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Matrix 4 Updates May 2020

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Matrix 4 Updates May 2020

A lot of these updates are the same ones that I posted back in March, but now you get to see my thoughts and reactions in video format! Like what happened to Neo, why does he look that way? And who were those people suspended in mid-air between the skyscrapers, and what does it mean if they were who I thought they were?

Coronavirus News Included

Present in this video that was lacking back in March are the COVID-19 production updates that hadn’t happened yet back in March. On March 16th they announced production for Matrix 4 would be delayed, and then luckily on May 13th just a couple weeks ago they announced that they would start buck up again by early July at the latest in Berlin, Germany. Over on the NeoMatrixology channel, Lazarus has reported what such a reopening may look like here.

Lana Wachowski directing the action herself

A final additional update is that we learned that Lana Wachowski will be directing the action herself, as reported in this article. This is great news, because it will ensure that the action scenes for Matrix 4 are as impressive as they were for the original trilogy.

What did you think about 2020’s Matrix 4 news? What do you think we have in store, and do you think COVID-19 will force an additional delay in the production of Matrix 4? Will the release date be pushed back past May 21st, 2021? Let me know in the comments below!

Review: Minority Report

Minority report poster

Minority Report: Classic Sci-Fi Cyberpunk from 2002

There’s a good chance you probably remember Minority Report, the classic Sci-Fi flick from 2002 directed by Stephen Spielberg. Perhaps all you remember is the cool futuristic hand-interface he used, or the eyeball scenes (you know which ones). If you’ve never seen this film, you should really check it out, as it was very influential, popular, and definitely fits comfortably in the Cyberpunk category. And coming from no surprise, it’s one of many films that was inspired from a short story by Philip K Dick.

The movie itself was optioned after total recall, and is one of the few from Steven Spielberg in the Cyberpunk category, who most recently did Ready Player One — which was also an adaptation from a literary story.

The Story

Birthday woes for partyboy Colin Farrell on Minority Report

In the year 2054, crime has been virtually eliminated through the creation of Pre-Crime, a law enforcement squad that prevents crimes before they happen. In order to operate, they rely on three gifted humans called “Pre-cogs” who have visions of future events that will occur. John Anderton (Tom Cruise) leads the team and believes in it completely, until one day the Pre-Cogs predict him of killing a man he has never even heard of before. Thus he goes on the run to escape the rest of his team while at the same time unraveling who was predicted of killing, and why. Tom Cruise as John Anderton gives an exciting, excellent performance, alongside an ambitious rising officer Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), Max Von Sydow as the Pre-Crime director, and Samantha Morton as the main Pre-Cog.

A Dark Cyberpunk Visual Style–for the most part

It’s well known that Cyberpunk has its visual roots in film noir. Which is why it’s easy to recognize in this film, which uses deliberately overlit scenes, desaturated colors, and a negative that was bleach-bypassed in post-production.

“I had John Huston in my ear,” [Spielberg] explained later in an interview. “I went back and looked at The Maltese Falcon and Hawks’ The Big Sleep—to see how some of those film noir mysteries were resolved. They didn’t dot every i and cross every t. They tried to keep you off-balance. They asked more questions than they could answer in those days.”

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In the first 20 minutes we have drugs, a dealer with no eyes, giant billboards spewing propaganda along rainy pavements and city streets at night, and an introduction of how the 3 precogs allow for pre-crime and how it works (predicting a victim and perpetrator, and a young newcomer just arriving to see how it works) as a man is stopped from killing his wife and her lover.

MINORITY REPORT (2002) - The Arrest of Howard Marks - YouTube

Free Will vs. Determinism

This is interesting in comparison to the Short story, which is a lot cleaner and more elegant. The ending result will be more elegant for the short story as well, focusing more on politics and power than on what happens, whereas the film focuses more on the free will vs. determinism and action elements, as well as the film noir mystery being solved (where is my minority report? asks a desperate John Anderton). The question of this paradigm is in the foreground throughout the film, especially in its climactic conclusion.

