The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare- Review and Impressions ¾ Mark

“He’s one of us! Ethan! What’s the Navy’s official policy for a gunfight?”
“Send in the Marines!”

–Staff Sergeant Usef Omar and ETH.3n

Reyes is recovered by the Tigris and returns to the Retribution, mopping up SDF operations over the dwarf planet Pluto and restores control of a salvage site to SATO, returns to Titan to decimate SDF vessels while they are refueling and proceeds to intercept a chemical weapons vessel in orbit over Venus. Subsequently, Reyes receives word that there is a disturbance at a SATO facility in an asteroid mining station near Mercury. Fighting both hostile robots and extremities of temperatures, Reyes and his team narrowly miss incineration and only just escape the facility, although Staff Sergeant Omar dies when Salter takes off early before their window to evacuate closes. Upon returning to the Retribution, Reyes and the others learn that this operation had been a diversion: the SDF destroy the Tigris, leaving no survivors. Reyes later devises a plan involving the beacon that Riah is carrying; this is a signal that will prompt a full SDF invasion, and in theory, cutting off the beacon will lead the SDF to assume the time is appropriate for a full-scale assault. Before returning to Earth, Reyes engages a remaining SDF operation in orbit around the sun, where the blistering temperatures only confers his Jackals limited time before they malfunction. Completing this task, the Retribution’s crew gear up for a final shot at the SDF fleet and recovering control of the solar system. This is where I am in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare after some eleven hours of play – with all of the side missions complete, I turn my attention towards the final two missions left in this game.

While very much a corridor shooter in the vein of its predecessors, Infinite Warfare provides a very uncommon approach towards its gameplay – the side missions have proven to be quite enjoyable despite their similarities with one another. This is not too surprising, as the side missions come in two varieties: Jackal strike missions are purely space combat driven, involving dogfights and attacks on SDF vessels, while infiltration missions involve boarding SDF vessels to recover high value articles or carrying out acts of sabotage. While these missions play identically, they offer additional insights into the SDF, which is by this point, very nearly comical in its portrayal. A militaristic, totalitarian regime, one must wonder if Infinite Warfare is willfully presenting a satire of such governments, indirectly mocking both Gundam‘s Principality of Zeon and Aldnoah.Zero‘s VERS Empire for their methods and principles. Developing secret weapons stolen from SATO and resorting to WMD, the SDF are unquestionably appalling, an entity that is very difficult to garner sympathy for: this makes it easy to provide a backdrop and justification for the diverse locations seen in Infinite Warfare. While the narrative might be quite thin on closer inspection, it is successful in giving players a chance to experience combat operations set in different locations around the Solar System, and while there is a degree of repetitiveness in the side missions, they are intended to supplement the relatively small number of main missions, which are rather more diverse in terms of design and atmosphere.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In 2006, the IAU formalised its definition of a planet after the discovery of several objects in the Kepler Belt with similar masses to Pluto: it has since been re-designated a dwarf planet, although scientists are still in debate as to whether or not the new IAU definition is satisfactory. The definition is seen as pure matter of semantics, and under the IAU terms, Earth would not qualify as a planet for having failed to “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit”, which is given as becoming a gravitationally dominant entity in its area, although this is loosely defined and consequently, is considered inadequate a criteria.

  • In Rick and Morty, Jerry Smith argues that “If [Pluto] can be a planet, it can be a planet again”. It’s not quite as eloquent as a formal argument, and from a personal perspective, I argue that the third criteria is indeed open to semantics: in a hypothetical young star system with several gas giants several times the mass and radius of Earth, these would not be considered planets if they are surrounded by a debris field under the “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit” constraint. This makes very little sense, and the suggested, simpler definition encompasses two criteria, which makes rather more sense: a planet should be a sufficiently large body orbiting the sun that is of a sufficient size to maintain a spherical structure, and where the size exceeds a certain threshold (e.g. a diameter of 2000 kilometers or greater). Any smaller object with a spherical shape is then counted as a dwarf planet.

  • The object of one of the boarding missions around Pluto is to infiltrate an SDF vessel and execute high value targets belonging to the SDF command: crippling their leadership will weaken their ability to strike the SATO forces. Donning a SDF uniform and equipment, Reyes manages to sneak through the vessel undetected and deactivates the life support system, leading to near total casualties.

  • I’ve now said two controversial things in this Infinite Warfare post, and while I do wonder what readers think of these topics (both of my perspective on Zeon and Pluto’s state as dwarf planet), I note that this is a gaming post intended to detail my run through a futuristic first person shooter. Hence, comments that deviate too greatly from the scope of discussion will likely not be answered in full because a proper response will be quite wordy. Returning back to Infinite Warfare, here, I participate in a mission to engage and destroy SDF fighters, as well as vessels, in a salvage yard over Pluto.

  • Very much cut and dried, the Jackal strike missions turned out to be quite enjoyable despite being repetitive owing to the different locales they are set above. By this point in the game, I’ve become very comfortable with the handling of a Jackal, which is unlike the jets of Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 and Ace Combat. In fact, the controls are more similar to the Banshee of Halo and Halo 2. As well, I’ve unlocked all of the weapons and specialisations for the Jackal. I usually sortie with the default loadout, which offers a nice balance between firepower and firing rate.

  • The skies of Titan are moodier as I return to wreck havoc on the SDF A-Jak Cutters, smaller warships with vulnerable panels near their engines that can be destroyed quickly, dealing massive damage to the Cutter. The larger destroyers take a much longer period to engage: my preferred strategy is to hit it from the sides and rear, eliminating the cannons and missiles as required. After sustaining enough damage, the destroyers will explode spectacularly, although I do find it interesting that a single Jackal can do that much damage to an entire destroyer.

