15 Best Movie Posters of 2021

Welcome back to the mostly-annual year-end countdown of the best movie posters of the year! Obviously since we basically got no movies in 2020 I had to take the last year off, but we’re back for 2021 with a very solid selection of eye-catching posters that I had a seriously difficult time narrowing down into just a top 15. As before, I’m using impawards as the source for 2021 posters. Any poster released during the year is eligible, but special consideration is given to posters which are intended for mass distribution rather than posters which are intended to be limited-release, alternative, “artistic” posters. As usual, you can see the full-sized poster in all its glory if you click on the images. Anyway, with those considerations out of the way, let’s get onto the list!

Dishonourable Mention: Cosmic Sin

Okay, the idea of Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo as a couple of space marines sounds fucking awesome, but the cheap, obvious, awful headswap Photoshop job on this poster makes this whole movie seem cheap and laughable. Not that Cosmic Sin needs much help, this movie is apparently so bad and forgettable that no one has even fixed the numerous grammatical errors in its Wikipedia page as of October 21, 2021. Ouch.

15) The French Dispatch

This one mostly makes the list because you take one look at it and go “Oh hey, it’s a Wes Anderson movie in poster form”. It’s quirky, detailed and has tons of stuff to look at, each cell is practically a miniature character poster of its own and the Fibonacci sequence-like layout directs your eyes in an unusual and interesting way. The pulpy, 30s/40s serial art style also helps this standout amongst the other posters of 2021 and no-doubt reflects Anderson’s distinct visual style and aesthetics. All-in-all, a unique and fun poster which undoubtedly reflects the film’s aesthetic as well.

14) Spencer

This poster is very striking. Between the massive, elaborate outfit, the contrast between the dark and the light of the dress and Kristen Stewart’s flawless transformation into Princess Diana, there’s plenty to draw you in. What helps make this more than just a visually-appealing piece is that the design also belies the story’s darker elements, with Diana seemingly stifled, like she’s trapped in the opulence. It’s a true art piece in its own right and I’m curious if Spencer can live up to it.

13) Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry

I’m not really a fan of pop music (shocker), so unsurprisingly I don’t give a shit about Billie Eilish and could care even less for an Apple TV exclusive documentary about her. However, it’s hard to deny that she doesn’t have her own distinct style, best highlighted in these posters for The World’s a Little Blurry. I like the first one mostly, it has a moody tone to it, Eilish’s signature green hair gives it a strong hue and it (obviously) lives up to the “blurry” part of the title. It reminds me of the Joker poster from 2019 that I liked so much. Like most good posters, the use of colour is very intentional, bringing its own tone, mood, style and even symbology to these posters which I can’t help but appreciate.

12) Prisoners of the Ghostland

While I find this poster very visually-arresting, promising me the trippiest samurai movie you’ve ever seen, there’s one small element that really makes me love this poster. I love how this poster draws your eyeline downward – first you see a samurai badass with his back to you, then the spooky mask, then the title and then “This wildest movie I’ve ever made”. Wow, who’s saying that? Nicholas goddamn Cage and for him that is a freaking declaration. The poster itself is cool but that strategically-placed quote gets my imagination racing, just going to show that every aspect of poster design can be crucial to its success. For that, Prisoners of the Ghostland deserves special commendation!

11) A Classic Horror Story

This one succeeds for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s called A Classic Horror Story and the poster design makes this look like… a classic 70s horror story. Secondly, if I saw that horned devil lady in my doorway, I’d be legitimately unsettled. The fact that it seems to be happening in full daylight just makes the whole thing even more unsettling to me, while the red and black colours give the whole thing a sinister vibe. Like I said, colour is very important in good poster design (a trend which you will likely notice going forward) and the use of it here helps contribute to the horrifying atmosphere that A Classic Horror Story is giving off.

10) Honeydew

There are several horror posters this year that get by with their disturbing and unnerving imagery, including choices that just missed the list such as Malignant and We Need to Do Something. However, this poster for Honeydew is the most unsettling for me. I’m not entirely sure what is happening here, but it sure looks uncomfortable and you can see the fear in this guy’s eyes at whatever’s going on. It conjures images in my mind of some Saw-like trap and all the nastiness associated with that. The sickly, yellow hue over the entire poster just makes it feel even more disconcerting.

9) Old

This one is pretty simple but effective. While other posters for Old get across the idea that it takes place on a beach more, this one is far more interesting. In my opinion, it captures the concept of the inevitable, uncontrollable and even frightening passage of time and death very well, all wrapped up in a minimalist, black and white style that makes it striking to view.

8) The Sleeping Negro

Oh and speaking of minimalist styles, while the poster for Old mostly just looks cool, this poster for The Sleeping Negro uses it to get across some pretty clever racial imagery. This poster deftly gets across the theme of alienation and isolation in this film in a very simple manner that makes it even more effective than if they had gone for something more complicated or less stylized. Hell, they could honestly go even more minimalist if they wanted to, cutting out the title completely, and the message would still be conveyed just as strongly, as even the black character’s afro highlights that he’s singled out because of his race. When you can afford to strip down your poster even more then you know the designers hit on something right.

7) Bulletproof

This is another one of those posters where the imagery captures the ideas of the film in a really striking manner. Bulletproof is about the American response to school shootings and seeing children pointing finger guns at each other here is an eerie encapsulation of the topics this film will be exploring. Once again, the eyeline works perfectly – you see the finger guns, then you’re drawn down to the title and know what this movie is saying in chilling fashion.

6) The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad has a huge cast of extremely colourful and varied characters and this first poster captures that aspect of the film and its off-kilter tone in glorious fashion. It also doesn’t give any of the characters more prominence than the others, which makes the characters’ fates in the film even more ambiguous (which is pretty important for a movie where, like, 80% of these characters get annihilated in gory fashion). The second poster captures the feel of a pulpy, 60s-era action movie, which isn’t nearly as interesting but it it’s worth highlighting and contrasting it to the first poster. These are very different styles but they both work to capture the fun of this very enjoyable romp of a film.

5) The Green Knight

I love the use of bright red and gold and the subjects facing away from the camera across The Green Knight‘s posters, it gives them all a unifying, sombre tone. While the main theatrical poster would have made this list regardless due to its strong aesthetic, what really pushed this into the top five for me was the presence of that brilliantly huggable foxy boi. When I first saw that poster I squealed with glee. For the record, graphic designers, throw a fox on your poster and you’re pretty much guaranteed to make my top 15 if your poster is any good.

4) Godzilla vs. Kong

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Monsterverse consistently have some of the best posters of all Hollywood blockbusters. We get posters like Spiral which are pretty and posters like Bring Your Own Brigade and The River Runner which give you massive scale, but Godzilla vs. Kong gives you pretty colours and massive scale! The fact that they have so many cool posters and so many of these were actually used in the general marketing of the film make this even more impressive to me. Even if Godzilla vs. Kong was kinda disappointing, there’s no denying that the marketing was, once again, on point.

3) Army of the Dead

I didn’t really care for Army of the Dead – I thought it was bloated, poorly written and squandered what should have been an over-the-top action romp. While the film itself fell short, the marketing department for Army of the Dead clearly understood what this movie should have been. We get gorgeous poster after gorgeous poster of colourful, macabre excess, all of which make the film look way cooler than it actually is. This is just a handful of the great posters Army of the Dead got this year, so even if the quality wasn’t there (which it is) then due to pure variety this would have ranked highly. For my own part, I especially like the neon-hued skull in a river of paint and the pile of corpses in the shape of a skull. Man, seeing these posters is making me think about how I wish the movie lived up to them all over again…

2) The Night House

We’ve had a slew of spooky and disturbing horror movie posters in 2021, but for my money The Night House has the best of them. What makes it more impressive is that there isn’t much horror imagery to speak of – there’s a blood-red moon, a scared expression from Rebecca Hall and, in one poster, a ghostly hand cutout, representing a spectral figure or perhaps someone who’s been lost? Then there’s the strong use of red and black to give everything an eerie atmosphere. In any case, it works, I really want to see this movie and figure out what sort of thrills The Night House has in store for me, which makes it more than worthy of this spot. However, there can only be one #1 pick…

1) Jackass Forever

There’s something about this poster where I looked at it and said “this is perfect” and instantly put it as a frontrunner for the year’s posters. Like, just look at it, it’s the perfect encapsulation of what Jackass is. You’ve got the rainbow hang glider and obese man to draw your attention and then the eyeline goes down to the cactus plants and then down to the film’s title. Just by looking at it, it creates a story in your head that is equal parts funny, painful and so incredibly stupid that I can’t help but applaud it. It’s so simple, but so striking that I still can’t quite believe that it’s this good, especially because the other Jackass Forever posters don’t hit me the same way at all. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise though, this right here: this is art.

POST-SCRIPT: Well, shit. I usually have a rule here – only posters for movies released in the year in question are considered and here I have completely flubbed as Jackass Forever is going to be released in 2022 instead. To be fair, when I started this list it actually would have been a 2021 film, but it was delayed and I missed that in the time it took to make selections, write and release the list. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue due to unexpected delays, but it should probably go without saying that I’ll not take Jackass Forever into account for 2022’s list (because it would probably win again).

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

After the bloated and unpolished Resident Evil 6, excitement for a new mainline Resident Evil game was at an all-time low. Capcom were certainly aware of this and actually took their criticisms to heart. Resident Evil 6 wasn’t anywhere near as successful as they had hoped it would be, so they decided to take the opposite approach – gone were the bombastic setpieces, action-heavy gameplay and globe-trotting story, instead we were going to get a back-to-basics, claustrophobic, true horror experience. Resident Evil 7 feels, in many ways, like a complete reboot of the franchise, but is it quite as much of a dramatic departure as it seems? Read on to find out…

Love

  • The Baker Estate – As much as I loved the intricate level design of Resident Evil 4 (and even 5 to a lesser extent), coming back to a confined environment with locked doors, puzzles to solve and monsters to dodge makes Resident Evil 7 feel like a true return to form.
    • First of all, the environments really feel like a lived-in location. The main house is covered with details that are just there to hint at the Bakers’ family life, hobbies and backstory before they turned into a bunch of psychos. Meanwhile, the old house is dilapidated and literally crumbling apart, making for a very eerie environment to explore. This makes the arrival of the Molded all the more frightening as you suddenly enter environments which are completely unnatural compared to the spaces you’ve been travelling through to this point.
    • While the Baker Estate is quite large, covering three separate complexes with several floors each, it’s so well-designed that you get very familiar with each location and can navigate with ease quickly enough. Undoubtedly you will enter an area and find something you can’t access right then, but file it away in your brain to come back later when you get the key or lockpick you needed for it.
    • I also have to say that the actual design of the environment really makes Resident Evil 7 a satisfying game to play. For example, early on in the game you’ll find a shotgun on pedestal. If you pick it up, the door behind you closes. So you put it back, but now you know you need to find something to put there in order for you to get that shotgun. Eventually you’ll see a broken shotgun on the other side of a locked door, so now you’re trying to find out how to open that door so you can get that. Eventually you find the way in and get the broken shotgun and trade it to get yourself a fancy new gun. However, later still you can find a wooden shotgun and, if you’re reasonably clever, you may realize “oh shit I can repair the broken one now!” and swap it with the wooden one. If you find one of the super-rare repair kits then you’ll net yourself an optional, more powerful secondary shotgun! It’s stuff like this where the devs make use of your environmental knowledge that makes Resident Evil 7 such a great experience.
  • Return to Survival Horror – One of the biggest changes in Resident Evil 7‘s design philosophy is that this game is a horror experience at its core. It takes inspiration from popular horror games of the era, such as Alien: Isolation, Outlast and Amnesia and applies the classic Resident Evil formula of combat, exploration and light puzzle-solving to make for a very compelling experience. The game also loves to build the tension, allowing you to explore and hinting at danger, but knowing when to hold back and when to finally unleash a pursuer enemy at you. I’d argue that this is as scary as Resident Evil has ever gotten, at the very least since the original game on PS1 as the game oozes an eerie atmosphere and builds tension effectively, while forcing you to make tough choices and conserve your resources in order to survive the horrors coming for you.
  • First Person Perspective – The shift to first-person was one of the most contentious changes in Resident Evil 7, but this isn’t simply trend-chasing or a further slide into Call of Duty-like gameplay, it’s a very calculated and (dare I say) brave decision to increase this game’s immersion and make the horror more effective. The third person perspective of previous games in the franchise is because the series started out trying to be a cinematic horror experience and carried that on even after the camera shifted to over-the-shoulder. This game’s first person perspective makes for a more intimate, focused and immersive experience which this game has clearly been built around. There’s a reason why it’s the default for most horror and survival games of the era.
  • Spectacular Boss Fights – Resident Evil bosses are almost always “shoot big monster in its glowing weak point until it stops moving”, which can get really frustrating because there’s usually little indication of just how much damage you’re actually doing to the boss. While Resident Evil 7‘s bosses don’t deviate from this too much, they do stand out as some of the best bosses in the entire franchise because of all the clever twists and environmental interaction that the developers have brought to the table. The first fight with Jack Baker has you searching around an enclosed garage for the keys to a car to fight him with and then the fight plays out in one of two ways. If you’re quick enough, you get in the car and can drive around, running him over until a scripted event happens that will end the fight. If you’re too slow, Jack will throw you out of the car and try to run you over instead. It makes this into two wildly different boss fights and it’s a big surprise seeing the different ways this can play out. Similarly, the second fight with Jack has him getting into a freaking chainsaw duel with him!!! I died several times in this battle but didn’t care because it was so much fun learning the mechanics and using the environment to my advantage to the point where I was feeling some of that Dark Souls-like satisfaction for overcoming the challenge. Meanwhile, spider-Marguerite is classic “shoot the weak spot” Resident Evil, but mixing it up by having her stalk you in a darkened, dilapidated house where she can emerge from literally any direction may be the creepiest showdown in the entire game. The showdown with mutated Jack is also a highlight, taking the classic Resident Evil boss formula and allowing you to strategically maneuver across two storeys to get different angles on his weak points. All-in-all, Resident Evil 7‘s bosses are consistently some of the most creative, fun and well-designed in the entire franchise.
  • Rewards Exploration – Unlike Resident Evil 6, 7 really wants you to look carefully around your environment. To this end, there are some diabolically well-hidden items in this game. Chief among these are the collectable Antique Coins, which you can use to unlock useful upgrades, including increased health, faster reloads or the freaking magnum. However, that magnum’s ammo is extremely limited and you only find 1 to 2 rounds at a time and they’re all hidden very well in the environment so you could theoretically go the whole game and never even see a magnum round if you don’t look carefully. To help with this, the game has a psychostimulant item which briefly highlights items around the environment, making these tricky hidden collectables more attainable and further incentivizing you to look everywhere for secrets.
  • Influences – While previous Resident Evil games paid homage to other horror media (most notably, George A. Romero films), Resident Evil 7 seems to wear these influences on its sleeve most proudly. As a horror fan it’s really fun to see all the nods to films that influenced this game’s design. Probably most obvious is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is most evident in this game’s iconic nod to the dinner scene. Taking that idea and tone and then transplanting it to Louisiana was an inspired move that helps it to feel like more than just a simple ripoff. Other big influences include The Evil Dead (Mia’s possession scenes and chainsaw duel), The Blair Witch Project (found footage and Andre facing the wall) and [REC] (Mia found footage sequence). Hell, there’s even a random Planet of the Apes reference for good measure! All these different influences also help shake up the Resident Evil formula, expanding the scope of what this franchise is capable of in the process.

Mixed

  • Found Footage – One of the obvious influences on Resident Evil 7 is the found footage trend that had been popularized in the horror film genre in the years prior to its release. At several points in the game you can find video tapes which, if you bring them to a VHS player, will allow you to play through the footage. On the one hand, these can provide clever ways to learn new details about the environment in an organic way, preview an area you haven’t gotten to yet or simply shakeup the gameplay a bit. The VHS tape filter also makes the environment just creepier – at a certain point, everything becomes blurry and out of focus. However, I have a couple issues with these tapes. First of all, the fact that you can die in them just doesn’t make sense. More importantly though, whenever I find a tape I get annoyed because I know I’m going to have to set aside what I’m actually doing in the game to go deal with some diversion for the next 15 minutes or so. Tapes can be a pace-killer and feel like they’re just there to pad time, or give you an excuse to breeze your way through an upcoming area. Finally, as the game goes on these “found footage tapes” lose a lot of their narrative justification. The first one you find was literally left by a camera crew, but by the time you find Mia’s tape in the last hour and a half the camera gimmick has been dropped entirely in that footage and it seems like it’s just… a memory maybe?
  • The Story – At a certain point I had to sit and ask myself “What is driving me forward? The narrative or the gameplay?” and concluded that it was overwhelmingly the gameplay. The story in Resident Evil 7 is far more personal and low-stakes compared to a globe-trotting, world-ending affair like Resident Evil 6, which works in this game’s favour. However, the specifics of what exactly is going on in this game are left ambiguous for a long time in the game, meaning that most of your time spent playing is going to involve you getting more confused and frustrated as narrative events play out around you. This all comes to a head towards the last third of the game where you’re given a choice between helping Mia (who’s the whole reason you’re in this place) or helping Zoe (some rando you’ve been talking to on the phone off-screen a few times), but by this point I still really didn’t understand what was going on. The ending of the game is tied to the choice you make here and while the “right” choice seems kinda obvious, if you’re going to implement a major choice like this then maybe inform the player better beforehand so they can actually understand what they’re doing. The final third of the game (and most of the DLCs for that matter) has many revelations which make things a bit better in retrospect, but personally I would have liked to have a bit more insight into what was happening earlier.
  • Molded – I’m pretty torn on the Molded enemies which permeate the latter-half of the game. On the one hand, I love their unceremonious introduction: at one point in the game you just enter a room and suddenly this freaking blob of oily flesh sprouts from the wall and starts chasing you out of nowhere, it sets a great impression for them. They’re quite intimidating when they first appear, taking at least two headshots to take down with your starting pistol, and if you find yourself facing off against multiple Molded then you’re probably going to die. However, as the game progresses you’ll become more adept at killing them and the game throws more and more of them at you. At this point, the Molded become more of a nuisance than anything substantial. The first half of the game works so well because you’re being stalked by one powerful enemy in each area, regularly getting into combat with handfuls of Molded is less interesting in comparison.

Hate

  • Sluggish Movement – I swear to God, Ethan Winters is the slowest motherfucker in videogames. Oh sure, there is a sprint button in this game, but it barely makes a difference and if you’re being chased, it’s not going to be enough to get you away from that enemy. The game’s sluggish movement is not not helped by the difficulty of avoiding damage from enemies. If an enemy gets right in front of you, you basically have to either shoot it and hope to kill/stagger, block and reduce the damage you take, or quick-turn and hope you can run away (thereby completely losing sight of the enemy). Strafing and backing up are pretty much unviable with this movement speed. Most encounters in this game are designed to be very close-quarters (there’s no easy sniping in this game) so this is a more frequent headache than you may expect. You can compensate for it a bit as the game progresses, especially if the developers throw a big obstacle in the room that you can use to generate distance, but there are times where you’ll be in a completely open hallway and your only real option is to run, or you’ll see an attack coming but have no way to actually avoid it.
  • Load Times – I don’t usually worry that much about loading screens, but good God the load times in Resident Evil 7 are brutal. For me at least, going from the main menu into the game takes around 45 seconds to a minute to complete. And those found footage tapes I mentioned? Well, having to sit and wait for a load screen whenever you start and finish one is just more reason why those segments annoyed me and brought the pacing to a halt.
  • The Final Third of the Game – The gameplay loop of the first two thirds of this game is top-notch survival horror, exploring areas, avoiding enemies, gathering and managing resources, etc. However, shortly after you finish with Marguerite’s section in the Old House, the game becomes far more linear and never really gets back to the same level of quality. It’s a bit of a mixed bag – on the one hand, we get more story context and Mia goes from a damsel in distress to a straight-up badass, but the game also suddenly strips you of all your items not once, but twice which is a bit of a momentum-killer and the shift into more linear, action-heavy gameplay takes away a lot of what made the game fun to this point.

Resident Evil 7 was a great return to form for the franchise when it desperately needed it. By going back to its horror roots and not feeling like it had to fit the same mold as previous games in the franchise, it revitalized the series and finally got people excited to see where the series would go again. After slogging my way through 5 and 6, it was refreshing to play a well-paced, focused experience that didn’t overstay its welcome.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 6

Resident Evil 6 is often considered the point where the franchise jumped the shark, leading to Capcom’s total rehaul of the series with Resident Evil 7 and REmake 2. I also never played it and didn’t know a whole lot about it, other than that there were three wildly-different main campaigns and they all had a co-op component, so I was going in largely blind. Is it nearly as bad as its reputation would have you believe? Read on to find out…

Oh and one thing I want to note before going further is that I played this game on Veteran on my first playthrough. This is in contrast to the other games on this list which I usually would play on Normal first time since I was unfamiliar with their gameplay. However, by the time I got to Resident Evil 6 I was like 5 Resident Evil games deep and figured I’d be down for a challenge (I usually prefer to play games on Hard if I’m familiar with their gameplay). I don’t think this affected my experience with Resident Evil 6 disproportionately compared to other games in the franchise, but I wanted to note this just in case the higher difficulty did affect my enjoyment and I’m unaware of it.