Futuristic, yet Realistic, Technology

Minority Report pour de vrai : cette IA peut prédire vos actions ...

Just remember Tom Cruise did it first.

Iron man - Jarvis Holotable - YouTube

Also, the idea of moving around visual images from a recording using a hand or a glove was completely novel when this film came out in 2002. Robert Downey Jr. has perhaps since popularized it with his marvel character Tony Stark in Iron man, but that movie came out a full six years later, in 2008. Minority report would prove to be truly visionary and predictive of the future to come (with technology nowadays such as VR and Google Glass).

https://www.zdnet.fr/i/edit/ne/2019/09/hololens28620.jpg

Microsoft’s Holo Lens

Other futuristic technology includes animations and audio on the cereal box (you can see the hilarious scene of which below), and back-lit glass screens for computers. There are also holograms in Anderton’s room.

This was no coincidence, as Spielberg invited 15 experts from various fields of science and culture to participate in a three-day “think tank” to try to imagine and predict a possible future society. This is how we got the Pre-Crime user interface mentioned above, self-updating newspapers, personalized billboards, and the mag-lev transportation system.

Automated Cars From Minority Report GIF | Gfycat

The highways going vertical and horizontal, sloping along buildings, with slim cars like covered motorbikes without steering wheels was incredibly interesting to see back in 2002.

Ads being created by eye scans is definitely something that would be possible in the future.

Minority report future tom cruise GIF on GIFER - by Thetadar

Also police using jetpacks was one of the first times I saw such things in a movie set in the near future.

“I wanted all the toys to come true someday”–Steven Spielberg

A final note on the technology were the creepy “Spyders”, autonomous robots used as ways to identify humans in buildings. They entered apartments in entire apartment buildings, and no matter what the residents were doing–like a mother with her children, an old married couple fighting, a young couple having sex–all were alarmed, then allowed themselves to be scanned, before continuing on with their business as usual–as if they were quite used to the whole process.

Minority Report 15 Years Later

A Familiar Soundtrack Style–from John Williams

The Soundtrack was done by John Williams and feels as such. Close your eyes at times and it could be mistaken for scenes in an Imperial Star Destroyer, or duel of the fates. I think it’s due to his heavy use of violins and horns. When John finds out he’s supposed to be the one to kill, and then climbs on his own car, again I have visions of Anakin Skywalker doing the same in Revenge of the sith with the elevator. John Williams’ music is so familiar!

Déjà-Vu

The idea of an echo, a pre-cog déjà vu, was something novel in the movie that was not in the short story. However, déjà-vu and questioning reality is of course something Philip K Dick would have liked all too well.

A Subsequent TV Series (that was cancelled)

Minority Report : le futur s'affiche sur petit écran | Geekzone.fr

The movie also resulted in a TV series that was cut from 13 to 10 episodes and then cancelled due to poor ratings.

Final Thoughts

Minority Report is a fun, exciting film that combines elements of thrilling film noir with a fast pace set in a fascinating realistic future while also making the viewer think. It doesn’t hit you over the head with existential questions the way others like the Matrix might, and while heavy on action, it also gives the film time to breathe. Also, like many of Spielberg’s films, it has a secondary focus on broken families. This film, although Cyberpunk in its seemingly utopian society, is lighter on the typical cyberpunk aesthetics and while it has somewhat futuristic technology, there is no biopunk, robots, augments, or any other transhumanism elements (other than a black market eye transplantation). There’s also no virtual or AI elements either, although there are some drug addiction elements present. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent film, one that’s withstanding the ages, and a welcome addition to the Cyberpunk Genre.

