Month: July 2020

Gamey Tastes: Recipes, Ingredients and Cooking Methodz 5

Gamey Tastes: Recipes, Ingredients and Cooking Methodz

Anthony “Methodz” Zinni wears two different uniforms in his ongoing grind as a Call of Duty League player for Toronto Ultra.

As Methodz, a purple jersey shimmered from a screen when he helped his team along their first Toronto Home Series finals win on Sunday, July 26, 2020.

As “Chef Tony”, he transforms into a caricature of his own imagination. Armed with a stove, apron and video camera, Zinni uses the persona to tackle some of his own food cravings that come after rounds of Search and Destroy.

Behind the camera are also memories of family meals, which surrounded Methodz with traditional Italian foods – many he keeps to heart and stomach along his eSports career.

In these moments, Chef Tony also keeps his camera on to talk with his followers across social media. For audiences, they’re taken into a different side of Methodz, who dives into Italian recipes inspired by his early life in New Jersey. Despite being hundreds of miles from home for the Call of Duty League, Zinni is also Toronto Ultra’s “in-house chef” and resides in the city.

Gamey Tastes: In Conversation with Anthony "Methodz" Zinni
Anthony “Methodz” Zinni – Activision Blizzard

His off-game cravings have also taken him deep into the 6ix’s food scene, where he found new love at first bite through its diverse menus in neighborhoods such as Little Italy, Greektown and Toronto Chinatown.

CGMagazine sat over a virtual dinner table to chat with Methodz/Chef Tony, asking more about his fixation for Chicken Parmesan while learning how Call of Duty lead him to the doors of Toronto’s own chefs.

CGMagazine: I’ve heard that you’ve worked up quite an appetite yourself going around Toronto and just in and out of your league games. How big would you say your appetite gets as a league player?

Methodz: Yeah, I mean, I used to be about 65 pounds heavier, and I would like to think that my appetite is still the same. I’m really jealous of all the people who can eat a lot and not gain weight because I eat one brownie and I gain a pound. But a big foodie, you know, I’ve always just loved food. My dish has always been like chicken parm, that’s kind of what I’m known for as the “Chicken Parm Guy”.

But sort of during this quarantine period, I took on another persona as Chef Tony. Basically I record episodes called Quarantine Cooking with Chef Tony, where I put on silly aprons and chef hats and I cook in my kitchen. And I put on a bit of a hiatus from that, because I think right now, all my focus needs to be going towards competing in the team, but I’m definitely known as the community foodie.

CGMagazine: Through playing a lot of the matches that go on across the day, by the end, how hungry does the team get across that time?

Methodz: Oh, yeah I’m starving. Definitely, you know, because what I like to do is I really don’t like eating much before I play. You know, my breakfast is usually healthy and then I’ll pretty much just eat granola bars throughout the day to give me energy. It’s definitely not many full meals throughout game days. But I max out at the end of the day for sure.

CGMagazine: And when you’re hungry across the league games that kind of affect the way your team plays?

Methodz: Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m hungry during while I’m playing. It’s just I’m not going to eat like a super big meal full of a lot of stuff that’s really gonna leave me you know, groggy or tired. Like I said, I just kind of stick to like wherever protein bars or granola bars, I definitely do a full breakfast. I think that’s really important to get your initial energy. I usually do eggs and English muffins and turkey bacon. Then after that, it’s usually like Nature Valley bars, Fiber One bars. And that pretty much keeps me held over until the end of the day.

CGMagazine: And at what point did you decide to become the team chef? I mean, Was there some kind of a spark or a moment that popped up one day?

Methodz: I think I was just laying in bed one night. I couldn’t sleep, but I was thinking of different ways that I could capture the attention of my followers and sort of gain more traction with different communities. And I sort of just tied a bunch of things together. I would definitely say looking to Dr. Disrespect. You know, I come I looked at him as an example of “I can play a different character”. The Chef Tony thing just kind of makes sense. So I put on the apron, I started talking with my Italian accent and it made sense for me personally.

CGMagazine: And when you were starting off with your cooking show, well, what were some of the recipes that you wanted to dip your toe in?

Methodz: The first one was an egg omelet. And we did some Rigatoni Bolognese, we did some meatballs. A lot of people are anticipating my chicken parm episode, which will inevitably come out at some point. So yeah, mostly I try to do Italian dishes. I’m thinking of new ones that are a little shorter in time because some of the ones I’ve uploaded, there are eight, nine minutes long. I think it’s hard to capture people’s attention for that amount of time. So I’m constantly thinking of new recipes. disclaimer, I’m not really a good chef, I sort of just follow recipes but I’m working on it.

CGMagazine: On some special days during some milestones or highlights, do you give yourself something as a reward?

Methodz: Oh, yeah. With a big day, it’s Chicken Parm Night. Always

CGMagazine: What makes the chicken parm so special for you and the team?

Methodz: Me being from New Jersey, we have a lot of good Italian spots, especially where I grew up. My dad’s favorite meal is chicken farm, and it’s just what I love to eat. You know, I love it so much. We actually have a lot of European guys who never had it before. So at the first home series in Minnesota, we went to a nice Italian spot and I forced them all to get chicken parm.

And the majority loved it. So that was amazing for me to see. But chicken parm is just something that, you know, it’s hard to explain. I just, I just genuinely love it. I love going to different places and trying new chicken parms. And if I frequent the same places, I still get the same meal. You know a lot of people like to switch it up and get different dishes, which of course I’ll do every now and then. But for the most part, I stay loyal to my parm.

CGMagazine: And thinking back to the days when you were growing up in New Jersey, what kinds of (other) food were you surrounded with as a kid? I know you mentioned some of this before as well.

Methodz: So definitely a lot of Italian food. My mom is actually not Italian at all, but my dad is Italian. So she was sort of conditioned to cook a lot of Italian food. So you know, baked Ziti, rigatoni, meatballs, bolognese, chicken parm, chicken marsala, you know, this, things like that. And then definitely some fish dishes. You know, you got salmon, tilapia, my mom’s pretty versatile when it comes to cooking. I’m super grateful to have a mom who’s a wonderful cook.

Sunday nights will look something like this: Some rigatoni, some meatballs and some sausage. Some braciole. Oh, maybe some chicken parm, a nice loaf of Italian bread. It’s uh, you know, if you came to my house on the holidays, you’d understand. A lot, a lot of good food.

CGMagazine: Now that you’re in Toronto more often and you are exploring the food scene, what are your impressions of it so far?

Gamey Tastes: Recipes, Ingredients and Cooking Methodz
Anthony “Methodz” Zinni – Twitter

Methodz: Yeah, I mean, I love it. so far. My favorite restaurant is a place called Lee by Susur Lee, it’s like an Asian fusion spot. That place is unbelievable. I’ve been to a few Italian places. Cafe Oro di Napoli has some great bolognese. Really it’s trying to try something new every time we go out. And the food’s good and very diverse. I like how Toronto has a Little Italy, Chinatown. You know, you have all these different places that you see all these different cultures and different types of food. And they pretty much have anything for whatever you’re craving.

CGMagazine: Did you have like a plan to see which restaurant got to you, or did you follow your appetite?

Methodz: Yeah, I have a huge list in my phone. So I’m a big foodie as I told you, so I follow pretty much every single Toronto food Instagram you can find. So pretty much if I’m laying in bed at night, I’m scrolling Instagram looking at food. And you know, if I find a spot that I think looks cool, I’ll throw that into my notes. And then you know, I’ll hop on Yelp and just search the highest rated restaurants in my area and that’s pretty much how the spots are found.

