Episode 3! Stu and I are this week discussing the next film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War. 

This film is the first of Phase 3 of Marvel's Cinematic Universe and it's set the stage for some exciting plans going forward.

It's fair to say we couldn't really discuss this film without talking candidly about everything in it, so a SPOILER WARNING before you listen.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!

-Billy


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Episode 2! Someone liked our Pilot and we've been issued to make more episodes to make! 

Stu and I are at Dendy Newtown this week to watch Sherpa, a documentary film from Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom. 

Sherpa focuses on Phurba Tashi, a Sherpa who having made 21 Mount Everest ascents already, intends to lead the team for New Zealander Russell Brice's expedition company, Himex. It is set during the 2014 Mount Everest ice avalanche.

As usual a profanity warning as our movie discussions can get heated and emotive.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!

-Billy


                                      Get it from Podomatic here

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BRAND NEW PODCAST!

That's right guys Stu and I are helming a second podcast now called "We Like to Watch". 

Stu and I are big fans of heading to the movies. So we figured we'd attempt to watch a film each week and record a podcast before and after it.

As well as talking about the film we watched we will be discussing all thing Movies, TV, and everything in between!

This week is our Pilot episode, so have listen as we watch The Boss and then discuss it and all the latest in movie news.

Also a profanity warning as well as our movie discussions can get heated and emotive.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!

-Billy


                                      Get it from Podomatic here

                                            Get it from Itunes here



A lot of people are getting excited about VR, and rightly so. With the first wave of consumer grade headsets hitting shelves, after much waiting it looks like 2016 will finally be the year of VR. With all this VR hype being thrown at us by the gaming industry it's easy to forget about all the other exciting applications this new technology has to offer, such as educational applications.

This is where David Attenborough, the man that introduced so many of us to the wonders of the natural world, comes in. The world famous naturalist, who turns 90 this year, has teamed up with Alchemy VR to create two breathtaking VR experiences, which is pretty amazing considering I am yet to convince my grandfather to touch a computer. 

'David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef Dive VR' and 'David Attenborough's first life VR' represent the fruits of this collaboration and from the 8th of April they will be available for the public to see at the Australian Museum. 
 
David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef Dive VR uses real-world footage and a host of pioneering technologies to shed new light on this magnificent habitat. Visitors will take a 360-degree, virtual reality tour beneath the waves, with Attenborough as a personal guide through the vibrant corals, darting fish and deadly sharks in the great natural wonder of the world. In a state-of-the-art submersible, Attenborough guides us through a wonderland, which has over 3000 reef systems and forms one of the most important natural resources on Earth. It as an extraordinary opportunity to come face to face with the incredible diversity and abundance of the Great Barrier Reef, and see how researchers are using historic corals, predicting how the reef will react to environmental changes.

In  David Attenborough's First Life VR, visitors travel back 540 million years as Attenborough reveals the dawn of life on Earth and introduces you to its earliest inhabitants, exploring ancient oceans and interacting with extinct sea creatures. Long-extinct animals such as the whimsically built Opabinia, the fearsome looking Anomalocaris and the spiny, worm-like Hallucigenia will be brought vividly alive in a fully immersive CG VR experience. 

I was lucky enough to see both of these VR experiences last night and was blown away; it was just like stepping into one of Attenborough's documentaries. Both experiences use the new technology to great effect, encouraging the viewer to look in all directions and revel in the spectacle of the natural world. 

Although at times thrilling, it should be made clear that both experiences are primarily educational so if your looking for a thrill a minute VR experience akin to a roller-coaster ride, you won't find that here. What you will find is an engaging and insightful documentary experience. Plus if you are like me and have felt queasy using this tech in the past, you will be relived to know that the experience didn't effect my stomach at all. 

Having grown up loving Attenborough's documentaries, being able to witness this next step in the evolution of the genre was a real treat. I really can't recommend this experience enough and urge you to get over to the Australian Museum to check it out!

Tickets are available now through Ticketek


- Christof


NOTE: This review compiles an experience of both the pre-release and final versions of Dark Souls III. The following section, concerning the pre-release was published on March 3rd 2016, and is reproduced here in its entirety. An updated section for the final version of the game follows at the end of this review.

--- 

PRE-RELEASE: THE SHORT VERSION


'I may be but small, but I shall die a colossus.' - Lord of Cinder.

Dark Souls III is everything you could be wanting from a From Software game. It balances the tonal feel of the first game, the better player orientation of the second, and the faster combat of Bloodborne. It is, in every sense, a From Software "Best Of Gameplay", a number of excellent factors struck through with an enticing plot, sumptuous visuals and killer sound design.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, maybe, but only if you're a certain kind of person. We'll get to that.


