Injustice 2: And with TMNT that makes 38

 

In a bitter sweet moment, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have finally dropped into Injustice 2 capping off what was a pretty exciting run of speculation. No one saw the TMNT coming and as weird as their presence is in a dystopian future with a sad-brains Superman, it’s really fucking awesome to see them at work.

We’ve made no secret around here we like Netherrealm Studios’s Injustice 2. Like a lot. In fact, I have a lot of love for the semi-local product for quite a long time, fondly having played little league across what was once the old Midway office while schooling bitches in Mortal Kombat. Because of course we’re diligent people here at High Kick and were following each DLC’s release (with a small lapse, yes), we couldn’t let this momentous occasion pass by.

The TMNT crew is a bit more complicated to work than most other characters, since your weapon of choice dedicates which turtle you play and half the team operates on their own set of rules. Melee fighters like Raphael and Michelangelo don’t have certain charging-forward moves that Leonardo and Donatello have, but they do have access to new combo inputs the others don’t.

Their use of the character ability is also impacted by which turtle you use: Donatello has access to specialized landmines, Michelangelo utilizes his skateboard to coast and launch it, Raphael uses a taunt move first to build up his character power (that you must input) but will grant him an auto-combo depending on how many taunts performed (limit of 5 stored), and Leonardo utilizes all the other three individually depending on button press (for example, character power button + a direction chooses which turtle will show, while just pressing the character button will spawn Donatello).

I can easily see the TMNT team wrecking havoc on unsuspecting newbs given how each turtle has their own little flavor to them that both makes them familiar but different enough. Because showing is always better than telling, I’ll let the video do the rest of the talking. Cowabunga dude! Come on don’t cringe on me, I had to say it once. AT LEAST ONCE.

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Fortnite: It’s a Safe Space

Here’s the thing: I want to like PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS. I want to understand my friends’s obsession with this game, but for the life of me I can’t. Running around an empty world for 10 minutes to be sniped by hackers or just in general isn’t too much fun in my book. It was suggested that maybe I just wasn’t attune to the game enough, that more time practicing would help me see how fun this is. Or better yet, squad-ing with them would make the game more fun. And in this somewhat true, rolling with three others friends will always be more fun than the lone pubby whose lunch for someone’s chicken dinner.

At first I dismissed Fortnite, like I’m sure a lot of PUBG players probably still do, as a poor man’s imitator. You fly into an island map, you parachute to a location of your choice and you stay alive as long as possible. All similar and core functions of PUBG. However Fortnite adds complication where PUBG is pure simplicity and I’m sure that’s where many fans stop.

To be fair I’m not one for competitive shooters. Perhaps now as an adult the last thing I  need is additional stress on top of managing life, and PUBG can be quite fucking stressful. PUBG’s lessons are slow and hard, and vary depending on which map the game tries to push (Miramar sucks, obvs). This is all to say, I felt like I was chasing a high that yet to come. It wasn’t even about the winning moreso it was just feeling like I was just doing something other than running and hiding.

It’s counter-intuitive to a PUBG player to consider creating a wooden wall as cover versus finding the nearest thing for cover. Or even more so counter intuitive to build towers to post up in. Fortnite encourages general creation over circle management: matches are meant to be quick and very messy.

There’s a very different feeling when shit goes down in PUBG:

As opposed to how it goes down in Fortnite:

It’s like talking apples and oranges. Yeah their both fruits but obviously the flavor here is a bit different. Also I have to acknowledge the Fortnite clip was solo while I had a partner in PUBG, but trust me the footage would’ve been more boring without.

To be clear I hate battle royales in general. Even if I find myself craving an occasional match it’s in the same sense that I’m disgusted with myself that I still eat McDonald’s; but drunk at 2a and yeah I’ll get 40 chicken nuggets and large fries, sure. Truth be told, any game can be a lot of fun with the right friends, but PUBG in particular is a tough one to enjoy when cheaters are plenty.

All I’m saying right now is give Fortnite a chance. Yes it’s free, yes it has microtransactions (perhaps less onerous than PUBG’s bullshit crates), and yes it’s visuals are very Team Fortress 2-esqe. It’s also stupid fun and a safe space for PUBG refugees.

