teamroberto

Call of Duty Ghosts

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:// INTRO

I’ll admit it, I like playing Call of Duty. Not religiously as many people do, hell, I don’t even purchase them at launch, much less pre-order.

But for $5.99 at Goodwill, add on top a 50% discount because the tag on it is the color of the day?

Take my money!

:// PRODUCTION QUALITY

The game is a perfect example of “AAA quality” [a term I personally dislike]. The game has a ridiculous quality bar. It looks great and plays extremely tight. But to me, “AAA” does not mean “good”.

Now, I highly enjoyed it, most people won’t believe me, but I really enjoy the stories. Especially Modern Warfare [I have yet to beat ‘3 though]. Some people might consider this statement the same as “I only buy Playboy so I can read the articles”.

There are times when as a gamer, you just want to rush in and tear stuff up. Some people do this with MOBAs like DOTA 2 and League of Legends.

For me, it’s Call of Duty, I enjoy playing Zombie mode and Spec Ops with my buddies. But that’s the thing, I don’t purchase the titles every year or get the season pass so I can play the latest popular shooter. I stopped doing that after Gears of War 2, Gamestop will change you like that. Having worked for the big G you get over saturated with bad titles. Unfortunately, the market is crowded with First Person Shooters.

Playing COD for me is the equivalent of loading up Amazon Video and watching Indiana Jones 4, it will bring a smile to my face regardless of the popular or unpopular opinion.

Here is where Ghosts gets interesting, the story sees the whole of Latin America joining forces, calling themselves “The Federation”.

Predictably, they decide to invade the U.S. this setting is fresh because it shows you as part of an almost underdog side trying to fend off invaders in the shambles of the southern United States. Finally having taken enough, you decide to take the fight to them.

The characters are standard FPS tropes. You have the badass leader who thinks he is the Doom Marine incarnate, a mentor character who constantly tells you what to do because your character is mute. The new twist here is your canine companion Riley, he acts as a great resource which breaks up the gameplay.

:// FAVORITE MOMENTS

There are many set pieces which are very familiar to veterans of COD, the one which stands out the most for me is the underwater section. In it, you try to plant an explosive device on a Federation carrier. What makes this section interesting is you are fighting Federation forces as you try to avoid sharks as well, those guys do not discriminate.

The game starts [and somewhat ends] in space, these levels have the same feel as the underwater section. The first space level is memorable because it sets up the story, I did not expect it to go where it eventually did. The trailer probably gave up that set piece though, the second space level spices things up by having a dogfight amongst the debris of an exploded space station.

There is a very nice stealth level where you decide to sneak into the Federation’s headquarters and infect their main network, I really enjoy those types of missions, they remind me of my Rainbow Six: Vegas days.

The end game takes part during a full out invasion of a key Federation base. After globetrotting throughout the entire campaign it was nice to see that you actually had help. I can swear I heard an NPC yell “America!” as a caravan of tanks steamrolled over the base’s main gate.

The final mission takes part on a speeding train, this section was unique because since the game is set slightly in the future, we got to see what a cargo train could look like. I did mess up during the classic COD slow-mo mission ending sequence, had I managed to do it correctly on the first try, just like Modern Warfare, I would have jumped out of my seat.

There is no ax, there is no ax.

 

:// ENDING COMMENTS

Ghosts ends with the universe wide open for a sequel, hopefully, the do move forward with the Ghost subtitle. This could be a great opportunity to see the Ghosts slowly trying to come back from the brink of total defeat.

The game’s Extinction mode is a perfect add on and answer to Treyarch’s Zombie mode. I was surprised to see people online still playing on the Playstation 3.

Although, for some strange reason Extinction actually reset my PS3 [twice].

If I could convince my buddies to get the game on PS3 or Steam I would love to run through the entirety of Extinction, since the mode has 5 different chapters, the first being included on the disc. They also have Michael Myers and The Predator available for the multiplayer mode of Ghosts.