Love

  • Free Movement – After Resident Evil 5 took a half-measure of modernizing the series’ movement controls, Resident Evil 6 goes all the way, ditching the last vestiges of tank controls in favour of Uncharted-style, fluid movement. It makes the game play far more intuitively for modern audiences without any kind of learning curve involved. In addition to this, Resident Evil 6 finally also allows players to move and aim at the same time, adds a sprint to your already-fast movement speed and even throws in options for slides, dodges and even shooting while lying on your back. These may not be the best option in most circumstances, but at least it’s an option that you can utilize if you choose to (especially in boss fights). All-in-all, it gives Resident Evil 6 probably the most developed movement system in the whole franchise.
  • Gameplay and UI Customization – I’ll be honest, I may have squealed a bit when I went into the menus in this game and saw all the customization options available. In addition to the standard options, there are several control customizations (including if you want to manually or automatically reload when you run out of ammo), you can choose whether you want a reticule or laser sight for aiming, and you even get to choose the colour of your laser sight! Given how I kept losing sight of the red laser in Resident Evil 5, I immediately went with green and never regretted it. It’s a little thing, but holy crap do I love when developers go to the effort to include these kinds of optional quality of life improvements for players.
  • Improved AI Partner – Capcom must have taken some complaints about Resident Evil 5 to heart because your AI companion in Resident Evil 6 is (usually) great. In addition to just being straight-up smarter in the minute-to-minute gameplay, you never have to micro-manage their inventory, health, weapons, pathing, etc and they’re even more helpful in combat. This makes the single-player experience a hell of a lot more enjoyable than I was expecting. Unlike Resident Evil 5, I didn’t play any of this game in co-op so I have nothing to compare my experience to, but I can’t say that I felt like I was getting a lesser experience, because my AI companion was mostly unobtrusive throughout. Sure, a human partner would have been more useful but an AI that stays out of the way, draws aggro and doesn’t die is all I could ask for. That said, there’s one big caveat to this and that’s when your AI companion has to do something that’s outside the scope of their normal tasks (eg, manning a gun camera, staying away from an enemy, etc). At these points their AI is completely useless and makes for some of the most frustrating sequences in the whole game. Still, compared to Resident Evil 5‘s pain in the ass AI companion? It’s an undeniable improvement.
  • Unique Character Builds – I really like how Capcom have differentiated the characters in Resident Evil 6. Whereas Chris and Sheva played identically, every character in Resident Evil 6 brings something unique to the table, from their starting weapons to unique abilities. For example, if you play as Leon you start with a pistol and knife and can dual-wield with another pistol for crowd control, whereas Helena starts with a stronger pistol and a shotgun she can rapid-fire, but she has to deal with more reloading due to her smaller clip-sizes. The most unique pair have to be Jake Muller and Sherry Birkin. Jake gets powerful melee abilities, whereas Sherry gets a burst-fire pistol and stun rod, both of which bring entirely new options to the table when going through their campaign. These different loadouts encourage unique playstyles and it’s enough to tempt you to replay each campaign just to see how it differs with the other character. That said, characters get a bit more homogenized as the game goes along – soon you’ll find a shotgun, a sniper rifle and an assault rifle, but these are almost always some sort of unique variant for each character.
  • Melee System – I’m kind of torn on whether Resident Evil should even have a melee system to deal with enemies, but that said I really enjoyed it in this game. When you’re not aiming a weapon, the attack button allows you to unleash a melee strike at a foe, which can be comboed to unleash a flurry of blows in quick succession. In Leon and Jake’s campaigns, I actually prefer melee to shooting because most enemies will die to 2-3 hits (especially if you can get an environmental kill or kill them with their own melee weapon), or will get knocked prone so I can go for a one-hit-kill curb stomp if you position yourself near their head. Melee works on a stamina bar, so you can’t spam it too much either, which encourages a healthy balance of shooting and melee for the best effect.
  • Some Attention to Detail Can Make Combat More Interesting – Imagine my surprise when I started shooting at a zombie and all of a sudden the flashlight mounted on the zombie’s body got damaged and went out. Similarly, shooting a J’avo in the chest causes their shirts to get torn off from the bullet impacts. It was a bit of extra effort which didn’t really do anything but was cool to see and made the world a bit more immersive. That said, Resident Evil 6 does give these bits of extra detail some actual gameplay importance later on when there are enemies carrying dynamite (either in-hand or on their body), oil lamps or grenades and if you shoot them it makes for an easy instant-kill on all surrounding enemies. Perhaps the most impressive example of this comes in the first fight against the Ustanak – the arena is full of cover, but Ustanak bursts right through it all to get to you, which is terrifying in its own right and further illustrates how relentless this foe is in an organic manner. This level of extra attention is the sort of thing I really didn’t expect from this game but it was really cool to see.
  • Ustanak – Despite being a blatant Nemesis ripoff and having a design which screams “late 2000s edgelord”, Ustanak makes for a fantastic antagonist in Jake and Sherry’s campaign. Every time he shows up, shit gets real and the game gets a whole lot funner. In fact, he disappears for a good chunk of Jake’s campaign and is definitely missed. There are also several boss fights with Ustanak and they’re all by far the best and most impressive showdowns in the whole game. I particularly enjoyed the first and last Ustanak fights. In the first fight against him, the level of destructibility in the environment is shocking for a PS3 game and it does a great job of conveying just how dangerous Ustanak is (akin of what God of War would do to introduce Baldur years later). Meanwhile, the last fight is just badass, culminating with Jake literally fist-fighting Ustanak over a pit of lava and the whole fight makes great use of this game’s dodge mechanics. I went in assuming Ustanak would be a discount Nemesis, but I was pleasantly surprised that he holds his own despite his obvious and far more iconic influence.

Mixed

  • Inventory Management is… Different – Inventory management has seen another drastic overhaul in Resident Evil 6. You open the menu which brings up a menu similar to the XMB UI on the PS3 – your horizontal cross houses weapons, items (like herbs) and ammunition, whereas the vertical bar holds grenades, explosives and first aid sprays. Oh and this is done in real-time like in Resident Evil 5, so enemies can attack you if you’re not careful. It’s pretty meh on its own, but what makes this better than Resident Evil 5‘s clunky system is that weapons and items are automatically mapped to the d-pad, making hotswapping far more easy. However, it also comes with the caveat that ALL weapons and items are mapped to this system, meaning that you’ll likely have to cycle through several things you don’t want before you reach the item you do want. In addition, if you use a grenade the game automatically swaps back to your weapon, so if you wanted to use another grenade you have to hotswap all the way back to find the grenade you wanted. It’s still cumbersome but it works a bit better on the fly, especially if you memorize how many times you have to cycle through to get to the weapon you want.
  • The Graphics – I’m really mixed on the graphics in this game. The character models for main characters? They’re quite good, I played this on PS4 and I wouldn’t have noticed that this was a PS3-era game if I was shown the main character models. Pretty much everything else though? Hoo boy. The environments especially can look like ass, with textures so bad at times that they’re literally PS2-era quality. NPC character models are also noticeably worse than the main characters; if some rando comes along and starts talking to the main characters, there’s a stark difference in quality. This is actually a legitimate problem, because this happens several times in the campaigns and you can always tell that the poor bastard is about to be used as cannon fodder by the devs.
  • Improved Cover System – Compared to Resident Evil 5‘s half-assed system, the cover system in Resident Evil 6 works much better, although it is rougher than its contemporaries. Sometimes you want to free aim near cover, but it will automatically snap you into cover and mess up your shot. Or, let’s look at the sequence of buttons you have to press to actually use cover and shoot an enemy, shall we? To take cover you have to hold L2, then press X, then move to a corner with the left analog stick and then poke out and shoot enemies… all while continuing to hold L2, because if you let go you will immediately exit cover. Could they not just make it a single button press? Press X to take cover, press X + left analog stick to vault. Simple, why do I need to press half the buttons on the controller for such a simple action? In addition, sometimes the system itself is just frustrating – I can’t count the number of times it looked like I should be able to pop out of cover to shoot an enemy but the game just wouldn’t let me, because it wasn’t registered as a location where you’re allowed to do that. It’s functional enough, and you damn-well need to use cover to survive some of these campaigns, but it definitely could have been better.
  • No Weapon or Loadout Customization – While I appreciate that Capcom differentiated each character, that comes with the caveat that each characters’ weapons are locked to them and unlocked at the same time in every playthrough. No saving up money to get a rocket launcher early or beelining through a dangerous area to get your favourite weapon, when Resident Evil 6 says you get a weapon is when it happens (hell, even if you miss picking up a weapon it will force it into your inventory by the time the next chapter starts). Again, I appreciate that this contributes to differentiating and specializing the characters, but it’s somewhat disappointing compared to Resident Evil 4 and 5‘s system.
  • J’avo – After two games focusing on parasite-infected enemies, Resident Evil 6 brings us a new variety of cannon fodder in the J’avo. I was expecting to get another round of Plagas-esque parasites from these guys, but was pleasantly surprised to see something completely unique. J’avo initially are just psychotic humans with masks and extra sets of eyes, but they have the ability to rapidly mutate in response to your actions. Miss your headshot and hit the J’avo in the arm? It’s suddenly going to sprout a massive arm that it will then attempt to beat you down with. Blow a J’avo’s legs off? It might just grow a pair of wings and fly around to harrass you. You also run into various special J’avo, such as ones that skitter around like spiders, ones with grasshopper-like legs for long jumps, one with a Rhinoceros beetle head to instantly down you if you’re caught and others with gigantic centipede-like heads which they use to hide their weak spot. They’re a cool enemy type whose dynamic transformations make for really interesting combat… which makes it a shame that their actual implementation often spoils the promise they have. Most J’avo either run at you with a machete or spray bullets at you the second they see you, which isn’t helped by their braindead AI. Seriously, you see these guys walking past you obliviously in a gunfight all the time. In Chris’ campaign they can also be difficult to differentiate from your allies so you can find yourself getting attacked unexpectedly by a J’avo who wandered past you that you didn’t even notice. Their transformations are still cool enough that I have to give them some credit but the actual execution is lacking polish. It’s too bad, J’avo could be top-tier Resident Evil foes in a better game.
  • Jake and Sherry’s Campaign – Of all the campaigns in this game, I was actually surprised to find that I enjoyed Jake and Sherry’s the most. All of Resident Evil 6‘s campaigns are blatantly aping other game franchises which were popular at the time, but Jake’s campaign is the most successful in this regard. It mixes the gameplay and character of Uncharted (seriously, about halfway through the campaign Jake and Sherry literally put on two of Drake’s outfits) and the villain of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis to mostly-good results. There are all sorts of setpieces which are fun and just ridiculous enough to feel tongue-in-cheek (Ustanak chasing you through a convoy of helicopters and the avalanche snowmobile race being particular highlights), the gunplay is eased back enough that fights feel fun rather than a slog and it’s the only campaign that has an ending that’s at all satisfying. In fact, I would have put this under love if not for one major caveat – in nearly every chapter there will be one stretch of gameplay which ranks amongst the absolute worst in the entire game. I’m not exaggerating either, I really liked this campaign but these are inexcusable gameplay segments:
    • Chapter one ends with the awful giant J’avo fight which is just as bad as it was when I first played it in Chris’ campaign.
    • Chapter two has a sequence which is damn-near unplayable in single player where Ustanak is breaking through a series of sealed doors and your success or failure hinges entirely on whether you can rotate the analog sticks extremely fast. With a co-op partner there may be more margin for error, but with an AI? That crazy bastard will walk right up to Ustanak and get instantly one-shotted unless you rotate those stick stupid fast. I only managed to get through this because there’s a bug (?) where you can rotate the left and right analog sticks at the same time and this counts as rotating faster as a result, but I was absolutely infuriated dying here over and over again for no good goddamn reason.
    • Chapter three starts with an abysmal stealth sequence where enemies can spot you unpredictably and, if they do, you get swarmed until you die. Making it worse, enemy damage has been nerfed, but you have no real way of surviving, meaning that you die and restart the sequence slower. Again, this is designed with a co-op partner in mind, but the AI is not built to handle this kind of gameplay.
    • Chapter four has a sequence where you’re supposed to help Chris and Piers deal with a helicopter, but all this really results in is you sitting around waiting for a helicopter to show up from off-screen so that you can miss your shot and have to wait another thirty seconds for it to come back.

Hate

  • The Story – My initial impression when starting Resident Evil 6 is that this game puts an emphasis on telling a cinematic story far more than any previous game in the franchise. I thought that perhaps the hate this game gets was due to this change in direction, but as I progressed further I soon came to realize that this game’s story is not good. To be fair, Resident Evil games tend to have B-movie quality stories at best, but they either lean into the campiness (Resident Evil 4) or are unimportant compared to the survival gameplay (REmake 2). However, Resident Evil 6‘s story fails for several reasons:
    • Resident Evil 6 continues the po-faced, self-serious tone that 5 started. This could potentially work, but Resident Evil 6 also wants to be a bombastic action game like Uncharted, so one minute you’ll have gruff characters having a serious conversation and then the next an entire highway will be exploding as you run away from flying cars, or you’ll be jumping from one helicopter to another and then start shooting down your own convoy to stop an approaching enemy, all without a hint of irony. These spectacular setpieces could be incredible if the game leaned into the comedy of them, but they’re so few and far between that I can’t help but think that they were intended to be completely serious (at least in Leon and Chris’ campaigns, in Jake and Sherry’s they come often enough that it feels more intentionally campy).
    • The plot is also so poorly paced. For example, in Leon’s campaign you spend an hour and a half in a zombie-filled campus before you get into a car and escape. I shit you not, you barely even get onto the road before the damn vehicle crashes and explodes. At another point, you fight through a swarm of zombies and then the second you get free from them suddenly a giant shark appears, not even giving you enough time to breathe and build the tension back up. Entire sub-chapters feel like they were done by separate teams and then mashed together in the end haphazardly. For another example, in chapter 2 of Chris’ campaign you go from gunfights with enemies in the streets of a city, to fighting across a random bridge in the middle of a gorge, to suddenly being back in the city and then fighting at city hall with little-to-no story or context linking these gameplay segments together. On a wider-level, entire campaigns just feel “off”. Again, Leon’s campaign feels sluggish for the first three chapters, then suddenly in the fourth chapter they get to China and immediately get in a plane crash set piece, then there’s two boss battles back-to-back and massive setpiece battles. It just feels like this plodding campaign goes off the rails out of nowhere. Similarly, in Jake’s campaign he and Sherry get captured and spend all of chapter 3 trying to escape… only for them to get captured again at the end of chapter 4. It feels like a cheap excuse to get the characters from place to place but it is so deflating to the momentum of the story.
    • One of the major issues with Resident Evil 6‘s story is that it is fundamentally over-ambitious and bites off far more than it can chew. I addressed this in a previous article about Resident Evil 6, but to summarize the way that the developers have put four overlapping campaigns together makes it so that none of them can tell a satisfying story. Each one feels incomplete and incomprehensible on its own and even when you bring them all together it doesn’t make for a better experience than one, focused, well-told story: it’s just four half-baked stories. Ada’s campaign especially gets shafted. I went in expecting her story to be the most important and revelatory, but instead we get one chapter of unique setup and then the other four chapters are 90% recycled content, anything from recycled boss fights to reused environments and enemy encounters, and Ada’s role in the story becomes more about providing backup to the other characters rather than actually doing anything substantial on her own. Sure, we get a handful of revelations which explain what’s going on, but the campaign itself feels like an afterthought.
    • Just… bad writing in general. I’ve already said that the campaign crossovers make it so that there’s no satisfying payoffs in this game, but that’s just the start of this story’s problems. Take Chris’ storyline, where for some inexplicable reason the writers decided to give him amnesia. This begs the question of why the BSAA would knowingly force a PTSD-ridden, revenge-fueled amnesiac to lead a squad into battle. It’s so stupid and then Chris spends the whole campaign trying to get revenge on Ada Wong, until suddenly he runs into Leon and decides that he doesn’t need to get revenge anymore. I’ve said it before, but it is literally that sudden. Oh and there’s the constant shifting of the stakes – the J’avo attack in Eastern Europe and the catastrophic C-virus outbreak in Tall Oaks that take up entire chapters of gameplay? Just a distraction! The C-virus missiles being launched in Lanshiang are the real plan! Oh wait, these were also a distraction, the actual plan was… to have a single, giant BOW called HAOS escape and spread the C-virus through the Earth? WTF? (Also, given that all it takes to stop HAOS is the destruction of its containment facility, I’m pretty sure most governments could kill it before it becomes a problem, honestly missiles full of C-virus are way deadlier.) Worst of all though is the fact that this entire game’s plot revolves around… Jesus Christ, it’s so stupid, are you ready for this? The entire plot revolves around US National Security Advisor Derek Simmons being a simp for Ada Wong. When she rejects him he creates a virus to clone her, forcing a female scientist to become an Ada Wong doppelganger. The clone is so mad about this that she decides to destroy the world. Like… holy fucking shit, I have no words.
  • Unrewarding Level Design – One of the obvious ways that Resident Evil 6 takes inspiration from other AAA franchises of its era is that the level design has gotten far more linear, akin to Call of Duty. Resident Evil 4 and 5 may have ditched the maze-like exploration of Resident Evil-past, but at least those games had lots of hidden secrets and rewards waiting for those willing to go looking. Resident Evil 6, on the other hand, is distinctly underwhelming for those who bother going off the beaten path. You may find a crate that you can smash to get a little bit of ammo or a miniscule amount of Skill Points, but that’s about it. Basically, nearly every level in Resident Evil 6 is functional window-dressing, funneling you along to the next gun fight and isn’t meant to be appreciated on any deeper level than that.
  • Skills – Resident Evil 6 ditches the merchant/upgrade system from Resident Evil 4 and 5 in favour of the new skills system, which operates similar to Call of Duty‘s perks system. Honestly, this would be great if it was done as its own, separate mechanic, but as a replacement to the upgrade system it is infinitely inferior. Instead of improving the stats of my favourite weapons as the game goes on, I just get three flat upgrades to my character, which are far less consequential. Oh, and Resident Evil 6 doesn’t put in interludes between sub-chapters, meaning that you only get to upgrade your skills at the end of a chapter or from the main menu, meaning you get far less use out of the system… not that you will get much use out of it anyway because holy shit any useful skill is stupidly expensive. Seriously, I’ve gone through entire campaigns and still haven’t been able to afford an upgrade by the end, making this system feel even more unrewarding. This also means that your weapons never really get better – your weak-ass starting pistol is still your weak-ass starting pistol in the endgame unless you use one of your extremely limited skill slots on it and several chapters worth of skill points to improve it, but ultimately it’s just not worth it.
  • Zombies – What’s that, franchise purists, you miss zombies? Well, they’re back in Leon’s campaign in Resident Evil 6, for some reason (actually, the reason is literally because fans whined about it)! While I was initially rather impressed with the zombies in this game, they outstay their welcome quickly. On the one hand, they’re suitably squishy and they can even be a bit scary at times when they swarm and suddenly pounce at you from afar. They also show up in urban locations, bringing us our first real glimpse of a Resident Evil zombie outbreak on modern hardware. That said, they can take a lot of shots to put down, which can be annoying for a game like this where you’re expected to kill every enemy you come across and it gets really annoying when they’re constantly pouncing on you and grabbing you, interrupting the action as you deal with their lengthy animations. What really annoys me though is the super-zombies which, by the time you reach the second chapter, the game will throw at you endlessly. They feel like a bunch of bargain-bin, Left 4 Dead knock-offs – screechers, berserk zombies and fatties… that’s about it. They aren’t particularly fun to fight and the worst part has to be their uninspired designs. This is a franchise where zombies stand side-by-side with iconic enemies like Lickers, Tyrants and Hunters and feel like they are an integral part of the experience, the “special” zombies in Leon’s campaign are completely forgettable. Compared to J’avo, this game’s zombies are underwhelming foes.
  • Respawning Enemies – You know what’s annoying? Having enemies spawn from behind you, out of nowhere, all the time. Congrats, you now know what Resident Evil 6‘s combat encounters feel like. Seriously, you can completely clear out an area, move on to the next one and get into a gun fight when suddenly you’re attacked by multiple enemies who showed up from behind you. While I have seen enemies spawn literally out of nowhere in this game, the main culprit seems to be Left 4 Dead and Vermintide-style “nests” where enemies can spawn at will and then enter the area. Unlike those two games, Resident Evil 6‘s system isn’t nearly as dynamic or interesting. Hell, it even gets predictable and exploitable at times, because apparently the developers of Resident Evil 6 are terrified of the idea of having an area completely cleared of enemies. At one point in Chris’ campaign I noticed enemies kept spawning from two directions, one at a time, during an encounter with a giant monster where I took cover in a place where the monster couldn’t reach me. The enemies are obviously meant to keep pressure on you but they were so dumb and predictable that I could just cycle over to them every 15 seconds or so and then get back to the fight. This is a best-case scenario for the respawning enemies, usually they’re just a frustrating pain in the ass.
  • Over-animation – Resident Evil 6 has a bad habit of over-animating actions to the detriment of the gameplay. Like, whenever a dead body is placed into the environment, your character will trip over them, causing you to lose control of them for a couple seconds as they stagger forward. This is especially prominent in Leon’s campaign, but it is always incredibly annoying when it happens. You also get knocked down A LOT in combat. As I understand it, every time you lose a square of health you will be knocked down onto your back. With some enemies, this will happen every time they hit you. As you can probably imagine, this gets infuriating as you get up and then are immediately knocked down over and over again. In addition, there’s also a baffling bit of animation in chapter 4 of Chris’ campaign where the ship just… bobs and there’s an animation as you steady yourself. It’s completely random, very infrequent and I just had to ask why they even bothered to make this happen. (Pretty sure that this is representing Ada fighting her doppelganger during this part of the game… but still, why bother making a whole animation for this?)
  • Very Rough and Unpolished – For a game that had over 600 developers working on it, Resident Evil 6‘s quality is wildly inconsistent. On the one hand, you have those cool (but useless) details I mentioned earlier like being able to shoot out the lights on zombies. On the other hand, you’ve got things like terrible lip synching, sniper laser sights that clip through cover and a game engine that can’t handle sprinting if you do it on stairs. Everywhere you look there’s something that makes this game feel rushed, like the devs needed more time to actually go over everything and give it a consistent level of quality. There are far too many examples to go over them all, but one of the most egregious is that the NPC squadmates in Chris’ campaign are completely braindead, unable to provide any sort of support in a fight and are more likely to stare at a wall than they are to actually shoot at an enemy. It’s so bad that the game will actually spawn more allies ahead of you hoping you won’t notice and will assume your allies are actually doing something. On the gameplay side of things, there’s also moments that feel like they were barely tested to ensure they were actually fun. For example, in the underground in Leon’s campaign trains will pass through the area. When one is coming, you literally have a second to figure out where a train is coming from (behind you, it’s always behind you) and you get insta-splatted if you happen to be on the wrong side of the tracks at the time. Similarly, later on in the campaign you end up in Tall Oaks at a gas station where, late in a siege, an ambulance will come careening through the area out of nowhere. If you just happen to be standing in its path when this happens, you die and have to redo the entire fight. The first time I did this, my AI partner happened to be in its path and died. Suffice to say, I was livid, there was nothing I could do to avoid that cheap game over.
  • The Treatment of Female Characters – Resident Evil 6 feels like the peak of the PS3-era, pre-Gamergate, corporate-fueled pandering to teenage boys in gaming. Resident Evil games up to this point have always had female co-leads which were just as important (if not more) than their male leads (with Resident Evil 4 being the one exception, but that game also had a much different structure than past games and even this got rectified in the Separate Ways expansion that came out not even a year after the original game).
    • For a game that’s so obsessed with reliving its past glories, great female leads like Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield are conspicuously absent. However, Sheva might be the most conspicuous omission of all. Chris’ campaign continues exploring the heroics of the BSAA, but instead of bringing back Sheva or even Jill to act as Chris’ partner, they’re instead replaced with Piers Nevan, a boring, oorah soldier-boy type who feels like he was made specifically to pander to the male, teenage, Call of Duty-loving crowd. Given that this campaign was designed to be the most action-heavy, it wouldn’t surprise me if the decision to have two male leads in this section was 100% deliberately intended to pander to teenage boys.
    • Helena Harper, Sherry Birkin and Ada Wong are cool characters in their own right, but it’s all soured by all the design decisions in this game that make me roll my eyes. For one thing, we’ve got deep cleavage for Helena, Hunnigan, both Ada Wongs and Helena’s sister (who, for bonus points, get transformed into a big titty naked mutant). Even Sherry at one point in the game gets captured and stuck in a medical gown that, for some reason, has a deep v-neck. In addition, Helena’s storyline revolves around the idea that she’s “too emotional” for her job as a Secret Service agent (the unlockable records literally state this), which results in her being used to assassinate the US president and causes an outbreak which requires an entire city to be nuked to prevent it from spreading. Oh, and the trophy for completing Leon’s campaign? Literally “The Trouble With Women”… Like, none of the characters are stuck in bikini armour or anything like that, but seriously? Literally every female character in this game is showing prominent cleavage?
    • I also get annoyed by the way this game positions its characters and campaigns. In the records section, it’s not Leon and Helena’s campaign, it’s “Leon’s campaign”. It’s not Chris and Piers’ campaign, it’s “Chris'”. It’s not Jake and Sherry’s campaign, it’s “Jake’s”. It straight-up acknowledges that the male characters are what’s important here not the women (and that Piers loser). This isn’t a super big deal by any means, but when you add it on top of all the other decisions it’s just another thing that annoys me about how this game places its female characters.
    • Here’s a baffling bonus: during Leon’s campaign there’s a segment where you have to fight a boss inside a cathedral full of civilians. These civilians will almost certainly all be killed and/or turned into zombies during the fight – you can try to save them but it’s almost inevitable that they will all die unless you go out of your way to save them. Well, turns out that there’s a trophy for that… except to get the trophy you specifically have to save at least two female survivors for some reason. Oh, and the name of that trophy? “I Prefer Them Alive”. Is… is that a necrophilia joke? Just… why, Capcom?

