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May 24, 2017

New Reviews: A Quick Overview




I've mentioned wanting to branch out to other mediums than gaming, such TV series, music, films, and the like. I do want to note that video games are still going to be the top priority, and Content Guides for said games are compulsory for my posts. Reviews of other mediums don't necessarily need content guides, as they are widely covered by other sites in detail.

Reviews of film and music are going to be purely reviews. That doesn't mean that I won't go into detail about my beliefs and how they relate to a particular song or movie. It's what sets my site apart from being just an average media site, due to us trying to go much deeper than normal entertainment pages. We want to be able to look at these pieces of entertainment in a much deeper lens than what is normal, even if that means we have to unfortunately put reviews up much later than corporate sites.

I'll have a review schedule up once I've calculated the logistics of running such a site. Expect more frequent posts in the near future. :)

May 23, 2017

Is Pop Music Becoming More Generic?

I've recently expressed my desire to branch out my reviews to other mediums, such as film and music, so I'll briefly elaborate on a problem I've seen with modern music: It's so generic. 

Pop music, while not exactly being the top deck of lyrical craftmanship, has it's standouts. I was a huge fan of Coldplay a few years back, even going as far to link to their songs from my posts. I enjoyed their earlier work, especially their sophomore outing A Rush of Blood to the Head, an excellent alternative album in many respects.

Their album-ending song, Amsterdam, begins with the song's protagonist at a suicidally low level, lamenting on his fate, before telling of an unknown saviour who "came along and cut him loose". The first song on the album, Politik, was written on the day the twin towers collapsed, holding a certain bitter rawness to it, yet the ending is quite hopeful in spite of it. This contrasting dynamic helps build the songs to make them feel deeper, and more meaningful, while also still being catchy tunes to chart the billboard. 

Their more recent stuff lacks substance, and focuses more on sappy choruses and catchy hooks, which sound pleasing to the ear at times, but doesn't really go deeper than that. It does seem that the pop hits of yesteryear had significantly more depth than the trite of today. Much of the music I see fails to connect to one's heart in any way, instead focusing on having a "nice beat" and some "cool" bass drops. I know that there's genuinely good music to be found somewhere in the ocean of mediocrity, but said massive pool of garbage is growing larger by the minute.

Here's to better years for music to come, hopefully in the near future. Not all years are going to be the best for pop culture, after all.

May 21, 2017

Max Payne 2 (Christian Review) - Dangerous Liaisons


Reviewed by Kyle van Rensburg, editor-in-chief of KVR Gaming (soon to be KVRx).

While writing my Max Payne 3 review many moons ago, I had a thought: As a Christian, if you met Max Payne in real life, what would you say to him? Said review was during my more fire-and-brimstone (and less grammatically endowed) years, so I ended up giving the game a verdict of Not Recommended to be on the safe side with my more conservative contacts, and discarded the troubling thought in the same manner in which I discarded the challenging, and otherwise quite superb, video game.

Be it a desire for self-improvement, or disenchantment with the almost fascistic supervision of one's entertainment which I thought to be tantamount to "holiness", I've become more questioning and slower to pass judgment in the following years. Some questions are easily answered, others not so much. 

Join me as we on embark on a journey attempting to answer the questions this game bids, with a romance straight out of a cautionary tale and a tale cut from the cloth of a hard-boiled detective novel...

Content Verdict: Great (8.7)


+Engaging Gameplay 

Max Payne 2 is fun, make no mistake about it. Offering a good challenge and an overdose of slow-motion gunplay, it's hard not to enjoy the pulse-pounding action the game presents.

Taking place across three chapters, Max Payne 2 shakes things up just enough to keep players hooked, never being too hard nor too easy.

+Film Noir Story

It may not be the most original story. Femme fatales are a staple of film noir, but here it's given a fresh spin. Mona Sax, the other half of the game's dangerous duo, is inherently likeable due to her confident yet reclusive nature. The hypersexuality of her appearance later in the game may be a detractor for more conservative Christians (like myself), even if her role in the story is highly impactful and otherwise entertaining.

