Throwback Review: Soldier of Fortune: Payback- Payback’s a Bitch

Throwback Review: Soldier of Fortune: Payback- Payback’s a Bitch

Price Paid: $5.98

At the risk of betraying the reviewing format, it must immediately be stated that Soldier of Fortune: Payback is one of the most mindless games you could devote your mind to playing. Released slightly more than a week after Modern Warfare revolutionized FPS gaming (before arguably imploding in of itself a few years later), Soldier of Fortune: Payback immediately resigned itself to the bargain bin; an unintentional homage to the war machine of weaponized mediocrity that was war titles during the PS2 generation. This meant a Brothers in Arms on a good day, but a Fugitive Hunter just as often. The knee-jerk criticism that Soldier of Fortune: Payback looks like a PS2 game is mere melodrama: the graphics are plain, the camouflage color scheme of your character translated over to the environment as a whole, but nonetheless carry a level of detail premium PS2 games like Black could not achieve.

Instead, the conclusion that it plays like a PS2 game is resoundingly inarguable. The cover system extends to a crouch button, your view is locked while sprinting, and the level design is a test of whether a game that is almost entirely outside could be considered a “corridor shooter”. The levels are open in concept but afford your character the mobility of an item on a conveyor belt. Gun sights are a formality in effect, while explosion animations are before-and-after stills with no conceivable damage in between.

The renowned hitbox system at its most subtle. Image courtesy of IDGB

This series of constraints and cut corners is an odd fit for the Soldier of Fortune series, a franchise that was more tactical and challenging than it is often given credit for (at least by the second installment), and carried absurdly varied level design and hitboxes that are more sophisticated in placement than many games today. This final trait, however, does make it over to Soldier of Fortune: Payback, maintaining the franchise’s stylistic calling card.

Soldier of Fortune: Payback is a violent game. Well, yeah, it’s an FPS, but compounded with that violence is an extensive hitbox system, attaching a hitbox to each limb of the enemies and essentially designating each weapon as an avenue to tear NPCs apart. This game is less generous with its hitboxes than the 26 every enemy in the original Soldier of Fortune came equipped with, but that is of course counteracted by the improved clarity that comes with a new console generation. Soldier of Fortune: Payback is fairly transparent about the fact that this is the one gimmick that will be employed to distinguish the title. For whatever reason in this surely Mel Gibson sanctioned universe (only partially barring implications of prejudice), even the Beretta pistol is infused with the power to remove entire limbs.

Of course, this means that being able to mutilate the cretinous AI as they rush your viewpoint makes for the most chaotic and enjoyable aspect of the game. On lower difficulties, it remains one of the most detached experiences with in-game violence I have ever had. Enemies flooded my environment purely as a means to combust and lead me towards more of them. On higher difficulties, challenge only came from grenades of questionable origin accompanied with about half a second for me to register their presence.

I migrated to Australia to avoid playing this game. Courtesy of Cauldron Ltd.

Declaring Soldier of Fortune Payback in full a meals-ready-to-eat cakewalk, however, would be misleading. Where Soldier of Fortune Payback spikes in difficulty and flounders in execution are the boss battles, usually framed by arbitrary betrayal or convenient villainy. Boss battles in first person shooters are often an uphill battle due to the limited mobility and fixed perspective associated with the genre, and Payback exemplifies this at its worst. Bosses are given no reason to be more powerful than other enemies, they just are. A battle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object ensues as you empty clip after unrelenting clip into your deceptively spongy enemy; they pivot, you continue firing, they pivot, you continue. When you have continued on your unwavering path of theoretical destruction for long enough, they are rendered (and then unrendered) dead. They often don’t even fall apart before your very eyes like the rest of their henchmen.

This makes for a remarkably apathetic playing experience, but apathy can be fostered within hundreds of games. Someone is apathetically engaging in digital conflict with another player right now, ducking mortar shells and racial slurs alike. However, the AI takes a different approach in the final few boss battles of the game as the level design bends to their exploitive playstyle. Outdoor expanses soon become confined parking lots, before the game comes full circle and has you fight the final boss in a literal corridor; a staircase to be exact. Unfortunately, the three bases your enemy travels between are at the bottom of this staircase, all ammo further away. This goes either two ways, you run directly at your opponent and unload round after round into him as he holds still in physical shock, or more likely, you run out of ammo, hit the fixed-view sprint, and die immediately.

This makes for one of the worst boss battles I have ever played, but with enough tries and enough luck (and no amount of strategy), your opponent is killed, the briefcase of serum #457 is obtained, and you lose. You are knocked out by an informant you were introduced to levels ago, the now defected Alena, just another foreign adversary. A plot to declare war on the United States is discussed, and the credits commence. You have accomplished nothing!

