Thursday, October 8, 2015

Best Realistic Science Fiction Films -- by Guest Blogger Spencer Blohm

Presenting Another Guest Blog from Spencer Blohm

Best Realistic Science Fiction Films

Science fiction can get incredibly silly at times and there's certainly a place for that, but when a science fiction movie focuses on hard science concepts to build its story, there's a sense of realism that makes them so much more compelling. Some of the best sci-fi movies have at least a kernel of truth to keep them grounded.

Metropolis (1927)

A masterpiece of German Expressionism in silent films, Metropolis tells the story of two lovers from different social castes who try to defy the dystopian state they live in. It is one of the first dystopian films ever made and not only drew from a realistic sense of political science but also portrayed some of the earliest robots as we know them on screen.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

It's fairly easy to tell this was written by an engineer, since so much of the technology of the film is either current or on the horizon. The story of the advancement of humanity through several time periods, the most famous being in the near future with a trip to Jupiter, 2001 has predicted video calling, commercial space flight, and even tablet computers. There are some people who suggest that artificial intelligence is also not very far off, especially with our security systems and home automation suites learning our habits like HAL did.
Jurassic Park (1993)

While the technological advances in this are dated by current standards in that we know that dinosaurs probably looked a lot different and genetics can't be used in that fashion, at the time of its release Jurassic Park was remarkably accurate to our scientific understanding and ahead of the fourth installment in the franchise 20 years later in some respects. That being said, it's psychological understanding, that the best fit for something like cloned dinosaurs would be the entertainment industry, is probably most accurate of all.
Contact (1997)

In another case where the influence of the writer is evident, Contact, based on a book by Carl Sagan, is both compelling and grounded in our scientific understanding. From the use of radio telescope arrays to math as a universal language to communicate with aliens, Contact does an incredible job of helping us understand what the implications of discovering a message from an extraterrestrial civilization would be. Physicists have even suggested that the wormhole that Jodie Foster travels through toward the end of the film exhibits properties that are consistent with our current physical knowledge.
Gattaca (1997)

Another film where genetics plays a role in the plot, Gattaca follows Vincent, an ambitious young man who wants to travel to outer space, but because he is determined to be genetically inferior is not allowed until he makes a deal with Jerome to take over the latter's identity, including their genetics. While slightly advanced even for today, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see genetic engineering of babies that is common in the film as well as the use of DNA in modern criminal investigations.
Interstellar (2014)

As the Earth begins to die, a brilliant scientist deploys his plan to try and move all of Earth's population to another planet, using former NASA astronaut Cooper and a team of scientists to scout through a wormhole. Perhaps the most accurate scientific concept in the film is the time dilation caused by relativistic travel, but much of the space travel is grounded in an understanding of how we move outside of an atmosphere.
Ex Machina (2015)

Much like 2001, Ex Machina explores AI in depth, which made it quite successful and popular, in addition to its being widely distributed on an indie budget thanks to the partnership between A24 Films and DirecTV. In this case, an eccentric billionaire hires a programmer to inspect an artificial intelligence he created to see if it passes a Turing Test. The concept, that a true AI would be able to convince a human being that it was also a human being through conversation, is a fairly old one, but Ex Machina does a good job of addressing its flaws and using them to really delve into what AI means.
Science fiction can be not only remarkably predictive, but when it incorporates things that we know about the world as it is, that makes it much easier to suspend disbelief and take a good, hard look at the ideas it espouses.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Digger for the ColecoVision -- Reviewed!

Publisher: CollectorVision
Programmer: Mystery Man
1 player
During the early-to-mid 1980s, Dig Dug and Mr. Do! inspired a number of tunnel-digging imitators, including Sega’s obscure Thunderground (1983) for the Atari 2600 and First Star Software’s popular Boulder Dash (1984) for a variety of consoles and computers. One of the more blatant copycats was Windmill Software’s Digger, a Canadian computer game developed by Rob Sleath in 1983 for the IBM PC.

Now, CollectorVision, publisher of such quality ColecoVision ports as Bagman and Galaga, has brought Digger to everyone’s favorite Coleco console.

