Mortal Kombat X

(PS4, Xbone, PC, Netherealm Studios, 2015)
I have been playing Mortal Kombat since year dot (or 23 years in real words) and I have many cherished memories of visiting gory digital violence upon my friends, and even a repressed memory of getting my ass kicked for real in an arcade in '93, due to a disagreement over a Kano vs. Kano mirror match. Serious Business.
But, two decades since then, the franchise has held on against naysayers, political outrage, a mish-mash of both good and terrible titles and even studio closure, to remain one of the most instantly recognisable brands in videogame history. As we head into a new generation of gaming. Netherealm Studios, led by MK creator Ed Boon, have returned with the tenth edition of the uber-violent fighting game franchise, Mortal Kombat X.

Ooooh, that's a bit of a nick

The much-celebrated story mode has returned from MK9, with a lengthy and dramatic tale of revenge, betrayal and fantasy politics that will turn the MK universe on its head. Once again, the player takes control of a different character for each chapter, which also acts as a sort of tutorial for those new to the genre. The cinematics are well shot and feature some excellent motion capture and voice acting (particularly from new insectoid-girl D'Vorah) but I found the narrative itself to be lacking, trite with convenience, and not a patch on the previous games' storyline, particularly in the lethargic final third. It's still a labour of love by the developers however, and far and above anything else that the genre has to offer.

Visually, MKX takes a huge step up from its predecessor, NRS has always been adept at creating wonderful stages, and whilst there aren't as many as one might expect, they are all beautifully designed and animated, featuring a host of denizens and creatures telling their own stories behind the carnage played out by the Kombatants. Sharp lighting and torrid weather effects add to the overall atmosphere, with detailed shadows and light beams giving gorgeous depth to the characters, which smoothly immerses them into the location. The characters themselves, are much improved from the absolutely horrendous models of DC Comics fighter Injustice, but there is still much room for improvement, as the general quality of faces, anatomy proportions, clothing and textures varies amongst the 24 character roster.

The sound and voices are nicely done, with grisly, bone-crunching effects and a variety of sarcastic dialogue barked between the fighters. The music, however, falls short, and consists of directionless industrial metal, flatly churning away in the background, mostly unnoticed, and is instantly forgettable.

 Mileena, standing in for my absent regular Sindel

The Krypt makes a welcome return from previous games. A mode in which the player can earn moves, costumes, concept art, and various goodies via trading in Koins that are earned through all game modes. This time around, The Krypt plays out like a pseudo-Tales of Grimrock, where you traverse through various areas in first-person, hunting for various objects that will allow deeper access into the hideous tombs. The Krypt is jumpscare-tastic, and they happen so often that it becomes tiring quickly. It's definitely a very cool mode, but, realistically, you'll have it over, done with and forgotten about in less than a week (unless you're deathly afraid of spiders, in which case you might never finish it)

All the above is entirely irrelevant compared to the most crucial element of the game, the fighting mechanics. I'm happy to report that MKX has a very solid fighting system. It feels very much like the mechanics of MK9, but with a little more fluidity and “looseness” to its controls. The infamous “dial-a-kombo” system is still in full effect and whilst that may not be considered a good thing for many fighting game fans, it has become standard for the MK series. The game now includes the background interaction system of Injustice, though it feels far less necessary here. Each character now has three “Variations” to choose from, essentially juggling their move-sets and opening up new opportunities or extensions on combos. This allows the player to not only experiment with the characters, but also with individual builds of those characters. It's a great idea, and a huge improvement over the tragic “Styles” systems of the PS2-era MK games. The return of “Brutalities” is very welcome, allowing for matches to end suddenly in trademark gory fashion, without the need for sitting through endless Fatality cinematics, which had, in MK9, encouraged many a salty ragequit.

The sweetest of all victories

Speaking of rage, out in the wild, MKX is a brutal game, and requires practice and patience. Its fast-paced fisticuffs and reliance on extended combos and ugly 50/50 mix-ups may frustrate and even upset many new players. Jumping online can be an infuriating affair for those ill-equipped to deal with shameless spamming or Machiavellian mind-games. But glory awaits those who keep their cool, hone their craft, and practice, practice, practice.
You have to put in the effort to get the reward, no-one simply “deserves to win” because they bought the product. This is your first lesson. You're welcome.

As the first MK game of the new generation, Netherealm Studios have worked hard to release a solid entry for the modern gamer, one that maintains the veteran elements of the now two decades old series, whilst adding, or simply tweaking, various other elements in order to provide a open path for the studio to venture down in inevitable sequels.
Mortal Kombat X is an excellent (X-cellent?) follow-up to the hugely successful 2011 reboot, and whilst further work needs to be done in order to push it into the upper echelon of competitive fighting games, the Mortal Kombat brand is absolutely rock solid and, with MKX, definitely sets the groundwork for something very special in the future.


Phoned In

(PC, PS3, PS4, WiiU, Xbone, Xbox 360, Ubisoft, 2014)
When first unveiled at E3 2012, Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs was speedily declared the game of the new generation by rabid fans, who continued to stoke the hype train's engine to full throttle, through its delay, until its eventual release in 2014.
By this point, the intriguing looking sandbox adventure had, through word of frothing mouths, been spun into this magical game that could build you a mansion, help you achieve immortality and, less realistically, kill your buyer's remorse over having purchased a next-gen console in launch year.