If you guessed that the character on the left is the stronger one, you are both delusional by most standards and correct. Courtesy of Cauldron Ltd.

 

Whether this was sequel-baiting or a nihilistic statement on devoting your time and money to a game whose front cover weapon you can’t even use, we will never know. The twenty-five employee strong Cauldron studio soon specialized in Cabela games (which makes an unfortunate amount of sense considering how trivial each death in Payback feels) before disappearing entirely, with no mention on Activision’s site or vice versa. Was it divine intervention? I wouldn’t say so, the team put together a unique gore system that *remains* striking, they just needed to work on the rest of the presentation and gameplay. Give the damage you inflict some weight, make the implied openness of primarily outdoor levels a reality, and maybe ditch the boss battles entirely in favor of some setpieces. Oh, and maybe make it so any of your journey mattered.

 

Best Scene: Escaping a multi-level brothel in Ukraine is a triumph in competent level design and briefly entertaining a bright color or two.

 

“Best” Scene: The shock of being able to dismember every enemy in a manner that transcends realism is at its most entertaining when first experienced but remains amusing throughout. Credit must also be given to the caricatures comprising the multi-cultural (akin to a hotel buffet) character list.

 

Worst Scene: Every single boss battle in their bullet soaking, length padding, explosive exploiting, strategy deficient glory, the final boss battle specifically is one of the most obnoxious closers to a game I have ever experienced.

 

Award: Best PS2 port of 2007

 

Playability: 2/10

Hilarity: 5/10

Throwback Review: Skate 3 – The Backwards Man

Throwback Review: Skate 3 – The Backwards Man

Y’know, I wanted to talk about Oblivion, but…

 

You may have noticed for the past few years that a certain dormant game franchise has been long awaited by the public to return. No, it’s not Half-Life, they’ve been requesting a fourth installment of this particular series. No, it’s not TimeSplitters, although I wish it were, but no, keep guessing. It’s a series based around an instrument that relates to youthful rebellion… Bully? What? No, that doesn’t even have a— Fuck it, it’s Skate, alright?

 

Yes, Skate! The series that does Tony Hawk better than Tony Hawk, developed by EA Black Box all the way in 2010. Black Box had been making quite a name for themselves for a few years before this, with NFS: Underground 2, Carbon and ProStreet all being well and good, but it was Skate 2 that bought the company almost unlimited fame. We’re talking about the third game, though, because it’s better.

 

 

The story is a direct continuation of the second title, with our player character failing to “Jump The Shark”, a challenge set up by famous skateboarding magazine Thrasher. Not content with failing at this junction, you, Reda, and the cameraman Shingo, decide to set up a skateboarding company in order to make millions, while Reda sits on his fat arse, and you do all the work.

 

From there, the base is set. Your goal is to make millions selling boards, but this massive world has been opened up to us: three giant areas, all differentiating in scope, visuals, and skateboarding pizazz. In truth, selling skateboards doesn’t even matter, since we practically have the keys to the city already, so let’s just ride on through the valley and see what the place has to offer.

 

Part of Skate’s ingenuity comes from its control scheme: the Flick-It system, which Black Box had been designing long before they knew what the game was even going to be. The base on which all your tricks ride or die on revolves entirely around the right stick. Boardflips, grabs, manuals, powerslides, so on and so forth, it all needs to be adjusted with the stick, and it handles wonderfully. With help from the sound design, every trick’s resonating thump onto the concrete feels great.

 

 

That being said, it wasn’t great. Skate still had some problems to get rid of, like the lack of freedom to do anything other than skateboard and mess about with some absurd physics-related bugs (the more things change, eh?). After the first Skate, Black Box tweaked the formula slightly, achieving mechanical perfection with Skate 2, although it still didn’t result in a perfect game.

 

Visually and mechanically, it was pitch-perfect, but the pacing of the game itself wasn’t well done. There was a lot of fiddling about trying to execute perfect tricks, and I have yet to complete the Career mode in Skate 2, all because I have to do an Frontside Tailslide to a Backside Tailslide in such a small space. It’s madness, madness that Black Box fixed with Skate 3.

 

In Skate 3 however, everything had been buffed out. It still has the same solid core, but now the world embraces your presence. It loves that you’re here to enjoy it, and rather than stress you out, it’s on your same wavelength. Not to say it’s offering guidance and praise, but it’s more a mere spectator. The game shines then! When we’re not stressing out about pulling off a Nollie Laser Flip 540 to Nose Manual Fakie Flip over a small gap, but cruising the streets looking for our own entertainment, we’ll find it easily.

 

 

While the challenges the game offers are brilliantly designed, the map design is immaculate. It’s stupidly superb when you get into the right flow, as every pathway, banister, and barrier becomes a grind, ramp, or kicker. You can make a line out of anything, and it’s almost always going to look good. Even though the game presents some pretty big challenges that’ll make you feel like a grip-tape God, the world is filled with gaps and lines that the game doesn’t even acknowledge.