Resident Evil 6 is an over-ambitious mess of a game. It went the route that all AAA games of the PS3/Xbox 360-era were going and tried to be a bombastic, serious, cinematic action game and lost a lot of the series’ identity in the process while not being anywhere near as good as the Uncharted, Gears of War or Call of Duty games it so wants to emulate. Hell, it’s not even worthy to stand next to its closest contemporary, Dead Space. It’s peak early-2010s Capcom, in trying to be something for everyone the devs bit off way more than they could chew, leaving us with a game that is lesser overall than if they had made a more focused experience. Thankfully, at least it seems that they took these lessons to heart because the series would make a dramatic shift going forward…

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 was actually the first Resident Evil game I got far into. I had a friend in high school who was a big fan of the series and when this game came out we played through two thirds of the game in co-op and had a good time. Since then, Resident Evil 5‘s reputation has taken a bit of a hit as it took the franchise into a more action-oriented direction. How did it hold up for me? Read on to find out…

Love

  • Improved Controls – When you start up Resident Evil 5, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much smoother the game plays compared to Resident Evil 4. Aiming is much quicker, you can strafe (when you aren’t aiming), the knife animation plays much faster and overall the game is easier to play today compared to its predecessor.
  • Graphics Still Look Good – Certain parts of Resident Evil 5 look dated but the game has a distinctive look which make it stand out even today. This largely comes down to the game’s very bright, washed out tones which (like many PS3-era games) was clearly inspired by Black Hawk Down. The lack of colour can be dreary, especially since every other game of this era was just as washed-out, but at least Resident Evil 5‘s early chapters do it in a way which is distinct for this game.
  • Albert Wesker – Resident Evil 5 gets noticeably better as soon as Albert Wesker enters the picture. He’s such a perfect camp villain with his delusional, smug attitude, silly sunglasses and grand monologues. He makes for a far more memorable and enjoyable antagonist than Saddler was and, honestly, this portrayal of him may just be the best villain in the whole franchise (only truly rivaled by Nemesis).
  • Voice Acting is Pretty Good – Resident Evil games have always been known for their dodgy voice acting, but Resident Evil 5 definitely has the strongest voice acting in the series up to that point. This is especially highlighted by Roger Craig Smith and D.C. Douglas’ performances as Chris Redfield and Albert Wesker, respectively. Even if I couldn’t give a shit about what’s happening in the game, they are clearly giving it 100% and their performances elevate the material considerably.
  • Game Picks Up in the Latter Half – Resident Evil 5 reminded me of Dark Souls in that it gets significantly funner when you’ve finally built up your arsenal and aren’t starved for resources anymore. While this flies in the face of Resident Evil‘s survival horror roots, I’ll at least say that the game they’ve built here isn’t firing on all cylinders until it stops pretending to be anything other than an action game around the start of Chapter 5. There are still plenty of bone-headed decisions made in this part of the game (which I’ll get to), but at least it’s a funner time… plus that’s when Wesker shows up and Wesker makes everything better.
  • A Few Really Fun Bosses – While a bunch of the bosses are bullet-sponges, rinse-and-repeat snorefests and/or puzzle bosses that aren’t well-suited to this game’s controls, there are a few really clever and fun bosses in this game.
    • In particular, I found the second battle with an Uroburos-infected enemy really fun. It’s standard Resident Evil-fare where you exploit the weakness to expose the weak spots and then blast ’em away, but the game gives you lots of environmental methods to defeat the boss if you didn’t pack specific weapons to make the fight easier… that said, they make it glaringly obvious going in that the boss is weak to fire, giving you a bunch of incendiary grenades and flame rounds before the fight, so on my second try I beat the boss in less than 30 seconds which was a bit much…
    • The final battle with Albert Wesker is also a total blast. It’s fun, cinematic and gives both players something to do while Wesker closes in on them before the final showdown which uses the tried-and-tested Resident Evil formula of blasting the weak spot to win the fight. It makes for a really great and memorable finale to the game.

Mixed

  • Co-op – Mandatory co-op was the big feature of this game, for better or worse. On the one hand, playing with a friend is enjoyable and the game is best experienced this way. However, even then, the co-op aspect brings some baggage with it. Most notable is that the menu-based inventory management of Resident Evil 4 has been ditched entirely. Now you get a mere nine inventory slots per character and it all has to be managed in real-time – no pausing when an enemy is bearing down on you or to get the item you need in a boss fight. It’s a far more clunky and inconvenient system, especially because you can only map four items to d-pad shortcuts. It also doesn’t help that the game only lets you upgrade and buy items between chapters or after you die… I’d get it if it was just between chapters but the fact that they let you do it after you die makes it just feel like this was bolted on as a solution to the problems created by forcing co-op in.
  • Brings Back the Main Plot of Resident Evil – Some people feel like Resident Evil 4 diverged too far from the main plot of the series, but honestly it felt like the main storyline was reaching its limits by the end of Resident Evil 3 and the destruction of Raccoon City. With Umbrella gone, they were going to have to go to new places and Resident Evil 4 figured out a way to do that while reinventing the franchise. Resident Evil 5 feels like it’s pandering to the fans at times, it tries to make the parasites linked to Umbrella and brings back some fan-favourite monsters (with diminishing returns). Let’s be honest, Resident Evil‘s plot tangles of viruses and corporations isn’t all that interesting anyway, I’m more interested in seeing the characters survive than anything else. I will give Resident Evil 5 some credit though, it loops back to the series’ main plot while also creating a scenario with the BSAA where Resident Evil games can continue indefinitely.
  • The Serious Tone – After the delicious camp of Resident Evil 4, pivoting to a very self-serious, grim tone for Resident Evil 5 was… interesting. It is perhaps unsurprising for a modern military shooter of the PS3/Xbox 360 era to go this way, but the game’s opening especially is a mess of military and counter-terrorism jargon that is delivered in a very self-serious manner. Of course, this all gets dropped by the final third of the game where it basically turns into a freaking anime with acrobatics and superpowers, not to mention that the “serious” story was still a tropey, D-grade effort. It’s interesting to see the attempt at a serious story, but I can’t say that it was successful.

Hate

  • Bullet Sponge Enemies – There are few things that will turn me off of a shooter more than bullet sponge enemies. I’ve written off games like Borderlands, Destiny, The Division… basically the entire looter-shooter genre because every single enemy soaks up entire magazines of ammunition. You can imagine my frustration in the opening hours of Resident Evil 5 as it takes entire clips of my starting pistol to down even basic enemies and even a single point-blank shotgun round is usually not enough to down them either. Look at the tweet I made above when I started this game – in what world is it reasonable for an enemy that can one-shot you to take that much damage to die? At least in a traditional Resident Evil game, which also have bullet sponge enemies and much more limited resources, you’re intended to avoid combat unless it’s a necessity. In Resident Evil 5, you’re intended to kill every single enemy you come across (other than a few optional mini-bosses, but these reward you for your efforts so it’s always worth trying). I will admit that, as I said previously, this becomes less of an issue in the final third of the game when your weapons are fully upgraded and you’ve given your pistol the max crit chance so you can headshot most enemies to death in a couple shots, but even here the game likes to tip the balance. The last fight in the game is against a mob of enemies who are supported by two giant Majini with mini-guns who take several high-powered shots to down, and God help you if you don’t have any explosives, rifles or a magnum when they show up.
    • On a similar note, several of the big setpieces and boss battles turn into mindless exercises where you unload literally hundreds of shots into an enemy for 5-10 minutes until it falls over and dies. One of the worst examples of this is the first Gigante fight, where you and your partner fire miniguns at the boss constantly, with the only sort of “strategy” involved being that you have to avoid overheating your gun. It isn’t fun and it feels like it goes on forever. Too many of the bosses also last for far too long and are far too repetitive as you pump hundreds of rounds into their weak point. I felt like Irving and the spider boss in Chapter 5 are especially egregious examples of this as each of their boss fights take 10 minutes or more of the same repetitive actions.
  • The AI is Dumb – In this most recent playthrough, I had to play solo and experience Sheva’s AI for the first time. I will admit that she’s not quite as bad as I had feared or heard, but there were some situations where she was incredibly frustrating. There’s an early encounter where you have to lure an enemy into a furnace to kill them. This would be simple and fun with a co-op partner but with the AI Sheva kept walking into the furnace and getting trapped inside, burning to death over and over again. Towards the latter end of the game I also needed Sheva to shoot a button to raise a crate, then she had to go over to the other side so I could do the same for her. Simple enough with a partner but when I did it Sheva would then jump off the crate and refuse to come forward unless I did the task the way she wanted me to. It was very frustrating. Beyond that, she’s at least reasonably okay in a firefight, I don’t feel like she ever wasted resources and she was constantly keeping me from dying, but I was doing all the heavy lifting in this game. If Sheva wasn’t there at all I certainly wouldn’t have minded.
  • Co-op Ruins the Single Player Experience – As you may have gleaned by now, the decision to add co-op to this game results in a lot of compromises to the Resident Evil formula. That’s all well and good if you’re playing with a friend as intended, but try to play the game solo? It just makes for an inferior game all-round. The bullet sponge enemies are only that way because they were balanced for two players gunning them down, when you have one player doing all the work it becomes a chore. Don’t want to deal with an AI companion? Too bad, you’re stuck with them (at least Dead Space 3 had the good grace to keep co-op entirely optional). You can’t even pause to change your items, even though the whole reason this is even a thing is because you can’t pause during online co-op. All-in-all, the single player experience has clearly been shoved to the wayside and it makes those of us who don’t have someone to play with have a clearly-compromised experience.
  • Zombies With Fucking Guns – You read that right, in Chapter 5-2 zombies with guns suddenly show up as regular enemies and then you’re stuck with them for the rest of the game. It’s not like these are like the single-shot archers or dynamite enemies you deal with in Resident Evil 4 and 5 either, these are full-on automatic weapons that they’re spraying at you. Unsurprisingly, facing off with these enemies sucks because it suddenly forces the gameplay into an extremely stiff cover shooter (gotta ape Uncharted and Gears of War after all), which the game clearly isn’t designed for. This turns into a boring game of “shoot the bad guy when he reloads” and “take cover when they shoot or you’ll get filled with bullets”. Every time these enemies show up it’s a pain in the ass.
  • Quicktime Events – QTEs sucked in Resident Evil 4, so of course they brought them back here too. In one egregious example near the end of the game, I didn’t enter the button prompt within a second of when it flashed on screen, so I had to go through a lengthy cutscene all over again and all the button prompts therein. Mercifully you can skip ahead to each button prompt, but fail and you have to do it all over again. I’m so glad that these fucking things are a relic of a bygone age now.
  • Lickers – I could have put this under the bullet sponge entry earlier, but lickers get wasted so badly in this game that I feel like they deserve their own special mention. Lickers are, in my opinion, the most horrifying and iconic enemy type in the entire franchise, in part due to their sound-based hunting method which requires the player to confront them differently. However, in Resident Evil 5 they are a shadow of their former selves. For one thing, their design is butt ugly. For another, they have been turned into hordes of bullet sponges which crawl towards you and are more annoying than horrifying. Sure, you can technically sneak around them when encountered, but sooner or later they’re going to get automatically triggered and then you’ll have to deal with huge hordes of them all at once.
  • The Knife – Holy shit how the mighty have fallen, the knife is pathetic in this game. The range on it is ridiculously short, I’m talking like less than an arm’s length, somehow. On top of that, unless you’re at the exact perfect angle, the sweep will only hit one thing in front of you. This means that if you’re standing right in front of two crates that are literally side-by-side, the knife will only break one of them, even if a second swing without moving or readjusting your aim will break the other box. Just… why? The only positive is that the animation speed has been considerably improved, otherwise this thing is nothing more than a last resort. (POSTSCRIPT: Turns out that this may actually be a bug associated with the port to PS4/Xbox One. That doesn’t really change the fact that this is an issue, but it gives it greater context that’s worth mentioning.)
  • The Aiming Reticle – Maybe it’s just me, but I’m constantly losing track of where exactly my character is aiming at any time. This is due to the game’s laser sight aiming, I’ll often try to line up a shot but it goes beyond the enemy, or I’ll start shooting and it will recoil off the enemy without me realizing. I’m not sure if it’s the brightness, the more zoomed-out FOV compared to Resident Evil 4, or the fact that the dot disappears entirely if you’re not on an enemy, but this was a problem for me from start to finish. I can’t say that I ever had that issue with Resident Evil 4 or even in other third person shooters of the same era, whether their aiming reticule was diegetic (Dead Space) or non-diegetic (Uncharted).
  • So… Uh… About That Racism… – I remember there being some discourse about Resident Evil 5 being racist due to the way it depicts black people and at the time I brushed it off. After all, they portrayed Spanish people the same way in the last game! Well, let me tell you, playing this game 12 years later in 2021, this game feels fucking racist. Sure, it is indeed the same sort of scenario that the Spanish were put in in Resident Evil 4, but the way that the Majini are depicted feels different. They’re all treated as these ravenous, angry, mindless beasts, which hits differently with the history of colonialism and racist propaganda against Africans. It’s almost certainly unintentional but that doesn’t make it any more comfortable.

Look, all-in-all, Resident Evil 5 is fine. I hated it at the start but by the end I was moderately enjoying myself. It’s a huge step down from Resident Evil 4, but it’s still reasonably enjoyable even if you aren’t playing it in co-op as intended.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 is often considered once of the greatest games of all time, having reinvented the Resident Evil franchise and whose influence changed the way action and horror games were made to this day. I was late to the party on this game – after the PS3 came out, I got a copy of the PS2 port, but could never muster the interest to make it past the first village segment. Well, after devouring Resident Evil 2 and 3‘s remakes, I finally had an itch to knuckle-down and give the game a serious try for once. With rumours of a remake on the horizon, how does Resident Evil 4 hold up in 2021? Read on to find out…

Love

  • Insanely Ambitious and Influential – You can’t really talk about Resident Evil 4 without bringing up how big of a deal it was when it came out. 2005 was a big year for the 6th generation of consoles with huge games like Devil May Cry 3, God of War, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Shadow of the Colossus coming out, but Resident Evil 4 still manages to stand out as the biggest game of the year, if not the entire generation, and has definitely been the most influential too. For example, the Dead Space franchise owes its existence to Resident Evil 4, as its entire gameplay is ripped-off wholesale from the Regenerators, which are just a single enemy in one chapter of the game.
  • Adapts the Franchise Well to a New Design – Resident Evil 4 makes me realize that tank controls aren’t really the barrier to entry that makes me struggle with old-school Resident Evil games; rather, it’s the fixed camera angles. Resident Evil 4 is basically still using classic tank controls, but with a freed camera. It takes a bit of getting used to by modern standards, but I found it far more easy to get used to compared to REmake despite being effectively the same control scheme. It’s also worth noting that the game has third person shooting mechanics instead of auto-aim, which actually opens up entirely new gameplay opportunities. For example, having to shoot the parasites hidden inside the Regenerators’ bodies just wouldn’t work without manual aiming and having to shoot hidden items means that environmental exploration goes to entirely new heights.
  • Great Level Design – Resident Evil 4‘s levels are packed to the brim with secrets, be they hidden treasures, optional ways to get an advantage on enemies, or full-fledged mini-games you could sink hours into on their own. The game’s levels are also quite distinct from chapter-to-chapter, which keeps it all fresh. The first two chapters take place in the village and grow more horrifying as it progresses. Chapter 3 then takes things in an entirely different direction, taking place entirely within a spooky castle. People love to hate on this part of the game but honestly, it’s nowhere near as bad as they say it is, I enjoyed it. Chapter 4 then takes you into an underground cavern while Chapter 5 goes to an island military base for the action-packed finale.
  • Quality of Life Improvements – In addition to the new shooting mechanics and free camera, Resident Evil 4 also brings some quality of life changes to the Resident Evil formula. The biggest one would have to be that ink ribbons are gone entirely, meaning you can save as many times as you want to now. The game also has a checkpoint system, meaning that if you die you’re not punished for not saving regularly. These both help to alleviate a lot of frustration.
  • Leans Into the Camp – Part of the reason Resident Evil 4 is so fun is because it is so unabashedly silly and relishes in it. You’ve got the memorably-weird Merchant, Leon (and Ashley!) performing pro wrestling moves on enemies, one of the main villains is a tiny, shrill, monologuing weirdo, you can kill enemies by throwing rotten eggs at them, etc. It’s yet another reason why some series purists hate this game, but this just reminds me of the people who hate Jason X, despite it being the single funnest Friday the 13th movie. Resident Evil isn’t high art, give me more silliness of this variety because it’s really enjoyable.
    • On a related note, Resident Evil 4 is basically the original Metal Gear Solid 4. Capcom were clearly inspired heavily by Kojima’s franchise, as the game’s structure closely mirror’s one of Snake’s adventures – you’ve got the world-ending terrorist plot, over-the-top baddies, a similar sense of humour, literal codec calls, and there’s even a post-credits scene.
  • Inventory Management – I usually hate inventory management and consider it a total chore (oh hi Nioh and The Witcher 3!), so it is truly remarkable that I enjoyed this aspect of Resident Evil 4 so much. How many games are there where inventory management is a freaking highlight!? Resident Evil 4 gives you an attaché case and each item you pick up takes up a certain number of blocks of space. As a result, you’re arranging and rearranging your items to fit together and, over time, you start organizing everything in a convenient and satisfying manner. I know I was keeping all my grenades in one area, all the healing in another, ammo was all stacked together, etc.
  • Introduces All-New, Iconic Enemies – Gone are the zombies, Tyrants and Hunters of the old games, Resident Evil 4 completely shakes up the franchise with an entirely-new stable of enemies (another fact which pissed off purists). Many of these enemies are now iconic in their own right, such as Dr. Salvador (aka, the chainsaw man), the plagas parasites, the Garradors (aka, the claw man) and, obviously, the Regenerators.
  • Fleshed-out Optional Side Content – The amount of work put into Resident Evil 4 is insane. You’ve got treasures and emblems hidden all over the game world just waiting to be found. You’ve got silly little mechanics like the chickens who lay a variety of egg types you can find throughout the villages. You’ve got a freaking trick system for the jet ski that you ride for only a couple minute escape sequence at the end of the game! There’s also a shooting gallery mini-game you can find that’s so extensive that it has its own series of reward items and challenge levels. The level of detail is just ridiculous to consider.
  • Cool Boss Fights – Nearly every boss fight in this game is enjoyable, if not for their mechanics then because they all bring something unique to shake-up the gameplay. For example, the first boss Del Lago gives you a spectacular battle on a lake where you have to balance throwing javelins and avoid getting gobbled up when you inevitably fall in the water. Later you get to fight Mendez, whose transformation into a horrifying monster shakes up the cultist shootouts you’ve been having to that point. Then there’s the relentless hunters Verdugo and U-3, which can be almost Nemesis-like in their relentlessness. Krauser is a fan-favourite for the spectacle of the fight and the final showdown with Saddler is a good excuse to unload all your magnum rounds on the guy. Really, the only fight that’s more annoying than fun is against that little shit, Salazar, but it isn’t so bad that it detracts from the game.