  • Flying above Venus’s noxious atmosphere of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide in this mission, Reyes and the Retribution prepare to board the Hellas, which is suspected to be housing chemical weapons. That there is no “boots-on-the-ground” mission on Venus makes sense: despite being considered Earth’s sister planet, the surface is shrouded in a heavy atmosphere that exerts ninety-four times the pressure relative to Earth’s. Simply, explorers on the surface would be exposed to an unpleasant combination of extreme heat caused by the runaway greenhouse effect and corrosive elements that, in conjunction with the pressure, would make combat and movement near-impossible. Conversely, telemetry has found that the upper atmosphere, some sixty kilometers above the surface, has a similar composition to Earth’s atmosphere.

  • It is up here that the events of Operation D-CON are set. I start with the recommended loadout of a Mauler LMG and Reaver shotgun, both projectile weapons. Having an LMG is useful for situations where there is a large number of enemies, while the shotgun is well-suited for the tighter corridors of the SDF destroyer. It’s business as usual, then: make one’s way to a part of the warship, do something and then get out. While the side missions are unremarkable from a gameplay perspective, they provide additional information on the war between the UNSA and SDF, as well as unlocking attachments and upgrades for players.

  • The side missions also reuse a great many assets: it’s actually quite convenient, since the SDF warships likely have a standardised interior, it should be no surprise that all of the warships look the same from the inside. Here, I have swapped over to the Reaver for close-quarters combat, and note that the weapons of Infinite Warfare‘s campaign can be customised to an incredible extent: while there is a default recommended loadout, players can set up their initial loadout to be anything they wish (even spawning into a mission with the F-SpAr torch if they so wished). By default, the Reaver of Operation D-CON is equipped with smart shot that guides the pellets along their trajectories to an extent.

  • After reaching the weapons room, it’s a matter of clearing out the SDF, waiting for a proximity hack to complete and holding off attacking SDF while the hack is progressing. The LMG becomes useful here, and after the weapon is acquired, it’s time to get out. That the SDF are willing to resort to chemical weapons is indicative of their extremism, bringing to mind Zeon, who similarly used chemical weapons to completely depopulate a colony cylinder before attempting to drop it on Jaburo base during Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Operation British.

  • With the side missions largely finished save for one, I resume the main campaign and set out for an asteroid base Vesta 3 orbiting Mercury; by the time Reyes arrives to investigate the site for any survivors, its orbit has destablised, and the asteroid itself is rotating erratically as a result of the SDF Olympus Mons having fired on the asteriod: day and night cycles are minutes in length, with blistering heat by day that makes movement particularly hazardous. It’s a fantastic set-piece mission, and players can only move in shadows or during the dark.

  • The interior of the Vesta 3 base is eerily quiet, bringing to mind the sort of environments I saw in Alien Isolation. I began Alien Isolation nearly a year ago, a few days into June after delivering my department seminar presentation in preparation for the thesis defense. By this point, my paper was largely finished, and I had picked up Alien Isolation on a fantastic sale that saw the game go for 75 percent off. It was quite unlike anything I’d experienced before and also a highly enjoyable one, save the mission in the reactor core.

  • It took me a week to summon up the courage to attempt the reactor basement mission in Alien Isolation, and by the time I finsihed the game, it was late August. Returning to Infinite Warfare, I continue making my way through the base here, which as thus far been devoid of any human opponents. In the quiet, I shop to look around the level’s designs and notice that, like Titanfall 2, one can find hanzi (Chinese characters) in some parts of the settings that players go through. I’ve not read or written much Chinese as of late, so my recognition of more complex characters has decayed over the past several years.

  • It turns out that the deaths at the facility were caused by the SDF hacking into the security robots and having them kill off the station’s inhabitants. These robots are now hostile to all humans and will kill them on sight, hence the wisdom of having good energy weapons: they are particularly effective, in conjunction with shock grenades, against robots.

  • Once the sunlight has passed and gives way to darkness, it’s time to move on to the next area. During one transition, the sun re-appears and begins burning Reyes – flames can be seen burning on the surface his suit, only to extinguish themselves as Reyes returns to cover. I’m not actually sure how this would work, since fires are the result of a fuel source undergoing combustion, but in the moment, this was the last thing on my mind: the only goal was to get to some cover. When the door is reached, a horde of robots appear, and Reyes must fight them off while the proximity hack is executing.

  • I manage to find an F-SpAr torch at the base, and decided to save it, feeling that it would come in handy later on. While the casualties are extensive, Reyes and his team manage to save some of the miners. In news quite unrelated to Infinite Warfare, first person shooters and games in general, the owner of the file sharing site, nyaa.se, scuttled the site out of concern that the EU’s new anti-piracy laws could land them in legal trouble. It’s been one of the bigger events in the anime community, and while my opinions on internet privacy and information sharing are my own, these events is an ominous indicator of the decline of freedom in electronic communications in the near future.

  • The deletion of nyaa.se and its associated domains leaves viewers of anime unable to acquire older shows, OVAs or movies effectively. One may then wonder if this would affect this blog in any way, and the answer to this is that I largely remain unaffected by this news – my discussions for anime series, OVAs and movies should still come out as scheduled. The next anime post will be Hai-Furi‘s second OVA, continuing with Kōko Nosa’s experiences as she struggles to deal with news that the Harekaze will be scrapped, and this is coming out near May 24. Back in Infinite Warfare, I make my way through the asteriod’s molten interior in a perilous catwalk, and here, I wield a Volk that I found.