At the Movies: Black Panther

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As usual I try to keep this spoiler free but I sometimes reference stuff so if you’re trying to keep your mind virginal until you see the movie, maybe stop now.

Up to this point in the MCU, global catastrophes have largely been concentrated to (or originate from) New York City. Sure, Doctor Strange took us locations like Nepal  and bizarre alternate dimensions, but ultimately the final showdown happened where? New York City. The Avengers even began their career defending what? New York City. Avengers 2 took us to Sokovia, but where did everything start?! That’s right. New York City. Black Panther represents our first genuine worldview into the MCU away from North America and the Avengers.

Black Panther’s fortunately continues the trend of better storytelling in MCU films, and represents a pleasant departure from the seemingly cookie-cutter nature of past MCU films. The movie doesn’t feel like another origin story instead focusing on a post-Civil War T’Challa coming to grips with his new position as king of Wakanda. What unfurls is plot that keeps things grounded to themes such as family and legacy in a very trippy, high-tech adventure.

Wakanda is an absolutely stunning location: an unfamiliar yet not totally alien mix of modern fashion with impossible future technology. It’s fun to see a world even Tony Stark (presumably) doesn’t know of, with technology that makes his inventions look like cheap crap.

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I came to really enjoy Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, a somewhat reluctant hero only in that he is comfortable pummeling people but is well aware fighting and leading a nation are two wholly different things. This makes T’Challa, in my eyes, the most compelling character the MCU has at the moment. Yes, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hulk are all symbolic heroes, but none have the literal ability to enact widespread change quite like T’Challa can, who is an actual leader.

Like the last few Marvel films, women have taken an increased role in the fun, especially this time around with the stunningly badass head general Okoye (Danai Gurira) and T’Challa’s at-times unavailable love interest Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). They aren’t the only ones kicking ass throughout the film, but they share a good portion of Black Panther’s 2hr 14min runtime in meaningful ways other than being given screen time to jack people up.

Ok, so some minor potential spoilers going forward.

I’m thankful Black Panther gave us a villain with actual reason other than insane global/galactic domination dreams. Erik Killmonger, despite what his name would imply, is a very sympathetic character. Orphaned at a young age and abandoned by the royal family he would come to learn of, Killmonger is driven by the knowledge he was literally thrown away to cover up a devastating secret for T’Challa’s father. Forced to be raised as an orphaned black boy on the streets of America, Killmonger became embittered and rage filled at the idea there is a place that could help disenfranchised blacks around the world but instead opts to live in secrecy with their technology. Admittedly at the same time, while I understood why Killmonger a total fuck boy, it felt a little too much especially when it came time to be taken serious as a regicidal usuper.

At the film’s core are two sons fighting for their fathers’s legacies: T’Challa seeking to be a great ruled like his father, while Killmonger wishes to proliferate vibranium weaponry worldwide to literally cause an armed uprising among blacks worldwide. T’Challa goes through the heroes journey of learning it was a mistake to want to follow in the past’s footsteps and must pay for its sins in the form of an overwhelmingly devastating Killmonger.

And because it’s the Internet, I’m sure there are some crocodile tears over the seemingly “racist” nature of Black Panther being a predominantly black-casted film. In no other uncertain terms, much of Black Panther is lifted by the cultural elements infused in nearly every pore of the film. This isn’t meant to be familiar, this is meant to show an extraordinary world within an already large, extraordinary world. By the end of the film (as much as I want to spoil it), it really feels like now that we know of Wakanda it’ll be hard to ignore how much it will definitely influence the MCU in years to come.

Without spoiling too much (more), my largest regret was how quickly Andy Serkis’ villain, Uysses Klaue (or better known in the MU as Klaw), came and went. Serkis easy captured the scenes he was in, even if sometimes it felt difficult to understand his maniacal gibbering. Regardless, he was gleefully evil presence in a movie filled with lots of gray space.