STORY


What little narrative is given at the outset is fairly straightforward: as with the first two games, a mythical, faraway land has been left desolate by the abandonment and corruption of its leadership. The five lords who rule over Lothric have either vanished or turned evil, and it's up to you - a neophyte revenant who levels up by consuming the souls of monsters - to find them and restore Lothric to its former glory.

Now, part of what bugged a number of players about the last game was its overreliance on the story of restoring the land of Drangleic. The first game's allure derived from the story existing in the margins; rather than being the focus, it was a frame around your endurance tests as you slaughtered greater numbers of the undead. The keen focus on story in Dark Souls II seemed disingenuous to the mystique the first game's ambiguous plot afforded. Thankfully, it's a lesson Dark Souls III seems to have taken to heart; we're largely back to hints of the world being offered to us rather than clubbing us unconscious.

There's not a lot more I can say about story - not just because this is a Souls game, and plot isn't necessarily its main draw card - other than that it interested me more than the story of Dark Souls II did. It's evident From Software have struck a delicate balance between too much and not enough plot: a Goldilocks story, you might say.


GAMEPLAY


As veterans of the series are fully aware, the bread and butter of a Dark Souls game is the gameplay. You're here to pit your wits against numerous beasties with increasingly hideous appearances, and to deploy your patience as you die to them an infinite number of times.

As I mentioned at the start, Dark Souls III has taken the combat approach from the previous games and amped it up a bit with Bloodborne-style ease of movement and dodging. The gameplay is certainly more fluid than previously: where you were previously locked into completing an attack once you started it, meaning monsters could shank you unawares while stuck in your combat animation, the game now allows you to break out of that a little easier.

Battles never feel arduous, and the pace is nicely kept once you get the hang of the controls (which are largely the same as Dark Souls II). Heavy attacks are now chargeable, meaning you can swing that mace with a little extra elbow grease to knock some zombie heads off, and the magic system uses a Focus Meter that feels simpler than the series' previous approach to spell attacks.

What more I could say about gameplay would be repeating a lot of what I mentioned in both my review of the second game and my first impressions of this one. It's Dark Souls, meaning it's a slog against lots of nasties all trying to eat your face off. The core of the game is largely unchanged, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; why reinvent the wheel?

I said at the start that the game is for a certain kind of person, and that person is a veteran Souls player. Yes, I mentioned in my first impressions that "if you're new to the franchise, you'll probably find it accessible", but I feel I may have been a little too generous there. While not as bad at roping in newbies as the first Souls game, there's a distinct implication that the player is already partly familiar with how a Souls game works in terms of combat, leveling, items and overall progression. That's not to say new players will be entirely locked out, just that someone who's never experienced several hours reviving at bonfires to go kill devil hounds might be a bit turned off. But if, like me, you're one of those crazy psychotics who is willing to spend those hours breaking through the brick wall of respawning enemies, you'll find a lot to enjoy.


VISUALS


Still gorgeous.

Sorry, that sounds really glib, but what more can I say? Dark Souls III looks fantastic. The graphical errors I mentioned in my first impressions have been tweaked, and it continues the series tradition of breathtaking vistas and grotesque, shambling monstrosities, both of which are richly detailed. There were some minor frame rate issues on the copy I played, but given that it's not the "final" final version, that may be fixed later.

Of note are some particularly gross new enemies, including a giant demon who will beat you to death with a huge bowl of guts (or, if you're far away, will throw it at you like the world's most disgusting trebuchet) and Saint Aldrich of the Deep, one of the Lords of Cinder who is literally a constantly-shifting snake-virus-demon-thing that possesses enemy zombies by bursting from their chests and turning them into very fast and hard to kill snake-virus-demon-things. There's also a mimic, classically disguised as a treasure chest, who will unfurl into an obscenely tall creature made of tongues and pale legs that will give you the kind of nightmare that can only be exorcised by a lot of internet cat pictures.


SOUND AND VOICE ACTING


Between this, The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, what is it with games and superlative sound design lately?

Dark Souls III has a gloomy atmosphere and a gothic aesthetic, and it's something the sound greatly augments. Each footstep sounds unique, every weapon's slash or creature's shriek a joy to hear through wraparound headphones. From Software has taken their time crafting Dark Souls III's soundscape, and it only enhances what's already an excellent game. The music, too, is similarly haunting.

Are these games hiring the same sound people? If so, they really need a raise.