  • A veritable army of robots awaits Reyes and the others at the extraction point. The wisdom of having held onto the F-SpAr comes into play here, and it is an indispensable asset that, when used in conjunction with the shock grenades, allows players to clear out the area quickly. The Volk is a modestly effective fall-back weapon, but its slower firing rate made its use a bit of a challenge. After eliminating the robots, Salter lands, but the heat forces her to take off, leading Staff Sergeant Omar to die in the process. I was sad to see him go, especially after seeing him warm up to Ethan. After a heated discussion on the Retribution’s bridge, the officers decide that they must now prepare to deal a death blow to the SDF by luring them into a trap. Before this can happen, there is one final side mission to complete.

  • The final side mission unlocked is a timed mission close to the sun – prolonged exposure to the extreme temperatures (exceeding 700ºC) will damage the Jackal’s components, so Reyes only has six minutes (on standard difficulty) to clear out the SDF forces guarding vital resources belonging to the UNSA. It’s a spectacular mission, although eliminating all of the SDF Skelters and Ace pilots can be a little tricky.

  • In the end, I finished the mission with around twenty seconds to spare, having spent most of my time trying to find the Ace pilots. This brings my Infinite Warfare post to a conclusion, and I note that the reason why I am suspending my writing for the next two weeks is because I am set to go on vacation quite soon. This is why the next major post dealing with anime will be the Hai-Furi OVA, and in the meantime, I will need to get to packing and carrying out preparations for this trip. I will return after my trip, before the month ends, to wrap up my thoughts on Infinite Warfare, and depending on how scheduling works, I might also do a post on the upcoming movie Koe no Katachi before May draws to a close.

The topic of Zeon brings to mind a conversation I’ve shared with a friend about Mobile Suit Gundam: despite being intended to fulfill a similar role in Gundam as the SDF do in Infinite Warfare, there are some individuals who believe that Zeon’s cause is just in spite of all of their atrocities. Their argument is that Zeon was born of noble origins, even if their methods are disagreeable. My friend thus argues that this support is to suggest a deep-seated belief within these individuals that power should be concentrated in the hands of the few, that might is right. Inspection of Gundam finds that Zeon is generally dealt the short stick: its leadership consists of fanatical bigots who view the citizenry as disposable, a means to an end, and while the citizens might be people with their own stories, the leaders of Zeon certainly are intended to be viewed as no different than history’s most infamous despots. This is meant to challenge black and white viewpoints of warfare, and consequently, the extremities in Infinite Warfare might be intended to satirise these figures, fictional and real, as well as make it clear that the SDF are antagonists, not to be sympathised with, but a force threatening freedom and liberty. It certainly simplifies the amount of discussion that can be had about the nature of warfare from Infinite Warfare, but also drives home a different theme that will become apparent as Infinite Warfare enters its final chapter.

Titanfall 2: Campaign Final Impressions and Reflections

“Protect the Pilot.” —BT-7274

Taking into the skies after the Draconis, Milita forces pursue the Ark weapon, but find themselves hampered by Viper, a mercenary. Cooper manages to take control of an IMC vessel, disable its guns and defeats Viper before pressing on to the Draconis. BT sustains heavy damage and surrenders the Ark to Blisk, before being destroyed by Sloane. In his final moments, BT gives Cooper the SERE Kit containing the MK-5 Smart Pistol, a knife and his own computer core. Cooper makes his way to a drop point, where he is provided with a new Vanguard chassis equipped with the Legion setup. Reunited with BT, the pair fight their way through the IMC forces and reach the Ark. In the process, Sloane is defeated, and Blisk complements Cooper on his resilience, remarking that strictly speaking, the Apex Predator’s contract never extended to taking Cooper out. He leaves Cooper with his business card before leaving. BT flies himself into the Ark’s core and ejects Cooper at the last moment, citing his third protocol. The Ark Weapon is destroyed and destabilises Typhon: reaching the extraction point, Cooper escapes Typhon before the planet is annihilated. In the aftermath, Cooper is formally admitted as a Titan pilot into the Marauder Corps, and it appears that BT’s AI has survived, running from within Cooper’s helmet. This brings Titanfall 2‘s campaign to an end; despite its short length, Titanfall 2 managed to create a compelling narrative for the world of Titanfall: the most distinct feature about the campaign in this title, besides the fact that there was a campaign to begin with, is that no two missions were similar.

In Titanfall 2‘s campaign, the central theme is about trust: despite BT and Cooper being unfamiliar with one another, the journeys and experiences they share to uphold Lastimosa’s mission allows the two to develop a strong bond with one another, to the extent where Cooper is comfortable with entrusting his life to BT during challenging situations. This bond between man and machine is what allows a pilot to be such an effective force on the battlefield. When Titanfall 2 first opens, Cooper narrates the incredibly powerful presence a pilot has on the battlefield: this power is almost supernatural, at least until players see, from Cooper’s perspective, what a pilot and Titan pair are capable of after they’ve become attuned to one another. Central to this syngery is trust: a pilot must trust their Titan to assist them with difficult choices, and Titans likewise will look after their pilots, giving them a very human-like nature. In its narrative, Titanfall 2 also suggests at the extent and scale that the IMC-militia conflict has been occurring, indicating that this is a universe with its won stories to explore. With nine distinct missions, Titanfall 2‘s campaign was a breath of fresh air, combining smooth platforming with shooting and mechanised combat through the Titans. Superbly fun and presenting the Militia as a sympathetic cause, it was very pleasant to play from the perspective of the resistance group, allowing Titanfall 2 to contrast Infinite Warfare, where players assume the role of a government military force working against insurgents. The different perspectives often serve to remind players that conflicts are fought not without reason, and it is such an interesting juxtaposition to go through both games.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The penultimate mission is one of the most visually impressive of Titanfall 2: set over the mountains and forests of Typhon, the goal is to reach the Draconis and stop it from delivering the Ark to the Fold Weapon. Undaunted by the fact that the Draconis has taken off, Militia forces manage to seize another IMC vessel and take off. Despite some of the jumps over the valley below being quite terrifying, these are scripted events that have a known outcome. Once Cooper is tossed to a nearby IMC vessel, his job is to stop its guns and create a space for Militia forces to catch up.