What makes Minority Report so good isn’t the fact it managed to successfully predict several aspects of the future, or that it offered some revolutionizing insight into the ever-going philosophical debate of free will versus predetermination, or that it features great performances from not only Cruise but also Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow and Samantha Morton. This film is great because it delivers a thrilling spectacle that’s at the same time both brains and brawns. As Ebert noted in his original review, Minority Report is a film that works on our minds and our emotions made by a “master filmmaker at the top of his form.”–Sven Mikulec, Cinephilia & Beyond

Final Verdict: 8/10

 

Review: Hyper Jam

Hyper Jam

Hyper Jam: Neon-Soaked Arcade Fun

“Hyper Jam is what happens if you paint a Neon Synthwave sheen over Super Smash Brothers. With fast-paced, high-intensity action and constantly spawning items that can be thrown, its levels include punishing consequences if you step out of the arena.”–Cyberpunk Matrix

Hyper Jam is a neon-soaked indie arcade brawler that came out for PC, XBox and Playstation in February 2019. With its new release on Nintendo Switch, I’m going to take a look at what makes this game the must-have for cyberpunk parties everywhere.

Beautiful Neon Colors and Retro Vibes

The first thing that you notice when you start up this game is the beautiful aesthetic in lovingly-rendered 80’s neon colors. From the characters to the maps to the perk selections and menus, everything is delivered in a simple, yet pretty package.

07-Characters-Key-Art

A Killer Synthwave Soundtrack

The second thing you notice is the stellar Synthwave soundtrack that matches the game’s aesthetic perfectly. This is also one of the major things that immediately drew me to the game after seeing the trailer below.

The trailer immediately hits you with Paradise Warfare, one of my favorite tracks by Carpenter Brut, also an all-time favorite Cyberpunk and Synthwave artist. Once you buy and load up the game, however, the song you’ll probably most associate with the game is the one that plays automatically in the home menu screen, which is Dressed to Kill by Dance with the Dead–another excellent synthwave artist, and decidedly more fast-paced and upbeat a tune to get you psyched up to get right back into the fray. Other synthwave artists whose tracks you’ll encounter in the game include Meteor, Vulta, and more.

Making a Profile and Choosing your Character

09-CharacterSelection 

Before playing, it’s advisable to create a profile for yourself before choosing your default character to play as. This was a mistake I made at the beginning, as I wanted to jump right into the action without creating my profile. What the game doesn’t tell you is that after you create your game profile, you then have access to selecting your preferred skins, taunts, and you can also access the key bindings menu from here too–all options that are completely hidden if you don’t create your profile and nickname first.

Your 4 character choices are: Max (The Hunter), Ghost (The Nightmare), Yuki (The Lantern), and Vance (the Fixer). The only differences between these four are what they look like and the taunts they have, which vary in what they say and their voices of course. Taunts are unlocked progressively as you play more, and are a fun way to celebrate defeating an opponent at the end of each round.

Maps

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There are five maps to choose from in Hyper Jam. All are beautiful maps and good fun, my only complaint here is simply that there aren’t more of them! Also, while it’s possible to choose a randomly selected map, once your map is selected it remains the same for the entire game. I would have liked to have a randomly-selected map for each round, making the game play even more varied. The six maps you can choose from are Overpass, Jungle, Assembly, Subway, Hotel, and Tower

Fast-Paced Combat

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The biggest draw to this game is the tight, fast-paced combat game play. It feels very reminiscent to the feeling you get when playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl, as you have to always be moving, and an attack can come at any moment. As you play weapons appear on the screen at random, which you can pick up and use. They are either in the form of melee (Katana, Sledgehammer) or long-range weapons (bow and arrow, grenade launcher, missile launcher), with the melee weapons breaking after using it four or five times, and long range weapons running out of ammo after four or five rounds as well, depending on the weapon. Weapons can also be thrown for a small amount of damage and to knock players back, which really adds a more frenetic experience as players dash to new appearing weapons, realize the ones they have broke or ran out of ammo, or run away from opponents with empty hands in the incredibly small arenas. See the resemblances?

