Morning BS: Logan

The final send off for Jackman and Stewart feels like it could be one of the greatest X-Men stories of all time.

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Whichever way you look at it, there has never quite been a situation like this in movie history. Both Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Professor X are iconic roles that have both become defining roles and last influences on the character. I challenge you to read any X-Men comic book without hearing Stewart’s calm and collected Xavier or Jackman’s abrasive yet loving Logan. With these actor’s performances being so intrinsic to their characters it was always going to be tough ending their tenure on the X-Men films. That being said, while many of the X-Men films have been good, Logan is possibly the greatest X-Men film there will ever be.

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VuePoint: Coming Soon in 2017

Well, 2017 has been pretty great for us gamers so far right!? Resident Evil 7 and Nioh have already blown a significant hole in my budget. Horizon: Zero Dawn is just around the corner, with its own price tag looming – thank god I don’t have to pay until release! Isn’t pre-ordering great!? Because despite having limited funds and plenty of more important things on my shopping list, I can’t help myself when that shiny “One Click Buy” button glints.

With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at some of the great stuff we have coming over the course of the next year. I hear many people saying that this article would have been better at the start of the year, and to that I say…well…good point.

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Morning BS: The Order of the Phoenix’s Patrol Playlist

If Mr.Weasley could get a computer to work around magic then wizards could access Spotify and your humble BearSleuth would have some banging recommendations!

Wizards and technology just don’t mix, it’s as simple as that, they never have and they never will. However, Arthur Weasley might have found a way around all that while tinkering in his garage. He’s made several small appliances work including a car. So if Arthur could make all of those work it stands to reason that one day he may even get a computer to spark into life. With that in mind, here are a few tracks I would recommend to our wizard friends once they discover Spotify:


Lupin and Tonks’ Mix-tape


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One of the order’s greatest couples come together in this fantastic mix-tape.

  • The Times They Are A’ Changing – Bob Dylan
  • I wish I was a Punk Rocker (with flowers in my hair) – Sandi Thom
  • I like you so much better when you’re naked – Ida Maria
  • Werewolves Of London – Warren Zevon
  • Don’t let me be misunderstood- The Animals
  • Home – Edward Sharpe and the magnetic zeroes
  • Going up the country – Kitty, Daisy and Lewis
  • Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty and the heartbreakers
  • Time in a bottle – Jim Croce
  • Friday I’m in Love – The Cure

Give it a listen on Spotify here.


Mad Eye Moody’s Broomstick Boombox


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When fighting death eaters you need exactly the right set of classic rock hits to strike fear into their hearts.

  • Bat Out Of Hell – Meatloaf
  • Paranoid – Black Sabbath
  • Paint It Black – Rolling Stones
  • Ace Of Spades – Motörhead
  • Radar Love – Golden Earring
  • Wanted Dead Or Alive – Bon Jovi
  • Mr. Crowley – Ozzy Osborne
  • Holy Diver – Dio
  • (Don’t fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
  • Renegade – Styx

Give it a listen on Spotify here.


Weasley Weekly Warm Up


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Cleaning out Grimold place is no easy task but with these feel good songs it’s an absolute breeze.

  • Have A Nice Day – Stereophonics
  • Let’s Dance To Joy Division – The Wombats
  • Fill my little word – The Feeling
  • Upside Down – Paloma Faith
  • Dreaming of you – The Coral
  • Half The World Away – Oasis
  • Same Jeans – The View
  • Little Lion Man – Mumford And Sons
  • Elvis Ain’t Dead – Scouting For Girls
  • Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

Give it a listen on Spotify here.

Do you agree?  What tracks would you add or remove for the Order’s playlist? Let me know in the comment section down below, on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Beartrails/ or on Twitter at: @BearTrails

Also if you want daily BS remember to sign up for emails or follow with your WordPress account.

bearsleuth

Written By: The BearSleuth

Avengers, X-Men and the Crisis of Infinite Earths – Part One: MCU & XUC.