  • The abundance of weapons and ammunition here means that there’s really no concern for running dry mid-battle. The close quarters engagements and large number of enemies meant that I would personally find a shotgun and LMG to be well-suited for the firefights ahead, although an assault rifle is also useful for taking out enemies at range. The weapons diversity in Titanfall 2‘s campaign is impressive, although there are some weapons that I gravitate towards more than the others.

  • Immensely fun, one of the only gripes I have about Trial By Fire is that Cooper cannot take control of the large guns on the IMC vessel’s flank side. Strictly speaking, there’s no reason to actually use them, since it’s Militia forces in the air. Disabling the guns is a reasonably simple task: the weapons are controlled by an IMC soldier, and they can be disposed of very quickly. Once the guns stop firing, Militia pilots will board to assist Cooper with taking control of the vessel.

  • In one of the more cinematic moments in Titanfall 2, a Militia vessel flies close to the IMC ship, providing an impromptu wall that allows the pilots to wall run across to the main hanger leading to the bridge. This jump requires coordination and timing to complete: it took me several attempts to actually make it because I kept doing the double jump too early after leaving the Militia vessel, failing to land. On successful landing, it’s directly into a heavy firefight with the IMC soldiers and robots.

  • The wisdom of having an LMG is useful, as is making use of the cloak to conceal myself from enemies. One of the things about this mission that strikes me as impressive is how the sense of travelling through one of Typhon is captured: even though the ground is shifting continuously, players won’t actually reach the Ark and can take the time they need to clear areas out. If I had to guess, I would imagine that the terrain below is moved around the vessel and is procedurally generated, only generating certain assets once checkpoints in-game are reached.

  • Some IMC soldiers encountered throughout Titanfall 2 are equipped with shields that can absorb a considerable amount of damage, and while they can be bested with the traditional “shoot until they die” methodology, but the more effective means of dealing with them is to engage the cloak, sneak behind them and fire, or else drop some explosives behind them to quickly deal with them. Yesterday’s post on Your Name‘s home release came out of the blue, but this one does not. Now that there’s a release date, I begin counting down the days to when I can finally roll out my talk on Your Name, but with a shade less than three months to go, there’s quite a bit to do in the interim with respect to games and other modes of recreation.

  • This is because over the past weekend, I developed a minor cold and spent most of yesterday sleeping it off: this cold signals that warmer weather is returning soon, and I look forwards to being able to walk around without the need for a heavy coat and scarf. We return to Titanfall 2, where I found that the graphics, while perhaps not quite as exceptional of those seen in Battlefield 1 or Crysis 3, nonetheless remain highly impressive. In spite of all of the things that Titanfall 2 has going for it, however, I’ve heard that the playerbase is not particularly large, even though the game’s initial sales figures were quite good, and Titanfall 2 does everything from Titanfall better, including addition of a fantastic campaign.

  • Up until now, there’s been little use for the MGL, but I figured that with the game drawing to a close, the time was ripe for me to give the weapon a shot. This is an anti-Titan weapon, but there aren’t very many moments in the campaign where Cooper will face Titans while on foot. These weapons thus become extra-powerful options for taking out infantry, and here, I unload grenades into the bridge of the IMC vessel to commandeer it.

  • Cooper will then take control of the IMC vessel and position it so that it is directly behind the Draconis, with the aim of boarding it mid-air. Cooper uses a data knife to  override the controls and maneouver the vessel: this tool is not actually a melee weapon and is intended to be placed into a slot in an enemy Spectre or turret. When a hack is complete, the enemy unit will fight for the player. Closer inspection of the data knife finds that it resembles a lightsabre handle in design. After what seems to be an eternity, Cooper is finally in position and heads out onto the deck. However, it’s not a simple walk in the park: the Mercenary Viper shows up in a Northstar-class Titan.

  • Viper is one of the trickier bosses in the campaign: his Northstar has nearly unlimited flight core duration, and he earlier shoots down half of the attacking Militia forces on his own. Owing to Viper’s mobility, the Expedition loadout or Tone loadout are the best choices for taking him on: lock-on missiles allow Cooper to whittle his health down, while having powerful shields prevent Viper’s missiles from dealing too much damage. Viper is accompanied by two Scorch-class Titans, and when defeated the first time, will come back a second time. Finishing him off will allow players to reach the Draconis and secure the Ark.

  • Cooper and BT’s actions come to an abrupt halt when they are met with the Apex Predators: refusing to give up the Ark, Cooper orders BT to never surrender it, but with the situation dire, BT asks Cooper to trust him, creating an opening that prevents Cooper’s death but also leads to BT’s destruction. Before powering down, BT unlocks the SERE Kit that provides gear to assist Cooper’s survival, evasion, resistance and extraction. In this kit is a data knife, BT’s data core and a much-welcomed return of the MK5 Smart Pistol.