Set in a bleak near-future Chicago, Dogs sees the player step into the trenchcoat of nihilistic hax0r Aiden Pearce, a supposed "vigilante" who likes to jack cars, run down pedestrians and steal from civilians. After a botched heist leads to vehicular tragedy, Pearce' sets his narrowing eyes and iconic baseball cap on a mission of personal vengeance, aided by his sociopathic partner Jordi Chin and a poundshop version of Lisbeth Salander.

The Girl With The Dreadful Tattoo
WD’s gimmick, heavily showcased in promotional materials, is Aiden’s ability to access Chi-town’s entire technological infrastructure via his smartphone. This neckbeard super-power gives Pearce options to manipulate computer servers, bridges, traffic lights and everything in-between. (Though sadly there is no option to download Pearce a likeable personality.)

Tucked away behind this unique and admittedly interesting curtain is the actuality of what Watch_Dogs really is, a standard GTA clone which utilises QTEs to turn the floaty driving sequences and cover-based shoot-outs in Pearce’ favour, raising road blockades to dodge high-speed pursuers for example, or hitting the lights to turn a frantic gun battle into a flailing game of blind man’s death.

Not pictured: an abundance of generic shooting
Whilst these abilities provide a momentarily interesting new take on the typical sandbox world of the crime-sim, they are, in reality, quite basic and redundant, requiring little more than a well-timed button press to almost completely free Pearce from whatever danger he is currently facing.
Once this realisation dawns and the mask is stripped away, Dogs becomes little more than just another "Watch the cutscene, Drive to the icon, Shoot the guys and Repeat" gaming experience, littered with shallow Easter egg hunts and plotless sidequests.

Watch_Dogs' fills its visually attractive city with an over-abundance of things to do, a common problem in modern sandbox games, where developers cannot grasp that just having "tons of shit going on" does not equal a fun gaming experience. In fact, it makes a game flabby and directionless, taking the attention away from any narrative urgency and filling the HUD with an explosion of pointless thumbnails.
There is nothing wrong with adding sidequests to support a story, or to reward you with additional characters or items, but just saying "Collect these 100 arbitrary items" or "visit all these locations" isn't adding longevity, it's just needlessly distracting filler.

Less really is more.

"But first, lemme take a #Selfie"
It would remiss of me to point out that, despite this personally negative review, Watch_Dogs is an acceptable game, it is action packed, visually attractive and its phone-related chicanery is a clever and unique concept. Praise should also be given to the voice acting from the entire cast (bar Pearce himself, who, you guessed it, has that whole "Metal Geeyeear" thing going on.)
But, behind the hype and bravado, it offers nothing at a base level that we haven't seen in a hundred other games since the early 2000's, and a tired sense of deja-vu sets in after only a couple of hours play. Add to this the recent controversies over the abhorrent uPlay system, the suspiciously crippled PC version and the FIVE different collectors editions, and the negatives heavily outweigh the positives.

What could have been..
Watch_Dogs could never have lived up to the rabid hype pouring from its starry-eyed followers and Ubisoft themselves, who are the very epitome of hyperbole. As a general B-list product it is fine, but as a supposed spear-tip of a new generation of gaming, it's no more than the Emperor's new clothes.

Anyone tired of crime-sims may want to drop this particular call.


Qu'est-ce que c'est?

(DOS/Commodore CDTV, Delta 4 Interactive, 1993)
Interactive Movies.
That should run a chill down the spine of any gamer in their mid-thirties.

The dawn of CD based gaming was instantly seen as a way to supplement real video footage in place of doing any actual work designing graphics, characters, backgrounds and such. The early 90's was drowned in such entertainment (questionable word choice) on fledging new CD consoles such as the 3DO, CDi and Sega Mega-Cd.
All terrible machines. Fact.
£15 for the lot, You pay me.
In 1993, I would have been about thirteen years old, and I was more than interested in the concept of "Real Video" games, already being a disciple of Don Bluth's laserdisc trilogy and the American Laser Games shooters, of which I'm an unashamed fan.
I remember reading short, forgotten reviews about an interactive movie that appeared around this time on the PC and the first ever CD based console, the Commodore Amiga CD-TV

Ever used one of these? Liar.
The game was called "Psycho Killer" which tied it in with another interest of mine, as I was obsessed with Slasher movies as a young 'un.
A scary pair of eyes stare out from behind the game's title logo, sinister stuff indeed.

You know it's a real game because it's ADULT
The game never got large reviews, or much coverage in general by the gaming press, as it was a small scale release, and for such an obscure format to boot. But I often wondered about it, as this game sounded right up my particularly dark alley.
Fast forward twenty years later and, whilst browsing a site for DOS abandonware, my eyes set upon a title, a title that literally unlocks a memory long since buried under stacks of old gaming magazines and episodes of Knightmare in my brain.
Psycho Killer is here..
and I can finally play it..
and Fuck Me is it rubbish.

If this picture excites you, you're gonna LOVE Psycho Killer
My first realisation is that it's a British game, a very British game, and more than likely a bedroom developed one at that. My second realisation is instead of being Full Motion Video, it's more camcorder footage, converted to photographs, then slide-showed next to one another which gives a bizarre stop-motion look.
Also, on the PC release, all the colour has been compressed out, giving everything a fugly, one tone palette.