Guiding a motorized Digger Mobile around the screen, players tunnel underground to scoop up emeralds (similar to the cherries in Mr. Do!), creating mazes in the process. As you gather emeralds, little creatures called Nobbins will chase you through the maze pathways. Impatient Nobbins sometimes turn into Hobbins, which can burrow through maze walls (similar to the monsters in Mr. Do!). You can throw a rock bullet at the enemies (similar to the ball in Mr. Do!, but it doesn’t bounce around), but it takes a few seconds for the Digger Mobile to reload once a bullet has been fired.

Digger is clearly more of a Mr. Do! clone than a Dig Dug wannabe. This is especially evident regarding bags of gold that are positioned at various points around the screen. These are like the apples in Mr. Do! (as opposed to the rocks in Dig Dug) in that you can push them across the screen. And you can walk under the bags of gold to drop them on enemies, while making sure to get out of the way so you don’t get crushed. One thing that sets Digger apart from both of its more famous progenitors is that dropped bags break open to reveal gold that you can scoop up for extra points, a welcome feature.

Monsters in Digger spawn from the top/right corner of the screen. After you kill a certain number of monsters, a special prize cherry will appear in this area. If you grab the prize, you can turn the tables on the enemies for approximately 15 seconds (which decreases in later rounds of play). As such, the monsters will now run away from you, a la the ghosts in Pac-Man. The current level ends when you’ve grabbed all the emeralds or killed all the monsters, another nod to Mr. Do!

Unlike Mr. Do!, there are no letters spelling out EXTRA for an extra life. However, you do get an extra life for every 20,000 points you score.

Compared to the original Digger computer game, the ColecoVision port plays about the same, but there are some visual simplifications. The playfield for the ColecoVision game is colored with thick vertical stripes while the original has a more textured look with thin, wavy, and diagonal lines. The multi-colored Digger Mobile, Nobbins, and Hobbins of the computer semi-classic have been replaced by mono-colored versions of same, which once again evokes Mr. Do! as the arcade version had multi-colored characters while the ColecoVision port had mono-colored characters.

Like many video games, both versions of Digger make use of classic musical compositions. During the standard action, “Popcorn” by Gershon Kingsley plays. After you grab the bonus prize, you’ll hear Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” When you get killed by a monster or squashed by a bag of gold, Frédéric Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat Minor” (a.k.a. “The Funeral March”) will commemorate your death, complemented by a gravestone that rises from the ground.

Regarding sound effects, when you gather up emeralds in the ColecoVision port, it sounds exactly like picking cherries in the ColecoVision version of Mr. Do!

Overall, Digger is a cute, challenging game that sounds good and will entertain most any maze fan. It has solid controls, smooth difficulty progression, and a few differences (including altered enemy A.I.) that set it apart from similar games. Even though I’ve played a variety of tunnel-digging games countless times, I find myself playing Digger again and again to try and beat my high score.

Since Mr. Do! is readily available on the ColecoVision (it’s one of the more common post-launch titles and is only worth around $8 loose), Digger, which is packaged in an retro-style box with instruction manual, isn’t exactly a must-own for the system. However, collectors and diehard fans of the genre will want to hop online and grab a copy.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

I was a Teenage Concert-Goer -- Or, How I Met Ozzy Osbourne

During the early-to-mid 1980s, when I was in high school, I was a terrible student. I wasn’t a slow learner, and I wasn’t disruptive, I was just preoccupied with things I thought were more fun than studying, such as basketball, video games, and the opposite sex. My senior year I nearly flunked English, which is ironic considering the fact that I now write for a living.

Along with shooting hoops, shooting alien invaders, and shooting the breeze with any good looking girl who would talk to me, I loved rock music, an obsession that went beyond merely listening to records in my room and blasting the radio in my car. My friends and I were addicting to the experience of seeing and hearing our favorite bands live and in person.
Between 1982 and 1985, the year I graduated, we went to more than 30 bigtime, arena-based shows, including such popular acts as Elton John, Stevie Nicks, Iron Maiden, Styx, Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, and Foreigner. We also sat out in the boiling heat every summer at the Texxas Jam (a.k.a. the Texxas World Music Festival). Hosted by the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Texxas Jam was the type of post-Woodstock, post-Altamont, one-day event that grew out the early ’70s, when cities began outlawing weekend-long festivals.