  • Long considered overpowered and being a no-skill weapon to use in the original Titanfall, the MK5 has been modified in the multiplayer so that it is a boost rather than a standard weapon. It also is limited to a magazine size of twelve rounds with one reserve magazine, lock-on speed is dictated by distance to target and placement of the target relative to the reticle. Finally, players will receive a warning if a user is locking onto them with the MK5 to provide them a chance to evade. In the single player campaign, the MK5 is supremely powerful, being able to easily decimate scores of IMC infantry and has unlimited ammunition in reserve.

  • The Militia have one final surprise for Cooper: a brand-new Vanguard Titan equipped with the Legion loadout. A heavy weapons platform based off the Ogre chassis in the multiplayer, the Legion is fantastic for heavy breakthrough tactics with its ability to take and deal out damage. Its speed is its biggest liability: speedier Titans can flank around it and deal massive damage. In the campaign, the Vanguard’s solid all-around performance means that it’s really a matter of equipment that changes: the Predator cannon is a rotary machine gun that has an incredibly high rate of fire and can destroy lighter enemy Titans in seconds.

  • The Predator cannon can be configured to fire a spread of rounds similar to a shotgun, or else charge up for a longer range shot for damaging distant opponents. The Legion’s defensive ability is a shield mounted onto its cannon, which can absorb some incoming damage. Against the waves of other IMC Titans, the firepower conferred by the Legion loadout comes across as being highly entertaining: even the heavier Scorch class Titans are shredded by the sheer volume of firepower. I imagine that the Predator cannon is firing 20mm rounds.

  • The boss fight against Sloane is on par with Viper in terms of difficulty: she’s armed with the Ion loadout, and her laser core can deal massive damage in a very short period of time even if players have a shield up. The only way to survive is use of cover, dash and returning fire once the laser core runs out. The cronies that assist Sloane can also be a bit of a problem: as soon as Sloane sustains enough damage, she’ll retreat. Taking the other Titans out correspond to fewer guns on Cooper, which simplifies the fight.

  • Some of the remarks that Sloane makes throughout the boss fight are hilarious when juxtaposed: she initially states that she’ll take out Cooper for free, then mentions that defeating Cooper could land her a nice bonus. Here, I make use of the Smart Core to pummel Sloane: the Legion’s Smart Core turns the Titan into a walking cheat code. All rounds fired will automatically arc towards any enemies and weak spots on Titans, making it a powerful way of dealing with a large number of enemies or quickly whittling down the health of a boss.

  • With Sloane’s Titan nearly destroyed, I move in for the execution: Titan executions are quite brutal, and once Sloane is done, it’s time for the classic endgame events where Cooper must stop the Ark before the Militia planet of Harmony is destroyed. The ensuing act of opening the Ark up disables BT, and in a terrifying moment, Blisk appears. However, he says that killing Cooper was never a part of his contract, that the IMC should’ve included it in their scope of work, and that he’s rather impressed with Cooper’s skills and tenacity.

  • Leaving his business card behind, he takes off to see other folks with money, leaving Cooper and BT to stop the Fold Weapon. BT decides that the only way to stop the weapon now is to destroy it by overloading his reactor, and citing his final protocol, to protect the pilot, he ejects Cooper at the last moment. The Fold Weapon is destroyed and begins destabilising the planet: the last sections of Titanfall 2 involve some of the most exhilerating parkour as Cooper must move over a bottomless pit en route to the extraction point.

  • Cooper makes it to a dropship with moments to go, and it jumps into Typhon’s lower orbit just as the planet begins disintegrating. The devastation to Typhon is reminiscent of the results of firing the Death Star in Rogue One: not quite the explosive display seen in A New Hope, the slower decimation of a planet becomes a little more frightening when considering the size of a planet and the forces keeping it together.

  • With Titanfall 2‘s campaign in the books now, I found myself impressed at just how smoothly everything came together. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Titanfall 2 players around, and one will wonder if the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II will suffer a similar fate; being superior to their predecessor in gameplay and design, as well as featuring a full campaign, the consumer base’s disappointment with the first title might dissuade them from buying the game, keeping player counts low. I’m very excited to see what Battlefront II will be like, although my decision in picking the game up will largely be driven by what impressions I gain of it post-launch, when I watch some gameplay footage. This also means that in October, there will likely be an open beta.

Having now finished the Titanfall 2 campaign in its entirety, I can say that the game was very much deserving of being counted as one of the best shooters in 2016. In my books, it’s a draw between Titanfall 2 and DOOM for the strength of each game’s respective campaigns: with a strong narrative and diverse gameplay, Titanfall 2 never became dull or repetitive. Of course, I may go back through in the future and collect the pilot helmets as time permits, but with Titanfall 2‘s campaign in the books, I may take a look at the multiplayer: I’m not sure how long it would take to rank up, and I’ve heard the learning curve is quite steep, but there are private servers that I can use to grow accustomed to the controls, and also for learning the best routes through a map. With this being said, there is quite a bit on the future horizon on my plate with respect to games: Battlefield 1 Premium is offering no shortage of things to do as I aim to reach rank ten for my assault and scout class, and there are assignment weapons to unlock, and of course, I still need to complete Infinite Warfare. Thus, my discussions of Titanfall 2 will end for the present, although one should not rule out the possibility that I may return at a later date to provide some impressions of my experiences in the multiplayer.

Your Name (Kimi no na wa) Home Release Set for July 26

“Anyways, this is a good movie. I was genuinely moved by the displays of courage and sacrifice in the name of what they felt was right. So Mitsuha and Taki can have their moment, I’ll give them that, because at the end of the day, you win some, and you lose some. And today, they are about to win some, big time! The Blu-Rays are about to come out, and we are about to take them on a test run! Believe! Believe that!” –Kylo Ren on the announcement

Update: The release date of July 26 has been officially announced as of May 10. 