With the departure of Hugh Jackman from everyone’s favourite mutant franchise, could we see the X-Men return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe any time soon?

An empty X-Jet hanger filled with the sound of strong, confident footsteps as Captain America strides across it saying ‘Logan. Scott. Stand down. You know the Avengers can’t let the Phoenix survive’. A grunt from Wolverine as we hear the slow metallic sound of his claws extending just before the thunderous outpouring of energy from Cyclops’ visor announces the start of a battle we’ll never forget. Beast and Colossus fighting the Hulk. Black Widow locked in combat with Psylocke. All on the big screen with a small horde or big-name talent leading the charge.

It’s every Marvel Fanboy’s wet dream, right? But could it ever become a reality.

Could Marvel Studios acquire the rights allowing them to the X-Men into the giant melting pot that is the MCU? To answer that we have to jump back seventeen years when your humble Sleuth was a meek five year old and start a journey that is going to take a whole slew of articles.

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Morning BS: The Traveller’s Almanac: The Shire And Hobbiton

If you’re looking for a laid back holiday this year, and have access to a trans-dimensional portal, consider visiting Hobbiton

Hobbiton


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Resting in the heart of the Shire, Hobbiton is a beautiful rural gem. The locals have a knack for building burrow-like dwellings that have left the area looking untouched, even with a relatively large population, so this is a must destination for the ecologically conscious out there. The landscape is also peppered with many breweries, taverns and pipe weed merchants, making this an idyllic location for some comfortable rest and relaxation.

Locals


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The short and stout locals of Hobbiton at known as Hobbits, they are very friendly to one and other but can be very suspicious of strangers. Past times mostly include a knack for gardening and the indulgence of their various vices, most notably the pipe weed known as ‘Old Toby’ and ‘Longbottom Leaf’. Hobbits are characterized by their family lineages so it’s common for many members of the same family to act similarly.

Blending In


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As a trans-dimensional traveller, blending into Hobbiton is going to be difficult. My best advice is to create a portal slightly outside the town and then use an image inducer to take the form of a small Hobbit. When asked by the locals where you’re from just say ‘Bree’ and keep talking about an Inn call ‘The Prancing Pony’ until they get bored and you can walk away.

Package Deals


We offer two package deals that include visits to Hobbiton:


The ‘Business With The Dragon’ Package:


  • Visit key locations in from ‘The Hobbit’ including the Shire, Esgaroth, Rivendell and the Misty Mountain itself.
  • Meet and greet the descendants of the key characters.
  • Survive a night in the wilderness of Mirkwood
  • Perfect adventure holiday for the weary traveller

Merry and Pippin’s Pipe Weed Riverboat


  • Visit many Pipe merchants and Taverns across the Shire as you take a long boat down a river running right through the heart of Hobbiton.
  • Meet Merry and Pippin as they give a short talk on the history of Hobbit Leaf.
  • Guaranteed fantastic weather.
  • Idyllic rest and relaxation for all.

Would you take this trip or would you want another package? Let me know in the comment section down below, on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Beartrails/ or on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/BearTrails

Also if you want daily BS remember to sign up for emails or follow with your WordPress account.

bearsleuthWritten by: Patrick Lunn

Anime 101: Hunter X Hunter (2011)

33 collected volumes, 148 episodes, two movies and 366 hours of my life on one hell of an adventure!

Mild spoilers

For a few years I’ve had people recommend to me Hunter X Hunter purely based on my love for Dragon Ball. Because of this I put the show down as a copycat of Dragon Ball and never made the effort. Over the course of a week my opinion radically shifted from ‘Dragon Ball knockoff’ to ‘This is the greatest show I’ve ever seen’, and the best part was that I was only just scratching the surface of what the show was really about.

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Left to right: Kurapika, Gon, Killua and Leorio

What is Hunter X Hunter?

Hunter X Hunter is a major ongoing manga series created by Yoshihiro Togashi. The series has been serialised in Weekly Shonen Jump since 1998 and has been adapted into two anime TV shows: the first produced from 1999 – 2001 by Nippon Animation and ran for 62 episodes, the second produced by Madhouse Studios and aired from 2011 to 2014.