Mixed

  • Ashley – People like to hate on Ashely, but honestly she was completely fine in this game. For an AI companion who can be kidnapped or killed, and who is susceptible to friendly fire, she only got captured once and walked in front of my gun once in the entire playthrough. Honestly though, if anything Ashley may be under-utilized as a game mechanic. I only really had to hide her from a horde of enemies once and she’s separated from you for large chunks of the game, so she’s not that much of a factor most of the time. That said, she could definitely get annoying if she became more of a burden so it may be for the best that she’s mostly a non-factor.

Hate

  • Controls Take Getting Used To – Resident Evil 4 feels very sluggish and archaic by modern standards, so there’s definitely a frustrating learning curve in the opening hour or two. It doesn’t help that the first encounter of the whole game is the tense siege segment where you’re getting swarmed with Ganados and a Dr. Salvador, so you’re probably going to die several times just due to being unfamiliar with the game’s tank controls and the stiff aiming at this point. However, things definitely get easier quickly and soon it all becomes second-nature. I also suspect that the starting pistol is part of the reason why this opening is so painful is because the starting pistol seems to be intentionally sluggish to aim compared to the weapons you get later. As soon as I got the Punisher the game suddenly became significantly easier from there onward.
  • The Water Ski Segment – Oh my God the water ski escape at the end of the game was by far the most frustrating moment for me in the entire game, to the point where I died there more than any other part of the game. Hell, I died there more than I did in entire chapters of the game. Why’s that? Well, because you have to maneuver around pillars while a tidal wave is chasing you and if you aren’t going fast enough, or if you hit an invisible, ambiguous kill-point, you die. Seriously, I swear I was avoiding the pillars but it wasn’t good enough for the game and it pissed me off so much. Worst of all, it’s literally the last bit of gameplay in the whole game, so you’re stuck doing this new mini-game in order to finish the game you’ve basically already beaten.
  • No Hotswapping – One unfortunate design that Resident Evil 4 carries over from its predecessors is that you have to dive into a menu in order to change your weapon. It really hurts the pacing and tension when you’re constantly pausing the action in order to switch to another weapon or grenade. This feels particularly egregious to me for two reasons. First, the game isn’t using the d-pad – it’s used here to literally just double the function of the left analog stick, which in itself is a legacy control scheme left over from when Resident Evil games didn’t even have analog sticks to utilize. Secondly, the game is already drawing inspiration from Metal Gear Solid, it couldn’t use that game’s item and weapon menus to make things a bit more convenient?
  • Quick Time Events – Resident Evil 4 introduces QTEs to the franchise and they’re a blight on the game. You never know when one is going to happen and when they do you’ve got about a second to pull it off or you get punished for it. Worse, some of them will even one-shot you if you fail.

Resident Evil 4 is still a fantastic game. While Resident Evil purists love to vocally hate it to this day, I had an absolute blast playing it from start to finish. Given how readily available the game is and how minor its issues are, I’m adamant that the game is not in need of a remake at all. Hell, REmake is more in need of a remake at this point than this is.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 3 (Remake)

While the remake of Resident Evil 2 was widely acclaimed, the follow-up remake of Resident Evil 3 has been one of the most divisive games in the entire franchise. Some people hate it, some people were left thoroughly disappointed and some loved it. With a reputation like that, you’d best believe that I have thoughts…

Love

  • Action Horror Spectacle – REmake 3 may look a lot like REmake 2, but this is a wildly different game. REmake 2 was more in the vein of the first REmake and RE7, emphasizing exploration, survival gameplay and inventory management. REmake 3 is more akin to RE4, 5 and 6, emphasizing action, set piece moments and narrative. I think this deviation disappointed some people, but what we got instead was a game that is completely focused on giving you fun spectacle and it totally delivers in that regard. Whether it’s fleeing Nemesis up a building that’s catching fire all around you, getting swarmed by a horde of zombies, or luring Nemesis away from a train full of civilians, there’s plenty here to get your blood pumping. That’s not to imply that there’s no horror here either, rather that it’s less “tense” and more “intense” and in-your-face. Between Nemesis chasing you at mach speed, the throat-fucking Drain Deimos hunting you in the power substation, getting stalked by two different varieties of Hunter and trying to deal with the Pale Heads, there’s still plenty in here to make you jump.
    • I need to give particular shout-outs to the first twenty minutes or so of this game in particular as it encapsulates this game’s strengths so well. After a quiet intro, Nemesis bursts through the wall and shows that he is basically indestructible. It’s all scripted so well and makes for one of the most badass and terrifying villain introductions that I’ve ever seen in a game. From there, Jill escapes into Raccoon City and finds that it is in total chaos as zombies roam the streets and quickly off her only ally, Brad. Then she has to flee to the roof of a parking garage, but Nemesis intercepts her, so Jill rams him off the roof of the garage with a car… but he keeps coming until Carlos shows up with a rocket launcher and takes him down, temporarily. It’s an incredible opening and I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t love it.
  • The Story and Characters – Here’s a hot take for you: REmake 3 has the strongest story in the franchise (well, that I’ve played so far anyway). It’s exciting, well-told, well-performed, the characters we meet along the way are all great and it feels like the gameplay is driven by the story. The game’s narrative is also bolstered by the fact that, due to the circumstances, Jill finds herself working alongside Umbrella. She isn’t forced to either, she makes an active choice to do so because she thinks it is the best option, which reveals insight into her character, while also ultimately humanizing the grunts at Umbrella who have been completely absent in the series to this point. The game also makes a point of showing Jill’s psychological damage from the Mansion Incident in the opening sequence. It’s very efficient decision because it never really comes up again, but you can tell that Nemesis becomes an embodiment of her trauma. This makes him more satisfying to take down since, thematically, he’s not just a big monster here, he’s all of Jill’s fears made flesh.
  • Jill and Carlos – Okay, I know I mentioned the characters in the last point, but I really need to hit home that Jill Valentine is a fucking badass in this game. She does so much cool shit, takes on an indestructible monster without letting the fear get to her and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She (justifiably) isn’t on very good terms with Carlos at the start of the game, but their relationship improves over time in an organic fashion. Speaking of which, Carlos is also a pretty cool character. He’s confident, capable and tries to do the right thing, which becomes more complicated when he realizes that his employers are responsible for everything that is happening. All-in-all, they make for a good duo, are given a ton of personality and the story wouldn’t be nearly as good without them.
  • Nemesis – Naturally, Nemesis’ shadow looms large over REmake 3. Every time he shows up, something crazy is about to go down. When he’s chasing you through the streets of Raccoon City, he’s utterly terrifying, making Mr. X look like a walk in the park. In fact, he may possibly too overpowered: he can sprint after you, snatch you with a tentacle and drag you back to him, dodge shots if you’re facing him head-on, launch a combo of punches at you, and turn regular zombies into dangerous NE-α zombies. Sure, a lot of his encounters are scripted, but damn if he isn’t one of the most intimidating antagonists in the whole franchise.
  • Dodge – Like the original RE3, REmake 3 includes a dodge mechanic. The game doesn’t do a very good job of explaining the timing for this, but I wanted a dodge so badly in RE7 and REmake 2. In those games, you get caught up close with enemies and have no real way to avoid damage at that point, so I’m happy that REmake 3 gives us this option. Once you come to grips with the dodge, it is a total life-saver, especially during fights with Nemesis.
  • Enemy Variety – There are quite a few different enemy types in this game, from regular zombies, to Cerberus, Drain Deimos, NE-α zombies, Hunter β and γ varieties, Lickers and Pale Heads, not to mention all the varied Nemesis encounters. The pacing for new enemy types is perfect as well, just when you’re getting used to an enemy the game will introduce a new one to spice up the gameplay. In fact it’s impressive enough that it made me realize how sparsely varied REmake 2 was in comparison.

Mixed

  • YMMV – I struggled to decide where to put this section, or if I should even include it at all. I really enjoy REmake 3, but I get that others are much more critical of it and that their complaints deserve to be addressed in some fashion. As this is a Love/Hate article based on my opinions on the game, it could easily give the wrong impression about the game to someone for whom those complaints could be a big deal. Ultimately I decided to address some of the complaints about this game here.
    • Cut Content/More Reimagining Than Remake – Fans of the original game were disappointed to find that areas from the original game were removed, most notably the clocktower sequence. Having not completed the original game, I don’t really have much nostalgia for it, nor am I expecting REmake 3 to play the same way, so ultimately this doesn’t impact my feelings about the game I actually got.
    • Short Playtime/Not Enough Replayability – REmake 3 is a 6-8 hour game on a first playthrough and can be completed in about a quarter of the time if you really rush through it, prompting some people to say it’s not worth the money if it’s that short. The game doesn’t include any alternate campaigns or bonus game modes like REmake 2 did. These complaints doesn’t hold any water for me, not only because I didn’t buy it at full price, but because I’m old and love games that deliver a great, focused experience in a reasonable amount of playtime. The way that the game is scripted to deliver fun in well-paced bursts makes it more than worthy of a replay in my opinion.
    • No Emphasis on Exploration/Too Linear – REmake 3 is a far more linear game than REmake 2, featuring much less exploration in its areas. You’ll basically just need one or two key items to backtrack through an area and completely explore it, which can take maybe half an hour of playtime or less. As I’ve stated, REmake 3 plays very differently than REmake 2 so if you were expecting or wanting the same gameplay then I can see how this would be disappointing. Personally I like a well-told, linear game so this doesn’t bother me much.
    • Nemesis Doesn’t Pursue You – After getting a load of Mr. X in REmake 2, a lot of people were expecting this game to have Nemesis pursuing you constantly in an unscripted manner. When they found that most Nemesis encounters were scripted events, they were disappointed by the result. I’ll be honest, Nemesis is at his most annoying in the unscripted sequences, being able to take away a lot of your ability to flee from him safely. For that matter, Mr. X worked well because he’s not following you through the whole game, I can see him being really irritating if you just want to get something done and you can’t because X gon’ give it to ya. Ultimately, while it might have been interesting to have a couple more unscripted Nemesis encounters, I am still pleased with what we got.

Hate

  • Nemesis De-evolution – About halfway through the game, Nemesis’ power limiter is destroyed and he starts to mutate. In the original, this just caused him to sprout some tentacles, although he retained his shape until he really devolved in his final form. However, in REmake 3, Nemesis goes from an intelligent pursuer to a large, dumb, beast-like form. It’s a big let-down, becoming a far less interesting foe than he was before. Sure, it’s still intimidating to get hunted by this relentless animal, but when he was still humanoid he felt far more cunning and dangerous.
  • Technically Rougher Than REmake 2REmake 2 was a very well-polished game but REmake 3 feels rougher in comparison. For one thing, the zombies in this game lack the dismemberment and gore system which was so satisfying in the previous game. Shoot a zombie in the arm and, instead of detaching, the arm will just explode and disappear. Similarly, distant zombies appear to render at a lower FPS, which is very noticeable at certain points in the game. I don’t know if these were all issues caused by the greater number of enemies on-screen, more detailed environments or maybe just a development issue, but it’s hard not to be at least a little disappointed that REmake 3‘s presentation is rougher.
  • Too Many Item Boxes and Typewriters – I feel like this is a weird complaint, but honestly there are way too many of these things in the game. The game’s areas aren’t all that big, but it feels like there’s always a safe room close-by when there really doesn’t need to be. It’s bad enough that there are multiple instances where you’ll be fleeing Nemesis and you’ll come across two safe rooms in the process, which not only breaks up the pace of the escape because he can’t follow you inside, but also trivializes the encounter since you can just save at each step. This also contributes to the game’s more linear feel, because if you throw save rooms around all over the place then the map doesn’t have to loop back to them. I just think it was an unnecessary and inelegant move. Like, if you’re gonna do that then you might want to rethink having an item box or typewriters to begin with and just do some other system. It feels like forcing survival horror elements into a more linear, action-focused adventure simply because it’s expected, not because it’s the best move for the game.
  • Siege Section – The hospital section of the game culminates with a big siege where Carlos has to battle a horde of zombies… and man, does this one part of the game suck. This is the game leaning too hard into the action side of action horror and it just feels like a chore, like the lamest version of Call of Duty‘s zombie mode. The worst part is that if you die, you have to redo the whole damn thing, which happened to me the first time I tried it.

I really don’t get the hate that REmake 3 gets. I can understand arguments about not being faithful enough to the original game, having a different feel than the acclaimed REmake 2, and being “too short”, but none of these hold any weight for me. The way I see it, REmake 3 is a game laser-focused on giving you a fun and totally badass romp through Raccoon City, and in that regard it succeeds with flying colours. During this most recent playthrough there were so many moments where I just had to stop and say to myself “How can you not love this?” Honestly, I enjoyed Resident Evil 3 remake more than Resident Evil 2‘s remake. Maybe that just speaks to my taste in games more than anything else, but if you write off REmake 3 then I just don’t understand you at all.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

It took nearly twenty years, but fans finally got the Resident Evil 2 remake they had been begging Capcom for. While I had played several Resident Evil games over the years, this was actually the first game in the franchise that I played from start to finish, so it’s ultimately the reason I started this whole Love/Hate series. I gave it another replay before writing this article to make sure my impressions were fresh. How does it hold up after playing through the rest of the series? Read on to find out…

Love

  • RPD Design – The Racoon City Police Department makes for a great setting for this game, it has so much character and personality. The decision for it to have been converted from a museum was inspired, granting it a history that you can see and makes it far more visually interesting than if it was just a standard police precinct. I like the Spencer Mansion just a bit more, but RPD would easily be my second favourite area in the whole series.
  • Open-Ended, Interconnected World – Carrying on from the last point, the game’s world is initially maze-like, but over time you’ll get keys and unlock doors to allow yourself to travel back to areas you’ve previously explored. Even when you’re done with any story moments involving the RPD, you can find passages leading back to it so you can pick up items you missed or just to show how connected the various locales in the game are.
  • Graphics – Resident Evil 7 looked good, but REmake 2 looks incredible. The team at Capcom have clearly come to grips with the RE Engine and are pulling out all the stops in this game. These visuals aren’t just to look pretty either, there’s a clear attempt here to make the game feel grounded and realistic and the at-times borderline photorealistic visuals really pull their weight.
  • The Gore – Resident Evil games have traditionally had a warning at the start that they’re full of explicit violence, but very rarely do they live up to that. Well, REmake 2 is living up to its zombie movie inspirations because it is not fucking around. In explicit detail you’ll get to see got faces torn open, a dude getting ripped in half from the waste down, chests exploding… and that’s just the stuff in cutscenes. The zombies show wounds as you hit them, so subsequent headshots will quickly leave their faces as nothing more than a fleshy mess. That’s not all though – zombies have a dismemberment system, so if you shoot them in the arm, then it may slowly detach and fall off over time. Hitting them with acid is probably the most gruesome example of this though, because it causes their skin to slough off in real-time as it literally consumes their flesh. Also, as someone who has seen what a shotgun does to a human face, I’ve gotta say that the critical headshot animation in this game is disturbingly realistic.
  • The Map – All my complaints about the map in REmake are addressed in REmake 2, it is an incredible quality of life addition which keeps all exploration-based frustration at bay. It clearly marks locations explored/unexplored, locked/unlocked doors, what key you need for each door, the locations of items you’ve found but haven’t picked up yet, points of interest and where your safe rooms are. Seriously, every game with a map needs to take a lesson from REmake 2, this is how you do it.
  • The Zombies – It’s a minor miracle that the basic zombies in this game are so goddamn terrifying. They move very erratic and unnaturally, which makes them unsettling and makes it very easy to miss a shot. This is particularly problematic because zombies take a ton of ammunition to put down, it can easily take 5+ headshots to down one and even then they will get back up again if you don’t double-tap them while they’re down. The resource-intensive nature of zombie combat means that, especially in the early game, non-confrontation is paramount for survival. While your resources are limited, you’re generally going to avoid zombies or only shoot them enough to get past them safely.
  • Mr. X – X gon’ give it to ya! Making Mr. X hunt and pursue you around RPD may just be the most inspired design decision in REmake 2. Jack Baker could be a localized nuisance, but Mr. X will hunt you around the entire police department (minus a few safe rooms, which is a bit immersion-breaking but it’s a welcome compromise). The best part is that even if you know what’s going to happen in the game, Mr. X will inevitably surprise you sooner or later. He’s always good for a couple jump scares, especially if you left any lickers or zombies alive in the RPD when he starts pursuing you. Hell, even listening to him stomping nearby and opening doors to find you is frightening as you can’t be entirely certain if it’s safe for you to head out or not.
  • A/B Scenarios Encourage Replayability – While Leon and Claire’s campaigns go through most of the same beats, each character has access to exclusive areas, story content and bosses which really encourages players to go through the game again with the other character. In addition to this, there are lots of optional game modes and scenarios for players looking to get more out of the game’s ~8 hour runtime.

Mixed

  • Post-RPD – REmake 2 loses some lustre after you leave RPD, as the subsequent levels are less well-designed and more linear in scope. While I don’t hate the sewers like some people do, it really can be hard to find your way around from place to place. It also doesn’t help that the map doesn’t clearly layout where the various staircases in the level lead you to, so you can wander trying to find a specific room if you forget how to get there.
  • The Story – I like how Resident Evil 2‘s campaigns play out for the most part. Leon and Claire are very likeable and charismatic leads, the mishaps they get into in their campaigns are enough to keep pushing you forward and the greater “lore” is compelling. However, the actual narrative itself can’t help but feel a little hollow to me. Leon and Claire don’t really change much over the course of their adventure and the antagonists have no real reason to be after either of them. The plot itself basically boils down to “the characters try to escape Raccoon City” and that’s it. Again, this works but it made me less engaged with the actual story than I would have liked.

Hate

  • Story Does Not Make Sense With A/B Scenario – The intent for this game is that your A and B scenarios are playing out at the same time, but because they overlap so much this doesn’t make any sense. You’re telling me Leon and Claire just happen to fight William Birkin in the same place, one after the other, multiple times in a row? Most egregiously, if we’re to make sense of the A/B Scenarios, then Annette Birkin pretends to die for one character and then comes back for the other one only to die for real that time. On top of that, the original games made certain items and characters disappear in the B Scenario depending on your actions in the A Scenario, but this game doesn’t do that. All-in-all, this contributes to the somewhat hollow feel that the game’s story leaves me. It’s top-notch survival horror but without a stronger plot it doesn’t resonate with me as much as I would like it to.
  • Sherry’s Stealth Section – Oh hey, a stealth segment in a non-stealth game is annoying you say? How surprising. In Claire’s campaign you get to play as Sherry Birkin briefly and her scenario has a stealth sequence where Chief Irons is looking for her. It’s basically just trial and error. If you know where you’re supposed to go then it’s fine, but you have a moment to figure it out or you’ll get caught and instantly lose if you fail.