I open with the remark that there has been no official announcement yet: this information is relatively recent, and its authenticity is unverified. Derived from a lower-resolution photograph of a promotional poster that was handed out with some stores accompanying purchases, it seems that Your Name will be available for purchase on July 26, 2017. Continuing with translation of the poster finds that there will be four tiers of the film available for purchase: the basic DVD will cost 3800 yen (46.56 CAD) and the standard edition BD will be 4800 yen (58.81 CAD). The special edition BD will include two bonus disks (likely containing the behind-the-scenes and other materials), plus a special booklet and artwork. This one will retail for 7800 yen (88.21 CAD). Finally, the ultimate collector’s edition BD will go for 12000 yen (147.02 CAD). The ultimate collector’s edition is notably less than the price of Battlefield 1: Ultimate Edition, which costs 165 CAD, and two dollars more than picking up Battlefield 1 and Battlefield 1 Premium Pass separately at current exchange rates: at the top-tier, consumers will get five disks in total (two for the movie, and three for behind-the-scenes features), plus a one-hundred page booklet and all-new visuals. Of note is the fact that there is going to be a 4K version: a resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels, such a version of Your Name will look fabulous on screens ranging from 4K monitors to the iPad Pro tablets.

  • Unlike Girls und Panzer Der Film, as I’m no longer a student, I cannot spend a full day writing a larger review: that post took twelve hours over the course of a day to write, and taking a day off work for an anime movie review makes no sense. With this in mind, having seen the movie previously, I’ve got a very good idea of what to write about going into the projected BD release date: I will aim to have the review (likely eclipsing even Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s review and discussion in size) out on the same day that my copy of Your Name arrives.

This news comes five years after I learned of the K-On! Movie‘s release, which was also set to be in July. The three month timeframe between the announcement and actual release is consistent with the K-On! Movie, as well as Girls und Panzer Der Film (which was also announced roughly three months before release) both cases, so while the July 26 release date is presently unconfirmed, I imagine that official news will be appearing quite soon. Further to this, the soundtrack for Your Name released on July 26, 2016, a month before the movie itself premièred in Japanese theatres. Finally, I’ve heard that Your Name‘s theatrical run in Japan drew to a close last week. The sum of these observations point in a direction to support the authenticity of this news; should Your Name indeed be released on July 26, the wait for this movie, however arduous it has been for the past several months, will have been worth something. At the minimum, Your Name will not be as elusive as Half-Life 3 or Half-Life 2 Episode 3. It will be fantastic to be able to watch Your Name in proper HD on my own screens.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Review and Reflection After Three

“Interesting fun fact: Moynihan and Piece of Toast hate each other. Apparently they’ve got some real creative differences.” —Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Following their sojourn to the hotel, Tomoya and the others resume their development cycle, to typical results: Utaha and Eriri find themselves at odds again. It is revealed that their enmity with one another stems from a combination of their feelings for Tomoya, as well as their own creative differences and raison d’être for creating. In spite of these differences, both begrudgingly hold respect for one another, and back in the present day, both reluctantly agree to sign autographs for both Tomoya and Megumi. Later, Utaha asks Tomoya to spend a day with her, before presenting an alternative ending to their game. Deeply moved by the alternative ending, Tomoya finds himself at an impasse. He later meets up with Iori and Izumi; Izumi reveals that she’s throwing her weight behind Rouge en rogue with the aim of competing mano-a-mano with Eriri. Later, Tomoya tackles the problem of choosing an ending for the game, enlisting Michiru’s band-mates to help out with the grunt work of developing the software. When he looks through the finished result, he realises that the endings will not work for the game and requests a re-write, conveniently avoiding to implicitly choose between Megumi or Utaha. This is what Saekano ♭ has presented thus far after three episodes, being a combination of both amusing to watch for the back-and-forth between the characters, especially Megumi, who’s a bit more colourful than might initially be apparent. With this in mind, however, Saekano ♭ also conveys the sense that the narrative is going to take itself more seriously than in the first season: the biggest draw about Saekano was that it remained light hearted, with Tomoya’s over-the-top antics driving the humour in some areas to remind audiences that their journey is intended to be a fun one.

With the increasing threat presented by Rougu en rogue and Tomoya’s determination to make his game successful ostensibly driving him to decide on an alternative ending, the attendant conflict that may likely arise will put Blessing Software through one of its more difficult challenges yet: on top of denying Utaha a straight answer, it also means additional work that Utaha and Eriri must go through. When everything is said and done, it is quite surprising that Tomoya has maintained an attrition rate of zero with his development team. Having said this, shifting requirements and schedules are par the course in reality, and it is up to the individual to deal with these challenges as they are encountered. That Utaha, Eriri, Michiru and Megumi have stuck it out for this long despite their own differences suggests that everyone has a stake in this project, and their dedication to both their own values, plus a respect (or even unspoken feelings) for Tomoya contribute to their staying. Moving forward, the question that remains is how the internal dynamics in Blessing Software will continue to impact their development cycle and Tomoya’s goals. In addition, the biggest questions on most viewers’ minds is who Tomoya ends up with and what happens to the others with this choice: the light novels are on-going, and it will be interesting to see just how far Saekano ♭ goes. All of these points in consideration, it would be preferable if Saekano ♭ were to stick to a lighter route — striking a balance between comedy and drama would be a superior fit for Saekano ♭ compared to drama alone.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • What better way to kick off Saekano ♭ than to have Utaha and Eriri tearing at each other’s throats while Tomoya and Megumi look on? That was a rhetorical question, by the way: jokes notwithstanding, we’re now formally past the three episode mark of Saekano ♭, and in this post, I will have the twenty usual screenshots detailing elements that would not otherwise fit with the discussions above. Having said this, I do not agree that there is a deeper philosophy to the characters that is worthy of an exercise: the dynamics between Utaha and Eriri form the basis for the first episode, and despite the appearance of complexity, is ultimately a simple result of yin and yang.