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Left to right: 1999 and 2011

The story in its most basic form focuses on a young boy named Gon Freecss as he decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a legendary Hunter. It’s worth noting from the start than Gon lived his life to this point believing his father was dead, when in actual fact his father abandoned him to live his life as a Pro-Hunter. Hunters are licensed professionals capable of carrying tasks such as… well, hunting: hunting criminals and treasure, just to name a few.

 

To date 33 volumes of Hunter X Hunter have been translated into English and published by Viz Media. The 2011 anime series is available to stream on Netflix and Crunchyroll.

What separates it from the crowd?

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Killua & Gon

Where Hunter X Hunter truly excels is with its cast of well-developed and memorable characters. I found that I enjoyed and cared for 90% of the characters in the show–this is made more possible by having the characters not follow already existing tropes in shonen anime–the absolute highlight being the friendship between protagonists Gon and Killua.
The relationship between these two characters is well-developed and made believable by how they treat each other, as well as through their interactions. An example of this is the characterisation of Killua Zoldyck, heir to the Zoldyck family of assassins.

 

When it comes to antagonists, Hunter X Hunter delivers them with as much development and characterisation as its protagonists. We spend enough time with each villain to realise they’re not justifying their actions because they’re just straight up evil; each one is made relatable and interesting. My favourite example of this is shown with Yorknew Arc where we’re introduced to a renowned gang of thieves known as The Phantom Troupe.

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The Phantom Troupe

Final thoughts

As I mentioned at the start, I went into Hunter X Hunter with little to no expectations and was completely blown away. At no point did the show feel like a chore to watch; both the story and characters were engaging and well-paced. The soundtrack is nothing to scream about, but it does the job of expressing tone and emotion when necessary. The animation is very well done, but it’s not without its faults as the childish style gives the wrong impression to newcomers and may put people off. Hunter X Hunter is a beautiful show with a strong story and memorable cast to match it, and is worthy of the praise surrounding it. This is a show that deserves to be watched.

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Hunter X Hunter is available to stream on Netflix & Crunchyroll.

Written by: The Covert Coot

Edited by: IvyM

Do The Disney Remakes Get A Free Pass?

Well this week was a very slow news week indeed, at least as far as this space is concerned. Even YouTube hasn’t done anything particularly dumb since last Saturday (well, nothing new at least); and so, with only a few hours to go until I’m supposed to upload this article I’m still struggling to decide what it should be about, let alone what the most interesting angle to come at it would be. I very nearly decided to write about the ADL declaring Pepe the Frog a racist hate symbol, but even I have limits for how grumpy I can stomach being when writing these things. While we’re here, my only comment on the matter is this: If you know what Pepe the Frog is, and if you know why he has become seen as a symbol of hate, please do something better with your time. Get a job (if you have one, then get a better one); go to the gym; ask that girl (or guy) who serves you coffee out on a date; marry them and start a family; or go and conquer distant lands in the name of the Empire.

Please, do literally anything else, apart from asking me to comment on it, because I’m honestly ready to freewheel the rest of 2016 by now. I’ve had about as much as I can take.

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So, something lighter this week, to cleanse the palette? Oh hey! Jon Favreau, fresh off his directorial success remaking The Jungle Book, has just announced he’ll be giving the same treatment to The Lion King. That’s… actually fairly exciting, and the first time I’ve ever decided without needing to hear any more that I’ll be going to see one of these live-action Disney remakes. Although, does that term really apply here? Mowgli was the only character in The Jungle Book who wasn’t CGI, and I’m guessing The Lion King will push that up to 100%.