 

The double-bridge gap by the Observatory, the spaghetti-junction lines at the Super Ultra Mega Park, Slappy’s Car Lot, the drainage ditches scattered throughout the map, the tubular exit by the Park ‘n’ Play… all of these and more are mostly ignored by the game, in favor of a few technical challenges, situated to two or less blocks. It’s depressing, but exciting at the same time as well, because now you’re finding spots based on your own knowledge, and not via the game giving you a subtle nudge.

 

Of course, if you’re really heavily into your skateboarding knowledge, you’ll find a few of your favorites, barring the obvious Tony Hawk. Andrew Reynolds, Danny Way, Rob Dyrdek, and Eric Koston, just to name a few. They exist in-game mostly to alienate the player with fake praise as you take on some of their silly challenges, and never engage with them in anything fierce, bar the Death-races.

 

 

Ahh, the Death-races. I’ve failed to mention them in any capacity because upon returning to these sunny hills, I realized that they were easily the dullest part of the game. Despite some of them being truly breakneck speedy gallivants through downhill jams, the other half are meant to be skillful twists and technical feats, and that feels like a problem.

 

Skate isn’t fun when it’s trying to be realistic, it’s fun when you blast through the valleys without a speed cap. This is why Skate 3 is one of the best extreme sport games ever made, because it managed to find that perfect balance of rooted reality and impossible fun. No one bought this game to be blown away by a simple 360 Flip to Manual, they bought it to see 720 Superdudes being executed over a 40ft drop. Not unrealistic enough to call out, but not boring to the average player. That’s the reason why Skate 3 is such a mainstay for the average player today… Well, it’s that or erm… Remember the physics bugs from the first Skate?

 

Yes, one of the main reasons why people love Skate so much, is because of the insane physical glitches that you can come across quite easily. From stretching body models, to inhuman speeds being achieved, a lot of the stupidity relating to Skate 1, 2, is because of these glitches. In truth, most of them have been ironed out with patches, which is great, because people who bought this expecting a glitchy nightmare, instead got the greatest skateboarding game ever made.

 

That’s right, THUG 2 fanboys. Come get me.

 

 

From there, there’s not much else to talk about. You’ve got the ability to add more ramps, rails and pipes into the main game world, or you can go all-out with your very own skate park. In truth, even eight years later, this park creator hasn’t lead to anything special, bar a few impossible ramp parks and some incredibly tech-y stuff. Then again, is it really surprising that some fourteen-year old from Illinois can’t create a better level than professional level designers?

 

There’s also the multiplayer, still full of life after all these years, although you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything other than Super Ultra Mega Park sessions. There’s nothing in the multiplayer here that you can’t do in Single Player, and given the age of the game and the glitchy ways you can now play the game, why would you let your fun be ruined like that? Screw all those stupid “Trickliners”, just get your trick on by yourself.

 

Well there you have it. A poorly-written way of saying that Skate 3 is as good as skateboarding games are ever going to get. The playground you had was brilliant, it knew exactly what kind of players were going to come through, and still managed to satisfy everyone in the process. People looking to shred, people looking to glitch, people looking to chill.

 

Good stuff all around. May Session provide the same brevity.

Throwback Review: Assassin’s Creed 2- Leap of Faith

Throwback Review: Assassin’s Creed 2- Leap of Faith

I mentioned in my Sonic Generations throwback review that I’d be spending a decent chunk of this summer catching up on franchises I’d missed out on when I was younger, and Assassin’s Creed another series I’m working my way through. I started with the second installment because I’d heard the first wasn’t very good (although I’ll certainly get to it later), and it… was…

Incredible. Not perfect, no, it starts slow and sometimes the freerunning works against you and the combat falls just a tad short, but I still had a blast for just about all of it.

The Assassin’s Creed series features the ages-old conflict between the Assassins and the Templars, framed by a present-day narrative where Desmond relives the memories of his Assassin’s ancestors to learn their techniques and find relics known as the pieces of Eden. You don’t care about that, though, you just want to freerun through renaissance Italy and slaughter some Templars. Assassin’s Creed II follows the story of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a citizen of 15th century Florence. After Ezio’s father discovers that the Pazzi family is planning to assassinate Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of the Florentine Republic, he tries to present evidence condemning Francesco de’ Pazzi. However, the Pazzis and fellow conspirators ensure that all the men in Ezio’s family are publicly hanged, and Ezio only survives because he’s out on an errand when his house is invaded.

