And dare I say… a veto system? These are features that we can expect in Halo 6 by virtue that 343 Industries does not, for instance, have to deal with another Master Chief Collection debacle.

I understand 343i’s decision to not remaster Halo 3 this year because from a logistical and technical standpoint, it’s just not feasible. Halo 2: Anniversary’s graphics look like what vanilla Halo 3 looks like currently. I’d rather wait until the 20 or 25 year anniversary for a remastered Halo 3 to match the more high-powered tech. Also, playing through Halo 3’s campaign again to celebrate its 10 year anniversary anyway (because I know my life will be consumed by Destiny 2 in September), the game still plays so smoothly. It’s not a clunky mess like Halo 5.

And so, if I have to delay gratification and wait a few extra years for Halo 3: Anniversary because 343 Industries wants to invest its resources into Halo 6 to make it the best Halo game that it can possibly be, then I am totally fine with that. On the other hand, if 343 Industries never gives Halo 3 some type of special treatment, then I will be thoroughly disappointed. They really need to win back some of the fans that they already lost.

Are Read Receipts Destroying Relationships?

“I love you.”

*seen 7:47 P.M.*

Communication has always been a tricky puzzle, and the read receipt hasn’t made it any easier to solve.

A read receipt is a special indicator in IM conversations of both the time and date that the receiver opened the sender’s message, such as “seen 7:47 P.M.” or “read at 5:45 P.M.” Now, people can tell exactly when they’re being acknowledged or ignored. To my understanding, you can find read receipts in Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and iMessage, although these and other applications may give you the option to disable them.

Read receipts almost always inconvenience at least one participating party because if you open the message, then you’re forced to respond to it immediately, and you become locked into a conversation that has no end in sight. Alternatively, if you wait to open the message, then the other person will think that you’re just ignoring them. And while you can opt to use the infamous, “Sorry, I didn’t have my phone on me” excuse, chances are it’s not going to work because honestly, who isn’t carrying their phone 24/7?

Call me “behind the times,” a bitter old man, or whatever, but I’m not a strong believer in text messaging being the primary conversational medium. If anything, it intrudes on the fluid and sloppy yet imperfectly beautiful nature of authentic human communication, and fosters an unhealthy dependence on our comfort zones. Its primary purpose should be to convey vital information, not spend hours exchanging meaningless, lazy, 3 word sentences that do little to progress relationships in the real world and ultimately reduce social competence.

I also don’t have the stamina or retention span (not ATTENTION span) to be effective at text messaging. Read receipts only expose just how ineffective that I can be at it. While texting, I might run into what are perceived breaks in the conversation with you, and thus I might forget to respond, fall asleep, or stop responding altogether. Yet how am I supposed to know what constitutes a break in the conversation when I am unable to evaluate your body language or tone of voice? If the read receipt shows that I’ve opened your latest message at “6:50 P.M.” and I haven’t responded to it ever since, then it might appear as though I’ve lost interest in talking to you, when in actuality I thought we both had nothing more to say. But it doesn’t always come across that way. For that reason, I’m starting to worry that the mere knowledge our most recent messages were opened is enough to further complicate our relationships by creating the false impression that, by virtue of one or two unacknowledged texts, we do not care about our friends and companions anymore.

Texting sure is nice and convenient, but it often creates stress when there should be none. Think, how many times have you agonized over that one unacknowledged message that was opened over three hours ago? How many times have you convinced yourself that your boyfriend or girlfriend has lost interest simply because they haven’t responded to you since last night?

It used to be that the best way to tell you were being ignored was when you called and left a voicemail for a friend, companion, or potential employer, and they never called you back. However, you had no way of knowing that the other person ever received your voicemail—you just had to take it at face value and assume they weren’t interested. Today, it’s more so that you know the other person isn’t interested (because the read receipt tells you exactly when your last message was opened), they just couldn’t make it any less painfully obvious.

The read receipt is another classic example of how technology, when abused, doesn’t enhance communication, but rather obscures it. I hope that someday, we can get into the habit of turning the phones off and opening up to each other the old fashion way.

Alien: Covenant (Review)

DISCLAIMER: This review will contain SPOILERS. If you have not seen Alien: Covenant yet, do not read this.