Resident Evil 2 is a fantastic melding of classic survival horror game design and modern, single-player, AAA polish. Even if you haven’t played any Resident Evil games before I’d heartily recommend it, it’s a phenomenal experience that’s a joy to play through. It’s also on sale cheap all the time so you really have no excuse not to give it a shot if it interests you.

Love/Hate: Resident Evil (Remake)

Welcome back to another Love/Hate series! You may be surprised to hear that, despite having a whole Retrospectives series about the Resident Evil movies, until just over a year ago I hadn’t played through a Resident Evil game from start to finish. Sure, I had owned and played several Resident Evil games over the years, but it never really resonated with me much til recently. I’ve since been on a journey exploring this franchise and I’m now ready to put out my thoughts on most of the mainline entries. To start, we’re going to look at the Game Cube remake of Resident Evil (aka REmake), often touted as the definitive way to play the game. Does it still hold up almost 20 years later? Read on to find out…

Love

  • The Spencer Mansion – There are several iconic and well-designed locales in the Resident Evil franchise, but the Spencer Mansion is probably my favourite of the bunch. Its layout is maze-like and filled with locked doors but you’ll become very familiar with it over time, which is helped by the way the developers encourage you to traverse the map in a figure eight pattern. Its design also reminds me of the best parts of Dark Souls, where opening up new shortcuts makes the whole thing more interconnected.
  • Compelling Gameplay Loop – The basic gameplay in Resident Evil revolves around “find items to open new areas” and “manage your items and plan your routes to best survive”. While simple, it’s very compelling to play through. Every time you figure out where a key item needs to go it feels satisfying and every single item you take with you has to be strategically calculated because you’ll never have enough for all the weapons, ammo and healing you may need. Moreso than any other game in the franchise, Resident Evil is a game that emphasizes exploration over combat. The game’s basic, slow and infrequent combat works well because it keeps the tension going and makes the exploration feel dangerous.
  • Encourages Replayability – REmake has a frankly ridiculous amount of replayability. First off, the character you pick at the start of the game isn’t just a cosmetic choice – they can have a huge impact on game progression, cutting off entire boss strategies, providing unique weapons, items and skills (eg, Jill knows how to play piano whereas Chris cannot which makes solving a particular puzzle different), and opening up opportunities to get items early (eg, Jill can get a shotgun early if she performs actions in a specific order). In addition to this, while the game plays out largely the same, the story itself changes pretty significantly as Chris and Jill interact with different cast members who are absent from the other run and the ending you get changes depending on how many characters you keep alive. This makes a “B Scenario” run a very different experience. In addition, the game is more satisfying and can be completed in about half as much time as a first playthrough when you already know what needs to be done.
  • Atmosphere – One thing REmake does really well is nail the spooky, gothic atmosphere of the Spencer Mansion. The art direction for this game is spectacular, giving the Spencer Mansion a very antique, lived-in feel that comes across as believable. In addition, the game’s fix camera perspective allows the developers to direct players’ attentions in very deliberate ways, hiding enemies just off-screen to get a very cinematic scare or showing the action in a very voyeuristic manner to put you on edge. It gives the whole affair a very cinematic feel.
  • Meaningfully Adds to the Original – REmake takes the skeleton of the original game and remixes and polishes it to make for a much smoother and expanded way to experience this story. Additions like defense weapons make the minute-to-minute gameplay less punishing and overall this feels less like a graphical overhaul and more like a second chance to let us experience Resident Evil as it was always intended.
  • Option For More Traditional Controls – While REmake originally released with classic tank controls, the HD remaster added in the option to play the game with an altered control scheme. This altered scheme essentially allows you to move with traditional analog controls and removes the need to hold the sprint button. Basically, point the analog stick in the direction you want to go and the character will move that way. The controls are essentially reset every time the camera moves, but if you were already heading in a direction the game will continue to move you that way until the stick is shifted, at which point it will update. It still takes some getting used to, but for someone who didn’t grow up on tank controls it was easier to get into and actually made tank controls easier to wrap my head around.
  • Crimson Heads – Crimson Heads were a brilliant addition in REmake. In case you’re unaware, every time you kill a zombie in this game, their body will stay behind and a timer will begin to countdown. You have about an hour to either blow their head off or light them on fire or the body will resurrect as a fast, hard-hitting zombie the next time you pass by. This works so well on numerous levels. First of all, it provides a huge, unexpected shock for a first time player or veteran of the original game. The best part though is that even if you know about them ahead of time, it transforms the dynamic of every zombie encounter. There isn’t enough kerosene to burn every zombie, so you find yourself avoiding zombies for as long as possible, burning them only at the most high-traffic areas and remembering where you’ve left bodies that you’ll have to deal with later. It’s so weird to me that Capcom hasn’t brought them back since (unlike, say, Regenerators) because they’re top-tier Resident Evil enemies and brilliant game design.

Mixed

  • The Map Feels Half-Baked – REmake‘s map is handy and will be a constant companion as you learn the layout of the mansion. Beyond showing the building’s layout, it will also show you what doors are locked and unlocked, where you have found typewriters and item boxes and whether a room is unexplored, has items still in it or has been completely explored. That said, while it’s nice that it’s more than a bare-bones map, it could have gone so much further to make for an indispensable resource. For example, knowing which key you need to unlock which doors, what items are still in each room, what other points of interest there may be, etc. There is a lot of shit to keep track of in this game, especially in the mansion at the start of the game, so having it laid out on-screen would have been nice. It feels like it’s just pushing you to buy the guidebook to get all the item locations in one place… which, now that I mention it, is probably why the map is the way it is.
  • The Story – I’m pretty mixed on the story in Resident Evil. On the one hand, it’s very simple and functional, which serves the gameplay well, so that’s a major point in its favour. However, for the story we do get, we’re missing some major context to understand it. We get thrown right into the game with no real idea who is in S.T.A.R.S. Alpha or Bravo team, so whenever we run across a comrade in this story I have no idea if this is one of the survivors I’m supposed to be finding or someone who came with me and got lost. The story is also baffling at times, like when the player finds Enrico and then he GETS SHOT by someone behind you… and then Chris or Jill decides to focus all their attention on Enrico instead of, y’know, the murderous gunman who is just behind them. That said, we’ve also got stuff like the story of Lisa Trevor, which is conveyed well over the game’s runtime through text files and environmental storytelling.
  • HD Edition Graphics – The HD remaster of REmake is the most accessible version of the game out there, but its presentation is compromised compared to the Game Cube original. Apparently Capcom either lost the assets or source code for this game and had to Frankenstein the HD remaster together with what they had available. The pre-rendered backgrounds have had to be up-rezzed and stretched into widescreen and the results are mixed. I’ve played this game in 1080p on PS4 and you can definitely notice the low resolution there, whereas in 720p on Switch in handheld mode it holds up much better. Worst of all are the pre-rendered cutscenes which are in incredibly muddy 480p stretched to HD widescreen. Imagine if someone threw a bad Youtube rip into a game and you can imagine how it looks. Thankfully the character models are pretty decent, although I can’t help but feel that Jill and Barry got a lot more effort put into them than Chris and Rebecca. Chris’ dead-eye stare is more unnerving than most of the game’s zombies… The graphics issues don’t really tarnish the game overall, but they do hold back the presentation because, when everything falls into place, this game looks incredible.

Hate

  • Old-School Design Takes Getting Used To – As I have alluded to, if you didn’t grow up on old-school Resident Evil then REmake is going to take time just to get used to the simple act of moving around. I had tried to play this game 2 or 3 times before I finally knuckled down and did a full playthrough for this series. That said, the experience and knowledge of the Mansion I got in my previous attempt certainly helped make this playthrough much easier to slide into. It’s just too bad that there’s such a potentially steep learning curve to overcome before you can enjoy the game.
  • Inventory Management Can Get Frustrating – While inventory management is a fundamental aspect of Resident Evil, it can be frustrating, especially in a first playthrough. The item box is never far away, but you don’t know what enemies to expect or what you’re going to find, so you pack your best weapons and head out. Within a few minutes, you’re loaded up on key items, so in order to advance you’re going to have to go back and dump them in the item box. Then you set back out and, lo-and-behind, you find where those (or a different) key item needs to go, so now you have to turn around again and get them, then head back to use them, etc. Resident Evil‘s game design encourages conservative play, especially with its punishing save system, but the drawback is that it will bore you if you play conservatively. Again, this is why repeat playthroughs will be a bit more enjoyable since you should know when and where you need key items, but prior knowledge shouldn’t be a crutch for game design. There has to be a middle-ground where you maintain the game’s strategic inventory management while making it less frustrating, such as having less inventory slots overall but you can carry all key items, or maybe you could get an attaché case pickup that can store key items only.
  • A Lot of Uninspired Enemy Designs – For a series with such iconic, mutated monsters as Lickers, Hunters and the Regenerators, it’s surprising to go back to this first game and find that most of the enemies are just big animals. Seriously, four of the main bosses in this game are a big snake (who you fight twice!), a big spider, a big plant and a big shark. They don’t even look mutated or disfigured either, they’re literally just big creatures.
  • Voice Acting – Look, I get that the dialogue and voice acting in this game are a HUGE improvement over the original game, but if you think the voice acting in the game is good then you have a serious case of nostalgia. Most of the line-readings in this game are stilted and awkward. It’s an early Game Cube game from a Japanese studio and the voice acting is what you would expect of that era (eg, Final Fantasy X). In Jill’s campaign this wasn’t too big a deal for me – Barry and Wesker give the best performances in the game so that helps offset things, and Jill’s line deliveries give the game an unintentional B-movie horror tone. But, oh my God, the voice acting and writing is so bad in Chris’ campaign. I beg you to check out that link; between Chris’ dead expression, the awful dialogue and bad line deliveries, I cannot take the story seriously at all.

While it did take me a long time to come to grips with this game, I’m really glad that I finally gave REmake a fair shot. It’s still a really fun time and its emphasis on exploration above all else still gives it a unique feel which no other game in the series can really boast. Plus it takes what worked with the original game and expands it, polishing it to a mirror sheen and establishing itself as the definitive way to experience this story. If you have any interest in the series, I’d definitely recommend checking this game out.

Resident Evil 6 Has a Chapter That’s So Bad That It’s Amazing

I played Resident Evil 2 Remake back in October and since then I’ve been making my way through this franchise for a future Love/Hate series. I’m on Resident Evil 6 at this point and was dreading and looking forward to it in equal measure. I went in well aware of the reputation that this game has, but was more than willing to give it a shot. While I think the game is a mess (which I will go into with plenty of detail when that Love/Hate series comes out), there was one chapter in particular that went so far off the rails that it went from being awful to a transcendental masterpiece.

A big caveat here before we begin: I took edibles before playing this chapter and they kicked in about halfway through, making this experience even more baffling and surreal for me as I struggled to make sense of any of this nonsense. It was so baffling that I rewatched this whole chapter on a Youtube let’s play just to make sure it was as incomprehensible as my drug-addled mind believed. I was not disappointed and neither will you if you check it out.

The chapter in question is Chapter 4 in Chris’ campaign. Context is everything in this story, so let me set the stage for you so you understand what has happened in this game up to this point. Chris’ campaign opens with him as a drunk amnesiac who gets pulled back into duty by his second in command, Piers Nevan. They investigate a bioterrorism incident in Lanshiang involving mutant soldiers known as J’avo. This chapter ends with the building getting bombed and Chris and his men barely making it out alive. Chapter 2 then flashes back to an earlier bioterror incident in Eastern Europe where J’avo had turned a city into a warzone. Chris leads his men through the city til they encounter someone calling themselves Ada Wong. However, she betrays them and infects all of Chris’ men with a virus that mutates them into monsters. Chris and Piers barely escape, but Chris couldn’t handle the loss of his men and so became the drunken, amnesiac, PTSD-ridden soldier we met at the start of the game. The story then returns to the present, where Chris discovers that Ada Wong has been spotted in Lanshiang and he goes on a revenge quest to kill her, which once again results in the death of all of his men (except Piers). When he finally catches up to her, Chris discovers he’s not the only one after Ada Wong, because Leon Kennedy shows up and stops him from killing her. After a brief pep talk, Chris decides he doesn’t want revenge anymore… it’s seriously that sudden. Anyway, Ada escapes and Leon and Chris split up, with Chris and Piers pursuing Ada. There’s a ridiculous car chase before Ada escapes to an aircraft carrier, where you and Piers pursue her.

So, with that all said, Chapter 4 opens in about the most boring way possible. Chris’ campaign has clearly been trying to ape the gameplay and tone of Call of Duty and Chapter 4 opens with the most generic, low-quality Call of Duty map you could ask for. You’re in the hangar of an aircraft carrier and have to fight your way from one side of the hangar to the other, using shipping containers as cover against the snipers raining fire down on you and the J’avo (who suddenly look like Metal Gear Solid 2 tengu soldiers) swarming you relentlessly. It’s a particularly tedious and annoying fight, especially because the J’avo weren’t dropping much ammo for me. This is also a very large, wide-open area and I completely missed picking up a sniper rifle hidden away in a random room at the start of this mission which would have helped a lot. As a result, I was constantly struggling to actually deal with all the enemies that were getting thrown at me and eventually I had to just rush for the objective. There was a bulkhead on the far side of the hangar that we had to break through and when we get to it I discovered that I had to head up some stairs onto a gangplank over the hangar and then turn around back to where I started and launch a missile that was hanging over the starting area. Then you get the privilege of fighting through the shipping containers all over again, oh joy! So you move up the hangar again and then find that a set of stairs was retracted, so when you get to the far end you have to go through a side-door and reactivate the stairs… which places you back at the starting area and you have to fight through the containers AGAIN (but this time there’s a jet on a turn table shooting at you). Having to fight through the hangar twice felt like padding, having to fight through a third time feels like a joke. This whole section of the game was awful and tedious but it inadvertently lulled me into a sense of boredom that was about to get shattered.

Anyway, you finally get out of the goddamn hangar and get this weird cutscene where Ada has a private conversation with the bad guy in Leon’s campaign, except for some reason she’s having this conversation over a loudspeaker which broadcasts it to the entire ship. Wow, Ada sure is a great super-spy isn’t she? This is literally the sort of material you’d expect out of a spy comedy film and here it’s played totally straight. I’m not really sure why they needed to have Chris and Piers listen in on this conversation anyway. It’s about as stupid and pointless an exposition dump as you could imagine.

From here, you get into a few quick fights in corridors and rooms as you make your way to the ship’s bridge to catch up to Ada Wong. This part is actually reasonably enjoyable in its own right – not only is there a sense of urgency because you keep catching glimpses of Ada just ahead of you, but there’s progression and some actual craft behind the gunfights you get into with the J’avo here. Soon enough, you catch up to Ada and Chris decides that this whole revenge quest he’s been on is no longer about revenge, it’s about “Justice” and so he tries to take her into custody instead of killing her. Ada reveals that she’s about to launch missiles to create zombie outbreaks around the world when suddenly a freaking helicopter appears behind her and shoots her to death. Wait, what the fuck!? Just like that, the whole narrative drive of this campaign is gone halfway through the fourth chapter, now we’ve just got to clean up the mess she left behind.

Chris decides that the best way to deal with these missiles is to get to the hangar so you run off to do that, urgently. You’re immediately faced with a really annoying road-block – a locked door that requires three passcodes to enter. Wow, this imminent missile launch definitely seems like the right time to make the player go on a ten-to-fifteen minute side quest! Jesus Christ. Not only is the area that these three passcodes have been hidden in an absolute maze that easy to get lost in, this is also where the developers decided to confine their Regenerator-wannabes who only show up here and never again in this campaign. While they are clearly modeled after the Regenerators, complete with their own breathing problems (which sound more annoying than creepy), they’re kinda pushovers in comparison because you can kill them with a bit of firepower… so, in other words, like any other enemy in this game.

Anyway, I was slogging through this side quest and this was around the point where the edibles really started kicking in and I realized I had long forgotten what it even was that I was supposed to be doing or why. This whole segment of the game is clearly padding out the chapter, at the cost of bringing the game’s pacing to a screeching halt. My drug-addled mind was having a really difficult time remembering what the fuck was going on in the game, but by the time I got those three passcodes and was able to advance I was not prepared for what came next.

That hangar bay Chris was trying to get to? It never really clued in to me that he wanted to go fly a jet. Not only that, but for once this isn’t going to get confined to a QTE-sequence, the game literally expects me to fly the jet. So imagine me, already confused and high out of my mind when suddenly the game turns into a fucking Steam Early Access-quality arcade flight game! Let me explain just how insane this is: this gameplay segment lasts, like, two minutes, tops. The devs went to the effort of designing an entire arcade-style jet fighter minigame and give you no time to get used to it. It would almost be impressive, except for the part where it controls horridly. Like I said, not only did they have to design this within the engine they’re already using for the rest of this game, but they have to make it as simple as possible so players can understand how to play it immediately. Now, I’m no stranger to arcade flight games – I’ve played a couple Ace Combat games, Rogue Squadron, Battlefield, etc. However, because this flight sequence is using Resident Evil 6‘s control scheme as its base, it’s not using traditional flight controls (eg, left/right control roll, up/down control pitch) to treat this jet like it’s an airplane. Instead, it’s using Resident Evil 6‘s normal movement controls to treat the jet like a human that can’t stop moving forward (eg, left/right on the left stick make the jet yaw hard in that direction and up/down on the right analog stick controls the pitch). Suffice to say, I was all out of sorts with this control scheme and it probably wasn’t (only) the drugs that were making it so difficult to understand. The way this whole sequence is put together reminds me of the Fallout 3 train hat, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was all sorts of sorcery involved behind-the-scenes to make this sequence actually work in-engine. It’s glorious and by this point I was laughing my ass off at the absurdity unfolding on my screen.

It only gets better though. Piers jumps out of the plane and runs over to deactivate the missile, instead of, y’know, landing right beside it or shooting the fucking missile with the goddamn jet. Since I was playing Chris, the game then turns into a sequence where you hover in mid-air and provide air support to Piers (which, being honest, sounds really boring for the person who gets stuck playing Piers in this scenario). Oh and to make things even better, suddenly a giant fucking mutant J’avo appears from under a tarp and starts chasing after Piers. By this point I had completely lost it, I was laughing my ass off at how absurd this level had gotten. To make things even better, my wife happened to call at this time (she was away seeing family that evening) to say good night and in my drug-induced delirium I tried to explain just how batfuck crazy this level was. That went about as well as you could expect.

Anyway, despite all your efforts one of the missiles gets away “because plot” and Chris and Piers feel bad. While this is technically the end of the chapter right here, the lead-in to Chapter 5 is just as ridiculous and bears mentioning. Chris and Piers are just chilling in their airplane when they get a radio call from Leon telling them to go rescue Jake and Sherry Birkin at an underwater lab. Oh, also, Jake is Albert Wesker’s son, which Chris clearly holds against him. They do what Leon said and head down an underwater elevator, where Chris tells Piers that he’s going to retire when this is all over and that Piers will be his successor. Like, recall what I said earlier – the whole point of this campaign was Chris wanting to get revenge on Ada Wong for killing his men and that got resolved halfway through the last chapter. By having a whole other chapter after that point, the game suddenly has to come up with entirely new directions to take the characters and story which ring hollow given how rushed they are. This is the problem with the way Resident Evil 6 structures its four campaigns – they aren’t four self-contained narratives that, combined, tell a wider story. Instead, they’re three four that weave in and out of each other inextricably. As a result, you’ve got the actual story of Chris’ campaign told by the end of Chapter 4, but then we need Chris and Piers to provide co-op in Jake’s campaign so suddenly they’re given a whole other chapter to go resolve things for someone else’s story. The result is four campaigns that are trying to tell one epic narrative but instead tell four unsatisfying narratives.

Resident Evil 6 has been a ridiculous, insane trainwreck and I have to say that Chapter 4 was undoubtedly the best experience I’ve had in the whole game. The way that it goes from boring tedium to full-on batshit lunacy with a straight face the entire time is just baffling when you sit down and think about what the game is actually making you do. I’ll have a full Love/Hate out for Resident Evil 6 when I’ve gotten through a couple more games in the franchise, so hopefully that will be done before the end of the year. In the meantime, I had to give this chapter its own entire write-up because holy shit did it ever leave me in hysterics.

Dark Souls: The Ethics of Linking the Fire

In case I haven’t made it obvious yet, I love the Dark Souls franchise. I adore the challenging, clever and strategic gameplay, but just as important to me is the series’ lore. FromSoftware have crafted an incredible mythology for these games which, in my opinion, is the main reason why this franchise has had the longevity it enjoys, as it encourages players to dwell on their own theories and piece them together even when they’re not actively playing the game. FromSoftware have also baked in an intentional amount of ambiguity, meaning that every player is going to have their own interpretation of the world and events that occur within it. On that point, several months ago Jim Sterling put out a video about his interpretation of the politics in Dark Souls and, while I agree with his interpretation of the lore for the most part, I found it interesting that our ultimate conclusions on how to complete the story differ. I had kind of taken it for granted that my interpretation of how to proceed in Dark Souls and its sequels was “correct”, so it was intriguing to see other peoples’ takes on how one should proceed in the game. Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that the Dark Souls franchise provides a fantastic case study to explore the philosophy of ethics.

