Rainbow Six: Siege Review

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In late 2015, Ubisoft released a game that was not, well, Ubisoft Game. The tactical multiplayer subgenre is back and it is without a doubt some of the most fun I’ve had with multiplayer shooters in quite some time. Grab a few friends and let the good times roll.

The game is a lot like Counter Strike: there are two teams (which are 5 v 5 here) and one has to either retrieve or defend a hostage or plant a defuser at a bomb site or secure an area. Each player picks one of many classes, which will shape how a match plays out and what tactics each team uses. Communication here is key and thankfully, most players have microphones and I have yet to encounter any role players who think they’re some sort of drill sergeant. Attackers have a minute to try and scout the defence with little RC drones and the objective whilst defenders set up defences. Once that time is up, each round is a 5 minute attempt to try and take or hold the target and while it usually ends up as a death match (you know you stomped the other team when you get the objective), it is some of the most intense multiplayer around whether you be breaching, or caught up in a firefight that can be either incredibly quick or lengthy, to be the last man alive to try and achieve the objective. I have seen quite a few clutch victories like these, even spectating when you’re dead can be intense.

With the classes, each have their own special ability. For example, Rook on defense can put down armour for his team to use (although attackers can pick it up should they have the opportunity) and the attacker Thermite can breach through wall reinforcements. There are also some rather silly strategies you can try too. It’s possible, as attackers, to have a team comprised only of shield users. I have tried this with my team multiple times, one of which resulted in all of us dying within 30 seconds of the round, which didn’t cause frustration but rather uproarious laughter. There are a whole variety of strategies a team can use depending on the map, mode, team composition and defenses which make every match feel genuinely different. Another core feature of the game, which adds genuine depth, is the destructible walls and floors. Want to have an easy access between bomb sites as defender? No problem, just blow a hole through it. You can even shoot the smallest of holes through a wall, giving yourself just enough of a peep hole to shoot unwitting enemies. It is the most impressive destruction physics in a multiplayer shooter since Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which I also had a tonne of fun with back at it’s height. There seems to be a pattern emerging here.  As far as the actual shooting goes, it’s good, not particularly innovative but works well with the holistic intensity that is your average Siege match. The destruction also adds to the visual intensity: fragged rooms of defense will look absolutely wrecked and smashed to pieces, with huge blood splatters or even blood trails if someone who is downed has moved elsewhere.

In terms of unlocking classes, by playing the game you unlock ‘renown’ which you buy classes with or you can use microtransactions to access them quicker, but it’s not a game breaking pay to win situation nor an excessive grind, the game is quite generous so it’s not quite egregious as other similar games these days. The game has also gotten a season pass like every other game that releases these days. However, it doesn’t work like say call of duty where it’s a set of map packs that break up the community: all it does is give access to more skins and earlier access to new maps for about a week and new operators. It is a surprisingly benign implementation and Ubisoft should be praised for bucking the map pack trend and instead releasing new maps for free to every player. It seems like Ubisoft might want to make this a game with longevity and community, like Counter Strike and makes the game better value for money. A quick note on the community: it’s surprisingly good, in my 30+hours of playing, I have met a very low amount of total wankers and even the twelvies who probably shouldn’t have the game are surprisingly mature and don’t scream or act like idiots like in say Call of Duty or Halo. This is just on the pc version in my region however, so this may vary by region or platform but my experience has been positive.

As for the negative aspects of the game: netcode has been often dysfunctional and there’s a few bugs here and there, like the loss of sound bug which is the most annoying, but infrequent in my experience. Joining a squad has also been a frequent pain in the ass but recently it seems to have subsided and the game improves with each patch. It also requires Uplay which can be a tad annoying, but it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. Some were also rustled about the lack of a single player mode at launch, but the game is designed around multiplayer first and foremost and it has a tutorial mode called ‘situations’. The game has enough longevity as standalone multiplayer to render lack of traditional singleplayer irrelevant in my opinion.  Price might also be something that puts people on the fence at $60 USD but I managed to get a retail copy for AUD$45, so shop around for the best price if you can.

As far as performance goes, it is quite excellent. I’m running it at 1440p resolution on a GTX 970, 12GB Ram and i5 4690k at near maximum settings, which looks fantastic, at an average frame rate of about 90. It’s smooth and incredible, except for occassional slowdowns, but those have pretty much disappeared for me at this point.

Should you get Rainbow Six Siege? Yes, absolutely. It is one of the best multiplayer shooters in a long time and is even better with friends. If you were on the fence before, you shouldn’t be now. When it works, it works incredibly well and it updates regularly. Just breach some shit up, play as Tachanka on defense but for the sake of those around you don’t play as Fuze on hostage rescue.