Just as merely listening to music wasn’t adequate, going to concerts didn’t quite fulfill our rock and roll fantasies, so my friends and I started hanging around after shows to try and meet the bands, a strategy that, surprisingly enough, was highly effective. On one particularly memorable occasion in 1986, we followed Ozzy Osbourne’s tour bus about half-an-hour outside of Fort Worth to a greasy spoon called The Iron Skillet. While the roadies transferred the luggage and other supplies to another bus, Ozzy, his band--including guitarist Jake E. Lee, who had taken the place of the recently deceased legend, Randy Rhoads--and a couple of security guys went inside. We stalkers followed closely behind.

As Ozzy entered the restaurant, a waitress who was a dead-ringer for Florence Jean Castleberry from the TV show Alice exclaimed, “Ozzy Osbourne! Ozzy Osbourne! Oh my gawd! Ozzy Obsbourne in my restaurant!” She proceeded to fawn and fuss over Ozzy and his bandmates, making a big show of getting their autographs: “Ozzy Osbourne! Ozzy Osbourne!” (This was decades before The Osbournes TV show, but the “Prince of Darkness” was a household name even then, thanks in part to several infamous events, including biting the head off a dove during a press conference and urinating on the Alamo.)

We approached Ozzy as well, but we were far too nervous and too “cool” to hoot and holler and otherwise make a big fuss, so we simply and sheepishly asked the former Black Sabbath singer if we could have his autograph, and if we could take a picture with him (in those days before everyone had a phone in their pocket, we always made sure to take a loaded camera with us to concerts). Ozzy, appearing dazed and confused—the word “sobriety” was not yet a part of his vocabulary—complied, and we had a great story to tell at work the next week, with photographic proof of our encounter.

Part of what made the story great is that I brazenly asked Ozzy as he was leaving the restaurant if he wanted to play Pac-Man (as with many establishments of the era, there was a mini-arcade in the lobby). Unfortunately, the “Godfather of Heavy Metal” declined, saying in his distinctly British accent, “I don’t play.”

During that golden age of metal, my concert buddies and I also met the guys in Metallica, W.A.S.P., Ratt, and Queensryche, along with frontman Paul Stanley and drummer Eric Carr from KISS. This was when the band was touring without their patented makeup for the first time. Needless to say, we got their autographs and snapped photos.
Regrettably, during the late 1990s, when eBay was new and exciting, I sold all my autographs, which were on scraps of paper we scrounged from hotels and restaurants—we rockers apparently weren’t savvy enough to bring albums or something more substantial to sign. I sold Ozzy Osbourne’s signature for $50, Paul Stanley’s for $35, and Eric Carr’s for $50. (The reason Carr’s autograph brought more than the more famous Stanley is that Carr, Peter Criss’s original replacement, had passed away.)

One thing I did keep was my collection of concert ticket stubs. This was because I wanted a record of the shows I had seen. After going through the stubs recently, it struck me how cheap concerts were three decades ago. My first concert was Journey on July 8, 1983, which was one month before my 16th birthday. The price? A paltry $11.00. My next three shows were Robert Plant (Sept. 22, 1983), $13.50; ZZ Top (Sept. 29, 1983), $13.50; and KISS (Jan. 13, 1984), $13.00.

I went to many more concerts throughout the 1980s and into the early ’90s, but having kids and tending to the responsibilities of being a married man slowed my concert-going considerably by the mid-1990s. Plus, concerts had priced me out of the market. The first show I wanted to go to, but didn’t because of the expense was the Eagles Hell Freezes Over Tour, which came to Texas Stadium in Irving (where the Dallas Cowboys used to play) on July 3, 1994. Tickets were a then-shocking $50 to $120 each.

I rarely go to concerts these days (I settle for watching cover bands in bars—pathetic, I know), and when the Rolling Stones announced a few months ago that they were coming to the AT&T Stadium in Arlington (where the Dallas Cowboys now play), I barely gave it a thought, despite the fact that they’re one of my favorite bands. I knew that the price for a pair of tickets—even in the nosebleed section—would be enough to pay my electric bill or car payment for the month.

As fate would have it, I ended up going to the show anyway, and it was awesome.