Black Panther is a legit fun movie and a breath of fresh air for a genre I feared was getting stale. While much of our good will shall eventually give way to the orgy that is Infinity War I and II, for now its exciting to see where Wakanda can take the MCU before the aliens start dropping from the skies again. We’ve been to outer space, to the edge of metaphysical reality, but we’ve yet to visit a place so culturally distinctive (and frankly as critical) as Wakanda.

Get Gud: A PUBG Beginner’s Story

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I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS both in Early Access and now in official release, and I still don’t know how to feel about it. I both feel this is the most obnoxious fucking game I’ve played to date and also one of the most intense, often switching off between the two intermittently.  Initially I wanted to write some kind of review, but then I quickly realized it was both a dumb and pointless. Instead, I thought it would be more constructive to document the early experience of the game in the eternal quest to “get gud” as I’m often told. Especially since there is inherent comedy in watching futile attempts to succeed.

There is a very specific sense of fragility to this game. The player knows there is no safety anywhere. No matter how much equipment you gather, how suped up your gun may be, how much bullet-proof padding or how many kills you’ve recently acquired there is always the lingering knowledge your (digital) life is forfeit at literally any moment. Lately, it seems, thanks to Chinese hackers. In many ways, PUBG is legitimately both the most obnoxious and the most frightening game I’ve played yet.

Ultimately words don’t do justice to prove how much I suck. So, I’ve distilled my early experiences with the game into a small video. I’m sorry in advance.

Canelo vs GGG slug to a draw, predictably no one happy

In fight sports there is a popular parlance: “Never let it go to the judges.” If you need an explanation as to why just ask Gennady “GGG” Golovkin after last night’s controversial draw ruling. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went the distance against Golovkin in a particularly brutal match of even skill. While Golden Boy Promotions really wanted you to believe this was going to be an all-out, ugly slug fest it was anything but one. Golovkin and Canelo each put the other to the test in a very skilled match-up.

Both have been accused of looking good on paper but a.) in Canelo’s case having yet to beat a great, still haunted by the specter of his 2013 loss to Mayweather and b.) Golovkin, while a certifiable wrecking ball, had yet to contend against “elite” fighters. In this case, the bout was to prove both their claims as elite, if there was ever any serious doubt.

The fight was ruled by judge Adalaide Byrd 118-110 Canelo,  Dave Moretti 115-113 Golovkin and Don Trella 114-114 for the split draw. Most under fire is Adalaide Byrd who is probably not having a great morning right now. Last night Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, went ringside afterward to try and address Byrd’s decision:

Unfortunately, Adalaide was a little wide. I’m not making any excuses. I think she’s an outstanding judge, and in any business, sometimes you have a bad day. She saw the fight differently [than the other judges]. It happens.

True we all have bad days. For example, I ripped my pants right down the middle bending down at work the other day (true story). Though to dismiss this as a bad day for Byrd does Golovkin and Canelo disservice, especially after the two gave no ground and took the fight 12 rounds. While Canelo played careful tactician throughout most of the fight, picking his shots and primarily acting on counter-offense, Golovkin had volume. The numbers don’t lie, Canelo slowed down and GGG simply did not.

To a certain extent the fight was very much a draw as neither man gave ground to the other. Canelo carefully chose his spots for counter-attack, but Golovkin was absolutely relentless with his jabs which proved too much for Canelo at times. Hard shots were thrown but both men knew the other had an iron chin. Canelo set a fast pace for Golovkin early on, but around the third/fourth round the tide began to change and Golovkin found his rhythm just stifling Canelo with his barrage of jabs.

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So went the majority of the fight, with Canelo finding enough gas within to push back against Golovkin, reminding him that he too hits fucking hard and Golovkin pushing Canelo back into the ropes with his barrage of hard jabs. Canelo for his credit faced Golovkin head-on nearly every time never having been knocked down once. He ultimately didn’t land or throw enough either. It did get a bit chippy though, with Canelo throwing a cheap shot and GGG immediately returning the favor.

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Oscar De La Hoya literally cannot wait for a rematch as he, of course, immediately demanded one. In all likelihood he’ll get what he wants, as it seems neither fighter was happy to let this be a split draw. Miguel Cotto wants his absolute final fight to be against last night’s winner but who knows how that’ll pan out now.