8/10

 

Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988) review

 

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Tales from the Gimli Hospital is a strange movie. It was made in the late 1980s, yet it feels  much older, with it’s 4:3 aspect ratio and black and white film stock, as well as the soundtrack, reminiscent more of films from the 30s to 50s, rather than the 1980s. It feels like a relic from a time long passed and perhaps that is the point. The plot is summarised thusly:

“….Set during a smallpox epidemic among Icelandic immigrants in the village of Gimli, Manitoba, TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL explores jealousy and madness instilled in two men who share a hospital room. Einar (Kyle McCulloch) and Gunnar (Michael Gottli) are friends at first, until they reveal their darkest secrets to each other…. “-Youtube description

In this film, dialogue is sparse, some of which is in Icelandic. Unfortunately for me, the version I saw did not have any subtitles for the Icelandic dialogue, however all the parts of importance are in English. Performances are so-so and somewhat corny. Gunnar and Einar have smallpox, but the only way we know this is the markings on their bodies, but the way they behave only betrays half the symptoms of smallpox; the sweat and tiredness is there but the pain isn’t, it isn’t believable and seems irrelevant, it looked more like they had the flu.  The nurses are quite dull and basic, they look mostly unconcerned and lacking of emotion, which felt quite sinister and contributed to the attempt to create a depressing atmosphere.

The narrative is quite straightforward, while being told in a framed narrative way. However, the relationship between Einar and Gunnar isn’t given enough time to fully establish them as friends and make what tears them apart impactful; while the nature of this is innately disturbing and is presented as such, for me, it lacked the impact that it should have had. Some sequences also seem nonsensical and confused, such as Einar being in the woods and seeing a sexy singer and dancers, perhaps representing some desire of his, I’m not sure. It seems quasi Lynchian, but doesn’t work as effectively, at least for me. Other than the pacing issues and sometimes bizarre clashes of tone, I did however like the presentation of the narrative, with it’s strange cuts and steady static camera work. What I found interesting is that at the start it seemed like it was going to be a lighthearted and overall positive story, but it was totally the opposite, which kept me guessing to some extent. Some of these strange moments had some kind of comedic value in it’s strangeness but I didn’t find the film terribly funny overall even though some say it’s supposed to be hilarious. Maybe I didn’t get it, to me the film felt like it was supposed to be more drama and horror oriented. Perhaps with a longer run time or more emphasis on creating a bizarre and miserable atmosphere, coupled with better performances, this could’ve been the rural Eraserhead. Overall, while the film isn’t bad and has a couple elements that were quite good and quasi Lynchian,it’s not something I feel is great and should be immediately put on your to watch list. If you’re looking for a comedy or dark comedy, this isn’t that but if you want something more dramatic, quasi-Lynchian and antique feeling, this is worth a watch at the very least for the sake of curiosity.

You can watch the film here:

6/10

Rams (2016) Review

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Rams seems like it would be one of those strange and esoteric films, with it’s unusual subject matter of two Icelandic sheep farmers, both of whom are brothers and one refuses to talk to the other, would be impenetrable and difficult to understand. This is not so. Written and directed by Grìmur Hákonarson, Rams is a wonderful, unpretentious film.

The camerawork in Rams is generally quite static and slow moving, which is instep with the overall pacing of the film. It takes it’s time, in it’s approximately 90 minute runtime, to really get us invested in the life of it’s protagonist ‘Gummi’, one of the sheep farming brothers and the general feeling of coldness, isolation and a slow paced lifestyle of rural Iceland. While trailers for this seemed to have represented this as a comedy, that representation is not quite accurate. But this is no matter for it is quite successful as a drama, whilst still retaining funny elements without them feeling contrived or because the script demands a funny moment, no music to tell you “this is the part where you should be ready to laugh,” the parts that are funny are innately funny and that represents a great confidence on part of the direction in the material. The basic plot, in a sentence, is this: Gummi and Kiddi are sheepfarming brothers who live next door but do not talk to each other and one day, Gummi notices the appearance of scrapie in the sheep and they all have to be culled, which strains their relationship further. Maybe that sentence doesn’t sell it very well, but take my word for it, it’s very interesting to see unfold.

 

Dialogue and soundtrack in this film are somewhat sparse but what dialogue there is is delivered well and convincingly and same goes for the performances generally. There was a great deal of nuance and humanity in the performances, to me, the characters all felt real and none of the situations in the film felt contrived or convenient, the narrative, much like the realism of the characters, all had a natural flow. There are some strange moments, like a close up of Gummi clipping his toenails, but all these small details and seemingly odd shots add to the overall realism of the characters.


To me, I was absolutely invested and engaged with the characters and even the story, despite not living a rural lifestyle. My engagement with Icelandic culture in the past has been largely limited to reading the Sagas of the Icelanders from the middle ages and for me, this film felt very much like a modern, small saga. However, a friend of mine with whom I saw the movie with, did not feel as invested emotionally in it as I did, which may, in his opinion, have something to do with prior levels of engagement with Icelandic culture or rural living, especially as character motivation seemed admittedly a little mysterious at one point. But I don’t think prior engagement with the culture is a necessity to enjoying this film, although it might help one to appreciate it in particular ways.

 

In short, would I recommend Rams? Absolutely, although if you lack patience or are one of those people who refuse to watch anything with subtitles, this is not for you. But for anyone else, definitely go see it if you can, I know it might be difficult considering it’s limited distribution. But yes, Rams is a beautiful, honest film that doesn’t need to try and impress you or treat you like a fool, it is confident in itself and is a thoroughly engaging, if slow, movie.

9/10