CGMagazine: How excited are you to check out the in-house dining experiences compared to having all of it takeout?

Methodz: Just a completely different experience. You know, the food’s usually better when it’s fresh. There’s a place called Ristorante Soto Soto, that is pretty famous for Drake loving it. And I definitely need to head there. Because, you know, I was gonna order for takeout and then everybody was like, “No, no, no, you need your first experience to be there”. So I’m excited to actually get there and get that full restaurant experience just because it’s definitely a lot different and a lot more expensive, when you’re ordering out.

CGMagazine: When you mentioned that you’re cooking for an audience online, have they been also helping you out? Giving you any kind of advice as soon as you look at the comments to see how you did?

Methodz: Definitely, I mean, most of the comments, there are pictures of food that people have made after seeing my recipes, which is awesome to see. I get countless tweets of chicken parm now because I’m known as Chicken Parm Guy. You know, it’s just awesome, because, you know, most of my fan base knows me for being a good comedic gamer. And now having that food side of me really be out there, you know, it’s sort of like all my worlds colliding. And I love to see the collaboration with the fans, the other pros, and pretty much everybody involved to know: we all like to eat.

CGMagazine: Of course, you grew up in New Jersey and were surrounded by a lot of the Italian food in and out of home as well. As soon as you touch down to Toronto to explore that kind of food scene, how do you think the city compares?

Methodz: You know, I think Jersey holds the crown for Italian food, just like New York does. I do think Toronto food, especially Italian food is really good. Like I said, Little Italy is great. You know, you have Trattoria Taverniti and a lot of spots that are that are incredible. But, there’s just something different about Jersey. Maybe it’s nostalgia and just being home. The Jersey Italian food has my heart, but Toronto will really shock you.

Gamey Tastes: Recipes, Ingredients and Cooking Methodz
Anthony “Methodz” Zinni – Twitter

To be honest: coming to Toronto, I didn’t really know what to expect food wise. And I know that it’s a diverse city, a lot of different cultures. But I wasn’t sure how it would stack up against, you know, what I knew and love. And I was pleasantly surprised by you know, so many options and so much good food and just the people too. I mean, the people here so welcoming and nice. It’s just been a great experience overall.

CGMagazine: Whenever you’re experiencing some cravings, or even at times where you just want to eat a particular thing, is there some kind of a mantra or something that your brain tries to tell you?

Methodz: I mean, listen. It’s always a battle. Sometimes you want to give in and and it’s okay to do that. Just as long as you get back on track and sometimes I tell myself, “wait for your cheat meal”. It’s sort of feeling out how I’ve been doing that week or that month, whatever it may be. And you know if it’s a bad day and I’m upset, I’ll eat some stress food. You know that that’s just the way life is sometimes. You want to enjoy your life and that means enjoying the food you like, but it’s got to be in moderation.

CGMagazine: And typically curious to know as well: What’s on the stress menu?

Methodz: (Laughs) chicken parm.

Oh, also I’m a big fried chicken sandwich guy. I will say Toronto has the fried chicken sandwich game on lock. They do an incredible job, a lot of different natural hot chicken places and overall just fried chicken places that I love. I mean PG Clucks and Porchetta & Co. They also do a good sandwich so I’m definitely seeing what Toronto has to offer on the chicken sandwich game.

CGMagazine: So let’s say you were stuck in a room with Chef Tony. Or you’re at a restaurant with him, just talking to him. What kind of a guy is Chef Tony like?

Methodz: He’s pretty laid back. You know, he likes making people laugh. I think that’s the most important part of the character. And even me. Growing up, I was the class clown. In the pro community. I’m sort of known as the funny guy. I like spreading laughter and happiness through comedy. And that definitely, you can expect from Chef Tony: a lot of good laughs, a lot of good conversation as well and just eating some good food.

You can follow Methodz on Twitter, Instagram and Twitch while he continues to play Call of Duty as part of Toronto Ultra. The team is also moving forward after winning their home series 4-0 against Atlanta FaZe on Sunday, July 26 2020. They’ll be diving into a two-elimination season over Call of Duty League 2020 Championships as it happens on Wednesday, August 19, 2020.

A Community of Creation

A Community of Creation and Dreams

Creation and building new worlds has been something people have been doing on computers since the early days of the PC. Now the tools are easier, and the vast world of the internet makes is more exciting than ever to try and make your dream project. Dreams takes this to a new level, giving a staggering amount of power to creators were all they need is a PlayStation 4, a copy of the game and an idea they want to build.

Everything is possible with Dreams, and now that it is out for people to try, they have built some amazing ideas, but sitting at the core of this game is the community; a group of people who love building and inviting new voices to jump in and try their hands and constructing. From building new game experiences too making sound effects, Dreams gives the tools so that creators of all styles can jump in and be a part of the community.

Before Dreams launched, CGMagazine sat down with Alex Evans and Tom Dent from Media Molecule and this new game. From creation to the community, the team from Media Molecule has shown a genuine excitement for the game, the people playing it, and the potential future of the platform as more creators get their hands on it.

A Community of Creation and Dreams
Dreams – Screenshot Provided by Media Molecule/Sony

CGMagazine: I would love to jump in and discuss how Dreams has evolved up to this point?

Alex Evans: I think the main message we want to get across is that the early access days of Dreams have gone really well. We just wanted people to be aware that Dreams has a constantly growing creative community, and it’s actually also really fun to play. Effectively, like you don’t have to be a YouTuber to enjoy YouTube, you don’t necessarily have to create to enjoy Dreams. Really the takeaway here is that Dreams is this evolving, creative platform, and we’ve been putting out constant new content, both in terms of things to create with, and then also in terms of new features in the game, small things but it means that the community is growing, and the creations that you, therefore, get to enjoy are ever-improving and getting better and bigger.

CGMagazine: I would be interested in hearing how creatives and players are enjoying Dreams, and is it exceeding your expectations?

Alex Evans: Vastly! For example, one of the things that we’ve created is a curated selection of the best creations that we call MM picks, which is available on the front page of the game. It’s got hundreds and hundreds of really amazing creations. One of the things that surprised me is the breadth of the balance between the quality of gameplay and tightly tuned mechanics. There’s basically something for everyone. So the experience of playing Dreams is hard to explain unless you have tried it, but the experience of playing Dreams is similar to consuming a smorgasbord of different sorts of different treats. It could be seen as similar to what YouTube or Twitch is like. It is this feeling of a constant stream of new content that is always fresh and exciting, and I think that’s the thing that surprised me most of all is there feels like there is no repetition as you go through the experiences.

Tom: We were at a show in the UK last year when I looked around, and I’ve just been with the team for a few months. So obviously, involved, I knew what it was about that and had that sort of like finger click moment where every on TV screen someone was playing something different, and it was just the breadth of different kinds of games. From space shooters, text adventures, third-person games, and that was when I “this is what Dreams is.” That was the first time I saw it’s possible with this game. You’d be able to sit down with Dreams for like half an hour to an hour or even longer, and just have hundreds of different experiences.