Previous attempts by Disney to re-sell ‘alternative’ versions of its classic and 90’s renaissance animated films, such as Maleficent, Cinderella and Tarzan, received mixed receptions; however The Jungle Book was widely lauded, and became the highest grossing movie of the summer in the UK, and I’d be surprised if Favreau can’t beat his own record with The Lion King. We all have our favourites of course, but Lion King is probably the movie of its era for Disney, so this is going to be huge, especially if Favreau goes for an accurate-as-possible retelling of the original, with maybe just a little bit of padding for act two. Simba doesn’t need to grow up entirely in the space of one musical montage in this one, but otherwise, as little extraneous elements as possible (Jungle Book needed them, Lion King doesn’t). Do keep the musical numbers though. Absolutely.

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While there’s no concrete release date yet, The Lion King will presumably follow on from Beauty of the Beast, Disney’s next effort starring Emma Watson as Belle. Now, I can’t say at this point if it will be a good film, but I can say, considering the public image Watson has cultivated since Harry Potter concluded, that it is perhaps the most perfect casting decision in the history of cinema. So yes, while I wasn’t convinced at first that Disney’s new line of live-action remakes would live up to their pedigree, it seems right now that they’re on something of a role.

It does give me cause to wonder though… do I, along with everyone else my age, give Disney preferential treatment? Entire generations of children have been practically raised by them after all, and regardless of whether or not you think that’s fine, do we now give a corporation a free pass for cashing in on our nostalgia, where we malign the rest of Hollywood, with its remakes; reboots; endless sequels and genre homogenisation, for lacking imagination? It’s no mystery why big studios want to remake every dormant licence they can get their hands on. We keep going to see them and making them profitable, and yet almost every time we do we complain. We complain that The Magnificent Seven is derivative and clichéd, with no aspiration beyond going through the same motions as its predecessor with today’s stars and production effects. However, when a remake dares to actually try and reinvent its source material, like Ghostbusters did, then it’s a betrayal of everything we loved about the franchise. Why the dissonance, one way or the other? What makes Disney so special?

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Now, I’m not one to object to capitalists taking my money so long as I’m enjoying myself while they do it. That’s how fair exchange works after all. So long as Disney can hold my attention for an hour and a half or more, then they’ve earned the price of my ticket; and as soulless and corporate as the monolithic Disney conglomerate is at heart, they haven’t managed to build and maintain their quintessentially magical image in spite of that fact without really knowing what they’re doing. As much as any production company that has ever existed in Hollywood, the Disney brand is and remains synonymous with quality, which is all they really owe any of us. That reputation may be in part built on buying out the achievements of others, such as Disney have done when they brought Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm into the fold, however where other parent companies might have chewed up and spit out all of these names, under Disney’s wing they’ve continued to make good work.

Is that the end of the discussion then? Well, not yet, because I don’t think the odd remake is enough to mar Disney’s reputation for creativity, as well as quality. After all, it’s not like Disney has stopped making films for the current generation of kids, in favour of catering entirely to my generation’s nostalgia and disposable income. In fact, I’d go as far as to say the last five years or so have heralded a new Disney renaissance. Frozen revived and expertly subverted the princess genre; Wreck-It Ralph did the same for the Herculean Disney ‘hero’ all while being the closest thing we computer game nerds have ever had to a good game-movie adaptation; Big Hero 6 tackles grief, depression and acceptance, as well as showing children a vision of diversity and science as positive forces for a better world. Finally, Zootopia (it’s called Zootropolis here but for once I prefer the US naming conventions) turns talking animals into metaphors for racial profiling and affirmative action and never once lacks the confidence to pull it off. These films are creative, funny, bombastic, visually striking and important, both for children and adults, without ever forgetting that their target audience is very much the former. Yes, in many ways Disney is the last word in faceless, overbearing corporate entities, but in my opinion there really is no getting around the fact that they became the biggest by being the best, and they still are.

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Even within the remakes, there are signs that Disney isn’t content to just leech of its past successes. Maleficent, for example, retells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of its once one-dimensional villain, and can even be said to have been an allegory for rape survival. Whether or not this was a move that sat well with all audiences is beside the point and the reason why rage at remakes often confuses me. Yes, it can be frustrating at times to see Hollywood apparently so strapped of original ideas, but as I’ve said before that’s our fault as audiences for putting so much stock in brand recognition. If they didn’t make money, they wouldn’t get made. Regardless, if a remake is good, it’s good, and if it isn’t good, then so what? A remake never erases its source material from existence. The original will always still be out there for you to enjoy, so what does it matter if someone else’s attempt doesn’t measure up?