Alien: Covenant (2017) is the third Alien film to be directed by Ridley Scott, and is the sequel to Prometheus (2012) and the prequel to Alien (1979). It follows the story of a crew of colonists who, after their ship is damaged by a phenomenological shockwave, land on a nearby, uncharted planet to investigate a rogue transmission.

I’ll preface this review by saying that I am a huge Alien fan. I was 6 years old when I watched the original chestburster scene, and even to this day, I am perturbed by this gory introduction of the notorious Xenomorph creature. Additionally, Aliens (1986) is one of my favorite action movies, with Bill Paxton’s Private William Hudson earning the #2 spot on my list of Top 10 All-Time Favorite Movie Characters. He truly is The Ultimate Badass.

You can imagine that based upon by love for the Alien franchise (as well as my love for the Xenomorph itself), I was a little bit biased going into Covenant. The trailers had marketed this film to be yet another horror trope-fest littered with clichés, logical inconsistencies, and weak, disposable characters. Moreover, I was worried that Covenant would ignore that story arc set up between Elizabeth Shaw and David at the end of Prometheus. But as it turns out, when you set your expectations low enough for a movie that you know you will be disappointed by, you will not be disappointed by it at all. At least I wasn’t.

With all of that said, I was pleasantly surprised by Alien: Covenant. I enjoyed it so much that I would rank it just barely below Aliens and Prometheus. Therefore, my final rankings are as follows: (1) Aliens, (2) Prometheus, (3) Alien: Covenant, and (4) Alien, not accounting for Alien 3, Resurrection or either of the two AVP movies.

A lot of people seem to hate this movie, and I cannot fathom why. It might be, like I said, a horror trope-fest littered with clichés, logical inconsistencies, and weak, disposable characters, but why should that matter? If the movie entertained me, then it did its job. Also, if people wanted the Xenomorph to make a return so badly yet still hate on Covenant for retreading old ground, then they should have let Ridley Scott tell the story that he set up in Prometheus. Rather than further explore the mythology of the Engineers, fan backlash pressured him into reworking the script into oblivion. This is what we ended up with, so take it or leave it.

In my opinion, Alien: Covenant’s biggest strengths are its soundtrack, approaches to blood and gore, and Michael Fassbender’s performance as David.

The leitmotif (a special word describing any musical piece that is associated with people, places, or things) for the Xenomorph needs to be commended. It added a dark, eerie atmosphere to the scenes, tensely keeping the audience on the edge of their seats and characterizing the Alien as something abominable. In addition, the gore effects were viscerally graphic and disturbing, with Scott recreating the horror of the original chestburster scene by depicting a Neomorph bursting through the spine of a Covenant crewmember. Lastly, Michael Fassbender’s villainous portrayal of David was gripping and undoubtedly the best part of the movie. As a matter of fact, my favorite scene was when, in a flashback sequence, he dropped the Black Goo on the Engineers’ civilization and watched them all die. It will be interesting to learn in the prequel film Alien: Awakening what his motivations for doing so were and how far his God complex could possibly stretch.

Despite these strengths, a minor complaint that I have with Covenant is that it is tonally ambiguous. Halfway through the film, it cannot decide if it wants to be a sequel to Prometheus or its own movie. Nonetheless, I’m excited to see where Scott takes the story from here and whether or not the next installment will be seen as an improvement in the eyes of the objectors to his vision. I for one am optimistic.

Alien: Covenant gets an 8/10. How do you feel about the movie? Do you love it, hate it, or just think that it’s “okay”?

5 Criticisms of “13 Reasons Why”

SPOILER WARNING IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE NEW NETFLIX ORIGINAL “13 REASONS WHY” YET.

13 Reasons Why is a great show—possibly one of the better shows I’ve watched this year. However, I couldn’t help but walk away from it without expressing a few criticisms of the way it handled its subject matter. So what might these criticisms be?

Criticism 1: Too often, it ignores Hannah’s mental health problems.

I do not personally believe that the writers glamorized suicide, but I can understand both arguments. On the one hand, the show did an exemplary job at illustrating the long-term ramifications that suicide has on our relationships. On the other, it deceived the audience into thinking that Hannah’s suicide was a revenge ploy, when in fact it was the result of her deep-seated psychological issues (e.g.: depression, bipolar disorder, histrionic personality disorder, or PTSD) that went unabated.