Max himself, while definitely on the corny side, gives the game a rich flavour with his purple prose and deep internal monologuing. Examining all of the game's otherwise stock crime story happenings with a unique perspective, Max proves himself to be one of gaming's most engaging protagonists. You may not always sympathise with him, but it sure is hard not to like the guy.

-Short Length and Lack of Replay Value

It's hard to say that the game was rushed, as it certainly doesn't feel that way, but the game comes to a grinding halt at the end of the Part III. It seems like there was a lot more story to be explored and a whole lot more ground to cover, but then it simply ends. Said ending isn't bad, by any means, delivering an expected ending to the film noir love story, even if the game feels a little stunted by its early placement.

Gamers who thoroughly enjoyed the game will be back for an annual replay, while completionists will have fun trying the game on higher difficulties, but that's about as much as you're going to get out of Max Payne 2. It's not a bad game at all, far from it, it's just a tad too short.

Areas of Concern:


Violence: (7)

--General Violence: Gunplay is a core aspect of gameplay. Many people are shot, with blood spraying, splattering, and staining the environment. Cries of pain are heard. Slow motion (known as “bullet time”) is a feature of the game, with the camera depicting bullets thudding into bodies in detail, blood spraying out.

Cinematic sequences depict environments being blown apart by explosions, with wreckage and destruction shown.

A couple of environments are stained with large amounts of blood, with dead bodies scattered throughout. (7)

Storyline Violence: A man is placed in a cartoon character suit, a bomb armed to go off if the head is detached or otherwise tampered with. He is blown up off-screen in one sequence; we see parts of the suit scattered around a crater, with blood around the neck area of the suit's torso and head, but little detail is shown otherwise. (7)

Gross Stuff:

A man graphically vomits on the floor, which is shown in detail. A man comes in to clean up the fluids, protesting loudly as he does so. (3)

Sexual Content: (6)

--Two characters engage in a brief sexual encounter; we see still images of the man picking the woman up against the wall and hear her making suggestive noises. One of the still images shows a partial view of the woman's breast as her shirt is lifted up. This entire scene lasts 10-15 seconds. Later on, in a dream sequence, a woman is heard moaning at certain points throughout said sequence. (7)

A man walks in on a woman while she’s showering, leering at her. Her entire bare back is shown, and bare legs and shoulders as she walks out wearing a towel. Her midriff is shown in the next scene as she’s putting on a shirt. We later see this sequence again in a dream sequence, with the woman visibly nude behind the shower door. Once he approaches her, rear nudity is briefly shown. (The entire sequence is dimly lit.) (6)

--Two men have a conversation about a woman, one of them expresses his sexual desire for her using the F-word. A prostitute tells a cop that if he does his job, then “maybe afterwards I’ll do mine”. Suggestive noises are heard in hotel environments, clearly suggesting liaisons in the rooms. Some of the fictional serials in the game present characters telling suggestive jokes. As my time with this game was limited, I can't list examples here. The serials are in the background, and the player can choose to ignore them. (6)

--We hear a recording of Max calling a phone sex line: (For non-sexual purposes; he just needs someone to talk to) He talks to one of the woman, who speaks seductively and makes a reference to phone sex, but rebuffs him once she realises he doesn’t want to pay for their services. (5)


Language: (7)

Strong language used throughout. Uses of F**k, S**t, D**k, P**sy, and other profanities.
God and Jesus’ names are used in vain.

Spiritual Content: (4)

Illuminati-esque symbolism is shown in certain environments (the one-eyed pyramid), and references to esoteric secret societies are made.

Drug Content: (6)

(Contains Drug Usage.) Your character uses painkillers to patch himself up after taking damage. The actual pill-popping isn’t shown, save for cinematic sequences. It should be noted, however, that drug usage is required in the game.