The narrative is as simple as this: Three people, A geeky protagonist, the anorak-sporting PSYCHO KILLER and some girl as a damsel in distress, chase each other around a muddy field in an area we Brits refer to as "The Home Counties" that is to say, very sparse farmland moors, completely lacking in life, animals and interest.

Gameplay consists of moving through a series of locations/photographs, choosing whether to go one way or the other. Every so often, our completely unbelievable Psycho Killer will attack, and you have to click on something on the screen to avoid death, such as his weapon or his bored looking oik face.
"Eat my Reeboks, Freak-Face": ACTUAL DIALOGUE
Our hero narrates each scene with his poindexter voice, his husky breath heaving and popping on the soundtrack as he records the dialogue too close to the mic jammed into the AUX socket of his Amiga, exclaiming "Sugar!" when in a near-death struggle so as not to offend the audience.
Occasionally, the killer speaks, and he hilariously sounds just like a walkman when the batteries are running out.

There is little to no direction given to the player as he stumbles through endless sequences of tree photography, or even a heads up on what to do when danger strikes. Thus, much death will occur as the player fails to realise when they were supposed to perform an action, or that those four grainy pixels in a murky photograph were actually an essential item that needed collecting.

Psycho Killer presents its myriad of gameplay options
I persevered after several deaths, and eventually found my way through the grotty fields to a jetty, where I simply sparked PSYCHO KILLER the fuck out with a pointed stick.
And that was that.

I'd completed the game. Less than forty five minutes after booting it.

On release, Psycho Killer cost around £30. I had finished it in a little over a half-hour, like you would a browser game on a rainy afternoon. This is hilarious today, when people now constantly bitch because some Blockbuster Xbox game was "only" 15 hours long.

Admittedly, I have been a bit mean to Psycho Killer, because at the end of the day, it was just a low budget production, and it at least deserves praise for having the inspiration to quickly latch on to the just-birthed Interactive Fiction market. A market that is still going today in its own form, with games such as Hotel Dusk and Virtue's Last Reward.
So I'm not bashing the game's developers for their work, though they should have known better than to cast some guy who looks like the school playground weed dealer as their machete wielding homicidal lunatic.
Seconds later, he fell into the river and drowned... OR DID HE? (yes, he did)
But Psycho Killer is a terrible game, far too expensive for its short and tiring experience. I would have been furious to have dropped that much cash on this back in the day.
It's probably the worst Interactive Movie ev....

..oh...never mind.

(From the internets: The game in its entirety, including Tutorial and death scenes)


Streets of Fire

 (Walter Hill, 1984, Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Rick Moranis, Bill Paxton,)

A self-indulgent experiment, that starts off strong but completely implodes once its bravado wears off. A narrative mess of finicky, unlikeable characters, questionable pacing and terribly dated music.

Also, one of my favourite films of all time.

Movie history's most unsympathetic Heroes

Walter Hill's Streets of Fire is a real oddity, essentially a Drive-In B-movie given an A movie budget. SoF is the kind of film that can only be made if a studio gives free reign to a credible creator, but wouldn't even pass the script stage if offered by anyone else.

The self-proclaiming "Rock & Roll Fable" tells the story of a drifting mercenary, Tom Cody (Pare) who returns home to rescue kidnapped rockstar and former girlfriend Ellen Aim (Lane) from a biker gang led by Raven (Dafoe, in goth makeup and FISHING WADERS)

Dafoe, Defying fire in S&M fishing gear.

This simple storyline is set against a Warriors-esque backdrop that looks like the 1980s, but everyone dresses and drives like it's the 1950s, and the music is a mixture of both eras.
The film has a purposefully basic premise, the concept being that the sounds and visuals will carry along the paper-thin plot, and they do, to a degree.

For some reason, every character in the film is a bitter, unlikeable prick. Pare's hero, sporting a bad teenage moustache, grunts whiny, childish dialogue, Madigan is cast as a fellow drifting gun, and though Cody hires her for this dangerous mission, they treat each other with total disdain.
Adding to this is Moranis, mind-blowingly cast not only as a rock manager but also as Diane Lane's love interest.
Moranis' character Billy is a foul-mouthed little turd who seems to exist just to annoy the audience with his incessant complaining.
The characters choose to start arguments with each other just because there's nothing else to do. Surreal.

It is likely he has just called, or is about to call something "The Shits."

Jarringly, the films fast-paced quest ends 45 minutes in, then it becomes a dull and vitriol filled "journey home" where they pick up superfluous characters and hangers-on.
This all builds to an anti-climatic showdown scrap, and then a 20 minute epilogue, where everyone decides that they're actually best buddies after all, despite no-one learning anything from the experience.

So, why have I given this film not only five stars, but a heart? Not only that, but why the fuck do I have its dated as hell soundtrack on my iPod?
To be honest, I wish I could write it concisely, but it's hard to put it to words. Streets of Fire is not a great film, it is a narrative mess, full of unsatisfying action scenes, miserably ungracious characters and dialogue that genuinely sounds like kids playing tough guy at school.

Michael Pare, The Punisher that never was.

I think, for me, it is because of what the film hopes to be. It takes a tried and true formula and attempts to dress it up in pizazz and fantasy for the new wave 80s. The film bravely tries to hold an innocence in itself, for example, in its total lack of death, despite all the guns and destruction.
I'm a huge fan of the 1950s, and of the whole Drive-In Movie culture which the film exemplifies. I don't think it's a coincidence that the film's beautiful and lavish poster art features rows of 1950s cars lighting up the heroes, stood in a generic "Knight and Princess" pose.