Striking Beyond the Grave

05-Subway-1

One very cool feature that’s different from Brawl is that you can strike beyond the grave to avenge your death, kill the player currently in the lead, or simply intimidate the players who are still fighting. After you die, your cursor becomes a faint cursor for about 5 seconds before it slowly changes into a square targeting reticle. Position your reticle above an opponent and fire–there’s a 2-second delay, but if they don’t get out of the way in time because they’re busy, you’ll be awarded with a satisfying blow of additional damage that can sometimes take them out entirely.

Countdown Killing Circle

10-Subway-Sudden-Death

A second cool feature is that if the battle is taking too long, Sudden Death will be announced and a circle will appear in the arena, with the area inside the circle remaining normal but the area outside the circle turned red as it becomes a damage-dealing kill-zone. This circle then slowly shrinks, forcing the combatants closer and closer together if they want to avoid taking any additional damage. It also makes for risky choices as a player may be tempted to venture into the killing circle to grab a weapon lying on the ground that is just out of reach.

Perk Progression and Drafting System

02-PerkSelection

The combatants fight each other in successive rounds, gaining points for things like being the last man standing or for dealing damage, and losing points for things like falling off the map, not dealing damage, or killing themselves by accident (yes, it’s possible). Once a player reaches a certain threshold of points, they just need to survive as the last man standing for one final round and then they win the game.

In order to spice up the game, after each round a certain number of perks become available to add to the combatants. The twist is that whoever has the lowest points and is last in the game gets first choice in which perks they want. Perks overall are fairly balanced, however, and usually there isn’t a clear choice of which perk is better. Perks do stack, however, and so a three-stack perk for one player might be better than a new 1st level perk.

History

The team behind Hyper Jam had worked in different Melbourne-based game studios while they developed Hyper Jam’s core mechanics and identity in their spare time. After they attended GDC 2017, they were inspired to leave their respective game studios and found Bit Dragon, where they began work on Hyper Jam full time.

Final Review: 8/10

13-Fight

Because of the aesthetics, soundtrack, and fun game play, I highly recommend this game. The game play mechanics are smooth and work well, the perk draft keeps things interesting and allows players to catch up, and this is simply a game that sounds great and looks beautiful. As a brawler it’s great, but don’t expect any story whatsoever, as there is none. This game shines in multiplayer fighting, as playing against bots can become a bit boring after a while. For myself, I ended up taking a long time waiting for an automatic match-making to happen so I could play against someone else online. Fortunately, you have the option to play locally against bots while you wait. The fact that this game offers cross play means that with the new release on the switch, hopefully the game will become more popular and thus more players will find it and play it. This is definitely the type of game I would love to play locally with friends who come visit, or simply online. My hope is that Bit Dragon Studio can continue developing this game, by adding even more weapons, maps, characters, and having more people play online allowing for faster multi-player matchmaking.

Note: Portions of this article previously appeared on Cyberpunks.com

Review: Cyberpunk Slasher Ghostrunner Demo

Ghostrunner demo

Cyberpunk Slasher Demo Now Available

Without any warning except for some cryptic posts on their twitter, the Cyberpunk wall-running time-bending slasher Ghostrunner just dropped their demo on Steam, PS4, and XBox (and yes, it’s free!). However, make sure to pick it up quick, as it’ll only be available until May 13th. For more details, check out their website.

With a final release date that still hasn’t been announced (maybe sometime this August?) Ghostrunner is the OTHER Cyberpunk video game we’re all really looking forward to this year. Since the demo was free and I have a Steam account, I was able to give it a go. So here are my thoughts on the 20 minutes of gameplay I spent on this new demo.

A Beautiful Cyberpunk Intro Video

Ghostrunner starts with a beautifully done introductory video of you, the titular “ghost runner” with a lightsaber-style katana Cyber-sword and a full mech-looking body including a closed helmet. Who are you exactly? We don’t know. All we know is you run fast and mortally slash all in your way.

An Exciting Introduction

Ghostrunner Gets Demo On Steam, Cinematic Trailer

The beginning short video also introduces to you the types of moves you can look forward to making in-game, like wall-running, big leaps and dashing forward in the air, slashing enemies, and some sort of slowing time ability.