~~Spoilers for a nine year old game below~~

After failing to rescue his family, he becomes obsessed with avenging them, committing the next years of his life to ensuring he eliminates everyone involved with the death of his family. He travels across Italy, eliminating countless enemies and meeting valuable allies (including Leonardo DaVinci himself), and finding mysterious codex pages. As the game approaches its third act, his allies reveal themselves to be Assassins and induct him into their cult order. They teach Ezio about the pieces of Eden, ancient artifacts of untold power, and tell him that the codex will lead them to one.

all images courtesy of ubisoft.com

Once the codex is completed, the Assassins discover that it’s a map, and the macguffin they seek is in Rome. Rome just so happens to be where the game’s final boss, Templar big boy himself Rodrigo Borgia, is about to become Pope Alexander VI. Ezio immediately departs and assaults Borgia, but Borgia holds two pieces of Eden and overpowers Ezio, then flees into a hidden chamber beneath the church. Ezio follows him, beats him to a pulp, and spares his life, because that’s just what you do with final bosses after slaughtering every one of their lackeys. Sure, Ezio, killing Borgia won’t bring your father and brothers back, but that random guard who was doing his job, yeah, he dies no problem.

Ezio takes the artifacts from him, and we learn of the First Civilization, creators of the pieces of Eden. They were wiped out in a solar flare similar to one that soon threatens modern-day Earth. Minerva, a prophet of the first civilization, delivers this information to Desmond through Ezio, and we’re back to the framing story and officially done killing people, so we’re about done here.

~~Spoilers Over~~

Assassin’s Creed has become popular for several mechanics, and we’ll start with freerunning. Most of the time, it’s a lot of fun. You start with a tutorial where Ezio races his brother up to and across a roof, teaching you the basic controls, and after that, you get to run around wherever you’d like. Unfortunately, it’s a little rough around the edges. To prevent requiring frustrating precision from the players, everything you can freerun on has a bit of a lock on, but it’s tilting when you’re trying to run away from a swarm of guards and Ezio randomly starts climbing onto a box on the side of the street. There are also times when you won’t lock on, and Ezio will start trying to stumble up a wall instead of using the springboard immediately to his right.

Still, it works more often than it doesn’t, and you get every opportunity to use it. Completing the map, doing races, stalking people, escaping guards, or just moving around the world; you spend a decent chunk of your game on rooftops. Freerunning has been a series staple since the first game, and with good reason.

If you’re not running around in rooftops, you’re probably assassinating people, and since it’s kind of in the name of the game, you’re given plenty of ways to do it. Sneak up on them and stab them with a hidden blade, get the drop on them and stab them from above with a hidden blade, hang from the roof they’re patrolling and stab them with a hidden blade before dropping them to the ground, hide in a hay cart and stab someone with a hidden blade and hide their bodies in the hay, poison them, kill them in a duel with a sword, obscure their vision with a smoke bomb and skip the duel altogether, beat the crap out of them until they fall to the ground and stab them, throw knives at them from a distance, shoot them with a pistol you keep hidden in your gauntlets(???)… the list goes on.

Despite all this, combat does get a bit stale. If you’ve already engaged someone and you don’t have anyone else to distract them, all the hidden blade assassinations are out, and you’re left with only your sword, knife, blades, and smoke bombs (if you have any). Bombing them means you can kill them quickly for a short period of time, but if you’re out of those, it’s time to fight. While they’re are a few different strategies to employ, such as using different weapons on different enemies, grabbing someone to slit their throat or throw them towards someone else, and countering, you spend a lot of time in duels, and rhythmically hitting “attack” and waiting for an opportunity to strafe or counter gets tiring after a bit. However, there’s a myriad of missions in all sorts of different formats to keep things interesting… even if some of them just outright suck.

Specifically, the “don’t let anyone see you” type missions can go deepthroat a cactus. This is by far the most frustrating, as if any guards or enemies are made aware of your presence, you lose immediately. Say you find a lone, solitary guard, and want to kill them in case the cause trouble later. If you sneak up behind them and stab them, that’s all fine and dandy, but if they see you on your way, then you’re screwed. You can game over in the process of killing them, even doing so would turn you to incognito. The very last level of the game is structured like this, and it blows.

However, I don’t have that many more complaints. Other than a slow start, a few sucky missions here and there, slightly flawed mechanics, and combat that gets boring after a dozen and a half hours, Assassin’s Creed II is fantastic. Exploring renaissance Italy is tons of fun, there’s a deep story with themes of freedom and power, exploration of the religious corruption of the time, plenty of murder and vengeance to go around, entertaining characters based on real people, a framing narrative if you care, and plenty of optional content.

After you unlock your uncle’s Villa, you have the option of pumping money into it to give yourself shopping discounts and having the city earn more and more money, some of which you get to keep. You’ll get paid for both assassination contracts and “beat up” missions, wherein a women will hire you to find her cheating husband and knock some sense into him, giving him a brutal beatdown until he swears to change his ways. I’m sure you’ve seen the iconic images of Ezio standing on top of the tallest building in the area, and there are over six dozen of these lookout points to find to synchronize your map, giving you a view of the area as well as some freerunning practice.