For sure, Streets of Fire is an attempt to "modernise" (at least by 1984 standards) the whole "Drifting hero saves damsel from dragon" story and it doesn't do too bad a job of exploring that quirky and novel idea.
The film also looks great, all neon lights reflected in rain soaked streets and shaky, overhead gutter trains, the grimy street settings that Hill is a master of. A great selection of cars and some interesting sets, from the local concert hall, to the psychobilly digs of Raven's gang.
On a more shallow level, I'm hopelessly in love with Lane and in this movie she's never looked better.

One of Cinema's most beautiful women, also, Superman's mum.

Ultimately, I love Streets of Fire because I love its Fuck You nihilism in regards to narrative. At points its direction seems to be winging it, like its being written and recorded live, and whilst that doesn't make for a brilliantly cohesive film, it makes for a trippy and intriguing viewing experience.

Walter Hill's experiment in juxtaposed eras, filled with horrible people and set to music that dates by the hour was destined for Box Office failure, in the face of an audience that no doubt left the cinema confused and alienated.
This sealed the lid on the originally intended trilogy which could have potentially fine-tuned the ideas to something special indeed.

Poster for little known pseudo-unofficial non-sequel

Streets of Fire is flawed to hell, but gets a handful of its ideas satisfyingly right and at least has the balls to shoot for its lofty, but unattainable aspirations.
It's a messy, colourful and straight up weird dollop of fun. I love it. I really do.

And, for all it's cheesiness, it has to be said, I've used a piece of dialogue from this film on three different girls, and, legit, each of them melted at it.
Cheers, Walt.


The Trouble With John

Every era of the WWE timeline is led or associated with one or two faces. Hogan dominates the early 90s, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels for the mid 90s, The Rock and Steve Austin into the new millennium, it seems that for a good three/four year period, the WWE brand is recognised by its top dog.

John Cena has been top dog for eight years.
And a lot of people are not happy about it.

The thirty-six year old Massachusetts born Cena debuted in the WWE in 2002, having spent time training in former feeder company Ohio Valley Wrestling. Shortly after his debut, Cena established himself as a hated white-boy rapper character, ala Vanilla Ice, "wrestling" with an unorthodox street-fighting style and favouring denim shorts and sneaker style boots as his ring attire. Cena's unbearable Dr Seuss-esque raps would piss off the majority of the crowd as intended, but eventually many fans warmed to him, some legitimately and some out of a sort of twisted irony for the old-school campness of his gimmick.

Word to your mother.
Cena turned face in late 2003 and captured the US Title in 2004 which led to what, to this day, is his least controversial period. Fans embraced his amusing gimmick and he could definitely work a solid mid-card match. The dreadful rapping was slowly phased out and focus was put on Cena's iron will and passion to win, he was essentially an underdog fighter, Rocky Balboa style.

A Rocky Balboa who fought professional matches in denim shorts, no less.

Fan on stage, call security.
In 2005, John Cena defeated JBL at Wrestlemania 21 to become the WWE Champion. Cena had a ton of steam going into the show and a lot of vocal support from the fans who had fully bought into his relatable, from-the-streets underdog character, fighting a class war against JBLs arrogant Texan
tycoon. The American Dream come true. The kid came good and went home with the gold.

But, after Cena's WWE title win, something went spectacularly wrong..

protip: Weight belt so logo stays upright
Coming off the win, Cena was given a HORRIBLE "bling-style" spinner championship belt, which looked fucking ridiculous and was considered disrespectful to the title's legacy by longtime fans.
Cena's first feuds as champ were against established wrestlers like Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, the problem being that although these were heel wrestlers, they had an adoring fanbase that respected their abilities and all that they had achieved in the business. They were also far more experienced and skilled at their craft, whilst Cena was still essentially learning the art of pro-wrestling.

As a result of this, large segments of the live crowd would want Cena's opponents to win, and thus would boo Cena on his entrance, his promos, his comebacks, even though he was the hero. If they could've booed him whilst he took a shit backstage, they would have.
This dissent grew, partly out of genuine dislike of the new champ, who, dressed like a fan, pummelled their long-time favourites with ease, and partly because people started joining in the vocal displeasure because they knew the booing the hero champion was "breaking the script" so to speak, essentially, just trolling the company.
The company foolishly responded with damage control, taking anti-Cena signs off fans at shows and dubbing over the negative noise. This turned it into a fight, and just made the fans more determined to have their voices heard.

First World Problems.

Things went from bad to worse, WWE simply believed the controversy was because people didn't get ENOUGH Cena, so it became all-Cena, all-the-time. Cena pounded through everybody like they were butter, whilst wearing his crappy belt and his own merchandise. The WWE had him release a terrible rap album, even though his debut gimmick was that HIS RAPPING SUCKED, but apparently now we were supposed to think he was the second coming of Eazy E.
Cena's promos were often really infantile, cheesy and homophobic, with Cena frequently "accusing" his opponents of being gay and actually using words like "poopy" all whilst gurning at the fourth wall with his shit-eating grin. 
John would lose the coveted title time and again, just to come out on next night's RAW programme shrugging his shoulders and with a massive grin on his face, as if even his LOSSES were victories.