Criticism 2: It makes it difficult to sympathize with Hannah.

It was difficult to feel sorry for Hannah when she wouldn’t speak up for herself. After being raped by Bryce, why didn’t she tell her parents, or anyone for that matter? If she had explained what happened to her, she could have gotten the help she needed and therefore turned Bryce in. Instead, she allowed her pain to consume her indefinitely, and that made it hard to root for her.

Criticism 3: It places undeserved blame on the other characters.

Clay and the guidance counselor did absolutely nothing wrong. Clay was punished because Hannah expected him to be a mind-reader, while the counselor was punished because he was unequipped to advise suicidal students. Both clearly overlooked obvious red flags that Hannah displayed, but that doesn’t make either of them responsible for her death. The same holds true for everyone else on the tapes, including Bryce.

Criticism 4: It overstates the unpleasantness of high school.

The fact that Hannah was unwilling to cope with petty interpersonal drama (something that we all put up with) means that she probably lacked the emotional resources to solve real problems. More importantly, the show implies that high school is the worst time in a person’s life when it isn’t. Life gets much harder after we’ve graduated high school, and thus in Season 2, the show needs to do a better job at depicting the challenges that we face beyond those relatively insignificant 4 years.

Criticism 5: It imposes unrealistic expectations upon its audience.

It seems that the main message of the show is to “be kind to everybody, because you never know what someone else is going through,” but you know what the fundamental flaw is with that logic? You can never be totally sure when you’re hurting someone else’s feelings. Sometimes, I treat people poorly when I don’t realize it, and the opposite is also true. I should not be expected to moderate my language at every moment of the day on the off chance that someone is going to commit suicide because of some stupid thing that I said.

EDIT: The way I wrote about Criticism 5 is a little harsh and insensitive. The point I was trying to make here was that simple misunderstandings can have detrimental impacts on our relationships with our friends, family members, and strangers. If a comment that you make to another person is taken out of context, uncalled for, or simply interpreted in the wrong way, you could really upset them. Therefore, we shouldn’t have to police every little thing we say when it would be otherwise mentally taxing for us.

If you know me well enough, you’ll find that I am very sarcastic, so much that I am probably not well-liked by many. That doesn’t mean that I am not conscious of other people’s feelings, it’s just that by default, my personality can project auroras of condescension and abrasiveness when that isn’t my intention at all. However, that’s not to say I should change who I fundamentally am, and that’s more or less what I was trying to convey in Criticism 5. I just didn’t elaborate on it enough.

Despite all of this negative feedback, I agree with the writers’ decision to ultimately display Hannah’s suicide on screen, because by not showing it, they would have downplayed its severity and taken away the whole point of the show.

Overall, I hope that 13 Reasons Why further encourages younger people to seek professional help by driving discussions on highly sensitive topics like suicide and sexual assault, and that Season 2 (if there is one) addresses the criticisms I’ve listed above.

Why “Breath of the Wild” Disappointed Me

Disclaimer: This article will express an unpopular opinion on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you cannot handle negative criticism of a universally beloved game, I would suggest that you stop reading right now.

I’ll begin this article by saying that I do not hate Breath of the Wild. Rather, I dislike it enough that I couldn’t possibly force myself to play it any longer.

I wanted to like the newest Zelda game, but it’s plagued by so many problems that it was impossible to justify my $385 purchase on the Switch. So what did I do? I put an ad out on Craigslist for it, and I sold that sucker for $350. I figured that despite taking the $35 dollar loss, I at least squeezed enough time out of the game to develop a solid opinion of it.

It’s difficult to fathom BotW’s overwhelmingly positive reception. Multiple esteemed critics gave the game perfect or near-perfect reviews, regarding it as a staple of the open world RPG genre, a game with few to no flaws, and even “one of the greatest games of all time.” And while BotW was initially a 9 out of 10 for me, after about 15 hours of play, it dropped down to an 8 and then a 7 out of 10. As such, these next several paragraphs will discuss exactly where (in my opinion) the game goes wrong.