However, I did cringe when Infinity Ward said: “We have Michael Myers available for multiplayer, you don the mask, you have THE AX.”

Michael uses no ax.

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The Shallows

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I discovered The Shallows through three different sources, at first I had seen a couple of promising posts on the Blumhouse website. Each post made the movie feel stronger, sort of the excitement I had felt when I first heard about JAWS as a young lad.

Shark movies are a bit tricky, they sound simple to make, but take into consideration the biggest thing: The Shark.

If the project is low budget, then you are probably in for a badly rendered 3D shark. If that is the case, amping up the cheese factor is probably an excellent idea. Just like Sharknado. If that cheese is not of the best quality then you might probably end up with something like Sand Sharks.

My second and third source came about thanks to my buddy Drake. He recommended it thanks to a podcast he listened to religiously. Previously known as Killer POV, now re-launched as Shockwaves, both his glowing review and the high praise from Shockwaves were the final push I needed to check this movie out.

[Curiously enough, Drake got me hooked on both Killer POV and Shockwaves. Not to mention podcasts in general. That though is probably best for a separate post.]

:// PRODUCTION QUALITY

The movie’s premise is extremely simple: a young woman goes on a trip to Mexico [as it should be]. There she is introduced to a secluded beach which has the allure of having the best waves available for a surfing enthusiast.

After enjoying a day at the beach she unexpectedly gets hurt by a great white shark. She takes refuge on a small reef which is just far enough to make swimming to shore extremely risky, especially with her wound attracting the shark to her reef.

The Shallows drips with style, the photography taking center stage and being extremely beautiful. Filming a beach might seem unimpressive, however, the shallows has fantastic aerial shots which give a great sense of scope. It shows you just how isolated the main character is. Not to mention the beautiful color palette which the tropical setting gives us. The underwater shots are mesmerizing to look at.

The movie takes notes from House of Cards, showing technology throughout the movie. Although ‘cards does it better in my opinion by keeping the UI neutral, showing only text within a bubble. The Shallows shows a little more of the mobile environment, it is clean, but it might feel outdated within a few short years.

Originally, I had the idea about doing a short write up about my favorite characters. Although I came to the conclusion that doing so could spoil the kill count.

:// FAVORITE MOMENTS

The shark foreshadowing has to be my favorite part of the movie. There is an enormous sense of dread throughout the movie.

At first, I came in excited: “A shark move, this is gonna be great! Here we go baby!”

As things started escalating, the dread became unbearable. Every second became extremely tense, just like watching the USA play in the World Cup.

[USA! USA!]

D R E A D

 

Once the filmmakers let the shark off the chain the movie becomes one hell of a roller coaster ride. The dread does not let up, it only intensifies with each sequence.

I saw this on Blu-Ray, it is available on VOD, but I highly recommend seeing this on ‘blu. Actually, I recommend watching all movies on ‘blu.

Of course, if this is not an option VOD is absolutely fine, but if ‘blu is available to you please do it.

You’ll love the photography in this movie.

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American Horror Story Hotel

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I have been a fan of horror for a few decades now, like many others, I thoroughly enjoy a good scare or two.

It’s been a while since TV had a horror show on the air, especially an adult-oriented horror show. I remember seeing the ad campaign for the first season. It predominantly featured a red colored room and a woman, who was reaching out towards the ceiling where a bondage covered figure hung from.

I have followed the entire series since that first season, a horror anthology show fits extremely well with today’s fast paced environment. A new theme and time period every season along with recurring actors taking different character roles is extremely creative.

Curiously enough the show is extremely pervy, sex has always the main element of the series. There have been a few seasons where the sexy time seemed to be a bit much and even out of place, however, with Hotel it fit perfectly.

The season takes place at the Hotel Cortez in LA, you see the events unfold through various characters and decades. Both Hotel and Coven featured a heavy theme of glamor, between both Hotel takes the level of glamor above and beyond compared to Coven.

Why? Hollywood baby!

Hollywood as in “glitz and glamor”.