A Community of Creation 2
Dreams – Screenshot Provided by Media Molecule/Sony

Alex Evans: Maybe this is an angle on your questions: you know how every online community has a different flavour: you have the YouTube community, the Twitter community, Facebook. While Dreams is shaping up to be this incredibly inclusive, very sharing community, and actually that’s something that the community themselves regularly comment to us about, and give feedback to us about how it feels very welcoming. So that’s one of the happiest things that I think has happened, and the result of that is that you don’t have to be a creator of giant gameplay; you can create just a simple aspect. You might make a sound or an element or a character or even something smaller, like a rock, and literally the reward people feel when they see that rock will be that a character used in it in a larger creation is amazing. People are finding they get an enormous buzz and rush from that. You asked if the reaction to Dreams exceeded our expectations and I think the community aspect is really strong that the sense of people working together, and that’s just led to an evergreen feel. So every time a level comes out by some of our favourite creators you’re like, “Oh, amazing, it’s again by this person or that person.” I think that’s really been special.

We do weekly streams on Twitch where we put together a collection of creations. It’s never hard to find 20 or 30 creations that are brand new and completely different every week. So that is proof that it is working. Yes, it’s the inventiveness of it. I think it’s hard to convey how invested the community is, but I hope that answers your question.

CGMagaine: I wanted to just quickly talk about how the tools have changed and evolved as you see players interact and use what Dreams has to offer?

Alex Evans: That’s a great question. So the short answer is: yes, we’re evolving tools. A couple of interesting ones I want to cherry-pick out, if you like, because it’s such a big game. One of the biggest areas we’ve been focusing on initially was the Dreams Earth itself. So the way that you discover great content within iterating on a lot. So one of the bits of feedback we got from the community was that, you know, there are people who wanted to use the game without the motion controls, and it is very important to us that the game could be played by basically anyone with a PlayStation, so we worked to ensure the game was accessible to all players. Then on the creative side, there’s an unexpected effect we had, which is yes, we’re going to evolve the tools and as a result, we’ve done a few small tweaks and added a few more features here and there.

A Community of Creation 4
Dreams – Screenshot Provided by Media Molecule/Sony

But one of the interesting ones was that we recently released an art pack, and basically that was a pre made set of pieces which we gave to the community. After that we ran a community jam themed around that pack and it galvanized the creative community to up their game. So I think that the root of your question is: how can we evolve the tools themselves to improve and help people create, but interestingly, just putting content out there has the same effect. Just put out an inspirational pack of assets and it also brings in a broader set of creators who maybe didn’t feel able to create from scratch, but they can build using the beautiful ancient times pack, and, something that is another element which we are trying to support, are the templates. So we’ve also released, for example, during early access, and we have more coming. We have a FPS template that we’ve released along with a puzzle game and a few others. What’s really cool is we had this feedback that people felt the blank piece of paper syndrome, they’re standing in front of a typewriter, and they didn’t know what to type, but by, releasing these packs of content and templates for gameplay, we’ve seen a surge of creations.

CGMagaine: I just want to talk about the inclusive environment for Dreams. Could you elaborate on who Dreams is targeting? What sort of environment should people expect and anticipate when they jump into the game for the first time?

Alex Evans: So, great question. Basically, I can reiterate that I think it’s very inclusive. It has an emphasis on an inclusive feeling environment, like a lot of the design decisions we made in the user interface celebrates people. So for example, we track credit, so if you make a small element of something else you’re encouraged to share it because you know that you will receive credit for that, and so, I think that if someone comes into Dreams, they should just enjoy the creations for a while. We found that people who didn’t think they had a creative bone in their body get inspired to remix or they sort of tiptoe into the creative side.

We’ve had a couple of people saying that they’re able to play with their partners, who aren’t necessarily gamers, or with their kids. If you own PlayStation 4, you should be able to enjoy this game, and there’s one other thing I wanted to touch on, that I recommend searching on Twitter, is the Made in dreams hashtag. So basically, people are sharing to Twitter with that hashtag, #madeindreams, and it’s really inspiring. I tend to follow the kind of bubble of game development, which is wonderful. I love my Twitter circle, but if you look at #madeindreams it’s really interesting how broad both in terms of gender and backgrounds or age that  people are that are creating, and I think that was really heartening to me; that there are people who didn’t think they could make games, that never crossed their mind.

A Community of Creation 5
Dreams – Screenshot Provided by Media Molecule/Sony

Tom: Yeah, we’ve got a couple in Germany who have been on the continuous search for games to play with each other, and they just weren’t finding it. Then Dreams came out, and since then, they have been creating some of the most popular creations in the game. I don’t know if you know, but it’s a very good detective, and, if you haven’t seen it, check it out. The wife works as the writer with the husband doing the animations and the characters, and it was just such a heartening story. On a nearly daily basis, we get a message saying thank you for this platform that allows me to express what I’m interested in. They are such heart-warming things to hear, and it is amazing that Dreams can enable that.

Alex Evans: It’s a real outlet for people, and I think that’s why it’s inclusive because people are putting themselves out there and then getting very positive feedback. It’s a community that tends to support each other. And it encourages you to take that first step. We have always had this concept of play, create/share, and Dreams is that concept evolved.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition Preview

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition Preview

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition aims to bring you and several online buddies together for some straightforward monster thumping. This time, it won’t require you all possess a whole other handheld console, which is a nice touch. Even nicer is its ease of playing across different platforms, allowing you to play with all sorts of people rather than just your friends who had a GBA (which was REQUIRED to play multiplayer in the original). If you’re interested in what looks like a light MMO, this might be up your alley.

A few videos sent by Square Enix were sent along to CGM in order for us to discern the look and feel of the game. Through this, you could see the visual improvement in the character creation screen, which offered a handful of races (which offered classes built around defense, physical offense, magic use, and ranged attacks), as well as some jobs that the videos offered no further explanation of. You could pick from a handful of pre-selected styles to put together, so it’s not the most robust system, but it allows for some customization.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition Preview 1
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition – Preview Screenshot Provided by Square Enix

Further videos showed Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition’s single- and multiplayer modes at work. In the single player, one character moved throughout the familiar dungeon of River Belle Path. If you played the original GameCube title, you’ll see that everything seems to have been recaptured just as it was years ago, only things look a fair bit sharper. That said, things still look a bit blocky, but that seems to be more a result of the game’s visual style than a limitation. This game is built to play on mobile devices as well as console, though, so if you’re on your PS4, you may want to temper your visual expectations.

The player moved throughout the map, using a regular and charged physical attack to clobber goblins and hostile woodland creatures. You could pick up magic stones the enemy would drop to give yourself new spells to equip, allowing for some customization as you played. This also seemed to make things a bit more interesting than a simple back and forth between enemies where you used the same attack, over and over again, while moving aside to dodge. It looked a bit too easy and basic here, but this is a very early area. Also, the video showed a boss that seemed a bit more involved in what the player would need to do, so more complex tasks seem to eventually come your way.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition Preview 2
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition – Preview Screenshot Provided by Square Enix

Multiplayer seemed far more interesting, with multiple players all carrying out various actions and working together. The first area still didn’t seem terribly complicated, but the combat looked more interesting with all of the players doing various things. Specific racial abilities don’t seem terribly important, allowing for players to make up parties of whoever they want, which can be a benefit or a drawback depending on what you think of it.

You can gain some benefits from clever spellcasting with your characters if you want to see some advantage to working together. Spells cast in close timing with one another can stack to create more powerful magics, encouraging you to communicate and work together. Single players can use this as well, as they have a Moogle partner who periodically flings spells you can partner with (and you can combine spells in your menus for stronger stuff, too).