WRAPPING UP


As a gauntlet of foes who do much to chip away both your health and your tolerance for death, Dark Souls III is quite possibly the best game of its caliber. Any further critique is going to feel repetitive; it enhances what didn't work, and largely maintains the same structure it's had for the better part of four previous games now (including Demon's Souls and Bloodborne). Newbies might be turned off, but fans of the series will love the gameplay, the growth of your character and the greater power you'll accumulate.

You will start but small, but you shall die a colossus. Repeatedly.

---

FINAL VERSION

Repeatedly doesn't even begin to cut it.

Having now played the final build of From Software's concluding instalment, I can safely affirm that Dark Souls III is definitely the best of its similarly-named peers (though I hear a good case could be made for Bloodborne still nicking that title). Everything I said in the above review is present here, with a few caveats.

Firstly, the slight lag issues and framerate drops have been addressed; the PS4 version runs smoothly and solidly, handling the graphics a lot better than the previous build and manipulating the PS4 hardware with more subtlety than Littlefinger's hold on Westeros.

Second, I don't know if it was just my initial crappiness or some kind of tweak, but the combat's even more engrossing than it was previously. My Mercenary currently eschews a claymore and shield in favour of a rapier and dodging, and I find the flow of battle is now smoother than a buttered slippery-dip. Granted, I have the advantage of a ton more play than I had with the prerelease - close to twenty-five hours at time of writing - but I'd wager From Software have actually adjusted things a little. I don't know, I find dodging and weaving is a much more viable action than tanking attacks like a walking brick wall (though that latter strategy is certainly useful against a few certain late-game bosses...)

But as fighting becomes easier, the bosses become harder. The Vordt of the Boreal Valley - a starting area boss who resembles the kind of pet dog Arthas of World of Warcraft might own - was not as much of a pushover as he was in my prerelease battle. I also found several enemies had been beefed up; most egregiously, the demon with the bowl of guts now throws his bowl before pulling out a two-handed hacksaw and smacking you with it (robbing you of a decent chunk of health). This is an area where both dodging and blocking have drawbacks, and while I appreciate From's dedication to making all playstyles viable I did have a rude awakening the first time said demon took most of my face off with that saw. It's like going to see a mass violin recital, then watching as the musicians retrieve a bunch of amped-up Les Pauls and go full Hendrix.

Sound is still great, and a few of the synchronicity errors have been fixed - sword hits don't sound off a half second after you've chopped a skeleton in half. I didn't write in my prerelease notes whether or not there was much in the way of music during the non-boss fight parts, but I find the lack of background orchestration adds to the gloomy, creepy atmosphere the game excels at providing. You are alone in this world, and the sound - or, rather, lack thereof - wants you to feel it.

My only major bone to pick is the online component, which thus far is the sole source of frustration to be found in the game. When the online drops you're hurled back to the main menu, and you better praise the sun that the game auto-saved before you did. I'm more of a solo gamer anyone, so I don't mind losing the ability to cross over into other players' worlds and mess with their chi, but I'd recommend minimising your use of and reliance on the multiplayer for fighting bosses. Last thing you want is to kill the boss you've spent days on, before the game notices the lack of connectivity and boots you. (and before you ask, yes, that happened to me, and yes, I nearly broke my controller with rage as a result)

But aside from the online hiccup, Dark Souls III is awesome. I'll cite my oft-referenced caveat of it being awesome for those who are into this sort of thing: casuals and people who play games solely for the unwinding and relaxation factor are probably going to be turned off. For those of us who are keen on something challenging, something gruesome and something entertainingly, tortuously torturous, Dark Souls III has got us covered. Get good, son.

- Chris





Dark Souls III will be released April 12 for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Review copy kindly supplied to Geek of Oz by Bandai Namco Entertainment.


RELATED CONTENT:





HOLY NEW PODCAST GEEK OF OZ FANS!

That's right, we are back with a new episode this week discussing Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Joining Stu and I this week is friend of the show (and Stu's Nemesis), Tim Kwok!

Spoiler Warning in Advance as we go in depth to discuss the film. Also a profanity warning as well as the discussion got very heated and emotive.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!

-Billy


                                      Get it from Podomatic here

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This is the first in a series of six reviews that cover the new, episodic Hitman game across most of 2016. Each episode will be reviewed and scored separately as it is released.

---

THE SHORT VERSION


Agent 47 is back.

If, like me, you thought the linear Hitman: Absolution was a bit of a letdown - especially following the organic sandbox assassinationpalooza that was Hitman: Blood Money - then fear not! 2016's new Hitman is a bold, if slightly anaemic, return to the franchise's halcyon days.

If, unlike me, you've never played a Hitman game, then fear not! 2016's new Hitman is a fun, if slightly repetitive, venture into the under-utilised stealth game genre, that will have you garrotting and silenced-shooting for hours.