The hatred was at it's strongest on the internet, with memes and pictures a-plenty, along with forums and social network groups specifically opened just to dedicate time to tearing into Cena and all of his actions, calling for him to lose the belt at best and for his demise at worst. These communities are still going strong today and a quick google of "Anti Cena" or "Cena Sucks" brings up literally thousands of examples of fans irateness of the WWEs golden boy. Some of it well founded, and a whole heap of it foam spewing, death wishing, idiotic hysteria.

Now, it must be pointed out that there is a large portion of fans who LOVE Cena. A lot of them are kids who are willing to pester their parents for the Cena branded hats, sweatbands, neck chains, shirts, action figures, shitty replica belts etc. As such, even if Cena was being booed and dismissed as a champ by a large segment of the audience, he was raking it in from the kids. To be horribly cliched, John Cena had become a licence to print money.
Not only this, but Cena is a dedicated company man. In his entire run in the WWE he has never caused trouble backstage, always showed up wherever he is needed, has always towed the company line in interviews, apparently never suffered from the infamous "demons" of the business and has never refused to go along with company orders.
To this end, he is maybe the best employee that WWE management has ever, EVER had to deal with. For sure one of the most intelligent. This, and he was absolutely killing it in merchandise sales.
A miniscule selection of the thousands of Cena items on offer

The WWE had a reliable cash cow, disgruntled fans and sloppy punches be damned.

As of this writing, Cena is in the middle of his THIRTEENTH World Title reign in his ten year tenure with the company. Cena has defeated almost anyone who is anyone in the business, he has won the Royal Rumble twice, been a former two time tag team champion and has won the Money In The Bank challenge. He even has a few god-awful movies under his belt.

And the people are still booing him.

Because, nothing has ever changed since that first moment the fans disagreed with his status in the company, he still has cheesy promos, he still wears his own merch and sneakers in the ring, he still flattens everyone put in front of him, he still wrestles a sloppy style and he is still wrestling in store-bought shorts.
And his DVD set is fucking called "The John Cena Experience"..


Cena is easily the most controversial WWE Champion of all time, ironically, he has also been consistently in the world title picture longer than any other champion. He makes a fortune in merchandise sales, the kids love him, he'll likely never, ever run out on the company or talk shit about it. Why would they risk going with anyone else?

Personally, I don't hate John Cena (I've spoken to "fans" who literally wish severe injury or tragedy on him to take him out the business, which speaks volumes about their inability to look at life with any kind of reality)
I think Cena is a sloppy wrestler, sure, and he should be far better at his craft this many years and matches down the line, but he's not the worst ever by a long stretch. I genuinely love the work Cena does for charities, he's a hero to the kids and he seems to love and respect this, Cena seems legitimately grateful for his spot in life, his status as a hero to the young and always puts in 100% effort into his work. In his job as a role model, a playground hero and a goodwill ambassador, Cena is arguably the best the business has had since the early years of Sting in WCW.

The trouble with John unfortunately isn't one thing you can put your finger on. It's a collaboration of issues, and not all his fault. Cena was pushed way too hard down the fans throats, a surefire doomsday tactic in this net-savvy age. He's been sold as an early 90's, flag waving style hero to an audience that grew up with ass-kicking, foul mouthed rebels like The Rock, Steve Austin and D-Generation X.
Cena's in-ring ability and obnoxious promo work doesn't match the quality of his peers, both older and younger. He still looks like a pumped up fan who leapt the barrier and snuck into the ring (after raiding the merchandise stand)






But Cena is also a victim of post-internet cynicism. Amongst the self proclaimed smarks who think they "know the business" the trolls who just want to boo all the good guys, and the try-hards who just think hating John Cena gives you some kind of insta-cred amongst teh intarnets, Cena is fighting a  no-win battle for respect on all sides.

John Cena will never be accepted by the fans the way the WWE want him too. It's been EIGHT YEARS since that first title win and he's still getting booed at every show. Cena, however, has a dedicated stable of young fans who see him as an absolute hero and, for those people, he seems to be working hard and making sure he is fulfilling exactly what they expect of him. He signs the autographs and kisses the babies, turns up to the charity gigs and tells the kids to Stay in School.
Anyone who has a problem with that side of Cena needs to get a grip. A man visiting hospitals full of children with terminal illnesses is more impressive to me than how well he applies a stepover-toehold-facelock (Yes, I know, I know, he's terrible at it)

This is awesome.
This. Not so much.

Despite his good-guy status, a heel turn would really refresh Cena's now decade long career. It would give John the opportunity to wrestle a whole different style, against a new slew of opponents and develop a new personality on the microphone. Can you imagine how much frustrated rage must be building up inside that square head of his? Evil Cena, let loose on the fans, could rejuvenate not just the man himself but also the programming of the entire company.
But, heels generally don't sell as much merch, and a loss in John Cena T-shirt revenue is way too much risk for the WWE to take.

And that's The Trouble With John. He's become trapped by his own status. The company can't change him, his gear, his style, his music, his mannerisms, his personality or his matches. Even if Cena himself wanted to change things up (and you can bet, this long into his run, a part of him would love to) there's no way the office would risk slaying the Golden Goose.
John Cena is the status quo until his very last day with the company.

Love him or hate him, he is cemented in WWE history as one of the biggest stars ever and easily the most controversial champion of all time.