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition Preview 3
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition – Preview Screenshot Provided by Square Enix

Positioning was a vital element of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition, as the game features a chalice you need to lug around to keep your party safe. A miasma floods the world, and this chalice protects you from it within a certain radius. This means that players will need to keep moving the chalice in combat to stay effective and avoid damage (you die quickly in the miasma). Tactically, this seems like it could be an interesting challenge, but it also seems like it would get old fast if you always have to carry this thing. In single-player, at least a Moogle lugs it around for you.

If you’re looking for a straightforward action RPG that you can play with friends across multiple devices, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition looks like it will offer some good times. Fans of the original will likely be delighted that they can play it with others so much easier than they used to be able to. From these preview videos, I’m not sure how compelling the game’s simple action play will be, or how annoying the chalice carrying will get for whoever gets stuck with it. You’ll definitely want to grab the free Lite version (contains 3 dungeons) to see how you feel about it when it releases this August.

Random Acts of Violence (2019) Review 3

Random Acts of Violence (2019) Review

The creator haunted by their own creation is a spicy genre that can get us watching theme park owners swallowed by mascots, and writers haunted by the ghosts at the end of their pen. With a spin on that classic tale, Shudder’s newest, Random Acts of Violence takes us through the journey of a comics artist facing the demon that is the real-life inspiration of his horrific work.

Hitting the road for a press tour, a comic creator and his business partner, assistant, and wife find themselves on a less and glamorous roadtrip through the area that inspired their comics. Todd (Jesse Williams) is struggling to find the right ending for his comic, Slasherman, based on real slayings in a small town. His wife, Kathy (Jordana Brewster), is along for the ride to collect information for her own project, a book about the victims of the killer on which the comic is based. After a less than warm welcome to the grieving town, slayings that mirror those in the comics begin terrorizing the residents and their visitors seemingly targeting Todd and begging for his attention. Spooked, the group tries to manage the terrifying events and messages from the killer before it goes too far.

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel 6
Random Acts of Violence (2019)

The biggest achievement in Jay Baruchel’s first horror feature (he directed, and wrote alongside Jesse Chabot) is the scares. The slasher scenes are brutal and terrifying, and the staged kills could be seamlessly plopped into any Hannibal adaptation. The tone feels most like Joy Ride and is reminiscent of the slasher flicks of the early 2000’s that we rarely now see. But what it chooses to modernize is the themes, but fails to deliver on them.

The interesting take on the slasher road trip takes a lot of stabs without following through. Kathy is writing a book about the victims, and Todd is challenged by would be fans, all with the focus on the fact that his stories glorify male violence, ignore the victims, most of whom are women, and leaves them as the beautiful corpses in a story of a male protagonist who is a psycho killer. It dances with themes of horror movies inspiring violence (in a way Scream/ Scream 2 did exponentially more successfully years prior), gender norms and misogyny, and the glorification and ethics in the portrayal of violence in media. But these themes are never explored, and are left to die like the teens sewn into the Triptych. The closest we get to a conclusion of these ideas is a blurt of “I won’t scream for you,” somewhat reminiscent of Nancy Thompson refusing to be afraid of Freddy, or the brutalist of kills in Sin City, but it hits a bit too softly since we’ve no idea of the motive being reacted to by the victim. Todd struggles with facing artistic responsibility and his inability to conceptualize a perfect ending for his popular story, an otherwise compelling theme that doesn’t amount to much. Most unfortunate is that, without these grazes of deeper themes, the film would have stood up better on its own. Again, reminiscent of the time of Vacancy and its cohorts, it’s a successful scary movie that looks great.

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel
Random Acts of Violence (2019)

The film is based on a comic of the same name, making it more of a meta tale adapted for screen. Honouring that medium, the film is beautiful and peppers in comic frames and uses drawings as plot points in various instances. Cinematographer, Karim Hussein (Hobo with a Shotgun/ Possessor) does excellent work here, playing with Dutch angles, shooting from high and low, and using colours, specifically red and green, throughout in a way that hints to larger film twists while making it feel like a painted comic book page. 

The film is a fun slasher with some gorgeous kill tableaus that might make Hannibal blush, but leave him less than obsessed with the flat killer. The film tries to subvert horror tropes, but does a better job showcasing them than rising above them. This one will benefit from the summer release, landing on the same roads driven by those on trips to spooky motels that end in carnage, so it make it worth the spooky summer couch watch.

Random Acts of Violence arrives on VOD on July 31st, 2020 and will stream on Shudder August 20th, 2020.

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel 1

Random Acts of Violence – Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel

Jay Baruchel, Canadian darling and purveyor of comedy, has delivered some of the best writing and acting for big and small screens alike. For his sophomore film as director, Baruchel took on horror. Working alongside writing partner, Jesse Chabot, he adapted a comic book to create his horror feature, Random Acts of Violence. With his film coming to VOD July 31st and streaming service, Shudder on August 20th, Baruchel hosted some roundtables to chat about it. CGMagazine joined some other journalists to chat with Baruchel about his horror influences, his experience in the comics industry and how his upbringing and ever-changing sensibilities created the living document that became the script for his first scary movie.

You talked about the current state of horror and how it’s becoming stagnant so I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit more on that.

Oh gosh, yeah fair.

I guess as a fan of the genre. I find myself just barely scared by anything that I see. Rare is the horror film that is a good movie and actually scares me. I just also kind of developed a bit of a distaste, a personal distaste, for this idea of what a horror film had to be. Basically ten to fifteen years ago, a bunch of investors realized that they could put a little money into something that would make them a bunch and then all of a sudden we had this whole rash of contained genre films, which are very transparent in why they were created. For me, it’s an art form that is terribly important to me. I cannot separate my love of cinema from my love of horror movies and I think, when it’s when it’s at its best, it’s a very pure, very direct art form, and it lends itself to some pretty special stuff. So I just went out and tried to make the movie that I wish was out there.

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel
Random Acts of Violence (2019)

As an actor you’ve worked with the biggest directors in the world like David Cronenberg. I was wondering if you could share some advice or attitudes that you’ve taken from the method of your work with them.

It’s this lovely absence of anxiety and chaos that seems to be the industry standard on most sets and it was very important to me to do what they did, which was have a set that everybody likes showing up to. To know that we might have it in two to three takes, but we never want to belabor anything and that was something Eastwood and Cronenberg shared in common. Then also getting to work with Ben Stiller on Tropic Thunder and watch as he developed the script for over a decade and got it to a point that he was really comfortable with, and yet he still left an opportunity for all of us to create on set on the day. Those three sets are real inspirations for me.

As an actor, people are often asked in interviews who they want to act alongside but they don’t really give the director standpoint a lot of focus. Now that you’re making a name for yourself behind the camera, who are some of the actors you want to work with from a director’s point of view?

Oh, wow, what a cool question. They’re all too cool for me, I suspect. But if I ever got the chance to direct Val Kilmer, I would be able to die a happy man. Obviously you can do a lot worse than Daniel Day Lewis. I got to act alongside Gary Oldman. Getting to direct him would be a dream.

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel 2
Random Acts of Violence (2019)

So you mentioned earlier not being able to separate love of cinema from love of the horror genre, but there’s often a fine line between comedy and horror. How you go from movies like the How to Train your Dragon series and Tropic Thunder to something as dark as your film here?