Two weeks before the Stones concert, I called an old friend—one I used to go to concerts with—to come over and fix my broken garage door, which he did for the price of lunch at a nearby restaurant. When I mentioned that the Stones were in town, he said, “Let’s go.” When I told him it was too expensive, he said that if I would drive and buy food, he would pay for the tickets ($150 each) and the parking ($50). I quickly agreed, knowing this would probably be my only chance to see the “World’s Greatest Rock Band,” and being super excited at the prospect of once again seeing a real rock concert.

Our seats were near the back of the stadium, but we had a great view of the band, thanks to giant screens behind the stage. Also, the sound was excellent, despite the massive size of the venue. I was a little concerned that the Stones were too old to rock—Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are 71, Ron Wood is 68, and Charlie Watts is 74—but they are still terrific after more than a half-century of performing. Watts kept a strong, steady beat on the drums while Richards and absolutely Woods killed it on guitar. And Jagger was seemingly ageless, prancing about the stage the entire show like a man in his 20s, his voice as strong as it was during the 1970s.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, so much so that if the Stones were to come back next year, I would strongly consider going again—even if I had to buy my own ticket.

While I do indeed have another rock concert under my belt, I don’t have another ticket stub in my collection—our tickets were printed out on computer paper. This got me to pondering the collectability of vintage ticket stubs. The next day after the show, I hopped on eBay and did some searching of completed auctions, only to discover that ticket stubs from the 1980s are only worth around $3 to $10 each, depending on the band, the condition, and a few other factors.

So I’ll probably just hang on to my old ticket stubs because the memories are worth far more than the money I could make on them. I may even keep the computer printout for the Rolling Stones concert as well. After all, it’s not every day that I get to go to a rock concert, especially one featuring a legendary band.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Patrick Stewart and Blunt Talk -- Guest Blog by Spencer Blohm

Guest blogger Spencer Blohm drops by BrettWeissWordsofWonder with another article. Take it away, Spencer!

Patrick Stewart and Blunt Talk

Let it be so.

Just like that, Sir Patrick Stewart jumped from the stage of Hamlet to hamming it up viral Internet videos. Stewart has been acting since the ripe young age of 15, enthralling audiences in Shakespearian dramas as well as on screen in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the popular X-Men series. He’s heretofore been largely averse to comedy.

That is, until recently. Now in his seventies, Stewart has decided to disseminate his charm across all forms of social media, doing so with the help fellow X-Men cast member and distinguished member of the British Empire, Sir Ian McKellen. Participating off-the-wall skits for late-night comedy shows and voicing characters on Seth MacFarlane hits Family Guy and American Dad!, Stewart has found a second life embracing his funny bone.

In Blunt Talk, the second pairing of Stewart and MacFarlane begs the question, why comedy and why now? Stewart seems not to be overthinking it. Even in the face of absurdism, Patrick Stewart follows one basic rule. "I just believe in saying the lines with conviction," he says. In a recent interview with Time, Stewart said that he enjoyed working with MacFarlane and doing the outrageous bits and voice-over work. It was a no-brainer when MacFarlane came to Stewart with a live-action sitcom.

Blunt Talk is written by Jonathan Ames, best known for his series Bored to Death. Inspired by journalists like Piers Morgan (and a healthy dose of Orwell), Ames formulated the premise of the show and wrote the part of Walter Blunt specifically for Stewart. Before one scene was even shot, Starz saw the potential and ordered two full seasons.

In the role of Blunt, a British journalist and former soldier who comes to America for a shot at cable news stardom, Stewart comes in full force. In the wild premiere episode, Patrick Stewart/Walter Blunt makes headlines himself when he goes on a bender and assaults a police after being caught with a transvestite prostitute (among other things). Instead of reporting the news, he quickly finds his own face on cable news channels and among Bill O’Reilly’s talking points.

Further antic ensure when we meet the rest of zany people in Walter Blunt's life. His right-hand man is Harry Chandler, a fellow soldier who was under Blunt's command. Actor Adrian Scarborough fills in this role - in the States, he may not be well-known, but Scarborough has been acting on British television for a while now. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Blunt's news team and various lackeys.