"The Champ. Is. Here..."
and brother, it looks like he isn't going anywhere.


Ryan Davis 1979-2013

"Hey folks, it's Tuuuuesday.."

On July 3rd 2013, videogame journalist Ryan Davis passed away whilst on his honeymoon with his new wife Anna. Ryan was 34 years old.

Davis had worked as a game journo for some time, having written for Gamespot in the late nineties right up to 2008 when he formed Giant Bomb along with another former Gamespot writer, Jeff Gerstmann.
I personally have trouble buying into many game review/news websites, for reasons too numerous and insignificant to go into here (Here's a hint: They're full of shit)
But I like a few, and I love Giant Bomb.

My dedication to the site has little to do with videogames, the reviews, the news, or even the presentation. I love Giant Bomb because I love the team, more importantly, I can believe them. The GB crew are a group of thirty-something gamers who reach out from the screen and become more than names at the bottom of articles.
The site has a legitimate irreverent aesthetic toward it. Not fake or forced. Video previews of the latest games come across as genuine and honest, a breath of fresh air in this horrendous "All Triple A games get 10/10 and a new article every day" mindset of modern day game journalism. You buy into the team and their work because they are relatable people, unable to hide their true opinions at the topic at hand, be it videogames, movies or the industry in general, not forgetting the frequent topic of underpriced, over-fried snack foods.

The weekly Giant Bombcast show has been a staple of my life for many years now and hours upon hours have been spent listening to Davis host the crew of Jeff, Brad, Vinny, Patrick and others as they break down every topic under the sun, with videogames quickly branching off into discussions about, TV, food, movies, pro-wrestling, phone apps or any number of random topics. It felt like a group of friends putting the world to rights and having a great time in each others company, whilst simultaneously spoiling those games you hadn't finished playing.
The Bombcast is a great escape for me and has legitimately helped see me through some pretty bleak and miserable times. It's always interesting and, more importantly, it's just so fucking funny.

The difference between the GB crew and many other sites editorial teams is that, week in, week out, the GB guys DO come to feel like your friends. After you spend years hearing them discuss their home lives, beliefs, opinions and ideals on a weekly basis you realise that you have come to know and love these people like you do friends you see in teh reel wurld.

This is also evidenced in that readers would constantly send in an abundance of treats and gifts, bizarre drinks, weird international snackfoods and even art for the studio walls. The GB crew have opened themselves up, unashamedly and honestly, to the point that the readers actually care about and respect them as individual people.

And so, when the death of Ryan Davis was announced, every reader felt like they had a lost a genuine friend, a man who was a part of their lives every single week.
The outpouring of grief on the site was all along the same lines. Most of the comments would be people talking about feeling like they'd lost "a real friend" or people showing confusion over how they could be so upset over the death of someone "That they'd never met"
Since then, various reader artwork, videos and blog tributes (such as this effort) have sprung up online in rememberance of the mighty man and his awe-inspiring beard. 

This shows just how big a part of the readers' lives Giant Bomb and its team are.
Giant Bomb isn't a place you go to find out what score some generic shooter got, or who has been announced for some fighting game's DLC. It's a place you go to escape, to be entertained and cheered up, to hear funny but intelligent discussion on videogames and the industry itself, to hear honest and real opinions on a myriad of subjects, to see what the crew thought of that shitty film you saw at the flicks last night, or just to laugh at grumpy men failing to play Kinect.
Giant Bomb is Ryan's lasting legacy, and it is glorious.

In the bigger picture of things, Ryan Davis' death doesn't even register with the majority of the world, much like most passings don't every day.
But for the GB readers, the crew, his family and friends and of course myself, to have known him in any capacity and to be able to mourn him is an both an honour and an absolute privilege.

Thanks for all the awesome times Ryan. We wish you were still here and you will never, ever be forgotten.

You would have thought this article was cheesy as fuck Davis, so I balanced it out with terrible pictures.


Baywatch, Brotha

There was a time when American drama series/quick-perv-before-teatime show Baywatch was officially the most watched television show on the planet, we like to call it "the 90s". During that time, David Hasslehoff (pre-obnoxious self-awareness) and his crew of red-suited beauties solved crimes, stopped drug dealers, reunited runaway children with their parents, dealt with earthquakes, found hidden treasure and won volleyball tournaments every week for eleven seasons.

Occasionally, they prevented someone from drowning. Y'know, their actual job.

I remember the show being on Saturday evenings, just before dinner and followed by a solid run of Blind Date, Gladiators and You Bet! Good times.
I didn't particularly care for the show as a must-see, but as a just-hit-puberty teen I had a bizarre need to tune in every week. For the same reason. Always:

Bleeth, in happier times.

At the shows series 5-7 peak, an abundance of cameos and special guests stopped by the Malibu shores, more often than not peddling some terrible product placement. Richard Branson even showed up to shill that Virgin Cola that you never bought.
In 1996, WCW had an idea to run a PPV event live from an actual beach, and somewhere the idea was formed to tie this event in with an episode of Americas favourite L.A lifeguard show.

All well and good so far, show some matches, bit of bad comedy, have Pamela Anderson stand around, fun for all, right?
But wait, what if we made the wrestlers an intricate part of the episodes storyline? Better yet, what if we juxtaposed it with a really serious storyline featuring one of the shows most important characters?