It comes down to being very proud of and honored to have the acting career that I’ve had. But that’s like, you know, what I do for living. I hate saying that because inherent in that, it sounds like I’m dismissing it to a degree, which I really am not. I have been lucky enough to live off of my acting for quite some time, and as a result, I’ve gotten to be part of some pretty special films. But the movies I was watching at home and the stuff I was reading and everything I was so interested in myself has been pretty much consistent the whole time. I was always interested in and a fan of horror movies and action movies, and always reading a shitload of true crime and, so for whatever reason, I was just always interested more in strong medicine as an audience member. So I knew that if ever I get lucky enough to get the chance to, to create and articulate a vision in the movies, it would probably be something like that. The movies that I’m in and the movies that I watch are sometimes different than that.

One of the things that comes up within the film is this idea of the balance between horror as an art form and fetishizing evil. I was wondering what you think the differences between those is.

That’s a really good question. I think it’s a question that we don’t necessarily provide a clear answer to, which is deliberate because I think there’s some stuff which the film takes a specific moral philosophy and standpoint on, but there’s other stuff that is more contributing to a debate and a conversation that I feel should happen. That being said, there’s movies that I watch, and I know in my heart of hearts when something feels truthful, and when something feels fetishistic. I point to a Quebecois movie called, in English, 7 Days, and that movie is really harsh. It’s just one guy torturing another guy in a room basically for a whole fucking movie and great degree of realism and versatility and then some. It’s a fucking harsh watch, but never once does it feel cheap or false. Never once does it feel like a love letter to violence and it doesn’t seem to be wallowing in it . I think, to answer the question, I think it’s kind of hard, this almost amorphous thing that we call truth. I think that you can tell when something warrants its aesthetic and you can tell when something is, I feel, I think you can, tell when something is ugly for the sake of ugly. But again, I think it’s a terribly relative thing. Because every single one of us watches the same movie, we’re each going to have some different reactions to it. So that would be my instinct is that it speaks to more than the truth behind it; why 7 is important and why a lot of other movies of about a serial killer aren’t.  

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel 3
Random Acts of Violence (2019)

The last question, they were talking about how they don’t see this as a love letter to serial killers and violence, but I saw it as a love letter to Italian horror. I saw a lot of influences from, 70s Italian horror. I just wanted to know what other influences you put into the direction of it.

I definitely think there’s some degree of Giallo in the movie’s DNA. I think when you see that, you’re seeing a lot of Karim Hussain’s (cinematographer) influence, because that’s an era and genre that’s really important to him. And, you know, for me, I think there’s some really obviously important and beautiful stuff to be taken from it, but I’d be lying if I said it was like my go to. However, I saw ways that aspects of it would work pretty well in our flick. But for me, the other big influences would be The Red Shoes byPowell and Pressburger, a British film from the 40’s, of a ballet dancer which is not remotely scary in a horror sense, scary in a different sense. Most people don’t call that film scary, but it’s just weird and it there’s an energy to it that I can’t put my finger on, but I knew it was right for this movie. And then I’d say the two films that informed the energy of the violence in our movie the most would be Irreversible and David Fincher’s Zodiac. Those both have an approach to violence in a super honest, realistic way that allowed it to be clumsy and sloppy and really gritty as a result and so those are our big inspirations.

You adapted this film from a comic book. I was wondering if you could talk to me a bit about the idea of bringing a comic book to screen how you did, the art and how you use it in the movie, and how your experience with Captain Canuck lent to that.

Oh, awesome. Yeah, for sure. Well, thank you.  It really starts from there being a really interesting story and interesting starting view points in the comic book. It got stuck in Jesse’s (Chabot, co-writer) head and in my head. Then, at a certain point, it becomes the only thing that matters is serving the story as well as we can. At a certain point, we allow the document we’re creating to start to live its own life, which means it’s beholden to source material, but only to a certain point where there lives a moment where the movie starts to want to be something of its own, and you have to kind of decide, “is this thing that it wants to be that is different than the comic? Is it worth doing?”

In terms of the aesthetics, I think subconsciously, we wanted it to look like that. But I think more than anything, I went in with our camera and our lighting and our color palette, it was more arch. We wanted really strong arch colors and light and shadow and that happens to be how a lot of comics are created and so it ends up looking like that.

In terms of what is my experience with Chapterhouse and Captain Canuck, I knew exactly what it would be like to be on a comic con tour and the headaches that the owner has to look forward to arriving at a venue, so there’s some bit in the movie where I’m yelling at the guy who owns the comic book shop about a fucking box that he can’t find that he sent and that’s like the shit that seems to happen at every comic con, and that seemed to be a bit of a comic industry banality that could be something funny and real. So I definitely took some of my years in admin in that world, it definitely informed vibes this movie.

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel 5
Random Acts of Violence (2019)

This movie sets up two themes that are opposites of each other.  One is the autograph signing that features fans who are a little too into the Slasherman comic. Later in the film, the police interrogation where the officer’s expressing great disdain towards the comic. How do you feel the scenes comments on core culture of horror as a whole?

That’s the thing I think I wanted to show, that we’re trying to try to talk about. It’s an inherently relative experience as an audience member consuming a work of art. But also, I was trying my best to show every bad thing that can come from this. It’s more about this idea that one can divorce oneself from responsibility for anything one puts out into the world, which I think is as absurd as the concept that video games and comics make people kill people. I think those are both two very facile, silly, absurd philosophies. How those two scenes complement each other is, it’s like, this is what it can look like. It’s like, when you’re caught in something that you’ve looked the other way on, when Todd has made a Faustian bargain, even if he thinks, ultimately, that his book is victimized by critics, part of him, as a rational man, has to agree with at least part of what they’re saying. He knows, ultimately, that even if he believes his work has more merit than some people seem to believe it does. he knows what his fanbase looks like. He knows, ultimately, how it will come across in the cold light of day. It’s about the specter of responsibility that he was able to keep at arm’s length getting closer and closer to him until the end.

As a horror fan, I was really surprised by the names of the actors you chose because every one of them is known from big horror movies and, did you think of that when you chose the actors?

No, not at all actually. You’re totally right. And that was something we realized after we had our company together. It is the hokiest, corniest answer possible, which is; I just met with them and I knew they were the the right people to play these characters. I had met with a whole bunch of actors, and was lucky enough to get some really good conversations with some really good actors. But the only time that the light bulbs went off for me was in chatting with Jesse (Williams) and Jordana (Brewster). It was about three to four minutes into a conversation with either of them and with each of them that it was apparent to me that I finally, after the better part of the decade, found my Todd and Kathy and then it ends up paying some kind of genre dividends later, when I’m like “oh, fuck, that’s right, Cabin in the Woods and Texas Chainsaw” and shit. But when I was meeting with them, it was just trying to find a way to make my paper characters flesh and blood.

With this film, along with Man Seeking Woman and Goon, you film in Canada often. I know George St. Pierre always said that he enjoyed fighting in Canada for a comfort level. What exactly is the thing that draws you towards shooting in Canada and is it particularly important to you?