:// SETTING

The Cortez is a character in itself, it features beautiful Art Deco design and intricate geometric patterns which compliment each other from every camera angle. Each room and hallway within the Cortez seem to tell a story which breaths, even more, history into the building.

Ever scene set within the Hotel is framed to perfection, usually from a top down or bottom up perspective. As if the building itself was constantly watching every character, very reminiscent of a stalker’s point of view.

:// STYLE

The show gravitates from three different styles, both visually and story driven. The Hotel is extremely glamorous, the outside world seems almost void of landmarks, making it very relatable to everyone. The third style which follows a detective who is chasing the “Ten Commandments” killer features extreme jump cuts which are very reminiscent of David Fincher’s Seven.

:// STORY

The main story unfolds in the present day, with flashbacks set during every decade from the 1920s onward. Each character seems to suffer from the need to be important throughout their lives. They all long for love, either from family or by having a significant other.

Their obsession for perfection is the greatest weakness, something which the Hotel seems to feed off from.

:// CHARACTERS

It was interesting to see the season through the eyes of an obsessed Detective and a Vampire. The Detective’s world seems to slowly implode on itself, with each relapse from his specific behavior becoming more claustrophobic with each meltdown.

The Vampire’s world was glamorous and highly flashy and fashionable. It hit all of the stereotypes associated with fame and fortune.

Curiously enough my favorite character was neither of these two. It was the Hotel receptionist and bartender who made a fantastic duo. The receptionist was a mother longing for the love of her son, and the bartender was a bald man who dressed like a woman, appropriately named “Liz Taylor”.

:// MOMENTS

Every scene which featured Liz was fantastic, some were too short, making me want to see more of her. The show had featured music tracks before, thanks to the setting of this season each track featured was perfect for the character and scenes where they were featured.

So much so that Depeche Mode’s “I just can’t get enough” resonated on so many levels for the brief scene where it was featured.

The original score was just as powerful as the licensed tracks which were featured throughout this season.

Hollywood baby

:// OUTRO

American Horror Story usually receives mixed reviews from viewers, which is totally fine. With each new theme every season, I am compelled to keep watching just to see where the show goes.

I am also excited to see what roles the recurring actors will take. Plus, the fact that some characters from previous seasons can make an appearance is always exciting.

There is only one question I have for the American Horror Story showrunners:

When are we going to see the Aliens from Asylum again?

😀

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Dino Crisis

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Shamefully, Dino Crisis is one of the many titles which I have started but had never completed before. I would load up the game and say “alright baby, this is it”. I would jump from PlayStation to Dreamcast, hell I even have it purchased on the PlayStation 3.

It took me loading it up on the PlayStation Portable to finally be able to beat this title.

Being a fan of Resident Evil, I have played everything that Sensei Shinji Mikami has directed.

I remember the first time I stumbled upon this title, I had read the article and drooled over each screenshot. The magazine was ATOMIX, “the first video game magazine in Mexico”. The magazine was basically Mexico’s version of Electronic Gaming Monthly, today it has basically evolved into Mexico’s version of IGN.

Anyway, “Resident Evil meets Jurassic Park”, I was hooked.

:// PRODUCTION QUALITY

Hailing from an era where CAPCOM produced hit after hit, DC felt extremely familiar yet eerily different. The game felt a bit more fluid than Resident Evil 1 through 3. Back then I could not put my finger on it. All of Resident Evil’s classic tropes were there:

 

Abandoned Environment? Check.
Your team goes in to investigate then quickly gets split up? Check.
A lack of ammunition? Check.
We are stuck in this impossible situation with unknown creatures trying to kill us? Double check.

 

This is something which had always stuck with me since my very first playthrough. That answer would not evade me though.

Five years in college and [approximately] 100 thousand dollars later I had my answer:

3D Environments. Not Pre-Rendered 3D Environments. Actual 3D Environments.

You actually moved within 3D space in Dino Crisis, not though beautifully rendered images which looked like they took months to render out [back in 1999].