Let's take a look at Baywatch: Season 6, Episode 16: Bash At The Beach.

You're not watching Thunder in Paradise.
It starts off innocently enough, Wrestling legend and all round mega-ego Hulk "call me Terry" Hogan engages with the late, great and insane "Macho Man" Randy Savage in a "WaveRunner" race (jet-ski to you an I) complete with non-stop ADR dialogue. Things go awry however when Hogan is thrown from his WaveRunner and bangs his head, knocking him unconscious, this possibly being the only time Hogan has ever sold for anything.

We find out why when it requires no less than SIX babes to rescue him and drag the orange monster to shore.

The girls are stunned to realise it's Terry "Hulk Hogan" They all stare on, mouths agape.


Even these three "Too unattractive to get dialogue or an individual closeup" girls.

I wonder why the lass in the middle got the role?

Savage makes it to shore and chastises Hogan for "checking out the babes" without him, this apparently being a euphemism for having a near-death experience. C.J (Pam Anderson) reveals that she is a "closet wrestling fan" So closet in fact, that when she was paid a fortune to appear at the 1995 WWE Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania events, she acted like a moody bitch for the entire duration of her meagre screen time, despite the oodles of dollar paid out to wheel her in.

Back at the beach, Caroline (Yasmine Bleeth) is forced to actually act turned on at the possibility that Hogan and Savage are gonna fight.
Wrestlemania V sister, I got the DVD if you wanna come over for an education?

This looks set up to be a fun episode. Ok, probably a bit campy but good for a silly laugh and forty minutes of carefree fun, right? a casual storyline and a bit of corny wrasslin' lulz.

Further down the beach mainstay character Stephanie (Alexandra Paul) is having a romantic picnic with her Doctor boyfriend, ah, I see, so a bit of a romantic sub-plot for the ladies to add to the wrestling action.

Dr. Gary Busey then finds a possible tumour on her leg.


Hogan and Savage are hanging down at the beach gym IN THEIR RING GEAR, Hogan explains how the gym saved his life, apparently it was this "or the streets." They then get down to pumping some serious iron and tuning those not-at-all-built-by-steroids-bodies.

Speaking of unnaturally built:

Jesus Christ Pam.
Hogan finds out from the overly Jewish stereotype owner that the gym is to be closed as the land has been bought by a greedy developer, who conveniently happens to turn up right then and there in his limo. Hogan tells the owner not to worry as he says he's gonna "talk to him a little" because apparently legally binding development contracts can be broken by having a wrestler shout at the signee.

Well, the wrestling angle of all this might be a bit hokey, but at least we have an antagonist now, and as long as the guy playing the land developer is slightly less histrionic and cheesy then hopefully we can get th....

...oh, for fucks sake.

So we got Flair, Kevin Sullivan in his full-on "Evil Taskmaster" gimmick and monster heel Vader who apparently all felt the desire to buy up a small beach gym so they can build "condos" (that's flats to you and I) in its place.
Imagine being the guy in charge of that deal, waiting in your boardroom office to draw up a contract  and these three fucking waltz in.

Kevin Sullivan constantly rubs his hands together and laughs throughout this entire scene, like he's a bad guy from Wizard of Oz or something.

Sadly, Kevin Nash doesn't make an appearance.
C.J informs Hogan that Vader is "a psycho", Vader himself proves this by performing a textbook psychopathic activity, popping a child's ball.

Move over Ted Bundy
Hogan challenges Flair to a match, with the winner getting the deeds to the gym and the WCW heavyweight title, because that's how life works. Somehow this becomes Hogan vs Vader and Savage vs Flair. We are sadly denied a Kevin Sullivan vs Pamela Anderson battle for the ages.

Sullivan expresses concern to Flair that Hogan will beat Vader, based on the fact that, get this, "Hogan's too agile" AGILE.
Flair reveals he'll secretly make it a cage match to aid Vader. This makes Sullivan laugh and clock the camera for the 345th time this scene.

Sullivan, planning Benoit family murders #ConspiracyTheoryBelievedByIdiots

The next morning, We are treated to Caroline applying Coppertone to her legs in extreme closeup.
This is the best bit of the episode, and makes me sob actual tears that widescreen television wasn't more prominent in 1996.

Damn you, 4:3
Stephanie comes out and severely chastises her younger sister for using a low factor sunblock. She doesn't however commend her for her excellent Cate Archer cosplay #truegamerreference

Stephanie then proceeds to reel off a bunch of torn-from-the-headlines statistics about the dangers of the sun, and the proper use of sunblock, with literally Quincy M.E levels of "the shows producers just read all this up at the weekend" statistics.

Hrmph. I guess this shot will have to do..

Stephanie reveals to her little sister that she may have cancer and how she isn't strong enough to deal with this situation at all, just wanting to scream and cry.

Caroline offers her support and says she'll be brave as she can be for the both of them. The sisters embrace.

More importantly, Hogan and C.J save some kids from some polystyrene rocks.


Stephanie is having a hard time. Covered up to almost OCD levels by Baywatch standards, she patrols the beach laying into everybody about sunblock and sunscreen, hitting them (and the audience) with facts and statistics. Just to help the audience understand she's having a hard time mentally, they play not-at-all-offensive "crazy sounds" in the background.

Unfortunately, it's all for nought, Dr Busey/Dafoe comes back with the news that Stephanie's tumour is indeed malignant, and that they need to perform further tests to find if it has spread.