This was definitely the fight boxing desperately needed after this summer’s other spectacle, but not at all the ending it was hoping for. Hard to believe a rematch won’t loom next year, but in the interim, what do we do with my man Cotto? And will Adalaide Byrd find respite from being the rogue judge once again? Probably not.

Here are some choice moments from last night’s brutal bout.

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Replay – Cities: Skylines

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There’s no serious way I can make Cities: Skylines sound sexy and I’ve tried at least six different drafts of this. It lacks the explosive action of popular games like PlayerUnknown’sBattlegroundsOverwatch, or anything that involves murdering people. Cities: Skylines is the complete antithesis of games like that: it’s slow, very mellow and about procedural growth. I’d forgive you if this is where you started tuning out but if you can, bear with me.

It probably explains a lot I smoke a decent amount of weed before zoning out for the next four hours in what is surely a bizarre stupor to any bystanders. There is no decipherable action to let you know you’re doing right aside from numbers being green, happy sounding noises, no angry looking icons floating above buildings, and the bright green smiley face at the bottom of the HUD telling me I’m doing a-ok. That’s not to say there aren’t frustrating moments. After all, nothing like spending an hour trying to revive a city imploded by my own lack of foresight.

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Skylines is without argument the best SimCity-esque game on the market today, beating out even the originator itself, SimCity. Of which was deeply shamed back in 2013 so badly EA had to do a LOT of damage control and probably won’t be heard from ever again. The goal is very simple: develop your provided property into a growing town and supervisor its development and growth into a full-blown city. However actually doing this is another, as unlike in SimCity 4 (the last decent SimCity), it’s pretty possible to fail making a town from the very start.

This is a supremely menu driven game, and many of your questions you’ll come across during your time building cities will often be answered looking for data within the myriad of menus, though perhaps not so obviously. Skylines asks the player to think ahead in terms of how to proceed, because while not impossible, it’s hard and damaging to your city to try and re-build segments after they’ve already started growing independently.

Your endgame is to create as large as city as possible, anyway you want so long as it is financially sustainable. This means watching your budget, finding ways to squeeze just a little more money from your properties without pissing off your constituents, and giving your city time to develop organically by letting its simulations run a bit. You’ll want to throw stadiums around and grow as fast as possible, however too fast growth can also mean your artificial population bubble will burst hard when the weight of the city collapses upon itself because you didn’t let its population catch-up to your rapid growth.

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Unlike the aforementioned SimCity, the world of Skylines feels organic and alive. Your citizens, each and every one, can be selected, followed and studied. They are born, they grow, they work, they die. They also unfortunately move into cities at the exact same age, causing what’s known in the Cities: Skylines community as a “death wave” if you grow a huge chunk of your city at the same time. Good luck keeping your cemeteries open.

Perhaps the biggest complaint against Cities: Skylines is the developer’s tendency to create weak DLC and charge premium prices. I don’t have any of the paid-DLC installed (there are bits of free DLC that are quite a bit of fun), but I can say I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. It’s also hard for me to justify spending $12.99 USD to include natural disasters, a feature I find myself asking why the fuck would I pay so much for. Seems like something basic that should’ve been included from the onset.

You could spend $5.99 USD to supplement the free Match Day DLC (which gives you the ability to place a large-scale football stadium in your city) with four actual recreations of real football stadiums such as FC Barcelona, Chelsea, PSG, and Juventus. Again, you might’ve missed where I said this $5.99 DLC just has four stadiums. This is the type of crap I was talking about.

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Look, again, none of this sounds sexy, like, at all. Cities: Skylines is meant for a particular audience: one tired of random violence and into methodical, zen-like construction. I enjoy the steady grind of slowly letting a city build its economy up itself. There is a sense of peace and focus I’ve never quite experienced with other games. Sure, it’s easy to zone out but the game also calls for a measure of attention to make sure your growing city doesn’t decay from within so easily. There is no end, just the infinite potential of growth and seeing what kind of civil creator you are. Or at least until you misappropriate the city’s funds.

 

Entertainment, sports, and culture from a Chicago slant