Before we go on, it’s worth establishing the basic lore of Dark Souls somewhat in case you’re not familiar. In the world of Dark Souls, there was first the Age of Ancients, where immortal dragons ruled the world and nothing really ever changed. Then, one day, fire and souls appeared and the greatest of these souls were claimed by those who would become the four lords – Gwyn the Lord of Sunlight, Nito the Lord of the Dead, the Witch of Izalith and the Furtive Pygmy, possessor of the titular Dark Soul. Gwyn, the most powerful of the lords, kindled the “first flame” and used its power to wage a war against the dragons. The downfall of the dragons ushered in the Age of Fire, with Gwyn as its ruler. However, during all this the Furtive Pygmy split the Dark Soul into fragments, a small piece of which was possessed by every human. The Pygmy knew that one day fire would fade and that this would usher in an Age of Dark, which humanity would now possess. Indeed, while Lord Gwyn’s reign was prosperous and saw the establishment of many powerful kingdoms, the first flame did begin to slowly fade, threatening to end his rule over the world. In desperation to prevent this end from occurring, the Witch of Izalith accidentally destroyed herself and her entire kingdom, turning them into demons, while Gwyn ultimately sacrificed his own life to the first flame to restore and prolong the Age of Fire.

The original Dark Souls picks up some time after Gwyn’s sacrifice, with the first flame fading once again. As the fire fades, humans have begun being afflicted with the “curse of the undead”, which causes humans to be unable to die, but they lose bits and pieces of their humanity and personality until they enter a zombie-like existence as a “hollow”. The player takes the role of one of these undead who is tasked with gathering souls to become powerful enough to acquire the four Lord Souls. The driving force behind the player’s actions is never quite clear – first, it’s a vague prophecy about an undead who will collect souls and end the curse of the undead. Then they are confronted by Gwyn’s daughter in Anor Londo, the city of light, and a serpent named Frampt who tell the player to collect the Lord Souls and use them to “link the fire”. Ultimately, the player then has to confront Gwyn in the Kiln of the First Flame, where they then are presented with the choice of linking the fire, an act which the player probably still doesn’t fully comprehend – which is what brings me to the point of this post. What should the player do at the end of Dark Souls?

There’s one more thing that we need to establish before we can answer that question. It’s worth mentioning that there is deception at foot in Dark Souls which many players will likely never even realize on a first playthrough (if ever). Anor Londo, the city of the gods, has been abandoned and darkened all this time and Gwynevere, who directs us on our quest, is an illusion. Furthermore, Frampt is not the only serpent out there, for there is another one named Kaathe who tells the player the “truth”, that Gwyn usurped the Age of Dark from humanity in order to extend the Age of Fire, a process which he says goes against the natural order of the world. Frampt has been coercing undead to relink the fire through deceptive means and if the undead he was shepherding understood what this meant, they might not be so keen to see it through. In contrast, Kaathe reveals that he’s looking for a “Dark Lord” who will rule humanity in this Age of Dark and is hoping that the player character will fulfill this role by slaying Gwyn and rejecting the fire.

Okay, now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, we can finally start looking at whether the player should link the fire or not. In his video, Jim Sterling talks about how he chooses to not link the fire because he likens it to real-world politics, where the gods are akin to the rich and humanity are akin to the oppressed working class who are exploited to give more power to the rich. In this reading, linking the fire is akin to holding up unequal power structures which are to your detriment. In that scenario, Jim chooses to not link the fire and to tear down the power of the gods in favour of humanity, which is a perfectly valid reading of this scenario. However, even being aware of this deception, I still choose to link the fire in Dark Souls because I believe that this is the most ethical ending.

There are several ethical philosophies that can be applied to try to determine what course of action is the most ethical to pursue. Paul Martin Lester lists and briefly explains six of them on his website: the golden rule, hedonism, the golden mean, the categorical imperative, utilitarianism and the veil of ignorance. For our purposes we will focus on utilitarianism for now, as it is the closest to conventional views of morality. According to the University of Texas’ “Ethics Unwrapped”, utilitarianism is a moral philosophy where “the most ethical choice is the one that will produce the greatest good for the greatest number [of people]”. You may look at this and wonder how linking the fire produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people, especially since we have already revealed that the prolonging of the Age of Fire benefits the gods, while humanity is meant to inherit the Age of Dark. However, there is a key factor worth considering here – when he established the Age of Fire, Gwyn linked humanity’s souls to the first flame, thus bringing about the curse of the undead and hollowed states. The undead may actually be intended to be humanity’s natural state in an Age of Dark, but the Age of Fire has made it into an awful state of being which collapses societies and tears away the self. We see this many times over the course of the games, as colourful characters such as Solaire of Astora, Siegward of Catarina, Lucatiel of Mirrah and the crestfallen knight slowly lose themselves to hollowing, a condition that becomes more and more prevalent in society as the fire fades. As a result, the longer that the fire is allowed to fade, the more disruptive the curse of the undead is going to be for the lives of humans everywhere and the more people who are going to lose their humanity. When viewed this way, linking the fire is clearly going to cause the least disruption to the lives of the people, especially if it is done sooner rather than later.

The whole Frampt vs Kaathe debate is also worth a second look when deciding whether to link the fire. At first glance, most players who encounter Kaathe are going to assume that he’s he one telling the truth about the world and the player’s situation and therefore has your best interests in mind when he tells you not to link the fire. However, it’s worth noting that Kaathe is a foil to Frampt and that both of the primordial serpents are kingseekers – Frampt wants to find a successor to Gwyn to link the fire, whereas Kaathe wants to crown a “dark lord” to usurp Gwyn’s throne. As the player, that works fantastically for you, since you spend the whole game collecting souls and becoming (likely) the most powerful being in this world. However, is having one powerful overlord really the best option for humanity in the end, or is it better for humanity if one powerful individual is sacrificed instead to keep their way of life intact? Are we better off with another Gwyn-like figure ruling this Age of Dark, only more powerful since he or she has absorbed all of the lord souls? We, of course, don’t really have an answer to this question, but it’s worth keeping in mind when appraising the situation – we can’t assume that Kaathe has the best interests of humanity in mind and, while it’s great for us as the player that we could be the most powerful being in the world, it may not be the best situation for everyone else. As a result, Frampt’s deception is likely warranted, as a being strong enough to link the fire is extremely unlikely to do so willingly. We actually see this play out several times in Dark Souls III, where the truth of the linking of the fire has become common knowledge and the man tasked to link the fire rejects his calling. Not only that, but three of the four resurrected Lords of Cinder who have already linked the fire once before reject the call and refuse to go through with linking a second time (not to mention that Aldrich was forced to link the fire the first time and Ludleth of Courland vividly recounts the pain involved in the experience, so there’s little wonder why they don’t volunteer to go through with it again). One can easily see how this deception would be necessary to convince the most powerful being in the realm to unwittingly volunteer to give up their power (and life) to link the fire.

Since the Age of Dark is supposed to be the time of humanity, wouldn’t that inevitably be the best for humans though? This is, unfortunately, an answer that we simply don’t know based on the lore that From Software have given us. This is, as “Ethics Unwrapped” puts it, a drawback of utilitarianism: “because we cannot predict the future, it’s difficult to know with certainty whether the consequences of our actions will be good or bad.” In the Dark Souls franchise, we simply do not know what an Age of Dark is actually like. The closest we get is the Untended Graves in Dark Souls III, which seem to portray a dim future in which an Age of Dark has fallen (although this is definitely debatable). Since we can’t even conclusively look to the Untended Graves for an Age of Dark, we only really have the Abyss to go off of. The Abyss is a place in Dark Souls which seems to have some connection to the true nature of the Dark Soul and humanity. The Abyss spreads across lands and swallows them up. The Abyss is so corrupting and dangerous that we know of three entire kingdoms (Oolacile, New Londo and Carthus) who have succumbed to it have to be destroyed and contained to stop its spread. It’s worth noting that Kaathe is heavily implied to have been behind the spreading of The Abyss in Oolacile and New Londo, further suggesting that it plays some sort of role in his quest for a dark lord. The results aren’t pretty though – the people who come into contact with The Abyss all go mad and/or have their bodies twisted into monstrous forms. As one goes deeper into The Abyss, they find numerous mysterious, incorporeal phantoms which are clearly meant to symbolize humanity. Whether these are the souls of the people who have been swallowed up by The Abyss or a more base form of humanity is up for interpretation, but all that is certain is that they drain the player’s life force on contact. It’s also worth noting that, in the original Dark Souls‘ DLC, The Abyss seems to stem from the unrestrained desires of Manus, thought by some to be the Furtive Pygmy himself and perhaps Kaathe’s original candidate for dark lord. This lends further credence to the idea that the dark lord is just the most powerful being of their age, one who can shape people and the world around them with their overwhelming dominance. There is so much ambiguity about The Abyss and the Age of Dark though that it’s hard to make a concrete judgment call on them. Is everyone living a terrible existence, but humans are living the least-terrible existence of them all? Is life as a humanity phantom or a maddened, misshapen monster really all that bad? I can’t say that The Abyss is bad with absolute certainty, but it is clear that to bring about an Age of Dark would change our fundamental understanding of human life. In my opinion, the risks are not worth it, especially since we know that life in the Age of Fire is perfectly fine for humans.

That’s the situation in the original Dark Souls, but what about Dark Souls II? Should the player ascend the Throne of Want, or turn their back on it? There are a couple new elements introduced in this game which are worth taking into consideration. First, the concept of cycles is introduced. Dark Souls II reveals that there is a constant back-and-forth of ages of fire and dark. As a result, we discover that even if you did embrace an Age of Dark in the original game’s ending, the fire returns eventually and all of this will have played out again. Considering that the curse of the undead still persists, this would suggest that humanity is still linked to the fire and that these cycles of the Age of Dark aren’t even beneficial for humans, further giving fuel to the idea that linking the fire is the safest choice. In Dark Souls II, Aldia calls the linking of humanity to the first flame “the first sin” and says it has corrupted the natural order of the world – however, until humanity can be unlinked from the fire, it is unavoidable. However, just because something is natural, that doesn’t mean it is therefore the right or best option and Aldia knows it, as he rages in search of a solution to this problem.

The other variable worth taking into consideration in Dark Souls II is the theme of kings and their queens of Dark. Dark Souls II reveals that the defeat of Manus split his soul into fragments which became four granddaughters. These granddaughters would seek out kings, the most powerful people in the land, and seek to corrupt them and eventually take the first flame for themselves. Unfortunately for them, their corrupting influence would eventually be the downfall of each kingdom before their efforts could come to fruition, leaving only ruins or kingdoms in decline. Interestingly enough, by taking the crowns of each of the lords, you can actually stave off the effects of hollowing – it doesn’t cure or end the curse, but it is a way to freeze it in place and effectively become a god of the Light and the Dark. In Dark Souls II, your ultimate goal is to take the kingdom of Drangleic for yourself and Queen Nashandra is your final opponent. In this game, it is explicitly the Dark which is manipulating you, as Nashandra is waiting for you to be powerful enough to take the throne before swooping in to take it for herself.

So, with Nashandra defeated, do you then sit on the throne and therefore link the fire? The answer feels simpler, yet more ambiguous than it did in the first game. The Throne of Want is analogous to the First Flame, but the exact effects of sitting on it are uncertain – unlike Dark Souls where you become human kindling, in Dark Souls II the ending implies that you’ll establish your own kingdom. Or, if you choose to forgo the Throne of Want, you’ll allow an Age of Dark to take hold once again. Considering the journey of this game, the ending where you take the throne is far more satisfying. I’d also argue that, since humanity is still linked to the fire, taking the throne is the best option in order to stave off the curse of the undead once more.

Finally, we have Dark Souls III, where things have taken an interesting turn. In this game, the fire has been linked so many times that each successive linking has produced a shorter and shorter Age of Fire, and now the fire itself is nearly spent. It’s gotten to the point where the heir meant to link the fire refuses, figures who have previously linked the fire are resurrected and also refuse to link it again, and so people who failed to link the fire before are resurrected to try to get them to link it. The situation is so bad that space and time itself has become reshaped and distorted, desperately trying to bring about the linking of the fire that has become so fundamental to existence. Dark Souls III has several possible endings, but once again the “right” ending seems much clearer than in the first game. However, the variety of endings allow us to explore some of the other ethical philosophies in more detail.

There’s only one ending which allows the player to link the fire, but the flame has become so feeble that it merely dances along their arms, instead of becoming a surging conflagration like in the first game. It’s clear that the fire’s power has faded almost entirely and that this act of linking at this point it is functionally pointless. However, this ending could be viewed as the “categorical imperative” ending. In the ethical philosophy of the categorical imperative, once something has been established as “right”, it should always be done and there are no excuses not to not perform this action. Since the linking the fire has long been established as the “right” thing to do, it should be linked regardless of the long-term benefits (after all, have we not been looking down on Prince Lothric all this time for not linking the fire to begin with?). However, I personally find this ethical philosophy far too restrictive and inadequate. From a utilitarian perspective, since the fire is spent the curse is already wracking humanity, and the world itself has twisted to try to relight the flame – it’s clear that the time to link the fire has past and that embracing the Age of Dark is the only option left to us (in fact, considering that the Age of Fire was becoming shorter and the curse of the undead more frequent, the most ethical thing to do would probably have been to embrace it sooner than this). So, what options does the game give us to bring this about?

In the normal ending, the player summons the fire keeper to snuff out the first flame. She reveals that although an Age of Dark is now settling, eventually fire will come again anew. Perhaps this will be a new flame, no longer linked to humanity. This seems to me like it is the most ethical of the endings from a utilitarian perspective, since it severs humanity’s ties to the first flame and allows the Age of Dark to finally settle in on its own merits. It also gets around the problem we had in the original Dark Souls of one extremely powerful being dictating the flow of this age – a new Gwyn, using their power to extend the Age of Dark in the same manner that the Age of Fire has been unnaturally extended. This ending could also be seen as the “golden mean” ending. The golden mean ethical philosophy posits that the most ethical approach is to find a middle ground between two extremes (in this case, linking the fire and becoming the Dark Lord). Since you have chosen to not link the fire, but have not become the new lord of the Age of Dark, this ending strikes about as close to a middle ground as possible. The fact that this ending satisfies two different ethical philosophies is just further evidence that it’s probably the best outcome for this world.

There’s also a secret ending where, just before the fire keeper snuffs out the fire, the player betrays her and steals the last of the flame in the final seconds. It’s the kind of ending you take if you’re roleplaying a complete bastard who is collecting souls, any soul, to empower themselves at the expense of everyone else. One could view this as a particularly nasty “hedonism” ending. In ethical philosophy, hedonism posits that the most moral thing to do is to maximize pleasure while you can, because you don’t know what tomorrow may bring. In the dark and brutish world of Dark Souls, your character has been slaying people and collecting their souls to empower themselves all game and with your journey at its end, there really isn’t any reason not to just collect one more soul from this viewpoint. That said, obviously, viewed from any other ethical philosophy (not to mention conventional morality), this is by far the most unethical ending in the game.

Perhaps the most interesting ending involves completing a quest for the Sable Church of Londor, a coven of undead. During the course of gameplay, you can discover that the Sable Church are dedicated to fulfilling the legacy of Kaathe and want you to become the Dark Lord. Knowing this, it is perhaps unsurprising that if you choose this ending then you absorb the remaining power of the first flame into yourself and bring about an Age of Dark with yourself as its appointed Dark Lord. However, the ethics of this ending are dubious – not only do you have to marry and then kill Anri of Astora to bring it about, but the ultimate implications of this ending are left up to the player to interpret. As a result, this ending could be categorized as hedonistic or utilitarian, depending on how you imagine your rule as Dark Lord will play out. Interestingly enough, the eclipsed sun which has been in the sky throughout the late game turns into a pale, dark eclipse upon your ascension to Dark Lord, perhaps signifying that you have indeed become the Dark foil to Gwyn and your legacy may mirror his. Knowing this, allowing the fire keeper to snuff out the flame is probably the most conventionally-ethical option since it keeps the most people on an even footing, but the Dark Lord ending is the most interesting in my opinion.

Considering how much interpretation is involved in Dark Souls, a clear “ideal” solution is almost impossible to declare definitively. A Dark Lord ending may indeed be the best possible ending if you decide that your character will rule benevolently and not make the same mistakes as Gwyn. Similarly, not linking the fire may be best if you believe that it will end the cure of the undead – again, we just don’t know and it’s up to your interpretation of that ending to decide. This interpretation and debating over the lore and its implications is a major factor in Dark Souls‘ enduring popularity – as I said in my Love/Hate article on the series, the original game has been eclipsed in terms of performance, gameplay and challenge, but the world it has created is damn-near unparalleled and makes this game still stand out to this day.

15 Best Movie Posters of 2019

Welcome back to the annual, year-end countdown of the best movie posters of the year! And just like that, this is now officially an annual thing! I’ve been browsing impawards throughout the year, keeping an eye out for eye-catching, interesting posters and saving them for later. Suffice to say, I had a bunch of posters to sift through and narrowing this down to a top 15 was difficult (not least of all because new posters are released all the time so I couldn’t even begin to narrow the list down until the start of September). Also, starting this year I’m going to be giving extra consideration towards posters which are actually intended for mass distribution rather than posters which are intended to be artistic but very limited in their reach. I mean, this Dark Phoenix poster is really cool, but it’s also clearly a poster you’re never going to see if you go to a theatre. I’m still going to consider these kinds of posters if they’re really good, but I find it more impressive when a poster which is meant to sell general audiences on the film does something particularly artistic or interesting.

Anyway, with those considerations out of the way, let’s get onto the list! As usual, you can see the full-sized poster in all its glory if you click on the images.

Honourable Mentions

While Disney absolutely destroyed the competition at the box office this year, their posters were, by and large, very mediocre and lifeless. This poster for Frozen II was one of the few exceptions, with its interesting use of colour and reflections hinting at the plot and feel of the film. It ultimately just missed the list, but it was definitely worth mentioning.

This is another entry which could have easily made the list if the competition wasn’t quite so fierce. It’s got such a creepy design already and then as your eye gets drawn upwards you realize that the trees have been arranged in such a way that they spell “FEED”. I like this poster a lot, it looks way better than a gritty, Grimms fairy tale adaptation should.

Having seen Us, I like this poster quite a bit with its minimalist design resembling a Rorschach blot, but with the right side missing bits which hint at the film’s psycho doppelganger premise. It gets across the idea of the film very well, but I feel like it’s just a bit too subtle to really be appreciated unless you’ve actually seen the film first.

15) The Death of Dick Long

This is one of those posters where I have no idea what the film is actually supposed to be about, but it kind of makes me want to see the movie regardless. As I’ve said in previous best posters of the year countdowns, that’s ultimately the goal of a movie poster, so it’s worth some points in my book. On top of that, this poster is just eye-catching with its use of harsh, contrasting lighting and muted colours… and then you notice that the fireworks are coming from the guy’s freaking crotch. And then you notice the title is called The Death of Dick Long, and that it’s from one of the directors of Swiss Army Man. Yeah, it’s going to be weird as all hell, but intriguingly so. That said, I could have very easily skipped over this one if the poster wasn’t so eye-catching so I’d say that this is well-deserving of a spot in the Top 15.

14) Low Tide

Every best movie posters countdown needs a poster which is just a beautiful, “artistic” shot and Low Tide takes that spot for me this year. It really isn’t much more than an extremely well-composed photo and a cleverly integrated title using a reversed gradient, but that’s all it really needs to be. Low Tide‘s poster is so beautiful it makes your eyes water, suggesting that you’re in for a gorgeous treat if you watch it. In addition, its use of colour and gradients also implies a dangerous tone for the movie without really having to overtly spell it out. A great poster all-round, and that fact that it is only in at #14 just shows how impressive posters have been in 2019.

13) Hail Satan?

This poster is just so clever. It’s appropriately interesting, informative and inflammatory in equal measure. Most Americans (especially evangelicals) are uninformed about the Satanic temple and have a knee-jerk opposition to them, but that is exactly how they get awareness to their admittedly worthy causes. Usually, if you hear about Satanists in the news, it’s because they’re fighting for religious equality – after all, if an evangelical is okay to do something, a Satanist should be able to do an equivalent action, right? That idea gets across perfectly in this poster, with the image of the Statue of Liberty as Baphomet as a striking visual that is guaranteed to trigger evangelicals. Oh and it also has one of the best taglines of the year, which just manages to put this over Low Tide as far as I’m concerned. I love it.

12) Bliss

This is definitely the poster I’ve mulled over the most on this list. At first glance, the colour choices make it very ugly to look at and unappealing. However, the longer you look at it, the more intriguing it is. For one thing, the ugliness is clearly intentional and is meant to be at odds with the title, Bliss, which is usually associated with bright, cheerful colours. If you look closer you can pick out all sorts of unsettling details – screaming, disembodied mouths, blood dripping off the woman’s face, and piles of reaching, naked bodies scrambling over each other. The longer you look at it, the more unsettling things you begin to notice and the more intriguing Bliss becomes to me. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the hand-painted art help make this stand out a bit more compared to all the photoshopped posters of its contemporaries. All-in-all, when I was narrowing down this list to just a top 15, I had considered dropping Bliss on a number of occasions because of its surface-level ugliness, but I’m now confident that it really deserves a spot here due to its bold and evocative design.