Naturally, showing a real command of dramatic direction, this leads to a three minute music video where Hogan works out to his excruciating WCW entrance theme.
This involves him pumping iron like he's about to lay a brick.

And ripping off Rocky II.

Meanwhile Randy Savage cuts a typically inexplicable promo where he uses the term "funky like a monkey" During this scene I noticed how natural lifeguard Cody looks as an interviewer, its like the wrasslin' business is his calling. Which led me to wonder, have he and WWE referee Charles Robinson ever been seen in the same room together?

Referee Charles Robinson?
Cody from Baywatch?
And now, NINE YEARS into this episodes run-time, we've come to the big showdown. Thousands of people have showed up to watch the battle for the tiny gym, and hopefully they're wearing full factor sunblock and reapplying regularly.
SEE? I learned something.

Flair takes to the ring looking like a million dollars.

Savage takes to the ring looking like a man who locks his wife in the dressing room during his matches, carries a gun in his locker, released a rap album when he was fifty years old and allegedly banged a pre-teen Steph McMahon.

Flair and Savage do battle. To add to the drama, the producers add kung-fu sound effects to the punches and kicks. No, really.
Despite no pinfall taking place, we are informed that Savage has won the match. Because that's how wrestling works.
Now its time to put the belt and the gym on the line. Hogan's doing some bad squat exercises when C.J notices that a cage is being assembled around the ring.

Anger? Fear? Joy? Gas?
Not just any cage, THE SLIM JIM CAGE: (Peperami to you and I)

Vader enters the arena/beach marquee, wearing his fanny-kicking, steam-spewing helmet. It totally works for me, despite what that mark on the right thinks. I bet he doesn't get The Wrestling Observer and therefore is no quantifier of what's good and bad. I bet he's one of those evil John Cena fans today.

Sorry son, It's Vader Time.

Well, Hogan does what he does best, rips off his shirt and beats the ever loving shit out of his opponent no worries. Hogan slams the monster to the mat, recreating the famous moment he slammed the 7000 ton Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III.
It's a bodyslam the editor loves so much, he uses it again later in the montage.

Hogan drops the big leg, and wrestling purists the world over are disgusted as they realise that it's not the finish to the match!! Did this editor know nothing??

As before, we are simply "informed" that Hogan has won, and the crowd go absolutely home.

Hogan raises the belt and actually says: "We did it for the kids!" without a trace of irony.

He also says he did it "for the youth centre", now I'm pretty sure it was a small beach gym, so I'm just guessing that, in true Hogan fashion, the story gets slightly more embellished with each telling. If you asked him about this show tomorrow, he'd probably say it was a shoot and it was for the deed to the whole of California.

As Hogan leaves the ring, we catch a glimpse of basketball freak Dennis Rodman with him, for the uninitiated, this is one of a few appearances Rodman made for WCW shows, where he would turn up, get paid millions, and, just like in this episode, add little of interest and do nothing whatsoever.

"Check the script! Santa With Muscles is happening Brotha!"
Backstage, everyone laughs at Flair and Hogan grabs the deed to the gym and hands it to the owner who should say "Oy!" but sadly doesn't.
A ton of fans then invade the backstage area, breaking kayfabe way before Shawn Michaels and The Clique ever got the chance to.

All the faces run out to the beach and celebrate in the hot summer sun. (Terry) Hulk "Hogan" saved the gym, the youth centre, the WCW title, the kids, the world and ran off the evil wrestling land developers.

And they all lived happily ever after.
...oh, and then Stephanie finds out that her cancer has spread.

Now, we had a lot of fun today (results may vary)
But I wanna point something out, I don't think Cancer is funny. I think it's terrifying. I also think the topic should, especially when used in entertainment, be treated respectfully and carefully.
That's the fucking point.
If you are writing an episode of a TV show where one of your long term regular characters finds out she is terminally ill, why on earth would you co-promote that episode with some beyond hokey pro-wrasslin' storyline that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Rock 'n' Wrestling?

Let's take a quick look at the amount of screen time given to these scenes:

Wrasslers arguing at the gym: 3:15
Stephanie finds out she has Cancer: 1:40

Stephanie finding out the tumour has spread: 1:10

Didn't one person in the script meeting put there hands up and say "This is a terrible idea" Did Baywatch even have script meetings?
Why didn't they just shift the cancer storyline to the next episode? they could have replaced it with any other storyline, or just more footage of Bleeth rubbing down her legs.
I wonder what Alexandra Paul thought when she watched the episode back. To be fair, she works really hard to convey her fear and helplessness in the wake of the discovery, I can't imagine what it must be like to watch your performance back, only to have it cut to Kevin Sullivan's gurning face and pantomime villain acting.

Personally, I think it's one of the single most awkward, and ill-conceived pieces of television writing I've ever watched. Even if it is "only Baywatch"
Then again, maybe I really am asking for too much in the way of sensitive, logical writing, after all, if you want to talk about a show that really loses its mind, then we have the prize pig right here.
Who knew demon fighting, alternate dimensions and resurrection would get involved?

..But maybe that's a story for another day.

In any sense, I'd assume the producers probably learnt their lesson from this escapade and hopefully they stayed well clear of featuring pro-wrestlers in Baywatch storylines ever again..

Oh, for fu...
If that's his smile, I now know why he lost it.