“Ascend humanity’s last remaining shelter, a great tower-city. The tower is torn by violence, poverty and chaos. Conquer your enemies, discover the secrets of the superstructure and your own origin and obtain the power to challenge The Keymaster.”–Ghostrunner Game Description

Beautiful Cyberpunk Visuals and Environment

The Ghostrunner demo is quick but well worth your time

One of the reasons why I completed the level in 20 minutes my first time (I’ve seen online that some were able to finish it in as little as 4 minutes, but that’s quite difficult) was because I really wanted to take the time to appreciate all the environments. It’s not every day that you get to really walk around in an immersive 3D Cyberpunk environment like this one. I encourage you to take a look at the ads and posters plastered everywhere, and then go back and run through it as quick as possible. The irony of a game like this is that its producers spend all this time designing beautiful levels with stunning screenshot potentials, and then players run through it without even bothering to take in the details (as you run your environment blurs ever so slightly because of how fast you are running, making it even harder to take in your Cyberpunk atmosphere). It also has great synthwave music, I’m happy to report. They sure know their target audience!

Simple Armed Enemies

Ghostrunner Demo Now Available on Steam; New CGI Trailer Released

Not much to say about these simple armed guards. You don’t have much of a chance to look at them, since they fire at you as soon as they see you, and they’re fairly easy to dispatch. The intro video above suggests more difficult enemies later on, including a boss of some sort with robotic arms? An interesting twist was that to pass a certain level, I had to kill all the guards to unlock the doors, who had chips implanted in them that kept the doors locked (and if they were dead, all chips would go offline I guess).

Wall-Running Action

Cinematic Trailer For Ghostrunner Reveals Limited Demo On PC ...

The wall-runnning action reminds me a lot of the fun fast-paced action in Titanfall 2. Except this time you are armed with a glowing sword and nothing else. Sometimes the walls are just walls, other times they are curved billboards, or pieces of wall suspended in midair by inert cranes.

Open Levels with Deep Chasms

Ghostrunner Demo Now Available on Steam; New CGI Trailer Released

The levels have 2 challenges: the guards shooting at you, and the empty spaces that you need to traverse. Get shot by the guards, even just one shot, and you’re dead. Fall to your death, of course, and you’re dead with no chance to recover. Whenever you die, however, you instantly respawn and reset to an earlier checkpoint that saves automatically (so no need to save the game continuously). It also encourages you to get right back into the action, similar to how deaths in Halo, for instance, result in an instant reset and throws you right back into the action.

Ghostrunner Demo No Death Run (4:44) - GameSpot

Final Verdict: 8/10 for a Cyberpunk game demo

Ghostrunner is a fast-paced, exciting game with stunning visuals and great music. The game itself is a level-crossing slasher, with wall-running and slow-motion options. It’s meant to be played fast, so it’s quite hard but rewards repeated attempts to cross its levels. Playing well rewards good instincts and experience through multiple attempts, rather than any planning or logic. With no chance to shoot back at your opponents and very little story to speak of, if you like fast-paced wall-running slashing action, this game is for you.

Review: Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 (Full)

Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 poster

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045: A Complete review

For my review of the first episode, check out my previous preliminary review on Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 here. Since my first episode review, the English audio has finally been released for the series–I highly recommend watching it in that format, since the voice acting is pretty good. Also, when compared with the English subtitles, the English audio is significantly different and more natural.

A General Overview

Alright, after 12 episodes of about 20 minutes each, the new Cyberpunk series from Netflix called Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is a fun, fast-paced (for the most part) Cyberpunk action/mystery series, created in 3D CG and is a welcome addition to the Cyberpunk titles on Netflix. Unfortunately, the series is clearly not finished in telling its story.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 | Site officiel de Netflix

An Unfinished Series

Why is it not done? Because the first season of Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 feels like a lackadaisical combination of 2 different parts connected by a standalone episode, and ends abruptly without any closure whatsoever. Perhaps it was their intention to keep you hooked, but the structure was a little surprising storytelling-wise.