I could be wrong about all of this, but in any case, if there were ever a film studio in history that had earned the right to rest on its laurels, it would be Disney.

The BearSleuth Week Geek Out – LaMarr And Snyder And Bears…Oh My!

This week I am determined to get this feature up at a reasonable time! Last week was just a trial run but this is absolute prime time professionalism in article form. Unfortunately, to my knowledge their is very little to talk about in the world of television so I’m going to jump across and examine what’s going on over at YouTube. Apart from that all I have to say is that it’s been a damn good week and I hope all you back-to-schoolers are settling in well.

The Week In Comics


 

This week is looking pretty strong in the world of comics, the shelves are pretty densely packed and their is certainly a lot of talent to be found. An underground hit of the week has to be Scarlet Witch #10 which is pretty much a perfect self contained story for the character looking at her role in the magical community. Over with the Team Aqua that is DC we have some awesome titles including All-Star Batman #2 and Suicide Squad #2 showcasing talent from two of the greatest creators in the comic book industry, Snyder and Lee.

Marvel’s Team Magma are looking sound all round with some brilliant tie-in titles but my pick of the week has to go to Amazing Spider-Man Civil War II #4, which has to be one of the most complex titles I have ever written. The finale of the Amazing Spider-Man tie-in is probably going to place the series as the strongest of the Civil War II tie-ins to date as it fully succeeds in an examination of the main themes of the event. If you are only going to pick up one tie-in make it this one…then maybe squeeze your budget for the X-Men tie-in as well!

The Week In Film


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Well this week I actually went to see a film which I can talk about, Don’t Breathe. This film was pretty much schlock of the highest order with a particular scene added in just for shock value and so the film can be ‘the film that went there’. I actually think this is a horror targeted at a more female audience as the shock scene is harder to relate to from a male perspective, which probably goes a long way to spoiling it. The male characters are embarrassingly weak but the female lead, played by Jane Levy, seems to have a good amount of depth to her. The villain is essentially, old and evil Daredevil and I find that the film makes a lot more sense in that light.

Like I said up top, there’s not really much in the way of TV news from me at the moment, just finished Stranger Things which gave me a new appreciation for child actors and small-town sci-fi. Heading over to YouTube, Fatman On Batman just interviewed Phil LaMarr and you have to see it if you are in anyway a geek. My YouTube tastes are fairly vanilla but I recommend Yahtzee19,  KaptainKristian and Vuepoint’s Jack’s World if you are looking for something new.

The Week In Gaming


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Pre are in the ten week countdown for Pokemon!!! Like any good fan I’m attempting a run through of HeartGold, Pearl, Black, White 2, X and finally Omega Ruby before grabbing a copy of Sun. I’m going to be grabbing a bunch of grass starters in the way, the unloved Ringos of Pokemon starters, and basically getting myself back in that ten-year-old mind-set. Apart from that I’m continuing a play through of Dark Souls with Ollie from LoneWolfGaming and playing Until Dawn with Will, the BearSleuth camera man.

In Other News…


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The world is teetering on the brink of disaster from a take over of regional pronunciation starting with a plague of government sponsored academies and there will be more news coming on the new BearSleuth writer later this week. That’s about it for this week folks but be sure to come back next week for more sleuthing!

…That was this week’s BearSleuth Week Geek Out!!! Check back on Friday for a brand new article!!!

VuePoint: Resident Evil 4

As arguably the best game in the series, it’s hardly surprising that Resident Evil 4 has made an appearance across a whole range of consoles. From the Playstation 2, to the Wii and back again – now available to purchase for Playstation 4 in the store – there is now absolutely no excuse for anyone to have not played this action horror classic.