So far, Season One is admittedly a bit perplexing. While the novelty of watching Patrick Stewart not-act quite like Patrick Stewart is fun at first, it taps itself out within the first 15 minutes. Seeing the refined and dignified actor chatting up a sexually ambiguous hookers and aiming vitriol at ex-wives is a change of pace, and not a totally unwelcome one - but in the hands of Ames and McFarlane something is amiss. The concept of a big-name actor behaving badly has been done before, and even though audiences love nothing more than watching a superstar’s career crumble, this show misses the mark. But it is by no fault of Stewart. He could charm his way out of a snake pit.

With two seasons already ordered, MacFarlane and Stewart still have time to find their groove and settle in for a long ride. The first two episodes (streaming on Starz, check with your satellite tv provider for details) have, if nothing else, whet our appetites for more Stewart, and ignited hopes that he might be able to turn this into something worthy of his prodigious talents.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Video Game Trader #33 -- Sydney Hunter -- Intellivision Review

Video Game Trader #33 is now available.Click on the images below to check out my review of Sydney Hunter and the Shrines of Peril for the Intellivision, published by CollectorVision. You can subscribe to Video Game Trader HERE.
Click on the images for a closer look:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fall 2015 Video Game Preview

Click HERE to check out my fall video game preview in the online edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Or, you can simply read it below:

Fall 2015 Video Game Guide

This fall is shaping up to be one of the most robust video game seasons we’ve ever seen, especially in terms of potential blockbusters and highly anticipated sequels.

A virtual arcade full of top-tier titles is headed our way, from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Sept. 1), the latest iteration of the popular stealth series, to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Oct. 13), inspired by the works of the late author, to Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Nov. 6), the next entry in the ubiquitous first-person shooter franchise.

Here are nine more A-listers that are guaranteed to keep your thumbs busy, your adrenaline flowing and your wallet empty. As always, release dates are subject to change.

Super Mario Maker
Nintendo Wii U
Publisher: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release Date: Sept. 11

Have you ever dreamed of designing your own Mario games? Now you can without going to programming school. Simply grab a copy of Super Mario Maker, which lets you create, play and share a virtually endless number of levels. The only limit is your imagination as you use the Wii U controller touch screen to place such elements as blocks, enemies, and pipes wherever you want, including the creation of non-traditional combinations. There are different themes/styles to work with: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U.

If you simply want to jump straight into the action, you can play levels created by Nintendo and by other gamers around the world.

Forza Motorsport 6
Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release Date: Sept. 15

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the “Forza Motorsport” series, and what better way to celebrate than with the release of a new game? In Forza Motorsport 6, you can collect and race more than 450 Forzvista cars, each of which is customizable to your liking. Authenticity is the order of the day as you compete in photorealistic races on 26 different tracks, some that feature up to 24 drivers at a time.

The single-player campaign mode boasts more than 70 hours of gameplay content, and you can race a buddy head-to-head in two-player split-screen action. New to the series is League play, along with nighttime driving and rain physics that mimic their real-life counterparts.

Rock Band 4
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher: Harmonix
ESRB Rating: Teen
Release Date: Oct. 6
$129.99 (with guitar), $249.99 (with guitar, drums, and microphone)

Once a cornerstone of any party where mere karaoke was considered as unfashionable as wearing  a lampshade over your head, rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band died out three to four years ago, relegating thousands of play microphones and plastic guitars to the bargain bins of thrift stores everywhere.

With Rock Band 4, Harmonix hopes to revitalize the faded fad by tapping into our narcissistic tendencies. Instead of simply following along with the on-screen prompts, budding rock stars can improvise their own guitar solos, drum fills and vocal gymnastics. In short, players can add more of their own personality to the game, which sounds like fun (narcissistic or not). There are 60 new songs built-in, plus more than 1,500 downloadable tunes available for purchase from the in-game Music Store.

Yoshi’s Woolly World
Nintendo Wii U
Publisher: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release Date: Oct. 16

If you enjoyed Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii, you should get a kick out of Yoshi’s Woolly World for the Wii U, a colorful side-scrolling platformer set in a world of yarn and cloth. As with the “Yoshi’s Island” series, the titular dinosaur can use his tongue to swallow enemies. However, instead of producing eggs to throw, swallowing enemies creates balls of yarn, which can be used to create platforms, tie up enemies and much more.