11) The Ghost Who Walks

Again we have another poster which is, by itself, super intriguing. We’ve got what appears to be a very zoomed out, birds-eye shot of Santa Claus in an alleyway being escorted or robbed by a pair of men – whatever the scenario is, they don’t seem to be doing him a favour anyway. The story the poster tells is enough to make you go “WTF?”, but what really puts it over the top is the very clever composition and framing of the image and the way that the title has been integrated into the shot. It doesn’t really give you any information about the film’s story beyond a tone, but it’s fascinating enough that I can see it selling someone on the film by itself.

10) Pet Sematary

There’s no movie in 2019 that I wanted to love more than Pet Samatary, but good God the film was so mediocre that I can’t even be charitable to it. Oh well, at least we have this awesome poster that’s forever going to get my imagination going for a movie better than what we got. I love the way colour has been mostly drained from the poster. The use of black and white tones makes for great contrast and allow the bits of gold in Church’s eyes and the red in the title to stand out all the more. It’s all put together in such a creepy manner, from the great, shadowy shots of the main cast (especially the look of dread on Amy Seimetz’s face and the nearly skeletal-looking Jason Clarke), to the scary, masked children, to Church’s glower hanging over everyone. It uses the Drew Struzan style in an interesting way, is just striking and original in its own right, and ultimately does a better job of selling the film’s premise than the actual movie did. Sigh, sometimes print is better.

9) Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Tarantino’s latest kind of had to make this list. Sure, it’s not exactly the flashiest poster of the year, but it captures the aesthetic of 1960s film posters perfectly. The hand-drawn style, the vignettes of moments from the film, the way that the cast is shown off, even down to the way that the credits are listed – it’s perfect. Considering that that’s clearly the intent here, it would feel wrong for me not to recognize it on this list.

8) Child’s Play

Speaking of posters that, on their own, aren’t all that flashy… holy crap, Childs Play just goes bonkers. If you’re not aware, the Child’s Play remake/reboot went head-to-head with freaking Toy Story 4, and the marketing department were eager to make the most of this with this bonkers poster that takes the aesthetic from Toy Story 4‘s own marketing and uses it to make a freaking statement. There were a few posters in this Chucky murders Toy Story series, but the one with Woody’s arm and hat was the most striking, in my opinion. It reminds me of those posters for You’re Next a few years ago which had a killer hiding in the “reflection”. I just love how cheeky, bold and clever this poster design is and can only imagine how hard Bob Iger must have shit himself when he saw it for the first time.

7) Joker

Hoo boy, if there’s one movie we didn’t need in 2019, it’s probably a sympathetic, mass killer origin story for Joker for all the incels to admire… That said, this poster does a great job of conveying the idea without making him into someone we’re meant to feel sorry for. There’s such a creepy vibe here with the idea of a psychotic person who can’t smile without physically forcing himself. The awfulness of this is further reinforced by the paint-drop tear, the sickly colour palette and the disturbing extreme close-up which shows off all the strained emotion on Joker’s face. It’s a very well-composed image that gets across the idea of the film perfectly… arguably better than the actual film does, in some ways.

6) The Unborn

What. The. FUCK. IS THAT!?!?!! Okay, I’m sold on this movie already – I don’t know what the hell it’s about, but this poster is straight-up disturbing shit. It has such a disgustingly creepy vibe to it with little more than a shadowy mutant baby in a jar backlit by what looks like a hundred year old light bulb. It’s horrifying and, while I’m certain the movie can’t hope to live up to the sick shit running through my head when I look at this poster, it makes me want to find out what the hell this movie is all about. Sign me the hell up.

5) Detective Pikachu

Okay, obviously I’m a Pokemaniac, so I’m kind of biased on this one. That said, this is a dense poster packed with all sorts of subtle Easter eggs and plot hints that are enough to make a Pokemaniac like me jizz their pants. Seriously, whoever designed this poster clearly loves Pokemon and packed nearly every inch of it with obscure references to the games’ universe. Even if you don’t get the nerdy references, the Easter eggs still do the job of making the world of Ryme City appear lived-in and bustling, inviting you to pour over all the details that have been hidden in it. As a result, I’ve probably sunk more time into this one poster than I have on all the other posters on this list, combined. That by itself is an accomplishment worthy of some appreciation, which is why Detective Pikachu ranks so high on this list.

4) Aladdin

Perhaps mirroring their creative bankruptcy for most of the year, Disney’s poster output in 2019 has been unfortunately mediocre. Even Endgame didn’t have any particularly interesting posters, so imagine my surprise when I finally found a visually arresting poster for a Disney movie: the live-action AladdinAladdin was a mostly-mediocre and over-stuffed film, but it did have its charms thanks largely to the performances from the three main leads, especially Will Smith. Thankfully, they’re all on display in this gorgeous poster which uses the white background and expert use of a red and blue to draw your eye and tell a particular story. Your eye is naturally going to be drawn to Will Smith’s genie first, then down to Jafar and Jasmine, then down to Aladdin, then down to Abu jumping into the lamp before you reach the title. It’s such a cool and clearly-intentional trick, using the space of the poster itself to great effect to direct the viewer in an unnatural upper-right to lower-left line. That’s impressive on its own, but the fact that the poster itself is just gorgeous-looking easily cemented this as one of my absolute favourite posters of 2019.

3) Glass

Glass was, in a lot of ways, a colossal disappointment which threw the nascent Shyamalan resurgence back into disarray. There are a number of reasons for this, but probably the most pertinent is that Glass represents so much wasted potential. We can see some of that potential here in this poster, which captures the essence of a climactic superhero story in such a beautiful way. Each broken piece of glass shows off characters painted in a comic-book art style, interspersed with actual comic art created for the films itself. It’s enthralling to look at, packed with strong emotions for each of the characters and can’t help but feel evocative to for anyone who appreciates comic book storytelling.

Also worth mentioning is this other poster which creates a portrait of Mr. Glass out of literal shards of broken glass. It’s not nearly as striking as the above poster of course, but it is quite interesting in its own right, especially for a “character poster”, which usually just comes across as a boring, requisite marketing piece.

2) John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

There were ultimately only two films on this list which were duking it out for the top spot, and I have to say that John Wick: Chapter 3 only just barely lost out on it. I mean, just look at this poster, it is exquisite! I would hang this on my wall in a heartbeat. The neon-soaked colour palette is simultaneously arresting to look at and a perfect representation of the aesthetic of John Wick, while the harsh metals and skull imagery convey the feel of the series. There really isn’t much more to it than that – it’s just a poster so cool that it just plows its way to the runner-up position of this year’s posters.

Oh, also worth mentioning is the poster on the right, featuring John Wick versus hundreds of assassins. This gets across the tone and sort of odds that ol’ John is in for in the film in such a striking and frankly funny fashion. It isn’t quite as visually-arresting as the above poster, but it is definitely worth mentioning in its own right.

Which brings us to our #1 spot for 2019…

1) Godzilla: King of the Monsters

 If there’s one film whose marketing department absolutely killed it this year, it’s definitely Godzilla: King of the Monsters‘. To put it simply, every single poster for this film is simultaneously visually beautiful and totally kick-ass (as if this were an action movie starring Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron). Unlike a lot of blockbusters, even the regular theatrical posters have a level of creative artistic merit to them which is usually reserved for more specialized posters (presumably for fear of alienating the mass audience with a poster that’s not aimed at the lowest common demoninator). When you consider that the beautiful shots in these posters are also just being indicative of the cinematography of the film itself, it just makes the marketing for this film even more impressive. Godzilla: King of the Monsters may have been a bit bloated and underwhelming on its own merits, but holy crap if the film’s marketing department didn’t go all-out this year. Here’s hoping that next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong continues this trend, because if it does then we are in for an absolute treat.

10 Worst Movies of the 2010s

As you can probably tell if you’ve frequented this blog, you’ll know that I have a thing for bad movies. There’s a special sort of film-going experience that you can only get from a crap-tacular film, be that stunned disbelief or pure rage. Then there’s the true bottom of the barrel. Most of the films on this list are so bad that I would never want to subject myself to them again, and even several years removed from watching them they still leave an awful taste in my mouth. So let’s go down memory lane and exhume some of the worst movies of the entire decade and show off their rotting putridity for all to see?

Honourable Mentions

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (February 27, 2010)
You would be remiss to mention bad movies of the 2010s and leave out Birdemic, a rip-off of The Birds that’s so legendarily incompetent that it became a meme. Director James Nguyen really wanted to make a positive film about environmentalism and pacifism, all wrapped up in an epic love story, but good God he failed spectacularly. For the most part, the film is just boring, but then suddenly the clip art GIF-quality birds attack and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I swear to God I laughed for at least a minute straight when they started dive bombing and literally exploding. Even with everything else wrong with this film, that alone made it at least hilarious and so-bad-it’s-good enough that it’s more enjoyable than any of the movies that made this list. Still, for the sheer ineptitude on display, this film deserves at least a mention on this list.

Dogman (November 6, 2012)
I’ve always been highly intrigued by the legend of the Michigan Dogman, so when I found out that someone made a movie about this creature I was excited to see what they would come up with. I even saw a Blu-ray copy of the film on sale and even though it was going for freaking $35 I was tempted. However, I ultimately decided that I’d better find out if it was good or not before dropping that much on it… and thank God I did, because I dodged a freaking bullet. Dogman is clearly a no-budget film and what we do get on screen is just boring. I can’t really remember much more about it than being extremely disappointed that nothing happens, so I can’t really justify putting it on the list proper (and like hell I’m rewatching it).

The Predator (Septemer 14, 2018)
The Predator isn’t *quite* bad enough to actually make this list, but it is easily one of my most hated films of the decade. I don’t often advocate for films to be written out of continuity, but the Predator franchise is absolutely dead in the water if this film is allowed to dictate the franchise’s future. And why did they feel the need to reboot the franchise anyway? Predators was awesome and went over most of the ideas this film tries to pass off as new anyway.

So with those dishonourable mentions out of the way, let’s get on to the list…

10) Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who Is John Galt? (September 14, 2014)
If you read my Atlas Shrugged retrospective series, you might have expected to see this film on here. Atlas Shrugged Part III fails on so many levels that it’s frankly impressive. Even setting aside the shitty philosophy and morality at this film’s rotten core, the filmmaking is distractingly bad. Like, almost every scene has something distracting – from terrible editing, to bad lighting, to bargain-basement props, to time wasting stock footage, one can’t help but feel like the filmmakers just didn’t give a shit anymore after losing more than $45 million on this franchise. Oh and the acting is the worst in the franchise, which is even funnier when you realize everyone was recast in all three parts. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this movie is on a level of filmmaking incompetence that rivals The Room. I saw a copy of this movie on DVD at a store once and I was sorely tempted to buy it, I had that much fun at its expense (the only reason I didn’t buy it is because like hell I’m going to financially support the bastards in the Randian community). Literally the only reason I didn’t rank this movie lower was because it was such a hoot to watch, but it is unquestionably one of the worst movies of the decade.

9) Pompeii (February 21, 2014)
I could say that this movie was a bigger disaster than the real-life eruption of Vesuvius which the film is based on, but that would just be insensitive, stupid and uninspired… coincidentally, all of those words could be used to describe Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii adequately though. Pompeii is a disaster-romance in the same sort of vein as Pearl Harbour, where far too much time is dedicated to a dull romance and the disaster is just dumb spectacle. Kit Harrington is here at his absolute blandest and poor Emily Browning is saddled with a lifeless damsel in distress role. About the only notable thing about this movie is Kiefer Sutherland who seems to be having an absolute blast hamming it up as a cartoonishly evil Roman senator. I personally thought that he was the one entertaining bit in this film, but I can see others thinking that his acting is just plain bad so who knows – you might think that this film’s even worse than I did. Really though, there’s so much potential for a great film about the eruption of Vesuvius, even from the dramatic accounts that still survive to this day. Unfortunately, Pompeii struggles to even survive in the DVD bargain bin in 2019.

8) I, Frankenstein (January 24, 2014)
Some movies are so bad that you wonder how they even managed to get greenlit, let alone released. I, Frankenstein is just that kind of film. Who in their right mind thought that a 65 million dollar film about a monster-hunting Frankenstein’s monster would be a success? Turns out that that would be the production company and co-creator of the Underworld franchise, which should be incredibly obvious to anyone who has actually seen this film because it feels like a cheap knock-off of Underworld (which is, in itself, a cheap knockoff of White Wolf’s RPGs), only years after people stopped giving a shit about the franchise. Okay, fine, the idea is shit, but how did they then manage to rope Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto and even Jai Courtney into this!?! Even then, there could be some campy enjoyment if the film was at least in on the joke, but the film is embarrassingly self-serious, full of mythologizing about angels and demons and the status of Frankenstein’s soul… it’s just bad, everyone who’s even heard of the film knows it, I’m not sure what else there is to say.

7) Osombie (May 5, 2012)
Okay, I remember being moderately excited for this movie back when it came out due to the bonkers premise alone, but my memory is a bit hazy at this point (and like hell I’ll watch it again). I do remember being incredibly disappointed by the film though, which just plays out like all of the other  lazy zombie movies which were infesting video shelves at the time. The zombie Osama bin Laden gimmick isn’t even that well utilized either – instead of having him as this Dead Snow-like monster, I distinctly remember that he kind of just shows up every once in a while and is ultimately pretty inconsequential, not to mention that the film isn’t really all that interested in having a campy or over-the-top laugh. The film’s characters are also incredibly stupid, with its “special forces” cast being clearly modelled from someone’s Call of Duty expertise. Oh, and in case it wasn’t obvious, it’s also pretty goddamn insensitive to make a movie like this when Afghanistan was (and still is) a warzone at the time. Osombie is one of those films whose premise should have just been a dumb laugh between a group of friends and then been allowed to fade into the night instead of something that everyone involved is going to have to explain to their grandchildren one day.

6) The Cloverfield Paradox (February 4, 2018)
The Cloverfield Paradox has to be one of the most deflating films of all time. After 10 Cloverfield Lane there was legitimate hype for Cloverfield as a franchise and then The Cloverfield Paradox gets surprise announced and released in the middle of the Super Bowl? Holy shit! But good God were we ever duped because this film sucks ass. Seriously, there are few films which I have hated with such vitriol more than The Cloverfield Paradox. To put it simply, in The Cloverfield Paradox, shit just happens for no reason. Early on it seems like they’re setting up a mystery with all the weird things happening, but no, it’s just happening because that’s what the writers want to happen. There are absolutely no rules to ground everything and it just makes the film frustrating to watch. Oh and don’t even get me started on that damn ending, which just makes for a cocktease since it reveals that we’re missing everything that we actually wanted to see. Ugh, fuck this film.

5) God’s Not Dead 2 (April 1, 2016)
Oh hey, another terrible film we covered in a retrospectives series! God’s Not Dead 2 is truly one of the most deluded and cloying films I’ve ever seen. Any attempt at nuance from the previous film is discarded entirely as atheists are outright portrayed as body snatcher-like monsters, all working to destroy Christianity in America, while the Christians are all portrayed as poor, innocent nobodies who never did anything to deserve such scorn. It’s just plain offensive and gets to the point of being conspiratorial. Even the evangelicals this film is directed at should feel dirty for getting their dicks sucked so hard by this film. That’s really the issue – you cannot separate this film’s politics from its story. It bashes you over the head with the message so much and demonizes everyone outside of its target audience that you either hate it or feel validated by it. There’s really no middle-ground and no other purpose to the film (other than, y’know, to sell bullshit Christian merch).

4) Project X (March 2, 2012)
I wrote a review about this film 6 years ago (!!!), and to this day I can still remember how much I hated it. A found footage teen sex comedy doesn’t sound like that bad of a premise (like… it sounds like shit, but not unbearably so, right?), but the main problem is that the characters in this film are all loathsome. I struggle to think of a character I hate more than Costa, a selfish jackass whose only concern is literally getting laid, everyone else be damned (even his “friends”). The unbearable characters are enough to tank this movie by themselves, but it also doesn’t help that this film is just plain offensive. Every female character exists only to be oogled by the camera, we get all sorts of mean-spirited gay and fat jokes, and there’s even a little person who only exists to get thrown into an oven while the teens just laugh about it. Wow. Did I mention that everyone in this movie sucks and I wish they all overdosed on the stolen ecstasy in the film? That would have probably earned a single laugh out of me in this deeply unfunny “comedy”.

3) Game Over, Man! (March 23, 2018)
Is anyone surprised that Neflix originals nabbed 2 of the 10 worst films of the decade? Game Over, Man! is easily the worst one that I’ve seen, which is especially criminal considering the fantastic premise – basically, it’s a comedic Die Hard knock-off where the “heroes” are a bunch of slacker hotel housekeepers. How can you screw that up? Well, by making a comedy which attempts to be so outrageously over-the-top that it’s just deeply unfunny. Like, let me paint the picture for you – the bad guys are closing in on our heroes. They need to do something to slip past them and Adam Devine announces he has a plan. Cue the bad guys finding him with his dick out in the closet, pretending he died of auto-erotic asphyxiation. I thought that he was going to use this surprising moment to get the drop on them, but no, they just think that auto-erotic asphyxiation is funny on its own merits, plus they get to have Adam Devine run around on screen for about 5 minutes straight with his dick flopping about everywhere. Oh, and then the bad guys start trying to make out, because oh my God guys, did you know that there are gay men who like other men! Yeah, there’s a shitload of gay jokes in this film and they’re all incredibly lazy. About the only funny part is when the bad guy tries to punish a dickhead celebrity by forcing him to eat out another hostage’s ass, but is then surprised and flustered when it turns out that they’re both into it. There, I’ve told you the one good part in this film, you don’t have to see it now, you can leave a thankful comment to me down below.

2) Noobz (January 25, 2013)
Noobz is kind of lucky that it came out in 2013, because in a post-GamerGate world, this already-painfully unfunny movie has aged worse than Bubsy 3D. Imagine a movie that takes the worst stereotypes about gamers – they’re all basement-dwelling nerds, they’re racist, they’re homophobic, they hate women and can’t believe that they play video games, etc. Now imagine that the movie plays this all straight and expects us to find it endearing. Bad news, Noobz, you suck and everyone in this movie sucks (except for poor Zelda Williams who finds herself in a hapless role as the personalityless, token object of affection for the douchebag “hero”). Like Game Over, Man!, Noobz thinks that there’s nothing funnier than a closeted gay character and the movie mines this one “joke” over and over to the point of insanity. Somehow, it even manages to one-up Game Over, Man! by also including a kid with severe asthma who almost dies several times when his breathing apparatus gets damaged (which is somehow less-offensive than how every aspect of his personality revolves around his disability). Everything in this film is just lazy, from the tired road-trip structure to the awful jokes. It doesn’t even have the decency to end in a satisfying manner, instead having the heroes all get a sponsorship from Mountain Dew… and then reveal 2 seconds later that the guy who signed them gets arrested for impersonating a Mountain Dew executive. It’s like an extra big middle finger to you, as if you didn’t already waste almost two hours of your life watching this movie to begin with.

1) Scary Movie 5 (April 12, 2013)
As you have probably noticed by now, there’s not much worse than a terrible comedy, hence why they’ve captured the top 4 spots on this countdown. Scary Movie 5 might just be the worst comedy I’ve ever seen, let alone one of the most unenjoyable films I’ve ever subjected myself to. Don’t get me wrong, all of the other Scary Movie films were already REALLY shitty, but they at least had the occasional laugh and the comedic talents of Anna Faris, Regina Hall and Leslie Nielson to at least keep things somewhat respectable. Scary Movie 5 has none of that, and the results are just pathetic to watch. The jokes are tired, stupid, predictable and just plain unfunny. There was no good reason for this franchise to come back to life after a 7 year hiatus and we are well and truly fucked if David Zucker decides to trot out the franchise again in 2020. Literally the only good thing that I can say about this movie is that, for once in this franchise, at least it doesn’t lean into mean-spirited homophobia, transphobia and making fun of people with disabilities… but, like, that’s not something I should have to congratulate the film for.

My 10 Favourite Movies of the 2010s

It’s the end of the decade, so you know what that means – big retrospectives of the years that were the 2010s! We’ve already done a list of my favourite albums of the 2010s and today we’re moving onto my favourite movies of the decade. It was so hard narrowing this down to only 10 films (plus a couple honourable mentions) – at the outset, I had over 70 films listed that I had to whittle down until only 10 remained. As before, this is purely my opinion, although I’m much more confident that these picks should be less niche than my favourite albums are. So with that in mind, let’s get on to the list.