It’s two things. One of them is what he said. This is my home, this is where I’m from and where I’m most comfortable. The other piece of it is, I feel like many could call a silly obligation to English Canadian cinema. I want to know, for better or worse, I contributed to the cinematic language of my country. I want to know that I added something to our cultural tapestry. It would have been more convenient for me to have gone elsewhere, potentially, but I know that, at the end of the day, even if I got to create some really special stuff, I would have contributed to another country’s culture and this is, for me, my great shame is that I never joined the army, if I’m being perfectly frank. That’s not a joke. That’s something that’s  always haunted me since I was a kid. I didn’t do what a lot of my uncles, my granddad and my cousins did. This is not, please. I don’t mean to say that I am comparing this movie to what any of my uncles or granddad or cousins did during the army, but it is, in some way, that I can contribute and help and, and ‘cause, listen, countries come and go, but art sticks around. I would like to add to this country best as I can.

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel 6
Random Acts of Violence (2019)

Earlier you touched on working in the comics industry a bit and you mentioned that you were saying that films have been similar throughout the years. What are some of your major horror film and comic book inspirations?

Alan Moore’s From Hell, I think is as good a use of the comic medium as has ever been created. I would also put Preacher, everything Ennis did for Preacher up there. Everything Ennis did for Punisher for the years that he did Punisher are really, really, really important to me. Then for horror flicks, it would be The Exorcist, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Toby Hooper and John Carpenter’s The Thing. To be honest, I think still, The Exorcist is probably the scariest movie ever made. But I think what might be neck and neck with it as a movie people don’t think of as a horror movie, but I would argue that 2001: A Space Odyssey is probably the scariest movie ever made. I will spend my life trying to recreate even a moment from that film.

You mentioned Preacher and The Exorcist there and I wanted to ask you, there’s a tonne of religious imagery used in this film. I was wondering why you chose to use that and why you hate Christmas? No, I’m kidding.

I am kind of a child of two cultures to a degree. My dad is Sephardic Jewish. First generation. My side of the world is Irish English, Scottish Canadians and deeply Catholic and some of the most impactful, not necessarily the best, but most impactful moments in my childhood are tied to religion and Catholicism. Specifically and even Catholic school, from grade one through six, and I have hated myself the entire time as a result of this and I like to tell people that I was raised with two different but very potent forms of guilt from Jewish culture and Catholic culture. But it all seems to stem from- this is the best way I can say it: I remember my mom reading me the Bible when I was a kid and she got to the part on Noah, and I started bawling my eyes out uncontrollably. Three years old, bawling my eyes out. Why would G-d (Note to B-Frye, Jewish people don’t spell out g o d in print so we write it that way) want to do this? Catholicism has a lot of beautiful stuff in it, but it is very, very deeply violent. You grow up going to church and in class and seeing Christ eviscerated, brutalized and it’s drilled into you. So it’s impossible for me to separate blood from awe because it was drilled into me from a childhood and from years and years and years in church. My relationship with the church is still kind of like a weird, tenuous one. I reject most of it, and yet, I still feel a degree of safety and comfort when I’m in one. So there’s a push and pull in me, that finds its way out and manifests itself in this movie.

I was very happy to actually see after watching the movie that my long-time friend Anthony Fantastic did the art. He told me some of the furniture is his.

There’s a whole bunch of his shit in Todd and Kathy’s apartment. I think that’s Tony’s workstation in his apartment.

I know Tony as a musician, how did you come across him as an artist and what was it about his style that you thought really directed what you wanted Slasherman to do.

He was a friend of my production designer, Michelle Lannon, who I’ve known through three seasons of Man seeking Woman and then Goon: The Last of the Enforcers, so she’s somebody who I have a great affection for and she has a great respect for him as an artist, and so she came in with a really awesome team including her daughter, as well as Tony. Michelle knows really cool people. And that’s basically as simple as that. He came in and Tony showed me what he could do, and I was like, “Holy fuck, well, you could do a lot worse than that.” I wanted everybody, whatever little bit of playing field they were in charge of, I wanted them to be the master of it. I didn’t want to fuckin breath down Tony’s neck and I didn’t fucking need to either. I just wanted everybody there to create with reckless abandon relative to the department they’re in. It ends up being this, hopefully, neat passion project not just for me, but ideally as many people involved as possible. Listen, Tony’s contributions to this film are sincere and profound. And, and yeah the movie isn’t the movie without his artwork in it.

Random Acts of Violence - Roundtable with Writer/ Director Jay Baruchel 4
Random Acts of Violence (2019)

In this film, it seemed like you wanted to subvert some horror tropes. I’m not sure if that’s something that you guys added organically or if that came from the source material. Can you chat a bit about your approach to horror tropes and why you were kind of kicking them a bit?

Yeah, for sure. Your work should reflect what you actually believe. Even if we enjoy sort of, on a surface level, your standard type of slasher film, that scratches a certain itch for us. We’re also able to discuss and talk about why is this maybe is not the best and is potentially irresponsible and all this different shit. It’s just like, the point of something is, a conversation that Jesse and I always get into. I think we were lucky enough to have known each other since high school, but also the high school he went to is a fine arts high school. So this concept of, “you know, what, what is the point?” And ,“why does one do this?” And, “what does this mean?” This shift that was drilled into us. Of course, when we started writing this thing, our intellects were commensurate with our age, and in time passing, we evolve ideally and that document should evolve along with us. So at every year that the movie didn’t happen, we go back to the document, open the hood up and be like, “okay, how can we make this better?” And, read through like, “well I don’t think that way anymore,” and, “Holy shit this is a bit exploitative,” or, “this is thin and this is kind of shitty.” The dialectic in the film is a conversation Jesse and I had about our script over the course of a decade and we realized that it would be the most honest truthful way to do it, to actually not just let that conversation inform how we write the thing, but to actually put it into the movie and almost build the movie a bit around it.

Cuphead Surprise Launches on PS4 Today 3

Cuphead Surprise Launches on PS4 Today

Cuphead, the notoriously hair-ripping 2D side-scrolling shooter has dropped on the PlayStation Store for $19.99 USD. PS4 owners can download the game starting immediately.

Originally released as a timed exclusive for PC and Xbox One in 2017, Cuphead was developed by Canadian-based StudioMDHR with a unique Disney-type animation and 1930s fantasy setting. The game was also progressively difficult as two players could team up to beat crushing, unique bosses.

Cuphead was later released on the Nintendo Switch while PlayStation fans continued to wait more than a year. The latest indie update over Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest officially announced the PS4 version of the base game while it launched moments after the trailer live streamed.

Cuphead Surprise Launches on PS4 Today
Cuphead – StudioMDHR

According to StudioMDHR, there’s also some additional DLC coming for all versions of the game. Called The Delicious Last Course, it would add some new levels to the base game and throw in a variety of harder-to-beat bosses specifically designed for tormenting 100 per-centers. It also expands on the game’s simple story, about the titular Cuphead and his brother Mugman as they go on a rampage across their land to repay a debt to the Devil.

According to CGMagazine’s Zubi Khan in his 9/10 Switch review, Cuphead brought players back in time while it was “a love letter to the by-gone era of side-scrolling, shoot ’em ups.” It was also packed with smooth, simple and sharp gameplay that took notes from Dark Souls for a trial-and-error play style.

Like the other console versions, those on PS4 can play at home with couch co-op and enjoy all the previously included updates that make Cuphead its most definitive game yet. You can download the game over the PlayStation Store right now for $26.99 CAD or $19.99 USD and requires only less than 4GB of storage space.

Oculus Quest 2 Further Leaks With New Images and IPD Settings 5

Oculus Quest 2 Further Leaks With New Images and IPD Settings

The next Oculus Quest headset will put an IPD (eye distance) adjustment slider between its lens, according to new images which were corroborated by UploadVR and multiple sources.