All in all, Assassin’s Creed II is a great introduction to the franchise; you can skip the first unless you’re interested in the series’s overarching plot, but even then it’s easy enough to figure out. Ubisoft has given us hours of entertaining content, and if you’re at all interested in breaking into the series or even just looking for an older open-world title to see how the genre has evolved, ACII is a solid go-to.

Throwback Review: Sonic Generations- Peaking Early

Throwback Review: Sonic Generations- Peaking Early

Sonic the Hedgehog, for whatever reason, wasn’t a childhood franchise of mine. I was too busy hanging around on the Comet Observatory or messing about in Scribblenauts to bother with the chaos emeralds, and my first time with the franchise was Sonic Advance 2 on an emulator during my senior year of high school. As a result, this review won’t be tinted by the rosy glasses of nostalgia.

Overview

Sonic Generations is a celebration of the franchise, allowing the player to race through a series of stages from older and newer games as both classic and modern Sonic. Due to a beast called the Time Eater attacking Sonic at two points in his life, as well as absorbing parts of the world, both Sonics find themselves in a colorless limbo of a hub world, with whited-out levels to enter. You have to play each level twice, once in 2D as classic Sonic and once in 3D as modern Sonic, in order to restore the level and rescue one of your friends.

I don’t know what’s going on with his eyes, and I’m not sure whether an Ophthalmologist or a plastic surgeon would be more appropriate…

Each level is from a major entry in the franchise (leading up to Generation’s 2011 release), and include Green Hill from the original game, Chemical Plant from 2, Sky Sanctuary from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Speed Highway from Adventure, City Escape from Adventure 2, Seaside Hill from Heroes, Crisis City from… Sonic 06… Rooftop Run from Unleashed, and Planet Wisp from Sonic Colors. Each level is rebuilt in both 2 and 3D, and the soundtrack is constructed in the same way (more on that later).

You’re presented three levels at a time, and after restoring all three, you’ll be presented with 30 challenges: 10 for each level, five in 2D and five in 3D. You’re required to beat exactly one for each world, in either playstyle, to access one of the bosses. There will also be a rival battle to earn a chaos emerald in each area: Metal Sonic from Sonic CD in the first area, Shadow the Hedgehog from Adventure 2 in the second, and Silver the Hedgehog from… Sonic 06… in the third. Only the three challenges have to be completed to access the boss, but the rival battles will have to be completed to beat the game, as all seven chaos emeralds are needed to access the final boss.

While the campaign is only about 5 hours, there’s plenty of other stuff to do before or after the final boss if you’re so inclined: S rank every stage, find every red token (five per level), complete every challenge, and get all the achievements, so if you’re a completionist, this can keep you occupied for a while.

Gameplay

There are two styles featured in-game: classic and modern Sonic. Classic Sonic plays entirely in 2D, and uses the standard attacks and movements from games like ManiaAdvance, and the Genesis games, using the spin attack and spin dash to navigate on land, under water, and across platforms. Modern Sonic is more fleshed out, moving through both 3D and 2D space with the ability to use homing attacks and boosts, as well as light-dashing through rings and grinding across rails.

Hangin’ on the edge of tomorrow…

Here lies my main problem with just about every Sonic game I’ve come across: every main series Sonic the Hedgehog title is a platformer. However, Sonic isn’t all that good at platforming. He’s floaty and slippery, and while the levels are built around his speed, it doesn’t do enough to combat the fact that neither classic nor modern Sonic are built to hop from small platform to small platform. While there are multiple paths through each level, which is great, I’d often find myself progressing along the lowermost segment because I’d consistently end up falling down. Not to mention, if you fall, you usually don’t get the opportunity to get back up, so you can either restart and try again, or just deal with going through the bottom-most portion of the level again.

It probably doesn’t help that I was playing most of this concurrently with Celeste, which is just about perfect, and whenever something frustrating came up I’d briefly consider putting the controller down and going back to a much better platformer. Word of advice, only play one game of each genre at a time, the better one will only overshadow the other.

Regardless, this is a fair review, I’m not going to compare Generations to a completely separate game just because they’re in the same genre. Let’s focus on some positives. The main problem a lot of people have with modern Sonic games is that you’re constantly getting slowed down, so let’s focus on the positives. You certainly go fast in here, and while at times you do just hold forward or hold boost and watch things happen, you do get to race through a few obstacle courses, and on replaying a few levels after getting the hang of them, the platforming sections are a bit more manageable.