Now that it’s made the jump to this generation, Resi 4 looks better than ever, with enhanced textures, lighting and character models. Don’t go in to this expecting Uncharted 4, this is still a PS2 game at the end of the day, so there’s only so much that can be done without remaking the whole game from the ground up.

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This is just a remaster with a graphical upgrade, so don’t think you’re buying a new game here. If you played Resi 4 before and weren’t impressed, this won’t change your mind. This is still the same – albeit brilliant – game as it always was. What it did do however, was give me a chance to go back and play it again, and now that I’m older I get to review it. For the sake of this review, I’ll be talking about it like it’s a new game, and whilst I may compare it to its counterparts on other consoles, I’ll be reviewing it as a standalone game, rather than just talking about what has changed…mainly because nothing has. Like I just said, graphical enhancements aside, this is the same game.

Special agent Leon S. Kennedy has been sent to a creepy village to rescue the President’s daughter Ashley from an army of zombie-like cultists. It’s made clear within the first five minutes as you stand over the body of the first enemy you kill, Leon explicitly says “THESE AREN’T ZOMBIES!”. This should be your first clue that this game is unlike any Resi game before it. The over-the-shoulder camera replaces the static angles, and there’s a much heavier focus on action than before.

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This isn’t a bad thing though. Unlike the later instalments, Resi 4 isn’t a straight up action game, and it isn’t afraid to throw some scares your way. These tense moments generally build from the atmosphere across the various locations you find yourself in. Nowhere feels particularly safe, and you’ll probably find yourself frequently spinning the camera to make sure nothing is creeping up behind you. And trust me, things will creep up behind you. God knows where these guys hide, but there have been many occasions where I’ll be fending off a horde of enemies lumbering towards me, only to spot movement out of the corner of my eye and see that they’re coming from all sides.

One particular segment puts you into the shoes of Ashley herself. Separated from Leon, with no weapons and no way to defend herself, you must use the environment to your advantage, outwitting and outmanoeuvring your enemies, rather than just shooting them in the head. The fact that you can’t fight back and your enemies can come from around any corner makes this segment feel more like a survival horror than a straight up action game, and it’s segments like this that future games in the series could have benefitted from.

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Unfortunately, this experience is marred by how painfully unlikeable Ashley is. She’s an annoying, whiny brat, who likes to get herself kidnapped and stand in front of your gun, taking a bullet for her enemies. What a generous move Ashley! Oh wait! No, no it isn’t.

I will admit that her AI is somewhat competent. If you compare it to the likes of the Star Trek game a few years ago, Ashley looks like Einstein. For the most part, she will do her best to stay behind you, and crouch when you aim your gun in her general direction, but her annoying character makes her – admittedly rare – moments of stupidity that much more frustrating. Given the fact that about 70% of the game is an escort mission, this makes some part particularly aggravating. When you get to the end of the game and unlock a huge suit of armour for her to wear in NG+, these problems disappear. Aside from looking hilarious, Ashley becomes too heavy for the enemies to pick her up and carry her away, and completely invincible. Some might say that this makes the game too easy, but personally I really enjoy mowing down hordes of not-zombies, without worrying about her.

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It makes me physically upset to hate on this game for too long, so let’s get back into the good stuff, because despite the problematic companion, this is still a brilliant game. The story of Leon and Ashley escaping from the monstrous Lord Saddler and his minions is a fun one. In true Resi fashion it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and despite being a horror game full of terrifying creatures that can impale, decapitate and just generally mutilate you in a  number of different ways, it still feels light-hearted and entertaining. The cheesy dialogue is very much tongue in cheek, and is delivered well by a talented cast, who bring a diverse range of characters to life.

The cherry on top of the cake is the excellent gameplay. The over-the-shoulder camera allows for satisfying shooting, and the way enemies fly back when you hit them with a shotgun is really rewarding. Your weapons feel powerful, and the upgrades you buy feel useful. The aiming isn’t as precise as I would have liked it to be, and in the shooting department, I feel the need to utter a sentence I never thought I’d say.