Several characters are shown having drinks. Alcoholic beverages are scattered throughout various environments.

References to drug dealing, drug use and the like are scattered throughout the game.

Morality:

As is immediately apparent from the title, the game is about the moral decay of the main character, even if he wasn’t in a very heroic place to begin with. With that said, Max doesn’t kill any innocent people and limits his (rather extensive) vigilante justice to guns-for-hire and professional criminals.


Conclusion:
Max Payne 2 contains Bloody Violence, Strong Language, and Sexual Content. Suggestive themes are prevalent throughout the game, with multiple fictional serials in the game universe containing sexual jokes and lewd situations. Strong language is also used frequently, with F-words and S-bombs dropped throughout the game's narrative. The violence, while strong, isn't excessive, but it is quite bloody throughout.

My Thoughts: Those who've been following my blog for some time now will know how much I despise suggestive content in games solely inserted for the purpose of titillating the player. Max Payne 2's brief sex scene actually has plot relevance and makes sense in context, and also manages not to be incredibly explicit. What pushed the rating over to MA was the numerous other moments throughout the game, such as Max's lustful obsession with Mona being visualised in the dream sequences, which contain far more sexual content than the actual romantic interlude between them.

As the game is focused on an unhealthy obsession, and makes no effort to call it anything but, the suggestive themes make sense, be they the dream sequences or numerous serials present in the game. What I don't like is that it's done for the pleasure of the player, rather than to illustrate a point. 

It's up to the discerning Christian to decide if this dark story is worth their time. There's merit to be had in playing this game, as it indirectly warns about the dangers of obsession while still making the characters relatable in a Bonnie and Clyde fashion. Eat the meat and spit out the bones; if the bones are too much for you, spit it out. Otherwise, for those looking for a fun action game with depth and deciding to skip through the brief content issues, go right ahead.

Outro: Thanks for tuning in, I hope you enjoyed my Max Payne 2 review. Keep tuning on the blog for more assorted posts, including a featured article on Wednesdays. I'll see you next Sunday with another review, possibly an all new review of a music album or film, as this is a direction I've been wanting to take with the blog for some time now.

I'll see you again soon, right here, on KVR Gaming!

May 19, 2017

Is 2017 a Muted Year For Gaming?




Honestly, the past year or so, I've found it very hard to actually get excited about games. While there's plenty of buzz over new instalments of long-running franchises, it doesn't seem to have much special in store. I ran into this problem last year as well, with games becoming more by the numbers than anything.

Titanfall 2, as critically acclaimed as it was, didn't really blow my mind like it did for other people. I'm sure it's a lot of fun to play, but besides that one level (you know which one), it doesn't seem like it will be remembered for very long.

Come on, guys! Where's the next BioShock Infinite, Spec Ops: The Line, The Last of Us, and Metal Gear Solid? Games need to have a resurgence of "killer apps", instead of an assembly line full of incredibly expensive sequels. Even original IPs are more spiritual sequels than anything, with Prey being the newest example. (Although Prey is a game I'd actually like to review, given the time.)

Now, I want to end this post with the statement that I'm not going to dismiss every single game coming out based on a gut feeling. I could very well turn out to be completely wrong, which I hope is the case. 2017 could be a great year for gaming. It's just that I want to see more innovation on a mainstream level, and that doesn't seem to be the case.

Only time will tell, however, and we could be in for a heck of a journey in the coming months. E3 is just around the corner, and the powers that be might have a few timely tricks up their collective sleeves...

May 18, 2017

Why I WILL Be Reviewing Mass Effect 2 (Soon)


Recently, I posted an article stating that I wouldn't be reviewing ME Andromeda. (For now, at least.) Citing time and the game's relatively poor reception as reasons, I did note that actually owning and playing the game would make a review highly feasible. With that said, I do own the original Mass Effect Trilogy, making reviews of all three possible, but the one I'm going to focus on is Mass Effect 2.
 