Last up are the boss battles, which are possibly my favorite part of the game. I liked all the rival battles better than the bosses, while most of them are pretty easy once you get the hang of them, they felt a lot better to play through than the actual area bosses (Death Egg, Perfect Chaos, and the Egg Dragoon), and I’ll take just about each hedgehog over whatever Eggman’s come up with just about every time.

Presentation

AAAAAAAAAAH

This is where Sonic Generations, as well as most modern Sonic games, really shine. Because there are times when the game almost goes on autopilot and you just have to boost towards the stage goal, Sonic Team had to make up for the lack of any input with exciting visuals. For example, the truck from Adventure 2 in the City Escape levels, which is now outfitted with spinning saws and a jet engine. While you’re only really holding down and boost and letting the game play itself, it’s still exciting because you’re being chased down by a homicidal, out-of-control truck. This happens throughout the entire game, where the game lacks in actual gameplay, it makes up for with fantastically exciting set pieces to keep you entertained.

Despite being made seven years ago, it still looks great, its relatively-ageless cartoony style serving it well. As is come to be expected from Sonic Team, the soundtrack is fantastic. There are a couple original songs in there, but most of the tracks are remastered version of the original stage and boss themes. They each get two remakes, one for classic and one for modern Sonic’s version of the level. Chemical Plant is fantastic as usual, Shadow’s boss fight gets THREE themes (the brand-new For True Story, and shortened version of All Hail Shadow and Live & Learn), and while I don’t think either version of Escape From the City is quite as good as the original from Adventure 2, they’re both pretty damn good. Even if you have no interest in playing the game, the OST is still worth a listen.

Conclusion

Sonic Generations is a celebration of the games that preceded it, and a pretty successful one at that. It repackages many beloved older levels (and throws Crisis City in there too) with a fresh coat of paint and an all-new engine, and is widely considered one of the best modern Sonic games out there. Even if it’s not your favorite, it’s indisputably better than certain others that tried something similar and couldn’t quite capture the essence. While the gameplay isn’t quite perfect, and it might never be for the hedgehog, it has that magic to it that has me coming back to get chased down by that truck or race Shadow across the space colony ARK again and again.

Top Ten Slasher Movies of the 2010’s… so far

Top Ten Slasher Movies of the 2010’s… so far

Over the past decade, I have realized that there has been a drastic drop in the amount of decent slasher movies (or slasher movies, in general) and this has saddened me as I can remember being young and having a wide variety of slasher movies to watch, but through the years I feel like I have watched every good slasher there is. In the last few years, the slasher industry has definitely declined, both in quality and quantity.

However, I believe there can still be redemption for the slasher industry, especially when there are movies like the following ten being made:

 

10. Stage Fright (2014)


 

Set in a summer music camp, this promises to be very cheesy and camp, but it is like this deliberately and that’s why it works. It is filmed like a musical with a few awkward singing moments between several of the characters, there are a lot of unlikable characters in the movie I would personally like to kill if I was the murderer, but unfortunately this is where the movie gets criticized, for the number of characters that could have had amazing death scenes, there is a lot of missed potential. The main villain’s outfit and mask are fun and remind me of a lot of retro 80’s slasher flicks, but he spends most of his time in the basement of one of the cabins, slashing his blade against a brick wall with pictures of campers on it. The killer’s reveal didn’t come as a surprise to me, but if you are just looking for something to kill an hour and a half with then I would recommend this, but it is not to be taken seriously AT ALL.

While being considered more of a horror-comedy, I still feel like the movie gave its viewers good character development and made us care for the central protagonist, especially with the gruesome


9. Bastard (2015)

While being filmed with a low-budget, it really does not feel like it at all. The central characters are all very unique and well acted, there is a lot of character development built up before the murders start. For example, we find out that two of the main characters are serial killers themselves as they murder a man for his car and belongings at the beginning of the movie, this instantly intrigues the viewer and leaves them wanting more. Then we are introduced to a policeman with a secret… his love life, as well as a young runaway couple who got out of there hometown as their families never accepted their love for each other. The killings are very graphic in this slasher, and they are all very sudden and take the audience by surprise, the killer’s look is nothing special, a doll mask which has been done before e.g. “Alice, Sweet, Alice” and “Valentine”… But the good thing about this movie is the number of twists and turns throughout the movie, which I can’t say if I have inspired you to watch it, just trust me on this one; the acting is some of the best I have ever seen, the camera quality is well-handled and the story is just one big thrill-ride from beginning to end, I agree with the reviews on the DVD cover, this movie is one of the “Most Flawless Retro Slasher Ever”!