While the current Quest model, Rift S and original Rift CV1 kept its IPD slider on the bottom, Oculus’ next headset is likely simplifying things by installing it internally. This also removes one of the pet peeves of accidentally moving it with a controller in fast-paced games and offsetting the IPD. The latest bottom image, which circulated widely over Twitter and Reddit, shows another angle of the white headset that was leaked last week.

The latest image also shows off some of the new Quest’s audio, which gives users headphone-free sound from the side bands. This time, there are two defined audio slots protruding to provide a closer and more immersive experience. It’s also clear that the cushion surrounding the face pad uses a new silicone-like material in contrast to the sponge-like kind seen from the first Quest for maximum seal and comfort.

Oculus Quest 2 Further Leaks With New Images and IPD Settings
Oculus Quest 2 – Facebook

More insider images posted last week also corroborate information over the new Quest’s white shell, though it could possibly be a temporary prototype colour. But users could either be given more colour options or a single colour just like the original Quest’s release.

Oculus Quest 2 Further Leaks With New Images and IPD Settings
Oculus Quest 2 – Facebook

Gone are the rubberized headstraps from the first Quest, and in are a new nylon-like material that comes in two pieces. This gives new users more accessibility to adjust their headstraps to fit their sizes, while there can finally be an option to take out the top strap (a small, but welcome feature for users who don’t want messy VR hair).

Of course, the latest corroboration still doesn’t officially confirm the new Quest until Facebook formally introduces it as part of their annual Oculus Connect conference. As previously suggested by leaker WalkingCat on Twitter, the Quest 2 could be unveiled as soon as September 15, 2020.

SnapShot VR Brings High Level Paint-balling to PC 1

SnapShot VR Brings High Level Paint-balling to PC

Giant Scam Industries, which unlike their namesake promises to deliver well-crafted games, just released their anticipated VR arena shooter, Snapshot VR.

SnapShot VR is a faithful yet arcade-inspired VR shooter that takes the sport of paintballing and brings it into the world of virtual reality. The game features incredibly fast matches, that typically only around a minute, making the game particularly appealing to those who are serious about paintball or are in the mood for a fast VR shooting experience. SnapShot VR also features a robust level editor, allowing endless opportunities in creativity and approach to gameplay.  The team over at Giant Scam have brought their 10 years of real-life paintballing experience and expertise into the game, meaning those who have a passion to paintball will appreciate SnapShot VR. A trailer for the game be viewed down below:

Talking specifics, SnapShot VR will feature authentic NXL or National Xball inspired levels in addition to original creations made by both the developers’ and fans alike, thanks to the inclusion of the aforementioned level editor.

SnapShot VR aims to please not only just the diehard paintball enthusiasts out there but also new players that might not be familiar with the sport. 

Giant Scam ensures that SnapShot VR’s training mode will give players an easy and painless way of training against targets both static and on the move, which should allow anyone an easy way to familiarize themselves with the fast feel of SnapShot VR. 

A copy of all the key features per the press release can be viewed down below: 

  • Designed for Virtual Reality: Snapshot VR has been built from the ground up as a multiplayer, arena-shooter experience for the VR platform, from the player’s movement to the aiming and shooting
  • Lean, Fat-Free Multiplayer: Snapshot VR features quick, intense rounds that require deft planning, strategy, and teamwork, but lets players get right into the action without having to run across a giant map or spend half the match hiding in a bush
  • Physics-Based Projectiles: In order to properly mirror and emulate the real sport, each round fired in Snapshot VR follows a realistic arc and trajectory, which makes developing the right timing and accuracy all the more important
  • I Like Charts and Numbers: In order to truly maximize one’s abilities and likelihood for success, post-game analysis is vital. Thankfully, Snapshot VR provides a bevy of metrics and information to help teams tweak their strategies and focus on winning.
  • Unlimited Map Diversity: Whether using maps based on real-world NXL layouts or something wholly original, the sheer variety of bunker shapes and placement provides endless possibilities for experimentation with 2D Paintball’s Field Creator.
  • Practice Without Pain: Using the map integration with 2D Paintball, players can add both moving and stationary targets to training maps to practice shooting and run drills in either single or multiplayer

“We are stoked to finally get Snapshot VR into the hands and headsets of players,” said Jesse Keogh, Founder and Lead Engineer at Giant Scam. “We’ve been working night and day to bring a polished and, most importantly, fun multiplayer experience to VR platforms and can’t wait for players to get involved.”

SnapShot VR is available now, exclusively on Viveport Infinity and will launch September 1st on Steam.

The Rental (2020) Review 7

The Rental (2020) Review

Back in 2002 when James Franco’s career was really starting to take off as a result of Spider-Man; his younger brother, Dave Franco, was 17 years old. His career hadn’t even begun yet, but over time, he would blossom into what I like to call “The Better Franco” — for more reasons than one. But it seems as if acting might not be his only passion, as Dave just recently headed up the horror film “The Rental,” which he directed, produced and co-wrote. I hope he keeps at it.

Naturally, it all starts with a good cast. Jeremy Allen White has been doing great work on the US adaptation of Shameless (regardless of its fluctuating quality), and it is assuring to see him get a break here alongside of Dan Stevens: another recent great. Add another good turn from Alison Brie into the mix and Sheila Vand and you have yourself a formidable foursome of actors to help propel your directorial debut. Toby Huss as the sassy property booker is just extra.

The Rental (2020) Review 2
The Rental (2020)

Getting to the titular rental in eight minutes flat is a good sign. It also helps that everyone has great chemistry with one another individually, and gets plenty of time to interact. As the narrative twists and turns we get to go on the ride with an intimate cast together. Franco’s use of a night and day cycle to represent various facets of the group’s psyche is also a smart move that keeps it grounded and relatable.

The Rental has great pacing throughout, and the script only ever borders on cringe without going too far into it. Relationship dramas always have that air about it, but the aforementioned tightness of the script moves us from scene to scene before we’re able to dwell on it too much. There’s very little in the way of cheap jump scares, which modern horror flicks are relying on less and less these days. By the time things really hit the fan near the finale the events teeter on contrived, but before any that happens, it’s a thrilling ride.

The Rental (2020) Review 3
The Rental (2020)

We’ve seen a renaissance of lower budget horror these past few years, but Blumhouse isn’t the only one who has a monopoly on it. As everyone is locked inside and looking for entertainment, The Rental is a flick that deserved to go to theatres but works just as well at home. Don’t expect to be blown away, but you’ll come away entertained.

Destroy All Humans! (Remake) Review 31

Destroy All Humans! (Remake) Review

When I first booted up Destroy All Humans! in 2020, what struck me first was a disclaimer for the game’s own subject matter.

It simply read “while the experience has been upgraded, the content and historical record of the original invasion of the Furons remains a near-identical clone! The story, words and images contained within may be shocking to the modern brain!”

But it’s also one of the remaster’s best features as it revisits 2005 – which doesn’t seem too far off from the good old PlayStation 2 days. By acknowledging the game’s Roswell-style tones and over-the-top 1950’s setting, THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games were able to give themselves a mission statement and succeed in reviving Destroy All Humans! to new audiences. Veterans might find the remake more comfortable with its controls, while the never-ending jokes only get more absurd with age.