  • Utaha and Eiri’s first meeting is dramatised, taking place in a stairwell by the evening’s light. Surprised that Utaha is Metronome of Love‘s author, Eriri initially cannot believe it that such a loathsome individual could generate something so moving. Later, Utaha decides to drop by Eriri’s personal studio and learns of the latter’s talents in producing artwork. The two definitely respect one another’s skills in an unspoken manner, and it is the fact that both have feelings for Tomoya that lead to their conflict.

  • This conflict manifests in the form of each trying to dismiss the others’ skill as being motivated by the wrong reasons (Utaha feels that Eriri’s artwork is an act of revenge against the world for having separated her and Tomoya’s path, while Eriri finds that Utaha’s writing is purposefully manipulating the audiences and aimed at pleasing Tomoya). These differences form the motivation for the page quote, again, sourced from Rick and Morty. This particular quote comes from the first season, where Rick explains to Morty that in the alternate dimension where their television signal is coming from, the two mentioned figures have a significant creative differences but presumably work together to create the fictionalised work featured in Rick and Morty.

  • The balance between their animosity and respect is what prevents Blessing Software from outright disintegrating; the first episode draws to an end with Tomoya and Megumi requesting autographed works from both Utaha and Eriri. Despite her quiet nature, Megumi has a very sharp tongue and will not hesitate to speak her mind when required, adding an edge to her character that is quite far removed from how she was presented during Saekano‘s first several episodes – one of the elements that is making Saekano ♭ worthwhile is to see different aspects of Megumi’s character.

  • With the game’s full script finished, Utaha asks to spend time with Tomoya in what is a date in all but name. They spend some time at a bookstore on their first stop; I am quite fond of bookstores, doubly so now that the public libraries in my area appear to have diminished with respect to the number of interesting books they have that are worth checking out. On several weekends, I’ve found myself visiting the local bookstores, which have a solid selection of books that I can lose myself in. I’ve long enjoyed reading, and this is only matched by my enjoyment of writing, although unlike Utaha, I’m better suited to writing discussions rather than fiction.

  • Eriri, ever-jealous that Tomoya is spending so much time with Utaha, decides to tail them and pulls Megumi into things. Here, they unwind at a café following a movie that was so moving, it led Eriri to tears. It takes considerable effort to make mine eyes water: Ah! My Goddess The Movie, Chobits and Inside Out are the only titles to have done so. When Marnie Was There did the same, but it counts not because I was on a flight to Cancún last year; apparently, the lessening of psychological stressors, coupled with the realisation that this was my first ever time travelling completely alone, and the stimulus in the form of a movie culminated in my shedding a single tear, followed by several more individual tears, during my flight.

  • Utaha reveals that she’s to attend post-secondary quite far from here, which would invariably lead to the end of Blessing Software as they now lack a writer. Her choice of words and delivery serve to probe Tomoya to see where is genuine feelings lie, being very direct, stand in sharp contrast with how someone disinterested might respond and, were it not apparent previously, makes it clear that she’s interested in Tomoya.

  • If one ever were to require counter-surveillance measures to throw off a persistent tail, they need not fancy field-craft or evasion techniques. All one really needs is Megumi Katō, who’s well aware of Eriri’s intentions and cleverly becomes distracted along the way, throwing them further and further off mission. Here, Megumi manages to convince Eriri to try out clothing at a retailer, and even openly remarks that their actions might be considered those of a stalker if they were to continue. Of the girls in the group, Megumi seems the best suited for dealing with Eriri, and the two have become friends over the course of the first season.

  • Understanding that Tomoya is indecisive and lacks the will to do what is necessary where romance is concerned, as were his counterparts in almost all other anime of Saekano‘s category, Utaha decides to make Tomoya’s decision on his behalf by means of a subtle choice: he can either pick the new ending and implicitly show his desire to be with her, leading her to choose a nearby university for her studies, or he can choose the original ending, showing that he prefers Megumi. In order to make a fresh start, Utaha would then attend a faraway university. The moment is quite clear about how Utaha feels, but Tomoya seems quite unaware of the decision’s implications.

  • No game has ever made me cry before. While seemingly a mark of my own imperturbability, the truth is that my game library largely consists of first person shooters, puzzle games and simulators. It is perhaps the constant exposure to death in fiction that I never felt much in the way of strong emotion when Harry Potter‘s Sirius Black or Dumbledore died, nor did I react substantially to the death of various characters in anime. My tears usually arise as a result of watching characters reach profound understanding as a result of their experiences, so deaths in fiction alone do not elicit much from me.

  • After they enter his house, Megumi and Eriri find Tomoya blubbering in front of his computer. She’s beating him with her twin-tails here out of frustration – it’s an aspect of her personality that can be seen in Saekano‘s first season, and she’s often rendered with some amusing facial expressions whenever flustered.

  • A highly dramatic meeting with Rouge en Rogue’s staff, the siblings Iori and Izumi, leads Tomoya to wonder what kind of competition that Blessing is going up against in the Winter Comiket. From the words exchanged, it seems that Rouge en Rogue is further ahead in development than Tomoya’s crew, and it is here that Izumi’s rivalry with Eriri comes out in full force after the more lighthearted presentation during the season opener. Things blow over in a one-on-one fight that sees Eriri exchange blows with Izumi.