 


8. See No Evil 2 (2014)

The ‘See No Evil’ franchise hardly gets any recognition as it is, which really saddens me because they are really decent slasher movies, I know that the “WWE Studios” logo can scare some people away because, trust me, I never showed any interest in the original movie until I watched this sequel, I picked it up really cheap soon after it got released on DVD and I’m glad I did. I mainly picked it up because Danielle Harris plays the main character and I think she is a great actress, she is also my favorite scream queen in recent years. The story picks up immediately where the first one left off, as all the victims of the first movie are brought into a morgue in body bags where Harris’ character is performing autopsies on them all late at night. Her friends surprise her by coming to the morgue where they have a little celebration, to everyone’s surprise, the murderer (Jacob Goodnight) awakens in his body bag and hunts down the group of medical students one-by-one.

The movie is very bloody and some of the death scenes are very brutal, I like that they set the story immediately after the original. The only thing that stops this from being further down on the list is the fact that they killed off Harris’ character, I guess I’m used to her being the final girl but that upset me. However, the tension built up towards the end of the movie really makes you want the remaining medical student to survive this night of terror.

 


7. Hatchet 3 (2013)

I am so happy that this trilogy exists, I noticed that there were hardly any recent slasher icons to look up to lately, and even if the third movie is the last time we cross paths with Victor Crowley, I am glad that his send-off was positive. As always, Danielle Harris plays the final girl really well as her character had already survived his reign of terror twice… but now, she wants to be rid of him for good. Adam Green did such a good job of producing a new horror icon for the 2010’s and I hope that he goes on to do so much more for the horror community. I feel like he could do an incredible job of the new “Friday the 13th” reboot that teased us all last year. I love how Green manages to wrap everything up nicely and gives a faithful send-off to both his protagonist and antagonist. I think this entry in the series is quite light-hearted and humorous while maintaining the shock value with the gory deaths. If you want to keep the slasher genre alive, please watch all three of these modern classics, I guarantee you will not be wasting your time

 


6. Laid To Rest 2: Chrome Skull (2011)

 

Like Victor Crowley, I believe that Chrome skull has definitely become one of the most recent icons of slasher horror. With talks of a third ‘Laid to Rest’ movie in the works, it won’t be long until he gets his own trilogy. This sequel comes complete with over-the-top gory deaths, a lead character that you hopes survive this nightmare and a battle between two psychos makes this one of the best slasher movies of the past decade, and it helps that Danielle Harris makes an appearance, even if it is not for a long while, her character is crucial to the plot, and the setting up of the third movie. For some people, this may be a bit too gory, but everyone can manage to see some likable qualities about this movie. If you are a fan of really gory slasher movies then I would recommend checking this flick out.


5. American Mary (2012)

While not being a full-on slasher movie, this unique movie written by the Soska sisters manages to charm its audience by making the title character incredibly likable as the viewer empathizes for her as she gets treated like trash from her superiors as she attends medical school, she gets approached by the mysterious Beatress Johnson (a Betty Boop look-a-like) who begs for her to perform body modification surgery on her, promising to pay thousands of dollars as Mary is struggling to afford to live in her apartment. After the success of the operation, Beatress passes Mary’s details over to the owner of a strip club, who hires her to heal his wounded club members. The club owner then begins an infatuation with Mary as she operates an off-licensed body modification shop in her own apartment, making hundreds of thousands per week. She then gets drugged and raped by her pompous lecturer, so she decides to take her revenge and torture him mercilessly by practicing her body modification techniques out on him, she goes on a semi-murder spree to make sure there is no evidence left of his existence in her apartment. This movie is very well done, with a wonderful sense of dark humor. The main protagonists are likeable, the modification surgeries are interesting to watch and overall, this is a very artistic, incredibly funny, gory movie. I definitely recommend watching this underrated movie, it is incredibly cheap to pick up, and I guarantee that you will enjoy it.

 


4. Curse of Chucky (2013)

 

The most overlooked of the “Child’s Play” franchise, this entry in the series goes back to basic possessed killer doll territory as there is no slapstick comedy or dark humor, this is pure horror at its finest as a woman confined to a wheelchair loses her mother under tragic, unexplained circumstances shortly after a doll arrives in the mail from an unexplained source. This sequel captures the feel of the original movie, focusing on an innocent family getting terrorized by an angry midget made out of plastic. Only this family isn’t so innocent, as it is filled with drama and scandal. The characters are original, but most of them are unlikeable and you find yourself rooting for Chucky – but let’s face it, in every movie we are always rooting for Chucky. The kills are carefully thought out and planned ahead, there is a lot of foreshadowing in the movie, which explains the ‘curse’ in the title. As well as a few gruesome deaths, we also learn some additional information about the life of Charles Lee Ray before he was turned into the serial killer doll. There is also an additional cameo from Tiffany towards the end of the movie (played by the wonderful Jennifer Tilly) which I think is a really nice touch as Tiffany is my favorite character from the franchise.