If, also unlike me, you've never played any kind of game before...well, sorry, can't help you there. Enjoy this cupcake, instead.


STORY


What makes Hitman 2016 difficult to talk about is the lack of content and narrative substance. As an episodic game, this is to be expected; The Walking Dead took a good couple of episodes and change to get fully going and reveal the larger scope of its narrative ambitions. With that in mind, take the following analysis with a grain of salt and understand that this and the following five episodes all, supposedly, craft one entire narrative sculpture.

Agent 47, a bald, neck-barcoded assassin who wouldn't look out of place in a THX 1138 remake, joins the Agency as an assassin - or, a Hitman, if you will. His task is to venture to exotic locations around the world and kill people for ridiculous sums of money, managed by his Agency handler Diana Burnwood.

That is, largely, the extent of the plot we have so far. There's a cutscene following the game's extended prologue - which, incidentally, provides the best of the three levels the game thus far possesses - which hints at a possible former Agency employee, with a similar life experience as 47, who's gunning for our morally questionable heroes. Apart from that, it's largely a matter of "go here, kill this person, get paid". Not that the game necessitates a Christopher Nolan-level plot of layers and nuance, but if compelling narrative is what you're here for, you may be disappointed.

If, however, you're here to practice your stealthy assassin skills, well...


GAMEPLAY


...then the gameplay has you well and truly covered.

The new game is a hybrid of some of the best mechanics from previous games, namely Blood Money and Absolution. From the former it takes expansive environments and a plethora of methods to kill your target, and from the latter it borrows the Instinct function, now scaled down into something similar to Arkham Asylum's see-important objects Detective Mode. The maps are large enough that a number of assassination approaches can be utilised, giving you much more choice in your killing than what the limited linearity of Absolution offered.

This iteration is also much kinder to newer players than any of the previous games have been. The control scheme is simple and easily accessible, the tutorial missions run with just enough hand-holding to get you on your way before blowing out into full-on assassina-fun. The inclusion of Opportunities, an optional game mode where objective markers tell you where tools and costumes for specific kills are, means those who aren't keen on organic discovery can still find lots to enjoy. The shortness of the levels prompts a lot of replay, trying different tacks from the previous assassination attempts.

However, part of the game's problem is that brevity. While it's reasonably priced for what you get as a start - and, though I can't speak for the as-yet-unreleased future episodes, well worth following on if the ending of Paris is any indication - I feel that the game becomes repetitive very quickly. It's to be expected with only three maps, but it'll mean you'll breeze through the main game without much of a pause for breath. The game's staying power resides in challenge modes and user-created assassination missions, going over each map repeatedly to find all the secrets, complete all the hidden objectives and, potentially, make your own mission that is ludicrously difficult to pull off; with that last one, I experienced a featured user-made contract that involved sneaking into a mansion - without the appropriate garb - and stabbing a stationary target in the middle of a crowded corridor, without being seen. That contract maker is probably now burning in hell.


VISUALS


Functional. At times the frame rate noticeably dips, especially during the Paris level itself with the sheer flocks of partygoing NPCs on display, but overall it looks pretty good. There's less fine detail on display than in Absolution, but there is still enough there that it looks very pretty. If I have any major issue, it's that the colour palette is exceedingly limited. Everything feels muted in dark tones of blue and black, creating a sterile feel; even the garish fashion event at the Paris mansion feels oddly and colourfully sedate, more resembling a sub-zero vodka bar than a real catwalk event.

Despite this, the background environments are gorgeous. You may not be able to leave that Paris mansion, but at least the surrounding backdrop makes it feel like an organic part of the world.


SOUND AND VOICE ACTING


Actually, surprisingly, not that good. David Bateson still continues his fine work as the taciturn 47, yet all other dialogue feels stilted and badly written. NPCs chat about things almost as if they're programmed rather than having an organic conversation.

There's also a complete lack of region-specific accents and dialogue for each mission; yes, the tutorial missions in Australia and Russia may be training missions, with the presence of training staff acknowledging the lack of nationality, but I didn't hear a single French-speaker during the Paris mission. Everyone is as American and cheeseburgery as Absolution's antagonist. There's a sly joke about American colonial attitudes that could've explained that deficit of French, a joke which sadly goes unacknowledged.

WRAPPING UP

 

It feels good to be back in 47's comfy killer shoes; despite some hiccups and a lack of meaty content, Hitman's intro pack is still a good start for Square Enix's new episode game.We'll see how well future content unspools, but for now there is plenty to like about 47's return to the assassination business.

- Chris





The prologue and first episode of Hitman are available now for digital download on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Review copy kindly supplied to Geek of Oz by Square Enix.