Available in Europe since June, Yoshi’s Woolly World, which includes two-player cooperative action, is easy to beat when played straight through. However, it offers special challenges when you try to find all the items, some of which are hidden in fiendishly clever places.

The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes
Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release Date: Oct. 23

While waiting for the long-delayed The Legend of Zelda Wii U, which has been pushed back to sometime in 2016, Nintendo fans can bide their time with The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes, a game that evokes The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, but focuses on cooperation between three players instead of competition among four.

Each of the three players, controlling a different colored Link (blue, green, or red), works together to battle enemies and solve puzzles, including those that require gamers to form a three-Link totem to reach enemies on a higher plane. In one-player mode, you can use the touch screen to control doll-like representations of the other two Links, who are mindlessly at your command. A competitive Coliseum battle arena mode is included as well.

Halo 5: Guardians
Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
ESRB Rating: Teen
Release Date: Oct. 27

“Halo,” one of the industry’s premiere first-person shooter franchises, returns with Halo 5: Guardians, which developer 343 Industries promises to be the biggest game in the series. In Campaign mode, gamers play as Master Chief and Spartan Locke across three vast new worlds, with Locke in hot pursuit of MC’s rogue Blue Team.

New modes of play include Arena, which is four-on-four action created with professional eSport tournaments in mind, and Warzone, an epic battle in which two teams of 12 compete on massive maps. If you haven’t played Halo since the original Xbox game (Halo: Combat Evolved) came out way back in 2001, it may be time to jump back on the proverbial bandwagon.

Rise of the Tomb Raider
Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Publisher: Microsoft Studios/Square Enix
ESRB Rating: Mature
Release Date: Nov. 10 (Xbox 360, Xbox One); TBA 2016 (PlayStation 4).

Surpassing even Ms. Pac-Man, Lara Croft is the most prominent female protagonist in video game history, inspiring the creation of action figures, comic books, paperback originals, theme park rides, feature films and more. She debuted in 1996 on the groundbreaking Tomb Raider for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn and has raided more tombs than Indiana Jones.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, which takes place after 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, Croft is at it again, using a wily combination of stealth, brains, athletic ability and weaponry (bows and arrows, a hunting knife, a pistol, a climbing axe and the like) to explore exotic environments, solve dangerous puzzles and survive against hostile humans and animals.

Star Wars Battlefront
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher: Electronic Arts
ESRB Rating: Teen
Release Date: Nov. 17

Star Wars and the Atari 2600 both launched in 1977, but an officially licensed Star Wars video game didn’t hit store shelves until 1982, when Parker Brothers released Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for Atari’s venerable console. In that game, all players did was pilot a snowspeeder on Hoth, shooting missiles at Imperial Walkers.

Now, more than 100 Star Wars video games later, “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” as Loretta Lynn once sang. Star Wars Battlefront, which is a reboot of the “Star Wars: Battlefront” series, lets players engage enemies on a variety of planets (including a new one called Sullust), pilot airborne and ground-based vehicles, wield blasters and light sabers, encounter R2-D2, C-3PO and other popular characters, and much more. The force will be with you as you play as a member of the Rebel Alliance or the Empire.

Just Cause 3
PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
ESRB Rating: Mature
Release Date: Dec. 1

Set several years after Just Cause 2, Just Cause 3 once again puts players in the role of Rico Rodriguez, who has returned to his homeland (Medici, a fictional Mediterranean island) to thwart a brutal dictator named General Di Ravello. The chaotic, over-the-top action, which takes place among caves, harbors, prisons, military bases and the like, has been tweaked to let players wreak more havoc more efficiently and more dramatically than in previous games in the series.

Rodriguez’ grappling hook and parachute are more versatile, his C-4 explosives are unlimited and he’s equipped with a new wingsuit that lets him glide across the land very quickly. He can also commandeer a number of vehicles, including helicopters, speedboats, sports cars and tractors.

As if those nine weren’t enough, here are nine more big-budget games to look forward to this fall:

Lego Dimensions (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Sept. 27)
NBA 2K16 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Sept. 29)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Sept. 29; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nov. 10)
Guitar Hero Live (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Oct. 20)
Just Dance 2016 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Oct. 20)
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Oct. 23)
WWE 2K16 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Oct. 27)
Need for Speed (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nov. 3)
Fallout 4 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nov. 10)