My complaints begin with the lack of sufficient voice acting, which is absolutely inexcusable. Most of the dialogue you will need to read in a text box while characters grunt and moan at you. The voice acting that is present in the game is either subpar at best or cringe-inducing at worst, with actors dispassionately reading their lines like middle school students in a play. I understand that Zelda games aren’t known for impeccable voice acting because until now, they were entirely devoid of it. But this is 2017—open world RPGs of this caliber are supposed to come fully voice acted. Why is it that whenever I’m talking to one of the main characters, for instance the former King of Hyrule or Lady Urbosa, I have to switch from listening to their lines to reading their lines? It completely breaks the immersion factor.

In addition, while expansive and beautiful, the game’s open world is severely lacking in depth. You could spend hours traversing the map without ever encountering an interesting side-quest, activity, or character, as its landscapes consist largely of empty space that stretches on for miles. I always say that a gargantuan open world map means nothing if it consistently lacks compelling incentives to venture off the beaten path. There are, of course, a fair amount of shrines and towers you can unlock as fast travel points, but they pale in comparison to Skyrim’s multitude of caves, dungeons, tombs, camps, and outposts. Besides, each region contains 4 to 8 shrines that sit out in the open, while the rest remain annoyingly hidden. This leads to my third complaint.

The game is overly repetitive. Shrines can be summed up with, “Walk in, solve a puzzle, take a spirit orb. Walk in, solve a puzzle, take a spirit orb,” and there’s nothing more to it than that. Stables are cut and pasted, enemy diversity is finite, and towers are just an excuse to halt progress and artificially inflate play time. Even the game’s own main story fails to add diversity, as the quest, “Captured Memories” has you traveling to 12 destinations scattered around the map just to watch 2 minute cutscenes.  Furthermore, while I have not played through any of the Divine Beasts yet, from what I’ve heard, they are simply glorified shrines that do not measure up to previous entries’ elemental temples.

By the way, what is up with that score? There are perhaps 2 or 3, 30 second tracks that play during your travels in the wilderness. Compare this to Ori and the Blind Forest (2015) or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011), two of my most beloved games. Skyrim plays over 80 minutes worth of atmospheric music during your journey, while Ori plays a different track in every level. As a diehard fan of open world RPGs, music is essential for sustaining immersion, and BotW’s lack of a satisfactory soundtrack only degrades its quality further.

Side note: The weapon breaking mechanic is a minor complaint of mine. I can understand people’s frustration with it, but for the most part, it didn’t bother me too much because I always had 5 to 7 weapons in my inventory.

My final complaint is the game’s lightly padded, generic story. Yet again, we are treated to an end-of-the-world trope where a princess needs saving and a fallen hero rises up to defeat an ancient evil. How many times has this story been told exactly? The main premise is that 100 years ago, an event took place known as the Great Calamity that devastated the Kingdom of Hyrule. Link must therefore regain his power to save Princess Zelda and defeat Calamity Ganon once and for all, and characters will repeat this exposition some 5, 10, or 15 times. Though, I lost count.

Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a good game, but it is not an amazing game. It does not redefine the action open world RPG genre in any capacity, and it is certainly not the “quintessential system seller” that reviewers fooled me into believing.

If I had to give the game a final rating, it would have to be a 7/10 (which essentially equates to a great time-killer) and an 8/10 if I was being generous. Nonetheless, I hope that you were able to derive more enjoyment from it than I did. It still has its fair share of redeeming qualities, such as its slick and satisfying combat mechanics, ultra realistic physics engine, and wonderfully crafted puzzle shrines. But unfortunately for me, this entry into the Zelda franchise did not cut it, and I’m so glad that I got most of my money back.

I guess my bar for action-oriented open world RPGs has been set too high. I’ll stick to Skyrim and Witcher.

“Hacksaw Ridge” Helped Me Find Faith

“With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.”

Desmond Doss, Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Sometimes you see a movie that profoundly impacts your life, changing the way you view the world and teaching you a little something about yourself. The Rocky films taught me that even the underdog can triumph in the face of adversity, while The Lord of the Rings trilogy taught me about the necessity of social support in the long and perilous journeys we take to reach our goals.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) taught me a truth that I’d overlooked this whole time.