More great Cyberspace Visuals

We have a lot of great Cyberspace visuals here when the team confer in their online cyber-room. One example is when Togusa is trying to find a lead on the security outfit called Obsidian, and infiltrates a virtual group. The white hallway with countless identical doors feels very similar to the back doors Neo accessed in Matrix Reloaded.

togusa

There’s also a fascinating part 20 minutes into the same episode where Togusa is able to very easily access a merchant’s cyber-brain, because she never bothered to secure it. In it he’s able to access countless files, including the mortgage on her cyber-brain, the contents stored on it, and a video log of everything she’s seen before, including the members of Section 9 that he is looking for. It’s a brilliant new example of cyber-sleuthing presented in a very cool way.

exposed

A Japanese Take on American Culture

Throughout the series there are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle references to American culture, in what feels like how the Japanese see American culture since it’s a little overdone. The first episode, for instance, features the Major drinking a Budweiser. We later see an American operative called John Smith smoke Lucky Strikes. I was surprised his second in command wasn’t the Marlboro Cowboy eating a cheeseburger.

John SMITH | Anime-Planet

Highlight of the Series: Face-off with Patrick Huge

If you liked the action sequences from Episode 1, then you will love the climax of the series with Episode 5 when the team face off with Patrick Huge. Without any proper intel about who (or what) he is, Huge ends up being a creepy, mysterious, and very worthwhile opponent to the Major and her entire team–no small feat for Section 9.

Patrick HUGE | Anime-Planet

The First Bank Robbery: A Stand-Alone Episode

After the thrilling 5th and 6th episodes revealing the new real threat (post-humans), all of a sudden the series takes a hard turn with an episode that is completely standalone. Aptly named “PIE IN THE SKY The First Bank Robbery,” it is exactly that–just a bank robbery episode featuring only Batou. It’s a refreshing episode that gives the series a breather and takes a look at basic people living in this new world and how their lives were affected by the simultaneous global default in currency. However, for the main plot of beginning their investigation and battle against post-humans, it’s quite a halt in pacing and was quite surprising.

Ghost in the Shell - SAC_2045 - S01E07 - PIE IN THE SKY - First ...

A Return to Mystery-Solving Before the End

After Episode 7, the series slows down as it returns to its mystery-solving and cyber-sleuthing roots for the rest of the season until its conclusion. With episode 8 featuring more detective work with Togusa, episode 9 is an interesting new murder-mystery to stop another post-human who is going on a killing spree with an enhanced cyber-arm. Unfortunately, it starts and concludes in the same episode. The final 3 episodes involve the prevention and disarmament of a new cyber-weapon attacking people’s minds, with the post-human behind it out of sight.

togusa gone

An Unsatisfying Ending

The investigation leads the team, with Togusa and Batou in particular, to a shed in the woods as the team follow the post-human’s memories as a teenager. And then the series just…ends. It’s very odd, and was quite surprising. This must be to leave viewers on a cliffhanger to renew the series for a second season.

Netflix presenta nuevos detalles sobre Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Final Verdict: 7.5/10

With a strong beginning and great parts action and cyber-sleuthing, this was a fine first season if you can get past the 3D CG animation. However, this season has serious problems with pacing and maintaining a consistent engaging story throughout the entire season, in particular with the final three episodes, and the anti-climactic ending doesn’t help. With a couple welcome new ideas like the introduction of Post-humans, including their abilities and fighting style, this series is notably absent of social commentary and feels more like a CSI series set in a Cyberpunk world. The “post-currency sustainable warfare” environment the season is placed in also feels like a misstep, giving more questions than answers. Nonetheless, characters like the Major and Togusa are easy to like, the post-human villains are interesting, and Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 is overall a solid, engaging addition to Netflix’s Cyberpunk repertoire.