The Wii version of this game is superior to the PS4.

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Don’t get me wrong, everything works fine on the PS4. Anyone who’s played Resi 5 will know what to expect, it works in much the same way. The absence of a crosshair is noticeable though. Using just a laser sight to line up shots can be tricky, especially when you have a legion of enemies rushing you and you can’t move when aiming. Even more frustrating is when an enemy pulls out a cheap one hit kill attack whilst you’re reloading. Playing it does feel a little clunky and dated, although I do have a friend who said he likes this feature, so maybe it’s just personal opinion.

The Wii version on the other hand worked great. The responsive motion controls made aiming much easier, and I was pulling off headshots within a few seconds. It may take people a while to get used to this aiming method, especially if you’ve never played a Resi game before.

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All in all, I would consider Resi 4 on the PS4 a worthwhile purchase. There’s plenty of replayability to had in upgrading all your weapons, unlocking different outfits for Leon and Ashley, and even when you’ve finished all that, it’s still a fun game to play. Give yourself a while to get accustomed to the controls if you’ve never played a Resi game before, as it will be very different than your standard 3rd person shooter. But at the end of the day, Resi 4 isn’t your standard 3rd person shooter! It cleverly blends action and horror, with interesting characters, tongue in cheek humour and some amazing creatures and bosses to create – in my opinion – the best Resident Evil game yet.

…That was this week’s VuePoint!!! Check back tomorrow for another BearSleuth Week Geek Out!!!

OpinionatedDavid: Has Adblock Plus Crossed A Line?

We seem to have something of a theme rotation developing on these columns don’t we? I swear it’s not intentional, but the topics that rear their heads for me to cover seem to go in couplets. We had twin entries about DC getting pie on their face; followed by two weeks of uncomfortable conversations about the nature of free expression;, and now, we’re in our second week of advertising related nonsense online. Any bets about what’s coming next? Reboots? New console hardware? Maybe a double-bill of gushing over Disney announcing a live-action Gargoyles movie?

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Shut up! It could happen, you don’t know!

Time for me to get to the point. Adblock Plus, sellers of the leading browser extension of the same name (the function of which should be self-explanatory) have recently announced a new feature of their service known as the “Acceptable Ads Platform”. In partnership with Google, among others, this platform will allow certain advertisers that meet Adblock’s standards of acceptability to buy their way through the filters of the software, meaning those ads will be seen by end users ever when they have Adblock turned on. Adblock Plus then gets a tidy cut of the revenue from said ads, naturally, with the rest going to the advertisers, with a further division of that sum presumably, at some point (it’s really not very clear) finding their way to creators who host ads on their content as a way of making a living. If that all smells a little funny to you, then it might be because a similar business model in the outside world might be called a protection racket.

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So yes, after years of building a brand on shutting advertisers out of the loop and denying creators revenue, Adblock has decided ads are a-ok by their user base after all… so long as they decide they like you… and so long as you pay up. As you can imagine, this news has not gone down so well with everyone, particularly with content creators who had a dim view of Adblock to begin with. In their view, Adblock Plus has spent years enabling consumers of their content to consume without any money getting back to the person who worked to create it (as well as nurturing what some of them see as a consumer culture that inherently doesn’t value their work and feels entitled to everything for free), and is now proposing to make even more money by cutting in to the creator’s share of what ads are allowed to get through. While we’ll be getting into how I don’t necessarily agree with all of that, I have to admit that if I were them (which I may well be before too long) I’d be pissed off too.

Adblock, for their part, have been quick to marshal a defence against the backlash. Their line is that they’re not just trying to make money off ads, they’re trying to improve them. They site market research that claims only 25% of their user base wouldn’t tolerate any ads on the pages and video’s they view, and that by filtering through ads that meet their standards of legitimacy and unobtrusiveness, they will be allowing the ad-supported model to carry on while still delivering a quality end user experience.