Destroy All Humans! (Remake) Review 77
Destroy All Humans! (2005) – THQ Nordic

The original Destroy All Humans! was introduced as a game that poked fun at the extraterrestrial genre. It also offered a somewhat definitive space invaders experience with third-person action adventure. Going incredibly faithful to its 15-year-old source material, players become typical, trigger-happy grey alien Crypto 137 as he lands on Earth to rescue captured brother Crypto 136. As a member of the Furon Empire, Crypto is also on a mission to study humans, who contain a key to saving their species.

But the wild goose chase only gets funnier with timing. Players in 2020 are thrown into the political climate of 1950’s America, as the country is being invaded by aliens during an era of post-WW2 national security. The remake sticks to the original game’s plot without correctness, giving Crypto and his mission support Pox shameless banter over the human race’s weirdness. I got the most chuckles during its opening, while the crude humor somewhat waters down with repeated NPC talk.

There’s No Place Like Home

But Destroy All Humans! is a funnier game when players try to study humans, bringing out a self-aware brand of humor. From soldiers confused about the colour of their uniforms to German scientists talking about ice cream chemicals, the game does a great job of immersing players into a caricature of simpler times. As more millennials (including me) tuck in our curiosity with Stranger Things and Black Ops, Destroy All Humans! feels like the latest scratch to our nostalgic itch – and boy does it feel nice.

Its worth noting Destroy All Humans! was created before games took on a cinematic and story-driven approach. This makes it easy for 2020 players to notice the remake’s emphasis on gameplay over narrative. Its dated structure means missions are self-contained without much of a purpose. This creates a somewhat disjointed story that is carried with fun factor. I would have loved to see developers add in some additional scenes to make the scenes “stick,” in a technique similar to Modern Warfare 2 Remastered where brand new scenes found ways to surprise returning players.

There’s just enough level variety to keep the game from getting too repetitive. Destroy All Humans! switches its objective types with every new level, requiring players to either let their trigger fingers fly, disguise as a human official for funny public speeches or infiltrating military bases to destabilize Earth’s defenses. Each are fun in their own way, but players can also be thrown off by the ever changing play styles. Some missions also vary from 30 minutes to just five minutes due to the game’s standalone narrative.

Invasion of the Texture Snatchers

As a remaster, the game is nearly unrecognizable from its 2005 version (in all the right ways). The original game’s muddled visuals are given a new life on current generation systems. Environments like the game’s opening farmland are given falling leaves and sun rays that make surroundings deeper than before. Santa Modesta, Area 42 and the game’s larger Capitol City are more populated with NPCs. From drive-in theaters, to diners and fun fairs, the over-the-top atomic-era colour palette even looks better through current console power. Its pre-rendered cutscenes are a thing of the past, as the remake renders everything in-engine to show off some crisp details.

Black Forest and THQ have taken their time in properly separating advanced Furon technology from humans, making Crypto seem more like a believable threat. This translates into Destroy All Humans‘ on-foot and UFO gameplay, which have been way easier in 2020.

Destroy All Humans! (Remake) Review 78
Destroy All Humans! (2020) – THQ Nordic

“And I’m all out of bubblegum.”

Besides scaring humans on sight, Crypto can also vaporize everyone on sight. The third-person gameplay still works in simple run-and-gun fashion, while a lock-on feature snaps responsively with U.S. soldiers and Men-in-Black Majestic agents. Players also get special psychic abilities to levitate enemies and send projectiles back. Crypto even has a jetpack which can help players travel to vantage points and temporarily stay suspended for shooting mid-air. Like the 2005 version, Destroy All Humans! keeps the fun combat intact with a few improvements.

This time, Black Forest has kept every action in one-button (finally). Where 2005 players had to hold L1 and press a combo of buttons, 2020 players have it all mapped to one. This makes Destroy All Humans! much more tactile during massive firefights with enemies and even lets players chain different attacks quicker for seamless carnage.

The tweaked controls also make Destroy All Humans! more fun to play stealthily. Crypto can use the HoloBob to disguise himself with any NPC. In one button, players can easily remember how to switch characters and recharge their HoloBob easier. Players from the new Hitman games can also find the stealth mechanics familiar and disguises can be a smarter way to infiltrate bases. The remake even shows disguises draining over time – a new visual that helps for one-detection-fail missions.

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Destroy All Humans! (2020) – THQ Nordic

My only gripe about this is constantly reading minds to keep the HoloBob going. You’ll be subjecting yourself to repetitive NPC dialogue, which definitely could have had more variety given the 15-year gap. Yes, I know a solider is sick of guard duty, because I heard him say it 100 times across the game. Now imagine that repetition duplicating over the same NPCs scattered across Destroy All Humans‘ six locations.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! They got vaporized by that UFO?

At the end of some missions, players also get to fly the Saucer. Packed with beefier weapons in the remaster, it’s incredibly satisfying using the UFO to destroy towns. Destroy All Humans! tries to make meager stealth missions pay off by destroying the entire map, and it somewhat works. Players also get a variety of ammo types for the UFO, though ammo quickly runs out fast without upgrades.

The Saucer can also replenish health through siphoning vehicles and tanks. It’s something players will have to keep doing across the remake’s surprisingly challenging UFO segments. But destroying buildings with a Death Ray and watching them explode Independence Day-style will never get old.

Unfortunately, Destroy All Humans! falls short of a perfect remaster. Some of these come from the mistakes made by its 2005 version. Textures on NPCs and environments can take a while to load, resulting in pop-ins during cutscenes. The remastered game’s massive one-alien battles add stress over consoles, causing drops below 30 fps. Over PC, players can experience the remake in 60fps while consoles stay limited to the menu for smooth visuals.

Without a proper difficulty setting, Destroy All Humans! still keeps some frustrating sections that take some groans to overcome. While boss battles are a worthy challenge, other meager missions like escorting a nuke and clearing a path were one of the worst experiences in the game. For some reason, the game takes some of the stress away from players with easier missions after intense ones. This can feel like an unbalanced experience that was left unchecked when Pandemic Studios first worked on the game 15 years ago.

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Destroy All Humans! (2020) – THQ Nordic

Remaster, re-invade, repeat

Destroy All Humans! adds more replay value this time around, through additional challenges in missions. These small extra objectives vary from flying a saucer through giant donuts, to throwing zombie cows at soldiers. It’s worth playing through the game’s short ten hour story to create these hilarious moments along the quest for 100%. The game also puts players in six open world spots around America. But since players are revisiting the locations on missions, the maps can easily dry up in variety by the end of the game. It slightly makes up for this by adding race challenges and just good-old fashion free roam destruction.

Players will start and end their missions at the Furon Mothership – a hub that’s also been renovated for easier mission and upgrade picking. The map is much simpler to browse locations over, while a separate menu is reserved for replaying any of your favourite story missions. Of course, Pox is also the source for Crypto’s upgrades – many of which have their own trees. From buying your way to a Rapid-Fire Disintegrator to an infinite hoverboard, the game’s best mechanics lie within its unlockables. These can even change the way levels are played, adding more reason to revisit Destroy All Humans! more than once.

Destroy All Humans! brings the series back to its paranormal ways with a much-needed remaster that stays relevant through a fresh coat of space metal. Its jokes, though overly crude, keep new and familiar players invested under a refreshing spin on the alien invasion genre. Black Forest and THQ Nordic have clearly listened closely to deliver a much more polished experience 15 years later.

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