*Cue storytime*


As I'm currently between jobs, I had a lot of time to spend doing things such as focusing on skills I abandoned while working retail, such as programming, design (which I've been doing for over a decade, true story), and of course, creative writing.

In the evenings, when I'm not "working", I played video games. As me and video games have a bit of a bad history (I often struggle to finish games or fully immerse myself in them), and the stress of figuring out what to do about my employment situation, very few games actually held my attention for long.

Mass Effect 2 was a definite exception. The story, characters, atmosphere, and the way the story tailors to your choices made it highly immersive, in a way previously only matched by my other favourite Deus Ex. 

I had a pretty decent length review after passing the halfway point, but due to an unfortunate accident, I unintentionally deleted the entire review. Which means I have to play through the game again to write everything down...again.

Nevertheless, as ME2 is now one of my favourite games, this is not a chore. It may take some time, but a review you will see.

I'll be ending this post with a request for prayer from my fellow Christians. I need to get work, I need a car, and I need my own place. I need to study, and keep building up this site, and so on. So if you can pray for me regarding this, that would be greatly appreciated.

I'll see you again soon with another post, right here on KVRx!

May 17, 2017

Getting Back to the Bible: Godly Foundations




Unlike most good Christians, I presume, I have quite a bit of difficulty reading the Bible. The mere thought of having to turn to the Good Book and read through it is fraught with emotion, be it stress of having to understand what is actually a very difficult book, or memories of past negative experiences with scripture brandished against me, it's not an easy task.

For many years, I avoided the Bible, save for certain times when I was really desperate and down on my luck, hoping that mere time and prayer would solve my problems. As you can imagine, this didn't do my spiritual life a whole lot of good, as avoiding a problem instead of facing it causes it to amplify greatly. 

It's only living in a terrible situation, forcing me to go to church and be surrounded by other believers, which really forced me back into the Bible, especially once I left the situation and my church behind. The following months left me depressed, lonely, and in a worse state than I'd been in before the whole situation.

At first glance, it appeared as if the church had done more harm than good. It's only now that I realised that it was the closeness to God I experienced through being between other believers and then having to leave that family which had caused my depression, or been one of the factors at least.

The separation made it essential for me to read the Bible on my own in order to keep myself in the Word. I spoke Psalms to myself daily in order to combat my depression, which worked...for a while. Ironically, even though I was reading the Bible, I wasn't reading the whole Bible, just a harmless part of it.

Truth be told, I was scared of what I would find in the other sections. Dipping in and out of agnosticism since my early teens, I fell into that trap once again even though I was mumbling scripture to myself all the time. Above all, I lacked faith.

As the Good Book says, faith cometh by hearing...and hearing by the Word of God. The path to true faith is through scripture, and not just certain parts of it. Entire churches are founded on fragments of books in a whole larger collection that is the Holy Bible, hardly focusing on the entirety of the Word, and all of it's difficulties.

Repeating what I said at the beginning, the Bible is probably the hardest book you'll ever read. It's filled with passages which don't make sense to us, moral codes which are problematic to our Western senses (such as the Levitical laws on slavery, rape, homosexuality), and above all, a sense of futility. We are powerless to save ourselves. Our best efforts count for nothing.

It is through reading this difficult book, however, that we can fully comprehend Christ's sacrifice on the cross for us. The pinnacle of the scripture is the Messiah who came from Heaven, died for us, and rose again. All scripture, be they Old or New Testament, points to Christ.

For that very reason, we need to commit to studying it, living it, consuming it daily. Not for the purposes of earthly enlightenment, but for spiritual empowerment, growth, and salvation.

May 16, 2017

Why I Won't Be Reviewing Mass Effect Andromeda (For Now)



Certain games are meant to be played in order to be fully experienced. Looking at the early site, one might not think that, but as I was unemployed in the early years and had a lot of time on my hands, I was able to devote hours a day to sit through many video games, fully experiencing their vast content.