Honourable Mentions

The Witch (February 19, 2015)
While it wasn’t quite good enough to make my top 10, The Witch is one of those films which sticks with you and just gets better every time you see it. The film is rich with themes of family and religious devotion which give you many different ways to interpret it. There’s also a slavish attention to detail as director Robert Eggers tries to make the film as authentic as possible to the time period. For that matter, the film is basically a straight adaptation of the sorts of stories Puritans would have been telling each other in the 1600s, to the point where I consider this movie equal parts a Christian movie and a Satanist movie, depending on how you read it. This can make the movie a bit dense, particularly if you’re not into Puritan history or constant discussion about religion, and the scares are few and far between, but if you aren’t turned off by these then The Witch is a truly engrossing, unforgettable experience.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc (February 4, 2012 – February 1, 2013)
Okay, this one might be slightly cheating since it’s a trilogy of animated films, but it’s my list so here it is. Berserk is one of those stories which has been indirectly influencing me for years, through all of its many imitators. The Golden Age Arc is what got me into the franchise and makes for a great introduction to the story (and, in some ways, streamlines the manga for the better). Part 1, The Egg of the King, isn’t great, with rough CGI, some strange choices in direction and a plot which is clearly just set-up for the next 2 films. However, Part 2 (The Battle for Doldrey) and Part 3 (The Advent) are both top-notch. The Battle for Doldrey is one of those rare battle sequences which manages to be both cinematic and clever, since the heroes actually win the day through fairly sound tactics, while giving us some fantastic character growth in the process. The Advent is the crown jewel of this trilogy though – if you’re like me and went into this trilogy essentially blind about what was going to happen, it’s a shocking, truly horrific turn of events that have been set up since the very first film in the trilogy. All-in-all, The Golden Age Arc is just a solid adaptation of an already-fantastic manga and I heartily recommend it to anyone for the compelling characters, as long as you think you can stomach a very dark fantasy story.

10) A Quiet Place (April 6, 2018)
A Quiet Place tickles so many of my fancies that it feels like it was practically made for me. You’ve a horror movie about cool monsters hunting people, you’ve got Emily Blunt in top-form and you’ve got some extremely tense direction from John Krasinski making the most of the monsters’ gimmick. While I certainly would have love this movie at any time, its release also happened to coincide with me preparing to become a father myself, so the film’s themes about family and protecting your children really hit hard for me. You can certainly argue that A Quiet Place is just a very standard monster movie, but it’s made with such high quality that it manages to stand on its own.

9) The Raid 2: Berandal (March 28, 2014)
As good as the John Wick franchise is, the premier action franchise of the 2010s is undoubtedly The Raid. While the first film was basically just a bunch of incredible fight scenes strung together around a very basic plot, The Raid 2 ups the ante by having not only incredible fight scenes, but is also anchored by an engrossing mob story which is every bit as compelling as the fights. We not only get the return of the martial arts expert protagonist Rama, but also are introduced to a colourful cast of new characters, most notably Uco (or, as I like to call him, the Indonesian Bruce Campbell) and a pair of assassins who kill people with a hammer and a baseball bat. The previous film’s “Mad Dog”, Yayan Ruhian, even returns in an extended cameo role where he gets to take on an entire building full of people. All-in-all, these characters and this story make The Raid 2 so much more than just a bunch of amazing action sequences (but, fret not, they certainly did not skimp on the jaw-dropping action choreography either). If you haven’t seen it yet, do it – it is without a doubt one of the most insane action spectacles of all time.

8) Kubo and the Two Strings (August 19, 2016)
Kubo is, put simply, a gorgeous film. Laika Studio (of Coraline fame) has crafted some of the most ambitious and phenomenal stop-motion animation ever put to film, which makes the simple act of just watching and appreciating the sheer talent on screen enjoyable. Still, the animation wouldn’t matter if the story wasn’t up to snuff, but luckily Kubo is stellar in this regard as well. The film explores themes of family, identity and the power of storytelling, while very self-consciously playing with the traditional hero’s journey. There are moments of elation and moments of terror and it’s just such an emotional and well-crafted story that you can’t help but fall in love.

7) The Founder (December 16, 2016)
The idea of a biopic about the guy who turned McDonald’s into a corporate empire sounds incredibly boring, but The Founder surprised me with just how engaging it is from start to finish. Led by an incredibly dedicated performance from Michael Keaton, this film manages to avoid many of the usual pitfalls of a biopic – instead of just going through a checklist of highlights of Ray Kroc’s life, the film weaves these together to tell a story about a down-and-out entrepreneur who stumbles across the opportunity of a lifetime. The film plays the difficult balancing act of having you root for Ray and then having you actively despise him by the ending, while questioning the merit of what he did and whether he always planned on usurping control. It feels so contemporary and indicative of how we got to modern day America – the film also came out before Trump’s presidency, but you probably wouldn’t realize it considering how many parallels you can draw. Even exposition scenes are done in a fun way, such as when the McDonald brothers explain their fast food method and it’s demonstrated to us visually at the same time. It just makes for a fascinating and extremely compelling film, which is all the more delightful considering how dubious I was going in.

6) War for the Planet of the Apes (July 14, 2017)
The Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy is arguably the best trilogy of the 2010s and War is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch (which is no mean feat considering how incredible Dawn is as well). War takes the trilogy into a much darker and more introspective direction, putting Caesar into a violent and dangerous headspace which puts the lives of himself and the apes in peril. Andy Serkis once again absolutely kills it as Caesar and this time we actually get a strong human villain with Woody Harrelson’s ruthless Colonel. Being a Planet of the Apes film though, the evils at the heart of humanity are the ultimate villain and there are some truly bleak moments in this entry. Some may feel shortchanged that the “war” promised by the title doesn’t really materialize in the way you would expect, but given the overarching premise of the series, it’s pretty fitting how it all plays out and Caesar’s story arc comes to a satisfying conclusion. It does my heart good to see one of my favourite franchises get such a resurgence and I can only hope that the inevitable continuation can continue to be anywhere near as good as this film.

5) Silence (December 23, 2016)
Oh hey, look, a Martin Scorsese movie made this list and (spoiler alert) no Marvel movies did! DUN DUN DUUUUUN!!! In all seriousness though, Avengers: Infinity War just missed the Top 10, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Scorsese’s religious epic, Silence. With incredible lead performances from Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson, Silence can be a rough watch at times, considering that it depicts persecution, torture and execution of Christians in Japan during the 17th century. The film also probably won’t resonate too much if you don’t have interest in religion or theology yourself, but luckily the questions this film asks are right in my wheelhouse. The film asks several questions, but ultimately leaves it up to the audience to decide the answer: do outward expressions of faith ultimately matter? Can you snuff out the church by doing this? Is Kichijirō is wrong for denying his faith, or is what is held in his heart what matters? Should Rodrigues deny his faith to save the lives of others? Even the ultimate conclusion of the film is somewhat up for interpretation, although Scorsese has certainly pushed you towards an answer here, unlike the much more open-ended book the film is based on. It’s certainly not the easiest film to watch, nor is it the most efficiently paced, but Silence is a fascinating film which tests your very assumptions about faith and God in a complex and mature manner.

4) Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15, 2015)
Fury Road is one of those films that reveals that you can take a B-movie premise and turn it into something incredible if you know what you’re doing and put in the effort. In fact, Fury Road was so good that it effectively won the 2015 Oscars (even if it didn’t take home the Best Picture or Best Director awards, although looking back it probably should have). That’s right, a movie about weaponized cars, kamikaze psychos in fetish gear and a guy in a skin mask playing a flaming electric guitar was so incredible that even the Oscar crowd had to bow down to it. Seriously though, Mad Max: Fury Road deserves all the praise it gets. It’s expertly directed, with some of the coolest, most creative and most death-defying action sequences this side of The Raid. Much has been made about how the action actually enhances and moves the story forward, which is where much of the film’s accolades have come from. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron’s performances, which are crucial to the film’s success. Fury Road is just… it’s basically perfect, what more is there to say? The Road Warrior was already a template on how to make a sequel better than the original film, but Fury Road went and blew it up by being even better and I don’t think anyone could have seen that coming.

3) Sicario (September 18, 2015)
You had to know that Denis Villeneuve was going to be making an appearance on this list. While literally any of his movies from this decade could have made this list, Sicario is ultimately my favourite of the bunch. Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro all in top form, this film is a brutal, harrowing and eye-opening look at the War on Drugs, its toll on Mexico and America’s unethical response to it. It’s a truly thrilling film with some of the best constructed and tense suspenseful sequences I’ve ever seen. In particular, the sequence where a convoy of US forces cross the border to pick up a target and then bring him back is perhaps the most intense sequence I’ve ever seen, as the tense just keeps ratcheting up and up until it finally spills over. Everything about this film is just firing on all cylinders, from the direction, to the story, to the cinematography, to the acting – it’s basically perfect and never, ever dull.

2) Nightcrawler (October 31, 2014)
Nightcrawler is like a modern-day Taxi Driver, a character study about a morally-bankrupt protagonist which shines a light on the seediest elements of modern society. Jake Gyllenhaal is spell-binding as Lou Bloom, a young entrepreneur and burgeoning psychopath who will do anything to get ahead in society. Watching this unfold is absolutely enthralling from start to finish and it rings so true about how modern society has been established and the levels one has to go to in order to be a speedy, self-made success. I don’t want to spoil the film too much because it really is that good, but trust me when I say that absolutely everything in this film is on-point, it’s basically perfect.

And, with that we come to our #1 pick…

1) Star Wars Episode XI: The Last Jedi (December 15, 2019)
…okay, I’m just kidding, I couldn’t pass up such a golden opportunity to be a troll though. Legitimately, I do really like The Last Jedi and believe that it was exactly the sort of breath of fresh air that the franchise needed to move forward into the future, but it’s certainly not without its rough points. Hell, it’s not even my favourite Star Wars movie of the decade (that would be Rogue One) so it wasn’t really even in consideration for the Top 10. With that said, my real #1 pick is…

1) Whiplash (October 10, 2014)
A movie that you could describe as “intense” doesn’t come along very often, usually relegated to brutal war dramas like Saving Private Ryan or gory horror films like Evil Dead. However, Whiplash manages the hitherto unthinkable feat of being an intense film about freaking drumming. I’m serious, this film just keeps escalating and going to crazier heights until literally the last second. This largely comes down to stellar direction and fantastic performances from J.K. Simmons and Mile Teller. The film shows you what it takes to be “the best” without glamorizing it – in fact it’s pretty much actively discouraged from the start when it eschews all our expectations by having protagonist Andrew Neiman dump his perfect girlfriend because she’s going to distract him from his dream – a dream which he acknowledges is going to destroy his life. He’s ultimately a psychopath in his own right, but J.K. Simmons’ Trence Fletcher is an emotionally abusive monster who believes he can be the push to drive his students to the next level. Whether that’s worth it is for the audience to decide, but there’s no doubt that it is amazing to watch these two men play off of each other. I had a hard time picking between Nightcrawler and Whiplash for this spot, but Whiplash was such a unique film for me and I can’t say that I’ve seen anything else quite like it since.

My 10 Favourite Albums of the 2010s

Man, I really left myself a lot of work for the end of this year. Not only did I do my “Best of 2019” albums ranking, but it’s also the end of a decade, which means that it’s also the time for “Best of the 2010s” lists. We’re going to start out today with my favourite albums of the 2010s. Standard caveats apply here – music is not only incredibly subjective, but there is so much of it and my tastes are somewhat niche, so I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to declare that these are “the best” albums of the decade. That said, they’re all great and have affected me in one way or another, so I would certainly recommend checking them out if you have not!

Honourable Mentions:

Asylum, Disturbed (August 31, 2010)
I waffle between Asylum or Ten Thousand Fists being Disturbed’s best album, but it’s pretty much unquestioned that this was the last time they were such a self-assured band. Whatever your thoughts about their last couple albums are, the post-Asylum hiatus changed the band significantly and I don’t predict that we’re going to get another album from Disturbed that I’m going to like nearly as much as Asylum.

Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, Volbeat (April 5, 2013)
They say there’s nothing quite like your first… Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies was the album where I decided to give Volbeat a chance and I fell in love with their style. Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie would also have a pretty good shot at being one of my favourite albums of the decade, but they both fell just short of the top 10. Still, I love the band so much that I had to at least give them an honourable mention.

10) We’re Just Really Excited to Be Here, Countless Thousands (June 4, 2011)
Countless Thousands’ debut album is such a joy to listen to. Their brand of enthusiastic nerd rock is infectious and energetic from the outset and there is so much variety and experimentation that it never gets boring. Want a pirate rock song? Try “A Pirate’s Shanty”. Want something political? You’ll love “The Patriot”. How about a version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, but rewritten to be about bassist Davey Munch battling Satan? Try “The Devil and Davey Munch”, it’s amazing. There’s even stuff like “No Contest”, where there is no instrumentation, only vocal layering which gives the song an interesting and haunting feel. On top of all of this, the songwriting is all top-notch, with one exception – personally, I just can’t stand “The Asskickers’ Union”, a sickly-sweet love song which is just too goddamn happy for my tastes. It’s not like that’s a major blemish though on a 16 track album and there are plenty of other styles and standout tracks that it’s easily washed away.

9) of Beauty and Rage, Red (February 24, 2015)
Red were a band that I got into with their first two albums, but gave up on after their next two albums were very disappointing. Imagine my joy then when they managed to not only course correct and return to form on their fifth album, but they actually managed to put out their best album yet. of Beauty and Rage sees Red firing on all cylinders, putting out an album which is equal parts heavy, haunting, epic and beautiful in various measures. It certainly feels like a Red album, but there’s a maturity to it and everything has clearly been crafted painstakingly. At this point, I’d consider of Beauty and Rage to be Red’s magnum opus. They have set the bar very high for themselves going forward, but they’ve shown that they know what it takes to come back. If Red ever manage to put out something that can match this album I would be delightfully surprised.

8) Dark Before Dawn, Breaking Benjamin (June 23, 2015)
In my opinion, Dark Before Dawn is Breaking Benjamin’s best album. Perhaps this is because I got into the band pretty late into their career, but as far as I’m concerned it is by far their best overall. You’d be justified in saying that Breaking Benjamin just cover the same ground over and over again, but Dark Before Dawn is the best execution of this by far. All of their previous albums were uneven at best, even ones I genuinely like such as Dear Agony or Phobia. However, Dark Before Dawn is great from start to finish, with no track being weak or feeling like filler (other than the mood-setting, instrumental opening and closing tracks, but they’re harmless in my opinion). On the contrary, there are so many standout tracks here, from “Failure”, to “Angel’s Fall”, to “Close to Heaven” and “Ashes of Eden”, all of which show off Benjamin Burnley’s fantastic voice and make you want to sing along.

7) Carolus Rex, Sabaton (May 22, 2012)
While Heroes might be the point when Sabaton hit the peak of their popularity, its predecessor Carolus Rex is still the height of the band’s talents. It’s perhaps their most focused and personal work ever, detailing the rise and fall of the Swedish empire. In fact, it’s so interesting and compelling that it has taught me more about this period of time in Europe than any history class I’ve ever taken. THe songs straight into history. A particular highlight in this regard is “A Lifetime of War”, which make you feel how awful a decade-long war is, and then pulls the rug out and reveals that this war would go on for another two decades. Songs like “The Carolean’s Prayer”, “Carolus Rex” and “Ruina Imperii” all demonstrate the religious fanaticism of the time, how it was used to control men and dehumanize others. “The Carolean’s Prayer” in particular is easily one of the best songs of Sabaton’s career. Oh and I would be remiss to forget that Carolus Rex also has some amazing B-sides, most notably a cover of Amon Amarth’s “Twilight of the Thunder God”. When I was in university and this song came out, I would play it on repeat over and over again and try to death growl along. It’s so good and the fact that it’s a B-side better than what most bands can manage to put onto full albums is insane.

6) Marrow of the Spirit, Agalloch (November 23, 2010)
Most of the albums on this list are my favourite by their respective bands. With that said, I feel it’s worth emphasizing that Marrow of the Spirit is actually only my third favourite Agalloch album – seriously, if you haven’t listened to them before, do it. Agalloch tend to dabble in atmospheric doom metal with clear nature- and pagan-inspirations to each of their songs. Marrow of the Spirit is perhaps their rawest album in that regard. Having come off of two fairly polished albums, Agalloch were looking for a grittier sound and so opted to record Marrow of the Spirit on vintage analog equipment. The difference in production quality is immediately obvious when you compare Marrow of the Spirit to The Mantle or Ashes Against the Grain, but it works very well within Agalloch’s sound. The album immediately sets the tone with “They Escaped the Weight of Darkness”, a sombre mood-setter which is almost entirely composed of a cello and a recording of water running. From there, each of the remaining 5 tracks is just incredibly well-composed doom metal, equal parts sombre and epic, ranging in lengths from 9:40 to a staggering 17:34 on “Black Lake Niðstång”. “Black Lake Niðstång” is a particular highlight for me – it certainly feels like a 17 minute song, but it goes through so many changes throughout that it never stagnates. Marrow of the Spirit might not be Agalloc’s most accessible album, but it’s certainly one that gets better the more you listen to it.

5) Through Glass Eyes, At Dawn’s Edge (September 30, 2017)
Oh hey, the first pick from one of my annual album rankings! As I said back then, Through Glass Eyes is ambitious, diverse, mature and has impeccable production values, all of which are even more impressive when you consider that this is not only a debut album but also an independent release! They also don’t fit into cliches – many female-fronted, symphonic/melodic metal bands can get dismissed for sounding like Evanescence-wannabes, but At Dawn’s Edge have more maturity to their songwriting and singing which gives them their own unique flavour. It’s a fantastic debut album and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its follow-up ever since. Owing to the independent nature of this band, I would implore you to check them out if you have not yet, they’re seriously this good.

4) Blood, In This Moment (August 14, 2012)
In This Moment are unquestionably one of my favourite bands right now. Every album they put out has its own unique flavour, but in my opinion Blood is clearly their best overall. It maintains the band’s metalcore edge while dipping into more experimentation to make the album feel a bit more unique than its more standard-metal predecessor, A Star-Crossed Wasteland. Of course, experimentation doesn’t mean much if the music isn’t great, but luckily Blood has so many good songs that it’s practically a greatest hits album. “Blood”, “Adrenalize” and “Whore” are all top-notch and kick the album into high gear right out of the gate. They’re not the only highlights though, there’s also the fantastic “Burn” which shows off Maria Brink’s ability to go from melodic vocals to blistering screams. Tracks like “Beast Within”, “The Blood Legion” and the haunting “11:11” also bear mentioning and, like Carolus Rex, the B-side cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer” is also an absolute treat. My fiance loves it… and I’ll let you fill in the blanks from there. Blood is also notable for “sexing up” In This Moment (to the point where they would feel the need to address it on their next album in the song “Sex Metal Barbie”). The album deals with themes of abuse and manipulation, but it always reclaims sex and turns it into something empowering. It gives this album a bit of a sultry, even kinky, edge that I really enjoy and gives it a much different vibe than any other metal band I listen to.

3) Wait for the Siren, Project 86 (August 21, 2012)
Wait for the Siren came out at a time when it looked like Project 86 were about to implode – after 7 very solid albums, their guitarist, drummer and bassist all quit the band, only leaving frontman Andrew Schwab to continue on. Luckily for us, Andrew Schwab was always the primary, most dominant creative force in the band, so the loss of the other band members didn’t completely sink Project 86 (that said, Schwab’s overbearing control might actually have been why the other band members quit, they wanted to experiment more and he wouldn’t let them, or so the rumours say). Having also quit Tooth and Nail Records in favour of crowdfunding, Schwab was free to rebuild the band in whatever way he saw fit, and Wait for the Siren is a fantastic mixture of old and new. Right off the bat, the band shows off some of this new creative expression with “Fall, Goliath, Fall”, which features such distinctive instruments as uillean pipes, mandolin and hammer dulcimer. That said, these additions to Project 86’s sound are just that – additions. The band is still as heavy as they ever were, as shown off in tracks such as “The Crossfire Gambit”. Songwriting has always been Project 86’s greatest strength and Wait for the Siren is no exception, with every track being diverse and interesting in their own regard. My personal favourite track on the album is the rousing “Take the Hill”, easily one of the best tracks in Project 86’s history. While Drawing Black Lines will probably always be my favourite Project 86 album, Wait for the Siren is easily my second favourite, which is pretty incredible considering that they haven’t had a bad album in their lengthy career.

2) Eat the Elephant, A Perfect Circle (April 20, 2018)
Oh hey, another pick from my annual album rankings! Eat the Elephant really impressed me last year. Nearly every track is expertly crafted and has something to say, from the hopeful title track, to political and social commentary in tracks such as “The Contrarian”, “The Doomed” and “TalkTalk”. The particular highlight though is “So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish” a song which is apocalyptic and beautiful at the same time (to the point where it’s probably going to end up getting played at my wedding… seriously). While the second half of the album is weaker than the first half, the fact that this album still managed to take the spot of my 2nd favourite album of the decade should go to show that that doesn’t lower it in my estimation too much. The stuff that’s here is just too damn good to pass up.

1) Devotion, Anberlin (October 15, 2013)
I love Anberlin. When they released their 6th album, Vital, I thought that it was almost as good as the band’s fan favourite, Cities. However, just over a year later, the band reissued the album as Devotion, adding 3 new tracks and 4 B-sides to the original album and retooling the tracklist somewhat. This was, in my opinion, enough to put Devotion over the top to be the clear best album in the band’s history. Vital already boasted some great music, such as the aptly-titled opener “Self-Starter”, “Other Side”, “Orpheum” and the absolutely fantastic “God, Drugs & Sex”. You’d think that throwing a bunch of new songs and B-sides into an already-completed album might mess with the flow of the music, but the new additions are all solid and more than good enough to stand side-by-side with the existing tracks, although the best is definitely “IJSW”. Devotion was by far my favourite album of the 2010s, I knew for sure going into this list that it was going to be my #1.

And that’s it for my favourite albums of the 2010s. Tune in soon when I go through the best movies of the 2010s!