Diablo III (PS3 – 2013)

Diablo III (PS3 - 2013)

On Sanctuary, a fantasy world constantly under attack and being saved by heroes in previous incarnations of the Diablo franchise, you must set out either by yourself or with friends to stop the advancing shadow of the demonic hordes. With the help of magical items and powerful allies, you will trek across the continent and lay waste to the evil armies of the Burning Hells…and get rich doing so.

Listen.

I have loved Diablo for years. I straight out REFUSED to play Diablo III when it came to PC because it a.) didn’t FEEL like Diablo to me – instead seeming almost like an auction-house simulator, with micro-transactions ruling the day and the gameplay, throwing everything off balance and b.) it required you to be online EVEN TO PLAY BY YOURSELF.

Once I found out they’d gotten rid of the auction house and the online-only requirement, I was sold on at least trying it, and let me tell you – I’m not super-disappointed.

There are plenty of classes to choose from like Barbarian, Monk, Wizard, Witch Doctor and Demon Hunter (with optional male/female with different looks for each) and though most of the time you’ll be mindlessly slogging along through impossible-looking mobs of enemies there is a slight amount of strategy involved in most situations, especially when it comes to combo attacks with your friends.

Still, with other games like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V out there which offer lots in the way of story and immersive gameplay, this game can seem tame in comparison (although those are completely different kinds of games) although the animations and the graphics are sort of flashy and colorful and reminiscent of World of Warcraft.

This console port exceeded my expectations by far and I’ve been able to play alongside my friends on the same console, which to me is the main draw. Online-only isn’t always the best option, so I’m really glad they decided to get rid of that feature. If you’ve played the PC version, you might hate it but maybe you should give the console version a chance. It seems to have been made more with the consoles in mind than with the PC. And if you’re like me and you didn’t want to touch this game with a ten-foot pole, try it out. It might surprise you.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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Van Helsing (2004)

Van Helsing (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: May 7, 2004
Director: Stephen Sommers

Van Helsing stars Hugh Jackman as the movie’s title character. Gabriel Van Helsing is sort of a superhero/vigilante who travels the world hunting monsters that prey on the innocent. Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) hears about his monster-hunting prowess and she summons him to Transylvania to help battle Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who her family has been fighting for centuries.

This is one of those movies that COULD have been really cool. I liked the idea of Van Helsing as a Blade/Punisher mashup set in the past with all sorts of steampunk-style sci-fi weapons. Unfortunately, writer/director Stephen Sommers kind of wasted his chance to really shine.

For one thing, there were WAY too many monsters. We open with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde as well as Frankenstein and his monster. Then we move on to Dracula and other vampires, werewolves and other creatures. How does anyone even survive in this world, let alone not know that Van Helsing is there to save them and is NOT murdering folks (as he’s been framed for doing). Focus on one, or maybe two….but as a viewer I was overwhelmed.

Some of the action is cool, but most of it is too cartoonish to have any real weight. The battles are sometimes too laden with chaos to follow very closely and a disconnect happens. I never really believed Van Helsing was in danger during the battles due to its campy nature.

If the story had been amped up to make it more believable as to why all these creatures came together or exist (yes, I know, monsters aren’t believable anyway but they need to be believable in the context of the film) and maybe if there had been a darker tone instead of trying to make Helsing seem like Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood (lots of rope swinging in this film, by the way), it could have easily been a great movie.

As it is, it’s still entertaining to watch if you just want a mindless action flick. Kate Beckinsale is drop-dead gorgeous (I’m sure many people think the same thing about Hugh Jackman, too) so it’s fun to watch these attractive people fight ugly monsters. Overall, I think the film relied entirely too much on CGI/special effects.

Richard Roxburgh had no bite as Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster was just weird. The werewolves were so-so. The most interesting villain in the movie, to me, was Jekyll/Hyde…but then again, it’s hard to mess him up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Van Helsing