Nowadays, being a supposed adult in my twenties, I'm no longer able to afford such luxuries. I really want to review Mass Effect Andromeda, along with several other RPGs. Convincing myself to kill an entire month of time in order to do so just isn't worth it, especially since a YouTube run is not the best way to really review a vast game such as Andromeda.

That, and the game's relatively poor reception, makes this a skip for me. No, we don't only review good game's, but if there was more buzz, it would make it worth reviewing for me.

Once the game's discounted, and I'm able to afford it, I might consider doing a review. This is pretty much how I do reviews these days; I supplement my time spent gaming with doing reviews. It only takes about five minutes longer, whereas with YouTube videos it eats away at valuable time and really isn't worth the time spent.

IN SHORT: It's not gonna happen, for now at least. :)

May 15, 2017

New Article + Review on Sunday!

Hi everyone. I'm back. We'll be having an article this Wednesday, as well as a review on Sunday. This will be our new format, which I've wanted to do since starting the site back up last year.

The Wednesday article will be a new series I was recently inspired to do. Depending on its success, conceptually speaking, I'll do more in the future.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for our thoughts on a Mass Effect Andromeda review, and whether or not we'll actually be doing it.

Thanks a lot for tuning. I'll see you again soon. God bless. :)

April 26, 2017

Doom (2016) Christian Review


Blood, sweat and demons. Doom returns in the 2016 iteration for more pulse-pounding, ghoul-slaying wholesome goodness for the whole family.*

*(Not meant to be taken literally.)

Thoughts and Impressions: Never once having a slow moment, Doom 2016 manages to be pretty entertaining if a little bare-bones,. Sure, the dark sense of humour makes things interesting, but after slaying the same demon a million times, it gets a little repetitive.

Storywise, it's pretty much "Destroy all demons and close the gates of Hell", with no real meat given to the story, piles of gore notwithstanding. For what it's worth, it should satisfy those looking for old-school thrills sacrificing emotional depth or satisfying storylines.

Now for those interested, let's get to the Content Guide: 


Content Guide:


Violence/Intense Content: (9)





Doom is a bloody game, to say the least. Heads, arms, legs, torsos are all decimated by gunfire, hand-to-hand combat and explosives, blood spraying out in fountains as limbs are snapped off and severed. High powered weapons blow enemies apart entirely, huge amounts of blood splattering across the environment. Intestines are strewn across the floor. Certain enemies tear themselves apart upon being killed, skin tearing with blood and gore spraying out.

Players can get up close and personal with a chainsaw, tearing enemies open with gore spraying, sawing their heads, arms and torsos in half, The player can also use their bare hands, tearing jaws apart, shattering skulls, ripping arms and legs off. As a special move, they can tear tusks off certain enemies and stab them through the eyes, all with resulting blood. 

Players can enter "berzerk" mode, punching enemies with abnormal strength, causing them to explode into bloody pieces. Hearts are also torn out, and shoved back into the mouth of the victim, causing them to explode, blood and guts shown. Heads are ripped apart, sinew and brains shown briefly along with an explosion of gore.

Certain fleshly growths featured in environments have to be destroyed in order to progress. Pieces of said growths are turned out with blood splatter, gore, and explosions of fluids shown.

Dead characters are shown lying around environments, having head their legs, heads, arms, spines and organs torn out, with lots of blood surrounding them. Certain areas have literal lakes filled with blood, gore, bones, skin, and membranes. Skeletons with viscera still attached are shown, along with blood-stained eyeballs still inside certain skulls to comical effect. (9)


 

Language:





According to the ESRB, there are uses of F**k, S**t, and other profanities. However, in my time with the game, I heard no swear words being uttered at any point.


April 12, 2017

Horizon Zero Dawn Content Guide + Review


The Hunger Games meets Skyrim.



Release Date: February 2017

Developer: Guerilla Games

 
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment


Platforms: PlayStation 4


Genre: Action RPG



Content Verdict: Caution Advised (For Bloody Violence and Moderate Language)