Here is where DC’s bread and butter really shine through. You actually have to really explore the Environment in order to progress and grip the story. In Resident Evil, you also explore, except there you basically have training wheels on. All objects of interest shine within the static Environments thus activating your call to action.

In DC you can walk into a server room where every computer screen is on, thus making you check every single one in order to find the one terminal which you actually need. There was also a main puzzle which basically lasted throughout the entire campaign: You had to scan dead scientists fingerprints in order to upgrade your access card for specific areas throughout the campaign.

I felt like Batman.

:// EXPERIENCE

As is in classic CAPCOM fashion, you arrive at an abandoned facility and thus begins your adventure. This facility might actually be my favorite within CAPCOM’s titles. The layout is extremely robust and just as you think you have the layout memorized there are different paths you can take in order to proceed.

Each path has its risks and rewards, adding to this is the use of “lazer gates” which can make any specific route faster to traverse and [possibly] put you at greater risk.

Not having a final underground laboratory in a CAPCOM [survival] game would be the equivalent of being Mexican and hating Tacos. Simply unacceptable.

This has also got to be in my top two favorite labs, along with the final lab in Resident Evil 2. Once you arrive you get the feeling that all you have to do is find the exit. Well, it turns out that there are multiple puzzles which will guide you to the next area of the lab.

Full 3D on the PS1 is actually pretty creepy.

 

:// OUTRO

There are multiple endings in Dino Crisis, from what I have gathered, I obtained the second ending. I escaped through a waterway having the T-Rex following me through the escape tunnel. It appears that the real ending is actually the third [secret] ending. In that ending, you escape and the entire facility is swallowed by the third energy explosion thus taking the facility back to the prehistoric era.

I have been a fan of Shinji Mikami’s work since first playing Resident Evil. This was one of his titles which had escaped me all of these years [hell, I even played Alladin on the SNES].

I am excited to see that he has established his own studio, helping future game directors find their way into telling their own stories.

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T2 [BCC Project] vs TEAMROBERTO

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The BCC Project is a Mobile App which helps Service Members in their efforts to change any specific behavior. One of my first tasks was to develop the look and design aesthetic for the project. My duties on this project included: Visual design, color palette, background design, reward design, personas and context scenarios.

:// PRODUCTION

The first step? Firing up my Pinterest boards to gather design inspiration and present it to the team.

++ Mood Boards ++

After the mood boards, I developed the personas and context scenarios in order to have a vision of the functionality for the app.

++ Personas ++

++ Context Scenarios ++

Once the design language was settled on, we decided to update the name for the App since “BCC” seems vague. Seven words made the final cut from a proposed roster of 50 plus names. I presented the top seven names along with Font possibilities to the team.

++ Font & Name Roster ++

After the final name was chosen we decided to select the color palette for the App. Using the Transtheoretical Model for change we decided to have each stage represented by a specific color which helps inspire change throughout that specific stage within the program.

++ BCC Color Scheme ++

++ BCC App Background ++

I was then tasked with creating a background for the App with these rules in mind:

  • An Environment which inspired the user’s journey from beginning to end.
  • Having a gradient which symbolized each stage within the change process.
  • Make it a perspective point of view.

Roberto: What you need fam?

T2: We need a background for the App. Make it look awesome.

Roberto: Say no more.

 

++ Background sketches ++

Once the design language and color palette were in place, I created a mobile theme example for project management.

++ BCC Theme Examples ++

We also developed badges which users would be rewarded as they made their way through the App.

++ BCC Badge Development ++

++ Badge Sketches ++

This project would have never been possible without the help of the fantastic Design Collective. I was fortunate to pick these fantastic creatives’ brains as I developed each deliverable for this project.

++ Design Collective ++

Art Director Robb Sanchez provided guidance as I stumbled through the darkness of development.

Coach Carter and Coach Pouleson discussing UI/UX world domination.

Coach Rios provided invaluable help when it came to the development of Personas and Context Scenarios.

Coach Roff provided his Adobe Creative Cloud wizardry during the visual design process.