Until now, I figured the filmmaking medium had nothing else to offer in terms of substance, much less in terms of violence. I thought I had seen it all, from arms and limbs getting blown off to intestines getting ripped out. Of course, violence isn’t a rare commodity in films these days, but it almost never means anything. On the other hand, Mel Gibson’s latest war drama displays its violent imagery in such a way that leaves you particularly on-edge, obscuring the distinction between what’s real and what’s fictional.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Hacksaw Ridge, this biographical World War II film follows the story of Desmond Doss, a man who became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his awe-inspiring courage in the line of battle. The beautiful thing about Hacksaw Ridge is that it is more the exception than it is the rule: Desmond Doss never picked up a weapon once, and saved 75 men. It’s an important story to be told, but even more importantly it’s a movie that everyone should see at least once in their lifetimes.

What set Hacksaw Ridge apart so drastically from every other war film I’ve seen is that it disturbed in a way that not even Saving Private Ryan could pull off, and Saving Private Ryan is known for triggering PTSD episodes in actual war veterans who fought on Omaha Beach. It didn’t help that the theater I was in had the sound jacked up to what seemed like 100 decibels.

In the film Black Hawk Down, another fantastic war film by Ridley Scott that I urge everyone to see, the character named “Hoot” (played by Eric Bana), says “Once that first bullet goes past your head, politics and all that shit just goes right out the window.” And he’s right. Whatever political quarrels that are responsible for the battle you find yourself a part of seize to matter once it starts raining gunfire, and Hacksaw Ridge illustrates this unsettling maxim quite well. The first 75 minutes of the film could best be described as a standard PG-13 tearjerker, taking time to establish Desmond as a man who stands by his principles without question. However, the second half hits you like a truck: men are alarmingly incinerated alive, stabbed, blown up, ripped to shreds, and torn apart. The shock of it all is so immobilizing that you’d almost forget what’s happening.

If the phrase “Hell on Earth” were taken literally, then Hacksaw Ridge is about as close as you could get to it, and in that respect Gibson conveys his overall message effectively. This message, which no other director (not even Spielberg) has been able to articulate enough, is that war is a circumstance that you never want to find yourself in. It’s a brutal, bloody, disgusting, disorienting, confusing, and chaotic mess of events in which your closest friends can indiscriminately and quite frustratingly, die in the blink of an eye. As much of a knack for violence that Gibson has, Hacksaw Ridge makes it perfectly clear that you should be averted, and not attracted, to war.

Ultimately, it’s Desmond’s altruism and refusal to take a life that counterbalances Gibson’s horrifying depiction of the chaos on the Pacific Theatre. I walked away from the film with a deeper appreciation for the heroes that have fought for our country, and the sacrifices they have made to bestow the freedoms and liberties that I benefit from every day. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel selfish, pondering why it had to take a movie for me to really appreciate the people who’ve put their lives on the line. Now, every time I see an American flag, I always commemorate their fortitude and most of all, their bravery.

Hacksaw Ridge also made me rethink my current religious stance. Before, I always considered myself close-minded to the prospect of faith, but then I saw what faith can do for people: it can save their lives. I figured, “Well, if it was Desmond’s belief system that saved these 75 men, then obviously religion can’t be all that bad.” Therefore, I no longer treat religion as a glorified, money-making institution, but rather as a force for good in the world. In addition, while I was deeply agitated by the film’s abominable spin on violence, I at least took solace in knowing that there is an intrinsic decency in man that transcends even the worst atrocities that he is capable of committing.

I want to say that Hacksaw Ridge is a 100% accurate portrayal of war, but really, it isn’t. Indeed, the film does a stellar job at giving the audience a clear picture of war, but at the end of the day it is still “just a film.” Real war is much worse than what is depicted in movies, and we can all say that we know what it’s like, but we don’t—we can’t. We would need to have fought on the front lines ourselves to authentically empathize with the trauma our heroes have suffered through.   

Again, I encourage you to see Hacksaw Ridge if you haven’t already. I can understand why the film isn’t for everyone, as the war sequences were too much for even me to stomach, yet it exemplifies a kind of richness that’s hard to find in media. And that, in itself, is the mark of a fantastic film.