 


3. You’re Next (2011)

This is not your typical home invasion movie, the Davison family all reunite for their parents anniversary where three masked assailants target their house, planning to murder every member of the family. The tension builds up quickly and makes the audience fear for the characters survival. The main character is absolutely vicious and kick-ass in the role of the final girl, she is more deadly than all three killers combined, she manages to outsmart them at every turn, and turns the entire movie upside down, making this seem like the best tongue-in-cheek slasher movie since ‘Scream’. The acting from the other characters is nothing special, but the reveal of the killers and how they link to the family is intriguing to watch unfold. The killings are brutal, bloody and unapologetic as the director makes everything seem real and raw. This is the horror movie that the slasher industry was craving for, a lot of care and thought went into this movie and you can tell!

 


2. The Final Girls (2015) / Hush (2016)

“The Final Girls” delivers lots of laughter and blood in this action-packed horror-comedy, I cannot express how much I love this movie, the

main characters are instantly likeable and the plot is amazing, the characters go to a screening of an old fictional 80’s slasher flick that starred the main character’s recently deceased mother, she has invited along as a guest, but is hesitant about going as the grief she feels for her mother is still fresh. During the screening, an incident occurs that leads all the main characters to go through the screen and directly into the movie as they get sucked into an 80’s horror movie nightmare set at a summer camp, which parodies “Friday the 13th” in so many ways. They discover that the movie will continuously play on repeat until they manage to fight their way to the end, trying to keep the final girl alive, but the main character wants to save the character being played by her mother, who dies in the original script, which throws the movie’s story off balance, creating an alternate ending as it is an unpredictable fight for survival to see who will actually survive this bloody massacre. With a ton of throwback references for lovers of the genre, as well as constant slapstick humor for the comedy fans, just about anyone can find something to enjoy in this thrilling movie. I guarantee constant enjoyment throughout.

 

“HUSH” takes a more serious approach to the home invasion concept, as the main character is deaf and has to rely on her other senses in order to survive one night of constant stalk-ish hell, she is a writer who is struggling to write a second best-seller, so she has relocated to the woods in order to discipline herself into writing seriously, but with news of a murderer on the loose nearby, a neighbor drops by to ensure her safety. Later on that night, the neighbor comes rushing to her house in panic, as she begs for her attention to let her in, but with the loss of her hearing, the neighbor is brutally murdered right behind the main character without her noticing, then, later on, a masked assailant appears outside of her window. She uses her writing ability as well as her inner conscious thoughts to survive the night as she has to think like a killer in order to outsmart him. The thing that annoys me about the movie is that there is no motivation whatsoever for the killer to be torturing the protagonist, he is just a lunatic. But this will literally have you on the edge of your seat, biting your fingernails in fear for the character’s safety, it’s almost irritating with the number of bleak moments and close calls as the audience almost feels as if they are in the movie, fighting alongside her.


1. SCRE4M (2011)

The original “SCREAM” was the first horror movie I had ever seen, and I remembered waiting years for another entry in the franchise and I was so glad to not get let down from the hype… I absolutely love this movie, it was so fun and original. I loved that they brought it back to Woodsboro, re-introducing the high school setting and the nice, suburban areas of the original movie. It almost felt like the perfect reboot of the original, thankfully all of the surviving original cast members returned for this miraculous event, and I could remember everyone theorizing that Sidney was the killer, and Gail could be Ghost face’s next victim. I was so enchanted by Scream 4’s spell that all I could think about was “what happens next?” so I instantly checked out independent horror news sites around the internet to find out if there was any word on a fifth movie, and was horribly let down by the news that there were, and still aren’t, any plans for another entry… this upset me so much because I have just been waiting in suspense for the past six years on an update to this knowledge. The way the movie ended, made it seem like Wes Craven had so much to offer the ‘Scream’ universe. I loved the feeling that I got from the movie, I loved the new generation of Woodsboro high teens, especially Emma Roberts (in my opinion the break-out star). I think she is so good and playing versatile characters and this movie proved it, she played the innocent high school teenager which she brought onto her performance in ‘Nerve’ and then when she is revealed to be the serial killer, she could give Maddison Montgomery a run for her money as she played a similar character in ‘American Horror Story: Coven’. I recommend both of these, but I wouldn’t have discovered this brilliant actress without the help of this entry in the Scream franchise.

There we have it, the best of the best from the past decade… so far, but these are just from the slasher sub-genre of horror, I promise you that there is so much that the horror genre has offered in recent times, off the top of my head I can name Southbound, Holidays, Emelie, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and the V/H/S franchise. It’s a shame that 90% of horror movies don’t have a voice in modern society, but at least true horror fans will always be there to pick up on the hidden – and the not-so-hidden – gems. I hope that I have inspired you to investigate more into some of these movies, and if you happen to enjoy them then I would love your feedback, or even if you didn’t enjoy them, I am always happy to talk about things I am passionate about. I hope you have enjoyed my article, thanks for reading.