Now, once I’m finished washing the marketing spiel out of my mouth, it would be remiss of me not to concede that they may have a point…

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To uncomfortably confess, I am an Adblock Plus user. I took me a long time to throw in the towel and install the browser extension, but ever since I have I can barely conceive of going back under any circumstances (a testament to just what a difference their filter makes to the end user). The reason I was originally reluctant to jump on board was primarily a huge technophobic streak, if we’re telling the truth, but there was a point of principle in their somewhere too. I cannot agree with the sentiment that using blockers is ‘stealing’ from creators. It’s not. It objectively isn’t. For one thing, ads or no ads, the experience for the end user is free to begin with. You can’t steal something that you weren’t paying for in the first place. However, it does still feel kind of morally grey in its own right. I wanted to see creators who I valued getting paid for honest work, so I stuck it out… until I didn’t anymore.

The more conscientious of creators will publicly admit that ads are can be terrible. Not ‘inconvenient’, not ‘irritating’, a terrible, ruinous experience for the end user. I caved to Adblock the moment I realised I was starting not to enjoy anything I was trying to watch or read anymore, as the advertising grew more and more intrusive and skeevy. If nothing else, a lot of users have come to see blockers as the most effective security measure their browser has. I may have felt guilty doing it, but neither can I say I regret it. At the end of the day, the consumer has a responsibility to get the best possible deal for the consumer, and nobody else. You can’t blame people for acting in their own best interests, and as a consumer, Adblock Plus has been a Godsend to me. That does not mean, however, that I am against adverts wholesale. So long as they stay at the margins where I can easily ignore or skip them when I choose to, I can tolerate their presence, which is the kind of vision Adblock Plus claims to be offering.

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Of course, that’s the theory. I may have said something last week about corporate entities not having a native moral compass of their own, and Adblock Plus is most certainly one of those. I have a hard time just taking their word for it that they will choose what ads they let through with care based on what I want (or rather don’t want) to see. They are out to make as much money as they can, and I have little doubt the ad space beyond their filters will be sold to no more or less than the highest bidder. The only thing that will keep that philosophy in check will be the tolerance of the end-users not to switch to different software if the ads start annoying them.

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I could end the article here, just giving Adblock Plus the middle finger, but in all honesty, I don’t see them as an outright villain here. Oh, I’m sure they don’t care that they make a living screwing other people out of theirs, but hey, welcome to the Free Market. In the end, their service wouldn’t be popular if end users didn’t hate ads; and as I’ve already covered, I can’t blame users for hating ads either. I don’t even blame the advertisers (not the legitimate ones anyway). They’re also just filling a gap in the market. So, does that just leave the content creators at fault for taking the money of underhanded advertisers? Of course not. Besides, it’s a fair assessment that the reason ads got steadily worse and worse over the years, was that the rise of blockers made the advertisers more desperate for our attention, and creators more desperate for money as their content became less profitable, driving them into the arms of advertisers with fewer moral scruples.

It’s the system that’s the real villain. The ad-supported revenue model stinks. It’s always stunk since long before the advent of the internet, and it brings the worst out of everyone involved. In my view, creators need to explore whatever other avenues are possible to free themselves of advertiser money, and consumers who value their work need to support them in that endeavour if they truly want to see the back of shitty ads, as it’s clear now that even ad-blockers aren’t immune to the temptation of ad-money. Paid subscription and merchandising models have been around for a long time, and user-donation models such as Patreon are on the rise. Despite the laws of self-interest, it seems consumers when given the option to decide for themselves what content is worth, actually do want to see creators get a fair deal. I know I do, and whenever I’m able to make up for my use of Adblock Plus by paying out of my own pocket for the things I like, I do so. I think it will be for the mutual benefit of both creators and consumers going forward for this trend to continue. Not so much for the advertisers or the ad-blockers, but hey, we’re all just looking after our own interests.

So long as there exists something in the world to be sold, advertising is probably never going to die, but I for one wouldn’t mind seeing its influence diminished as much as possible in the future.

…That was this week’s OpinionatedDavid!!! Check back tomorrow for a new VuePoint!!!