Coach Carter looking into the future.

— All Design Collective photographs were taken by the talented Olivera Teodorovic. —

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Suicide Squad

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For some time now, a lot of comic book fans have been excited to see what DC Comics would do to battle Marvel’s Supremacy in theaters.

You don’t have to be a fan of either to enjoy a good Marvel vs DC online story.

Having followed both for a few years now, I could see somewhat of a pattern among each house. Marvel had the foresight to create a connected cinematic universe starting with the release of Iron Man. Curiously enough there are a lot of folks out there that do not realize that Marvel does not hold the movie rights to X-MEN, The Fantastic Four and Spiderman. Although the Spiderman deal was finally worked out which lead to reshoots in order to have him featured in Captain America: Civil War.

As clever as Marvel’s approach has been DC does not have the luxury to build up their cinematic universe with features which will eventually lead to a team up. They have to strike while the iron is hot, they have to strike fast and hard.

In order to do this, they have bypassed Christopher Nowlan’s Dark Knight Trilogy [a smart move if you ask me]. Plus they breathed some new life into Superman after the bomb that was Superman Returns and the family friendly Smallville TV show.

Enter Zack Snyder, you can look at his filmography and agree on one thing: he is an excellent visual director. My highlights from his reel would have to be the Dawn of the Dead remake, Watchmen and 300.

[Shamefully I have yet to watch Sucker Punch]

Bringing Suicide Squad into the DC cinematic universe reminds me of Marvel’s announcement of Guardians of the Galaxy. Both are interesting teams with a lot of potential, deciding to bring in the ‘Squad also immediately leads into the opportunity to bring in Harley Quinn, thus bringing in The Joker and Batman.

The issue here is that some of them are actually honored by having a character bio intro. The first trailer brought in much excitement, unfortunately like so many movies within the last couple of years you get the [majority] of the movie spoiled for you.

I was extremely surprised to see Will Smith actually take a comic book character role. Don’t get me wrong he’s a great actor, but passing on The Matrix in order to do Wild Wild West is still a nasty stain on his resume. That plus the fact that he has done a Bad Boys sequel but decided not to do Independence Day Resurgence is also a big question mark.

There was a lot of speculation if any characters would die in the movie, this is answered immediately by watching the first trailer and paying attention to which characters get their flashy intro and backstory during the main feature.

The story did have some interesting moments due to some members of the ‘Squad. I’ll just come out and say it: Amanda Waller is the biggest, baddest character I have seen yet in a comic book feature. A stone cold killer.

Harley was excellently cast, the one main thing which seemed to linger throughout the movie were the sudden cuts in editing. Now jump cuts work really well in movies, especially Horror and Action. In ‘Squad the cuts seemed as if they were done in order to “fix” a weak scene.

The movie suffered from trying to do too much in so little time. It’s a fantastic Popcorn Movie, but it’s hard not to notice that there was likely studio interference.

Comparing it to ‘Guardians which dripped James Gunn’s style [hell he made Slither] ‘Squad seemed as if Warner Brothers was too scared to let David Ayer’s freak flag fly. I mean the man wrote Training Day. TRAINING DAY. Plus he’s from Illinois

 

Training Day baby, Training Day

 

Overall the movie had extremely high production value created by the VFX wizards at Buddha Jones, Mammal, Sony Imageworks and MPC.

The style guide featured a nice mixture of graffiti culture and what I assume a rave would look like after taking some LSD.

I don’t like ruining stories but there is an element which resonates Resident Evil 6.

I heard this movie described to me as a trash can fire, I can now disagree, all comic book movies are entertaining. If you’re looking for a good time which will highly entertain you then grab a seat.

I am excited to see the direction in which DC is heading with their properties. For better or worse, we are lucky to be getting nerd culture in popular entertainment.

It’s funny how popular culture had determined decades ago that comic books and video games were not “cool”.

It’s ironic seeing people with a Decepticon and Autobot sticker on their vehicles, especially when they can only name Optimus Prime and Megatron.

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