  • Utaha and Megumi share a conversation here, with Utaha all but declaring that Megumi should stand down. Her minimal but reliable presence in Saekano means that Megumi would fulfil the role of a support character who assists and enables the main characters on their activities, but Saekano ♭ presents her as being much more multi-faceted than viewers are initially allowed to see. This chance meeting unearths yet another side to her character.

  • That Megumi is so intently pursuing the script suggests that she’s picked up on Utaha’s feelings for him, as well as her own doubts in what would happen if Utaha actually reached home base. Unsure of whether or not this would be good, Megumi seizes the initiative and suggests to Tomoya that he ought to implement both endings to see which one would move him the most, sufficiently to make it into their final product as an ending. Despite her quiet demenour, Megumi has always shown very subtle signs of accepting Tomoya for who he is beyond his hobbies and interests, valuing the determination and spirit underneath; while she’s stated that she’s not interested in a relationship with him, the things that she likes about him also happen to be the foundations that a meaningful relationship is built upon.

  • I’ve heard that Tomoya simply shifts his mind elsewhere whenever Michiru kicks his ass in suggestive ways, as opposed to being completely ignorant or unaware of the implications. One of the disadvantages for readers who are interested in seeing my views on Saekano ♭ will be that, in each post, there should be at least one image of Michiru doing funny things to Tomoya simply because 1) these moments can be fun to write for and 2) at least some readers are probably wondering what I think of said moments.

  • Tomoya asks Michiru for a favour, bringing her band mates to assist with hastily implementing the new route in the game. Apparently, everyone has some background in computers, although from the subtitled descriptions, no one has (or can be reasonably expected to have) familiarity with scripting languages or the fundamentals of programming. With their reluctant help, the project is under way, with the girls running into difficulties in both the scripting logic and common computer errors such as a non-responsive program. On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy with work, doing as much as I can before I leave for a two-week vacation: this is the big event I’ve alluded to vaguely in earlier posts: I am going to Japan in early May and visiting Hong Kong after. Consequently, I’ve been going pedal to the metal with my iOS development work.

  • Even hardcore programming merits a break of sorts: the break took the form of poutine, motivated by the fact that tomorrow marks the end of Poutine Week. Excitement had built around the office for a second poutine day since Sunday, so we had planned to visit another nearby restaurant participating in Poutine Week. The Kensington Pub was our destination, offering a creation dubbed “KP Yolo Fries”. This poutine featured their house fries are covered with a uniquely-flavoured cheese-gravy of double smoked cheddar and Whistler Black Tusk Ale, with succulent chunks of ham hock on top and a side of horseradish aioli. A hearty lunch, this poutine reminds me distinctly of well-made macaroni and cheese. I enjoyed it thoroughly for the rich flavours and the tang the aioli offers — it was most welcoming to know that the proceeds will be going towards the Mealshare organisation, and with this, my Poutine Week participation doubles from last year. 

  • The coding party also shows that Megumi, for all of her other positive attributes, has a sharp eye and at this point, a reasonable knowledge of the scripting language, enough to debug something that Tomoya’s missed. This is, incidentally, a common way that bugs are detected: a peer or coworker might be able to find the logic errors that we miss. Back in Saekano ♭, it is always pleasant to see Megumi supporting Tomoya in whatever ways possible – she’s a true jack-of-all-trades, being able to help technically, support the others and handle the other characters whenever they fly off the handle.

  • I’ll conclude the coding party with a rather pleasant image of Michiru dozing off. After a full weekend’s efforts, Tomoya and the others succeed in implementing a full version of the ending. He reaches the conclusion that neither ending are appropriate for release, suggesting that by the events of Saekano♭, he’s slowly beginning to understand the perspective of a creator rather than that of a consumer. This shift is a profound one and is something that software developers face: designing, implementing, testing and deploying software is significantly more involved than merely being an end-user who might have suggestions for improving the app.

  • The third episode leaves Utaha’s reaction unknown, meaning it will be in the upcoming week that audiences learn of what will happen as a consequence of Tomoya’s decision. With this final figure caption finished, I also wrap up the Saekano♭ after-three talk. Rounding out April will be a talk on Titanfall 2, and as we enter May, things will probably slow down a little until my vacation is over, and I get back into the flow of things.

The intensity of Saekano ♭ has certainly picked up, and with three episodes in the books, Saekano ♭ has certainly drawn my attention and leads me to wonder where things will go. I’ve received suggestions to check out the light novels for myself, but there is a caveat: when translated into English, the flow of the narrative in the light novels seem choppy, disorganised compared to novels written natively in English. Consequently, I find it much more difficult to read light novels than standard novels, and the Saekano novels look to be a bit of a challenge. This is not to say that light novels are poor, but rather, that their style makes them a little less immersive for me. Hence, when I am watching the anime adaptation of Saekano, I am coming in with limited previous background and knowledge. With this in mind, my expectations are that Saekano ♭ follows through with the situations that Tomoya finds himself facing: either he finds a plausible way to address his problems, or else he must fail in a manner befitting of his experience and personality. It will be interesting to see where exactly Saekano ♭ goes in this season, and if things proceed in a credible fashion, Saekano ♭ could prove to be quite amusing to watch. As a closing remark, I will not be looking through the more technical aspects of making a game, besides noting that visual novels, being text-based branching game with scripted sequences, are nowhere near as complex as even a basic app that uses REST API calls in its implementation. If I can use ResearchKit to build full-functioned, complex branching questionnaires and store that data within a few hours, Tomoya should have been able to finish his assignment independently without any assistance over a weekend.